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A Look Back At The Music Industry In 2005 And Predictions For 2006

2005 is finally over and it was an eventful one for the music industry.  CD sales were down, downloads were up but not by enough.  New technologies offered increasing promise for music discovery and distribution, but it also caused great harm with DRM and the Sony rootkit mess.  Elliot Spitzer changed the radio promo landscape forever and may not be done with the music industry yet.

Most of us know the big industry stories of 2005 all to well, but Hits Magazine online did a particularly good job of looking behind the scenes of 2005's industry events and hinting what might happen in 2005. 

Hitslogo2_92005—ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: The music industry lost ground again in 2005, with year-to-date sales off around 10%. Nonetheless, for some it was a decent year and for a handful it was cause for celebration. Here are the major plotlines of 2005…

Hypebot predicts more shakeouts and consolidation in 2006 as the last of the old school get put out to pasture.  Technology will continue to level the indie/major playing field with internet and satellite radio along with web communities like MySpace and more niche players becoming the places that new bands are broken.  The best of these bands will strive for and begin to achieve longer careers albeit at a lower level.  The live scene will continue to struggle with pricing issues and consumer satisfaction; and adult music buyers will increasingly be seen as a potential savior of the industry. 

Onward to a fascinating 2006!


Sony BMG Settles DRM Lawsuits

According to published reports Sony BMG is close to settling one of the consumer class action lawsuits stemming from it's recent digital rights management/rookit debacle.

Courthouse_6 The New York Times writes that the  proposed settlement . "...would let some consumers receive free downloads to compensate them for Sony having surreptitiously included spy ware on millions of CD's....(and) require Sony BMG to stop making compact discs with MediaMax software or with extended copy protection, or XCP, software that could leave computers vulnerable to hackers."

"...The proposed settlement was submitted to Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday. A judge was expected to decide in January whether to tentatively approve it."

Sonybmg_9"Under the settlement, Sony BMG...will let consumers who bought the CD's receive replacement discs without the antipiracy technology and will let them choose one of two compensation packages."

"The first package would allow consumers a cash payment of $7.50 and a promotion code allowing them to download one additional album from a list of more than 200 titles...The second package would permit them to download three additional albums from the list...Those who bought MediaMax CD's would receive additional compensation."

Read the full story here.


No Surprises As CD Sales Remain Down For Year As Download Soar

Arrow_5It should come as no surprise that US music sales were down 7% as 2005 ended, but music downloads more than doubled over last year according to Nielson Soundscan figures released Wednesday.

CD sales for 2005 through last Sunday were 602.2 million compared with 650.8 million for last year. Combined album and singles sales were down around 8%. Downloaded tracks were up a dramatic 148% to 332.7 million this year from 134.2 million in 2004. 

For more news coverage and analysis of this story read the Associated Press story in the LA Daily News here.


Internet Levels Playing Field For Indy Labels

Newyorktimes215x35_4Under the headline "The Net Is A Boon For Indie Labels" the New York Times gives a good overview of how new technologies and the Internet are leveling the playing field for indie artists and labels.

"...Exploiting online message boards, music blogs and social networks, independent music companies are making big advances at the expense of the four global music conglomerates, whose established business model of blockbuster hits promoted through radio airplay now looks increasingly outdated..."

Hawthorneheights_1 "...dozens of independent labels are faring well with steady-selling releases by, among others, the Miami rapper Pitbull and the indie bands Hawthorne Heights, Bright Eyes, Interpol and the Arcade Fire. Independent labels account for more than 18 percent of album sales this year - their biggest share of the market in at least five years, according to Nielsen SoundScan data. (If several big independent companies whose music is marketed by the major music labels distribution units are included, the figure exceeds 27 percent.).."

"There are several signs that as more consumers develop the habit of exploring music online they Rhapsody_sidebar_free are drawn to other musical choices besides hitmakers at the top of the Billboard chart..."

"On the Rhapsody subscription music service, for example, the 100 most popular artists account for only about 24 percent of the music that consumers chose to play from its catalog last month, said Tim Quirk, Rhapsody's executive editor. In the brick-and-mortar world, he estimates, the 100 most popular acts might account for more than 48 percent of a mass retailer's sales."

