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Music Download Thieves Come Out of the Shadows

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New Site, FreeAllMusic.com, Offers Free Mp3’s in Exchange for Watching Single Video Commercial; Majors to Get Back Some of their Mojo

By Amir Said

What would happen if the Titanic-size hole in the music industry’s business model was suddenly plugged up? (Stick with me, now…) What if illegal music downloading—file “sharing,” the ever-growing thorn in the music industry’s side, was abruptly and extensively halted? Would that mean a return to the “old music industry?” Would that mean that so-called A-list artists (read: machine-sponsored) could again look forward to pre-Napster sales? I would imagine that there are some delusional music executives and insiders holding out hope for this sort of return. But alas, they need not pine for the glory days of the music industry—those are never coming back…or aren’t they?

Cue in FreeAllMusic.com, an upstart music download site that just may re-shift at least some of the brainwashing power back to the major record companies. FreeAllMusic.com, which dropped a test version in December ‘09, and is gearing up for a full public beta launch sometime this month or early February, allows users to download songs for free—sans the usual “restrictions.” In other words, users who use FreeAllMusic.com will be allowed to copy and share the music that they download.

Of course, the music isn’t actually “free” on FreeAllMusic.com…somebody pays. Users pay with their eyes and time; companies pay with money from their ad budgets. Here’s how it works. For each download, FreeAllMusic users will have to watch a 15- to 30-second commercial advertisement. But the fortunate twist here is that they get to choose—from a list of about 12 ads (brands)—which commercial they want to view. After users select the ad (brand) of there choice, the chosen company then pays for the download.

Encouragingly enough, two of the big four record labels have already signed on with FreeAllMusic. And even more telling, a number of major “micro-sponsors” (those who actually pay for the downloads), including Coca-Cola, Zappos, LG, Powermat, and Warner Bros. Television, have also gotten on board. But will FreeAllMusic’s service model be enough to convince a substantial number of self-conscious illegal music downloaders to come out of the shadows and get legal? Why not! FreeAllMusic’s services doesn’t require any software to be downloaded; moreover, the downloads that they will offer are shareable and will work on both Apple and PC devices.

If FreeAllMusic pulls it off, and I think that they will, there will be three seismic aftershocks felt around the world. First, Apple’s gorilla grip monopoly over music downloads will certainly be weakened. Sure, some will clamor about not wanting to watch a 15- to 30-second clip before they download music. But I suspect that there will be many more reasonable people who will recognize the value of getting something they want for free. Not to mention the fact that for the relationship to the “sponsors” who buy the downloads for them, FreeAllMusic users further stand to gain other possible perks, in the form of giveaways and product discounts.

Second, FreeAllMusic’s blueprint will become the new online music marketing model. Successful companies know that marketing and advertising dollars must be spent, if they’re to have any chance of getting their message out or real shot at competing in their particular industries. However, the ROI on ad dollars is notoriously hard to measure; often marketing dollars are tossed in to the wind, with no real way of tracking whether ads are working or not. FreeAllMusic’s model will allow companies to put their pulse on which ads are working, follow where their ad dollars are actually going, and, most importantly, get a rare window into how and where their money is returning.

Finally, with the success of FreeAllMusic, the major record companies will undoubtedly be able to get some of their mojo back. For more than 30 years, the major record companies were able to count on the impulsive buying power of teenage music lovers. But P2P technology helped transform teenage “buying power” into teenage “stealing power.” This caused a leak in the music industry’s hull that continues to hemorrhage sales and profits til this day. Now comes FreeAllMusic with something akin to a giant hole-plugger. Thing is, the majors could care less who’s paying for “their” music; just as long as somebody’s paying, their happy. And what the FreeAllMusic model does is that it takes the honor-system approach to buying music downloads from out of the hands of teenagers and early 20-somethings—the groups who are by and large recognized as the chief culprits of illegal music downloading, and, it places the guaranteed-purchase system approach to buying music downloads into the hands of major corporate entities, who, less we forget, are well-capitalized and certainly capable of handling the cost of 99 cents a song. Thus, the majors will never see the sales horizons of yesteryear. But with the promise of FreeAllMusic.com, they’ll at least be able to move out of the ER and salvage some of yesteryear’s twilight.

Articles, Editorials, Music Business, News, The BeatTips Community (TBC)

About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual