Tag - apple

Labor Day (#UnRetirement)

Seems like as good a day as any to start a new job. 

Yes, I have a day job now.

I was hired by Apple to work in their Green Hills… well, they don’t want to call it a “store” any more.  So I just work at “Apple Green Hills.

Please come by and say hello.  I will be happy to direct you to the people who can resolve your issue (it ain’t me, babe…)

 

I Want My #Streaming #iTunes

So this story has beenAmazonMP3 making the rounds for the past coupla/few days:

Amazon Aims To Compete With iTunes :

I think it’s just nifty that Amazon wants to poach some of iTunes MP3 / download sales, but I think they’re both on the wrong track.  Downloading is so… 1999!

I’m more intrigued to see what’s behind the reports that Apple is planning to launch a service akin to Pandora sometime maybe this year.   I just hope that whatever they’re building – if anything? – that it’s as much like Spotify or MOG as it is Pandora.

For starters, I’m pretty fucking bored with Pandora.  I have a lot of stations in my Pandora account (which I pay for, btw), and it’s frustrating how often I hear the same tunes – even when I’ve “thumbs-downed” them.  It seems their playlists are very shallow – it’s the same one or two tracks from each album that comes up in my rotations.

It’s entirely reasonable to think that if Apple is going after streaming licenses, that the resulting service might be more like Spotify or MOG (the two other services I subscribe to) than Pandora – since both Spotify and MOG have a “radio” feature that I sometimes find superior to Pandora.  If the licenses that Spotify and MOG have with the labels permit both on demand AND programmed streaming, then it seems reasonable to assume that’s what Apple is building, too. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

But before such a beast can be unleashed, Apple is going to have to finally give up the pay-per-download ghost and start driving iTunes customers toward a streaming subscription service.  They have to let go completely of the old paradigm before the new one can have a chance – and that letting go will finally force the shift.

At first, it may seem like that’s going to have a detrimental impact on the music industry.  After all, it was the iTunes store that got much of the music-buying word to switch to downloading instead of buying CDs in the first place.  It’s reasonable to assume that once Apple offers streaming, users will eventually stop purchasing altogether.  That’s gonna make some people very nervous.

But keep this statistic in mind, which was reported a couple of years ago by the NPD Group: the average music consumer spends about $40 on recorded music, which gets them ownership of a whole three or four CDs a year; if a great number of those consumers can be persuaded instead to spend $10/mo to have access to the entire history of recorded music, then they’ll be spending $120/year instead of $40 – and you’ve just tripled the size of your industry.  Somebody ring a bell.

But not too loudly, because there’s still gonna be a lot of adjusting to do.  Because once streaming becomes the norm — as downloading has replaced a lot of physical sales — then the business model on the creators side of the equation will be contingent on how much people area actually listening to the content – not how many units they can sell. That is spelled d-i-s-r-u-p-t-i-o-n.

Personally, the reason I hope that Tim Cook and the gang will come up with something is because, for me personally at least, I think it has a hidden potential to be a much more valuable service than either Spotify, MOG, Pandora, or any of the existing services. Why? Because in addition to the vast selection that such a service would offer, it will also contain the much narrower universe of music that I have in fact personally purchased over the years – a digital collection that now includes a lot of the stuff I purchased on vinyl going all the way back to the 1960s.

Thanks to Apple’s iTunes Match, which grew out of Cupertino’s acquisition of Lala.com almost three years ago, Apple now has my entire music collection living in its iCloud.  That means that Apple – and really only Apple –  has the ability to blend the music I have purchased over the years with new music that might be compatible.  I have no idea how they’re going to do that, but when they do, that will be the most awesome streaming music service of all.

So, c’mon Tim Cook, whathefuck are you waiting for??

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click here for previous musings about Apple’s prospects for a streaming music  subscription service and the Celestial Jukebox in general.

iCloud: Yes, You Can Have Your Horseless Carriage…

And pretty new icons, too.

…but you still have to pull it with a horse.

Other than that, there really is a lot to like about all the announcements that Apple made yesterday, and they announced a lot.

First there is the new operating system,  OSX Lion, which brings some of the touch screen features of the iPhone and the iPad to the desktop.  Then there is iOS 5, the new operating system for all the iGizmos, which at the very least will finally allow you to sync them altogether without a cord.

