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You and MeTube

Let's be clear about one thing right away: I don't own any music by Jason Mraz, and I'm not about to acquire any. Nevertheless, I have glimpsed the future of music promotion, and it is on Jason's Web site. Warner Bros., Jason's record company, has talked a good game about embracing the digital future. And like its competitors, Warner has put scads of its catalog onto iTunes (save Led Zeppelin, alas) and offered pricey song downloads to mobile phones. No breakthrough insights there. Where Warner seems to be distinguishing itself is in encouraging fans to make videos to go with an artist's tunes, such as Jason's single, "Geek in the Pink." (Raise your hand if you'd actually describe someone as a "geek." That's so ... retro.) Isn't that better than suing people for copyright infringement? Warner artists have also dabbled with letting fans use pieces of songs to create their own music. Now there's a great reason to buy a Mac.

The next step would be to cut deals with the likes of YouTube and GoogleIdol.com that would authorize them to stream fan videos in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue. That's so obviously the right way to go, it's easy to overlook the inconvenient complications. For starters, artists might not want to have their songs used in videos promoting, say, the Aryan Nations (or even the Dodger Nation.) Then there are sites that help people online videos, rather than streaming them from advertiser-supported sites. Those are the kinds of things that keep record companies stuck in neutral, when they really need to be moving forward.

The background photo of a Sony camcorder is courtesy of Sony's SonyStyle website.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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