Digital Music Trends – Episode 35

This Week: first an interview with David Ratcliff from MusicMyne, then an introduction to my article on music interactivity. Finally in the news Google Vs Music Bloggers, Songkick becomes the largest concert database, Shazam launches SARA, Music tech funding geography, Myspace to focus on discovery.?

Digital Music Trends – Episode 35 by digitalmusictrends

Interview with David Ratcliff from www.MusicMyne.com

An introduction to my article: Adding a third dimension to music, will interaction save the day?Download the PDF

In the past four years there has been a growing focus on music interaction as a way to offer a third dimension to the consumption of music. Through my podcast I have come across many companies who have all approached the concept of music interactivity from different angles by creating new formats, games, enhanced auditory experiences and personalized remixes.

Though the vast majority of the companies listed below have fundamentally different approaches the goal is the same: enriching the music consumption process and turning a passive experience into an active and engaging one.

This attempt is not dissimilar to the way in which the movie studios have decided to push out 3D as a mean to get the public to attach a new value the cinema experience – they needed to find something the public could not get by sitting in front of their 40″ TVs. Unfortunately whilst 3D is an easy form of passive interactivity and has grown to become a somewhat unified experience that is easily understood by the public, creating an interactive experience with music is a lot trickier. Music is not something that can be simply “3-Defied”.

In-browser applications, standalone software, mobile apps, proprietary formats are only some of the ways in which the following companies have chosen to carry their products but they are by no means mutually exclusive. Categorization by means of implementation is therefore nearly impossible.

In the following paragraphs is an attempt to bring together some of the companies working in this space in a way that makes most sense to me. It does not want to be a definitive list but an overview of a field that is extremely dynamic. I would not be surprised to find that some of the companies listed below will have transformed their product and business model entirely in six months or a year’s time.

You can find the rest of the article on http://digitalmusictrends.squarespace.com/weekly-podcast/2010/2/21/adding-a-third-dimension-to-music-will-interaction-save-the.html

Google Vs Bloggers, Wired sheds some light…
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/02/dumb-labels-laws-bots-not-google-to-blame-for-music-blog-deletions/

Wired published an insightful piece that really sums up all the arguments that we heard in the past week as a result of Google taking down a number of Music blogs due to repeated takedown notices filed by the content owners, in this case the labels.The bloggers lost access to all of their archives and the whole case caused heated debates about the bloggers, about Google, about the labels and the DMCA (which is the digital music millennium copyright act).
Problem number one is that oftentimes even though the label gives permission to the blogger to use a particular track a different department of the same label or the IFPI end up filing a takedown notice for that same recording anyway, unaware of the legitimacy of the post.
The second problem is that some blogs were receiving takedown notices for tracks that were no longer available on the site (the links still existed but the MP3 had been removed) This is something that the bots used by the IFPI to scan the blogs apparently cannot detect.
Third it seems like some bloggers never realized that they had to file a counter claim to those takedown notices,. The repeated warnings and the absence of a counterclaim would oblige Google to take the site down entirely to avoid becoming automatically liable for the content being made available through its pipes as stated by the DMCA.
Wired writer Eliot Van Burskik puts it very eloquently when he writes:

“The problem here is not Google — it’s a combination of overzealous copyright interests who know not what they (or their bots) do, and laws that fail to distinguish between promoting something on a blog and sharing it on a file sharing network.”

Labels are desperate to get on these music blogs to promote their artists so having these same blogs taken down seems like a very odd thing to do.

Songkick becomes the largest concert database in the world.
http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/02/18/songkick-lays-its-claim-on-the-music-events-crown/

It looks like the London-based start-up Songkick has overtaken market leader Pollstar to become the largest concert database in the world. Ian Hogarth, co-founder of Songkick, was one of the first guests on Digital Music Trends (see episode 10, June 2009) and it’s great to see this company finally taking off big time. TechCrunch reports that its database now shows 100,000 upcoming events versus the 78.000 listed by Pollstar and it also sports 1.4 million past events, which are all made available through its open API. According to TechCrunch the open API strongly contributed towards the company’s success – and the HypeMachine has recently created a new listing engine based on it.

Shazam launches SARA.
http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20100216006315&newsLang=en

Mobile Music Recognition company Shazam launched the Shazam Audio Recognition advertising technology – abbreviated to SARA. This new technology allows advertisers to place sonic “links’ within an advert. Listeners would only have to point their headsets towards the sound source through Shazam and they would be automatically re-directed to the product’s page, a special offer or a discount voucher. The new Sara technology could be use to direct users to special features and offer additional content as well as being a great way to assess the effectiveness of the campaign.
It’s a really clever idea, and there are about 50 million users of Shazam worldwide that could be reached by the service, but a) how will people know when the advert they are listening to is Sara enabled? Will it be announced? b) even though there are many Shazam users, it’s still a small minority if you look at a country like the United States for example, and I suspect that it will only be an even smaller percentage of the existing Shazam users who will actively use the service. I’m very intrigued to see how this will pan out, In the meantime Shazam has already struck a partnership with Augme mobile to provide the service in North America.

Geographical distribution of investment in music tech for 2009, what’s the deal?
http://www.indiemusictech.com/music_marketing_for_indie/2010/02/geographical-disbursement-of-music-technology-investments-2009.html
http://musically.com/blog/2010/02/17/welcome-to-the-room-sara/

IndieTech posted a series of slides illustrating the geographical distribution of music technology investments in 2009. The site points out that the chart only displays known investments obviously, it only takes into consideration companies that received VC or Angel funding and only displays the number of companies that received funding but not the amounts. With this long premise, in the United States California comes out seriously ahead, with 17 companies versus 5 in New York and 4 in Massachussets. In Europe, the UK is way ahead with Seven and France is far behind with just three. Globally the United States sports 33 music tech companies that received investments versus 12 in Europe. Naturally these charts need to be taken with a massive pince of salt. The Global picuture is not global but limited to the US and Europe and many start-ups may not have publicly disclosed where their capital comes from. AND the European chart does not show any Swedish companies which seems rather strange… But all in all the general outcome even if inaccurate largely follows what most people in this field would have guessed.