Read the full article here.  Free registration is required.


Spitzer Takes On Labels For Download Price Fixing

Courthouse_5As the year comes to a close, news reports confirm that NY Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer has subpoenaed the big four record conglomerates in a new probe to determine if they participated in price fixing in the digital realm.  While the labels have paid big fines to settle price fixing charges by Spitser and others on physical product in recent years; this is the first such probe of digital distribution.

Ironically it comes at a time when a number of label heads are calling loudly for more variable Wea_6 pricing at the download services hoping to reach higher profit margins by charging a premium for hit product.  Apple and the other download services are resisting claiming  that variable pricing is  unfair to consumers and poses a programming nightmare.

One has to wonder if the real insider discussions this holiday on the slopes of Aspen and poolside at the Canyon Ranch aren't about starting an A.B.E. (Anybody But Eliot) Campaign Fund rather than wring an extra nickle out of the few folsk who actually download music legally.


HYPEBOT'S MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

  1. Stop blaming a lack of hit product and start nurturing new talent.
  2. Stop suing individual file sharers and drop all copy protection to regain consumer confidence.
  3. Stop blaming P2P and start embracing new technologies: legal P2P, podcasting , subscription services and technologies that haven't even been invented yet.
  4. Stop flirting with value-added schemes like CD Plus and CD/DVD hybrids and embrace them. Why shouldn't every release (physical or downloaded) include bonus files of lyrics, interviews, cards, videos, and more?
  5. Stop charging consumers more for a CD than they pay for a DVD and start aggressively experimenting with variable pricing both in stores and with downloads.  Hit singles may sometimes cost more, but why not price more developing artists much  lower to encourage discovery. And why aren't there more super low price samplers of new artists?
  6. Stop worrying about commercial radio and start supporting non-commercial, satellite and Internet broadcasting as well as mp3 blogs, online music sites and communities, and print and net delivered magazines and fan zines.
  7. Stop thinking that every act has to go platinum and start creating a profitable business around artists who consistently sell 50,000 - 250,000 CD's.  Fragmented media is already leading to fewer superstars and a lot more mid-level artists.  But when the artist's "output" resides on a hard drive rather than gathering expensive dust on store shelves or in warehouses; can't smaller but longer term sales numbers be profitable?
  8. Stop trying to hide your head in the sand and embrace the change.  It can be profitable and it might even be fun! 

Mon Dieu! French Lawmakers Consider Collective P2P Licensing

P2P may causing headaches in major label offices now, but the pain n may have just begun. In France"...an amendment supporting free P2P-based downloads has now passed the lower house of Headache_1 parliament...approval would open the door for a legal P2P environment, which would include ISP-based surcharges and subsequent redistributions to content creators. Ironically, the amendment is attached to a larger intellectual property rights bill, which would authorize content holders to embed DRM protections onto CDs and DVDs," reports Digital Music News.

"...opposition is already mounting. Major media companies are likely to assault the initiative relentlessly...Regardless, the initiative has planted the seed, and France would join Canada by permitting P2P downloads for private use if the amendment is passed...".

Perhaps US media companies should consider subscription P2P before it's forced upon them.


Music's Contribution To Web Growth Continues

Music related traffic is growing on the web and represents some of it's top traffic. 

Myspace_10Nielson has published a list of the fastest growing web sites and it includes MySpace, Facebook (a youth community site), and P2P application LimeWire whicItunes_12h jumped 345% last year to 7.6 unique visitors. Meanwhile among the sites with the highest overall traffic Apple and iTunes now attract 30.8 million unique visitors monthly, a 57 percent jump  over November of last year.  Apple is the strongest of the top ten websites with Yahoo (#1 with 104 million visitors), MSN and Google holding on to the top three slots measured by total unique visitors.  All three sites have recently stepped up their music initiatives after reporting increasing consumer demand.

