All posts tagged Rhapsody

Out with the old, in with the numbers: 2011 music sales, Sycotic income, into Oblivion, Vice valuation & more

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Digital Round Up: New Google Music plans revealed, Rhapsody stands up to Spotify & more…

Going beyond beta

Back as a hot topic in the music + tech arena this week is Google Music, which follows the company’s halfhearted initial step into the cloud-music sector earlier this year with Music Beta. Now it appears that Google will be launching a digital music store in the coming weeks, but with a “twist,” as it is being reported, following Android chief Andy Rubin‘s appearance at the AsiaD conference this week. Cnet reports that the twist will likely be social features, which will enable sharing capabilities among users – social enhancements are being touted as a big driver behind Spotify and similar services recent rapid growth. According to multiple reports, the only major label close to an agreement with Google right now for the new music service is EMI, while a number of independent labels are apparently already onboard. Other bits concerning the new Google Music talk include whether or not it will have a ‘mirroring’ component or ‘scan and match’ that finds music already on a users’ computer – a feature that Apple‘s upcoming new iCloud music offering will feature. Or as noted by Evolver.fm – if Google follows up their digital store by offering their own streaming-music subscription service, it could achieve the same outcome. Currently users of Music Beta have to upload their music to Google’s cloud-based music locker. While seemingly late to the game in all this, some observers are noting what a huge advantage and launching pad Google-owned YouTube will be for any new music service they bring, as the video site continues to reign as the largest free music site around… Following the recent acquisition of Napster, veteran music-subscription service Rhapsody continues on the publicity trail, with executives recently interviewed by Business Insider among others and speaking at this week’s CMJ Music Marathon conference. The biggest question has been about sustainability and relevance in light of all the new similar services, mainly Spotify, and how they plan to compete. But Rhapsody maintains that their business is healthy, they received a boost from all the press surrounding the aforementioned European startup’s launch in the U.S., and with the new Napster customer-base and planned wireless and cable provider deals, they’re doing just fine, and without a free offering to entice new users, for now… And how much of all the optimistic talk surrounding the bourgeoning on-demand and streaming music territory is hype vs. substance? A new report from the NPD Group, studying music listening habits, does show that in America at least, newer ways of accessing music are gaining real ground on traditional radio and CD listeners, with possibly the most revelatory statement being that “a tipping point is approaching when vehicles and portable devices move from a tethered connection to a more integrated one” – read more in the press release… In other quick items… Pandora has named its first chief marketing office in Simon Fleming-Wood… New music service Beyond Oblivion Inc., also known as Boinc and partially owned by News Corp., is reportedly close to finalizing licensing agreements with the four major label groups… Jimmy Iovine isn’t the only Universal Music exec with a penchant for high-end audio, as music industry veteran and co-CEO of Sanctuary 5B Artist Management, Carl Stubner, has been named to the advisory board of high-definition audio company Max Sound… And the popular music curating and aggregating site The Hype Machine has reached 1 million users.

Digital Round Up: More Spotify, Rhapsody + Napster, Rdio goes free & more…

There seems to be quite a bit of optimism lately in the realm of digital music and what the future holds for subscription services. So far 2011′s album sales are already up from the previous year, with a big bump from digital, and at least one major label is claiming that they’ve finally figured out “free”. Glassnote artist Mumford & Sons became the third artist ever to sell 1 million digital albums, and even MTV has announced a second O Music Awards show, celebrating music and technology, which is set for October 31st… Spotify was quick to release new user data within only a couple months of launching its service in the U.S., and while they are clearing unclear in terms of paying versus free and how many are U.S.-only as opposed the world-wide, the overall statement is that a lot of people are trying out the service. The announcements in the music arena made during Facebook‘s recent f8 conference also helped boost the outlook of not only Spotify, but a number of other digital music services including MOGRdio and iHeartRadio that were also included in the social networks big changes. And while most eyes remain on the Swedish-start up, the competition continues to counter with new moves of their own. Rdio announced this week that it will be launching a free on-demand streaming service, that has no ads, and an unspecified limit on free-listening, which follows a similar move by MOG… Meanwhile, Rhapsody has acquired Napster from Best Buy, in a purchase that will raise the longtime streaming service’s plateauing numbers… Elsewhere, Apple revealed during their press event on Tuesday that its new iCloud service will be extended to Europe, following recent reports that the company was seeking worldwide music rights from labels and publishers… And after only a few months as the new owners of MySpace, Specific Media held presentations for top-level advertisers at Radio City Music Hall on Monday, trying to generate excitement for the site, which will be focused primarily on music and video content. Creative partner and investor, Justin Timberlake (who has also been tapped to play Neil Bogart in an upcoming biopic of the Casablanca Records co-founder) was on hand for the presentations as well.

