In an interesting move, GarageBand.com has inked a deal with Microsoft’s MSN Music whereby top-rated GarageBand artists will be featured on MSN Music services, and (eventually) artists will be able to distribute or sell their music via MSN Music. The deal marks the first time one of the major online digital music services (okay, a potentially major service; right now nothing compares to the iTunes Music Store) has dipped into the vast pool of independent and unsigned musical talent available via the Internet. It also marks the first time a (potentially) major music distribution channel has created an option whereby featured artists are primarily selected by music listeners, rather than by record labels, producers, advertisers, and marketing machines.
The basic idea is that featured artists are selected from GarageBand.com’s top-rated artists in a variety of genres; those ratings are derived from GarageBand’s listener review process, in which anyone can participate. The listener ratings act as a filter to highlight the strongest (and/or marketable) artists in each genre. MSN Music will launch a new "GarageBand Radio" channel on MSN Music which will stream tracks from GarageBand.com top-ranked artists; MSN Music will also enable GarageBand.com artists to submit music for distribution either for free or as paid downloads – the first time a (potentially) major online music store has opened up a direct channel to independent artists. MSN Music will also apparently carry "hundreds of thousands" of GarageBand.com songs as free downloads; some of these tracks will at least in part be comprised of participants in the original MP3.com’s TruSonic program, which GarageBand has acquired and is working to restore.
This move – for the time being – makes MSN Music the only major player in the online music scene making any direct effort to connect with independent, unsigned, and emerging artists. Something of an irony, considering the source!