Finally Someone Builds a Digital Music Service the Way It’s Meant to be Built!

Regular readers will know that I’ve been a long-term and vocal advocate of radical music product innovation.  There have been modest encouraging steps from a diverse mix of places, such as iTunes Pass, Topspin, Open EMI, Björk’s ‘Biophilia’ app, Swedish House Mafia’s ‘One’ app, Pledge Music etc.  All have edged forward disparate aspects of music product strategy but they have also all lacked a unifying framework to pull them together.  Today comes the first stab at a music service that pulls together many of those parts.  But it doesn’t come from one of digital music’s big players, nor from a major record label, but instead New York dance label Fools’ Gold Records with their Fools Gold: The Goldmine subscription service.

[EDIT: The Goldmine is powered by Drip.FM]

Subscribers get new and old music, curated content, remixes, DJ sets, extras, merchandize discounts, priority access to events and more.    This is almost exactly the list of product features that I laid out for the Music Product Manifesto back in 2009 so it should come as no surprise as quite how enthusiastic I am about the offering.

The reason I listed those attributes three years ago was that this broad selection of multimedia assets truly reflect what an artist is in the 21st century, so much more so than a CD or a download does.  They are also the assets which labels (majors in particular with their 360 deals) are increasingly becoming active in.  It is little short of a travesty that more has not been done until now.  Hopefully Fools Gold’s innovation bravery will help nudge the industry wide needle forward.

Of course it is much easier for a small label like Fools Gold to pull together the disparate artist assets necessary to create the holistic offering, but as I argued in my presentation to Midem in 2011, “the scale of the potential rewards is more than big enough to justify the sizeable effort: what is at stake is the entire future of premium music products.”

The Goldmine also ticks most of the boxes of my DISC principles that I laid out in my Music Format Bill of Rights (see figure):

Dynamic:  One of the things I like most about the service is its guarantee to deliver every new release on the label automatically to the user.  This is what music products need to do in the digital age, pushing relevant content to the consumer rather than relying on them to pull.

Interactive.  The service includes accapellas and remix stems for users to step out of passive listening into active creation.  This of course works perfectly for the dance music audience where a large share of the audience are aspiring DJs and producers.  A great next step would be some in built functionality that allows even the most novice user to play around with stems, perhaps  in the context of a social gaming environment.

Social. This seems to be the only key DISC element not catered for by the Goldmine, but they certainly have the building blocks to deliver on this, most notably the membership base.

Curated.  Fools Gold curate tracks from the archive as part of the service and in addition deliver exclusive content and extra content.

The Goldmine isn’t the full package, nor does it signify a turning point in music product strategy (because that requires major record labels to jump on board), but it does represent the bravest innovation step yet taken.

Fools Gold just set the standard for the rest to follow.

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8 thoughts on “Finally Someone Builds a Digital Music Service the Way It’s Meant to be Built!

  1. The four DISC principles hold good for any digital music service that wants to engage with fans and keep them engaged. Beyond them, Fools Gold’s rich multimedia content points to the future for all of us, even if it is easier to curate and present for a label than for a generic digital music service.

  2. Stones Throw, Mad Decent and Ghostly International all have announced very similar subscription services within the past few months. I’m a big fan of all these labels, including Fool’s Gold. I think the concept is amazing, but in my short stint as a customer, I found the product overpriced. Sure, there are a few exclusives here and there and a few token interactive pieces. But for the most part it’s quite expensive for what essentially amounts to cataloge access (which by the way I can already find elsewhere for free already). The interactivity and social elements are promising, just not very fleshed out in the current incarnation.

    Long-run, I think the organizing principle for these types of product will be centered around the artist, as opposed to a label. I feel a lot more folks have affiliations to the artists and less so to the label they’re signed to.

  3. I would say that overall that the implementation is a little bit short of the strategy. There certainly needs to be a richer seam of interactivity and they also need to work out a way of delivering content in a truly dynamic manner rather than email notifications. But it is far better to have a good strategy and need to improve implementation rather than the other way round.

  4. I got most of this from David Bowie’s online fan club about 10 or more years ago! So it is not new as a concept, only not pervasive and not 100% compelling in that you could end up forking out for a lot of subscriptions artist by artist or label by label.

  5. the real thing i feel most online music services have lacked is basic META DATA… it’s so basic really, but sometimes I just want to read more about these recordings, artists, the engineers, dates etc…

    why in a medium that requires no extra printing costs are consumers deprived of the basic data that was once included in all liner notes? I don’t want special PDF “Cover Art” or even jpegs… i just want this info to be included as text somehwere within the interface… the best playback freeware software I’ve found ( Music Bee ) at least offers a handy Last.FM tab window to give me basic bio info, but why the real producer credit of albums isn’t included in a paid iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, Google Play or even Bandcamp downloads is pathetic to me…many illicit volunteered files circulating on the web do a better job curating/documenting recordings than the actual labels, distributors & artists do. WTF?

  6. Hey Mark! Awesome post, awesome blog and thanks for being vocal and constructive about how the music industry needs to adapt to digitalisation and commoditisation. You metioned iTunes Pass, Topspin, Open EMI, Björk’s ‘Biophilia’ app, Swedish House Mafia’s ‘One’ app, Pledge Music, in addition to drip.fm. Which other examples of ‘future’ music products have you seen with potential?

  7. This is awesome! I’ve been meaning to do something like this for a long time but until now the software to do this stuff was either clunky, too expensive or not very musician friendly. Can’t wait until they launch.

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