Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Imeem Asks Big Music for Help; Gets Some, Needs More

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Since everyone wants to weigh in on the state of online music service, imeem, let me add in my two cents: The once-buzzy start-up isn’t on life support yet. But it sure could use some help–just like every other Web music player.

I can confirm that the company has sought, and received, new terms from some of the big music labels, most notably Universal Music Group. One big label that hasn’t given imeem any concessions yet: Warner Music Group (WMG), which owns an equity stake in the company.

Wired.com has a nice summary of the reason imeem needs new terms from the labels. But the short version is that the original deals it had in place meant it lost money every time someone played a song. And that the more popular it got, the more it lost.

That kind of business plan isn’t out of the ordinary for Web companies that struck deals with the big music labels–even Google’s (GOOG) YouTube has a similar kind of arrangement. But those deals, which were supposed to make sense once the online advertising business kicked into gear, are also obviously no longer sustainable.

The big picture: imeem went looking for buyers last fall–at the same time that its venture investor Sequoia Capital began lecturing start-ups about the need to cut costs–and hasn’t found any.

That puts Imeem in the same boat as every other notable online music service, including iLike and Pandora, all of which have been looking for money or an acquirer during the last six months.

One of them–Spiralfrog–finally shut down earlier this month. And if the other start-ups can’t get the labels to cut them some deals, Spiralfrog will have company.


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