Last year I wrote about the the music/social network combination blip.fm. That post was followed up with one on the demise of muxtape and mixwit in which I said “I hope that blip.fm does not become the next victim of the RIAA”. While blip.fm has survived to date, it may only last by significantly changing its laissez-faire approach to streaming music.
A post on their blog last week opens
In the past few weeks we’ve had to make a few difficult decisions that will change the way some things work on Blip.fm. For the majority of you the changes will be for the better, for others they might be less than ideal for the time being.
It goes on to note that music will “primarily” be sourced from the music service imeem rather than broad-based searches of the internet. Users will no longer be able to submit urls pointing to mp3s. Instead, a set of “approved” urls will be used.
Blip say they cannot give the reasons for the changes, but it is no surprise that blip.fm is under enormous pressure from the music industry to curtail their service and these steps will certainly help ease that pressure. However, as noted in many of the comments on their blog, the risk is that these changes will undermine the very features of blip.fm that has made it so popular. For example, they are likely to fall foul of the mess that is music “territory” rights. Most “legitimate” music services like imeem restrict music streaming to certain countries, filtering based on IP address (in the case of imeem it only plays 30 second clips, while other services like Pandora are completely blocked). If blip.fm ends up relying exclusively on these services for their content, they will lose much of the international audience that has been a major contributer to their growth in recent months.
So, while blip.fm may survive in a compromised form, it provides yet another example of the extent of mess that is music distribution in the digital age.
UPDATE: In further news, the concert-streaming site fabchannel has been forced to close. Their post explaining the closure makes for very interesting reading.