Myspace and its new strategy
http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/21/myspaces-hail-mary-strategy-discovery/
TechCrunch reports that Myspace called an Employees meeting in LA that was also broadcast in their offices worldwide. Evidently after the departure of Owen Van Natta and all the speculation surrounding the company management felt that it was important to fill people in as to what was happening. All reports from the meeting are from “source” meaning very likely employees, after all not even Apple’s anointed ones managed to keep Steve Job’s recent internal call to arms to themselves.
What surfaced is that Owen Van Natta went because he was not moving fast enough and was contributing to internal conflicts. The two co-presidents will have different functions with Hirschhorn handling product vision, Jones handling execution. The most important point reported by the “sources” though appears to be that Myspace is going to launch a new product strategy based on discovery with the slogan being “discover and be discovered”. Focusing on the recently unveiled Activity Stream that sums up all of the user’s activity, Myspace will do its outmost to expose users to new Music, Movie Trailers, Games and adverts based on their tastes in a bid to get them to stick around and come back often to discover more content. Whether it will work or not is a whole other ballgame!

Digital Music Trends – Episode 35

This Week: an interview with David Ratcliff from MusicMyne. An introduction to my article on music interactivity. In the news Google Vs Music Bloggers, Songkick, Shazam launches SARA, Music tech funding geography, Myspace to focus on discovery.

Interview with David Ratcliff from www.MusicMyne.com

An introduction to my article: Adding a third dimension to music, will interaction save the day?

In the past four years there has been a growing focus on music interaction as a way to offer a third dimension to the consumption of music. Through my podcast I have come across many companies who have all approached the concept of music interactivity from different angles by creating new formats, games, enhanced auditory experiences and personalized remixes.

Though the vast majority of the companies listed below have fundamentally different approaches the goal is the same: enriching the music consumption process and turning a passive experience into an active and engaging one.

This attempt is not dissimilar to the way in which the movie studios have decided to push out 3D as a mean to get the public to attach a new value the cinema experience – they needed to find something the public could not get by sitting in front of their 40″ TVs. Unfortunately whilst 3D is an easy form of passive interactivity and has grown to become a somewhat unified experience that is easily understood by the public, creating an interactive experience with music is a lot trickier. Music is not something that can be simply “3-Defied”.

In-browser applications, standalone software, mobile apps, proprietary formats are only some of the ways in which the following companies have chosen to carry their products but they are by no means mutually exclusive. Categorization by means of implementation is therefore nearly impossible.

In the following paragraphs is an attempt to bring together some of the companies working in this space in a way that makes most sense to me. It does not want to be a definitive list but an overview of a field that is extremely dynamic. I would not be surprised to find that some of the companies listed below will have transformed their product and business model entirely in six months or a year’s time.
You can find the rest of the article on http://digitalmusictrends.squarespace.com/weekly-podcast/2010/2/21/adding-a-third-dimension-to-music-will-interaction-save-the.html

Google Vs Bloggers, Wired sheds some light…
Wired published an insightful piece that really sums up all the arguments that we heard in the past week as a result of Google taking down a number of Music blogs due to repeated takedown notices filed by the content owners, in this case the labels.The bloggers lost access to all of their archives and the whole case caused heated debates about the bloggers, about Google, about the labels and the DMCA (which is the digital music copyright act).
Problem number one is that oftentimes even though the label gives permission to the blogger to use a particular track a different department of the same label or the IFPI end up filing a takedown notice for that same recording anyway, unaware of the legitimacy of the post.
The second problem is that some blogs were receiving takedown notices for tracks that were no longer available on the site (the links still existed but the MP3 had been removed) This is something that the bots used by the IFPI to scan the blogs apparently cannot detect.
Third it seems like some bloggers never realized that they had to file a counter claim to those takedown notices,. The repeated warnings and the absence of a counterclaim would oblige Google to take the site down entirely to avoid becoming automatically liable for the content being made available through its pipes as stated by the DMCA.
Wired writer Eliot Van Burskik puts it very eloquently when he writes:
“The problem here is not Google — it’s a combination of overzealous copyright interests who know not what they (or their bots) do, and laws that fail to distinguish between promoting something on a blog and sharing it on a file sharing network.”Labels are desperate to get on these music blogs to promote their artists so having these same blogs taken down seems like a very odd thing to do.

Songkick becomes the largest concert database in the world.
http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/02/18/songkick-lays-its-claim-on-the-music-events-crown/

It looks like the London-based start-up Songkick has overtaken market leader Pollstar to become the largest concert database in the world. Ian Hogarth, co-founder of Songkick, was one of the first guests on Digital Music Trends (see episode 10, June 2009) and it’s great to see this company finally taking off big time. TechCrunch reports that its database now shows 100,000 upcoming events versus the 78.000 listed by Pollstar and it also sports 1.4 million past events, which are all made available through its open API. According to TechCrunch the open API strongly contributed towards the company’s success – and the HypeMachine has recently created a new listing engine based on it.

Shazam launches SARA.

Mobile Music Recognition company Shazam launched the Shazam Audio Recognition advertising technology – abbreviated to SARA. This new technology allows advertisers to place sonic “links’ within an advert. Listeners would only have to point their headsets towards the sound source through Shazam and they would be automatically re-directed to the product’s page, a special offer or a discount voucher. The new Sara technology could be use to direct users to special features and offer additional content as well as being a great way to assess the effectiveness of the campaign.
It’s a really clever idea, and there are about 50 million users of Shazam worldwide that could be reached by the service, but a) how will people know when the advert they are listening to is Sara enabled? Will it be announced? b) even though there are many Shazam users, it’s still a small minority if you look at a country like the United States for example, and I suspect that it will only be an even smaller percentage of the existing Shazam users who will actively use the service. I’m very intrigued to see how this will pan out, In the meantime Shazam has already struck a partnership with Augme mobile to provide the service in North America.

