Does the world still need a BeatPick?

BeatPick.com was founded almost three years ago, in the February of 2006. An eternity in the frenzied rhythms of today’s multimedia-centred music business. In reading some of the principles that inspired its’ birth – music with no DRM or strings attached, fairer distribution of earnings with artists, free use of creative works for non-commercial projects – one can’t help but wonder if in such frenetic times, these business model-related ethic themes aren’t somewhat outdated.

Surely, three years on, things must be going differently, after the vertical downslide of the major record companies, and the widespread use of Creative Commons licenses?

Indeed, I wish that were the case. But it’s enough to surf the web for a half hour to discover that, alas, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Indeed the role of the most hated player on the field, once contended between the five Major record labels, has now been passed on, in a somewhat generational fashion, to the new ruler of the scene, Apple. And while Steve Jobs’ company is celebrating the success of the ever-so-criticized iPhone, little is it doing to gain much sympathy from artists and the public, or indeed to change the behavioural schemes that earned the majors such a degree of hatred.

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Indeed, while finding the time to sue The Victoria School of Business and Technology in Canada for using a logo all too similar to its’ own (see image), the company also has been reported to have menaced to close down its’ iTunes store if the composers’ share on sales of their music were to rise above the 9 cents they are currently earning on each track (a miserable 10%: exactly what major record companies used to offer musicians). The threat was made in a submission to the US Copyright Royalty Board, the arbitrator which sets the rate for statutory licences. Is this possible in the age of In Rainbows? Indeed. Not to mention the incredible survival of the iTunes DRM system, which still inhibits perfectly reasonable behaviour on the part of its’ clients.

Speaking of which, you might want to check out the strings attached to pursuing music from Nokia’s own mobile music store, Comes With Music, which launched last week:

  • You don’t own the songs that you download. “The sound recordings, musical compositions and other content comprising the Catalog are owned and/or controlled by Nokia…”
  • Use is restricted to your Nokia cell and 1 PC. “You may download Comes With Music Content from the Catalog during the Service Period and save the downloads on one (1) registered compatible PC and one (1) registered Comes With Music Device…”
  • You may not burn Comes With Music Content to a compact disc or otherwise transfer it to any media.”
  • Abusive Use Policy…If our analysis of your use of the Service suggests abusive or excessive downloading, Nokia may contact you and ask you to moderate your usage. If you fail to comply with such a request, Nokia reserves the right to restrict or terminate your use of the Service.”

Even without using the words “collecting societies” once, I believe the question asked in the title of this post has already been answered.

Yes, the world does need services providing music with no DRM attached. And artists need services willing to split all earnings 50/50, rather than sob over cents on each deal.

The world needs a BeatPick.com.

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