Sony BMG has become the latest music label to offer its entire music and video catalog for free streaming on imeem, a Web site focused on letting users share music playlists.
Warner Music Group did the same in July (our coverage). The deal is significant because it represents one more fissure in the once united stance among music labels to stick with a paid model and digital rights management. Increasingly, music is being streamed for free, supported by ads.
Of the four market leaders in the music space, imeem now has sharing arrangements with two. EMI and Universal Music Group have yet to cut deals with imeem. “We’ll have to demonstrate that we can provide a serious revenue stream,” CEO Dalton Caldwell told us.
Unlike Napster, which has a subscription model, imeem is supported entirely by advertising. Other advertising-based models like last.fm and Pandora are more similar to radio than imeem, playing random songs based on user’s preferences; imeem allows you to build your own playlist.
Sony will get a piece of imeem’s ad revenue, just as Warner does, and the deal will further be supported by collaborations on social networking and marketing projects.
This is a remarkable turnaround for San Francisco’s imeem, who just a few months ago was getting sued by the labels for streaming their music.