"That you may ruminate"

…On this “Popcuts” store.

Posted by Steve on March 13, 2009

Back in September, I read an article on CNN’s website about a little new online music store called Popcuts. I did some research on it, even signed up for it, and I ruminated on it here. Well, a few months ago they selected certain users for a phone survey on the service, and I was one of them. For the hour and a half or two hours of my time on a Sunday night (it was only supposed to be one hour, but the interview was conducted by a hired consultant that was using VoIP and having major problems with it), I got $25 of store credit with Popcuts.

Which is how I can now actually give some meaningful commentary on the store, which a small number of people do actually use.

Yes, people use Popcuts to buy music, just not a lot of them and not generally buying the same music as me. That’s outside my control, but it is disappointing. See, the thing that makes Popcuts unique is that it gives you a kickback for buying music. Everything costs the standard $0.99 to buy a copy of a song and download the .mp3. But, that $.99 gets split three ways: Popcuts gets their cut, and then the artist picks how the rest gets split between themselves and everybody who’s previously bought the song. I can testify that it does actually happen – I’ve gotten a whopping $1.19 in store credit from people buying stuff that I was the first person to buy. Did I mention people don’t buy the same music as me there, much? Seriously, I’ve bought 31 songs that as of this moment have been purchased a combined total of 3 times since I bought them.

Honestly, it’s about as independent a music store as you can get – which is a good thing, and why I started paying attention to it. There’s a few independent labels using it to sell their signed acts, and then there’s a lot of self-produced stuff. A whole lot of self-produced stuff. After all, anybody who can make an .mp3 can put it on there and try to sell it. That does mean the catalog’s filled with a lot of crap somebody made in their basement, but there’s also a lot of good stuff somebody made in their basement. Or that a garage band or bar band with a future put together, or a band that would’ve been great and would’ve gone places if they hadn’t broken up before they could get signed made.

Granted, because this is an obscure store full of mostly self-produced music (and I’m generally looking in the “metal” category, which a) is not popular in the US and b) to the extent it is popular in the US, isn’t generally from one of the styles of metal I prefer) my experience has been that for every song worth buying, there’s twenty or more that aren’t. Actually, the genre of music has had a lot to do with my experience, I think: it looks like there’s a lot more electronica/techno/house and Edwin McCain/John Mayer/Jewel sort of music than any of the stuff I’m looking for.

But I’m definitely happy with some of the stuff I’ve bought (especially since so much of it cost me nothing). I found a band called Stalin’s War with some songs I really love. A German pianist named Martin Herzberg has some great songs. (Both of those, I’ve since learned, I could’ve gotten from iTunes – but since the price is the same either way, why not buy from the private store instead of from Apple’s store? Especially when the private store gives you a bonus). There’s some other good stuff I’ve gotten. A lot of which I never would’ve gotten from iTunes or on a CD. (And yes, I still do buy CDs. When stuff isn’t available for download, I’ll order a cd off the internet. Did it two months ago actually, getting four CDs of soundtrack music by Bear McCreary. The man’s work is excellent. Very evocative, and what’s more I’m certain I could have my dad listen to it and he’d like it. That’s hard to do.) I’ve noticed that the nature of the Popcuts catalog, with its heavy emphasis on small-label and independent music, has me willing to buy music I wouldn’t consider buying through a distribution channel with more established, commercially successful, “big-name” acts. Say I listen to a 30-second teaser clip of some jazz singer I’ve never heard of, where she’s singing a catchy tune with a nice voice. iTunes, I’m not going to be experimental enough with my purchasing to buy the song. Popcuts, I am. That could be atypical consumer behavior, it could be typical. I have no idea.

Anyway, that’s my disjointed review of Popcuts the Music Store. They’re apparently also trying to be Popcuts the Musiclover’s Online Community, but I haven’t paid any attention to that. I have no interest in it. I’m just interested in a store that gives me rebates for buying stuff. And I like that. I’ve been able to stretch five dollars into thirty one songs, several of which I love (and of course a few of which I would never have boughten if I’d heard the entire song instead of just the 30-second sample).

Still wish there were more Gothenburg metal, though. And that somebody’d start buying stuff after me.

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