1. Sirius XM Radio Avoids Bankruptcy:
Liberty Media has agreed to loan Sirius XM Radio $530 million, to help save the satellite radio provider from bankruptcy. Liberty Media, which owns DirecTV, and Sirius said that the loan will go to paying $175 million in current debt. The remainder of funds will be used to pay other debts coming due in May and at the end of the year, and for general working capital to run the satellite radio business. One of Sirius’ channels carries live and archived performances from the Metropolitan Opera, commercial-free, around the clock.
2. Performer Copyright Extended in Europe
A European Parliament committee has voted to increase the copyright term for recording from 50 to 95 years, matching U.S. policy set in 1998. The bill still has to be signed into European law, but indications that it will be approved.
3. Changes to iTunes
Apple has announced that all four major music labels – Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI – along with thousands of independent labels, have agreed to offer their music for downloading on the iTunes store in a DRM-free format (i.e. without copy protection technology). The downloads will also be offered in higher audio quality (256 kbps AAC encoding), which Apples claims will be indistinguishable from the original recordings. iTunes customers can also choose to download music onto their iPhone™ 3G over their 3G network just as they do with Wi-Fi today, for the same price as downloading to their computer. And beginning in April, based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be available at one of three price points: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29, with most albums still priced at $9.99.
4. NY Times Reports on Opera Performances in Movie Theaters
An article in the New York Times last month reported on the success of efforts by the Metropolitan Opera and other opera companies to use technology to help hundreds of thousands of people see live opera performances in movie theaters around the world. The article reviewed the positive impact these broadcasts are having expanding the audience for opera, but also raised concerns about the potential long-term effects on programming and ticket sales.
5. Radio, Artists Reach Deal on Fees for Internet Streaming
Radio stations will pay lower fees through 2010 to recording artists and recording copyright holders for streaming music on the Internet, under an agreement between SoundExchange (the organization that collects and distributes royalties) and the National Association of Broadcasters. The new agreement replaces government-set rates, which were deemed too high by providers of music over the Internet. (Separate talks with stand-alone online ventures including those owned by RealNetworks Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp. did not yet result in an agreement.)
The agreement with broadcasters sets rates through 2015 for local radio stations that provide simultaneous broadcasts over the Internet or that create new stand-alone Internet stations. Rates are being reduced in 2009 and 2010 by about 16 percent, then gradually increased to 0.25 cent per streamed sound recording by 2015. By law, the royalties collected are split evenly between copyright holder and artists.
SoundExchange and public radio stations represented by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced an agreement on January 15 for new rates to supplant those set by the copyright board, but the terms of that agreement were not made public.
6. Music labels fight pirates through Spotify
In an effort to minimize the incentive for listeners to illegally download music, major record labels have signed up to allow access to their music through Spotify, a European based service that allows users to “stream” music to their computer free of charge (http://www.spotify.com/en/). Spotify’s catalogue (which includes Naxos’ classical music library) is fast approaching the size of Apple’s iTunes, the world’s biggest online music service, leading many to question whether the dominance of the digital music market by iTunes is set to end. The “free” service offered by Spotify, which is not currently available in the US, has advertising on the site. There is also a paid service available on a daily or subscription basis, without advertising. Because users “do not own the music,” it cannot be transferred to iPods or other portable devices, so it is not clear how much consumer interest there will be in this approach.
7. Courting Youth, Arts Groups Venture Into Social Media
In a world in which young people have become skeptical of institutional “messaging” via traditional advertising, the capabilities of social media technology to market arts organizations represent a wonderful opportunity. Several articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chronicle of Philanthropy highlight how arts groups are exploiting technology in creative ways.
For information on how to set up profiles for your opera company on some of these social networking sites, go to the following links:
8. Boston Symphony Launches BSO Classics
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has released four recordings with James Levine, his first as music director of the orchestra. The recordings mark the launch of the orchestra’s own, BSO Classics label, and of a digital music subscription service. The latter, which the BSO claims to be a first among U.S. orchestras, enables listeners to download from the BSO website (www.bso.org ) an unlimited number of recordings in its catalog that have been converted to digital, as well as any new recordings. Subscriptions may be purchased for three months ($30) or 12 months ($50). Recordings are also available for download without a subscription, paying on a per-unit – or even per-track–basis. BSO Classics projects can be purchased only from the orchestra’s website until mid-March, when selected online commercial distribution services will also carry them.
9. MoMA Redesigns Website
The Museum of Modern Art’s new website is an almost complete reconstruction of how the museum presents itself online. It features livelier images from its collection and exhibitions, increased use of video and new interactive calendars and maps. But more important, the museum wants the site to transform how the public interacts with an institution that can sometimes seem forbidding and monolithic.