Technologizer posts about Digital Music

“Napster” No More

By  |  Posted at 6:09 pm on Thursday, December 1, 2011


After being bought out in October by eternal archrival Rhapsody, music subscription service “Napster” has shut down. Heading to now gets you an explanation of what happened and a Rhapsody sales pitch.  
I put “Napster” in quotation marks–a practice I’ve followed, albeit inconsistently, for years–because the “Napster” that just died wasn’t really Napster. Napster was the peer-to-peer music sharing service founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker in 1999. It changed the world, and was sued out of business.  
“Napster,” on the other hand, was a commercial enterprise–formerly known as Pressplay–that acquired the Napster name. The folks who did the rebranding presumably thought they were pretty smart, but I always thought it was a mistake. If you loved the original Napster, you probably didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for music. If you did want to pay for music, the “Napster” name sounded slightly disreputable. Either way, it smacked of false advertising and congitive dissonance. 
The fact that “Napster” petered out wasn’t shocking. Between Rhapsody, “Napster,” eMusic, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, MOG, and Zune Pass–am I forgetting any?–there are a lot of subscription music services out there. Given that music with a monthly fee has never become a breakout hit, there may not be enough subscribers to go around. And for several years, “Napster” had felt like it was winding down rather than ramping up. (It was a latecomer to the iPhone, for instance.) 
I like subscription music–I happily pay for Rdio–and would like to see it catch on. The fact that the major services are on a bevy of devices–computers, phones, tablets, TVs, and devices like Sonos–certainly makes them more appealing. Are you paying for subscription music, and if so, from which service? 

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Universal Music Sues Grooveshark for 100,000 Illegal Downloads

By  |  Posted at 10:22 am on Monday, November 21, 2011


Spotify may be about to lose one of its most high-profile competitors, thanks to a copyright infringement lawsuit filed at the end of last week. Grooveshark, the streaming music service that recently relaunched itself with a new site, has been hit by a suit brought by Universal Music Group, which claims that the company has uploaded more than 100,000 songs without permission.

What’s unusual for this type of lawsuit, is that the UMG filing goes as far as naming those it suspects of illegally uploading material, including accusing Grooveshark CEO Samuel Tarantino of personally uploading at least 1,791 songs without permission. UMG is seeking maximum damages of up to $150,000 per infringement from Grooveshark, which could mean more than a $15 billion payout if the lawsuit is successful.

This isn’t the first time that Grooveshark has found itself facing allegations around issues of copyright; not only has UMG previously sued the company’s owner, Escape Media Group, for releasing access to the label’s pre-1972 catalog, but a group of Danish rights-holders filed sued against the company earlier this year, and Google pulled the company’s app from the Android market earlier this year over copyright worries.

The UMG lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Grooveshark, which could result in the service being forced to permanently shut down. The company’s VP of external affairs, Paul Geller, told CNET that the company hadn’t seen the complaint yet and would refrain from comment until it had.

[This post republished from Techland.]

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A startup called ReDigi wants to let you resell music you bought from online stores such as iTunes. This isn’t going to end well:

A legitimate secondhand marketplace for digital music has never been tried successfully, in part because few people think of reselling anything that is not physical. But last month a new company, ReDigi, opened a system that it calls a legal and secure way for people to get rid of unwanted music files and buy others at a discount.

The service has already drawn concern from music executives and legal scholars, who say it is operating in a gray area of the law. Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record companies, sent ReDigi a cease-and-desist letter, accusing it of copyright infringement.

Posted by Harry at 6:31 am


Here Comes Google Music: Leaked Screens Show Android Interface

By  |  Posted at 7:03 am on Monday, November 14, 2011

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Google Music screen shot as shown on TecnoDroidVE.

Android, meet your not-so-shockingly exposed dance partner, Google Music, and Google, meet another Google Music store rumor roundup, this one bolstered by screens that may indeed depict the upcoming Google-powered online music boutique.