Geographical distribution of investment in music tech for 2009, what’s the deal?

http://www.indiemusictech.com/music_marketing_for_indie/2010/02/geographical-disbursement-of-music-technology-investments-2009.html
http://musically.com/blog/2010/02/17/welcome-to-the-room-sara/

IndieTech posted a series of slides illustrating the geographical distribution of music technology investments in 2009. The site points out that the chart only displays known investments obviously, it only takes into consideration companies that received VC or Angel funding and only displays the number of companies that received funding but not the amounts. With this long premise, in the United States California comes out seriously ahead, with 17 companies versus 5 in New York and 4 in Massachussets. In Europe, the UK is way ahead with Seven and France is far behind with just three. Globally the United States sports 33 music tech companies that received investments versus 12 in Europe. Naturally these charts need to be taken with a massive pince of salt. The Global picuture is not global but limited to the US and Europe and many start-ups may not have publicly disclosed where their capital comes from. AND the European chart does not show any Swedish companies which seems rather strange… But all in all the general outcome even if inaccurate largely follows what most people in this field would have guessed.

Myspace and its new strategy
TechCrunch reports that Myspace called an Employees meeting in LA that was also broadcast in their offices worldwide. Evidently after the departure of Owen Van Natta and all the speculation surrounding the company management felt that it was important to fill people in as to what was happening. All reports from the meeting are from “source” meaning very likely employees, after all not even Apple’s anointed ones managed to keep Steve Job’s recent internal call to arms to themselves.
What surfaced is that Owen Van Natta went because he was not moving fast enough and was contributing to internal conflicts. The two co-presidents will have different functions with Hirschhorn handling product vision, Jones handling execution. The most important point reported by the “sources” though appears to be that Myspace is going to launch a new product strategy based on discovery with the slogan being “discover and be discovered”. Focusing on the recently unveiled Activity Stream that sums up all of the user’s activity, Myspace will do its outmost to expose users to new Music, Movie Trailers, Games and adverts based on their tastes in a bid to get them to stick around and come back often to discover more content. Whether it will work or not is a whole other ballgame!

Adding a third dimension to music: will interaction save the day?

Download the PDF

In the past four years there has been a growing focus on music interaction as a way to offer a third dimension to the consumption of music. Through my podcast I have come across many companies who have all approached the concept of music interactivity from different angles by creating new formats, games, enhanced auditory experiences and personalized remixes.

        Though the vast majority of the companies listed below have fundamentally different approaches the goal is the same: enriching the music consumption process and turning a passive experience into an active and engaging one. 

         This attempt is not dissimilar to the way in which the movie studios have decided to push out 3D as a mean to get the public to attach a new value the cinema experience – they needed to find something the public could not get by sitting in front of their 40″ TVs. Unfortunately whilst 3D is an easy form of passive interactivity and has grown to become a somewhat unified experience that is easily understood by the public, creating an interactive experience with music is a lot trickier. Music is not something that can be simply “3-Defied”.  

In-browser applications, standalone software, mobile apps, proprietary formats are only some of the ways in which the following companies have chosen to carry their products but they are by no means mutually exclusive. Categorization by means of implementation is therefore nearly impossible. 

    In the following paragraphs is an attempt to bring together some of the companies working in this space in a way that makes most sense to me. It does not want to be a definitive list but an overview of a field that is extremely dynamic. I would not be surprised to find that some of the companies listed below will have transformed their product and business model entirely in six months or a year’s time. 

The contenders to the MP3 crown

    I’d like to start with the formats that primarily aim at taking the place of the MP3 as the favorite mean of consumption of digital music files. They concentrate on creating an experience through additional content that revolves around the music rather than creating an interaction with the music itself. These are the CMX, iTunes LP and Music DNA formats. Least I should be accused of playing favorites i’m going to talk about them chronologically as they were announced.

    First up, announced in August 2009, is the CMX format. This format is developed and supported by all four majors and is basically a file which includes full artwork, extra content, lyrics and videos on top of the music itself to create an all-rounded and engaging product. The format is open, meaning that any label can create CMX files and sell them, which is a great advantage. But the projected release of the first albums in this format (a “trial run”) has slipped from November 2009 to Q2 of 2010 and the project risks loosing momentum. Also there is precious little information as to how the general public is going to enjoy the format. From the articles I read covering CMX it sounds like it will be a desktop only experience to start with (yawn…). I believe that only the integration with a major software platform such as Windows Media Player or tie-ins with hardware manufacturers could propel CMX to the stage where it can actively compete with Apple. 

    Second is the iTunes LP, launched in November 2009. This is Apple’s proprietary response to CMX. Major labels in fact at the CMX launch did their best to stress that they had approached Apple with the format way back in early 2008 but the Cupertino company had not wanted to have anything to do with it, preferring to develop its own standard instead. The iTunes LP is a closed system, it requires you to stay within the pretty walled garden imposed by iTunes and the iPod/iPhone and in my opinion is a step backwards from the total openness of DRM-free mp3s. 

To be honest if you had asked me only a month ago about the future of the iTunes LP I would have told you: “It’s already dead in the water”. Then I saw the iPad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people thinking that the iPad will change everything, but it surely looks like the only device that can truly let you take advantage of the extra features offered by an enriched album experience in a non-intrusive way. The iPhone is clearly too small to enjoy the high resolution extra content and very few people are prepared to play around with an LP format on their actual computers (the concept scarily reminds me of those CDs that used to auto-launch random extra features as soon as they were inserted in a computer and that were shipped in their millions in the 90s).

A touch screen seems paramount to the complete enjoyment of an interactive album format.

    CMX and Apple LP offer three main advantages to the labels. First they are a way to increase in the price of digital albums. Labels have long complained that the difference in pricing between physical and digital album releases is a big factor in the decline in revenue. Second they bring back the idea of copy protection. Whilst I could not find any definite information as to whether CMX will carry DRM , it most certainly will have this option. As for the Apple LP – well – it’s an Apple format so it’s going to be a closed ecosystem anyhow. Third they re-introduce the idea of the album as a bundle – the fragmentation of the purchase of albums into individual tracks is the main factor in the disparity between digital single and digital album sales. Creating an experience that will lure the consumer to buy the whole package is the holy grail for the industry. 

    Music DNA was launched at the end of January 2010 during Midem. It has been developed by Bach Technology with part of the team that brought us the original MP3 and it’s quite different from the CMX and the iTunes LP.

