Friday, November 21, 2003

Another music service grows like a Weed.. 

On the heels of discovering Magnatune, I've just run into another one called Weed. While I'm not as into the implementation of Weed (uses MS's DRM instead of totally open formats), the concept is amazing and totally subverts how a DRM system would usually work. Some variation on the system could really be a killer app...

Ok, so basically you can download the music files from anyone, whether it is from a website or files on a cdrom. You can play a song 3 times free any given computer before it stops working, at which point you can buy it using their program (which uses paypal). When you buy it, it puts you account info. into the file, which does two things. First of all, it gives you access similar to iTunes in that you can play it on three registered computers, use on portable devices or burn to CD. However, if you then give that file to someone else, they can also play it three times free and then have to buy it, adding their info. to the file. This adding of info. is important not just for playing the file but for keeping a record of the last couple of people in the chain who bought it.

So royalties on files work like this. An artist sets a price for the song. When you buy a song, it gives 50% of the money to the artist and 15% to the Weed company. The other 35% gets split up to the people in the chain. 20% to the person you got it from, %10 from the person they got it from, and %5 from who they got it from.

It is almost like a controlled pyramid scheme that encourages people to distribute music themselves using the system instead of stealing (as they get some money out of it), while still getting a lot of money toward the artist. 15% to the company is less than usual, but makes sense since they are just providing the registration and payment infrastructure instead of providing bandwith.

Forget about the new Napster 2.0... Weed feels like much more of a successor to the spirit of the original Napster while still getting artists money. Think about it.. instead of having a huge record label, listeners are actually getting payed to promote music for their favorite artists.

As I said at the beginning, I still have issues with this particular implementation. Specifically that you currently need to have windows to use it, uses WMA files as the file format, etc. Still, I think it is a brilliant idea and hopefully will take off. Doesn't hurt to try listen to some music the three times for free, and when you join you get $5 in your account to start off. Enough to try to buy a couple of songs and experiment a bit. I haven't done much experimenting as of yet, but I'll fiddle with it more later. So, Magnatune is still the thing that I think I'll actually use, but Weed is definitely cool...

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