Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.

Asthmatic Kitty: Don't Feel Guilty About Amazon Prices
-- Recall when the Asthmatic Kitty label criticized Amazon.com's sale prices for devaluing music? The label's head of A&R, Michael Kaufmann, told the Village Voice the label had "poorly communicated" its point and wanted to be transparent about the fact that Amazon.com was selling it for half of Asthmatic Kitty's price.

Said Kaufman: "What gave us pause was that we were also offering the album at a higher price and we wanted to make sure our customers knew that it would be available for half that price on street date through Amazon. We wanted to be honest and transparent about the coming deal so that folks who preordered at a higher price didn't feel like they have been misinformed, or had a lack of information to make an informed choice. We never wanted to impose any sort of guilt on our consumers."

If there's a moral to this story, it is that record labels that sell direct to fans must acknowledge that they are in direct competition with their retail partners. Those retailers may undercut the label's own pricing - Amazon.com uses some digital albums as loss leaders. And, after all, what's so bad about having a title on sale at a price that is going to increase sales volume? Temporary sales cuts are a retail tradition. Whether or not that devalues the label's product over the long term is up for debate. From the looks of this Q&A, it appears Asthmatic Kitty does appreciate its retail relationships.
(Village Voice)

Netflix Subscriptions Soar
-- While music subscription services continue to find their footing, video subscription service Netflix is on a tear. The company ended the third quarter with 16.9 million subscribers, up 52% from the same period in 2009 and up 13% sequentially. Revenue was $553 million, up 31% from $423 million last year and up 6% sequentially.

In its earnings release, Netflix offered some very interesting statistics about its subscribers. For example, next quarter a majority of Netflix subscribers are expected to watch more content streamed online than delivered on DVD. In addition, 66% of subscribers watched more than 15 minutes of a TV episode in the quarter, up from 61% in the second quarter and 41% in the third quarter of 2009. Its household penetration is a whopping 27% in the Bay Area and 14% in the rest of the country.

In the earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings said there is plenty of room for growth through partnerships. "The big push over the next two years will be as more and more TVs are Internet TVs, they have WiFi built in and we'll march along with that. But today, there is a still a fair amount of TVs sold that don't have WiFi, so that's the big push in terms of breadth."
(Earnings release, Seeking Alpha)

Labels Want 3rd Jammie Thomas-Rasset Trial
-- Labels have filed a brief in opposition of Jammie Thomas-Rasset's attempt to avoid a third file-sharing trial. The Justice Department, writes Ben Sheffner, has also filed a brief in opposition. "I'm told that at a hearing last week Judge Davis expressed serious interest in such a motion for reconsideration," he writes, "but it's far from certain that he will grant it."
(Copyrights & Campaigns)

Country Needs Q4 Crossover Hits
-- Country sales are down 12.5% this year and need the help of some major crossover hits to break even with last year. Writes Davis Ross at MusicRow: "With only 11 shopping weeks remaining in 2010, the industry overall is now down 13.6%. Country YTD sales are 27.753 million units. For 2009 country sold 46.13 million units. To equal 2009, we have 11 weeks to scan 18.377 million more units or 1.67 million per week. (That's a tall order considering that this week we sold a total of only 718k.)"

Whether or not country sales are up or down in a given year tends to be a function of the number of crossover hits released. For example, last year's country's numbers benefited when "Hannah Montana: The Movie" was classified under the country genre. There are a handful of crossover titles being released in the fourth quarter. Sugarland's new album came out this week and is expected to do well - it is currently the No. 1 album at iTunes. Next week the new Taylor Swift album will be released.
(MusicRow)

Taylor Swift To Play JetBlue Series
-- Speaking of Taylor Swift, she will perform in the JetBlue terminal at New York City's Kennedy International Airport two days after the release of her new album. Swift will play five songs at a temporary stage for 30 contest winners as well as any travelers that happen to be strolling by. This show is part of JetBlue's "Live from T5" concert series that was created by JetBlue and Superfly Productions.
(New York Times)

Vevo To Debut 34-Minute Kanye West Video
-- Vevo has some interesting programming this weekend. On Saturday at 8pm ET, the video site will debut a 34-minute video by Kanye West that is a "visual accompaniment" to his new album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." Vevo has branched out from standard music videos a number of times. Two recent high-profile events were live webcasts of concerts by Arcade Fire and the National. It's often said that Vevo is aiming to become the new MTV. These are the types of programs that will get Vevo to that level. Just showing traditional music videos probably won't be enough. Unique, compelling content, whether short form or long form, will help make Vevo more of a destination.
(Vevo blog)

Rdio Launches Song Widgets
-- Music subscription service Rdio now offers embeddable music players that people can add to web sites, blogs, etc. The widget pictures nine album covers on its left half and a playlist on the right half. Anyone with an Rdio account can embed these players. Non-subscribers can listen to 30-second samples. To hear full songs, they will need to sign up for a free trial.
(Rdio Blog)

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