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 16, 2009
I honestly thought The Pirate Bay saga was over last month when the torrent site was sold to a public company. Pending the site’s legalization, however, The Pirate Bay is conducting perhaps its final antic.
Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University physics graduate student, owes the record companies $675,000 after being convicted of downloading 30 songs illegally. The exorbitant nature of the lawsuit created the perfect situation to inspire irksome behavior: Prominently promoted on The Pirate Bay’s home page is “The $675,000 Mixtape” by DJ Joel. The mixtape’s logo comes complete with an “Approved by RIAA” certificate and the torrent itself gives “hugs” to the RIAA.
In the comments section of the torrent, many people reported to have downloaded the torrent solely to support Tenenbaum and The Pirate Bay. Also, after five days of being uploaded, the torrent still had more than 900 “seeders,” people who have downloaded the files and are subsequently sharing them.
The promotion of this mixtape is probably superfluous. After all, The Pirate Bay is on the verge of legitimacy and Tenenbaum is not going to have funds to pay the record labels anyway. Still, the act is fitting as an end to The Pirate Bay and a revival for Tenenbaum’s case.
The track list can be found on the torrent itself or on the Katz Forums here.
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 26, 2009
Billboard’s identity is old. The magazine itself has been around for 115 years and the service has tracked chart toppers since WWII. However, the music titan has responded to the Internet’s influence to improve its consumer relationships and ratchet up interactivity. After primarily serving record companies and distribution channels, Billboard has upped the flashy interactive features on its website.
Unlike before, Billboard.com now allows you to explore charts across time and genre. Search for an artist from the top bar, and Billboard.com will give you a plethora of information, which, right now, may seem like too much to handle. From one search, you can see the artist’s songs, news, reviews, and albums, most of which you can also comment upon and rate.
More on Billboard Launches More Functional and Interactive Site
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