Digital Music Trends – Episode 41

This week: an extensive interview with Frank Rose, journalist, author and currently contributing editor at Wired magazine. In the news: the unveiling of the iPhone 4.0 OS brings multitasking which is great news for music apps, Pandora gets new exposure with its 3.0 mobile version for iPhone and iPad, in the UK the Digital Economy Bill which includes anti-piracy measures is rushed through parliament just shortly before the general elections, Nokia launches a DRM-free comes with music service in China, Universal partners with Conduit Labs thus entering the virtual goods market and Musicians for Music 2.0 aims at becoming a seed investment source founded by the music community.

Episode 41 by digitalmusictrends
But let’s start with this week’s interview with Frank Rose –  Frank started out writing for the Village Vanguard in the 70s and since then he has written for some of the most important publications in the United States including Rolling Stone Magazine, Fortune and during the past ten years Wired Magazine. He has also published a number of books including titles like West of Eden on Apple computers and The Agency that details the history of Hollywood’s most powerful agency. Frank will be one of the speakers at the Sounds Digital event taking place this week-end in London and organized by the Music Void and XMediaLabs.

And now for the news

iPhone 4.0 and new possibilities:

So Steve Jobs must be in fine form now – he was spotted at the Oscars and recently made an appearance at an Apple store checking out his own iPad and was seen having a very conspicuous cup of coffee with Eric Schmidt from Google. On Thursday he took to the stage once again after January’s iPad announcement to unveil the 4.0 version of the iPhone OS. So what’s the news? Well, whilst there was nothing earth-shattering in terms of features at least for once Apple delivered what everyone was waiting for: multitasking. This is something that has been available for quite a while on Android and it was sorely needed if anything to stop Apple customers from turning to more advanced, specked out and open HTC Android phones.

But what does multi-tasking mean for music tech companies? Well, for starters it means that I’ll be renewing my Spotify or my We7 subscription since I will finally be able to listen to the music without having to continuously stop it and start it to check my email or update a Twitter feed. These applications will be able to run in the background while I’m doing other stuff both on the iPhone’s main apps and on other third party apps. So I could be checking out a new album whilst updating my Google calendar. This could also be an interesting development for an application like RjDj – where the music reacts to your movement and to the sounds that are around you – what if you just left that running in the background and let fate develop it? Naturally there’s a catch, as only iPhone owners with 3Gs models will receive these new features as well as, naturally,  those who will buy the new iPhone 4.0 which will very probably arrive in the summer. If I want to be totally fair it is probably down to the fact that earlier models with slower processors may not be able to handle multi-tasking without slowing to a halt, I have experienced my own 3g running very very slowly if I have more than for or five windows open in Safari.

Amongst many new features announced by Jobs another a really interesting one for Music companies is the iAd platform. Jobs highlighted pretty bluntly how advertising in the iPhone apps pretty much sucks, not least I’d add because they are not getting any money from it, so Apple created a centralized network called iAds that will take care of the placement and distribution of the adverts. The developers will only have to insert the appropriate API in their app in order to use the service and they will receive what Jobs called an “industry standard” 60% of the revenues, I have no experience in this field so I am unable to comment as to the accuracy of this figure! The adverts when “touched” open up within the existing application and are very much interactive to try and create an emotional experience and a connection with the user. the user can then close them and go straight back to what he was doing, making it more likely that he will want to check some of them out.

Pandora gets boost from iPad and new version of iPhone OS

One of the music companies that is poised to expand its audience even further with the iPad is Pandora, the personalized radio streaming service that is one of the most downloaded apps ever for the iPhone. The company has just released a 3.0 version of its app, which is universal meaning that it can be used both on the iPhone and on the iPad and scales things up or down accordingly. According to TechCrunch the iPad’s screen size means that the Pandora experience is more enjoyable now as the user can browse the artist biographies, pictures, reviews with ease whilst listening to the music – almost like browsing a magazine. Apparently the app’s performance has also been improved with fewer dropouts. Pandora recently announced reaching 50 million users and it’s certainly a platform that is resonating with the public since it’s a personalized experience that often helps you discover new music that really matches your tastes.

