Friday, April 28, 2017

It's been 14 years! April 28, 2003: Apple Opens iTunes Store

Written by Brian X. Chen — 2003: Apple opens the iTunes Music Store and starts to revolutionize the music-recording industry, one song at a time. Between the mid-1980s and late 1990s, the media were undergoing a massive conversion from analog to digital. The music industry hated it.

Much to the chagrin of the Recording Industry Association of America, internet users quickly caught on to digital music as a free alternative to paying for albums. In fear of declining album sales, record labels filed lawsuit after lawsuit against online services Napster and for hosting digital music, as well as Diamond Multimedia, a Korean company that released an MP3 player called the Rio. Clearly, for the recording industry, change wasn’t easy.

In stepped Steve Jobs. The Apple CEO harbored a vision in 2002 of an online music store hosted by Apple that would be easy to use, complete in selection and reliable in performance. These factors, Jobs thought, would be enough to convince customers to pay for something they could otherwise obtain for free illegally. The store, then, would enable record labels to compete with pirates rather than pursue a futile attempt to destroy them.

But in order for online music to work, Jobs believed his store would have to allow customers to purchase music in a completely different way: a la carte. Convincing labels was hardly easy.

“When we first approached the labels, the online music business was a disaster,” Jobs told Steven Levy, author of The Perfect Thing. “Nobody had ever sold a song for 99 cents. Nobody really ever sold a song. And we walked in, and we said, ‘We want to sell songs a la carte. We want to sell albums, too, but we want to sell songs individually.’ They thought that would be the death of the album.”

Jobs started his talks with the big players first: Warner Music and Universal. Apple flew the firms’ teams up to Cupertino, California. In a boardroom at One Infinite Loop, Jobs proceeded to present his plan.

Jobs first reeled in the labels with one crucial proposal: Apple would sell songs through iTunes, music-player software that was then available only for Macs. After all, how could Apple, whose Mac operating system held only single-digit market share, ruin the record business if the iTunes Store took off?

After a series of long and painful negotiations, the two labels ultimately agreed they would play, but only after Apple agreed to bake in some restrictions (aka digital rights management): iTunes-purchased songs would be limited to being playable on three “authorized” computers, and a playlist could only be burned on a CD seven times.

Labels BMG and EMI soon followed, and later Sony hopped on board. Apple opened the iTunes Music Store on April 28, 2003, with 200,000 songs. (Simultaneously, Apple released its third-generation iPod.) In the first week, iTunes Store customers bought more than a million songs. Six months later, Apple convinced the labels to allow iTunes to be shared with Windows users.

Apple announced at its final Macworld show Jan. 6, 2009, that iTunes would cease selling songs encumbered by DRM restrictions. Though a significant step for Apple, Jobs was not present to make the announcement — he was on medical leave. The Wall Street Journal later revealed that Jobs successfully underwent a liver transplant. He resumed his post in June 2009.

The iTunes Store has expanded to include movies, TV shows and the App Store providing third-party software for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad customers. To date, the iTunes Store has served more than 10 billion songs, 200 million TV shows, 2 million films and 3 billion apps.

Sources: The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness, by Steven Levy; Wikipedia

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Friday, April 7, 2017

TONIGHT 4/7 join Eddie Nicholas, Adam Cruz and Glenn Thornton in Jersey!

We're at it again TONIGHT in Bloomfield! Come and join us at Ash Lounge, 142 Bloomfield Ave, Bloomfield, NJ with Eddie Nicholas birthday celebrations!!! #housemusic #JerseySound #MixtapeSessions #FreedomRadioHour #DWildMusicRadio #EddieNicholas

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spotify and UMG trade exclusivity for smaller royalties

Written by Josh Constine — Spotify has long refused to restrict new releases from its ad-supported non-paying listeners because it would make the streaming app confusing. It wanted all music available to everyone, always. But as it preps to IPO, it needs to negotiate better royalty rates with the major labels, and allowing this “windowing” practice is a bargaining chip it’s finally going to cash in.

Today Spotify confirmed that it’s struck a deal with Universal Music Group to pay the label less per stream, but only allow new releases to be streamed by Spotify Premium subscribers for up to two weeks, The Verge reports. Ad-supported listeners will have to wait. TechCrunch reported in February that Spotify would seek to renegotiate its licensing deals to pave the way for a 2018 IPO. Similar windowing deals with other labels could follow.

The result is a degraded experience for its free-tier listeners, but a boon to the startup’s long-term financial health. Users should understand that for Spotify to survive as an independent music company, it may have to cut some corners on satisfaction.

