This week on the show an interview with Matt Stanley, the Managing Director of Tunited.com a new platform for independent artists and fans of independent music. Also a short report on the Music Connected digital event organized by the Association of Independent Music. In the news iTunes has licencing issues that prevent it from getting its cloud service off the ground, Spotify brings multitasking to the iPhone, Tapulous is acquired by Disney and finally why is Pandora so successful?
Interview with Matt Stanley from www.tunited.com, a new platform for independent music. In the interview we talk about what Tunited is, its focus on independent artists and labels and its alternative business model that aims to provide a better return to the artists whilst encouraging listeners to spend time and money on the site. The company is currently running a closed beta and plans to move to an open beta in late July/early August.
Report on Music Connected, London. So last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be able to spend the morning at the the event Music Connected, that took place in Central London and was organized by the Association of Independent Music or AIM that you can find on www.musicindie.com. If you’re not from the UK AIM is a great organization that provides many resources to both independent record companies and distributors. Music Connected is a yearly event focused on the digital marketplace, it kicked off with a session where the 17 digital music companies presented their product or service.
After the presentations the event was split between a “Conference Zone” where there were 4 main seminars/panels revolving around digital music and a “Digital Market Place” where the 17 digital companies that presented earlier had set up some stands so that the delegates could go and speak to them directly. Unfortunately I was only able to stay for the morning but I manged to speak to many of the companies involved in the event, including the sponsors of Music connected – a company called Music 2 Text. Their service allows you to download a track by simply send a text message to a Music 2 Text number and clicking on the download link that you receive in return. This is a tool that I’m sure will be incredibly interesting especially from a marketing point of view at live events. Other companies present included digital distributor Ditto Music, music recognition company Shazam, anti-piracy company Web Sheriff as well as Bounce Mobile with their interactive music app Fireplayer amongst many, many others. The only panel that I managed to attend was that on Fanalytics moderated by Dave Haynes from Soundcloud. The panel looked at the options that bands and labels have to monitor their fan-base online, the importance of analytics and the way in which they can be used to improve the band’s communication with its fans. One of the most interesting points to come out of the panels was that gathering analytics for bands is now absolutely paramount, but it’s not useful at all unless the band spends some time understanding those statistics and using them to improve its communication with the fans. It was a topical discussion for me as on Digital Music Trends episode 50 and 51 I’d just been interviewing two companies that work on music analytics, namely Music Metric and Gigswiz. Overall Music Connected was a really well organized event that I would recommend for next year – I was gutted to miss the afternoon sessions this time but I hope that some substantial blog posts or videos are going to be posted on-line soon to catch up!
iTunes licensing hurdles
The Boy Genius Report this week re-started the rumour mill on an iTunes cloud-based music service. According to BGR’s sources the service should be unveiled soon and will allow users to stream media directly from Apple’s own servers as well as from their own computers to mobile/wireless devices and to synchronize their iPhones, iPads and PCs/Macs wirelessly as well. Billboard Business commented on the news by saying that the article does not add anything that we didn’t already know to the story and CNET’s Greg Sandoval reports that whilst music industry executives are not denying that talks with apple are ongoing they have not reached and agreement yet. Apparently the problem is that Lala’s licensing deals with the labels did not stand after the company was acquired be Apple and this means that if they want to stream music from their own servers they will have to cut a new deal. The music industry is once again between a rock and a hard place, they’d like to avoid handing the keys to their empire to Apple once again and see them hold the majority of both the a la carte and the streaming business but at the same time they know that only a company like Apple has the user base and the technical ability to really break streaming to a mass audience in a way that perhaps not even Spotify will be able to do in the US market. I personally think that the progress or lack thereof in the licensing talks will be very much dictated by the performance of the music labels in the next two financial quarters. If the flattening out of the rise in digital sales as well as the decline in physical sales were to continue Apple would be in a much better place to get the industry on its side whilst if the market proved more resilient then the labels would not have to run to Steve Jobs to obtain some much needed security.
Spotify bringing multitasking to iPhone app
And Spotify made the headlines again today simply by releasing an update – though it’s certainly the one update that every Spotify-loving UK user with an iPhone 3Gs or iPhone 4 wanted to get. It introduces finally multitasking to the app which means that you no longer have to stop your music to check your email or look up a map or play your favorite game. This is a real revolution for Spotify and as Wired points out the company is now well on its way to replacing iTunes on the iPhone itself, which is an interesting paradox. The only fields where Spotify is still lacking compared to the iPhone’s iPod functionality is that of Podcasts that are still only sporadically available on Spotify and do not upgrade automatically. The update also brings social features to the mobile app so you can share your music with your friends and it has some nice touches like the ability to control the app via the headphone controls of Apple’s headset. I am personally going to upgrade once again to Spotify premium having been frustrated for months by the lack of multitasking which made the app unusable to me. I look forward to enjoying a whole load of new music from now on!
Tapulous is acquired by Disney
Tech crunch, Busines Insider and Music week have all reported on the juicy news that Disney has decided to acquired Tapulous. Disney was adamant not to reveal the true figures surrounding this acquisition with all people in the know forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. TechCrunch worked out from various sources that the purchase price must have been between 22 and 50 million dollars. The acquisition itself comes as a surprise for a company that only ever had to raise 1.8 million in venture capital and angel investments and became profitable almost immediately. Projected earnings for 2010 were in the region of 10 million dollars which sort-of make me wonder why sell the company at all? The co-founders of the Tapulous Bart Decrem and Andrew lacy will become Senior VPs at Disney’s mobile operations and will continue to expand the Tapulous brand whilst integrating it with Disney properties. Mr Decrem when speaking to TechCrunch revealed that Tapulous will become a point of focus in Disney’s mobile strategy and that he will be working hard to expand the division in Palo Alto.
Pandora’s guide to mobile app platforms
And finally Pandora’s CTO Tom Conrad recently spoke at a Digg event about how Pandora proceeded in picking which mobile platforms to support. He looked back at the history of the company and at the choices it had made in terms of handset support to explain why Pandora ended up becoming so darn successful. GigaOm did a good job in summing up the key points of this talk but I suggest that you watch the whole thing since it’s available – the video is also embedded in the GigaOm article. Mr Conrad spoke about how knowing your customer is paramount – Pandora was incredibly successful on the iPhone because many people that had transitioned to that device were iPod users which made them more likely to appreciate the service. And also he talked about the importance of tailoring the app to the device, even if this can take some time. The most telling story was that of the explosions of users on the Blackberry Storm that was caused by a Pandora developer in Canada taking it upon himself to write a really great app tailored-made for that device. I’m personally still waiting to get Pandora in the UK so in my case the problem is not handset support but availability in my country!
And that’s all for this week, i really hope you enjoyed the show. You can email with any feedback or comment to email@example.com or visit the website on www.digitalmusictrends.com if you’d like to look at previous episodes or find the links to the iTunes or RSS feeds. You can also get the podcast by subscribing directly on iTunes, just search for Digital Music Trends in the store. Digital Music Trends is also available on the Music Void, SoundCloud and Mixcloud. Have a great week and ‘till next time!