Friday, 28 August 2009

Spotify for iphone

Well it seems to be good news all around in the Spotify camp.

Their iPhone app, seen by many, as the do-or-die moment for the company has been approved by Apple. The crux of the app is that it'll be a free download, but require a premium account to use.

This should generate £9.99/month for the company from a lot more users as previously the only benefit you got for being a premium user was no ads and a higher bit-rate.

This good news should give the company the critical and financial clout to make the march to the US market they've been planning on for so long.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Pet Shop Boys' mis-handling by EMI

Neil TennantNeil Tennant via

We're used to hearing and reading how record companies don't have a clue about a great many things. To hear how one in particular can screw up the only thing it really knows how to do - release and market an album - well, that makes for interesting reading!

Tonight, when I got home, the latest issue of Pet Shop Boys' fanclub magazine, "Literally", was waiting for me.

Inside, was the story of the release of the duo's latest album Yes, back in March. It read like a catalogue of disasters the duo has faced at the hands of EMI's ineptitude. To be honest, the guys have been INCREDIBLY faithful to a label that has shown them contempt and disrespect over the years.

The problems, well documented but worth talking about again, would make me think twice about any allegiances I felt for my record label.

The download problem
On iTunes, 2 500 copies of the album had been pre-ordered. EMI ballsed up the release date data they provided to Apple, resulting in the album being available for purchase and download mid-week the week before actual release, and for the paltry sum of £5.49. It was eventually removed from purchase until the following week, but this action literally deprived the album of 2 500 purchases that would have counted to chart placement. A number 2 in the charts became a number 4.

As Neil Tennant says in the magazine, "All of the pre-order scams worked against the album, which makes my blood boil."

It was new technology that alerted the duo to EMI's cock up. Says Neil Tennant, "Someone Twittered us saying, 'I didn't realise the album was out already'."

Eastern promise
The physical release of lead single "Love Etc." was beset by issues of low to non-existent stock on shops like HMV or Amazon. This was put down to EMI pressing the discs in the UK and shipping half of them off to Europe for some reason.

Digital Bundle problem
One of the digital bundles EMI sold via iTunes for "Love Etc." featured two Yes album tracks as a pre-album taster. The plan was for the purchaser to only be able to purchase these tracks only as part of the single bundle with an offer to "complete the album" when Yes was released.

The tracks ended up being available individually and the "complete the album" offer never materialised.

Printing cockup
The initial run of the Yes Etc double CD set had a booklet that was printed with the pages bounded the wrong way round. A web page was set up where purchasers could apply to have a properly bound booklet mailed out to them.

This isn't a tale of EMI trying to come to terms with the new economy or trying to work out how to survive in the face of piracy. It's EMI trying to come to terms with releasing and marketing an album and single without cocking it up. Something they've apparently done for about 100 years.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Duran Duran Musical

Nick RhodesNick Rhodes via

I'm not a huge fan of musicals, the ones where they hog-tie an artist's back catalogue into some dodgy storyline especially gets my goat.

So, how do I feel hearing the news that Duran Duran are following in the footsteps of bands like Queen and Abba? Torn. Part of me doesn't want to believe it, but as Nick Rhodes told Heart FM, "We are actually [planning it] - a few people have talked about it."

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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Spotify and the leaps of faith

I love Spotify. No two ways about it. They've ignited debate, extinguished piracy needs and shown the way of the future for music on the web and beyond.

However, for every article I read about them being the saviour of the music industry, I'm reading another about how their business plan is being crippled by royalty payments and not enough sign up for their subscription service.

Tech Crunch recently reported about various VCs takes on Spotify and the leaps of faith they would have to take to invest or not invest in the firm. It makes for interesting reading, and crystallises a lot of my concerns into one succinct article.

The biggest problem Spotify faces is they're " not only trying to break the online music subscription curse, they’re trying to do something few have done on the Web. To date people have shown themselves unwilling to pay for content and premium services en masse."

