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Technology News of Note

September 2013

  1. A Pay-What-You-Can Music Model

    Musicians Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi have developed a novel plan, a subscription Web site, Rabbit Rabbit Radio, to distribute new music by their latest band, Rabbit Rabbit.  The plan was to release a new song for subscribers on the first of every month, with accompanying video clips, slide shows and photo albums; information about the making of the track; and essays on various subjects.  Past releases can be explored in their online archives.  Subscribers pay $2 to $5 a month. (There is no difference in access; it’s a matter of paying what you can.)   So far, after 18 months, Rabbit Rabbit Radio has nearly 900 subscribers, with a goal of increasing their subscription list by 500 listeners a year and eventually making the site a small part of their monthly income.  (Source: New York Times)

  2. If CDs cost £8 ($12) where does the money go?

    Despite digital's complete dominance of the singles market, most albums are still bought on CD. The average cost is £8 ($12.50), but where does the money go for a typical CD sold in the U.K.?  According to music agent Jonathan Shalit, about 13% goes to the artists, 30% goes to the label, 17% to the British government in the form of VAT (applied at 20% and therefore 1/6 of purchase price). About 17% goes to the retailer, while the rest goes to manufacturers (9%), distributors (8%) and copyright (6%).    (Source: BBC News)

  3. Bounty on a Budget

    Naxos – once known as a budget record label of obscure works by relatively unknown artists – now stands for a gigantic new force in classical recordings, uniquely in tune with the markets, technology and listening habits of our time.   Founded by the German-born, Hong Kong-based maverick Klaus Heymann, the Naxos empire stands on three pillars. First: a budget-CD label—once belittled, now showered with prizes. Second: a distribution network—founded because existing distributors refused to do business with Naxos, now the go-to conduit for classical-indie-CD labels and producers of opera DVDs galore. And third: what bills itself as the world's first subscription streaming service, running to 85,000 CDs on some 250 labels, 1¼ million tracks in all, the lot available on demand for about 85 cents a day. Some 800 CDs' worth of music is added monthly.   (Source: Wall Street Journal)

  4. Saving Classical Music: An App for That?

    Although Classical music in the 21st century has seemed in a precarious state, recent news items also hint at a possible countertrend.   Pianist Jonathan Biss announced the creation of a free five-week home-study course on the Beethoven Piano Sonatas beginning Sept. 3, offered through the Curtis Institute and online content provider Coursera. At last count, enrollment stood at more than 29,000.  More astoundingly, in May digital-software publisher Touch Press offered a sophisticated app for Apple's mobile devices that allows users to explore Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. And it has thus far been downloaded more than 620,000 times.   This raises the question: Could new media save classical music?   (Source: Wall Street Journal)

  5. How Ashamed Should You Feel About Using Spotify?

    The image of wide-eyed young musicians having their lunches eaten by rapacious corporations is pretty compelling, and the ongoing collapse of the record business makes it look even scarier.   But, maybe the perception that there are gross inequities in how music-streaming services like Pandora and Spotify pay artists is not quite as simple as it seems.  Before criticizing those services, it's worth considering who's paying whom when music gets streamed, and how that might change. Whenever you read a shockingly low number, it's also worth keeping three things in mind:

    1. "The music business" is not the same thing as "the recorded music business"—especially for musicians;
    2. Streaming music is not the digital equivalent of radio; and
    3. "Paying to play a song" is not as simple as handing a performer a check.(Source: Slate)

  6. Fast Forward: Assessing the classical recording industry as it exists today

    If you follow any news about the record industry, then you know that we live in interesting times.  The CD format, while not dead, continues to suffer.   Digital music consumption continues to surge, albeit unpredictably.   This industry-wide uncertainty grows more acute when it comes to the very small classical-recording sector.  And yet, orchestral recordings persist, made by orchestras at every size level and with a variety of means.   Symphony Magazine provides an overview of the recording strategies being used by orchestras today.   (Source: Symphony Magazine)

