2010 got off to a quick start with CES in early January, another Apple love fest and Midem 2010, the annual music biz conference held in Cannes, France. Although it was reported that attendance at Midem was down from previous years, there was still a lot of interesting panels, news and announcements made over the five days. Definitely no shortage of ideas, opinions or stories. The Midem organizers have done a great job putting together a comprehensive roundup. 34 blog posts and 29 videos covering branding, marketing, technology, publishing, business models and much more. I’ve pulled out a few of the interesting ones that I enjoyed reading/watching:
- Labels and Digital Services panel, with Spotify, we7, The Orchard, WMG, Sony and Beggars
- Mobile Apps & Music panel
- Mark Mulligan: Music Industry Meltdown: Recasting the Mold
- Albin Serviant: Is The Future of Music…the Album (App)?
- Live Post: Who Owns the Consumer?
- “Don’t stand in the way of technology, and in the way of what the customer wants”, a conversation with Getty Images and Sulake
Investments and Funding
If the numbers are accurate, there’s some pretty big dollars ($42M) being thrown around in early 2010. Compared to January 2009 numbers noted in the 2009 investment summary that Duncan Freeman of Bandmetrics put together, January 2010 alone matches Q1 2009 investments. Keeping in mind this isn’t a comprehensive list and the numbers have been pulled from public sources, 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 closed funding in January:
- The Echo Nest, Developer of “Music Brain,” Taps VCs for $1.3M
- Jelli, a user-controlled radio startup raises $2M
- Avnera raises $10M for audio chips with coolest sound
- Guvera raises another $20m for it’s ad-supported music service
- Avega gets louder with $2.5M for home audio networking
- Hello Music raises $4M to identify talent and power musicians’ careers
- Music discovery Web site OurStage raises about $2.55 million in new funding
2010 could be busy year for digital music mergers – Apple, MySpace Music, Amazon, Google, Microsoft are all up to something or another. Consolidation might be good if it stabilizes a very shaky and fragmented digital music market. So, which music firms will get bought in 2010?
Music Services and Apps
A summary of the 15 digital music startups that presented at MidemNet Labs – The full list of startups: Aviary, Awdio, BandCentral, Band Metrics, Digiclef, GoMix, KickStart, Pops, Radionomy, Silence Media, Songkick, StreamJam, Thesixtyone, Tracks & Fields, TuneWiki.
Music Hack Day Sweden was the fifth instalment of this really cool music hacking weekend. Described best by the organizers: “The main goal of Music Hack Day is to explore and build the next generation of music applications. It’s a full weekend of hacking in which participants will conceptualize, create and present their projects. Music + software + hardware + art + the web. Anything goes as long as it’s music related.”
A lot of the hacks are very raw and may not go beyond the initial concept/prototype stage. There were a few impressive hacks that you would think were fully developed web apps. I watched a bit of the stream and have been reading some of the post hackday blog posts and testing some of the hacks. I may have missed it, but I was surprised that I didn’t see any apps utilizing the Playdar service which I’ve raved on about in my October and December recaps. Here are a few apps that stood out for me:
- HacKey – Run your LastFM profile and tapping into the Echonest API, it will tell you which key you most favour. Based on my scrobbled list of songs, I favour D major.
- My City vs. Your City - Comparing listening habits/tastes between two cities. For example, Toronto and New York are very similar but Toronto vs. Zurich is quite different.
- FindtheBand.com – Utilizing LastFM and Spotify APIs, enter a band name and you get back a list of similar artists with Spotify band and song links.
- discoverOmatic.com – Love the developer’s description: “discoverOmatic takes the gooey BBC SPARQL endpoints, stirs in the fabulous echonest analysis and artist APIs, adds a pinch of last.fm’s scrobbling and recommender system, and binds it all together with MusicBrainz to make a completely awesome way to discover music based around what you’re listening to.”
Consumer Electronics Show: Music Apps Abound – Grammy’s iPhone App, Music Mastermind, Muzu.tv and MusicStation were some of the apps announced.
Play.Me is the newest ad-free music streaming service to crowd the field further. Launched in early January, I gave this a quick whirl and find that the interface is a bit rough around the edges and clunky and the catalog is not yet deep. The Free Pass account lets you listen to ten hours per month of ad-free music and $9.99US per month gives you unlimited streaming and ten downloads. Just wondering how many more of these services can the market support? How will they ever be profitable in a fragmented market?
A new version of iPhone app, Soundhound launches with Pandora integration, allowing users to launch Pandora radio stations based on songs and/or artists.
RadioTuna – I love internet radio. Commercial-free, no annoying DJs, and music you otherwise would never hear on terrestrial radio. What’s not to like? RadioTuna is a real-time search engine for online radio that makes it easy to discover and listen to online radio. Search by genre or artist and play the station right inside the browser. Radiotime is another internet radio aggregator that I really like.
