Will Streaming Music Services Kill the Music Industry?

I have always been a fan of music. The first song I can really think of totally being obsessed with was “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper (imagine that). I remember listening to that with my mom over our Chevy Caprice‘s radio. I was just a little kid but I’ll never forget.

Chumbawamba‘s Tubthumper was the first CD I ever owned. Don’t judge me, judge my uncle who chose the album, I was 13 years old. A few years later I would start recording from the radio and eventually use Napster to discover and download new music, later to AudioGalaxy. In high school I became known as the guy to go to for CD compilations.

As I started to concern myself with audio quality, I dropped all the music from file sharing sites like Napster and started replacing the tracks with high quality rips of CDs I’d buy. Later iTunes became my music store of choice with a handful of albums from AmazonMP3. Since then it’s been sort of a non-stop buying spree for me. Or so I thought.

Anecdotal-iTunesWhat you see above is the song release timeline of my iTunes Match library. This anecdotal data comes with caveats to consider before we analyze anything. Continue reading

Tomorrow Comes Today and Brings The Beatles to iTunes

It’s 8 am, Tuesday November 16, 2010 and I’m told again by Apple that, tomorrow is just another day.

I guess the fact that they had this same message up yesterday shouldn’t mean too much. Perhaps everyday will be just like the day after only the day after is more memorable. Wait, is that like having a dream within a dream within a dream? I hear that isn’t stable…

Meanwhile, it appears the Beatles are officially live in the iTunes music store. More fabled than the white iPhone, the Beatles in the ITMS.

After years of lawsuits between the two music giants, it appears a common love of money has merged these two in unholy union. Good on ya Yoko Ono, I have a feeling you had something to do with this.

Or not.

Not Bjango’s Fault

Bjangos iStat for the iPhone

I have gotten so fed up with Apple‘s App Store approval process and the people that review all the products in the iTunes Music Store.  The latest comes with Bjango’s latest release of iStat for the iPhone.  Definitely one of my favorite apps, it not only provides you with vital information about the state of your iPhone, it also had this nifty feature that let you clear up wasted memory.

Apps on the iPhone have a terrible tendency for memory leaks and not really quitting when you return to the home screen.  The solution?  Either force quit every app on your iPhone/iTouch, restart the device or use this nifty app to clear up the wasted memory.

In the last few months we’ve seen all sorts of crazy going on in the iTunes App Store.  Most notably, the GoogleVoice application being rejected and all other Google Voice applications from third parties actually being KICKED out of the store.

The newest thing to itch Apple is this amazing feature in iStat that clears up memory leaks.  What’s more, I can’t tell you how many Apple Genius’s that have told me or other Apple Store customers to install iStat which has this nifty feature.  Restarting an iPhone takes minutes and in this world of living for the instant, seconds to minutes isn’t an acceptable wait period.

So when I went to the App store today to check out what’s new, I decided to see how Bjango was storming the latest App Store Storm.  I learned about this issues at least a week before Bjango made the change in their app and took the proper measures to prevent losing this incredibly useful feature.

Here’s the App Store customers’ reaction, to vote the app one and two stars and in their reviews bitch to Bjango about the lack of a memory feature and demanding refunds.  Nevermind the actions taken by Bjango to prevent this backlash.

Click for More of this Image

And then, my response as a review in the store.

They warned you ahead of time on their site and in the App Store.

They even have on their website a way to get your old version of the app back if you actually read the site ahead of time, and perhaps afterwards.

This is a fantastic application that does everything it says it does.  It’s a shame that Apple decided the memory clearing feature needed to be removed, yes, but rating an application poorly because of something Apple has done is not fair.

Furthermore, they held a vote for their customers on how to handle this issue.  Two options were proposed, update the app and lose the memory feature or create a new application that customers would have to buy, all over again, that would have the new features and leave the original iStat untouched.

The overwhelming majority of people who voted on this issue voted to update the app and lose the memory feature.  You had your choice, you ignored or simply didn’t take the time to read before you bought/updated and now you’ve gotten yourself in this mess.

It is not Bjango’s fault.

If you need an application to monitor your iPhone’s state, from memory used (that still works), drive space, network, battery (new) and others, this is your app.  If you need to remotely monitor other computers running their free server monitoring software, this is the app for you.  If you want to support a fantastic company, Bjango, this is the app for you.

