Category - celestial jukebox

Whatever you want to hear, whenever you want to hear, wherever you are. If the bastards ever let us…

Is Apple Finally Headed for “The Cloud” ?

Whatever Apple is planning, "The Boss" will be part of it now that Sony has signed on.

File this one under” useless speculation.”

Because, while the news is intriguing, it really is pointless to speculate what Apple is planning to do with these licenses until they actually announce whatever it is they are going to announce.

Personally, I will be woefully disappointed if, after all this time (a year and a half since acquiring Lala.com), all Apple comes up with is a better “cloud storage” locker.

If there is no “subscription iTunes” component, Apple will have lost an opportunity to be as disruptive — and ahead of the curve — as they were with the original iPod and iTunes.

I don’t think Apple is motivated by their potential to be “disruptive.”  I think they’re motivated by a clear sense of where the holes are in the market and their driving their digital truck right through it.  So I remain hopeful that Apple is finally going to do what needs to be done, and pave the way to a viable subscription service.

And make now mistake, as disruptive as iTunes was when it started offering 99c downloads, a subscription service will be as disruptive again.  So fasten your seat belts, and let’s just wait and see what Cupertino is going to come up with.

“Fan Engagement” Redefined: Paul Simon Dissolves the Proscenium

If you have read anything I’ve written here in the last two years, then you will already understand how a moment like this defines the New Paradigm:

This is the highest expression of “fan engagement” I’ve ever seen. A moment like this demonstrates that the music belongs to all of us now.  We all belong to the tribe, and the “rock stars” of yesterday are the “chiefs” of today (and tomorrow).

Like the woman in this video, I grew up learning to play guitar by listening to Simon and Garfunkel songs.  That might just as well have been me.  It could have been any one of probably hundreds of people in the audience.

Now, I really do think I’m going to have to stand outside the Ryman with a fistful of dollar bills and try to get tickets to see Paul Simon when he plays there tomorrow night…

(More commentary from Rob Boilen at NPR’s All Songs Considered here.)

For A Streaming Subscrption Model That Works, Look No Further Than NetFlix

If It Works for NetFlix...

I wonder how many among my vast legion of readers who scoff at the idea of streaming music subscription services are Netflix subscribers?

If they are, then they’ll want to read this well-reasoned assessment from Billboard analyst Glenn Peoples, who makes an excellent case from numerous angles re: why the Netflix model would work if anybody had the brains or means to apply it to music:

With Netflix consumers have proven they will rent content – even re-run content – and stream it from the cloud. They will pay for digital content they could get for free through illegal means. They will pay if the service allows streaming through multiple devices – including mobile….

If a music service can reach the scale of Netflix, it too can pay rights holders handsomely while continuously improving the product and giving subscribers a high level of service. In the first quarter, Netflix shelled out $192 million for the acquisition of streaming rights on top of the $377 million it paid to rights holders related to its subscription revenue.

I have had several occasions over the past couple of years to engage Glenn Peoples in some discussion about music delivery systems, subscription services, etc.  The problem usually is that Glenn’s side of the discussion is informed with facts, data, and astute analysis – while my side is typically “by the seat of my pants” and fueled by a tankful of attitude.

So it’s nice to see that we are in complete agreement on this particular analysis.  The music industry has much to learn from Netflix, and music “consumers” (listeners, users, fans?) have much to gain if the industry can ever have muster the fortitude to follow Netflix’ lead.

Netflix: A Subscription Model the Music Business Should Aspire To | Billboard.biz.

Habits Change: Music Ownership in the Cloud Era

iTunes In the Cloud?

Amid reports last week that Apple is quietly lining up licenses for some kind of “cloud” service from the major labels, the debate about “access -v- ownership” likewise begins to show up in popular channels, like this post from Brad Hill at the Huffington Post:

That is really what the cloud represents: a different concept of ownership….

Most people dont like this deal, because it’s not true ownership. Drop the subscription, and you lose all your music, because it’s not really your music. I get that. But here’s the thing. It feels like ownership, and in the end, thats what counts to me and the minority loyalists who embrace music subscriptions. I feel like I own 11-million music tracks, because I can access them, transfer them, and listen to them as if I had bought them on iTunes.

