Wednesday, October 31, 2007

snapshot 10/31/07

Review: Free tunes service carries price
For one, I couldn't download more than one song or video at a time. Users can fill a queue with tracks, but must go back to SpiralFrog's home page and click a button after each song is transferred to start the next. This meant that to download an entire album I had to stay near my computer. And while I'm often stuck there anyway, it's a pain to interrupt whatever I'm doing to click through to the next song. I tried beating the system by setting up two queues on two different Web browsers, but SpiralFrog was wise to my game: The site interrupted both downloads.

Songbird, a browser-integrated media player, received $8M last year
Although we reported in October 2006 that Songbird had taken $1 million from Atlas Ventures and Sequoia Capital, it apparently only took another two months for the company to land another $8 million. The funding in December 2006 came from the same two funds, according to TechCrunch. It remained unreported, until now.

Songbird works within Mozilla Firefox as an open platform that developers can use to integrate a customized media player into their own website. By working within Firefox, the company adroitly avoids the need for consumers to download and install applications, which people tend to avoid. The player’s main value to other companies seems to be in providing developers with an easier way to build music-focused websites than coding their own platform. We’re not so sure how the company plans on making money, although there may be some options for revenue sharing with online music stores.

Facebook Music is Coming!
The new platform is set to be announced at ad:tech in New York City next week. Leading up to this announcement Facebook has been holding top-secret meetings with high-level representatives at each of the four major music labels. Major and independent label artists and will register their sub-domain name through Facebook. Like “” for example. On this page Facebook users will be allowed to become “fans” of the artist and connect to the media hosted on the “artist page.”

In the first generation of Facebook Music “fans” will be allowed to listen to artist’s music, watch videos, upload pictures, add music to their page, receive tour information and interact with other fans. Online music moguls, be warned. Future generations will come quickly and allow unprecedented targeted marketing, ad buys and media promotion. Facebook is developing artist specific sales widgets to allow for music sales through the site as well.

Creative MP3 Player Share Falls 24% Over Last Year
"Creative Technology, the Singapore-based company that's a distant third behind Apple (AAPL) in the MP3 player market, full further behind last quarter. The company, which delisted from the Nasdaq earlier this year, posted Q1 sales of $185 million. That's down 24% y/y, while Apple saw iPod revenues increase 4%, and unit sales increase 17% in its last quarter. About the best you can for Creative is that it still has a larger market share (something in the single digits, according to NPD data) than Microsoft's Zune."

Indie rock struggling to make money in digital era
Box stores largely ignored indie records during the last 10 years because it didn't make sense to stock a product that wouldn't move a significant amount of units. That obviously isn't a concern in the virtual marketplace.

Is $7 an album enough to keep an indie label in the black? Not according to Rian Murphy, sales manager at Drag City Records. Murphy's label decided to pull its catalog from digital subscription service eMusic because it had to sell three times the amount of songs to make the slim profit iTunes already provided. The service provides plans that can whittle the price of a song down to 27 cents — appetizing to consumers but nauseating for artists.

Passalong Beefs MP3 Offering, Grabs ADA Catalog
Nashville-based Passalong Networks recently expanded its MP3-based catalog, thanks to a deal involving the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA). The catalog of roughly 30,000 tracks comes from high-profile labels Sub Pop, Epitaph, Saddle Creek, Downtown Records, and others, a group eager to embrace DRM-free formats. Passalong, a white label service, is offering the protection-free content to its clientele. That includes the download store for retailer f.y.e., owned by Trans World Entertainment.

MTV Reports One Million Britney Streams, Posts Record
MTV Networks has now streamed one million previews of the upcoming Britney Spears album, a positive indicator for the troubled artist. Just last week, MTV positioned the album, Blackout, as a streaming exclusive across its numerous online properties. The latest tally, shared with Digital Music News by network executives on Tuesday, represents a record for the company and its program, "The Leak." It also indicates a considerable level of demand for the album, which just hit retail outlets.

Free Music Now!'s Plan to Give Songs Away Could Upend the Industry
Starting in November, according to Nguyen, Lala will offer unlimited on-demand streams of music from two of the four major labels (the company's still negotiating with the other two). That music doesn't come free to Lala — the company expects to pay more than $160 million in licensing fees to the labels over the first two years. Rhapsody has a similar arrangement, but it charges users a subscription fee of about $15 per month. Lala won't charge users a penny. Instead, the company intends to recoup those costs through music sales. It hopes to pull in $120 million in the first two years, which works out to roughly $5 of revenue per user per month, Nguyen says. In addition to brokering trades among members, Lala will deal downloads, sell physical CDs, even hock vinyl — and he says more revenue streams are on the way.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

snapshot 10/20/07

Best Buy teams with Mydeo on video service
Electronics retailer Best Buy Co launched an online service in partnership with video hosting site Mydeo on Tuesday, through which its customers can store and share home movies and videos via the Internet.

The move was spurred by a rising demand for video services that offer privacy and ad-free sharing, particularly among families with children, said Best Buy Vice President Kevin Winneroski. "Through Best Buy Video Sharing, customers can safely store their videos and share them only with the friends and family they choose," Winneroski said in a statement.

Zazzle to follow Snocap to MySpace glory
Selling music on MySpace worked out so well for the now-downsized Snocap. Now, is giving it a go, helping sell music merchandise through MySpace. According to reports, Zazzle and MySpace reached an agreement to allow MySpace bands to sell customized T-shirts for $15 to $20. Some day, MySpace might open a platform for third-party developers and let them make money independently as promised, but not today.

Hear Music Signs Hilary McRae
Hear Music, the label started by Concord Music Group and Starbucks, has signed Hilary McRae as the company's first developing artist. While the full album will not be available until spring 2008, Starbucks customers will be able to download McRae's song "Consider Me Gone" on November 1 as part of Starbucks' "Download of the Day" program.

Who’s Bucks: The Who Launch For-Fee Subscription Site
Gearing up for what they no doubt hope will be both a lucrative holiday season and a bank account-enhancing 2008, the Who have their Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who (Universal) DVD issued on November 6, while a day earlier, Nov. 5, they launch, a for-fee subscription site.

For $50 a year, you can become a “Wholigan” and be privy to all sorts of goodies — term used in the relative sense — that the unwashed masses won’t be able to view, listen to, talk about with other fans, and otherwise (cough) decide whether or not they want to pay even more money for. (e.g., tickets to concerts: the band has already been doing this with folks who signed up at—which includes a “community” section of fan message boards—but that site is currently not taking any more registrations).

Big retailers launch HD DVD price war
A pre-holiday retail skirmish in high-definition DVD players has begun. Just days after Wal-Mart (WMT) slashed its in-store price on the Toshiba HD-A2 to $198, Circuit City (CC) and Amazon (AMZN) followed suit by offering the player online for $197.99.
Consumers seem eager to buy the HD-A2, which had been selling on Amazon for $230 and as much as $280 elsewhere. The Toshiba player, which had been one of several top-selling DVD players on Amazon before the price cut, has quickly become the favorite: On Monday morning it was the 24th most-purchased electronics item on Amazon’s site. The next closest DVD player ranked 46.

Can Google-Powered Phones Connect With Carriers? (requires subscription)
Google Inc. is close to unveiling its long-planned strategy to shake up the wireless market, people familiar with the matter say. The Web giant's ambitious goal: to make applications and services as accessible on cellphones as they are on the Internet.