FYahoo_12urther proving that - declining sales to the contrary  -  music still matters, musicians topped the rankings on Yahoo's search engine. Their recently released annual "Buzz Index" of top searches showed Britney Spears was the most searched overall with 50 Cent, Green Day, Jessica Simpson, Eminem, Ciara, and Lindsay Lohan also landing in the top 10 beating other celebrities from film, TV and politics.


Coalition Of Indy Music Stores Top 200 Chart For 12/21/05

  • Label  Pos.   Artist  |   TitleCims_35
  • ISL 1 CASH*JOHNNY|LEGEND OF JOHNNY C
  • INT 2 EMINEM|CURTAIN CALL
  • ATLG 3 DEATH CAB FOR C|PLANS
  • WAR 4 OUR NEW ORLEANS|OUR NEW ORLEAN
  • BNTE 5 MONK/COLTRANE|THELONIOUS MONK
  • COL 6 DIAMOND*NEIL|12 SONGS
  • VRGN 7 KORN|SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE
  • WAR 8 MADONNA|CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE
  • ATLG 9 BLUNT*JAMES|BACK TO BEDLAM
  • WAR 10 YOUNG*NEIL|PRAIRIE WIND
  • VERV 11 KRALL*DIANA|CHRISTMAS SONGS
  • INT 12 BECK|GUEROLITO
  • ATO 13 MY MORNING JACK|Z
  • EPIC 14 MATISYAHU|LIVE AT STUBBS-AUSTI
  • COL 15 SYSTEM OF A DOW|HYPNOTIZE
  • WAR 16 WILCO|KICKING TELEVISION- LIVE
  • EPIC 17 APPLE*FIONA|EXTRAORDINARY MACH
  • COL 18 SPRINGSTEEN*BRU|BORN TO RUN-30
  • VRGN 19 GORILLAZ|DEMON DAYS
  • WAR 20 ENYA|AMARANTINE

Continue reading "Coalition Of Indy Music Stores Top 200 Chart For 12/21/05" »


eMusic Releases Critic & Fan 2005 Top Indy Music Polls

Emusicnewlogo_2Independent digital download site eMusic just released two "Best Of" 2005 Indy music polls that prove the music diversity that the web makes possible.  The first comes from their cadre of 50 top music critics and the second is from a survey of 100,000 eMusic subscribers.

eMusic's Best of 2005 Writer Poll

  1. Konono No. 1, Congotronics (Crammed Discs)

  2. Antony & The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)

  3. Animal Collective, Feels (Fact Cat Records)

  4. Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise (Asthmatic Kitty)

  5. Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (French Kiss Records)

  6. Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree (4AD)

  7. Annie, Anniemal (Big Beat)
  8. Various Artists, Run the Road (Vice Records)

  9. Slits, Cut (KOCH Records)

  10. Bettye LaVette, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (Anti Records)

Click below to see the full poll results and read more about the results.

eMusic Best of 2005 User Poll

  1. Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise (Asthmatic Kitty)

  2. New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (Matador Records)

  3. Decemberists, Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)

  4. Spoon, Gimme Fiction (Merge Records)Bloc Party, Silent Alarm (Vice Records)

  5. Antony & The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now (Secretly Canadian)

  6. Hold Steady, Separation Sunday (French Kiss Records)

  7. The National, Alligator (Beggars Banquet)

  8. Josh Rouse, Nashville( Rykodisc)

  9. Danger Doom, The Mouse & The Mask (Epitaph)

  10. Great Lake Swimmers, Great Lake Swimmers (Misra Records)

Click below to see the full poll results and read more about the results.

Continue reading "eMusic Releases Critic & Fan 2005 Top Indy Music Polls" »


WEA Restructures

Wea_5WEA today announced a strategic reorganization intended to better position the music giant in a rapidly evolving physical and digital retail environment.

Over the past several years, WEA Corp.'s role as WMG's retail sales and distribution arm has grown to include it's independent distribution network, label incubator initiative, a digital-only label, the e-Commerce group and the global management and distribution of WMG's digital assets.

