Official.fm Simplifies Management For Artists
Artists and labels have no shortage of tools for promoting music online. Official.fm wants to simply the process.

"Official.fm aims to provide a single place for artists, labels and managers to manage projects. Its goal is to alleviate the pain points involved with using other platforms and processes," CEO Jeremie Abihssira tells Billboard.biz. "The overall idea is offering them a simple and smart solution to promote their music."

Here's the basic pitch: use Official.fm to manage workflow and host and stream songs, albums and mixtapes in a way that saves time for its customers. Official.fm allows multiple people to log into the same account and manage a large number of assets. An entire team - label, marketers, manager, publicist - can access an artist's workspace. Each account is limited to 10 artists and 100 tracks per artist. People who want to go above 100 tracks should contact Official.fm, says Abihssira.

The company's goal is to alleviate pain points. By reducing the time invested in hosting files and collaborating a variety of platforms, Official.fm hopes to become a standard tool throughout the music business. Any service that can save short-staffed music companies time and resources could end up being a valued tool. The trend has been, and will continue to be, smaller music companies that operate more quickly and efficiently than in the past.

But the company didn't always have this approach. The platform's previous incarnation was more of a consumer-facing product. Abihssira says he started crafting the current vision when he took over as CEO in March 2011. One key decision was not allowing music fans to create accounts to help them find music, he says. "Spotify is already doing great there. We don't want to lose our focus by trying to please too many audiences."

Spotify Play Button Launches, Aims For Ubiquity

Now Official.fm treats artists, labels, managers and other members of artists' teams as the customers. "Everything we are doing is focused on serving the needs and solving the problems of the artist and label first - with with the goal of driving traffic to wherever they want it to go," says Jason Herskowitz, Official.fm's chief product officer.

The company is already working with such labels as Warp, Glassnote, Ghostly International, Fearless and Red Bull. The new platform has been used to release mixtapes from Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller and the rock band AWOLNATION. Their pages look pretty straightforward: a play button in the center of the album art dominates a page with customized background artwork and links to the artist and label websites.

The promotional tools Official.fm users see right now will always be free, says Abihssira. "We came to the conclusion that promoting music is great and necessary, but that doesn't directly help them generate revenues. That's why we don't think it's right for us to ask for money to promote your music."

The revenue will have to come later. Abihssira adds that promotional tools are meant to be the entry point for the future product and says the company is focusing on new ways for artists and labels to generate revenues. ( Official.fm blog)

Free Music Is Ubiquitous - Because It Works
Remember all the way back to 2011 when people were concerned inexpensive digital music would cheapen the overall product and ruin the foundation on which music retail has been built? With no 99-cent sale so far this year to spark concerns as Amazon did last year with Lady Gaga's Born This Way, discounted music isn't much of a topic. But free and cheap (legal) music is probably more commonplace than ever.

Google Play, Amazon Selling Select Digital Albums for 25 Cents

Many of the MP3 deals are ongoing. 7digital has weekly $5 album download specials. Google Play routinely offers cheap - not just discounted, but cheap - album downloads as low as $2.99. Google Play also offers a "Free Song of the Day" and other freebies by such popular artists as the Rolling Stones and the Shins. Amazon continues its long-running "MP3 Daily Deal" special as well as its $5 album specials - there are currently 104 titles in Amazon's $5 special sale.

Subscription services are also pushing discounts to lure customers. Mog is currently giving away a free month for free users who upgrade to the premium service. Spotify offers the first month of its $9.99-a-month premium service free to first-time premium subscribers. Special deals are common in other countries when a subscription service is bundled with a mobile or broadband service. Rdio, for example, gave away six months of free premium service to Telus customers in Canada. Deezer was made available for no extra cost to subscribers of Orange's premium, two-year service plans in the U.K.

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Free streaming music is another topic - and it's booming. Spotify decided to extend its unlimited free, ad-supported listening in March (the original plan was to install listening caps in January). Mog and Rdio followed Spotify into the freemium market by launching their own free products last year (neither free service has advertisements, however). YouTube, Vevo and Facebook are oases of free music - with no time caps.

Free and cheap music is abundant because it works. Amazon's top MP3 album on Monday afternoon with a price of $9.99 was Jason Mraz's Love is a Four Letter Word at #14. In contrast, 7 of the top 10 albums at Google Play exceed $10 while 6 out of the top 10 albums at iTunes do so. To be fair, however, Amazon lists its free, promotional samplers ( Summer 2012 Saddle Creek Sampler, for example) on its best sellers page. And it's fairly safe to say subscription services wouldn't be as popular today had Spotify not launched with a free version.

Finnish Court Orders ISP To Turn Over Downloader Info
This should be interesting to people who remember when American copyright infringers were singled out with lawsuits. As TorrentFreak reports, a Finnish court has ordered two Internet service providers to provide the names and addresses of 82 IP addresses related to an album leak. The IFPI and Finnish rights organization Teosto had requested the information after the new album by Finnish artist Robin Packalen appeared on the Pirate Bay two days before its street date. ( TorrentFreak)