The Future of Online Music Distribution?

AOL debuted their MusicNet service this week, marking a major step forward for online music distribution. The service is perhaps the best model I’ve seen of a compromise between the interest of the users and the interests of the “artists” (by which I mean record companies).

MusicNet will essentially allow users to listen to streaming music and download secured versions of songs for playback on their PC. The service will also allow pay-per-burn rates so that users will be able to make their own CDs from downloaded music. Initial rates will be between $4/mo for limited service with no burning, to $18/mo. for unlimited service and 20 burns, which is not bad when you consider that a CD usually costs about $15 and only has 10 songs anyway.

MusicNet offers an alternative to Kazaa-like “stealing” at a reasonable price, and leverages AOL’s connections in the media world and its position as a gateway to the largest segment of internet users who already get monthly bills for their service anyway. Only time will tell if MusicNet will stave off piracy — it may be too little to late. But if lawsuits are sufficient to stop services like Morpheus and Kazaa from operating, MusicNet may be the only alternative left.

Agree? Disagree? Comment!