Spotify’s Success in U.S. a Priority for Record Labels [UPDATED]

Multiple reports have Spotify launching in the U.S. this week, with the most recent scuttlebutt claiming the release will be invite-only initially, with members allowed to distribute invites as well – a strategy that has been employed by other notable services such as Gmail. A splash-page that went up last week allows people in the U.S. to signup to receive an invite to use Spotify “soon,” and while there has been no official announcement about a Warner Music licensing deal, it is believed to be as good as done… More details as to what the startup is planning for the U.S. were summarized on AllThingsD from ad pitch materials obtained, which include a target figure of 50 million users in the first year, with an estimated 150 million Facebook users that “will start to see music on their feeds” exposing them to the new service. That is far from an official (or exclusive) deal between the two companies though, and details about how the service will actually integrate with Facebook are still sketchy at best. Meanwhile it appears that other similar services like Rdio and Rhapsody are looking to incorporate functionality with the social network as well. Spotify’s deck also mentions the massive amount of free publicity the startup has already received – now over two years of speculation and coverage about a U.S. version – and will continue to get when the launch is official. Even with all that, and presumably more up their sleeve, many are questioning the lofty first year objective. Using the service’s existing European numbers as the only available measurement, it is indeed difficult to conceive of the target user-base being reached so quickly… However, in addition to Facebook, significant publicity and even telecom carrier tie-ups being rumored, an important aspect being overlooked by many is the record labels themselves. Speaking with label folks familiar with the situation, the once reticent labels are now heavily getting behind the service. While the licensing agreements are the sticking point in just getting off the ground, it’s the additional marketing and promotional programs that can become a major factor in succeeding. There are other new music startups already operating that offer essentially the same major functionality as Spotify, but according to those in the know, there has not been another digital music service that the labels have lined-up behind this much since iTunes

[UPDATE: The service officially launched the morning of Thursday, July 14, and the invites are for access to the 'free' ad-version only, the 'premium' and 'unlimited' subscription levels are now active.]

Bits & Pieces: MySpace Sold, AOL links with Slacker and Rhapsody Keeps on Keeping on

The names making music-tech news this week are a veritable who’s who of the once mighty, including MySpace, AOL and Rhapsody… News of the sale of MySpace broke yesterday, with ad network Specific Media choosing to pick up the pieces of the former social network goliath for $35 million – for those keeping score, it was purchased for $580 million in 2005 by News Corp. (who will continue to keep a small stake). And in an unexpected twist, it was also announced that Justin Timberlake has taken an ownership stake as part of the deal, and that he will be heavily involved in rejuvenating the site… On Tuesday a new partnership between AOL and Slacker was announced, with the interactive radio service set to power AOL Radio starting in September. They will replace AOL’s current partner in CBS, and the new service will expand the music offerings and give users the same pricing options as what Slacker already offers. It’s expected to more than double Slacker’s current number of listeners… Elsewhere, now seasoned music streaming service, Rhapsody, has added 100,000 new customers since its spinout from RealNetworks and Viacom last year, as revealed in a PaidContent interview this week. The increase comes mainly from its mobile app efforts, and the company will likely be looking for new investment soon, particularly with the recent interest in streaming startups.

Bits & Pieces: Morris Move to Sony Music Top Spot Confirmed, Warner Music Gets Bids, Thumbplay Unloaded & More…

Morris takes his talents to Sony

The big news this morning from within the big four music groups (soon to be three?), is the confirmation that outgoing Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris will indeed take over the reigns as new chief executive at Sony Music on July 1st, as Rolf Schmidt-Holz departs at the end of this month. Sony Corp. chairman Howard Stringer will fill the role in the meantime. Morris held the role of CEO at UMG since 1995, before announcing a successor in Lucian Grainge at the beginning of last year. On the other side of the coin, RCA/Jive label chief Barry Weiss will also leave the building this week, as he takes a top spot in Grainge’s East Coast Universal label operation… Bloomberg reported this week that Warner Music Group, which recently put itself on the block with help from Goldman Sachs, has received ten offers so far including bids on its publishing division Warner/Chappell Music by Sony/ATV Music and KKR-backed BMG Rights Management, while Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik is seeking to acquire most of the company. UMG did not submit an offer, reportedly due to anti-trust concerns – though they may be interested in acquiring parts of the recorded music business… In what could be seen as a preemptive move as Spotify appears to be gearing up for a U.S. launch (including reportedly making hires), Rhapsody is offering a 60 day free trial for its streaming service… Ringtone company Thumbplay, who transitioned into the music subscription arena earlier than most current players, has been bought by Clear Channel. It appears that the new owners of the service intend to transition the service into online radio, utilizing the Thumbplay technology and talent and integrating it into Clear Channel’s current free iheartradio service… Elsewhere, Live Nation California prexy Rick Mueller is reportedly leaving and heading to rival AEGMTV and Sony/ATV’s Extreme Music are launching Hype Production Music as the result of a new licensing partnership that will focus on emerging and independent artists… And despite continued turmoil in the digital music landscape, investors are once again starting to dump big cash in the chaotic space.

