Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone
MP3.com went offline for good today.
You may or may not be familiar with the little soap opera that has surrounded that site recently. If not, here’s a recap: MP3.com was basically an online distribution channel for independent and unsigned bands. Recently, though, CNet bought the site from its current owner, Vivendi Universal, and then announced that they were only interested in the name, not the music — so as of today, December 2, over a million songs that 250,000 bands took the time to write, perform, record, and upload for the world to hear are gone forever.
Yep. Gone. Poof!
For me, this is really pretty sad, because MP3.com was one of the first services to really open my eyes to the potential of online technologies. I wrote an article a few years ago about how much more I liked MP3.com’s business model (you could buy CDs of bands you liked for $10, and the band got half of that, which is five times more than they would get in a big-label contract) compared to the crooked dealings of the RIAA’s membership. But in the end, the Establishment won; they dragged MP3.com into court, strung out their finances for legal fees, and eventually MP3.com’s management sold the site to Vivendi, which effectively ended any real threat it posed to the old way of doing business in the music world.
The failure of MP3.com wasn’t all the result of evil machinations, though; there were enough minor things about the service that they never quite got down right for it to sink under its own weight. Take the problem of how to find new music. There was plenty of music there, and plenty of listeners, but it was hard to locate stuff you would like within the mass of stuff that was there — all you could do was search by name (which was useless, since you’d never heard of any of these bands anyway) or check out the most popular bands on the site (which kind of defeats the purpose). Little problems like that did as much as The Man did to bring MP3.com down.
And yet, I found several good bands through the site, and when you did, there was a real sense of discovering a diamond in the rough — of making a connection that would have been impossible to make without the Internet. A year or so after I wrote that article, I got an e-mail out of the blue from one of the singers I’d written about in it, Sarah Lentz. She said she’d found the article on the Web and wanted to say thanks for the kind words I’d written. How cool is that? It was that sense that there were real people behind the music, and not plastic, pre-fab mannequins, that made MP3.com so much fun.
And now, all that music is gone. The founder of the site, Michael Robertson (who currently manages Lindows.com Inc.), is lamenting the loss, and so am I.
So, as a final shout-out, here are links to the new homes of some of the “best of the best” bands that I enjoyed discovering through MP3.com. Check them out, see what you think. Who knows, maybe there’s a diamond in the rough here waiting for you, too…
- Sarah Lentz — fantastic torch songs
- Red Delicious — like Garbage, with more attitude (if you can imagine)
- Under the Rose — mellow, relaxing acoustical jams
- Purple Wage — guitar-driven electronic rock straight outta Tel Aviv
- The Muckrakers — great alt-pop band
December 3, 2003
You should check out http://www.magnatune.com/ . They give 50% of the take back to artists. Of course, selection isn’t as broad yet but the business model has a lot in common with the mp3.com