This Week: InTheCity in Manchester, the Pirate Party controversy, Spotify and 7Digital expansion to the US, Google to launch a music search engine, music companies want to streamline licensing in Europe, Myspace Music opens up to iTunes and Amazon.
Hello everyone and welcome to digital music trends – episode 22.
It’s been a really long break since the last show – but between my journey in the US and some other projects that needed taking care of I really couldn’t get the show off the ground. But, I promise you a straight run until Christmas of your favorite digital music news and interviews.
In five weeks a lot has happened in the Digital Music World, but since there’s no point in trying to catch up now, I’ll be sure to provide a background to any story that might require it. Also the last service announcement is that in the next couple of weeks the show is going to be news-centred as i’m gathering a news wave of guests for november and december. If you’d like to take part please email me on email@example.com. Entrepreneurs, musicians with an interesting digital strategy and journalists are all welcome!
In The City in Manchester
First of all this week here in the UK we had one of Europe’s largest music industry event – second only to Midem in France. this is in The City and it took place in manchester between sunday and tuesday. The event like its european counterpart and The Great Escape in brighton consisted of daytime panels and conferences and a slew of music events in the evenings with every venue in town booked for official and unofficcial in the city showcases.
This year I couldn’t attend unfortunately but luckily billboard business has a couple of good articles on the most important moments. The first day was fundamentally monopolized by the P2P panel to which the founder of the Pirate party Rick Falkvinge took part. This according to the reports on Billboard Business, the BBC and Music Week was without a doubt created the most heated debate at In The City. Mr Falkvinge elaborated elaborated on his views on copyright and advocated a few extremely controversial points, especially considering the type of audience that he was facing. The pirate party advocates amongst other things the right to total privacy in communications, the right to re-mix music feely and distribute it, only recognizes commercial copyright and would make that last only five years. Its aim is to actively encouraging filesharing. The BBC article in the shownotes is really good if you want to get to know the outline of the growth of this movement. I don’t know about you but I personally only heard about the pirate party this year right after the Pirate Bay founders were found guilty in trial and the site was fundamentally made illegal. This is when the P2P community as a whole got up in arms. But in fact the movement was created a good four years ago as a reaction to the first rulings that were coming out against filesharing. The pirate party has only just started out in the UK, has a few hundred members, but in Sweden it’s already a political phenomenon, and there it’s hoping to harvest as much as 5% of the votes at the next general election, which would give it a tremendous amount of negotiating power.
Naturally at In The City there were quite a few people that would have gladly taken a shot at mr Falkvinge, but the fact that he and the party exist in the first place and have a following must tell the industry that in the past three years it has taken a series of mis-steps that have alienated a lot of people. Theoretically a party that does not have a real political manifesto except that pertaining copyright could not get any political traction at all, it would be laughed at. The fact that they garnered so much momentum is a serious alarm bell for the industry not only in music but in film as well. Adverts describing file sharers as criminals, or as devilish iron-mongers must be thrown out of the window now before it’s too late – the polarization of the industry at one end of the spectrum has created its exact opposite in the pirate party. The UK, like Sweden, has a very high number of politically alienated young people who at the moment don’t vote at all. It is not unlikely that if a legislation such as that being proposed by the government at the moment for the disconnection of infringing users was to pass the pirate party could gain the same if not a stronger momentum in this country as it’s having in Sweden and that is something that no one working in the industry, myself included, wishes for.
The second day at In The City was according to Billboard a lot less heated. The head of SEG international Marc Marot stated that there needs to be a more organized support structure to help artists in the music industry – Michael Jackson being the most recent and powerful reminders that many artists end up falling through the cracks and the industry does not have the support structure to help them deal with a whole load of issues, with alcohol and drug related problems being the first in line. David Gilmore is actually at the head of a group called Recover Now, which aims at creating a one stop shop where people can go and get help – which could be financed by labels, charity shows, and PRS revenues.
Another panel discussed how a band can make it happen without a budget and Adam Sieff, director of A&R and UK operations for Sellaband, showed how artists have used the site to garner a following and enough funding to get an album off the ground. The day ended with a discussion between of Mike Smith, managing director of Columbia records and Mark Ronson on his past production experiences. Though I can’t speak for this one I can only say that these talks tend to be a pretty self-celebratory especially when the interviewee is at the peak of his success like Ronson currently is.
