Friday, November 30, 2007

Live Nation Moving Into 360 Territory

From Ethan Smith, Wall Street Journal:

The world's largest concert promoter, Live Nation Inc., has come to a sobering conclusion: Staging live music events isn't enough to drive the growth it needs to thrive in the convulsing music business.

So Chief Executive Michael Rapino has mounted what he calls a "transformation" aimed at finding new ways -- big and small -- to use its platform as a giant in the concert business as a base for expansion.

Part of that transformation means moving into areas traditionally controlled by other players in the music industry, such as record labels. Mr. Rapino has already made waves this year with a $120 million deal with singer Madonna, which, in a first for the company, includes recording as well as touring. He says he is on the hunt for several more such deals. He also made a controversial decision to part ways with Ticketmaster when the company's contract expires at the end of 2008, and run much of the ticketing operation itself.
Link

A Tipping Point For MP3s

From Ed Christman, Billboard:

The scope of a yearlong download promotion planned between Pepsi and Amazon, Billboard has learned, is among several developments forcing further consideration by Warner Music Group (WMG) and Sony BMG Music Entertainment to follow EMI and Universal Music Group's lead in distributing music in the MP3 format.

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 walmart.com 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.
Link

Faster iPhone On Its Way

From ABC News:

AT&T CEO Says Apple Plans to Unveil IPhone With Faster Web Browsing in 2008

AT&T Inc. says it plans to offer a version of an iPhone next year that runs on a faster wireless network so users can get speedier results when surfing the Web.

The move would address one of the main drawbacks about the smart phone made by Apple Inc. and distributed exclusively by wireless carrier AT&T in the United States.

The difference in performance is similar to a dial-up Internet connection versus a high-speed broadband connection.

Link

The Song Doesn't Remain The Same

From Peter Lauria, New York Post:
Just like 2006, the best-selling album of 2007 likely won't come from a major record label act - and, even more depressing for the music industry, for the third year in a row the final sales total will likely be down more than a million units.

The soundtrack to Disney's "High School Musical 2" this week moved past SonyBMG's "Daughtry" to become the year's top-seller with 2.3 million copies sold, SoundScan reported.

Indeed, while the original "HSM" soundtrack held the dubious distinction of being the first best-selling album of the year to fall short of the 4-million copy mark, its sequel could very well be the first year-end chart topper not to reach 3 million copies sold.
Link

Terra Firma Sells 15% Stake in EMI for £250M, Out in 2012

From Dan Sabbagh, Times Online:

Terra Firma, the new owner of EMI, is close to completing a £250 million equity fundraising, after telling would-be investors that it can lift profits in recorded music from £61 million in 2007 to £528 million in 2012.

The venture capital group, run by Guy Hands, is selling a stake of about 15 per cent of EMI, at what is thought to be broadly the same £1.5 billion equity valuation it applied when it took over the music major behind Kylie Minogue and the Spice Girls this year.

Terra Firma is predicting an exit in 2012 which, if its plans come off, would mean the company being sold for an enterprise value of £9.4 billion – it was bought for £3.2 billion, including debt. Borrowings taken on in the wake of the deal are approaching £2.5 billion. At this sale price, Terra Firma’s annual rate of return would be 33 per cent.

Link

Verizon Opens Way to More Options in Handsets, Software

From Wailin Wong, Chicago Tribune:

For years, mobile phone customers have been frustrated with the strange economics of the wireless industry: Consumers could choose the phone they want, or the carrier, but often not both.

But the balance of power now may be shifting, giving consumers much more control over their choice of phones, features and carriers.

On Tuesday, Verizon Wireless, the nation's second-largest carrier, said it planned to open its network to any device or application that meets certain standards. The result means that subscribers will be able to choose from a far broader array of handsets and software for downloading music, watching videos or browsing the Internet by the end of 2008.

Further ahead, assuming software developers and other technology
providers accept Verizon's offer, many more kinds of gadgets will be hooked into the wireless network, ranging from digital cameras to portable gaming systems to
home appliances.
Link

Thursday, November 29, 2007

James Taylor & J.D. Souther - Her Town Too

New Music Model Experiment: GarageBand

Cayocosta

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on new music models. Part 1 is here.

I placed a couple of tracks on 3 different sites to get a handle on how these services work and how well they might help artists promote themselves and/or sell their music.

The Music:

The tracks used for the test were produced, engineered, recorded and written by professionals. Now, I'm not saying that the tracks are anything special; however, they are most certainly competitive with the bulk of offerings I have found available from these services.Self-

Self-Promotion:

There is literally zero artist self-promotion. The tracks are to live or die based solely on the service itself. There are no artist websites, and the acts and songs are - for all practical purposes - unknown.

GarageBand:

(Free storage, free streaming and downloads. CD sales)

After signing up and uploading a couple of tunes, I was prompted to enter each in the "contest" in order for my songs to be ranked in the charts and be reviewed (otherwise I assume they would be essentially invisible to visitors). At a cost of $20 bucks, I entered one song.

That was over 2 weeks ago. Since then, nothing has happened; no reviews, no rank, and the track is still at the bottom of the charts.

GarageBand maintains that should I chose to review other's songs - 15 pairs of them actually - I could forgo the $20 charge; moreover should I write a text review I would see my track go to the top of the pecking order for its review. However, after reading another member's account of the hour-long process (to review all the songs comprehensively) I decided to let it ride with just the contest entry for $20.

While searching for stats on how many listens my songs have received so far, I learned that to gain access to those stats, I would have to pay $99. Although this "gold" program includes a few other ups and extras, I decided to do without.

Interestingly, reviewers themselves are reviewed and scored, and from what I gather people get pretty angry with each other here; for essentially what appears to be happening is that a bunch of musicians are reviewing each other's material. Good grief.

With regard to artists selling music, GarageBand integrates CD Baby facilitating the sale of CDs.

Summary:

GarageBand appears to be a place where you will get absolutely nowhere without either paying or providing free labor in the form of reviewing tunes yourself. As for visibility, I'm still waiting for my first song to be reviewed (in the 1st round of 5 rounds, all with multiple reviews) so it could be quite a while that I turn into a skeleton before I can answer that question. Moreover, whether or not the community consists of anyone other than musicians is unknown, and as such the value of visibility in such an environment is questionable.

Overall, as with any other new-music model I've seen, without the ability of artists to successfully self-promote (which largely negates the need for such services anyway) the chances of getting anywhere on the service alone appear very slim.

As an industry friend remarked, "it looks like GarageBand is the only one making any money here."

Next up: Amie St

International

BBC:

Iran targets 'obscene' rap music
The Iranian government has announced a campaign against rap music which it considers obscene.
Link

Indian music labels gear-up for online sales

Business Standard:

Music industry bigwigs like Sony BMG, Saregama India, T-Series have made a total of over 5 million tracks available on their own websites and other portals for full song downloads in a bid to monetise their content through the internet,
and fight piracy.
Link

CBS Clears Pirate Bay to Include Last.fm Widget

From Chris Williams, The Register:

Last.fm, the music recommendation site owned by US media conglomerate CBS, has today given Pirate Bay the thumbs up to use its servers to add radio streams to BitTorrent searches.

The Swedish anti-copyright site has added a Last.fm widget to results pages as part of a new drop-down of extra information on artists (blog post here).

A spokesman for London-based Last.fm told The Reg that while it would not seek to endorse Pirate Bay, it has no control over who uses its API.

Even if it did, to stop Pirate Bay wouldn't be "in the spirit of" the API, he said."
Link

Live Nation: Custom Merch Via Zazzle

Signatures Network, recently acquired by Live Nation, joins forces with Zazzle.

