Monthly Archives: June 2008

Bono plans (RED) digital music service

Bono has a new plan for online music – philanthropic subscription services – planning to launch the scheme under the Product (RED) imprint in the autumn.
Essentially, users will pay $5 per month to receive three pieces of media every month, one track from a leading artist, (U2, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Emmylou Harris and Death Cab for Cutie have all signed-up to take part in this initiative), another track from an up and coming act and a surprise piece of content they’re calling a ‘crackerjack surprise’, which could be a song, video, short story or anything else that fits the description. Subscribers can also look forward to detailed stories of (RED) cash being spent in Africa.
Here’s how the (RED) team are explaining the service:
“This fall (RED) will unveil a simple, seamless way for people to receive music from artists they love and artists they will discover. By applying the (RED) idea to music this model will create a new revenue stream for artists and labels and buy life-saving medicine for those living with AIDS in Africa.”
Half of the money raised will go through (RED) to the Global Fund, and the other half to the artists who contribute songs.
“There’s so much music out there now, and people aren’t getting their information in the ways that they grew up with,” Paul McGuinness, U2’s manager, told the New York Times. “I think there’s quite an opportunity to help people keep current with music.”
(RED) partners have generated more than $60 million for the Global Fund, money is spent helping to finance comprehensive national HIV/AIDS programs led by the ministries of health, to provide antiretroviral treatment for children and adults, to assist in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as essential counseling and testing activities to reduce the overall risk of HIV transmission.
Don MacKinnon, founder of HEAR Music and former Vice President of Music & Entertainment of Starbucks Coffee Company, designed and developed this concept. 
“(RED) is such a powerful model,” said Don MacKinnon, President of (RED) Content. “The world’s best brands created (RED) products that have generated over $110 million. What we are doing now is applying the (RED) model to music. Every week you will receive great music from amazing artists and people living with AIDS in Africa will receive lifesaving antiretroviral medicine.” 
“Don MacKinnon just might be the penicillin the ailing music business needs. He is an innovator by nature and I have no doubt that some of the music software we are working on at (RED) will help change the way music is received, as well as changing the lives of Africans who will die without the AIDS drug that (RED) can help purchase,” said Bono.
This new direct link to customers is very important to (RED).  Not only because it creates an annuity to buy lifesaving medicine for those living with AIDS in Africa, but also because it gives us a direct relationship with (RED) consumers, creating a new platform to communicate the impact (RED) purchases are having on people’s lives,” said Susan Smith Ellis, CEO, (RED).
The notion of philanthropic business isn’t new – you’d have to look to Robert Owen for the seeds of these concepts – but investment works. You can read Impact Stories about beneficiaries of (RED) money in Africa here.

Primal Scream + iTunes make ticket sales connection

 Primal Scream are involved in a new deal in which fans pre-ordering their new  ‘Beautiful Future’ album through the iTunes Store in the UK from July 1 will get an early chance to buy tour tickets.

The promotion’s been cooled-up by Warner’s Atlantic Record’s B-Unique, working with Ticketmaster and iTunes. How it works – fans pre-ordering the new Primal’s album will receive an email with a unique code which they can use at the Ticketmaster UK site for 48 hours from July 30 to purchase tour tickets before they go on sale generally.

Those purchasing the album through iTunes will also get an exclusive additional track called Urban Guerrilla, while those pre-ordering it will receive another bonus track, Time Of The Assassins. (Do these names mean Bobby’s been dusting off his Hawkwind collection, again?)

Speaking to Music Week, Atlantic Records UK MD Max Lousada said: “It’s another example of our ability to provide our acts with flexible services that pull together different aspects of their career to create highly desirable offers for the fans.”


Pelago gives it a Whrrl


Mobile device social networking and discovery provider Pelago’s Whrrl service has extended the number of devices its service works with.

Whrrl focuses on helping users find and share local knowledge with others, combining mapping and blogging with social discovery that, apparently, “changes the way people use virtual friend networks to shape their experiences in the physical world.”

