It has been argued that file sharing can actually help artists move units, and a new tool from leadbullet makes it even easier for consumers to make the connection between an unofficial download and an official cash purchase. ShareMonkey is a small application for Windows and plugin for Shareaza that allows users to query their database for an authorized distributor of a piece of media, including music and video.
‘Warez’ sites have long justified their behavior by suggesting that consumers should be able to try out an expensive application before making a purchase. And as someone who can’t stand commercial radio, I’ve relied on file sharing and ripping tracks from friends to find new artists, and often followed up with a trip to the record store for a copy on vinyl. ShareMonkey makes the process as simple as right-clicking and choosing “Where is this file from?” in Windows.
According to their site, “We’ve matched more than 200,000 p2p movies; cams, rips, trailers and extras, to the DVDs they originally came from, and we’re matching more every day.” A quick test on DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor” from Endtroducing in my iTunes library didn’t turn up the right listing, but it did turn up an interesting acid jazz compilation (screenshot above).
My assumption is that it works better for less obscure artists, though allowing users to correct the results by finding the source themselves if something isn’t in the database would be a great feature. Digital watermarking and cooperation from content distributors would also greatly help them refine their results.
I can imagine eventually being able to download a cam version of the latest Hollywood theme park movie and using a service like Sharemonkey to find a local theater to see it on the big screen with friends if it’s any good. It’s certainly a new approach to enabling consumers — punishing a small number of infringers hasn’t worked, so maybe rewarding passionate fans looking to support their favorite artists will.