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Stream of the Crop

img  Tobias

Let others do the fighting: Steve Jobs, first man of record-company Apple (they just booked their best year ever) is battling it out with the record companies (who are still on the decline), who want to introduce different and more flexible pricing models and be awarded a share of iPod-sales. This may befit a man, who has had to come back after being ousted by his own enterprise and has led to online-downloads taking up a larger chunk of the market than regular singles. But there may still be better models around.

A label that has drawn a lot of insider attention in the last few months is Magnatune. Their slogan "We are not evil" is a natural antithesis to an industry everybody seems to hate. Its founder John Buckman knows what he's talking about: His wife made the unpleasant experience of almost bankrupting herself by signing a record deal and lost the rights to her music for an extensive period. This got Buckman thinking. He disliked the fact that musicians only received ludicrously small amounts of money for the music they sold and even had problems getting by when selling larger amounts. At the same time, he loved the comfortable and sensible approach of Internet Music Communities: They enabled music fans to get a hold of great material and they also proved that the craving for music had not decreased but was as strong as ever.

Magnatune offers a true alternative both for musicians and consumers: Musicians are offered a 50/50 deal - meaning that every dollar of sales is split evenly between the company and its artists. They also provide Internet media, such as radio stations, easy access to their catalogue and actively promote their acts by searching for licensing deals and hooking them up with promoters.

Looking from the perspective of interested listeners, they don't have to buy the pig in a poke. Every single track on Magnatune can be streamed entirely for free! Which means you have immediate access to hours and hours of fantastic music. And unlike, which accepted absolutely everything, Magnatune still scans applications for quality - so you don't need to seperate rotten apples from fresh fruit. Only if you want to listen to the music on your stereo or burn it to CD to share it with your friends, does the financial aspect come in. You can chose between paying for a download and ordering a CD and there's no fixed price: Anything from $5 upwards is okay.

The most astonishing thing is the diversity of the music: Buckman loves to listen to a lot of different stuff and his taste is reflected in his label. So you can find a lot of early Classical Music, Ambient, Electronica, Jazz and Pop/Rock. Sound quality is excellent and streaming is quick and easy.

We are pretty sure that this is one of the models of the near future - it offers total transparency, easy handling and uses the Internet's most positive aspects to the full effect: Connectability, Community-building, Sharing. Of course, Magnatune is probably only an intermediate stage, between now and a future, which will be void of any material media. But that's another issue and also one for heated debates and fights - and we'd much rather just check out some more great music instead.

Homepage: Magnatune

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