30 Years of MTV: Impact of Technology and its Multi-Platform Future

  • Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the cable network MTV, which debuted at 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 1981.
  • MTV launched modestly, originally accessible to a few thousand subscribers of a New Jersey cable system. Today, it is more of a lifestyle brand than a cable network, and reaches hundreds of millions of households worldwide.
  • The first music video aired on the new network was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Mashable reports: “The words were true. Almost overnight, the music video became one of the most important promotional and marketing vehicles for the music industry. Artists that best utilized the new format — Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Weird Al Yankovic — became not just stars, but icons. In short, video really did kill the radio star.”
  • Now the question has become, Did YouTube Kill the Music Video Channel? Mashable spoke to Shannon Connolly, VP of digital music strategy at MTV, about the evolution of the network and the impact that digital technologies have had on MTV. Connolly suggests that MTV has grown beyond the role of a music video jukebox to a new core competency involving curation.
  • Connolly added that the future of MTV is about creating multi-platform music experiences: “Everything is multi-platform. Every app, every partnership, we think ‘How is this going to extend from the tablet to the mobile to the connected TV.'”
  • The Mashable post includes a selection of videos that aired on MTV the day of its premiere.

Music Service Spotify Responds to Use of Tracking Cookie

  • Researchers at UC Berkeley have found that digital music service Spotify is using a cache cookie method with ETags that still tracks when a user has ‘Private Browsing Mode’ enabled.
  • According to Digital Music News, the cookie technology “cannot be deleted, still tracks if the user blocks cookies, and even operates in browser stealth mode. In fact, if you try to delete this thing, the cookie dynamically regenerates.”
  • The cookie is powered by analytics platform Kissmetrics, which Digital Music News explains was also used by Hulu and others.
  • Spotify is reacting quickly, trying to head off a “Cookiegate” incident. “We take the privacy of our users incredibly seriously and are concerned by this report,” explained a Spotify spokeswoman. “As a result, we have taken immediate action in suspending our use of Kissmetrics whilst the situation is investigated.”

Spotify Sees Early Success with 70,000 Paid U.S. Users

  • Billboard reports that Spotify has already reached 70,000 paid U.S. subscribers, one week after the streaming music service’s invite-only launch.
  • It’s too early to tell what the initial success will mean in the long term since the service’s closest competitors have been on the market for years (Rhapsody and Napster, for example, have more than 10 times Spotify’s number of paid subscribers but took years to get there).
  • Spotify currently has an ad-supported free option, but also offers two paid tiers that start at $4.99.
  • Paid subscriptions provide ad-free service, unlimited play time, and mobile device access.
  • In a recent review, Digital Trends found the service “to be the most well-rounded service out of Pandora, Spotify, and Grooveshark.”
  • In related news, licensing firm BMI announced it has completed deals with Spotify and Turntable.fm to provide some 6.5 million songs to the online music services.

YouTube to Stream Music Fests, Looking More Like a TV Network

  • YouTube announced that it will live stream two music festivals — Lollapalooza in August and Austin City Limits in September — in a deal with sponsors Dell and AMD.
  • Two free streams will be offered for each concert — one for live performances, and the other for backstage content and interviews.
  • The popular video site is teaming up with producer C3 Presents for the festivals. YouTube says it has no interest in producing these events and prefers working with partners.
  • AMD says this is a way to efficiently reach the under 30 crowd. While they didn’t disclose the dollar amount for the sponsorship, AMD described the deal with YouTube as “significant.”
  • YouTube’s front page attracts a daily viewership of 50 million in the U.S.

Google+ Hangouts Can Provide Two-Way Broadcasts

  • Indie pop singer Daria Musk held a six hour live concert over the weekend from a Connecticut recording studio on Google+ Hangouts with her fans and followers from all over the world.
  • Unfortunately, the one major constraint was that only ten people at a time could join Musk’s Hangout (others were told to try joining again later).
  • According to GigaOM, audience members (including a Google engineering director) “figured out an impromptu way of daisy-chaining Hangouts, making it possible for others to join in on the fun by joining connected video chats. This type of Hangouts relay was a quick hack, something to deal with the fact that Google has restricted the number of live participants in Hangouts to ten — but it also hints at an interesting opportunity for Google to utilize Hangouts as a way to turn live online broadcasting into a two-way medium, that is capable of real audience interaction.”
  • Musk’s comments after the concert: “I have to tell you that I never really felt I belonged in the places I’ve been in… I’ve always dreamed of seeing the world, meeting people from all over, being a global girl, a global artist… Finding my tribe… I found you last night. Thank you for finding me.”

Entertainment Media Companies Not Ready for Digital Opportunities?