    For starters the extension .DNA applies to each track and not to albums as a bundle, so that the consumer would still have a choice of buying a single track. In addition Music DNA files can actually be played by the majority of MP3-playing hardware out there – albeit without the added extras – as they are built as an extension of Mpeg7. Music DNA, like CMX and iTunes LP offers the possibility to add rich multimedia content to the file (videos, artwork) but its real strength in my opinion lies in the enhanced metadata it plans to offer. Information like tempo, key, instrumentation, mood will become ingrained in the file and therefore make music discovery and automatic play-list creation much more accurate and engaging. The format will also offer access to information that will be constantly upgraded via the Internet such as the artist’s tour schedule, blog, twitter account and so forth. 

    So a great format in theory but:

a) we have not seen any real life implementation yet and no word as to how its DRM will work

b) it will only take off if there is real need for it in the market place

c) it will struggle (and that’s an understatement) to take off if both Apple and the Majors have already placed their bets on the iTunes LP and CMX formats respectively. 

    The MP3 took off not because the creators of the format marketed it well or because the majors imposed it on the masses but because some clever kids realized that this was a great way to bypass bandwidth restrictions and exchange music online. The infrastructure that allowed for the fast acquisition and sharing of such files and ultimately granted its unmitigated success was mostly carried out in somebody’s bedroom or garage (from Napster to the first P2P networks). Neither the majors nor hardware manufacturers – perhaps not even Apple – have the clout to push a format in the digital space in the same way they pushed new hardware solutions such as the Cassette or the CD. 

Re-mixing music, a new frontier?

    First I want to talk about the Paris-based MXP4, one of the companies with most experience in this field.  It was started in 2006 so it certainly has a head-start in terms of working on an interactive format. The idea is to promote a remix culture where people don’t just play the music but they play with it and share their creation with others. They developed the .mxp4 file format which contains various versions of the track, individual parts, images and text. But although the core of MXP4 is a file format the company does not want to push it as a brand or as a new standard – their aim is more B2B. They are developing both their own mobile apps and widgets that can subsequently be licensed to content owners directly and possibly looking to license the technology for third party implementation. MXP4 can and is being integrated in web apps, widgets, mobile apps in a non-obtrusive way and as long as the customer is engaged and immersed in the experience the mission of the company is complete. This “anonymity” and focus on technology could allow them to partner with a wider range of companies. On mxp4.com you can find a number of working examples of their technology which are incredibly slick and user-friendly.

     GoMix is a London based start-up launched in 2009 but it has a great deal of experience in the field since it’s essentially a re-branding of U-Myx which was started in 2004. GoMix allows you to re-mix tracks by major artists and spread the results on social media sites through a widget. It focuses on creating partnerships between major artists and brands so that the re-mix is often associated with an advertising campaign. The implementation of the social media-friendly widget really allowed the company to take off in the second half of 2009 and for 2010 the goal is to allow users to buy the mixes they created, the revenues for which would be split between GoMix and the labels. The company created a winning combination between major label artists involvement and social media integration and sharing facilities. This in the short term is a perfect formula for a successful run, but to be successful in the long term the company needs to show the labels that people are willing to buy the remixes in large quantities and that those can constitute a significant amount of revenue. In addition it needs to keep adding new features in order to feed the appetite of the ever-migrating internet crowd and keep it from moving onto the next interesting idea.

    The third company that i want to mention in terms of re-mixing music applications is MusicMyne, this fantastic application (for now a browser-only experience) is not dissimilar on the surface to MXP4 or TronMe as a concept but its web-based implementation and the integration of purpose-created content is destined to turn a few heads in their direction. The application allows you to completely remix the song providing access not only to the original multi-track parts, which enables you to take away the voice for example or the drums, but also to alternative versions of each part and additional instruments recorded ad hoc for the program by real musicians. These allow the user to alter the original material far more creatively and allow the user to get something truly unique and original.  Have a look on on www.musicmyne.com or google the name to find some links to the apps they created. 

    Another company creating re-mixing applications is TronMe. This company is pushing its own format called IVS. There are three types of .ivs files that allow different levels of interactivity. IVS1 is fully interactive and has the song’s individual parts embedded so you can actively remix it. IVS2 and IVS3 find seamless loops within the song that allow the users to re-arrange sections, repeat a specific part without breaks and so forth, though the former is licensed by the label and the second is created through an analysis of the MP3s in your music library. TronMe integrates video in a big way in its products. Users can record their own music video via a web-cam whilst the music is playing – on top of that the way they move in front of the camera influences the way in which the music is re-mixed by the software. The company has an iPhone app almost finalized which works well and at long last it seems like a basic Mac version of the software is in the works. All in all it’s an interesting concept but the fact that they are pushing their own software and their own format requires a very high level of commitment from the user. That could slow down adoption considerably and in my opinion hinder a fundamentally good idea. 

The magic of creation

    Aviary is a Long Island start-up whose mission is in their own words to make the world’s creation accessible. They created a picture creation and image editing tool called Phoenix and an audio editing tool called Myna which allow users to create directly via the browser based applications. Whilst up to very recently access to the website was free to a point and required a subscription in order to access the most advanced features, all users can now access the full functionality of Aviary for free thanks to a new round of funding that allowed the company to change the revenue models. Myna is a really impressive audio editing tool. It’s a sequencer that is created to be accessible even by people who never used one before. It allows you to import tracks from your Soundcloud account as well as use pre -loaded samples or upload new ones from your computer. It is certainly the most advanced audio editing suite within a browser that I have seen and the company has worked hard to create a community around it, launching re-mix contests and encouraging users to share and communicate with one another. Sure, the interaction that is offered on a the site is geared towards people that want to create music as opposed to just consuming it. This means that there is probably a large selection of the general public who would not be interested in the concept. But the ease with which it can be accessed and the amazing response time of the applications could allow people who are interested in doing something creative but are not doing anything about it to take the plunge. Aviary brings the ability to create music and interact with it to the masses!

