Digital Music Store Focus –

Record Store dot co dot uk London based company Digital Stores Limited has been building online shops for various high profile clients for the best part of a decade (they were incorporated in ’97), and have put up their own record shop, selling both digital and physical releases. Their catalogue seems to include material from all of the majors – indeed, I had to think quite hard before I caught their search function out (they don’t have any Zetan Spore, a trance band from down here in Cornwall). Album prices range between £4.95 (indie mp3 album download) to £12.49 (mainstream CD order).

A nice addition to their retail arsenal is a signed exclusive section, where they list special artist-signed editions of new releases (as I write Biffy Clyro, Athlete, Idlewild and Maps are among the artists listed in this section). Prices don’t seem inflated from regular retail cost, so this seems like a great way of picking up something a bit more special for a fan who’ll appreciate having an artifact rather than just a download. Other than this little bonus, I can’t see much to distinguish from the competition – prices are reasonably similar, the range is pretty comprehensive, but you could get the same service from Amazon. On the other hand, I support them on the same principle that makes me buy food from the farmers market rather than ASDA, the smaller retailers care more, and I think small businesses are a good thing for keeping a marketplace varied, vibrant and full of innovation. Much as we are a smaller enterprise but provide an alternative digital music distribution solution to the bigger players like the Orchard.

The Eddie Kramer Collection – Waves Audio Signature Series Software Plug-ins

The second collection from the Waves Audio’s ‘Signature Series’ explores the mindset and production genius that is Mr Eddie Kramer. Kramer, through his inspired engineering and production, helped sensationalise contemporary rock music in the 60’s adding the quality of sound that, until then, rock music had never been truly explored with or revealed by.

Kramer has worked and helped produce albums for Hendrix, Led Zeplin, Kiss, Santana, Bowie, Clapton and The Beatles to name a few, which has clearly earnt him the homage of a Waves Signature Series.

“As a producer/engineer, my main function is to interpret the artist’s vision, and give them the sonic palette to help realize their dreams. If I can make that happen, then I’ve done my job.” – Eddie Kramer

Built on a very similar looking platform and interface it is clear that Waves are definitely attempting to keep the collection consistent throughout and many aspects of this new Kramer Series mirror those from the Maserati Series. The Kramer Series offers 5 plug-ins for each area of a classic rock mix.

• Eddie Kramer Guitar Channel

• Eddie Kramer Drum Channel

• Eddie Kramer Effects Channel

• Eddie Kramer Bass Channel

• Eddie Kramer Vocal Channel

I would have to say that the simplicity in parameters renders this edition of the Signature Series very task specific and will mainly appeal to lovers of Kramer’s work or engineers attempting to recreate the earthy rock sounds of the 60s/70s. Whereas, Maserati’s Series, although still not greatly, offered slightly more diversity in sound (I know I’ll get ripped for that).

Anyway, this is a great tool, worth a try for any engineer experimenting with a rock band, check the Waves website for the finer details.

Infuriatingly priced at $800 means I’ve only had a go at the demo whilst looking for a good torr…. nevermind.

The Lego Exodus: Lego Blur Is Here

So many bands are starting to become “stuck” (sorry, Lego joke) in the Lego trap, and so am i. To start off i had decided that everyone was just milking the Guitar Hero/Rockband goat as far as it would go. But for us its now gone full circle. When the Game first came out it was full of, who we considered, has-beens who hadn’t really released anything for a while, but some juicy bands are starting to sign up and now we find ourselves thinking, wouldn’t it be awesome if this band joined? Imagine a Lego Satriani slamming away!

