Tuesday, July 31, 2007

snapshot 7/31/07

Apple says iTunes sales top 3 billion songs
Apple Inc. said on Tuesday sales at its online music store iTunes have topped 3 billion songs.

AT&T Mobile Music Hits the Airwaves With eMusic Mobile
AT&T Inc. has announced the launch of an over-the-air music download service with eMusic, the world's largest retailer of independent music. The eMusic over-the-air
(OTA) service will give AT&T's customers the ability to preview and purchase music via their wireless devices from a catalog of 2.7 million songs, the nation's largest wireless music catalog. T

eMusic Mobile will be initially available on some of AT&T's most robust music devices, with many to be added in the future. Users of the Samsung a717, a727, new versions of the popular Samsung SYNC and the Nokia N75 will be able to access the eMusic wireless store by clicking on the music note key, choosing the Shop Music option and then selecting eMusic.

Interesting to note – no iPhone?

Dave Matthews Band Live and Exclusive at Starbucks
Starbucks Entertainment announced today that Dave Matthews Band “Live Trax” CD will be exclusively available at Starbucks Company-operated locations in the U.S. and Canada beginning on July 31, 2007. The exclusive compilation from Bama Rags/RCA Records features recordings of Dave Matthews Band performances dating back to 1995. Since 2004, Dave Matthews Band has released albums in the “Live Trax” series via their Web site and at concerts. “Live Trax,” exclusively available at Starbucks, is the first national retail release in the series.

Survey Shows eMusic Helps Independent Labels by Adding Incremental Sales
In recent surveys of more than 4,000 of its active U.S. subscribers conducted, eMusic found that 61% buy music from the website that they would not have otherwise purchased. Additionally, 62% of subscribers said they purchase more than 10 additional songs per month than before they joined eMusic, 84% felt they discovered music they would not otherwise have known about, and 44% of subscribers believe they download less music from major labels now that they are in the eMusic fold.

The results show that eMusic is helping independent labels gain market share by selling albums and songs that wouldn't have sold otherwise to customers willing to experiment and discover music. This mirrors sales trends that are tracked by Nielsen SoundScan. A recent analysis of Nielsen SoundScan data shows that independent label digital album sales increased by 42% from 2005 to 2007 year to date.

Digital downloads over the Internet are helping purveyors of classical music stage an encore.
Classical music hardly seems like a growth business. In fact, classical music is doing a lot better than you might think. Although total sales in all music categories (on- and offline) fell 5 percent last year, classical sales grew by a whopping 22 percent. The biggest companies of the classical genre are now earning about 20 percent of sales from digital music, double or triple the average for other categories.

Classical is different—consumers like to geek out on niche recordings, reveling in different versions of the same work or finding obscure versions of well-known pieces. Of the 146,031 tracks offered by Naxos online, about half have sold only 10 units or less. Still, that was enough to push digital revenues to a quarter of the company's total $82 million in sales for 2006, increasing profitability and helping offset a decline in offline sales.

Led Zeppelin join the net generation
Veteran rockers Led Zeppelin, who have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, are to enter the modern age and offer an album of specially selected tracks to download on the internet. Mothership, a collection including 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Dazed and Confused', will be available on Apple's iTunes and is the band's first venture into selling Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones have chosen the tracks themselves. Mothership will be available online on 12 November.

Playlists, new samples player, web subscription playback
Continuing the torrential pace of new software, we have released a playlist page, a new player for thirty-second samples, and the ability to play subscription tracks in the browser. All of this software is somewhat beta.

Toshiba Laptops To Ship With Napster To Go
Buyers of Toshiba Satellite and Qosmio laptops will find a 30-day trial of Napster To Go bundled onto their machines, in a bid by the online music service to continue to grow its user base. I've always thought that Napster, Rhapsody, and other paid subscription services make sense for a some people -- especially that small segment who don't want or have an iPod -- but that somehow, those people rarely are exposed to them.

Study: Social Media Sparks Music Downloads
According to the 2007 Digital Music Survey conducted by the UK's Entertainment Media Research and law firm Olswang, social media is having a profound impact upon how people discover and purchase music. Over 50 percent of survey respondents said they actively surf social network sites to discover new music and artists. The rate is higher still on MySpace (75 percent), Bebo (72 percent), and YouTube (66 percent).

Monday, July 30, 2007

snapshot 7/30/07

Labels eye online social networks as retailers
Record labels big and small are working toward the goal of turning every social network profile, blog and fan site into a digital music storefront. Their ultimate objective is an environment where music fans could stream their favorite music from their personal Web pages and post a "buy" button next to each track. If every site's visitor could, with the click of a button, place that same buy button on his or her own site as well, every fan could become a point of purchase and a channel for promotion.

Yet early results show promise. While the company declined to provide specific numbers, Snocap said the number of consumers registering for MyStore accounts -- necessary to buy tracks via the service -- has increased 50 percent month over month since the service went live in December, and the number of a la carte downloads is rising by 40 percent per month.

Music sharing hits all-time high
Illegal music downloading is at an all-time high and set to rise further, according to a report out today. In its annual Digital Music Survey, Entertainment Media Research found that illegal music file sharing remains widespread, despite concerted attempts to curb it. Of the 1,700 people questioned, 43% said that they are downloading music using P2P networks, up from 36% last year.

Treatment of Longer Songs by eMusic
For tracks lasting more than seven minutes, eMusic gives extra credit for each download of the song, with a minimum "bonus" of half a track and a maximum of two tracks. For example, a song lasting 7 minutes 20 seconds would count as 1.5 downloads and any track over 20 minutes in length would count as three downloads.

The future of radio will be an "experience"
Products such as music players or portable video players, which connect to a computer to access songs or video clips from the Internet, could be built with WiMax chips that allow users to bypass the computer and download new content from the back seat of a car or in a Metro tunnel, for example.

Friday, July 27, 2007

snapshot 7/27/07

DailyMotion video hub turning heads in Hollywood
DailyMotion, a Paris-based video hub second only to Google's prize purchase in online traffic among sites specializing in video sharing, has locked a deal to license programming from production company RDF USA. It is one of the first such pacts DailyMotion has made as it seeks to supplement its massive stash of user-generated content.

The site had 37.5 million unique users worldwide and 3.2 million in the U.S. in May and topped YouTube in its home base of France. YouTube dwarfs DailyMotion in the U.S., but its 4.7 million streamers (which translates to people who actually watch videos as opposed to just visiting) in April led other indie dot-com comers, including MetaCafe and Break.com, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Sony BMG Improves Earnings
Sony Corp released its Q1 earnings yesterday (read PDF). Sony BMG improved revenues to $875 million, a 0.3% increase over last year. The music segments income improved, to $31 million from last year's loss of $73 million. The company attributed its improvements to lower marketing costs, overhead and restructuring expenses, and to a gain on the sale of a joint venture.

Sony's overall revenues were up 13.3% and net income was up nearly 106%.

Live365 Study Underscores Importance of Net Radio To Indie Music
A new Live365 study of music played on the massive net broadcasting network showed that 56% came from indie artists and labels. When compared with the 10-15% that indie music that makes up on traditional broadcaster playlists; it underscores just how important net broadcasting is to independent music.

