Thursday, August 28, 2008

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown I just read a really good post from Read/WriteWeb with more speculation on what is coming with iTunes 8.0 software next month (click the link below to see the whole story):

The Case for an Apple iNetwork: Welcome to the Social - ReadWriteWeb: "While most of that is common knowledge, what most people overlook is the glaring lack of any community aspect to iTunes. There are millions of people, many of them with similar tastes, flocking to the same destination every day, yet they never interact with each other... because they can't. If Kevin Rose is to be believed, however, (as discussed on TWiT 157) that all is about to change with iTunes 8.0.

He says, '... the one thing I hear about iTunes 8.0 is that it's gonna do something along the lines of, um, looking at your music, and, uh, kind of recommendations based on certain things.' In other words, the next version of iTunes will monitor your media purchasing and consuming habits and correlate them with everyone else using the system to figure out which songs you will probably like but haven't bought/listened to. If you're a fan of collaborative filtering systems or internet radio (Pandora,, etc), you're probably familiar with the idea already and that iTunes may be considering implementing this doesn't come as a surprise (I found myself wondering why this wasn't introduced 2-3 years ago)."

To make a real play at being a music network I think Apple needs to give iTunes a web presence (outside of the client application), but nonetheless the potential notion of Subscription + Cloud + iPhone + Taste Networking = pretty compelling proposition., iLike and iMeem have established the market for such experiences now. This is about the time when Jobs likes to walk in with an offering (while claiming they *invented* it).

I still think that they will come in with subscription at some point (if not now), but I'd put pretty good money that September announcements include MobileMe + enhanced taste networking/discovery features (with still an outside shot of full-blown subscription being announced too). Apple wouldn't be going through the headaches with MobileMe transition (aka "upgrade") if it wasn't key to their strategy moving forward - the next logical step for it is cloud storage (and playback) of your iTunes library with the additional kick of wireless (push) sync management of that media down to your iPhone/WiFiPod. Once your content is in the cloud and universally accessible, then limited sharing (streaming) to a small social network of your friends enhances discovery of new content, with easy "buy" links back to iTunes which can then push the newly purchased content to your device, computer and cloud all simultaneously.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

iTunes Unlimited Coming Next Month?

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase, source unknown We'll see if this actually plays out... but news is (re)surfacing that Apple's iTunes subscription plans are for real.

Rumors of iTunes music subscriptions fly again | The Industry Standard: "MacDailyNews says the service will be called 'iTunes Unlimited' and offer 50% of the songs currently on the traditional U.S. iTunes store through the program at launch. The subscription will be for one year and be available through iTunes or a retail box, similar to how MobileMe/DotMac is sold. iTunes Unlimited would launch, initially, on the U.S. store only. The subscription would cost $129.99 on its own, $179.99 with MobileMe or $99.99 for existing MobileMe subscribers. The site claims a late September announcement with late October rollout, just in time for the holiday season. TUAW received (almost certainly from the same source) a similar report."

But if it does, I won't hesitate to be the first to say "I told you so". :-)

Also check out some of my speculation on Apple's continued subscription world domination plan from January of this year.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Radio Royalties on Repeat Mode

The RIAA Logo.Image via Wikipedia The latest (yet not new) story on Pandora claiming they will pull the plug if there isn't relief on the proposed new streaming radio royalty rates has people talking again. The discussions and debates on these potentially crippling rates (see previous posts and are heating up again thanks to the Pandora story (and the recent RIAA-backed shutdown of Muxtape).

I agree that it is a very complex issue - with many parties to be considered. Webcasters, songwriters, artists, record labels, technologists, legislators, consumers. There are some that think that the music "establishment" (aka major labels, RIAA, SoundExchange) are doing everything in their power to reverse the clock so they can go back into history and undo some of their previous actions. The hope is, that in doing so, they create a better future for recorded music sales - one in which they own and control every piece of the pie. Others go so far to say that the labels actually have a vested interest in *killing* streaming radio as they see it as actually a replacement to sales. By killing the existing ecosystem, they can start over (an idea I don't totally disagree with). It's like those movies where some madman wants to nuke the planet so we can "start anew" and cleanse the sins of humanity's past.

I don't really know where I am going with this... other than, this is how I see the most recent actions of the "establishment". I may be somewhat naive, this is how this whole thing seems to be playing out:

Act 1
  • labels give terrestrial radio the rights to broadcast royalty-free (to generate awareness and sales of physical product)

Act 2
  • labels want more promotion so they start *paying* to get the content played (payola)

Act 3
  • labels told that "pay for play" is illegal and start looking for additional (free to them) promotional outlets

Act 4
  • labels want more promotion so they give MTV rights to royalty-free broadcast of music videos

Act 5
  • labels see other parts of the music ecosystem starting to make money (or *not* make money, but attracting users) and think "hey, that should be ours too"

Act 6
  • labels start demanding/increasing payment on plays (where they used to gladly pay for such a thing and would still be doing so if the federal government deemed it illegal)

Act 7
  • streaming/radio ecosystem can't afford to be in the radio business and all exit - or move to royalty free programming (talk, news, etc.) - this is in addition to MTV/VH1's continued shift to reality TV and away from music

Act 8
  • labels don't have any promotional outlets to get their content heard

Act 9
  • labels continue to explore new media distribution outlets for their content (commercials, soundtracks, etc)

Act 10
  • due to limited inventory and increased competition to get song "placement" labels offer royalty-free content

Act 11
  • go to Act 1

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” - Albert Einstein

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