Thursday, July 31, 2008

snapshot 7/31/08

Mobile Music Anyone? mSpot Passes Four Million Subs
Mobile music provider mSpot has now reached its four millionth subscriber, according to data shared Wednesday with Digital Music News. The Palo Alto-based company nearly quadrupled its subscriber tally over the past year, thanks to a broadening network of carrier and content partners. That includes all four major labels, various independents, and major media brands like ABC, ClearChannel, Fox Sports, NPR, Paramount Pictures and Disney. In total, mSpot powers services for a eight US-based carriers. The company specializes in the delivery of a number of mobile music assets, including music, custom ringtones, live radio streams and videos. The mSpot product portfolio includes mSpot Radio, mSpot Remix, and mSpot Music Videos.

Amazon: The Avis of digital music
But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had a much better plan for a digital music offering than his naysayers realized. Ten months after its debut, Amazon has overtaken competitors like Wal-Mart and RealNetworks' Rhapsody to become the second biggest online store after iTunes, according to market research firm NPD. Now two music industry sources tell Fortune that Amazon is talking to MySpace about becoming the social networking giant's download store partner when it rolls out its highly anticipated joint venture with Universal, Warner Music and SonyBMG in September.

Here's another thing that helped. Amazon wouldn't have attracted many customers if it sold songs for 99 cents just like iTunes. So it cut its prices. Today, Amazon offers one-sixth of the 5.9 million tunes in its library - including the 100 most popular tracks - for 89 cents each. It sells some classic albums - like Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" - for as little as $1.98.

Disney announces 5 million movies sold via iTunes
During a conference call for the company's Q3 2008 results, Bob Iger, president of the Walt Disney Corporation, has announced that since agreeing to sell movies through the iTunes Store, the company has sold over five million titles. Iger insists however that the presence of Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the board of directors has not influenced any decisions on content distribution. "Some of our agreements were signed before the purchase of Pixar," says Iger.

You Too Can Listen to U2!
The ENTIRE U2 catalog is now available for purchase in the Rhapsody MP3 store. This is the first time the entire catalog is available in DRM-free MP3 format and Rhapsody MP3 has it because Bono and The Edge and... and...ya, they're cool like that.

Yahoo Music Refunds Can Be Rhapsody Credit
Users affected by the shutdown of Yahoo Music Unlimited will also have the option of receiving credits from Rhapsody, Yahoo! said Wednesday.

Buying Free Music
Nine Inch Nails' "The Slip" has been available as free download from the band's website since early May. But enough eMusic subscribers have downloaded a paid version (released last week) to push it to the #15 spot on the daily download chart. The album is also available as an mp3 download from (and there's a CD version with a bonus DVD), but it ranks considerably lower on the daily album download chart -- it's currently #80.UPDATE -- Coolfer notes that the album was near the top of the Amazon chart when it was priced at $5. The album is also available in the iTunes store for $9.90, though it's currently not among the top-100 albums.

Earnings: RealNetworks’s Q2 Revenues Up, In Losses; Music Revenues Increase Still Slow
…and a 1 percent increase in music revenue to $37.2 million (on music front Q208 is a decline from sequential Q108, where music revenues were $38.1 million). More on music: its total number of subscribers-- including Rhapsody, Rhapsody-to-Go, premium radio, and music-on-demand—are flat from Q108 and Q207, at 2.675 million.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

snapshot 7/30/08

Dell tests music player to renew iPod battle: report
In recent months, personal computer maker Dell Inc., has been testing a digital music player that could go on sale as early as September, the Wall Street Journal newspaper said, citing several Dell officials. The music player which Dell has been testing features a small navigation screen and basic button controls to scroll through music play lists, the Journal reported.

It would connect to online music services via a Wi-Fi Internet connection, and Dell would likely price the model at less than $100, the Journal said. Dell's first foray into the music market in 2003 was a huge disappointment. It withdrew from the music-player market after its DJ Ditty player failed to make major inroads. Instead of simply selling a piece of hardware tied to someone else's music service, as it did in 2003, Dell is working on software for a range of portable PCs that will let users download and organize music and movies from various online sources, the paper added.

Pandora Argues That Web Royalties Will Kill It
Should Internet radio stations, cable providers, and satellite radio stations pay the same amount to license the content they provide? What model should be used to determine royalty rates? Why is traditional radio getting a free ride when it comes to royalties? Representatives from Pandora clashed on Tuesday with SoundExchange, the organization that collects royalties for copyright owners in the music business, over these very issues. Pandora reiterated that current royalty rates could potentially put it out of business, but SoundExchange suggested that Pandora was quite capable of paying its way given projected Internet radio advertising revenues, as well as the success of its iPhone app.

“Just like your local record store”, Universal launches Lost Tunes
Launched first in the UK, with international versions of the site expected in the coming months, Lost Tunes is attempting to tap into a bygone era where music fans regularly scoped out local record stores looking for rare gems. “Lost Tunes comes with a secret stash of records you can’t find anywhere else online” the welcome blurb boasts. “Anywhere else online” being an indirect reference to Apple’s iTunes, hence Universal’s choice of name.

To that end, tracks are offered as mp3s, encoded at the higher bitrate of 320kpbs, and compatible with almost any digital music player, including iPods. Lost Tunes’ catalog currently consists of 602 “handpicked albums”, of which 130 you won’t find offered as a download anywhere else.

A new generation of music lovers is starting to groove to the sweet sound of vinyl records, reviving sales of the kind of turntables their parents used to own. A lot of older technology has been swept away by the digital age, but old-fashioned analog audio is still alive. Record and turntable sales indicate there is new interest in the sound of vinyl. Turntable shipments topped 32,000 in April, one-third higher than the 19,000 record players sold the same month a year ago, according to the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington. That's less than 1 percent of total music-player sales, but the increase has not escaped the notice of store managers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

snapshot 7/29/08

BlackBerry Thunder due Oct 8 with Rhapsody?
The BlackBerry Thunder now has a specific release date and over-the-air music downloads, if a leak is found to be accurate. Research in Motion's first-ever touch BlackBerry is now purportedly due to launch with Verizon on October 8th and will have access to Verizon's version of RealNetworks' Rhapsody service. The feature may supply a technical advantage over the iPhone, which is both prevented from downloading whole songs outside of Wi-Fi and must pay per track rather than getting a flat rate for songs.

RoyaltyShare Adds 7 Download Stores
RoyaltyShare has added to seven new digital services to its Content Management system: AmieStreet, Hot Topic/ ShockHound, PassAlong Networks, Puretracks and SpiralFrog. Record label customers and distributors using RoyaltyShare's Content Management Service can now deliver content directly to these and 72 other digital music retailers. RoyaltyShare's offering is an alternative to the standard aggregation model... offering record labels an on-demand system for managing digital sales, including metadata, storage, delivery and sales processing, as well as, analytics for monitoring sales and artist and mechanical royalty processing at lower cost than most digital distributors.

Hollywood shows musicians the money
DEVELOPING alternative revenue streams first is no longer a case of putting the cart before the horse for recording artists, especially the independent acts who are finding that placements in television and film provide a bit of financial freedom. THE "MOVIE MONEY" as several young artists call it, is having a dramatic effect on the direction they take with their albums. The bonus money provided by placements has led to everything from major label signings to enhancing the sound quality on an album to being in a position to offer downloads for free.

