For more information about the Y Combinator Challenge, check out this post first
1. A cure for the disease of which the RIAA is a symptom. Something is broken when Sony and Universal are suing children. Actually, at least two things are broken: the software that file sharers use, and the record labels’ business model. The current situation can’t be the final answer. And what happened with music is now happening with movies. When the dust settles in 20 years, what will this world look like? What components of it could you start building now?
The answer may be far afield. The answer for the music industry, for example, is probably to give up insisting on payment for recorded music and focus on licensing and live shows. But what happens to movies? Do they morph into games?
My Idea: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
OK – you won’t hear me sticking up for the RIAA very often, but for this idea I’m going to take a bit of a different approach to this very old problem. Most startups in this space look at how to go against the RIAA, to come up with the one disruptive technology that will once and for all kill the old media empire and usher in a new era of free music utopia. As fantastic as that would be, the truth is that the music industry is a multi-billion dollar establishment that will not simply throw up their hands in defeat when faced with the threat of a few punk kids with a killer idea.
Today’s idea is a startup that instead focuses on bridging the gap between music listeners and the RIAA. How to do that? First, look at what both sides want from the other. The RIAA/labels are looking to identify the next hot artist or single that will let the execs hit their Q4 numbers. Music lovers want to get insider access to the latest releases. The solution? A stock-exchange style site where the labels will post early cuts from their upcoming albums and newest artists, and users can “buy” shares in the releases they think have the most potential. Users who “invest” early in the songs that hit the top of the fake stock charts can cash in their shares in exchange for exclusives from the label, such as autographed copies of the final released album. Of course, for the RIAA, they get a way to run market testing and get back valuable demographic and trending information to determine which songs should be the first singles, which new artists to promote in which markets, etc..
Another idea I have in this area is a service to pull out just the 30 second hook from any song – more details here: http://astartupaday.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/startup-118-30-second-music-clip-service/