Surprise, Music Sales Continue to Improve
-- Here's the latest on the surprisingly strong recorded music sales of 2011. Through May 1, track sales are up 8%, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Current tracks are up 10% and catalog tracks are up 7% during that time.

Through February 27, tracks were up 6% year over year. And keep in mind that track sales were up 1% in all of 2010. Although sales momentum picked up in the fourth quarter, it looked like tracks were reaching a plateau after many years of growth.

Albums have also picked up the pace. Digital albums are up 16% through May 1. They were up just 10% through March 6 and rose 13% in 2010. Total album sales are down 2% through May 1. At the same point last year, album sales were down 10%, and they finished the year down 13%.

Even physical sales are faring well (relatively speaking, of course). CD sales are down 9% through May 1. The fact that CD sales are down by just single digit implies that retailers have not been continuing their drastic cuts on shelf space, or labels and distributors are doing a good job with what existing shelf space they have to work with.

With their backs up against the wall, music companies are getting creative and making concessions to retailers. So instead of falling off a cliff, the drop in CD sales is getting smaller.

Last week, NARM President Jim Donio had this to say about the uptick in sales: "While we should note that this week we are comparing a holiday sales week in 2011 to a non-holiday sales week in 2010, the only week in the past few months where we did not achieve a year-over-year increase was the week in early April when we were comparing to a holiday week in 2010. The bottom line is that album sales continue to chip away at a declining year-over-year pattern, and are now down just 2% from last year, which provides us with a welcome dose of optimism."

New 7digital Android App Can Download MP3s
-- 7digital's new Android app allows users to download MP3s. The previous version of the app allowed the user to download music to a computer and then sideload to the mobile device. Vickie Nauman, VP of North America, explains in an e-mail to Billboard.biz:

"Previously the app had purchasing enabled through our HTML 5 mobile optimized store, but it was largely a locker app where users could access and pull to their Android device the music they had purchased through 7digital. This version has dramatically improved the overall experience by tightly integrating the locker, purchasing and playback inside the application."

There are a few other features worth mentioning. First, it gives the user the option to download a lower quality track track when not connected to Wifi (so the larger files are not downloaded over a mobile network). When the mobile device is once again connected to Wifi, the lower quality file will automatically replace with 320kbps MP3 track. Also, the player allows users to access and sync tracks stored both on the device and in 7digital's cloud locker.
(Android Community)

A Look at the Role of Music In the Business Place
-- How much value does music add to places of business? This question gets to the heart of the rates charged by performing rights organizations for the public performance of their members' music.

Consider a new Sounds Like Branding survey of 1,000 Swedes between the ages of 16 and 64. The survey found that more than six out of 10 -- and 74% of the 15-24 age group -- say music is important or very important to them in their lives. But in terms of the value it adds to a business, about 40% say "the right music" makes them stay longer in a public place of business, and 31% return to such a business that plays music they liked. As for music in the workplace, 43% of workers say music makes their work environment more relaxed and about half say they love to listen to music at work.
(Sounds Like Branding)

Rapidshare Shop Now Selling Videogames -- Are Movies, Music Next?
-- Rapidshare, an online file hosting company that's not exactly on the Christmas card mailing list of entertainment industry companies, is now selling videogames at the new RapidShare Shop that gives publishers a self-serve platform for reaching consumers.

GigaOm wonders if movies are next. "Converting downloaders of free content to paying customers can be challenging, but RapidShare does have the advantage: It already has billing relationships with many of its users," Janko Roettgers writes.

And if movies are next, music could certainly follow. Copyright holders and Rapidshare already have a history (as well as other online file-hosting services). In June 2009, a German court ruled in favor of German collecting society GEMA and fined Rapidshare $33.5 million.

The court also ruled that protections taken by Rapidshare and other file-hosting sites were not adequate enough to prevent copyright violations. But then last year a U.S. District Court ruled that Rapidshare was not guilty of copyright infringement and a German appeals court ruled the company was not liable for the infringing activities of its users.
(GigaOm)

Klipsch Gets Rights To Live Nation Venues
-- Premium loudspeaker company Klipsch has acquired the naming rights to two Live Nation venues. The 1,100-seat Irving Plaza in Manhattan will be called the Irving Plaza Powered by Klipsch. It's a big improvement from one of the venue's previous names, the confusing Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza (which has mistakenly been called variations on that name in the media). Naming rights also go to the 7,500-seat Bayfront Park Amphitheater in Miami, which will be called the Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park. In addition, Klipsch will sponsor the Lounge at the Grammercy Theater in Manhattan and the VIP Club at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach, Fla.
(Press release)