Dollar Valuations Surface on Madonna, Live Nation Discussion
More information surfaced this week on a possible mega-deal involving Madonna and Live Nation. The discussions, first disclosed on July 11th by Digital Music News, reportedly traverse touring, recording, merchandising, and other revenue generators. Earlier, one executive close to the negotiations estimated the deal at "well past $100 million," and sources this week complemented those assertions. Specifically, one executive pointed to a valuation of $160 million, while another at a prying rival quoted a figure "closer to $180 million."
The broad arrangement would place Madonna outside of a major label relationship. During a discussion this week, one source opened the possibility of a counteroffer by Warner Music Group, though that information could not be verified. Either way, a hefty sum of cash will be required to retain Madonna for the next chapter of her career. Elsewhere, other big-name artists - mostly notably Prince, Paul McCartney, and Joni Mitchell - are constructing creative deals of their own, and diminishing the importance of majors in the process.

The ugly truth about online video
According to this [report], online video advertising revenue is expected to grow pretty dramatically over the next few years. However, companies are only expected to spend $1.35 billion on online video ads next year and just $4.3 billion in 2011.

To put that in perspective, television advertising, which admittedly is a business that’s losing ad dollars to the Web, was a $65.4 billion market last year, according to figures from research firm TNS Media Intelligence. But eyeballs may not equal ad dollars. And TV isn’t going the way of the dinosaur. Even people in the Internet business admit as such.

Microsoft FAM: Robbie Bach On Xbox And More
  • Xbox Live now past 7 million members, more than 200 million content downloads. Should be 10 million next year.
  • In case of Xbox Live Video Marketplace, now 28 content providers; just added Disney studios. Will grow over time; we are leading provider of on-demand high def content in the U.S. They download, they pay, it is a good business, and nicely integrated experience for our customers. Will expand this year to Europe and Canada.
  • From Q&A: Doesn't see Netflix, Blockbuster as competitors for Xbox Live video download.

Sci-fi or another compression breakthrough for digital music?
UK company Zgroup claims to have perfected technology which allows digital audio files to be shrunk to one quarter of their original size. Company CEO Jamie True said in a press release today, "'ShrinkMyTunes addresses important and specific needs for anyone with a music collection and will be particularly popular with owners of iPod minis and shuffles, as well as new iPhone customers. There are currently over 11 million people in the UK alone that own an MP3 player and this sector is continuing to experience high growth."

Free TV spotlighted on iTunes store
Reader Matthew kindly sent us a tip (thanks!) that the TV Shows section of iTunes is currently featuring a five page listing of free television episodes available for download. Our commenters also point out that there's lots of good free TV hidden in iTunes' podcast section as well-- two episodes of Flight of the Conchords is much better than anything you'll see highlighted in the free section.

Next-gen Zune "Scorpio" rumored to be delayed
Last we heard, Microsoft so-called "Scorpio" and "Draco" Zunes were headed for production in July, with something set to be released before the end of the year. Now, if this latest rumor is to be believed, Microsoft seems to have hit a snag. According to Zune Scene, while the flash-based Draco is reportedly still on track, the hard drive-based Scorpio has been delayed, supposedly due to "continuity problems between the flex cable and pcb." As a result, Zune Scene says the production run will now not be complete until "well into September." As with all of these rumors, however, we wouldn't pin too much hope/disappointment on them pending some further confirmation.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

snapshot 7/25/07

Starbucks label signs Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell is following the lead of Paul McCartney in joining with the coffee giant Starbucks to release her comeback album. Hear Music, a record label formed in partnership with Starbucks Corp. and the Concord Music Group, said Wednesday that Mitchell is its second signing. "Shine," her first album of new compositions since 1998, will be released on Sept. 25. Hear Music expects to sign one more artist this year and eight in 2008, and is looking for a mixture of new and established artists, Lombard said.

Web Radio Battles Efforts to Expand Royalties for Music
Every piece of recorded music is covered by two separate copyrights. The first involves the musical composition itself and is usually handled by music publishers on behalf of composers and songwriters. The other is for a specific recording of the song, which is owned by record labels and musicians.

For example, a music sale via a service like iTunes is considered the same as the sale of a physical CD, in terms of royalties. But when you stream a piece of music, that is considered a "performance" of the song and an entirely distinct set of royalties kicks in. This distinction works to the disadvantage of songwriters, who are fighting to get music downloads categorized as performances and not sales. Court rulings, though, have so far been against them.

EMI and DRM: Does it matter?
The challenge to iTunes' hegemony will begin when Amazon launches its MP3-based store later this year. If EMI and the other smaller labels offering their tracks through the Amazon store start to see their digital sales rise, then the other big labels might follow suit. And once all tracks are available in DRM-less MP3 format, the only differentiator for the iTunes store is the fact that it's integrated with the iTunes software, which is required to use an iPod (or iPhone).

This integration will probably still be enough for iTunes to keep its lead (as long as the iPod keeps its lead), but Amazon's store should move into the clear No. 2 spot, as digital media enthusiasts--those who want their downloads to play on every computer and other type of device they own now or might own in the future--jump on board.

Facebook Wall to Support Video, Music
Facebook will update its Wall (comment feature) tonight, says Robert Scoble, adding support for multimedia like videos and music and allowing developers to integrate with it. This does not mean that developers will be able to post to the wall from their apps, but that applications can plug in to it. These new abilities will be added to the API in the next few hours, and you can keep up with all API additions by adding the Developers App to your Facebook account.

Txttunes Launches Text-Based Music Download Service in U.S.
Txttunes, the provider of a text-message-based music distribution and social networking service, on Tuesday announced the launch of its offering in the U.S. The Txttunes service lets labels and artists upload MP3s and ringtones to a website, which consumers can browse and select content to download to a PC or cell phone, with all charges billed directly to their mobile accounts. All DRM-free songs and ringtones cost $1.75, which includes a 75 cent "convenience fee." Txttunes launched with 60,000 tracks, and expects to triple its offering in the coming weeks.

Hands-On TiVo Unbox Movie Rentals, PC-Free

TiVo's $300 HD player was fully revealed today, so it's a good time to explore TiVo's pumped up Unbox functionality that this and the Series 3/2 all have. TiVo has been working as a set top box for Amazon's Unbox movie rental and purchase service for a while, but only in the last few weeks has it been possible to buy movies on a TiVo without any intervention from a PC. Having used it for a week, I have to say it's imperfect, but nice.

Off The Record
It concerns a young rock band who decided to stop selling their CDs at concerts. Selling CDs has, for many years, been a good way for an act to reclaim the margin that would otherwise have been snaffled by a retailer. But it made no sense to this band once they discovered that by selling CDs for $10 they were cannibalising sales of their $20 T-shirts.

There are two points to note here. First, that a simple garment with a logo stamped across it, probably manufactured for pennies in a third-world sweatshop, now costs twice as much as an album of digitally pristine, highly wrought music recorded in a state of the art western studio. Second, most bands, however successful, now make their money from live work and the merchandising opportunities that go with it, rather than from recordings.

81 Million People in U.S. Watch Broadband Video at Home or Work, According to Nielsen and CTAM
An estimated 81 million people, or 63% of the 129 million people who access the Internet over broadband in the U.S., watch broadband video at home or at work, according to new research conducted by The Nielsen Company for The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM). This number increased from 70 million in September 2006 to 81 million in March 2007, a jump of 16% in just six months.

