The more I talk to the people in the industry the more I believe that widgets have a huge place in the market of Rich Internet Applications. Creating a subset of your application and deploying it in other places isn't new, but with RIA technologies we can do so in a way that differentiates our applications and adds some richness to an otherwise bland web property. The plethora of widgets on MySpace lends some credence to this but one of the more sound business models I've come across is from SoundLoud and their SoundStation music player. I talked with Shaun Newsum, CEO and co-founder to get more information on the service.
According to the website SoundLoud's mission is " to empower the majority of independent, unsigned, and emerging music artists with the most efficient tools for online music distribution." and they do a pretty good job. SoundLoud has created SoundStation, a music store written in Adobe Flex that allows content creators to "deploy" a store on any of their web presences. Artists can sign up for an account and then they create a widget that they can embed on their website or MySpace page. Fans can buy music right from the widget and SoundLoud handles the transaction then gives the artist their share of the proceeds. It gives independent artists a way to tie into a sophisticated back end while maintaining their brand and identity. In the process it shows off the power of both widgets and Rich Internet Applications.
The widget allows fans to play parts of the song and gives artists control over how much and which songs are available for preview. The fans never leave the website of the artist and the entire check out process is handled via the widget. Flex gives SoundLoud the ability to incorporate a rich, multimedia-intensive experience into the music shopping experience which entices customers and engages fans of the band. It's a win-win.
SoundLoud started this November, so it's still in the early stages but they've made a bit of a splash on the indy music scene. They are in talks with Warner Brothers to provide music to some of their artists and have signed up a chunk of independent artists (check out Stealing Roses as an example). In addition, they are looking to add chat to the application and provide fans a way to interact with each other making the widget even more important in the fan-artist relationship.
I think these guys are off to a great start and instead of relying on advertising they're going after a share of the transaction which puts them in a good position. They've been able to show off the power of a rich user experience and how abstracting web content into a powerful widget can result in revenue. It's an excellent example of the link between Rich Internet Applications and widgets and one that I hope succeeds.