Tech News December 2011

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1. Young classical musicians easy on the eyes and the ears

YouTube is celebrating its sixth anniversary, and while its effects on established classical artists are still largely unquantifiable, young musicians - like cellist Gautier Capucon, violinist Charlie Siem and even once-controversial head-turner Lara St. John – have seized virtual media not only to showcase their talents, but also to showcase themselves. (Source: Washington Post)

2. Can Sedition Create a Marketplace for Limited-Edition Digital Art?

The art world has given birth to a new platform called Sedition, which aims to create a marketplace for limited-edition digital artworks.  It has signed up some impressive names, including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Shepard Fairey. These artists will produce pieces in editions of between 2,000 and 10,000, which are numbered, signed and sold for between $8 and $800, with Sedition taking a cut of the revenue.  The platform aims to encourage people who might not be able to afford these artists’ original pieces to become collectors of digital editions which they can access via their mobiles, tablets, PCs and connected TVs. With each purchase comes a certificate of authenticity, which — crucially — entitles the owner to resell the works at a later date if they (sic) so wish.  (Source: Wired)

3. EMI Is Sold for $4.1 Billion in Combined Deals, Consolidating the Music Industry

EMI, the venerable music company that is home to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Motown song catalog, has been sold for $4.1 billion through a pair of deals that usher in a new wave of consolidation in the music industry. In a complex sale brokered by Citigroup, the Universal Music Group, a division of the French conglomerate Vivendi, will absorb EMI’s recorded music operations for $1.9 billion, while EMI’s music publishing division will be sold for $2.2 billion to a consortium of investors led by Sony.  The split of EMI completes the biggest shift in music’s corporate structure in almost a decade, reducing the number of major record companies from four to three and allowing Sony and Universal, already the biggest forces in music, to become even bigger.  (Source: New York Times)

4. Classical Music Label Sets Up Download Service

MELBA Recordings has established a reputation as one of the world's premier classical music labels, offering its label releases in two forms - conventional compact disc and the superior high-fidelity super audio CD (SACD).  Now, as the days of the silver CD draw to a close, Melba has joined a small group of international retailers offering premium audio-download products.  These are not the standard compressed downloads in low bit-rate MP3 formats.  Melba offers its catalogue in the audio world's favored compression mode, FLAC, a ''lossless'' compression method that reduces file size for fast downloading, but preserves the original audio information.   (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

5. Google Opens a Digital Music Store

Looking to extend its reach as a hub for entertainment and social networking, Google has introduced a set of music features, including a download store to compete with iTunes.  The service, Google Music, will sell individual tracks and full albums, letting customers store the songs on servers, on so-called cloud accounts. And through an integration with Google’s nascent social network, Google+, the company will also let customers share music by offering friends one free listen to any bought track.  Google Music puts the company in direct competition with Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Many analysts saw the move as part of an escalating war among those companies to develop consumer environments.  (Source: New York Times)

6. This is how you should buy music online

With the recent launches of Google Music, Amazon Cloud Player and iCloud, there has never been an easier time to buy a song. Each service is different, though, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your phone, listening habits and geekiness, you are better off going with one service over another. Here is a handy guide to help you choose which service is best for you.  (Source:

7. A Digital Future Not Quite Here for City Ballet

More than a year after its completion at a cost of several million dollars, a sleek media control room equipped to help the New York City Ballet record its performances for digital archiving and for theater broadcasts has languished unused.  City Ballet officials said much of the delay stemmed from lengthy labor negotiations between the stagehands’ union and theater management over issues like who would staff the room and how much they would be paid.

Many performing arts organizations, looking to bolster their income, are repackaging their performances into new products. But, as this case illustrates, it is not as simple as just creating a new app; musicians, dancers, singers and stagehands often feel strongly that they deserve a cut.  “I deeply believe — and have for several years — that no performing arts organization has a viable future without participation in the digital space,” said former General Manager Ken Tabachnick.  “The media suite at the David H. Koch Theater was a critical investment for the future of New York City Ballet.”  (Source: New York Times)

8. More Theaters Reserve Seats for Tweeters

A growing number of theaters and performing groups across the country are setting aside "tweet seats," in-house seats for patrons to live-tweet during performances, including the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, N.C., and the Dayton Opera in Dayton, Ohio.   (Source: USA Today)

9. MUSIC 2.0: Tech advances prompt new fan connections

From Bjork releasing songs as iPad apps to indie bands selling concert tickets directly to fans via cellphone, music world trailblazers are exploiting new technologies to connect with audiences.  With music downloading – authorized or not – an inescapable reality today, a growing number of artists, managers and industry figures are looking for new ways to take advantage of technology – seeing it not as a hindrance, but as an invaluable tool.  For an in-depth look at how technological changes are affecting the music industry, consumption and artists' relationship with fans, check out CBC/Radio-Canada's Music 2.0: Unlimited choice, a mouse click away.   (Source: CBC News)

10. New YouTube Redesign Is Google's Latest Plot to Take Over TV

Google has rolled out an ambitious new look for YouTube, with a fresh, clean interface that has less clutter and more uniformity across channels. With this new design, Google is hoping this will make it easier for people to find stuff they like, while also luring them into spending more time on the site. But the ultimate goal is much more ambitious than just making the video-sharing site look less cluttered: Google wants YouTube to be so wonderful that people will use it the way they use TV—surfing channels when they’re bored and want to be entertained, rather than when they’re looking for something specific.  (Source: Daily Beast)