Gaming platforms – success stories and the risk of market saturation

    Guitar Hero launched in 2005 and showed the world that music could be more than just passive enjoyment by creating one of the most popular gaming franchises in history. Rock Band soon followed in its footsteps and for four years it looked like both games – and similar projects like Singstar – were going to grow indefinitely. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of releases for the platform Guitar Hero sales slowed down considerably in 2009. Both critics and consumers accused the company of “milking” the franchise excessively, favoring content over technical development and ultimately saturating the market. In fact while many different versions of the game were released the technical innovations and new features were few, not enough to keep the public interested.Rockband Sales also suffered, but the company created an online distribution service that allows people to download extra songs without having to purchase a whole new version of the game which developed a huge online following. Guitar Hero instead continued operating in a traditional way issuing physical new versions or physical add-ons to the game. Although the market seems saturated now, there is no reason why an altered UI or the addition of some awesome new features shouldn’t re-ignite sales – but that is completely down to the developers. Activision slashed its revenue expectations for Guitar Hero in 2010 and that does not make me overly confident of their having an ace up their sleeves after all.

    TapTap revenge is one of the most successful games created  for the iPhone, distributed by start-up Tapulous it features artists from both major and independent labels. Tap Tap creates a similar experience to Guitar Hero with the player interacting with the beats of the track by tapping on the screen or shaking the iPhone itself. Tapulous created a number of artist-specific apps (Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Wheezer ) as well as releasing a sequel to their main product, Tap Tap Revenge 2. The game allows for interaction with other Tap Tap users and features a split mode screen, which has the potential to become an incredible feature on a device such as the iPad. While Tapulous is constantly releasing new products and developing artist-specific applications it is also pushing the envelope of interactivity by adding new features all the time. This is the best way for the company to fend off stagnation and saturation and keep the game fresh. 

When life seeps into the music through technology

    You think it’s impossible to create beautiful soundscapes out of the rattling noise and screeches made by your commuter train? You should try RJDJ.

Rjdj is a complete puzzle for me to define and that’s why I placed in in a separate category. Part auditory experience, part game, part engine to create new music this iPhone application allows programmers to create “scenes” and make it so that the music contained within can be generated and manipulated and triggered by external noises and by the sensors on the iPhone. In their introductory video they define the experience like augmented music as it takes on all aspects of everyday life: your movement, sound, location, time – each of which generate different pre-programmed responses within the scene which result in a unique playback experience every time. The scenes created are mostly soundscapes , capturing data and translating it into very interesting sounds that vary according to the scene’s internal programming. The company ships several versions of the software, has artist-specific apps (see the Little Boots app for example) and also allows for in-app purchase of extra scenes. It has attracted a healthy number of programmers who are developing scenes for it and I have no doubt that the company is destined to grow not explosively but in a gradual and sustainable way. The only way in which I can see there being a quick explosion of the RJDJ phenomenon is for them to release a kick-ass app for a N.1 artist that would bring the concept to the masses.  

Outside the box – Music and Lyrics

    But music interactivity is not only in the sound itself. A company that has created a new way of interacting with words in music is TuneWiki. The Israeli start-up tapped into the yet unexploited lyrics market to create a gigantic database to which users can add and synch lyrics in a collaborative manner. At start-up the app scans for the music files you have on your phone it then works out which of the lyrics for those songs are already present on Tunewiki’s database. Chances are that the track will already be indexed and synched in which case you case you can play it right off the bat and the application will display the lyrics in a karaoke-like fashion.

    The beauty of the project is that the synchronization is done by the users. For example if you find a song for which there are lyrics but they are not synchronized you can do the job yourself by simply listening to it and tapping on the screen every time a new line is uttered to make the text progress. Believe me, once you try this once you will get totally addicted to it. I actually managed to synch a whole episode of my podcast and plan on getting more transcriptions done in order to synch my future episodes, although it really does take a while to do this for a half-hour show. 

Tunewiki has another two features that make it a winning formula. First is the mapping functionality that allows you to see on a map the location of other Tunewiki users who are playing the same track as you. Second is the instant translating engine. This allows you to translate any lyric that is being displayed in a myriad of languages at the touch of a button. This is a huge advantage not only for music but also for Podcasting, it would mean that for example any non-English speaker would be able to listen to Digital Music Trends in Greek by reading the “subtitles”.

Conclusions: interaction, the social space, commercial viability and constant innovation.

    The mantra that you hear repeated over and over again at industry gatherings is that the record business is in trouble but the music business is just fine. There is a huge appetite for new music and new ways to interact with it. Applications that have developed a mainstream appeal, such as Tap Tap Revenge for example, show how interactive music it not just a niche market with limited potential.       
 Unfortunately though with the explosion of the App stores which brought hundreds of thousands of applications onto the marketplace at the same time, the possibility of a new Tap Tap success story in that market has been vastly reduced: how do you get discovered? It seems to me that most of the companies mentioned above will need the support of either Major Labels or that of hardware and software developers in order to integrate their ideas in the everyday life of the mainstream consumer. No matter how influential an independent act may be it’s never going to beat the potential diffusion of a MusicMyne or MXP4 application based on Lady Gaga’s music for example. I don’t believe that Music DNA will be able to take off if it’s not adopted by major label artists and if manufacturers don’t integrate it on their devices to exploit its potential.
 
    Sure, there is the argument that social media could help a company develop a large enough following if the product is truly compelling. The Internet is democratic after all and will go with what works best. But content is still required for the social media space to pay attention, that’s why Gomix managed to achieve such great results after only a few months.
Another big problem for companies operating under their own brand name on the net is that it’s relatively easy to reach a vast audience quickly but very hard to maintain it. Internet crowds are fickle and it takes them a matter of seconds to stop using your service and start using a new one that looks cooler, sounds cooler or is simply different. You just need to look at the painful process Myspace is going through only three years after being valued billions. It would seem safer in this market to create backbone technologies that can be used to power a variety of services. In this way if one of them goes out of fashion the same engine could be used by the next cool thing. The only way for public-facing sites to preserve their edge is to innovate constantly, engage with and listen to their users in order to make the experience more absorbing and engaging with every step.