  • Most media and entertainment company senior execs believe they are not fully leveraging customer data that would make it possible to deliver customized content, suggests a new study by consulting firm Accenture.
  • The research indicates that 91 percent of these executives are not taking full advantage of the data, and as a result, are not adequately prepared to identify revenue opportunities related to current and future digital technologies. Additionally, 95 percent do not have strong digital customer relationship management capabilities.
  • If fewer than 10 percent of the companies have a fully integrated view of their digital consumers, a new operating model may be necessary for sustainable digital growth (Accenture recommends a shift from legacy vertical, channel-oriented structures toward a horizontally-layered operating model).
  • Only 55 percent said their companies had a clearly defined social networking strategy in place, while 80 percent believe the industry is still in a state of flux. And 42 percent anticipate that advertising will serve as their main source of revenue in the next two years.
  • Accenture’s “Global Media & Entertainment High Performance Study” canvassed 130 executives across Europe, North America, South America and Asia Pacific from industries including television, gaming, film, music, publishing, portals and advertising.

Music Streaming Service Spotify (Finally) Launches in the U.S.

  • Spotify has finally launched its U.S. service — and similar to its widely popular European version, users can listen free to any track, on demand.
  • Users can opt for ad-supported free listening, a $5 Premium ad-free service, or a $10 Unlimited service that allows users to store music offline and use Spotify on mobile devices (the iPhone app is now available). Users can also share their playlists or subscribe to those of other users.
  • Spotify has a reputation for fast, almost instantaneous playback and a catalog containing millions of songs. It will also scan a user’s iTunes library for access to personal tracks in the Spotify app.
  • Although the Wired review suggests “Spotify is just cloud music done right,” it also points out some minor flaws: “Spotify’s recommendation engine, and its radio selections (supposedly Pandora-like auto-playlists) are pitiful. And there is also no sign of an iPad native version, over a year after the tablet’s launch.”

Clear Channel Announces iHeartRadio App and Music Festival

  • Clear Channel announced it is staging what is being billed as the biggest live music festival event in radio history.
  • The iHeartRadio Music Festival is slated for September 23-24 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
  • The event will be streamed live on iHeartRadio.com, the new iHeartRadio app, and Clear Channel websites.
  • Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the current lineup includes Sting, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Jane’s Addiction and more. Additional acts will be added in the coming months.
  • The new app, which will be ready for download in time for the festival, will offer access to 750 Clear Channel stations and customization utilizing technology from the recent acquisition of Thumbplay Music.
  • The iHeartRadio app plans to take on Pandora, “promising access to more songs, content, and more control, plus the ability to create playlists, and no commercials through the end of the year.”

ISPs Agree to Voluntary Copyright Enforcement Plan

  • Hollywood studios and music recording labels announced an agreement with major ISPs including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon in which the ISPs agree to send “copyright alerts” to consumers who have accessed pirated content.
  • The intention is to educate, not punish.
  • A 2007 study showed that a “large majority” of those who receive alerts will stop the illegal activity.
  • If the alerts have no effect, mitigation measures may be pursued. Consumers will have the option of an independent review for a $35 fee.
  • Mitigation measures begin with the fifth or sixth alert, and may include: “temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter.”

Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player Updates

  • Amazon announced several notable enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service this week.
  • The Cloud Player is finally available for the iPad and has been optimized for Safari (joining existing apps for the Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, and PC).
  • New customers who register for the annual $20/20GB plan will receive unlimited space for music tracks.
  • Cloud Drive users can also store all of their previously Amazon-purchased MP3s for free.

Access to Month-Long iTunes Festival Available via iOS App

  • The annual iTunes Festival kicked off Friday in England, streaming select performances live in HD to iPads and iPhones for those who downloaded the free app.
  • The event is scheduled for 31 consecutive nights at the Roundhouse in London.
  • Paul Simon was the first artist to take the stage. Additional headliners include Coldplay, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Moby and more.
  • Apple funds the event by recording the live sets and selling them exclusively on iTunes.
  • Wired suggests an alternative business model: “But it makes me wish more festival organizers would do this the other way around — free recordings of the gigs you paid to see at festivals. Or perhaps a handful of free tracks to choose from an entire festival’s lineup, with the complete collection put on sale. There’s no better live recording than one created during the night you attended.”

