updated 09:20 am EST, Mon December 10, 2007
imeem Universal Deal
Social network imeem on Monday revealed that it has struck a deal with Universal Music Group that will see the music label's catalog reach the site. The agreement will let users stream both songs and music videos from imeem's pages for free by running ads alongside the content while also permitting users to upload tracks of their own. This marks the availability of all four major labels on the site and promises that users can join a social network based around music while knowing that the majority of content is legal. The solution ensures that artists are "fairly compensated" by tracking the number of plays, according to Universal chief Doug Morris.
The successful negotiation may help imeem elevate its already-high status among media-focused websites. The site currently sits at fourth place short of YouTube, its Google Video sibling, and MySpace but will now have both more incentives for users and a greater source of revenue. Licensed tracks are frequently purchasable as downloads through Amazon MP3 or iTunes.
However, the deal also represents further attempts by Universal to widen its business model for music and escape the "golden handcuffs" it believes have been imposed by Apple's insistence on consistent pricing and purchase-only music downloads for iTunes. The label recently became the first and only major label to sign up for Nokia's Comes With Music feature that factors the price of a one-year, unlimited access subscription music service into a cellphone with the benefit of keeping any downloaded songs once the subscription is finished.
Universal has also recently allowed unprotected downloads of songs from sites with flexible pricing systems such as Amazon MP3 while consciously excluding iTunes, arguing that the Apple store serves as the control for an experiment in unprotected songs which runs until at least the beginning of 2008.