Archive for June, 2007
EMI’s recently-appointed senior vice president of digital Lauren Berkowitz has confirmed significant success with the company’s move to sell DRM-free tracks through iTunes.
Speaking at a US music industry event, Berkowitz confirmed: “The initial results of DRM-free music are good.”
EMI began selling its music in high-quality DRM-free format last month. It’s unrestricted catalogue is now available for sale from 7Digital and Apple’s iTunes. In future, EMI will sell DRM-free music through Amazon and PassAlong Networks.
Berkowitz said that initial success with DRM-free songs seems set to boost sales of digital albums, as well as songs. She confirmed that sales of the legendary Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon had increased since it shipped DRM-free – these are up 350 per cent.
The other three major labels: Universal, Warner and Sony/BMG are reportedly studying the results of EMI’s experiement closely. Those labels still favour rights-restriction in an attempt to protect their content, but market pressure may force them to emulate EMI and join Apple’s iTunes Plus service.
Labels in the independent sector have been cheerfully embracing DRM-free music for many years now, and claim their strategy has been successful.
Another Beatle is going digital. Ringo Starr has agreed for the first time to release his Capitol/EMI solo catalog online, including 1970’s “Beacoups of Blues” and “Sentimental Journey,” 1973’s “Ringo,” and 1974’s “Goodnight Vienna, beginning Aug. 28. A collection of six ringtones will also debut then.
The music will be available to all existing digital music services currently carrying EMI content, including in unprotected MP3 formats.
Fellow ex-Beatle Paul McCartney took the digital leap this spring, releasing his entire solo catalog online, including his new album “Memory Almost Full.” All McCartney songs are available without DRM protection.
The Starr move raises further speculation that the Beatles catalog is next in line for digital release. McCartney said recently that a deal was “virtually settled” but declined to reveal specifics.
Once the scourge of the music industry, digital downloads are now officially “the way forward” for the “Big Four” record labels, Business Week reports. EMI, SonyBMG, Universal and Warner Music, which together control over 70% of the world’s recorded music, have embraced digital downloads, now that they have numbers to justify it, anyway.
Two years ago, music labels were making virtually nothing from digital music. By the end of 2005, digital music generated $1.1 billion in revenues in 2005 – almost triple from 2004 – which accounted for 6% of revenues earned that year, according to the International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers’ (IFPI) 2006 Digital Music Report.
What’s more interesting is that the music industry is well aware that digital music is increasingly becoming a mobile phone play, not least because ringtones – which count as digital music – accounted for 40% of digital music dollars last year.
In 2006 there has been a rash of new music services launched by cellcos worldwide. In Asia alone, all cellcos in China, Korea and Japan have music download services, as do most cellcos in Hong Kong, and in markets from Indonesia to Australia. SK Telecom went as far as launching a groundbreaking joint venture with Warner Music last month for a South Korean mobile download service. Others have partnered with third-party music services like Soundbuzz, which has cellco partners in Australia, Singapore, India and Hong Kong.
The catch is that while demand for digital music is skyrocketing, the business case is still rickety for mobile operators, as well as other service providers that want to offer music download services. Few doubt that there’s money to be made from mobile music services. What’s less certain is how big everyone’s slice of the pie will be, and how the music labels can balance consumer demand with copyright controls that may not always work in the consumers’ interests.
One chief issue for mobile music services is that mobile music is driven largely by ringtones, not full track downloads. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the sense that ringtones, ringback tones, music video clips and even music karaoke have been successful to varying degrees.
On the other hand, the full-track model is the one most players across the value chain are chasing.
This has been the case in Korea, Asia’s hottest digital music market, according to Philip Kim, managing director of investment and advisory firm IRG Ltd.
“Korean users aren’t paying for full song tracks. People spend money on devices, games, avatars, but not music,” Kim says, although he does add that music clips do bring in revenues.
Koreans aren’t the only ones not paying for full tracks. A March survey from research company Synovate covering key North Asian markets found that while two-thirds of users under 25 had downloaded music, only 27% paid for it. Across all demographics, that figure was 17%. In China, only 15% said they’d paid for digital music.
On the bright side, the same Synovate survey reports that 42% of respondents intend to buy digital music in the next year.
Meanwhile, a report released last month by Yankee Group forecasts that the fate of MP3 players will depend on replacement cycles as markets saturate. By 2008, only 10% of MP3 player purchases in the US will be first-time purchases.
Moreover, the other 90% of sales will be driven by devices that feature voice telephony and Internet connectivity, the report says.
ABI Research has reached a similar conclusion, as mobile phones designed for playing music start hitting the market with greater memory capabilities than ever. Many new handsets support removable flash memory cards with capacities that match or exceed the lower-end MP3 players on the street today. The Nokia N91 comes with 4 GB of memory. Samsung’s SGH-i310 has twice as much disk space.
“As the cellular handset becomes the one device that the world carries, the standalone MP3 player may well be left behind,” says Alan Varghese, ABI Research’s principal analyst of wireless semiconductor research.
Varghese adds that while high-end digital music players are packing as much as 60 GB of memory, there’s “a point of diminishing returns beyond which a user doesn’t care whether the device can store 2,000 songs or 7,500.”
