Author - Paul S

Spotify (again) Adopts PayPal to Encourage Subscriptions

I continue to be annoyed that Spotify generates all this press, when it is still not available in the United States. Meanwhile, services like Lala.com, which is both viable and available today, continue to languish in the public consciousness.
That said, anything Spotify or any other company can do to encourage subscriptions, and thus advance the “access” over “ownership” paradigm shift, is a step in the right direction.

Spotify today encouraged more of its users to pay for premium services by integrating PayPal.

Previously Spotify only accepted Visa and Mastercard.

Adding PayPal will open subscription to many more users, particularly under-18s who aren’t eligible for a credit card. PayPal payments can be directly linked to bank accounts.

The venture-funded jukebox service faces a battle to convert tens of thousands of non-paying users into £9.99 per month subscribers. Revenues from the advertising Spotify inserts into free streams are understood to be very low.

via www.theregister.co.uk

Unfettered Access: Here’s a Blogger Who Gets It

Unfortunately, he has to get it from his Zune…

Zune-hd-leak

This is the best $15/mo I spend.

I have gladly given up owning my music for the convenience of having access to all the music I can discover. (The only bands I haven’t been able to find on Zune’s subscription service are Tool and Rammstein).

Who’da thunk that Microsoft would ever get ahead of the curve that Apple has been bending for an entire decade?  Or that an Apple/Mac/iPod convert like me would have something favorable to say about the friggin’ Zune?

I keep reading that (for example) iTunes won’t offer a similar subscription-based service because of Steve Jobs insistence that users want to “own” and not “rent” the music they listen to.

OK, that’s fine for those narrow-minded consumers who want to listen to the same thing over and over again.  But there are some of us who actually like to discover new music, and are willing to shell out the cost of a single CD each month if it means we get “access” to everything.

Note the use of words here:  “rent” carries this negative connotation of temporariness, the idea that “if you stop subscribing, you loose all your music.” Well, if you do stop subscribing, you don’t really lose all the music, it’s still there.

The better word is “access,” because when you speak of “access” to the entire universe of recorded music, then the notion of a temporary “rental” becomes, well, pretty fucking irrelevant.

It’s sorta like the “public option” in the health care debate.  You want your current plan, fine, keep it (and keep listening to the same damn thing over and over again). But there are some of us who want another option.

So it’s good to see, as this blogger attests, that once people discover the advantages of “access”
over “ownership,” the market is going to continue growing.

All This Free Stuff… And the Business is GROWING?

Skimming through a few unopened e-mails from last week, I find this startling item via TechDirt:

Let me repeat that: despite all of the whining and complaining about the state of the music industry, some of the music industry’s own economists are admitting that the market is growing.

Not surprisingly, it found that retail product sales have declined, but the other parts of the industry have grown noticeably more than the decline in retail sales. This growth has come from a few sources. Live show attendance has increased more than retail sales have decreased. Consumers have actually spent more. On top of that, the business to business side of the industry (sponsorships, licensing, advertisements, etc.) has grown as well, opening up new and lucrative means of making money.

This is encouraging to read. What with all the “free” music I’ve been listening to lately via Lala.com, I’ve been wondering, “so, where’s the money going to come from?” to support all these emerging (and even the established) musicians who are drifting around in my Celestial Jukebox.

OK, so, maybe the cash-flow isn’t coming from direct “sales” of music, but the study cited in this article does seem to be saying that it’s coming from….. somewhere. Whew.

It’s Really Worth More If You Give It Away!

I’ve been trying to get this post from Derek Sivers on here for a few days, various technical conspiracies have intervened.

Derek_sivers2

Call it the McBride/Sivers principal if you must; it started with uber-manager Terry McBride and Derek has breathed more life into it.  Wherever it started, whatever you call it, the importance of the principal as a fundamental tenet of Music 3.0 cannot be overstated.

Because every person left each show with a CD, they were more likely to remember who they saw, tell friends about it, listen to it later, and become an even bigger fan afterwards.

Then, when the band came back to a town where they had insisted that everyone take a CD, attendance at those shows doubled!  The people that took a CD became long-term fans and brought their friends to future shows.

Music 3.0 — aka the era of the Celestial Jukebox — is about getting people to show up for the experience.  If “giving away” the “product” (actually, selling MORE of it…) makes that happen, then it’s entirely worth the price of the exchange.

Also important to note that the artist that McBride first tried this with is Griffin House, one of the artist on the 2008 “10 out of Tenn” tour that demonstrates another important aspect of the shifting paradigm.

Chris Brogan on Music 3.0: Turn The Chairs Around

Brogan

The big deal in Nashville today was an appearance by social media maven (he says he doesn’t like the word “guru”)  Chris Brogan, author New York Times Bestseller Trust Agents.