We’ve heard rumblings about a Google Music store all year, since before Google launched its Google Music cloud service last May. But Google Music arrived, ironically, music-free—a blank online storage locker into which Google hoped users would pour unlocked tunes ripped direct from personal media or rival services. The theoretical reason: Google hasn’t been able to shore up relations with labels, prompting it to forestall Google Music’s “store” component. Until now, the service has looked the online equivalent of a Self Storage acreage.

That may all change this week. The Wall Street Journal said as much weeks ago, citing music executives in the biz, who claimed Google would launch a music store at some point between late October and early November. What’s more, the service is said to include Google+ integration, giving it a social networking one-up. For instance, users of the service would have the option to recommend songs in their online library to Google+ contacts, giving those contacts the option to listen to the songs once for free. After that, the MP3-format songs would cost in the vicinity of 99 cents each.

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Google Music’s Twist: Sharing After You Buy

By  |  Posted at 3:17 pm on Thursday, October 20, 2011


Google music chief Andy Rubin sat on stage Wednesday at All Things Digital’s AsiaD conference and promised us that its Google Music store would be more than just another iTunes. On Thursday we found out why. Business Insider reports that the “twist” Rubin is speaking of involves the ability to share music “on a limited basis” after you purchase the tracks.

Once shared, the tracks can be played a specific number of times by the recipient at no cost, say Business Insider’s sources. It’s not clear exactly how the process will work, although it probably would involve some kind of link to the purchaser’s music “locker,” a feature that launched with the beta of Google Music in May. The move certainly signals that the music industry may be ready to soften its stance.

Previously, the record labels had been pretty steadfast in their opposition to share music that they had purchased legally. But the launch of Spotify here in the US shows that the industry may have realized that the tight controls it has placed on digital content may actually be doing the opposite of what its intended to do: stop piracy.

Just think about it — if your friend tells you about a hot new track, is the 60 or so seconds that iTunes or any other service gives you as a preview enough to tell if you really like it? Why not give the opportunity to listen to the whole thing, in a controlled environment. Who knows, you just might buy it!


Now Jawbone’s Jambox Does 3D Sound

By  |  Posted at 12:10 pm on Friday, August 26, 2011


Jambox–Jawbone’s nifty super-small, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker/speakerphone gadget–got even a little niftier this week. Jawbone released version 2.0 of the Jambox’s software. It’s available on new Jamboxes, and current owners can download the free upgrade via the MyTalk service. The big new feature is LiveAudio, a technology that’s designed to make sound more multidimensional, including support for binaural recordings–ones recorded using a special technique that only needs two speakers to create a 3D audio effect that can be spectacular. Jawbone provided me with a unit with the new software for review.

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If you were one of the biggest sellers of CDs in America and saw the digital revolution coming, would you go into the online music business? Of course you would. And Walmart did. But now it’s closing its MP3 store, which distinguished itself mostly by selling tracks for a few pennies under Apple’s price.

Walmart’s neat Vudu streaming movie service–which, full disclosure, my wife has done work for in the past–remains available.

Posted by Harry at 4:19 pm

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I’m trying out Spotify–the much-loved music service from the UK that debuted in the US today. I’m still forming opinions. In the meantime, TechCrunch’s Matt Burns has a good comparison of it with my current favorite, Rdio. (Spoiler: He likes ‘em both, but prefers Rdio overall.)

Posted by Harry at 2:36 pm


Pandora’s upcoming new browser-based version–which dumps Flash for a pure HTML5 experience–sounds neat.

Posted by Harry at 10:08 am

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Rhapsody, the longest-lived subscription music service–it’s been around since 2001–is celebrating the fact that it now has 800,000 subscribers. Its president, Jon Irwin, says that “exceeds the lifetime total of all new U.S. competitors combined”–by which I presume it means other services such as MOG, Napster, Rdio, and Slacker. That would mean that fewer than 1.6 million people in the U.S. subscribe to any of these services. Which, given that the companies who offer them have had a decade to try and get the world interested, may mean that the concept simply isn’t all that appealing.  (I like it–I happily pay for Rdio–but at what point does the industry stop insisting that subscription music will be a huge hit once everyone understands how great it is?)

