I'm writing about the "Zune" again? Must be a tear in the fabric of the universe. Says David Pogue at the NYTimes:
Over the years, mention of the word “Microsoft” has set off a variety of emotions. Some consider how Microsoft achieved its success, and feel anger. Some consider how Microsoft borrows other companies’ ideas, and feel indignation. Some consider recent battles with Windows, and feel frustration.
At least he sees the potential of an "all your ears can eat model. Maybe Zune is the gizmo that cracks it open.
Maybe that’s because the users know it’s the corporate monoliths that have breathed life into this beast?
Despite the buzz around Spotify, most users forage on the free content and are loathe to pay for extras. By most estimates, almost all Spotify listeners stick with the company’s free service, and don’t pay for the premium offerings.
Mark McCormick, 25, a graphic designer from Newcastle, signed up for Spotify’s free service about three months ago and now listens about five hours a day at work and at home.
“About three minutes after signing up, you are listening to almost anything you want,” he said. Though he isn’t keen on the advertising, he doesn’t want to sign up for the premium service, because he says £120 ($199) per year is a steep price.
Mr. Ek hopes that mobility will be the tool that changes users’ minds. Last month, Apple approved Spotify’s iPhone application — but only people who sign up for the premium service can use it.
The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the big PR machine in Europe. Seems people like it, but they don’t want to pay for it. That could be a problem.
And, as this article points out, Spotify is owned in part by the big label media companies, which might explain why Spotify is getting off the ground at all — it’s a proving ground for the labels.
Still, if anybody does pay for it… where does the money go?
Whether streamed or downloaded, people will pay for their content if they know the revenue is going to the actual content creators. But if they think it’s just going to the big media conglomerates, they probably care a lot less about paying for it.
Sky’s music service has been in the works since July last year, but if the latest reports are to be believed it’s about to come thundering out of the gates, offering a streaming service to tackle Spotify by Christmas.
Stuff Magazine’s resident music mogul, Mic Wright, reports Sky’s yet to be named music service has signed up a “major label artist” to promote it, and will be live in time for Christmas.
What’s more, it’ll let you give music packages away as gifts. Sounds like Sky’s got its Christmas sales pitch right there.
Why is it that all the innovative stuff is happening in Europe?
Now, let's see… Spotify is supposed to be the iTunes killer, and now Sky Music is supposed to be the Spotify Killer, and I just keep listening to Lala.com and nobody ever talks about the Lala killer??
Thanks to things like Spotify, I don’t really need to have a huge library of songs constantly on my computer. So, host my library on the Windows partition, then keep a smaller one/use spotify for when I’m in Mac OS X. I get to use the Zune HD and my preferred OS.
Who'da thunk I'd have two posts in the same morning about a gizmo I've never even seen?
But, reading just the short excerpt above, you can see what a Tower of Babel all this is for a typical user. A separate operating system just or music? Granted, that's what a Mac user (like me, now) would have to face if they want to use a Zune.
But the point is, if the content is "in the cloud," then it shouldn't (ultimately) matter what platform, device, or operating system you're using.
And again with the Spotify? I have no idea how well Spotify the service actually works, but I'll tell you what does work: Spotify's PR department. I've never seen so much hype for a service that your typical user can't even use.
Point taken, though, re: iTunes. That remains a closed eco-system, and some of its particulars are getting pretty stale.
But perhaps the biggest part of the new Zune 4.0 experience is that Microsoft is giving Zune Pass music subscribers a way to stream music over the Web by logging into their Zune.net accounts on any
Mac or PC. We're still a far cry from being able to sync a Zune with a Mac, but at least Zune Pass users can now dig into the Zune Marketplace's deep catalog and stream music wherever and whenever they want.
Not quite sure what to make of this report, since the "Zune" is completely foreign to my experience (I don't know if I've ever even seen one). I mean, I regard the Zune with pretty much the same disregard as the rest of the world — as something of a joke, an iPod wanna-be latecomer. But if it can deliver, as this article from CNET suggests, "music wherever and whenever" users want, than perhaps it is bridging the gap that iPod/iTunes seems unable or unwilling to bridge.
