Creating a Merit-Based Music Economy: Compulsory or Blanket Licensing for Interactive Subscription Services
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C1. Full Catalog Access, Per-Play Revenue, and Risk-less Sampling

One of the pre-requisites for any system to empower artists is a way for them to make money from fans listening to their music. The current market is based on the idea of mass producing recordings as CDs, and selling them as products to the audience.

An online service, however, should not be in the business of selling recordings piecemeal. Instead, it could sell an integrated service with full access to all recordings on demand, plus many additional informational features. It would allow all artists to plug in, and it would pay out a royalty based on the total number of times each song gets played for individual subscribers -- the royalty should be in a range comparable to pro-rated royalties currently generated by CD sales. (Eventually this kind of service could replace the CD format to a large extent.)

For the listener, what this means is that, for a flat fee, you can listen to literally any music that you want at any time. One-stop, on-demand access to all recorded music. This takes the risk out of purchasing individual CDs with incomplete information -- fans no longer have to guess whether they will like all the songs on a CD, or decide whether it's worth paying for it just for a few songs they do like. For a fair price for blanket access, this decision never comes up -- subscribers can listen to anything without considering whether to pay extra for it.

And with an online system it's very straightforward to add artist and artist-related information (bios, reviews, pictures, liner notes, credits, tour dates, merchandise), often referred to as "meta-data." Add community features such as fan clubs, instant and time-shifted messaging, chats, and forums, and you have an integrated, full-featured music experience, with everything at your fingertips.

So far, this picture doesnít seem to include much that Free P2P can't do without charge, aside from quality of service. However, quality of service is an important consumer value. And, there is another side to the story - this system can replace not only CDs, but also radio. That is discussed in the next section, with special focus on a kind of listener value that cannot be removed from the system as it is used.

For the artist, unobstructed access to such a national/global royalty-paying online service breaks the bottlenecks of retail distribution and gig-centered sales. We've seen a hint of this already in the use of artist-operated web sites to sell CDs.

However we know that access by itself is not enough for grass roots artists to fluidly reach their full audience. What an integrated music service could add to this is a systematic way to get fluid, inexpensive audience exposure, to go along with the potential for wide distribution, and the revenue that comes from that.


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