Charting the mytunes revolution
It's taken decades of technology breakthroughs to get from 8-tracks to iPods. Digital downloads still represent just a fraction of total music sales, but CD sales have slid steadily since their introduction. Fortune looks at how the way we listen to music has changed over the years.

AT&T and eMusic team up
Beginning July 31st, AT&T customers with select handsets will be able to download tracks directly from eMusic.com. EMusic is one of the few online music retailers to offer completely DRM-free files, making the transition to mobile downloading that much easier. The service will be offered for $7.49/month which includes 5 song downloads of your choice. Supported handsets will be the Samsung A707, A717, A727, and the Nokia N75. Keep in mind that data charges will also be incurred, so trying to use this service with anything other than an unlimited plan could mean costly overages.

snapshot 7/26/07

Living the DRM-Free Life
How I get away with it is no big secret. It's a little low-tech, in fact. I avoid the Zune marketplace—and iTunes, and Napster, and other online stores—the way I'd avoid the very depths of Hell. I get my music by purchasing…wait for it…CDs.

I know that some stores offer DRM-free music, usually at a premium. Apple's iTunes has started offering music free from DRM infestation for more than it offers DRM music, and only from certain publishers. Here's what I want. I hate subscription services like Napster and eMusic. I prefer to own my albums, and I have very picky musical taste. I don't want to have to worry about syncing my device to ensure my songs don't suddenly stop playing; when I buy music, it's mine.

Study: 1 in 5 adults watch Web videos
One in five online Americans view video over the Internet on any given day, thanks to speedier Internet connections and a wider selection of clips, a study finds. On a typical day, 19 percent of U.S. Internet adults watch some form of video. News ranked first and comedy second overall.

Can Nokia beat iPhone at its own tunes?
By the time Apple's iPhone hits Europe later this year, CEO Steve Jobs can expect a serious counterattack from the world's biggest handset vendor, Nokia. Just as Apple is marching onto Nokia turf with its first-ever phone, Nokia will reciprocate with its own long-anticipated online music service.

Fortune has learned from sources involved in the project that Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo will launch the new worldwide service Aug. 29 at a London event that will include live music at the Ministry of Sound nightclub. The new Nokia Web site will let consumers download songs to their PCs and transfer them to mobile phones and other portable music players, similar to Apple's iTunes. Nokia is expected to let users transfer songs to non-Nokia phones using digital-rights-management software.

The Full Text Of Banned LA Times "Free Music" Column
A few days ago The LA Times killed a column by Patrick Goldstein advocating more free music giveaways like Prince's recent UK newspaper deal. The move was apparently to avoid music industry backlash. Here is the full text of the banned column:

ABC.com Launches HD Streaming (in Beta)
But if your computer screen can handle HD video (a minimum 1024 x 768 resolution is recommended), you don't need to buy an HD TV. ABC.com is experimenting with streaming shows over the Web in HD . You will need to download a new player from Move Networks (that won't let you fast-forward through the ads, sorry) and a broadband connection.

Virgin pulls the plug on mobile video
Virgin is to switch off its mobile broadcast video service early next year. The announcement comes less than 10 months after the service was launched, and is a result of BT Movio (the bandwidth provider) cancelling its contract with GCap Media, which owns the frequency.

Business Week has produced an interesting analysis of the business model around broadcast mobile video, in light of Crown Castle shutting down its transmitter network (and Modeo service) in New York.

7 Digital Media UberTrends
And so I thought it would be good to highlight what are some very important uber-trends which starting to emerge in the digital media space. To most readers, they likely may seem obvious, but perhaps serve as a reminder what’s likely in store. And where there is change there is opportunity; the following seven identified trends are perfect opportunities for startups to leverage:

Another Week, Another Launch: New Music Videos Section!
Some of the highlights include:
  • Featured Videos, bringing you the newest, hottest videos courtesy of John Lenac and his crack team of music programmers.
  • Personalized Video Recommendations, based on your tastes. A whole section devoted to the music videos we think you’ll enjoy the most. Looking at mine right now: Groove Armada, Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, Moby…right on algorithm!
  • Video Charts, showing what you all have played the most each week, every week.
  • Video Stations, giving y’all a way to play great videos in your favorite genres with one click of the mouse.
  • Video Playlists, my personal favorite. The new playlist builder tool (accessible from the My Music bar on the right-hand side of the pages) lets you easily build and edit your own video playlists.

Universal Music Revenues Slip Slightly, Digital Growth Continues
During the second quarter, Universal Music Group shed a few pounds financially, though its revenue scorecard was mostly stable. For the first half, the sales drop was a more pronounced 4.9 percent, a reflection of difficult physical sales conditions. Despite a downer recorded music market, Universal reported a quarterly performance that beat industry averages, though specific information related to unit sales were not disclosed.

The company reported digital sales of €155 million ($212.5 million) during the quarter, a rise of 49 percent. Both mobile and online sales were robust during the period, according to the financial summary.

Apple's music business remains strong
Apple's music business remained strong during its June quarter to help the company post record-breaking revenue, with music-related sales accounting for 40 percent of the Cupertino-based company's total revenue during the quarter. Apple's other music revenue surged 33 percent year-over-year fueled by strong iTunes Store sales, and research firm NPD announced that the iTunes Store has become the third largest overall music retailer in the U.S. above Amazon and Target.

Getty Images is listening through Paper Thin Walls
By all appearances, it seems as if Paper Thin Walls is about to make a play in the already crowded music-based social networking arena – the PTW “places” are much like the personalized pages found on Last.fm, Mog, imeem, and a host of other Web 2.0 companies looking to make a dent in MySpace’s music dominance. Ultimately, the basis of the site is for labels and unsigned bands to sell their music.

Tunstall, Blur Join Musicians' Tutorial Site
KT Tunstall, Blur and Supergrass are among the artists who have signed up to a new Web site which aims to get music fans playing along to their favorite hits. The DRM-free downloadable video tutorials at www.nowplayit.com show the artists providing techniques, guidance and stories about the tracks that made them famous.

Almost lost in the euphoria of Apple's (AAPL) earnings report yesterday -- indeed, almost lost since the initial hoopla of its introduction -- is Steve Jobs' foray into the TV set-top market.

Apple and AT&T together sold 270,000 iPhones in Q3. Let's assume that 90,000 of those were AT&T sales (1,800 stores times an average of 50 units a store). That leaves 180,000 iPhones sold at Apple stores. Figuring $600 a unit (since most people bought the 8 gig model), that's about $108 million in deferred revenue for the iPhone. $180 million minus $108 million leaves $72 million for Apple TV sales. Figuring $350 per Apple TV (splitting the difference between the $299 and $399 models), I get ...
206,000 Apple TVs sold in Q3 2007.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

snapshot 7/24/07

Apple falls on initial iPhone activation numbers
Shares of Apple were off $5.70 to $138.02 on Nasdaq after AT&T, the exclusive service provider for iPhone, said it signed up 146,000 iPhone customers as subscribers in the first two days of iPhone sales, well below analyst estimates for sales.

Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves said that while iPhone sales figures for coming months would be more telling than the first few days, AT&T's number had disappointed investors as some analysts estimated sales "north of 500,000." "The difference (between sales and activations) is going to be what was sold on eBay or activations that didn't happen immediately. There were some problems with activations but from what we heard it was minimal," the analyst said.

