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…And then there are the music services you don’t have to pay me to talk about. I think this is a superb idea.

I introduced Gerd Leonhard to you the other day. He’s the music and media futurist and CEO of Sonific. And I think this is where he becomes most interesting: as the man behind one of the best online services I’ve yet come across for the marketing and distribution of music recordings.

There’s a small, but growing range of widget-based tools for music business out there. They’re quite a bit like embedded YouTube videos that you can put on any MySpace page, blog or website — but they’re tied into an e-commerce platform, and they let you listen to music.

More importantly, this is how to get your music onto the websites of thousands of your fans, so they can spread the word for you, and direct their friends straight to a cash register.

Personally, I think that of these sorts of services, Sonific’s currently the pick of the crop — and it ticks most of the 20 Things boxes too…

I spoke to Gerd about the Sonific widget, and how it can help you make money out of music online.

What is Sonific?
We are the leading provider of music applications and ‘widgets’ for social networks, blogs, and social media sites.

We support 42 platforms and have over 200.000 songs available for full-length use as embedded music players, called SongSpots. If you want to put music on your site or profile page, Sonific is the way to go.

What’s a SongSpot?
That’s what we call our embeddable music players. Essentially a copy & paste flash player like YouTube’s – works anywhere where html and embedded objects are allowed.

See: http://sonific.com/home/supported_sites

Is it a solution to a particular problem?
Yes. About 220 Million people are active on blogs and social networks, photo-sharing and other social media sites, and 90% of them want music with their pages or content they put up.

We solve this problem by making a universal music plug-in ‘widget’ available, for free, for any platform that wants to integrate it, as well as by cutting & pasting.

Why use embedded widgets?
It’s easy, instant and very flexible. The user can pick where he wants it, no downloads are required. Widgets are a major trend in distributed, syndicated media, and it will become a big part of every label’s distribution strategy, very soon.

So how do people submit their own music?
Anyone that owns their own music can submit at www.sonific.net. It’s free, and you can leave-anytime. No strings attached.

See http://sonific.net/agreement_artist for the contract.

Do you have to be signed to a record label?
No. Artists can go direct as well (but it does need be professional content!)

Can labels easily upload their entire roster of artists?
Yes. First via sonific.net, and then we can import on a large scale, too. That is done manually now — but we will have tools for doing that online soon as well.

Is there some sort of quality control?
Yes. We listen to everything, and our editors actually rate some tracks as well. Plus we will add user tagging and rating shortly. Having said that, we very rarely turn stuff down!

How does searching within the site work?
Right now, it’s very basic — but that will change soon.

The best way, right now, is to search by GENRE and then pick the featured artists first, or view the whole library. You can also use the search engine to search by artist name.

Do keep in mind that while we have many well-known artists and songs we do NOT YET have the top 100 chart hits etc – they are licensed by the major record labels, mostly, and we are still negotiating with them. So that’s a restriction that comes with being legal.

We do have ‘tribute’ bands and cover versions, though (try searching for ‘Madonna’, for example).

Also, we will offer Sonific SongSpots charts soon.

How’s the conversion rate from listeners to purchasers?
Depends very much on the song.

On average, almost 10% of our listeners click through to the ‘about this track’ page. After that, it varies wildly – but keep in mind that at this time most people don’t buy a lot of music online, anyway. Apart from iTunes, most offers just aren’t compelling enough yet (even though Emusic is one of my personal favorites).

This must be improved by the services (and again, by the major record labels), before it will start cranking.

Why did you make the choice to allow people to listen to whole songs?
That is a must-have for the user. 30 secs don’t work for anyone; and just having a shopping basket is not going to excite people, in my humble opinion.

Our feedback from our users has shown that this is absolutely crucial to the idea of offering music in this context.

It sounds like reasonably good quality — what’s the bit rate?
It’s variable but starts at 128k. also a crucial requirement…

Who’s already jumped on board?
Most of the large independents and their aggregators (on the content side), and 42 platforms that allow / offer our code.

The deepest partnerships are currently with WordPress, Typepad, Vox.com, Friendster, Blogger, Slideroll etc. – and another half a dozen will be announced shortly.

Do you actively seek out catalogue? Where are your biggest gaps?
We really would like to have more ‘head’ content but the LongTail also works nicely, so we are open for anything that is good. More Asian music would be nice, though.

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I’ll be talking about another widget service in the next few days, but in the meantime I’d love to hear what you think of Sonific. They’ve just added another 125,000 songs too. Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments.