Tech News July 2010

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1.  NEA Report: How Technology Influences Arts Participation

A new report has been released by the National Endowment for the Arts, Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation, which describes the demographic characteristics of U.S. adults who participated in “live” arts (such as concerts, plays, and dance performances) via electronic media (e.g., TV, radio, computers and portable media devices) in 2008, based on the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). The report also examines broad categories of arts participation via Internet and investigates factors contributing to the likelihood of some Americans experiencing art through media. Finally, the report considers the relationship between media-based arts activities and other types of arts participation, such as live attendance and personal arts creation.  Key findings include:

  • Over half of all U.S. adults participate in the arts through electronic and digital media;
  • For many adults, electronic media represents their sole means of viewing or listening to benchmark arts activities;
  • A relatively large proportion of adults participate in benchmark arts activities through both live attendance and electronic media; and
  • Arts participation through media does not appear to “replace” live arts attendance, personal arts performance, or arts creation.

2.  Album sales plummet to lowest total in decades

During the week ended May 30, the U.S. music industry sold a total of 4.98 million albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan. That figure, which includes new and catalog releases, represents the fewest albums sold in one week since Soundscan began compiling this data in 1994.  Digital track sales for the week totaled 21.7 million, and are distinct from the album sales tally. (Source: Billboard)

3.  Online music moves to the cloud

No one knows what the future of the music business will look like, but a series of subtle shifts in software and portability may relocate the source of the digital music that you hear from devices you own to the distributors’ devices, in a seamless way that does not cause a material change in the user’s listening experience.  Whether the format of the music distributed is Internet radio (with selections chosen by DJs) or “on demand,” which usually charges a subscription fee in return for the ability to choose exactly which song you’d like to hear, none of some of the new services – such as Pandora, Spotify, and MOG – depends on downloading files or finding storage space on a personal computer. 

Lurking behind these new business models are two enormous companies that will likely change the landscape of online audio in a matter of months: Google and Apple. Google will soon offer a streaming music service for its Android phone that, like all of these services, uses the increasingly vital concept of the cloud—your music is all on a server, which you can access from any computer or smart phone, with little trouble and no wires. Apple, whose iTunes store is the biggest music retailer in America, bought the online streaming service Lala last year, suggesting that there may soon be an iTunes.com, a Web-based streaming system that will leave behind the model of buying discrete tracks.  In music’s new model, fees are charged not necessarily so that you can physically possess a file but so that you can have that song whenever you want it.  Whoever comes up with the most powerful and elegant version of the streaming model will have a very big portal. (Source: The New Yorker)

4.  Video killed the opera production?

Anne Midgette of the Washington Post considers whether posting video clips of opera stagings is actually helpful to a discussion of a production.  One reason to link to the videos at all is that opera companies themselves are putting them out there more and more as a way to promote what they’re doing.  Which is well and good; but she says it’s a mistake to equate them with a movie trailer in terms of giving you a sense of what to expect when you get into the house. Yet since many productions don’t travel, such videos are the only way we have to get an idea of what they’re like.   (Source: The Washington Post)

5.  World's first iPad opera

A never-performed work called Exile, which had laid dormant in the archives of the Australian Music Centre since 1985, has been commissioned to become perhaps the world's first iPad opera. The work – collaboration between Melbourne's Chamber Made Opera, multimedia arts organization Aphids, Amsterdam digital art clique Champagne Valentine and Speak Percussion – defies what many of us might consider a staid medium. After being recorded live with soprano Deborah Kayser, an ensemble of clarinets, percussionists and piccolo, as well as antiquated reel-to-reel recordings of a women's choir and a mandolin guitar from Gifford's own archives, the work will be filmed on location at Point Nepean and digitally recast by Champagne Valentine to create an iPad app that is an "interactive music video.”  But can the iPad do it the justice it deserves? Indeed, is the much-hyped device really a valid platform for the grandeur of the operatic form? Or is this just technology blindly leading culture by the nose?  (Source: The Age)

6.  New Charity Music Downloading Service

A new music download site has been launched in London, pledging to donate at least half of it profits to charity.  The “feelgood downloads” are the work of fairsharemusic.com, a UK-based firm that offers 8.5 million tracks with prices starting at $1.17 per track, a similar figure to the UK price for iTunes tracks.  (Source: http://www.fairsharemusic.com/ )

