March 5, 2010
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Mumford and Songs - Cousins (Orig. by Vampire Weekend) It’s Friday and with this day comes the weekly cover song! This is a live version and man oh man, do these guys sound tight. Starts off slow and once the drums kick in, they tu
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March 4, 2010
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Music and Tech Recap - February 2010 Edition

The east coast edition of Digital Music Forum played out in New York on February 24th and 25th. Digital Music News did a great job capturing some of the key points raised in the various talks. Here a few of the interesting discussions and if you want to check out the rest, follow this link.

Investments and Funding

Investments in music and audio related technology companies continues to be fairly strong in February with another ~$26m in investments. For those keeping a tally, in the first two months of 2010, we have seen total investments of approximately $70m. Please keep in mind this isn’t a comprehensive list and the numbers have been pulled from public sources but it still gives us a pretty good sense of general investment activity in the music tech space. If you know of others, please share them in the comments section below. Here are some start-ups that received funding in February:

I should also note a couple more companies that received funding in January which I missed reporting:

One other interesting announcement was ErGo Media Capital, a new entertainment and media investment firm backed by ErGo Venture that will provide venture capital and private equity funding to film, video game, music TV and new media firms. They are considering $15m per transaction and only time will tell whether they will be funding any music related startups.

Music Services and Apps

Spark Radio launches for iPhone, brings radio and the Internet together at last - Built on top of RadioTime (which is a great service I use), this is a huge collection of Internet radio stations (10,0000) from all over the world with another 20,000 to be added by April. Just looking at my iPod Touch, you will see that I have Corus Radio, Woxy, CBC Radio, Shoutcast, FStream, LastFM, NPR News. I have downloaded a few others which I removed for one reason or another. Every week, a new batch of mobile radio apps are being released making it a crowded field.

Twones just released The Music Bar which is a Firefox add-on that gives you a set of tools to bookmark, manage, share, discover and search for music.

Extension.FM is a very cool Google Chrome extension that makes it easy to listen to any music embedded on a web page. Once installed, click on the button and a playlist is created which you can listen to within the embedded music player. Amazingly, you can navigate away from the page and the music keeps playing. A couple of other great features is the ability to scrobble to LastFM and as you visit different sites, Extension.FM builds a library of music for you that you can revisit anytime. Of course, no music is downloaded or stored on your computer. Here is a quick 2 minute intro video that describes this tool. If you haven’t switched over to Chrome, this might make it worth it. Ever since moving away from Firefox for performance reasons, the number of amazing Chrome extensions being developed keeps growing.

Tapulous has another hit with Riddim Ribbon music game - Having music from the Black Eyed Pea’s certainly helps. Tapulous continues to follow the same successful strategy that puts chart topping artists front and center of their games. If Riddim Ribbon turns into a similar franchise for Tapulous, it could have the same profitable run as Tap Tap Revenge.

Bitspace Launches HTML5-Based Streaming Music Player and Backup Service - “There is no dearth of streaming music services on the web today, so it takes quite a bit for a new service to stand out from other popular services like Spotify, MOG and Lala. Today, we came across Bitspace, an online music player and backup service for your music files that puts an interesting new spin on this subject. This service stands out because of its great design and the fact that it’s fully based on HTML5.”

RealNetworks, MTV to Spin-off Rhapsody Music Service - The thinking here is that both companies get to move the money-losing music service off their books, and the new structure may theoretically give them a better chance of finding a buyer.

Bankrupt, Crowd-Funded SellaBand Acquired by German Investors - Reading a few blog posts and comments, it doesn’t sound like many people were all that surprised. Sellaband’s crowdsourced music-financing experiment seemed promising, and in its three-plus years, it attracted thousands of artists and financed dozens of CD and download releases, so it wasn’t a total failure. However, the company also admits that the company’s bankruptcy resulted from a combination of old-school record industry ways and new-school misplaced optimism.