Lets imagine I did buy them on iTunes. Id be at least 11-million dollars poorer right now — and believe me, I cant afford it. How much have I actually spent? Over 10 years, at $15 a month, Ive dished out $1,800 for ownership rights to a vast celestial library available anywhere, anytime.

via Brad Hill: Music Lockers vs. Subscriptions: Music Ownership in the Cloud Era.

Count me among the “minority loyalists” who continue to believe that “access” to $11-million worth of music for some nominal monthly fee is an infinitely superior model than chunking out 99c per track to own a very limited catalog (for “consumers,” anyway.  I’m still not convinced it’s a viable model for the creators.).

And the idea of “cloud-based storage lockers” — like Amazon introduced a couple of weeks ago, like Google is supposedly developing, like Michael Robertson pioneered a decade ago — likewise leave me thoroughly underwhelmed.

Here’s the simple fact that even Apple would prefer you not grasp quite yet:  all the music you could ever listen to in your lifetime is already stored “in the cloud” — i.e. on servers somewhere. The guardians of that vast library continue to dole it out to us in 99c chunks, and then think they’re doing us some kind of big favor by offering to “store” it for us remotely, so that we can have “access” to our purchases from “anywhere.”

Well, all of that is a crock, and it is only a matter of time before the music-listening public catches on to the fact — and subscription services catch fire.   Buy your stock in MOG and Rdio now.  Hell, Apple might still be a bargain at nearly $400/share.

Remember, 10 years ago, the “experts” were doubtful that music fans would actually pay even 99c for downloads – and now that is one of the most common ways that music is distributed.  There is only one constant in the digital era, and that is: habits change.

The State of the Celestial Jukebox: Part 2: The Dinosaurs Attack!

The only thing more stupid than the cloud locker scenario is the music industry’s gathering reaction to it.

Along with the news that Amazon has launched a cloud locker comes the not altogether surprising news that the megaliths of the music industry – the major labels, the PROs – are taking a dim view of the service.  Indeed, as reported in Tuesday’s NPR story and elsewhere,

The head of marketing for ASCAP worried that the Cloud Drive is simply a way to avoid having to pay songwriters and composers … as well as artists.

Music industry, meet ass.  Insert head.

If “the industry” had any foresight at all it would be embracing the cloud locker concept instead of condemning it, because cloud storage of an individual’s private music collection reinforces the “ownership” model of music delivery that now has nine toes in the grave.

The only potential upside I see in Amazon’s new service is the prospect that it will introduce more music fans to the possibilities of cloud-stored music.  One recent study demonstrates that the public level of awareness of the availability of streaming services like Rhapsody, Rdio, or MOG is generally very low.  But if something like Amazon’s locker catches on, its users will eventually realize the ultimate value in their new experience.  Eventually they will stop buying-and-storing and just start subscribing-and-streaming.

Connected users who have not already made the leap will discover that the bandwidth is adequate, the connections are generally pretty good, and that the ability to “access” a vast library of music is much more consistent with the desire to hear “whatever/whenever/wherever” than the private ownership of a very limited library of shiny plastic wafers or digital files, regardless of where they are stored.

By resisting the “cloud locker” service, the music industry has drawn its guns and unloaded both barrels right into its own nailed-down feet. Read More

The State of the Celestial Jukebox: Part 1: Amazon’s Music Locker is Stupid

Let me repeat that for those of you on drugs – or for those of you who still haven’t discovered streaming subscription music services.

Amazon’s music locker is stupid.

I know, everybody’s all excited because somehow Amazon is the first to market with a “music locker” service, beating Apple and Google to the punch.

But I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

I don’t see the advantage being able to store 1,000 songs (the approximate capacity of Amazon’s free service), when there are already services that store millions of songs “in the cloud” for me.

It’s like the year is ca. 1920: Horseless carriages are swarming over the landscape, and Amazon is first to market with an amazing new buggy whip.  Ooh, this one has a sparkly handle!

Good luck smacking the side of your Model-T with it.

Now, admittedly my music “consumption” (Spoiler alert: I hate that word, especially as it pertains to music.  Food I consume.  Music is still there after I’ve listened to it…) habits are pretty atypical.  Again, I seem to be there before the curve itself.

But these days, I am getting pretty durn near all the music I want right out of the cloud.  After sampling both Rdio and MOG last year, I settled on MOG and, given that it’s still pretty much a Model-T, I’m pretty happy with what the service offers.  I would say that 90% of the time, music that I want to hear is available, and I can listen to it at home, in my car, or at the office (oh, wait… I don’t have an office…)

Why would you care that you can store 1,000 songs in your own personal locker when there are now services that offer millions upon million of songs for roughly the cost of a single CD per month?

