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!

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