Music and Tech Recap – May 2010 Edition

Posted on 03. Jun, 2010 by in NEWS, TECHNOLOGY


Google held their annual I/O developer conference over two days in May where they (and their partners) announced a number of new initiatives including Google TV, mSpot, a music streaming/syncing service for the Android and their acquisition of Simplify Media, which allows streaming of locally-stored media to Android devices.

Next up is Apple’s annual developer’s conference (WWDC) set for June 7th – June 11th. Rumours and speculation abound about whether AppleTV will receive an update to compete against GoogleTV, although comments by Steve Jobs at the All Things Digital conference seems indicates that there isn’t a viable market for setup top boxes and Apple still considers AppleTV a hobby. If you believe opposite of what Jobs is saying, Apple is probably ready to dive head first in this business.

Also, now that Lala has been shutdown as of May 31st, the big question is whether Apple is ready to launch “iTunes in the cloud” next week.For those who can’t wait to stream music here are three different options to stream to your iPhone.

Google and Apple are two key technology companies (along with many others) working on media convergence strategies (reading, watching and listening) and preparing to battle for the networked media life. There are a lot of questions and unknowns around licensing/copyrights, partnerships with content providers, consumer behaviour (are they ready? will they pay?), open vs. closed ecosystems etc that will need to be addressed and negotiated over time. Not there yet, but inching closer.

In the meantime, there are no shortage of available hardware and software options. For most media + tech geeks, we have had access and used personal media streaming technology (Subsonic, Orb, Roku, Popbox, Boxee, Plex etc) but what does it mean for the mainstream music consumer? Most people don’t have the time or patience to setup and maintain their own media servers. So maybe Apple (with Lala’s technology) and Google (with Simplify Media) in particular might make it easier to user and legitimize these services for mass market adoption. Mainstream consumers will make decisions and choices based on what the big guys do and how these products/services are developed, marketed and supported.

David Pakman in an audio interview discussing music’s next evolution made the point that music must become “part of the very fabric of the web, not merely an overlay on top of it”. When you look back in history, Sun Microsystem’s earliest slogan, first uttered by John Gage was “The Network is the Computer.” As the underlying technology advances and evolves, the concept of the cloud is really nothing new.

Which leads me to my next point and that is every year seems to be the “year of the cloud”. For those of us working with or closely following technology, we are very familiar with the term and have discussed it endlessly. Overused buzz word and clever marketing for sure but for the everyday consumer, all they want is affordable access that is fast, convenient and just works. The “cloud” won’t mean very much to them. And why should it? Isn’t terrestrial radio in the cloud? Or cable/satellite TV? I’m sure I’m not the only one to think this but it really is time to put the term “music in the cloud” to bed because what we are really talking about is access and by extension choice, whether it is digital downloads, streaming or physical (CD/Vinyl/DVD).

The future as always is exciting, innovation is fraught with failures from which the next defining consumer product always emerges.

Investments and Funding

A quieter month with only a handful of investments and news that Terra Firma secured $156 million in order to avoid a Citigroup takeover.

Total 2010 Investments as of May 31st, 2010

Q1/10: $99.6m
Q2/10 (to-date): $73m
2010 total to-date: $172.6m

As I mention each month, this isn’t a comprehensive list and the numbers have been pulled from public sources but it still gives us a sense of general investment activity in the music tech space. If I missed any investments, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

Music Services and Apps

Incredibox – Admittedly, this is a bit of time waster but this Flash-based app lets you create your own beatboxing acapella vocal group. – Turn any Tumblr blog into a playlist. For those who don’t realize it, Tumblr is an incredible place for music discovery and personal recommendations. To see this action, take a listen to some of the 539 tracks I have posted over the past two years on my Tumblr blog.

Hitmaker is a new iPhone app with the goal of making music listeners into music influencers. The basic premise is you promote music within your social circle who then decide how good your picks are. You collect points and work your way into beoming a music mogul.

25 Music Apps for the iPad – A pretty impressive list of apps. The more I see the various demos and videos, the more I realize that an iPad will have a future in my hands.

AudioDraft gives musicians new tools for online, worldwide collaboration – Designed to let artists collaborate on a commission, sharing the financial risk of not winning the deal and sharing the prize money, if they win.

mSpot already offers a mobile movie streaming, mobile radio and are now moving into the mobile music space. We will see more of this media convergence with Google and Apple leading the charge. Naturally this makes sense.

