(Friday Feb 6th, 2009) the digital distributor to college campuses Rukus shuttered its doors with this notice: “Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided. Thank you,” That means lights out for a number of colleges, universities and students who had signed up for “free” ad supported music.

Ruckus, first hatched in 2003, was acquired by TotalMusic, a collaboration between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

TotalMusic itself (reported on here in 2008) is also now being shuttered, at least according to details shared by Vice President of Product Management Jason Herskowitz in Digital Music News.

“I regret that we didn’t get to show you guys more about what we built – but in these extremely hard economic times it’s hard to blame them for pulling the plug on a still-highly-speculative offering,” Herskowitz offered. “I only hope that someone else figures out how to crack this music-on-the-web nut in a way that is a win for everyone in the value chain,” Herskowitz continued. “The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, all of the famished participants have to sit at the table – and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves.”

It is clear that protected music locked up in a highly controlled service is just simply not what the consumers want anymore, if ever. Continued pursuit of a rights-managed solution that attempts to preserve the status-quo of copyright holders controlling the distribution of music is futile. No more money needs to be wasted on looking backwards.

Instead, lets all come together and help to create systems that embrace frictionless distribution of music and respect the desire of the music consumer to select what they want to listen to. If we make it easy for them to find what they want, more will come. If we make it cheap enough so that the music appears to be free, move will come. If we make it possible for people to spread the word on a new service that suits their needs, more will come. We need to look forward, not backwards and admit that the old game is over and a new game has begun.

I met with Derek Sivers this past weekend (founder of CD-Baby) and asked him what he thought about the recorded music business and the decline in CD sales. He said “well I’m not quite sure what you mean Dave, as sales of indie music at CD Baby have increase at least 30% in 2008 over 2007.” What CD Baby does is provide a way for indie artists to sell their music online in CD form, to sell their music online in digital form and to provide distribution for artists who had none. Many of these artists are thriving now because Derek was willing to think different.

TuneCore is another service that lets artists put their music online for distribution through iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, eMusic and other services for a small up-front fee. This is a radical business model that looks forward, not backward, and pushes indies artists ahead on their journey.

New companies such as Lala, iLike, TopSpin, ReverbNation, SonicBids, Nimbit and many, many others are taking radical new approaches to indie artist promotion and distribution that will change the way that the music business functions. Connecting artists directly with their fans in a meaningful way that respects that relationship and lets it thrive is the way of the future.

Artists need to band together to assemble the knowledge and power that is required to propel them into the future. Watch this space for much more on this subject in the coming months. It is time for a revolution in thinking about music commerce and sustainable models for artists and their fans to connect and engage and prosper and interact. This is what the future of music is all about.

We Welcome Your Comments


9 replies
  1. eric hebert says:

    Trent Reznor showed us the model – why are we all still sitting on our butts discussing it?

    Give something away and offer premium content/merch for the hardcore fans (of course you’ll have to build them up over years of hard work in order to make a buck).

    We don’t need third party distribution services at all – the artists can reach out directly.

  2. Will says:

    I agree with Eric. We can put music on third party sites to attract fans to our main site where we control, interact and sell to fans directly. There are lots of free software for this such as wordpress and ning.com

  3. penas says:

    sounds like a running nose!

    clever is when you get any money

    just search for Virgin Unlimited Music

    they just want control back, no way jose

  4. Brandon Keeley says:

    I have always been intrigued by the ad-revenue model for music but I don’t think it would be effective long term in it’s current form. With people over time become more and more ad-blind channels like paid search are becoming less and less effective on the net for anything other than branding (which I would assume would be what large names would be doing when sponsoring). I think for the amount of content spread across the web and all the music coming from all different directions, you would have to have some sort of adsense situation set up where “joe blow” could get his ads up there and not just the heavy hitters… in the end it has to be cost effective for “joe blow” or it will just have to be written off as an ad channel, not a sales channel.

    Got me thinking 🙂
    Brandon Keeley
    Download my new tune “Prove My Love”

  5. dkusek says:

    I think a lot of money can be generated by ads and music, but how it gets distributed is the issue. If that can be worked out under some kind of general agreement that benefits all the parties, then we will see growth.

    The parties are going to have to agree for this to work.

  6. Dave Allen says:

    There’s a great debate going on over at my site on this post http://www.pampelmoose.com/mspeaks/2009/02/how-bands-can-make-more-money-by-not-putting-a-price-on-a-cd

    I propose that at shows bands should not attach a price to their CDs and T-shirts. Those that have followed this advice report increased sales. Including James Taylor’s son Ben, last night doubled his sales to $1200. He will be sending me the breakdown of those sales later today. Feel free to join the conversation.

  7. Peter Wells says:

    Hey Dave Allen, nice to see you again–and hey Dave Kusek, good article!

    Things are damn rosy at TuneCore, too. These upheavals, the loss of Rukus, drops in CD sales, growth at TuneCore, new services and models popping up seemingly every day, make for a heck of ride.

    If there’s one thing I’ve seen at TC so far, it’s that many bands like KNOWN COSTS. I think one key to our success is that artists know from the start exactly what dig. dist. will cost them, up front.

    Percentages are messy, label deals of the old stripe are messy, anything that relies on predicting/recouping or pre-investing (overhead, buying T-shirts or manufacturing phys. product) is messy. Bands still want all that, but there’s a palpable relief for many when they can just put their music into the stores, pay a flat fee and that’s it.

    Stay in touch!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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