August 30, 2009
If you have not heard of Spotify, there’s a good reason: the music streaming application is still banned in the United States. Nonetheless, the service is quickly gaining popularity across Western Europe, and Spotify’s founders plan to launch in the United States before the end of the year. In edging closer to a U.S. release, Spotify received a long-awaited stamp of approval from Apple when it approved Spotify’s iPhone mobile application for premium subscribers.
Spotify works like a standard P2P service, but it allows you to only stream songs – not download them to a hard disk. In this manner, Spotify avoids the legal pitfalls of downloading music but it still allows people to freely listen to and find music. In fact, you can search and browse Spotify by artists and genre selection, as well as create playlists and share them with friends.
Apple’s approval of the Spotify mobile application bodes well for Spotify’s U.S. launch. Even though Spotify links to iTunes to purchase songs, it is seen as a direct competitor to Apple’s music service. For example, Spotify’s iPhone application allows users to cache up to 3,333 songs for instant playback.
At this point though, the founders of Spotify probably see the green light to break into the largest music market. With the much-needed approval from Apple, Spotify may be able to use to additional $50 million in capital it earned earlier this month, as Wired reported.
For U.S. P2P users, the carefree days of Napster and the Pirate Bay may be gone, but Spotify could promise a progression of the music industry finally finding equilibrium with the Internet.
by Ben Benson
August 23, 2009
This week, Variety reported that Disney intends to remake The Beatles’ 1968 animated movie Yellow Submarine as a 3-D film with Robert Zemeckis as director. The release is currently scheduled to take place during the London Olympics in summer 2012.
Disney and Zemeckis are still in talks with lawyers over the use of 16 Beatles’ songs for the movie. Disney is trying to secure the rights to songs such as “All You Need Is Love,” “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds,” and “All Together Now,” among others.
Zemeckis is a no-brainer choice to head up the film, considering his past 3D work includes Beowulf, The Polar Express, and, although not yet released, A Christmas Carol. Zemeckis has always been at the forefront of movie technology, and his recent trademark technique includes filming actors and props before re-imaging them into 3-D animation.
In the original movie, The Beatles’ involvement was limited to the live-action final scene and the use of their songs. They reportedly agreed to the movie partly to fulfill their movie contract, with actors actually providing voices for the animated Beatles.
The use or sale of Beatles’ songs has traditionally been a difficult achievement, but The Beatles: Rock Band and re-mastered Beatles albums are set to come out in September. Disney may be one of the lucky few to also acquire access to their music.
by Ben Benson
August 9, 2009
Last week, Agile Partners and DJ Jason Forrest released Star6, a handheld remixing station designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Now, I do not own an iPhone or an iPod Touch, but I would likely purchase this program if I did.
Star6 makes every iPhone user a novice DJ or producer. The application comes with a set of sample packets, wherein you can remix up to six samples at one time. From there, you can distort, splice, and modify the samples to your heart’s content. Star6 lets you change a song’s pitch, speed and other variables by moving or tilting the iPhone in the air. The program also lets you apply other effects to your mix, including changing the distortion level, delaying certain samples, and applying filters.
Once a mix is completed, you can record the sample and upload to your computer through a web browser. Users can then share their mixes with Agile Partners on the site’s sound gallery. Additionally, using the same web browser method, you can upload your own samples to Star6, giving you even more music options.
Star6 is also meant to give professional DJs and musicians an extra device to use in the studio or at a live performance. The multitude of options should make any DJ happy to have an extra tool available – granted of course, they can afford an iPhone in the first place.
by Ben Benson
July 19, 2009
Nearly one month ago, Beck’s web site launched Record Club, a weekly venture in which Beck and friends cover an album’s worth of music. Since then, Beck has added three more sections, further expanding his digital footprint.
Unlike Beck’s former minimalistic approach, his site now has weekly updates in many categories. For starters, Beck created Irrelevant Topics, a weekly interview series, and chose Tom Waits as his first interviewee. In the conversation, topics ranged from Japan’s $700 orange to terrible Frank Sinatra songs: nonchalant talk lacking any real focus. Rather, it’s just two musicians mulling over life in what seems like an additional to chapter to Coffee & Cigarettes.
More on Beck’s Website Goes Big
July 12, 2009
The music industry often seems backwards. In a sensible world, artists would be allowed to keep the copyrights to their music. But in the absurd business world, lawyer-backed music labels hold the copyright to most music.
Of course, in this digital age, the traditional business of music is consistently undergoing change. Such is the case with Polyphonic, a new label concocted in-part by Radiohead’s manager, Brian Message. Artists signed to Polyphonic will be allowed to keep the copyright to their work. In addition, the Telegraph reported, artists and Polyphonic will split profits 50-50, though established musicians will likely garner an even bigger profit percentage.
