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In Case You Missed It...
A Bill in Limbo, Rhapsody Burns, MP3.com's Halloween Treat

Commentary by David Nevue
Editor, The Music Biz Academy - 10/29/2002


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Last issue, I briefly mentioned that the U.S. Senate failed to pass a mutated version of Bill HR 5469. The original draft of that bill would have given small-company Webcasters making less than $1 million a year a break on digital performance royalties which were to have been due on October 20th. The mutated version of the bill, which was reported to have expanded from one paragraph to 28 pages, offered no such hope, apparently, for many webcasters. To quote Jon Jeffrey of Live365.com, "Live365 and its thousands of personal webcasters will not be impacted at all or provided any relief from the .007 per performance royalty rate, if HR 5469 passes in its current form."

The bill is now in limbo until the Senate returns after the November elections. So, what's the future of webcasting?

Well, in an gesture of goodwill, SoundExchange, which is the body set up by the RIAA to collect webcasting royalties, has said it will delay the collection of fees until after the Senate returns.

Perhaps we CAN all just get along after all. Let's hope?

Internet Radio Legislation Delayed

Another tidbit that caught my attention this week was news thatListen.com's Rhapsody service has been making some advances inthe online music subscription market. Back in July I reported that Listen.com's 'Rhapsody' digital music service was the FIRST to license music from ALL FIVE of the major music labels. Last issue I reported that MusicNet and PressPlay are both very close to securing catalogs of music from all five of the major music labels as well.

One advantage PressPlay had over it's competitors in the past was a price and service structure giving users unlimited music downloads from its library of over 150,000 tracks. The 'unlimited plus' service PressPlay offers, which costs $17.95 per month, includes a 10-pack of 'portable downloads', which essentially means you are allowed to burn a CD of up to 10 songs a month.

Now Listen.com has joined the club. Listen.com's latest service update, which includes music from all five major record labels, gives you unlimited streaming (not downloads) and unlimited (sort of) burns...for a price. Your basic subscription service, the 'All Access' streaming plan, will run you $9.95/month. After that, you may burn as many songs as you want direct to CD for $.99 per track on a pay-as-you-go basis. The only limitation? You can only 'burn' music from two of the five major record labels. One of those labels, however, is Universal Music, which is the largest. Of the 250,000 total songs now in Rhapsody's database, about 75,000 of them are available for burning. I suspect it's only a matter of time before EMI, Sony and BMG join in.

It's really good to see these online music services becoming more
'music on demand' friendly. The industry finally seems to be coming up with viable, legal alternatives to Napster that music lovers can afford.

Listen.com's Online Music Unit Offers CD Burning

Speaking of the Universal Music Group, they plan to decide in coming weeks which of it's web music properties are worth keeping, and which they may want to dump. Universal is looking to downsize, and intends to sell about $12 billion in assets to reduce it's debt! Some of Universal's web properties include MP3.com, GetMusic.com, and RollingStone.com.

Hmm. I wonder which will go?

Universal to Review Web Assets, Including MP3.com

And, speaking of MP3.com, did you see that crazy new look, feel and design? One thing is for sure, the fact that they released this new look around Halloween is appropriate. It's so...dizzying. They've broken my #1 rule of web design - keep it simple! There's so much stuff on the home page it has my eyes doing somersaults! Where do I go? What do I do? Who am I?

Since the design switchover, MP3.com artists in the artist forums have been reporting a few little problems, like songs disappearing from the charts. MP3.com is still working these and other kinks out.

One real shocker is that MP3.com has created two chart systems, one for 'downloadable' music, and one for 'streaming' music. So now, as an MP3.com artist, you've got to choose your chart preference and decide which promotional approach you are going to take. This single aspect of the new MP3.com seems to be causing a good deal of confusion in the artist forums.

As you all know, however, I'm a big fan of MP3.com. MP3.com has been very good to me. As as big fan, I must say I am very curious to see how all this effects independent artists who actively promote their music through the MP3.com Promo Auctions. So long as MP3.com provides an avenue for self-promotion, I'll stay in their corner.

One thing SOPHIE (MP3.com's forum spokesperson) said does make me worry a bit, however...

"We will, however, be redesigning and relaunching the Artist Services and Admin early next year. All the details for this launch are expected to be confirmed in late November. At that time, we will communicate the changes to you preceding an early 2003 launch."

Relaunching Artist Services? There's much more implied here than just a look and feel change. In fact, in posting to the Artist Boards, SOPHIE has confirmed that changes are definitely planned for the Premium Artist Service. I wonder what surprises MP3.com has in store for us?

Trick or treat, I'm on the edge of my seat.

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David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."


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