Ad-Supported Music Startup trueAnthem Raises $2 Million
The startup raised $2 million and added Adidas as a sponsor. Unlike most free ad-supported music, songs from trueAnthem are available as MP3 files (the ones I downloaded were 128kbps) and begin with brief audio advertisements. There is also an ad at the bottom of each widget from which songs are streamed and downloaded. The press release says ad-free tracks can be purchased for $0.99 apiece, but I have not found a widget with this option.

Westerberg on Amazon: an exercise in frustration
I'm a Replacements fan. Paul Westerberg's new album, 49:00, sounded intriguing. Like Radiohead and Trent Reznor and others, he's released it as a download first. Unlike these previous experiments, 49:00 is sold as a single album-length track. And while he's not technically giving it away, it costs only $0.49--a bit more than one cent per minute. (Paradoxically, the album is not 49 minutes long, but 43:55. The number refers to his 49th birthday, which occurs on the last day of 2008.)

So I headed over to's MP3 store. The front page has 49:00 as a highlighted selection. But the album download page says this song is available as a "full album only."And you can't download it by clicking on the title. Helpful. After stumbling around a between title pages, I finally figured out the only way to download the album is to click on the button on the upper right that says "Buy MP3 Album with 1-Click."

Monday, July 28, 2008

snapshot 7/28/08

Label merges software to build Fanbase
Fans of Atlantic Records acts like T.I., Shinedown and Simple Plan need only start up their computer to connect with their favorite artist, via Fanbase, a new application created by the label, Billboard has learned. The software uses Adobe AIR runtime technology to engage fans directly on their desktop: No Googling, repetitive clicking or downloading required. The so-called RIA -- rich Internet application -- merges an imeem music player, video content from YouTube and Brightcove, and a Meebo chat feature, plus up-to-date info on tour dates and new releases, into a single window.

Yahoo To Reimburse Customers Of DRM-Protected Music
Yahoo on Friday said it would reimburse customers who bought music that can no longer be easily played as a result of the Web portal shutting down its online music store. "You'll be compensated for whatever you paid for the music," Davis told InformationWeek. "We haven't said exactly what we will do, but we will take care of our customers."

The company planned to reimburse customers on a case-by-case basis, and has posted an FAQ page that includes a "contact customer care" button at the bottom for former Yahoo Music Store customers. Davis said customers could be reimbursed in several ways, including getting back the money they paid for the music or receiving MP3 versions without DRM technology, which means they can be imported into any music playing software.

Universal looks to bundled subscription service for the future
Universal believes that a bundled broadband plus music subscription package in the UK is an “inevitability”, after signing a deal with Sky to launch an innovative subscription plus download music service.

Universal Music Group International senior vice president of digital Rob Wells is unequivocal n believing his company has an enduring model. He states, “Universal believes that subscription is the future of music consumption.”

Five ways to make digital music sing
Crave checks in with an audiophile about the best options for a high-quality listening experience in the Digital Age.

Napster 2.0's sad song
Today, Napster, headquartered in Los Angeles, has only 760,000 subscribers who pay about $13 a month to listen to its library of 6 million songs. The company has never been profitable. Napster lost $16 million in its most recent fiscal year ending in March on what it described in a press release as "record revenues" of $127.5 million. Wall Street has pretty much given up. Napster's stock price has fallen 69% to $1.44 in the 3 1/2 years since its re-launch.

RAWRIP Pays 100% Download Royalty
RAWRIP, a new ad-supported music site and distribution service is paying indie artists 100% of royalties earned from downloaded tracks. Fans can stream music free and store songs in personal music libraries.
Beyond the site, artists can also sell their tracks via a 'Raw Store' widget that pays 100% from sales on websites, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, etc. 'The Rippler' is a proprietary exploration engine that analyzes each track by a number of characteristics that are indexed and cross-referenced with RAWRIP's catalogue of over 1 million songs.

Say So Long to an Old Companion: Cassette Tapes
While the cassette was dumped long ago by the music industry, it has lived on among publishers of audio books. Many people prefer cassettes because they make it easy to pick up in the same place where the listener left off, or to rewind in case a certain sentence is missed. For Hachette, however, demand had slowed so much that it released its last book on cassette in June, with “Sail,” a novel by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

The funeral at Hachette — an office party in the audio-book department — mirrored the broader demise of cassettes, which gave vinyl a run for its money before being eclipsed by the compact disc.

Friday, July 25, 2008

snapshot 7/25/08

Universal Music signs Rolling Stones deal
Vivendi's Universal Music has signed an exclusive, long-term worldwide recording agreement with The Rolling Stones, in a deal that will be a blow to the band's previous record company EMI.

ZVUE's 1GB Journey DAP comes with 22 tracks you'll never delete
The item we're about to explain is most certainly the best thing to ever happen to the digital audio player market. ZVUE's 1GB pre-loaded Journey MP3 player not only reeks of the early '80s in design alone, but this thing actually arrives with 22 Journey tracks loaded on (11 new joints, 11 of your childhood favorites). It's like buying Journey's greatest hits and getting a DAP for free -- go on, be good to yourself, it's only $39.88.

Amazon To Power Upcoming MySpace Music Downloads
The as-yet unlaunched MySpace Music will likely partner with Amazon to handle all music ecommerce transactions, we’ve heard from multiple sources. Apple and Rhapsody are also bidding for the business, however, and one source says a final decision hasn’t yet been made.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

snapshot 7/24/08

Britain agrees plan to tackle online music piracy
Britain's music and film industries launched a fight back against online piracy on Thursday, persuading the six biggest Internet providers to send warning letters to those suspected of illegal file-sharing.

Pretenders pour "Concrete" into MP3s
The Chrissie Hynde-led rock band the Pretenders will roll out their new album, "Break Up the Concrete," as one MP3 per week leading up to the September 23 release of the CD via Shangri-La Music. The first song, "Boots of Chinese Plastic," is available for free download via AOL's and the Pretenders' Web site. Subsequent tracks will roll out through various partners, among them QuickTime,, and iLike.

If Microsoft Opens the Xbox Is an App Store for Apple TV Next?
Opening up game consoles could actually be very important in revolutionizing all of home entertainment. Remember that Xbox 360, Tivo and Apple TV boxes are fundamentally similar devices optimized for different purposes. All of them take information from a hard drive and an Internet connection to display entertainment on a television screen. Yes, the Xbox has much better graphics processing and an optical drive. The Tivo decodes cable and broadcast signals. But the platforms are converging. Xbox does a brisk business in downloaded movies and has a new deal with Netflix. Tivo downloads movies from Amazon and now links to YouTube.

So think about this: a version of Apple’s app store for Apple TV. This could serve as a basic game platform for Apple–not so basic if the company beefs up the graphic chip in the device. Moreover, apps for Apple TV could offer the sort of info snacking that iPhone apps do: weather, yellow pages, photo sharing, viral videos and so on. I assume video, photos and entertainment apps would be most popular, but there is someone who will do anything. And that’s the beauty of an open environment.

Want to Beat the iPhone? First Beat the iPod.
Someone savvy will come along and build a program with a nice interface that gives you options for the source for your downloads. Wal Mart, Amazon and DRM free iTunes songs would be sourced along with P2P sources. Users could choose where to get the song/movie of their choice from.