In a move likely to kick off an intense debate about the future shape of the cellphone industry, Google wants to make it easier for cellphone customers to get a variety of extra services on their phones -- from maps to social-networking features to video-sharing. To get its way, however, the search giant will have to overcome resistance from wireless carriers and deal with potentially thorny security and privacy issues.

Monday, October 29, 2007

snapshot 10/29/07

Walgreen sees movie-burning DVD kiosks at stores
Walgreen plans to put kiosks that can make DVDs of popular movies in drugstore photo departments next year, using a new system that would increase selection while avoiding piracy. Recent change in copy-protection rules governing DVDs have freed Walgreen and other retailers to tap this new movie market by letting consumers burn digital copies onto blank discs at stores, industry watchers said.

Brick-and-mortar stores eye new music formats
In the latest attempts, iTunes digital download album cards highlighting specific titles are getting high marks in the early part of the rollout. Meanwhile, merchants await the introduction of the "ringle" -- which aims to revive the CD single in the physical world and allow brick-and-mortar merchants to participate in the ringtone phenomenon.

Retailers pay nothing for the cards, which are not activated until paid for at the register. So far, "people are pleasantly surprised by the results," Sony BMG Music Entertainment senior vice president and general manager of U.S. digital sales Adam Mirabella said. The Vedder card comprises 6 percent of overall scans for "Into the Wild," which has scanned 95,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- including 36,000 in digital downloads, 5,720 of those from the digital cards.

Mobile subscription services not yet phoning it in
Mobile phones were meant to revolutionize the subscription music business. But if that revolution were to be televised today, it would consist of nothing but dead air.

Indie bands go online to seek funds from fans
The most recent, and perhaps most well-known, exemplars of the trend are seminal German industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten, which has funded its past three records using donations from a group the act refers to as "supporters." Neubauten charged between 35 and 65 euros ($49.50-$92) for the ability to interact with the band via webcast during the recording process as well as a copy of the finished product.

A number of smaller unsigned bands have also used the Web to raise money for recording expenses from fans and strangers. Two sites, and, enable listeners to "invest" in unsigned bands, with the investors betting that the acts eventually will sell enough records to make them a profit. Investors are also granted access to the band and free copies of the records.

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide
via CrunchGear
Rob over at Demonbaby is pissed. At the music industry, at the takedown of OiNK - everything is driving this guy mad. Hence why he took to his blog and decided to really let the public know the state of today’s music industry. Rob used to work for the big labels from the late 1990s into the 2000s and knows a thing or two about how they work and what they loathe. In the end, as you probably expected, it’s all about profit and money.
Most of us are like Rob in ways. We loathe the RIAA and the big labels that nearly force us to pirate due to exorbitant prices on the music they both sell. The newspapers adapted to the age of the Internet, so why can’t the labels? Ultimately, Rob suggests boycotting the RIAA by purchasing non-RIAA music, pirating, writing to labels and even contacting your congressman. The post is one of the longest reads around on the issue, but is by all means necessary. I highly recommend taking a 20-30 minutes out of your day and reading it. It’ll change the way you view and hear your music.

EMI And imeem Partner For Viral Song & Video Streaming
Music centric social networking site imeem and EMI today launched free ad supported on-demand full song and video streaming of EMI's global digital catalog. Sony, Warner and a number of indie labels already have similar deals with imeem.

Members can upload their favorite music, video and photos for streaming, create customImeem playlists and slideshows, and share them with friends and fans on imeem as well as on Facebook and personal blogs.

If It’s Retail, Is It Still Rock?
The barriers are changing and we as artists are making less and less money, and we have to get creative,” notes Mr. McKagan, whose new band has licensed its music to a Victoria’s Secret commercial and movie soundtracks, formed partnerships with entities like the music video simulation game Guitar Hero, and appeared in ads for the clothing designer John Varvatos. “Fifteen years ago, it would have been totally not cool. You would have been selling out.” BAND branding appears to know no bounds. The Black Crowes market rolling papers, Bon Jovi offers $1,000 signed canvas art prints and Mötley Crüe peddled Mötley Brüe, a carbonated drink. Celebration Cellars, a California winemaker, teamed up with several rockers, including Bon Jovi, Kiss, Madonna and the Rolling Stones, to issue special-edition wines that feature band logos and sell for $100 or more a bottle.

Bootleg Yourself
So why don't more acts do it? First of all, a system will cost between $5,000 and $10,000 - and burn towers have a two-year shelf life. Co-written songs create copyright issues, major labels tend to keep a tight grip on their product and touring the larger venues requires lots of paperwork and/or favors.

Life in the vast chain
"This just makes business sense," says Don Henley. "With the disappearance of large record store chains, Wal-Mart is now the largest CD retailer in the world. And if people don't want to buy from Wal-Mart, they can buy directly from us at the website."

Eight years ago the Eagles created Eagles Recording Co. and contemplated releasing an album online, but ultimately decided it wasn't the route for them. "The Internet is a wonderful thing, but as a tool for distributing music, it doesn't matter if you can reach the whole world if your fans can't find you," Henley says. "The Internet has not worked out on a large scale for anyone I know. So some people are going with indie labels, which for the most part are distributed by majors. And some have gone with certain large coffee companies."

BlackBerry hops on digital music bandwagon
Research in Motion's BlackBerries will come with a cheap, unlimited music service from next month for the first time, marking the latest foray by a handheld device maker into a burgeoning music arena. Rob Lewis, CEO of British mobile music provider Omnifone, told Reuters on Tuesday his firm had signed a deal to supply the BlackBerry with unlimited tracks from their MusicStation service, sounding the latest challenge to Apple's iTunes for the newly launched iPhone.

Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD's Coffin
As counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl -- the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles -- is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary.

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today's music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.

NBC chief says Apple 'destroyed' music pricing
NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker on Sunday urged colleagues to take a stand against Apple's iTunes, charging that the digital download service was undermining the ability of traditional media companies to set profitable rates for their content online.

Zune Album Art Goes High Rez
With no announcements or fanfare, Zune Marketplace appears to be improving the resolution of their album art. Users are noting that new albums looks better, while numerous old albums are momentarily dropping from the service only to be replaced by bigger, more beautiful versions—all available for free re-download. One Zune owner reports that their 1680×1050 monitor was filled by one of these new covers, meaning that the Zune's 320x240 screen should be fairly pleased with the situation—right along with Zune owners.

Converged Mobile Music Grows, Storage Remains Important
Consumers are increasingly interested in converged mobile music experiences, yet storage remains a gating factor. In a recent survey published by, 58 percent of consumers felt that phones carrying MP3 players are "valuable," while 54 percent of purchased devices offered embedded music capabilities. Meanwhile, the LA-based comparison shopping destination noted that 85 percent of its top 20-selling phones carried MP3 player capabilities, a 31 percent jump over similar figures from last year.

Mobile manufacturers are stuffing more and more features into their devices, including camcorders, cameras, GPS navigational systems, and of course, music playback. By default, that rising tide of options means more music functionality, and a growing threat for stand-alones like the iPod. Still, storage remains a barrier, though PriceGrabber noted that 45 percent of its top-selling devices have at least 60MB out-of-the-box. And a large percentage of those devices can be easily upgraded.

Still, one-third of respondents noted that bigger storage is still attracting them to dedicated MP3 players. Meanwhile, other factors may also be at play. Stand-alone MP3 players also offer dedicated interfaces, and that means easier access to songs, playlists, and other features. And even though a consolidated device offers all-in-one convenience, a lost device means everything is gone. PriceGrabber canvassed 2,535 consumers for the report.

