Category - music 3.0

The new era started with Napster. Its arrival heralds a return to the era before Edison.

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

Scenes From A Desert Island: Folk Alliance 2011

Last week,  after I returned from the Folk Alliance International annual conference in Memphis, somebody asked me “so, how was Folk Alliance?” and I found myself blurting out rhetorically, “like three days on an overpopulated desert island.”

The more I think about that spontaneous response, the more apt it becomes.

I know, the whole “desert island” analogy paints a rather bleak picture.  But it’s pretty hard to look at most  of what constitutes the “music industry” these days and not think “bleak.”  Like these charts that have been flying around the Internets in the past week  serve to illustrate.

Fortunately, tectonic shifts, declining prospects, and undefined new business models do little to deter the legion of  1,500+ souls who descend  upon the Downtown Memphis Marriott Hotel every February for four days of keynotes and panels of endless nights of showcases, some in actual meeting rooms but most on three upper floors of the hotel where ordinary rooms are turned upside down to create impromptu performance spaces.

And however slim the pickins of the “industry” may be, there was no shortage of outstanding performances.  The days and nights were rich with newcomers and veterans alike, displaying awesome talent on the one hand while struggling to come to grips with vanishing business models on the other.

(Unnecessary, shamelessly self-promoting historical reference: Folk Alliance was very much at the center of my constituency in a former life. In 2000 my company, songs.com had the largest single booth in the Folk Alliance exhibit hall, sections of which were farmed out to individual artists in the roster.  It was  pretty impressive, if I do say so myself, which of course I just did. But I digress…)

So herewith are some of the ideas that the inhabitants of the island were offered as to how they might find the hidden nuts and berries that could sustain them until some sort of rescue vessel arrives to take them off the island… 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

More Topspin

Charles Alexander

Good friend Charles Alexander has just just posted this very detailed assessment of the Topspin “direct to fan” music marketing platform, and the Berklee School of Music online course that comes with it.  Anybody who is considering using the Topspin platform now that it is about to “come out of beta” should read it before making the plunge.

Money quote:

The software package and interface has a steep learning curve. This course helps alleviate some of that.

“Steep learning curve” is putting it mildly.  If you do follow the link make sure you scroll down to the comments to find my own observations on Topspin and what Charles has written about it.

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.