Microsoft in first meetings for Zune phone?
Microsoft has held its first concrete meetings to design a Zune-branded cellphone, according to an unconfirmed but allegedly credible leak from jkOnTheRun. The device is well away from completion but is intended to use multi-touch input and would use a variant of Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft's first major overhaul to its smartphone platform since 2005. Windows Live services will be a major focus along with the Zune's emphasis on media playback.

Yahoo pulls an MSN Music (only faster)
This afternoon, Yahoo alerted customers of its erstwhile downloadable music store that it would no longer provide support after Sept. 30 (download the cheerful e-mail here). The upshot: starting Oct. 1, said customers won't be able to revive frozen tracks or move working ones onto new hard drives or computers, because Yahoo won't be providing any more keys to the songs' DRM wrappers. But hey, they can always buy MP3 versions from Yahoo's new partner Rhapsody!

Dolby and DTS' new audio schemes worth it?
You bought an audio-video receiver a couple of years ago, and now you're wondering whether it's time to trade up and get a model that features Dolby and DTS' new lossless codecs, TrueHD and Master Audio, respectively. Judging by the numbers they should sound markedly better than standard Dolby and DTS, but according to a recent article in Home Entertainment magazine, the sonic differences were small to negligible. You can read the full article here.

Blockbuster Beta-Testing Movielink Downloads
Blockbuster may be planning in-store download kiosks, but their recent beta-testing of Movielink downloads seems like they're aiming for at-home downloads as well. They've picked 500 Total Access customers to test out the $2 rental, $8 purchase system from Movielink, which will allow customers to rent when flicks hit video-on-demand, and buy when they hit DVD. It's fairly interesting that Blockbuster will charge extra for movies when Netflix is going with a free, albeit limited, streaming service. We'd like Blockbuster to follow suit.

How big of an impact is Internet-delivered video making in consumer living rooms?
· Xbox 360: 10.5 million units sold in the U.S.
· Netflix: 8.2 million subscribers
· Netflix Player by Roku: 10,000 units sold (estimate)
· TiVo Series 3: 250,000 units sold (estimate); 750,000 Series 2 and Series 3 units are connected to the Internet via broadband (two-thirds are estimated to be Series 2 devices).
· PlayStation 3: 4.9 million units sold in the U.S.
· AppleTV: 350,000-400,000 units sold in the U.S. (estimate)
· Vudu: 15,000 units sold in the U.S. (estimate)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

snapshot 7/23/08

Gatekeeper of the MP3 blogosphere
A lot has changed since then. The Hype Machine, based in New York, has become one of the most talked-about music sites in the Internet. It attracts more than one million monthly visitors. Valleywag, the widely read technology blog, reported in April that Viacom offered to buy the Hype Machine for $10 million. Volodkin says this isn't true. (So does Viacom.) But he says people approach him "all the time " about investing in his company. Announces Second Quarter Sales up 41% to $4.06 Billion; Sales Growth Accelerates to 31% in Media and to 58% in Electronics and Other General Merchandise
Worldwide Media sales grew 31% to $2.41 billion in second quarter 2008, compared with $1.83 billion in second quarter 2007.

MySpace’s DeWolfe Says New Music Joint Venture to Launch in September
MySpace ’s upcoming music joint venture with 3 of the 4 major labels, first announced in April, will launch in September (EMI is still a holdout, but from what we hear they may be ready to fold soon). Chris DeWolfe, CEO of MySpace, mentioned that date and gave other details about the joint venture in an interview today with Adam Lashinsky at the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Half Moon Bay, CA.

Afterward, he told TechCrunch Co-Editor Erick Schonfeld, who is attending the event, that MySpace Music will be a combination music store/subscription service, with unlimited playbacks of full tracks, but for free. The revenue model will be advertising and paid downloads. Advertisers are already lining up, with some eight-figure deals being negotiated.

SanDisk: "A Rapid Deterioration In Consumer Confidence"
SanDisk went sans profits during the most recent quarter, the result of softening consumer demand for flash memory and MP3 players. After the closing bell Monday, the company reported a massive loss of $68 million, or 30-cents per share, a reversal from year-ago earnings of $28 million, or 12-cents per share.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

snapshot 7/22/08

Report: TiVo, Amazon team up on sales pitches
TiVo--a company well-known for helping TV viewers skip commercials--is teaming up with to make it easier for consumers to purchase products they see on television commercials and talk shows, according to a report Monday on The New York Times Web site.

A "product purchase" feature on onscreen menus will provide TiVo customers with links to buy products like books, compact discs, and DVDs featured on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Late Show With David Letterman, and The Daily Show, the newspaper reported. Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo plans to offer the feature to advertisers and programmers, giving viewers the chance to purchase products during commercials and product placements in shows, the paper reported.

One Paul Westerberg album: 49 cents
Here's a bargain: Paul Westerberg this weekend released an one-track, 44-minute song via, distributing it to the online seller with the help of TuneCore. The cut, really one 44-minute album, is available for 49 cents. It's essentially one long, scruffy, low-fi melding of a dozen-plus Westerberg songs.

Baynote, Strands, RichRelevance — will they survive the “recommendation engine” consolidation?
A recent Yankee Group report says the technology is promising, yielding up to a 400 percent increase in click-through rates on some sites. However, Yankee predicts a consolidation. ATG already acquired one player, CleverSet. “In the next 4 to 5 years, only three to four personalization engines will survive in each major market,” according to the report, which also says companies will fight over the mobile sector next.

eMusic Makeover Starts Rolling; Album Pages First
Got 2.0? eMusic is now rolling the first in a series of site changes, part of a broader reach outside of its borders. Last week, the company outlined an agenda that included the integration of YouTube videos and Wikipedia bios, outside commentary, and exportable widgets. Other aspects of the plan are inside the fence, including the introduction of a revamped, highly visual navigation. The focal point for the first-wave change is the album page, a highly-trafficked component of the eMusic site. Alongside album information and tracklisting, the album page now includes related content from Wikipedia, Flickr, and YouTube.

In turn, the album page can also be exported into networked environments like Facebook, Digg,, Twitter, and StumbleUpon. "Blogs and recommendations from friends are now more relevant in music discovery than what music critics have to say, but what's missing is a place that brings that all together," said eMusic chief David Pakman.

Long Live the Jewel Case
I realize, of course, that most music is still purchased on CD. Even so, one aspect of the recent redesign surprised me -- on album pages, every release is now displayed as if it's in a jewel case, complete with a black plastic tray and the faux-sheen of the plastic over the CD insert.

Monday, July 21, 2008

snapshot 7/21/08

New iPhone music to users' ears
When it was unveiled in June, Apple's new iPhone didn't appear to offer anything new for music fans. But thanks to the subsequent launch of the App Store on iTunes, iPhone users can download a host of applications to add new functions to the device. Many of them are music-oriented and all are made specifically for the iPhone. The weekend after the new iPhone's release, more than 10 million applications were downloaded through the App Store. Some are free, some carry a fee, and most also work on the Wi-Fi-compatible iPod Touch.

Home servers may render CD racks obsolete
Converting to a fully digitized entertainment library is a good way to cut down on clutter in the house. So what replaces the CD rack once you do? The 500 GB hard drive that comes standard on most home computers today? Soon, even that won't be big enough to store and organize the massive amount of digital music, video and photography that consumers are accumulating as part of the emerging "terabyte lifestyle." That opens the door to a new market, one that for now remains a niche afterthought to most people: home servers.

