C|Net News reports that a new startup hopes to put a social software spin to music downloading:

Mercora is planning to launch a distribution service next month, inspired in equal parts by iTunes, Friendster and eBay…. [T]he newcomer is putting a twist on digital music sales, hoping to spur the creation of like-minded, music-loving minicommunities that can help sell new bands and artists to each other.

The self-funded company even plans a smidgen of peer-to-peer distribution, according to [CEO Srivats] Sampath. Songs bought through the service will all be wrapped tightly in Microsoft copy-protection technology, but people may be able to download them from each other’s computers in order to save on bandwidth costs and download times, he said….

Mercora is adding a community element to simple downloading that it hopes will help it stand out from the pack. It’s drawing on the “social networking” idea that has Silicon Valley aflutter: Mercora users can group themselves together based on what kinds of music they like and then use these rough groups as sources of content and recommendations.

The Mercora site isn’t giving away much in the way of details about itself, but interestingly it describes the service as “the first legal person-to-person digital music marketplace.” It sounds like it’s trying to recrease what Henry Jenkins liked about Napster. I wonder if the songs will be playable on my iPod….