Message had a significant role in advocating for Radiohead’s pay-what-you-will In Rainbows promotion. In keeping with that mentality, Polyphonic will further employ new digital distribution strategies.
Adam Driscoll, Message’s partner with MAMA Group, told the Telegraph, “We will do whatever is most effective to get an artist noticed. Giving an album away for free may get one million people listening to a new artist.” Granted, people pirate albums for free all the time, but free giveaways backed by millions of dollars could generate many more listeners.
Polyphonic will have access to $20 million in funding for the first year of operation, most of it provided by MAMA Group. Three organizations in all are involved with Polyphonic, including Message’s company ATC and MAMA Group, as well as Nettwerk Music.
So far, Polyphonic has not announced any musicians on its label.
by Ben Benson
The Pirate Bay is perhaps the highest profile free music and movie sharing service since Napster. The company has been sued, ridiculed, lambasted by big business and copyright organizations, all while remaining staunchly defiant. Now, quite unexpectedly, The Pirate Bay founders have sold the file-sharing site to a Swedish gaming company. Global Gaming Factory X (GGF), the new owners of The Pirate Bay, struck a deal worth $8 million with the Pirate Bay founders, giving them $4 million in cash and an equal amount in Global Gaming Factory X shares.
GGF’s CEO, Hans Pandeva, asserts that the company’s new business model for The Pirate Bay will be legitimate and pay original copyright holders. In a TorrentFreak interview, Pandeva said, “We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site.”
Still, for years, The Pirate Bay has been the poster child of anti-copyright, pro-consumer Internet technology. To many Pirate Bay users, the sheer fact of turning The Pirate Bay into a legit company is a mockery of its long-stated values. In fact, so many people are upset over the sale of the site that The Pirate Bay is facing an exodus of users. In response, The Pirate Bay has created a user deletion interface, which can be used by worried deserters.
However, The Pirate Bay founders have sworn that they will not give up the fight for an open and neutral internet. They stated on their blog that profits from the sale will fund a foundation dedicated to the promotion of “freedom of speech, freedom of information and the openness of the nets.” Furthermore, the Pirate Bay founders insist that the site is being taken over by the “right people with the right attitudes.” GGF is simultaneously buying another technology company called Peerialism, giving itself a method to develop and expand upon new models of digital distribution.
by Ben Benson
June 28, 2009
Last October, Congress fulfilled Pandora founder Tim Westergren’s wish by passing the Webcaster Settlement Act. The bill gave Internet radio providers the opportunity to negotiate lower royalty rates with SoundExchange, a royalty-collecting branch of the RIAA, which had intended to double rates by 2010.
Now, after nine months of talks, many webcasters still have not reached an agreement with SoundExchange even though negotiation time is running out. Therefore, Congress has opted to give webcasters more time to find a proper royalty rate. Without the bill’s update, webcasters could face potentially bankrupting royalty rates. Once the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009 is signed by President Obama, it will give webcasters an additional 30 days to negotiate reasonable royalty rates through 2010.
Affected webcasters include non-NPR noncommercial webcasters, religious webcasters, small “Pure Play” webcasters, and large webcasters associated with Digital Media Association. Digital Media Association represents Internet radio stations such as Pandora, Slacker, and Live365.com.
Jonathan Potter, Executive Director of the Digital Media Association, issued a statement following the Senate’s approval that commended Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Sam Brownback “for quickly pushing this bill through the Senate and on to President Obama’s desk for his signature.”
Potter also said, “Hopefully, as Congress continues to focus more broadly on sound recording performance rights legislation, more comprehensive legislation will soon level the regulatory playing field for all forms of digital radio.” Webcasters hope to reach royalty agreements similar to those of satellite and cable radio.
by Ben Benson
June 21, 2009
When Beck decides to change his website, he does not mess around. In his digital footprint overhaul, Beck has added a section called Record Club. According to Beck, the Record Club is “an informal meeting of various people to record an album in one day.” Once Beck and company assemble in the studio, they pick an album to cover and crank it out all in one day. The band does not rehearse or produce any music beforehand. After the daylong recording session, Beck and his fellow collaborates will post one track off the cover album every week.
For the first project, Beck chose Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Brian Lebarton and actor Giovanni Ribsi, among others, to cover The Velvet Underground & Nico. Beck has already posted the song “Sunday Morning” along with a video on his website. Beck said that the first Record Club nearly recorded Digital Underground’s Sex Packets, but then opted for the other (Velvet) Underground.
Aside from “Sunday Morning” and its video, Beck’s website has become sparse, save a few links to his host of social networking pages. I imagine that followers of both his Twitter page and Record Club’s own Tweeting action will be privy to the progress of the project in the timeliest fashion.
by Ben Benson