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Wippit: Good

After all these years of wondering why I never gained admission into the club of the super-rich, I think I finally have the answer: I've always been an early riser. Judging from the Wall Street Journal's story this week about Microsoft and Yahoo's attempts to acquire Facebook, what sets a billion-dollar entrepreneur apart is his willingness to turn down an 8:30 a.m. deal meeting because, well, a man needs his sleep. I've never been so protective of my horizontal hours, and that evidently has been my Achilles heel. Well, that and a dearth of talent.

Sonific_1 Anyway, I bring up Facebook not just because Mark Zuckerberg is mockworthy (in an envy-fueled way) but because I want to talk about a technology trend that could make social-networking sites much more valuable to the entertainment industry. Today, a San Francisco-based startup called Sonific, whose software enables people to add songs to their Facebook pages (or blogs or any other personal site), announced a deal with Wippit, a UK-based online music distributor. The deal will transform Sonific's SongSpots from jukeboxes into mini music stores. A SongSpot is a little piece of software that you can put on your Web site to let visitors play a song you've chosen. The idea is to let people promote artists and tracks they like by giving them more exposure online. With the Wippit deal, SongSpots will be able to sell the song, too, helping the artist in a more tangible way. It's the same thing Napster has enabled with its NapsterLink technology (which I use in the Now Playing section, to your right), only slicker.

Wippit_1 MySpace and Snocap announced a similar deal earlier this month, enabling unsigned bands and their fans to sell music on MySpace pages. My main complaint about that deal is the 45-cents-per-track fee that MySpace and Snocap will reportedly collect, which seems excessive -- high enough, in fact, to deter the sales the deal was supposed to enable. No details were released about the Sonific-Wippit vigorish, but given Wippit's low-price, high-volume strategy, it's likely to be well below 45 cents per track.

The major labels haven't made their catalogs available to Sonific yet, but it would behoove them and the music publishers to get with the program. People are discovering music in many, many different places; why not let them buy songs as soon as the impulse strikes? And as peer-to-peer networks have amply demonstrated, people want to hear tracks before they buy them. That's why the approach embodied by Sonific and Wippit (and MySpace-Snocap) makes so much sense. Let music fans use their Websites to trumpet their love of Mogwai and Devo, then capitalize on the exposure.

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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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