The recent excitement over Spotify and its ilk suggests that something might finally be about to click between music industry and the internet. This week another strong contender entered the race in the form of the People’s Music Store – a social media-meets-commerce site that allows music fans to sell their favourite tracks to each other.
It is a bold attempt to recapture the passion and personality of the old record store vibe, which illegal downloads and faceless online retail have near-destroyed. Is this what the future of digital music looks like?
What makes the service intriguing is its respect for how fans really want to use the internet – i.e to freely share and discover great music. This makes commercial sense as evangelism helps drives sales, and the People’s Music Store demonstrates how seamlessly these two ideas can be connected.
It is the logical progression of music communities like Last FM and Myspace that have long nurtured recommendation and self-expression. It also lends a more robust purpose to the fad for playlist-sharing sites like Blip, Playlist and Muxtape – allowing fans to broadcast their taste to the world and earn money (well, Music Store credits).
The People’s Music Store harnesses and rewards fan enthusiasm while ensuring that money changes hands fairly. It seems like the perfect way for fans and the record industry to develop a more meaningful online relationship – so will it save music? Alas, to borrow a Killers lyric, its signs are vital, but its hands are cold. Yes there’s something in this model – namely a soul – but it lacks the life-force of major label support.
The main handicap of the service is that its roster is comprised of bands on indie labels and so can’t really be judged as a viable model for the mainstream. While it’s backed by the formidable Beggars Group – bringing bigger acts like Vampire Weekend, Adele and White Stripes to user’s music stores – the absence of the Big Four is palpable. Until EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG get behind more imaginative projects like this, then digital music evolution will continue to stall.
Unfortunately, it seems they’re not in the least bit ready for something as ‘complex’ as People’s Music Store. This Monday, the day PMS launched, also saw the announcement that TotalMusic – a joint digital venture by Sony BMG and Universal – has been scrapped.
It was meant to represent a fresh look at how online music streaming can make money and would’ve been an encouraging step forward. However, we now seem saddled with the current relationship between mainstream music and the internet, with its atmosphere of suspicion, restriction and litigation. If they can’t get a relatively simple service right, what hope is there?
The People’s Music Store is a prime example of the innovation born of fans and the internet, and it could solve a lot of industry woes if only major labels recognised its potential (it’s certainly more helpful than Clikthrough).
Only time will tell if the venture succeeds, though right now it does a pretty good job of highlighting what’s failing.