I don't know that I honestly would have given much weight to this idea if I'd heard it pitched to me, but as they've already got 1300 artists across 90 labels, I'd say it's obvious that I'd have been in the wrong.
I don't know if they'll ever get the bigger labels, and for my money, I hope they don't. I mean, I'd love to see that nut get cracked, because honestly, something like this COULD (I don't think it will) be the end of the RIAA. But if that happens, then I'll be just as sad as I was when eMusic turned coat and started bringing in bigger fish.
I'm just kind of unclear as to how they'll build a huge audience, given that any pay-for-play scheme, as a rule, is not going to be playing the music that I most want to hear.
I guess I'm wondering, where's the filter? What will make the music that I hear at this site better, on average, than the music at any other site?
Because it sure as hell isn't the fact that artists will be able to pay for exposure. IMO there's just no way around it, pay-for-play is a listener-hostile dynamic, there's absolutely no way it could improve the quality of what I listen to.
Actually, maybe that's a lie, there's one tiny way it can help: if pay-for-play is limited only to the acts that have not had enough exposure for the "market" to figure out whether they're any good, then it can improve what I hear by letting the artists pay to make sure that they've actually been listened to by enough people to be fairly judged. The real problem with payola schemes is when artists that have already had plenty of exposure can use money to make sure that they have more exposure than even the organically successful acts - this is something that Earbits needs to make sure it avoids, and if it is successful, this will mean some tough decisions, because they'll have to start turning down money that their biggest customers want to give them ("What's that, Mr. Combs? You want to buy up 90% of our play time for the next two months and fill it with your label's shitty music, and you'll pay us six times what we made last year? No thanks, that would be unfair.").
In any case, I think more needs to be done to figure out a compelling pitch to users. The payola side of it is not the right thing to emphasize - it's going to offend musicians, and it's not going to attract users.
Hey Bermanoid... We understand all of these dynamics and we know that we have to prove we're not going to go down that route. What you're describing would be very short-sighted of us. Look at it this way, what we're proposing is very much like Google Adwords. You wouldn't put an irrelevant product next to a keyword for the money because nobody will click on it. To enforce the right incentives on us, we're making 30 seconds the "click" for our artists. If someone skips your music within the first 30 seconds, you don't pay, and we lose money. Further, if we do what you're describing, we kill our audience. We're in this for the long haul. We understand there will be skepticism. We look forward to proving ourselves and I think if you check out our credentials, you'll see that this isn't our first rodeo.