  7. Everyone In The Tech And TV Industries Is Passing Around This Speech By Kevin Spacey

    Everyone in the tech industry is passing around this video of Kevin Spacey talking about how Netflix (and other tech companies) will blow up the traditional TV industry, by shifting a lot of control from the content creators to the viewers.  In an edited version of Spacey's speech, he touches on how Netflix, which has produced a handful of excellent original series this year, has the potential to disrupt the traditional cable and network TV model of forcing content creators to make a pilot before accepting a show.  (Source: Business Insider)

Tech News September 2012

1.    Aggregators Help Radio Reach Online Audiences

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)

2.    Authors Guild Seeks $2 Billion From Google for Book Scanning

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)

3.    YouTube Re-Imagined: 505,347,842 Channels on Every Single Screen

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)

4.    An Elegy For New Albion, The Pioneering Contemporary Music Label

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)

5.    Streaming music revenues up 40% globally in 2012

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)

6.    Forecast: U.S. Digital Recorded Music Sales to Top Physical Sales This Year

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)

7.    Crowdfunding Gets Tricky for Amazon

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)

8.    How is crowdfunding changing culture?

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)

9.    Does Your Nonprofit Have A Social Media Work Flow?

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)

10.    How To Measure Social Media Efforts

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)

11.    The New Rise of a Summer Hit: Tweet It Maybe

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)

12.    In Singapore, site combats music piracy by rewarding users for sharing legal links

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)

13.    Klaus Heymann: Defy Labels, to Be the One

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)

14.    Pandora and Spotify Rake In the Money and Then Send It Off in Royalties

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)

15.    SoundExchange Releases List Of Unclaimed Digital Performance Royalties

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)

16.    Marcus Romer: Online audiences now call the shots

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)

Technology News of Note

August 2012

1.    11 Nonprofits That Excel at Social Media

The London Symphony Orchestra is one of 11 nonprofits sited for using social media “best practices.”  Some of the criteria used to determine the effectiveness of social media strategies by nonprofit organizations include:

  • Consistent use of a visually compelling square avatar across all social networks
  • Custom-designed Twitter and YouTube Channel backgrounds
  • Consistent publication of fresh content to a blog or website
  • Their website, e-newsletter, and blog all include links to their social networks
  • Their blog has an e-mail newsletter subscribe option and a “Donate Now” button
  • They consistently get retweeted, repinned, and reblogged and have an active fan base on Facebook and Google+
  • They have found the right balance of what kind of content to post on their social networks and how often
  • They are early adopters and boldly pioneer the Social Web

(Source: Nonprofit Tech 2.0)

2.    WGBH, the top producer of PBS programs, now owns Public Radio International

In a move signaling its ambitions to extend its clout and influence in public radio, Boston's WGBH has acquired Public Radio International, the Minnesota-based program distributor of radio programs such as This American Life, The World and The Takeaway. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the sale will help to stabilize the nonprofit program distributor PRI, which ran an operating deficit of $2 million in 2011.   (Source: Current)

3.    Europe Moves to Aid Digital Music Industry

The European Commission plans to introduce legislation to bolster the digital music market in Europe by streamlining the methods of agencies that collect royalties on behalf of copyright holders. Michel Barnier, the internal market commissioner, is expected to propose a bill aimed at resolving problems at the 250 collecting societies that operate in the European Union, some of which are holding back growth in digital music. The move follows the disclosure that some of these groups have lost money on risky investments or, in some cases, failed to pay royalties owed to rights holders.   (Source: New York Times)

4.    Concessions Entangle Universal’s Bid for EMI

Executives of the Universal Music Group have met recently with members of the European Commission to discuss concessions to Universal’s $1.9 billion bid for EMI’s record labels. The deal, which would give Universal a global market share of about 40 percent, has been loudly criticized by rivals and consumer advocates, who worry that such concentration could hurt artists and fans.   But for Universal and its parent company, the troubled French conglomerate Vivendi, a more immediate concern is that this week’s discussions will effectively set the value of the deal itself.   To win approval, Universal is expected to sell pieces of EMI or its own catalogs, including possibly Virgin Records and EMI Classics. To appease regulators, Universal could either offer European rights to music under those labels, or sell the labels outright.   (Source: New York Times)

