Uncertainty for Digital Music Business Models (Still)

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Last week I wrote about a downward trend in peer-to-peer downloading - many observers see this in part as a result of the increased use of free and easy streaming music services such as imeem, Pandora, Last.fm, and Spotify. Why download and store files, when you can have access to anything you want, from any location, on demand?

Well, in the last few days, much has been written about the sorry state of business for these services. In the UK, where the artists are much more organized and active in demanding that they be written into the deals (not just as a footnote in their labels' deals with these services), google/youtube is currently in a battle with the PRS, claiming that they can't afford to pay artists for content. Other streaming music companies are lining up behind google, hoping to benefit from the behemoth's bargaining clout. Meanwhile, the companies themselves are still scrambling to come up with a homerun service that users actually like and use. The much heralded MySpace music, for example, was a major flop and is in the process of re-inventing itself again.

In many cases, it seems to me that it's inking deals with the major labels that is at the heart of many of these problems. Do the labels want these services to fail so they can go back to the old days? Are the streaming services using the threat of illegal downloading as a ploy to get better deals out of the labels, deals where no money makes it back to the artist?

I'll put in my usual plea for the artists here. Just because the technology allows us to stream any song ever written, why should businesses be able to argue that they have the right to do this without paying for the content?

Just because air travel is now possible, does that mean I should have the right to fly anywhere I want without paying for my portion of the fuel required to make that trip?

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