Artist should, ideally be rewarded by this service for giving away as much
music as possible under free licenses.
Business Model Suggestion
I see a sort of three level marketplace solution as the answer. The site will
be free to use, all music already on the site free to download. Users are also
able to create a paid account, which does allows users to allocate funds in
two ways: The general fund, and the donation fund. Money in the general fund
is allocated automatically towards artists that the user likes (as measured by
the frequency that they listen to them, or how many songs they have downloaded
by the artist). The donation fund allows the user to give one click donations
towards various things on the site: Individual artists, site maintenance, any
e-knicknacks the artist puts on their homepage, etc.
Users who have contributed more than, say, 5$ towards the general fund, or
have donated an equivalent amount in total to the various artists on the site
are given access to premium digital content posted by artists. This can be
blog content, special remixes of songs or component samples so users can remix
songs themselves, anything where all it costs is bandwidth. This makes sense,
as artists should not be giving away, for instance, special shirts just for
band groupies to the world at large without a further filter.
The third level is a sort of priority access to the band itself, for which
they would charge on their homepage. This area is where the band would run
promotions in the physical world, priority concert seating, discounts on CDs,
that sort of thing. Artists are, of course, free to set this charge at 0$, and
such artists would have a special place on the site where they are recognized
What about providing artists with tools for promoting free music?
For example: it's not hard for someone to upload tracks to a website and let
users download them, but what about providing stats and analytics, an
opportunity to run a tip jar, an opportunity to ask the user to sign up for a
mailing list? Trent Reznor and NIN have developed a platform for delivering
these sorts of downloads. It could be really useful for artists if they can
get some stats about their downloads which might not be available from a site
like MySpace, or which may be harder to implement on their own.