2d Cir Finds Antitrust Suit Stated Against Record Labels For Online Sales

The United States Circuit Court, Second Circuit, holds that plaintiffs' antitrust complaint alleging a conspiracy by major record labels to fix the prices and terms under which their music would be sold over the Internet states a claim for violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The amended complaint contains "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made," id. at 555, and therefore states a claim.

"The present complaint succeeds where Twombly's failed because the complaint alleges specific facts sufficient to plausibly suggest that the parallel conduct alleged was the result of an agreement among defendants," Judge Katzmann said.

The defendants "agreed to launch MusicNet and pressplay, both of which charged unreasonably high prices and contained similar DRMs", and the entities did not "dramatically" drop "their prices for Internet Music (as compared to CDs), despite the fact that all defendants experienced dramatic cost reductions in producing Internet Music."

Starr v. Sony BMG, No. 08-5637-cv, NYLJ 1/14/2010 "Decision of the Day" (2d Cir. decided Jan. 13, 2010).

iTunes Goes DRM-Free on Remaining Majors

Apple reportedly has signed a deal with three more major labels (Sony, Universal and Warner Music) to bring more DRM-free MP3s to iTunes.

As part of the deal, Apple will reportedly be more lax on their strict price fix, breaking MP3s into three tiered pricing: Older catalog tracks,79-cents; newer songs, 99-cents; and hit songs, more.

[Rolling Stone]


A novel way to sell music online: Popcuts.

From their website:

"Every time a song you bought sells, you get a cut of the proceeds. Earlier buyers get more, so it pays to be a trendspotter."

Rolling Stone describes it as "stock market-like method to lure people toward its service."

How it works: Popcuts takes in a 10-20 percent cut of each purchase, then leaves it to the artist to decide their own percentage. From there, the rest of the earnings go towards the users’ accounts.

But currently their catalog has only 200 obscure artists and roughly 700 songs.

QTrax - What's Up With This?

In the early morning hour, our friends from blog Down By The Hipster sent OTCS this link, asking "whats up with this?"

Why, it's QTRAX, who on their website boast "free and legal music downloads". But, all is not as it seems over at this "authorized" P2P network. Rolling Stone reports that supposed deals between QTrax and the major labels has been "greatly exaggerated."

Nonetheless, QTrax represents the music industry's recognition that ad-supported, free, on-demand downloads are the next wave. The problem, though, is monetization. A distribution model like QTrax is similar to traditional radio: user's get their music for free in exchange for listening to advertisements. But unlike radio, a service like QTrax is on-demand and permanent. The incentive of having your song on the radio -- creating buzz and/or demand for listeners to purchasers to PURCHASE their own copy for later on-demand and permanent enjoyment -- is simply not present.

Perhaps that is why the labels pulled out?

CBS wants Last.fm to be First on Your Dial

CBS is adding on-demand, full-track streaming to its music social-networking site Last.fm. Free on-demands streams will be limited to three times per track, and cannot be downloaded to a portable player (e.g., an iPod).

Forbes notes that this is a "sign of the recording industry's growing interest in free, advertising-supported access to music". Yet, Last.fm plans to ultimately offer users a chance to purchase a monthly subscription allowing them to listen to songs as many times as they want.

Rolling Stone notes that the Last.fm deal with major record labels is heating up "the arms race" between Amazon and Apple iTunes.