The company is partnering with web-based music distributor Snocap to create a feature that will let bands sell their music through their Myspace site. Users will be able to buy, download and play MP3s on any device like iPods and the Zune.
Despite tremendous sales potential, some bands find the new technology troubling. Myspace artists are concerned about the unknown profit margin that will be charged and the artistic issues involved in distributing one song at a time.
“Myspace has become a massive online network and viral marketing tool,” says Dan O’Connor, singer/songwriter in the rapidly up-and-coming Myspace band Phoenix Tree. “The ability to sell tracks on our site will be an incredible new feature.”
iTunes charges 99 cents for each song but Myspace will allow the band to set the cost. Artists using Myspace currently can put up to four songs on their site that users can listen to for free. Some bands allow fans to download some sample tracks as MP3s. While some bands have decided not to offer this option, Phoenix Tree offers all of their recordings as free to download, hoping to find new fans and sell CDs. Given the new option to charge for each download, some bands are struggling with the choice between gaining more fans and earning income from their music.
“If you give out a million songs for free you can have a million fans, or you can sell 2,000 songs for 50 cents and just have 2,000 fans,” says Thornton of the band Motorhome. While the money brought in from each song would be helpful, Thornton says, “The charge could deter fans, everyone should be able to hear it”.
But Jake Espy from the band Roe thinks that Mypurchase will help musicians. “Any local artist would think an opportunity to put their music out there and sell it is a good thing,” he says. While Roe already sells music through iTunes and CD Baby, Espy says that, “Any new avenue will benefit both the fans and the band.“
Another area of concern is the issue of distributing single MP3s versus full-length CDs. Many online artists complain that selling tracks individually takes away the feel of their album. “Selling just one song is just selling one idea,” Thornton from Motorhome says. “I don’t personally think it’s enough. You have to make people think about the whole thing and get them involved in it.” He says Pink Floyd’s The Wall in one instance of a concept-album that would not be possible under the Mypurchase business model.
Bands are also worried that owning actually CDs will become obsolete. Jason Larson of The Piggies thinks that MP3 sales through Myspace will take away from the purchase of hardcopy CDs. “Music itself is art, but there’s a lot more to it with lyrics and cool artwork (inside the album cover),” he says. “And you get a much better sounding copy of the songs” Larson also adds.
But even amidst the apprehension, most Myspace artists remain optimistic. “Not everyone is into music the same way as musicians are,” Larson says. He says the music community will keep the traditions of hardcopy CDs alive, while other general listeners will have more accessibility to the songs they want to buy. “You need something for everybody,” he says.
Creative and promotional considerations notwithstanding, the business arrangements posed by Mypurchase are still alarming to musicians. Myspace hasn’t let the public know how they will arrange the profit structure. Even though Snocap’s chief executive Rusty Rueff told Associated Press that they are trying to keep costs “as low as they can,” bands are hesitant.
O’Connor of Phoenix Tree says the profit margin will be the key issue factor in the band’s choice to offer their songs for sale. “iTunes is very professional and above board in that respect, and Myspace will need to be as forthright” he says. The band gets about 70 cents for purchased downloads costing 99 cents for iTunes customers notes O’Connor.
Although there are many worries among Myspace artists, it seems that most will add music to the new service. “We made an album, spent a lot of money and don’t expect to get it back,” Larson of The Piggies says. “But if we can get money to drive to the next show, then that’s what selling our songs is for."