Such data echoes the message put forth by handset makers that have been enabling a range of music features in new cellphones, from Sony Ericsson’s Walkman phones to Motorola’s new ROKR E2, due for launch later this year. Nokia is also promoting music apps not only via handsets such as the N series of multimedia phones, but also service applications like AirAlbum and Visual Radio, which have been commercially launched in seven markets each.
Handset makers say the numbers are in their favor. Apple is expected to sell 80 million iPods this year, while the handset industry will sell well over 900 million mobile phones – over two-thirds of which will have music player functions.
“The iPod started the wave, but we will be shipping 80 million handsets with music players in them this year, and 150 million with FM radios,” says Jawahar Kanjilal, director of multimedia experiences at Nokia Asia Pacific.
TorrentFreak, a blog dedicated to filesharing protocols, has just started a new T-Shirt contest – but a very peculiar one indeed.
Openly standing against Digital Right Management (DRM), the weblog has decided to take actions further by creating a contest on campaign slogans against this kind of music protection.
They received the desings which had to carry a slogan speaking up against the DRM protection major record companies use in their attempt to stop people sharing music on the internet. And now, the T-shirts’ designs are available for voting by the general public throughout this week.
You can still go to the TorrentFreak site and vote. The winners will be announced this weekend.
The site also states that “If you can’t wait, feel free to copy these images, and print your own T-shirt!” That’s what sharing is all about, hei? 😉
The musician Peter Gabriel has told the BBC about his ambitions for a new website that will distribute free music – legitimately.
The former singer with prog rock group Genesis has established the We7 website as a place that will benefit both music fans and musicians. Users will be able to download music for free, but adverts that are “grafted” onto each track will provide a source of income for artists.
We7 aims to be one of the major music download destinations within months.
“If you have really good focus, if you have a database of fans – however small – you have the potential for an economy that will allow artists to survive,” he told the BBC World Service’s Digital Planet programme.
“The other thing you have to look at is if music is all out there and available for free, are there any ways of still deriving an income from that music?”
We7 is not Peter Gabriel’s first foray into digital music.
In 1999, he set up OD2, a music download service selling individual tracks. He built it up to a database of approximately 350,000 tracks before selling it on to US digital music distributor Loudeye in 2004.
We7, which has the slogan “Don’t steal it – We7 it”, works using MediaGraft technology, a service that puts adverts onto music and video downloads.
Mr Gabriel said he hoped the ad-embedded approach would not put people off, because it would be geared towards advertising “useful stuff”.
But he said that more important was the change in attitude from record industry executives, who had previously baulked at the idea of legitimate free music downloads.
He told Digital Planet: “A lot of people under the age of 30 do not buy music anymore, and I think record executives are noticing their kids doing what every other kid is doing, and they, and artists, have to say, ‘how do we deal with this?'”
“Established artists like me are going to find all sorts of ways, and you shouldn’t worry about us. But you should worry about young artists coming through, and, in our field, world music – a lot of those artists have had 50-60% of their income from record sales.
“So if that’s gone, that’s a huge thing.”
Mr Gabriel added that the site was setting up a completely new model of providing a “real source of income” for artists who do not benefit from pirate downloads.
He hoped that by doing this, the site could occupy a “new territory” that sits between sites that sell music downloads and file-sharing sites.
“All this stuff is moving around freely, and I think that’s really important – it’s a great leveller for the world,” he said.
“At the same time, I do think it’s fair that the people who generate content get something for it. “And we’ve seen time and time again, where there are flat-rate payments, that artists are right at the bottom of the feeding chain.”
in: BBC News
LALA.COM today announced a new web-based service that enables users to store their iTunes music library online for free at LALA.COM. With LALA.COM, users can play music from anywhere, share it with anyone, and purchase music for their iPod digital devices for the first time from a user-friendly, Web-based interface.
“Before today music was ripped and trapped on PCs and Macs with desktop applications like iTunes. The iPod is the greatest portable music device ever invented, and as avid iPod fans we wanted to create a service that blends the convenience of the Web with the portability and functionality of a truly universal platform,” said Bill Nguyen, a founder of LALA.COM. “Lala unleashes the Web’s power for playing music and safely sharing songs without the threat of PC viruses, spyware and other risks that are present on illegal P2P sites.”
A beta version of LALA.COM is available immediately for hosting, playing or discovering music. LALA has reached an agreement in principal with Warner Music Group (WMG) to make WMG’s content available on the site.
LALA.COM will allow music fans to host an iTunes or any other digital library, have them universally accessible from any PC or Mac with an Internet connection and share a personal library with friends or stream others’ playlists.
It will also allow to fill an iPod from the Web – a technological first in turning the iPod into a connected, online device with loading from any Internet-connected computer. There will also be a service for “try before you buy”, where customers can listen to full albums without limitations and purchase music in either digital format for iPods or physical CD, which can be previously reserved for a small convenience fee starting at $2.99.
The original Napster ignited the digital revolution. The iPod enabled digital music to fit in our pockets. With LALA.COM, the Web emerges as the pioneering 3rd revolution, liberating music the way it freed email by liberating it from desktop software and enabling billions to access their messages from any computer. Now online music can be safe from viruses and more conveniently enjoyed from anywhere, whether at home or work.