I was reading all the TechCrunch40 coverage and I asked myself: “If I had five minutes to come up with a startup idea completely outside of search, what would it be?” This is more of a fun exercise, but feel free to pull apart the idea — or propose a better startup idea in the comments.
Wal-Mart has started selling MP3s from some artists on Universal and EMI. Here’s the idea: a company that would scan your music collection and offer to convert file-shared MP3s to legal MP3s with much higher quality, cover art, lyrics, etc. Lots of people have MP3s from Napster/Kazaa/wherever, and now that you can buy the legal MP3 versions of some songs, at least a fraction of people would convert chunks of their music library to be completely legitimate and much higher quality.
How would you make money with this? I could imagine several ways:
- offer people ringtones of songs on their hard drive
- charge a penny or two for each song that is converted to “legitimate.”
- run some banner ads or AdSense
- anonymize the data and license the anonymized data to various businesses
- get people to sign up with Pandora, Last.fm, or Rhapsody.
- don’t make any money on it. Use it as a way to build brand recognition or positive karma.
Why do I like this idea? Well, music labels are hesitant about selling songs without digital rights management (DRM). If this startup was even moderately successful, labels would see huge numbers of unprotected tracks being bought, which would encourage other labels to offer their music without DRM restrictions.
Sure, there’s little bits to be worked out. How would you upload the list of songs on your hard drive? Maybe you’d offer a tiny open-source download to scan the drive and make a list of MP3s. For the people who are too worried to download anything, you could say something like
Okay, you paranoid folks. Here’s how to upload the list of MP3s on your hard drive if you don’t want to download anything. Open a Windows command window and run these commands:
dir /s | find /i “.mp3″ > mp3list
then upload the file C:\mp3list to us and we’ll take it from there.
TechCrunch is showcasing 40 startup companies this week. I believe this idea has to be better than at least 1-2 of those forty. There’s also at least a few places to set yourself apart (e.g. recognizing songs from mangled/ugly filenames or noisy audio fingerprints), but it would be easy to get started. Or it would be an interesting side-project for any startup already in the music space.
If anyone who wants to try this idea, have at it. I’m too lazy to tackle it myself. Anybody want to rip the idea apart, implement it, or offer a better start-up idea?