Toshiba's gigabeat U202 supports direct-to-MP3 ripping
If you passed on Toshiba's first few U-series DAPs due to their lively color schemes and substitutable feature sets, the new 2GB U202 goes a long ways to correct both of those quibbles. The exceedingly simplistic device dons a silver / black motif, an uncomplicated "PlusPad" control scheme, and a 1.1-inch color OLED display. Furthermore, this unit sports the same 20-hour battery life, FM tuner, and MP3 / WMA / WAV playback capabilities as its predecessor, but the newfangled direct-to-MP3 CD ripping ability enables users to "record audio tracks digitally from a CD player directly to the gigabeat." Consider it yours in one to two weeks for $99.99.

Survey: Young keep it simple in high-tech world
While young people embrace the Web with real or virtual friends, and their mobile phone is never far away, relatively few like technology, and those that do like technology tend to be in Brazil, India and China, according to a survey. Young people don't see tech as a separate entity--it's an organic part of their lives," said Andrew Davidson, vice president at MTV Networks International. "Talking to them about the role of technology in their lifestyle would be like talking to kids in the 1980s about the role the park swing or the telephone played in their social lives--it's invisible," Davidson said.

Terms most frequently used by the young when talking about technology related to accessing content for free, notably "download and "burn." The surveyors found that the most popular activities among those in the 8-to-14 bracket are watching TV, listening to music and being with friends. The rankings for those older was similar, though listening to music was top.

Machete, Notch Push Virtual CD Pre-Release Campaign
Digital distribution means quicker and less expensive media delivery, and that has transformed the promotional game considerably. In its place, labels are pushing content to radio promoters, journalists, tastemakers, and fans via numerous digital channels, including secure delivery channels like those from Vancouver-based Play MPE. Other concepts include the reliable iTunes exclusive, and mobile-based previews.
Additional examples are easy to find, and market entrants are proliferating. Just recently, urban and reggaeton-focused Machete Music tapped Santa Monica, CA-based Blue Maze Entertainment to deliver an interactive, virtual pre-release CD, one that allows flipbook-style maneuverability. Machete, a division of Universal Music Group, has used the partnership to craft three different virtual CDs for the artist Notch, signed to Cinco Por Cinco Records.

Mickey Mouse Record Labels
It’s really poetic justice that the Walt Disney Company has become such a great example of how to run a record company. In this era, the big four and even independent labels are beleaguered by a generation that is downloading music – legally and illegally. These labels are also suffering from a decline in CD sales. As much as they try, they can’t stem the decline.

Snocap Launches Pandora Mashup
As your music plays on Pandora, Snocap will automatically search all of the artists and songs that match the current artist playing. You can then browse through the Snocap results in order to add songs to your cart for purchase. The Snocap store window can be opened in another window as well. You’ll have to move quickly, though, as the Snocap store changes with your streaming Pandora music.

eMusic has also launched a Pandora mashup, which allows you to download any available music while simultaneously listening to your favorite streaming music as well.

Record Label Begs Fans To Put Latest Tracks On Pirate Bay To Help Bandwidth Load
Paul Talbot writes "The independent record label Labrador Records has been giving away a 68 track free MP3 sampler to promote their summer material. However, they couldn't cope with the demand. Rather than withdraw the downloads, they've chosen to use a mirror service and are actually asking people to put the content on thepiratebay.org."

EMI Partners With VerveLife To Exploit DRM Free For Broader Marketing
EMI has announced a strategic partnership with Chicago-based digital agency VerveLife. The partnership gives brand partners access to EMI's catalogue to offer consumers downloads via promotional campaigns.

DRM-Free MP3s Coming to Yahoo, URGE
MusicNet, the company that powers the song libraries of Yahoo! Music Unlimited and URGE, said Tuesday that it will make available over 1 million tracks in MP3 format without digital rights management. The move follows Apple offering DRM-free songs in its own AAC format through iTunes.

Like Apple, MusicNet will offer the song catalog of EMI -- the only top record label currently willing to drop DRM requirements -- as well as several leading independent labels including Righteous Babe, Nettwerk, Madacy, Nitro, and others. By using the MP3 format as opposed to Windows Media, MusicNet will enable customers of Yahoo and URGE to transfer their songs to practically any portable media player they choose. Pricing and a specific launch date for the MP3 option has not been set, but MusicNet said it will happen this quarter.

Monday, July 23, 2007

snapshot 7/23/07

Netflix cuts prices of two more rental plans
Netflix Inc. cut monthly subscriptions for two of its most popular plans by $1 on Sunday, a day ahead of a quarterly earnings report that will show whether rival Blockbuster Inc has further dented the online DVD rental company's growth. Netflix now has cut prices on its four most popular plans this year, bringing them in line with the prices of Blockbuster By Mail plans.

XM, Sirius to offer low cost, a-la-carte options
Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. said on Monday they would offer a subscription package priced 46 percent below current levels, and would also let customers buy packages of their favorite channels, after their proposed merger. The planned "a la carte" programming would be available beginning within one year following the merger, which the companies hope to complete later this year.

New Products: ITunes Latino Sees Greater Sales In The (Gift) Cards
Now, Apple may have to add the word "tu tarjeta," as it rolls out its initial foreign language gift cards in the U.S. this week. Beginning July 23, Tarjeta iTunes will be available in denominations of $15, $25 and $50, and will be good towards any purchase at on- and offline iTunes Stores. est Buy and Target will be the first to offer the cards with Wal-Mart and Safeway coming soon; iTunes is already the third-largest seller of music behind Wal-Mart and Best Buy respectively, per The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y. It outsells Amazon, Target, Coconuts and others.

Microsoft Zune 2.0 hitting stores before holiday season, Zune 1.0 hits 1 million mark
With the Zune reaching it's goal of 1 million units sold this week, Microsoft plans to take its digital audio player to the next step by introducing Zune 2.0 and other models. t appears that Microsoft will expand the Zune family with new styles, sizes, and price points. Future Zune products will feature podcasting support and expanded video support. The Zune will also move into other geographic markets when Microsoft feels it has an appealing product to offer those demographics.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the representative mentioned that Microsoft will build on the wireless support. Maybe we'll finally have the freedom of synching our digital audio players via wi-fi. The product is essentially a music playing SD card that will plug into any SD slot. The second part of the player is what makes the SD card usable as a digital audio player. That part is a type of sleeve that'll allow the user to control the music and plug in headphones for putting that music playing goodness to work. The player can't be turned on or off as it is always in the same state.

Interview - Sony Ericsson: "Digital audio players won't exist in two years"
But Victor Fredell, Sony Ericsson's content acquisition manager for music, is still adamant in his prediction. "I won't go as far as saying that the digital audio player as dead, but I will definitely say that it won't exist in two years," he says. "Not in the way that we have it today, anyway."

In our interview, Fredell explains why mobile users prefer sideloading to buying songs over the air, how Sony Ericsson is putting more emphasis on music applications for its Walkman phones, and how Web 2.0 and music-sharing fit into the future of mobile music. Oh, and obviously, he does have an opinion on the iPhone too...

US-Based Album Sales Experience Mild Improvement
US-based album sales experienced mild gains in July, according to information from Nielsen Soundscan. The company reported a 15.1 percent drop during the first half of this year, a year-over-year deficit that has now moved to 14.6 percent. For the week ending July 15th, cumulative album sales topped 246.9 million, well below a year-ago total of 288.9 million. Weekly sales surpassed 8.3 million, a near-5 percent drop from the first week of the month.