Among the many pertinent points that Brogan made about utilizing Web 2.0 tools to “build influence,” etc., there was one point in particular that stands out in the context of the Big Shift in music.

Part of the thesis that underlies this blog is that one facet of what I’m calling “Music 3.0” is a return to the “oral” — todays’ word is actually “tribal” — traditions of Music 1.0 — the era before recording turned music into a product that was manufactured, distributed, and advertised like soap.
In my long essay about “Music 3.0” that launched this blog, I described the ending of the movie Any Day Now, a documentary about the 2008 “10 Out of Tenn” tour.
In this nearly final scene the musicians have finished their last show, but no one wants to leave the venue.  Not the audience, not the musicians.  And so the players come down off the stage, and with unplugged acoustic guitars lead their audience in an enthusiastic sing-along of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

In that moment, the proscenium that separates the troubadours from their audience was erased.  The artists became the audience and the audience became the artists.  And I as I felt the chicken skin bubbling up on my arm I turned to the friend who’d invited me to the screening and said “THAT’s ‘Music three-point-oh.'”

And here is Chris Brogan, New York Times bestselling author, with his take on a similar sentiment, as expressed during his appearance today in Nashville:
“The only difference between an audience and a community is which way you face the chairs.”

My point exactly.

Indeed, there are portions of “Trust Agents” that sound like a field manual for musicians who are trying to find their way in the Music 3.0 world.  More on that when I’ve had a chance to spend more time with the book I picked up today.

iTunes -v- Spotify? Slap Your Forehead and Say “Duh!”

Amid the hype for the "not available at store near you" service called Spotify, one often reads of its promise to be the next "iTunes killer" — though one also wonders why it's really necessary to kill iTunes. Granted, I don't use iTunes for "purchasing" music much any more, but it's still a very useful program, and of course essential for sync'ing up my iPhone.

So it's interesting to get Techdirt's take on the obvious question, "why would Apple approve a Spotify app for the iPhone?" and here is the most obvious answer:

Itunes-logo

I would bet that the folks at Apple are pretty damn sure that they can outlast and out-innovate Spotify. Spotify hasn't shown much ability to make money, and while it has become a press darling as a music app, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Apple's quietly been working on its own version of a Spotify-like offering built directly into iTunes. And, given Apple's standard operating procedure, if that's the case, there's a good chance that the Spotify-like iTunes will be even better than Spotify itself.

In other words: "iTunes" is the "iTunes killer." And Spotify goes down with it… 

Let's give credit where it's due: iTunes has played a pivotal role in the way music is offered and delivered in the Music 3.0 era; it has pursuaded a vast legion of music lovers of the ease and advantage of downloading their music collections rather than buying and ripping them.  That's a huge — and very successful — exercise in consumer behavior modification and an essential phase in the transition from Music 2.0 to Music 3.0.

iTunes has gotten a lot of mileage out of the "purchase per unit," product-based delivery model.  All the while, Steve Jobs and his minions have insisted that listeners (I hate calling us "consumers") are somehow compelled to "own" our very own collections of music. And the relatively modest acceptance of the subscription services like Rhapsody and Napster would seem to affirm that assessment. 

But just you wait: Someday — probably sooner rather than later — Apple will begin converting the faithful.  You'll see stylish ads from Apple that say "for the price of a single CD, for the cost of just 10 tracks per month, you can now have access to millions of tracks…and listen to whatever you want whenever and wherever you want (somebody should trademark that…)

And millions of iTunes users will slap their foreheads and exclaim, "well, fucking DUH!" 

Spotify: It’s a Start

Tonight, Spotify boss Daniel Ek admitted that less than 10% of Spotify subscribers had upgraded to the Premium version.

Spotify claims over 1 million subscribers but only a maximum of 90,000 of them are stumping up £10 a month for the ad-free Premium service. That means it brings in just £900,000 a month – not small change but not enough to make the service profitable.

It's likely that the Spotify Mobile app on Android and iPhone will increase those numbers but Spotify is keeping just how much close to its chest.

Ek told the crowd at the Glasshouse that Spotify could be profitable if it "chose to be" but that he's focused on developing the business.

via stuff.tv

I suppose that for most users, the occasional ad is a small price to "pay." I would say though that the fact that there are a million users is not insignificant. That represents the leading edge of a constituency that is going to get used to hearing whatever they want, whenever they want. And if Apple ever approves the iPhone app, you can add "wherever" to the equation.

Turn Your Browser Into A “Celestial Jukebox” TODAY

While I was at the Americana Conference last week, I found myself explaining to a lot of people what I mean when I tell them my computer is my jukebox.  Maybe they think I’m talking about iTunes.  Or maybe they think I’m listening to all this music on the speakers in my MacBook.