UK Digital Economy Bill

One of the biggest stories of the week was the UK parliament’s approval of the Digital Economy Act on Thursday. Naturally many sources both nationally and internationally reported on this story and all of them stressed how the approval process was a rushed and last-minute affair since the Queen had actually dissolved parliament officially on the 6th and these last few sessions were geared at tying up loose ends in the legislation. In fact not all parts of the bill were passed into law, but the one regarding anti-piracy measures was. The new legislation introduces a new system of warnings which are issued via letter by the ISPs. These will not be reaching people’s homes until early 2011. A year after thesxe measures are introduced there will be an assessment regarding their effect, and if piracy levels have not dropped by 70% in a 12 months period the regulatory body Ofcom will decide whether to activate stricter measures which could lead up to the suspension of the user’s connections.  So as the Telegraph points out these measures will not directly affect consumers for a while. But this does not mean that the way the law is formulated and its rushed approval are not a cause for concern. So far there is no clear indication as to what will happen, for example, to the local cafe’ offering free wi-fi  that people could theoretically use to download copyrighted content. Will that have to close down? Naturally content owners were pretty happy that this bill was finally passed, since it is the result of months and months of research and reports but it is not a shining example of a legislative process gone the way it should have, otherwise it would not have ended up being approved at the last minute and just before a general election. 

Nokia Comes With Music goes to China

Nokia has announced the launch of its Comes With Music service for for the Chinese market. This will allow users to download DRM-free MP3s – and this is a key difference with the European and South American version of the service. The service will distribute both major label tracks and independent and local material but the announcement was seen with some scepticism by the stock market. The main problems are that 1) Nokia is going to have to give something back to the labels for the use of their products 2) music in China is considered free anyway because piracy is so rampant, so this feature may not be considered so compelling 3) this is a free service that may only generate an additional income indirectly through advertising or cross-selling – as pointed out in a Reuters story (you’ll find all the links in the shownotes). In any case it’s a pretty brave attempt at breaking into a mobile market that can potentially drive a huge amount of business and we’ll see how it pans out or if any details of the label deals surface in the coming weeks and months.  

Universal Partners with Conduit Labs

Tech Crunch reports of a deal between Universal Music and Conduit Labs. The latter is a start-up that creates social music games, including the increasingly popular Music Pets, Loudcrowd and and Super Dance, These are all apps distributed via Facebook and collectively count over one million users. 

The deal will allow users to buy tracks by the likes of Lady Gaga, the Killers, the Black Eyed Peas and many others as virtual goods to personalize their gaming experience, and it will include linking to sites where they will also be able to buy the track outright as an MP3. Conduit Labs will naturally get a share of the revenues form the virtual goods sales generated within the game – which seems like a fair deal. The start-up had already secured deals with independent labels such as the Beggars Group – but this deal is likely give access to tracks with a more mainstream appeal. The incredible success of the Farmville idea has spurred the birth of a flurry of companies working with virtual goods, but it’s nice seeing one of them concentrating on music. Music is certainly not the most profitable item to sell on one of these apps – you can sell a virtual cow for $5 and keep all $5 or sell a virtual Just Dance by Lady Gaga and only keep a fraction of what you’re charging for it whilst the rest goes straight to the label…. 

Musicians For music 2.0 aims at helping music start-ups get funding.

And finally I wanted to point to an Article on Indie Music about the Musicians For Music 2.0 initiative which is was started by Charles McErney from Well-Rounded radio and aims at raising funds from the community that will go towards helping 12 cash-strapped music tech start-ups. I’m glad to see projects like this one cropping up – I’ve spoken to a few people detailing the difficulties encountered in trying to secure funds and in trying to run a bootstrapped operation. At the moment the project is raising some preliminary cash through Kickstarter so go and give a buck if you can!

So, that’s all for this week. This week-end I’ll be at the Sounds Digital event organized by the Music Void and XMediaLabs so on the next episode you can expect lots of info from the event! 
Also, I’ve just read that there are two more MusicHackDays being organized, one is the 24th and 25th on Amsterdam and the other on the 15th and 16th of May in San Francisco – if you are a developer and like tinkering with APIs i strognly suggest you check out! 
If you’d like to get in touch with feedback or news stories or simply to say hi the email is On the website, at you will find all the links to the show and finally you can follow me on twitter, the handle is Digimusictrends
Have a great week and ’till next time! 

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