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MySpace Music leaves creators cold

Sing for your supper

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What a pity that while raging against the (dying) major record label, keyboard warriors are content to see them gain more power over creators than ever before. MySpace announced its long-awaited music service yesterday, with barely a peep of protest.

MySpace Music has the formal backing of three of the four major labels. The fourth, EMI, is expected to sign on any day. In exchange for litigation being settled, rights for the streaming and commercialisation of recordings will be granted.

Until now, labels large and small have bridled at the Murdoch-owned site's refusal to pay royalties. Without music, MySpace would have an audience smaller than a Doncaster Rovers home game, and be about as attractive as a wall of grafitti.

MySpace executives have responded by telling bands that they should be grateful they don't need to build their own websites - and that if they want to make money, they should try selling more T-shirts.

But if the internet really is a brave new world for songwriters, composers and performers, where's the upside?

Strike One:

Major labels will jointly own the new service. There's no stake for the indie sector which invests in the "Long Tail" - as much as 40 per cent of the market - or the collection societies who represent composers. That returns a degree of control over distribution and exposure back to majors that most people assumed the internet has destroyed. It's a major coup.

Strike Two:

By excluding societies, majors control the accounting and therefore the royalty split. Instead of negotiating a more equitable deal, composers and songwriters can now expect to see rates driven down.

Strike Three:

In a move that will dismay managers, MySpace Music will take care of sponsorship opportunities for artists. These will be handled by News Corp-owned Jamba.

Strike Four:

Billy Bragg recently drew attention to the fact that while music adds tremendous value to a site, this is only realised when the site cashes out (like Bebo). By ensuring they own equity in the service, only the majors will see the benefits.

Unfortunately, the people with the 'Smash The RIAA' bumper stickers are so busy fighting for the right not to pay for music, they don't notice when the major labels succeed in a historic power grab.

Welcome to Feudalism 2.0. ®

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