Heading to SXSW

Two things particularly struck me about arriving in Texas for my first SXSW – the first was the extra-wide wheelchairs waiting at the airport to ferry the extra wide Texans through the airport, and the second is the huge milling crowd of musicians with regrettable haircuts, skinny jeans and a stack of guitars on their luggage trolleys.

South By South West has become one of the largest events in the music industry’s calendar over the last few years, and list of delegates shows the festival/convention hybrid’s appeal. Everybody from eMusic to Billy Bragg is here (including some guy from AutoTrader magazine), playing music, pitching their services and giving away free beer to each other.

Beggars Group Sign Up To The Amie Street Music Model

Over at Crenk, they have posted an article about Amie Street and how they have just signed the Beggars Group to their catalog. The Beggars Group consists of labels such as XL, Rough Trade, 4AD, Matador Records and Polyvinyl Recording Co. This means a further 15,000 tracks to the Amie Street catalog.

Here at RouteNote we have had Amie Street on our radar for over 6 month, but it is hard to determine if DRM free Mp3s are in the best interest of the record industry or not. I realise they are totally in the best interests of the consumers, but will signing up to a service like Amie Street mean we arent able to sell as many mp3s, because all the consumers are deliberately heading over to their site. Thus, they know they only have to purchase the track once and then can share it.

These are the types of questions that are very hard to answer at this point in time!

Limewire Signs Redeye Distribution To Their New Online Store

Limewire has just announced that they have signed Redeye Distribution to their new online store. Redeye have joined Ingrooves, Nettwerk Productions, IRIS and RouteNote in the new online store from Limewire.

The deal adds 20,000 tracks from over 200 labels, including their own in-house labels, Yep Roc Records, Eleven Thirty, and Bonfire. Redeye’s catalog of tracks by established artists such as Lisa Loeb, Donna Lewis, Martin Sexton, The Apples in Stereo, Widespread Panic, Afroman, Chuck D of Public Enemy, The Donnas, and 2008 Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale is complimented by titles from newer, developing acts such as the Billionaires, Liam Finn, T.H. White, Malajube, and Bell X1.

Vivendi Has Just Launched Zaoza in France

Vivendi (Universal) has launched their own mobile music portal, Zaoza. It has been reported that the music portal also embraces social networking and file-sharing. The current price tag per month is at €3 ($4.40), which includes unlimited downloads of exclusive content from both mobile and PCs. Vivendi has also already signed Sony BMG to provide their content on the service. Zaoza has already launched in France and soon will be found in Germany then the UK. Vivendi are also reporting to estimate the usage of the product at 500,000 by the end of 2008 and 1 million users by the end of 2009.

So Much Music News, So Little Weblogs

I have always struggled to find really good music news sites. Be it either related to digital music or not. Why is this? Why are there so many music magazines out there and millions of people all over the world want to be professional musicians, but there are so few really good quality music news weblogs?

Anyways, here is my list of some of the best music news weblogs on the internet today:

Are there actually any other good sites out there that I am missing?

Myspace Trying To Sell Music Again

We have learnt that News Corp is trying to put together a joint venture for Myspace. This joint venture will be similar to their current video joint venture with NBC Universal. In other words the joint venture will be for content providers to place their music on the service and in return gain an equity share in the company. The companies involved would only consist of the four major labels, Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI.

Im guessing the music will be DRM free but will have some sort of ad support or watermarking to it. Since the Myspace deal with Snocap there has been no real use of the 7 million bands on myspace to sell some music. Im sure if this was done properly there is a chance for the service to become a real challenge to Amazon and hopefully iTunes.

Where Do Musicians Hang Out?

Currently for RouteNote we are in the stage of purchasing advertising for the site, both online and offline. This brings us to the point of asking the question “where do you musicians hangout online?” Im trying to build a list of possibly places in which to advertise our service to musicians who will actually really benefit from what we are trying to achieve.

Currently I have several options, but not sure which resources would be the most appropriate. If anyone has any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated and any feedback on my suggestions would also be great.


Other Websites

Imeem Has Acquired Snocap

It has been reported over at Techcrunch that Imeem has purchased Snocap. Both Imeem and Snocap are partners of ours and for all of our artists nothing will change because of this acquisition. It has not yet been confirmed by Imeem if Snocap will still operate under their brand or whether it the Snocap technology and assets will be placed under the Imeem brand.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes public.

