FORTUNE -- Before Napster -- and even before the web -- there was IUMA, the Internet Underground Music Archive. Given everything that's happened since IUMA was ascendent in the mid- to late-'90s, what's most striking is how relatively conservative the service was. IUMA was dedicated to helping unsigned musicians get their work distributed. And while it certainly opposed the iron grip the music labels had on the industry back then, it didn't get on board with the "everything should be free" movement that had sprung up and ultimately wrecked both the music labels and IUMA.
"There are a lot of people out there that feel very strongly that art should be free," cofounder Jon Luini tells Santa Cruz Weekly in an interview. "But those people often are not musicians, or they're not artists."
Luini will lead a panel discussion next month at the Creative Convergence Silicon Valley tech conference and music festival. He plans to use the forum in part to reinforce his nuanced take on the music business and where it's going. Basically: Label dominance was no good, but neither is the free-for-all that has followed. Back in the day, he was dubbed "the ethical one," because he always sought out the most equitable solutions, particularly for musicians.
MORE: Music DIY goes digital
The rise of -peer-to-peer downloading, he told the Weekly, "was all about what we can do. It became this excitement, almost like a feeding frenzy of like, look at what we can do -- we can put this out, and it's gonna go to millions of people. But there wasn't a lot of thought about, like, What should we do? And whose work is this built on the back of? And shouldn't they be part of the conversation?" The mission of IUMA, he said was "to create this new middle class of musician where more could quit their day jobs and make great art through using the Internet to reach fans across the globe."
That's happening to some degree, but huge complications and challenges remain. For example, how much of a cut should musicians get from services like Pandora (P) and Spotify? For many musicians, even many deserving ones, there is no clear path to this "middle class" lifestyle. This is not only because of the chaotic state of the business, but because of what seems like an inexorable dive in the market value of music.
IUMA, which launched in 1993 distributing music via Gopher and FTP, was sold to Emusic in 1998. By 2001, services like Napster had taken their toll, and the site was closed off to musicians. In 2006, it and all its files were taken offline. Luckily, though, most of the files have been preserved at the Internet Archive. Since leaving IUMA in the late '90s, Luini, still based in Santa Cruz, has had his fingers in a whole bunch of different web-media pies.
Fortune will be on hand for the CCSV conference, which will take place at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center from Thursday, September 26 through Saturday, September 28.
Its new music service -- Google Play Music All Access -- has features that are similar to both competitors.
By Ryan Bradley, senior editor
FORTUNE -- After months of buildup, on Wednesday Google announced a new, subscription-based streaming music service called Google Play Music All Access. The name may be clunky, but the offerings appear bountiful.
Google (GOOG) secured deals with three of the four major record labels—Universal Music, Sony, and Warner MOREMay 15, 2013 1:39 PM ET
Audio sharing platform SoundCloud is simplifying its payment options and partnering with a handful of big names by promoting their user profiles.
By Omar Akhtar, reporter
FORTUNE -- The online audio sharing platform SoundCloud is simplifying its user pay structure and rolling out a handful of "Pro Partners." These are brands and artists who have partnered with SoundCloud to receive promoted user profiles and certain advanced features to display content.
"We get MOREMar 11, 2013 10:57 AM ET
You probably haven't heard of it, but Echo Nest powers products from the likes of Spotify, Vevo, and MTV.
By Rob Walker, contributor
FORTUNE -- It began with an argument. Tristan Jehan and Brian Whitman met as Ph.D. candidates at MIT's Media Lab. Both were amateur musicians passionate about the ways technology might recommend songs based on a listener's tastes. Both were convinced that "collaborative filtering," a trendy means of achieving MOREOct 18, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Pandora. Spotify. SoundCloud. A number of companies are challenging a space dominated by the likes of Clear Channel.
FORTUNE -- Despite services like Spotify, Pandora, and Turntable.fm, which have all received generous buzz lately for one reason or another, digital music services aren't quite as disruptive to the music industry as you might think.
At least that's what Clear Channel's Bob Pittman insinuated during a discussion about online music services at Brainstorm MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 20, 2011 6:54 PM ET
To battle back against Facebook, MySpace tunes into more online music
MySpace, the once and would-be king of social media, is increasingly turning
toward music to combat a dominant Facebook, and keep its 125 million users coming back.
On Wednesday in San Francisco at the Web 2.0 Summit, MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta announced the launch of two new music products for the online site – one for the fans, the other for MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Oct 22, 2009 7:00 AM ET
By Scott Moritz
U.S. regulators on Monday charged Dallas Maverick owner and outspoken blogger Mark Cuban with using confidential information in 2004 to sell his stake in Mamma.com, a Montreal search engine now known as Copernic (CNIC). His sale of all 600,000 shares helped Cuban avoid a 10% dive in the stock, or about $750,000 in losses, the government contends.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit against Cuban on Monday. No criminal charges were MOREsmoritz - Nov 17, 2008 3:25 PM ET
|What stumps Warren Buffett? Minimum wage|
|Water becoming more valuable than gold|
|GM's $1.3 billion recall cost wipes out profit|
|Will 7 Apples a day keep the bears away? - The Buzz|
|Ex-Wal-Mart CEO Duke retired with $140 million|