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Sk-hype It Up For Digital Music
April 25, 2006
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“Skype's inherently social network will enable more sales than iTunes,” Phil Wolff bravely asserts.

Wolff is a leading VoIP observer and writer for the Skype Journal, a website dedicated to “independent news, views and support” for Skype.

Community spirit has always been important for online music. When Roxio launched Napster 2.0, they said that it could never be a success unless they could capture the atmosphere of the original Napster community.

Meanwhile, artists are swearing by the power of sharing their music with the 68 million registered members of MySpace.com. In the UK last week, Gnarls Barkley and The Streets together held the top single and top album sales spots, and both stream their music for free at MySpace.

It is therefore not beyond possibility for Skype to become the next big thing in content distribution. Skype already has millions of active users in social networks.

“It's an economic magnet because users organize themselves along social networks, propagate ideas, and share information through those networks.”

Slyck.com spoke to Wolff to ask why people are not already spreading free music if the opportunity is there. He argued that the current file-transfer feature built into Skype is completely insufficient for more than a few documents.

However, Skype is developing a music store of its own.

With the right integration between the music store and the social networks, the possibilities are endless, he says.

Integration will allow users to listen to and discuss music live, then make purchases from the store, or trade licenses.

“After buying a song, I should be able to give it to a friend for $0.50, play it in a conference call, download automatically to my MP3 player, mix into a podcast (be sure to negotiate that license first), share playlists like mood indicators to specific users, even broadcast what I'm playing now via mood indicator,” Wolff says in his latest publication.

Music could be listened to and swapped by groups on conference calls, or sold by artists after hosting a discussion with fans. Alternatively sales could come from two friends just chatting.

Wolff believes that if Skype competes with the iTunes store on every front, such as independent content and podcast hosting, then the added advantages of Skype’s social networks will be plenty to compete with the Apple’s iPod advantage.

However, to monitor the envisioned level of casual trading, strong and restrictive DRM would be needed to allow artists to charge for music and for Skype to claim a sales tax. This is likely to cause music portability and compatibility problems for customers.

ZDNet blogger Russell Shaw also raises another concern with the proposal:

“Sounds like a great idea, but I have my doubts about the content industry's acceptance of such a delivery mode.”

Currently Warner Brothers licenses Skype ringtones for the princely sum of $1.50 each, a far cry from Wolff’s suggested $0.50 for a full track.

The idea may never happen, or may never work in practice, but Wolff concludes that “the sooner Skype facilitates this, the better for Skype” and parent companies eBay and PayPal.

The ultimate irony is that the Skype developers, who shook up the record labels with KaZaA, have completed a big circle and are now back in the music business, competing against the far larger file sharing networks which they help to create.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Authorized Music Store :: Other
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Statistics/Analysis

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