Spotify is the only top-tier music streaming service that offers an on-demand free tier, which is great for users who won’t pay $10 per month, and serves as an effective funnel getting people hooked until they do pay to ditch ads and restrictions.

Spotify is also the only leading on-demand streaming app that is solely a music company. Apple, Google and Amazon all make money in other ways and just offer music as a complementary service. Meanwhile, Spotify lives or dies by its royalty rates.

Yet today’s deal is a sign that Spotify has grown to a scale where it’s finally getting leverage over the record labels. Only because its unique free tier has gotten so popular can it extract lower royalty rates per song play by briefly holding new releases back from these users.

Spotify has four other ways it’s gaining power versus the labels as it negotiates new royalty rates:
  • Scale – With 50 million paying subscribers, plus its free tier, labels need their music on Spotify if they want to have a hit, and can’t skip out on the revenue it brings.
  • Non-music content – Spotify is developing video content like its Drawn & Recorded cartoons and new Traffic Jams in-car song creation mini-shows that don’t require it to pay out to labels.
  • Becoming a label – Sources tell TechCrunch that Spotify is experimenting with signing label-like deals with artists to pay them up front in exchange for a cut of their recording revenues, so it ends up paying itself when users stream these artists.
  • Playlists that dictate the Top 40 – Spotify now has the power to choose what becomes a hit thanks to its control of extremely popular playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar. If labels don’t play ball in royalty negotiations, they might see their artists absent from these trend-defining playlists.
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Facebook's Big Plans to Rule Video and Crush the Competition

Written by Rhian Jones — The prospect of Facebook taking on the likes of Spotify and YouTube in the world of music streaming is no longer a matter of ‘if’ – it’s a matter of ‘when’.

Last month, MBW revealed that the social media giant was hiring for a Legal Director of Music Licensing, based at its HQ in Menlo Park, California.

This individual would, we learned, be working closely with Tamara Hrivnak – Facebook’s new global music strategy boss, and a well-respected exec with history at YouTube and Warner Music Group.

Today, MBW has discovered that Facebook is now recruiting for no less than three new senior music-focused roles at its US head office.

These include a Label Music Business Development Lead, who will be tasked with ‘leading Facebook’s strategy and negotiations’ with music labels throughout the world, as well as ‘collaborating with our product and media partnerships teams to ensure a coordinated and best-in-class licensing structure’.

Tellingly, the successful candidate will also: ‘Work with Facebook’s product and partnerships teams to ensure a comprehensive music strategy that supports our efforts to make the world more connected on Facebook.’

The position requires 8+ years of experience in music partner relationship management (US and international) plus ‘digital music negotiation experience’.

The successful candidate for these two positions ‘will lead Facebook’s strategy and negotiations with international music publishers and societies’ in order to – and sorry to repeat ourselves – ‘ensure a coordinated and best-in-class licensing structure’.

Once again, the chosen recruits will: ‘Work with Facebook product and partnerships teams to ensure a comprehensive music strategy that supports our efforts to make the world more connected on Facebook.’

And, once again, each position requires 8+ years of experience in music partner relationship management – plus ‘digital music negotiation experience for musical compositions’.

So what’s Facebook cooking up?

The above hirings, added together with the Legal Director of Music Licensing vacancy plus newbie Tamara Hrivnak (pictured), would make a five-strong core music licensing executive team.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously said “the big theme and strategy that we’re executing is we’re going to become video first.”

Zuckerberg has also told shareholders that he believes creators of ‘premium’ video content “need to get paid a good amount in order to support the creation of that content”.

Meanwhile, Facebook is currently seeking a Product Manager to “lead the strategy and execution of Rights Manager, Facebook’s rights management platform for creators to manage copyrighted music and videos“.

MBW has previously suggested that the music industry could potentially strike a deal between Facebook and Vevo to help sate some of Zuckerberg’s ambitions.

However, could there be more to Facebook’s plot in music?

Doesn’t the description of a ‘comprehensive music strategy‘ rather suggest an audio, as well as video, element to any streaming launch?

Another open Facebook vacancy in California, for Head of Global Intellectual Property Operations, may give us a clue.

It reads: “With our focus on Media, Commerce, and Ads products on the rise, special attention to evolving our management of risk concerns for ads, goods, music, and video will be key tenants of success.”

See how ‘music and video’ are described as separate entities?

Elsewhere, a Business Development role being advertised by Facebook’s Virtual Reality hub Oculus adds further intrigue.

It says: “The Facebook Business Development team is responsible partnerships and large strategic deals across Facebook’s core business, Oculus, Advanced Machine Learning,, and Music.”

Here’s some pre-weekend food for thought.

