How mflow can change the music scene?

People have had enough of 30 second (90 seconds in some places) previews before deciding whether or not to buy a song. Unless the song is on radio, which most album-only songs aren't, chances are that the only place where you could legally hear the song before buying it is if you are lucky enough to have a friend who has already bought that song. Letting somebody else listen to songs you bought on your player, is that legal?(Well that is a completely different debate!)

Otherwise, let me list the sources where you could hear the song(Most common on top):
1. Youtube - Popular albums find their way to Youtube, with users uploading videos with lyrics. This is perhaps the most common place where people can listen to songs before they buy them. However, posting copyrighted songs on Youtube by third parties (users) is either a grey area in terms of piracy (at best) or blatant piracy. All most all get marked by Youtube as containing content from the particular artist, and some get removed(the video stays on with muted audio, if original).
2. Music websites - I will not name them, but you know what I am talking about here. There are multiple music search websites, offering mp3 search and most searched for songs along with links to material sourced from third party websites. Though the websites offering the content only act as a search engine, downloading songs that somebody else has wrongfully hosted may not be completely right.
3. Torrents - By Torrents I mean the illegal one's. Using BitTorrent Technology as a distribution medium is something that holds a lot of promise(I think it has delivered on that promise many times over already, however it still awaits adoption by the mainstream( The Humble Bundle uses it as an additional distribution medium.). Downloading the album from a torrent the day it hits the shelves without paying a penny(unless the artists don't want a penny(see 9 inch nails!)), is not fair to the artist.

I completely agree that the music industry has to change their revenue model. For starters, better rates and a better distribution system will help. For eg. giving off an album for an extremely cheap price, after it has hit certain sales targets is a good option, that way people would still be attracted to buy a certain album after the initial craze is over and the album has slid off the charts. Or try the reverse, give the first 100,000(can be 10,000 or a million too) copies of the album for an extremely low price, like 0.99$. Or make that price available for a limited time.

What does mflow offer that retails stores don't?
Retail stores like itunes,amazon have that give-us-your-money appearance, where the prices are in bold, buy buttons attractive (and patented) and songs available as 30s(or 90s) previews. While shoppers might still depend on the feel of these websites to satisfy their shopping urges, I have to admit that the casual look of mflow may be much more appealing to users who visit to listen to their favorites and then buy a song they just happened upon.

How does mflow differ from Last.fm
Last.fm is your new age radio. While you can select what type of songs(or group of songs) you would like to listen to, you cannot select a particular song. It appears that the kind of contracts that Last.fm has with the media bosses do not allow Last.fm to offer their users this freedom. Recntly Last.fm phased out the ability to listen to playlists and personal tags too. A lot of restrictions, yes, but age (and a lot of work by the developers) has given Last.fm the throne in the social music scene. Last.fm has a lot of active users who scrobble tracks from their players, an attractive feature. Last.fm clients are avilable for a range of mobile devices, multiplying its reach and appeal. I can't decide whether it's a positive thing or not, but Last.fm calls itself a music recommendation service(which it is) and does not attach a price tag to its songs, which actually means that other music services can add scrobbling tracks to Last.fm as a feature to their service and not feel that they are helping competition.

What is mflow?
Currently mflow is in beta, so what it will finally turn out to be is debatable, but as of now mflow looks like a good promise. It offers a library of 5 million songs, which can be played on demand and bought at competitive prices. As a promotional offer, they are giving away 10 tracks to users who recommend(flow, that is what they call it) tracks to their friends using the social trio(facebook, twitter and buzz(they are more of a duo IMHO)). So basically mflow is buying the best possible advertisements and making the users happy at the same time. The preview quality is probably at 64kbps or 128kbps, but not bad. The downloaded tracks are offered at 320kbps for a price of 0.99£ or 0.79£ a piece. mflow is available on HTML5 web browsers, so its future on mobile devices is pretty good.
mflow does not offer an API which developers can use at this moment to make apps to extend mflow, so that is an area where mflow can do better. mflow is promising more features as time goes, and we would surely like the option to make playlists(update June 2011: Playlists: Check!), add favorites and get song suggestions. A native player for our mobile devices will also be welcome.

Good:
Full Length songs
Competitive pricing
HTML5 compatibility
Actively developing

Bad:
No API
No native applications for devices
UK only currently


I've rambled a lot. How Spotify, Grooveshark, Rdio and others will influence the music scene is for another post.

Links:
1.mflow.com
2.Last.fm

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