Measured against the comparable, year-ago week, album sales missed the mark by 10.8 percent, though digital single sales continued to climb. According to the figures, cumulative a-la-carte downloads totaled roughly 447.2 million, up 48.3 percent from year-ago aggregates. Meanwhile, CD-specific sales remained highly problematic, sinking a near-19 percent below cumulative figures from last year.

Barbie Gets Another Accessory: An MP3 Player and More Stuff on Her Web Site
A new doll hitting retail shelves this week is familiar in many ways — she’s got outfits galore — but she also has some unusual features: this Barbie, who is smaller and less shapely than her standard namesake, functions as an MP3 music player. The new doll is a roundabout way of charging for online content. Instead of asking young Web surfers to punch in their parents’ credit card numbers, BarbieGirls.com and other sites are sending customers to a real-world toy store first. Some of these sites (like the Barbie one) can be used in a limited way without purchasing merchandise — the better to whet young appetites — but others, like the popular Webkinz site, are of little or no use without a store-bought product or two (or three, or a dozen).

EXCLUSIVE: Rhapsody Clarifies DRM Position. Promises August Announcement.
Matt Graves the Director of Music PR at Rhapsody/RealNetworks responded:
"The answer, at least for Rhapsody, is that this is the calm before the storm. As you're hopefully aware, this is an issue we've pushed privately with the labels since last fall, and Rob Glaser took that discussion public at MIDEMNet. Since then, we've continued to speak with the labels about ways to transition to the DRM-free model for purchases.Look for news from us on that front in August.”

Apple patent for charger DRM
According to the New Scientist, Apple has filed for a patent on a new security measure for mobile devices. Basically, it involves locking a mobile device to a particular charging cable so that if it's stolen, it won't recharge when plugged into another cable.

Interview with LimeWire staff
1) LimeWire’s creating a store to sell legit downloads to open some time this year, and will separate buyable content from p2p stuff “similar to how Google keeps sponsored links separate.”

Friday, July 20, 2007

snapshot 7/20/07

The-Muzic.com - offering a new service to bands
The main benefit of The-Muzic.com is its dedication to the music industry, we are well on our way to providing artists with everything they need to get a firm foothold on the ladder. Among our biggest benfits, we allow free hosting of upto 20mb of song space to all artists. We also host our very own chart system for artitsts to ‘battle it out’ to reach the top of and be featured in our weekly email.

Is The DRM Free Train Stalled Or Is This The Calm Before The Storm?
Every label we talk to seems done with negotiations. (It's doubtful, but could Amazon possibly have grabbed them all?) And one major who we know dislikes DRM had a high level delegation at the internet giant's offices recently looking at beta of something...

And what's up with Steve Jobs? He goes public with a much heralded statement that all labels must set their music free and yet months later there's not a single non-EMI related DRM free track on iTunes. We know a dozen good sized indies who would give their stuff to Apple DRM free tomorrow, but Steve doesn't seem to really care.
And what about Naptser, Rhapsody or any of the other mainstream download stores? Since DRM free is their best chance to compete with iTunes why aren't they making the moves that they can make today?

McDonald's Goes Live With 10-City Trek
McDonald's has announced its entrance into the live music business. The fast food giant will host a free 10-city tour with multi-genre performances from Ne-Yo, Kenna, Kat DeLuna, the Dey, Single File, Twista and Kevin Michael in various markets. The majority of dates will be held in McDonald's parking lots around the country.

BazaarVoice Gets Walmart Deal
In those articles, Walmart CMO Cathy Halligan said reviews and comments were “the No. 1 customer-requested feature.” What this article didn’t mention is that Austin-based Bazaarvoice , a company I covered just over a year ago, is the technology and service behind Walmart’s new features.

Vintage AC/DC, Nirvana Still Big-Sellers
The short answer is that, above all, people are buying vintage Metallica, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Guns 'N Roses and, well, Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Metallica's self-titled 1991 album is altogether the second-biggest selling album of the Nielsen SoundScan era, which began in 1991. "Metallica" sold 275,000 copies last year.

Bon Jovi's greatest hits collection "Cross Road" last year sold 324,000 copies, while Guns 'N Roses "Appetite for Destruction" (1987) sold 113,000. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" (1996) continues to be a holiday favorite; it was bought 289,000 times last year.

Zune exceeds 1M sales target
Sales of the Zune have more than surpassed the one million target the company set for the end of June, according to Microsoft's latest quarterly financial results. Over 1.2 million units of the jukebox have sold between the device's November 14th, 2006 launch and the end of the recent quarter on June 30th. The result represents over 170,000 units per month and should see the Zune reach the 2 million mark by the device's one-year anniversary if the sales rate remains unchanged.

Dave Matthews Band To Distribute Live Trax Album At Starbucks
Prepare to find a new Dave Matthews Band Live Trax release at your local Starbucks. Dave Matthews Band will release a new live compilation album thanks to the Starbucks Hear Music label. The CD will be available at Starbucks locations throughout the United States as early as the end of this month.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

snapshot 7/19/07

Walmart.com to let customers review merchandise
Shoppers will be able to review and rate the merchandise sold on Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Web site beginning on Thursday, as the retailer works to expand its online capabilities. Walmart.com Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Halligan said in an interview the retailer decided to launch the new feature quickly following a three-week testing phase in which it received more than twice the number of reviews it was expecting.

Wal-Mart estimates that roughly 130 million customers visit one of its stores or its Web site every week and it said 75 percent of those customers are active online. In the future, Halligan said Wal-Mart could interact with customers who post reviews and the reviews could be used to make decisions on which products Wal-Mart sells. She said that, when a customer submits a review, it will be posted 5 to 7 days after being screened to ensure it does not contain inappropriate language or copyrighted material.

Apple helps YouTube videos to TV, iPhone
The company's elegantly simple Apple TV set-top box ($299 for 50-hour video version; $399 for 200 hours) lets you stream YouTube videos to big-screen TVs wirelessly over a home network. Plus, YouTube is a featured application on the $499 and $599 iPhones. But not all videos are available - yet. Some 10,000 were made available when iPhone launched June 29. A full catalog is promised in the fall. YouTube is busily encoding its videos to the H.264 format Apple favors.

Apple Looking To Evolve iPods & iPhones Into Remote Controls
According to a recent patent filing, Apple is developing wireless technology that would allow iPods and iPhones to act as remote controls. The next generation devices would act as digital music/video gatekeepers to relegate digital media from computers running iTunes libraries to home entertainment systems via a digital hub such as AppleTV. Apple’s idea is to untether the consumer from their computer whenever they want to select a new song or video.

Analyst weighs in on Apple's rev-share arrangement with AT&T
Due to the unique terms of iPhone sales and pricing, analysts for Piper Jaffray said Thursday they believe AT&T has agreed to a revenue sharing plan with Apple where the iPhone maker would receive a small portion of each subscriber's monthly service fees. While we do not know the exact details of the agreement, we conservatively estimate that AT&T gives Apple $3 per month (over the life of the 24 month contract) for every iPhone customer already with AT&T and $11 per month for every new subscriber," lead analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to clients.

