Tag - Pandora

Why Would Anybody Ever Buy Another Song?

From the Department of No Shit, Sherlock:

Crowded Field

Crowded Field

Derek Thompson points to the elephant in a post at TheAtlantic.com.

Citing the increasing saturation of the streaming music market (where any more than one or two services qualifies as saturation), Thompson points to the elephant that has been in the room since… well, since the first Real Audio player made streaming music a reality in… what, 1996?:

…what isn’t there room for in music?

Buying it.

“Young people today don’t buy music anymore,” said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst at Wedge Partners. The numbers agree.

I suppose my objection here should be something along the lines of “whatchyou mean ‘young people’, Kimosabee?”

Or maybe I should take it as a compliment that somebody thinks 63 can qualify as ‘young’  – particularly since I just bought tickets for a movie tonight at the reduced fare for ‘seniors.’  But I digress…

I have been arguing for years that the ‘unit purchase’ model for music – whether it’s physical products like CDs (or, yes, even the revered, resurrected vinyl…) or virtual units delivered as purchased downloads – has been on the wings of the dodo for years, and that any assertions to the contrary are an exercise in viewing the future through the rear view mirror  (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I sincerely implore you to click the link and find out).

And no, the fact that I’m engaged in a project that is about to release its third physical product at the same time that I’m predicting the demise physical products is not lost on me. I write these things because I think I’m observant, maybe even a tad prescient.   I never said that made me invulnerable to also being a hypocrite.  Such is the nature of living on a cusp. But there I go again, digressing…

As Thompson reports, the handwriting is on the wall, the die is cast, the nails are in the coffin.  Pick your metaphor, but this is we see when we turn the car around and start steering through the windshield:

“…digital music sales fell last year for the first time ever, by 6 percent, as the music business inches closer to an access-over-ownership model. Overall streaming (which includes digital radio) is up 32 percent to 118 billion song streams in 2013. On-demand streaming (e.g. pick and click a song on Spotify) doubled last year.

Meanwhile, we have Tommy Silverman and others at the annual Austin TX Spring Break Clusterfuck known as “SXSW,” (that’s pronounced “ess-ex-ess-doubleyew)  professing to possess the keys to a $100-billion kingdom with a more colorful metaphor of his own:

This enema that we’re going through is making us realize that our business is much bigger than what we thought it could be,” Silverman said. “We’re in the attention business now.”

And the nominees for the 2014 ‘Masters of the Obvious’ award are….

Silverman etal be right, the entirety of the recorded music business  could certainly be much larger than the rapidly-shrinking single-digit-billion-dollar business it has recently been reduced to.

I’ve done this math for you before: A couple of years ago the NPD group estimated that the average music ‘consumer’ spends a paltry FORTY dollars per year on music purchases (that figure is surely even less now).  That expenditure adds a bountiful 30 or 40 new tracks to their record collection every year.  Now persuade those tight-fisted consumers that for only TEN DOLLARS (per month…) they can have the entire history of recorded music – past-present-and-future – at their disposal, and you can effectively triple or even quadruple your aggregate industry top-line.

Of course, that’s assuming they have any money left after paying for their cell phone, cable teevee, broadband internet and Clover brewed coffees at Starbucks (which I am drinking as I write & post this…)

It may not add up to the $100-billion that Silverman is hallucinating, but it could be considerably more than whatever the current figures are.

But whatever the figures might be, we will never realize the full potential of any future business model until we stop trying to drag the old models long with us.  I don’t care if your fancy new “human-powered” streaming music service is called “beats,”   It does no good to beat an internal combustion engine with a buggy whip.

But there’s another message in all of this that I think has been overlooked, and that’s all this emphasis on recorded music.  That’s the biggest buggy whip that we’re dragging along with us, the biggest thing that looms in that rear view mirror.

As long as we’re focused on how to preserve or grow the recorded music business, we’re going to miss the point of what Silverman inartfully calls “this emema” that the industry is going through.

What we cannot see so long as we’re driving backwards into the future, surveying the landscape in front of us through the rear view mirror (really, try to get that image in your head…), is that the ‘future of music’ is much less about the recorded music than it is about the way that music lived before it became any kind of product – back when music simply did not exist unless there was somebody in the room playing it for you, which person was often yourself and your friends.

The future of music is not any kind of product, physical or virtual, delivered by truck, download, or stream.  It’s much more… organic, and ‘aural’ than that.  But until we’re a little further removed from the product era, it’s going to be hard for most people to appreciate that prospect.

The idea was never more succinctly put than during a conversation I had with Scott Huler, one of the presenters at last year’s TEDx Nashville.

“I tell my kids,” Scott said, “that music is not something you buy.  It’s something you make.”

I don’t care how many billions Tommy Silverman thinks the ‘music industry’ can be, those children are the future.

 

 

 

 

The Failure of Inattention

Monday was a “snow day” in Nashville and Middle Tennessee.  

2014_08_1024x1024Freezing rain had settled in the night before and made the roads pretty much impassable by the time of the morning rush hour, so Monday was canceled city-wide.

