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Baboom finally goes live, plays with the streaming music model

By | Published on Wednesday 19 August 2015


“Baboom!” I said “Baboom!” I have to admit I do like saying “Baboom!” Go on, say it, “Baboom!” It’s phonetically satisfying. I think it’s having the two voiced bilabial stops so quickly followed by a voiced bilabial nasal that does it. I love the bilabial speech sounds, and I don’t care who knows it.

But while the rather-long-in-development direct-to-fan platform Baboom did very well indeed in picking a name, what about the product? Because however great your name, someone’s always going to bring it back to the product. Which is just as well really, given CMU’s a bit of a rubbish name, but I like to think a very fine product.

Anyway, the Kim Dotcom-founded Baboom – which began life as the decidedly lame sounding Megabox – has finally gone live. The venture was already under development when the US authorities shut down Dotcom’s file-transfer service MegaUpload back in 2012.

And I’m pretty sure that at one point Dotcom suggested that it was because he was developing a super duper direct-to-fan platform – that would clearly render all record labels redundant – that the record industry was so keen to shut him down. Even though there are already plenty of super duper direct-to-fan platforms, none of which have rendered record labels redundant.

Dotcom’s D2F service has evolved quite a bit since then though, not least by parting company with the MegaUpload founder himself, despite using his lovely pop songs to showcase the in-development platform at the start of 2014.

The most interesting bit of the now live Baboom is the streaming element, in that it messes around with the model that has become pretty standard elsewhere in the streaming music domain. For starters, the freemium option only gives users access to one hundred tracks at any one time and some content will be restricted to premium-users only.

Meanwhile each premium user’s subscription money will be divvied up between the artists that user specifically listens to, rather than being put into a central pot, from which rights owners and artists are paid based on consumption share across the whole service in any one month.

So if I pay $10 and only listen to one artist that month – and that artist has a ‘pro’ account with Baboom which pays them a 90% cut – then $9 is allocated to that artist’s ‘pot’ (minus a 51c transaction fee), even if no one else listens to that artist’s music at all. It’s an alternative approach to streaming royalties that has come up at a fair few music conferences in recent months.

The challenge for Baboom as a streaming service is getting content, given it’s not seeking to do big catalogue-wide deals with the record companies, but rather to persuade artists that this is a platform via which to connect with their fans. Many signed artists can’t just decide to plonk their label-released content on any new platform, and those artists in control of their catalogue may be wary of shifting from, or competing with, the D2F channels they have already built, say on a Music Glue or Bandcamp.

Baboom is attempting to overcome this to an extent by offering users a digital locker as part of their account, so they can add to music that actually appears on the D2F platform with tracks from their own MP3 collection.

It’s not entirely clear as yet how Baboom is licensing that key element for user experience – ie is it arguing, as other digital lockers have before, that users are just utilising their private copy right when they upload tracks to the locker, so no licences from rights owners are required. Or are there deals in the pipeline with the labels and publishers. A partnership has been struck with Aussie collecting society APRA/AMCOS, though it’s not entirely clear what that covers.

But either way, despite the challenges ahead, it is interesting to see Baboom experiment with alternative approaches to streaming music – both consumer-facing and behind the scenes – given it’s far from assured that the business model being used elsewhere in the streaming sector is the right one.

Says Baboom’s Head Of Content Mikee Tucker: “We have created a solution that will attract quality independent artists and labels. Greater returns, direct payments, fair trade streaming and an innovative royalty engine are some of the key factors that will drive uptake from artists. We are here for the long game and the quality niche content that will be attracted to Baboom will in turn attract the fans”.