Musicians' unions stay out of digital debate
With digital distribution of entertainment as the focal point, the TV/film and music industries are embroiled in several disputes between those who create the content and those who distribute it. But while those disputes in Hollywood are well-documented -- with powerful unions like the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild staging high-profile negotiations and, in some cases, strikes -- the perception in the music industry is that artists are largely left to themselves to fight for whatever they can get on their own.

Sony BMG Music's days are numbered
The clock is quickly ticking down on a process that could see German media giant Bertelsmann sell its 50% stake in Sony BMG Music Entertainment tojoint-venture partner Sony Corp in the coming months. Sources say the Sony board will meet July 29 to discuss the future of the 4-year-old venture, whose artists include Britney Spears, Bob Dylan and the Foo Fighters. The combo is due to expire next August.

Billboard charts online music hits
In a move that speaks volumes about how the music business is changing, Billboard has launched a monthly chart on its web site of TuneCore's top 25 album and songs. In other words, little-known users of the service like Boyce Avenue, a Florida band that built up a YouTube following by covering songs by Coldplay and Rianna, will get the same treatment as their multi-platinum idols. Don't laugh. Boyce Avenue has seven of the top 25 songs on the TuneCore song chart.

iLike Offers Free Full Track Streaming and Announces New Ad Platform
iLike , the music discovery service with a number of popular applications across social networks, has announced that it will now offer full track streaming through a partnership with Rhapsody. That means that users of iLike’s applications on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and hi5 will now be able to listen to complete tracks, as opposed to the 30 second samples offered previously. Users can listen to up to 25 free tracks per month, at which point they can either subscribe to Rhapsody or will be reverted back to the samples.

The deal also has an interesting business model for artists – they earn revenue each time their music is played. Hadi Partovi, President of iLike, told me in a conversation last week that “in the past, music social networks have been a promotional vehicle [for artists], but now it’s also a way to help fund the music industry through our deal with Rhapsody.” Competitor rolled out a similar program earlier this month, dubbed the Artist Royalty Program.

GravityZoo Announces MediaZoo, the 1st True Cloud Based Music Library & Player
GravityZoo announced today the beginning of the private beta program for MediaZoo, the 1st true Cloud-based music library & player, without the need for a browser. MediaZoo represents a new generation of Cloud-based services powered by GravityZoo technology. It allows you to not only build your online music library but also join The Zoo, a project aiming to build the world's largest public library of shared, free music. MediaZoo even allows you to invite up to five close friends to come and listen to your music!

StumbleAudio: Find music you've never heard of but might like
If you want to find music from independent artists, you might want to check out StumbleAudio. The web service uses a music recommendation image engine much like the other sites. But all of the artists are independent acts, which means they're either unsigned or signed to smaller labels.

If you find an artist you like, you can flip through the tracks on their album and listen to full length audio streams. Or you can click on the links on the side of the page to purchase digital downloads or physical CDs. StumbleAudio currently features over 120,000 artists and 2 million songs.

Record Labels Are Not Venture Capitalists by David Rose
Having worked for both venture backed technology companies and record labels I often have friends from one industry attempt to relate to the other by saying something along the lines of “record labels are just like venture capitalists”. It is true both venture firms and record companies invest their time and money into a third party with the intent of making a (large) return on their investment. However, in my experience there are more differences in their traditional approaches to investing than similarities.

KavaTunes 3.2 web-enables iTunes
KavaSoft on Monday released an update to its KavaTunes software, adding in new features. KavaTunes creates a website that looks and works just like iTunes does, so users can browse, search and play their music from any web browser. KavaTunes 3.2 features continuous playback, enabling users to queue up an entire album or songs and listen to one song after another. KavaTunes can also add album artwork to a music library and is also capable of creating web catalogs that look and work just like an iPod. Visitors can then browse and play music using the familiar iPod clickwheel interface.

Friday, July 18, 2008

snapshot 7/18/08

New Worm Transcodes MP3s to Try to Infect PCs
A new kind of malicious software could pose a danger to Windows users who download music files on peer-to-peer networks. The new malware inserts links to dangerous Web pages within ASF (Advanced Systems Format) media files.

Advanced Systems Format is a Microsoft-defined container format for audio and video streams that can also hold arbitrary content such as images or links to Web resources. If a user plays an infected music file, it will launch Internet Explorer and load a malicious Web page which asks the user to download a codec, a well-known trick to get someone to download malware. The actual download is not a codec but a Trojan horse, which installs a proxy program on the PC, Emm said. The proxy program allows hackers to route other traffic through the compromised PC, helping the hacker essentially cover their tracks for other malicious activity, Emm said.

Napster Takeover Looms as Funds See Cash Exceed Stock (Update1)
Napster Inc., the Internet music pioneer whose shares have plunged 95 percent in six years, has become takeover bait for hedge funds zeroing in on a cash hoard exceeding the company's market value. While Los Angeles-based Napster hasn't posted a profit in four years, its $69.8 million in cash and investments as of March 31 eclipses the shares' $52.1 million value. The company's biggest investor, New York-based hedge fund Eminence Capital LLC, boosted its stake to 9 percent in the second quarter, according to regulatory filings.

Top 5 online music stores
As one may suspect, working in digital music gives a person a somewhat skewed view about the permeation of online music in the general population. Everyone (aside from audiophiles and vinyl buffs) is getting their music fix though the Web nowadays, right? Wrong. Although digital music is on the rise, it's still well behind CDs in terms of overall sales ($2.8 billion versus $15.9 billion, according to one report).

Another report forecasts that digital music sales won't surpass physical media for another four years. Well, what say we prove some people wrong (always fun) and shave a year or two off that number? To help you sort through the clutter of online music, I've rounded up my Top 5 choices for digital tunes. These selections aren't really in any particular order; rather, each service offers a variety of advantages depending on your personal needs and preferences.

Amazon To Target $5.5 Billion Textbook Market With New Kindle?
Earlier this week Crunchgear broke the news on two new upcoming Kindle models : a smaller form factor Kindle to be released this year ahead of the holidays, and a large screen (probably 8.5×11) to come sometime next year. A couple of commenters in that post have pointed out that the large screen Kindle is perfect to target the college/university textbook market, a $5.5 billion market annually in the U.S. alone.

DRM-Free, Sort Of: Rhapsody Still Transitioning Catalog
Rhapsody joint venture partners MTV Networks and RealNetworks trumpeted a DRM-free launch at the tail end of June. But music fans are still encountering a considerable amount of protected content, and the catalog remains in transition. At present, a significant number of songs are encoded as protected, RAX files, instead of the advertised MP3s.

The long list of protected content includes albums from Paul Simon (Songs From The Capeman, Concert In The Park, 1964/1993); Curtis Mayfield (Honesty); Dave Matthews Band (Under The Table & Dreaming, Busted Stuff, Live at Piedmont Park, Listener Supported, others); Sting (Songs From the Labyrinth); Wu-Tang Clan (Iron Flag, The W); Pete Yorn (The Day I Forgot, Westerns, Nightcrawler); David Gray (Live In Slow Motion, White Ladder, A New Day At Midnight); The Who (Live at Leeds, Who Are You, Quadrophenia, others); Method Man (Street Education, Tical 2000: Judgment Day); and Toni Braxton (Libra, Secrets).