According to the press release the new WEA structure will encompass four distinct units:

  • OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION: This function will be led by Mike Jbara who has been elevated to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Jbara joined WEA in 1996 and most recently, as Senior Vice President, Production and Media Operations, oversaw all operational aspects of the pre-production, production and distribution of WMG content. 
  • SALES ANALYSIS, CREDIT AND FINANCE: This function will be led by Matt Signore who has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and General Manager. Signore joined WEA in August 2005 as CFO and was previously CFO and General Manager of Island Def Jam.
  • SALES, MARKETING AND DEVELOPING MARKETS: This function will be led by   Todd Van Gorp who has been promoted to Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing. Van Gorp joined WEA in 2003 and most recently was WEA's Vice President, Field Sales for the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest regions.
  • E-COMMERCE: E-Commerce continues to be led by Adam Mirabella, Senior   Vice President, e-Commerce. Mirabella oversees WEA's team of account managers who coordinate directly with WMG's digital service providers and wireless carrier partners. Mirabella joined WEA Corp. in 2003 after positions at Atlantic Records and Coca-Cola.  

Asylum and East West, WMG's incubator labels, and Alternative Distribution Wmg_logo_lr_11 Alliance (ADA) also part of WEA are not impacted by today's announcement. The company also announced the departure of Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, John Madison.

Apparently few if any other staff reductions will result of today's announcement. The changes announced today are effective immediately.

Read the full press release here.


BreakThru Radio Features All New Music In Very Listenable Mix

Logo_breakthruradio_1Internet broadcaster BreakThru Radio showcases only unsigned and Indy music from a wide variety of genres.  So much disparate music music can often be almost Nano_1 unlistenable.  But thanks to seven skillful DJ's (seemingly  one for each day of the week) supplemented by well done web site BreakThru Radio makes discovering new - and I don't mean the stuff music the critics are writing about yet either - an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

BreakThru Radio is a shining example of net-empowered music discovery at it's best.


Renegades Like Chris Blackwell & Bob Lefsetz Provide Music Industry Insight With New Podcasts

InthecityIn The City is a growing UK music convention that seems to still have some of the excitement and openness that is missing in so many industry gatherings.   

Podcasts of two convention keynotes by a pair of  the music industry's most outspoken renegades - commentator Bob Lefsetz and label head Chris Blackwell - have recently been posted on iTunes.  More episodes are promised and you can sign up free subscription to the series there.  The Lefsetz rant can also be downloaded directly here. Worth a listen if for no other reason than to hear someone from the music business speak the truth.


Despite Industry Efforts P2P Use Rises

Computer_1Despite music and film company efforts to stem the tide, P2P file sharing levels are continuing to climb. According to data from tracking firm BigChampagne, the average number of simultaneous P2P users reached 6.86 million in the US and 9.47 million globally in November. For the US this represents a 4.78% increase over October figures and a 20.6 percent jump over November 2004. Bigchampagne_5 Worldwide the numbers represents a 3.14% increase month-over-month and a 21.3% increase year-over-year.

BigChampagne tracks average simultaneous users and most P2P users grab a multiple amount tracks during each session generating billions of monthly song swaps. Then there is the growing number of direct swaps via email, instant messenger, direct download or even old fashioned CD burning.

Yes the music industry has a huge problem; and despite the fact that the water is figuratively pouring over the levees, too many still have their heads underwater either trying to fix holes in the dam or praying they can hold their breadth until early retirement. Only by fully embracing change, embracing new technologies and once again giving customers a reason to buy, do they have a chance of survival.

Once again we publish...

