Friday, November 30, 2007

snapshot 11/30/07

Deutsche Grammophon Shows How Digital Music Stores Should Really Work
Deutsche Grammophon has opened an online digital music shop and although most people think about invading Poland when they listen to Wagner, the classical music label is showing all those punks and hippies from Apple and Microsoft how to do a proper online music store:
  • First, their store is international. You can buy from anywhere in the planet with no stupid geographic limits.
  • Second, they are not only publishing their current massive catalog, but reviving out-of-print recording as exclusive downloads. A hundred of them are available now and a thousand will be in the next weeks after launch.
  • And finally, the music is all DRM-free (YES!) so it can play in the iPod, Zune or preferred MP3-compatible player.

Coalition for Artists and StakeHolders creates slick industry-free music service
Coalition for Artists and Stake Holders (CASH) have just launched CashMusic, a site for music lovers to download and pay musicians for the work they like. Musician Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses, 50FOOTWAVE) is behindthe service which seems to still be in a pre-beta, but looks very promising from it's minimalist, subtle interface. As well as letting you name your price, and download DRM-free tracks, artists on the network can share the source files for their songs freely under a creative commons license so that other artists can remix their work.

30 Trends in Digital Music: 1-5
The world of digital music is an exciting place, whether you're a record label, a band or a music fan. 2007 has seen huge amounts of activity, including DRM-free downloads, social network widgets, the rise of mobile music, Radiohead's choose-your-own-price album, recommendation services, personal online radio, video karaoke sites, and the first trials of free music funded by advertising.

I've tried to round up these disparate trends in the traditional blog stylee (i.e. a Top 30 list), providing links back to the stories that Tech Digest and other blogs have covered, and chunks of analysis on What It All Means.

Amazon, Pepsi Ponder Billion Download Giveaway
Amazon may be joining forces with Pepsi in a massive, MP3-based download giveaway, according to preliminary information surfacing Thursday. Billboard pointed to a deal that involves a total of one billion downloads, and a splashy unveiling at Super Bowl XLII in February. The move would help to catapult the Amazon MP3 offering, which launched in late September.

If the deal closes, majors will face significant pressure to shed digital protection policies. Sony BMG and Warner Music Group - as well as the experimenting Universal Music Group - would have to commit to MP3-based distribution to participate in the giveaways. EMI Music is already there, though another sticking point may surround per-track payouts to labels, and revenue specifics surrounding featured artists. Previously, Pepsi triggered two separate download giveaway campaigns with Apple and the iTunes Store.

Slow March To DRM Free Music Becomes A Sprint
The slow march towards universal DRM free music appears about to become a sprint to the finish line. Recent developments pushing Sony BMG, WMG and other holdouts to reconsider their protectionist positions include:

  • Initial sales and kudos from the media and consumers for Amazon's all mp3 store
  • Rumors that we've been hearing for weeks of a billion (yes that's a b) track giveaway involving Pepsi and the Amazon mp3 store to be unveiled during the Super Bowl
  • Rumors that is demanding that all labels deliver tracks as DRM free mp3's or risk being booted off the site
  • Solid digital sales increases at EMI since going DRM free
  • Signs that the Universal "experiment" is now a permanent policy shift
  • An increasing number of hold-out labels including most recently Hollywood experimenting with DRM free sales
  • Rumors that Sony BMG is readying an mp3 experiment and that WMG is finally allowing the possibility to be be openly discussed
  • A more rapid than expected decline in physical CD sales
  • Increased popularity of The Zune and other players beyond the iPod

A Tipping Point For MP3s
News of the Pepsi promotion, which is expected to be announced Feb. 3 during the Super Bowl, coincides with an ultimatum from Wal-Mart asking major labels to supply with their music in MP3, sources say. Labels, meanwhile, say they have been watching the success of an MP3 test UMG began in August; the major continues to allow the sale of 85% of its current catalog as MP3s. Sources say UMG is on the verge of permanently embracing that digital format. But a source close to the testing insists the decision is still up in the air while the company awaits conclusive results from the trial, which are due in mid-January.

Turnaround expert hired to lead Handleman
Handleman Co., a music distributor based in Troy, said this morning that its chief executive officer and chairman is being replaced with a turnaround expert. Albert A. Koch will take over as president and chief executive as Stephen Strome retires. Strome expects to continue as a consultant to the company to assist in accelerating the turnaround plan.

Glenn Frey: Eagles Album Saved Band
60 Minutes" page for its piece on The Eagles via Colfer
So the Eagles decided to press their own records, and signed an exclusive distribution deal with the nation's largest music retailer, Wal-Mart. The chain agreed to buy three million copies directly from the band, sell the double set album for the bargain-basement price of $11.88, and spend tens of millions of dollars to promote it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

snapshot 11/29/07

Warner Music profit falls as industry slumps
Warner Music Group Corp, the world's third-largest music company, on Thursday posted a 58 percent drop in quarterly profit, hurt by an industry-wide slump in CD sales, as more fans bought songs online. Although Warner's revenue rose 2 percent to $869 million in its fiscal fourth quarter, it declined 2 percent when taking out the impact of the weaker dollar. The company also posted weaker international sales, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Digital music revenue was up 25 percent at $130 million during the quarter, but this could not make up for the short-fall in compact disc sales. U.S. album sales fell 14 percent year on year, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan, as more fans bought individual songs through online stores such as Apple Inc's iTunes, or used free file-sharing services to get music.

Microsoft Challenges the iPod (Again)
But Microsoft’s new second-generation Zune music/photo/video player is a pleasure to use. It fixes a long list of things that made the original Zune such a pathetic wannabe. Best of all, the new Zune is starting to develop its own identity. The echoes of Microsoft executives saying, “It’ll be just like the iPod, only ours” aren’t quite as loud on this one.

'Tis not the season for music as album sales tumble
While album sales for the week ending Sunday were up 19% over the previous week, the Thanksgiving week total of 14 million albums trails 2006's take by 18%. So far in 2007, 415.7 million albums have been sold, down 14% from last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

snapshot 11/28/07

TiVo and Nero developing DVR software for the PC
TiVo, the company that has become pretty much synonymous with the idea of the digital video recorder plans to create a PC version of the software it uses on set top boxes.The company is partnering with Nero to develop the software. Up until recently, TiVo's Linux-based software was designed to run only on TiVo-branded boxes. But over the past year TiVo has been partnering with cable companies like Cox and Comcast to develop software for those companies' set top boxes. Once the software was portable, perhaps it was only a matter of time before we saw standalone software.

More On eMusic Payouts
But -- and it's a big but -- the per-song payout matters a LOT to the labels in the catalog. And that's where the "health club" business model comes into play for eMusic. Digital "breakage" -- the failure of subscribers to use all of their monthly downloads -- directly affects the per-unit payout labels receive for each downloaded track. From eMusic's label relations page:

Like any subscription business (such as health clubs, mobile phone plans, and cable companies), our model is based on a consistently substantial percentage of subscribers downloading none or little of their paid allotment. Because these subscribers aren't downloading their full allocation of music, there is more revenue to be divided amongst labels. In other words, this "unused" revenue is part of the gross that is split among labels.

Citing Steep Royalty Payments, AOL And Yahoo Could Consider Dropping Streaming Radio Services
Yahoo and AOL, claiming that higher royalty fees levied this past summer are turning their online radio operations into money-losing propositions, could contemplate closing down their webcasting music services if this continues, Bloomberg reports in a slightly speculative story.