Why is the Grateful Dead's #1 MP3 Artist Right Now?
Because the band's album American Beauty is on sale for $1.99. Incredible that two of these album downloads cost less than one gallon of gas. John Lennon's Imagine is currently selling for about one gallon of gas.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

snapshot 7/17/08

Volume rises for music video games
Music genre games "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" are bona-fide smash hits, entering the rarefied air once reserved for only the elite first-person shooters, "Mario" games or sports titles. And success breeds imitation. Music games seemed to be everywhere at this week's E3 video game trade show and it wasn't just Activision Blizzard Inc showing off its upcoming "Guitar Hero: World Tour" or MTV Games, a unit of Viacom Inc, providing a sneak peek at "Rock Band 2." Both are due out later this year. to launch new online TV, movie store: report
Web retailer Inc will introduce a new online store of TV shows and movies on Thursday, called Amazon Video on Demand, The New York Times said. Customers of Amazon's new store will be able to start watching any of 40,000 movies and television programs immediately after ordering them because they stream, just like programs on a cable video-on-demand service, the paper said.

The service is different from most Internet video stores, such as Apple's iTunes and the original incarnation of Amazon's video store, which require users to wait as video files are downloaded to their hard drives.

It's official: Audiophiles are over CDs
That week's question: how do you listen to digital music? The poll says 34 percent still use CD players as their primary digital source. Thirty-six percent use a computer-based server, and 10 percent use dedicated servers such as Sonos or Squeezebox. Another 4 percent use iPods! I felt a little better that 11 percent use a SACD or DVD-Audio player. Another 3 percent voted "other."

Download free 'Into the Wild' MP3 audiobook from Borders
To help kick off its new MP3-audiobook download service, Borders is offering Jon Krakauer's spellbinding "Into the Wild" free of charge through July 19. You do need to sign up for a Borders Digital Audiobooks account, but it's free to do so, and that's the only catch.

Well, actually, there's one more: To access the book (and any others you purchase), you have to install something called OverDrive Media Console (currently Windows-only--grrr). It's basically a download manager that organizes your audiobooks and generates multi-part MP3s (which you can then copy to any portable player using the software of your choice--iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc.--or burn to CDs).

@ MusicTank: Lavigne To Rake $2 Million From YouTube Plays
Avril Lavigne is set to score a big pay day thanks to YouTube revenue. Her Nettwerk Management CEO Terry McBride told MusicTank’s Face To Face With The Millennials in London today: ”There’s about a $2 million cheque waiting for her for all her YouTube plays.” Next up, they’re targeting the Far-East: “We will start a Mandarin website (for Lavigne) with Mandarin ads and we will make a shitload of money, because 40 percent of her intellectual property value comes from Asia.”

McBride, whose label gained notoriety through innovative online distribution strategies and for donating legal fees to those fighting RIAA filesharing lawsuits, said Nettwerk expects its revenue from digital to tip beyond 70 percent this year. That’s massively more than the 25.5 percent eMarketer forecasts the global music business will make from digital this year.

McBride also said labels should be retailing digital tracks at a sweet spot of just $0.25, albums for $2: “You’d see a huge shift; we haven’t even given kids the choice to show us this tipping point yet ... the profit margin in the digital space is about 300 percent that inside the physical space.”

AimeStreet Debuts Charity Downloads
Watch out Bono. Variable priced download leader AmieStreet has named Creative Visions Foundation as the lead charity in "Download To Make A Difference" a new campaign using downloads to support humanitarian causes. It kicks off with AmieStreet donating $2 to Creative Visions for every free download of the new single, "Anything," by composer-philanthropist Peter Buffett and multi-platinum star Akon exclusively available at

Apricado: Selling Your Music Has Never Been This Easy
Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of online music stores that offer independent artists a way to sell their music without a recording contract. And while a handful of these sites, like AmieStreet , have done especially well, but they tend to be pretty involved - you can’t just upload your songs and start getting paid. Apricado , a new startup that launches today in private beta, is looking to solve this problem by streamlining the process as much as possible.

Apricado makes the music submission process ridiculous easy (perhaps to a fault): After uploading a song, the site will automatically detect the artist name and generate a music store (for example, a song by Mika would generate Each song sold will be distributed without DRM, and the site will only take a 20% cut of the revenues (industry standards are usually 30% or more). Visitors who navigate to this site will be presented with a list of available songs. After entering their credit card information on the same page, the selected songs as downloaded as a single .zip file. Artists can also get embed codes for their stores, so they can offer a mini-marketplace on their blogs or MySpace (a Facebook app is on the way).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

snapshot 7/16/08

How eMusic hopes to keep Its groove
When eMusic launched 10 years ago, the online music subscription service faced some long odds. It refused to protect songs from illegal copying, which ruled out major label acts like Britney Spears. Today, eMusic has attracted more than 400,000 customers - a 60% increase from a year and a half ago - who pay as little as 33 cents a download for songs they get to keep. The site still doesn't do business with the major record labels, but it has deals with 33,000 independent labels and a catalogue that includes Radiohead, Paul McCartney and John Mellencamp.

Next Tuesday, it is introducing an array of social networking features to its service. Let's say you are a fan of Arcade Fire. You can already read quite a bit about the critically-acclaimed Canadian cult band on its eMusic album pages. Now eMusic will add a wealth of content from the Web 2.0 universe: the band's Wikipedia entry, pictures from Flickr, and videos of Arcade Fire concerts from YouTube. None of this is available on iTunes or the Amazon digital music store. eMusic will also allow members to share these pages with friends on popular social media sites like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter. "These are the things that we know our customers are already doing with the music they love," says eMusic CEO David Pakman.

MTV launches another surely doomed music service
MTV is continuing its push into digital music, despite its long litany of failures in the past, by introducing a music recommendation service and social network called Soundtrack. Most of the song recommendations will be based off of MTV's list of shows such as The Hills, Shot at Love, and G's to Gents. RealNetworks' Rhapsody, which recently dropped copyright protections on its music files, will help MTV sell those songs, as well — though a tipster reports Rhapsody been having customer service and outage issues for weeks.

Disney bucks music industry downturn
Whiteside, senior vice president of marketing of Walt Disney Records, saw a whopping 60 percent rise in music sales from 2006 to 2007 because of the tween and young-teen music craze led by Disney star Miley Cyrus. Meanwhile, overall music industry sales were down 17 percent in the same period because of digital downloads and pirated music online.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

snapshot 7/15/08

Widget Enables Radiohead Style Distro
At first glance NoiseTrade is a simple widget that enables Radiohead style pay what you want music distribution. But as two dozen indie acts including Sixpence None The Richer and Sandra McCracken learned, it also can be a powerful viral promo tool which in the two weeks since launched has delivered 20,000 full albums for purchase and fan promotion.

Artists distribute their music via NoiseTrade's embeddable widget where fans can sample then either choose to tell three friends about it or pay any amount in exchange for an album download. Name plus an email and zip code are captured along the way. Fans can also embed the widget into their own blog or social networking profile.

P2P not hurting DVD, Blu-ray sales as revenues up from 2007
Consumers may be tightening their belts, but that reduction apparently hasn't affected DVD sales just yet. In fact, spending on DVDs and Blu-ray discs during the first half of 2008 showed a slight increase over the same period a year ago, according to data collected by Home Media Magazine. Spending on rentals rose even more, indicating that perhaps part of consumers' money-saving efforts involve cozying up to a movie at home for entertainment instead of heading out for a night on the town—or downloading from the Internet.

