Today’s Free Download – The Format

theformat.jpgMySpace makes an attempt to monetize their music via a deal with Napster phoenix SNOCAP, which allows their artists to set the terms of each transaction and sell either DRM-protected tracks or MP3s. Power popsters The Format have been doing this for some time under parent Nettwerk’s agreement inked last year.

At first glance, SNOCAP behaves like iTunes Music Store, only it’s more complicated and more diffuse. I do like their philosophy of empowering artists, though. Plus, it’s a more fully evolved marketplace than others I’ve seen (like Tamago). Given the VC velocity behind SNOCAP, that’s not surprising. What it seems to lack is any kind of central hub to spark interest in a wide variety of music. It’s a million mom-and-pop stores, not a mall or even Macy’s.

Come to think of it, that’s my basic complaint about the musical anarchy at MySpace.

Such musings lead me to link to this Cheap Trick-ish track from The Format, entitled “The Compromise.” They are an early SNOCAP adopter, and this track is a freebie on their MySpace page. Voila, synchronicity!

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SpiralFrog – Control, Not Ownership

spiralfrog.jpgThough I don’t completely share his view of who stands to benefit, I enjoyed Perpetual Motion’s thoughtful take on the SpiralFrog debate. He says the issue isn’t one of rent versus own:

I believe that consumers want to “control” their music, while “ownership” of the music is not that significant. This may seem like a subtle distinction, but I see it as critically important to charting future business models in the digital music arena. As music consumers, we want to listen to the right music, on the right device, at the right time. In a market increasingly dominated by consumers seeking instant gratification and endless diversity of choice, I believe that models favoring selection over ownership will gain traction. In many areas, I believe that consumers are becoming less attached to owning physical content, yet even more attached to owning their preferences.

In this context, he continues, the hurdles presented by SpiralFrog’s not-quite-free model will ultimately doom it. He goes on to say that this problem will benefit Pandora, but I disagree with him on that point. Though Pandora’s “Oracle of Music” concept is appealing, its’ endless free stream is still tethered to the desktop. My qualified endorsement of SpiralFrog is mostly centered on the fact that their free content can be played on a portable device.

Pandora is intriguing, but still requires spending a buck before a track can be moved to an iPod. Most of the songs on the average iPod weren’t bought at digital music stores, and probably never will be.

I think PM and I mostly agree on the value of subscription services like Rhapsody (To Go) and AOL Music Now Premium. While fans love music, they tend to move quickly from one fad to the next, particularly with hip hop, the most popular (and pirated) genre. With a good subscription service, we can fill our players with whatever we want and never pay more that the monthly fee.

Ultimately, SpiralFrog’s success will come down to whether or not it’s worth 15 bucks a month to bypass the adverts and have greater control over the listening experience.