    New Formats, Re-Mixing applications, gaming platforms, creativity suites, life-influenced soundscapes and interactive lyrics are all in their individual way fantastic ideas that will in time change the way we listen to music. In the meantime they are bound to evolve and integrate – their success depends on their appetite for innovation as well their drive to collaborate with one another. Open standards, shared APIs and the will to experiment with new business models are about to drive the music industry in a whole new direction. Much more exciting than 3-D.

Digital Music Trends Interviews with some of the companies named above: 


MXP4 : This interview is from back last August and much has changed at MXP4 in the meantime but the concept is still the same!  http://digitalmusictrends.podbean.com/2009/08/04/digital-music-trends-episode-17/ 

TronMe : This interview is also quite old dating to back last June http://www.digitalmusictrends.com/weekly-podcast/2009/6/22/digital-music-trends-episode-11.html

Aviary : http://soundcloud.com/digitalmusictrends/interview-with-alan-queen-from-aviary

Gomix : http://soundcloud.com/digitalmusictrends/interview-with-olly-barnes-from-gomix

MusicMyne : http://soundcloud.com/digitalmusictrends/interview-with-david-ratcliff-rom-musicmyne


Andrea Leonelli 21/02/2010
?

Digital Music Trends – Episode 34

This Week: Real Networks to spin off Rhapsody into a separate company, the CEO of Myspace Owen Van Natta steps down and the company starts to introduce pre-roll audio adverts, Tunewiki raises a new round of funding, the new Swrv music channel launches in the US and Apple is counting down to 10 billion track downloads.
 

 

DIgital Music Trends – Episode 34 by digitalmusictrends

Shownotes

Real Networks to Spin off Rhapsody

Only a month after Real’s founder Rob Glazer stepped down as CEO of the company – Real Network decided to separate itself from the music subscription service Rhapsody, which counts over 700,000 subscribers in the US.
The most important part of the deal is that the ownership structure of Rhapsody will be altered so that Real Networks will own 49% of the service and Viacom’s MTV the other 49%, with a 2% remaining to be held by minority stakeholders. 

This should have 2 effects:
First it will get the money-losing Rhapsody operation off Real Network’s books 
Second it will make it easier for the service to be bought out by a third party- which is a possibility floated by Peter Kafka from All things Digital. 
Another important side-effect is that it will allow Real Networks to re-focus on the technology side of things. 

Real networks has been on the digital music scene longer than most but it has so far failed to capitalize on its experience and the use of its products has definitely slipped over the last couple of years, I can hardly remember a time when a website has required me to use the RealPlayer plug-in. I do hope that this move helps them bring the company back in the game. 

 

Myspace CEO steps down

 

OK a long section of Myspace news now.
Just a few days ago it was announced that the company’s CEO Owen Van Natta stepped down and left, to be replaced by a co-presidency of the Chief Operating Officer Mike Jones and Chief Product Officer  Jason Hirschhorn.
This is certainly a surprising move as i saw Mr Van Natta speak at Midem and his performance  in Cannes – if he indeed was aware that something of this kind was even remotely possible – was that of a seasoned actor.

In the past couple of days there were many columns spent over the possible reason why he left or was made to leave with internal conflicts being at the top of the list. After all Rupert Murdoch had made it clear not so long ago that he was not happy with the performance of Myspace. I don’t want to join in the speculations as to why Mr Van Natta left, and I’m more interested in evaluating the effects this will have on the company itself.
First of all Myspace seemed to be on the right track, they had stepped up development, openness, band support and brand partnerships to provide an immersive experience. I wonder if this process will be at all disrupted by the change in leadership.
Second I have rarely seen a company that rumor has it is full of internal conflicts to fare well under a co-presidency – that’s likely to lead to a lot of half baked compromises that are no good to stir the group in a brave new direction.
Third, I think that the only way in which Myspace is likely to succeed is for Newscorp and Murdoch to leave the company alone to do its thing. Myspace is primarily a technology company, it does not work like a newspaper and if it is run as one there’s no chance that it will recover even a small slice of the market share it has lost to Facebook.

Indicative of Myspace’s problems is the departure of Stream Architect Monica Keller who decided to jump to Facebook, as reported by Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch. Tech Crunch quotes her as writing:
“But I have chosen to leave. While I was able to have some temporary creative freedom this is not the norm or part of what other engineers enjoy and I do not feel there is one cohesive push to deliver the best we can deliver anymore.
To my friends and colleagues at MySpace, some parting advice:
It is imperative that MySpace puts in place strong technical leadership who can attract good technical talent and make well-informed decisions. It is important that they stay connected to rest of the world and work on interoperable standards and solid products which benefit the end user. Many of my fellow engineers have fantastic ideas and a plan for phased delivery.”

Myspace introducing audio ads

http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=1039960&c=1

Billboard reports that Myspace is  beginning to introduce audio pre-roll adverts to music tracks in an effort to ramp up advertising revenue. This model is comparable to the way in which We7 and Spotify’s free services support themselves. A     key difference as highlighted by  Music Week is that whilst the adverts are going to be long – a whole 30 seconds – Myspace will then allow the users to stream an entire album or even a 100 tracks playlist without further interruptions.  

It’s debatable whether this model works better than a shorter advert introduced more frequently and considering that a lot of Myspace users are very young 30 seconds could prove too long. The most important factor in my opinion for this model to be successful is the relevance and quality of the advert itself. If Myspace was to blanket users with car adverts that could be a disastrous move, but if the advertising was intelligent and tailored to the user according to their profile and interests then things could get much more engaging. After all, Myspace holds a great deal more personal information about its users than a Spotify or a We7, and therefore their targeted advertising could prove more valuable. 

TuneWiki raises a new round of Funding

http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/08/tunewiki-funding-motorola-ventures/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)

 

The Israel based start-up TuneWiki has secured a new round of funding for an undisclosed sum from a number of investors led by Motorola Ventures but also including Intellect Capital Ventures, HillsVen Capital LLC and Novel TMT along with Benchmark Israel who was a previous investor in the company. 