MusicDNA – new digital file that is son of MP3 unveiled – Or will this be the orphaned son of MP3. Do we really need another format? If labels/artists wanted to, they could use the open-source Ogg format to multiplex audio/video/metadata. We also have commercial offerings like iTunes LP, CMX and MXP4. Do music consumers really want more than the music? Will they be willing to pay more for these “extras”?
Misa Digital Guitar replaces strings with touchscreen – Plays like a regular guitar but your right hand is used to operate a touchscreen. Sound runs through a MIDI controller and is sent to your computer or sound module. Watch the video to see how it works. Guitar purists might cringe but it still is creative software/hardware combo.
SoundCloud teams up with The Hype Machine to transform music distribution to blogs – Great news for artists and labels who have better control and measurement of music distribution across music blogs. Some music bloggers are still influential in spite of an extremely fragmented music business. We really need to see more of these types of collaborations across platforms and services.
YouTube Music Discovery Project and Playlist Creation Tool – Surprised to see that YouTube launched this and its not too bad for a first attempt. As a mainstream aggregation tool it will work for the average music fan. Tuberadio.fm launched something very similar not too long ago.
MusicAlly has put together an in-depth interview series exploring metrics for digital music. Check out interviews with: Eric Garland of Big Champagne; Alan Ault of WaveMetrix; Marie-Alicia Chang and Gregory Mead of MusicMetric; and Brad Little of Nielsen Buzzmetrics and Duncan Freeman, Bandmetrics.
Opinions, Insights and Analysis
Will the Digital Music Industry Shrink This Year? – According to a recent report (pdf) by Redwood Capital, consolidation in the digital music industry is inevitable, as many businesses and technologies will be acquired by more viable business models.
Radio is not dead. Read how TokyoFM is augmenting the listening experience over FM with additional information via the Internet. If you don’t follow Jerry Del Colliano’s blog, Inside Music Media and the future of radio interests you, you should check him out. He passionately covers radio and the impact that the internet and technology will have heading into the future.
Music industry hopes giveaways can reverse its sliding fortunes – “The industry has been forced to compete with free in a way that still generates revenues,” said Antony Bruno, the Denver-based digital editor for Billboard magazine. “And that’s driving a lot of these things you’re seeing now — the ‘Free MP3’ of the week on iTunes and all the Amazon.com stuff. These companies, and the music labels, are very well aware that they have to compete with the fact that people can go anywhere they want on the pirate level for free music.”
‘Freemium’ Services Damage Value Of Music – “I believe one of the greatest challenges for the music industry in the coming year will be to begin to tackle consumer perception that there is such a thing as ‘free’ music. As the previous decade witnessed a rise in free digital music services, my greatest fear is that there are now too many free messages in the space to keep music truly valuable in the eyes of the listener.”
Everywhere Access Key to Paid Music Models – “Paid music services are starting to shift their focus away from selling downloads and instead concentrate on granting users paid access to content—including the music libraries they already own. Apple, far and away the market leader in the digital music industry, has seen its iTunes ecosystem slow in growth, while cloud-based initiatives gather steam.”
From Dickens to Digitization: How Technology Killed Copyright – “Copyright infringement has stirred the souls of artists and publishers since the time of Charles Dickens, who went to the United States in 1842 to ask the Americans to stop pirating his works.”
The Music Industry – Two of the New Business Models – “While in the past the music industry was characterized by one dominant business model design (the one of the major recording companies), the future will be characterized by multiple competing business models.”
Curation, Playlists and the Death of the DJ – “The death of “the DJ,” or to put it more broadly, professionally curated music, is another story entirely. While terrestrial broadcasters are, in fact, killing off DJ’s left and right either through downsizing or simply eliminating live and local airshifts, the role of curation has never been more important, especially with the skull-drillingly vast array of music-as-commodity services available to music fans.”
Music Games Need to Refocus, Not Reboot – Joe Rybicki explores the changing dynamics of the music game genre, and examines what needs to change in order to keep things viable in the years ahead.
Rock Band Network Is Creating An Exciting New Industry In Music Gaming – “Music videogames like “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” have tapered off after huge growth in 2008 and years prior. But a new platform that lets musicians and labels upload and sell more songs to play along with could potentially boost user interest (and spending) again.”
And that caps another month. There is so much happening out there that it’s hard to keep up. Hopefully this monthly recap helps you keep on top of things and/or fill in those news items you may have missed this past month.
And one last thing, I promised myself that this edition will be iPad and Spotify news-free and I made it through without mentioning a peep! I came close but stuck to my word. You are probably just as tired of hearing the same things repeated endlessly in the head spinning tech echo chamber!
See you next month!
Gabriel Nijmeh is a software business analyst, passionate music lover and guitar player. He currently advises a couple of music startups, including Mediazoic, a real-time social DJ platform and co-founded the Toronto edition of OpenMusicMedia which brings people together to openly discuss the intersection of digital music, media and culture.