MySpace Efforts May Have Cost News Corp. More Than Millions

  • ETCentric reported earlier in the week that social networking site MySpace would be sold to Irvine-based advertising firm Specific Media for $35 million in cash and stock.
  • Although News Corp. has claimed that its Google ad deals helped curb MySpace losses over the recent years, others suggest a darker picture.
  • The sale of MySpace for a mere 6 percent of its original $580 million purchase price may be yet another chapter in a disappointing tale, one which started with a failed attempt to build an all-service media empire.
  • Ars Technica suggests that when considering the entire picture, including the operating losses over the years, the MySpace acquisition may have cost News Corp. well over $1 billion (read the article for a breakdown of the math).
  • Specific Media, with Justin Timberlake as a backer, is expected to focus on music for MySpace’s new direction.

UK Consortium Plans to Conduct White Space Radio Trial

  • A consortium in the United Kingdom that includes Microsoft, BT and the BBC will test a white space radio service in Cambridge to determine effectiveness and any possible interference with TV transmission.
  • White space radio has been proposed to complete the UK’s broadband coverage.
  • Data rates range from 10kbps to 16Mbps depending on distance from the base station.
  • UK could be covered with 6,000 base stations on existing cell towers and provide low bandwidth services.

Apple WWDC: New OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud

The much anticipated Apple Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off Monday of this week in San Francisco and continues through tomorrow. To gets things rolling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the opening keynote and, as expected, focused much of his presentation on the company’s initiatives regarding cloud computing and related services.

Some analysts are commenting that Jobs was not only introducing cloud initiatives during the keynote, but attempting to redefine the very notion of the technology. “It just works,” was Jobs’ repeated mantra while he appeared on stage, suggesting that with iCloud, “Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic,” reports TechCrunch.

In the same article, TechCrunch suggests that Apple is viewing the cloud differently than its competitors (and presenting it in a simpler manner). Also, Apple is placing a greater emphasis on the web component with its MobileMe service and providing iCloud free with iOS 5. Whereas Google and Amazon are concerned with the ideas of servers, disks, data — Apple sees the focus differently. According to TechCrunch: “Files are something Microsoft worries about. Files in the cloud are something Google and Amazon worry about. Apple’s iCloud is about opening an application and the thing you want to access being there.” (For a list of the iCloud offerings, visit the MacDailyNews report.)

iOS 5

Apple previewed iOS 5, the latest version of its mobile operating system (the company also released a beta version to iOS Developer Program members). The beta release includes over 200 new features available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch by the fall. Features include: Notification Center for managing notifications in one place without interruption; iMessage service for easily sending text messages, photos and videos between iOS devices; and Newsstand for organizing newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

iCloud and Music

The response to iTunes in the cloud seems mostly positive so far (and has been helped by Apple signing agreements with all four major music labels). Rolling Stone reports that allowing consumers to “reproduce their entire digital collections on locker-style servers accessible via 10 devices – including iPhones, iPads and computers – may not save the ravaged record industry, but it could provide a crucial new revenue stream while allowing consumers to easily consolidate their music libraries in the cloud.”

“Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Jobs said in San Francisco. “We have a great solution for this problem. We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”

“It is one way to make someone pay for music they’ve already bought. It’s pretty ingenious,” commented Syd Schwartz, a former EMI Music executive in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m sure someone in an executive office at a major label somewhere is going, ‘At least that’s one way we can monetize the stuff people stole from Napster over the years.'”

Additional Announcements

Apple’s iCloud announcement was augmented by news of several other products and services. The Nieman Journalism Lab offers an interesting perspective: “In addition to introducing the long-awaited OS X Lion and announcing noteworthy Twitter integration, Apple has also, from the looks of things, gone on a veritable app-eating binge. The company, it announced, has created: ‘Reading List,’ a read-later functionality that allows users to time-shift their consumption of content (sound familiar?); a cloud-storage service, iCloud (which looks remarkably like this one); and a new camera and image-editing feature (kind of like this one).”

From a journalism perspective, Nieman Lab adds: “The biggest news is Apple introduction of Newsstand for iOS, which looks to be essentially an iBooks for publishers’ content — a central location for users’ magazine and newspaper subscriptions. With the new feature (well, new as of this fall), readers can browse a virtual bookshelf — literally, ‘wooden’ and all — and subscribe to a periodical in one tap. New issues will be downloaded in the background, solving one of the biggest problems for magazine publishers who push out issues that are hundreds of megabytes in size.”

Mac OS X Lion

As announced by Apple prior to the WWDC, the company will be releasing its new Mac OS X Lion next month. MacDailyNews reports that Lion will include more than 250 new features, 3,000 new developer APIs and, “will be available to customers in July as a download from the Mac App Store for US$29.99. Some of the amazing features in Lion include: new Multi-Touch gestures; system-wide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, an innovative view of everything running on your Mac; the Mac App Store, the best place to find and explore great software, built right into the OS; Launchpad, a new home for all your apps; and a completely redesigned Mail app.”