Ann and I threw some logs on the fire and settled in to watch about 6 episodes of the new HBO drama True Detective, with Woody Harrelson and newly-minted Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey as diametrically opposed Louisiana homicide investigators.

Harrelson’s character is Detective Marty Hart, who, midway through the series shares this indispensable observation about the “detective’s curse.”

“The solution my whole life was right under my nose … And I was watching everything else … my true failure was inattention.”

Given my propensity for oddball associations (see blog tagline above), I immediately thought of that observation when I read this guest post in Billboard this morning about YouTube -v- The Music Industry:

During a MIDEM panel this year, YouTube vp content Tom Pickett said the company had paid more than $1 billion to music rights holders during the past several years. Well, that’s sweet. Hey, you know who else has done that? Spotify. The difference: Spotify did it with a fraction of YouTube’s audience.

In other words, while musicians and songwriters are are complaining about the paltry payouts from Spotify, Pandora, etc…. Well, you get my point.  Hopefully.

Breaking News! Music Industry Adapts…

… to the most recent technology shift.  Just in time to get clobbered by the next one…

musica-streamingI have to admit I’m getting a big kick out of the two items that landed in my news feed this evening.

First, Billboard has reported that…

For the third time this year — and only the fourth time ever — the year-to-date total sales of digital albums have exceeded those of CDs.

How long did that take, about ten years?

Let’s see, when did iTunes start selling downloads.  April 28, 2003. So, yeah, just a little over ten years.

That’s important, because it tells us how long it takes for something that seems unlikely one day to become “mainstream” the next.  It’s the statistical flip side of “it can’t happen here.”

Which is significant, because of the insights offered in another piece that was published today.  David Ross’s Nekst.biz posted an interview with Billboard’s Glenn Peoples that goes into considerable detail about how music online is already shifting from downloads to streaming:

…half of the country listens to Internet radio on a regular basis (monthly), so that’s mainstream behavior, but there is still room for growth…The streaming model is set to grow for the foreseeable decade.

There is much more to the analysis than that (obviously).  But that might be all you need to know.

The first item tells us how much has changed in the past decade. The second item tells us now much is going to change in the coming decade.

All of the above was written while listening my Bill Frisell channel on Pandora.  Which is now playing Pat Metheny.

The Celestial Jukebox abounds. Along with newsfeed irony.

Life is good.

Happy Birthday #Django Reinhardt

574px-Django_Reinhardt_(Gottlieb_07301)I have no idea why Quentin Tarantino used the “Django” for the title character of his new slave-revenge western.

But today is Django Rheinhart‘s birthday so let’s take a moment to honor one of the most innovative and memorable guitarists of the 20th century.

You can start with the Pearl Django-triggered station I listen to quite frequently on Pandora:Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 8.39.19 AM(Yeah, I know, I was just ragging on Pandora for its limited playlists yesterday, but this one is pretty good, especially if you’re not all too familiar with this type of music.  And I hope the link above works for you, Pandora is apparently pretty touchy about how sharing its links works. The link seems to be working in Safari, not so much in Firefox.)

I am suddenly recalling the first time I ever heard the name “Django Rheinhardt.”  It was in the fall of… oh, 1966 or ’67 would be a good guess.  My step-father was a Yalie, and every year he took us to the Yale-Princeton football game.  He also made us wear a jacket and tie to the game.  Things were different in those days…

Whatever year it was, that year I was driven to the game by the son of one of my step-father’s college roommates (from the class of 1930-something).  I remember the driver’s name was Raymond Londa,   and, despite being a lawyer and a Yalie himself, Raymond Londa was kinda cool: he drove us to New Haven in something that was rather novel for its day – a VW Camper.

VWCamperRaymond somehow knew that I’d just started playing guitar (I still have my first chord book, dated April, 1966).  And he asked me if I’d knew about Django Rheinhardt.  Nope, not a clue.  And since my taste at the time leaned more toward the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane, I don’t think I was all that interested.  Gypsy Jazz?  Not a clue.

All of which I’m recalling now because lately I’ve been hearing a lot of Django and Django-influenced music, and I wished I’d paid closer attention when I first heard the name.  I’m paying closer attention now, and will be listening to Django and his descendants as much as I can today.

Postscript: I’ve just been advised that the name “Django” has a long history of use in “spaghetti westerns.”

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??

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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

Is the Celestial Jukebox the “Killer App” That Kills the Internet?

Gizmos Surely, by now, you've heard the expression "killer app."

Ordinarily it's used with a
positive connotation, referring to an application or function that drives a larger market. Like
spreadsheets and word processors were the 'killer apps' that drove the sale of PCs in the
80s; like desktop publishing and Photoshop were the 'killer apps' that
drove sales of the Mac in the 90s and 00s. Like… well, "apps" in general are the 'killer apps' that drive iPhone sales. 

But there's a "killer app" lurking in our mobile devices that could bring down the platform it's supposed to live on — the symbiont service that threatens to kill its host. And it's precisely what this site is dedicated to, the arrival of "the Celestial Jukebox."