Consumers Desire Internet-Connected TV, iSuppli Survey Finds
Nearly two-thirds of consumers want their televisions to link to the Internet, a sentiment that will help propel rapid sales growth for network-enabled consumer electronics devices in the coming years, according to iSuppli Corp.
iSuppli also found:
  • Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and multi-room DVR demand is driving cable, satellite and telecom operators to consider a variety of new high-speed home networking technologies, ranging from coax (Moca, HPNA, Hana), to power line, to Wi-Fi (802.11n).
  • Makers of televisions and other consumer electronics devices are incorporating Internet Protocol (IP)-based connectivity to enable access to both user-created content and to new Internet-based media portals.

Apple working on dynamic lyrics display for iPods and iPhones
iPod wielding teens and adults alike may soon find themselves singing along to their favorite tunes with pristine accuracy, thanks to synchronized music lyrics display technology under development by Apple Inc. A patent request from the Cupertino-based iPod and iPhone maker published on Thursday describes software techniques for dynamically displaying text on a display screen of a portable media device alongside digital media content.

CinemaNow updates Vista support, plays nice with Xbox 360
CinemaNow, fine purveyor of downloadable film and TV content, has recently updated its Media Manager support for Vista, allowing you to use its Burn-to-DVD service, and enabling your Xbox 360 to act as a bridge from your PC to your TV -- adding an interesting new option to the media center sphere.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

snapshot 7/18/07

The Jig Is Up! Sony Unveils iPod Docks
Sony has revealed the ICF-C1iP iPod clock radio and ZS-S2iP iPod boombox, finally surrendering the fantasy that their Walkman portable music players will capture the hearts and imagination of the public.

Andrew Sivori, director of personal audio products in the Digital Imaging and Audio Division at Sony Electronics, dished this nugget of wisdom in their press release: “Consumers are treating the iPod as a format, like the compact disc, which is why Sony is now delivering audio products to support it.”

Warner overtakes EMI in recorded market share -data
Warner Music Group overtook EMI in 2006 to have the third-largest share of the global recorded music market, while Universal Music maintained its overall dominance, new data shows.

Universal Music Group (UMG) had a share of 25.7 percent in 2006 for physical and digital music markets, slightly up from its share of 25.6 percent in 2005, and ahead of Sony BMG on 21.2 percent. Warner had a market share of 13.8 percent, up from 12.8 in 2005, while EMI, which issued two profit warnings within five weeks earlier this year, dropped to a share of 12.8 percent from 13.6 percent in 2005. The remaining 27.5 percent was held by independent labels.

Top Indie Music Distributor IODA Enters Video and Film Market
IODA, the global leader in digital distribution, marketing and technology solutions for the independent content industry, today announced the company’s first round of partnerships in music video and film distribution.

Since 2003, IODA has been at the forefront of digital independent music distribution, and this foray into film will follow a similar strategy. Included in this deal is content from a broad range of top-tier indie film production companies, including Heretic Films, whose titles include the award-winning documentary 24 Hours on Craigslist and Starbucking, Greenline Digital’s Confessions of a Burning Man, Lifestyle Media’s catalog of fitness, wellness and children’s content, Cyan Pictures’ sci-fi film Ever Since the World Ended, Crystal Clarity’s rare collection of films from Indian yogi Paramhansa Yogananda, and the much-heralded Ramones doc End of the Century from production company Cugat, Inc.

'Flavor' single claims digital crown
EMI is celebrating a highly successful campaign for the release of "Flavor of Life" by Japanese superstar Utada Hikaru, which is laying claim to being the world's biggest selling digital single with sales of seven million units across all formats. Meanwhile, the top selling digital song in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan, was "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter, which sold just over two million units in 2006, excluding ringtunes.

iPhone may produce “Halo Effect” for mobile video
It’s here again, the Halo Effect — only this time it isn’t an iPod helping to increase sales of Apple computers. It’s the iPhone possibly affecting the sales of Apple products and introducing mobile video to a larger audience.

Research firm Interpret said Tuesday (press release) that 63 percent of iPhone users have already used the device to watch video, compared with just 28 percent of regular cell phone owners using video-enabled equipment. Fifty-one percent say they’ve also watched a YouTube video on their phone, 46 percent have watched a music video, 34 percent have watched the news, and 32 percent have watched a movie trailer.\

The iPod with video was introduced near the end of 2005, with a slight revision in September 2006. Since then, Apple reports its iTunes Music Store had sold more than 50 million television episodes and 1.3 million feature-length films (January 2007). Apple announced in April that more than 2 million movies have been downloaded, making iTMS the world’s most popular online movie store.

CinemaNow Extends Video Download Service to Xbox 360s
CinemaNow, the PC movie download and rental store, has updated their Media Manager software to allow rented or purchased movies to be viewed on the Xbox 360. Over 7,000 of them.

Now when you buy or rent one a flick, your Vista or XP machine will be able to see your Xbox 360 as a connected machine (while using their Media Manager). Not only that, there's the Burn-to-DVD option on Vista, which lets you (obviously) burn your movies onto a DVD and watch them on any standard DVD player. Like your Xbox 360, for example.

Disney music label offers new CD format
Walt Disney Co. music label Hollywood Records is offering a new CD format with extra features to encourage compact-disc purchases in a bid to reverse declining CD sales. Hollywood Records on Wednesday unveiled its new CDVU+ (CD View Plus) format with digital magazine extras, song lyrics, band photos and other extras to boost fan loyalty.

The new format also replaces the traditional CD booklet and plastic jewel The content on a CDVU+ can be downloaded and accessed online and off. The label said the extra content had been produced for the new format rather than using the band's outtakes or widely available material, such as existing music videos.

Indie Record Label For Sale on Craigslist
An unidentified indie record label in midtown Chicago has been posted for sale on Craigslist. The asking price -- $10,000 -- apparently includes existing relationships with national distributors, although no mention is made of what the catalog comprises (I guess that would pretty much give the label's identity away). The ad also asks that "only serious parties" contact the anonymous seller (one assumes that the seller would divulge the name of the label to any serious party before money changes hands):

Warner Music Group Conditionally Exits EMI Bidding
Warner Music Group officially removed itself Tuesday from the bidding for EMI Group Plc, a move that follows a number of flighty overtures. In a tersely worded statement, the company indicated that it "has decided not to make an offer for EMI," though Warner left the door open to a possible bid within the next six months. EMI may become a purchased good within that time period, though the rough-and-tumble M&A terrain could easily produce some surprises. Earlier, Terra Firma Capital Partners reaffirmed an offer of 265 pence per share, a bid that translated into a valuation of £2.4 billion ($4.9 billion) at the time.

Atlantic Records Spins Mobile-Based Artist Trading Cards
Most associate trading cards with an earlier era of baseball, though the concept is now being extended into the music world. Just recently, Atlantic Records brokered a pact with Hook Mobile to spin a mobile-based, artist-focused trading card concept. The idea is being wrapped within a larger, SMS-based program that allows fans to purchase, collect, trade and redeem trading cards for prizes. The first participating artist is heavy-selling T.I., a strong personality that could boost the early-stage concept.