Since the 38 percent increase in charges for playing music across their respective internet radio channels went into effect in July, Yahoo and AOL started to redirect users away from their streaming webcasts. Yahoo says it has been concentrating more heavily on its download music and video services, as opposed to its web streams on Launchcast, though Yahoo also said in Q3 earnings that it would be de-emphasizing subscription music for ad-supported, so not sure where this leaves the service overall. The amount of listeners to Launchcast dropped 11 percent to 5.1 million in October, according to ComScore, while AOL Radio’s audience fell 10 percent to 2.7 million from 3 million. Still, neither Yahoo nor AOL have said how long they plan to continue or when they would decide to abandon online radio.

Music Search Engines Tread Fine Legal Line
Music search engines are just one of the many ways to get free music on the Internet (BitTorrent and MP3Sparks, formerly AllofMP3, are other popular ways). But for some users they are a near perfect way to listen to music on demand, and/or round out their music collection. Three that we’ve been tracking are SeeqPod, Songza and Skreemr.

All three index the web, or parts of the web, looking for music files that people have uploaded to servers. Users search by artist or song. MP3s or other non-DRM sound files with metadata matching the query are served as results. Unlike sites like LaLa, Imeem and Pandora (and many others), which are all trying to play by various RIAA rules to deliver music to users, music search engines generally don’t pay royalties of any kind. The music itself is never on their servers, so they have significantly less copyright exposure. More on that below.

Survey: Public rejecting digital media adapters
The public is generally avoiding digital media adapters such as the Apple TV and Sonos' wireless audio system, a new study suggests. The market research group Parks Associates claims that within a reporting group of US broadband users, only nine percent even had a stereo connected to their computer, and of those, 50 percent relied on simpler output techniques such as RCA cables. Only 28 percent used a wired or wireless media adapter. Similarly, a tiny four percent of broadband subscribers had a TV connected to their computer, and 31 percent of those connected to TVs using the likes of S-Video cables. A closer 30 percent did rely on media adapters, however.

Attempting to explain the results, Parks suggests that for most people, adapters are needlessly expensive; whereas RCA and S-Video cables can cost as little $10, adapters frequently cost upwards of $100-200, while offering few extra features. They also require extra time and effort to configure, resulting in little perceived value.

Dell's plan for Zing
Zingspot is likely related to Zing Systems, a company that Dell acquired in August. is described in the document filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as "an online consumer portal for digital entertainment content acquisition and distribution." Being a hardware maker, it would make more sense to expect Dell to make a device rather than a service. Especially since the PC maker officially pulled out of the portable media player market in August 2006, at the time citing a need to focus more on PCs, TVs, and printers for consumers.
Dell had little to say when it acquired the tiny, Mountain View, Calif., company that makes streaming audio software. But almost four months later and with CES fast approaching, it's interesting to look at what Dell might be doing.

snapshot 11/27/07

NBC Universal to offer interactive ads via TiVo

General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal agreed to start offering interactive advertising services and subscribe to a ratings service from TiVo Inc, the companies said on Tuesday. The agreement covers GE's 14 networks -- including NBC, Telemundo and Bravo -- as well as its 10 NBC-owned TV stations.

Advertisers who buy television commercials on those networks and television stations will have the option of adding an interactive component to those spots. They can insert TiVo "tags" into television commercials that let viewers click on an icon when watching an ad to obtain more information about a product, the companies said. NBC Universal also purchased a ratings service from TiVo that provides second-by-second viewership ratings on television commercials.

Web sales strong on Cyber Monday

Estimate say shoppers spend $700 million, exceeding 2006's figure by $100 million. Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst at ComScore, said one reason for the high sales volumes on Cyber Monday was that most workers were back at their desks after the four-day weekend. About half of all online purchases during the holiday shopping season last year were made from work, he said, even though some companies frown on the practice and most consumers have computers and Internet access at home.

34 Free Songs at iTunes

TuneCore is offering 34 free song downloads at the US iTunes store. No, it's not any 34 songs, it's 34 songs by artists who are TuneCore customers. TuneCore, as we've posted before, is an iTunes listing service that helps artists get their music on the iTunes Store.

To get your free tracks, visit their free album page and generate a unique iTunes code. Artists on the free album include the Dandy Warhols (famous for the Veronica Mars intro) and Maureen McCormick, of the Brady Bunch. How is the actual music? The quality, er, varies. Let us know what you liked or disliked in the comments.

Universal's CEO Once Called iPod Users Thieves. Now He's Giving Songs Away

Last summer, though, Morris seemed to change direction. After years of tightening controls on his company's content, he agreed to let and other online retailers sell unprotected MP3s of Universal songs. These contain none of the digital rights management software that media companies usually embed in digital files to prevent piracy. Universal wasn't the first big label to offer unprotected tracks; the EMI Group had begun selling DRM-free songs in May. But with its small market share, EMI's decision seemed unlikely to have much effect on the market. Universal, on the other hand, was setting out to change things. In particular, it hoped to end Apple's near monopoly on legal digital downloads.

Paxton's hesitation is justified. Over the years, the label has for the most part used its market power to squeeze money out of others' ideas. And its current moves — DRM-free songs and the Total Music subscription service — aren't about serving consumers, at least not principally. They're aimed at taking on Steve Jobs and, specifically, limiting the power of iTunes.

Widgets make a big splash on the Net; Web shout-outs draw attention of marketers, venture capitalists

For nearly a decade, was the quintessential struggling Web company, barely hanging on as it burned through $17 million. Until widgets. Since it developed a widget, one of the mini-Web applications now flourishing on Facebook and other social-networking sites, the company -- renamed iLike -- has become an overnight sensation. In May, iLike had 3 million registered users of its music website. After its widget became available on Facebook, it ballooned to more than 10 million users on Facebook, 15 million overall. And iLike is now growing to the tune of 3 million users per month.

Brooklyn-based Web business helps sell music in the digital world

Jeff Price, founder of Brooklyn-based TuneCore, wants to help every garage band, basement composer and pop princess wannabe make it - if not to the top of the charts, then at least out into the digital world. Nearly two years ago, Price launched TuneCore, a service that lets musicians put their work in online stores like iTunes, Rhapsody and Napster for a flat fee that he bills as "the price of a six-pack and a pizza."

Sales of multimedia phones to pass TVs next year, report predicts

Worldwide shipments of multimedia-enabled mobile phones will exceed 300 million units next year, surpassing shipments of television sets, according to a research report being released this week by MultiMedia Intelligence. Sales of such phones will generate over $76 billion in revenue. By 2011, about 9 of 10 mobile phones will include basic multimedia capabilities, which consist of an image sensor, MP3 audio support, and video playback. Currently, these capabilities are available in 60% of mobile phones, according to the report.

Blockbuster in talks with handset makers

Movie rental chain Blockbuster is in talks with all the major mobile phone makers about partnerships aimed at making it easier for consumers to watch movies on the go, Chief Executive James Keyes said on Tuesday.

Wyclef Jean Pushes Digital Jukebox Exclusive

Artists frequently offer exclusives to online, mobile, and retail outlets to spark pre-release excitement. Now, digital jukebox specialist TouchTunes is jumping into the action with Columbia Records artist Wyclef Jean. Starting today, fans can tap the album, The Carnival II (Memoirs of an Immigrant), at 15,000 TouchTunes endpoints across the United States. The album is scheduled for broader release on December 4th.