From Alexandra Osorio, Digital Music News:

Music merchandisers Zazzle and Signatures Network have now joined forces on a customized clothing arrangement. The deal, announced Wednesday, combines the customized merchandising platform of Zazzle with the deep artist collection of Signatures. The tie-up means that consumers will have the ability to create customized merchandise by using Signatures-supplied artist designs, photos and images. "Through their extensive distribution reach with key online partners, Zazzle enables artists to sell merchandise anytime, and anywhere they interact with their fans online," said Dell Furano, chief executive of Signatures Network.
Link

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dell To Launch Wireless Music Streaming Portal?

From Erica Ogg, CNET:

If you haven't heard of Zingspot.com yet, you soon might.

It was recently registered by none other than Dell, which also applied for a trademark on the name.

Zingspot is likely related to Zing Systems, a company that Dell acquired in August. Zingspot.com 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."

Dell had little to say when it acquired the tiny, Mountain View, Calif., company that makes streaming audio software.

But Zing makes a pretty nifty technology, one that SanDisk licensed for use in its Sansa Connect. It's software for real-time audio streaming--meaning you can get music wirelessly from an online source and from other portable devices.
Link

CD/DVD Playable on a Phonograph

From Optimal Media Productions:

The VinylDisc combines the analogue and digital worlds of sound. It is made from two fused layers; the silver layer contains the digital information (either in CD or DVD format) and the upper layer has a record groove, meaning it can be played on any record-player.

Link

Music Groups Struggling to Issue Debt

From Joshua Chaffin, MSNBC:

The turmoil in credit markets is frustrating plans by EMI and Warner Music to issue billions of dollars in debt backed by revenues from their publishing catalogues.

Both companies have been considering such moves as they contend with an industry collapse in compact disc sales and a difficult transition to digital distribution.

The proceeds could have been used to refinance outstanding debt, pay a dividend to frustrated shareholders and reinvest in core operations.

However, neither EMI nor Warner is expected to press ahead soon, given the distressed state of the credit markets.
Link

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Junior Walker: What Does It Take

So much of the old stuff is framed in such optimistic harmony...

FAQ TV on Demand

From Owen Gibson, Guardian Unlimited:

Why have the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 teamed up?

Recognising you don't need different TV sets to watch rival channels, they have assumed consumers are more likely to come to a site that aggregates output from major broadcasters rather than launching rival offerings. It follows the trend in the US where News Corp and NBC recently teamed up to launch Hulu.com.

What will be on offer?

They promise at least 10,000 hours of programming at launch, ranging from "catch up" shows from the previous 30 days to classic programmes from the archive.

On which platforms will it be available?

It will launch as a PC-based service but they hope to extend it to cable and Freeview.

Why not just sell programmes through another provider?

Broadcasters are terrified of following the music industry, which devolved control over pricing and packaging to Apple.

Link

Full Story: The digital embrace: rival broadcasters unite to avoid fate of music industry

Open Season: Doug Morris

Label chiefs really should avoid the press altogether, for what invariably happens of late is that their quotes are selectively reprinted elsewhere - by opportunists bent on chastising the music industry for failing to solve the insolvable - so as to make them appear fools. For after all, no one wants to alienate the file-sharing portion of their readership - rather the opposite; hence, the end result is further justification for piracy due to renewed populism facilitated by the spinning of isolated remarks.

In the following interview, it appears Morris was set-up from the onset; for every positive move for which he and Universal are credited, the author attempts to negate in a tit-for-tat fashion via largely anecdotal references designed to make Morris appear the buffoon.
The quote below highlights several of the company's constructive efforts, prior to being called into question.

From Seth Mnookin, Wired:

In spite of Morris' early resistance to digital music, in August Blender magazine ranked him fourth on its Powergeek 25, a list of what the publication calls "the rockingest nerds on the Net." Morris is the only record exec on the list, and he was placed above such digital pioneers as the founders of Last.fm, the head of technology at LimeWire, and the VP of music programming at Rhapsody.

Morris' ranking is recognition of the fact that Universal has been aggressively muscling new digital initiatives onto the market. In addition to the licensing deals with Yahoo and YouTube and the dollar-a-Zune deal with Microsoft, the company has had undeniable success in selling mastertones, high-quality ringtones made directly from the original song recordings. Akon, a Universal artist, holds the current all-time mastertone sales record at 11 million copies. 50 Cent, also with Universal, held the previous record with 10.5 million. Last year, while the largest portion of Universal's digital sales came from iTunes, the second-, third-, and fourth-biggest digital revenue generators were all cell phone companies.

Universal is also experimenting with the subscription-based plans that many — including the new cohead of Columbia Records, Rick Rubin — see as the wave of the future. The idea is to charge customers a fixed monthly fee (which could get tacked onto their cell phone, cable, or
Internet bill) in return for access to unlimited music from a given label and, say, the opportunity to hear new recordings a week before their general release. Morris is currently championing a version called Total Music.

Link

Monday, November 26, 2007

Platitudes and Piracy

Cayocosta

Some interesting posts at Velvet Rope highlighting how the music industry is typically (and falsely) accused of being slow to adapt. Of course, record companies can't adapt to piracy, as there is no way to successfully compete with free. After all, it's been eight years since Napster - a period where anyone could have entered the music business with a new-model solution - yet no one has successfully done so.

Might as well chastise the majors for their failure to devise a viable perpetual-motion machine.

Link

Quality of Music at Root of Industry's Troubles

Hardly anyone ties the worsening quality of pop music to flagging sales - it's usually just piracy that's mentioned. It also stands to reason that should quality improve, the industry might find itself back on track.

From Kings of A&R:

L.A. Reid is one of the few executives in the music business other than Rick Rubin who acknowledges or at least speaks out that the decay in the music business is due to quality, in what KOAR calls the CREATIVE DROUGHT. Unfortunately, many other executives have fell to the idea that the lack of sales is mainly due to technology.

Many execs and music labels spend their long days in meetings thinking about selling music. This is a BAD OMEN. We can be rest assured with this mentality that the quality of music will continue to suffer. Instead execs in music labels need to focus on CREATING quality music with potential artists. Many execs will argue, it’s not that easy - ok fine, lets continue..
Link

Record with Adrian Belew

From Adrian Belew Blog:

if Fall gets your creative firepit stoked like it does mine, you're ready for our SMARTIE songwriting contest.
here's the object:
complete any of the "unfinished" songs we've been releasing as downloads by adding your own melody, vocal, and/or words.
then send your completed masterpiece to webmaster Rob Murphree.
please send MP3s or CDs.
entries will be based on creativity,so feel free to add whatever you want.
keep in mind it's not a shredding contest but a creative assignment.
there will be 3 judges including yours truly.
entries must be sent to Rob by December 31.
the winner will be announced on January 10th.
the winner will be awarded an original Adrian painting worth 6 cents!!
and the winning masterpiece will be a free download for all the otherSMARTIEs to ignore...er, enjoy.
Link

For All the Rock in China

From Ben Sisario, New York Times:

As she would anywhere in the world, Karen O of the arty New York rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs strode onto a festival stage here last month in costume, looking like a wild, futuristic harlequin in her cape of silver wings and blue-and-green striped tights. Shouting to 10,000 mud-soaked fans who shouted her lyrics right back at her, she thanked them in gasps of Mandarin: “Xie xie ni!”

A couple of days earlier the Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli was at a gleaming new club across town. And last Sunday, Linkin Park, a group of rap-rock titans with worldwide sales of 45 million, played in Shanghai to a sold-out stadium crowd of 25,000.

They are among the latest in a growing tide of Western acts hoping to crack the vast new entertainment market of China. Once largely closed to foreign music, the country has gradually loosened restrictions and — at a time when record sales in the West continue to plunge, and new sources of revenue have become essential — emerged as a crucial territory on pop’s global map.

“China is on the tip of everybody’s tongue,” said Peter Grosslight, worldwide head of music for the William Morris Agency. “There’s 1.3 billion people there. It’s becoming a much wealthier place. How can we ignore that?”
Link

Hard to Be an Audiophile in an iPod World

From Anthony Tommasini, New York Times:

In the heyday of the stereophonic recording boom, during the 1960s and later, there were several magazines for serious classical music buffs with reviews of almost every new recording. But what truly defined these publications, like High Fidelity and Stereo Review, were critical reports on stereo equipment. The big advertising bucks came from the makers of hi-fi equipment, and well more than half the pages of such magazines were devoted to coverage of the latest stereo system products.

