This press release was passed around Pho today. The concept sounds kind of like Wippit. The main difference seems to be that they won’t have a subscription fee and will only charge for CD burning and moving to portable devices. Of course, DRM galore. Both these systems are interesting ideas. Like Altnet and Weed, the general idea is that consumers will be more likely to buy copies if they can do it in their natural habitat – namely, P2P. In this way, these systems compete with free without competing with P2P. Altnet and Weed try to do this by being in the same search listing as free content on KaZaA; Wippit and Qtrax try to get people to migrate to a different P2P client that allows sharing within the closed network. There might also be some cost savings from this approach in the form of lower storage and maintanence costs, which could get passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices.
It will be interesting to see if record companies continue to invest in this area. To me, it seems like there’s some upside here, particularly in cases like Weedshare where the consumer gets some kickback for forwarding the song to his friends (a la mediAgora). The notion of going through P2P rather than against it makes some sense, though it would have some important consequences for how the record companies currently use spoofing and other such tools.