One good news is that although the organizers did not disclose numbers it looks like there wasn’t a drop in delegate numbers, which is great considering that most of the booking were made in the worst part of the recession. This fills me with hope that next year Popkomm is going to be resurrected, although there seem to be music conferences and events springing up left right and centre which is making the competition very fierce.
In the City Day 1 http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3i41da967fff242c95b5b04320b54c9da0# Pirate party and the future http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8314620.stm Pirate party fiery reception http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=1038951&c=1 In the City Day 2 http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3ied2621cfc5e7c4cc4d019b38dc5a41da?imw=Y Delegate numbers hold steady at In The City http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1004028952
Spotify in the USA
Whilst I would love to stop talking about it – I can’t. And Spotify in recent weeks has continued to make the headlines on newspapers and blogs everywhere. Last week the web was full of speculations that when the service launches in United States it will not come in its free ad-supported incarnation like in the UK, since many labels are allegedly refusing to license their music to any free ad-supported service given the poor financial results these services produced up to now. This is still just a rumor but it’s true that the launch in the US of a free version of the service if too successful could very possibly cause the demise of Spotify. Like the now defunct Spiralfrog the Swedish company could really struggle to have enough time to create considerable advertising revenue before being drowned in licensing fees to be paid to the rights-holders. At the same time a subscription-only service would certainly make Spotify not too dissimilar to services such as Rhapsody that already exist and have a loyal albeit small user base in the States, and would not provoke the same wildfire adoption that has occurred in the UK.
In spite of these dilemmas a healthy wind keeps pushing Spotify’s sails forwards as they made a deal with two major Swedish ISPs and they just announced a partnership with mobile provider three in the UK to provide Spotify as a built-in feature for the much anticipated HTC Hero running android. It will have to be seen whether Spotify’s phone tie-in will prove more successful than Nokia’s Come with Music but the combination of a killer phone, a killer music service and seemingly reasonable prices must bode well for three.
Going back to Comes With Music the register in fact this week quoted some incredible figures that were published on Music Ally’s blog regarding the number of users of the Nokia service. Apparently there are only 33,000 active comes with music users in the UK, which considering the breadth of their marketing campaign across all medium cinemas, tv, radio, billboards, can be classed as a failure of monumental proportions. it has to be said that Nokia has launched the service in several more countries where it’s comparatively performing better than in the UK. Over here the limited handset choice and the difficulties in activating this DRM ridden service really turned away many music fans that would have considered this option. I personally bet that with Spotify’s iPhone app coming out there might actually be more paying Spotify members in the UK than Comes With Music users, which if true would be huge considering that you have to personally commit to the Spotify payments while with Nokia the cost is bundled in the price of the handset.
Bad figures for Nokia comes with music http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/16/nokia_cwm_figures/ HTC Hero to come with free Spotify on 3 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/6374310/HTC-Hero-to-come-with-free-Spotify-on-3.html Various sensible considerations on the future of Spotify in the USA. http://www.americansongwriter.com/2009/10/spotify-the-next-great-music-service/
7Digital planning US expansion http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/10/22/7digital-plans-iphone-app-google-music-talks-in-us-expansion/
While I’m talking about Spotify it feels like a natural progression to talk about UK based company 7Digital – which is currently Spotify’s a la carte partner. the wall street journal blog talks extensively about the company’s plan to raise its profile in the US where its launch two weeks ago was met with some degree of skepticism as it’s seen as such a saturated market. But Ben Drury, co founder and chief executive of the company seems to have his business plan all figured out. 7Digital is not planning to be just another a la carte music store, it plans on growing by striking influential partnerships and by providing the expertise required to run large scale advertising campaigns that require a music distribution component. It’s currently pitching all major internet providers to strike partnerships and seems to be eyeing up google as well. 7Digital’s blackberry app is proving very popular and Mr Drury revealed that there are iPhone and android apps in the works, although i believe that 98per cent of consumer focused music companies are probably doing exactly the same thing.