Rejected By Apple, Grooveshark Releases App For Jailbroken iPhones On Cydia - Having lost patience with Apple’s app approval process, Grooveshark has gone ahead and released their app for jailbroken iPhone/iPod Touches. This is a ballsy move and probably one that won’t sit well with Apple and the labels. Either this move goes quietly into the night or Grooveshark has just given their detractors more ammunition to go after them.

theBizmo launches Hit Or Not Facebook music app - This new facebook app is similar in concept to the original The Next Big Sound when they first launched. In this game, you play the role of an A&R person and test your hit making skills. I spent a bit of time playing around with Hit or Not and it’s kind of fun to play and even slightly addictive as you try to find those hidden gems in hopes of turning them into “big stars” and making yourself rich.

SeeqPod Founder Resurfaces with Mimvi Music Aggregator - “Mimvi, currently in private alpha, will use a similar approach to that of SeeqPod — which claimed 50 million unique monthly users at one point — to grab videos from Brightcove, Crackle, DailyMotion, MTV, Pitchfork TV, Veoh, Vevo, Vimeo, and YouTube, mashing their metadata against what its web crawlers determine about a given song’s popularity and associations. In addition, it reacts to how people use it.”

RadioDNS - I’m still a big fan of radio, mostly internet radio now so it excites me to see a project like RadioDNS. This collaborative project wants to converge radio broadcasting and IP-delivered services. I see it as taking a tried and tried technology (terrestrial radio) and harnessing today’s internet technology to turn radio in a multi-platform medium. The write-up is a bit technical but this four minute video should give you enough background information. It’s worth reading Jerry Del Colliano’s new media predictions to get his perspective on the future of radio. I believe there is some tie-in’s between what he is saying and what RadioDNS is attempting to do. We’ll see whether RadioDNS is adopted in any significant way or will it be another noble attempt that is overlooked or worse, dismissed outright without serious consideration.

Micropayments has been getting a lot more attention recently with the launch of PaySwarm and Flattr. PaySwarm is open source and allows artists/writers that create digital content to distribute it through the Web and receive payment directly from their fans and customers. Flattr, started by a co-founder of Pirate Bay, will let consumers divvy up money to the musicians, bloggers, photographers, or other publisher of their choice. Will these new payment platforms gain traction? Will consumers trust them? I also wonder how labels, managers and others in the music business chain feel if bands start receiving these micropayments, effectively cutting them out of the action. There is going to be a lot nit picky things that need to be carefully addressed in order to make this a sustainable payment model. Don’t forget, PayPal already offers micropayments and have the infrastructure and experience to expand this service if we see any significant adoption.

Opinions, Insights and Analysis

The hype is in the cloud, but the reality is hybrid - “The cloud-based solutions, specifically DaaS (Data as a Service) have to be available with the “hybrid cloud” option. Hybrid cloud solutions give you ubiquitous access to your data , locally as well as in the cloud. In does not matter where are you accessing the files — they can be locally available in your LAN or on your own computer; or they could be accessible in the cloud. A hybrid cloud solution seamlessly keeps both local and cloud files synchronized.”

Rent vs. Own: The Streaming Music Debate Continues - Is this really worth debating anymore? Some people will be quick to adopt streaming services, some will want to buy, whether it is digital or physical and then other will happily access music in multiple ways. As mentioned in the above article, realistically, it won’t be an either/or choice, consumers will just have more ways to consume music.

Sony Music chief foresees the endgame for CDs - “While 60% of Sony’s music business is now made up of CD sales, Hesse saw CDs as accounting for only 20% of the business by 2013. The rest will be made up of musical ringtones, subscriptions, and downloads, either paid for by consumers or supported by ad sponsors.”

Google’s Music Strategy: Past, Present and Future- I’m not sure that Google will unseat Apple anytime soon when it comes to music, although some of the music labels probably wouldn’t mind a new partner. If Google treats music as an after thought, rabid music consumers will know it. But I suspect they are serious, given that they supposedly lost out on buying Lala and now the rumour is they are looking at buying Catch Media. Love or hate iTunes and the iPod, Apple has captured the minds (and pockets) of music consumers and will work hard to keep them. I’m looking forward to the competition between these heavyweights and I know that there are one or two start-ups lurking in the background that will one day become a music heavyweight themselves.

