All 4 entries tagged Music Downloading

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January 13, 2009

Is The Future of Recorded Music Downloading?

Is The Future of Recorded Music Downloading?

Linn rcords





Introduction


Call me a cynic, sceptic, neo-luddite if you like but so far I have not been impressed by the possibilities of music downloading. Perhaps surprisingly it is companies such as Linn Records and their larger Linn HI-Fi brother that have taken something of a lead in this area and they will be looked at as a leading model later. I say surprisingly because of the anti-digital stance originally taken by Linn in the early days of CD. Apart from the fact that you have no hard copy to back you up, unless you make them yourself, there is a lack of nice booklets which can tell you about the music and musicians of whatever musical genre. I do admit though that there is probably something of a generational thing here and as a student I would be aspiring to a music server.

Arcam Music Srver


Arcam FMJ Music Server MS250




On thing I have noticed as the internet has developed is the increasing ability of companies and institutions to pass expenses and time consuming jobs onto the customer. Skimpy little instruction books tell you to go online and print the full off for example. Adorno and Horkheimer discussed how people would work hard at their leisure time in their well known article on the Culture Industry. It seems to me that there is a danger of this happening here.

I do put most of my CDs onto iTunes which can be downloaded to my iPod but this isn't meant for high quality listening although investing in good headphones can dramatically improve the listening experience. If you want to listen to computerised music files in higher quality then they can be saved as FLAC files. However, even this loses out against a full surround sound SACD although Linn Records provide "Studiomaster FLAC" which is full surround sound. One might as well get the SACD and put it on some sort of music server if you want some convenience. The other thing is you can always sell the CD/SACD secondhand or give them to Oxfam etc. Second-hand CDs can be fun!


Advantages of Downloads


Linn Records give a list of advantages for downloading although I'm still happier to go for 'the real thing'. Here is a link to the FLAC website for those interested. I have to say I can see the commercial advantages for Linn records as much easier access to global markets could make a significant difference for them and/or other small record companies.



Being able to download invididual tracks is a big advantage if you just want to trial something. For the classical fan Classics Online run by Naxos records provides large numbers of CDs in downloadable versions. This gives smaller recording companies like BIS and Hyperion global distribution, however, there is currently only the option of downloading at 320 kbps which is the equivalent of CD quality. The downloads have the distinct advantage of being DRM (Digital Rights Management) free so you can put thm all your computers iPods etc.

BIS

For the Classics Online list of recording companies please click here

You can find BIS for example on a number of other download sites howver these are only available as MP3 files which aren't suitable for high quality reproduction of classical music. Here I strongly recommend you buy the CDs.


Problem of slow internet connections


With CD file sizes being compressed to around 300mb and presumably with full surround ones being significantly larger the future of music downloading is very much dependent upon the installation of high speed broadband services. Currently in the UK many people are struggling to get fast connectivity unless they are near an exchange. Another issue is that downloading masses of large files might incur extra charges from your ISP depending on your contract.


Conclusion

Well on the resarch done so far Linn is well ahead of the game as far as downloading is concerned. They appar to be the only company that can offer full surround SACD. This fits with the company Hi-Fi vision that the future is going to b downloads via high quality digital stream players. Accordingly they have produced a range of these players which go from relatively inxpensive to "high end".

Linn DS Majik

The Linn DS (Digital Stream) Majik

As far as I'm concerned having back up is vital. Who wants to lose what could turn into terrabytes of music data? Perhaps companies like Linn will provide a back up on-line service for its customers? Despite my current scepticism I think that Linn is probably way ahead of the game as this will undoubtedly become the way in which people newer to hi-fi normally buy, store and play their music as so many people are used to downloading often pirated versions as quality and finance becomes available. But success  on a global scale in the long-term is dependent upon hi-speed broadband.


January 29, 2008

Music Industry Protectionism Stopped in its Tracks

Music Industry Protectionism Stopped in its Tracks

BBC CD Image

Excellent news for those concerned with the protection of privacy in a contemporary information society which everyday is developing into "surveillance society". The BBC reports that the EU's Court of Human Justice have ruled against a case brought by the Spanish music compan.

Internet service providers do not have to divulge the names of users suspected of illegally sharing music files, Europe's top court has ruled....
In rejecting the complaint of Spanish trade body Promusicae, the court sided with Spain's largest telecoms group, Telefonica.

Quite right too! The incursions of rabid commercialism have already gone far too far. The music industry has brought this crisis upon itself being the only media industry that has been prepared to condemn almost everybody who listens to music as a "pirate" quite frankly nobody beyond the music industry has ever taken its ludicrous cliams seriously. The reality is large international drugs companies who are usually accused of charging ludicrous prices for new drugs hqave a better case. They cannot protect their patents for very long before the generic drug companies are allowed to produce their own versions. By comparison purveyors of feuilltons are able to copyright these artefacts for decades. No wonder nobody takes this copyright stuff very seriously. Maybe architects and bricklayers should get paid for intellectual labour everytime someone opens the front door! The essence of popular musci which is what we are largely talking about is its immediacy, its sense of Zeitgeist. Try and control it too long and the underlying spectre of the real zeitgeist - commercialism- comes to the fore. 