Home Media found that sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs rose from $6.8 billion in early 2007 to $6.87 billion in the first half of this year—a modest increase of 1.1 percent. This number appears to coincide with "studio reports" saying that unit sales were also up 1.1 percent to 412.3 million discs in the first half of 2008, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rentals increased by 2.6 percent, from $3.7 billion to $3.9 billion.'s Amazing MP3 Album Prices
Except for a couple songs, I don't even LIKE the Doors, but I almost bought this album this morning. At $3.99 for 20 songs, it was almost too good to pass up, even though I could simply buy the two songs I actually like for 99 cents each. (The album's now back to its regular price of $8.99.)'s daily and weekly mp3 album specials are clearly resulting in a lot of impulse purchases. The top album chart is usually dominated by the previous weekend's $5 specials and most all of the daily special albums make it to the top of the chart. Big-name artists (Madonna, the Police, etc.) almost always make it to the number one spot, and even relatively unknown artists like Liam Finn seem to hit the top five when given the bargain price. (Though the relative chart popularity of the specially-priced albums might just be evidence that total album download sales at Amazon are modest enough that it doesn't take too many purchases in a 24-hour period to make the top album chart...)

Sony's PS3 & PSP Movie Service Launching; Seven Studios Signed On; Adopts Marlin Open DRM
…Sony is announcing some of its own services: it is launching a PlayStation 3 and its portable PSP-based video service, and said has signed on at least seven studios including Sony Pictures, Fox, MGM, Lions Gate, Warner Brothers, Disney. Movies, TV programs and original programs will be available and of course would be watchable on TV. Movies will rent for $2.99 to $5.99 and TV shows for $1.99 an episode. For now, the service only has 300 full length movies and 1,200 TV episodes, the company said.

Disney will only offer movies for rent, while all others will offer for rental as well as downloads/sellthrough...Disney is closely aligned with Apple on its iTunes movies service so its reticence with others is understandable. Meanwhile, Jack Tretton, president and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment America, says it best: "The collaboration of Sony's film, TV and entertainment business units, coupled with our hardware and content offerings, provide consumers with entertainment experiences unlike any on the market"....not the last part, but the fact that all these units could actually work together to launch something. That is an achievement at Sony… Something even more alien for Sony: it has adopted Marlin DRM technology, an open industry content standard...this won't allows users to take it anywhere, but at least will allow content bought to be shared on PS3 and PSP systems, depending on the type of content purchased by the user. Not clear if it will be expanded to include other non-Sony devices in the future, but I doubt it. More details here.

TuneCore Gets Own Billboard Chart
Billboard is now posting the top 25 revenue-generating albums and songs from discount flat fee digital distributor TuneCore in its Digital & Mobile section. The first chart can be viewed here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

snapshot 7/14/08

Rare Marley, Skynyrd performances sold online
Vintage concert performances by such acts as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Marley will soon join the nearly 500 recordings already available for download purchase at the music and memorabilia site Wolfgang's Vault.

Music industry insiders find upside in album leaks
Saleh's relaxed attitude reflects a growing belief among some music industry vets that unauthorized leaks of an album before its release can boost sales. Leaks provide a way of generating buzz for an upcoming album. If fans get excited by what they hear, this line of thinking goes, they'll go out and buy the album when it's released.

Trent Reznor Continues To Show Different Ways To Connect With Fans
Back when Trent Reznor was still signed to Universal Music, he tested out his own form of a promotional campaign for his latest album: he started hiding USB keys with songs off of the album in the bathroom at his various concerts. Now that he's independent and testing out all sorts of interesting business model experiments, he's also doing plenty to connect directly to his biggest fans. Take, for example, this story in the LA Times about Reznor hiding concert tickets around Los Angeles, under rocks and in drainpipes, and then putting up coordinates and clues on the Nine Inch Nails website, sending fans racing across the city to see if they can find the free tickets. While it may be a little silly, it is yet another way for Reznor to build up a really loyal fanbase. He's making being a fan fun

Planned Guns N’ Roses Deal Underscores Power of Video Games to Sell Songs
A decade and a half after releasing its previous album, Guns N’ Roses plans to put out a new song in September — on the video game Rock Band 2. MTV expects to announce on Monday that the sequel to its popular Rock Band game will include “Shackler’s Revenge,” a track from the Guns N’ Roses album that has been in the works for more than a decade, said people familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the arrangement has yet to be announced.

Guns N’ Roses’ plan to reintroduce its music to the public in a video game underscores how important to the music business games have become — especially Rock Band and Activision’s Guitar Hero series, which allow gamers to play along with songs on instrument-shaped plastic controllers. Rock Band 2 will also include songs from marquee acts like AC/DC and Rush; the game may also feature music by Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, according to a track listing leaked online. Activision recently released a version of Guitar Hero dedicated to Aerosmith, and a game based on Metallica is due next year.

Indian media company acquires MovieBeam assets
Mumbai-based Valuable Group acquired the video-on-demand service last week for what could be considered pennies on the dollar, according to reports.

Netflix Coming to Xbox 360 With Live Content Sharing
Netflix is coming to the Xbox 360 this fall. Netflix subscribers will have instant access to over 10,000 movies and TV shows, streamed directly to the Xbox 360 console.= What’s more, with the new Live Party feature coming to the Xbox 360, you’ll be able to stream whatever Netflix content you’re watching to the rest of the people in your Live Party group — groups can contain up to eight people and everyone will be watching the movie or TV show at the same time, which oughta further alleviate the need to actually leave your house to interact with people face to face.

Friday, July 11, 2008

snapshot 7/11/08

Coldplay’s Viva La Vida Download Sales Total 394,000 - Biggest To Date In US
Coldplay has sold 394,000 downloads of its latest album, Viva La Vida, the biggest paid online album total in the United States. Not only is this the largest three week total for online sales, but it also represents 35% of the total sales of the album which has sold 1.1 million during the same period, a demonstration of the emergence of digital sales. Coldplay also nailed the best pre-order and first-week album totals on the iTunes Store, according to information confirmed by Apple.

Listening To Music Via TV And PC Rises
… a new survey by Parks Associates says 2/3rds of US and Canadian broadband households regularly use the PC to play music at home and a surprising 1/3 say they use their TV to listen to music. MP3 players ranked equal to TVs. In the report, Parks Associates analysts recommend that developers and service providers account for these standard platforms when designing new digital entertainment services. Music marketers should do the same.

Pandora and AOL Radio apps on the iPhone rock, roll users over to iTunes to buy
Enter two new brilliant apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, Pandora and AOL Radio. Both services, available for free through Apple’s new App Store, take music discovery on mobile devices to the next level. While services have been around for a while that will tell you an artists name and track title, none do it quite as easy as these two apps do all on one device.

One of the killer features (at least for Apple) of both of these apps is that you can, with the touch of one button, find the music you are listening to on iTunes. It launches directly into the iPhone/iPod Touch iTunes app and takes you to that song/artist.

Guitar Hero aims to take on iTunes
Activision Blizzard, the games company formed by the merger of Activision with Vivendi’s games unit, plans to capitalise on the popularity of its Guitar Hero franchise by developing an online music platform that could rival iTunes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Bobby Kotick, chief executive of the new company, said creating a Guitar Hero online music platform was “the natural evolution” of a franchise that has sold close to 20m units and generated $1bn in revenues

Shazam on iPhone could change music discovery
he concept behind Shazam is simple: whenever you hear a song playing and can't identify it--on the car radio, at a friend's house, at a bar--you activate the Shazam application on your mobile phone. It "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, then sends a text message to your phone identifying the artist and title. Shazam's database contains audio fingerprints for nearly 5 million songs, so there's a pretty good chance of a positive ID. However, closing the loop with an actual purchase was hard--you had to tag the song, then consult a Web site to see your tagged item, then go to another service (such as iTunes) to buy it.