The exclusive involves a number of promotional aspects. The campaign includes on-site listening parties, on-screen promotions, and an interactive survey. "Their reach into our target demographic at places where people are already listening to music is unmatched, and their ability to deliver marketing and promotional messages directly to music fans makes TouchTunes a valuable partner," explained Anthony Ellis, vice president of Urban Music Marketing and Sony BMG. TouchTunes currently carries a catalog of more than two million tracks.

Monday, November 26, 2007

snapshot 11/26/07

Online merchants happy, so far
Two online retail companies gave positive reports on the first days of the Thanksgiving weekend, saying sales were up significantly in the traditional holiday kickoff period from a year earlier. eBay Inc. said its site saw a 61 percent increase in Black Friday traffic from the 2006 period.

Meanwhile,, a comparison-shopping site run by Britain's Experian Group Ltd., said referrals from its site to participating merchants were up 47 percent on Black Friday from a year ago. According to both merchants, projections for online sales increases this season are in the 20 percent range, to about $33 billion.

Forget MTV - Apple's iPod ads are the new music-star makers
Nick Haley took just 30 minutes to pluck the Brazilian band CSS from obscurity and hurl it into the national spotlight. In September, Haley paired the band's dance-pop song "Music is My Hot, Hot Sex" with his 30-second amateur video, displaying the capabilities of Apple's new iPod Touch.

Since 2001, small, independent bands appearing in iPod commercials have sold thousands of records, been placed on numerous Billboard charts, and drawn the respect and admiration of music fans around the world. Apple's promotional influence has grown so great that music industry insiders now compare it with Oprah Winfrey's ability to create best-sellers through her book club.

Interactive Web videos clicking with bands
Indie rock band Arcade Fire recently unveiled the first video for a song from its sophomore album, Neon Bible. Set to the record's title track, the clip--which launched on the Internet in early October--allows users to control the movement of images by mousing and clicking.

Vudu is still trying to get our attention, this time with Jason Bourne
Beginning November 23, Vudu will give every new buyer copies of both “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” pre-loaded on their set-top boxes in HD. They also will have the opportunity to download the third movie in the trilogy, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, to own for $25 when it becomes available in mid December.

Web Research Drives More Real-World Purchases
E-commerce purchases are expected to grow a healthy but unspectacular 17 to 20 percent this holiday season over last year’s. But the Web’s influence over what people buy could be growing even faster. ShopLocal, a Chicago-based firm that helps retailers use their sites to drive in-store sales, says that purchases researched online but made offline, in physical stores, are booming.

In a report last spring, Forrester Research estimated that nearly $400 billion of store sales, or 16 percent of total retail sales, would be directly influenced by Web research this year. The research firm said that number would reach $1 trillion by 2011, or half of all retail purchases.

Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing
Last winter, I detailed why Microsoft’s iPod Killer would fail miserably. This year, Microsoft will fail again, but for a new set of reasons. It is not obvious that the company has figured this out itself. Here’s why the Zune will fail in 2007, and how Microsoft is painting a fraudulent portrait of interest that doesn’t exist.

Trans World Posts Loss For Q3 2007
Entertainment retailer Trans World posted a net loss of $14.3 million in the third quarter of 2007. Revenues dropped 12% to $260.6 million from $297.7 million last year. The company operated 13% fewer stores during the quarter, and same store sales were down 4% year over year.

During the conference call (read transcript), president and COO Jim Litwak revealed that same store music sales had declined by 21% (same as the Q1 decline, see below) and that music had comprised 40% of total revenues for the quarter (versus 48% last year). Video game sales increased 29% on a comp basis while home video increased 8%.

French record industry, ISPs in entente to boot off file-sharers
French president Sarkozy has introduced an Internet policy plan that will cut off the Internet access of repeat offenders. A new government agency is to be created to demand data on suspected offenders from ISPs. The plan, drawn up by a retail executive, includes a few concessions to consumers: Downloads will be available without DRM, and movies will be released on DVD six months after they are shown in theaters.

Don't stand so close to me
Augme is creating clothing containing 2D barcodes that can be scanned via a mobile phone to link to web content. Already big in Asia, these box-shaped codes offer up new potential for band T-shirts as advertising space and music sales.

Holiday Shopping Season Starts Strong in Cyberspace
Shoppers spent US$272 million online Thursday, which was Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and US$531 million the following day, according to comScore. Those figures represent increases of 29 percent and 22 percent, respectively, over last year.

Internet performance analysis company Keynote said one-third of the 30 major retail sites it monitors for its holiday retail index showed significant slowdowns. The and Lowe's Home Improvement sites were among those at which performance dropped to a level that consumers were likely abandoning their purchases, the company said. Good news for consumers is that the day-long site outages of previous years appear to be a thing of the past.

Got Verizon? Get Free Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour is giving away 3 tracks from his new DVD “Remember That Night-Live At The Royal Albert Hall” to Verizon Wireless users. The live versions of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” “WDavid_gilmourish You Were Here,” and “Comfortably Numb” can be downloaded for free from the VCast Music store via either a wireless phone or via the PC for a limited time. Verizon will begin charging for them early next year. Ringtones and ringbacks tone are also available for sale.

Texterity provides digital magazines for iPhone, iPod touch
Texterity, a publisher of digital magazines, has announced Release 1.0 of its digital magazine interface for the iPhone and iPod touch, featuring easier access, improved performance, and the ability to view pages and visit links of advertisers. Additional new features include convenient access to all magazines with a single browser window, full compatibility with the latest Safari browser, and enhanced functionality including full search, linking to websites, table of contents, send to a friend, and an easy way to subscribe to the magazines viewed. “Mobile delivery is one more way we help publishers attract new subscribers and generate results for their advertisers. As a publishing partner, it’s important that we not only lead the charge but push the envelope,” says Cimarron Buser, VP Marketing. “In this new release, we’ve also taken advantage of the power of styling abilities in the Safari browser to enhance performance and make the reader’s experience consistent with the iPhone model.” Texterity currently has 52 digital publications available through the interface, which can be accessed by visiting from an iPhone or iPod touch.

Compare MP3 Players - abi>>compare
Introducing the latest and greatest feature to your favorite MP3 player site… abi>>compare is a side-by-side comparison engine that will help you select your next MP3 player. In addition to being able compare specs it will allow you to search by and filter by specs. For instance if you are looking for a flash player for between $100-$300 with a minimum of 4GB of memory and at lease a QVGA screen, abi>>compare will show you everything available.

Slowing DVD sales could sink holidays
Blockbuster films that once racked up sales of 20 million DVDs now struggle to reach half that number. “This trend is likely due to industry maturation, the economy and new technologies. Home video, the biggest profit center for the studios, is being impacted.”
Industry leader Time Warner has seen its average DVD unit price drop 15% during the first nine months of the year, resulting in a 5% decline in video revenue on a 12% increase in units.
Falling prices and declining unit sales “implies a $19 million, or 29%, reduction in our model film’s average profit.”

John Lennon iTunes Video Album due Dec 4th
Apple's iTunes Store is set to begin offering a new John Lennon Video Album that features 21 of the rock star's music videos beginning December 4th at Starbucks locations nationwide. Priced at $25, the new Video Album accompanies collectible cards distinguished with a silver-toned photo of Lennon. The cards are redeemable from the iTunes Store for a collection of music videos which includes "Imagine," "Woman," "Happy Xmas," "(Just Like) Starting Over," "Nobody Told Me," "Mind Games," two versions of "Working Class Hero" and others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

snapshot 11/21/07

Will Media Players Sing New Tune?
As with past holiday seasons, the biggest choice consumers have to make is whether to get a music player from market leader Apple or the other guys. But companies such as Microsoft SanDisk and Creative Technology continue to fight for market share. Apple's rivals have accepted the idea that being No. 2 to Apple in the market isn't such a bad thing.

