Social Networking Meets File Sharing Meets Music Buying

from the interesting-ideas... dept

My big complaints against music downloading services like iTunes is that they take away all of the benefits of file sharing. That is, there’s a central server so bandwidth and hosting costs are still high and you lose the community aspect of people learning from each other what music is good. So, it’s good to see that there’s yet another new digital music selling service that is trying to get around both of these issues. Founded by former McAfee CEO Srivats Sampath, Mercora, will let people buy songs to download, but the downloads will come from other Mercora users. Also, it takes a page from the social networking craze and tries to link you to groups of like-minded individuals in order to recommend music you might like. I think this is a step forward, but there are still problems with it. The biggest, of course, is that it will come complete with heavy handed copy protection, which people point out over and over again offers absolutely nothing of value to the consumer, but instead hinders them from using the music they way they would like. Second, while the idea of distributing the files via P2P file sharing sounds nice – and makes life cheaper for Mercora, where’s the benefit for the end user? With regular file sharing networks, there’s a tit-for-tat sort of thing going on where people feel obligated to open up their shared folders in exchange for access to others shared folders. That’s not true in this case. However, the article does suggest that musicians who own their own music can sell it off their own hard drive somehow – which would be cool (though, I wonder how they prevent someone from selling someone else’s music as their own). If there were, in addition, some way to compensate the person doing the “sharing” as well, that would be even better. Finally, the social networking aspect makes a lot of sense – but from the description in the article, it’s a top down implementation. That is, the system decides who your “friends” are. Sometimes that’s nice in a “you might also like…” sort of way, but it might be more interesting to let people hook themselves up with specific recommenders who they trust. For instance, these days, about half of the CDs I buy come at the recommendation of one friend, whose musical tastes I clearly trust. If I could easily create a link to him within this system, I wouldn’t have to wait until the next time I hang out with him or he remembers some band he thinks I’d like. Still, it is very encouraging that newer, more creative solutions are coming out.

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