And then there was the Big New Thing: iCloud, the remote storage service that unifies everything into a whole new, self-organizing, digital ecosystem.

It will take even the most dedicated observers some time to assess all the features in all this new software – much of which will not actually be released until next fall.   So there is plenty of time to sort it all out and start saving sheckels for our nifty new laptops, phones, and tablets.

But in one critical aspect, the new iCloud service is woefully lacking – and missing a grand opportunity to deliver music distribution to its inevitable destination. Read More

iPad: It’s The Chair, Stupid

OK, I guess it’s time to admit that I’m running too many blogs, and I need to figure out some way to consolidate them.  It dawns on me I haven’t had much to say here about the iPad, when it suddenly further dawns on me that that’s because I’ve been posting my iPad observations over at 49chevy.com.  Like this one:

via graphics8.nytimes.com

Everything they say about the new iPad is right, and everything they say about it is wrong. Mostly, I think they miss the point. The breakthrough with the iPad is not the gizmo itself, or the way it will deliver “iBooks.” It’s the way we will sit with it.

Until yesterday, there were three ways that people interface with a video device. The first was the original – television – sitting back on a chair or sofa with the screen in the distance. The second was the computer, sitting at desk, leaning forward with a keyboard, or in your lap. The third was with a smartphone – staring at your hand.

Now there is finally a way to access all the media of the web – text, audio, video, games – while seated comfortably in a sofa or chair, the way we sit with a book or a magazine, from a screen larger than a deck of cards.

The device itself is certainly not perfect, but it is a powerful first iteration of the way people are going to use digital devices in the future.

And only the future will reveal how content will evolve to suit the new technology. It always does.

iWhatever: It’s the Content, Stupid

Ipad  With 24-some hours remaining before introducing the newest world-transforming, life saving, cancer-curing gizmo, the iWhatever, Apple's recent acquisition of Lala.com looms ever more intriguing.  

The Internets are rife with speculation about what that merger means.  Will iTunes be moving to the cloud?  Will Apple start offering streaming music for a fraction of the cost of downloads?  Will there be an "all your ears can eat" subscription service? Will Michael Robertson's head explode? (Michael came up with a cloud-based music delivery scenario ten years before people started talking about "cloud computing" — and the music industry promptly clubbed him into oblivion. And they're still clubbing him.  Another case of "the second mouse gets the cheese" ?) 

Whatever the plans for Lala, you can bet it figures tightly into Apple's plans for its new gizmo, which conceivably offers the potential to completely alter how people use digital technologies.  That it will a) not have a hard drive and b) have all kinds of wireless capabilities pretty well dictates that whatever content it does deliver will not likely be stored on the device itself.  

Now we're starting to see all kinds of speculation about the "content" deals that Apple has been quietly making as it gets ready for tomorrow's big announcement: 

According to various rumors, Apple has been in contact with a variety of media outlets ranging from magazine publishers like Condé Nast to newspaper vendors like the New York Times to book publishers like McGraw-Hill Education to bring a variety of publications to the tablet. And this I think represents one of the key pillars to Apple's successful business strategy–marrying devices with content.

What's more, Apple appears poised to dramatically expand the capabilities of its already capable iTunes platform. Via its acquisition of Lala.com, Apple will be able to sell music, and perhaps other content, through a streaming scenario–and may be able to charge less for the stream than for the straight download. The company also is rumored to be planned a Web-based version of iTunes, which would make the platform more user friendly and nimble than its current 100-or-so megabytes. Couple these advances with the addition of newspapers, magazines and books to iTunes and the platform becomes a one-stop content shop for iPhones, iTablets and the rest.

via www.fiercemobilecontent.com

As I already mentioned on that other blog post yesterday, my iPhone has already become my content delivery device of choice.  It has pretty much displaced my Kindle because it not only delivers more stuff, but I can do more with that stuff from the iPhone than the Kindle.  The iWhatever promises to put all that iPhone capability into a more Kindle-size package.  I can hardly f'ing wait. 

It's the combination of content and technology that makes the iPhone more valuable to me than the Kindle.  So I think you can pretty well bet that music is going to be a big part of the content that iWhatever delivers. 

Cloud storage?  Streaming delivery?  Lower prices?  Subscription service?   My bet is on all of the above.  And exploding heads to boot. 

Dollars Become Dimes, Dimes Become Pennies, Pennies Become…???