Tech Crunch reports that the site The Marker (in Hebrew) valued the new round at about 7million dollars. TuneWiki is the only company that is creating a truly engaging experience in the Lyrics space, which is a field that has been underestimated by many companies and as we all know has generated huge link farms where a single lyric is surrounded by banners, pop-ups and fishy java and flash applications. 
TuneWiki has developed apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry handsets – all of which are really engaging. The iPhone application pulls all the tracks on your phone and looks up whether these have been indexed in the Tunewiki site, if so it downloads the lyrics which start displaying like a karaoke. On the other hand, if Tunewiki has the lyrics but they are not synchronized to the music, the user has the option to do it himself just by tapping the screen every time a new line is spoken. This synch will then be usable by any other Tunewiki user in the world that wants to view the lyrics for that track. The application has a great mapping function to find out where people are playing similar tracks and I have personally synchronized a whole podcast transcript to it!
 

Swrv music channel resuscitates the on-demand format for video music television 

Swrv video presentation: http://www.musicchoice.com/streams/SWRV_Sizzle_2010_1Mb.wmv

In the very same week that MTV finally decided to drop “Music Television” from its logo a new channel was announced by Music Choice that puts music videos and user interactivity back a the centre of the attention. While MTV has decided to concentrate on reality TV programs at the expense of music videos Swrv is a channel focusing only on music videos that are chosen by the public. The channel aims at making the viewers feel in control of their experience and make them feel like real Vjs through a combination of video uploads, text based votes, website interaction and social media interaction through the likes of Facebook. 

 

The channel is launching for Cox cable customers in Virginia and New England and is naturally planning to expand further once the model is tested. It will launch with ten shows all revolving around interactivity. One is called “Majority Rules” and will display a selection of three tracks during the previous music video that users can vote on – once the video ends the votes are counted in a matter of a second and the video that received the most clicks gets played. Another is called “SWRV takeover” and allows a viewer to literally take over the presentation of three tracks (for roughly 15 minutes) through videos submitted on the Internet or via mobile phones. 

Of the two articles I found on this story the Multichannel.com one presents what Swrv does as a medium extensively whilst the Digital Music News article concentrates on the business model. Essentially the channel was created because CPMs in television are still much much higher than Online CPMs and the experience of SWRV aim at driving a huge amount of 12-24 year old viewers who will be actively engaging with the channel, a very important demographic for many advertisers. The channel would make money not only from advertising but also from licensing itself to other networks and providers across the country. The interesting part of the deal is that Swrv will play the labels both a percentage of the CPMs and a percentage of the licensing fees, although the amounts remain undisclosed. 

Now the question is: will the tweenies version of Music Box succeed in a YouTube driven on-demand and always-on environment? We’ll have to wait and see…

 Apple approaching 10 Billion downloads with a contest. 

http://digitalmusicnews.com/stories/021110itunes/view

http://www.apple.com/itunes/10-billion-song-countdown/

So Apple is approaching 10 billion track sales on iTunes. I struggled a little when deciding whether to include this as “news” in the podcast because, after all, iTunes downloads are destined to go up in numbers and why does 10 billions matter more than 2billions? 
But this milestone is impressive and making a big deal out of it is a smart move by Apple – it reiterates that the company is still the leading brand in the digital music market. Yes, its market share has shrunk thanks to the likes of Amazon MP3 s but it’s still a majority share in a market that has not stopped growing in the past seven years. The contest will award a $10,000 iTunes store gift card to whoever will get them to that 10 billion download threshold. The most interesting aspect of the story is that Apple had only gotten to 6 billion downloads in January 2009 and it had taken them over six years to do so, so the notion that only 13 months later they have amassed a further four billion sales is really impressive. Certainly the explosion of the iPhone and iPod Touch – which make it ridiculously easy to buy music over the air – as well as the opening of several more international stores over the past few months helped them reach this milestone. 

?

Digital Music Trends – Episode 34

This Week: Real Networks to spin off Rhapsody into a separate company, the CEO of Myspace Owen Van Natta steps down and the company starts to introduce pre-roll audio adverts, Tunewiki raises a new round of funding, the new Swrv music channel launches in the US and Apple is counting down to 10 billion track downloads. Shownotes

Real Networks to Spin off Rhapsody

Only a month after Real’s founder Rob Glazer stepped down as CEO of the company – Real Network decided to separate itself from the music subscription service Rhapsody, which counts over 700,000 subscribers in the US.
The most important part of the deal is that the ownership structure of Rhapsody will be altered so that Real Networks will own 49% of the service and Viacom’s MTV the other 49%, with a 2% remaining to be held by minority stakeholders.
This should have 2 effects:
First it will get the money-losing Rhapsody operation off Real Network’s books
Second it will make it easier for the service to be bought out by a third party- which is a possibility floated by Peter Kafka from All things Digital.
Another important side-effect is that it will allow Real Networks to re-focus on the technology side of things.

Real networks has been on the digital music scene longer than most but it has so far failed to capitalize on its experience and the use of its products has definitely slipped over the last couple of years, I can hardly remember a time when a website has required me to use the RealPlayer plug-in. I do hope that this move helps them bring the company back in the game.

Myspace CEO steps down
OK a long section of Myspace news now. Just a few days ago it was announced that the company’s CEO Owen Van Natta stepped down and left, to be replaced by a co-presidency of the Chief Operating Officer Mike Jones and Chief Product Officer  Jason Hirschhorn. This is certainly a surprising move as i saw Mr Van Natta speak at Midem and his performance  in Cannes – if he indeed was aware that something of this kind was even remotely possible – was that of a seasoned actor.

In the past couple of days there were many columns spent over the possible reason why he left or was made to leave with internal conflicts being at the top of the list. After all Rupert Murdoch had made it clear not so long ago that he was not happy with the performance of Myspace. I don’t want to join in the speculations as to why Mr Van Natta left, and I’m more interested in evaluating the effects this will have on the company itself. First of all Myspace seemed to be on the right track, they had stepped up development, openness, band support and brand partnerships to provide an immersive experience. I wonder if this process will be at all disrupted by the change in leadership. Second I have rarely seen a company that rumor has it is full of internal conflicts to fare well under a co-presidency – that’s likely to lead to a lot of half baked compromises that are no good to stir the group in a brave new direction. Third, I think that the only way in which Myspace is likely to succeed is for Newscorp and Murdoch to leave the company alone to do its thing. Myspace is primarily a technology company, it does not work like a newspaper and if it is run as one there’s no chance that it will recover even a small slice of the market share it has lost to Facebook.

