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But unless lots of labels—and users—sign up, the service will be hamstrung to the point of near-uselessness.
The short history of enabling consumers to sell digital music is marred by one disastrous example: a pyramid scheme–like operation called Burnlounge. Starting in 2004, that group raised the hackles of the online community by encouraging franchisees to use annoying marketing tactics like street teams to sell new music from a centralized catalog. Bopaboo's system differs in that it pays out in music, not money, while courting users interested in displaying their painstakingly curated collections rather than picking what they want to sell from a central list.
People's Music Store, which lets anyone become a Web retailer, has also been making waves by helping fans sell music. Unlike Bopaboo, it doesn't price tracks based on demand, and it lets you sell music even if you don't own it. In addition, the site gives you only 10 percent of the purchase price to spend on new music. The selection of music you can put in a U.S.-based People's Music Store is fairly limited, although respected indie labels Warp, Ninja Tune, Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet, 4AD and kranky are included, as well as such luminary artists as Boards of Canada, Fischerspooner, Grizzly Bear, Jarvis Cocker and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And People's Music Store has one big advantage over Bopaboo in that it has already launched.
But what if you just want to leverage your encyclopedic MP3 collection into some cold, hard cash? Services exist where you can upload gigabytes of music (or seamier video content), and get paid when people access the files. Hong Kong–based MegaUpload, for instance, offers $1,500 for each million downloads your files generate throughout its network—even if you don't own any of the rights to the music you uploaded. You won't get rich this way, and, of course, the whole system is unscrupulous in that it doesn't compensate artists or labels. It instead requires the copyright holders to police the network to get their recordings removed.
Sure, hocking digital music online is more complicated than it was to haul a pile of discs down to, say, CD World before it closed its doors. But in an industry where CD sales are tanking as their digital counterparts fail to make up the gap, selling used MP3s might not be as crazy a business plan as it originally sounds.