When it comes to the battle between music subscription services, the name of the game these past few years has been, undoubtedly, access: Specifically, making the most songs available on the most platforms to the most people. And while we enjoy being able to listen to everything from that super vintage ’90s jam to the newest indie track whenever we want, we can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed — despite all the algorithmic apps and tools on the market that are supposed to help us sort through it all. That’s why we’ve been particular intrigued, of late, by a pair of new/upcoming services that purposely limit what content they release, acting as those cranky old record store owners of yore — educating rather than inundating.
While some of us are fans of particular bands or even singular musicians, following them from project to project, others are, instead, disciples of labels. That’s where Drip.fm comes in. Drip.fm is a relatively new music subscription service created by record label Ghostly International that lets labels do what they do best: curate.
“A lot of fans are asking us, ‘Why can’t I just give you my credit card and you guys send me music automatically?’ A certain level of fan doesn’t necessarily want to worry about making a decision, they just like what we do,” says co-founder Sam Valenti, explaining how Drip.fm came to be.
“We thought about it and a couple of years ago my co-founder Miguel [Senquiz] — who works at Ghostly at me — and I did a simple version of it called Ghostly Music Service and just kind of floated it out there on Twitter and Facebook and to our fans. The response was good enough that we felt confident in taking it further, so we hired a developer and really built it out as a separate platform called Drip.fm.”
Drip.fm, which launched in beta in May 2011, currently has 15 labels on its roster, including Jagjaguwar (of Bon Iver and Dinosaur Jr. fame), Domino (Animal Collective, Dan Deacon, etc), and Polyvinyl Record Co. — to name a few. How it works follows a pretty simple conceit: Sign up to receive content from a particular label (each label costs $10-$15 per month) and receive tons of newly released content via email from that entity. Users can stream tunes on the site, or download jams in high-quality audio formats. Subscribers can also access to a ton of extras, like merch, concert tickets, editorial content and more.
“People really seem to like the idea of, number one, the price, but also the quality of the audio they get,” says Kurt Lane of Domino Records. “It’s 320 MP3s or it’s WAV files, and then outside of that we’re doing contests and stuff where people can win a box set, we’re doing interviews and Q&As with the artists. We’re trying to make it a little more of an actual community as opposed to just giving people audio files every week or so.”
So, basically, Drip.fm provides a much deeper dive for music fans — not only are they hand-delivered new tunes over the course of a month, they can also find out more about favorite bands and new musical discoveries via the service. To a music lover, that’s a lot more useful than seeing what your friend is listening to at any given time.
If you don’t see your favorite label on the service, don’t fret. “We’re still in closed beta, so we’re only letting in labels one at a time,” says Valenti, who feels confident about the future of the service. “The number [of users] has exceeded expectations for sure,” he says.
With bated breath, we await the official launch of DISTRO, the brainchild of musician/videographer/lawyer Kyle Marler and his NYC DIY scene cohorts (Todd Patrick, Joe Ahearn and Jordan Michael). Like Drip.fm, DISTRO will allow you to subscribe to particular entities, however, in this case those entities are bands of the indie variety.
Like with Spotify and the rest, users will be able to search for bands and listen to their tunes in a dedicated player/app (or cache for offline listening on other services), with one major difference: there’s no middleman to take a cut of money made. Basically, bands upload their music to the service and set a price to subscribe to their content. Fans can then choose which bands they want to keep up with, subscribing to them like one subscribes to a magazine. Subscription fees will go right to the band.
“I would compare the current system of Internet music distribution to a bizarro 1990s if all that existed were Virgin Megastores and Barnes and Nobles, and even though they had great selections and relatively good coverage of underground releases – they were still overpriced and lame,” says Todd Patrick, who offers up show listings via his “Todd P” website and email listserv. “Today’s digital outlets are the same. I’m confident that if the savvy indie ‘DIY’ music fan had a smart, technologically advanced ‘independent record store’ option from which to buy digital download music on the Internet, they would start paying for music and supporting musicians financially in greater numbers than they do today.”
We spoke with Marler recently, who said that DISTRO has some news looming on the horizon — hopefully that news will be its imminent release.
Image courtesy of Flickr, camerakarrie