ask, this doesn't really come with too much of a surprise. Universal is the biggest record label around. They probably have the most money and have been squeezing artists the longest. See this article for some third party insight.
My view on MP3.com history
The most interesting point of this all, is that we started out MP3.com as an alternative way to distribute music. A way to find out about all the different music in the world to find the music you wanted to listen to without having the labels pre-pick your favorite music style for you. We seem to totally have gone full circle to a point to where we aligned with Emusic who had a totally different strategy which was very much aligned to the old record label A&R way of doing things.
I guess it is too hard to really find the good stuff via a big single source like we had hoped. We figured people could "rate" (download) the songs they liked and therefore bump it up the charts. This would be a way to provide the music the world wanted not what some folks in the A&R group at a random record label thought you would want to hear.
So maybe your best bet would still be the small indie label that has interests in the particular style of music you like, as long as they do not get corrupted by seeing dollar signs.
Again, this is a good example of what record labels have done soo well and continue to do well in the past. Use money to make money. The original goal of having internet distribution for all artists without serious costs to provide a closer link between the artist and music consumer seems to have been shot. Mass media has always been controlled by only a few companies in the world that can easily leave out important information for financial gain. This only proves the fact that money conquers.
Although going public gave us a lot of money and power to play with it also brought a lot of stock holders and investors in on the game that were looking only at profits. This caused the focus of the company to change drasticly towards making money. At least to me the company slowly changed their goals after IPO. It was no longer the same goal we were fighting for.
Online Audio Distribution Technology
The most interesting part to me would be to see how the Technology side will pack out now that the majors are starting to get their feet wet. Will MP3 and Vorbis which still stand as the consumer favorite come out of this alive? Or will DRM-type formats surpass the more open standards because consumers want to pay for someone to sift through the music (record labels) to present them with something that has been mass marketed over the radio and television. My.MP3.com was a great technological idea that tried to provide a way to deliver your music to you digitally where ever you where (provided you had connectivity). Of course this is only useful if you can store a lot of music and if it would be easier then lugging around a CD-ROMs with your favorite MP3s on it.
On the streaming side of things it will be interesting to see if semi-new IETF streaming standards such as RTSP, RTP, SIP and the like will be used by any of these companies that are building this subscription service for the record labels. So far the only a few that have started using RTSP such Apple Quicktime and Real Networks RealPlayer and JMF (Cacheflow, Sun StoreEdge and others have created Servers, Proxies, Mixers and Translators). So there is some support for streaming Vorbis and/or MP3 over RTSP/RTP, but not too much.
From what I know about the Online Music Industry most companies that are distributing music are using HTTP derrivates such as Shoutcast, Icecast or just a M3U based hand off to an HTTP capable audio client. Although it has been effective alternatives now exist that are more reliable and scalable (but also more complex and harder to implement), most distribution companies haven't taken advantage of these new standards. Maybe now that it will be a lot less about investors, it will become more of a technology gain. Hopefully some of my old co-workers are reading this and start looking at some of these new protocols.
Maybe I will find some more time to play with this stuff. Also the XML/DC/MusicBrainz/ID3v2/CDDB/MPEG-7 stuff is a good hobby of mine. It is interesting how a lot of this audio stuff is crossing over into my usual XML/HTTP development that is done for work. It is great to have them overlap every once in a while, but sometimes I wish they could be two totally seperate beasts.
Anyways, back to work. ;-)