It's a commercial Zeitgeist which is underpinned by the whingeing of the U2 manager Paul McGuiness:

The manager of rock band U2 has urged internet service providers (ISPs) to help end illegal music downloads, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Manager of rock dinosaurs U2 emulates Dinosaurus Metallicus

Just as Metallica were the music industry stooges in the battle against Napster so Paul McGuiness has decided to emulate this exersise in defacating upon naive fans. As the Financial Times reports McGuiness launched a tirade against ISPs and companies like Microsoft at the Midem rock music get togther in France. Naturally it was timed to conincide with the European Court of Justice ruling in a shameful attempt to try and influence natural justice commenting:

that they (the industry) had concerned themselves for too long with the small fries who organised illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing on the internet.

Desparately Seeking a Revenue Model (For the Champagne Lifestyle)

McGuigan suggested that there could be a productive partnership with ISPs in the future.

“For me the business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription service and the revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners,” he said.

Of course you would have to buy into his ridiculous analogy of internet service providers being in some way responsible for spawning nations of thieves. Telecommunications lines, shipping lanes, roads and motorways are all arteries and those who build and maintain them  aren't responsible for the myriad of different agendas of the people who use them. I strongly suspect that many of the people in that conference have partaken in serious amounts of drugs around thier arterial highways. Drugs which are probably illegal in most countries and they would be the first to complain about having their pockets and luggage turned out or being under continuous surveillance yet they want this to be done to millions of ordinary people out of pure greed. 

The reality is most people think that musicians should be paid a reasonable amount of money but baulk at being ripped off by the industry which is more interested in profits than diversity. Why should they pay for this:

Normally, business at Midem is conducted from yacht to yacht, but seasoned veterans of the industry’s most prolonged schmooze have already detected a certain restraint in spending this year. Maybe it can be laid at the door of EMI. When Guy Hands of Terra Firma first gained entrance to the venerable institution, he declared it a mountain of waste. (Ben Fenton)

Webliography

U2 manager urges ISPs to help fight web piracy.By Ben Fenton in Cannes. Published: January 28 2008 22:45 | Last updated: January 28 2008 22:45

FT on Qtrax


January 28, 2008

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

The Model of the Music Industry Continues to Crumble

There is no doubt that online piracy and file-sharing has decimated the recorded music industry, which has been struggling to find an alternative business model in order to meaningfully survive. Interstingly the Jazz and Classical markets appear to be less affected when it comes to downloading. Usually the audiences are olde, better off and fussier about the music quality. Currently there are few sites that allow customers to download music files which provide even the equivalent quality to CDs. Linn the hi-fi company is one of the few. It can even offer studio quality masters at a price. 

Global Music sales in 2007 fall by 10%

Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis helped boost online music downloads
Global music sales fell by an estimated 10% last year, despite the growing popularity of the digital music market, according to an industry report. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said. This is despite the fact that music downloads rose by 40% in 2007.  

The organisation blames music piracy for the shortfall. It is calling on internet providers to disconnect people who repeatedly download illegally.

The (Music) Empire Fights Back  

Today was meant to see the launch of Qtrax which is an online only site which is going to allow visitors to listen to any of up to 30 million trqacks perfectly legally. This content would be paid for by advertising. Before every track ordered can be listened to the listener must undergo a barrage of advertising. Qtrax claim to have got the support of all the big four record companies:

But Warner, EMI and Universal all say they have not licensed their music. (BBC article)

Qtrax screen

Despite the hype Qtrax failed to meet its great opening on the announced day. checking it site today only got a beta version as announced in its logo.  There is a lot of opposition out there not least from Apple who do not wish Qtrax to become compatible with its iPods.

Qtrax Logo

More online shopping for music: not all deals are "good deals"!

Amazon has announced the international rollout of its digital music store. Already operating in the US customers can download music without any digital copying protection. Soon millions of songs will be sold without Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, allowing - for example - customers to burn their own CDs freely. Amazon says it is the only retailer to offer DRM-free MP3s for the four major record labels as well as thousands of independent record labels.  However this offers no real advantage over buying a CD  and has the disadvantage of  being recorded at a lower level of quality than a CD.

How far are the Music Industry's "Problems" of its own making? 

