"All Summer Long" is one catchy tune. Built on the groove of the late Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London," spiced up with Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," the song nonetheless soars on Robert James Ritchie's down-homey delivery of one of the best ballads to hit the airwaves in years. I've heard it on Top 40, country and classic rock stations in the past week. Kid Rock's album, Rock 'n Roll Jesus, is now at #2 on Billboard's chart. All this without iTunes. Why on earth would record labels withhold an album from America's largest music retailer?There's no one big reason. This WSJ report lists several:
Muxtape founder Justin Ouellette says he's shut down the mixtape-hosting website because of a problem with the Recording Industry Association of America. A statement from the RIAA itself seems to confirm the story. Bu we hear another reason Muxtape is shutting down is that it got too expensive for Ouellette to keep up.A tipster tells us Muxtape investor Jakob Lodwick has been heard to complain that the site's hosting bill alone amounts to $30,000 per day. That figure seems absurdly high — but could our tipster have misheard Lodwick saying the bill is $30,000 a month? After Muxtape's first day, Ouellette posted the site's stats, reporting 8,685 users uploading and playing 19,731 songs over 35,000 visits cost Muxtape $118.17 with Amazon's S3 online-storage service. Extrapolate that first day over a month, at Amazon's standard rates, and you've got a $3,545 hosting bill. Compete.com confirms that Muxtape's user base has grown at least tenfold since then, making a $30,000/mo. hosting bill not just plausible, but likely. The bill is also far more than Lodwick or Ouellette seem to have expected. In an accidentally published investment term sheet, Ouellette estimated three months of hosting would cost $18,000. That's about $72,000 off the mark, enough to eat through Lodwick's $95,000 investment and shut down the site, angry letters from the RIAA or no.
The days of marveling over online music service Pandora's ability to know that you hella heart Oakland's own Digital Underground may soon be over. A court decision adored by the recording industry doubled the royalties Web broadcasters have to pay. Radio stations pay nothing to for rebroadcast rights to recordings, but do pay publishers a royalty. Satellite broadcasters pay nearly half what online music providers are charged. Pandora reports that the charges, payable to royalty collector SoundExchange, will amount to $17.5 million of their $25 million in annual revenue. Which would permanently mangle the company's business model, according to CEO Tim Westergren. The flip, convenient thing to do here is to blog about the evils of the rapacious music industry. Sure, SoundExchange is notorious for its long list of artists it can't find in order to pay, while it naturally collects royalties regardless. But after Muxtape's run in with the RIAA today, one has to think there's blame to spread around. What did these music entrepreneurs expect?Let's not forget: Apple pays a similar percentage to music labels for sales through iTunes, and yet it manages to stay in business. For that matter, Google pays publishers the bulk of advertising revenues it collects on ads it places on their websites. Oh, and how much of Wal-Mart's revenues get shipped straight to its suppliers in China? It's not like it's impossible to make a living in a business where most of your revenues go to the people who make the business possible. Perhaps this is Pandora's problem, not the music industry's. One way Pandora could boost revenue and curry favor with the RIAA is through good old-fashioned payola. Why not strike a deal to waive royalties on tracks the industry would like to see promoted and mixed into playlists just a little more heavily than usual? Users would still have a "commercial-free" listening experience, and Pandora could provide the thumbs-up, thumbs-down data back to promotions and marketing departments with contextual data like related songs as chosen by listeners to boot. Or Pandora could cater to the hipster avant-garde. Why not broaden affiliate sales to vinyl? LP sales jumped over 33 percent from 2006 to 2007. Let me program "only if available for online purchase on vinyl" into my Pandora listening schedule. If I could click-to-buy a 12" of Pushin' On by the Quantic Soul Orchestra, I'm sold on the record and even $10 a year for the filter feature and a few others besides. (Photo by Steven Toomey)
Muxtape, a New York-based online-music startup much favored by the Tumblr set, has shut down its website, citing a "problem" with the RIAA, a music-industry organization which polices copyright. Could it have anything to do with the ease with which users can download music files from the site, despite founder Justin Ouellette's efforts to block them? The company blog elaborates, barely: "No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned."
Google's mobile OS Android might have a future in "set-top boxes for televisions, mp3 players and other communication and media devices and services," reports VentureBeat. Silicon Alley Insider confirms the story — or at least the fact that Google's working on Android-loaded cable boxes — and wonders if maybe Google will move them as a part of its partnership with Clearwire. None of this will happen anytime soon, of course.The first Android-loaded phone — the HTC dream, to run on the T-Mobile network — isn't due out until October. It's not certain that when that device does come out that Android will be much to look at. Ever since Google released its last software developement kit only to the first 50 winners of its Android Developer Challenge, the jealous rest of the third-party developers building apps for the OS continue to trash the system's prospects in the press.
MySpace Music, the joint venture between the social network and three big record-label groups, is struggling to find a CEO, according to The Deal. There's a long list of prospects who have turned the News Corp.-owned social network down: Ian Rogers, the former head of Yahoo Music; Jim Bankoff, formerly of AOL; Eric Garland, the highly quotable head of file-sharing research firm BigChampagne; and former Launch CEO Dave Goldberg, who now works at Benchmark Capital as an entrepreneur-in-residence and is married to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, which makes the L.A. job geographically undesirable. But what's most amusing about MySpace's failed CEO search is the excuse MySpace is now giving for putting off a hire: The team is so close to delivering a product that hiring a boss now would just screw things up. Makes sense — but it raises the question, why hire a CEO at all?