Naturally, the contention that audiophiles are an endangered species is strongly contested by those in the sound reproduction industry. Go to Stereo Exchange on Broadway in the East Village, generally regarded as a dependable outlet for top-quality sound systems, and talk to Alan C, as he calls himself. He’s nicknamed the Audio Elf by audiophiles who have been turning to him for decades.

“The demand for the best audio equipment has never stopped,” he said when I spoke with him on a recent visit to the store. “Even the death of vinyl is simply not true.” He noted that turntables, with sales of five million a year in the United States, are making a comeback.
Link

Beatles Film Shows Its True Colours

From Vanessa Thorpe, Guardian:
Help! is restored to its Sixties glory - with a little assistance from a red phone box and £700,000

The original, vibrant colours of the 1965 Beatles' film Help! are to be brought to the public eye once again tonight when a revitalised version is screened for the first time. The results of 11 months of work may surprise those who think they can remember what the 1960s looked like. At a cost of £700,000, the company the Beatles founded, Apple Corps, has given Help! an almost eerily fresh and contemporary look.

Hidden details and forgotten visual jokes have emerged from the shadows of a film which is still credited with inventing the music video. A restoration team working in London and California has cleaned 40 years of dirt and scratches from every frame and the colour distortion has been corrected.

The key to unlocking the true tones of the original footage was the British pillar box. Once those who were working on the faded and broken celluloid reels had found scenes including a post box and a traditional red telephone kiosk they were able to use the shade as a template for the level of colour. 'A pillar box doesn't change colour. We all know that. It was bright red then and it is bright red now,' said film restorer Claire Ferguson. 'We knew from looking at this and from looking at the de-graded grey of the policemen's helmets in the film, which should be pure black, that the rest of the colour had to be adjusted to fit.'

The overall effect is a much lighter, more glamorous film.
Link

Canada: Downloads' Double Edge

Although Canada's Copyright Act may be reformed, the following quote illustrates the effect legal downloading has had on consumers.

From Darryl Sterdan, London Free Press:
A kid and his mother are in a CD store. The kid turns to the mother and asks her to buy him a CD. The mother replies: Can't you just download it?

"I saw it with my own eyes," says an incredulous John Jones, western regional manager for Warner Music Canada. "You expect that from a kid, but this was a 45-year-old woman. I was flabbergasted."

But what he saw was nothing new. The world knows Canada as the Great White North -- but to the music industry it seems more like the Wild West these days.

Toothless copyright legislation and recent court decisions that suggest personal file-sharing may be legal in this country have conspired to create a lawless free-for-all that's siphoning millions of dollars and hurting the music scene, industry officials charge.

Link

Excuses for Stealing Music as Varied as the Artists

From Darryl Sterdan, London Free Press:

Every music fan's taste is different. But when it comes to illegal file-sharing, they all sing the same songs.

"I've heard them all so many times, they're almost like the 10 commandments of stealing," Canadian Recording Industry Association president Graham Henderson says with a rueful laugh. "It's an activity people are uncomfortable about, so they need to find rationales for it."

Link

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Music Model Experiment: BitTorrent

Cayocosta

I placed a couple of tracks on 3 different sites to get a handle on how these services work and how well they might help artists promote themselves and/or sell their music.

The Music:

The tracks used for the test were produced, engineered, recorded and written by professionals. Now, I'm not saying that the tracks are anything special; however, they are most certainly competitive with the bulk of offerings I have found available from these services.

Self-Promotion:

There is literally zero artist self-promotion. The tracks are to live or die based solely on the service itself. There are no artist websites, and the acts and songs are - for all practical purposes - unknown.

BitTorrent:

(Free service, songs placed are generally free of charge.)

After uploading one track (and once it cleared the review process) my song appeared at the top of the "just added" list for a couple of days, during which it was downloaded around 3 times.

Later I uploaded a second track that stayed at the top of the same list for about a week, during which it was downloaded about 20 times.

To date (1 month) each song has been downloaded about 50 times.

There have been no comments or reviews.

As my tracks continue to slide down the "just added" list (displaced by new entries) it follows that the reduction in visibility will lead to fewer downloads and ultimately, stagnation.

Overall, it appears that the great majority of BitTorrent users (150+ million) rarely check the site for new music.

(It should be mentioned that BitTorrent features no preview capability, so there is no way for a user to discern the quality of a track before downloading. In other words, a bad song has just as much chance as a good one to be downloaded.)

Summary:

BitTorrent really doesn't afford much to the independent artist other than a storage/download platform with a little initial visibility to a small audience that happens to check the site. Therefore, without achieving placement among the longer-lived new-music lists, tracks are essentially doomed to fade from visibility over time with little action.

Moreover, depending on the timing of an upload, the visible life on the "just added" list could be anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days. There is also a possibility that at any time someone else might add 3 or 4 pages of new material, consequently burying all that preceded it.

Due to the lack of interest in new music at the site level, BitTorrent offers little potential for viral propagation for the volume of downloads prior to virtual invisibility is small. As such, BitTorrent, in my experience, is of little value to relatively unknown artists seeking exposure; and of zero value with regard to selling music.

Next up: GarageBand and Amie St.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ghost Writer: The Unsung Star of British Music

From The Independent:

She's hardly known outside the music industry, yet Amanda Ghost is increasingly seen as Britain's most influential songwriter. Sophie Morris talks to a young Londoner who has penned hits for everyone from James Blunt to Beyoncé.

In the summer of 2005, James Blunt's irritatingly catchy ballad, "You're Beautiful", went stratospheric. It topped the charts in Britain, the US and Canada and became the first song by a British artist ever to climb to the top of the Latin American Top 40. Blunt went on to collect two Ivor Novello awards the following year.

Then word leaked out that the creative hand behind his crooning, forlorn vocals actually belonged to one Amanda Ghost, a British singer-songwriter who was at the start of her own burgeoning performing career when she co-wrote the tune. At the time, she tried to play down her involvement, saying she had just "tweaked a chorus". Now she admits that that was considerable understatement, explaining that she was wary of overshadowing Blunt's well-earned success – and pointing out that there is no shame in having worked with another writer on a song.

Link

YouTube and Monetizing Music

With all the talk about monetizing music, YouTube may be an indicator that the concept is not worthwhile.

From Chris Nuttall, Financial Times Blog:

There was a palpable atmosphere of dissatisfaction with YouTube this week at an online video conference where it should have been the star of the show.

An interview with Steve Chen, co-founder, at NewTeeVee Live was preceded by panels where YouTube’s business model and popularity were questioned.

“The lack of monetisation on YouTube today is astounding,” said Dennis Miller of venture capital firm Spark Capital.

“You’ve got the single best monetising machine that can’t figure out how to monetise all those eyeballs. There’s some paltry number out there for the millions of streams they serve.”

Mary Hodder, the founder of video search engine Dabble, said there was now enormous fragmentation of the market with a proliferation of online video sites.

Link

ZML.com Mimics AllofMP3, Spins Discounted Movie Downloads

From Digital Music News:

The music industry never completely shuttered AllofMP3, the Russian cut-rate music download store. Instead of going away, owner Media Services battled numerous challenges while spawning clones like MP3Sparks (mp3sparks.com). That has been just one aspect of a global infringement migraine for the recording industry, which frequently finds itself battling enemies in foreign lands. For years, labels were repeatedly unable to wipe away AllofMP3, despite massive legal, financial, and even high-level diplomatic attacks.

