Tech News September 2012
Two new apps are helping the radio industry adapt to the digital age. The apps, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, are aggregators — conduits for thousands of online radio streams. With a few taps on a smartphone, a listener can dart among a pop station in New York, gospel in Atlanta and talk radio almost anywhere. TuneIn, which offers 70,000 streams from around the world, has 40 million monthly users. IHeartRadio, owned by the broadcasting giant Clear Channel Communications, has been downloaded 95 million times and has attracted more than 12 million registered users. For broadcasters, these aggregators can help reach audiences in the growing but increasingly fragmented world of online radio, which can mean anything from a customized playlist on Pandora or Spotify to an iTunes stream. (Source: New York Times)
Google may be on the hook for as much as $2 billion in damages for digitally scanning 2.7 million university library books without permission, the Authors Guild claims in a long-running lawsuit testing the limits of U.S. copyright law. Google in 2004 made a deal with several universities to scan their libraries, without the rights holders’ permission, and make “snippets” of those books available online via Google’s search engine. The search giant was subsequently sued by individual writers, publishers and the Authors Guild — litigation that resulted in a settlement a federal judge rejected last year.
Now the battle is back on. The guild is seeking the minimum $750 in copyright damages per each allegedly infringing work — making it potentially among the highest copyright damages cases in litigation history. The recording industry sought about $1 billion from peer-to-peer file-sharing service Limewire, but eventually settled for $105 million. About a half a billion dollars was paid out in the Napster litigation, although the industry was seeking billions. Google, which displays the book snippets next to advertising on its search engine, claims it has the right under the “fair-use” doctrine to publish parts of each book. The guild told U.S. District Judge District Judge Denny Chin of New York that Google was off-base. (Source: Wired)
YouTube has rolled out a new app for the Play Station 3 (PS3), which may be the first salvo in a war for your living room, one powered by an all-new channel-driven YouTube. The old YouTube that offered primarily single, short videos may be replaced by something that’s a lot more like a play-anywhere, device-agnostic, multi-channel network. It may become a cable network for people who don’t have cable. YouTube doesn’t want you to watch videos anymore — not in the singular sense, at least. It wants you to stick around and see what comes next.
And mostly, YouTube is becoming a backdoor to let Google into your living room, no matter whose set-top box sits on your Ikea MAVA. YouTube is moving away from videos and into a world of channels — on the web, Google TV, gaming console, internet-enabled televisions, smartphones, and anything else with a screen and an internet connection. “The benchmark for what makes mass-market television has changed,” says Shishir Mehrotra, YouTube’s VP of product management. “Cable has run out of space. If you’re going to broadcast content to everybody whether or not they watch it, you can only afford to broadcast a few hundred channels. But if you move to a world where you can broadcast on demand to only whoever wants it, now you can support millions of channels.” (Source: Wired)
The pioneering contemporary music label New Albion has shut its doors after 25 indispensable years. Although in retrospect it seems obvious — the label hasn't offered a new release since 2008 — the announcement from Foster Reed, the label's founder and creative visionary, was still shocking. All of New Albion's remaining physical stock is being shipped off to its artists, while some (though apparently, only a few) of its releases are available through a digital storefront. (Source: NPR)
On-demand services like Spotify and We7 will generate £696m (US$1.1 billion) for the global music industry in 2012 - a rise of 40%, new research has suggested. It means streaming music is the fastest-growing sector of the industry, overtaking downloads, which are due to see an increase of 8.5% this year. CDs and vinyl still dominate the industry, accounting for 61% of all music sold worldwide. But sales of physical products dropped by 12% globally, and 30% in the UK. (Source: BBC News)
Global digital music revenue will rise 17.8 percent this year to cross the £5 billion ($7.8 billion) milestone, according to a new forecast. Strategy Analytics’ latest "Global Recorded Music Forecast" predicts that digital music sales in the U.S. will for the first time exceed physical sales for the year 2012. On a global basis, this will happen only in 2015. Globally, digital music, meaning online and mobile, spending will increase by $1.3 billion to $8.6 billion this year, while physical sales will decrease 12.1 percent ($1.9 billion).
