MP3.com - We Made History!
By Chris Burnett
Well, it is official: "THE destination for digital music", and the very first Online Music Distribution site in the world will cease to exist on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 at 12:00 PM PST. Members were officially informed by direct email correspondence, and also via a post to the moderator section of its message board, that the MP3.com, Incorporated website will no longer be accessible in its current form.
CNET Networks, Inc. announced on November 13, 2003 that it has acquired certain assets of MP3.com, Inc. Following a transition period, CNET Networks, Inc. plans to introduce new and enhanced artist services.
MP3.com's content administration tools will remain available to artist members until the site is redirected on December 2, 2003. However, promptly following the removal of the MP3.com website, all content will be deleted from its servers and all previously submitted tapes, CD-ROMs and other media in its possession will be destroyed. MP3.com recommend that artist members make alternative content hosting arrangements as soon as practicable.
MP3.com advised artists and members to update or remove all links and references to the URL www.mp3.com. "Additionally if you would like a historical record of your page, we recommend that you capture screen shots of the page as well as your artist statistics pages since they will no longer be available once the site goes offline", concluded their announcement. [Click HERE for the full-sized actual Screen Capture of Cb's MP3.com Artist Page from November 14, 2003]
CHANGE IS USUALLY A GOOD THING
Many readers and visitors to my official website already know that I have been an active supporter regarding most aspects of online music distribution for a bit over 4 years now. This column is also in that category. Even though I manage the schedule of a full-time musician by profession, I believe it important to learn about this aspect of promoting my music and recordings. I have not been disappointed in terms of what I have continued to learn regarding the real potential of the Internet and World Wide Web as a viable platform.
So, this particular change and the fact that my favorite MP3 site will soon no longer exist is not as disappointing for me as it may be for some. Change is usually a good thing. Jazz musicians generally understand the necessity for change.
I think that MP3.com was the pioneer in this field and started something great. Just as the Ford Company started mass production of the automobile. We have moved on from the Model-T and we independent artists will successfully move on after MP3.com. The success of the new subscription service models for music downloads made it clear that the days of sites like MP3.com were numbered. Especially when entities such as iTUNES and Rhapsody initiated a means for independent products to be included on such services via defacto label conduits like The Orchard and CDBaby.
THE MP3.com TECHNOLOGY WAS COOL
Despite the end of their P4P (Payback for Playback) artist royalty payment promotion), the main reason that I doggedly stayed with MP3.com was because of the supposed potential outside visitor traffic, overall quality of their jazz artist catalogue, and the size of the place.
They also publicly tracked the number of plays - actually good stuff for PR Kit data because it showed that someone was actually listening to my music. I had also become a somewhat established artist presence within the community there, and the nature of my music seemed more suited to such a diverse potential visitor population that the site attracted for me.
The interactive tools on the site such as the ability to make a Streaming Radio Station Playlist of music from most any of the world-class jazz artists on the site was great too. No traditional radio Program Directors or DJ tastes to contend with. Anyone from anywhere on the planet could make and listen to a mix of tracks that they wanted to hear and share.
As relatively yet unknown, but serious jazz artists, the context of having ones music available to the market place and listening public in such an unencumbered way was liberating for many of us who had music there. Think about it, where else could I easily have my music online with other fellow independent jazz artists, along with other jazz artists who are better known than I am. Names like: Marsalis Family, Robin Eubanks, Oliver Lake, Erica Lindsay, George Benson, Ahmad Alaadeen, George Colligan, Phil Davis, and many others of this caliber may not mean anything to the average person - BUT, in the jazz world we all know who these cats are.
Many of these world-class artists actually heard and commented on my music from my having it available on MP3.com; and, I have even corresponded with several of them because of that Internet site.
So, there has been some benefit. I even got a recent Maynard Ferguson gig because the contractor heard of me by recommendation, then actually found me online at MP3.com to listen before officially hiring my quartet.
OPEN LETTER TO MP3.COM
Upon announcement of this news, the message boards at MP3.com were very busy with various comments about the situation. As you can probably imagine, the messages, reactions and notes varied greatly from G rating to triple X rating, while including most emotions (or emoticons) imaginable. Hey, it is people posting on the Internet afterall - remember?