11. Site to Resell Music Files Has Critics

A legitimate secondhand marketplace for digital music has never been tried successfully, in part because few people think of reselling anything that is not physical. Recently, a company called ReDigi opened a system that it calls a legal and secure way for people to get rid of unwanted music files and buy others at a discount.  The service has already drawn concern from music executives and legal scholars, who say it is operating in a gray area of the law. Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record companies, sent ReDigi a cease-and-desist letter, accusing it of copyright infringement.  John Ossenmacher, ReDigi’s chief executive, contends that the service complies with copyright law, and that its technology offers safeguards to allay the industry’s concerns that people might profit from pirated music.  (Source: New York Times)

12. Royal Opera House launches iPhone and iPad game

The Royal Opera House is entering the world of gaming, offering “players” the opportunity to stage manage their own opera or ballet on their iPads and iPhones.  The ROH has announced it has teamed up with the game developers Hide&Seek to create the 69p game “The Show Must Go On,” in which players become a beleaguered goatee-bearded stage manager who has to stage The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, The Nutcracker or Swan Lake. Of course it's not easy – the sheet music has blown all over London, no one's in their costume, and so on.  The ROH chief executive, Tony Hall, said there were two goals for the ROH: generating extra income in an atmosphere of cuts and belt-tightening and trying to widen audiences by getting more people interested in opera and ballet.  (Source: The Guardian)

13. Sirius’s Move to Bypass a Royalty Payment Clearinghouse Causes an Uproar

Sirius XM Radio set off a flurry of complaints from trade groups and labor unions, when it announced it was trying to bypass the standard method of paying for digital streams — through a royalty clearinghouse called SoundExchange — and negotiate directly with record labels.  Sirius’s move was only the latest example of a gradual shift in the financial infrastructure of music. Many companies, from major labels to providers of background music, have been trying to reduce costs and gain control by circumventing the large organizations that have historically processed licenses and royalties.  Such direct deals are perfectly legal. But opponents of the move by Sirius say that it could result in less money and more complications for artists.   (Source: New York Times)

14. The Rise of the Geek Lobby

In a time of legislative gridlock, the Stop Online Piracy Act looked like a rare bipartisan breakthrough. The bill, known as SOPA, promised a brave new Internet—one cleansed of “rogue websites” that hawk pirated songs and movies as well as counterfeit goods. For Congress, the legislation’s goals amounted to a can’t-lose trifecta: uphold justice, protect legitimate businesses (and jobs!), and make the Web safer for law-abiding consumers. Who could be against that?

When the legislation was introduced in the House, it was supported by a cadre of influential backers: movie studios, record labels, pharmaceutical companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and many unions. Although it initially garnered widespread support from members of both parties, something happened on the way to easy passage and the flourish of the president’s signature: The Internet fought back. The groundswell started with open-Internet stalwarts like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy & Technology. As they have before, the non-profits picked apart the bill’s perceived oversights and omissions. This time, though, their message—that the law would fundamentally damage the Internet’s culture of openness—resonated loudly outside the world of tech wonkdom.  The prospects for passage of the legislation is now less clear.   (Source: Slate)

15. Symphony is tweet music to their ears

The lights dim, the orchestra tunes and the audience is told to "please turn off your cellphones."  Except in the "TweetSeats" at Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts in Music Hall. That's where iPhones, Blackberries and tablets light up and concertgoers start tweeting live along with the music.  The idea of attending a classical concert might seem intimidating to generations of Americans who have grown up with little exposure to such music. But they can now use a hashtag -- #CinSym -- to help them understand what classical music is all about.  It's part of the symphony's social media strategy to market to a larger audience.  (Source: Montgomery Advertiser)

16. ACE teams up with BBC for online arts platform The Space

Arts Council England and the BBC are launching an online arts channel that will broadcast new work, documentaries and filmed performances created by cultural organizations across the country.  A £2.5 million pot of ACE funding will help arts groups, including theatre companies, create work for The Space - a web-based platform that audiences will be able to access online, on internet-connected televisions, and on mobile phones and tablets through an app.  Arts organizations are being invited to pitch ideas for content that could feature on the channel, with those successful in securing money to be offered training and guidance support from the BBC, which has partnered with ACE and is creating the technology behind the initiative.   (Source: The Stage)

17. Opera North ventures into digital downloads

Opera North plans to sell digital audio-visual downloads of its performances as part of a strategy for the company to go “global.”   Richard Mantle, general director of the Leeds-based organization, said the company hopes to record a range of its work in the new year with a view to creating download packages for audiences. He said that while he thought the live cinema broadcast model used by the National Theatre through NT Live was interesting, Opera North had decided to pursue a different digital channel.   Mantle said Opera North planned to partner with another organization to deliver the downloads, but this was yet to be announced. The company will charge people to download the digital performances, but the price has not yet been decided.   (Source: The Stage)

18. Trying Out the World’s First In-Car Music-Streaming System

MOG is an ad-free, subscription-supported online music-streaming service, with more than 13 million songs in its library. If you pay MOG $10 a month, you can get its mobile app, the iPhone version of which now works in concert with BMW and Minis to deliver the full MOG experience on the road.  Third-party apps that are integrated into car systems are not entirely new. Pandora, the popular radio-like streaming service, has been available in many new cars. But Pandora is more like a radio station: You pick an artist, and the service plays songs from people like that artist.  With MOG, you can call up any song in its library at any time and, since MOG’s visual interface is identical to other BMWs’ iDrive system, it is (relatively) easy to use while driving.   (Source: New York Times)

19. Welcome To The Classical Grammy Cutbacks

Grammy categories have been whittled down substantially for 2012, and with the announcement of this year's nominees, we can see the results of those changes. Among the deletions were Best Classical Crossover Album, merged vocal and chamber/small group music categories and – most importantly – the dissolution of the Best Classical Album category.  The drop of 31 categories overall, which was made without a general vote by the academy's 21,000 members has diminished the presence and perceived value of specialty genres like classical music.  (Source: NPR)