To whit: The spreading popularity of "cloud-based" music  storage and delivery services like Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. threatens to bring the essential delivery system those services and devices rely on — wireless broadband — to its knees in the foreseeable future.

Are you one of the rapidly expanding legions of people that use Pandora ?

If so, then consider this article in the Sunday NYTimes Magazines.  It's a great inside look at how Pandora really works, how it manages to deliver songs that are consistent with the song or artist you have chosen to launch a "channel."  Called "the music genome project," it's a fascinating — if costly,  labor intensive, and time consuming — effort.

Westergren But you might hear alarm bells ringing when you read this:

…thanks in part to the popularity of the Pandora iPhone app, its fortunes have lately improved. It has attracted 35 million listeners and claims about 65,000 new sign-ups a day (more than half from mobile-device users). About 75 companies are working Pandora into a variety of gizmos and gadgets and Web platforms.

That statement demonstrates the rapidly expanding potential for music delivered from "the cloud." But "65,000 new sign-ups a day" accounts for a LOT of wireless bandwidth.  And those 75 companies, they are all creating services and devices that will offer Pandora to still more customers, all them demanding still more bandwidth.

Which brings us to the dark lining in the silver cloud, the hard rain that could one day fall.  If these services keep expanding — if people become comfortable with "access" to over "ownership" of their digital libraries — we are going to need a LOT more bandwidth.  And probably a lot more after that. Indeed, the potential for utilizing broadband channels for music delivery grows exponentially now that mobile devices like iPhone are being used for just that purpose.

The potential severity of the issue — and the concurrent potential for all kinds of conflicts of interest — was highlighted in a recent blog post in the Wall Street Journal online that predicts "The Coming Mobile Meltdown," by Holman W. Jenkins Jr.:

Renocol_HolmanJenkins Consider: A single YouTube viewing consumes nearly 100 times as much
cellular bandwidth as a voice call. In Asia, some 200 million people
already watch video on their smartphones. No wonder Google (whose
YouTube unit serves up one billion videos a day) is an investor in a
new undersea fiber line connecting North America to the Far East.

More omens: Data collector AdMob reports that mobile Web page
requests grew 9% from July to August—a 180% annual growth rate. And
Motorola recently went public with worries that a handful of mobile
Slingbox users (a video streaming device) could wipe out cell service
in a whole neighborhood.

This is a mobile meltdown in the making. (italics added)

Of course, this being the Wall Street journal, the article then goes on
to use the prospect of restricted bandwidth as a justification for the big corporations that provide that bandwidth being liberated from the shackles
of the "net neutrality" controversy.   That's the sort of "socialist" canard with which the WSJ
(which, you'll recall, is now a sister company of Fox News, aka "Fixed
Noise") loves to take issue.  But that may be beside the point.

Jenkins identifies an even larger issue lurking behind the "net neutrality" issue:

…we persist in suspecting that the biggest political scrum
in the near future won't be over classic net neutrality at all—it will
be a battle over usage-based pricing, which is one of the few ways to
keep excessive demand in check (though key help will also come from
technologies that opportunistically dump wireless traffic back into the
fixed Net).

Boy, there's a super-sized can of worms.

Right now, I enjoy more or less 'net neutral' unlimited bandwidth use on both my laptop and mobile devices.  I can suck as much data off the Internet as I want on either platform.  I can listen to music all day provided by any one of a number of services.

Jenkins foresees the time when all this bandwidth demand will run up against limits; when that happens, the 'net neutrality' debate will be forced aside, and the ISPs will argue that they need to start charging heavy users (like me) for my torrential bit-flow in order to pay for the infrastructure that needs to be put in place to keep all those gigabits flowing.

Well, that's fine, I guess.  I don't really have a position one way or the other on Net neutrality and the revenue is going to have to come from somewhere to pay for all those cell towers. 

But it occurs to me that there is another issue that just got lost in that shifting debate: the fact that, by charging for "usage," the ISPs will, in effect, be charging for content.  If I listen to a lot of music over my "Celestial Jukebox" rig, and I am charged for that usage,  am I not in effect being indirectly charged for the use of that content?

In that scenario, shouldn't some of the revenue also go to the content providers who are the reason for the bandwidth use that would justify higher charges?

I am increasingly perplexed by the implications that virtually free (a dime-a-track comes pretty damn close, compared to $15 for a CD…) hold for the creators of all this nifty content that's pouring through my MacBook and iPhone these days.  I mean, when it gets to the point that recorded music has zero value — because it's all in the cloud, all the time, and accessible from anywhere — then how in the hell are my musician friends going to make a living?

So Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.  proposes that ISPs be freed to start charging for bandwidth usage.  Great.  But I wonder how Mr. Holman and his bosses at the W$J will feel about ISP revenue being shared with the millions of artists who create the content that creates the demand for new bandwidth — seeing as how so many of them are crunchy-granola eating, left-leaning, right-brained subversives?

Point is, if there is no provision made for the creators, there won't be any content, so there won't be any need for any more bandwidth, at which point we can go back to worrying about "net neutrality."