Imeem’s amnesty is one sign that a new accommodation is being forged between Web music start-ups and the companies on which they are almost wholly dependent, the major music labels. The recording industry is considering an all-digital future in which it needs popular Web services like Imeem, both as sources of revenue and as supplements to older channels of promotion like radio and MTV.
As a result, music labels are now striking more favorable terms with Web companies, and the start-ups have come to realize they cannot rely on Web ads to support themselves. For example, as part of its new plan, Imeem will try to push users into buying more T-shirts and concert tickets, and will soon add its own MP3 download store similar to iTunes, sharing revenue with the labels.
It is not yet clear whether any of this is enough to produce sustainable online businesses — or even to help mitigate the chronic pain of the music industry. But it is offering some hope.