5.    How 99% Invisible Will Change Public Radio

The hugely inventive podcast 99% Invisible treats the design of everyday things like a forensic science. In each episode, creator and host Roman Mars highlights some nearly invisible design process that you had no idea was incredibly interesting and then tells you why it is.   What’s unusual about the process of creating the podcasts is that they are funded by Kickstarter campaigns.  In Mars’ case, he is seeking to reach stretch goals both in the number of backers (5,000) at any level, as well as in overall funds raised.

But Mars has set his sights much higher than a single campaign. He wants nothing short of a sea change in public radio. Because it’s cheaper for local radio stations to play national content than to produce original programming, the projects that get funded are hour-long, weekly, high-production value shows. That leaves shorter, indie blasts like 99% Invisible to fend for themselves. But the growth of the Internet as a funding mechanism, as well as a distribution channel, is beginning to level the playing field.   (Source: Wired)

An additional article on this topic can be found at GigaOm.com.  

6.    The Importance Of Social Media In Driving Attendance

There’s a lot of conversation about the ROI of social media and confusion about how to explain its importance to executive leaders. Need help? This blog contains some information and data on how social media drives attendance to visitor-serving organizations (zoos, aquariums, museums, botanic gardens, theaters, etc).   (Source: Colleendilen.com) 

7.    Ten Common Mistakes That Arts Organizations Make When Using Twitter
Here is a list of the most common mistakes made by arts organizations, individuals and companies when using Twitter and how to avoid them:

  1. Don’t re-tweet all your praise. Storify it.
  2. If you want to mention someone and let someone know who follows you to see it, remember to stick a dot in front of the @user.
  3. Hashtags work best for long events. Make sure it is unique and short (and understandable!)
  4. Don’t create show specific accounts. Better to come from a persona/production company to build a sustainable online audience.
  5. Begging for a re-tweet. If your tweet is good enough it will get re-tweets without you needing to push it.
  6. Communicate with departments when announcing things on Twitter. Don’t cause clashes.
  7. Always remember the creativity within your work, this should extend to Twitter too.
  8. That dreaded phrase “Book Tickets Now”. It’s a weak call to action and we won’t buy tickets.
  9. Scheduling tweets might mean your followers will expect a reply outside of working hours.
  10. Always check your link works before putting it into a tweet.

(Source: A Younger Theatre)

8.    What cinematic opera means for the real thing

The touring patterns of the major U.K. companies are much more restricted than they were a decade ago.   This is partly the effect of tighter budgets, but also related to drastically changing patterns of demand.  Most members of this cautious and conservative audience are much happier trotting along to the familiar local cinema for the early evening or matinée HD broadcasts from the Met or Covent Garden, which provide close-ups of the top stars, enhanced sound, glimpses backstage – everything, in fact, except the raw excitement of being physically in the same space that it’s all happening in, when it happens. The cinema is cheaper, too.   (Source: The Telegraph)

9.    Why performing arts organizations are not app-ropriate

Don’t waste your money developing an app for your arts organization.   Only a handful of large performing arts organizations will have a large enough following to keep a sustained audience for their app. And then only if they can keep the audience engaged with fresh content, or say lets the audience stream an entire catalog of music.   A better approach is to develop a responsive design that allows you to create a single website that will adapt to the device on which it’s being viewed, whether it’s a desktop, a smartphone or a tablet. A site built with responsive design will automatically resize, and can customize content or options, for different devices.   (Source: Dutch Perspective)

Technology News of Note

July 2012

1.    SAG-AFTRA Announces Deal to Cover Music Video Performers

Dancers and other music video performers will get union protection going forward, SAG-AFTRA announced after it reached a tentative agreement with the major record labels.  The deal means that for the first time, music video performers and choreographers will have nationwide guarantees for health and retirement benefits as well as guaranteed fair pay, safe working conditions, and reuse fees.   (Source: Backstage)

