Digital Executives Excited, Optimistic About Google Music
-- It's official: Google is in the digital music business. At an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday the company unveiled a new MP3 store that is integrated with its existing cloud storage service. The company showed off social features that allow purchased songs to be shared with friends, and it debuted a new platform for independent artists that allows them to sell music without a middleman.
But most notable aspect of Wednesday's announcement was the very fact that such a major company is now intimately involved in digital music and working with rights holders. "It's positive to see that level of investment coming into the music industry," Merlin CEO Charles Caldas tells Billboard.biz.
"The launch of Google's music service is a good thing, a very good thing," TuneCore CEO Jeff Price says via email. Price believes Google is helping shift the focus from the label to the artist. "The goal here is to allow artists to get heard, shared, discovered and paid. I am thrilled to have TuneCore be in a deal with Google."
Rob Wells, the president of global digital business at the Universal Music Group, said during the event that Universal is "immensely please" to be a part of the launch and expects it to be a "rich new revenue stream" for its artists. And he noted that Google Music will be yet another option for consumers to buy and experience music. "Any new legitimate place to consume music is a fantastic anti-piracy tool," he said.
The announcement is also momentous because Google is giving a massive mobile audience access to a legitimate service. Iris Distribution president Matt Laszuk tells Billboard.biz that smartphones will be to the next era of digital music what mobile devices were to the MP3 player era. "I'm hoping Google's music play brings the integrated digital music experience to Android users," he says.
Google's vast footprint puts the music service in a unique position. IODA CEO Kevin Arnold thinks it's good that Google Music is integrated and in peoples' faces. And they have the ability to push music in ways such as search, Google properties and partners such as T-Mobile.
"Everybody feels it's a bit of an untapped opportunity," Arnold tells Billboard.biz. For independent artists and labels, he feels the Google Music team will be set on exposing and promoting good music. "They've always been intent on putting an indie focus in there," he says.
Of course, some people may look at Google's recent history with content owners and take more of a wait-and-see approach. Robert Levine, former Billboard executive editor and author of "Free Ride," a new book about the content industry's battles with technology companies, sent out a statement Wednesday afternoon that noted how Google Music reflects a changing attitude about content within the company.
"Just recently, it refused to remove an app dedicated to copyright infringement from its Android app store," Levine stated. "So it will be interesting to see how this partnership works -- and whether Google can build the kind of relationships it needs to be able to compete with Apple's iTunes."
UMG Reports Revenue of €2,842 Million
-- Universal Music Group reported revenue of €2,842 million, a 2.9% decrease compared to the same period in 2010 (down 1.1 percent at constant currency). Earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) was flat at €244 million (up 1.6 percent at constant currency).
Digital revenue in the quarter rose 11.3 percent (up 13.9 percent at constant currency). Vivendi's press release says digital gains and higher license income "only partially offset" the decline in physical revenue.
Spotify Expands To Belgium, Switzerland
-- A day after Austria became the tenth country to get Spotify, Belgium and Switzerland became the 11th and 12th. Users in the latter two countries get the same pricing and same limitations on the free, ad-supported version as other European countries.
blueFROG, TAG Strategic Partner
-- blueFROG and TAG Strategic have partnered to host India's first of a series of TAG Salons and launch a global joint venture. blueFROG is a live music performance club, music consultancy service and an independent artist promotion, licensing and distribution agency based in Mumbai, India.
"The blueFROG TAG Salon" events will bring together some of the leading thinkers within the music, mobile, new media and the entertainment industry for talking and networking. TAG Salons have been held in Los Angeles, London, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin and other cities.
The first blueFROG TAG Salon was held on Nov. 15 at the blueFROG venue in Mumbai and was being sponsored by MIDEM, the world's largest music industry trade fair, held annually at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. TAG Strategic founder Ted Cohen led the discussions.
In addition, blueFROG and TAG are also announcing a comprehensive digital consultancy, blueFROG TAG, that will pool their collective expertise to benefit the media and entertainment industries in India and Asia.
Headphones by Lou Reed
-- Add Lou Reed to the growing list of artists who have their own line of headphones. The Lou Reed X10i Signature Edition Headphones by Klipsch are premium ear buds with a three-button remote for controlling calls and music. They're available now for pre-order and cost $399.99.
(Klipsch.com, via Stereogum)