Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Music In The Cloud - 3 Companies To Watch

The "cloud" is a synonym for off-sight computer storage accessed by the Internet. So many companies have huge server farms with excess storage capacity that they're making available in order for you, your band, or your company to store your data securely. You actually do this already with any company that hosts your website.

But storing your music "in the cloud" is something new altogether. What that means is that all the music that you own no longer needs to be stored locally and can be accessed at any time from the secure cloud storage via the Internet.

So why is that useful? Right now, if you have 20 gigs worth of music stored on your laptop, you can only copy some of it to your phone and iPad, and if you have a desktop computer, that same 20 gig also has to be stored there, taking up twice the storage space. Wouldn't it be easier if you had all your music stored somewhere else that you could access at any time with any device connected to the Internet? That's the idea of music in the cloud.

While it's only a matter of time until iTunes and Amazon jumps into this area of the business, there a 3 companies that are already there. The following is from a 6/28/10 article in the Technology section of the New York Times by Brad Smith that describes what available in the cloud right now.

mSpot. A mobile media company based in Palo Alto, Calif., mSpot is rolling out a so-called “music locker” service on Monday. Users of the service can upload their music collections to the Web and stream their songs to any PC, Macintosh and soon, a variety of mobile devices (starting with Android; an iPhone app is on the way.) The first two gigabytes of storage (around 1600 songs) are free, and there’s a variety of fees for extra storage.
It seems to me that mSpot is taking a legal risk here: it has not secured special cloud music licenses from music labels and publishers. Darren Tsui, mSpot’s chief executive, says the company does not have to, since consumers have a “fair use” right to make a  copy of their media collection, and mSpot is storing separate copies of everyone’s songs in their own individual online locker. Still, Mp3Tunes.com, a similar service founded by music pioneer Michael Robertson, was sued by EMI back in 2007 and that litigation is still going on.
eMusic. The 12-year-old Internet music store has one of the most complex propositions in the digital music scene. Its 400,000 subscribers pay a set monthly fee, starting at $11.99, entitling them to download a certain number of songs per month at an average price that amounts to around half what songs cost on iTunes. The service is known for offering unencrypted music files from mostly indie record labels. In the last year, Sony Music, then Warner Music, agreed to license selections from their catalog to the service.
Though eMusic is not showing much subscriber growth, it says it is breaking even, and its private equity owners, Dimensional Associates, seem to have high hopes for the company. A deal between eMusic and the largest music label, Universal Music, for Universal’s back catalog, is “imminent,” said a person briefed on eMusic’s plans, who asked for anonymity because the discussions are confidential. This person said that the labels are increasingly giving eMusic the latest songs, not just back catalog. The person added that eMusic is also working on a cloud music service to let users access their music collections from any computer or mobile device. It could be introduced early next year.
Thumbplay MusicThis New York-based company is more widely known for selling ringtones and video games on mobile phones. Earlier this year, it introduced a mobile music service for BlackBerrys and Android phones; earlier this month, it added an iPhone application to the mix. The service costs $9.99 a month and entitles subscribers to unlimited access to over 9 million songs from all the major and independent music labels.
Evan Schwartz, Thumbplay’s chief executive, calls this “the first cloud-based music service to be live across all mobile platforms.” Mr. Schwartz, who incidentally recently hired Pablo Calamera, former Apple MobileMe chief, as Thumbplay’s chief technology officer, concedes that Apple is the competitor to watch in the digital music market.  “The thing about Apple, though,” he said, “they will launch a cloud music service that only works on their hardware. That leaves wide open the other tens of millions of smartphones that are sold everywhere.”
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