While I'm as guilty as the next person in not paying a tenner a month for a sub, I just don't see the benefits yet, apart from the charity of keeping the company afloat. I think when they untether themselves from the PC - either with an iPhone app or an android app, you'll see people begin to consider the sub a bit more.

Sure you can have a massive hard drive for all your MP3s, or you can pay a tenner a month and listen to something new everyday on the go. It's compelling.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Robbie to release new album, does anyone care?

Robbie Williams signed to EMI for a record advance and went on to release rubbish album after rubbish album.

Now after a three year gap, EMI announced today that Williams is being unleashed on the music world once more. Come November, his new album "Reality Killed the Video Star" will hit stores, prefaced by a single "Bodies" in October.

Anyone who knows me can testify how big a fan of his I was back in the day. However, that's been eclipsed by the material he's released since 2000 (i.e. the post Guy Chambers stuff) and the latter material has really made me reassess my opinion of his earlier output.

I can't say today's news is anything but a reminder that someone I thought had packed it in obviously needs to pay for a new house or his rehab bill.

The promise of a Trevor Horn production, a Guy Chambers co-write (he's probably the magic ingredient that went into the material I enjoyed) and the tease of a potential Sex Pistols cover for the first single (i.e. it shares the same title!) are about the only things I'm looking forward to.

We'll see what transpired when the new disc hits November 9th.

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There's more to the music industry than the record industry

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBase

As bands are proving time and again, the future of the MUSIC industry can be forged without the RECORD industry.

Of course this must scare the living daylights out the RIAA who must know their paycheque is a few months away from being an historical footnote. I guess that's why they're suing so many people.

The NY Times recently ran an op-ed piece by Charlie Blow (you couldn't make some of these names up) which talks about the death throws of the music industry. However, as TechDirt rightly point out however, it's the obit on the recording industry that needs to be written, not the music industry. For the music industry, the evolution is only continuing.

Sales for the recording industry may be down due to piracy, access vs ownership and single track purchase vs albums, but bands are thriving, finding new and amazing ways to make money. From live albums available moments after the gig, to "pay what you like" payment models, to harnessing the money making power of Twitter, the symbiotic relationship of technology and music has never been closer.

While the RIAA is suing fans out of existence, the rest of the music world seems to be moving on. When they've blown the smoke from their lawsuit guns, ready for the next victim, the RIAA may find that not only has the last person left the room, but they've also turned out the lights.

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

You Tube monetisation and the making money not lawsuits equation

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

For the longest time, the rule of thumb on the internet regarding the record industry has been, "do wrong, get punished". The overwhelming example is downloads, but has also extended to remixes or mashups, as well as an unauthorised soundtracks in video clips on sites like YouTube.

This rule of thumb seems to have been turned on its head recently with the phenom that is "JK Wedding Entrance Dance". As everyone knows by now, this video used the track "Forever" by disgraced "urban artiste" Chris Brown as its raison d'etre. YouTube's "please don't sue us out of existence" olive branch to record labels up until this point has been to disable the audio of videos that contain non-cleared samples, of which this is a stunning case.

For some reason, this video was posted unaltered and the record label instead chose to implement a new YouTube feature that allows click to buy links to appear in the video itself.

YouTube have documented the whole thing themselves in a case study revolving around the wedding video.

It would be nice to see the free flow of creativity allow to continue unabated and maybe throw the labels a little cash for ... hmm, no work.

Let's face it, anything we as fans do creatively is free marketing for this industry that really can't/hasn't/probably won't ever get it's act together. An industry that's only original idea in the last decade is to sue the very people it's trying to market to really needs to have its brain examined. The Inquisitor goes a step further and pulls a strip from Google for letting this happen, saying "Google’s response to the Wedding Dance video is nothing to be proud of."

Still, it's nice that somehow YouTube were able to keep the neanderthal wolves from the door, even if it is at the expense of its user's content.

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