Is iTunes Obsolete?

Guvera is a new model in downloading music, where the consumer pays nothing for the song, but the artist still gets paid.

An Aussie entrepreneur is about to cause one of the biggest shake ups in music history since the advent of the iPod, and the likes of iTunes should be shaking in its boots if the idea takes off.

Gold Coast-based Claes Loberg is about to launch (yes, we know it’s spelled different from the Argentinian revolutionary’s name, but apparently it’s easier to remember!), a place where you can download music and the artist still gets paid, so they hope to stop download piracy at the same time. However, there is a catch.

When joining Guvera, you give over a lot of personal information to site – musical likes and dislikes, favourite holiday destinations, foods, as well as your age. These stats are then thrown into the cyber blender and out pops your demographic status, which is the key to your downloads.

Here’s how it works. I wanted to download the Robbie William’s song ‘Strong’. We put his name in the search function and got told we could go to a Harley Davidson, Vega, DJ Hero or Domino’s pizza-sponsored page on the website to either stream or download the song. The sponsored page you go to depends on your demographic. So I chose the Harley Davidson page. Each page has a different amount of credit. For example, Harley Davidson had 2.5 credits, while the Domino’s site offered up 2 credits. Apparently this is enough to download two songs. Once you have chosen that page and downloaded the songs, you can’t go back to that page and download more songs. You have to go to another sponsored page to do so. Interestingly there is no hard sell from the advertisers – they just get the brand on the page you’re on and that’s it.

Sounds a little convoluted, but at the end of the day you get free songs, and some of the money that Harley Davidson has paid for the branding rights goes to the artist.

There are issues of sustainability (ie, if 40 million people want Green Day’s American Idiot, are there enough brand dollars in the kitty? Doubtful), but they are adding new sponsors and songs to the site all the time.

Currently Guvera is at beta testing stage and is expected to go live at the end of March. At the moment there are about 300,000 songs, with artists on board including Radiohead, Empire of the Sun, Queen and the B52s. They hope to have a lot more sponsors by launch time, as well as up to 3 million songs. Will it work? Who knows? If it takes off internationally, the likes of iTunes will have to look at its model, and with all things being equal, piracy should be on the decline – who wants to risk getting pirated songs when you can get them for free anyway.

Later on down the track the company is looking at putting television and movie content on the site, too.