World's largest MP3 store launches

PayPlay has just launched "the world's largest MP3 download store" -- a store selling more than 1.3 million indie music tracks, with a search engine that allows you to search for your fave artists and get similar indie artists in the catalog. Previous to this PayPlay sold only DRM-crippled WMAs for $0.77, the MP3s sell for $0.88. I guess that we could take that as a tacit admission that DRM makes music worth less, but it does seem a little weird to charge a premium for music that doesn't treat you like a crook. The service says that this reflects the cost of retooling to host MP3s instead of WMAs. Another unfortunate legacy is the service's name, which reflects a time when the business was built on DRM and tried to offer artist the opportunity to get paid for their work. But "PayPlay" doesn't really sell the service to the public, who don't perceive having to pay as a benefit.

That aside, I got a $20 voucher for the MP3 store last week and spent it all on some pretty great music. I searched for one of my favorite teen punk bands, The Forgotten Rebels, and found a band called Ultimate Power Duo that self-identified as Rebels-esque. I downloaded a handful of their tracks, and was instantly transported to my wasted youth of listening to "In Love With the System" over and over again in my friend Mike's basement while drinking hard cider that we got the taxi driver to buy for us.

The recommendation system is the key to PayPlay, since it's unlikely you've heard of most of the artists in their catalog. The artists self-identify, citing their musical influences. Searches for better-known artists -- David Byrne, Tom Waits, Talking Heads -- yielded less fruit: there were so many artists in the search results and many of them appeared to be quite adept at, um, hiding the extent to which they were influenced by some of my favorite acts.

Still, it was easy to fill my basket with $20 worth of $0.88 music, all of which I've enjoyed immensely. PayPlay also features an admirable artist split, with artists taking home an average of $0.59 per track, (artists signed to labels average about seven percent of the price of an iTunes Store download), which means that your purchases at the store are pretty good karma, too.
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