Fans can jump into the action by texting "TI" to shortcode 87233 (TRADE), or by registering online at cards.trapmuzik.com. Atlantic is positioning a total of 45 cards, and using the assets to promote the just-released album, T.I. vs. T.I.P. Bigger collectors are eligible for prizes, including a multimedia entertainment system or a phone call from T.I. himself. Additionally, instant-win cards are redeemable for artist posters and t-shirts. The initiative was first disclosed Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

snapshot 7/17/07

Owl Music Search: find music with music
But Owl Music Search takes the keyboard out of the process. Sure, it's probably quicker to type in a band name than to upload an mp3 file from you collection. But Owl uses some pretty nifty tricks to compare your uploaded track with thousands of other files in its database, many of which are licensed under Creative Commons.

Disney to attempt new music approach
CD sales are falling fast, but CDs are still the way most people listen to music. Digital downloads are supposed to be the future. The music industry is stuck somewhere in the middle. Amid all the uncertainty, Disney is due to announce a hybrid approach on Wednesday, one that weds the old with the new.

A spokeswoman for Disney's Hollywood Records was tight-lipped, but did say the new offering will combine a physical disc with a downloadable element. Hollywood Records' press conference is on Wednesday.

Jobs named king of Web music by Blender
Apple CEO Steve Jobs was crowned the king of the online music revolution by U.S. music magazine Blender, just ahead of MySpace co-founders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe (both whom who were ranked No. 2). The Apple co-founder was at the top of the magazine's "Powergeek" list of the 25 most influential people in Web music, which was compiled to show the behind-scenes-players reshaping the way people listen to, buy and watch music.

Starbucks Entertainment Prepares iTunes Store Exclusives
Starbucks Entertainment is now preparing a number of iTunes exclusives, part of a steadily growing music strategy. The Apple partnership, first announced in October of last year, initially involved a dedicated Starbucks section within iTunes. Starbucks is now pushing downloads of Rissi Palmer, Alice Russell and WinterKids into the online outlet starting Wednesday. Each artist will deliver a four-track digital EP to the effort, and receive airplay within Starbucks locations. The EPs will only be accessible from the iTunes Store, a bricks-to-clicks concept that helps Starbucks address the iPod+iTunes (and iPhone+iTunes) crowd more effectively.

Record labels try to bottle up leaks
Music executives say prerelease album exposure hurts sales, and they're cracking down on a key source of the piracy: the media.

Fairtilizer: Digg for music
Anyone can submit a song (in MP3 format) to Fairtilizer as long as they hold the rights to that song. Unlike Digg, where once you submit a story the public starts reviewing it right away, Fairtilizer requires their editorial board to review every song submission to ensure that it is good enough for the site.

Monday, July 16, 2007

snapshot 7/16/07

HMV bears the brunt of the downturn
HMV, which owns 220 music stores in the UK, has been at the sharp end of the changes that have swept through the music retail sector. Increased competition from supermarkets and the internet has led to a string of profit warnings, and the company's share price has more than halved to 116p since 2005. The stores will include so-called refreshment hubs where shoppers can browse the internet. HMV is also considering introducing a manufacture on-demand service, allowing shoppers to burn their own CDs in store.

FairUse4WM v1.3 Fix 2 promises Vista, Zune DRM stripping
After months of eager anticipation, it looks like either Viodentia has finally come out of hiding, or s/he's passed the torch on to another -- but either way it looks like MS DRM IBX components up to version 11.0.6000.6324 are good to go with the latest version of FairUse4WM, v1.3 Fix 2. We haven't yet confirmed ourselves, but feel free to tell us whether you got a sweet taste of DRM freedom without having to continue using XP and Windows Media Player 10 with that subscription music service.

Apple to Start Record Label with Jay-Z and Beyonce?
At the time, Jay-Z was reportedly shopping this new "super label" around with the major record labels "and to Apple - who [was] very interested in doing business".

Now, Moli.com is claiming that "an inside industry source" says that its a done deal.
[Jay-Z and Beyonce] will move to Apple to run a new music division. It sounds rather incredible: [Jay-Z's] already got a pretty good job, running Def Jam, and [Steve] Jobs may be too smart to get into the tanking recording business (as others have said). Of course, if it is true, my guess is this would be a new, revamped record biz, one based on digital distribution, not boring old physical products.

Net radio "compromise" hinged on DRM adoption
As we reported Friday, the looming royalty crunch on Internet radio that would have begun today (July 15) was narrowly averted last week by a temporary reprieve from SoundExchange. Now it appears that a lasting compromise is indeed possible, but such a compromise will likely mean mandatory DRM (Digital Rights Management) for Internet radio.

A source at a major MP3-based Internet radio station who did not want to be named told Ars Technica that this is not the first time that SoundExchange has expressed interest in seeing streaming media locked down with DRM, but this is the first time it has been laid down on the table as absolutely necessary to any compromise that would deviate from the royalty agreement already approved by the Copyright Board.

FAST FOWARD: A drumroll for free music
Last year, fans acquired more than half their music from unpaid sources, according to The NPD Group, a research company in Port Washington. So why keep charging for it? More and more musicians are letting albums and songs serve as advertisements for their concerts and merchandise - that's the stuff fans will have to pay for.

Already countless artists, from the unknown to the very famous, are distributing their music free of charge. One popular summer tour this year is giving away tickets instead of selling them. And in another interesting shift, some in the industry are shelving the idea of copy-protection software, a tacit admission that it's impossible to stop everyone from copying music for free.

One thing is clear: The old model of purchasing a disc in a store is fading away. Whether music will soon be truly free is still a question. "If we define 'free' as a service that doesn't require me to reach into my wallet," said Garland of Big Champagne, "I think more and more music is going to be distributed into your home and your car and into your ears for free."

New Borders Wants To Load Your iPod
Mr. Jones, 56 years old, says even more changes are ahead as Borders tries to keep pace with Barnes & Noble Inc., Amazon.com and the big-box discounters. First, I don't like turning our customers over to a major competitor. When somebody goes to borders.com and ends up at Amazon, Amazon gets the data and forms the relationship with the customer. Also, and this is a big point, we need connectivity with our stores. Our relationship with Amazon limits that connectivity. Also, our rewards program can't be part of it.

There are tons of people 35 and older who don't own an MP3 player, or if they have one, they don't know how to operate it. These are people who just won't take the time to learn how to do it. I'm like that myself. I love music, but I don't download music onto my iPod. We think there is a place for a retailer to offer a comfortable environment that offers guidance and the opportunity to discover products that provide knowledge and entertainment. We'll show you. Bring in your MP3 player and let us know what you want. We'll download it for you.

The Demise of the MiddleTail, 2004 to 2007
To see the demise of the middle tail, one can look at the unit sales for the 200th best-selling album over the last three years. At this time in 2004, the 200th album was selling a bit over or a bit under 6,000 units. Two years ago, the 200th album was doing well over 5,000 units on a consistent basis. One year ago, a typical 200th album was doing about 4,500. This year, the 200th album often sells fewer than 4,000 units.

The downward-sloping trend line tells the story. A three-year decrease of 6,600 to 4,350 represents a compounded annual rate of decline of just over 13%. (I took those numbers from the trend line on the graph.) In other words, the middle tail's rate of decline looks to be higher than that of total album sales. (Total album sales are down 15% this year and dropped 5% and 9% in 2006 and 2005, respectively.)

Jamendo Gets Cash for Creative Commons Music
Luxembourg-based Jamendo (launched in 2005) is grass roots site, following the DRM free music trend by helping artists distribute their music under the Creative Commons license. They just closed their series A round of funding from Mangrove Capital Partners today for an undisclosed sum. You may not have heard of Jamendo because their growth has been focused in areas like the Continental and Central European markets. However, Jamendo intends to put the money toward growing in North America, Brazil, India and Russia.

