Tuesday, 13 April 2010

MFlow - incentivised music discovery

Whinging about the music industry..... so I said that I'd stop that and concentrate on the positives. Before I do though the Guardian have gone into a bit more detail on exactly what artists get paid by Spotify, which is important, because Spotify wouldn't be streaming music if the record companies weren't getting paid, so somewhere along the line there's a lot of money not going the way of artists.

anyway, positives....
So MFlow is a social music discovery site. And a social music trading site. But one that the record industry approves of. As you can see from the screengrab it looks a lot like Spotify. Essentially the way it works is that you follow people if you share their taste, and they 'flow' tunes to you to listen to. And you can reflow stuff on to your followers. Or of course create your own flows. This all sounds very Twitterly familiar, but the smart stuff is in the trading bit. MFlow is all built into an interface similar to iTunes that allows one click purchase. 20% of the purchase price is passed on to whoever recommended the tune to you. Likewise you make 20% of the price of anything that your followers buy based on your recommendation. The follower/following dynamic is a little bit hit and miss so far, as you can't import your social graph from anywhere else so you have to do a bit of digging. MFlow is still in private beta though, and Facebook, Twitter and LastFM import functionality are coming soon.

I think this is a very smart system for a few reasons. Firstly rather than penalising fans for being fans, it makes discovery and payment part of one process - sharing music is incentivised. Secondly there is a weird thrill to see your first payment come through - it might only be £0.20 per song, but that is essentially someone handing over hard cash to YOU for YOUR great taste. And thirdly it socialises what what (bizarrely) a very solitary pastime. Music itself (creation of, listening to, talking about, organising life around) is extremely social, but the actual physical act of buying it (or downloading it, or borrowing your mate's hard drive full of it, or whatever) is highly solitary since the demise of the music shop. Services like Spotify (lowering the barriers to access to music) and LastFM (the best social discovery system that has been invented to date) get you only as far as hearing music, not buying it. MFlow makes buying music social.

I'd love to know how the payments are structured on the other side though - are musicians going to see any of the potential revenue? Or is their work only going to be licensed in future keep the unnovation-hungry record companies alive for another year?

I think Mflow launches next week some time, but if you want to try it before give me a shout


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