Link

ASCAP Sues WRIK/Metropolis for Copyright Infringement

From Radio Online:

ASCAP, along with other music groups, have filed a $1.5 million suit against Sun Media's WRIK-FM/Metropolis, IL, and GM Samuel K. Stratemeyer. The suit, filed on November 15 in U.S. District Court, says WRIK "willfully infringed" on copyrighted material by playing songs from the repertory of the ASCAP without license.

Link

Sony Sued in Meat Loaf Logo Row

From BBC News:

Sony Music must pay $5m (£2.4m) to a small record company for missing its logo off Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell album, a US court has ruled.

The decision comes after a court settlement in 1998 decided Sony should include the Cleveland International logo on future copies of the record.

Link

France Set to Cut Web Access for Music, Film Pirates

From Francois Murphy, Reuters:

PARIS (Reuters) - Internet users in France who frequently download music or films illegally risk losing Web access under a new anti-piracy system unveiled on Friday.

The three-way pact between Internet service providers, the government and owners of film and music rights is a boon to the music industry, which has been calling for such measures to stop illicit downloads eating into its sales.

Under the agreement -- drawn up by a commission headed by the chief executive of FNAC, one of France's biggest music and film retailers -- service providers will issue warning messages to customers downloading files illegally.

Link

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Good Download Goes Unpunished

Cayocosta

It appears that unrestricted, 256k full-length concert downloads for only $10 (with all concerned getting their fair share of the proceeds) is still not good enough for some; for according to a few posters at the Wolfgang's Vault forum, even desk-mixes from thirty-year-old concerts (most likely to be played back on iPods and listened to with earbuds) should be offered in lossless audio, and as such the mp3 format is no longer worth paying for.

Not hard to imagine this argument as the next in defense of piracy should DRM come to an end.

Link

Copyright Alliance Calls on Presidential Candidates to Support America's "Ideas Economy"

From the site:

WASHINGTON, November 20 - The Copyright Alliance today sent letters and questions to presidential candidates requesting information about their plans to maintain meaningful copyright protection and ensure the U.S. copyright industries continue to be the engines of economic growth and job creation they are today.

The letter and questionnaire were sent to 17 candidates seeking the presidential nomination of either the Democratic or Republican parties.

The Copyright Alliance has requested that responses from the candidates and their campaigns be provided by early next year and will make those responses available publicly on a date to be announced.

The Alliance is asking candidates to comment on five topics important to maintaining the strength of America’s Ideas Economy –

  • the principle of copyright,

  • the application of copyright law to the digital world,

  • enforcement of copyright law,

  • use of trade agreements to ensure a level playing field for U.S. industry worldwide, and

  • free expression.
“The U.S. economy today is driven by ideas, whether they be born of research, technological innovation or the stroke of a pen or strum of a guitar,” said Patrick Ross, Copyright Alliance Executive Director. “This Ideas Economy is the backbone of job creation, growth and surplus trade. The copyright industries employ more than 11 million Americans and we want to call attention to the voices of these creators and the principles important to them among those seeking our nation’s highest office.”

The U.S. copyright industries in 2005 contributed $1.38 trillion to the U.S. economy, or more than 11 percent of U.S. GDP. With an annual growth rate of more than 7 percent, the total copyright industries’ growth is twice that of overall GDP. That growth leads to good quality, well-paying jobs. 11 million American are employed in the creative industries and earn on average $66,727 annually – as compared with the overall U.S. average of $49,828.

Link

Wolfgang's Vault Adds Country Concert Streaming

Just a fantastic service.

From the site:

We have just completed a fairly major overhaul of our site and would like to share with you the thinking behind these changes.

In the two years since we launched the last design of Wolfgang’s Vault, we have added several major components to the company (Concert Vault, Crawdaddy!, Mojam and now Country Music Vault). We forced a few links on different pages to connect these sites, but it got to the point that without some unifying navigation between them we were going to end up with a jumble of sites sitting by themselves. Secondly, we felt that our internal search needed some significant upgrading. You can now search across all of our sites and refine your searches much more easily than in the past.

In addition to the new look, there are two big collections of content that we added with this launch. The first, and most obvious, is the addition of Country Music Vault. We had some great country shows that were getting buried a bit within Concert Vault and we wanted to make sure this music was given its proper due. We have added almost 150 new country shows to the site to bring the number of live country concerts to 200, which will grow weekly. We have also added 100 classic interviews from the mid 70’s through 2001 with a who’s who list of rock legends.

Our hope is that the new design will feel familiar to our longtime visitors while being easy to navigate on your first trip to the Vault. We intend to build on top of this and add more new features in the coming months. Let me add a quick thank you to all the people at Wolfgang’s Vault who put in some long hours to get the design, the code and the content ready to go. Please let us know what you think.

Cheers!

Wolfgang

Link

Average Briton Buys Less Than One Digital Track Per Year

From Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Financial Times:

Retailers are urging the music industry to drop piracy protection for online downloads after new figures showed the average Briton has bought fewer than three digital tracks in the past three years.

Incompatible proprietary technologies, aimed at defeating rampant piracy in the digital music era, are instead “stifling growth and working against the consumer interest”, said Kim Bayley, director-general of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).

Her warning comes as high street retailers and digital music specialists watch pre-Christmas sales trends nervously. The music industry makes at least 40 per cent of its revenues in the fourth quarter, but the traditional sales build-up has started later than usual.

Although Leona Lewis – the X Factor winner backed by Simon Cowell’s Syco label – this month notched up the highest first-week album sales for a debut artist, album volumes are down 11 per cent, or 12m units, for the year to date, according to the Official UK Charts Company and Music Week.

Link

A World Without Hits

From Steve Rosenbaum, Always On:

The media business has always been a business of hits. Venture understands that - it's a portfolio. But there a pretty good chance that the entire basis of a 'hits' may be rapidly coming to an end.

The word 'hit' suggests a film, tv show, book, or piece of music that rises above the noise and becomes something of a pop culture phenomenon. But just look at the things that are cutting through the clutter these days. No one would argue that her pseudo-pornographic escapades are either good for the culture or - to use an internet word - monetizable.

It may be that content becomes more like groceries. There are no hits in the canned vegetables section. I'm not suggesting that content becomes a commodity as much as that content becomes an eco-system of micro payments and micro-audiences. This could be a very good thing for creators and consumers, since it would be a much richer diet of choices, and the ability to vote with your checkbook and support creators that make things that are meaningful to you. Think of it like the ebay (or really more like the etsy) of content. Imagine a media diet that looks more like whole foods than McDonalds. There a pretty good argument to be made that we're heading there.

Link

Independent Artists Sell Music, Videos on iTunes With TuneCore

From the site:

TuneCore Video (currently in Beta) will deliver your music videos to iTunes, where your fans can buy them for download. TuneCore CANNOT currently deliver shorts, TV shows, movies or any other video that is not specifically a MUSIC VIDEO. After your video has been purchased, the money it earned will go into your TuneCore My Account page for you to take any time you want, day or night, by check or PayPal. As always, TuneCore takes NONE of the money from the sales of your music or music videos: you will receive 100% of the money from the sale of your music video. TuneCore Video is non-exclusive, we take none of your rights or masters, and you can cancel at any time. There is no charge if you would like your video removed from iTunes after the first six months.

Here are all the fees you'll ever encounter at TuneCore Video (all fees one-time only):

Digital delivery of a music video to iTunes for more by length:

0 to 5:00 minutes: $85
5:01 to 10:00 minutes: $175
10:01 to 20:00 minutes: $250
20:01 to 30:00 minutes: $350
30:01 to 40:00 minutes: $425

Resubmitting a music video: $50
Requesting a music video be taken down from iTunes within the first six months: $20
Annual maintenance and storage fee, per video: $19.98

Link

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Led Zeppelin Launch Official Website

From the site:

Led Zeppelin are pleased to announce the launch of their new Official Website :

http://www.ledzeppelin.com/

Ledzeppelin.com will be the ultimate online destination for all Led Zeppelin fans, old and new. As well as keeping the world up to date on Led Zeppelin’s activities, the site will give fans a chance to explore the band’s history and music within a goldmine of information, photos, official merchandise and audio-visual media.

