Amazon buys (some of) digital music site Amie Street

Founders sing a new Songza


Digital music site Amie Street has been bought by Amazon, but the founders of the user-fueled music service aren't abandoning their efforts to bring social networking to music lovers.

"We've been straddling two spaces for years now — streaming and download," Amie Street cofounder Elias Roman told The Reg. "We've basically been splitting our attention. This is a fundamental change in focus from retail and streaming to just streaming."

Cofounder Josh Boltuch stressed to The Reg that customer info is not part of Amazon's haul. "Amazon purchased certain AmieStreet.com domain names and trademarks, but not the business model or customer records."

The reason for the sale — purchase price not disclosed — is because the company now plans to focus its energies on its streaming-music site, Songza, which Amie Street acquired in late 2008 and relaunched as a public beta this August with over eight million songs, including tunes from what the company describes as "all the major labels."

AmieStreet.com as it is currently constituted, however, is going away. Users must download all of their purchased music and spend their remaining credits by September 22.

In an email to customers, AmieStreet also said that it was providing existing users with a $5 promotional code for spending on the Amazon MP3 store as "a small thank you for your loyalty and support." That five-buck thank-you, however, is subject to Amazon's MP3-download terms, which include the restrictions that the credit can only be used for Amazon MP3s, not other items, and can only be used in the US.

Amie Street has had a long relationship with Amazon — well, long in internet time, at least. Founded in 2006, the service received a chunk of change from Amazon the following year — exactly how much was not disclosed.

"We believe we've found a great home for AmieStreet.com and are committed to making this transition as smooth as possible for you, our fantastic customers," Wednesday's email explains.

Amie Street's business model was unique among digital-music sites. Songs started out free, and their prices rose in relation to how many people downloaded them, but were capped at 98¢. If you recommended a tune and others bought it, you'd receive credits that you could use to purchase other songs.

Whether that model will be retained is up to Amazon — but don't bet on it.

What the company called "dynamic pricing" may have worked well for indies and music start-ups, but wasn't attractive to major labels. In fact, the site was able to land only one major label, Sony, late last year — and that music giant refused to be part of the dynamic-pricing system.

And now the Amie Streeters are focusing all their efforts on Songza. "We'll take it out of beta when we have feature completeness," Boltuch said.

Feature completeness involves making Songza a streaming service that's deeply customizable — unlike, say, Pandora, which Roman described as merely "a computer-generated system,"

The Songza service offers its users the ability to create their own "stations" where they can personally choose the tunes they want to be included on those stations' playlists. The social-networking aspect comes into play in that a station creator can band together with others to flesh out their playlists.

Roman opines that this method is more personal than Pandora: "You have the ability to really express yourself, to say 'these are the songs that express who I really am'." In addition, he said that working with others can create a shared station that's defined by "collaboration based on common interests." ®

Bootnote

As of Wednesday afternoon Pacific Daylight Time, Amie Street was "down for maintenance." Roman and Boltuch told us that they were beefing up the site for its sure-to-be-busy final two weeks, and that it would be back up "within the next hour." That was a couple of hours ago.


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