Shifting sands in the online music marketplace

YouTube to Kill Apple iTunes?The video peer sharing network YouTube last week announced plans to allow its millions of users to download every music video ever made, free. YouTube's download service is bad news for Apple's successful iTunes site, which charges users $3.39 to download videos to their iPods.

The rise of the internet has caused a revolution in the music industry. Sampling and purchase of music, the focal point of youth culture, has progressively shifted to the internet.

File-sharing programs like Napster and the Australian-based Kazaa allowed users to freely share their copies of copyrighted music without regard to rights holders. Court cases have seen these free services closed down.

The popularity of the MP3 file and Apple's now ubiquitous iPod has legitimised the Internet as a major source of music. Much of today's output is purchased and downloaded from the Internet from large music companies including Apple's own iTunes. Each of these sites allows the visitor to search by music genre, artist or song.

The physical music store is in serious decline as people buy and download online.

The internet is also used today as both a promotional and a distribution method for music. MySpace, the youth social networking phenomenon, is providing the vehicle for many young wannabe and established artists to promote their songs.

ARIA AwardsEstablished international Australian rock group Jet used MySpace Australia to promote a 'secret' gig to their loyal fans just before the ARIA Awards, which were held in Melbourne last week. Visitors to the music section of MySpace Australia were invited to a suburban Melbourne hotel.

Within the Australian music section of MySpace, many established bands such as Perth's Eskimo Joe also have sites with music available to stream and publicity about forthcoming tours and concerts. The site also offers many promotional special features such as the ability to exclusively listen to a track 'Colour of a Carnival' from Australian artist Kasey Chambers' new album 'Carnival' prior to its commercial launch on 19 August. 

Based around the English-Welsh border is a teenage band Syren for Life, which is writing and recording well-regarded, listenable music. Aged between 14 and 17, and all attending a school in Monmouth in Wales, Syren for Life has a fascinating website on MySpace. A very slick song with popular resonance titled 'A Mourn for the Lost' can be played and downloaded from MySpace. The band is currently recording a four track EP which no doubt will be available from MySpace in the near future.

But, who will find them amidst the many musicians looking for their big break?

Triple J UnearthedTriple J in Australia has recently relaunched Unearthed as a massive site for music lovers to find new and unsigned artists who are encouraged to upload their songs. Unearthed has moved on from its origins in July 1995. Then it was a region-by-region competition for musicians and bands to send in demo tapes and CDs. Many existing big names in the Australian music industry such as Missy Higgins, Killing Heidi and Grinspoon started by being 'unearthed' and played on Triple J.

Unearthed has now morphed into a sophisticated website for musicians to upload songs. For lovers of music, there is a wealth of talent sorted by genre. Artists are encouraged to upload information about themselves. While there are thousands of songs already uploaded a couple of weeks since launch, only a handful have been played on Triple J. The music is described as 'fresh' with a range of genre on offer, from dance and punk to roots.

In terms of genre and music sound, a gateway into the new music of another country can be found with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's New Music Canada and Roots Music Canada, which are two specialised music services for new Canadian musicians to showcase their material, hopefully get spotted and played on the CBC's domestic radio stations. They are also used by the CBC's internet radio service, Radio 3, which is devoted to new music in Canada. Podcasts and blogs are also featured.
digPodcasts, streaming of audio and other additional information for music devotees can also be found on the Australian equivalent, the ABC's Dig music services, which include the three Dig internet radio streaming stations featuring jazz, country and many other genre not prominently featured on radio stations in Australia. 

Music is now everywhere on the internet, allowing music lovers everywhere access to not just the commercial, popular and contemporary tracks that were previously on sale at the local ‘record store', but the ability to tap into music being made anywhere.



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