They warned you ahead of time on their site and in the App Store.

Finally?  They lowered the price of the application by $1, or by 33%, for new customers.  Primarily because of the memory feature removal, I’d presume.

So there you have it, my rant to stupid people who probably won’t read what I’ve said and are so indoctrinated in their own idiocy that they won’t get it. I’m done ranting, it’s time for class. Catch you later.

Oh yeah, and check out their software for your computer and the iPhone.  It’s great stuff!

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The Case for Social Networks and Sharing Music

Over the last ten years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed thousands of lawsuits against music swappers.  Some cases have been tossed out, some settled out of court and worse, charging one KaZaa user nearly  $80,000 for each of the 24 songs shared in his music library.

The argument by the RIAA, their defense for these astronomically large suits?  Lost revenues.  Now, do we really think any one of these songs were actually downloaded nearly 80,000 times, from this user? Highly unlikely.  Even if a file went viral…


Follow that trend for each of the 24 songs to 80,000, if each person shared the file with two people.  Is there any real way to actually track one of these shared files from one user to all recipients? Not really.  The RIAA was, for a while, placing song into services like KaZaa and LimeWire and tracking their spread but never published the data publicly and never provided their methods.  Without any actual proof, I find it impossible to believe that a single file, from a single person, can easily reach 80,000 people, especially when this person only shares 24 songs.  It could be argued that someone who shares only 24 songs, isn’t someone who uses a service like KaZaa very often, or only shares files received through one of these services and not files already in their legal music library.

Heck, if I shared my iTunes library, following this logic, the RIAA could sue me for $2,582,337,500.  Spelled out, that’s two billion, five-hundred and eighty-two million, three-hundred and thirty-seven thousand, five hundred dollars.

So where is this all coming from?

Today I was livestreaming from my desk on Ustream to an audience of thirty-three people.  We chatted as I did some work and played a Jason Mraz album, Mr. A-Z.  I probably got through 10 songs during this livestream before I started taking suggestions from viewers on what good new music is out there.  Oh crap, there goes $800,000!

Ultimately though, it was this song by the Friendly Fires that got me to thinking…  (watch the video, it’s great!)

The song, Kiss of Life, is the latest single, released August 11 from their upcoming album.  Because @lostinthemusic posted this video link to our Ustream chat, we all viewed the video and a few of us even searched out where to buy the album.  I bought a copy of their last album on iTunes.

We began to discuss how cool it would be to have a Ustream channel where we all put in our music suggestions and for say an hour, we listened to each of these songs suggested.  Would this really destroy the music industry?

Highly doubtful.  Just a few weeks ago a video went viral on YouTube

The above video, as of this posting, was played 20,399,927 times.

Did the music industry really lose 1,631,994,160,000? Spelling it out makes it seem so much more relevant, that would be one trillion, six-hundred and thirty-one billion, nine-hundred and ninety-four million, one-hundred and sixty thousand dollars.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case.  In fact, the more you dig into this particular case, the more interesting the facts get.

This video seemed to do something Chris Brown‘s PR department, lawyers, YouTube confessional and blog couldn’t… Make Brown some money.  Ever since that incident where he beat up his girlfriend, platinum selling artist Rhianna, his musical career has been in the gutter.  He was cut from a very profitable advertising campaign with Wrigley, his album sales tanked, he was just short of banned from radio play and yanked from the BET Awards show!

What exactly did it do for Brown?  How about taking his album sales from next to zero, to within the top five in single and album sales for both Amazon.com and the iTunes Music Store!  A viral video of a bunch of white, middle-class, hipster-ish, artsy twenty-somethings dancing (flailing) down the aisle on YouTube did this.

Sharing music over the Internet sold thousands to millions of dollars in music from a guy who just months ago was a total outcast.  How can the RIAA argue against that?

Now, I don’t want to come off as someone advocating the illegal downloads of media.  I’m a photographer.  If someone took my photos and sold them or saturated the internet with them, well I’d probably be pissed, right after I was glowing with glee that people really loved my work.  I understand the value of owning your work and making a profit selling it.  I understand the importance of intellectual property and laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

At the same time, I see the DMCA and the tactics (which are often time, illegal themselves, by the way) of the RIAA are out of line.  The rules of “fair use” need to be re-written, in this new, digital-age.  Services like AmazonMP3 and iTunes going DRM free was a huge, important and necessary step.

