16 May Mercora gets music sharing right
So much has been written, said, and even adjudicated about peer-to-peer music sharing that it would be easy to miss yet another music service promising to legitimize song sharing. Yet Mercora really is different, and it’s been far-from-ignored by the 1.5 million people who have downloaded the software since its quiet debut about nine months ago. In that short time, Mercora’s IM Radio – the IM stands for Individual Modulation – has transformed from a legal music sharing system to arguably the world’s largest high-fidelity digital radio network, with some 20,000 channels of music available each day.
These channels are created and broadcast by Mercora members – individuals, DJs and artists who whare their music with the Mercora network. This sharing goes beyond a static playlist, however. Anyone can become a live DJ by Webcasting songs, Podcasts and other content in real-time through Mercora’s IM DJ module. With half its members living outside the U.S., Mercora is a world music network like no other, with user-contributed content providing a huge diversity of musical styles and genres.
The software, now at version 3.0, is a simple tool for sharing and listening to music, and an even better system for discovering new music. The software’s search engine lets listeners find songs and artists that are currently being broadcast by another Mercora member. As songs are played, they are cross-referenced to similar artists, letting the listener discover new music from the starting point of a known artist. The Mercora catalog currently includes 31 million songs.
The network also includes a healthy dose of social networking, in which friends recommend music to friends, as well as collaborative filtering, which helps listeners find other network members with similar music tastes.
Mercora is a fantastic music sharing and listening service – yet as important, it is a tremendous breakthrough in the business model of digital music services. As music crosses the network, Mercora identifies copyrights and permissions. On the receiving side, Mercora lets the listener time-shift and record songs only if the digital rights allow it. Mercora also tracks and pays artist royalties, exactly as a radio station does. In this way, artists are compensated as their music is shared across the Mercora network.
The rights management features of Mercora were developed in strict compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of time-shifting in the 1984 Sony/Betamax case and other copyright laws. The interesting side effect of the Mercora system is that it effectively launders illegal music downloads, making the sharing of those songs across the network legal and profitable for artists.
Later this week and over the summer, Mercora said it plans to roll out new features to make the network a serious competitor to satellite radio and other subscription-based music services. In a marketplace jaded by peer-to-peer and pay-to-play music services, Mercora is a breakthrough. It combines exceptional technology with a very smart business strategy – something other music services have been lacking. You can try Mercora free for seven days – after that, the basic service of listening for free for one hour per day, remains free. The premier service costs $4.99 per month, or $47.88 per year with unlimited listening time and 10 hours of recording capability.
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