Archive for January, 2007

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Digital Music Group signs Olivia Newton-John

January 31, 2007

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Digital Music Group, Inc., a content owner and global leader in the digital distribution of independently owned music and video catalogs, today announced a long-term digital distribution agreement with pop music icon Olivia Newton-John.

Under the terms of the agreement, DMGI will distribute four of Newton-John’s albums, including “Grace & Gratitude,” “Indigo,” “Stronger Than Before,” and “Gaia,” to online music stores worldwide for a term of three years.

“Olivia Newton-John is one of the most successful recording artists of the 20th century,” said Mitchell Koulouris, Chief Executive Officer of DMGI. “With fourteen top-ten hits, five number one hits, five top-ten pop albums, and four Grammy awards to her credit (including Record of the Year honors), Olivia Newton-John is considered one of the great female vocalists of our generation. We’re proud to be Olivia’s exclusive distribution partner.”

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Vista offers music rental service

January 30, 2007

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Sanity Music is teaming up with Microsoft to offer a subscription music service which, for the monthly cost of “a couple of CDs”, will give Autralian users access to the retailer’s entire music catalogue.

The initiative was announced at the consumer launch of Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system and marks the first time that such a service has been offered outside the United States.

When it’s deployed in April, the service will give consumers an alternative to the pay-per-song/pay-per-album model that is the more common platform for digital music distribution – one that is dominated by Apple’s iTunes Store.

Exact details on the pricing were not announced but it seems the service will cost between $40 and $60 a month for an “all you can eat” menu of music. There are more than a million tracks in the Sanity catalogue.

The main service is renting music since the songs will only play as long as the subscription is current.

There will also be the option of buying individual tracks. Although no details of the pay-per-song price were announced, the current Sanity Digital music download site charges $1.69 a track – the same price as Apple’s.

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McKnight Opens Personal BurnLounge Store

January 29, 2007

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BurnLounge, the world’s first fan-driven digital download service, announced that Grammy-nominated R&B,soul singer and songwriter Brian McKnight opened his personal BurnLounge Store, delivering access to his acclaimed catalog of albums, including his current release, ‘Ten.’

BurnLounge is a fan-driven digital download service that taps the power of the personal referral from passionate music and entertainment fans. With the BurnLounge platform, artists and fans can participate in the music and entertainment industry by creating and managing their own online digital download stores.

Music fans, musicians, DJ’s, and artists can share their passions and personal tastes in their own download Store, while receiving a percentage of the sales.

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Digital Music inks deal with Apple’s iTunes

January 26, 2007

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Shares of Digital Music Group Inc. rose about 7 percent in extremely heavy trading Wednesday, after the company filed documents that outlined a three-year pact with Apple Inc.’s iTunes.

The Sacramento-based company will sell its video content on Apple’s widely popular iTunes store, according to a document filed late Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Cupertino-based Apple will pay fixed wholesale prices for each downloaded television program or movie.

Digital Music’s collection includes historic news broadcasts and classic TV episodes, including “Hopalong Cassidy” and “My Favorite Martian.”

Digital Music acquires the rights and digitizes music and videos and makes them available to online music stores, including iTunes, Google Video, RealNetworks, Napster, Wal-Mart Music and Yahoo Music!

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EU consumer groups join forces against iTunes

January 25, 2007

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French UFC-Que Choisir and its German counterpart Ferbraucherzentralen consumer groups have joined a Nordic-led drive to force Apple Computer Inc. to change rules for its iTunes online music store, including compatibility with other digital music players.

This battle for “a more consumer friendly licensing agreement for iTunes in all of Europe” started June 2006 when consumer agencies in Norway, Denmark and Sweden claimed that Apple was violating contract and copyright laws in their countries by making its iPod the only portable music player compatible with songs purchased from the company’s iTunes Music Store.

The consumer protectionist organizations are mainly concerned about the interoperability of titles purchased, better contractual terms, and liability rules. “Consumers have a right to play the music they buy online on whatever devices they choose,” explained the four organizations, who called on music sellers to take such clauses out of agreements and stop using technical restrictions to limit this freedom. They say that iTunes should renegotiate its contracts with the music industry to allow people to download songs without DRM systems.

Apple was given until September 2007 to change its polices or face possible legal action and fines in Norway. The deadline should be enough for the group to review polices, draft new ones and re-negotiate music industry contracts. Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman Bjoern Erik Thon added that the music industry is changing so fast that Apple might have to revise its policies anyway.

Germany and France are European giants. Germany, in particular, is a big market for digital music and this move may lead other european countries to join the effort.

A French law that allows regulators to force Apple to make its iPod player and iTunes online store compatible with rival offerings already went into effect in August.

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Midem puts DRM on the table

January 24, 2007

 

 

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One of the biggest topics at Midem this year is the effectiveness of DRM and whether majors will abandon the technology in the near-term.

Panel discussions and after-hours chatter have been incredibly heavy on the topic, though few could point to a concrete development ahead. And the labels themselves appear to be moving in different directions.

Earlier this month, there were rumours about a shift towards MP3s by one major while others adopt a protectionist attitude that will increasingly include locks and keys.

Despite the differences, labels are soul-searching for a way to boost digital sales, and DRM is increasingly being viewed as a drag on revenues. Still, a shift away from DRM represents an irreversible experiment, and labels will ponder the terrain carefully before taking the plunge.

“Labels are going to think long and hard before they abandon DRM,” incoming BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said during a discussion at MidemNet over the weekend.

In that climate, calls for a move within the next few months are probably premature. But if a massive shift does occur, labels would instantly level the playing field with Apple, a company that has steadfastly refused to open its proprietary architecture to outsiders. That sounds attractive, especially as iPod sales continue to leap ahead and the interoperability nightmare intensifies.

A bold step would also validate the model implemented by eMusic years ago, a company that has had iPod access from the beginning.

Meanwhile, competing music stores and players, long marginalized by Apple, could feel a lift from a DRM-free environment.

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Digital Music Energy Shifts to Cannes, MidemNet

January 23, 2007

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The action this weekend was in Cannes, France, the setting for another edition of MidemNet.

The digital music conference, once a small warm-up to the larger Midem, grabbed a healthy, international crowd and several notable speakers.  And of course, few could argue with a backdrop of the French Riviera and its distinctively sassy attitude.

At the Palais de Festivales, attendees rubbed elbows with a number of heavy-hitters, including Rob Glaser, Chris Anderson, and Terry McBride, all present to help navigate the current chaos that is the digital music industry.  As usual, the Midem conference dovetails the NRJ Music Awards, what Americans would refer to as the “French Grammys”.

The ceremony drew superstars like Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Christina Aguilera, and Lionel Ritchie, a nice injection of celebrity.  The result was a rather energized resort community, despite the off-peak and somewhat chilly season.

Ted Cohen, now head of Los Angeles-based consultancy TAG Strategic, headed MidemNet once again this year.  That lent a level of familiarity and offbeat levity to the proceedings, while frequent moderator Ralph Simon offered a strong knowledge base.

So what was the mood?  A sense of realism surrounded a great deal of the discussions, though attendees were deeply divided on where this industry is going.  Will consumers pay for music in the future?  A strong contingent argued that digital recordings are not something that will court revenues down the line, though leading digital players argued passionately against that sentiment.

Other questions were equally divisive, but everyone agreed that this industry is moving incredibly fast, and newer arenas like virtual worlds grabbed a major chunk of the discussion.  After hours, attendees dropped by hangouts like the Majestic, Martinez, or the Carlton for some deal-making, while others let loose at a number of different parties.