Google to launch a music service!
http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/google-to-launch-music-service-imminently–643870 http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/10/22/google.music/ The next story is on Google. The Internet was ablaze with rumors that the company was a bout to launch a new music store that would compete with apple, Spotify and everyone in the world. Naturally the reality proved a little bit more believable although not less exciting. Google is about to launch a music focused search service – since search in the end is at the core of its business. This service will allow streaming but not purchase and has Lala and iLike as confirmed partners (others are to be announced). It looks like google does have the OK of the majors – with whom it already has a working relationship via the negotiations that took place regarding music videos on YouTube. So a new search function, exciting! or exciting? how many of us are irreversibly addicted to lazily typing YouTube.com followed by the name of the song? Old habits that are hard to eradicate unless something fundamentally exceptional is developed for this new search function. Should streaming start-ups be scared?
We7 gets a boost with Rihanna’s new single playback http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3i441dd2967645128fcd311ce57114c9a6
Whilst Spotify is still the talk of the town, We7 is quietly striking some really interesting deals that might not generate headlines but that add up to the profile of a company that is managing to cope with an ever-growing competition surprisingly well. This week billboard business reports that Mercury Records decided to allow We7 to stream Rihanna’s highly anticipated new singe – Russian Roulette – at the same time as it gets released on traditional radio. This is a major coup for the service and it looks like its strategy of partnering with key players in the media industries including several newspapers to distribute its content is paying off. A solid chunk of We7 users in fact access the service from third party websites where users can access its player via a widget, thus maximizing the global exposure of the audience to the single. We7 at the moment relies exclusively on ad sales to support itself but there are rumors of a subscription service coming soon, which will further ignite the war with Spotify. The two services have certainly chosen different paths, Spotify has chosen to develop a brand name and a standalone application, whilst We7 has remained fairly unknown and out of the headlines but has developed a huge amount of traffic through its well thought-out partnerships. This in my opinion is a fairly good indicator that the two companies can co-exist, if both of them can become profitable, that is. Music streaming is enjoying a blessed year since people are still prepared to throw money at it – but unless both the labels and the investors can at least envisage that there’s light at the end of the tunnel these services are bound to be short lived.
European Commission meetings on pan-European licensing
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/22/licence_fragmentation_eu/ http://www.telecompaper.com/news/article.aspx?cid=698178 Both the Telecom paper and the Register report that digital music retailers and collecting societies met up with the European Commission to discuss the fragmentation of the music market in Europe. Amazon, BEUC, EMI, iTunes, Nokia, PRS for Music, Sacem, Stim and Universal were all present. Following a round table discussion each of the participants announced the changes they were going to implement to make music distribution in Europe’s 27 member states more streamlined. Apple for example announced the opening of a number of new iTunes stores in 2010, whilst collection societies like SACEM in France promised to reach out to other european states to make pan-european licensing a reality. The register reports part of a statement that was agreed upon by all parties and which reads that “Extensive fragmentation of rights and the lack of effective rights clearance mechanisms create challenges to efficient and transparent music licensing,” they also. “An open, fair and transparent licensing process that secures an appropriate level of royalties for right holders and authors is in the interest of all players and therefore of cultural diversity in Europe” . It will be a relief to see the regulations involving music distribution streamlined and i’m curious to see how long it will take for this to happen. MySpace Music Videos launches Improved iLike and iTunes and Amazon MP3 store integration Fragmented and complex publishing arrangements are hindering the growth of a European online music market Myspace music takes a few steps forwards.
And finally Techradar reports – along with many other news organizations that myspace music has finally got its act together and a) managed to aggregate its music videos in an eye-pleasing fashion b) gave up on its attempt to defy itunes and amazon as and MP3 store. In fact myspace music users are going to find direct links to purchase tracks from both iTunes and Amazon, making the whole process a lot easier for everyone. Myspace in a last ditch attempt to prevent artists from focusing more on their Facebook page than on their Myspace one also launched a dashboard feature for the artists pages, which provides all sorts of analytics regarding the usage of the page which could be helpful to artists. this is actually a pretty neat feature and i’m going to give it a go as soon as I can on my own myspace page – though i must admit that i haven’t been on it in months. http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/myspace-music-videos-launches-644043
Well, that’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed the episode and please email me – the address is firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestion or story for the show. Also you can follow me on twitter – the handle is digimusictrends and you can visit the website at www.digitalmusictrends.com.
All the links to the stories in the show are in the shownotes which you can find both on the website and embedded in the Mp3 if you have a device that can show them to you.
Have a great weekend and I’ll be back next week, I haven’t quite decided whether to go back to the usual monday release – in which case in four days it might turn out to be a pretty short episode!