Of course, speculation continues to fly out of every conceivable channel and orifice re: what Apple's acquisition of Lala.com means. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal tried to get a grip on what some of us have been anticipating for more than a decade – that the Celestial Jukebox is coming whether we like or not. And with its acquistion of Lala, now Apple will have a pivotal hand in expediting its arrival:

ITunes-LalaWhere Apple's iTunes requires users to download music onto a specific computer, Lala.com lets users buy and listen to music through a Web browser, meaning its customers can access purchases from anywhere, as long as they are connected to the Internet.

Apple is considering adopting that same model for songs sold on iTunes, a change that would give consumers more ways to access and manage their iTunes purchases—and wouldn't require them to download Apple's software or their purchases.

That is potentially great news for consumers.  And potentially devastating to the remaining vestiges of the recorded music industry. 

So let us (quickly) review the history of digital music distribution over the course of the past decade, and speculate a little further about what this means for the decade that arrives in a couple of weeks:

First (well, we gotta start somewhere…), there was Napster in the summer of 1999, which for the first time demonstrated the ultimate potential of digital music delivery.  The critics and nattering nabobs at the time all screamed Armageddon because Napster was "free" (i.e. stolen).  They missed the point, which was that Napster was the first service that demonstrated the promise of "whatever you want, whenever you want it."  The issue was not cost, it was access. 

In 2003, Apple opened the iTunes store, which "unbundled" all the tunes on a CD and offered them for paid downloads at 99c per track. iTunes took the complexities and unreliability of file-sharing services like Napster and made it all simple and reliable, and that made the downloads worth 99cents to an exploding new market.  

But the real disruption in iTunes was not the price or convenience, it was the unbundling, which brought "whatever you want, whenever you want it" one step closer. 

With iTunes, if there was only one song a consumer wanted from any particular CD, that was all he/she needed to purchase.  And with that, the price point of $15 for a typical CD was reduced to a single dollar.  The price for music was reduced by a factor of (actually, more than) 1/10th:  dollars became dimes – and the recorded music industry started going into the proverbial dumper.

Fast forward to the fall of 2008, and an online CD-swapping service called "Lala.com" launches a streaming music service.  Contrary to the iTunes  model of offering "30 second clips" for sampling, suddenly users can listen to whatever they want to, in its entirety, the first time for free.  If you want to listen again, you shell out a dime per track and have unlimited access to that track via Lala's cloud-based server and your browser (which signal can easily be sent to your stereo).

Now it is late 2009 and Apple —  the company that sent the recorded music industry down the slippery slope of rapidly and steadily declining revenues by changing dollars into dimes — has acquired Lala, the company that reduces those dollars into pennies.  Suddenly the song that cost me $15 a few years ago because I had to purchase it on a CD along with maybe nine or ten other songs I might not have wanted, the song that I could get from iTunes for a buck… I can now get for a mere 10cents. 

And so, again, the question: this all sounds great for consumers, but what's it going to mean for the producers? 

In days of old, when knights were bold, and the toilet that the recorded music industry is now swirling into had yet to be invented, one pillar of the business model was something called a "mechanical royalty."  That means that every time a song was reproduced in some mechanical medium (cylinder, disk, CD, download), the composers and their publishers are paid, by law, something like 9cents.  Careers and publishing empires have been built on those pennies.  

But in the business model that Apple now seems ready to embrace, those pennies disappear altogether because there are no copies.  There is only the one original copy that is accessed by through the cloud by whoever wants to hear it.  

I mention the mechanical royalty here because it represents the most endangered species in this impending paradigm shift.  The 9cent mechanical royalty is in a sense a proxy for all the revenue that recordings generate (which perhaps suggests why its rate is mandated by statute).  

But in a world where there are no copies, the mechanical royalty becomes irrelevant.  The Harry Fox Agency (the National Music Publishers Assn, named for a former president, which collects mechanicals on behalf of its members) is, in a word, doomed.  

In lieu of the mechanicals, it is presumed that some kind of "performance" royalty will be collected by the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Sound Exchange, etc.)  

And with that, we can all breathe a sigh of relief,  considering the recent news that European streaming service Spotify recently paid Lady Gaga a whopping $167 for over a million streamed "spins" of one of her songs.  

How many ways are there to say the word "doomed" ?