Napster — or rather, the pathetic music store which picked up the famous file-sharing service's brand — reported a drop in quarterly revenues to $30.3 million, despite the launch of an MP3 store. Subscribers fell from 760,000 to 708,000 in a quarter's time. Here's Napster's latest commercial, obviously not effective at drumming up business. [PaidContent]
Google announced today a search service, available only in China, to find and download MP3s from popular artists through partner Top100.cn, a Chinese music site funded by basketball star Yao Ming. Baidu, the search company which emerged from China's homegrown bubble and producers of crazy ads, has had MP3 search available since 2005, and many attribute its lead in its home market to that feature. [News.com]
The grindy reporters at the Wall Street Journal have confirmed what the guys at TorrentFreak figured out a couple of weeks ago: Hard rockers Buckcherry (I recommend listening to "Lit Up" and "Ridin'" as a primer) leaked their own single "Too Drunk ..." from a computer at their manager's office in early July. The band had issued a faux-outraged press release over the pretend act of piracy. Their complaint: "We want our FANS to have any new songs first.” Uh, guys, isn't that exactly what happened?
After EMI hired paisley-shirted IT exec Douglas Merrill away from Google to run the record label's digital business, other music groups have been on the hunt for a digital savior. Sony BMG, we hear, has been trying to fill an EVP position to run its digital music ventures. But after dangling a $700,000 salary in front of prospects for 8 months, its search firm, Korn/Ferry, still hasn't been able to fill the job. What this tells us: No one wants the job. One requirement: The candidate must "have a keen eye to find money on opportunities at hand." That graspingness is precisely why the record labels are so unpopular with musicians, their fans, and the the technologists creating the online tools through which people are increasingly stealing — sorry, "discovering" — music. The industry's in such a pathetic state, we thought we'd help Sony BMG and Korn/Ferry by airing the confidential job listing:
eMusic CEO David Pakman estimates that Amazon.com's MP3 store may have sold 27 million tracks since opening 6 months ago — which sounds good until you consider that Apple's iTunes moves 2 billion songs a year. Pakman also estimates that Amazon's store is adding $7 million, after the labels' take and expenses. At least people are looking forward to a new Kindle, right? [Silicon Alley Insider]
MTV is continuing its push into digital music, despite its long litany of failures in the past, by introducing a music recommendation service and social network called Soundtrack. Most of the song recommendations will be based off of MTV's list of shows such as The Hills, Shot at Love, and G's to Gents. RealNetworks' Rhapsody, which recently dropped copyright protections on its music files, will help MTV sell those songs, as well — though a tipster reports Rhapsody been having customer service and outage issues for weeks.
Record label EMI may have tired of suing individual file sharers for copyright infringement. But a number of music-industry plaintiffs, all partners and subsidiaries of EMI, are suing social network Hi5 and advertising startup VideoEgg in New York Southern District Court for copyright infringement. According to the complaint [PDF]:
U2 frontman Bono disagreed with manager Paul McGuinness's judgment on the failure of Radiohead's Web busking for In Rainbows, but like McGuinness, he lays the blame for the death of the music industry's business model at the feet of those greedy Internet service providers in his open letter to New Music Express:
Trent Reznor is busy demonstrating how a bankable artist can go independent, give away music for free, and still make a mint. Though he initially expressed concern over an album he produced for hip-hopper Saul Williams that was released as a "pay what you will" download, he's changed his mind and now considers it a success — mostly because Williams made more money even with only twenty percent of fans paying for the album than he ever did at a label. And maybe more importantly, far more people heard the music. As for Reznor? His own giveaway of his latest album did pretty well in the marketplace as well, with a limited-edition box set garnering $750,000 and half a million CDs sold. So what, exactly, is the problem with the music business? As usual, greedy labels.
Lame lame lame Guitar Hero world tour demo ... Paula Abdul is judge
Microsoft's iPod imitator, the Zune, will no longer be sold at videogame and electronics retailer GameStop according to GameStop CFO David Carlson. They probably need that space for Grand Theft Auto IV, which has sold more copies in a few weeks than Microsoft's portable media player has sold since launch. [Digital Daily]
Weezer has been geek rock since before I was logging onto the Internet using Prodigy in fifth grade. And who among us never wondered: what's with these homies, dissing my girl? Point is: the band gets the geeks. So it's no surprise that they understand one of the easiest way to go viral on YouTube and across the Web is to make multiple references to videos gone viral before. Check out the band's latest video above, "Pork and Beans," and then below, embeds of all of the viral videos referenced.
The celestial jukebox is back, far too late to matter. Napster is now selling a library of 6 million songs, from all four major labels, as MP3 files, a format which lacks copy protection and hence is compatible with any number of devices — most importantly, the iPod. In other words, the state of affairs that existed nine years ago at Napster's original launch, save for the 99-cent fee now charged per download. Egghead Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen notes the irony without explanation. For the slightly less brilliant among us, here it is: The record labels, having killed Napster once, have now rallied behind it, hoping to weaken Apple, a company whose iTunes store is already the dominant music retailer in the U.S.