TuneCore Deepens Proposition, Broadens Into Music Videos
Digital distributor TuneCore is now expanding into music videos, a nice addition to its existing audio offering. The company offers quick distribution into a range of ecommerce outlets - most importantly iTunes - and charges a fee for the privilege. The one-stop vehicle stocks the shelves for artists, though the company stops short of crafting label-level marketing campaigns and strategies like competitors IODA or The Orchard.

The first video distributed by TuneCore was "Love Is My Religion" by Ziggy Marley. One-time video distribution fees start at $85, and like the rest of the service, artists reap 100 percent of store-specific revenues.

Delivery options expand for music, audio
It's getting harder to buy the gift of music or an audio book for someone you love, especially if they're in their tween, teen or twentysomething years. CD and cassette tape players are no longer a prime component of techno-savvy youth culture. All their popular culture is stored on an iPod (or equivalent), a mobile phone and a computer.

Sure, you could buy someone a generic gift card or a better phone plan for whatever downloads they choose, but how personal of a present is that? What does it say about your taste, your desire to share some meaningful work of art? Some new marketing/packaging solutions could resolve this dilemma, making both you and (it is hoped) your gift recipient happy. TUNING UP: While only a handful of titles are available on the new iTunes digital album card format, major labels like Sony/BMG and EMI are excited about the potential of this new music gift and delivery device.

Apple on track to sell 25 million iPods this quarter
After analyzing October sales data from market research firm NPD, investment bank Piper Jaffray said Wednesday it expects Apple will sell a record 25 million iPods during the three-month period ending December.

Songs included in Guitar Hero 3 see a dramatic leap in digital sales
Ars Technica has had a chance to look at Soundscan's sales figures for some of the tracks included in Guitar Hero 3 before and after the game's release, and it's crystal clear that having your music included in a Guitar Hero game means increased sales for labels and bands.

Take The Strokes' track "Reptilia" as an example. The week GH III was released, "Reptilia" sold 127 percent more digital copies than it had the week before. The following week saw another 96 percent jump in sales. That number stayed high the next week as well, as the song saw a modest 3 precent increase. The story was similar for Slipknot's track "Before I Forget." That song jumped up 75 percent the week of the game's release, and an impressive 140 percent the week after.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

snapshot 11/20/07

Sony BMG, Yahoo ink online video deal
Sony BMG Music Entertainment has inked a licensing deal with Yahoo Inc. that clears the way for people to upload files with music or video content by the record company's artists to Yahoo, the companies said Tuesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Like similar deals, the agreement calls for Sony BMG to receive a cut of advertising revenue, Yahoo said. The deal also covers the distribution of music videos via Yahoo player applications and widgets that computer users can place on other Web sites.

MySpace to Move Into Ad-Supported Music
Next March, fans of punk band Pennywise can go to stores to buy the group's ninth album. Or they can go to the MySpace profile of Textango, a mobile music distributor, and add it as a friend, which will allow them to download the entire album for free. The promotion is the first test by MySpace of whether it can marry its enormous reach, fledgling record label it began two years ago and roster of advertiser relationships to create an alternative for bands to the current distribution model, which nearly all participants agree is faltering.

Jupiter Echoes Negative Sentiments on Recorded Music
JupiterResearch projected ramping digital music sales in its latest report, but outlined a mostly negative fate for the broader recording industry. The company predicted healthy US-based digital sales increases to revenues of $3.4 billion over the next five years. But that represents just a fraction of projected lost revenues from CDs, already in a tailspin. "The music download business will serve as an alternative, but not a replacement to CDs," explained David Schatsky, president of JupiterResearch.

The finding is unsurprising, and mostly echoes the math of other researchers and executives. Of course, the trend represents a major problem for major recording labels, which are still struggling to pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. Part of the problem, according to Jupiter, is that only a fraction of music fans are warming to digital music downloads. And promising concepts like subscription-based platforms may have difficulty pushing past niche audiences. "For the foreseeable future, on-demand subscription services will appeal primarily to niche audiences among music aficionados," the report predicts.

"Purple Violets" debuts first on iTunes
The contemporary comedy-drama "Purple Violets" this morning became the first feature film to premiere exclusively on iTunes. Purple Violets tells the romantic tale of two successful college friends who, now professionals in their 30s, meet up with the women they loved and lost in school. The film is available via the iTunes Store for $12.99 as a 1.15GB download in widescreen format. The movie is available only from Apple's iTunes Store this month.

Rhapsody and Haier Go PC-Free with Ibiza Wi-Fi Music Player
Today Rhapsody and Haier launched the Ibiza Wi-Fi music player, which lets you download Rhapsody tracks via Wi-Fi without connecting to a PC first. This is really good news for Rhapsody users, until now there was no true portable device for managing tracks, though Apple, Microsoft and SanDisk (with Yahoo) have launched similar products.

First, there's a $330 unit available in four colors, with 30GB hard drive and Bluetooth for wireless headphones and A2DP streaming. It will also have an FM radio and "custom skinning" for a personalized UI. Next up, in the "near future" will be a $230 4GB flash-based model, and a $250 8GB one. Neither of those will have Bluetooth. Prices don't include Rhapsody portable subscription, which at last check was $15 per month. In addition to browsing all of Rhapsody's content, you can pick up free AOL Video clips, subscribe to podcasts directly from the device, and update firmware without going to a PC.

SpiralFrog: Q3 Losses of $3.4 Million; Looking to Raise Up to $25 Million
Ad-supported music startup SpiralFrog isn’t a public company, but it files financial data with the SEC per an agreement with investors. Its latest 10-QSB filing shows the company lost $3.4 million in Q3 on a revenue trickle of $20,400. The balance sheet reveals that the company has just $2.3 million in cash right now, and a total stockholder’s deficit of $6.2 million. Among its liabilities are $10.8 million in senior notes and $2.4 million in accrued minimum royalty payments. Obviously the company is in need of more cash, and the filing does say it plans to raise up to $25 million at some point in the next 12 months.

Southern Comfort Spins Rhapsody Downloads, Party Tricks
Southern Comfort is now inviting fans to upload party tricks, and offering Rhapsody downloads to participants. The giveaway, which started earlier this month, involves a total of 50,000 downloads. That action is happening online at the SoCo Night Institute (, a tongue-in-cheek academy that features user-uploaded video instructions on how to create concoctions, serve after-party snacks, and perform party tricks. Each submission is rewarded with a free Rhapsody download, and if the video is accepted into the "nightlife skills curriculum," a total of 10 downloads are offered.

Met Opera releases on-demand operas
The Metropolitan Opera and Rhapsody launched an on-demand digital music service Tuesday in which 100 operas from 1937-2006 are available for purchase. A Rhapsody Unlimited subscription is $12.99 per month and prices for individual tracks vary, the Met said.

Microsoft plans digital content future, dreams of unified services
Already, Xbox Live and the Zune Marketplace use the same back-end software and servers, despite being very different and separate networks. Allard believes that this separation will start to fade away in the future. He sees a network where consumers can rent or buy music, games, videos, or movies, and play them either on their home entertainment center, portable media player, or mobile phone, without having to patch together different video capturing and transcoding software.