Artists can upload their tracks to the service and pick what type of creative commons license they want to list their music under. Listeners can create profiles, review music, post videos, and play the tracks in Jamendo’s player. Tracks can be put into easily shared playlists or downloaded from the site.

A Variable Pricing Success Story
friend tipped me off to Sara Bareilles, who recently got into iTunes' top ten titles with her debut, Little Voice. The Wall Street Journal's Jamin Brophy-Warren noticed Bareilles as well and uses her as a case study for the benefits of variable pricing.

Little Voice sold 14,000 units at iTunes in its first week of release. "Ms. Bareilles says the lower price was probably responsible for her strong digital showing," wrote Brophy-Warren, "which accounted for around 80% of her total sales." The album was part of iTunes "Next Big Thing" series of bargain-priced albums.

What Brophy-Warren surprisingly failed to mention in the article is that Bareilles' track "Love Song" was the free iTunes "single of the week" at the end of June. It was no doubt the combination of the free single and the low album price that helped push Bareilles to the top of the iTunes chart. A low album price alone would not have done it.

CDN Space Getting More Crowded
CDNs), like Akamai. It was a darling during the dot-com boom and Wall Street is in love with it once again. Success, of course, breeds competition. Smaller rival Limelight Networks recently went public with much success, and now Korean Firm CDNetworks says it will soon enter the US market (via Data Center Knowledge). This is great news for content firms, which should benefit from price competition in the space. The question for Akamai is whether its product can be more than a commodity. If any company can do what it can with enough infrastructure investment, then ultimately competition will just come down to price, which is the last thing it wants to see.

Friday, July 13, 2007

snapshot 7/13/07

Talking Head opens ears on music's future
Nowadays our choices are still limited because of the restrictions imposed by device-specific sites. But at a certain point, Harrison said we may not even need to go into a store (online or physical) to legally get music. Instead, Harrison suggested that customers may simply beeline straight for the band's URL to effect the transaction. "Once you have DRM-free music, then it doesn't matter where you go," he said.

The day the music didn’t die
Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, an independent record label that already sells online music without DRM, predicted that the other major record labels — Warner, Sony BMG and Universal, will all begin to sell DRM-free music within the next year and that this could help to double or even triple digital music sales. Glaser agreed, saying that the game is already over and that it’s just a matter of time before the other major labels announce plans to start selling music without DRM.

The big question though is just how much of this revenue will the traditional record labels capture? Berkowitz said that the labels will still play an important role in the business since artists will always need the labels’ expertise in distribution and marketing.

The AudioFile: Radioactive Music Discovery
It’s crystal clear that the Internet holds the future of radio. But there’s no reason social networking sites, Web radio, and music subscription services shouldn’t all be part of the killer app for music discovery, but mobility is still a major limiting factor. Now that we’re in the iPhone era, the hardware exists for removing mobility as an obstacle.

Connecting like-minded users via social networking, letting them listen to and rate virtually limitless content for free even when they’re on the go, recommending new music effectively, and giving them the opportunity to capture that music and take it with them… It may sound too good to be true, but it’s only a matter of time before it’s a reality.

Top 5 Music 2.0 Sites For June '07

Can Merch Save Music?
th record company advances and regular royalty checks a thing of the past, I know many bands for whom selling merchandise on the road is the difference between a profitable tour and no tour. Others survive between gigs because of online sales. For some selling t-shirts and CD's provides the extra cash they need to run their digital marketing campaigns or upgrade promo.

MusicNet now MediaNet Digital
MusicNet, the service that provides tracks for many download services like Yahoo, Urge and Zune has been renamed MediaNet Digital to reflect the addition of video and other content.

Pricey music download collections are not covered by insurance if they are lost to computer viruses, according to a consumer group. The Computing Which? survey found that collections wiped out by hard drive failure were left out of policies offered by 46 insurance firms. Only 22 out of those insurance providers gave any sort of cover for music and other digital downloads, applying in the event of fire, flood, storm or theft.

SmugglersMusic Launches Band Sales & Promotion Site
mugglersMusic is a new site for bands to promote and sell their songs. It’s entering a very crowded space, and may be lacking some differentiating factors that would help the site stand out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

snapshot 7/12/07

Why New Music Doesn't Sound As Good As It Did
It's part of the music industry's quest to make music louder and louder, and it's been going on for decades, at least since the birth of the compact disc

The key to the problem is that, in making the soft parts of a track louder (in the process making the entire track loud), you lose detail in the song: The difference between what's supposed to be loud and what's supposed to be soft becomes less and less. The result is that, sure, the soft parts of a song are nice and loud, but big noises like drum beats become muffled and fuzzy.

Get set for Apple's Yellow Submarine Beatles iPod
However, according to music industry consultancy Music Ally, the Yellow Submarine iPod may be back on Apple's roadmap, now that the iPhone launch is out of the way.
What's more, it'd be launched to tie-in with Beatles tracks finally going on sale on Apple's iTunes Store, possibly as a one-month exclusive before becoming available through rival digital music services. Kat's mocked up an image of how the Yellow Sub iPod might look – would you buy one?

Microsoft patent application reveals plans for paid Zune sharing
It looks like Microsoft might be considering shaking up its Zune Marketplace a bit, with a recent patent application revealing its plans for "off-line economies for digital media" or, in effect, paid Zune sharing. Basically, users would be paid a sales commission for sharing songs with other Zune users -- only if that user actually ends up purchasing the track after the usual three free plays, that is. What's most interesting, however, is that the system could potentially work with "pirated" music as well, with the application specifically stating that "even resale of pirated media content benefits the copyright holder." Of course, there's no indication as to when or if the system may actually be put in place, though it would certainly seem to go some way towards making the Zune more "social" -- in a bugging your friends to join Columbia House sort of way.

Warner streams entire catalog of music for free on imeem
Warner Music Group is offering its entire music and video catalog for free streaming on imeem, a Web site focused on letting users share music playlists. Now imeem users can make playlists with Warner music. Warner, in return, will get a piece of imeem’s ad revenue.

This partnership is significant because it is the first time a major label has offered free ad-supported access to it entire catalog of music and video to such an online sharing site. It is also remarkable because Warner (along with other labels) had sued imeem less than two months ago for copyright infringement (our coverage; scroll down). See suit here.

Digital Audio Provider MediaBay Closing Down Operations
The struggling audio book company MediaBay, once trying to compete on the digital side with Audible, is finally closing down, after trying and failing to find a buyer. It retained a banker in February last year, but nothing came out of it.
The company issued a terse statement: It has “been unsuccessful in its attempt to sell the company and has no viable alternative, except to cease operations and liquidate its assets. MediaBay intends to wind down its operations in an orderly manner and seek to sell its assets at auction and distribute its remaining cash to its creditors. It is anticipated that this process will conclude by early September 2007.”

Court declines to postpone Internet radio royalty hike
Internet radio broadcasters' best hope to avoid the onset of higher royalties beginning Sunday, July 15, fell by the wayside as the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a motion to postpone the onset of the new royalty regime. In a brief order, the court said that the issues raised by the webcasters did not satisfy its "stringent standards."