Not hardly.  I’ve got access to a virtually infinite (as in, more than I can listen to in a lifetime) library of music, and I’m listening to it all in excellent fidelity on my stereo. Aside from the computer (in my case a MacBook or a MacPro) there are three essential components to this system:

Lala.com: I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this one (pun intended?).  But this is where it starts for me.  Unlike the

Lala

subscription services like Rhapsody or Napster, Lala sucks me in by letting me listen to whatever I want to one time for free.  After that, I purchase “access” to the tracks I want to hear again for a dime.

With Lala.com, the browser becomes your iPod, with one important difference.  Instead of “owning” a few thousand tracks, you get “access” to… a few million.  Just about anything you want to hear.

Airfoil3-mac96

Airfoil is really the secret sauce in this recipe.  Airfoil is a program that can take the audio output from any program on your computer — most notably in this case your browser — and send it over WiFi to an


Airport Express — an Apple gizmo which is a WiFi receiver with stereo audio output.

That’s all there is to it, and it works on either PCs or Macs.  The signal comes out of your browser, Airfoil sends it to the Airport, and then the sound comes out of your stereo.

And just like that, your stereo is transformed into the “Celestial Jukebox.”

With this configuration, the prophecy is about 3/4s fulfilled.  You can hear whatever you want, whenever you want to hear it — but you still have to be connected to some kind of broadband connection through a lap- or desk-top computer.

The only thing that’s missing is the mobile app that puts the capability in your car.  The apps exist, but so far they’re not available for the public.  But why wait?  Unless you’re one of the road warriors that you’re listening to you’re probably tethered to cable or DSL (forget dialup) most of the  day anyway.

So be the first on your block to set up your own Celestial Jukebox TODAY!

Notes from AmericanaFest – 1

I spent most of Wednesday through Saturday of last week at the Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville.

I went to a lot of panels, and I took a lot of notes using an analog device known as “pencil and notebook.”  This antiquated technology works really well, at least until I go back and try to read what I scribbled.  But it was more convenient than trying to find an outlet in every room so that I could type notes on my laptop.

Jedhilly

First, a general observation: “Americana” seems at times like a brand in search of a genre.  Musically, the category covers a broad swath of the musical spectrum. Jed Hilly, the Executive Director of the Americana Music Association, did his best to narrow it down when he defined “Americana” (for the purpose of a new Grammy Awards category) as “contemporary music that honors and derives from American roots music.”

That does, indeed, cover a LOT of territory.  But more important than what the brand or genre represents musically is what the concept embodies as a movement.  Musically, this may be “roots” music, but market-wise, this is music that is coming up from the grassroots.  And, based on what I heard over this past week, it represents in some respects the very best of what the new grassroots paradigm has to offer the listening audience.  I mean, these people are GOOD and deserve the recognition that “mainstream” cultural forces are too often too slow to provide.

With that as a premise, here’s a note from the first panel I attended early on Thursday morning.

I didn’t realize until I got there that a discussion of “Raising The Next Generation of Americana Fans” would turn out to be a discussion about bringing this music to children, which is not generally speaking an area of my own personal interest.

Well… duh.  Music is sorta like cigarettes – if you want them smoking it when they’re adults, you gotta start ’em out as kids.  So (politically incorrect tobacco reference aside), what could be more important than a discussion of bringing “Americana” music to kids?

So once I realized where I was and why it was the right place to be, I started paying attention to Jason Ringenberg (aka “Farmer Jason“) and Miss Melba Toast as they described their experiences bringing music to children.

Khussey

Panelist Kathy Hussey said the one thing I found most encouraging: When she shows up for her songwriting-for-kids workshops, she said, “they start out wanting to write a rap song,” but their interest is very easily redirected.  “Kids are learning that they don’t have to consume what’s on the radio.”

When I was growing up, “what’s on the radio” was all their was, and we all grew up wanting to be The Beatles or The Stones.  But the impact of an infinite variety of cultural choices is beginning to have a diversifying effect on a new generation.

Kids today may show up wanting to replicate what they hear in the media.  They may think for a moment that that’s what’s expected of them  But if Kathy’s experience is any indication, the commitment is shallow.  They wind up wanting something resonates personally on a deeper level.

That’s a consequence of a world of infinite choices instead of just a few dominating channels.  More choice forces us to dig a little deeper to find what matters.  Mark that down as another upside of the new era, Music 3.0.

The Best of AmericanaFest Playlist

Americanafest09

OK, I've figured out how I can create and embed a playlist of the music I heard — and heard about — while attending the Americana Music Conference in Nashville last week. The list now appears to the right of this post, and visitors to this site should be able to listen to the tracks in their entirety "first time for free."  I'll be adding to the list in the days ahead, so just update your browser and the revised list should appear. Lemme know if you run into any problems…