The current system is broken and until there is a new distribution structure out there, these lawsuits, laws and regulations are, in so many ways, unenforceable.

We live in a crowdsourcing, social networking, life-streaming, blog-posting world.  Our lives are no longer private.  Our diaries are online for the world to see.  Our mixed tapes are Last.fm channels and even better, 8tracks playlists.

(Seriously, check out http://8tracks.com/ which more or less replaced MuxTape when its original purpose was destroyed by the RIAA)

Until the RIAA stops losing sleep to social networks, music streaming and fair-use, it will be up to the artists to make this change.  Radiohead, Coldplay, GirlTalk, and several other artists have already gone this route and have been incredibly successful.

Open your eyes, Music Industry.  There is an awesome pool party going on, and you’re running ten years late.

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A Legend Lost

It was just a few days ago that I was talking to a friend I’d bumped into about Michael Jackson.  We discussed his upcoming concerts, his weirdness and ended with a round of praise to his being able to release one ground-breaking album after another.  He was truly an incredible artist.

The next day, at the same exact time, his death was announced through Twitter.

Think what you want, the man was a musical genius.  He guided the music industry for decades, created the top selling album of all time and reigned supreme in the pop world as well as the music video industry.  No one could make a music video like Michael Jackson.  Each video told a story and going beyond 10 minutes for a video was totally acceptable.

One of the most famous ones comes from his best selling album, Thriller.

[flv:MJ_Thriller.flv 640 480]

Michael Jackson died and the world exploded.  We had not seen a reaction like this to the election of Barack Obama, the Iran election and subsequent protests or the deaths of Ed McMahon and Farah Fawcet (who died just hours before Jackson).  In fact, the effect on cellphone towers and the Internet is said to be greater than even September 11, 2001.

No site was safe.  I tweeted at the time that I couldn’t access any news sites with merely a mention of Michael Jackson was inaccessible.  No site was safe, not CNN, not Yahoo!, not even Google!  All reported outages.  AT&T said more text messages were sent that day than any other day in the history of text messaging on their networks.

Twitter, once again the source for breaking news, was completely overwhelmed.  Remarkably, the site was at around 90% stable, more than I’d ever expect out of the infamous fail whale.  A search for Michael Jackson on Twitter’s search page loaded hundreds of new tweets ever few seconds.

You could actually decipher what was going on simply by reading the Twitter Trends.

MTV, Michael Jackon, MJ, Cardiac Arrest, MJ RIP, Hospital, etc

MTV was reporting live and showing tribute videos of Michael Jackson as he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, with reports of a grim outlook.

Today, a day later, iTunes was a fantastic sample of the impact Jackson’s death had on the world.  His albums, singles and music videos dominated the iTunes Music Store charts, absolutely.

Dominating Music Sales

Dominating Music Video Sales

Dominating Music Video Sales

But it wasn’t all positive.  Perez Hilton continued to disgust with this post on his site, which I will not link to.  Click the picture to open it up a bit bigger so you can read all that Perez Hilton wrote.

This is what Perez originally wrote about Michael Jackson.

This is what Perez originally wrote about Michael Jackson.

Huge thanks to the twitter user than originally posted this image. I’d love to attribute it to him but TwitPic seems to have messed up, the user that actually posted it is not listed as that person today.  Apparently over half a million hits and thousands of comments on a single picture in a single day outdid their servers.

In the end, we’ve lost a legend and for that I am sad.  But perhaps he’s somewhere better, where he doesn’t have to worry so much about his appearance.  A place where his pain isn’t so great.  We know he was a troubled man.  Here’s to hoping that is all lifted.  Let’s put our thoughts on his friends and family, especially his three young children.

And let’s boycott Perez.  Seriously.

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Front Row to Play Second Fiddle

Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s Media Center came with the release of OSX Tiger in 2004.  Using your Apple Remote, users could control anything in their iTunes Music Library.  The core animations built into OSX created a beautiful, smooth and friendly interface.  Unlike Media Center, Front Row would only show media it could play.  The caveat being it could only play a small number of media formats and no web media.

Front Row 2.0 added some GUI improvements and YouTube integration but little else, though it was already a polished product no one really knew something was missing.

