Aside from his storied history of mastering downloadable software and ensnaring cyber-ne'er-do-wells around the globe, Power Downloader is also a longtime music collector. Since the very first 78rpm record he received as a young boy on Christmas Day untold years ago, Power has combed the stacks of record stores everywhere he travels. From Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beatles, and the Stooges to Arcade Fire, R. Kelly, and The White Stripes, Power Downloader has acquired a gigantic music collection that now also lives on his PC, portable MP3 player, and via software, any connected computer, or iPhone in the world.… Read more
There once was a time when the release date of an album was exciting. For our favorite artists we knew when the last album came out and when the next album was due. If you loved the artist you bought it. If you didn't you either bought the single or you listened to the album with your friends and then decided.
As the price of records and then CDs increased year by year, spending 20 bucks for a CD became a purchase you needed to be sure of rather than a no brainer or impulse buy.
Then free became … Read more
Musicians aren't merchants.
We certainly learned that through Radiohead and Trent Reznor's separate experiments with choose-your-price album promotions.
In October, Reznor, the leader of the band Nine Inch Nails, and Radiohead attempted to promote and distribute albums online without the help of a major record label. Both offered fans the opportunity to obtain the music for free. Both saw some success.
But they also illustrated that the music business is probably better left in the hands of businessmen. Musicians are not the new labels. Artists need someone to provide financial support and business acumen. If we end up ridding the world of labels, we'll only have to re-create them--in some other, probably more nimble form.
Last week, I interviewed Reznor about the online promotion of rapper Saul William's album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust. In that interview, Reznor said he was disappointed that only 18 percent of the more than 150,000 people who downloaded the album paid for it. He and Williams offered two options: pay nothing or obtain a higher-quality audio version for $5.
By backing Williams with his money, name, and know-how, Reznor essentially thrust himself into the role of a music label. That is, a music label with a lot to learn. The first lesson was that you don't always back a winner. A music company's fortunes can often rest on its ability to discover superstars. Profits generated by a few marquee acts have always kept the companies going while all the other performers break even or lose money.
EMI said this week that only 5 percent of its acts are profitable. This kind of prospecting requires a huge investment.
Reznor said he didn't get involved with Williams to profit, but acknowledged that he spent too much making the album and said he hasn't yet recouped his money. A record company can afford to make bad bets once in a while, said Chris Castle, a music industry insider who has worked as a vice president for both Sony Music and A&M Records. Musicians, even successful ones like Reznor, probably can't.
We're only a few weeks into 2008 and you can tell that it's going to be a great year for music. New releases by British Sea Power, Sia (we have her full album stream!) and The Oaks are worthy of the Best of 2008 (let's just hope we remember them at the end of the year). But we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves -- we're still enjoying the Best of 2007. Indie To Go is an iPod-friendly sampler that features topnotch indie newcomers and chart-toppers. Stream the playlist below (while you work), then visit the … Read more
Ian Rogers, Yahoo's VP of Video and Media Applications, didn't get much chance to speak on the five-person panel I saw at Billboard Live. However, he gave a very interesting presentation at Aspen Live, a conference for music industry types sponsored by talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and he's paraphrased the talk in its entirety--complete with slides--on his blog.
Most of his arguments ring true to me: scarcity has been replaced by abundance, and spending incremental dollars on improving quality (while difficult and highly subjective) will provide much better returns in the long tail era … Read more
Gaming peripheral maker Razer has decided to try its hand in the social music scene with its subsidiary Jook Inc. The company has developed a new technology--aptly called Jook--that allows users of any MP3 player to share music with others in the same vicinity. It consists of two parts: a transmitter that plugs into any MP3 player (via either a 3.5mm headphone jack connection or proprietary dock based on the player) and an indicator light that hangs from down the front of the user as part of the headphone cable. A button or switch on either the transmitter or … Read more
How does it work? Judge for yourself--these are two songs from old bands on which I played bass (so I have at least a plausible claim to partial copyright). I simply followed the instructions here and here (to insert album covers). Click on the small arrows (after the page break) and they'll play right within the Yahoo Media Player at the bottom left of the page. (Worked for me on Firefox on Windows XP, your mileage may vary!)
Click the 'Read More' button below to listen to the tracks.… Read more
It's a full hand of cards for Amazon: the Web's mega-retailer announced Thursday that it will be selling music from Sony BMG Music Entertainment in its Amazon MP3 store. This means that Amazon MP3, which only sells "naked" tracks without any digital rights management (DRM) protection, now has deals with all four major music labels. Because of the lack of copy protection, any song from Amazon MP3 can play on virtually any media-playing device, from PCs to music players to cell phones and PDAs.
The DRM-free songs from Sony BMG will be available for purchase on … Read more
At CES on Monday, I was invited over to the Blu-ray booth to speak with top executives at the major Hollywood studios supporting Blu-ray. And while I didn't have the chance to speak with every studio, I did get to speak with the president and chief operating officer at LionsGate, Steve Beeks.
And while Beeks seemed like he had solid command over the finer points of the movie industry, I was interested to see why his studio chose Blu-ray over the alternative.
Expecting the canned answer like, "Well, we thought it was the superior format and I'm happy to say that we were right," you could imagine my surprise when the very first reason he gave was Blu-ray's piracy controls.
For those of you who don't know, Blu-ray's piracy controls--largely based on AACS, BD+, and BD-ROM Mark--are easily the most stringent format to date and have only partially been circumvented to this point.
Regardless, I was utterly appalled at the thought that with all of its benefits--high-capacity, interesting new features to employ while playing movies, major industry backing--Beeks chose piracy as the first talking point.
Of course, I had to find out more.… Read more