HYPEBOT'S MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

  • Stop blaming a lack of hit product and start nurturing new talent.
  • Stop suing individual file sharers and drop all copy protection to regain consumer confidence.
  • Stop blaming P2P and start embracing new technologies: legal P2P, podcasting , subscription services and technologies that haven't even been invented yet.
  • Stop flirting with value-added schemes like CD Plus and CD/DVD hybrids and embrace them. Why shouldn't every release (physical or downloaded) include bonus files of lyrics, interviews, cards, videos, and more?
  • Stop charging consumers more for a CD than they pay for a DVD and start aggressively experimenting with variable pricing both in stores and with downloads.  Hit singles may sometimes cost more, but why not price more developing artists much  lower to encourage discovery. And why aren't there more super low price samplers of new artists?
  • Stop worrying about commercial radio and start supporting non-commercial, satellite and Internet broadcasting as well as mp3 blogs, online music sites and communities, and print and net delivered magazines and fan zines.
  • Stop thinking that every act has to go platinum and start creating a profitable business around artists who consistently sell 50,000 - 250,000 CD's.  Fragmented media is already leading to fewer superstars and a lot more mid-level artists.  But when the artist's "output" resides on a hard drive rather than gathering expensive dust on store shelves or in warehouses; can't smaller but longer term sales numbers be profitable?
  • Stop trying to hide your head in the sand and embrace the change.  It can be profitable and it might even be fun!

Starbuck's Hear Music Expanding

In some good news for adult music marketers Starbucks is rolling out more Hear Music coffeehouses which include digital download kiosks, custom CD burning stations and encourages new music discovery.  San Antonia opens today and South Beach, FL follow early next year following the Hearmusic_img_5 flagship outlet in Santa Monica, CA, which opened in March, 2004. The stores will increase the amount of available tracks within the kiosks to one million, up from 250,000 according to Digital Music News.

"The new Hear Music Coffeehouses truly transform the way consumers discover and acquire music, both physically, through our CD inventory, and digitally, through our media bars," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment said in a press release. "We're building upon the success of the Santa Monica Coffeehouse, by incorporating customer feedback to extend the experience even further by adding enhanced ambiance, more space and new technology." The store expansion follows a string of widely successful co-branded specialty CD's involving artists like Alanis Morissette, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones and a Hear Music channel on satellite radio.


Google Adds Music Search Feature

GoogleGoogle this morning added a music search feature to it's popular search engine.  Type in for example "Pink Floyd" and the top result featured includes a photo of the artist, a bit of information, and a link to "More music results from Pink Floyd".

This takes the browser to a page filled with artist images, CD covers and many links including Pinkfloyd directly to sites selling CD's and downloads of specific albums and tracks.  According to SearchEngineWatch.com Google has no financial relationship with the sites and that searches only bring up vendors that sell the particular title.

Yahoomusiclogos_12Google is late to the game following Yahoo, MSN and others into the music search space.  But clicking on the top link in Yahoo and MSN takes you to their own music sites (Yahoo Music Unlimited and MSN Music respectively) whether or not they actually sell tracks by the artists.  Clicking on Google's music link leads you to aMsn_music_2 number of more accurate links with which the search giant has no affiliation.  It's this kind of smart "unselfish" move that Google has made repeatedly garnering immeasurable credibility  with consumers.

This attention by web giants also underscores music' s importance in people's lives and marketers' desire to profit from it. "When we did log analysis, we found a surprising number of users doing queries on Google for music," Marissa Mayer, Google Product Manager told SearchEngineWatch. 


Coalition of Independent Music Stores' Top 200 for Week Ending 12-11-05

Label Pos. Artist|TitleCims_34

VRGN 1 KORN|SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

INT 2 EMINEM|CURTAIN CALL

UNCM 3 LIL' WAYNE|CARTER II

ISL 4 CASH*JOHNNY|LEGEND OF JOHNNY C

WAR 5 OUR NEW ORLEANS|OUR NEW ORLEAN

BNTE 6 MONK/COLTRANE|THELONIOUS MONK

ATLG 7 BLUNT*JAMES|BACK TO BEDLAM

ATLG 8 DEATH CAB FOR C|PLANS

COL 9 SYSTEM OF A DOW|HYPNOTIZE

WAR 10 MADONNA|CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE

CLICK BELOW FOR #11-200 ON THE CHART

Continue reading "Coalition of Independent Music Stores' Top 200 for Week Ending 12-11-05" »


Prince, Dylan And Others Embrace Multi-Platform Promo Push

There is an increasing need for artists to promote new releases across multiple platforms in an era of increasingly fractured media.  Digital Music News pointed to Prince whose new video Te Amo Corazon "which was blasted across a number of VH1 properties, including the flagship channel, VH1 Classic, VHUNO, Tempo, VH1 Soul, and VH1 broadband channel VSpot (vspot.vh1.com). Additionally, Princethe video was also accessible on VCast, a mobile video service from Verizon Wireless..""

