Over the last few years, as the recording industry has finally started to at least come to terms with the idea that its market is changing, industry insiders keep looking for "a savior." That's a new tech-focused company that will somehow come up with the magic model that revitalizes the recording industry's revenue stream. You begin to notice a pattern with every one of these: the hype is never based on users flocking to the service. They're always based on a big PR campaign and quotes from recording industry insiders. In the early days, there was PressPlay and MusicNet. Then, there was the "new Napster" and Rhapsody. More recently, there's been SnoCap, TotalMusic, Qtrax and plenty of others. They get buzz, with the stories reporting how the industry is "supporting" these innovative new startups. But they never seem to go anywhere. The latest is SpiralFrog, which got some buzz for being "ad supported" music, which has never
made much sense to us. It's now shutting down
, just as pretty much all of the other "saviors" have done.
And yet... file sharing sites are thriving.
It all comes down to the same thing: you don't compete with free by being lame. And, all of these "saviors" have focused on paying the record labels first, and giving users a reason to use them second (or sometimes even further down the list). The record labels are desperate for new revenue, so when they make these agreements, they're so costly that it's impossible for any of these startups to make money -- and since they're bound by all sorts of restrictions, the services tend to not be very compelling anyway. That's a recipe for disaster. Perhaps before the press declares the next major label-backed music startup the "savior" for the industry, the reporters should take a look at the littered path of failures.