Can DVDs find holiday spirit?
As if a strike and shaky economy weren't enough, Hollywood has another reason to worry: Its sacred cash cow, homevideo, is showing serious signs of further slowdown. Studios were hopeful that a record summer box office would translate into robust homevid sales this fall, but DVD sales of "Spider-Man 3," "Ratatouille" and "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" have fallen short of industry expectations. Only "Transformers" has been a homevid hit, but the biz is still holding out hope for eight $100 million-plus grossers that have yet to debut, including "Pirates of the Caribbean 3," "Superbad," "The Simpsons Movie" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

Monday, November 19, 2007

snapshot 11/19/07

Amazon launches wireless book reader "Kindle"
Online retailer said on Monday it will begin selling an electronic book reader with wireless access, the latest attempt to build consumer interest in portable reading devices. The battery-operated Amazon Kindle will sell for $399 and let users download books, newspapers and blogs over a wireless connection. It can carry about 200 books downloaded from at about $10 for new releases.

Wireless functionalities, based on cell phone broadband technology EVDO, are built into the 10-ounce, thin white device. Downloading content does not require a computer and takes less than a minute for a full-length book, the company said.

AT&T to launch 1st Napster Mobile phone this holiday season
AT&T Inc said it plans to launch a mobile phone with handset maker Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) that will be their first to support Napster Inc's wireless digital music service, in time for the holiday season. The mobile phone, exclusive to AT&T, will apart from other features allow customers to search a music catalog and preview song samples, and will be available in stores from November 23, the top U.S. phone company said in a statement.

PayPal offers secure way to shop non-PayPal sites
PayPal, the payments service arm of online auction leader eBay Inc, is set to release on Tuesday a convenient way for its customers to make payments on Web sites that don't accept PayPal directly. The new software utility, called the PayPal Secure Card, recognizes when a user lands on an e-commerce checkout page and automatically helps the user fill out the payment form in a secure way that also offers stepped-up fraud protections.

Through a partnership with credit card issuer MasterCard Inc, Secure Card generates a unique MasterCard number each time a PayPal user arrives on an e-commerce sales checkout page that does not otherwise accept its payments. "From a merchant's perspective this looks like any other MasterCard transaction," said Chris George, director of financial products for PayPal. "And it's just another PayPal purchase to the customer."

Famous names back music on social media Web sites
Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons, AOL founder Steve Case and former rap star MC Hammer are each backing a version of the latest media trend: building fans' music consumption into their social networks. The music industry has watched as fans buy less music even though they listen to more of it than ever through a proliferation of outlets on the Web. One of the biggest trends has been for fans, particularly those under the age of 30, to spend hours on social networks to connect with their friends and family. Their music is following them there.

Unlocking DRM
In the end, the long battle by the record labels against unrestricted digital music may have been little more than sound and fury signifying nothing. At least, that's how it's starting to appear now that two of the major labels in recent months have embraced in some fashion the MP3 format, which has no copy protection. The early returns from those moves indicate they've had little impact on the industry's fortunes -- for better or for worse.

Sales of DRM-free music to date have "outperformed" EMI's expectations, and Wal-Mart has seen its MP3 sales grow "considerably" since August, when its Web store made them available, representatives for the two companies said. However, neither they nor other labels or Web stores disclosed specific sales results.

International indie music trade group Merlin has launched its web site via Hypbot
Merlin is a non-profit organisation, owned by its members and is charged with representing independent music companies in enhancing the commercial exploitation of their copyrights on a global basis. With members in over 25 countries, Merlin is the first rights body focusing purely on the interests of the global independent music sector, which collectively represents 30% of all music sales.

With a globally representative board elected by its community, Merlin ensures that independents finally have a vehicle which can protect and enhance the strength, diversity and unique interests of its members and enhance their ability to compete and access new revenue streams in the ever changing world of digital music.

Digital music downloads won't replace CDs, says report
"Sales of music CDs are continuing to decline annually at double-digit rates. At the same time, we see indications that downloads of digital music are increasing," noted Mark Best, an analyst at JupiterResearch. "That said, digital music downloads are not replacing music CDs." Best was referring to a report issued today by Jupiter which forecasts that while spending on digital music downloads will step to $3.4 billion by 2012, CD sales will keep on dropping over the next five years. On the whole, the increase in downloads won't make up financially for the decline in CD sales, according to Jupiter's study.

Pandora now has classical music
feature from Pandora users is the ability to Pandora-ize classical music, and well, it is here. For all you fans of the concerto, symphony, the sonata, and all the finer styles of music the world has to offer, Pandora has your audio fix ready to download into your ears in grand style.

As with all previous Pandora ideas, you can type in the name of your favorite composer to create a station. Hard to say at this point just how much classical music is available, because it takes a while to classify all that music using the near 400 point genome scale. You will simply need to check that out for yourself, and let us know how you like it.

Amazon Kindle vs. Sony Reader
EVDO is great, but paying a 10-cent per-file fee to sync your own PDF and DOC files to it via email? Which are then converted to a proprietary format? No native PDF support? Gah! Kindle isn't so much a reader device as a portable DRM bookstore. At least you can slurp plaintext off of SD cards.

There's nothing wrong with all that, but I need something that can view what I already have, including PDF. Who doesn't already have countless files of every imaginable type? For $400, format neutrality should be assumed. EVDO's no use to me if it's just linking into paid content and Wikipedia. (UPDATE: Looks like it will read plaintext, HTML and Images off SD card, but not RTF, DOC or PDF.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

snapshot 11/16/07

CES: Home entertainment's future is interface, not hardware
The Consumer Electronics Association held a press event in New York this week where its members demonstrated the products that they hope to sell over the holidays and early next year. In looking at some of the demos, one of the things that became apparent is how entertainment devices seem to be converging on a single approach to media management. Two companies displayed hardware/software combinations for managing digital media through the television that demonstrated the point nicely: despite radically different hardware, both devices' software and capabilities wound up looking remarkably similar. Together, they suggest that the future of home entertainment is going to look a lot like Microsoft's Media Center or the Apple TV, but it may minimize the need for a computer.

iTuneski for films challenges Hollywood
A Russian movie download site is looking to undercut Western services with cheap film downloads at typical prices of about $2.99., which describes itself as a movie library, offers around 1,500 titles without copy protection. Customers can burn downloaded content onto DVDs. Titles on offer include summer blockbusters such as Spider Man 3 and 300, as well as older classics such as Apocalypse Now. Depending on quality, downloads cost from $1.99 (iPod quality) to $4.99 (DVD quality, 2.1GB movie files).

Musictoday Launches Web Store Application for Facebook(R) Pages
Musictoday, LLC, a leading provider of ecommerce solutions for music artists, today announced the launch of a Web store application on the Facebook Platformthat enables artists with Facebook Pages to sell merchandise directly to their fans through their Facebook Pages. Facebook Pages, which was launchedlast week, allows fans to interact and affiliate with artists in the same way they interact with other user profiles on Facebook Platform.

J Allard: The Failures of the Zune and the Record Labels
When I spoke to Mr. Allard, he was up front about Microsoft’s slow start. But he defended the approach of “fail fast” and learn. And in typical Microsoft fashion, he talked about the first generations of Zune as early moves in a long-term strategy. (That Xbox actually has become successful, unlike many recent Microsoft efforts, bolsters his credibility on this somewhat.)

The Connected Home—Disconnected
Sonos joins a growing list of systems, such as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and TiVo HD, that can pull content off the Net without a PC.

