Business Matters: Are Pitchfork's Album Reviews Getting Soft?
Business Matters: Are Pitchfork's Album Reviews Getting Soft?

Are Pitchfork's Album Reviews Getting Soft?
-- Is Pitchfork getting soft? No, the influential music site is probably just finding better music to review. A statistical analysis of the music site's album reviews shows the average score went up to 8.7 from 8.6 and the most frequent album rating rose to 7.5 from 7.0. The analysis covers two 12-month periods ending in late February 2010.

The Pitchfork review may be the most impactful album review of them all. Score a 9.0 or above and a young band can shoot to indie rock celebrity. A really bad one can stop an album in its tracks.

So what does it mean that Pitchfork's reviews (more specifically, the rating on a scale of zero to 10) are getting better? It might mean that Pitchfork is covering more music it really likes. Another less likely explanation is Pitchfork is softening up in its old age. But because Pitchfork and other music blogs don't have to write about everything under the sun, they are free to highlight what they like most. When they highlight more music they really like, the average score will be pulled up.

One of the main differences between music blogs (if you want to call Pitchfork a blog) and traditional music writing is the nature of the review. Blogs tend to focus on the music the writers enjoy the most and want to champion with the rest of the world. The blogger would rather write a positive review about music he or she is excited to share rather than rip an album he or she dislikes. This selection bias is why blogs are so cheery compared to the more negative sentiment of traditional music criticism.

And this bias explains why ratings are not normally distributed in the familiar bell-shaped curve. Instead, they're unevenly distributed and bunched up around 7.0 and 7.5. And there are fewer stellar reviews than mediocre reviews, showing that Pitchfork is very selective in gracing an album with a 9.0 or higher rating. (Part Time Music)

Report: MOG Looking To Raise $25-$30 Million In Funding
-- Subscription music service MOG is trying to raise another funding round of $25-$30 million, according to MediaMemo. That funding would follow $9.5 million in funding announced in February 2010. Usually at this point in a company's career arc, the funding would be going toward expansion into other markets and other products. It's well known that MOG has its eyes on the auto market, and it's not difficult to imagine such a push requiring additional capital.

As MediaMemo's Peter Kafka smartly notes, digital music services' "track record for the last decade has ranged from uninspired to lousy." And yet services that require costly licenses and enormous scale for profitability are racking up the fundraising left and right. Beyond Oblivion, which has yet to launch, announced funding of $77 million in early March. Rdio, which provides a service similar to MOG, announced $17.5 million in January. And media reports say Spotify recently raised another $100 million -- at a valuation of $1 billion!

Kafka writes that MOG is projecting to have revenue of $14 million next year, according to investors who have heard MOG's latest pitch. If that's correct, 2010 revenue was just a fraction of $14 million. Judging from the finances of Rhapsody, Napster and Pandora (which is non-interactive), digital music starts to get profitable at or above $100 million. Before then their marketing and operating costs exceed what subscription revenue they're pulling in. Whatever the specific financial situation of MOG, it's clear the company wants to grow -- and it will take money to get there.

Queen's 'We Will Rock You' Leads BMI's Top Sporting Event Songs
-- Queen's "We Will Rock You" was BMI's top song at sporting events during the 2009-2010 season. Kevin Rudolf's (featuring Lil Wayne) "Let It Rock" was No. 2 and Nickelback's "Burn it to the Ground" was third. "Who Let the Dogs Out?" was not in the top 10, believe it or not. The appearance of Bush's "Machinehead" at No. 10 shows the power of a good guitar riff.

Five of the top 10 songs are fairly new: Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," Jay-Z's "Run This Town," "Let It Rock," Souljah Boy's "Turn My Swag On" and Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning."

Interestingly, sports leagues had different top songs. While the NFL favored "We Will Rock You," NHL teams played 2 Unlimited's "Twilight Zone" more often and MLB teams favored Christina Aguilera's "Car Wash."
(BMI, via RepoJay)