The US-only service can plot friends’ real-time locations on the Whrrl map, which itself now allows users to filter in order to see only those people, places and events that matter to them. 

The service is now compatible with BlackBerry World 8830, multiple Motorola RAZR models including the V3M, v3xx, V9, v9M, and the Samsung M610, BlackBerry Pearl and Curve, the Nokia N95, and soon the Apple iPhone. 


BBC, ITV, Ch4 respond to OFT Kangaroo slap

The OFT has referred the jointly-held plans of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 and their mooted Kangaroo service to the Competition Commission, sparking fury from the three UK players.
A joint statement on Kangaroo referral from BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 reads: “We’re naturally disappointed by the decision from the OFT and are frustrated that it will delay the launch of Kangaroo, however all parties remain committed to what the venture offers.
 The OFT’s decision shows that the assessment of the proposed joint venture involves some very complicated issues.  The parties are confident that when properly subject to more detailed scrutiny by the Competition Commission, the Competition Commission will conclude that the joint venture will provide wider choice for consumers and be seen as a pro-competitive force in the market place.
 Once the Competition Commission process is complete, each broadcaster will liaise with its board for approval and BBC Worldwide will liaise with the BBC Trust for approval. Our aspiration is that Kangaroo will offer a wealth of British content and provide an example of UK innovation and collaboration for the benefit of consumers and advertisers alike.”
ITV’s executive chairman Michael Grade said: “While I understand that the Office of Fair Trading is carrying out its statutory obligations, there is a serious problem with a regulatory framework that seems unable to take the most important interest into account – that of British viewers.
The UK’s three biggest public service broadcasters together invest £2.5 billion per annum in original UK production, representing over 90 per cent of the total spend, as the recent Ofcom report highlighted. As digital distribution gathers pace, we want to make our content available for free to online users in the most accessible way through Kangaroo.
 This venture has been delayed by a reference to the Competition Commission, at the very same time that non-UK companies like Google and Apple are free to build market dominating positions online in the UK without so much as a regulatory murmur.
 There must be a level playing field for those of us whose investment sustains UK production. Companies without that commitment, who financially contribute virtually nothing to the UK creative economy, are trying to use a narrow regulatory remit to exploit our investment at little cost or risk to themselves. If they succeed, the losers will be UK viewers, UK advertisers and UK producers. Today’s ruling suggests that the regulatory framework does not seem to take that wider public interest sufficiently into account.
In the meantime, as joint shareholders in a ground-breaking venture we feel passionately about, we will engage in the continuing process with the Competition Commission”.

EMI becomes music industry service company


An EMI deal announced today reflects new leader Guy Hand’s vision for the label, diversifying from its core strengths to become a service-based industry.

Announced today, EMI has reached a deal with Welk Music Group (Vanguard, Sugar Hill and Ranwood) under which EMI will offer Welk Music Groupdigital and physical sales and distribution services on a worldwide basis. EMI will also provide licensing and synchronization services on a non-exclusive basis to Welk’s artist roster.

Welk Music Group is home to Vanguard Records and Sugar Hill Records. Vanguard Records offers new artists such as Greg Laswell, Shawn Mullins, Mindy Smith and is also the home to recordings from Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Buddy Guy and Mississippi John Hurt.

Sugar Hill Records is a roots music label that counts artists including, Kasey Chambers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush, to The Duhks among its roster.

Kevin Welk, President of the Welk Music Group said:  “EMI offers us unique, seamless, global reach, and allows us to tap into their strong relationship network with physical and digital partners around the world. Their bold moves to transform its business will serve our labels and our artists well as we work to extend their reach to new audiences on a variety of new music platforms.”

 Ronn Werre, EMI Music President of Commercial Development said: “Our aim is to provide world class services to artists and to bring great music to fans.”

Meanwhile, EMI has intensified its internal reorganisation, a process which will see the loss of 1,500 jobs, and may see the appointment of a former P&G executive and  current head of the European division of British packaged goods company Reckitt Benckiser put in charge of the recorded music side of EMI.  Elio Leoni Sceti is formerly in the running to take charge of the important music label.