One key area of the site is the “Timeline” – a searchable concert itinerary of all of Led Zeppelin’s previous tour dates. This is an area for fans to contribute to the site by submitting their own reviews of performances seen through the years as well as sharing info, pictures and so on with the entire Led Zeppelin community.

At the time of launch, there will be approximately 1,400 rare images (performances and memorabilia) in the Photo Gallery.

Among other features are interactive "flipbooks" of over a dozen rare tour programmes, where you can “virtually” browse through each page.

The Discography section also features a huge assortment of rare ads, 45 picture sleeves, promos, and related memorabilia.

Link

Democrats to Reclaim Country Music

From Toby Harnden, Telegraph.co.uk:

Democrats angered at the image of country and western as Right-wing “redneck music” are planning a tour of Middle America during the 2008 election campaign by Nashville artists opposed to the Iraq war.

An alliance called the Music Row Democrats is poised to re-launch itself early next year in an attempt to seize back country music from the Republican camp and spread their message that President George W. Bush’s party does not care about ordinary people.

Link

Philadelphia Radio Legend, Pioneer Hy Lit Dead at 73

From Radio Online:

Rock radio pioneer and legendary Philadelphia air personality Hy Lit (aka Hyman Litsky) has died following complications of a knee injury earlier this month. He was 73. Lit had also suffered from Parkinson's disease. During his 50-plus years on the Philly airwaves, Lit worked for over ten radio outlets, before launching the Oldies format on WCAU-AM in 1990. He also hosted shows with the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

Link

From Hy Lit Radio:

1968 - A Piece of My Heart.

Hyski launches Underground radio. The beginning of FM Radio. Hy Lit Pioneers FM, with artists like Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Steppenwolf, Cream, the Moody Blues, the Who, Iron Butterfly and many more up and coming artists...

It was late 1968. WIBG had a decade long run at the top of the ratings. I personally garnered a 71 share for my Sunday night WIBBAGE hall of fame show and had 40+ shares during the week. Subsequently as a result, we were sold out, usually with 20-22 minute hourly commercial loads. When WFIL flipped to top 40 in late 1966, they basically ran commercial free for a good solid year. When WIBBAGE was playing commercials WFIL was playing music. So the listeners began to have to wait to hear their favorites on WIBG. It was only a matter of time before they would catch us. I personally went to Storer Broadcasting Management and suggested they raise the rates and cut the commercial load. But that fell on deaf ears. By late 1968, Storer Broadcasting's answer was to bring in Paul Drew, who implemented an emulation of the Paul Drake que card format. It was less talk, one-liners and a limited music rotation selection. Never a fan of the Drake type format, and having lost confidence in the accumulating management errors, I accepted a position as Vice President/General Manager at 105.3/WDAS-FM, and created HYSKI'S UNDERGROUND, a format that was a new wave of album oriented music. Simultaneously, I was also required to work the 'SOUL PATROL' 1480/WDAS AM 1-4pm daily for the first year. Ironically, this was not the first time I was on FM radio. I was already heard on FM through the 50's & 60's on Wibbage simulcast 94.1/WIBG-FM, and even earlier on 105.3/WHAT-FM (1340/WHAT simulcast), which ultimately after early frequency changes became WDAS-FM.

Link

Monday, November 19, 2007

Played Out: Radiohead

Another thing getting horribly predictable is Radiohead's daily agitprop...

From NME:

Radiohead have spoken out against the music industry, calling its current state "horribly predictable".

Speaking about the revolutionary way their new album 'In Rainbows' was made available, bassist Colin Greenwood said that band wanted to shake things up.

Ateaseweb printed samples of the band's interview with the Columbia Spectator, during which Greenwood said: "I hope we put some excitement back into music; It's all becoming horribly predictable."

Link

Samsung SLM Brings Napster Downloads to AT&T on Black Friday

From infoSync World:

Samsung's new flip will be the first Napster Mobile device on AT&T, offering single-track downloads, not subscription service.

Samsung today announced their newest slim flip phone, the SGH-A747, otherwise known as the Samsung SLM. The SLM follows the obviuos family lineage of other thin Samsung flip phones, notably the Helio Fin, and at just over a half inch thick, it won't be the thinnest flip on the market, but it will be impressively slim, nonetheless. More importantly, though, the SLM will be the debut device for AT&T's Napster Mobile service. Napster mobile, which was announced last month, will give AT&T the music download store they have been lacking, while CDMA competitors like Sprint and Verizon Wireless have had stores available for some time.

What differentiates these mobile music stores most is their pricing, and AT&T has decided to join the high end of the pricing model. Songs will be available in five packs for $7.50, or individually for $1.99. This is about what you'd expect to pay on Verizon's V Cast music store, though Sprint has taken the lead by offering $0.99 downloads this year.

We're disappointed by the music download service, especially since it uses the Napster brand, but doesn't offer the subscription service that is Napster's main selling point. And, a subscription-based mobile music service would have been a truly novel selling point, but instead AT&T has caught up with a product that is already behind the market, at least in terms of price. Still, other features, like simultaneous downloads to your home PC, can also be found elsewhere.

Link

Bill Moyers Journal: Media Consolidation Crisis

From Bill Moyers Journal, PBS:

We begin with big media, our favorite beat for years now. There's a new twist this week. Despite overwhelming public opposition from across the country and the political spectrum, the Chairman of the FCC, Kevin Martin, isn't letting up in his relentless push to allow a handful of media giants swallow up more of your local media.

He made it official on Tuesday: He intends to lift the longstanding ban that keeps one company from owning both the daily newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market.

From the Seattle public hearing:

"We told you a year ago, when you came to Seattle, that media consolidation is a patently bad idea, no ifs ands or buts about it. So with all due respect, I ask you: What part of that didn't you understand?

Do you think that another year of listening to the same homogenized, formulaic, mindless crap that passes for news and entertainment on the commercial dial has suddenly caused us to say, "Please, I'd like a little more of that.
"

MySpace to Move Into Ad-Supported Music

From Brian Morrissey, Adweek:

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.

"This happens in a time when the record industry has such a black eye," said Josh Brooks, vp of marketing at MySpace, owned by News Corp. "It's a nice opportunity and a way to get your music out there."

Pennywise typically sells between 60,000 and 100,000 albums, Brooks said, and MySpace expects at least that many will take up the free offer and add Textango as a friend.

Yet the expected onslaught of friends was not a primary attraction of the partnership, Textango CEO Shawn Dornan said, but rather the opportunity to associate with MySpace and a new kind of music delivery.

The incentive of free music and ads run across MySpace, particularly its music section, will quickly build Textango's friend count from its current 30, Brooks said. But in the end, incentives only start a dialogue, and brands will need to maintain it with their own proposition.

"Once you get to the page and make the commitment to friend, the brand has to be appealing enough to maintain it," he said.

Link

Popularity Curve: Radiohead

180 day blogspot popularity curve

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Free-Music Model and the Middle Class Artist

Cayocosta

There currently exist several disparate proposals for new-music models, and from this speculative collection, that which I have chosen to address herein is particularly, the free-music doctrine; with my intention being the illustration that while this concept is not specific to record companies, should they in fact choose to migrate to such a practice, the resulting precedent would force most every artist, including those operating independently, to commensurately acquiesce; with the resulting fallout ultimately manifesting itself in the exacerbation of an already systemic marginalization of the middle-class artist brought on by an equivalent phenomenon, music-piracy.

To clarify, my use of the term "middle-class" is meant to represent those professional recording artists whose popularity places them in the range (slightly above or below, year to year) of being economically self-sustaining.

Free Music

Professional music can never be truly free, for by its very nature people are employed within its scope, resulting in a capital cost generated to render it available for consumption; and for this reason should someday recorded music not directly command a fee, its cost nevertheless will have to be absorbed by something else - for example, even if distributed without charge and subsidized via advertising, the price of that which is advertised will have to include a share of the cost of the music delivering the message. Otherwise (or should the advertising allocation be insufficient to provide a viable surplus revenue over cost) professional music would no longer represent a viable trade.