Amazon MP3 Download Store Now Blocking Non-US Customers is now using geographical targeting to filter out everyone outside the USA. For the first month or so, as long as you had a US-based billing address (even if it was fake), you could buy MP3s from Amazon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

snapshot 10/26/07

Virgin Mobile USA Opens User-Generated Music Marketplace
Phones are social devices, and that has carriers and manufacturers pushing the limits on interactivity. Just recently, Virgin Mobile USA unveiled a user-generated concept called Studio V, an image and music-oriented play. The multi-platform offering encourages participants to create their own ringtones and wallpapers, then sell them to other subscribers. The networked marketplace is designed to generate revenues for Virgin, while also kicking a percentage back to the creators.

Studio V prices wallpapers at $1.99 each, and ringtones at $2.50 each. Ringtones and images are created online, then uploaded into the mobile realm. When another subscriber purchases original content, the creator receives a 10-cent account credit. Consumers must also pay fees to transfer their own content to their handhelds. "Studio V provides the youth market, already consuming ringtones and wallpapers, with the tools to be able to express themselves and download mobile content that is unique to them," said Josh Barkin, president and chief executive of 9 Track Mind, a technology partner in the effort.

Struggling CD Squeezes Sony BMG Bottom Line
A sliding CD squeezed both revenues and earnings during the recent quarter at Sony BMG Music Entertainment. The label, a joint venture between Bertelsmann and Sony Corp., reported an earnings deficit of $8 million on sales of $851 million for the latest three-month period. Alongside a shrinking physical market, a thinner release roster was also blamed for the downturn.

Despite the rockiness, some positive spots emerged. The earnings dip is far less severe than losses of $39 million from the comparable quarter last year. And measured pre-tax, the label actually pulled profits of $8 million. Still, top-line sales dropped ten percent from $948 million previously.

AOL Plans Lyrics Offering, Taps Gracenote
AOL is now planning a lyrics offering, according to information shared Thursday by company executives. The content enhancement will involve Gracenote, a leading provider of music metadata and information. The lyrical content will be threaded throughout a number of different sections, including AOL Music.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

snapshot 10/24-25sh/07

Slideshow Of 44 Music 2.0 Services

Ezmo promises legal music sharing
Today is the official U.S. launch of Ezmo, a Norwegian Web service that allows users to post and share their entire digital music collections through a simple Flash application

You can post music from any folder directly through the site, or you can download a small Uploader application that will automatically upload all the songs in your copy of iTunes or the Windows Media Player. Once your tunes are uploaded, you can return to to stream any of your songs through the Flash-based Ezmo Player. You can also invite up to 10 friends from within the Player; your friends will receive an e-mail or IM with a link to the site and an invitation to register. Friendships are apparently two-way--they can listen to any music you post, and vice-versa.

Netflix Considering Distributing Movies Via Consoles, HD Disc Players and Set-Top Boxes
During its mostly positive Q3 earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings dropped word that "in terms of enabling the viewing of online content on the television screen, we are exploring a variety of options, including Internet connected, high definition DVD players, internet connected game consoles, and dedicated internet set tops, with a variety of partners, trying to understand the best ways to provide inexpensive viewing of online content on the television."

Danish record labels float flat ISP fee idea for unlimited P2P music
The Danish music business is now proposing a plan to offer unlimited music downloads for around 100 kroner a month (about $19), and although questions remain, it could represent a real step forward.

Will Widgets Finally Move the Personalization Needle?
According to JupiterResearch consumer surveys, awareness and usage was closer to zero than 10 percent only six to nine months ago. But now, 39 percent of online users are familiar with them, and 26 percent have used them. Over 40 percent of 18 to 24 year olds have used 'em, and they're six times as likely to get them from friends as they are to get them from companies. That has huge implications for your social media programming and marketing tactics.

Starz Vongo Hits Version 2.0 With PMP and Media Center Extender Support
Starz' PC subscription video service, Vongo, reaches version 2.0 today. On the mobile front, it now supports the Archos 405 and 605W, as well as Creative's Zen, Zen Vision:M and Zen Vision W. The software will also make streaming video to Media Center Extenders possible: it is compatible with the new lineup from Linksys, D-Link and Niveus that are soon to hit the market. (We'll add Vongo to our list of tests for those products.)

Vongo has also added new picture-in-picture resizing options for the desktop, and an updated user interface with improved personalized recommendations and better device management.

Groove Mobile and The Orchard Launch First-Ever Full Track, Off-Portal Over-the-Air Download in the U.S.
Groove Mobile, the world’s leading mobile music service provider, and The Orchard, a global leader of digital music, video and new media services, will release the first-ever full track, off-portal download available in the U.S. for free during CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment, Oct. 23-25 in San Francisco. The exclusive track, “Can’t Hold Back,” from ground-breaking hip-hop artist Aceyalone, will be available across multiple carriers for download by any user with a music-capable phone. After CTIA, the song can be downloaded for the purchase price of $1.99.

“This cross-carrier solution allows artists to get their music to as wide an audience as possible, while providing consumers with an incredibly easy-to-use interface,” said Adam Sexton, chief marketing officer for Groove Mobile. “By simply sending a text message, consumers can now buy the latest tracks from The Orchard, and download them directly to their mobile phones.”

Juanes has 6 million pre-CD downloads
Universal Music says he has sold more than 6 million digital songs — from legal Internet vendors and mobile phone downloads — from the CD before its Tuesday release.

Resnikoff's Parting Shot: The Negatives of iTunes Plus
Now, the strings are showing - and that means confusion and decreased consumer confidence. Instead of a simple download, consumers are suddenly aware of protections, compatibility, sound quality, and everything in-between.

Another snag comes from "Complete My Album," a once-simple feature that now gets swallowed into a more confusing experience. The concept initially allowed the user to purchase an album while receiving credit for album cuts already purchased. In the current context, if a protected track is now available in iTunes Plus, the user must first pay the additional 30-cents, then pay the remaining cost of the album.

Mixa Cassette Tape Flash Drive Provides Retro Fun
Magnetic North Interactive has unleashed the Mixa. a 1GB Flash USB drive housed inside a cassette tape shell. The Mixa acts like any other USB Flash drive, albeit a big bulky one, but that’s not where the fun ends.

Apple in a Fight for Rights to TV Shows
Warner Music Group, whose contract with Apple expires at year-end, is considering switching to a month-to-month deal with Apple, said a source with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision has been made. Universal also sells music videos to portals such as Yahoo.

Total Money Invested By Studios In Movielink: $148 Million; Revenues Stagnant
Not that a lot of people are interested in Movielink's fate anymore, after it got sold to Blockbuster earlier this year, but if you are from one of the five studios--MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and WB--that invested a total of about $148 million in five years, then you probably are. In an 8-K filed with SEC earlier today, BB disclosed the online movie services’ always precarious finances and revenues.

Its losses for the first half of this year were $10.18 million, compared to $11.62 million in the year-ago half. Revenues for this period this year were $1.98 million, compared to $1.91 million in H106. For full year 2006, revenues were $4 million, on total losses of about $22 million.

Jeff Bezos' First Words On Amazon MP3 Store
Bezos said he is "....very happy with the early results that we're seeing. We're getting terrific feedback from customers. Everybody loves the DRM free format, so selling MP3s is very successful for us...One of the things with our MP3 store is the way we look at it, the onus is on us to continue to convince music labels that this is a good way to sell their music. So we continue to work on that, but we're very happy with the way that it's going."

