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Some argued that MP3-swapping had made music purchases obsolete, while others praised what appeared to be a self-powered, cost-free promotion machine the likes of which had never been seen.
WAITING FOR GODOT-COM
Y2K Was Dot-Complicated
 While Armageddon buffs were let down by the relatively smooth dawning of Y2K, the online-music world certainly experienced its share of catastrophe over the last year—at times, it seemed like virtually the end of the world. Lawsuits, stock meltdowns and downright lack of interest in most musical dot-coms were the inevitable hangover resulting from the blinkered, VC-fueled spree of the previous year or so. Even so, there were some big surprises. Peer-to-peer technology made its way to the mainstream as Napster became a water-cooler topic in the mainstream and the first bona fide Net music phenomenon. The mass circulation of music for free looked apocalyptic—to the record industry, at least, which promptly charged into court, as did some publishers and, of course, artists repped by Howard King. Data on the impact of Napster on CD sales was about as reliable as election spin on the Fox News Channel; some argued that MP3-swapping had made music purchases obsolete, while others praised what appeared to be a self-powered, cost-free promotion machine the likes of which had never been seen. And just when it seemed the volume of rhetoric, hype, cant, prediction and research couldn't get any greater, Bertelsmann announced a pact with the netco. Suddenly, it seemed possible that copyright holders and Web renegades might cooperate on a licensed and potentially astronomically profitable version of the service, as Bertie's e-commerce frontman Andreas Schmidt and Napster CEO/financier Hank Barry pressed the flesh. Thus far, however, nobody's buying—the suits continue, the other label groups pursue their own (troubled) online ventures and the digital files keep flying through space…

Another star of the P2P world, multimedia swappery Scour, went Chapter 11 after a similar full-court press from the RIAA and MPAA. But the power of its technology and brand proved more robust in bankruptcy than many of its “peers” still hanging on the Nasdaq (however anemically), as Scour became the subject of a bidding war for its assets. Listen.com, CenterSpan and Liquid Audio all went a-courtin' in court, and the little-known CenterSpan took home the prize. The company hopes to use the technology to augment its own in the service of offering "secure" peer-to-peer entertainment, and says its discussions withe major labels have thus far been fruitful. As a result, some e-pundits wonder if a Scoured CenterSpan could succeed where a Bertified Napster might not…

MP3.com emerged from the initial barrage of litigation over its My.MP3.com streaming service at year's end, agreeing to pay lawsuit holdout UMG a $53.4 million “judgment.” Both parties refused to call the payout a “settlement” to avoid the most-favored-nations clause in agreements with the other major-label plaintiffs, who initially settled for some $20 mil apiece. The slighted record companies promptly marched back into court. Will Michael Robertson's service, which lets users stream CDs they can prove they own from anywhere on the Web, be able to turn a profit after these disbursements—and with more lawsuits pending? Despite skepticism about his prospects (especially from his vociferous fellow netcos, like johnny-sue-lately EMusic.com), Robertson's resourcefulness in devising new revenue streams is not to be underestimated—witness his new pacts with WMG, announced on 12/21 (see story)…

Universal/Farmclub.com's streaming service conducted its beta test, which consisted only of UMG music despite promises of other label music to come. Will this plan hit a snag? Meanwhile, just as the beta phase neared completion, the service was clobbered with a lawsuit from publishers and songwriters…

The viability of Net radio and music Webcasting in general, meanwhile, is imperiled as the Copyright Office has declared special payments must be made to rights holders. Will the government step in to balance copyright interests with the public's right to online services? What about Hilary Rosen's revenue-collecting plans? What about the publishers?… RIP.COM: iCast, Riffage, SpinRecords.com and too many more to list… Happier Holidays! E-mail: [email protected]
FANS WILLING AND ABEL TO RALLY ROUND THE WEEKND
Dept. of unintended consequences (12/1a)
VAUGHN'S FIRST MOVE: MATTERA TO THE TOWER
A company with no corner offices (12/1a)
U.K. MEET THE MANAGERS
Who's hot in Blighty? (12/1a)
RON PERRY: SUPERCHARGING THE BIG RED MACHINE
Hoodie man doin' work (12/1a)
SPOTIFY GIFT-WRAPS
THE YEAR IN MUSIC
How Swede it is. (12/1a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
ZOOM THANKSGIVING
We're virtually stuffing ourselves.
TRUMP'S LAWSUITS
He's lost 25 out of 26, and so tired of winning!
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