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Recently, I’ve become a big fan of a French music sharing site called Jamendo. All the music is Creative Commons, free for streaming. But if you like an album, you can download it for free via BitTorrent or eMule. So far, the site has 2300+ albums uploaded. For those who thought YouTube’s revenue sharing announcement was a big deal, I say, let’s look instead at Jamendo’s business model:

jamendo

On every album and artist page there is a link to a tip jar. The artist receives 100% of the donation, minus a small transaction fee. The Web site receives the transaction fee and splits ad revenue with the artist. Jamendo uses the CCpublisher uploading tool (also used on archive.org) and lets people browse genres by folksonomic keywords. (It also lets you bookmark favorites (here, you can view my favorite albums–warning, lots of French pop and Euro-trance!). On the artist page, people can write reviews and even make blog entries about a particular album. While user ratings can affect the visibility of certain music on the site, it is still relatively easy to browse other people’s playlists/favorites and search by keyword. You can view the impressive community (and statistics about downloads and community size). But the data that drew my attention is the number of donations people are making to individual artists. It’s not a lot so far, but Jamendo is on its way to creating a community that rewards great music without qualms. Oh, and this is not particularly new, but Jamendo lets you embed a personalized music player in any web page you choose. Here’s mine:

Now here’s the million dollar question: what lessons, if any, can e-book publishers learn from Jamendo?

First, there’s an awful lot of content creators out there willing to give their content away for free (and a surprising number are good). Second, tools for distributing, cataloguing and rating this content are improving with every year. Third, the openness permitted by Creative Commons offers a way for independents to compete against various mainstream media blitzes. Fourth, it seems clear that audio books can go the way of jamendo (and in fact, podiobooks did do that–while still taking a portion of the author’s profit). Fifth, although the site has yet to produce lots of revenue, it does so without a lot of DRM. That may cause problems; for example, it’s only a matter of time before people start uploading things (and receiving tips) for content they themselves did not create. (Perhaps that’s a business model for the site itself: verifying that the content is not infringing—hey, welcome to Time-Warner’s world!).

But music and books are different beasts. You consume music in massive qualities and sometimes casually; reading is something you do more carefully, more deliberately. It’s harder to persuade a person to read a novel than listen to an album (there are lots of road trips that require musical accompaniment, not to mention chores). Music is something you can multitask; Books/e-books require more forethought (although in this generation of RSS feeds, that may be changing). Although both kinds of content are portable, we do different things with them. We use music for relaxation and e-books to fill our recreation time (or alternately, as a portable reference to serve a specific need). It takes a lot longer for reader feedback to spread throughout the community of readers than feedback for a certain song. Years–sometimes even decades—go by before people actually hear about a book.

Despite these differences, Jamendo is an inspiration for people in the content creation field regardless of genre. No more chintzy exploitation of creative content by YouTube and MySpace. Nah, we don’t need YouTube; we have Jamendo.

 
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