Grooveshark Back With 29 Cent Downloads Friday
Music sharing and download site Grooveshark is back for the second time this month with an amazing 29 cent DRM-free download sale starting tonight 10/24 at midnight and going for 24 hours until 11:59 Friday 10/25. There is a lot of hit and major label product available within Grooveshark’s catalog of 3 million songs.How do they do it and keep it legal? This time ClearVoice Surveys is paying the difference as part of a promotional campaign.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

snapshot 10/23/07

Why Wal-Mart's needs more than DRM-free tracks
Despite the near-universal appeal of MP3 music, you need a Microsoft Windows computer, Microsoft Media Player, and Microsoft Internet Explorer to even browse Wal-Mart's music site [I captured the image above using Windows 2000 on Virtual PC].

Amazon sparks a digital-music skirmish
When it opened Sept. 25, Amazon's MP3 digital download store undercut iTunes' prices on many albums. Its tracks, most of which sell for 89 to 99 cents, have higher sound quality than standard iTunes tracks and come without copy restrictions - known as digital rights management - that make it difficult to move tracks to a variety of portable devices, including iPods and Windows Media players.

That could mean even lower prices and creative packaging deals of music downloads with CDs and devices. And the spread of unrestricted tracks simplifies music download technology for users.

Facing Competition, iTunes Revs Up Its Film Section
So he and his partners, who spent $4 million making “Purple Violets,” instead are gambling any chance of recouping their investment on a distribution deal that involves not a single theater. On Nov. 20 the film will go up for sale exclusively on iTunes. It’s the first time a feature film will make its commercial debut on Apple’s digital download service, but only the latest deal aimed at winning attention for the iTunes movie category.

Apple iTunes Offers Led Zeppelin Digital Box Set
pple announced today that they would be offering a special digital box set containing Led Zeppelin's entire discography, "The Complete Led Zeppelin," for exclusive pre-order on iTunes.

We're excited to offer Led Zeppelin's entire catalog as a special
digital box set with this pre-order," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of
iTunes. "Now you can get all of the band's albums with one click for an
incredible $99."

OK Steve Jobs, Where Is All The DRM-Free Music Your Promised Us?
Despite telling independent labels and distributors to deliver DRM-free tracks to iTunes months ago, our sources tell us that many labels only received Apple's contract covering the change within the last few days. The result is that a full 8 months after Steve Jobs called on record labels to drop copy restrictions, the iTunes Plus DRM-Free store has by far the weakest selection of DRM-Free independent label music of the three top download services.

Radiohead Said to Shun Major Labels in Next Deal
Radiohead, the British rock band that is regarded as the pre-eminent free agent in the global music business, is close to signing a series of deals to release its next album independently and leave the major record companies behind.

The band, which stunned the industry this month when it let fans set their own price for the digital download of its new album, is close to a deal to release the CD version of the album domestically through a pact with the music complex headed by Coran Capshaw, the impresario best known for guiding the career of the Dave Matthews Band.

Zune 2 Devices Could Let Fans Monitor Celebrity Listening Habits
At a cocktail party during the CMJ music festival, a Microsoft representative hinted that the feature could be used to allow fans to monitor their favorite artists' and celebrities' listening habits. The major online music stores have offered celebrity playlists for years, but this would take things a step further by allowing fans to see what they're actually listening to, instead of what they say they're into (assuming they don't just enlist someone in their entourage to play only the most cred-laden tracks on the Zune).

Sonos intros ZoneBridge, PC-free store access
The ZoneBridge 100 (shown) is the first device from Sonos to establish a connection rather than serve as the end point: attaching a ZoneBridge to a router and tapping a button automatically creates a secured wireless mesh network that ZonePlayers and the core Controller can use to navigate and play music, saving potentially difficult setup on existing network devices.

Any existing setup with the Controller can take advantage of the Version 2.5 update, the company adds. The upgrade adds access to both the Best Buy and Napster online music stores directly through the Controller's built-in LCD. Users can now browse and play music from either service by streaming tracks online rather than downloading them; users have no need to install software or even to leave a computer active. Playlists attached to an account and radio features will likewise translate to the device.

Billboard to chart top tunes on Facebook
Billboard, the weekly magazine that compiles the most vital song charts in the music industry, is tapping Facebook to discover the latest hot tunes. The publication - a division of Nielsen Business Media - has struck a deal with iLike, an application within Facebook that lets users download and share music, to create a new chart based on the popularity of songs on the social networking site.

Music is 36% of Apple revenue, 3 billion songs sold
Apple's iTunes Store is still dominating digital music sales in the U.S., according to one survey cited by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, accounting for around 85 percent of digital sales nationwide. The Cupertino-based company on Monday during a conference call announced that it has sold a whopping 3 billion songs via the iTunes Store alongside more than 100 million TV shows; music revenues--including the iPod--accounted for 36 percent of the company's total revenue during its September quarter.

How much are people really paying for Radiohead?
As it turns out, not as much as Radiohead's evil record label used to. As The Register reports on the Open Season podcast, not only have Radiohead fans been misrepresenting how much they've been paying for the free In Rainbows, but even if we take their word for it, it's still not as much as Radiohead would make had the band stayed with EMI.
People told the survey that they paid 8 pounds ($16), but the numbers don't support this. People actually paid closer to 2.50 ($5). Radiohead normally make about 3 ($6) (after royalties and such) with their record label. As such, Radiohead is actually making less giving the songs away than they did with the greedy capitalist record label, EMI.

Find The Best Music Prices With Biggerboat
Want the best prices on CD’s and downloads, but don’t feel like spending an hour online visiting Amazon,, CDUniverse, etc? may be just what you’re looking for. Still in beta, Biggerboat searched quickly through most of the bigger and cheaper music sites and delivers side by side results with links so you can click through and purchase quickly…and cheaply.

Moving beyond the iPod
Despite popular conception, Apple did not invent the digital portable music player. What Apple did was take a product that was slowly working itself into the hands of willing consumers and make it sexy. In addition to making the product attractive to consumers, Apple was able to sell the concept of portable digital music, just as it had with home computing decades earlier.

But even as consumers have purchased Apple's devices in droves, they've come to realize that there's more to digital music than what's contained in the little white box. Other, arguably superior devices are now on the market; more are being introduced regularly. These players offer features that will become the sustaining elements of the digital entertainment revolution--they will be smart devices with IP connectivity and increased onboard storage.

How Much Is Music Worth?
Yet is 99 cents the magic number? No way. A couple of years ago, the music service Rhapsody funded a test: for a few weeks it subsidized a price cut of songs to 49 cents, and cut album prices from 10 bucks to five. Sales went up sixfold. Unlike with shipping physical products, selling the next downloaded song costs almost zero—from the standpoint of the seller, there isn't much more involved in shipping 60,000 copies of a song than there is in shipping 10,000. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that when costs of the next copy are near zero, cutting prices and selling many more units is going to make you more money.

Gracenote Pushes Lyrics Agenda, More Partnerships Ahead
Music metadata provider Gracenote is now planning multiple lyrics-related announcements, a move that follows a major licensing round with publishers last year. In discussions this week, a Gracenote representative would only point to a "major entertainment partner," and an announcement at Digital Hollywood next week.

Gracenote - alongside competitors like Toronto-based Lyricfind - have been grabbing real estate in the legalized lyrics landscape. Both companies are offering detailed lyrics catalogs to digital music stores, as well as device and mobile phone manufacturers. In April, Gracenote disclosed a major lyrics partnership with Yahoo Music. Several months later, RealNetworks-owned Rhapsody disclosed a lyrics tie-in with LyricFind.

