Tech News April 2011

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1. Amazon vs Apple: The race for the future of music

Amazon has sneaked ahead of arch rivals Apple and Google by becoming the first major internet company to unveil a music-streaming service – which they are calling the Cloud Player – allowing people to store their music online and listen to the tracks on any computer or smartphone.   (Source: The Independent)

2. The Cloud that rains music

An article by David Pogue of the New York Times discusses in depth the pros and cons of Amazon’s new Cloud Player. (Source: New York Times)

3. Berlin Philharmonic comes to British cinemas – in 3D

Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic are aiming to reach new audiences by screening 3D concerts in hundreds of cinemas across the world, including 140 in Britain. The technology aims to give cinemagoers the sensation of not only sitting in the front rows but right among the orchestra, offering close-ups of the virtuoso players.  (Source: The Guardian)

4. Classical music to get a second radio outlet in L.A. area

Classical music fans in the L.A. area will have a second radio station to listen to with the return of K-Mozart.  Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters said that, after more than three years of struggling to attract listeners to a talk and then a "retro music" format at KGIL-AM (1260), it would return the station to its previous incarnation as classical outlet KMZT beginning April 4.   (Source: Los Angeles Times)

5. Dance along with Twyla and other online nuggets

The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival has long been known for eclectic lineups: ballet one week, flamenco the next. Alongside plenty of modern and contemporary performances, tap, street, Broadway, African and Indian (American and South Asian) styles have also made appearances. That breadth becomes apparent perusing the Pillow’s new online archive of video clips, which lets you sort performances by era, genre and artist.  (Source: New York Times)

6. Giving literature virtual life

Prof. Katherine Rowe’s blue-haired avatar was flying across a grassy landscape to a virtual three-dimensional re-creation of the Globe Theater, where some students from her introductory Shakespeare class at Bryn Mawr College had already gathered online. Their assignment was to create characters on the Web site Theatron3 and use them to block scenes from the gory revenge tragedy “Titus Andronicus,” to see how setting can heighten the drama.   These students are among the first generation of undergraduates at dozens of colleges to take humanities courses — even Shakespeare — that are deeply influenced by a new array of powerful digital tools and vast online archives.  Many teachers and administrators are only beginning to figure out the contours of this emerging field of digital humanities, and how it should be taught. In the classroom, however, digitally savvy undergraduates are not just ready to adapt to the tools but also to explore how new media may alter the very process of reading, interpretation and analysis.  (Source: New York Times)

7. Eminem lawsuit may raise pay for older artists

Four years ago, the producers who discovered Eminem sued his record label, the Universal Music Group, over the way royalties are computed for digital music, which boils down to whether an individual song sold online should be considered a license or a sale.  The difference is far from academic because, as with most artists, Eminem’s contract stipulates that he gets 50 percent of the royalties for a license but only 12 percent for a sale. The suit reached its apparent end last week when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, letting stand a lower court’s decision that digital music should be treated as a license.  Lawyers and music executives say that few younger artists are likely to be affected by the decision because since the early 2000s record companies have revised most of their contracts to include digital sales among an artist’s record royalties.  Many older artists, however, whose contracts predate digital music and have not been renegotiated, stand to profit significantly from the decision.  (Source: New York Times)

8. Labels and musicians enhance albums for the iPad

Artists and record labels are rushing to develop iPad applications that revive and expand the idea of the traditional album and, they hope, entice fans to buy more than just a track or two.  For now, these projects are fluid, with no rules and a lot of room for experimentation. But the real aim is preserving the value of complete albums, still the recording industry’s biggest profit engine. By offering a richer package, the labels believe, fans will be more likely to plunk down the money for a full album instead of just buying a few songs.  (Source: New York Times)

9. Global recorded music sales fall almost $1.5bn amid increased piracy

Global recorded music sales fell by almost $1.5bn last year as digital piracy continued to take its toll on the industry, with the UK losing its mantle as the third-largest music market after "physical" sales of CDs collapsed by almost a fifth.  (Source: The Guardian)

