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july 27, 2007:
music syndication – embrace the inevitable: project playlist, seeqpod and… sonific

Just as Sonific, my own company that is plying the Music Widgets turf, is about to release its new Playlist feature, this whole “widget” turf seems to explode with announcements. (Which is good for us, I think. ;-) Witness Fairtilizer, Sound- Pedia, Jamendo, Project Playlist, and now, with the iPhone, Seeqpod. Apart from the rather odd name (hello, branding guys… what are you thinking?) it is quite an interesting app, essentially searching MP3 files from whatever MP3 blogs are out there, sucking the MP3s off them, and creating playlists that can be widgetized anywhere. Not exactly a new idea (see Project Playlist) but nicely ajax-ed and well-done. So, I can’t resist…. Here are two thoughts on this stuff:

1. This is essentially a concept based on meta-distribution of MP3 files that have been embedded in tens of thousands of MP3 blogs around the world, i.e., it’s feeding off third-party blog posts and their media servers, added on top of their already gray-zone legal status. (And I say this with great appreciation – I love what these blogs are doing!) Currently, most of these MP3 blogs are basically ignored or tacitly tolerated by the actual rights-holders and the record labels that own the master recording rights. However, this kind of super-redistribution of those “tolerated” free MP3s will rattle their cages fairly quickly, because, let’s face it, this is essentially on-demand, interactive play of single tracks, which the labels have always maintained is subject to a license fee.

Yes, of course that idea is decidedly Music 1.0 and wishful think- ing, too, but still: Look at the recent Imeem-Warner Music lawsuit. And this is also, of course, the very reason Sonific does not yet have a lot of current hit artists available – the license deals that are currently being offered are beyond ridiculous. So, what do you think will happen if these newco’s that are pushing the envelope (such as Project Playlist, Seeqpod, et. al.) gain a real audience, i.e., millions of users and embeds in most social networks? Well, it’s simple: The MP3 blogs that feed them – willingly or not – will get take-down orders; or rather, the top three blogging platforms and services (Blogger/Google (!), Typepad/ Livejournal/Vox/Six Apart, WordPress) that actually host most of these blogs will get take-down orders for all MP3s that are hosted on their millions of blogs, and that will be the end of us enjoying things like Fluxblog, Elbows, or HypeMachine as well. I am not so sure these MP3 blogs should be, or are, so happy about stuff like Project Playlist or SeeqPod.

2. As to the major labels: Talk about facing a new reality! Super-distribution of music is here, now. No matter how much you scream, sue, and lobby, you will not be able to plug these holes, and insist on up-front license fees for on-demand streaming or interactive radio applications like these. In reality, you can only chose to participate and share revenues – you need to fuel the fire, not look for a firehose.

I am willing to bet you 100 copies of this book that if you were to actually license all those social-network-Music-2.0 companies that want to use on-demand, interactive, streaming-only widgets for their music-driven social networks, you could start to generate some serious money from advertising revenue shares and e-commerce click-throughs. Plus you could use them to market your music extremely efficiently (well… for free, really!). And no, this would not replace your CD sales (ahem…if you still have some, within the next 12 months) or your digital sales (provided you’ll be smart enough to finally get out of DRM before your tankers hit the cliffs).