1. Symphony at your fingertips
The San Diego Symphony, along with several other orchestras including the London Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, has entered the iPhone app arena, with the announcement of a relationship with InstantEncore, the two-year-old company that developed the free application. Modeled after an application InstantEncore created in June for the New York Philharmonic, it offers users access to ticket and information about the San Diego Symphony through its connection with InstantEncore’s free Web site and the symphony’s Web site. You used to have to go to the concert hall to hear a concert. The new model: If you want to listen to a performance by the San Diego Symphony while jogging, working, driving or whenever, it’s only a few screen touches away.
2. Jazz At The Movies: Is This Part Of A New All-Media Effort?
Jazz at Lincoln Center has developed a comprehensive electronic media strategy, which they are testing with a recorded performance from earlier in 2009 by Willie Nelson, Wynton Marsalis and Norah Jones doing the music of Ray Charles. It won't be live like the Met's Opera’s simulcasts, but it will be in high-definition and slated for a multi-format release that includes movie theaters in the U.S, distributed by Digiscreen, as well as HDNet, Sirius satellite radio, a DVD and an audio CD.
3. 'Keeping Score' returns to KQED
For the second season of "Keeping Score" - the San Francisco Symphony's program providing classical music content to public television, radio and schools - Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas selected a Frenchman, a Russian and an American. The related website at www.keepingscore.org has a great deal of material on each of the composers and works featured in the current series (Berlioz, Ives and Shostakovich), but also similar material on the composers and works (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Copland) featured in the earlier segments of the Keeping Score series.
In what is considered the most ambitious production ever undertaken by an American orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony's "Keeping Score" is a $24 million, 10-year endeavor to produce original content on some of the world's most famous composers, and to do it in a new way.
4. Radio royalty bill clears Senate hurdle
An effort to pass a bill requiring broadcasters to pay performers when their music is played over the air recently cleared another hurdle, as the legislation gained approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The legislation has triggered a bitter fight that has pitted artists and the recording industry, backed by a star-studded list of lobbying performers like Tony Bennett, Bono and Sheryl Crow, against broadcasters, who have not minced words in stating their opposition over the airwaves. Each side has amassed a bipartisan list of lawmakers to make their case.
A similar Performance Rights bill was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in May, although it is unclear when the legislation will come to a floor vote in either chamber. The Senate Judiciary Committee's approval came in a voice vote, and some senators indicated that they wanted to continue to work on a few items to refine the bill.
5. Channel 4 signs content deal with YouTube
Channel 4 programs from the U.K. are to become available free of charge on YouTube, marking the first time a broadcaster anywhere in the world has made full-length programs accessible on the video-sharing website.
Under the terms of the deal, Channel 4 will make its service, 4oD, available via YouTube. YouTube users will also be able to access around 3,000 hours of full length programming from the Channel 4 archive.
Content will begin appearing in the coming months and be fully available in early 2010. All programs will be available only in the UK, free-of-charge supported by advertising. The partnership runs for at least three years, and the two parties will share advertising revenues.
6. The Song Decoders
Pandora, the Internet radio service "has hired a bunch of 'musicologists,' who sit at computers and listen to songs, one at a time, rating them element by element, separating out what sometimes comes to hundreds of data points for a three-minute tune." The company uses algorithms on this data to point a listener to music she might like, "minimizing the influence of other people's taste."
7. Digital Theater puts shows online
New U.K. company Digital Theater has announced that productions from high-profile Brit legit troupes including the Royal Shakespeare Company, Almeida, Royal Court Theater, English Touring Theater and the Young Vic will now be available as Internet downloads
8. Google may call the tune with its new music search feature
Google unveiled a new music search feature, which the music industry is hoping will direct users to legitimate digital music outlets and in turn help them compete with free, but often unauthorized, sources of music." It may also aid iTunes' competitors.
9. Classicaltv.com launches performing arts on a virtual stage
Canadian Opera Company announced a plan to record and broadcast all seven of its mainstage productions during the 2009-2010 season, working in conjunction with current partner CBC/Radio-Canada. The operas will also be available via streaming from the COC website and Radio 2's Concerts on Demand, for 12 months after each title's internet debut.
10. Shazam, Maker of Cellphone App, Draws Investment
Shazam, whose smartphone app identifies a song playing in a club or on the radio and lets users download it, is already profitable. The company makes money when carriers pre-load the software onto phones and when people use it to buy a song from a music service iTunes. Shazam also sells some subscriptions and mobile ads.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of the top Silicon Valley venture firms, is betting that Shazam will grow into a company that could go public. It recently announced that it was investing an undisclosed amount in Shazam from its $100 million iFund, which backs companies that develop iPhone applications.
11. Studios’ Quest for Life After DVDs
Until very recently, most Hollywood executives were loath to speak too openly about the promise of digital entertainment — the downloading and streaming of movies and television shows on computers, Internet-enabled televisions and mobile devices. Nobody wanted to anger retail partners or do anything that might slow the DVD “gravy train.”
But business currents have shifted. While DVD and Blu-ray will remain a huge profit center for years to come, studio executives are finally confronting an uncomfortable reality: little silver discs — for reasons of convenience, price and consumer burnout — may never recover their sales power. To grow, studios need to figure out digital distribution.
Disney has announced that it has developed a system to track digital ownership, called Keychest, which would allow consumers to buy permanent access to digital entertainment — a specific film, for instance — that then could be watched on computers, cellphones and cable on-demand services. Analysts speculate that Apple will be a partner.
12. Still Hoping to Sell Music by the Month
The idea of selling monthly subscriptions to a vast catalog of online music has met with only limited success. That isn’t stopping a new batch of entrepreneurs from trying to make it work:
- The latest and perhaps most surprising entrants to the field are the European entrepreneurs Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. In 2001, they created and financed Kazaa, one of the original peer-to-peer file-sharing services that hurt the music industry. The two have created and financed a secretive start-up called “Rdio,” with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Rdio is hoping to introduce a music subscription service by early next year that offers seamless access to music from both PCs and cellphones.
- A new music subscription company that will most likely beat Rdio to the United States market is Spotify, a year-old company that offers a free, ad-supported service but tries to get users to sign up for about $16-a-month ad-free version, which already has several million users in Europe. Spotify says it hopes to bring the service to the United States early next year, but it could look somewhat different here. American music labels are increasingly resistant to the idea of licensing their catalogs to any new service offering free music with ads, because they have already backed free music downloading sites like MySpace Music and Imeem.
- Another possibility is Mog, a three-year-old blogging network that recently raised $5 million, led by the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures. Mog has licensing deals with all four major American music labels: the Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, the Warner Music Group and EMI Music, plus thousands of independent labels through the digital distributors Orchard and Ioda. Based in Berkeley, Calif., Mog is getting specific about its plans for its “All Access” service, which it says it will introduce by Thanksgiving. For $5 a month, members can listen to as much music as they want from their computer; for $12 to $15, users can access music on their mobile devices as well. The service is a sort of cross between Pandora, the free online radio site, and music subscription services like Rhapsody. Users can listen to the songs of any artist and build a playlist with only that music. By manipulating a slide bar, users can also gradually add a smattering of tunes by similar artists, in effect customizing their own online radio station. People can then share their playlists from their site on the Mog service.