March 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Amazon Music Locker Could Reawaken P2P Sharing

Amazon's cloud-based music storage locker could bring back P2P.

Amazon launched a music locker today that has the tech world abuzz. Record labels, artists, publishers, and other music industry stakeholders have cause for concern.

Unlike streaming services such as Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, or Spotify, Amazon’s music locker pays no royalties. After all, people shouldn’t have to pay again, just to listen to their own music.

“We don’t need a license to store music,” Amazon music director Craig Pape told Hypebot. “The functionality is the same as an external hard drive.”

Another music storage locker, mSpot, uses the same logic, for which it drew the anger of music executives earlier this year — but unlicensed music services could hurt labels in another way, reinforcing decades-old behavior including P2P music sharing.

Cloud music is taking an unexpected turn here, and it may have been caused by the labels’ own policies. By reportedly waiting to come to an agreement with Apple and Google on their cloud-based music services; delaying the launch of Spotify in the U.S.; and requiring lofty licensing rates from existing on-demand services, they may have pushed the market towards their worst-case scenario: the self-administered cloud-based music service, fueled by free music and cheap bandwidth.

Amazon MP3′s ability to send music purchases directly into your storage locker may be convenient, but it’s even more convenient to stock your locker with your own MP3s. Those come not only from official MP3 stores, and music blogs with permission to post songs, but from P2P file sharing networks and the unstoppable “sneakernet,” which involves connecting a USB memory stick or hard drive to a friend’s computer.

If most fans fall back on the tried-and-true practice of maintaining their own home music hard drives during this shift to the cloud, rather than paying for on-demand music services, two things will happen. Casual music fans will continue to get music for free on YouTube, a free Pandora account, and maybe a free (low-capacity) music locker. Meanwhile, dedicated music fans will pay Amazon or another company for bandwidth and a data locker, and stock it mostly with free music.

Neither scenario involves paying much, if anything, for recorded music.

It’s supremely ironic: Just as music fans have been migrating away from file sharing and towards cloud-based music services, data storage lockers like Amazon’s, rather than licensed freemium services like Spotify, could win the race to the cloud — with decidedly lower payouts for the industry ostensibly making the rules.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/rsvstks)