Songkick: Live Music Lovers Will Love This
Freshly launched Songkick is a startup looking to capitalize on that growing market by providing a simple way to discover live shows for artists you love along with the cheapest concert tickets. The impetus for the site grew out of the founder’s frustrations over no single concert site providing a comprehensive list of all the concerts they want to see. There would be some on Ticketmaster, others on LiveNation, and still more on resale at StubHub. So, they’ve created a comprehensive database that tracks concerts as they appear on the 14 different ticketing sites and across dozens of blogs. Currently they only cover the U.K. and U.S.

Hands-on review: Rhapsody on TiVo
Despite all these gripes, Rhapsody on TiVo shows a lot lot of promise. When it was working smoothly, it was great to extend the Rhapsody experience to my living room and the service certainly has the TiVo "touch." While Apple TV is great for bringing your purchased iTunes music collection to your home theater, Rhapsody on TiVo effectively brings millions of songs to your home theater. I'm definitely not ready to give it my full recommendation--it's much too glitchy in its current state--but if TiVo and Rhapsody can smooth the kinks out, they might have a killer service on their hands.

Monday, October 22, 2007

snapshot 10/22/07

Believe It Or Not, The Music Industry Is Growing
Chris Anderson has compiled stats showing that, if declines in CD sales are set aside, every other aspect of the music industry is growing.
  • Concerts and merchandise +4%
  • Digital tracks +46%
  • Ringtones +86% last year, but single-digit growth this year
  • Licensing for commercials, TV shows, movies and games. Warner Music saw licensing grow $20 million last year.
  • Vinyl singles sales more than doubled in the UK
  • If you include iPods in the music industry, as Anderson argues we should, they are up 31% this year

SpiralFrog signs licensing agreement with Sony/ATV
Ad-supported music service SpiralFrog said on Monday it had signed a licensing agreement to offer compositions from Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC via its Web site.

AT&T to deliver Napster songs directly to phones
AT&T, which already lets Napster subscribers transfer music from their personal computer to their cell phone via a cable or a storage card, said it would sell Napster music directly on its phones for $7.49 for a bundle of five songs, or $1.99 for a la carte purchases, beginning in mid November.

About 10 million U.S. consumers are expected to download about 70 million songs to their phones in 2007, according to technology research firm IDC, which expects 44 million U.S. consumers to buy songs directly on their phones by 2011.

SanDisk to debut USB drive, video service
Flash memory maker SanDisk Corp. on Monday will debut an online video service and a USB flash drive that can carry television programs and videos from a computer for playback on TVs. The Sansa TakeTV video player — an ensemble of an oversized USB drive, remote control and a small dock that connects to a TV — and its accompanying video service, Fanfare, marks the latest attempt by a company looking to bridge content between the PC and the television.
Similar to using a USB drive to store and move data files, users of TakeTV can drag-and-drop video files stored on their computer — Fanfare downloads, home videos or other unrestricted video content from the Web — onto the device. Users can then plug it into the cradle connected to a TV. A simple menu appears on the TV to scroll through the files for playback.

The TakeTV player is $99.99 for a 4 gigabyte model and $149.99 for an 8 GB one that can hold up to 10 hours of video. Fanfare, in a test stage, offers premium TV shows for $1.99 per download — roughly the same price as rival services, but SanDisk says it hopes to ultimately provide a broad mixture of free and ad-supported content as well as pay-per-download videos.

Penguin Audio Ends EMusic Deal
Last month eMusic, the company that gives Apple’s iTunes the most competition in song downloads, announced that it would go up against the market leader on another front: audiobooks. But eMusic has been dealt an early blow. Penguin Audio, one of the five publishers that signed on initially, has bailed out, withdrawing 150 titles over concerns about digital piracy.

Major labels targeted by iTunes rival
Music download store eMusic is hoping the changing attitude of big music labels to copyright protection will mean their tracks could soon be available on its website. The world's second biggest digital music store already carries 2m tracks from independent-label artists but it is hoping that it will soon be able to add songs from at least one of the world's four major labels, Sony BMG, Universal, Warner and EMI.

New Zunes actually confirmed for November 13th
Whereas before all we had to go on was Amazon's purported release date for the new Zunes, Microsoft's gone ahead and confirmed it for us by way of old school paper magazine print ads, which confirm availability on (or at least around) the 13th of November.

Virgin Mobile USA Debuts Streaming Music Handheld
Virgin Mobile USA is now offering a phone that supports streaming music, a first for the pre-paid carrier. The Kyocera device, called the "Wild Card," also features a full QWERTY keyboard and a full range of entertainment and communication capabilities. On the music end, Virgin is spinning a subscription feature called "Headliner" for $2.49. That offering includes regular tour updates, music news, artist information, music charts and access to a streaming music catalog. Consumer are required to pay 25-cents per each song streamed, a fee that could create issues for heavy listeners. The Wild Card is currently available across major US-based retail outlets, and carries a price tag of $99.

Video of the TiVo/Rhapsody Music Streaming Team-Up
Remember when we told you TiVo and Rhapsody had joined forces to allow the streaming of Internet radio stations and Rhapsody's online music catalogue to broadband equipped TiVo boxes? Here's a video of the new feature, which will allow users to search through music catalogues and Rhapsody charts via their TVs. If you are already signed up with TiVo, you will receive a free 30-day trial. Thereafter, the added content/functionality shall cost $12.99/month. Check out the short run-through of the UI, which seems to flow smoothly. Just how we like it. [TiVo via Osegundochoque, video via TiVo Blog]

New details on Snocap's CD Baby breakup
When Snocap and music retailer CD Baby ended their partnership earlier this month, Snocap made like it pulled the plug. But today CD Baby president Derek Sivers put out numbers that show why it's no surprise Snocap had to lay off 31 of its 57 employees. Its partnership with CD Baby only generated $12,000 in revenues.

But the pain felt necessary, because Snocap, with its deal to distribute music over MySpace, was expected to pay-out big. That little fantasy died when Snocap came to CD Baby with numbers, Sivers writes:
“$12,000 total sales for the 8 months they'd been active. Since we keep a 9% cut, that's $1080 for us, total. Ouch.As a curiosity, I quietly enabled MP3 sales on, without telling anyone. A "buy MP3" button showing up next to the "buy CD" button.In 3 weeks, with no announcements, we sold over $110,000 in downloads. Hm.”

Apple earns $904 million on sales of $6.22 billion, sells 2.16M Macs
The Company sold 10,200,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 17 percent growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone sales were 1,119,000, bringing cumulative fiscal 2007 sales to 1,389,000.

Friday, October 19, 2007

snapshot 10/19/07

Starbucks deal brings Akamai closer to customers
Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge said it had signed a deal yesterday to install server computers in thousands of Starbucks Corp. coffee shops nationwide, in a bid to speed the delivery of music downloads from Apple Inc.'s iTunes Music Store to customers waiting in line for lattes.

It marks the first time Akamai has worked with a bricks-and-mortar retail chain to improve the delivery of Internet-based services to customers in their stores. "With Akamai-enabled servers in our stores, we are able to ensure the highest quality music downloads while providing a very personalized music experience for our customers," said Ken Lombard, the president of Starbucks Entertainment.

