Major Changes at MP3.com

By Ken Casper

Sometimes I wonder if I devote too much information in this column to www.MP3.com>. But as I ponder on that, I remember that whenever I've tried to find an artist's music on the web, more often than not, MP3.com is the only place I find the artist's bio and can also stream their music. It's definitely the largest of the OMD's and a place where many local artists host their music, yours truly included.

Big changes at this music site are now in effect. MP3.com used to allow artists to upload and make available for streaming audio an unlimited number of songs. Optionally, if you paid a $20 monthly subscription fee you could participate in the Pay for Play program and earn a half penny for every 30-second play of one of your songs and also receive faster song approvals after uploading.

Effective January 15, 2003, MP3.com management terminated the popular Pay for Play program. Well, it used to be popular anyway, back in the days when a play or download of one of your tunes netted up to ten cents, depending on volume of plays for a day. Those were the glory days of MP3.com, not long after the initial stock IPO generated a half a billion dollars and before MP3.com was judged to have infringed upon the record labels' rights, resulting in legal settlements costing over $300,000. Those days were long before the financially beleaguered Vivendi Universal, who themselves benefited from a $250,000 settlement, purchased MP3.com. In those days of 2000 and 2001, some artists were earning up to $500 a day, with some earning upwards of $1 million in total. With Vivendi Universal at the helm, management goals have shifted. The top 40 of the genre charts are filled mostly with label acts now and the prospect of the indie artist making a buck on the net has all but vanished.

Artists still continue to flock to MP3.com though and they command the largest base of indie artists of any music site on the net. If you are an MP3.com artist, or you are planning to upload some tunes in the near future, you have some decisions to make based upon a series of changes at MP3.com that went into effect February 1, 2003. You can read about them in detail at www.help.mp3.com/help/article/changes.html>. In essence, those services that are offered for free now take on the name of Basic Services and Basic Artists will be limited to having three songs available for streaming to their listening public at any one time. If you did not subscribe to PAS in the past and you uploaded a bunch of songs prior to February 1, you might be surprised if you visit your site now and see only your three most recently uploaded songs remaining on your page. Don't worry. All of your songs are still there. You can login to your artist admin area and select any three at a time to be available for streaming.

If you want to promote more than three songs at a time, you must pay $14.99 monthly / $99 annually to subscribe to the Platinum Premium Artist Service (PAS) or $4.99 monthly / $49 annually to subscribe to Gold PAS. Either PAS plan allows you to exhibit up to 100 songs at a time. In addition, as a Platinum PAS member, new songs will be approved and become available for streaming within two days. Gold members will receive approvals in less than five days. No time frame is offered for Basic Artist song approvals. Basic Artists will no longer receive email support to questions they may have, while Gold artists will receive support within 10 days and Platinum Artists will receive Priority Support, whatever that is.

Unfortunately, the days of the half billion dollar dot com IPO are long gone as are the million dollar pots that MP3.com once split among its artists. Most of the other OMD's are also charging for services now and none are paying the artists anything to speak of. Nevertheless, audio streaming via the Internet is still a viable way to get your music out there and to find a few new fans. Get creative and blast those emails away. You might gain new fans, sell a CD or even land that lucrative record deal.

>Ken Casper is a lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter for Crush! and can be contacted at kgcasper@bellsouth.net> or through www.mp3.com/crushrocks>. email to have your band's MP3.com listed tunes added to the MP3.com Showcase Louisville> station.