This means that digital music will increase its share of global recorded music spending to 39 percent for all of 2012. The main growth driver here will be online streaming, which Strategy Analytics forecasts will grow 40 percent this year to $1.1 billion - almost five times the rate of download revenue, which will increase 8.5 percent to $3.9 billion. Mobile revenue will jump 23 percent, the firm projects. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)
The Kickstarter approach to getting money for cool projects has inspired an idealistic devotion to the power of crowdfunding. Thanks to the power of the internet, people with good ideas can get connected to people who want to pay to see those ideas become realities—no middle man needed. Except when it comes to the internet, there’s always someone in the middle, especially when it comes to handling the money. Crowdfunding startup Unglue.it got a harsh reminder when Amazon told the company its payment service would stop processing pledges to get e-books “unglued” from their copyright restrictions.
Unglue.it works with copyright holders to determine a fair price to release their works under a Creative Commons license that allows a book to be copied and shared for free. The site then runs Kickstarter-style campaigns to get pledges up to the amount that would get the book released. Amazon confirmed that it had cut off Unglue.it from its payment services, claiming it did not meet the “regulatory obligations” of other crowdfunding services, such as Kickstarter, which it will continue to service. Amazon did not clarify what specific regulatory issues were involved. Regardless, it’s easy to see how the world’s biggest e-bookseller might not care for Unglue.it’s aspiration to make books free. (Source: Wired)
Crowdfunding has developed from a digital quirk to a powerful tool, But there is something even deeper going on with this new model, one that's less predictable than civic participation and far more disruptive. Kickstarter itself is changing under the influence of digital culture. At first it was about making established forms of art. Film was big – documentaries about organic community vegetable gardens were not uncommon. Now that is changing. It is becoming a land of gadget makers and gamers.
The first million dollar project on Kickstarter was the Pebble watch. This device made technology wearable and Bluetooth enabled. It was creative but it wasn't art; it was a product. After this came the amazing success of the computer game Double Fine, which raised $1m in under 24 hours. Debatably this was art, but still very much a mass-market, digital product. Is it possible that crowdfunding is telling us something rather profound – that the most important and popular form of creativity at this point in history is not 'useless' art, but digital invention? (Source: The Guardian)
Jeremiah Owyang’s post “Social Media Work Flow,” offers a good taxonomy for a social media work flow, triage, or process. He defines this as “a sequence of connected steps that enables the entire organization to act efficiently with minimal overlapping tasks and resources in order to serve the market in social channels and beyond.” It is the work flow documented and visualized that answers the question, “What if we get a negative comment? or on a larger scale, “What if our organization finds itself in the center of a social media backlash?” Having a work flow in place before a social media disaster strikes saves time. (Source: Beth’s Blog)
A Blog post on Distilled.net provides a few tool ideas and some handy pointers into the baffling world of managing social communities, what to track and to what mediums to put your interactive efforts. (Source: Distilled)
For decades, the song of the summer would emerge each year following a pattern as predictable as the beach tides. Pop radio would get it rolling before school let out, and soon the song — inevitably one with a big, playful beat and an irresistible hook — would blare from car stereos everywhere. Then came prom singalongs as the song finally became ubiquitous around the Fourth of July. But the success of this summer’s hit, Carly Rae Jepsen’s cheerfully flirty “Call Me Maybe,” shows how much the hitmaking machine, as well as the music industry itself, has been upended by social media. Only a year ago, the charts were dominated by stars who had come out of the old machine of radio and major-label promotion: Katy Perry, Rihanna, Adele, Maroon 5. This year’s biggest hits — “Call Me Maybe,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Fun.’s “We Are Young” — started in left field and were helped along by YouTube and Twitter before coming to the mainstream media. (Source: New York Times)
