Tech News March 2012

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1.  HD, 3-D screenings can revitalize performing arts

More performing arts are finding their way into movie theaters. Ballet and opera, theater and orchestra performances are part of a burgeoning new field that the movie theater industry refers to as “alternative content.”  In today’s glutted media landscape, however, it’s hard for an organization like the Los Angeles Philharmonic to get the word out and “compete against Harry Potter and whatever else is happening.”  The Metropolitan Opera, under Peter Gelb, pioneered live HD movie-theater simulcasts in 2006, with NCM Fathom, the company that markets the Met broadcasts.  They have raised the profile of opera, created excitement where there was none, and in 2010-11, according to Gelb, netted an impressive $11 million.

Emerging Pictures, another alternative content provider, has supplemented its “Opera in Cinema” series with an even more successful “Ballet in Cinema” series.  But performing arts organizations have to think beyond merely getting their product into theaters. Simply being there isn’t enough, as the San Francisco Opera learned when it rushed into national cinemas in 2007-08. The opera has since scaled back to California and up the West Coast.   (Source: Washington Post)

2.  The DIY Copyright Revolution

For most people, the first things that were easy to create and distribute online—articles, pictures, music, movies—also happened to be material protected by copyright. This trained us to assume that we need permission to do just about anything in the digital space.  Fortunately, 3-D technology will soon give us a chance to re-examine the role that copyright plays in our lives.  3-D printing takes digital design files and transforms them into real objects one layer at a time.

In the universe of movies, music, books, and articles, the assumption is that you need permission to make use of just about everything (or that you have a reason not to need permission, such as fair use).  In the physical world, the assumption is just the opposite. In the majority of cases, you do not need anyone’s permission to copy, improve, or build upon an existing object. Broadly speaking, copyright does not apply to so-called “useful objects”—objects that do something besides look nice.   Useful objects can be protected by patent. But patents are harder and more expensive to get than copyrights and last a much shorter amount of time.   It is impossible to predict all of the ways that widespread access to 3-D printing could change our society. However, before it revolutionizes manufacturing, design, or anything else, 3-D printing may first help us regain a much-needed perspective on the role intellectual property should have in the world. (Source: Slate)

3.  Study: A Majority of Musicians Are Making $0 from Streaming Platforms...

That was the big thud from a presentation by the Future of Music Coalition, delivered recently at the SF MusicTech Summit.  "Streaming services are not a significant revenue stream for musicians, yet," according to FMC’s Kristin Thomson.  A survey by FMC shows that most artists aren't seeing any money from on-demand streaming services (such as Rhapsody and Spotify) or radio services like Pandora (i.e. non-interactive streaming) or it's not enough to make a dent in their pocketbooks.   Instead, the real digital breadwinner remains iTunes, by a longshot, which seems to be having a positive impact on musicians' earnings capacity.   (Source: Digital Music News)

4.  DSO says it set national webcast record with 'Live from Orchestra Hall' series

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra says its latest "Live from Orchestra Hall" webcast has drawn the largest audience of any live online performance by a U.S. symphonic group.  The orchestra said about 15,000 viewers saw the ensemble's recent performance of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances." New York-based industry digital media expert Vince Ford tells the orchestra that previous live webcasts by others have garnered about 10,000 viewers.   (Source: Detroit Free Press)

5.  Justin Bieber was found on YouTube, why not a conductor?

YouTube has been called into service by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra as it sets out to find a new conductor.  As well as asking for seven letters of reference and a resume, candidates were asked to send a downloadable video of themselves performing, which most already had on their YouTube sites.   Using social media to book artists or winnow out job candidates is on the rise as cash-strapped arts organizations discover they don’t have to travel to world to scout — or take on artists sight unseen — in this global environment, officials say.   (Source: Toronto Star)

6.  Pa. symphony seeks soloist via YouTube contest

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra officials insist it's not "American Idol" meets Mozart.  But its new video contest on YouTube does have at least one similarity: voting by the public. Videos submitted by instrumental soloists will be up for anyone to watch. The top four vote-getters will get a chance to audition for musical director and conductor Manfred Honeck. The winner — if Honeck picks one at all — gets $10,000 and a paid trip to perform with the orchestra at Heinz Hall this fall.  (Source: Associated Press)