Thus, it's not necessarily only the industry that currently faces problems, it's professional music that too, is in trouble; for no matter what happens to the corporations historically responsible for its availability, a cost will always be incurred via the creation of professional music that must be offset - along with a surplus facilitating income – to warrant its continuance.

To reiterate; the cost of professional music must be absorbed along with a surplus to facilitate income for those in its employ; as such, whether a song is free and touring earnings cover the loss, or the song is paid for directly in an amount sufficient to warrant its creation, it makes no difference – its cost must be recouped.

Middle Class

There currently exist artists so popular (largely due to industry support) whereby the loss of income attributable to the sale of music would be of little consequence as it could be easily made up for through touring, endorsements and merchandising.

What remains indisputable however, is the fact that under a free-music platform the overall likelihood of artists being able to earn a living would be reduced (because potential income has been reduced) consequently the line at which success is delineated would be higher, thus freezing out a larger portion of the professional music middle-class.

Theory

The free-music doctrine is predicated upon an increase in popularity due to the unfettered distribution of music and subsequent viral promotion of the artist, and hence an increase in income generated from alternative sources thus offsetting lost revenue once derived from music sales.

In my opinion, the biggest stumbling-block to this theory is that if the free-music concept is indeed valid, artists should have voluntarily chosen this method en-masse already. For it stands to reason that since file-sharing has been (and continues to be) so prevalent (which can be considered an underground real-world free-music trial) the shift to a free-music model should have occurred organically (indeed, virally) already - in other words, if the free-music paradigm actually does result in increased income, artists would have realized it by now and fled their paid-music programs (and/or traditional labels) for this otherwise nascent archetype.

Ultimately, the free-music theory appears to fall prey to its own premise (that viral propagation will lead to increased patronage) as it has failed to propagate virally as a successful platform itself over the last few years; therefore, while logical as a no-other-choice option for new artists struggling for initial visibility, its viability as a new-music panacea for all others is highly questionable.

It should also be mentioned that in my empirical experience (and for reasons beyond the scope of this document) there appears little public interest in free-music made available by new artists devoid of the cachet of record company representation.

Pressure

Similar to a limited free-music business model from a financial standpoint (because it circumvents all methods by which music can be reliably recompensed - short of a tax of some sort, or other external subsidization) piracy’s net effect upon artists is the same in that it manifests itself in the form of downward pressure on potential surplus revenue across all other streams of income; and devoid of an equilibrium being established by the artist, the result will be that music is no longer tenable in so far as a profession.

For example, in direct response to falling music sales, the propagation of the 360 deal highlights the increasing attempt by record companies to make up for the associated loss of income by way of their participation in revenue subordinate to some (if not all) other income opportunities available to their artists. Consequently, artists under such contracts will find it much more difficult to reach and sustain a position of operating in the black, as they will be receiving a greatly reduced net share of the total income they generate.

In light of the above, it is of little relevance whether an artist is under contract with a record company or not, for this free-music cause and effect is a universal economic force, applying to all artists equally.

Moreover, it is quite likely that in the effort to maximize revenue (including ancillary) derived from live performances, a potential exists for major record company monopolization of smaller venues which could result in a dearth of opportunity for independent artists to effect the same.

Summary

Madonna, The Eagles, U2, etc., are not intimidated by the free-music model, for due to their popularity and associated success (due largely to major record company representation) proceeds attributable to the sale of recordings surely represent just a small portion of their respective aggregate income; rather (and more importantly) it’s those artists at or near, and just below, the tipping point of profitability whose livelihoods hang in the balance.

What this means is that should the industry choose to distribute music free of charge, the best-case scenario would be that we will find ourselves with fewer mid-level choices amidst a shrinking roster of professional artists; a condition to which piracy, strictly by the numbers, must have already contributed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Clash - Rock The Casbah

Can't get more appropriate than this...

MTV Premieres in the Middle East

As if there weren't enough people over there pissed-off at us already...

From Joe Orovic, CMJ:

MTV will do its part to win the hearts and minds of the people in the Middle East when it launches MTV Arabia at midnight tonight, potentially reaching up to 36 million viewers. The region boasts two-thirds of the population under 30, but, it will be undoubtedly be an uphill battle for the network, which is already struggling in the United States.

Link

Blondie - Hangin' On The Telephone

Nielson SoundScan Data: DRM-Free Tracks Do Not Increase Overall Sales

From Troy Wolverton, Mercury News:

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.

The labels' moves have opened up competition in the digital music space. In September, Amazon.com launched a digital music store, featuring only MP3 tracks. Meanwhile other, older digital music vendors, including iTunes and Wal-Mart's Web store, added DRM-free tracks.

Because those songs lack DRM, they can be played on just about any digital music device.
Although it's still early, DRM-free music seems to have had, at best, a slight positive benefit to the music industry.

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.

Overall, the number of digital songs sold each week seems to have been unaffected by the launch of the major DRM-free stores since May, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. Digital song sales - both of tracks with and without DRM - are in the same range after May as they were in the weeks before DRM-free sales started.

But that's small consolation for an industry whose wholesale revenue in the United States was down 11 percent in the first half of this year, according to IFPI, the industry's global trade group. That's on top of declines in retail sales in six out of the past seven years, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Link

Canada Moves to Reform Copyright Protection

From Robert Thompson, Reuters:

TORONTO (Billboard) - The Canadian music biz is breathing a sigh of relief after a government pledge to introduce long-awaited copyright legislation aimed at solving the country's music piracy problem.

The legislation might be introduced as soon as within the next few weeks. Caroline Grondin, spokesperson for the Industry Canada ministry, said the government is aware of the need to move quickly.

"Canada's Copyright Act needs to be reformed to respond to the challenges of the digital age," she said. "New protections proposed for the benefit of rights holders will seek to address online infringement as well as create a legal framework that encourages the rollout, by rights holders, of new business models."

Renewed interest in Canada's Copyright Act followed the announcement of the legislation in October's Conservative Party "throne speech," essentially a public list of the government's upcoming priorities. Industry sources told Billboard that the government has been under pressure from foreign countries to update the legislation, which could be introduced before Parliament begins its holiday break in December.

Graham Henderson, president of labels body the Canadian Recording Industry Assn. (CRIA), said the legislation will demonstrate the country's commitment to protecting its songwriters and musicians.

The effect of the existing 1921 legislation, underscored by a series of court cases, is that downloading a song or making files available for sharing does not constitute copyright infringement.

Link

Friday, November 16, 2007

Shawn Smith

Cayocosta

Myself and some friends founded an Internet label back in '99 - 818 Music - our initial release was Seattle-based Shawn Smith's (Brad, Satchel, Pigeonhed) first solo album, the critically acclaimed Let It All Begin. Check it out here (recommended tracks: The Train Is Coming and Land Of Gold) along with Shawn's subsequent (excellent) work:

New Music Store Opens in Mill Valley

From Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal:

"Keeping Music in Mill Valley."

That's the slogan of the new Mill Valley Music store, which celebrates its grand opening from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at 320 Miller Ave.

The store specializes in new and used vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, posters and guitar strings.

If it sounds like the recently closed Village Music, it's because the owner is Gary Scheuenstuhl, who worked with John Goddard at Village Music for 25 years.

"I think the community needs this," Scheuenstuhl said as he set up shop. "People want something like this, and we aim to support local music by creating a real community environment. We're trying to make this place a hangout."

After 40 years in Mill Valley, Village Music closed partly because of the economic challenges a traditional record store faces in the age of digital downloading. But Scheuenstuhl is counting on the community getting behind an independent record store carrying on the legacy of Village Music.