Earlier this month, Spotify announced that it had reached 50m paying subscribers worldwide – a jump of 10m in less than six months.

The platform is believed to boast around 125m active users globally, making it the clear market leader in the music streaming space.

In December, Facebook confirmed that its Monthly Active User figure now stood at 1.86bn.

In order to accrue 50m paying music subscribers, it would need to convert less than 2.7% of this audience.

If you thought competition in the global music streaming market was intense today… you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

TONIGHT Thur 3/9 join DJ Adam Cruz, Cassio Ware, Duce Martinez and friends in Newark!

We're at it again TONIGHT in Newark! Come and join us at Ideal Restaurant & Bar Cassio Ware Duce Martinez DJ Adam Cruz and birthday celebrations!!! #housemusic #JerseySound #MixtapeSessions #FreedomRadioHour #DWildMusicRadio #DuceisWild #DWildMusic #WhatszzzUPSuperstar

Ideal Restaurant & Bar
219 Frelinghuysen Ave
Newark, NJ 07114
Phone (973) 824-9308

Click here to visit Ideal Restaurant and Bar on Facebook.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

SoundCloud unveils $4.99 a month streaming plan - how low can we go?

Written by Jefferson Graham — Struggling music service Soundcloud is introducing a new, $4.99 version of its music subscription offering, hoping the lower price will entice more folks to sign up.

The mid-tier service, SoundCloud Go, offers 120 million songs, no ads and the ability to listen offline. The original, higher priced service, SoundCloud Go Plus, is $9.99, and has 150 million songs to listen to.

SoundCloud co-founder Alex Ljung says the difference between the music selection on both services is "nuanced." Some artists, like Chance the Rapper, don't mind being on both tiers, while signer Adele is only available on the more expensive service.

"The way to think about Plus, is it’s the ultimate music sub package," says Ljung, "with 150 million tracks, much more than any other service."

Many of the songs on SoundCloud are submitted by musicians themselves, with first takes on their tunes, remixes and the like.

Apple Music says it has 40 million songs in its library, to 30 million songs on Spotify. Apple Music has 20 million paying subscribers to 40 million for Spotify. SoundCloud launched Go in March, but Ljung declined to offer numbers, beyond that SoundCloud has 175 million registered users.

Meanwhile, Ljung addressed January headlines that suggested SoundCloud could run out of cash this year and potentially be forced to shut down. "We’re not closing down this year," he said. "Absolutely not."

The stories stemmed from a statement to British regulators that “risks and uncertainties may cause the company to run out of cash," based on 2015's loss of $63 million (US equivalent to 51 million pounds.) The company is headquartered in Berlin, but is a legal entity in the United Kingdom.

Ljung said these are older numbers, and "we're not profitable. This isn't a surprise." He said SoundCloud was doing what many tech firms do—try to get a big user base first, and then bring in monetization.

"In 2016 our revenues grew rapidly--we'll see a 2.5X increase," he says. "The music streaming market is growing at an incredible pace."

There have been reports that SoundCloud was up for sale, but rebuffed by Spotify and Twitter. Ljung said the company isn't for sale. "We're looking to build a massive, strong, independent service," he said.

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40 Channels for $35, Google Takes on Cable with YouTubeTV

Written by Davey Alba — Google just joined the “skinny bundle” TV war with YouTube TV, a paid subscription service that streams a slew of premium broadcast and cable networks to your mobile device, tablet, computer, and anything with Chromecast.

Just $35 a month gets you six accounts and access to live TV from more than 40 providers including the big broadcast networks, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. Subscriptions include cloud DVR with unlimited storage, AI-powered search and personalization, and access to YouTube Red programming. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki calls it the evolution of television, and a bid to “give the younger generation the content that they love with the flexibility they expect.”

So-called skinny bundles include only those channels you really want, at a price that is cheaper than traditional cable. They also bring the world one step closer to the day when you can watch what you want, when you want, when you want, on the device you want. YouTube TV joins a growing wave of services, including Dish’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s new DirectTV Now, with a similar web TV offering from Hulu expected soon. And like these other options, unfortunately, YouTube still has some holes with its offering.

YouTube says it spent two years working on this, and reportedly landed its first partner in October when CBS signed on for the skinny bundle. Other big networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, are on board, but several premium channels, like MTV and CNN, aren’t. You can add content like Showtime and soccer for an added fee, but some content comes with restrictions. If you’re a pro football fan, for example, you’ll have to watch games on your TV or computer because the NFL’s deal with Verizon made it off-limits to your mobile device. And no matter what you watch or what you watch it on, you may see ads—Google, being Google, and its network partners can sell ads on YouTube TV to bring in additional revenue.