7.  NPR Music for iPad: Watch Live Concerts on Your iPad

NPR Music has long served as a nice little app for the iPhone, but they have expanded on the idea, making an iPad app that is a little bit bigger and more unique.   Beyond the live streams from 100 public radio stations, there's also exclusive content like advanced access to albums and stuff like music news, interviews and reviews. What's particularly nice is that the app can scan your iTunes library and spit out personalized recommendations to make sure you keep on discovering stuff that vibes with your style.   (Source: Gizmodo)

8.  On my Soapbox: Digitization of Live Performance

ArtsJournal blogger Diane Ragsdale makes the case for performing arts organizations embracing the capture and digital distribution of their performances as a core part of organizational strategy.  She says that “The major institutions in this country are now quite large and hungry beasts, demanding incredible resources to be sustained. It is quite hard for me to imagine how we can continue to justify such expenditures in the face of the declining live audience trend.”  “I would argue that if organizations with the potential for wider reach (that is, they are producing work for which there is demand beyond their local community) can do it well, and affordably, and strategically, and ethically (paying artists their fair share), then they should embrace the possibility of mediated experiences, trusting that they can live side-by-side with the live performance (and decades of recordings by musicians that primarily make their money doing live concerts should give us some hope here). Or even better, that new, exciting art forms may emerge (think Dance on Film) geared especially to the medium.”  (Source: ArtsJournal)

9.  Spotify's Daniel Ek and the music 'dinosaurs'

Less than seven months after launching his digital music service in the U.S., Spotify's Daniel Ek found himself rubbing elbows with the upper echelon of the record industry executives who descended on Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards.  He predicted that revenue from streaming services such as Spotify will in two years return as much revenue to the industry as iTunes does today. Since launching its service in 2008, the Stockholm-based company has remunerated more than $200 million, roughly 70% of its revenue, to labels and publishers.  Spotify’s service has caught on worldwide with more than 10 million listeners who tune in at least once a month — 3 million of whom pay around $5 to $15 a month to access premium versions.  (Source: Los Angeles Times)

10.  The Philadelphia Orchestra goes mobile

One of the greatest symbols (and pleasures) of an orchestral performance is the program book. In collaboration with the Music and Entertainment Technology Laboratory (MET-lab) at Drexel University, The Philadelphia Orchestra is in the testing phase of developing a mobile application to enhance the concert experience—an automated real-time guide that provides “time-relevant annotations in a manner similar to that of a personal museum guide.” As the Orchestra plays, future audience members will be able to choose from multiple streams of information on their iPhones, synced in real time to the actual musical performance. Scrolling pages of the score. Flagging up a specific motif in the woodwinds. Charting a 3-D road-map to find out where you are in the piece. All contained within a single app. Oh and, don’t worry—ringers will be turned off.   (Source: Knight Arts Blog)

11.  Theater's Newest Act Is HD

The success of the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcasts in cinemas around the world has some New York theater producers seeking similar returns.  A new company, Broadway Near You, plans to produce three to five theater broadcasts this year, and to develop a subscription series for viewers across the country and abroad.  And a Brooklyn-based company, BY Experience—which distributes broadcasts for the Met and the National Theatre in London, and last year produced a broadcast for the Roundabout Theatre Company—is working on three more U.S. theater productions this year, the firm's president said.   (Source: Wall Street Journal – subscription required for access to full article)

12.  ACE and BBC name companies to serve up online theatre content

Bristol Old Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Sadler’s Wells will be among the first companies to create theatre content for a new online arts channel being launched by Arts Council England and the BBC.  The channel, called The Space, will launch on May 1 and will be available via PCs, smartphones, tablets and internet-connected televisions.  ACE is offering a total of £3.5 million in funding to arts companies wishing to create work for The Space and will give grants of between £15,000 and £185,000 to the 53 successful applicants.   (Source: The Stage)