7.  Judge Sides With Google in Viacom Video Suit

In a major victory for Google in its battle with media companies, a federal judge in New York has thrown out Viacom’s $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Google’s YouTube, the No. 1 Internet video-sharing site. The ruling in the closely watched case could have major implications for the scores of Internet sites, like YouTube and Facebook, that are largely built with content uploaded by their users. The judge granted Google’s motion for summary judgment, saying the company was shielded from Viacom’s copyright claims by “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Those provisions generally protect a Web site from liability for copyrighted material uploaded by its users as long as the operator of the site takes down the material when notified by its rightful owner that it was uploaded without permission.  (Source: New York Times)

8.  With All It Considers, NPR Music Is Growing

NPR’s website site, at www.npr.org/music , features many artists who don’t get heavy airplay on commercial radio, from the soprano Renée Fleming to the jazz musician Fred Hersch. But big-name pop acts get attention too. This month the Web site streamed 45 shows from the Bonnaroo festival, including the sets by the Dave Matthews Band and Tori Amos. More than 40 can still be found on the Web site.  Recently, NPR Music went mobile, introducing an iPhone application that provides a platform for the more than 300 pieces of new content — from videos to blog posts, podcasts to live concerts — that are added to the site each month.  (Source: New York Times)

9.  For $1.99, a (Legal) Song to Add to YouTube Videos

Publishing a video with copyrighted music requires a license for the song. And securing that can be a cumbersome task — track down the record label, make a deal — especially for amateurs just looking to post a video of the family vacation. Now, the music licensing company Rumblefish is introducing a service that allows users to buy a license to a copyrighted song for $1.99. For that price, the user gets the full version of the song and can edit it as well.

The new service, Friendly Music, can be used only for noncommercial purposes — like posting family or wedding videos online. Any commercial purpose, like including it in a video intended to sell a product, requires a different license.  (Source: New York Times)

10.  Hulu Offers a $9.99 Subscription to Full Seasons of Current TV Shows

Hulu has lifted the curtain on its sweeping vision of the future of television, promising access to full seasons of TV shows on laptops, iPhones, iPads, Blu-ray players, video game consoles and even old-fashioned TV sets. The price: $9.99 a month.  Most Hulu users are already paying more than five times that amount for an unlimited package of channels from a cable or satellite company. Both Hulu and those established distributors are betting that people will pay for both.

Hulu’s chief executive, Jason Kilar, has said that what was free on Hulu — typically the five most recent episodes of shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and other providers — would remain free. The subscription service, called Hulu Plus, will open the door to more episodes of current and classic shows, including entire seasons in many cases. Both flavors of the Web site will have ads; Hulu has signed two sponsors, Nissan and Bud Light, for the introduction of the paid site   (Source: New York Times)

11.  The Digital Concert Hall on your television

The Berlin Philharmonic is now urging people to watch its Digital Concert Hall performances on televisions, rather than computers, by promoting the sale of Sony TV and Blu-ray™ appliances which have direct Internet access. 
(Source: http://dch.berliner-philharmoniker.de/)

12.  Stores See Google as Ally in E-Book Market

Google plans to introduce its long-awaited push into electronic books, called Google Editions. The company has revealed little about the venture thus far, describing it generally as an effort to sell digital books that will be readable within a Web browser and accessible from any Internet-connected computing device.   Now one element of Google Editions is coming into sharper focus. Google is on the verge of completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the Web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to representatives of Google and the association.  The Google deal could give them a foothold in this fast-growing market and help them keep devoted customers from migrating to major electronic distributors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

An interesting question is whether Google will next take the same approach with the distribution of music.  (Source: New York Times)

13.  How I Used Twitter to Live-Blog the Opera

Opera and Twitter: Could any two vehicles for human expression be more diametrically opposed?  And yet they kind of go together, as Dylan Tweeney found out this week while live-tweeting the San Francisco Opera’s performance of Wagner’s Die Walküre, a four-and-half-hour epic noted for its ambitious staging, bravura solos, massively overwhelming orchestration and ladies with pointy Viking hats.  (Source: www.wired.com)

14.  The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change

A new book by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter has just been released, containing a host of valuable information about how non-profit organizations can use social media strategies effectively to further their missions.  (Source: www.amazon.com)

15.  Twin Cities Orchestras’ Digital Strategies

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has launched a site (www.thespco.org/concertrecordings ) that lets fans listen to live concert recordings, streamed on-demand for free, but without downloads. Minnesota Orchestra is now offering free music downloads of selected repertoire (minnesotaorchestra .org/musicondemand) and next fall five major works will be offered as paid downloads, with the first movement available for free. The price hasn't been determined but will likely resemble iTunes ($1.29 per movement).