Apple vs. the World

It’s worth noting that some see Apple’s developments as a significant move forward in challenging its competitors. Robert X. Cringely, for example, has gone as far as suggesting that iCloud’s “real” purpose is to kill Microsoft. In response to Jobs’ contention that iCloud will “demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device – just like an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod Touch,” Cringely explains on his blog that “Jobs is going to sacrifice the Macintosh in order to kill Windows. He isn’t beating Windows, he’s making Windows inconsequential.”

Intentional or not, only time will tell. Let us know your thoughts…

 

Related TechCrunch article: “It Just Works” (6/8/11)

Related TechCrunch article: “On iCloud, Baby” (5/31/11)

Related Rolling Stone article: “How Apple’s iCloud Could Help Save the Music Industry” (6/6/11)

Related Nieman Journalism Lab article: “Newsstand, Reader, iCloud: 3 takeaways for the news business from today’s Apple announcement” (6/7/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Apple introduces breakthrough iCloud; free service ‘just works’” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “New iOS 5 includes over 200 new features, including Notification Center, iMessage, Newsstand, Twitter integration” (6/6/11)

Related MacDailyNews article: “Mac OS X Lion with 250 new features available in July via Mac App Store for $29.99” (6/6/11)

Related Patently Apple article: “Apple working on a Sophisticated Infrared System for iOS Cameras” (6/2/11)

Related Wired article (with video): “Jobs Pitches New ‘Mothership’ to Approving Cupertino City Council” (6/8/11)

Related I, Cringely post: “iCloud’s real purpose: kill Microsoft” (6/7/11)

DAR.fm is a Free (for now) Digital Audio Recorder for Radio

There’s been a lot of music news reported in recent weeks, from a collaboration between Spotify and Facebook to compelling new discovery apps including Radio Spotter from mSpot Music to emerging cloud-based services from the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple. We’ve also been watching the direction of services such as Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody and Napster as digital music distribution continues to evolve. However, a new online service created by MP3.com founder Michael Robertson may change the way we consume radio.

Robertson’s DAR.fm (currently in beta) is a digital audio recorder for radio content, what David Pogue describes in his New York Times column as “free TiVo for radio.” According to the site’s FAQ page: “DAR.fm is a personal recorder which records radio stations and shows to be played back at the convenience of the listener. Similar to how a DVR (digital video recorder) works with television DAR is a DVR for your radio.”

Currently, there is no charge for the basic service, but that may change in the future based on potential restrictions or data storage space (advertising on the site is also reportedly in the works). Pogue explains that each user starts with 2GB, and completing an application at MP3Tunes.com provides a free upgrade to 10GB. According to the site: “DAR.fm gives you 2 GBs of storage to record your content. This is enough to store approximately 100 hours of material. However, it depends on whether the material you’re recording is talk or music — you may be able to store more or less. If you need more space you can purchase a Premium account with 20, 50, 100, or 200 GB of additional storage.”

What makes this service compelling, however, is that users can listen to an unlimited range of radio content anywhere, anytime: via computer, phone apps, Wi-Fi-connected radios, even the Roku set-top TV box. Listening to recordings from a phone is made possible by free apps based on the open music API (Airband for the iPhone, MP3tunes for Android, Locker Player for Windows Phone 7, and Music in Your Palm for WebOS). Users can even download individual songs that have been captured.

“It’s crazy cool, like a hybrid of iTunes and satellite radio,” writes Pogue.

If DAR.fm catches on, will it compete with cloud-based and subscription music services? If it works as flawlessly as Pogue describes, it may have a strong chance, although MP3Tunes has yet to share the limelight with other more notable cloud services. Pogue writes: “The person who created DAR.fm also runs a company called MP3Tunes.com. It’s an online storage locker for your music files, so that you can play them from any computer or phone, anywhere you go. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon introduced a nearly identical service last month, called Amazon Cloud Player. Google just opened a ‘cloud music locker’ service, too. Needless to say, the headlines about this ‘new’ kind of music service drives the MP3Tunes guy crazy; his site has been in operation for four years.)”

Related Grace Digital Audio press release: “Grace Digital DAR.fm Audio Recorder for Internet Radio Debuts” (5/19/11)

Related Radio World article: “DAR.fm Hopes to Shift the Paradigm” (4/15/11)

Related Radio World article (with video): “DAR.fm, Grace Radio Aim at a ‘Talk TiVo'” (5/18/11)

Related PC Mag article: “MSpot Adds ‘Radio’ Music Discovery to Online Music Locker: Hands On” (5/26/11)

Related TechCrunch article (from Disrupt conference): “Rexly’s Social Music Discovery App Is What Ping Should Have Been” (5/23/11)

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