TuneCore offers iTunes Music Video sales
Earlier this year, I posted about TuneCore, a service that allows you to sell your music on iTunes. Now TuneCore has given us the heads up that the service has expanded to include Music Video sales. You can upload your music videos to iTunes and sell them alongside all the normal music labels. Selling your music video is kinda pricey. Expect to pay $125 plus $20/year for a 5 minute-or-less video. Compare that with the $20 you'd pay to upload an album with eight tracks that I priced out in my original post.

J Allard: Microsoft’s Plan to Be King of All Media
The most significant thing he talked about was the way the company is building an online service that will be the back end for all sorts of communication and entertainment. Xbox Live, the rather successful online aspect of Microsoft’s video game franchise, uses the same back end as the far less successful online service for Zune. Indeed, users get one account for both.

This service will at some point add more options for video and mobile phones, Mr. Allard said, without offering details. Actually, Microsoft has been quite successful selling video downloads and online movie rentals through the Xbox Live service already.

Watermarking has its day
The Digital Watermarking Alliance held its first event Thursday, hosting a half-day symposium here to drum up interest in using digital watermarking and fingerprinting technology to manage and protect content.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

snapshot 11/15/07

McCartney: Beatles should go digital next year
As he rolls out a new DVD and expanded edition of his latest album, Paul McCartney is predicting the Beatles' catalog will make its long-awaited and long-desired arrival in the digital realm next year. McCartney tells that "it's all happening soon. Most of us are all sort of ready. The whole thing is primed, ready to go -- there's just maybe one little sticking point left, and I think it's being cleared up as we speak, so it shouldn't be too long."

Slacker Portable Personalized Radio Player Video and Gallery
It's not as small as a nano or flash Zune, but its got a beautiful 4" screen and a offbeat capacitive touch strip for quick scrolling. The interface still confuses us a little: we know this is one of those products that will make more sense as you use it, because it's trying to do something different than everything that's happened up until now. You carry around a player that is essentially building its own vast virtual music collection of songs it thinks you might like.

Hit the Bango Button to Bring Content to Mobile Phones
With content providers struggling to bring Web material to handheld devices, Bango debuted software Nov. 15 that allows anyone using a social networking site or blog to push content out to mobile phone users with a click of the "Bango Button." The Bango Button lets content providers launch music files, photos and other media from sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Orkut to browsers on mobile phones.

Engadget founder Peter Rojas's new digital music site RCRD LBL launches
A joint venture with Downtown Records (who retain such acts as Gnarles Barkley and Cold War Kids), RCRD LBL represents a completely fresh take on the distribution structure of music, offering all-digital, all-free music for streaming or download without DRM. Yeah, seriously, free, unrestricted, legal music downloads. RCRD LBL's catalogue already has music from partner labels like Warp and Dim Mak, too, with tracks from a few artists you may have heard from like Mos Def, Bloc Party, and The Stills.

Amazon to debut Kindle e-book reader Monday
On Monday, the online retail giant will unveil its Kindle e-book reader at a high-profile event in New York, an industry source told CNET Thursday. CEO Jeff Bezos is expected to be present for the announcement, to be held at the chic W Hotel in Union Square.
The Kindle is equipped with a Wi-Fi connection that taps into an Amazon e-book store, which users can access to purchase new electronic books--and Amazon has reportedly signed onto a deal with Sprint for EVDO access. Additionally, the device comes with a headphone jack for audiobooks, as well as an e-mail address.

New RealPlayer software offers iPod video transfers
RealNetworks has introduced the latest version of its RealPlayer software, which includes the ability to download and record non-DRM protected videos from “thousands of sites” for playback online or offline. As part of the RealPlayer Plus package, users will be able to transfer these downloaded videos to the iPod nano (with video), iPod classic, and fifth-generation iPod. “Now consumers can use the one-click download functionality to view Web video offline on their PC or transfer video to popular portable media devices like the iPod,” said Harold Zeitz, senior vice president of media software and services at Real.

Listen To Any Song Any Time For Free
You have to try out Songza. Type in almost any song title or artist name and in seconds you’ll see a list of versions. Click on it an listen to if for free. Not a 30 second sample, but a full length version. There are also cool features to create playlists and share songs on your web site or blog. via HypeBot is a new online community for emerging artists and music executives. The goal is to help them find the information they need to build a sustainable career in the music industry. (Shades of The Musical Middle Class!) The community features a Wiki, Forums, DIY Tips, Resource Directory, Business News and guest blogs from industry thought leaders.

iLike Publishes Unreleased U2 Song
This is a huge win for music site iLike - U2’s Bono recorded an interview with the iLike founders talking about the history of a new song called Wave of Sorrow. The song, which is being released on Tuesday next week as part of the remastered Joshua Tree album and DVD, was written in the 80’s but never recorded.

It’s available in two places - on iLike and on iLike’s Facebook application. The Facebook application is particularly interesting - 1.2 million fans have signed up specifically to get new U2 news and were notified as soon as the video went up two days ago. So far, over 2,000 fan messages have been left on the video. This was an experiment, says a representative of the company. No press was notified when the video went live - they wanted to see how fast it spread virally and without any promotion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

snapshot 11/14/07

Singing a New Zune
Microsoft has greatly improved the Zune hardware and software this time. But it seems to be competing with Apple’s last efforts, not its newest ones.

New Direction For SnoCap: Free, 15-Song Embeddable Mixes
SnoCap, the Shawn Fanning-founded company that MySpace tapped to create the MyStores used by its artists to sell MP3s, has long asserted the value of its proprietary digital registry, which lists 6 million songs along with their metadata and acoustic fingerprints. The company, which is currently seeking a buyer, has packaged this registry in a compelling new way for bloggers and users of social networks, who can use SnoCap's new Boomshuffle service to create 15-song mixtape widgets that can be embedded wherever HTML is used

Jay-Z Pulls iTunes Distribution on Latest Release
Jay-Z has opted not to license his latest album effort to iTunes, a move designed to protect the album format. The album, American Gangster, is connected to the major motion picture bearing the same name. Discussing the move, Jay-Z noted that "as movies are not sold scene by scene, this collection will not be sold as individual singles." Fans can download the entire album download from other digital stores, including Amazon, Rhapsody, and But Apple requires all artists to offer individual downloads, a sticking point for Jay-Z.

Burning Question: Where Can I Buy DRM-Free Music?
With both EMI and Universal on board, Wal-Mart currently has the best selection of major-label music. Sure, the browser-based store works only with Internet Explorer (Firefox is coming), editorial is less than comprehensive, and navigation is clunkier than driving a U-Haul. But it's well worth it for unfettered tunes at rock-bottom prices.

This Holiday Season, Electronics Top Wish Lists
The survey, by the Consumer Electronics Association, hints at what some retail analysts are predicting: Entertainment gear and gadgets will take a larger share from consumers' wallets this holiday season. "We believe this Christmas season could be dominated by three major categories within the consumer electronics space: flat-panel televisions, videogames/accessories, and Apple-branded products," Credit Suisse analysts wrote in a recent note to clients.

Creative sells 25 million MP3 players
It's been a long and winding road, but Creative announced today that it's sold 25 million MP3 players since it first shipped the parallel port-only Nomad in 1999. While that's not quite as many players as a certain fruit company, it's still a pretty astonishing number, and it speaks to the giant shift that's taken place in how we all consume media here in the future.

