Aboriginal Music Program

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Will Mobile Streaming Audio Kill the Ipod?

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Spotify is not available in Canada, but in countries where is it licensed to operate, it's turning a lot of heads and gaining a lot of fans.

The service offers streaming audio of music that the user picks from a huge catalogue of (mostly) major label releases. Spotify isn't so much about discovery or social networking, like other streaming audio services. It's more like a library of music that users can access at any time, not to download and own, but to listen to.

The idea of streaming music, rather than buying it, downloading, and storing it, is becoming more and more popular, as broadband becomes faster and more ubiquitous. But the real jump in streaming audio comes when it becomes more accessible on personal devices like cell phones. And that's where Spotify is right now.

The Swedish music company plans to launch an iPhone app very soon. The big question is whether Apple will turn down the app's application, because it poses too much competition to the iTunes store.

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Trends in "Free" Music

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Manitoba Music hosted a session last night with Mark Meharry from MusicGlue. Mark is based in London and is a pioneer of the "free" music approach to building a fan base and building careers for independent artists. Mark helps artists give away music, as a way to track and interact with fans, and build other revenue streams from concert tickets and merchandise. In the face of declining CD sales, artists and music industry companies are looking for new buisiness models and business structures.

One of the trends that we talked about last night was the move from downloading and storing music, to streaming music. Broadband speeds and access to online file storage are increasing and becoming cheaper, moving towards zero cost. This is leading to increased ease of access to music through legal channels like mobile phone delivery and streaming online services. Rather than building libraries of music, the user can simply plug into vast existing catalogues.

Illegal file sharing has been as much about ease of access as is about cost - labels weren't quick enough at making music available and transportable so mega music fans and tech savvy kids looked elsewhere. Now that music is...

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Napster Back in the MP3 Business

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Napster has announced the launch of its new MP3 download store. The company claims to offer the largest MP3 catalogue available, at 6 million tracks. All of their tracks are in MP3 format, compatible with iPods and other portable music devices, and are completely DRM-free allowing users to make copies and transfer tracks to other devices at will.

The new service is direct competition for Apple's iTunes store. Music purchased from iTunes is usually sold in the less versatile (but possibly higher quality) ACC or m4a format and comes with proprietary digital locks that limit which devices the track can be loaded on to.

Napster, the company that started the MP3 download revolution, has most recently opperated as a streaming subscription service. That service will continue.

The Napster MP3 store isn't available in Canada. I could only access it through a web proxy to www.napster.com/store. No word on when the Canadian store will be launched. It took iTunes a year and half after the US store was lauched to get the Canadian store going. It took eMusic about 5 years to get their .ca happening.

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Amazon mp3 Store

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The Amazon mp3 store is up and running on amazon.com. The site offers completely DRM-Free downloads of music from all four major labels as well as independents. Artists who use CDBaby for digital distribution should start seeing their  records on the Amazon store. So far the service is only available on the US version of the site, and only to US customers. Amazon says that the service is going international later this year.

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U2 Manager Paul McGuiness: Mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore

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Walking into Paul McGuiness' International Music Managers Forum presentation in MIDEM on Monday afternoon, I was expecting some war stories, some words of wisom from this icon who's managed U2 for over 30 years, leading them to and through sales of over 150 million worldwide.  What a stunned packed house got instead were some harsh words and a cold serious focus.  Paul McGuiness wants the world to know that he considers filesharing theivery, but he doesn't care much about the end users, he's targeting the individuals  and companiers who are raking in the billions and billions of dollars that should be going (at least in part) to the creators and rights holders.

He called out people and companies and named names. ISPs, device makers, and online communities like the telcos across the globe, the nokias, Apples, sony ericssons, the iLikes, facebooks, and yahoos, and the silicon valley smart people were called the "makers of burglary kits" and Paul put out a call to arms, demading that these people share the wealth with the creators.

It was stunning. There were a few hoots and cheers as Paul came to key parts of his presentation entitled ‘The Online Bonanza: Who is making all...

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U2 Manager takes on ISPs

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Paul McGuinness, manager for U2, delivered a keynote address at MIDEM on Monday which has bloggers and industry pundits buzzing. In a speech that included practical ideas, emotional pleas, and amateur sociology, McGuinness took aim squarely at internet service providers and silicon valley for creating the infrastructure that has allowed music exchanges to become de-monetized.

From the Guardian: U2's manager yesterday called on artists to join him in forcing the "hippy" technology and internet executives he blames for the collapse of the music industry to help save it.

Paul McGuinness, who has plotted the rise of the Irish group over 30 years, said technology gurus in Silicon Valley such as Apple's Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates had profited from rampant online piracy without doing anything to stop it.

"I suggest we shift the focus of moral pressure away from the individual P2P [peer to peer] thief and on to the multibillion dollar industries that benefit from these tiny crimes," he said.While his proposal to stick a fee on ISP subscription that would cover the losses of copyright holders in the music industry isn't new (SOCAN Tariff 22 was first proposed like...

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QTRAX: The second coming of P2P at midnight tonight

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This morning, I attended a press conference at MIDEM for the launch of QTRAX - the world's first legal peer-to-peer (P2P) download service.  It boasts an impressive 25-30 million legally licensed songs that will be made available free to the public tonight at midnight EST.  Making the announcement was President and CEO of QTRAX, Allan Klepfisz, backed by a panel including Brit songster James Blunt, and what seemed to be most of the Sugar Hill Gang (both of whom played the reception that followed).  The champagne was flowing and the mood was definately celebratory.

Th QTRAX model is fully ad-supported through various types of advertising and
sponsorship agreements with multi-nationals such as McDonalds and Nintendo, along with others. Apparently the ads are in the form of banners etc - no more obtrusive than what we already see everyday.

An undisclosed revenue-sharing model has been agreed to by all the major labels, the bigger indies, publishers, and artists. Though the divvying of the cash was left vague, and I imagine varies deal by deal, all the rights holders will get paid, and the public neededn't lay down a credit card, lifeblood, or anything else to get the...

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Digital Goes Physical

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With the increase in digital downloads, some companies and artists are looking at how they can make digital sales at shows or in stores. One method is download cards. Like gift cards, the consumer pays for the card at the time of purchase and it contains a code that they use to access a digital download when they get back to their computer.

Sony/BMG has a program called Platinum MusicPass which is suppose to debut at five retailers across Canada in late January.

Meanwhile, a bunch of smaller companies are offering this type of service directly to artists and indie labels. One company, Dropcards, now has their digital download sales recognized by Soundscan. Disc Revolt makes the case that  the cards are a greener option than CDs. Fizz Kicks lets you print out your own cards.

Thanks to Dylan Cash and Digital Music News for some of this info.

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Music Copyright in the News

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It's a little joke among my colleagues in the MARIA office that I get a little too excited about copyright. But who could have guessed that 2007 would end with so much buzz about copyright, and already in 2008 copyright stories are back in the media. Here's a couple:

iPod Levy - On Thursday, the Canadian court of appeal struck down a Copyright Board of Canada decision to move ahead with a private copying levy on iPods and other digital music storage devices. This levy is akin to the levy that is paid on blank CDs and cassettes and is designed to compensate copyright owners for the copies that consumers make of songs for their own private use. CRIA opposed the new levy, even though it would provide a whole new bundle of cash for its members (record labels) because it felt that the levy was an acknowledgement that people were using these digital devices to make illegal copies of music. CRIA chose to stand on its ideological position, and continue to pursue copyright reform that would allow them to sue music users who make illegal copies of music, rather than be compensated for private copying.

Michael Giest writes about the levy decision, and its demise. Other recent...

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