Perhaps the music industry needs an even more radical overhaul than just finding alternative models of making as much profit out of music as before. We have now entered the era of user generated content. Very high quality recodings of  music can be made relatively cheaply as the price of sophisticated recording technology continues to drop. But with most music downloads being listened to on inferior sound systems there seems to be little point in making huge efforts to provide such high quality original sound and "adding value" i.e. trying to put up the profit margin. People quite literally aren't buying into it. Sell a lot more music a lot more cheaply and have more bands working and cut out the super star celebrity bit. Instead lets just get back to the music and the culture that surrounds that music. 

The music industry has for decades being accusing the very people it relies upon for its existence as being 'pirates' or thieves. If people weren't feeling so ripped off and if music was sold at a fair price then it wouldn't be a problem.  Popular music by its very nature is ephemeral it belongs to the moment it is part of the Zeitgeist. Making more of it more available as the Zeitgeist moves would help profit, help the industry and provide audiences with what they want. The Music industry has failed the great test of all media enterprises: keep your audiences happy. what the media consumers are regualrly being accussed of thievery?

The shake up at EMI promises to cut a lot of the fat out of the music industry, it will be leaner, fitter and all the better for it, but it is still at its heart a celebrity / star model of music selling.

Branded Bands?

15 Jan 2008 - Could EMI's latest idea to get specific sponsorship for bands change the face of music in the future?The new boss of EMI, Guy Hands, has announced job losses of up to two thousand which is about aiming to save the label £200m a year. EMI was taken over by the private equity firm, Terra Firma, last summer but this new development about sponsorship suggests brands could become more involved with music. (My emphasis BBC)

Webliography

(Sorry this is work in progress at present)



January 23, 2008

Blast from The Last.fm

Blast from the Last.fm

Last FM

Could this be "the one" which finally cracks pirate downloading, gives audiences what they want, makes money for the provider and manages to pay the musicians as well?

Sound too good to be true well it might be but the news released by Last.fm today promises to be the first of several large companies coming to market with similar promises. what is the secret formula, there isn't one I'm afraid it is merely yet more advertising being driven onto the web. In this sense much of the web is going to driven by the advertising monster. The underlying question is rapidly becoming what is the future of Public Service Broadcasting / multicasting in this dawning age of user generated content and 'free' lots of media goodies primarily driven by advertising.  

Last.fm

Richard Jones, one of Last fm's three founders, told the BBC:

The way people consume music is changing - sometimes you just want to listen to it there and then.

Jones made this comment after it was revealed that rather than being able to download the music onto their computers consumers would be able to listen to the same track up to threee times thereafter they would be encouraged to pay for ti via iTunes or a similar servicve. Of course whether this change in useage away from an ownership model albeit usually 'illegal' will happen is yet to be proved.  However as well as avoiding the risk of being busted consumers face get all sorts of junk onto their computers through file sharing and viruses can abound on sites like Limewire. Free music paid for with banner adverts on the Las.fm site seems like a small price to pay instead of having your computer messed up and your data hacked.

Now I'm no expert on Limewire I'm just going on what my highly experienced students say however a quick Google turned up this scary video on YouTube. Limewire seems to be a sort of 'Hacking Into People's Private Data for Dummies'. In other words you are advised not to bother with it. (It could of course be a conspiracy by the record companies - well you pays yer money [or not] and yer makes yer choice!!). Anyway take a look:

Who are Last.fm? 

Last.fm, founded in London in 2002, was bought by the American media giant CBS last year for $280m (£143m).

Social music site Last.fm has been bought by US media giant CBS Corporation for $280m (£140m), the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition. (Original BBC Story from 2007.There is a video available on this link as well.)

Mr Stiksel one of the foundusic downloading on phones ing members of Last FM and part of the management team which is being left largely untouched by CBS announced an extraordinarily ambitious plan unprecedented in its aims:

This move will really support us to get every track ever recorded and every music video ever made onto Last.fm.

As an institution CBS radio is the largest radio group in the United States, with 179 stations in the top 50 markets covering news, rock, country and urban music.

Who are the Competition?

Mobile Music Japan

Mobile Music Downloads in the phone subscription the way forward?

Well seemingly the lions are coming out of their dens and the big players are entering into the market. Music downloading on phones is becoming increasing increasingly popular. whilst CD sales losses are increasing and not being replaced by legal downloading Japan is proving the exception which change the ruiles. Digital music sales in Japan are sufficient to offset the loss made by CDs. In fact, Japan saw a 1% rise in music sales last year. Industry observers attribute this rise to mobile music downloads:

"When you look at advanced markets like Japan, most digital music is already being consumed via mobile phones," said Rob Wells, senior vice president of digital music at Universal.

According to the BBC Nokia is currently planning a subscription service which allows users to keep the music they have purchased after the subscription has expired. So far they only have a confirmed content deal with Universal Music but say they are in discussions with the other major record labels.

Where Is it All Going  

Certainly at the moment it isn't clear what the dominant model of music will be but from the perspective of the audience we are moving ever closer to a massive amount of legal or very cheap music for nothing.  


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