While the RIAA continues to sue their own customers creating a lot of bad blood in the process, at least one company out there thinks they’ve found a way to let fans share their music with friends, make money by doing so, and even reward fans for sharing those files. The company is Shared Media Licensing and their product is called Weed, which they’re hoping will grow like one.
The concept itself is simple: Music fans can download any song on the Weed service and play it three times for free. On the fourth play it prompts you to buy the song which will set you back about a dollar each. After you’ve bought the song you can burn it to as many CDs as you want, transfer it to your Windows portable media devices, pass it around on file sharing networks to your heart’s content, and post it to your webpage. Each time a new listener downloads the song the file resets itself to allow for three free plays before asking the newcomer to purchase the song. Three plays should be enough for most folks to decide if they like the track or not and the price isn’t prohibitive at all. On top of all of that, Weed encourages you to share the file as much as possible by paying you a commission of 20% for every person who buys a file they got from you. The artists get 50% and Weed takes 15% and everybody goes home happy. Artists have had some very positive things to say about Weed:
Brian Hardgroove—band leader for Public Enemy and bass player from Fine Arts Militia (another Chuck D group)—compared Weed to Robin Hood. While the major labels continue to sue people for file sharing, he said, Weed rewards files sharing.
“A lot of artists are caught in the middle,” Hardgroove said. “They want a fan base and they want a machinery to put the records out, but the machinery becomes prohibitive.”
Singer-songwriter Stacie Rose said Weed is a great way for people to find new artists.
“Because CDs are so expensive, sometimes people don’t want to take a chance (buying a full CD) with a new artist,” Rose said. “The whole idea of (Weed) is really cool.”
“Basically the fans are promoting the music that they love,” said Jeff Leisawitz, president of Weedfiles, a content provider that has signed about 75 artists, including Heart. “Love Hurts,” the band’s exclusive track, debuted over the summer on Weedfiles at the same time the record was released.
“It’s not a pyramid scheme,” Beezer said. But those who are motivated to get others interested in the music can make some money if people opt to buy the tracks.
“This is a good evolution from free peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa,” said Thomas Dolby Robertson, who recorded the ‘80s hit, “She Blinded Me with Science,” and is now president of Retro RingTones. He’s also considering using the service for his music. “It seems like such a simple idea. I wonder why the guys at Napster didn’t think about this. They never really got around to implementing any fair payment mechanism.”
If it’s good enough for Thomas Dolby then it’s good enough for me (I’m a big fan). Seriously, though, I’ve bought exactly one album through Apple’s iTunes (Dan Reeder) and I was leery of doing that for the simple reason that I’m only allowed to burn it to CD 10 times. Now I don’t think I’ll ever have a need to burn it 10 times, but the limit does make me nervous. I’m also not allowed to share the files with others so they can see how great Dan Reeder is, but at $10 for the album I figured it was worth the risk. I’ve not felt compelled to buy anything else through iTunes, though, and the only reason I have it installed at all is for this one album and so I can watch some of the really large movie trailers that require it.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that there are only a handful of songs produced in the last ten years that appeal to me at all so the option to purchase just those songs and burn them in any combination of CDs I want is very appealing as it the ability to listen to those songs a couple of times before making my decision. Weed sounds like it was designed just for someone like me. I’ve not had a chance to look into the service as of yet, but I’ll probably take the time to do so in the very near future. I’ll let you know what I think of it when I do.