MySpace Music Warms To The Idea Of Indies (A Little)

Dan Gibson | October 24, 2008 11:30 am

There was some controversy around the role of indie labels in MySpace Music (the digital distribution center that was going to change the music world as we know it!); those labels wouldn’t receive the same equity in the site’s profits as the majors, essentially bringing the same stratification that exists in the old-time music business to the new music economy. MySpace still isn’t offering equity to those labels, but it did manage to sign an indie collective featuring such high-profile names as Animal Collective and… Chairlift?

When Chairlift–better known as “oh, another act that’s trying to ride the iPod ad train?”–is one of the “bigger” indie acts touted in a press release announcing a contract-signing, the breakthrough quotient of said deal might be called into question. Indeed, the signing of IODA seems to be more about quantity than quality.

On Thursday, however, MySpace unveiled a deal that should begin to quiet the critics. The News Corp. division announced it had licensed over one million tracks from IODA, a San Francisco-based digital distributor of independent music. IODA’s artist roster includes indie faves such as Paw Tracks’s Animal Collective and Kanine Records’ Chairlift.

“The independent music community has been a cornerstone of MySpace Music,” said Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO of MySpace in a statement. We’re thrilled to welcome IODA and its more than 50,000 artists to MySpace Music.”

MySpace’s critics said the social network was now turning its backs on the same artists who had been instrumental in its growth.

Frank Hajdu, executive director of MySpace Music, says nothing could be further from the truth. “There has been a lot of public misconception about MySpace and its involvement with the independents with the launch,” he said. “We’ve always been committed to the independents from the outset.”

He declined to discuss the terms of the IODA deal. Kevin Arnold, CEO of IODA, was more forthcoming. He said it had taken a while for IODA to strike a deal with MySpace because the social network had initially offered no guarantees, only a share of the music service’s ad revenues.

IODA won’t get equity in MySpace Music. But Arnold said MySpace had sweetened its offer in recent weeks. “We made significant improvements over the previous proposal,” he said. “There are a number of things that are important to us-some guarantees and assurances that there will be revenue for streaming our music.”

IODA does have some important imprints in its catalog (Arts & Crafts, Fat Cat, Relapse, Rounder), but for each of those labels, there’s Kanine Records (home of Chairlift), Rave Police Records, and Geykido Comet Records. MySpace announced they were still in negotiations with Merlin–which is possibly the biggest fish in the indie pond (it has distributors like Domino, Koch and Beggars under their umbrella) and one of the most outspoken opponents to the existing payment structure for indies.

The question unlikely to be answered by the people at IODA is: Why sign on with Myspace Music? The deals being signed are unlikely to adquately serve as payback for the eyeballs indie labels have brought to MySpace in the past and (likely) the future, especially since the majors are getting partial ownership in the venture while indies are left to fight over the scraps. Are smaller labels just making sure they get something from the site, even if said wrangling results in setting a bad precedent for their music’s value?

After uproar, MySpace signs indie music deal [CNN Money] IODA Partners with MySpace Music [Marketwatch]