Haier and AOL's PMP makes its debut as the ibiza Rhapsody
We haven't heard much of anything about Haier and AOL's WiFi-enabled PMP since CES way back at the beginning of the year, but it looks like the device has now finally made its way out the door, with it now dubbed the ibiza Rhapsody. From the looks of it, there's three different versions of the player, including a 4GB, an 8GB, and a 30GB model (each also available in a range of colors). Apart from that, however, the players all appear to be identical, with each boasting a 2.5-inch display, an FM radio, built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and, of course, integrated support for Rhapsody-To-Go and AOL's video service. Nice enough specs to be sure, although the player isn't exactly on the cheap side, with Amazon currently listing the 4, 8, and 30GB players for $230, $250, and $330, respectively.

Live Free or DRM
The upcoming DVD release on November 20 of Live Free or Die Hard will be the first to allow digital copies to your PC and one other USB-attached device. That’s two copies for the price of one DVD. The folks at Fox are calling this a Fox Digital Copy, and plan to roll it out with future DVDs as well. The catch: any device you put it on needs to be compatible with Microsoft’s PlayforSure DRM technology. That excludes all iPods, Sony PSPs, and even Zunes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

snapshot 11/13/07

Mix tapes meet the 21st century
Well, a new company called Mixaloo is letting people once again make their own mix tapes, with a 21st century digital twist. The company, which opened its site up to the public on Tuesday, will allow users to comb through a music library of more than 3 million songs, including music from all the major record labels as well as top independents. Users can create digital mix tapes from the available songs and post the mixes on popular social networking sites such as News Corp.’s MySpace, Google’s Blogger and Facebook, or e-mail them directly to people.

The digital mixes will feature 30-second clips of the songs. And if people like what they hear and want more, they can buy the mix. Songs will cost 99 cents each, similar to the price charged for individual tracks on popular online music stores. The creators of the mixes will split the profits from the digital music sales 50/50 with Mixaloo and users also can receive points that can be redeemed for merchandise.

Bebo announces 'Open Media' platform for audio and video content
Think of it as a sort of hybrid between MySpace's MySpaceTV portal and Facebook's new "pages" for companies. It's an "open platform" that can be joined without licensing agreements and charges no fee to content providers, but it's limited to entertainment content like video and music. According to a release from the company, this will offer the social network "thousands of hours of premium entertainment content from major global entertainment brands and emerging media companies."

Wendy's and Rhapsody Team Up to Give Away Up to One Hundred Million Songs
endy's(R) and Rhapsody(R) have joined forces to delight music fans across the country with the giveaway of up to 100,000,000 songs. Starting this week, every Wendy's medium- and large-sized combo meal sold at participating restaurants will include a unique code redeemable for any of Rhapsody's over 4.5 million songs. The Wendy's/Rhapsody song download giveaway will be supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign including broadcast and online media.

With the purchase of any Wendy's medium- and large-sized combo meal through December, consumers will receive a code to redeem at for a song download of their choice. Consumers will also be able to enter the "Combo Up to Download" sweepstakes for a chance to win a 50-song download bundle from Rhapsody or one of 100 SanDisk Sansa e280R Rhapsody portable mp3 players.

Long-Form Video Gaining Viewers on the Web
Move Networks—which powers the media players and back-end streaming infrastructure for ABC, ESPN360, Fox On-Demand, and the Discovery Channel—released the following data today for videos streamed from all its customers’ Websites collectively:
  • So far in November, more than 100,000 new individuals are watching long-form video (anything 20 minutes or over) online each day, twice as many as in August.
  • In November, the average session length is more than 50 minutes.
  • In October 2007, more than 6 million people watched long form streaming video online.
  • Since March 2007, Move has streamed almost 50 million hours of television.

Monday, November 12, 2007

snapshot 11/12/07

Microsoft says Zune players available Tuesday
Microsoft Corp said Monday it will begin sales of three new versions of its Zune digital media player -- its answer to Apple Inc's iPod -- on Tuesday. Microsoft originally introduced the new models last month. They can wirelessly and automatically update their music, photos and videos when placed near a user's computer.

New Zunes get unboxed, reviewed, and Microsoft firms up plans
Well Zuneinites, the new models are primed and ready for store shelves tomorrow, but we've got first looks and reviews today. As Microsoft's new media players make their way into the hands of eager beavers across the internets, we're here for you, picking up the pieces and putting it all together. As it stands right now, we've got videos and reviews from a number of sources, including (but not limited) to: CNET, Zune Thoughts, and Zunerama. All of the sites currently have unboxing videos and / or reviews of the new units, and Zune Thoughts even has an informative video on some firmware update problems they discovered with the Zune 80. Some interesting Zune Marketplace info has also come out, including details that the DRM-free track cost will be $.99, or 79 Microsoft Points (the same as pricing on protected tracks).

Microsoft says in talks to buy Musiwave
Microsoft Corp said on Monday it has entered exclusive talks to buy mobile music service company Musiwave, a unit of Openwave Systems Inc. Microsoft said an acquisition would bring Musiwave's relationships with music labels, device makers and mobile operators together with Microsoft's Connected Entertainment technologies including Windows Mobile, Zune and MSN.

MySpace first friend Tom leads music efforts
MySpace president/co-founder Tom Anderson -- a.k.a. each member's default first friend "Tom" -- guides a number of the site's music initiatives, from enabling bands to upload MP3s to launching the MySpace Records label. This fall brought the first MySpace-branded tour, featuring headliners hellogoodbye and Say Anything. The company recently hosted the second annual Rock for Darfur event, which featured 37 concerts on four continents, with performances from the likes of Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5, Suzanne Vega, Megadeth, the Decemberists and Brandi Shearer.

NBC Direct launches, everybody still misses iTunes
The service allows for free downloads of NBC shows up to seven days after they air, but it's Windows and IE only -- which does nothing to help Mac users left stranded by Amazon Unbox. The episodes also delete automatically after 48 hours, and the player installation requires all sorts of hoop jumping and Windows Media ickyness. There's also no mobile device integration or really much of any reason at all to choose the downloaded versions over online versions unless your internet connection is shaky or you just want to screw over the writers a bit more effectively. Hopefully promised iTunes-competitive features like pay-to-download (the current version includes unskippable ads) won't be long in coming.

UPDATE 1-Trans World Entertainment gets buyout proposal from CEO
Entertainment-software retailer Trans World Entertainment Corp said it got a buyout proposal from its largest shareholder, Chief Executive Officer Robert Higgins, for $5 per share in cash. The offer price represents a premium of about 29 percent over Trans World's Thursday's closing price of $3.88.

Intra-Body Communication: Use Your Body to Download Data
Imagine being able to download a movie or album to your media player by simply touching a promotional poster or exchanging contact information with a potential client via a handshake. KDDI's new Intra-Body Communication technology could make this a reality by using the human body as a conduit to transmit high-volume data. In the image above, the video is being transmitted from the girl's hand, through her body to the glasses, and out to the monitor.

Friday, November 9, 2007

snapshot 11/9/07

iLike Consolidates Promotional Chaos, Offers Single-Point Updating
Artists have more places than ever to promote their music, but that creates an almost unmanageable maintenance issue. Instead of writing songs, developing artists are now being dragged into endless and repetitive promotional updates. A number of companies and entrepreneurs are addressing that concern, including quickly growing networking play iLike. Just recently, the company unveiled its Universal Artist Dashboard, a tool designed to let artists universally update a large number of profile pages.

