RIAA Alternatives

Depending on whom you believe, free Internet music file sharing is either crippling the record industry or offering precious exposure and free advertising for musicians worldwide. Whatever the truth, the RIAA and the labels themselves have gone to great lengths to offer file-sharing alternatives that give artists monetary compensation for downloaded material.

So far, there are three substantial services endorsed by the major labels, each of them based on a subscription model. The problem is that each of the three -- Listen.com, Pressplay, and MusicNet -- must navigate a treacherous labyrinth of legalese in order to obtain both composer and publishing rights for every song made available.

As a result of artist/publisher refusal, neither the Beatles, the Beach Boys, nor Garth Brooks are available on any of the three sites. Listen.com was the first of the three to get access to the catalogues of all five major labels. Yet for a variety of reasons, only two-thirds of the approved tracks appear on the site's Rhapsody service due to clearance issues. Considering that the majority of the missing material is from big-name acts, potential subscribers are left with little reason to pay for what they can get for free elsewhere on the Internet.

To make matters worse, Listen.com offers only streaming audio, Pressplay songs become unusable when you cancel your subscription, and MP3s from MusicNet last only a month.

If the labels expect people to pay for a nonpermanent version of what they can currently get for free, they're simply going to have to bring a lot more to the table. It's no wonder this faulty triumvirate have thus far been unable to attract anything more than a token subscriber base.

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