The company won’t say when the service launches, but says you can expect it in the US in the “coming weeks and months.”

Still, YouTube TV shows how far the company has come since its founding in 2005, when it was little more than a place for people to share homemade video clips. Today YouTube is the biggest online destination for video, with people watching more than 1 billion hours of video each day. And if there’s one thing the internet’s biggest video company getting into this space proves, it’s that such a la carte viewing is the inevitable future of television.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pandora Launches Personalized Audio Advertising - can it help?

Written by Music Business Worldwide — Pandora has signed exclusive partnership with A Million Ads – in a deal the streaming company says will make it ‘the first publisher to bring the dynamic capabilities popular in display and video advertising to the audio marketplace’.

Leveraging a variety of listener demographic and consumption data, Pandora and A Million Ads say they can give marketers two new tools to reach Pandora’s 81 million active listeners:
  • Real-time personalized creative at scale: ‘Build and serve personalized audio ads to listeners based on attributes like gender, age and zip code through a single tag. These real time ads also take into account variables such as location, time of day and weather, and allow advertisers to create thousands of versions of an audio ad easily and efficiently.’
  • Sequential messaging and targeting: ‘Capture attention by telling a story over time through sequentially targeted audio ads that provide listeners with new pieces of information about a brand or product. Campaigns that tell a brand story before asking people to make a purchase have been proven significantly more effective than ones that immediately focus on people to take an action.‘
“This is a natural extension of the best-in-class personalization we bring to the music listening experience on Pandora every day,” said John Trimble, Chief Revenue Officer at Pandora.

“Our massive data set, combined with A Million Ads’ ability to deliver tailored, data-driven audio creative in real-time, gives us yet another way to help advertisers unlock the power of audio.”

“As the industry leader, Pandora sets the bar for digital audio advertising and consistently offers marketers solutions that harness the power of music to effectively reach millions of consumers,” said Steve Dunlop, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of A Million Ads.

“Together, we will revolutionize what listeners experience from an ad-supported music streaming experience and deliver new dynamic and personalized ways to capture attention and drive ROI for advertisers.”

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Music Coalition to Congress: Fix DMCA's Safe Harbor!

Written by Emmanuel Legrand — A large coalition of organizations covering all sectors of the US music community has asked Congress to act to fix the safe harbor provisions in US copyright law if tech companies did not voluntarily agree to adopt measures to help address the "failings" of safe harbors.

The call came through a filing, submitted by Kenneth Doroshow and Scott Wilkens from New York law firm Jenner & Block, on behalf of 15 organizations. The filing is part of the call for comments initiated by the US Copyright Office in its review process of Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which introduced in 1998 safe harbor provisions. These provisions have allowed internet services to avoid liability for content posted on their platforms in exchange for complying with take down notifications from rights holders. The filing also comes at a time when the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, plans to overhaul parts of US copyright law.

For the music community, the DMCA's safe harbor provisions are one-sided instead of being balanced, and have led to a slow erosion of the value of music, exemplified by the small amount of royalties paid by video streaming platform YouTube to rights holders, or by the absence of licensing deals in place with FaceBook.

In the filing, the signatories claim that the DMCA safe harbor "suffer from numerous key failings that have resulted in a heavily skewed playing field where service providers can either comply with their minimal safe harbor obligations—and thereby obtain immunity from damages liability and avoid obtaining licenses from copyright owners—or use the safe harbor strategically in licensing negotiations with copyright owners to extract rates far below fair market value."

The remedy, according to the filing, is in the hands of service providers, who could "help to restore much of the balance Congress intended to strike by agreeing to adopt standard technical measures and/or voluntary measures to address the DMCA safe harbor's key failings."

However, if said technology companies were not actively seeking such balance, action from Congress would be needed. The filing concludes: "The Music Community stands ready to work with service providers and other copyright owners on the development and implementation of standard technical measures and voluntary measures. However, to the extent such measures are not forthcoming, legislative solutions will be necessary to restore the balance Congress intended."

The submitting organizations include: American Federation of Musicians; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music, Inc.; Content Creators Coalition; Global Music Rights; Living Legends Foundation; Music Managers Forum – United States; Nashville Songwriters Association International; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences; National Music Publishers’ Association; Recording Industry Association of America; Rhythm and Blues Foundation; Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; SESAC Holdings, Inc.; and SoundExchange.

At the same time, singer, songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett has submitted a video calling for reforms to the DMCA's notice-and-takedown process as part of the US Copyright Office’s review of Section 512. Burnett is also Advisory Board Member of the Content Creators Coalition, or c3, an artist-run non-profit advocacy group representing creators in the digital landscape.