Posted by Harry at 10:56 am


Sean Parker Says Music Industry Poised to Rebound

By  |  Posted at 7:01 pm on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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It seems almost odd: the very man who has played a large part in the decline of an industry is now the one most bullish on its future prospects. At the e-G8 conference in Paris, Napster co-founder Sean Parker said that a “bottom” was ahead for the music industry due to new services on the horizon.

Indeed, the industry has lost three-quarters of its value, falling from a $45 billion annual business to about $12 billion. Clearly, a new business model is needed.

Parker is an investor in music service Spotify, and said that the back catalogues that are being made available through services like it are helping to drive growth. While traditional digital music stores were good for selling top-40 hits and singles, they so far have not done well in selling most back-catalogue tracks.

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Google’s iTunes Competitor Might Be In Trouble

By  |  Posted at 1:34 pm on Friday, April 15, 2011

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Google’s plans to take on Apple’s dominance in digital music may be hitting a snag. AllThingsDigital’s Peter Kafka is reporting that discussions with music labels have “stalled,” apparently over the Mountain View, Calif. company’s desires to change some of its terms.

Kafka said that talks may have gone “backwards,” and Google could be reconsidering its plans. At the same time, Kafka wrote that he had also heard earlier from those in the music industry that talks were going well, so there seems to be a bit of confusion as to actually what is going on here.

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Tunebug Turns Tabletops Into Boom Boxes

By  |  Posted at 11:15 am on Monday, March 28, 2011

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A little smaller than a hockey puck and triangular in shape, a Tunebug turns pretty much any hard surface into a decent speaker for digital music from any device it can connect to via a standard audio jack or, depending on the model, Bluetooth.

While David Pogue at the Times recently took a look at Bluetooth speakers, they were (as I understood it) conventional speakers. Tunebug’s SurfaceSound technology makes the surface part of the speaker.

The company offers a wired version, the $70 Tunebug Vibe, that connects to a digital audio source (e.g. iPod, laptop, MP3 player) with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Tunebug says the Vibe’s internal rechargeable battery can power the device for up to 5 hours.

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Sony’s Sony-Centric Music Service Goes Live in the US

By  |  Posted at 10:24 am on Thursday, February 17, 2011

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Music Unlimited Powered by Qriocity, Sony’s music service, reaches the United States today. It’s launching with six million tracks from all the major music companies, plus independent labels. A $3.99-a-month version lets you listen to music channels themed by genre, decade, and mood, and scan the playlists on your computer and reconstruct them within Sony’s service; a $9.99 version allows full on-demand listening to every song and album in the catalog. Judging from a demo that Sony gave me yesterday, the whole thing has an attractive interface, with nicely-done cover flow-like album art.

What you can’t do just yet is listen to the service when you’re not in front of a TV set or a computer. For now, Music Unlimited is available on the PlayStation 3 and recent Internet-enabled Sony Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players, and there’s a Web-based version for PCs and Macs. Sony has plans for an Android version later in 2011. And Shawn Layden, executive vice president and COO of Sony Network Entertainment, told me that “nothing is off the table” regarding versions for Apple’s iOS and other platforms. (Of course, with Apple’s new rules for iOS content providers, it’s not clear what’s going to happen to non-iTunes music services on the iPhone, period.)

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Borders Goes Bankrupt

By  |  Posted at 5:03 pm on Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Borders, the second-largest bookstore in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy and will close 200 of its 642 stores. It may close another 75 if the company can’t get concessions from landlords.

You might think Borders was the first major casualty of the digital book boom, but the store’s problems may actually be tied up in the previous digital revolution. An Engadget commenter who claims to be a former Borders employee makes a good point to that end:

“Borders made a big commitment to selling CDs & DVDs — large sections of the stores were devoted to this content in the 90s and early 00s. new stores were designed and built in an effort to give multimedia a large segment of the store space.

“In the end, Borders has failed because [its] stores got too big and the demand for CDs and DVDs dropped — there was just no way to pay the bills.”

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