The argument for the locker seems to be, as expressed in this NPR piece, quoting Amazon VP Bill Carr:

I recently bought this album by Fitz and The Tantrums but I bought it on my work computer. But the minute I bought it I saved it to my cloud drive so it’s already available to me right here on my phone, I can click play and it will start playing.

I guess that’s a kinda slick feature, cloning a purchase from one device to another so that you have access to it from any location.  But that just makes me wonder, “why didn’t you purchase it on your phone in the first place?  You take that home with you, don’t you?”

So forget “the locker in the cloud.”  The future of music maybe be in the cloud, but the cloud is in your pocket.

Read More

This Is What “The Cloud” Really Looks Like

It’s such a romantic notion, you know, this idea of  data stored in “the cloud.”  And such a colossal misnomer.

The terminology conjures up imagery of electrons gaily bouncing around in free space, creating fluffy pillows of digital vapor in the sky, sending data from the benign heavens into the gizmos on our desks, in our lap  and in our pockets like a gentle spring rain.

But guess what?  This is what “the cloud” really looks like:

Apple's Data Center in Maiden, NC

What you’re looking at here is an aerial photo of the massive “data center” in North Carolina that Apple, Inc. is getting ready to open sometime in the next few weeks.  As you can see, it is anything but a digital Nirvana.  It’s a fucking factory. Read More

The Keys to the New Kingdom

Whoever is reading this, needs to read THIS.

It is possibly the most succinct summary of what it takes to survive as a troubadour (or band, or just about any kind of artist..) in the era of the Celestial Jukebox.

Apparently the skateboard is a big party of Ian Rogers shtick.

The link takes you to the summary of a presentation at the New Music Seminar last week in Los Angeles by Ian Rogers, the CEO of a company called Topspin.

Here’s the money quote:

First and foremost, your marketing plan needs to be an extension of your art, it needs to fit the image and brand of your band. What’s good for Miley Cyrus isn’t going to work the same for Danzig (I hope). But I do believe the above bit of advice, “Do Something Small Weekly and Something Big Monthly”, is universal: to put a simple plan together to make sure you have more fans tomorrow than you have yesterday, get out a calendar and start mapping out the next few months or even the year.

One little thing every week.  One big thing every month.  That much sounds simple enough… or, well, maybe it isn’t.  Too many people I know or talk with about music and business are still locked into the old “release an album once a year” model.  Hell, one group I know has been so nose-to-the-grind-stone focused on recording a whole album that they have done nothing over the past year to actually cultivate or communicate with their fan base.

This presentation was accompanied by the announcement that Topspin will soon be throwing their beta  platform open to the music world at large, in the manner of, say, Nimbit, Bandcamp, or Reverbnation.  Where before you had to be or know somebody in order to get in, starting in a few weeks, anybody who wants to will be able to use the Topspin platform.

This is probably good news, since Topspin is mostly a very robust platform.  I say mostly because I’ve spent enough time with it myself to appreciate its more powerful features, but I have also found it extremely challenging to use.  In particular I found their e-mail listserv function to be nearly unusable.  Ironic, since gathering and utilizing e-mail addresses is the core component of any Topspin campaign.

So I suppose its fitting that the announcement of this new open platform is also accompanied by the announcement that Topspin is hosing a contest that will award “$5,000 plus help executing the campaign to whomever submits the best plan.”  Because unless the new version of the software is dramatically different from the old one, it’s going to take a $5,000 budget and all the help you can get to navigate the Topspin platform.

Woz on What’s Really At Stake

Yesterday I posted a link to a video that offered a thumbnail sketch of the issues tangled up in the “net neutrality” rules that the FCC issued yesterday.  The new rules have been pretty well reviled from all sides of the political spectrum.  On the right, you’ve got whack job Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accusing the Obama administration of trying to “seize the internet” and make a socialist government agency like he did with health care.  And and then there are voices like Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer, who gets to the real heart of the issue:

"Woz"

We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.

So when you hear somebody like Mitch McConnell say that the Obama is trying to seize the Internet, just remember that the government is the only instrument that stands between your keyboard and monolithic corporate interests determining what shows up on your screen.