In some ways, I’m the perfect target for U2’s big new release partnership with Apple. U2 was my favorite band all through junior high and high school. I dutifully collected all their singles, and I still have my ticket stub and sweatshirt from the 1998 Popmart tour. Yet my interests drifted elsewhere as I got older; I’m part of the reason their last record sold relatively poorly, as I still haven’t heard it. Theoretically, a free copy of Songs of Innocence might rekindle my fandom.
But: it’s complicated. U2’s avowed commitments to social justice were a big part of what got me interested in activism and policy at a young age. It feels a bit jarring now to see the band whose liner notes got thirteen-year old me to join Amnesty International so closely associated with a company that’s facing protests both for inhumane factory conditions abroad and low contractor wages domestically.
The ambivalence doesn’t stop there. The Apple/U2/Universal Music Group partnership has also prompted some unexpected backlash. Still, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been successful on the most basic levels; the band was reportedly well paid (over $100 million in marketing, plus a flat royalty fee), at least 36 million people have accessed the music, the new iPhone has set new sales records and everyone’s still talking about U2 and Apple two weeks later. Including our own Casey Rae, who joined Chris Richards of the Washington Post and Catherine Mayer of TIME Magazine—both of whom have recently written about U2—on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Sept. 23. (Listen to the archived broadcast).
You may be feeling some U2 fatigue, but we think there’s still a need to ask deeper questions about what this deal means, and what it doesn’t.
20.7 million Americans (8.8% of all US adults) attended a classical music performance in 2012, according to the National Endowment for the Arts’ recent survey highlights. 19 million (8.1%) attended a jazz gig. But if these millions of classical & jazz fans tried to use any of the most popular digital music services to access classical or jazz music at home, they’d likely end up confused and unable to find what they’re looking for. read more
For consumers, iTunes Radio may feel a lot like another version of the popular “predictive” radio service Pandora. Plug in an artist or genre, and an algorithm spits out sonically related tracks. But while the experience for listeners may be similar up to a point, the revenue flow behind the scenes isn’t an exact match.
In order to break down how money gets from iTunes Radio to the artists, it’s first important to remember that every song has two copyrights: one for the underlying composition (think notes and lyrics on paper), and one for the sound recording (think music on CD, tape or hard drive).
This post authored by FMC communications intern Olivia Brown
Metadata. Sounds like a android with irony issues. But it’s actually important to musicians and composers.
So what is it? Metadata is information that lives with every file on your computer. Through a mix of words and numbers, metadata describes files so that they can be managed by both the user and the system. In the case of a music file, metadata refers to the tags associated with a particular piece of music — such as the artist, album name, year of release, etc. These tags are definitely useful for the listener in keeping track of a digital collection. For artists, it’s about tracking for downloads and plays, which can ensure timely and accurate compensation.
Unfortunately, not all systems to organize metadata are created equal. Non-rock artists, especially jazz and classical musicians, have borne the brunt of some of the most poorly organized metadata out there. This is largely because the new business models are often developed with only popular music in mind.
Whether on vinyl, cassette, CD or via digital download, income from the sale, license or performance of sound recordings has been a core part of many musicians’ income streams for decades. But there’s no doubt that income from sound recordings — perhaps more than any other — has experienced significant challenges and undergone serious changes in the past 10 to 15 years. read more
By now, you've probably heard all about the iPad and seen the pictures of Steve Jobs displaying his new "tablet" in a manner undoubtedly familiar to the late Charlton Heston. So far, reaction to the device has been mixed at best, with some people already lining up to take potshots at Apple's latest doohickey.
We still think it's pretty neat, mostly because we're curious about what it could mean for the music biz, which is still struggling to find an attractive replacement for physical product. And as long as whatever new gadget plays nice with independent and unaffiliated creators who want to join the digital party, we're cool. read more
If you follow new technologies for the digital distribution and access of music, you've undoubtedly come across the name Spotify. In recent months, the Sweden-based service — which offers a deep catalog of high quality streaming audio via a rock-solid and intuitive desktop client — has racked up the press mentions on both sides of the Atlantic. Spotify's Daniel Ek will be presenting at the Future of Music Policy Summit 2009 (Georgetown University, Washington, DC, Oct. 4-6). Reserve your spot now! read more
Apple Debuts Unprotected Songs Online
Apple begins selling DRM-free songs from EMI on Itunes; songs downloaded from iTunes will play on other digital music players for the first time. by May Wong, Associated Press, May 31, 2007
Amazon Store to Sell Music Free of Copy Protection
Amazon.com plans to launch a digital music store later this year. Their MP3-only strategy, says founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, "means all the music that customers buy on Amazon is always DRM-free and plays on any device." Billboard.biz, May 16, 2007read more
The New York Times Magazine had an interesting piece over the weekend on how musicians are building new distribution networks and fan bases via the Internet.
The piece kicks off by profiling Jonathan Coulton, a former computer programmer and unsigned Brooklyn indie artist who is making a “reasonable middle class living” by selling CDs and music downloads via his web site, iTunes, and CD Baby. Coulton built a fan base by recording a song a week for all of 2006 and then posting them on his blog. They ranged from odes to Tom Cruise (“Tom Cruise Crazy”) to pieces about the dead-end life of a programmer (“Code Monkey”). read more
Another day, another major blow to DRM. EMI and Apple just announced a deal to distribute the label’s music via the iTunes web site without DRM. This is a significant move because the major labels had expressed a strong commitment to DRM (although there had been some signs of fraying recently — see the SNOCAP posting below). There are several basic technological questions that have not been answered, but it appears a sea change is in the works on the DRM front.
iTunes will begin selling the DRM free tracks in May and other music download sites will follow thereafter. The price for the tracks will be $1.29, instead of the usual $.99. The sound you hear may be the other majors scrambling to follow.