The Slow Death of a Social Network - Om Malik at GigaOM has pretty much placed MySpace on death watch. When you think that just about every band big or small is on the site, MySpace has missed out a huge opportunity to be relevant and play a key role in the digital music business. It is terribly sad is that MySpace has never found the focus or leadership to stick to one thing (music) and be very good at it.

New free music sites, Guevara and Free All Music learn from others’ mistakes - My initial reaction is “why are they trying this again?”. I don’t know if this “tweaked” model will finally find success but it’s better that we cheer for their success for the sake of music and technology. More success equals more confidence by consumers, investors, artists, labels, advertisers that new music business models can work. It may not be a service that some of us will care about but if they find the right audience, hopefully they make it work.

Does It Make Sense to Block Listeners Outside the US From Streaming? - in mid-February CBSRadio started to block international streaming access to its radio streams, including AOL Radio and Yahoo Radio streams. Understandably, when US advertisers speak (complain?), broadcasters have to listen. So from a business perspective, they had to do it to ensure that ads are being properly targeted and monetized.

Of Course On-Demand Music Replaces Sales - It’s Supposed To - “If everyone paid a penny every time they played a song on their computers without buying a single song, the record industry would be in far better shape than it is now. More listening doesn’t need to mean less money, even if it means less purchasing. But for some reason, that model is seen as “eating our young,” when compared to the pay-per download model, which is essentially the electronic version of buying an unbundled CD, cassette, or 8-track tape — all formats that have become considerably less attractive to most people as they increasingly listen on connected devices, if they listen at all.”

5 Mantras For The New Music Business - So the big labels are trying to preserve past, successful business models, mainly the CD release complex and yet want to wholeheartedly embrace new digital strategies? Not sure you can have it both ways given the massive shifts in technology and digital music consumption. The question now being asked is whether content owners should accept lower average revenue per user (ARPU)? Here is a great piece by Kyle Bylin where he writes about MusicDNA and whether it has a chance to catch on. In this piece he describes very well the record industry’s structured top-down, highly centralized “push” marketing model and how “the push mentality of the record industry could not be extended into the digital realm, because all three of these institutions — that they built themselves on the back of — deteriorated in the face of the societal and technological shifts that the Internet brought forth”.

The Challenge for the Music Business - “The tried and true methods of creating success in the music industry are over and are never coming back. The economics just don’t work for most acts anymore. The greatest risk in the next 5-10 years for music is that no one will want to fund the development and promotion of new musical acts the way the major labels did in the past, until we see a new financial model.”

Upcoming Music Conferences and Events:

I’m planning to attend Canadian Music Week, and particularly looking forward to the Digital Music and Media Summit and Digital Strategies Conference. For those attending SXSW, pace yourselves and enjoy every minute of it. Before heading off, it might be a good idea to check out this SXSW survival guide to help get you through those long, action packed days.

Catch you next month!

Written by Gabriel Nijmeh and originally posted on Creative Deconstruction.
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March 3, 2010
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Born Ruffians - Sole Brother (Taken from Say It, out June 1st, 2010) First single from the upcoming new album by this Toronto-based band. The song is centred around a catchy guitar riff and laid-back vocals. It’s going to take a few more
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March 2, 2010
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Apples in Stereo - Dignified Dignitary (Taken from Travellers In Space And Time) Quirky indie pop… this song is one of the more straightforward songs on the album.
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March 1, 2010
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February 28, 2010
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February 27, 2010
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Echo & the Bunnymen - Silver (Taken from Ocean Rain) Across my Songkick dashboard comes the announcement of Echo & the Bunnymen playing Toronto April 23rd at the Phoenix (tour dates). So, nat
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February 26, 2010
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Richard Hawley - Some Candy Talking (Orig. by the Jesus and Mary Chain) It’s Friday… so it’s cover day. And continuing with yesterday’s JAMC theme, here’s Richard Hawley covering a song from Psychocandy which in my
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February 25, 2010
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