Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mulve - The Music Industry's Worst Nightmare

As reported yesterday on Hypebot, a new program called Mulve allows free streaming of songs directly to a user's desktop quickly and easily. Since P2P isn't involved, this means that the user doesn't have to worry about uploading, viruses, or "getting caught." And since it's free, the price is right (at least for the user).

While this might be great for music consumers, it's potentially horrible for music creators and distributors. Getting music for free means, of course, that no one gets paid. An indie artist won't care if following in the Music 3.0 footsteps where music product is treated as marketing, but it cuts right at the core of  the income streams of publishers and record labels.

This isn't the first free streaming service and it probably wont be the last. Grooveshark is another service that does somewhat the same thing, as it searches the web for the title that your looking for, then provies a number of choices for you to play. Eventually the RIAA legal team is all over these services, so enjoy them while you can.

You don't have to register for Mulve, and only need to download a 2MB zip file that includes the installer itself and a text file regarding donations. Note that it's PC only at this time, so Mac heads still must use Grooveshark or, if you want to pay, iTunes.

Here is how the creators describe Mulve and themselves:
"Originating from computer adept backgrounds, two guys, both musicians, met one day. After a drink, it was final, they decided to start developing a program like no other, something that would allow people to find a tune they wanted, no slower than a click of a button.
Mulve, is just that program. After years of development we wanted to bring you something that you would enjoy loading up, something that was not for personal gain or for money. Something that could run flawlessly without so much as a momentary hiccup. Something that would prove to be a monumental breakthrough in terms of music discovery."
Mulve seems to be both amazingly simple to use and untrackable. Here's the official video demo:

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

My Appearance On AudioNowCast

I had the great pleasure of appearing on the excellent AudioNowCast, a bi-weekly podcast about all things audio and the music industry. The show is hosted by Mike Rodriguez and features industry vets Rob Arbittier, Scot Gershin, Andrew Shoeps and Gary Mraz in a lively roundtable discussion.

This is the 91st episode of the show, and much of it was focused on Music 3.0. You can listen to audioNowcast here, and take a look at their Facebook page here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Can Happen If You Don't Clear Your Samples

Copyright can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand it protects artists and makes sure they get paid for their work, and on another it can stifle creativity and suck a revenue stream dry. The latter is what happened to The Verve with their still much loved 1998 hit "Bittersweet Symphony."

It's hard to believe that Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger and Keith Richards get all the publishing income from that song, but that's what's happened. The reason why is that "Bittersweet Symphony" is closely based on the Stone's 1965 hit "The Last Time." Hard to believe if you know the song, I know, because I didn't hear it at first either.

"Bittersweet Symphony" is actually based on the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra's (the Stone's original producer) version of the "The Last Time" (listen below) rather than the Stone's version. The Verve acknowledged this and actually got a license from Jagger/Richards to use a sample of the song, so they thought they were in the clear.

But when Bittersweet Symphony came out, the Stone's representatives were immediately on the phone saying, "We want 100 percent of the song, or take it out of the stores!" The reason was that The Verve didn't just use a sample, they lifted virtually the entire song and just put new lyrics to it.

This nastiness probably could've been avoided with some shrewd negotiation up front, but that era of the Stones catalog is represented by the notorious Allen Klein, who was one of the hardest and most hated negotiators in the business while he was alive. It seems sure that the exact use of the song wasn't revealed until after the song became a hit, and The Verve thought they were in the clear.

What can you learn from this? If you're going to use a sample, remember that there are 2 licenses that you must get - one from the publisher and another from the record label for the recording. And remember that the length of the sample may become an issue so specify how much of the song you're using in advance.

Below are 2 videos. One of "Bittersweet Symphony," and the second from the version of the song that the music was lifted. You'll be amazed how similar they are.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Look What's Selling

Below is a chart of the top 50 albums from 2 weeks ago in terms of sales. It's interesting to see what's selling at the moment. There are about 10 "legacy artists" like Brian Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cyndi Lauper and Sting, the Glee Cast has 4 albums in the top 25, and teen sensation Justin Bieber is bringing up the rear at #50.

The music is decidedly white-bread, middle-of-the-road and heavily leaning towards Pop, but it tells you a couple of things:

1) Although the charts have always had their share of legacy acts, there seems to be more of them than in the past. That confirms that the people that are buying are an older demographic.

2) If you're not on a major label or large indie, you're probably not on the chart.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Music And The Cell Phone

The music industry places its hopes on two things; subscription music (which I've posted about a lot), and listening to music on the cell phone. Everyone has a cell phone now, with 234 million people using them in US alone (as of July), and that's users older than 13. It's assumed that a lot of music is being consumed on cell phones, but they're just not being used for that application as much as everyone thinks.

Here's a breakdown of activities on the cell phone (both smart and not-so-smartphones), according to a comScore study of users ages 13 and older during May and July.

66% sent a text message to another phone
33.6% used a mobile browser
31.4% used downloaded apps
22.3% played games
21.8% accessed a social networking site or blog

Only 14.5% listened to music on their mobile phone.

This will obviously grow in the coming years, but it may never be as large as the music industry hopes it will be.

One thing that everyone always forgets about cell phones (and smart phones in particular) is that it's a communication device first. People want to make calls and exchange texts first and foremost. Everything else is a happy addition.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Study Predicts Huge Music Industry Growth

Since it seems like I'm always the bearer of bad news, here's something that I hope will be a bit more upbeat. A new study by IE Market Research called the "Global Digital Music Forecast" predicts that music retail revenues will increase to $32.5 billion by the end of 2014.

Now considering that the global total music sales fell by by 7 percent last year to $17 billion, these seems a tad optimistic to me, but I don't write reports for Goldman Sachs either.

How did they come up with these numbers? It seems that there are now 832 million paid users of digital music worldwide, and the study says that number is expected to almost double to 1.555 billion in 2014. As a result, digital music revenues will increse from a current $4.82 billion to $21.3 billion at the end of 2014.

Where are these users coming from? Can it be that Chinese music lovers will suddenly honor international copyright law? Will all the P2P users suddenly get religion and buy a subscription instead?

It seems that subscription will lead the way on both online and mobile music channels according to the studio, although the number of music users downloading their music will also increase from 507 million in 2009 to over 1 billion in 2013.

Some other numbers from the study:
  • There are now 105.4 million paid users of digital music in North America and that number is expected to grow to 227.2 million in 2014.
  • Online music download users in North America will increase dramatically from 50.4 million in 2009 to 135.0 million in 2014.
  • Digital music retail revenues in North America are expected to reach $11.86 billion in 2014.
While I think that all of these predictions are wildly optimistic, I do hope they come to pass. It can only lead to a much healthier music industry and a better lot for everyone involved in it.

You can read more about the the study here.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.


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