LoKast is a “disposable” proximity based social network that utilizes bluetooth to connect people within a 300ft radius. Some bands are using it to broadcast pictures, music and other content at their shows to fans in attendance who in turn can also connect with other attendees.
According to this recent patent filing, Apple is also working on their version of an event-driven, proximity based social networking platform called ‘iGroup”.

Radioweave which is similar to, lets you “weave” a personal radio station filled with podcasts, music, traffic, weather, news and even your Twitter channels. Listen on the web, iPhone/iPod touch, and Android devices. Will commercial radio stations ever take this customized approach? and Echonest Combine Forces by separating music app development (APIs) from the complexities of music licensing. This is smart and progressive thinking. Developers can focus on making the best possible music apps and yet have full access to legal and licensed music without worrying about getting sued into oblivion.

The Best of British Digital Music Startups – Musically reporting from the Brighton for The Great Escape conference, reports on a number of UK music startups including Music Glue, MusicMetric and RjDj.

Music Hack Day weekends keep getting better and better. The sheer genius and creativity is mind blowing! I spent a bit of time reviewing the hacks that came out of last month’s SF Music Hack Day and here are a few that really stuck out.

  • Six Degrees of Black Sabbath – This is absolutely wild! Enter the names of two artists and follow the path that connects them. I made a path from Death Cab for Cutie to The Smiths. Interesting results.
  • Overhere – Love your friends music taste? Type in your friends LastFM account name and using Spotify listen along in (near) real-time.
  • Bragging Rights – “A very hasty morning hack designed to answer the one question on every music hipster’s mind: Who heard it first?” Come on, who hasn’t at least once got into a “discussion” with a friend over who discovered what first?
  • The Swinger makes any song swing. It does this be taking each beat and time-stretches the first half of each beat while time-shrinking the second half. Take a listen to a few different songs including Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and the Police. Try it out here.
  • (My) Bands in (Your) Town – A widget you can post on your blog that lets your vistors know which bands you like (via LastFM) are playing in their town (via Bandsintown).

You can see a list of all the SF hacks here. More live Music Hack Day reports can be found here, here and here.

Playdio – A clever way to use digital music services like Spotify to include full length and licensed music in a podcast.

Gigswiz – A startup from Helsinki, Finland that just launched an analytics platform for the live music industry. This service helps bands, agents and local promoters make better decisions about where bands should schedule their concerts and tours.

BlueBeat is back with an iPhone app that lets you play from a variety of playlists which they claim are “fully-licensed simulated performances”. Don’t really know what that means. But if you recall, a court injunction last year forced them to shut down their questionable download service that the claimed was legal because they use “psychoacoustic simulations“.

Opinions, Insights and Analysis

As Consumers Steer Clear of Mobile Music Downloads, iTunes Continues to Run the Show – Will consumers have to wait a bit longer while Apple gets all their music streaming ducks in a row (labels, consumer culture and infrastructure)?

Face It – In Music, Devaluation Is The New Reality – Over and above royalties which are deservedly earned by artists, the physical aspect of CDs has overpriced music for many years, very little of which artists ever received. Technology comes along and throws everyone a nasty curveball and artists take the brunt of it. The suits, with their army of lawyers and MBAs will always find new ways of making money while artists are left to fend for themselves in the new music economy. Music, as an art form is not devalued, the old music business model is. A perfect segue to the next article… which is probably very true.

Effects Of The Internet: Cashing In On The Digital Economy – “In a digital economy, big business still loses millions, while the independent musician has nothing but gains.”

The Myth Of “Distribution Is King” – Content is still king! People don’t buy distribution, they buy content.

A Record Collection Of Links: Collecting In The Age Of Streaming Music – “In the age of streaming music, the way one builds a music collection, the looks of it and the way it is maintained differs from the collection as we used to know it. But is the intimate relationship between collector and collection disappearing in the age of streaming music?” Full 30 page essay can be found here.

SF MusicTech Summit which was held in San Francisco on May 17th continues to grow in prominence and importance. Take a look at a some of these post-event reports here and here”.

Everybody is a Music Maker – Dave Haynes of SoundCloud and OpenMusicMedia presented at TEDxCardiff last month where he discussed how we are becoming more than music consumers thanks to the development of music creation/participation tools. Very insightful.

Hypebot has an informative four part interview with Greg Kot who is the author of Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music.

Upcoming Music + Tech Events

If you have an upcoming event you want us to post in next month’s music + tech recap, please get in touch with me on Twitter.

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.

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