So, I posted the letter below to the Moderator section of the site as my personal farewell and thanks to the people who made MP3.com work for us for so long. Here is my letter?
Dear MP3.com Artist Support Team, and MP3.com, Inc.:
I too would like to add a word of thanks to all of you, and MP3.com, the company. You changed the music industry paradigm for the better - forever!
We all learned a lot about promoting and marketing our music online through the resources made available here. And most of us, who had been here a while, also earned some residual income for our time and efforts during the years of your P4P promotion.
My perspective on this is because I make my living as a musician in the world away from OMD. So, I never counted on MP3.com, or OMD, to earn vital income or to get me "signed" - or anything else unrealistic like that. I became a member here simply to have the potential of other people being able to listen to my recorded music.
My music has been downloaded or streamed here over half a million times by people from at least 58 countries throughout the world. This is significant to me in an artistic sense because it shows a market does exist for my work. I have received emails from many countries expressing appreciation for my music as well...
I know some are thinking that my number of plays isn't significant when compared to the MP3.com marketing done by Ernesto Cortazar's multi-person staffed retail organization, or the sheer volume of plays generated by online electronic musicians at MP3.com like Bassic, 303Infinity, and Trance  Control. Not to mention that there are many artists in the more commercially common genres (which includes both, smooth or pop jazz and classical public domain cover music) who also have many more plays than I accumulated. So, I have taken my online success here in a healthy and relative context, ok?
However, it was confirmed that there was no other ACOUSTIC JAZZ ARTIST at MP3.com who achieved over 500,000 total plays. That's a really cool fact for me to present considering the dynamic of this demographic of artists. You have to consider that most acoustic jazz guys like me would have long ago ditched the MP3.com artist community scene, gave up on how to interface with the online music tools of the site, and of course their computers would have been a casualty at some point too. So, I did pretty good for one of the serious artistic jazz guys and I learned a lot too - COOL!
I think that there are and will be many other opportunities for independent musicians like myself with online music. But, MP3.com will always be a significant part of the history of the music industry worldwide. And all of us were a part of making that history too!
Musician and Composer
Kansas City USA
P.S. - I am not in total shock that this has happened though... See Musings in Cb: "Online Music Distribution - Is Anyone Really Listening?"
That is the end of my letter and also the end of my official associations with MP3.com. With that duly noted, I sincerely believe that the most promise is still ahead of us with regard to online music.
Realistically speaking, most artists who had been involved with OMD for any time period knew that it was only a matter of time before MP3.com was gone. The technology and model for delivering music online has changed. When MP3.com started, most musicians did not have their own websites and their templates really helped. Today, most professionally done websites make an MP3.com page look silly, while also being more secure using Flash delivery while simultaneously storing the music content away from the clutches of the music industry nemesis those dreaded download pirates.
It was time for change...
But hey, MP3.com We Made History!
- CNET News.com - The official press release by the new owners of the MP3.com assets.
* WHERE ARE THEY NOW: All of the links directed to MP3.com were removed after December 2, 2003 as a result of the site being discontinued and deleted from the Internet. Also, of note is that some of the top artists from those MP3.com years, have actually gone on to more success. Besides myself, who was recently signed to the Kansas City jazz label, 'ASR RECORDS, there are other continuing success stories of note that I have watched develop as well. However, I discovered that all seem to have the common thread of being actual live performers, along with having had music at MP3.com. None of the "MP3.com big earners" like those mentioned earlier in this piece, who didn't also perform live have not been even remotely successful in this same context. Most cannot even be found to have a presence anywhere online anymore. So, this validates and confirms that the Internet is largely only supplemental toward enhancing the overall activities; from a serious professional artist perspective at least.
Anyway, there are probably more performing artists from other various genres, but here are a few to check out in this "Where Are They Now" follow-up: Euge Groove (smooth jazz); George Kahn (acoustic jazz), and Ryan Farish (new age/electronica).