Piracy has been a persistent problem for content owners over the years, but Singapore-based Tell My Friends thinks it may have come up with a novel solution. Where UK-based We7 sought to tackle the problem by offering consumers free songs tagged with 10-second advertisements, Tell My Friends gives users a way to share music, ebooks, videos and apps legally while getting paid for their efforts. Now in beta, users begin by signing up for a free Tell My Friends account. Then, each time they make a new music purchase, they can choose to share it on their social networks. When they do, a unique identifier code links their original share to people who subsequently buy the track. Thereafter, anytime anyone clicks on the shared link they get an order page along with a sample and information about the song. Those who directly click and buy from the original link earn the original user a set amount per purchase for up to 10 purchasers; those who buy from links shared by others earn the originator a slightly smaller commission per purchase. (Source: Springwise)
There was a time, not so long ago, that Klaus Heymann was accused of trying to destroy the classical music industry. That was around the same time that the world realized that Naxos, Heymann’s budget-record label, was not just another series of CDs in the bargain bin. Naxos has since grown from an odd-duck budget label to the largest independent classical label in the world, with a catalog of over 7,000 titles. It is one of the two largest-selling classical labels and distributes hundreds of other independents through its physical and digital distribution networks. Meanwhile, Naxos has branched out into jazz, world music, DVDs, books, and audio books, but also into music education, an online music library, and music streaming services. In an extensive interview with San Francisco Classical Voice, Heymann shares his views on the current and future trends in the recording industry. (Source: San Francisco Classical Voice)
Two of the biggest services that provide free listening on easy-to-use interfaces are Spotify and Pandora. At least 33 million people have tried Spotify, more than 150 million have registered for Pandora. While those are extraordinary numbers for any online service, Spotify and Pandora exemplify the business challenges for digital-music companies. Both are losing money, and for largely the same reason: the cost of music royalties.
The companies license music differently, but both wind up paying a majority of their revenue to music companies. Pandora does not negotiate with record labels to use their songs. Instead, it operates under the compulsory licensing provision of federal copyright law, which allows it to use any song — with some restrictions — and sets royalty rates by federal statute. For its revenue, Pandora, which has free and paid tiers, relies almost entirely on advertising. Yet it has been unable to sell enough advertising to offset its royalty costs.
Spotify negotiates with record companies and music publishers directly, which means that its royalty rates vary from label to label. Although Spotify has never said how much it pays labels for its streams, last year its “cost of sales,” which includes licensing fees and distribution expenses, was $229 million, or 97 percent of revenue. On top of that it had more than $30 million in salaries, and more than $30 million for various other expenses. That is how you lose $57 million on $236 million in revenue. (Source: New York Times)
SoundExchange continued its mission of rewarding musicians with their unclaimed digital performance royalties by releasing a list of 50,000+ artist and label names owed tens of millions of dollars in royalty payments. This list also includes more than $31 million in royalties that are three or more years old ranging from $10 to more than $100,000, all of which have been collected by SoundExchange over the past decade. (Source: Hypebot.com)
Marcus Romer, artistic director of Pilot Theatre, explains how his latest project - a six-camera interactive live stream of the York Mystery Plays - has the potential to change how audiences engage with theatre in the digital sphere. Pilot Theatre went live on the new BBC/Arts Council England site, The Space, with a digital theatre transmission featuring six camera feeds, three audio feeds and a full play transcript, available to all internet-enabled devices - computers, tablets and smartphones. With this special technology, viewers could select a camera from the row of six thumbnails and make this their main player. They could also choose from three separate audio feeds - the live action from onstage, the headphone cueing from the stage managers, or the live audio-described feed. The transcript of the text was available to read at the side of the main player, while any of the thumbnails could be selected as the main point of view. The views allowed full coverage of the stage action, providing wide shots, close-ups and focusing on specific areas of action such as the choral singing or the band. (Source: The Stage)