Samsung's Music Hub Shows the Future of Digital Music
-- Samsung's new Music Hub isn't going to get much credit for being visionary, but the multi-faceted music service is ahead of its time. Music Hub's combination of services may not shatter records, but its vertically integrated suite of products represents the future of digital music.
Launched in five European markets in May and the U.S. on Tuesday, Music Hub is a kitchen sink of a music service that offers paid digital downloads, cloud storage with scan-and-match technology and Internet radio.
Music Hub is another case of music adding value to more profitable products and services. In this case, Samsung is first offering Music Hub only to owners of the Galaxy S III smartphone. Similarly, Sony's Music Unlimited subscription service and Video Unlimited store are used mainly to bolster sales of Sony's connected TVs, Blu-ray players and other piece of hardware. Mobile carrier Cricket uses its Muve Music subscription service to bolster its all-in-one, no-contract mobile phone service.
Music Hub didn't even get the most attention of new digital music services announced Tuesday. That would be an upgrade to Amazon's Cloud Player that augments the existing cloud storage service with a scan-and-match technology enabled by licenses with all four majors and many independent music companies.
But Samsung's peers should follow suit. The Big Three -- Amazon, Google and Apple - will eventually need an integrated service that combines pieces that now exist separately. They won't be able to just sell downloads forever, and their cloud storage services will be vital only to the extent downloads are popular. People listen, collect and discover in many different ways. The Big Three's music offerings need to reflect this fact.
The Big Three should really take note of Music Hub's radio service. Whether or not the service is good, great or an equal to something like Pandora really isn't the point here. What's important is the fact that Samsung has put the most mainstream of music products (radio) with less mainstream music products (downloads and cloud storage). It's an acknowledgement that radio is consumers' favorite way to discover new music. In market research by NPD Group, Nielsen and anybody else who looks into the matter, radio outranks TV, word of mouth, blogs and social media (which ranks at or near the bottom) for music discovery.
But what have the Big Three done to improve their music products? Amazon launched and folded music discovery site Sound Unwound. Apple launched and folded its Ping social networking feature in iTunes. Google launched the Magnifier music blog. None of the Big Three have built or bought an Internet radio service - even though there are plenty on the market and mainstream music listeners have a proven affection for radio.
Subscription, downloads, storage and radio won't always exist separately. The trick will be successfully integrating them into a single service that customers will love. Music Hub may not succeed in building the right product, but it appears to have the right elements.
Vevo To Distribute Videos On OUYA's Android-Based Game Console for TV
-- Vevo distributes its videos through YouTube, Facebook, Viacom properties and the Xbox gaming system. Next year its videos will be available through the OUYA, an Android-based game console for the TV from the creator of the Jambox portable speaker.
OUYA has gained some notoriety by raising over $6 million in about three weeks on Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ouya/ouya-a-new-kind-of-video-game-console. The campaign had a goal of $950,000 and will grow well beyond its $6.1 million from over 47,000 backers. OUYA is currently the second-most funded Kickstarter project of all time and could possibly surpass the $10.2 million raised by the current leader, the Pebble customizable watch.
OUYA is aimed at an out-of-the-mainstream crowd of gaming and open source enthusiasts. The company plans on keeping its games free to play (developers can give away a free version and charge for premium versions) and give open access to any developer. OUYA invites hackers as well. "Everything opens with standard screws," the company explains. "Hardware hackers can create their own peripherals, and connect via USB or Bluetooth."
( Vevo blog)
Finnish Band Alymysto's workaround for the ISP-Blocked Pirate Bay
-- Finnish ISP subscribers unable to access file-sharing site the Pirate Bay have got some help from a local "industrial-ambient-noise" band Älymystö. The band has posted information at its website on how to circumvent the blockade, which the band calls "deeply silly," imposed on Finnish ISP Elisa by groups representing rights owners.
Älymystö considers the Pirate Bay to be a promotional outlet. "The only way to fight piracy is to create systems that make it easy to sell music, movies and TV programs digitally with as little lag and friction as possible in international markets, to take care of your fans and customers and to cultivate good PR," the band wrote.
The band certainly walks the walk. Its website has YouTube videos, free audio streaming (although it didn't work for me for some reason) and free downloads licensed under a Creative Commons non-commercial license that allows for redistribution but requires permission for commercial use or remixing. It also has links to purchase the music at iTunes.
But some other artists and rights owners may disagree. There is very little friction in today's digital music market, and what nuisances do exist are usually the result of longstanding territorial matters (music may not be released at the same time in all markets) or artistic choice (not all bands release music to digital download stores or streaming services). When a band does offer music through all available channels, consumers have a wealth of both free and paid options.
But Älymystö's arguments overlook the heart of the matter. Älymystö has made the individual, personal choice to make its music available at the Pirate Bay. Yet many artists whose music is available at the Pirate Bay have not made that choice. The Pirate Bay has built most of its value on content by creators who have not chosen to upload their content. And because artists cannot opt out of the Pirate Bay, the site is being blocked in many countries. If the Pirate Bay were completely opt-in, if the site was filled with nothing but Älymystös, we wouldn't be talking about all this.