The version of Shazam for the iPhone 2.0 fixes this problem: once you've tagged a song in Shazam, you can launch iTunes directly from that tagged song and buy the song immediately. That's assuming you have a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet--iTunes doesn't let you download music over a 3G data connection yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

snapshot 7/10/08

Ludacris' digital music play
But one rap luminary thinks there is a business in collecting music from unsigned acts and posting it on the Internet. Ludacris, the Grammy-Award-winning rapper known for his hits like "Chicken and Beer," is one of the founders of WeMix, a Web site where unknown 50 Cents can find a wider audience - that is, if they pass muster with the rest of the Web site's users. "It's almost like a virtual American Idol," says Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges.

Ludacris and his partner, Matt Apfel, a former reality television show producer, have latched onto an increasing popular concept on the Internet called "crowd sourcing." The rapper singles out acts that he thinks are good. Then, Ludacris lets the users of WeMix's pick the songs that rise to the top of the site's home page. This week's favorite is Wally J.'s ribald "Booty On My YouTube," which has been played 614,938 times. That's a lot of mouse clicks for a Web site that only went live in June.

Exclusive Live Recordings From... LimeWire?
LimeWire is now delivering a slate of exclusive live recordings, an unlikely source for fresh content. On Wednesday, the company disclosed it Live at Lime Recording Series, part of a recently-launched paid store. The file-sharing giant, which started recording sessions in June, is now offering EPs from The Morning Benders, Sloan, Tigers and Monkeys, and Lucy Wainwright Roche. Each track is being sold for 99-cents, and subscription packages are also applied. All tracks are MP3s encoded at 256kbps.

MyAWOL, a music company that grasps reality
myAWOL is simultaneously a music-centric multimedia content company, a vehicle for discovering, promoting and capitalizing on musical talent, and a resource for anyone in the music industry looking to make money doing what they love. It’s part old school MTV and part new school record label, with servings of event promotion thrown in for good measure.

The experience is centered around 90-second video clips that feature video bloggers highlighting news, introducing new featured artists, and pointing out places to click to get more information or buy a few tracks. For unsigned artists, the company offers a range of free tools and documents for navigating the business. These include a database of contract templates, a professional web-based video editing application, analytics and guides on how to build a street team, how to choose a manager and so on. Any artist can create a profile, upload content and set the price to sell music through the site.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

snapshot 7/9/08

EMI Taking Vinyl Sales Seriously - Reissues Radiohead, Coldplay
EMI Music has announced that it will be launching a vinyl re-issue initiative in August, hoping to generate additional revenue based on the latest upswing in vinyl sales. The reissue series, dubbed “From the Capitol Vaults,” will debut with eight, out-of-print titles including Radiohead, Coldplay, A Perfect Circle, and the Steve Miller Band.

California Can't Resist: Wants To Tax iTunes Downloads Again
There are some states that already include a sales tax on internet downloads for things like iTunes purchases (even if the rationale for the tax doesn't seem to exist beyond "the state needs money"). Every so often various other state politicians start itching to add an iTunes download tax. The latest is California. Some state politicians made a bunch of news back in April for proposing just such a plan, but the resulting publicity and anger from California residents made sure that proposal was quickly shot down. So what did the main sponsor of that proposal do? He waited less than two months and proposed a nearly identical tax on digital downloads. Of course, all this will really do is push more people to look at alternatives, legal or not, because of the greater expense associated with digital downloads (a product that should get cheaper over time, rather than more expensive).

INgrooves Ropes Jimmy Buffett, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire...
Digital distributor and label INgrooves has now secured a fresh stable of artist deals, including those involving Jimmy Buffett, Everlast, John Michael Montgomery, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire, among others. The relationships closely follow a strategic investment from Universal Music Group, one that allows the major to tap into the proprietary, INgrooves digital distribution platform.

That has raised the profile of the San Francisco-based INgrooves, a longtime player in the space. The artists come through a host of label partnerships, including Mailboat Records (Jimmy Buffett); Stringtown Records (Montgomery); K-Tel International (Chubby Checker, Tina Turner, Little Richard); SMC Recordings (Killer Mike, Pastor Troy); and Paid In Full Entertainment (Paul Wall, Chamillionaire). The Buffett relationship is focused on mobile distribution and content licensing, according INgrooves chief executive Robb McDaniels.

What's next, Google Autos or Google Music?
By scrutinizing the traffic Google searches produce, Internet analysis firm Hitwise in January predicted that Google might launch a virtual world. Lo and behold, Google launched Lively on Tuesday. So what's next?

Google Autos or Google Music are the guesses that Hitwise hazarded Wednesday. "Our thinking was that Google might want to fill natural gaps in its portfolio of offerings based on the interests of its users. We looked at which categories are receiving the most traffic from Google in which Google does not have its own property," said Hitwise's Heather Hopkins in a blog post.

myAWOL: A Music Label For The Digital Age
myAWOL (My Artists Without Labels) is looking to show the big four how it’s done. The site is taking a multi-pronged approach to tackle the music industry with the web: first, it will roll out a professional database to help establish itself as an authority in the space. Then, this Fall, it will introduce a consumer site that will function as a mix between a music community, online television channel, and independent music label.

Lofty goals to be sure, but the people associated with myAWOL may have the backing and experience to pull it off. The site is the brainchild of Andrew Bentley, an entrepreneur with a head-turning resume that includes stints as the CFO of Virgin Media, the CFO of EMI, and the CEO of EMI Music/Asia Pacific (before they went on a lawsuit spree). And you can be sure that during his time as a music executive, he’s made some friends. Within the next month, the site will be rolling out a professional-facing music database (an “imdb for music”). The goal of the site is to become an authoritative resource for everyone in the music industry, from studio musicians and equipment managers to studio execs. Bentley says that while this portion of the site may not have much appeal to consumers, it will help the site gain credibility while offering a much-needed service to the industry.

myAWOL’s consumer-facing site is where the real excitement will lie, and while it won’t be launching until early September, it may well be worth the wait. Unlike many music sites that effectively serve as storefronts for artists (leaving little reason for users to come back), myAWOL is focusing on content creation. The site will produce daily content for what amounts to an online television channel, where it will feature concerts, interviews, and TRL-like daily programming that will be distributed both online and through podcasts. Footage will come from submitted tapes, studio filming, and concerts put on by the site (there’s a myAWOL concert at The Roxy later this month).

Who Needs Music Labels? Starts Paying Royalties To Unsigned Artists
Music-streaming service is now paying unsigned artists royalties for every song played on its service. Since the company announced the program last January, 170,000 artists and small music labels have signed up for it and uploaded 450,000 tracks.