Canada's Copyright Board slaps tax on music downloads
Under the new rules, online music stores will have to pay 3.1 cents for each individual track and 1.5 cents per track for entire albums sold directly to SOCAN, which will in turn distribute the funds to the artists. Sites that offer temporary downloads or customizable radio stations will also be facing taxes, although the board hasn't yet released a decision for those that offer music on personal websites. What's more, according to CanWest News Service, the levies will be retroactive all the way back to 1996, which is when the music industry first started pushing for the tariffs.

Mobile Music Firm Melodeo Grabs $7.9 Million
Seattle-based mobile music firm Melodeo has now finalized a $7.9 million round, according to information revealed Thursday. Ignition Partners and Voyager Capital led the financing. Melodeo indicated that the infusion will be used to bolster nuTsie, a technology that enables mobile users to access and share iTunes collections on-the-go.

Yamaha Readies BODiBEAT - Beat-Matching MP3 Player
Yamaha is set to release a new digital music player for DJs who love to exercise. The BODiBEAT MP3 Player, which will be released in limited quantities, actually beat-matches your music to your excercise pace. No, we’re not kidding you…

The BODiBEAT comes with integrated software that evaluates your music, probably using some type of granular DSP, and then matches the transients to the pace of your workout. It obviously works best for running, but Yamaha claims it will tune into aerobics, cycling and other common workout regimens.

Online music choices grow
Listeners now have many new ways to buy music online -- from subscription and set-your-own price to advertising-supported. Soon there may be an even wider array of choices. Ben Cardew, chief reporter of Music Week magazine, sees the industry sampling lots of new ways to sell tunes to meet demand, which he says is stronger than ever.

"Wherever you go, people are listening to iPods, music is on adverts and the live scene is doing incredibly well. The demand is absolutely there," Cardew said. "(There are) so many great new ideas -- from ad-funded to subscription and giving away your album with a newspaper."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

snapshot 10/18/07

Media companies seen in copyright pact
Media companies including CBS Corp. (CBS.N), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O), News Corp.'s (NWSa.N) Fox and MySpace units and others have agreed to a set of guidelines aimed at protecting copyrights online, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The agreement is set to be disclosed today, the paper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The agreed principles include using technology to eliminate copyright-infringing content uploaded by users to Web sites and blocking any material before it is publicly accessible, the paper said. Viacom (VIAb.N), Walt Disney (DIS.N) and NBC Universal are also part of the agreement, but Google (GOOG.O) is notably absent, it said.

Is Amazon MP3 Store Already #2? Plus Affiliate Program Trumps iTunes.
Just weeks after launch, a number of labels are saying privately that they believe Amazon has jumped to #3 in download sales for their releases. eMusic and iTunes hold the #2 and #1 spots respectively. Amazon could be #2 by year's end for some labels if measured by dollars paid instead of the number of tracks downloaded, according to at least one prediction. Amazon pays labels far more per track downloaded than eMusic's subscription model.

Puretracks, Billboard Form Alliance to Launch Billboard’s Digital Music Redemption Platform for Pre-Paid Music Download Cards
Billboard, the world’s most comprehensive source of music, digital data and events, and Puretracks, a leading North American music download service provider licensed by all major record companies, today announced the launch of the Billboard digital music redemption platform for Billboard-branded pre-paid music download cards available at

Billboard has granted Puretracks a license to leverage its strong consumer brand in North America to fulfill the digital music prepaid cards. The Billboard-branded music prepaid cards will launch nationally at CVS/pharmacy, giving the U.S. retailer the first-to-market opportunity with the prepaid card product. Approximately 6,200 stores across the United States will be carrying “22 Songs for $20” and “45 Songs for $40” Billboard-branded prepaid card products redeemable at

Rockers Matchbox Twenty join the USB revolution
The latest: Matchbox Twenty's new album, Exile on Mainstream, is being sold on a USB bracelet. Available exclusively at Best Buy, the $35 item includes all 17 songs from the album (released Oct. 2), music video How Far We've Come, another video with band interviews, a digital booklet with album art and other band items to customize your computer.

Matchbox Twenty's management got the idea from a similar project that lets Willie Nelson concertgoers buy a USB bracelet that contains a downloaded version of that night's concert. (Some are available online at

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

snapshot 10/17/07

US Patent Office rejects Amazon one-click patent
While we just scratched our head and laughed, blogger Peter Calveley went and did something about it. He filed a re-examination request last year. And now that the patent office has taken another look at the one-click patent they've rejected a large number of claims made by Amazon. In other words, while Amazon has a chance to respond, there's a good chance this patent will be revoked.

Musicians find a fast-track to iTunes
TuneCore's Jeff Price says he'll get anybody's album on Apple's music store for the cost of a 'six-pack and a pizza,' reports Fortune's Devin Leonard.

The Hole In Apple’s iTunes Price Cut
Two days after Apple (AAPL) began cutting the price of its DRM-free music for new customers, from $1.29 a song to 99¢, the company is still charging the higher price for existing customers. The fact of the 30¢ price cut was confirmed yesterday by Steve Jobs, although the company denied that the move was in response to competition from Amazon, which charges 89¢ to 99¢ per song, or Wal-Mart, which charges 94¢. “It’s been very popular with our customers, and we’re making it even more affordable,” both Jobs and spokesperson Natalie Kerris insisted.

But the price cut was not applied across the board. The discrepancy arises in the Upgrade My Library feature, which is still charging existing customers 30% extra for DRM-free songs.

Optimal Media Production Premiers VinylDisc - Half CD, Half Vinyl Record
Optimal Media Production, a German concern, has developed a new CD format dubbed, VinylDisc, that contains a CD on one side, and a vinyl recording on the other. The CD side can hold 70 minutes of music, while the vinyl side, due to the dimensions of the compact disc, can only hold about 3 minutes. As a promotional play, it’s a very cool idea for dance music labels. Fightstar, a rock band on the Gut label, will be the first band to release a single on the VinylDisc format.

iTunes Plus Now Offers Over Two Million Tracks at Just 99 Cents
Apple® today announced that it has expanded its iTunes® Plus offering to over two million tracks and lowered the price of all iTunes Plus tracks to just 99 cents. All iTunes Plus tracks feature DRM-free music with high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding for audio quality virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings ( The iTunes Plus catalog is now the largest DRM-free catalog in the world, and includes artists from Sub Pop, Nettwerk, Beggars Group, IODA, The Orchard and many others, along with EMI’s digital catalog.

Amazon gives bloggers a sweeter deal for selling its MP3s
Amazon today is pulling out the small guns as it positions its new MP3 download store to grab market share from Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes. And Amazon has a lot of small guns. In this case, “The small guns” refers to the Associates Program, one of the retailer’s lesser-known online marketing vehicles. Through Amazon Associates, bloggers and other online publishers can showcase Amazon products in an advertising window on their sites. In return, they earn a cut of the sale – usually 10 percent.

To give a boost to its MP3 store, though, Amazon today sent an e-mail to Associates members that sweetens the deal: Through the end of the year, Amazon will give a 20 percent cut to members who get people to download songs from the Amazon store.

Universal Music puts its faith in memory cure for sliding sales
Universal Music, the world’s biggest music company, is to release singles on USB memory sticks this month, in an attempt to arrest the decline in music sales.

The Vivendi-owned company plans to charge about £4.99 for USB singles starting on October 29 with releases from piano rock band Keane and Nicole, the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. That compares with £2.99 for a typical CD single. However, the hope is that fans will be willing to pay extra because the extra storage capacity on a USB allows the addition of videos and other multimedia.