2.    Air cello and more in 4-D 'concert' at a London museum

At Science Museum in London, an interactive digital installation co-developed by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra lets visitors conduct and step inside a virtual orchestra.    “Universe of Sound” uses Gustav Holst's "The Planets," heaps of high-definition video and a couple of Microsoft Kinects to turn the orchestra inside out.   Seeing an orchestra play live is often a one-dimensional experience. You hear the music, you see the motion, but most of the time you aren't close enough to take in exactly what is happening. Universe of Sound is a completely new way to experience an orchestra.   Each of the rooms in the Universe of Sound exhibition is devoted to a group of instruments (violin and viola, celeste and organ, and so on), with each instrument getting its own big screen.   This gives one an immediate sense of the physical and mental effort required for 100 people to make "The Planets. The team has also jury-rigged a Microsoft Kinect to turn it into a conducting simulator. You stand in front of three screens that show the whole orchestra playing and the challenge is to follow the beat pattern with one hand and control the volume of each section by gesturing with the other hand.  At the moment, the functions are quite basic, but it works well enough to give the sense of the aesthetic decisions a conductor has to make and the physical coordination required to communicate them.  (Source: Los Angeles Times)

3.    Giving Love, Lots of It, To Her Fans

The punk-cabaret singer Amanda Palmer held a party for her fans, to celebrate the nearly $1.2 million she has raised for her new album on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.  24,883 fans made contributions ranging from $1 to download the album to $10,000 for a private dinner.  The money Ms. Palmer raised in the monthlong campaign for her album, “Theater Is Evil,” is by far the most for any music campaign on Kickstarter, where the average successful project brings in about $5,000.   (Source: New York Times)

4.    Beats Electronics acquires MOG music service

Beats Electronics, the company best known for its Beats By Dr. Dre headphones, is acquiring the online music service MOG. The parties did not disclose the terms of the acquisition, the first for the company co-founded by rapper and producer Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen and A&M Records.  MOG, founded in 2005, offers more than 16 million songs available for free online – including its Facebook App – and by subscription on portable devices, LG and Samsung Smart TVs and other devices.   (Source: USA Today)

5.    Come stream with me

Clear Channel Communications, America’s largest radio broadcaster, announced a deal with Big Machine, a country-music label, to pay performance royalties on all its radio channels, terrestrial (i.e., over the air) and digital. The plan is for Clear Channel to pay the label and its artists, who include Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw, a cut of its advertising revenue.  The agreement indicates that Clear Channel plans to invest more in digital radio, the part of the industry that is growing. But unlike terrestrial broadcasters, digital stations are obliged by a 1998 law to pay fees to artists whenever a song is played. This skewed system has made life painful for digital platforms trying to build an audience, such as Pandora, which pays out more than half of its revenue in music royalties.  Only 2% of Clear Channel’s listeners are digital and 98% terrestrial, so the deal looks costly. But Big Machine supplies only a small proportion of Clear Channel’s music. And paying a share of ad revenues hurts less than paying per song. The idea is to see what this does to the bottom line before negotiating with other labels.   (Source: The Economist)

Other recent articles on this groundbreaking development include:

6.    Royalties From Digital Radio Start to Add Up

SoundExchange, a nonprofit group that processes payments for online streams, announced that it has paid $1 billion to artists and record companies since its founding in 2000, and that this year its quarterly payments exceeded $100 million. The payments reflect the growing popularity of digital music as well as new ways for the record industry to make money as sales continue to fall.   SoundExchange collects money from Sirius XM Radio, Pandora and other forms of Internet radio. For most labels and performing artists, this is the only money their recordings earn for radio play, since terrestrial radio pays only songwriters and music publishers. (“On-demand” digital services like Spotify and Rhapsody, which let users choose exactly what songs to listen to, generally pay record companies directly.)  