Madonna, Korn and even Neal Diamond have also recently used similar multi-platform promotional plans resulting in higher levels of awareness and strong intial sales. This smart strategy is designed to reach an increasingly fractured and distracted consumer base. Prince's particular effort deftly leveraged the celebrity power of Salma Hayak and Mia Maestro, both of whom were involved in the video,  The new CD 3121 will be released via Universal.

Even the venerable Bob Dylan is reaching out to new media to keep his name in the forefront.  Starting sometime next year he'll be hosting a weekly radio show on XM. "Songs and music have always inspired me. A lot of my own songs have been played on the radio, but this is the first time I've ever been on the other side of the mic," Dylan said in a press release. And "the other side of the mic" won't be a bad way to promote his own new projects either.


MTV And Microsoft Join For New Urge Music Service

Mtv_14MTV Networks and Microsoft have announced plans to join forces to develop a new digital Microsoft_5 music service. Called Urge and due to launch in 2006, the service will be integrated into a new version of Microsoft's Windows Media Player and promoted across all of the MTV, VH1 and CMT family of channels. Plans call for Urge to offer more than 2 million tracks for download from both major labels and independents as well as original content from MTV.

What took these two so long to hook up?

Read the full press release here.


Study Shows Music Being Devalued. Does The Industry Care?

The easy availability of music via paid or free sources may be devaluing music for consumers a new study suggests.  "Getting access to music is so easy now," researcher Adrian North of the University of Leicester in the UK said recently according to Digital Music News. "But this tremendous supply has meant listening to music is no longer a pastime but has become more of a habit. People are taking music for granted." The study was based on a survey of 350 people across various occupations and age groups including some who regularly carried thousands of tracks with them.

Ipod2_9But does this really mean that consumers value music less in their lives or just that they don't want to pay so much for it.  After all millions of iPods and other portables are being sold and an increasing number of people are carrying and enjoying music everywhere.  How much of the bonding experience is lost when no photos, lyrics or information are a part of the package?  How much can be blamed on labels trying to produce quick hits rather than nurturing talent?  How many more consumers were finally turned off by digital rights management schemes ranging from iTunes restrictive technologies to Sony's dreaded rootkit?

The technologies and methods exist for those in the industry to begin to "revalue" music, but thus far few in the industry seem willing to take the lead.


Music Publishers To Sue Lyric Search Sites Further Alienating Consumers

The music industry has found a new front in their ongoing campaign to upset consumers.  As if invasive digital rights management and lawsuits against individual downloaders weren't enough, The Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents US sheet music companies is going to start going after websites that offer song lyrics in 2006.

Musicpublishers_1MPA president Lauren Keiser told the BBC that he wanted "site owners to be jailed". He does not just want to shut websites and impose fines, but rather if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".

SheetmusicConsumers may understand why full copies of sheet music shouldn't be made available free on the net, just as they've always understood why selling bootleg CD's at flea markets isn't acceptable. But how will they react when they try to find a song they heard  on the radio by searching for key lyrics only to find that the information is locked behind closed doors or with an admission price attached?  And how many CD or download sales will then be lost because this point of discovery is now blurred?

Of course sheet music publishers don't care. They don't profit from CD or download sales.  But the songwriters who they represent should. 

For an interesting and opinionated overview of "fair rights" issue, read Michael Hiltzik's Golden State column in today's LA Times here.


Plug Music Awards Celebrate Indies' Best

From our pals at the ever cool Plug Music Awards:

Plug_2We know you are sitting at work looking for a good distraction and we over here at World¹s Fair have the perfect one. Coming February 2nd, the Pug Awards will descend on NYC! The Plug Awards are a collection of music lovers writers, DJs, webmasters, artists, filmmakers, managers, indie retailers and most importantly fans who gather together each year to celebrate the artists who live and flourish in the margins. Now is the time for your voice to be heard! The voting is open to everyone and can be found here.

