Business Matters: Better Late Than Never? Putumayo Finally Goes Digital
Business Matters: Better Late Than Never? Putumayo Finally Goes Digital

Better Late Than Never? Putumayo Finally Goes Digital
-- Better late than never? Putumayo World Music is finally going digital. The label's two newest compilations -- "African Beat" and "Latin Beat" -- are its first distributed to digital retailers. Each title has 11 tracks and is available for $9.99 at iTunes, $6.99 at Amazon MP3 Store, $5.39 at eMusic and $9.99 at Putumayo.com.

Putumayo is practically synonymous with world music compilations. Its catalog contains music that spans the globe. Its cover art tends to be instantly recognizable. Its designs lend immediate context for albums that are often filled with unfamiliar artists and styles. Putumayo is masterful at selling the idea of music as cultural exploration. And the music is always good. If you buy a Putumayo collection, you know you're getting quality.

That strong brand identity is the type of asset that has enabled Putumayo -- like a top-tier artist -- to release music on CD and sell them at non-traditional stores like gift shops and book stores. It allows the label to sell a compilation of unfamiliar songs -- and some that have been previously released -- in an age when people can download individual tracks. And as Kid Rock and Pink Floyd know, having brand equity means your customers will buy full albums if no individual tracks are available.

"I've built a business focused on creating compelling physical packages that combine music, culture and travel, that make great gifts and that sound very good," label founder Dan Storper told the New York Times.

But the timing seems right for Putumayo's jump into the digital world. The Beatles are already at iTunes and the number of digital holdouts is dwindling. Digital stores and their millions of tracks need a trusted gatekeeper/curator who can compile songs that most consumers could never find in the first place. And it's probably best to plan for the future. Putumayo says its physical releases will continue to be sold via its network of non-traditional retailers, but it's not unimaginable that in the coming years Putumayo will incur more difficulty in keeping retailers interested in the CD format.

MOG Further Expands Distribution
-- MOG is now available through home entertainment platform Boxee. This is MOG's latest effort to expand its distribution. The paid subscription service has been available to users of the Roku connected set-top box since September 2010 and through LG's Smart TV platform and Blu-ray players since April. In addition, MOG launched an app for the Google Chrome Web browser in December.
(Press release)

Remember: Market Shares Fluctuations
-- As Apple begins a new era with iTunes Match and Spotify heats up the unlimited subscription market, it's worth remembering that market shares can be gained and lost.

Case in point: Walmart's Vudu video service is now the third online movie service in the United States, according to market research firm IHS Inc. While Vudu has grabbed only 5.3% of the movie download market through August, it has grabbed share from No. 2 Microsoft Zune (16.2% share, down from 18.5% in 2010) and Sony PlayStation Store (4.4% share, down from 8.2% in 2010). The market leader has not budged, however. Apple had a 65.8% share through August, up from 64.9% last year. Number five Amazon rose to 4.2% from 4.0% last year.

"The business we're in today, offering first-run movies a la carte, is doing very well right now and has tripled so far this year," Vudu GM Edward Lichty told the Wall Street Journal. "It's becoming very meaningful for our Hollywood partners, to the point where some have called us and asked whether we had made some kind of mistake."

Walmart, which recently shut down its music download store after an unimpressive history, added Vudu to its home page in late July. Videos start at $3.99 and can be watched on a variety of devices such as PCs, the iPad, PlayStation 3 and Vudu-enabled TV or Blu-ray players.
(Wall Street Journal)

MOG Vs. Spotify
-- Two continents might be better than one. Embedded deep within Computer Audiophile's two-part, head-to-head review of MOG and Spotify is this item on Spotify's attractiveness to hardware manufacturers: "Talking to a couple manufacturers of high performance audio components leads me to believe they may be leaning toward integrating Spotify more so than MOG simply because Spotify is available in the US and EU."

Nevertheless, Computer Audiophile chose MOG in the head-to-head battle of the two music subscription services -- a rare defeat for the much-adored Spotify service. Audio quality played a part -- MOG streams its full catalog at 320kbps to both desktop and mobile app -- but Chris Connaker of Computer Audiophile found MOG's user interface to be more intuitive and its catalog to be more complete. "Spotify has attempted to be all things to all users with it's 'Jack of all trades, master of none' desktop application," he concluded.

"Counterintuitive features and truly unusable queue functionality in both mobile and desktop apps are unacceptable from a subscription service that's been around since 2008. In my experience MOG has nailed it with simplicity, a relevant song selection, and better sound quality."
(Computer Audiophile)

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