The Initial line-up was Iggy Pop, The Automatic, Sum 41, Pink an other sickly pop groups like lego iggy popKaiser Chiefs and you seem to get the impression that they made the game for the hell of it with whoever they could “stick” in (sorry) at the time, a bit like Guitar Hero 5 really. Or the U2 Rock band if they ever get there “I’m Jealous of Aerosmith” way about it. But as you dig deeper you start to get the impression that The Lego Rockband guys have more of a sense or humour than that. Other acts include Europe (Final Countdown), and Ray Parker Jr. (The Ghost Busters Theme dude) which both must have been added for comedy value, surely. Some acts actually have some integrity too like The Foo Fighters and Vampire weekend. I wonder if Bloc Party will Appear! (Aw come on, that was funny). Here is a Lego Blur.

Sky Songs: New Music Streaming Service from BSKyB Launching on Monday

Sky Songs is the new music streaming and download service from BSkyB which will be launching on Monday. Sky has been developing this music service for the past nine months and the service seems to be shaping up ok, but there isnt really anything to innovative here!

The Sky Songs service is not free to use, but it does have some decent features which might be useful to a certain type of client.

Sky Songs is web based

For most people services list Spotify aren’t able to be used at work, mainly because it is a downloadable application which most corporate IT departments tend to lock down. However, because Sky Songs is web based  it should be a lot more accessible at work, unless your miserable IT department blocks the specific URL.

Sky Songs recommends music

Unlike services like Spotify, Sky Songs has the ability to recommend music too you. Once the Sky Songs interface is loaded you will see playlists created by its team of music journalists They range from introductions to new genres to topical playlists, such as memorial collections for recently deceased celebs. Sky Songs also includes a recommendation engine, powered by Gracenote, which will react to the songs you’re hearing with a decent suggestion of other tracks you might like.

You can mark your own favourites

With Sky Songs you have the ability to build playlists and then mark your favourites with a simple heart icon. Once you’ve picked a few favourites, the service will collate them for you, putting all your favourite artists in one place, as well as your most-loved genres and albums. Think of it as an auto-playlist generator, it’s much quicker than building a list of songs by hand, and means all your favourite sounds are just a couple of clicks away.

Sky Songs integrates with iTunes and Windows Media Player

Sky Songs doesn’t just stream music, you can use it to buy tracks to own too. They’re downloaded as DRM-free MP3 files, and will even drop into the correct place on your computer for iTunes and Windows Media Player to find them.

When you first set up your Sky Songs account, you’ll be asked which music management software you use. From then on, all your downloads will automatically appear in your existing music library, ready to be synced to your iPod, iPhone or MP3 player.

It offers more, for less

This is a biggie, and will certainly be the decider for some people: Spotify is already under pressure from cheaper streaming services, and Sky Songs increases the competition even more. It’s offering unlimited streaming from £6.49 a month which also gives you one £6.49 album or 10 tracks to download and keep. Compare that to Spotify’s £9.99 price tag, with no extras included.


The Self Indulgent Friday Playlist – Mostly Otis don’t know whether anyone else is enjoying these playlists, or how long we’ll carry them on, but here’s something to phase out your Friday in a painless, soulful way. It reflects my limited knowledge of modern soul, and the fact that I am a sucker for a bassline, Otis Redding’s voice, and ridiculously long mixes. Also probably that I listen to music on headphones rather than speakers at the office. If anyone fancies making a playlist for me then post something in the comments; if I like it, I’ll give it it’s own post 🙂

Nokia Comes With Music Numbers. Nokia is Struggling!!

nokia comes with musicRouteNote has been passed on the details about the user numbers of Nokia’s Comes With Music service. As of July, Nokia was really struggling with only 107,000 active users in 9 countries. This is just terrible considering how many Nokia handsets are in the market and what high hopes Nokia had for the service.

That’s according to figures sent out by the company to record labels and distributors. In the UK specifically, Nokia had just shy of 33,000 active CWM users in July, up from 23,000 in April.

The full list of markets breaks down as follows (sorted by launch dates):


UK – 32,728  (launch date: Oct 08)
Singapore – 19,318  (Feb 09)
Australia – 23,003  (Mar 09)
Brazil – 10,809  (Apr 09)
Sweden – 1,101  (Apr 09)
Italy – 691  (Apr 09)
Mexico – 16,344  (May 09)
Germany – 2,673  (May 09)
Switzerland – 560  (Jun 09)

This could be a good reason why Nokia shares arent doing too well at the moment, plus the fact that the handset market is getting a lot more competitive.