Vote for best band, single artists, hip hop performer of the year, metal album, retails stores and everything in between. Please remember to tell us about yourselves and any suggestions you can give us to make the Plug Awards bigger and brighter in the future. Stay tuned for more developments on how you can see the Plug Awards.


BET Finds Revenue In Ringtones

In the increasingly splintered world of media where advertising is everywhere, cross promotion remains one of the few methods left to catch a consumer off guard enough to actually get their attention. 

Billboard_5According to Billboard a smart "BET (Black Entertainment Television) has begun embedding text-messaging codes into its music videos, encouraging viewers to order a download of each song's ringtone directly from their mobile phone...this is the first time a U.S. video channel has integrated mobile messaging on air to sell ringtones."

Many BET aired videos now "...contain a 10 to 30 second pop-up note that prompts viewers to 'get Betmob this ringtone' by sending a text message to the short code "BETTV." Each prompt features a different product code that must be included in the message to identify the desired ringtone."

"...ringtones are available for $1.99 and $2.99....(as are) wallpapers and mobile games...artist-specific interactive fan clubs will be added before the end of the year, with full-song downloads coming in first-quarter 2006..."

Fuse_4 "...Among U.S. music-video channels, MTV promotes ringtones on air but directs viewers to its Web site to download them. Fuse, meanwhile, operates several interactive text-messaging services with its on-air programming, but they are limited to music requests, dedications and trivia games, not purchasing and downloading..." 

Record labels hungry for revenue and new promotional vehicles would be smart to support this practice. In fact why not keep more of the revenue by embedding their own text messaging codes on copies of videos sent to clubs, regional TV shows, internet sites and other video users?


UK Labels License Music To Podcasts

Ipod_16Podcasting may prove to be a fad in the long run, but right now it's the growing media of choice for hipsters and trendsetters. But as is too often the case with new technologies, the music industry is woefully behind the times.  Record labels blame publishers who blame artists who blame record labels.  The net effect is that only music by Indy artists who waive all of their rights and royalties can be featured in this hot new media.  That was until now...

Leave it the Brits, whose music industry is often more adventurous than ours, to find a simple and British_flag_1 elegant solution.  The UK's Association Of Independent Music is offering it's member labels and podcasters a blanket global license. While some details are still being worked out ;this creative solution attempts to discourage illegal file sharing by requiring podcasters to place a voice over on top of the first 10 seconds of each track. 

Only time will tell if this six month experiment works. But in the meantime UK Indy labels are going to get exposure that others are missing via some of the thousands of podcasts produced regularly worldwide.

Read the full AIM press release here.


A MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

The decline in CD sales that has been happening for the last several years appears to be Cd_many_6 accelerating.  Last week's sales were off 12.9% from the comparable week in 2004 and sales for the year are down more than 10%.

The labels need to stop blaming outside forces and deal with the current realities. As our small contribution to the debate here is...

HYPEBOT'S MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

  1. Stop blaming a lack of hit product and start nurturing new talent.
  2. Stop suing individual file sharers and drop all copy protection to regain consumer confidence.
  3. Stop blaming P2P and start embracing new technologies: legal P2P, podcasting , subscription services and technologies that haven't even been invented yet.
  4. Stop flirting with value-added schemes like CD Plus and CD/DVD hybrids and embrace them. Why shouldn't every release (physical or downloaded) include bonus files of lyrics, interviews, cards, videos, and more?
  5. Stop charging consumers more for a CD than they pay for a DVD and start aggressively experimenting with variable pricing both in stores and with downloads.  Hit singles may sometimes cost more, but why not price more developing artists much  lower to encourage discovery. And why aren't there more super low price samplers of new artists?
  6. Stop worrying about commercial radio and start supporting non-commercial, satellite and Internet broadcasting as well as mp3 blogs, online music sites and communities, and print and net delivered magazines and fan zines.
  7. Stop thinking that every act has to go platinum and start creating a profitable business around artists who consistently sell 50,000 - 250,000 CD's.  Fragmented media is already leading to fewer superstars and a lot more mid-level artists.  But when the artist's "output" resides on a hard drive rather than gathering expensive dust on store shelves or in warehouses; can't smaller but longer term sales numbers be profitable?
  8. Stop trying to hide your head in the sand and embrace the change.  It can be profitable and it might even be fun!