"I'm acutely aware of downloading and casual burning of CDs, so I'm certainly not doing this to get rich," he said. "How many record stores have you seen open lately? But some things you don't do for money. You do them for the love of music."

Link

Live Nation: "We are not getting into the record business"

From Fortune:

Live Nation responds to critics who say the giant concert promoter paid way too much for the Material Girl, reports Fortune's Paul Sloan.

Michael Cohl, who runs Live Nation's Artist Nation division and helped broker the contract with Madonna, described the deal as pure partnership and said that any money after that is a basic revenue share, although the splits vary depending on the products. The problem, he said, is that people are viewing the deal as if it's a record deal -- and everyone knows the record business is suffering.

Instead, he said, investors need to realize that the rights deal will be "cross collateralized" across dozens of products -- ticket sales, DVDs, books, t-shirts, clothing lines, streaming videos, private concerts. "Anything you can think of we can do," said Cohl, who runs tours for the Rolling Stones, among other acts.

"Make no mistake," said Rapino. "We are not getting into the record business. We are not building a system to sell 6-inch discs....We're a marketing and distribution company."

Record labels have big infrastructures around the world to get CDs into stores, but Rapino argues he doesn't need that.

He likes to point to the deal the Eagles just did to sell its 2-disc set exclusively through Wal-Mart, without having to give a cut to a label. They sold 700,000 in the first week. Whether its Wal-Mart or Starbucks or Victoria's Secret, Rapino said plenty of companies are eager to cut deals to distribute albums.

"Corporate America couldn't be more excited about the demise of the record companies," he said.

Link

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Live Nation to Acquire Music Merchandiser Signatures Network for $79 Million

From Forbes:

Live Nation Inc. said Thursday its Live Nation Artists division has agreed to acquire music merchandising company Signatures Network Inc. in a $79 million deal involving cash, stock and repayment of debt.

Currently, Signatures holds the merchandise licenses for more than 150 music groups and artists.

Link

Last.fm Builds Music Application for Ning’s Growing Platform of Social Networks

From Business Wire:

Last.fm, the music discovery and social networking website, announced today the launch of a music application for the 122,000 social networks currently on the Ning’s network. The application is designed to take advantage of the new OpenSocial standard, which is spearheaded by Google and was announced earlier this month.

Ning – a platform for creating social networks – is among the early supporters of the OpenSocial, which is a common programming interface for Web-based social networking applications.

Beginning today, users of the Ning platform will be able to add Last.fm’s music application to their personalized homepage on any of Ning’s network of sites. Music fans will also soon be able to add the Last.fm application directly to a host of social networking sites including MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, among the many other sites participating in OpenSocial.

Last.fm’s music application will enable music fans to create a personalized display of their favorite artists. The application can be customized according to taste, and offers the ability to launch a radio station based on any of the user’s chosen artists. The application marks the first step in Last.fm’s initiative to develop for OpenSocial.

Link

Music Company 'NovaTunes' Launches Globally This Month

From PRNewswire:

NovaTunes launches at the end of November. TheVenice, California, based company has built the platform to distribute and sell music to a global audience of music fans in high quality digital album format. "But we take the 'Radiohead model' to a totally new level," says founder & President Hans Veldhuizen. "In such a way that up-and-coming artists can also enjoy the benefits of the changes in music distribution."

Many artists are experimenting with selling music directly to their fans. Veldhuizen: "World famous bands can pull that off, but it won't work for up-and-coming artists who don't have a big fan base yet. That's where NovaTunes comes in. We've developed a model in which we leverage the fan bases of all artists on NovaTunes - the famous ones and the ones who are at the start of their career. By doing that, we add something very valuable to the model: an instant audience of music fans around the world, who are interested in quality music from great artists".

NovaTunes embraces a 'Hear, Like, Buy' approach: users can hear each album in full and if they like it, they can buy and download it directly. Music fans can also join 'artist networks' where musicians and their audience meet. They can discuss music, write reviews and recommend other NovaTunes artists they like. This type of 'social network' is a great way to discover new music and new artists.

Music icon Graham Nash, who has joined the Board of Advisors of the company, is a firm supporter of the NovaTunes model: "The music industry is in dire straits and solutions are coming from companies like NovaTunes. The people at NovaTunes understand the internet and take advantage of it by creating a space for musicians to connect to their fans and to release new music instantly to them, wherever in the world they are. It's a fabulous business model and that's why I wanted to join in and help them and push them as far as they can go, because this is the future".

The music on NovaTunes is sold in a new digital album format called the 'DP', which stands for Download Pack. Each DP comes with high quality DRM-free music tracks playable on any device. The package also contains printable artwork, with a bio, lyrics, credits and liner notes and an iPod-ready video.

Link

RCRD LBL: Don’t Buy The Hype

Cayocosta

Seems everybody’s pretty quick to jump the gun in the race for a new-music model lately as each new startup is routinely being touted in the press as the potential savior of the industry - which should also raise the question of how much of this mass speculation is no more than opportunistic hype - with the latest case in point being Rcrd Lbl.

Nothing New

Music-licensing and Internet sites featuring free mp3 downloads subsidized via advertising are nothing new. Rcrd Lbl - besides having possibly the worst name in the history of business - has simply combined the two.

Despite its flamboyant introduction, Rcrd Lbl is not a business specifically designed to make money through advertising while providing free music downloads; instead the company focuses on traditional music-licensing for the bulk of its income and appears to consider advertising revenue as supplementary - for artists will not even participate.

Instead, under this new "model," artists are (reportedly) offered between $500 and $5000 in exchange for the exclusive right of Rcrd Lbl to license a track to third parties (as well as the right to give the track away for free) with the stipulation that upon such licensing, the resulting revenue is split.

(Unfortunately, it remains unclear as to the artist’s share of licensing income, as well as whether or not advances are recoupable, and if Rcrd Lbl rights include the ability to license a track to any advertiser without consent - potentially effecting an endorsement against the artist’s will.)

Record Label?

Nothing appears to have been mentioned regarding this startup actually making records, consequently it’s unlikely this business plan is even a candidate for a limited solution for the troubled recording industry. Josh Deutsch, chairman of Rcrd Lbl admitted as much to the Wall Street Journal when he offered, "I'm not saying Rcrd Lbl is the answer, but it's an answer to [the question of] 'How do you monetize music?' "

Again, monetizing music via licensing is nothing new, and Columbia’s use of Google advertising on it’s website could technically be considered as having beat them to that particular punch. So, what’s the big deal?

Blog Format

Considering Rcrd Lbl boasts as having signed 50 artists to date, the blog format does not appear to have been a good choice, for artist visibility is already limited with only a handful of acts featured on the front page; moreover, there exists a possibility the company’s credibility could be jeopardized should customers decide their blogging represents self-interested propaganda.

P2P

As with any free-music/advertising model, there is nothing preventing tracks from becoming widely distributed via P2P networks, which could result in disappointing advertising revenue via the circumvention, in this case, of the Rcrd Lbl site itself. (Possibly this is the reason they have chosen to place their emphasis on licensing as opposed to advertising; and if so, constitutes further evidence the free-music/advertising concept is weak.)

Summary

Rather than a new-music panacea or record company in the traditional sense, Rcrd Lbl appears to be just a music-licensing marketplace featuring free promotional mp3 downloads of the tracks being offered – a one-stop of sorts whereby organizations can license music for use in television, commercials and film; and for artists in search of such opportunities, a showcase for their work.

Not a bad idea from a purely licensing perspective, and it stands to reason that we could see additional startups (devoid of any record company baggage or blog pretense) emerge based on a similar concept but with a more concentrated focus on improving and/or enhancing the music-licensing experience for both artist and licensee - perhaps partially facilitated via the inclusion of an auction.

