MySpace Music launches – wut – no indies??

MySpace will launch its long-expected MySpace Music service in the US – and has secured music from all the majors, including the last minute addition of EMI – but failed to agree terms with the indie labels.

The hybrid ads-funded streaming and paid-for download business lets users build as many playlists as they want, each containing up to 100 songs which can be streamed at no cost.

MySpace users in the US will encounter a new page in their profiles called “My Music” where they will be able to create playlists. My Music will contain a default initial playlist called “My Profile Song History” that contains all the songs subscribers have added to their profiles until now. The music search engine has been improved so that users can search not only by artist name but also by song and album titles.

“Music has been a big part of MySpace since the beginning, and especially in the early days it was the heart and soul of what we were about. Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what else can be done in music and where can we go from here,” said Steve Pearman, senior vice president of product strategy for MySpace.

Songs will be sold through Amazon, which is providing the infrastructure for a la carte downloads. Tracks are sold DRM-free in the MP3 format, while ringtone sales are provided by Jamster.

The lack of indie label content is causing huge consternation through the service, the host of which bills itself as a “place for friends”.

MySpace claims to have deals with The Orchard, and independent distribution groups ADA, Red, Fontana and Caroline.

Indie trade body, Merlin, whose members command a 9% share of the US digital recorded music market (equivalent to EMI) said it is still currently in negotiations to license the world’s leading independent labels and artists to the service.

A statement from Charles Caldas CEO Merlin, Global Rights Body For Independent Sector: “It is incredibly disappointing that MySpace will launch their new service without having finalised a deal with the world’s most important independent labels and artists. It certainly makes Chris DeWolfe’s public statements, that the “indie bands are really the heart of MySpace”, ring extremely hollow.

“What is absolutely clear, however, is that any independent deal struck without an equity component (as was done with the majors), will see independent labels face a situation whereby their major competitors will profit from the use of their repertoire without an appropriate upside opportunity being extended to them by MySpace Music and its Major Label equity partners.

“While Merlin continues our negotiations, we remain extremely concerned that with MySpace Music the major record labels are acting not only as competitors, but through their equity stakes in the venture, as the clients/end user as well. Without an equitable participation by independents, that creates a situation that is both unhealthy and dangerous.

“Merlin, the global rights agency represents the largest basket of rights outside of the majors labels, with a US market share equivalent to that of the smallest majors”

MySpace is a division of Fox Interactive Media Inc., which is a division of News Corp – not a company I can recognise for supporting independent sector ideas.

To muddy the waters of this all-new iTunes-killer still further, the major labels hold equity stakes in the venture, meaning (ironically) they’ll get a slice of any profit generated by indie music sales.

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