“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”
(Karl Valentin and others)

Not so long ago, the monopolistic concept of musician’s copyright collective like the German GEMA or the British PRS seemed to last forever. Even in countries with more than only one copyright collective like the US (e.g. BMI, ASCP) membership is exclusive and all-encompassing, meaning that an artist is not allowed to license only some works differently.

Yet, jamendo’s recently launched service jamendo pro might prove that forever was yesterday. Jamendo is an aggregator of Creative Commons (CC) licensed music. Commercial revenue is shared equally between jamendo and the artists, non-commercial use is free. In spite of the collecting societies’ prohibition of any open content licensing such as CC, the back catalogue of Jamendo consists of already more than 15.000 albums.

In his new offer jamendo directly challenges the monopoly position of collecting societies in fields such as background music or music for audivisual works and websites. For example, restaurant owners have to pay roaylties for background music, depending on the number of occupants (in the US) or the restaurant size in square meters (in Germany). GEMA charges German restaurant owners (< 100 sqm) EUR 309.78/year when they are using copied CDs or mp3s (see PDF). Jamendo’s launch price for the same service is EUR 96/year.

The most interesting developments, I predict, are still ahead of us: As authors of CC-licensed works can put them in alternative repositories as well, jamendo won’t be the sole competitor of collecting societies for long. Actually, the US independent label magnatune had offered similar services even long before jamendo on a smaller scale (<1000 albums). So, there is no doubt that there will be more commercial suppliers of CC-licensed music in the future. The remaining question is: how will these competitors differentiate? They all can harness the same commons of steadily (exponentially?) growing CC-licensed music. Of course, price will play an important role. But as I see it, the key distinguishing feature could also become taste: filtering the digital music commons for pearls and assembling them in a neat way on a continuous basis.

Actually, I like the idea of several suppliers competing for best matching customer’s preferences in assembling music for different purposes.