Victoria's Secret to sell 'Spice Girls' album
The newly reunited British girl group's CD will be available starting Nov. 13 at Victoria's Secret stores and on the company's website in the U.S., Capitol Music Group said Tuesday.

Lime Wire to Sell INgrooves Music in Upcoming Digital Music Store
Lime Wire LLC announced today that it signed a deal with digital media company INgrooves to sell DRM-free MP3s in the LimeWire Store, opening this holiday season. The INgrooves catalog includes approximately one hundred thousand quality independent music titles. "INgrooves supports and encourages all digital download retail models that fairly compensate artists as outlets for its independent artists and labels. LimeWire, with its existing loyal and music-savvy customer base, is an ideal destination for music fans to purchase MP3s," said Robb McDaniels, the CEO of INgrooves.

Nettwerk Music, PassAlong Networks and Digonex Technologies Partner to Launch Music Industry's First Variable-Pricing Model Pilot for MP3 Music Downloads
PassAlong Networks(TM), Nettwerk Music and Digonex® Technologies today announced the launch of a joint variable-priced MP3 pilot, the music industry's first offering of fully variably priced downloadable music. Using patented Digonex pricing technology, PassAlong is able to adjust retail pricing on a weekly basis for Nettwerk Music's MP3 catalog.

Album prices are adjusted up or down according to the consumer demand-driven Digonex pricing engine, which systematically changes pricing based on Internet economics and consumer behavioral principles. Most album prices fluctuate between $3.30 and $9.99. Singles are dynamically priced at one of three possible price tiers: $.33, $.66 or $.99.

Resnikoff's Parting Shot: Behemoths in the Vacuum
Once upon a time, consumers started a dramatic shift in the way they discovered, acquired, and accessed media. In the music realm, albums shifted to discrete downloads, release dates shifted to now, and prices shifted to zero. And all across the land, a vacuum started to form, and a battle emerged for the next-generation music industry.

For those tied directly to recordings, this is anything but a rosy fairy tale. For everyone else, this story is still in its early chapters, and full of lucrative possibilities. And for well-funded, well-placed companies like Live Nation, the opportunities couldn't be any richer.

Major labels are losing ground at an unprecedented rate, and on a number of levels. The CD album is receding, and bread-and-butter superstars are searching for an entirely different lily pad. MVPs are plotting or executing post-label career moves, and younger artists are considering do-it-yourself options.

Yahoo! Q3 2007 Earnings Call Transcript
For example, we have de-emphasized our focus around subscription music in favor of advertising supported music.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

snapshot 10/16/07

Napster relaunches with Web-enabled platform
Napster Inc, the digital music service, said on Tuesday it plans to attract more customers by moving to a Web-based platform allowing users to play their music from any computer without having to download any additional software. The move is intended to open up the service and attract more paying subscribers by making the Napster platform more flexible and compatible with any Internet-enabled device. Napster says it has 770,000 subscribers.

MySpace in ad-supported music deal with Sony BMG
MySpace, the world's largest social networking site, said on Tuesday it has signed a music video licensing deal with Sony BMG Music Entertainment supported by sharing advertising revenue. News Corp unit MySpace said the deal will enable its 70 million U.S. monthly active users to experience music videos and select audio material from Sony BMG artists.

Do You Really Own Your Music?
You like to own your music. You would never consider “renting” your music from a subscription service. When you buy music, you want to own it for the rest of your life, right? Well, I have news for you: you may already be renting your music and not even know it. In fact, you may not actually own any of those tracks you think you purchased online.

Early Radiohead Sales Numbers: $5-$8 Per Album
Word on the street among London music insiders is that the average price paid for the digital version of Radiohead's In Rainbows album is between $5-$8. The earlier average was £4 ($8), and then the second number, discussed last Friday, was £2.50 ($5), indicating that the average price per album was higher among those who pre-ordered the album, and that fans who downloaded it later generally paid less.

PressPLay / MusicNet 2.0?
The idea of working with device manufacturers to get revenue directly for music is not actually that crazy an idea. In fact, we’re working on a report which incorporates that exact theme. We’re still working on the numbers, but based on the scant (rumoured) details we have on Total Music, I think the approach we’re suggesting is more workable for all parties.

Labels are good at discovering, nurturing and marketing artists. They are not retailers. The major labels tried and failed to become digital music retailers at the turn of the century with PressPlay and MusicNet.

Sony Looking Towards Music and Movie Distribution on PS Network to Revive Flagging PS3 Sales
In a move that reiterates the fact that Sony is putting the PlayStation 3's media capabilities first and its gaming capabilities fourth, they're working on a plan to distribute music and video through their PlayStation Network. In order to boost sagging sales of the console, they want to compete more directly with Microsoft's Xbox Live service with video (along with the PS3 DVR functionality they're rolling out in Europe) instead of gaming, a move that's as back-asswards as you can find. Ask anybody on the street why they're not buying a PS3 and we'll bet you $100 that it's not "because I can't download movies on it."

No Sale In Sight, Movie Gallery Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
It should come as no surprise to anyone that video-rental chain Movie Gallery has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, while announcing a plan to reorganize and restructure its debt. This has been coming for a while, following a failure to meet certain financial obligations and a futile search for strategic alternatives, such as a sale. As the AP notes, the company has been under a heavy debt load since its 2005 purchase of Hollywood Video for $1 billion. Release.

The company has also tried to turn its performance around by making digital investments, such as its purchase of Moviebeam earlier this year, and its planned launch of an online DVD rental service to counter Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) and Blockbuster. But, while they might play a role in recovery, neither of these things could counter the deterioration of its core retail business.

Apple to end flat-rate song pricing in 12 mos
EMI today warned that pricing may not remain flat-rate, however. Label head Alain Levy said at a press conference today that his company was "having discussions" with Apple that would change iTunes pricing for EMI music depending on the popularity of the track. Major releases would see elevated per-song prices while less consequential tracks would sell below the 99-cent threshhold. Apple has traditionally resisted a break from fixed pricing since the iTunes Store's launch in 2003 but is said to be acknowledging the inevitability of having to change its price strategy, according to Levy's presentation.

snapshot 10/15/07

Universal Music Takes on iTunes
The world's most powerful music executive aims to join forces with other record companies to launch an industry-owned subscription service. BusinessWeek has learned that Morris has already enlisted Sony BMG Music Entertainment as a potential partner and is talking to Warner Music Group. Together the three would control about 75% of the music sold in the U.S. Besides competing head-on with Apple Inc.'s (AAPL ) music store, Morris and his allies hope to move digital music beyond the iPod-iTunes universe by nurturing the likes of Microsoft's Zune media player and Sony's PlayStation and by working with the wireless carriers. The service, which is one of several initiatives the music majors are considering to help reverse sliding sales, will be called Total Music.

Digital deal nudging music into living rooms
The company has teamed with TiVo to bring subscription-based on-demand streaming music into the living room directly from Internet-connected TiVo digital video recorders.

The deal immediately puts Rhapsody in front of 1.5 million owners of broadband-connected TiVos and lets them experience the service using a TiVo interface with which they are already familiar. About half of these people regularly use the various broadband applications that TiVo makes available to them, such as the ability to download movies from Amazon's UnBox service. While movies and music can be accessed from a PC, there is a pressing need to access such content directly from devices more specifically built for entertainment content.