The iLike application is already well-entrenched in Facebook, and that has been a serious traffic driver for the company. In fact, any music-related Facebook discussion is woefully incomplete without the iLike application, which powers a massive number of artist profiles on the destination. But iLike is also a member of the newly-formed, Google-backed OpenSocial, a universal platform designed to populate content across numerous social networking destinations - including MySpace. OpenSocial was just announced, though the iLike Dashboard will eventually tap the broad network of destinations.

Alongside the Dashboard release, iLike also constructed 160,000 profile pages for artists that had not already done so, an oddly proactive move.

Blockbuster makes DVDs searchable on Facebook
Blockbuster is taking its brand into the Facebook social networking platform under a new marketing scheme called Facebook Ads. The new program integrates about a dozen corporate brands into the Facebook universe, which is one of the fastest growing social networking applications and challenging Rupert Murdoch's MySpace as the dominate online community platform.

Blockbuster will use a new application called "Movie Clique" to allow Facebook users to search through Blockbuster's library of movie titles, create lists of movies they want to see and share movie ratings and reviews with other Facebook users. Users who also are subscribers to Blockbuster’s online Total Access program can use Movie Clique to rent movies directly from Blockbuster within the Facebook Web site.

10-Q Watch: RNWK: $8 Million Paid on MTVN’s $230 Million Note to Rhapsody America
As part of the Rhapsody America JV between MTVN and RealNetworks, (NSDQ: RNWK) MTVN agreed to contribute a five-year $230 million note, obligating RNWK to buy $230 million worth of advertising MTVN cable channels. Essentially, it was a mechanism to guarantee and quantify MTVN’s contribution of advertising inventory. In its 10-Q filed today, RealNetworks states that as of September 30th (the end of the quarter), MTVN has made total payments on the note of $8 million and that RealNetworks has booked an equity gain of $4.1 million (based on its 51 percent holding in the JV). Other financial details:
  • MTVN has contributed $7.68 million in intangible assets, $4 million of which is its trade name and trademarks. Technology and Subscribers accounted for $1.9 million and $1.68 million respectively.
  • MTVN and RealNetworks have additional funding obligations of $16.7 million and $17.4 million respectively in December 2007.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

snapshot 11/8/07

Companies fail to block music threat
Tim Most companies do not stop staff from downloading music from the Internet, despite the risks posed to work computers, a survey has found. Two-thirds of IT managers polled said they do not block employees from taking music off the Web, even though they named it as the biggest threat.

Blockbuster tests pricing, new formats
No. 1 movie rental chain Blockbuster Inc said on Thursday it was testing pricing for its rental formats and will experiment with its store layouts to add downloading stations, books or beverages in a bid to shore up its customer base.

Ideas for its retail format include creating an interactive area in stores for children, a destination for downloading entertainment onto portable media devices or a kiosk for Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 video game console.

Sneak Peek At Next Week's Zune Upgrade (Including DRM-Free Tracks)
In general, the Zune community upgrade is about changing the focus from device-to-device to PC-to-PC social networking -- a good idea, considering that not enough people own the devices to make the in-person sharing feature very appealing.

Members of the community (no Zune required) will be able to create an online profile called a Zune Card, with their own image, background, bio, music listening habits, and currently-playing song. Like other social networks, this one will let you add friends and comment on their pages. Friends will be able to recommend tracks to each other, but will only hear a 30-second clip, as opposed to the "3 full listens" limit that the device-to-device sharing permits. Zune Cards can be embedded on other social networks, where they will continue to show up-to-date information. The Zune community will also host Last.FM-style charts that show which artists, tracks, and albums are getting the most play.

Zune Marketplace will see the addition of a DRM-free MP3 of about 1 million tracks, out of the over 3 million the store sells. According to Zune's marketing director, Microsoft refused to add watermarks to these unprotected MP3 files, although some labels had apparently asked that they be used. Genres will be expanded from 9 to 17, plus additional subgenres. A folk music expert I know says he's been employed by Zune to flesh out their folk section, and I've heard other data that indicates Microsoft is serious about incorporating lots of musical expertise into the store.

eMusic Hits 350K Subs & Adds Labels
eMusic announced that it has surpassed 350,000 paid subscribers with a new catalog total of more than three million tracks from 20,000 labels. Since establishing its subscription model in 2003, eMusic has sold 165 million downloads. The 350,000 subscriber benchmark comes just six months after eMusic reached 300,000. eMusic customers include conventional web-based subscribers and subscribers to eMusic Mobile with AT&T.

The Promise of Digital Music: Still a Few Dots Unconnected
Catchy song that no one recognizes. Oops, no song ID system on any of our devices. Solution: ask bartender, get band's name.
Search for WiFi to download song from iTunes store. Oops, no WiFi. Edge network won't let you download or stream songs. We give up because we're supposed to be in a bar engaging with our friends, not music shopping.
Some time later, half the group re-locates to pizza place. What the heck, let's try for WiFi again, because we're media analysts, dammit. Success!
Search iTunes on band's name. Problem: band name is also popular song title. Entails more searching. Possible solution: search on band's name on other sites. Problem: iPhone malfunction -- inability to enter text in Yahoo Music search form. Back to iTunes. Play clips of, like, seven or eight songs, because we're not just media analysts, dammit, we're digital music analysts.
Finally, success! Song identified and purchased from iTunes store.
Verdict: Way too much effort for normal human beings.

Radiohead's Web venture spooks Wall Street
Wall Street is taking record labels to task for lackluster Web sales, spiraling CD revenue, and the defections of marquee acts such as Madonna and Radiohead.

"No matter how many people the RIAA sues, no matter how many times music executives point to the growth of digital music, we believe an increasing majority of worldwide consumers simply view recorded music as free," Greenfield wrote.

iTunes Alternatives
As the comment section from our recent post about the latest iTunes update shows, not everyone is in love with iTunes. Especially for Windows users, the program can be buggy, hog memory/system resources and it tries to force users to organize and store their music in a certain way (hey, some of us have very specific, if a bit arcane, organizational methods and we don't want iTunes to force us to put everything in "My Music" in artist/album folders).

The program's strength lies with its perfect integration with the iPod and the iTunes Store (which for all intents and purposes, IS iTunes the application). So what do you do if you don't like iTunes - but still want a program that will easily (and reliably) work with your iPod? We've scoured the web and found the best iTunes alternatives, both for music and iPod management for Windows, Linux, and yes, even some OS X alternatives.

Further evidence for iTunes video rentals
Evan DiBiase has posted more evidence for upcoming iTunes video rentals. After the recent iTunes 7.5 upgrade he examined the new binary to find what strings had been added. What he found sure looks like video rentals and, possibly, Video on Demand. New strings include: rental-content, rental-bag, getvodaccountselectionlist, GET VOD ACCOUNT SELECTION LIST and supportsRentals among others.

The Orchard Plays Madison Avenue Card, Spins Branding Division
The Orchard is now jumping into the branding and advertising arena, a growing area of importance for the music industry. The digital distributor unveiled its Branding & Agency division this week, and outlined plans to thread music and technology into advertising campaigns. "This group's mantra is, 'Engage Customers Through Music,'" explained Orchard president and chief executive Greg Scholl. "We help our clients give their consumers the music these customers want, while developing and retaining brand awareness for the product or service the customer provides."

The group is targeting retailers, big-name brands, and advertisers, all of whom are increasingly tapping music to win the hearts-and-minds of consumers. The Orchard pointed to a number of existing relationships, including those involving P&G, Pringles, Seagate, Hallmark, Jaguar, Badoit, Euro, Digitas, and Young & Rubicam. The move further broadens the company model beyond digital aggregation and distribution, a core component of the Orchard model.