What is doing here is creating an alternative to the official royalty-collecting organization for musicians (i.e., SoundExchange). Last year, the royalty rates for music streamed over the Internet were raised, making it more difficult for ad-supported music startups to stay in business. got bought by CBS, so it’s not in danger of going under. And for any song owned by a label or artist who participates in SoundExchange, continues to pay the going Internet radio royalty rate. But it is beginning to bypass Sound Exchange by giving new, unsigned artists an alternative.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

snapshot 7/8/08

Nickelback latest to join Live Nation in global deal
Canadian rock band Nickelback has signed a global recording, touring and merchandising deal with concert promoter Live Nation, the company said on Tuesday. Financial details were not disclosed but an industry source familiar with the talks said the deal was worth between $50 million to $70 million. The Nickelback deal is the latest in a string of high profile, multi-faceted deals Los Angeles-based Live Nation has signed with major artists including Madonna, Jay-Z and U2 in recent months.

Digital threat prompts movie industry downgrade
A Lehman Brothers analyst downgraded the entertainment industry Monday and slashed forecasts for its five major companies, saying digital downloads of movies and TV shows posed a huge threat to profits from DVD sales that the companies rely on. "Shifts from physical to digital will disrupt the marginal economics of the TV and movie businesses, just as it did for music," analyst Anthony DiClemente said during a conference call.

Online video catching on, but DVD consumers' favorite
Generations X and Y are far ahead of their parents in the consumption of emerging Web-based video, but DVD remains the most popular home entertainment choice among all demographics, according to new research from Knowledge Networks.

In Knowledge Networks’ “How People Use the Video Marketplace” report, 98% of the 30- to 43-year-old Gen X and the 13- to 29-year-old Gen Y groups, and 88% of 44- to 54-year-old Young Boomers said they use DVDs. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Y said they buy DVDs at least once a month; 71%, Gen X; and 51% Young Boomer. Additionally, 67% of Gen Y said they rented at least once a month; 65%, Gen X; and 44%, Young Boomer.

The pattern starts to diverge with Web-delivered content, with 52% of Gen Y, 37% of Gen X and just 21% of Young Boomers saying they stream video. With downloading, the breakdown is 37% Gen Y, 18%, Gen X and 11%, Young Boomer. However, both younger and older generations indicate they normally do not pay for this new media video usage. With video streams, 3% of Gen Y said they bought monthly; 4%, Gen X and 3%, Young Boomers. With video downloads, 2% of Gen Y said they bought monthly; 2% Gen X and N/A for Young Boomers.

Music fans looking online for guidance
Nearly eight out of 10 consumers are turning away from professional music reviews and looking online for guidance when buying CDs or downloads. The latest Trust Index research from e-commerce firm Avail Intelligence said that many listeners are turning to online music stores or social networking sites for opinions on new albums or acts.

Recommendations made while browsing music stores such as iTunes or social networking applications such as I Like on Facebook proved popular for 40 per cent of respondents. This was just pipped by the opinion of family, friends and other shoppers at 41 per cent of respondents.

Wii Will Rock You
Surprisingly, the savior of classic rock may turn out to be the videogame industry. With titles like Electronic Arts' (nasdaq: ERTS - news - people ) "Rock Band" and Activision's (nasdaq: ATVI - news - people ) "Guitar Hero," players--particularly younger ones--are getting a taste of what their parents used to rock out to.

In January, Activision announced that the "Guitar Hero" franchise had generated more than $1 billion in sales in just 26 months. As of May, the franchise has sold 16.3 million copies, according to the NPD Group. Between November 2007 and January 2008, consumers downloaded over 5 million songs, with prices ranging from free to $6.25 for a three-song pack, according to Activision.

"Rock Band" fans have bought some 2.4 million copies of the game at $170 per copy, NPD says. And as of June 30, players have paid to download 15 million songs, most for $2 each.

Monday, July 7, 2008

snapshot 7/7/08

MasterCard Campaign Offers Free UMG Downloads
MasterCard this week launched a campaign with an extensive music component. As part of a new campaign dubbed "Roots of Rock" from New York ad agency McCann-Erickson the credit card maker is offering MasterCard holders free downloads from the entire Universal Music Group catalog from While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed the card maker did say that once 100,000 songs had been downloaded the company would continue to offer the catalog at a price of .80 per track.

In addition select live performances that have aired over the past years on PBS's "Soundstage" will be available for unlimited free download to cardholders. Some of the artists available include: Heart, Counting Crows, Billy Idol, Jewel, and Ringo Starr.

Mobile Music A $7.3 Billion Industry By 2011
Music on mobile devices is expected to account for $7.3 billion of the global amount spent on recorded music by 2011, according to new data from eMarketer. The report, titled "Recorded Music: Digital Falls Short," predicts that music sales as a whole will continue to decline, but online and mobile markets will grow rapidly.

As more and more multimedia-capable handsets are released, the mobile music market is expected to jump from $1.7 billion in 2007 to $3 billion by the end of the year. The figure is estimated to grow to $4.8 billion in 2009, $6.2 billion in 2010, and $7.3 billion in 2011. As CD sales plummet, the music industry is expected to see a $5 billion decline in total music sales in the next three years, from $31.8 billion to $26.2 billion. Because of this, record labels will look to the mobile space for additional revenue.

MP3 player celebrates 10th birthday
The MP3 player is set to celebrate its 10th birthday this summer. The device that would revolutionize how and where music is played -- and the music industry itself -- first appeared in South Korea in the summer of 1998. SaeHan Information Systems' "MPMan" player offered 16 megabytes of storage capacity. Today's iPod Classic, with 160 gigabytes of space, boasts 10,000 times more space. But it was the Rio PMP300 from Diamond Multimedia, introduced in fall 1998, that set the industry in motion.

Listening Post's Top 10 Hottest Music Sites
Change is the only constant in the music business, and that goes double for the digital music business. Nonetheless, we've assembled a list of the 10 hottest digital music websites in the world. Criteria were simple and admittedly subjective: Sites were chosen based not only on what they currently do for music fans, but also on their potential to impact the future development of the music industry. Based on how things go with the first iteration, this list could be updated periodically and opened for voting.

Digital Music Still Has a Ways to Go
That's the latest chapter in a soap opera whose storylines of bitterness and attempted betrayal are positively Gothic, but at least this time consumers are benefiting instead of being punished. Today consumers have a growing number of legal, unfettered choices for digital music, and they all work smoothly with iTunes. The more likely it is that consumers can find songs they want and listen to them easily, the more likely they are to buy them instead of swiping them. The overall trend is a welcome one, and dust-ups between Apple and the labels (however entertaining they may be) are unlikely to derail that.

But the Rhapsody announcement raises questions, too -- ones that have dogged digital music for some time. Yes, more choices are better, but buying digital music is still a needlessly complicated, haphazard process. And why are subscription services like Rhapsody's core product so stubbornly stillborn?

SpiralFrog Claims Six Million Uniques in June
The Deal (via Ad-Supported Music Central) has an article with some stats on SpiralFrog. In the last week of June, founder and chairman Joe Mohen predicted six million unique visitors for the month. The problem with its catalog is evident in the fact that only 50% of searches were fulfilled.

SpiralFrog is available only in the U.S. and Canada, which have a combined population of 333 million. With six million uniques, that's 1.8% of all citizens. In both countries, there are about a combined 88 million people between the ages of 15 and 34. Again assuming six million uniques, the service is hitting about 7.4% of all people from ages 15 to 34 -- almost one in 14. We don't know anything about length of visit or total tracks downloaded, but that is a very large ratio for such a young and incomplete music destination. (My rough math assumes one user per household for the sake of simplicity.)