MySpace Music Inks IODA; Million-Plus Independent Songs

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MySpace Music has now completed a deal with independent label distributor IODA, according to details confirmed Wednesday.

That closely follows an arrangement with The Orchard, and calms complaints of an anti-independent tilt by MySpace.  The deal is the result of a multi-month negotiation, one that featured a relatively relaxed IODA chief Kevin Arnold.  “We’re happy to have it done and moving forward,” Arnold told Digital Music News ahead of the announcement.  “The deal terms are great, we’re definitely happy around the basic rates, the definition of the revenue pool, and the key components of the deal.”

The agreement opens the door to a catalog of roughly 1.5 million songs, though it remains unclear exactly how many will be ported into the site.  According to Arnold, the next step is to open the outlet to member labels, and then load content from participating groups.  The IODA catalog includes artists D’Angelo, Billie Holiday, Del the Funky Homosapien, P.O.D., The Wrens, Black Uhuru, Fela Kuti, Presidents of the U.S.A., and a broad range of others.

IODA is not getting an equity stake in the venture, though Arnold seemed mostly focused on opening deal opportunities for his client labels.  “Our clients are free to not participate in this, but I am confident about the level of participation,” Arnold relayed.  “There are a large number of labels that have a vast number of opinions and want to take advantage of these options as soon as they can.”

That mirrors sentiments from Orchard chief Greg Scholl.  Just like IODA, Scholl did not secure an equity stake, but seemed more motivated by other aspects and opportunities.  “It’s a little bit of a red herring when compared to getting fair rates on advertising,” Scholl told Digital Music News in September, referring to the equity question.  Additionally, Scholl also placed greater importance of being positioned properly around a liquidation event, such as an acquisition or IPO.  Scholl, along with Arnold, are both rumored to have received stronger percentages on advertising, in lieu of the equity position.

The result is that millions of independent songs are now flowing into MySpace Music.  “Amassing content is one of the key pieces here,” said Frank Hajdu, executive director of MySpace Music during a Wednesday conversation.  “This is a big step and a big indicator of our commitment to the indie community.”

Hadju promised more independent deals ahead, without naming names.  The end result will be a more balanced content pool, one that includes both major label and independent selection.  Hadju declined to delve into more details about future plans related to the joint venture partnership, one that offered exclusive positions to major labels.  But the migration of independent content into the initiative raises questions about a massive dust-up by independent groups A2IM and Merlin, both of whom placed heavy emphasis on the equity issue.

Meanwhile, Hadju pointed to upcoming plans to empower the unsigned, do-it-yourself (DIY) artist community.  At present, millions of unaffiliated artists are already on MySpace, offering their content and attempting to amass fans.  “There are many more artists that are unaffiliated with labels than are,” Hadju relayed.  “We want to enable thousands if not millions of artists to earn a living, and we want to give them the tools to make that possible.”

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Los Angeles.