Led Zeppelin to sell music online
From November 13, Led Zeppelin, which disbanded in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham, will make its albums available for download from all online music retailers. The group will also release "Mothership," a two-CD collection spanning the group's 12-year career and a remixed version of "The Song Remains the Same" soundtrack from the band's three-night stint at Madison Square Garden in 1973.

Eagles take off with first album since 1979
In this exclusive interview, Glenn Frey takes Billboard through the making of "Long Road Out of Eden," the Eagles' first studio album since 1979. "Eden" is due October 30, exclusively via Wal-Mart stores.

Snocap cuts staff
Snocap Inc., which developed technology for buying music downloads on, said Friday it has cut its work force by nearly half so it can focus on a strategy to sell the company. The cuts pared down the San Francisco-based company's staff from 57 employees to 26.

$0.99 DRM-free tracks appear on iTunes
The iTunes Store is currently offering select DRM-free iTunes Plus songs for $0.99, 30 cents less than the standard price of $1.29. Music from Flight of the Conchords and The Perishers are among the $0.99 iTunes Plus offerings. At the moment, it is unclear whether this lower price is indicative of a move by Apple to reduce the price on all iTunes Plus tracks, bringing them closer to the pricing offered by the newly-launched Amazon MP3 store. iLounge has contacted Apple about this issue and will update this article if we receive any additional information

5 Free iTunes Tracks For Being A Facebook Friend
How much is your friendship worth? Ticketmaster apparently thinks its worth 5 tracks on iTunes. Join their Ticketmaster Live group on Facebook and they’ll give you 5 downloads for free.

Radiohead: 1.3 Mil Downloads! (But Big Music Not Dead)
Reports are trickling in on the initial results of Radiohead's pay-what-you-like-for-our-music experiment: We hear the current totals are 1.3 million downloads since "In Rainbows" went on "sale" Wednesday.

Online digital marketplace Zipidee launches public beta, raises funding
Zipidee, a company that lets you sell digital information through an online marketplace, is launching its public beta service tomorrow.

The service is targeting musicians, videographers, researchers or anyone else with digital information — that people are willing to pay for. Sellers create accounts with Zipidee, upload and display their digital goods on the Zipidee home site, or in a Zipidee widget on their own site. Buyers make direct online purchases through the Zipidee system. The company offers its own DRM service, which it sees as being most useful for providers of educational materials, and other niche information. Our previous coverage here.

New Zunes to fall short on battery versus iPod
Microsoft's new Zunes have been tested and should have the same audio performance as their equivalent iPod models but run lower in terms of video, according to an update from Zune marketer Cesar Menendez. Both the Zune 4 and Zune 8 flash players will manage up to 24 hours of continuous music playback using 128Kbps Windows Media files, but a shorter four hours of video with 500Kbps Windows Media videos versus the five of an iPod nano playing H.264 clips at the same resolution.

With 6,500 labels under contract, is conquering the world charges up to three times more than iTunes for a song. The tracks, mostly music you've never heard, take longer to download. And no, you can't buy the new Faith Hill album. No matter: Denver-based Beatport is still one of the hottest new music-download sites in the world, supplying dance clubs, DJs and music fans in 130 countries.

Dying DRM Means More Freedom for Music Fans
Essentially, DRM could give way to DIY, with users maintaining, streaming and sharing their own music catalogs. Software developers -- unencumbered by current DRM restrictions -- will be more than happy to help. If the trend away from DRM continues, subscription services will be forced to focus on online radio and figure out a way to incorporate users' own collections into their offerings. Meanwhile, music fans can look forward to a flood of new next-generation music applications once developers are able to take advantage of a stable, DRM-free music landscape.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

snapshot 10/11/07

iPod classic: the last hurrah for HDD-based iPods?
The latest incarnation of the classic iPod appears to be a stopgap measure targeted solely at consumers who make extensive use of storage capacity, but at the same time signals the beginning of the end for hard disk drive (HDD)-based iPods, according to a new report from iSuppli Corp. However, the Classic’s dated features suggest stopgap measures that are likely to limit the product’s longevity and success in the market, iSuppli believes. The firm tentatively forecasts that iPod Classic shipments will start with a bang this holiday, rising to about 3.1 million units in 2007. However, growth will likely slow markedly after that, with shipments rising by only 12.9 percent to reach 3.5 million in 2008.

In contrast, combined shipments of the new NAND flash memory-based iPod nano and touch models are expected to amount to 26 million units in 2007, rising to nearly 40 million units in 2008 -- a 52 percent increase. iSuppli believes Apple will continue to take advantage of the 50 to 60 percent annual reductions in flash memory pricing to maintain or decrease its production costs, while doubling its players’ storage capacity every year with the solid-state storage technology as the HDD iPod slowly fades into the distance.

Madonna latest superstar to dump traditional label deal
A 10-year, $120 million pact that would bring all of Madonna's music business into the Live Nation fold is close to being signed. The non-traditional deal has been rumored for months, but the Wall Street Journal unveiled particulars in a story on its website Wednesday. Madonna would receive a mix of cash and stock and give Live Nation the rights to sell three studio albums, promote concert tours, sell merchandise and license her name.

Music Industry Five Alternative Business Models

  • Free
  • Pay What You Want
  • Pay by popularity
  • Subscription
  • Music Tax

Report: Teens Moving From P2P To Paid Services
The results of a teen survey, conducted by financial analyst firm Piper Jaffray, revealed young music fans are slowly accepting paid online music sources over P2P filetrading. P2P is still the primary way they acquire music, but its market share fell to 64% from 72% last fall. Meanwhile, 36% of teens said they now buy music from online services, up from 28% last year. Of the paid services used, iTunes remains the primary resource, but it's market share is slipping at 79% from 91% last year. However it's not Rhapsody or Napster making up the difference, which each hold a 2% share of attention. Instead, the "other" category is now 16% of combines usage -- which includes sources like eMusic, and mobile music stores. Exactly which of these service is making up the lag in iTunes' share is not clear, as the company did not ask the teen users to identify their alternative sources.

Infinite Storage for Music
Last week I spoke on a panel called “The Paradise of Infinite Storage”, at the “Pop [Music] and Policy” conference at McGill University in Montreal. The panel’s title referred to an interesting fact: sometime in the next decade, we’ll see a $100 device that fits in your pocket and holds all of the music ever recorded by humanity.

This is a simple consequence of Moore’s Law which, in one of its variants, holds that the amount of data storage available at a fixed size and price roughly doubles every eighteen months. Extrapolate that trend and, depending on your precise assumptions, you’ll find the magic date falls somewhere between 2011 and 2019. From then on, storage capacity might as well be infinite, at least as far as music is concerned.

"First music store" in Facebook is fool's gold
In the case of MediaMouth, formerly Digital Kiosk Technologies, they are staking their claim to the "First Music Store Inside Facebook." The only problem? MediaMouth's store is not what you would think.

MediaMouth is trying to shift out of its failed business of burning CDs via kiosks, an efforts that will remind some of K-Tel Records attempts to reinvent itself as a dotcom. Its "Music Store" doesn't sell digital tracks. Instead, it creates a playlist which the company then burns to a disc and mails to the purchaser. CD-burning kiosks didn't work, so why would this? As they say, the problem with instant gratification is that it's not fast enough. By adding the extra step of sending a CD in the mail, MediaMouth has, improbably, made a bad business model worse.

MusicGiants Adds New Collections To DRM-Free Offerings
MusicGiants, the leader in HD downloads, has added the Naxos, PentaTone Classical Music Collections and Razor & Tie labels to their ever expanding catalogue of HD music without digital rights management (DRM).