Now we have example of what Front Row show be and they come in the form of Center State and Boxee.  These programs run on Apple computers running Leopard and Boxee also runs on Linux, sorry Microsoft.  You have plenty of other viable options however.

Both of these programs take over for front row and both have incredible features that neither Front Row nor Media Center can claim.

Center Stage is available for download on their site.  It sports a slick interface with stunning transitions as you move through the levels of your media.

CenterStage UI Demo from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

You really must go to their main page and watch the demo videos to experience how beautiful the system is.

I’m a Boxee alpha user and got a chance to try out their software today. Installation was a breeze, took just a few minutes and 75mb of space.

Installed boxee

I logged in with my Boxee username and was in with no delay.  Typing was a little confusing, you had to select the box you wanted and then press enter, then type your username and then press enter again.  Seems like selecting the box would be enough.


Boxee didn’t pick up any videos it could read off my Macbook Pro.  Not surprised as it cannot read DRM’d media from iTunes.  Unfortunately for me, nearly all of my media, at least 90% of my video, comes from the iTunes Music Store so, unless it’s a DRM free video from ITMS, it doesn’t show up.  Damn the DRM.  Once Apple finally releases their ITMS of music/video DRM, I wonder if these old files will be unlocked as well.  Doubt it.

Anyways, my music did show up, and I got to playing around.  Logged into my Last.fm account and started scrobbling.  Great, seamless integration.  Unfortunately your password is not character protected.  As you type it in, the letters pop up on the screen.  So instead of ******** you see password.  This does not happen when you log into your Boxee account on the login screen.

BOXEE Running

There are lots of settings to play around with though most don’t make too much of a difference; it comes out quite nicely straight from the box.  Navigation with a keyboard is difficult and confusing.  It is often hard to tell where you are and how to get out.  I was playing a Will Young CD, recommended it to two people on Boxee and then tried to get back to the main menu.

It took probably ten tries on the keyboard.  Then, duh, pulled out the Apple Remote, worked like a charm.

As it stands right now, both of these programs whip Front Row’s ass.  They offer a unique set of features such as auto IMDB lookup, a social network where you can recommend media to friends and a wide array of supported media formats.

I love the social networking aspect of Boxee and the fun experience it has plus the slick interface but navigation and some security holes need to be checked out before it’s a solid product.  Of course, this is alpha, not even beta so I say, good job Boxee.

Center Stage wins with the interface, beautiful albeit, a little slow compared to Boxee and not as inviting; the Now Playing in Center Stage fabulous.  No social networking hurts it’s adoption.

Bottom line, check out both of these projects.  I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.  Competition builds improvement!

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Tethering iPhone with Netshare

The App Store Icon

If you were one of the lucky ones, you picked up a copy of Netshare while it was in the iTunes store.  Its status with the iTunes App Store has been under scrutiny what with it coming and going willy nilly.  Thanks to Nick Starr I caught it on one of its short lived moments in the App Store.

But if you did get it going, I highly recommend you hit up Apple Insider for a step by step guide to setting up Netshare with your iPhone. This of course allows you to hop on the internet with your just you laptop (ideally) and your iPhone.  To my knowledge, no one knows what AT&T will do about this.  They claim you cannot tether the iPhone and use it’s unlimited data plan at a $30/m savings to their regular data plan.

It gets really complicated as each application has to be reviewed by Apple before they are put into the wild for users to download.  Secondly this app costs $9.99 which means if they disable it, customers would demand a refund… Thirdly, Apple will technically have benefited from this app which AT&T might claim to be illegal under their contract.  Apple just renewed their exclusivity contract with AT&T through 2010.

Basically I’m thinking, use are your own risk!

I was hanging out at Diedrich Coffee today and thought I’d give it a try.

It took quite a few tries to get it going using the Netshare’s built-in instructions but Apple Insider’s tips were great and I had it up and running in no time.  And it works.  The speeds aren’t what I get on my Verizon card but in a pinch, 900kbps isn’t so bad.

Yeah so Netshare works pretty darn good, only one thing.  When I did an IP trace on the address assigned by AT&T, I got some interesting results.

It says the IP is coming from AT&T but it’s coming from the United Kingdom.  Not sure what that’s about but I’d be interested to see what other people are getting for their IP address when tethered to their iPhone.

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