Sony BMG Faces New Copy Protection Debacle

Electronicff_3Sony BMG already reeling from the so called rookit copy protected CD nightmare has a new mess on their hands according to the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Certain audio compact discs distributed by Sony BMG contain a version of the SunnComm MediaMax software, which creates a serious risk of a privilege escalation attack.' This new security vulnerability -- different than the one reported in early November regarding Sony BMG CDs sold withSonybmg_8 software called XCP -- affects all Sony BMG CDs that contain version 5 of SunnComm MediaMax software. According to Sony BMG, about six million CDs have this software," states the EFF web site.

On Tuesday December 6, Sony BMG and SunnComm made available a patch that was designed to resolve this security vulnerability," The EFF continues. "We're pleased that Sony BMG responded quickly and responsibly when we drew their attention to this serious security problem. However, the day after the patch was released, Professor Ed Felten and Alex Halderman identified a new problem...They recommend for now that if you have a Windows PC, you 1)do not use the MediaMax patch 2) do not use the previously released MediaMax uninstaller, and 3) do not insert a MediaMax-bearing CD into your PC."

Sory_logo_5The EFF is already suing Sony BMG in California and this newest problem can only add to consumer distrust for CD's during this crucial holiday buying season.

Click here for more from the EFF on the issue.

For more directly from the researchers who found the new problem click here.


Indy Music Retailer Fratt Shares Vision Of The Future

OmahacityweeklylogoWe've been writing a lot about Indy music retail lately. Part of it is nostalgia for the good old days when visiting a record store was a positive experience; and pert of it is a fear that the demise of these important gatekeepers and their music lover's clubhouses means that an important point of music discovery will be lost forever.

The City Weekly of Omaha Nebraska this week published an extensive Q&A with Mike Fratt the president of the local Homer's chain that provides some interesting insights into the plight of Indy retail and the record business as well as some possible solutions.

ON THE INTERNET: "Everybody wants to blame it on the Internet, but all the Internet is, is a giant listening station that identifies the crap, so that big records don’t sell as well anymore."

"But, on the flip side of that coin, indie artists are far more successful today as a result of the Internet. More people find out about great music and it sells more."


"So once these big retailers had captured market share and then they started cutting down their selection, that’s when the industry started going south because there was no selection for customers to look at. And they continued to shop these mass merchants because it’s all about the price."

ON NEW NEW TECHNOLOGIES: "Then the whole iPod and MP3 thing came about, and for the first time rather than the industry driving the format, the format began to drive the industry. It’s always been the industry that introduced the LP, or the 8-track, or the cassette, or the CD, and now that’s suddenly been taken out of their hands, and technology is driving where the industry is headed."

Read the full Q & A here

Click below for this week's Coalition Of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) Top 200

Continue reading "Indy Music Retailer Fratt Shares Vision Of The Future" »


Amp'd Mobile To Offer 99 Cent Over The Air To Cell Downloads

Some believe that the convenience and immediacy of carrying your music around inside an Cell_photo_9 expanded cell phone may provide the final tipping point converting many more from physical CD's to downloads.  But an average price of $2.50 per track for direct over the air to phone downloads has been a major stumbling block, until now...

Upstart Amp'd Mobile has told Forbes Magazine and others that they will match conventional download pricing and begin offering 99 cent over the air downloads shortly.  Universal,EMI and WMG are all reportedly on board with Sony BMG the lone major holdout according to reports.  Amp'd is apparently taking a loss on track sales as a promotional ploy to draw new customers to it's cell service.