In the video, Burnett, claimed that, for artists and creators, "instead of amplifying our voices to lead the fight for change, it [the Internet] undermines and silences us." The problem, according to Burnett comes from the DMCA provisions on safe harbors that were "supposed to balance the Internet’s openness with creators’ ability to earn a living wage from their work." But his verdict is blunt: "Those safe harbors have failed."

He subsequently urged policy-makers to fix the DMCA's safe harbor provisions and offered a way forward: "The safe harbors must be restored – so only responsible actors earn their protection, not those who actively profit from the abuse and exploitation of creators’ work. Technology must be enlisted to make the system work better, not to roadblock progress in a pointless arms race of whack a mole and digital deception. Creators must be given meaningful tools to earn a living from their art."

He concluded: “Everyone with a stake in the Internet’s success and the health of our creative democracy must work together to make this right. It’s time for Congress to close the loopholes in section 512 of the DMCA. Our culture is at stake.”

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Apple Music. Facebook and Comcast make mobile video moves

Written by Jonathan Takiff — With Xfinity Stream, Comcast has some new ammunition in the ever-escalating war for mobile viewers' eyeballs. A recent announcement of this improved mobile-video app for subscribers comes during the same week that major mobile-phone providers have proffered new or improved subscription offerings with an all-you-can-stream option, appealing to those on-the-go viewers.

Also, two high-profile online services not normally associated with video - Apple Music and Facebook - have just shared plans to make and push original video content to their user base.

Launching Feb. 28 as the successor to the current Xfinity TV App, the Stream upgrade will fine-tune and enhance the added availability of subscribers' channel lineups on their phones, tablets, and laptops. New to the mobile app is "X1-like" functionality, including the ability to navigate the app in Spanish as well as English, to search content by categories, access content ratings and reviews (from Common Sense Media), and customize parental controls.

When viewing out of the house, subscribers will now have access to more than 200 live channels, including 95 that were not on the streaming service just a year ago. Network TV channel content remains rare at present for "away" viewing but is accessible when the Xfinity Stream app is running on a non-TV device inside the subscriber's residence.

Xfinity Stream also will offer for the first time mobile access to 50 specialty audio channels from Horsham-based Music Choice. It will also offer polished, popular features including on-the-go viewing and remote programming of DVR recordings, on-demand access to more than 40,000 movies and TV shows, and "thousands" of choices available for downloading and viewing on a device where connectivity is slow or nonexistent.

For voracious mobile viewers willing to pay the freight, Verizon Wireless announced for the first time in six years its phone subscription plans with "unlimited data" built in, priced at $80 for a single-user subscription. It's a decent deal for heavy streaming video users who regularly exceed their 5GB monthly data cap and suffer surcharges. A day later, T-Mobile counterpunched with an enhanced and cheaper version of its own, unlimited data deal. Not incidentally, both offerings will deliver video content in data-intensive high-definition form, rather than compressing it to a lower bit-rate standard-definition form. Users might not see much improvement on a phone screen, but certainly will on a larger, high-resolution tablet or computer display.

Living up to the Ray Davies tune "Everybody's in Show-Biz," both Facebook and Apple Music are now raising challenges to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube by backing the production of original video content and making it more accessible to their base.

Last year, Facebook struck one-year deals with media companies and celebrities to create videos for its nascent Facebook Live feature. This year, those companies are saying that Facebook is more interested in developing exclusive, original, content, along the lines of scripted shows, game shows, and sports. This week, it announced that videos streaming on Facebook through a users' news feed will now start playing the soundtrack as you land or scroll past. (Do you prefer peace and quiet? You'll need to go into the Facebook settings to make silent movies the default.)

Also underscoring the social-media giant's enhanced agenda is a new Facebook video app for TV, rolling out soon to app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV "with more platforms to come," said Facebook's announcement. "You can watch videos shared by friends or pages you follow, top live videos from around the world, and recommend videos based on your interests. You can also catch up on videos you've saved to watch later, as well as revisit videos you've watched, shared, or uploaded."

During the "Grammys" broadcast, Apple previewed the first show "Carpool Karaoke" (a spin-off of late-night TV host James Corden's running sketch) to be available to Apple Music subscribers in April as part of the $10-a-month fee. Other original videos, including scripted dramas and the reality TV series "Planet of the Apps," are also forthcoming, starting in the spring, said Jimmy Iovine, chief of the Apple Music service.

"There are a bunch of projects. We're in it," Iovine shared with a reporter recedntly, suggesting the evolution of the streaming-music service into more of a cultural platform "with video and other things I can't talk about."

Next stop, "Jersey Shore - Second Generation"?

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