National Opinions

Los Angeles Times: Let music lead the way

It's been a roller-coaster month for Project Playlist, a popular local start-up that lets users create playlists of songs scattered around the Internet.

Last week, the com- pany's service was booted from MySpace, cutting it off from much of its clientele.

On Monday, it announ- ced its first deal with a major record company, Sony BMG. And on Tues- day, its playlist-building application was expelled from Facebook.

This one-step-forward, two-steps-back routine shows how hard it contin- ues to be for the music industry and entrepre- neurs to adapt to a world in which recordings pro- liferate online, beyond the copyright owners' control.

Project Playlist is one of a growing number of on- line services that enable people to find, arrange and play the songs available (legally or otherwise) on the Net. Because they don't store songs them- selves, several of these services have argued that they don't need to obtain licenses from or pay royalties to the labels.

Naturally, the major record companies dis- agree. Two popular play- listing sites with no visible means of support -- Mux- tape and Mixwit -- folded rather than fight or strike deals.

Project Playlist, which sells advertising and has raised more than $20 mil- lion from venture capital firms, was sued by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI Music in April.

Sony BMG held its fire, and eventually agreed to grant a license.

Playlist services could be an enormous boon to the labels.

The vast quantity of music online creates a need for aggregators that can introduce new songs and artists, assemble individual tracks into hours of programming, and organize the chaotic mass of music into something coherent.

That's the niche that companies such as Project Playlist fill.

The record companies too need to join entrepre- neurs in the marketplace, not the courtroom.