Of Princes, Pirates and Peer-to-Peer

While Prince is famous for his eccentricities as much as for his music (I never knew how to pronounce that ♂ thing) his latest foray into the news has been more than usually self damaging. He recently launched legal attacks against some of the biggest names on the web, accusing YouTube, eBay, The Pirate Bay and some of his own ‘unofficial’ fansites, of breaching his copyright. These attempts to limit the unlicensed transfer of his material hardly seems compatible with the decision to give his latest album away ‘free’ with the Mail On Sunday back in July. If he is concerned about the level of sales he’s attaining surely giving his new album away to the entire nation for the price of a newspaper wasn’t the smartest move, and attacking your own fans is unlikely to be constructive under any circumstances. I will be watching with interest to see the effect of this giveaway was on physical and digital sales nationally and globally in comparison to Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want excercise with ‘In Rainbows’.

The prospect of success in this aim are debatable; YouTube has previously taken shelter in a ‘safe harbour’ clause of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act protecting service providers from acts committed by their users (inserted presumably to prevent the possibility of me suing BT for allowing that heavy breather to keep calling me), who must be responsible for their own actions. YouTube also apportions an amount of it’s earnings to combating copyright theft, and has a policy of removing any offending material from its site once contacted by it’s owner. The Pirate Bay takes a more impish attitude to these attacks, of which it has parried many, and it’s founders suggest that even if the site is outlawed in their native Sweden they will merely relocate and continue operating.

Whether his or any other lawsuits against sites that host user submitted content are successful or not, I think Prince et al are missing the point. Napster got taken down as the first head of the p2p Hydra back in 2000, and many other sites sprang up to take its place. While I don’t condone copyright theft or piracy in any form, the undeniable truth is that until someone designs and implements a legitimate channel covering the same breadth of catalogue and ease of access as the p2p networks there is no hope of slaying the file sharing dragon.

This said, the Spanish courts illegalised personal peer-to-peer sharing more than a year ago, introducing a small tax on media like CD-R’s and flash memory drives as a means of generating funds to compensate copyright theft victims with. and pay for policing. While I can’t imagine they’ll be able to catch many pirates, or easily calculate the value of damage done to copyright holders it is a piece of lateral thinking that I admire. Like the TV license fee levied by the UK government on behalf of the BBC it generates an income at grass roots level, enabling the enjoyment of a facility by all without specifically victimising individuals (unless they cheat the tax).

The ultimate truth that the internet has freed consumers to get their content however they choose, means that the solution to copyright theft must be to make the legitimate channels so much easier, better and more convenient to use than the illegal ones that everyone shifts over out of preference rather than the remote fear of prosecution. The people that are making efforts in this direction are the ones succeeding in the market and reaping the rewards – of which more in my next post.

Update: Warner Music Chairman echoes this sentiment.

13 Nov ’07 – Edgar Bronfman, Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group speaks to the GSMA Mobile Asia congress: “We used to fool ourselves… we used to think our business would remain blissfully unaffected as the world of file sharing was exploding. We were wrong… By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find… and as a result of course, consumers won. “

Fallout Again?

Excuse the pun, but the fallout from Radiohead’s decision to release their latest album on a pay-what-you-want download basis from their website has been widespread. As an exercise in self-promotion, it’s hard to imagine a better stunt, as they made headlines across the national media, and even weeks afterwards are still featuring heavily in the big music blogs. I’m listening to the album for the first time as I write, being among the reported 62% of people who opted to pay nothing for the download. Radiohead haven’t released official figures for the revenue from their experiment, and XL Recordings will have to wait and see what effect the free download has on the sale of CD’s and Vinyl when they are released in January. There will undoubtedly be more lessons learnt and surprises reported on this story. What is sure is that all eyes, and ears are tuned into the radio(head).

Update: The original Comscore report  claims an average per download purchase price of $2.26 – if we assume that half of the visitors to inrainbows.com downloaded, and (Comscore reports 1.2 million of these users so far), that’s 1.35 million USD straight into the band’s coffers. Consider that their setup costs on the website are likely to be in the four figure arena, and that they’re (hopefully) retaining all of this revenue and you can see that for the big players, self promotion makes sense.