The billion-dollar milestone also gives some positive publicity to SoundExchange, which has been criticized for being slow to pay everyone who is owed royalties. At the end of 2010, the last date for which audited accounts are available, SoundExchange was holding $132 million, for artists who have not registered or because of complications like bad or missing data about which songs the services have played.  It also faces a challenge in the emerging trend of direct licenses between record companies and digital services.  (Source: New York Times)

7.    Twitter just threw a lifeline to the content industry

Twitter just achieved a holy trinity of snackable multimedia: you could already view Instagram pictures and YouTube videos within tweets, but now you can also listen to SoundCloud sounds without ever leaving Twitter.com.   If it sounds a little Facebook-ey, it should — this shows Twitter stepping up far more explicitly than before as Facebook’s most plausible rival.  For media firms, an app pact with Facebook is Faustian by nature: it may achieve virality, but it involves letting Facebook keep their customers within the confines of its walled garden.  Twitter, on the other hand, is all about links to the rest to the web. Yes, snack-size content like sounds, pictures and short videos will probably be consumed within the Twitter environment. But Twitter’s fast-moving nature will also lead a lot of people to click through to the original site so they can go back to their stream view.  In SoundCloud’s case, for example, the firm is not only getting its content out there more, but also gaining a way to invite people back to its own environment.   (Source: GigaOm)

8.    Broadcast exhibitions online to receive UK funding

Arts bodies will have to broadcast performances and exhibitions live on a new digital arts “channel” in return for receiving government money, under a radical funding shake-up proposed by Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary in the U.K.  He urged organizations to embrace digital technology to reach a wider audience and called for the creation of a new web-based arts channel, warning that future funding could be dependent on bodies making their work available digitally.  Mr. Hunt did not say how the new channel would be funded but he promised that it would not be a traditional broadcaster which might challenge the BBC for license-fee support.  The arts channel would be accessible through a set-top box streaming Internet Protocol television (IPTV).   (Source: The Independent)

9.    Medici.tv's First Ever U.S. Webcast of the New York Philharmonic

Medici.tv, the subscription based audio-visual streaming enterprise, offered an internet broadcast of “Philharmonic 360,” a co-presentation of the New York Philharmonic and Park Avenue Armory, which showcased a spectacular program of spatial music from Gabrieli, Mozart and Ives to Boulez and Stockhausen!   (Source: Medici.Tv)

10.    The Amazon Effect

An article by Steve Wasserman in The Nation, discusses in depth how Amazon has been able to exploit for its benefit the disruptive impact of the Internet on the marketing and distribution of commodities.  The impact on Amazon’s retail competitors, as well as the manufacturers of the products it sells, has been profound.  (Source: The Nation)

11.    Revamped Theatre Royal Stratford East website to live-stream rehearsals

Theatre Royal Stratford East is planning to stream activity from its rehearsal room live on its new website so that audiences can see what is happening inside the venue.  The decision to live-stream video from different parts of the building is part of a wider move by the east London theatre to make its redesigned website more “democratic”. Theatre Royal artistic director Kerry Michael said the new video stream would act “like a shop window.”  Rather than listing upcoming productions, Theatre Royal’s new homepage asks visitors to choose from one of four statements - I would like to see what’s on, I would like to join the conversation, I would like to explore your channel or I would like to get involved. The different options then give viewers opportunities to see videos made by the theatre and to upload their own video content and post their views on theatre and other issues, as well as buying tickets.  (Source: The Stage)

12.    The State of Online Music Discovery

Choosing music that someone else would like is more complex than suggesting toaster ovens or even movies. The reasons we like a song are highly subjective and can hinge on very specific, sometimes subtle characteristics. Thus music recommendation is a hard problem whose solution would simplify and brighten the lives of a huge audience - and that's a tidy definition of a worthwhile business venture. Some companies have tried to solve it by programming computers to identify songs a given listener will like (e.g. Pandora, Last.fm). Others use human judgment to match new music to a listener's preferences (e.g. Spotify, Rdio). An article in ReadWriteWeb evaluates some of the key players using each of these strategies.   (Source: ReadWriteWeb)

Tech News June 2012

Read more: Tech News June 2012

Tech News May 2012

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Tech News April 2012

Read more: Tech News April 2012