Real gets real, dumps DRM (almost)


Rhapsody owner RealNetworks has launched its DRM-free MP3 store, a final acknowledgement that DRM alone was never going to make Windows-based platforms a viable environment for digital media.

Real, a company once described by Apple as a company which “adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod” clearly now hopes its five million strong catalogue offering of music in non-rights-restricted MP3 format (256k) will let it take a little market share, as the company’s Rhapsody music service remains a minnow in the media pond.

The move only relates to the a-la-carte download section of the store, and not the mainline subscription service. The updated Rhapsody follows a similar DRM-free move by Napster after months in which the majors paid close attention to similar experiments held in conjunction with Amazon, which itself extends its DRM-free service to Europe later this year.

Until now, legal digital music has suffered from severe limitations on where consumers could buy it and how they could use it,” said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. “‘Music Without Limits,’ fixes those problems and will make digital music easier and more valuable for consumers. Rhapsody is proud to be partnering with some of the most innovative companies of our time, including: iLike, Yahoo!, MTV Networks, and Verizon Wireless, to connect consumers with digital music wherever they are and however they want it.”

Visitors to the Rhapsody MP3 Store can listen to full-length songs instead of the 30-second samples found on other sites. Real’s done deals with MTV and Verizon to try to promote the service.


UK label evolution continues

Figures released today by British record companies’ body the BPI show that labels are beginning to generate significant revenues outside their traditional base of retail sales – Record company revenues outside direct sales of music increased by 13.8 per cent to £121.6 million in 2007, from £106.9m in 2006. These additional revenues now account for 11.4 per cent of record companies’ domestic income.
 Record companies generate income through sales (selling music recordings to consumers via retailers), licensing (giving permission for third parties to use recordings commercially) and multiple-rights income (revenue derived outside recording copyright).
New partnerships and business models mean record labels’ income through licensing is increasing. Labels are also generating income outside the direct sales of music and licensing by extending their relationships with artists to include a broader range of artist services.
 Digital sales are going from strength to strength, with digital formats now accounting for around 85 per cent of all Top-20 singles sales. More than 200 million downloads have now been sold in the UK since the launch of the first mainstream stores in early 2004. In total, digital formats now account for 8.6 per cent of all UK record company sales income.
Digital licensing income is increasing too. On-demand streaming services, both online and on mobile platforms, including advertising-supported services such as We7 and Yahoo Music saw income from new digital business models grow by 55.7 per cent.
Synchronisation licence income, from the use of music in advertisements, films and games continued to grow strongly in 2007, where revenues grew by 20.1 per cent. There was also a 14.8 per cent increase in record label income from PPL: broadcast and public performance licensing.
360 degree deals are also having an impact. Such deals may generate income from merchandise, touring, the use of artist logos, digital products such as mobile phone wallpaper, and sponsorship deals. Revenues generated by record companies in this area increased by 16.2 per cent in 2007.
 BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said: “Today’s record business is unrecognisable to that of five years ago. Labels have rapidly evolved into digitally literate businesses that generate significant revenues through licensing.”

Google ‘monetizes’ You Tube

Interesting, old news but more clarity. Not my find, unfortunately, that honour belongs to Motley Fool: “It seems Google’s going to give it a shot, according to YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley’s recent comments at a tech dinner in Palo Alto. “We’re integrating links to iTunes and Amazon for DVDs, CDs, and digital downloads,” he said. “A lot of our content does drive awareness for music or for TV shows or movies, and a lot of our partners are really just excited to make that connection between the two — going from promotional, getting people to tune into a TV show or buy a movie ticket — to that direct response in terms of clicking to buy something.””

The Holy Grail of this kind of vision is the ability to get hold of what you want, when you want it. What’s in the way of realising that is that not every media player is at the table, and, right now, if you are a huge fan of Chinese cinema, but live in Brazil, you have no immediate online resource to get that, then, there, as you please. Players must focus on the niche markets.