By Chris Burnett
I've been involved with promoting my independent recordings at MP3 Web Sites almost from the beginning. The revolutionary aspect of doing so was based upon the fact that my music could be potentially distributed to, and heard by, millions of world-wide jazz fans.
However, after countless hours of developing strategies and then promoting visitors toward my music at such sites, the initially anticipated potential opportunities have never materialized for me and most independent musicians like me.
To date, I've witnessed many of these sites go out of business at worst, or simply deteriorate significantly in functional quality, at the least. The anticipated volumes of listener and CD buyer traffic to these sites just never seemed to materialize. It is now obvious (even to me), that most of the traffic at most all MP3 sites has been generated from the artist members themselves. It also seems time to just face the fact that the P2Ps (Peer To Peer, file swapping sites like Napster and clones) have always been where the real "potential consumer" traffic (and, the so-called digital music revolution too, for that matter) existed in online music...
This particular musing addresses certain questions as to possibly why the potenitial of music distribution platform MP3 sites never really caught on outside of the Internet musician community.
Are We All Still In Shock - AGAIN?
Until founder, and former MP3.com CEO, Michael Robertson launched what now turns out to have been the infamously misguided "Beam-It" application, MP3.com was indeed the premier destination online for digital music. No other entity in the business was offering such a revolutionary means to deliver music to listeners worldwide. To be fair to MP3.com, the company never considered itself in "the music business". It considered its software and digital delivery technology systems to be the primary focus. Music just happened to be a vital component for most of their tech tools.
So, considering the above, they did a pretty good job providing a service that had never existed before to independent musicians. The above mentioned "Beam-It" application was developed to be an online storage locker for anyone's entire CD collection. The primary issue that seemed not to be considered prior to launching this application, was that MP3.com did not have the Music Licensing for much of the copyrighted material being uploaded on its "Beam-It" servers.
The rest, as they say, is history. With the multitude of resulting and crippling law suits, and the eventual buy out by a media giant called Vivendi Universal a couple of years ago, MP3.com ceased being an equalizing marketing platform on the level it once was for independent artists.
It was probably the closest actual resource in the (digital) music world that offered something tangible to both, consumers and artists. That particular web company was once a leading factor for participating in the "online music revolution" for hundreds of thousands of musicians. It once brought together the largest numbers of independent recording artists in one place, paid them for the use of their music, and offered a platform in the form of professional streaming music web sites that seemed on par with most any afforded to many major label artists.
MP3.com is still somewhat significant, and will always hold an esteemed place in the history of the independent digital musician's revolution. However, I now fear that MP3 sites like this have potential to become no more than "online portfolio pages"; or worse, just forgotten "back rooms on the Internet". This observation is due to the nonexistence, or at the very least, a substantial lack of advertising and marketing campaigns to target audiences offline as well.
Are MP3 Sites Still Relevant?
There are still too many obstacles in the way of most independent recording artists that seemingly go unacknowledged in the mainstream music press and corporate music industry. Now it seems that most MP3 sites have become among these obstacles as well i.e. the paying for placid services, and then receiving minimal support. The fact that most of these companies do not actually advertise themselves to the public, is not a good prospect or balanced scenario toward achieving success.
If you are a musician and don't have your own web page, most MP3 sites are still a good place to pay for a professional online musical presence. As stated earlier, most MP3 sites are good online portfolios. However, beyond that, I'm afraid that paying probably isn't a good investment for many other musicians. As individual artists, we all have to advertise; whether such advertising is on stage at live shows or via print ads in various offline trade and media publications. MP3 sites just don't seem to want to advertise like this, and then seem to wonder why they keep sinking further away from a profitable status. Hmmm..., not even one-inch by one-inch ads of their web site URLs.