Amazon Preps Android App Store

-- Amazon is prepping an Android app store of its own, TechCrunch reported on Wednesday just as Apple today announced it was launching an app store for its Macintosh computers and iPads. The lure is obvious beyond the fact that both companies are in direct competition with Apple: Amazon has a huge customer base developers can target. On the program's Appstore Developer Program home page, Amazon tells app developers they can market their apps to "tens of millions of customers using Amazon's proven marketing and merchandising capabilities."

Here are a few specifics: Amazon's app store is expected to launch "later this year" and will be available to customers in the U.S. at launch. Developers can sell either free or paid apps. Amazon will keep the greater of 70% of sale price or 20% of the list price. Apps will be sold at Amazon on a non-exclusive basis.

Amazon's approaching entry into Android apps brings up some important questions. Will a more decentralized and fractured Android app marketplace work better than Apple's controlled approach? Will consumers warm to buying apps from an e-commerce giant best known for physical items? How will Amazon improve upon Google's Android Market?

If Amazon's MP3 app for Android is any indication, the retailer could make app browsing and buying a more pleasant experience. The app lists top digital albums and tracks, and it highlights the daily album deal and free digital track. Users can also use it to browse Amazon's MP3 catalog. It's nothing extravagant, but it's easy to use and well suited for mobile devices.

( TecCrunch)

2010 Country Music Sales Higher, Digital Lower Than Overall Music Industry
-- As everybody is looking at end-of-year SoundScan numbers. The Tennessean has a good recap of the year in country album sales and points. The key item in the story is that country albums were down down just 5% compared to the overall market's 12.7% decline.

As is often the case, country's overall sales numbers were dependent upon the genre's ability to have a handful of crossover hits. Again in 2010, country was able to do just that. Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown were amongst the top ten album-selling artists. Take away just 3 million units that could be attributed to crossover success (or a delayed release date), for example, and country sales would have been down 11.5% instead of 5%.

One characteristic of country music was noted by The Tennessean's Peter Cooper: digital sales are far behind those of other genres. Digital album sales were up 15% but the format was up 26% in all genres. Even more telling is the fact that just 14.7% of country albums were sold in the digital format in 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's far lower than the 26.4% mark for all genres and well below alternative's 39%, rock's 32% and rap's 25.5%.

It may seem contradictory, but in the near term the country market is probably better off because its fans are digital laggards. If country fans were more avid digital shoppers, more of them would have left the album format for digital tracks. Revenue would be lower as a result of that inequitable substitution.

In the long term, however, country is less prepared for the eventual drop in physical sales. Relatively few fans have become digital consumers - they're generally radio-driven, mass merchant-shopping consumers. A best-case scenario see country fans skipping the digital download revolution and going straight to access models like Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio et al. That's not the way pop, rock, metal and electronic fans have got into digital music, but if country fans whet their digital appetites with downloads before moving on to the next generation of business models, it will take a long time for them to catch up.

( The Tennessean)

TrueAnthem, Social Media & Branding Platform, Raises $2.9 Million In Funding
-- TrueAnthem raised $2.9 million in funding, according to an SEC filing dated December 28, 2010. At its website, the San Francisco-based company describes itself as "a social media company that connects brands with influencers, inspiring them, and their followers and friends, to become brand evangelists." It has created music-driven campaigns for clients such as Nestle, Adidas, Skullcandy, Ubisoft and Body Glove. The company raised $2 million in angel funding back in 2008.

( SEC filing, via Hypebot)

Songtrust, DIY Music Publisher, Launches in Beta Mode
-- Online rights management startup Songtrust announced on Wednesday it has launched in beta mode. The company is like a TuneCore for music publishing. Its users keep 100% of their publishing rights, can opt out at any time and keep 100% of revenue generated when their songs are licensed. ( Songtrust blog)