Microsoft Ignition

This is a bit off topic, especially since I don’t have a Zune or XBox, but Microsoft is doing something Apple could have done long ago but didn’t.

Microsoft announced Ignition on Monday. Ignition is a service available to emerging recording artists and it leverages Zune, ZBox Live and MSN to offer promotional opportunities with exclusive content from the featured artists across all three platforms for the entire month. The first band is Maximo Park out of the UK (pictured). News reports say Microsoft is demanding exclusive content and hands-on participation from the artists involved.

“We don’t want the same thing that is going out on MTV,” Microsoft director of music marketing Christina Calio said.

It’s not going to make me run out and buy a Zune but it seems like a smart move on Microsoft’s part. They’ll offer music videos via XBox, songs via the Zune and promotion and streaming video and audio on MSN. There will be a free audio download for Zune and a free music video download for XBox Live. While limited to 12 artists a years (assuming they stick to one artists a month) it’ll give additional exposure to new artists. Of course, the quality of the music remains to be seen.

This seems to be something Apple could have (and should have) done with the iTunes store if they wanted to. They offer the free single of the week but stopped there. Maybe it was anti-trust concerns, or fear of annoying the labels even more than they do now, but it seems like Apple could have stepped in and done the same sort of thing and done more to promote new artists. If Starbucks can sell music and start their own music label while selling coffee Apple could have done it with the #1 online music store.

Microsoft avoided the mistake almost everyone else makes by taking what Apple already does and trying to do it better. I’m pulling for Microsoft on this one (but not buying a Zune) because competition for Apple and iTunes can only be good.