Record Label Rule Book Gets Startups No Where

image from We're learning something important about music startups. If a company is cool and people like it, there's a good chance that they're either getting sued or working their way up the magical list.

Grooveshark is a perfect example of this. More and more people are getting turned onto the site because the interface is pretty and the user experience is great. Is it the best music service?

No. But it's the best at what it does.1

Then there's Sony's Music Unlimited service. It's backed by major labels which means it's going to be and is boring. There's nothing about it – "Qriocity"2 – to be excited about. It's safe bet. After using it, you might blindly go and fill up your iTunes cart and go buy some CDs. There's nothing about Music Unlimited that screams "Purple Cow" – something worth making a remark about – as marketer Seth Godin might say. It's a brown cow in a field of brown cows. No one cares.

Cows are boring. Music services that follow the record label rule book are boring.

Imagine a music service that broke all the rules. No, not LimeWire. A site that threw the rule book out the window and did things so cool that no one could shut up about it. Every single publication gawked at it – like an iPod – and every tech-company wished they had thought of it. Spotify is as close to this as the music industry has gotten; it's a remarkable service. However, if it gave up their vision and followed the record label rule book, it would be boring. No one would care.

Spotify would be boring. If the musicor industry doesn't let music startups break the rules and create conversations, the second digital decade is going to be bleak. iTunes isn't forever. It may never supplement the money made off CDs.

But once iTunes and single song downloads die off and lose interest, if all record labels have left to fall back on is a handful of startups they backed, the cliff will look prettier than the sunset. Reinventing the music industry will get you sued.

Be boring or go home. There's no room for awesome here.3

"What other failed services have shown is that if you play to the record labels' rule book you get nowhere. These startups need to make their own rules, and not let the labels lead the conversation."
Mark Mulligan  (Read on.)

1. Screwing artists. There. I beat you to it. Get over it. In this case, what I'm actually referring to is streaming music. Tubeify is is close second.

2. Qriocity. I know it's powered by Qriocity, not called Qriocity.
Go to the site. Fans don't know the difference. #brandingfail

3. Unless you're Aweditorium, but they didn't need label approval.
This is probably why they don't suck. It's a new theory I have.

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  1. Grooveshark is merely the best example of a music service that launched without major label approval. Here, I'm also referring to them being a web-based streaming application that let's people play music — for free. Snoost and Tubeify do similar things. Spotify, MOG, and Rdio are in different product categories in my opinion. Also, I'm not saying those service are boring. But, with more room from the labels, I think they could be more remarkable.

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