Indicative of Myspace’s problems is the departure of Stream Architect Monica Keller who decided to jump to Facebook, as reported by Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch. Tech Crunch quotes her as writing: “But I have chosen to leave. While I was able to have some temporary creative freedom this is not the norm or part of what other engineers enjoy and I do not feel there is one cohesive push to deliver the best we can deliver anymore. To my friends and colleagues at MySpace, some parting advice: It is imperative that MySpace puts in place strong technical leadership who can attract good technical talent and make well-informed decisions. It is important that they stay connected to rest of the world and work on interoperable standards and solid products which benefit the end user. Many of my fellow engineers have fantastic ideas and a plan for phased delivery.”

Myspace introducing audio ads

http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=1039960&c=1

Billboard reports that Myspace is  beginning to introduce audio pre-roll adverts to music tracks in an effort to ramp up advertising revenue. This model is comparable to the way in which We7 and Spotify’s free services support themselves. A     key difference as highlighted by  Music Week is that whilst the adverts are going to be long – a whole 30 seconds – Myspace will then allow the users to stream an entire album or even a 100 tracks playlist without further interruptions.

It’s debatable whether this model works better than a shorter advert introduced more frequently and considering that a lot of Myspace users are very young 30 seconds could prove too long. The most important factor in my opinion for this model to be successful is the relevance and quality of the advert itself. If Myspace was to blanket users with car adverts that could be a disastrous move, but if the advertising was intelligent and tailored to the user according to their profile and interests then things could get much more engaging. After all, Myspace holds a great deal more personal information about its users than a Spotify or a We7, and therefore their targeted advertising could prove more valuable.

TuneWiki raises a new round of Funding

http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/08/tunewiki-funding-motorola-ventures/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Techcrunch+(TechCrunch)

The Israel based start-up TuneWiki has secured a new round of funding for an undisclosed sum from a number of investors led by Motorola Ventures but also including Intellect Capital Ventures, HillsVen Capital LLC and Novel TMT along with Benchmark Israel who was a previous investor in the company.


Tech Crunch reports that the site The Marker (in Hebrew) valued the new round at about 7million dollars. TuneWiki is the only company that is creating a truly engaging experience in the Lyrics space, which is a field that has been underestimated by many companies and as we all know has generated huge link farms where a single lyric is surrounded by banners, pop-ups and fishy java and flash applications.
TuneWiki has developed apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry handsets – all of which are really engaging. The iPhone application pulls all the tracks on your phone and looks up whether these have been indexed in the Tunewiki site, if so it downloads the lyrics which start displaying like a karaoke. On the other hand, if Tunewiki has the lyrics but they are not synchronized to the music, the user has the option to do it himself just by tapping the screen every time a new line is spoken. This synch will then be usable by any other Tunewiki user in the world that wants to view the lyrics for that track. The application has a great mapping function to find out where people are playing similar tracks and I have personally synchronized a whole podcast transcript to it!

Swrv music channel resuscitates the on-demand format for video music television

Swrv video presentation: http://www.musicchoice.com/streams/SWRV_Sizzle_2010_1Mb.wmv

In the very same week that MTV finally decided to drop “Music Television” from its logo a new channel was announced by Music Choice that puts music videos and user interactivity back a the centre of the attention. While MTV has decided to concentrate on reality TV programs at the expense of music videos Swrv is a channel focusing only on music videos that are chosen by the public. The channel aims at making the viewers feel in control of their experience and make them feel like real Vjs through a combination of video uploads, text based votes, website interaction and social media interaction through the likes of Facebook.

The channel is launching for Cox cable customers in Virginia and New England and is naturally planning to expand further once the model is tested. It will launch with ten shows all revolving around interactivity. One is called “Majority Rules” and will display a selection of three tracks during the previous music video that users can vote on – once the video ends the votes are counted in a matter of a second and the video that received the most clicks gets played. Another is called “SWRV takeover” and allows a viewer to literally take over the presentation of three tracks (for roughly 15 minutes) through videos submitted on the Internet or via mobile phones.

Of the two articles I found on this story the Multichannel.com one presents what Swrv does as a medium extensively whilst the Digital Music News article concentrates on the business model. Essentially the channel was created because CPMs in television are still much much higher than Online CPMs and the experience of SWRV aim at driving a huge amount of 12-24 year old viewers who will be actively engaging with the channel, a very important demographic for many advertisers. The channel would make money not only from advertising but also from licensing itself to other networks and providers across the country. The interesting part of the deal is that Swrv will play the labels both a percentage of the CPMs and a percentage of the licensing fees, although the amounts remain undisclosed.

Now the question is: will the tweenies version of Music Box succeed in a YouTube driven on-demand and always-on environment? We’ll have to wait and see…

Apple approaching 10 Billion downloads with a contest.

http://digitalmusicnews.com/stories/021110itunes/view

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/02/11/itunes_soon_to_reach_milestone_of_10_billion_songs_sold.html

So Apple is approaching 10 billion track sales on iTunes. I struggled a little when deciding whether to include this as “news” in the podcast because, after all, iTunes downloads are destined to go up in numbers and why does 10 billions matter more than 2billions?
But this milestone is impressive and making a big deal out of it is a smart move by Apple – it reiterates that the company is still the leading brand in the digital music market. Yes, its market share has shrunk thanks to the likes of Amazon MP3 s but it’s still a majority share in a market that has not stopped growing in the past seven years. The contest will award a $10,000 iTunes store gift card to whoever will get them to that 10 billion download threshold. The most interesting aspect of the story is that Apple had only gotten to 6 billion downloads in January 2009 and it had taken them over six years to do so, so the notion that only 13 months later they have amassed a further four billion sales is really impressive. Certainly the explosion of the iPhone and iPod Touch – which make it ridiculously easy to buy music over the air – as well as the opening of several more international stores over the past few months helped them reach this milestone.