the power of limited catalogs

Pampelmoose is a music blog by Dave Allen of Gang of Four. It’s good and it gets a lot of traffic.

It has a rare quality: Dave has permission to post the MP3s.

My guess about how it works is that he personally emails the musicians, one rock star to another, and then they say ok in a half-assed way which is more like “Sure, no problem, just pass the bong and shut up” than a signing ceremony.

But still, he gets permission. That’s usually more or less impossible. Usually a blogger would have to do something on the order of getting Madonna on the phone.

The reason it’s usually impossible is that the application design requires permission from every rights holder in the world before a single song can be used. Like, iMeem may sign a deal to use Warner’s catalog, but not have a comparable deal for Sony’s catalog, and in the meantime users aren’t willing to listen to only Warner songs. Given an application where users pick the song, you have to have every song in the world.

But a music blog isn’t that. The songs passing through it are limited. You need ten songs at a time, not a million. It’s doable to find ten songs that you like and can get permission to use.

Usually music blogs don’t get permission, because they’re too low-profile to need it. But for them to keep growing they have to achieve a sustainable legal profile, otherwise they’ll be sued underground as soon as they go above ground. Obviously.

I don’t think this new application flow is enough by itself to make everything ok instead of whacked-out-as-usual. I do think that it’s an exception to the physics of internet music, which makes it worth pointing out.