If you read music news blogs you know that the music industry is going through an identity crisis trying to find “sustainable models” and other funny business terms. I just came across an online music store which seeks to capitalize on the “I knew about XYZ artist before they got big” phenomenon. Their slogan is catchy–“Popcuts.com: Buy Music. Make Money.”
They sell downloads for independent artists and it works kind of like a legal pyramid scheme with social networking built in. For every person that buys a song after you do, you get a portion of what they paid. My assumption is that they’re banking on the idea that they’ll make it up in volume. In other words, by paying consumers even a nominal amount, so many more people will be buying music from Popcuts and so many more artists will be selling their music through Popcuts that it will more than pay for itself. Will this work in practice? Who knows. Humans are creatures of both habit and trust. They’re targeting serious music fans, most of whom probably already have a routine way of buying music. And frankly the offer seems too good to be true. But they’ve thrown in an added incentive: the bragging rights of being able to verify that you did, in fact, discover an artist before all your friends.*
It’s an interesting concept, but in my view the sink-or-swim question is how much money? The artists get to choose any percentage of their money to give back to the fans, so that answer remains unclear.
One thing I like about Popcuts.com is that they target the consumer. The ad I clicked on featured a collage of childhood photos of music stars and the text read: “You knew about them before they were cool. Show it off.” This provides a stark contrast to the multitude of budding online music retailers who cater exclusively to the artist, which screams, “I know some rich dude who wants to put his name behind the Next Big Thing even though he has no understanding of the music industry whatsoever, which is why I was able to swindle him and his rich pals with this shortsighted idea,” or even, “I heard chicks dig entrepreneurs so I figured I’d give this a shot!”
Popcuts, on the other hand, has attracted some legitimate attention with Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante selling his solo work along with indie rockers Piebald.
UPDATE: Just checked out Popcuts on Twitter (@popcuts) and saw they’re also selling a record Phil and I worked on, Break The Silence by American Idol finalist Jon Peter Lewis.
Will Popcuts become the new CDBaby? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
*Ah, high school.