I’ve been using mFlow for several months now (you can see my profile here). I’ve described it as “the bastard offspring of Spotify, iTunes and Twitter. It combines Twitter-style social networking, online music streaming and mp3 sales. It’s actually great fun, and has exposed me to a number of artists whose music I’d never have heard otherwise.
The way it works is people “flow” tunes to their followers, who can then listen to the complete song. Following works like it does on Twitter – it’s completely asymmetric, in that there’s no obligation to follow someone back if they choose to follow you. Follow friends, or follow random people who have great taste in music, it’s up to you. If you really like a song, you can reflow it to your own followers, or purchase it as a DRM-free mp3 download, And when someone buys a track, whoever flowed it gets a 20% commission on the sale.
It has two big drawbacks at the moment. Firstly, their catalogue is nothing like as comprehensive as I’d like it to be – while they have three of the four majors and many of the larger indies on board, it gets very spotty once you get down to smaller labels and independent artists. There is practically nothing from female-fronted prog scene I follow; currently there’s a single song by The Reasoning taken from a compilation, and one cover by Magenta, and that’s it. Not even Fish’s post-EMI releases are there. These are precisely the sort of artists I’d love to be able to use mFlow to spread the word about.
Secondly, it’s currently UK only, and my online friends network isn’t constrained by geographical boundaries; I’ve got online friends in America and continental Europe who share my tastes in music, and can’t use mFlow yet.
Now iTunes have introduced something called “Ping” which seems to do much of the same thing, there are fears that it could damage mFlow. iTunes is the 800lb gorilla in the downloading market, keen to lock everyone in their closed proprietary ecosystem, and are quite likely to stomp on a startup who’s established a niche that they want for themselves. Let’s hope mFlow survives.