The team over at MusicAlly put the figures to Nokia and a spokesperson responded with the following:

“Comes With Music has been a live service for 12 months in the UK and over the last 8 months, has also gone live in 11 other countries. This is a very fast rollout for a service of its kind, especially when you consider the music is a mix of global and local content for each location. In terms of innovation, Comes With Music is a significant shift for both consumers and the industry alike.

“Nokia will continue to bring new services to market and we will continue to add further countries and partners to our Comes With Music rollout. We look forward to being able to share more details on this over the coming weeks. With regard to the statistics presented in your article, as per our longstanding policy we do not comment on industry speculation or rumours.”

Digital Music Store Focus – Napster 2.0 <

File:Napster corporate logo.svgNapster originated as a peer-to-peer music service in 1999, one of the first that gained widespread popularity. Unlike modern bit-torrent services it provided a connection between users through a central server, and this direct involvement in the file-sharing process rendered it vulnerable to a slew of lawsuits brought by (to name but a few) Metallica, Dr. Dre, Madonna, A&M records and Bertelsmann Gruppe.

These lawsuits culminated in Napster’s bankruptcy, and its purchase at the bankruptcy auction by Roxio (of CD burning fame) – who have converted it into a subscription streaming service. Users can pay GBP£5 a month for unlimited streams from Napster’s 8 million strong catalogue, plus 5 tracks to download and keep as MP3s. There’s also the option to buy download tracks on an a-la-carte basis once you’re subscribed. In addition to this, Napster also provides a free streaming site, with limited functionality, and access to three quarters of its catalogue. Users can’t make playlists from this site, and it’s a lot slower and harder to use than the subscription platform.

The subscription service is cheaper than Spotify Premium or eMusic, its closest competitors in terms of service, and the fact that all of Napster’s members are subscribers makes it’s income much more reliable than the advertising based model that still makes up the bulk of Spotify’s trading, (the Economist reported that only 40,000 of the 6 million users who had downloaded the free platform have subscribed to the premium service) and thus better able to provide a steady income to it’s contributing artists, were it not for the odd addition of it’s free streaming service to the mix. Napster’s operations seem a little confused, different elements pulling in different directions from one another; a steady income from the subscription service, with a clunky ad supported option detracting from it; a limited MP3 download service clashing with both and yet failing to make it easy for users to take music away from their PC’s. If they could centralise all of these elements into a neat platform and make it easy to use, they’d have a model that looked a bit like Spotify’s, but it’s yet to be seen whether that can be turned into a profitable business in the long term.

Spotify Squeeze Out New Purchasing Feature

Spotify’s Co-founder, Daniel Ek, recently has admitted, that “Spotify has not made it easy for its users to buy music, that is where we need to improve.”

Their first step to making these improvements comes in the form of easier access to buying certain albums. From today you will be able to click on any song that appears on Spotify that’s also in 7digital catalogue, which should exclusively feature a “BUY NOW” button below the accompanying artwork.

Before you had to click on the track to first right click and check if it was available to buy, then carry on with the dirty gumpf that is your web browser and try to be as patient as possible while you buy it. As well as making it easier to identify the albums that are available to buy, you no longer are sent to an outside website any more, a tidy looking window appears within the app, your shown the quality of the music, (kbps) and then given a gentle prompt into where your details go. Once you’ve clicked the right boxes your music starts downloading.


You can also find everything you have ever bought through the service, which sits in the upper corner next to your Radio/Play Que tabs. From here you can move them around your computer as you wish, they’re MP3’s so you can import them around as you wish, stick em in your iTunes or just put them in another playlist.

Spotify has also just released a video of its new features:

Disclosure: RoueNote is a partner of Spotify.