10. Judge rejects Google’s deal to digitize books

Google’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.   Citing copyright, antitrust and other concerns, Judge Denny Chin said that the settlement would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly” and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners. He left open the possibility that a substantially revised agreement could pass legal muster.   (Source: New York Times)

11. Mog, the digital music service, takes aim at the tv and the car

For years, digital music has been confined mostly to traditional computers and phones. But that limitation is slowly disappearing as the market shifts toward cloud services, which stream content from remote servers, allowing anything with an Internet connection — like smart TVs or Blu-ray players — to become portals for vast libraries of entertainment.  Now, Mog, a music streaming service, Mog, has announced that LG, Samsung and Vizio will incorporate Mog into their Internet-ready televisions and other devices, and the service will become available on Sonos, a wireless system for managing music throughout the house. And in what the company calls the first integration of an on-demand music service into a car, Mog will also become part of BMW’s Mini line.   (Source: New York Times)

12. City Ballet A-Twitter over posts

New York City Ballet is set to become one of the country's first major performing-arts companies to govern its employees' posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social-media outlets.   The company now is negotiating a social-media policy as part of contract talks with the dancers' union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.  The ballet's executive director, Katherine Brown, said in a statement: "Because social media usage has dramatically increased and will continue to do so, like many organizations the company is exploring the development of social media guidelines for all artistic and administrative employees with respect to their professional lives."  The union's national executive director said it doesn't see the need for a social-networking policy but wouldn't object as long as rules don't over-police the dancers.  (Source: Wall Street Journal)

13. Opera of the future

Tod Machover runs the "Opera of the Future" group at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass.  His latest futuristic opus, "Death and the Powers," is a 90-minute one-act opera, which incorporates cutting-edge robotics, and uses a technology Machover dubs "disembodied performance" that requires its star, baritone James Maddalena, to act out almost the entire program out of sight or earshot of the audience -- even while a high-tech translation of his performance appears on the stage.  (Source: Variety)

14. Barbican reveals digital membership plans

Barbican managing director Nicholas Kenyon has revealed the arts venue is considering launching a “digital membership” package, which he said would feature a range of content that can be viewed online for a subscription.  (Source: The Stage)
15. Dispute over Time Warner Cable’s streaming to iPad bursts into the open

Companies like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision buy the rights to beam channels to customers’ television sets. But do those rights extend to iPads?  That question has divided the television industry in recent weeks, ever since Time Warner Cable started streaming several dozen TV channels to customers’ iPads. Immediately, channel owners like Viacom and Scripps Networks seized on the streaming capability as a contract violation — in part because they want cable companies to pay them more for the privilege to stream.   (Source: New York Times)

16. Will renting music make people listen and love again?

Can streaming save the music business?  Ironic for a business so obsessed with unit sales that nominations for many Juno categories are largely based on those numbers. Nonetheless, for a battered recording industry, salvation may lie in subscription services like Rdio – known as “music in the cloud” – as well as both music-video streaming sites and Internet radio underwritten by ads.  And for fans, who are awash in uncurated free music and multiplying genres – but who have tuned out the prerecorded voice tracks and Top 40 playlists of terrestrial radio – those options might restore the sense of discrimination provided by the companionable DJs of old.   (Source: The Globe and Mail)

17. YouTube Symphony attracts 33 million views worldwide

The online statistics are in, and they declare that the 33 million people who watched the YouTube Symphony Orchestra's grand finale of March 20 make it the most frequently viewed concert in the history of the video-sharing website.  This includes 11.1 million live streams of the three-and-a-half-hour event, displacing rock band U2 as the most-watched live music concert online.  After the initial live presentation, a further 19.1 million streams followed in the next 24 hours. Approximately 2.8 million people tuned in on mobile phones: the biggest-ever YouTube mobile live stream.  (Source: Limelight Magazine and YouTube)