An article in the San Jose Mercury News reported about a new P2P company called Mercora. It is the first internet peer-to-peer broadcast radio company. The start-up created software which allows users to search other computers for particular songs that they want to hear. The search engine allows the user to search by title or artist and then tells them where to go in order to hear that song. Then, instead of downloading the song, it is played as a streaming broadcast for the listener. There is absolutely no downloading of music to hard drives, or burning songs to CDs. This allows Mercora to comply with copyright law since it is just like a regular radio broadcaster. Since there are millions of users of P2P networks for music file-swapping, Mercora is hoping to capture some of the market by offering a legal alternative. The founder, Srivats Sampath, feels his company is filling niche stating that "typical radio is one to many. Our model is one too few. In radio, it's very limited genres and selections. In our model, it's unlimited genres and selection."
Mercora is just starting out and is already doing well by most standards. It has a music library of almost 10 million songs that can be listened to in CD quality. The company is also using partnerships in order to increase its business. It struck a deal last month with Grokster in order to offer free P2P radio for its users. Grokster Radio will give Mercora the chance to greatly increase its exposure and gain a lot more users. Better recognition and more users will lead to ways for the company to make money. The company will allow its base to grow first and it will initially remain free to its users. The plan is for Mercora to eventually start offering value-added services for which they will charge a small fee. Grokster Radio will remain free and is also good deal for Grokster, which has been looking for ways to provide licensed music to its users. Mercora launched its radio station in June and has had steadily increasing growth. Since the start of the company users have logged over 28 million hours of listening to music. In November, Mercora had over 450,000 listeners who used their software. This shows that the legal alternatives to downloading music do have a lot of fans and seem to be here to stay.
A European company also offering a legal alternative to file-swapping is having a good month as well. Wippit is a U.K. based company which offers a legal download service. It has secured licenses to distribute music from all the major record companies. Wippit had already made license agreements with Sony, BMG and EMI earlier this year. Just this month Wippit struck a deal with the two remaining major labels, Warner and Universal. This adds over a million songs to Wippit's music library, which can legally be downloaded by customers in Europe. Universal is limiting its catalogue of songs to only customers in the U.K. and Ireland. Wippit is a starting company like Mercora which is trying to get a piece of the legitimate music sharing market. It seems likely that in either America, or in Europe, we can look forward to seeing more companies offering alternatives to illegal file-swapping on P2P networks.