But maybe the most interesting aspect of this report comes in the comments, some of which come from users of Lala.com. For example,
I was seriously getting hopeful that it would download the songs since
I use Lala, a web service, for about 80% of my music anyhow. I wouldn't
have mind the lack of a Mac desktop client if I could only download the
The interesting part of that comment is the "I use Lala… for about 80% of my music anyhow." I don't quite get the complaint re: Zune or the Zune Pass program. I wonder if these means I'm going to have to buy a Zune to find out WTF?
Nashville. Music City USA. Most people think cowboy hats and honky tonks. However, those who really know Nashville know it’s one of the best emerging artist scenes in the country. A community of artists making their own unique brands of diverse, organic pop music in the shadows of today’s slick commercial country music industry. At the forefront of this community are ten artists who have banded together to form Ten Out Of Tenn, a collective of incredibly talented friends who, as individual artists, have released over thirty albums, had song placements in countless television programs & films and shared the stage with musicians such as REM, Sarah McLachlan and John Mayer. No longer spinning their wheels on their own, the artists now travel down the highway together in one tour bus.
If there wasn’t so much going on in Nashville this week (like Americana Conference, which I get to go to because I was around when it started ten years ago…) I’d seriously consider driving up to Kville to see this. It’s THAT IMPORTANT and THAT GOOD.
My central thesis here is that we're entering a "third epoch" of music as a cultural force for the human race. The "Celestial Jukebox" is one manifestation of that new epoch.
Here are the three epochs as I see them:
"Music 1.0" was everything before Edison recorded "Mary Had A little Lamb (sometime in 1877)."
"Music 2.0" was everything from that first recording to the advent of Napster (as a proxy for internet, digital distribution, etc. etc.)
"Music 3.0" has been evolving since that fateful day in the spring of 1999. It is not entirely clear yet what it all means, but "whatever you want to hear, whenever you want to hear it, wherever you are," is a cornerstone of the era, along with a revitalization of "live" and "DIY" music.
This site exists to explore the obstacles that remain in achieving that utopian ideal, and discovering the new behavior patterns that will arise from those possibilities.
Here's a thought: Maybe "albums" AREN'T dead.
There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth since the arrival of iTunes over the death of the album, now that buyers can "cherry pick" the two or three actually "good" tracks on an album and ignore the rest. Lots has been said about the return of the single in the digital era.
Here's another angle:
Since I've been listening to a LOT of new music via Lala.com, I am listening to entire albums. That's very much part of the appeal: I come out of Starbucks with a card offering me "one free download" from iTunes, but I go home and listen to the entire album on Lala.com.
Why is that important? Because several times, it has not been until I've gotten deep into the album that something has sunk in. Now, maybe that's an argument for the singles – maybe that's the only track worth listening to. But what's really happening is I'm getting comfortable with the whole experience, getting softened up for the musical harpoon to come…
A couple of cases in point: Over the weekend when I was listening to Maura O'Connell's album "Don't I Know," it wasn't until I got to the 10th track (Phoenix Falling) that I was really knocked out. Then I went back and started listening to the whole thing again. That would not have happened if I hadn't had access to the whole album.
A similar experience took place a few weeks ago when I was listening to a singer/songwriter Joe Crookston at a site called 100000fans.com . I picked Joe from their roster because he looked like my kinda guy — acoustic singer/songwriter, and that he was. Nice voice, good guitar, interesting lyrics. And then I got to a song called "Able Baker Charlie and Dog" about… well, don't let me spoil it for you. Just and listen for yourself.
But do yourself a favor, and listen to everything. I mean, it's all there for the listening.
And, Joe, if you've got a Google alert on yourself… when will you be in Nashville??
(And, just in passing: I don't know about that 100000fans site. I signed up for Joe's e-newsletter from that site, and haven't heard a thing since…)