This Just In: Major Labels And MySpace May Not Have Indies’ Best Interests At Heart

noah | April 9, 2008 12:15 pm

So, MySpace Music! It’s going to change the distribution of recorded music as we know it… or at the very least entice people into giving their credit card numbers over to the site, thus setting themselves up for a lifetime of fake Macy’s gift card offers. No, but seriously, it’s going to be an incredible leap forward for the entire industry, because it’ll give money to artists and labels and allow people to listen to said artists’ and labels’ music for free, right? Well, actually, that whole “giving money” part may not be true for the many independent labels out there whose bands account for millions of pages on the site, but who aren’t part of the joint venture that MySpace has entered into with three of the four major labels. A letter from the indie-leaning digital distributor The Orchard outlines some of the concerns that those not affiliated with a major label might have about the service:

* News reports indicate that this new service is a joint venture between MySpace and at least three of the four major labels, and that in exchange for supplying the store with their music, among other possible contributions, the major labels have been given equity in the new venture

* If news reports are true, it is unclear whether and how the equity the participating major labels received will be shared by them with their artists, or with the independent labels they simply distribute (yet count in their overall market share, and whose music they presumably intend to include in the MySpace service

* To our understanding, independents have not been offered any equity. However, we will make a strong and unequivocal commitment to you: very simply, if we negotiate for and receive equity, we will share it with you

* We appreciate MySpace as a unique social phenomenon and the fact that many of you rely on MySpace as an important part of your web presence and fan connection. Thus, we engage with MySpace respectful of the role MySpace plays for many of you. We do not take this opportunity lightly, and we will constructively but aggressively advocate for you … as we always do

* Digital retail is fairer than physical brick-and-mortar retail ever was. iTunes led by example and helped to shift music industry dynamics towards a more level playing field for all industry participants (for example, in their continued efforts to further standardize pricing, and their reasonably democratic way of dealing with placements on the site). In that light, if reports are true, the apparent MySpace licensing approach is troubling. It hearkens back to a time none of us wants to revisit … Where independent artists and labels were third-class citizens in the global music economy, instead of the second-class citizenship (with a good chance for an upgrade to first) that we enjoy today

So let me get this straight… you’re worried about major labels possibly engaging in a practice that might knock those uppity indies back into the role they were in before digital distribution up and made everything go haywire, thus taking money out of the majors’ pockets and spreading it around to more people. Really, how could you even think that they wouldn’t want to engage in a little bit of anticompetitive chicanery, The Orchard? Have you not read Hit Men lately?

Full Text Of Orchard’s MySpace Letter To Labels [Hypebot]