Bits & Pieces: Warner/Chappell Losing MJ Admin, Sony Backs Off Anti-iTunes talk, Apple Making More Enemies & more…

A piece on Showbiz411 yesterday, revealed that Michael Jackson‘s publishing company MiJac Publishing, which is currently administered by Warner/Chappell Music and includes songs such as “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” among others, will soon be moving to Sony/ATV Publishing. The shift was reportedly written into the contract with WCM, who has administered the catalog for years. It also comes on the heels of the announcement that Warner Music Group is shopping for a sale, most likely of its publishing arm, putting them in direct competition with Citigroup‘s plans for EMI Music. Insiders share that this is one of multiple similar scenarios WCM will face in the coming years… After abundant commentary last week on Sony Music‘s possible intention to abandon iTunes, following a report in an Australian publication, a comment from a Sony Network Entertainment executive indicates that is in fact not the case, saying Sony Music has “no intention of withdrawing from iTunes, they’re one of our biggest partners in the digital domain.” Today also saw the announcement that Sony is launching its “iTunes rival” music service Qriocity in the U.S., though still without a mobile component. Currently Sony is focused on Playstation 3 as the primary vehicle for the music service, though it has plans to move into mobile in the future, and most likely on the Google Android platform first… More Google Music talk arose this week, with a Motorola executive tipping that the service will be included on Google’s new version of Android, Honeycomb, which will be tied to the new Motorola Xoom tablet… Following the details revealed this week by Apple for its new content subscription service, music services are upset over the 30% share for each subscription that goes to Apple, in addition to the fees already being paid to content owners. Among them, Rhapsody, has gone as far floating the possibility of legal action… Elsewhere, Topspin has announced a move into offering their direct-to-fan platform for all users… Through a sponsorship effort, Converse has saved the legendary punk enclave the 100 Club in London from closing… And this Death of the Music Industry chart, is getting lots of attention.

Wednesday Bits & Pieces: CMJ “Break Outs”, Starbucks Digital Network & more…

Starbucks Digital Network Launches w/ iTunes, LinkedIn & more

CMJ is in full swing this week in NYC, and the Village Voice music critics discuss who could be crowned this years’ “breakout” act, and what that really means… The L.A. Times catches up with Cee-Lo and asks whether or not he lets his own children listen to his viral anthem… Meanwhile Starbucks in partnership with Yahoo! has launched something called the Starbucks Digital Network, which can be accessed at any of the retailers free wi-fi spots and will provide a collection of hand-picked premium news, entertainment and lifestyle content along with local insights and events. Content providers include iTunes, LinkedIn, the New York Times and Foursquare – in case you were wondering, Starbucks wi-fi is accessed 30-million times a month, and more than half of those connections are wireless… Elsewhere, former Rhapsody VP Tim Quirk has landed at Google, setting off a fury of speculation as to his taking of the Google Music top spot, though it appears that is not the case… And Irving invades Nashville with B.A.D. Management

In Case You Missed It: Reading Recap

Buh Bye bebo; AOL Plans to Sell or Shutter the Social Network

The week began with a report that EMI was apparently still in talks with Sony Music about a possible catalog licensing deal, though some have pointed out that contracts with key EMI artists might prevent such a deal from going through. No further updates followed, other than a cheery financial outlook from Terra Firma boss Guy HandsAOL revealed that it was planning to sell or shutter the social networking site bebo that it paid $850 million for in 2008, while Rhapsody spun off into an independent company shedding former partners RealNetworks and Viacom/MTV; the subscription music service now also counts Universal Music Group as a new minority investor… Digital royalty collection organization SoundExchange announced that its 2010 Q1 payouts to artists and copyright holders topped all previous quarters… Details about the Solid Sound Festival were released this week, the Wilco-currated three-day event will take place in June at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA… And Sonicbids owner Panos Panay talks about the artist-as-entrepeneur…