Pay-For-Play Site Debuts to Mixed Reception

FirstLook.com, a new music-sampling Web site, was launched today by MusicNow, Inc. The new site, based on GoTo.com Inc.’s e-commerce model, gives top billing to artists and companies who are willing to pay more per click-through.

Every time a visitor clicks on to hear a new audio sample of a particular artist, MusicNow gets a click fee from the artist or label. The click-through-fee can be as little as 1 cent, but the greater the fee, the higher the advertised song is positioned on the site’s track list.

“Unlike traditional methods of music sampling, FirstLook.com plays to a willing, targeted audience who have come to the site to discover the best new music and sample a wide variety of songs,” said Rand Bleimeister, founder and chief executive of the Los Angeles, California-based company. “FirstLook.com also provides an opportunity for artists, record labels and music retailers to take their marketing efforts to new levels.”

The new site presents songs in easy-to-access track lists so that visitors can quickly browse and sample music. It offers hundreds of songs across 10 music categories, including Pop, Hip-Hop, Alternative, Hard Rock, Dance, R&B, Country, Jazz, Latin and Classical.

Paid Positioning A Turnoff?

Some industry observers feel that selling the highest position to those artists or labels who are willing to put the most money on the table will end up turning off potential visitors to the site. Other critics point out that music fans will soon grow tired of listening to the latest releases of new artists who may also lack talent. In addition, such pay-for-play sites could end up being shunned by those who feel that they run counter to the Internet’s credo of unfiltered entertainment.

Nonetheless, some members of the recording industry think such a Web site is long overdue.

“FirstLook.com is the first virtual listening station on the Internet,” said Miles Copeland, personal manager and record company publishing executive. “We are excited by this because for the first time, a consumer has the ready opportunity to hear the latest release not only from superstars, but from up and coming new artists.”

In addition, GoTo.com’s model has been very successful. Its site has more than 15,000 advertisers, including such giants as Amazon.com, FTD and eBay. The site also logs about 200,000 click-throughs per day.

In a separate announcement, MusicNow named J. Scott Dinsdale its new chief technology officer. The 41 year-old Dinsdale is the former chief technology officer at Bertlesmann AG unit BMG Entertainment.

About MusicNow

Founded in January, privately held MusicNow got its start by running Woodstock.com through a deal with Woodstock Ventures, which owns the Woodstock trademark.

MusicNow investors include Internet incubator idealab!, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Woodstock Ventures. Idealab! also backed Go.To.com, which had its initial public offering in June.

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