With regard to Rcrd Lbl itself, in my opinion their manifestation of the entity as a free-music record label (and blog) compromises the ultimate capability of what is essentially a licensing mechanism (and appears to be no more than an attempt to leverage the current climate of sensationalist anti-label rhetoric surrounding the industry) and as such we may witness their being trumped by a more focused competitor in very short order. Moreover, in that Rcrd Lbl is a sister company to Downtown Records, the specter of nepotism may prove to be a major deterrent for outsiders considering participation, thus further limiting the company’s attractiveness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Prince Likely to be "Completely Destroyed" by Free-Music "System"

From Greg Sandoval, CNET News:

He was among the first major recording artists to sell music online. This summer, Prince distributed more than 2 million free copies of his album Planet Earth as part of a newspaper promotion in the United Kingdom. Last year, he was honored with a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his "visionary use of the Internet to distribute music."

But Prince, one of America's most successful recording artists for three decades, seems to have had a dramatic change of heart. Within the next few days, he is expected to cap an aggressive two-month legal campaign to protect his copyright by suing The Pirate Bay, a popular BitTorrent tracking site best known for helping people find unauthorized copies of music and movies. As reported Friday by CNET News.com, Prince plans to sue The Pirate Bay in three countries for encouraging copyright violations--the United States, France, and Sweden, where the Pirate Bay is based.

File sharers who are now cursing Prince should remember that for nearly 10 years he has tried to solve a problem that has stumped the beleaguered record industry: how can you make money from digital music?

Prince was the first major artist to distribute an album exclusively online, though he later decided to release the record on disc. He continued releasing music over the Web after leaving his record label, Warner Bros., in the mid-1990s. It was only last summer, after giving away millions of albums for free, that a spokesman told The New York Times that "Prince's only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it."

Some believe Prince was disappointed by his online experiments. Whatever revenue he generated from Web sales doesn't appear to have been enough to prevent him from going to the record labels for help distributing his music on CD. Sony was due to release Planet Earth in the United Kingdom this year but backed out when Prince inked a deal with Britain's Sunday Mail to include a copy of the album with every newspaper circulated on July 15. The promotion also angered the country's music retailers.

Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America, said Prince should expect to take some public-relations hits. After all, a headline about him suing the mother alongside a photo of a baby boy bopping to a snippet of Prince's music just isn't going to play well. But Carnes argues this is another example of how file sharers persecute the victim. If Prince is mistakenly chasing mothers and their home movies, Carnes points out, it's likely an unfortunate mistake brought about by his attempts to protect his music from more lethal threats.

"Of course there is a risk to Prince," Carnes said. "Prince is going to be completely destroyed on the Internet by the system that they got in place to dismantle artists who speak up for their rights. Do a Google search on Lars Ulrich. Look at all of the millions of negative things they wrote about him. It's all right. We're used to it."

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Guitars: Better Investment Than Houses

While not all vintage instruments appreciate equally, the following illustrates the fair market value of a few of those most desirable.

From The Rock Radio:

It's official - guitars are better investments than homes, says rock 'n roll memorabilia expert Ted Owen. They're also better investments than stocks and shares. A 1958 Gibson Explorer bought for $247.50 was sold in 2006 for $611,000. That's almost a 20% year on year annual return versus an average of 12% for the typical house or the 9% typically produced investing in shares. Adam Newman, manager of Vintage & Rare Guitars says, 'Late fifties Les Paul Standards bought for a few hundred dollars could be worth over $300,000 while Pre-War Martin D45's would fetch over half a million dollars now and bought for $200.'

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McCartney: Beatles Will Go Digital in 2008

From Gary Graff, Billboard:

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 Billboard.com 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. It's down to fine-tuning, but I'm pretty sure it'll be happening next year, 2008."

McCartney adds that any delays in bringing the Fabs' music to the Internet have been due to "contractual" issues as well as deliberate planning by all parties involved. "You've got to get these things right," he explains. "You don't want to do something that's as cool as that and in three years time you think, 'Oh God, why did we do that?

Gene Simmons on Piracy

From Billboard:

It has been nine years since we've seen a new KISS album. Any plans to get back into the studio?

The record industry is in such a mess. I called for what it was when college kids first started download music for free -- that they were crooks. I told every record label I spoke with that they just lit the fuse to their own bomb that was going to explode from under them and put them on the street.

There is nothing in me that wants to go in there and do new music. How are you going to deliver it? How are you going to get paid for it if people can just get it for free? I will be putting out a Gene Simmons box set called "Monster" -- a collection of 150 unreleased songs. KISS will have another box set of unreleased music in the next year.

The record industry doesn't have a f*cking clue how to make money. It's only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there's no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They've got freckles. That's a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit's mask.

Doesn't affect me. But imagine being a new band with dreams of getting on stage and putting out your own record. Forget it.

But some artist like Radiohead and Trent Reznor are trying to find a new business model.

That doesn't count. You can't pick on one person as an exception. And that's not a business model that works. I open a store and say "Come on in and pay whatever you want." Are you on f*cking crack? Do you really believe that's a business model that works?

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Bob Dylan's Paintings

From Guardian Unlimited:

Bob Dylan has been painting for years - but it has fallen to a tiny gallery in eastern Germany to stage his first exhibition.

Dylan began drawing after taking lessons from New York teacher Norman Raeben in the 60s following a serious motorcycle accident. In his Chronicles, published in 2004, he wrote: "What would I draw? Well, I guess I would start with whatever was at hand. I sat at the table, took out a pencil and paper and drew the typewriter, a crucifix, a rose, pencils, knives and pins, empty cigarette boxes. I'd lose track of time completely ... Not that I thought I was any great drawer, but I did feel like I was putting an orderliness to the chaos around." He later went on to draw some of his own record covers.

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Bronfman Tells Mobile Industry to Get With The Program

From Simon Aughton, MacUser:

The boss of Warner Music has made a rare public confession that the music industry has to take some of the blame for the rise of p2p file sharing.

Speaking at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau, Edgar Bronfman told mobile operators that they must not make the same mistake that the music industry made.

"We used to fool ourselves,' he said. "We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."

Mobile operators risk the same, he said. Fewer than 10% of mobile owners buy music on their handset, the vast majority of which is ringtones.

"The sad truth is that most of what consumers are being offered today on the mobile platform is boring, banal and basic," he said. "People want a more interesting form of mobile music content. They want it to be easy to buy with a single click - yes, a single click, not a dozen. And they want access to it, quickly and easily, wherever they are. 24/7. Any player in the mobile value chain who thinks they can provide less than a great experience for consumers and remain competitive is fooling themselves."

Bronfman suggested that mobile companies have much to learn from Apple, despite being critical of and iTunes in the past.

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Flo and Eddie Talk About the Turtles' Managers

The Growing Importance of Sponsorship

Cayocosta

Too many choices.

Where radio and television once provided the filter mechanism whereby the best of new music was disseminated, artists today are now faced with an environment that places the onus largely on the consumer to find the music he or she most appreciates; and with the continued roll-out of music portals and services featuring potentially disparate content, it's probably not going to get any easier for listeners to discover new music in the near-term.

However, it's highly likely that we'll eventually reach a point somewhere down the road whereby the entire library of popular-music will be made available via streaming from a variety of providers offering one-stop solutions.

As wonderful a scenario this might appear to be from a convenience standpoint for music consumers; and with regard to distribution, for artists (as they would also benefit, as music streaming subscription services would facilitate a truly level playing field, for every artist’s music would be equally available to everyone from a single point of origin); listeners may ultimately find themselves in an environment where new music is even more difficult to discover than today; and artists, a platform significantly more competitive in which to promote their work.

As even viral propagation is predicated upon a critical mass of enthusiasts, how then could any particular track attain sufficient visibility in a virtual ocean of music?

The answer is sponsorship.

Therefore, it stands to reason that those artists with corporate support and/or major record company representation will rise above the fray and experience an otherwise disproportionate share of visibility. For then, as now, such artists will continue to reap the benefits of promotional expertise, influence, capital funding, and horizontal integration; whereas independent artists, relying primarily upon the Internet to promote themselves, will find that the low barriers to entry continue to result in their being lost at sea.