Digital Music Store Focus – iTunes

No prizes for recognizing that logo, this is the biggest music store on the web. The store isn’t available using a normal web browser, only by installing Apple’s proprietory iTunes software, relentlessly updated to include more efficient ways of getting you to buy more content of different types, for every single one of your lovely Apple products.

Combined with the iPod, Apple’s online music store must be one of the biggest success stories on the net. They were surprisingly late on the scene; MP3’s were invented way back in 1991, eMusic’s first incarnation was born in 1998 , and the iTunes store didn’t go live until April 2003 (a year and a half after the iPod launched). Five years later, in April of ’08, iTunes overtook Wal-Mart to become the biggest music retailer in the USA, and was reported by Reuters as selling over 70% of all digital music worldwide. The IFPI calculated the global digital market as worth USD$3783.8 billion in 2008 – conflating these figures means the iTunes store turned over $2648.66 billion on music alone: by their own report, they sold 2 billion songs worldwide between January 15th 2008 and January 6th 2009 – OK, so the IFPI comparison gives them more than a dollar a track per sale, which isn’t the case, but the figures aren’t entirely disparate.

Here’s a breakdown (drawn from Apples published stats) of how music sales have accelerated for Apple over the last 6 and a bit years:

Billion songs

Days taken

Songs per day

























To save you the horror of another of my poorly structured Excel ’03 graphs – here’s one lifted from the very informative Wikipedia page that unfortunately only covers the trend up to 6billion tracks. (If anyone can recommend a better program for graphing, please tell me in the comments!)

ITunes Store Songs Sales

The success of their online proposition has been underpinned by the massive success of the iPod – over 218 million units have now been sold, meaning that the average iPod owner would only need to have bought 40 tracks from the iTunes store to account for all sales. That’s less than 4 albums worth each, and I think I probably have a few hundred albums in my collection.

iPod Sales by Quarter

Fiscal Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
















































Fiscal Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4


Unless you’re a pretty hardcore nerd, you’ll be forced to manage your iPod through iTunes, and that shop is just so conveniently placed within the same piece of software that it’s easy to see how those track sales figures come about. Even accounting for a decent percentage of hardware failures, obsolescences and droppings into a pint of beer for those iPods out there (yes, I have had all of these happen), the iTunes captive audience (don’t forget all those iMac and Macbook users) is still 150 million strong and buying hard.

Track prices are relatively high, with occasional offers and a regular set of free sample downloads from artists promoting themselves. Apple users don’t seem to mind this, and it translates into pretty good profitability for artists selling through iTunes, 65% of the revenue from each sale is piped on down to the provider of the tracks sold, and there’s no variability in per track income as with the ad-supported streaming services. RouteNote can get your music on itunes without you having to pay anything up front.

Digital Music Store Focus – Insound

insoundInsound is a minor player with a lot of heart involved in its operation. They essentially act as a blog and record label, picking up and supporting new acts that are to their taste, promoting them and selling their music through the site. They’re a smaller retailer that survives by taking an active interest in the bands they sell, keeping their margins high (read higher prices to the consumer – MP3 downloads $9.99-$10.49) and selling other trendy stuff, badges, bags, books etc. If you can convince them that you’re worth selling they’ll really make an effort to put you out in front of their indie audience, with promotional tools like free MP3 downloads and custom merch to drag people in to buy your music. RouteNote doesn’t currently do digital distribution to Insound – your best bet would be to approach them directly.


Just to respond to that comment: a totally unfair comparison of someone who happened to be on Insound’s MP3 download front page when I looked, The Castanets, shows their album ‘Texas Rose…’ as being $1.50 cheaper on Amazon ($8.99) than on Insound ($10.49). Please feel free to refute me with your own research. I think Insound might deserve the extra money for taking an active interest in the bands they promote, and I hope they pass on more $ to their artists, but as a straight comparison, Amazon is cheaper (admittedly this is only one example).

insound castanets

amazon castanets