MySpace To Sell Music from Unsigned Bands

The 400-pound gorilla of social networking, MySpace.com, announced Friday it plans to enter the online music business by letting unsigned bands and artists sell music via MySpace.com pages.

“MySpace has become one of the largest promotional tools for artists and labels to distribute their music to fans,” said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace CEO, in a statement. “By introducing a powerful commercial tool set into the industry, we expect to see artists translate their community reach into sales, ultimately allowing more bands to make a living and connect with fans.”

And MySpace may have a shot: with more than 100 million members and 3 million artists and bands already using the site, MySpace has already assumed a de-facto leading position as an online catalog of unsigned and up-and-coming talent. While some artists and performers don’t participate in the community, increasingly music industry insiders rely on MySpace to discover, identify, and connect with emerging artists. Some label reps have admitted to being shocked if an act doesn’t have a presence on MySpace. (Of course, maybe that shock value is a good thing.)

When the program rolls out, unsigned bands will be able to sell unprotected MP3 files (compatible with essentially every music playing program and portable music player on the market, including the iPod). Bands will set the prices for tracks over and above an as-yet-unpublished “small” distribution fee paid to MySpace for each track. The MySpace music venture and ecommerce services will be administered by SnoCap, a licensing and copyright management service started by Napster founder Shawn Fanning. MySpace is working with eBay to enable paymments through the company’s PayPal online payment system.

Eventually, MySpace hopes to offer copy-protected tracks from studios and major distributors, competing with existing music services like Apple’s market-leading iTunes, as well as Yahoo Music, Rhapsody, Napster, Urge, and many others.

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