Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.

Jack White On Limited Edition Vinyl
-- Jack White’s Third Man Records releases limited edition vinyl. Some pieces of vinyl end up on eBay and can sell for hundreds of dollars. So, Third Man recently auctioned off some vinyl itself. Instead of making $10 on a piece of vinyl that is valued at $300, Third Man took in $300. Some customers were not happy, however.

The conversation is a great exploration into the attraction of limited physical releases versus the ubiquity of digital music. To one customer White wrote (in all lowercase letters):

“we’ve done giveaways, contests, auctions, etc. a lot of different ways for vault members to get first crack at limited records when we don’t have to. we do it because by being a member you’re supposedly making a statement that you’re a real fan who wants the music, and to be involved in collecting rare and interesting vinyl. from some of these comments i take it that a lot of you would like this to be all digital, available to anyone on amazon dot com, anytime. boring, lifeless, lazy, and redundant.”

We’ve seen this before. The complaints against Third Man are similar to criticism levied against using dynamic pricing for concert tickets. Rather than let scalpers and sites like Stubhub capitalize on demand in excess of face value, a promoter could do away with rigid face values and let demand dictate ticket prices. But just like this case with Third Man, dynamic ticket prices have a lot of critics. It’s amazing how capitalism can be a big turnoff to some people. (Antiquiet)

Wired: Piracy Is Over
-- Wired offers one possible reason why people continue to pirate music: “You’re cheap.” In a post titled “The Age of Music Piracy is Finally Over,” Wired runs through all the reasons people have had to pirate music: objections to DRM, strict adherence to the “music should be free” mantra, low audio quality of some online music. But those days are over, insists Wired:

“It’s time for everybody to go legit. The reason: We won. And all you audiophiles and copyfighters, you know who fixed our problems? The record labels and online stores we loved to hate.”

You see, labels have made digital music a better value. Downloads are now sold in unprotected MP3 formats and have far better fidelity than the early days of 128 kbps files. Numerous legal streaming services allow for music either free or with a small monthly fee. And digital music doesn’t require expensive turntables, just the same smartphone a lot of people are already carrying around.

Finally, labels and, indirectly, artists get paid when people buy music. In a typical case an artist gets about 20 cents. In the “Eminem scenario” in which downloads are licensed material and revenue is split, the artist’s take goes up to 50 cents. Concludes Wired: “If that happens and you can still rationalize not throwing four dimes Eminem’s way, then maybe there’s another reason you’re still pirating music: You’re cheap.”

Of course, piracy will continue even though labels have addressed so many complaints. “It’s getting harder and harder to find the few holdouts to hang a reasonable complaint on,” Wired notes. True. But some people will continue to cloak their piracy in moral causes (hatred of major record labels, retribution for the RIAA’s consumer lawsuits) and some technologists are just going to flat out pirate music just for the sport of it. At the end of the day, however, money is an issue, too. Some cannot afford much music (read the comments section for thoughts from college students) while others simply won’t part with it. Nice that Wired has pointed this out. (Wired)

DDEX Gains Momentum
-- A group of record labels, digital service providers and other industry organizations have committed to begin using the standards of Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), a consortium of media companies that focuses on creating digital supply chains standards for common use. Among the DDEX members who have announced plans to adopt the standards are EMI Music, Nokia, The Harry Fox Agency, RightsFlow, PRS for Music, Rhapsody, Sony Music Group, Warner Music Group and The Orchard.

What does this mean? DDEX claims the end result will be “faster time to market, improved operational quality and efficiency, improved data quality, reduced transaction management costs, reduced communication costs and reduced development costs.”

DDEX was established to encourage the adoption of standard XML message formats to improve the communication between companies in the digital media supply chain. Its charter members include Apple, ASCAP, all four major music groups, PRS for Music, Nokia, Orange, The Orchard, PPL and Microgen Aptitude Limited. (Press release)

Court Upheld RapidShare Ruling
-- A German court has upheld a 150,000-euro fine against file-hosting site RapidShare. The fine arose after a number of book publishers obtained an injunction against RapidShare from hosting 148 of their works. After the publishers found that their works continued to be available at RapidShare, they asked the court to impose fines.

RapidShare stores any type of digital files. Ostensibly the service is used by people who want to store large or important files in the cloud. However, while some uses are indeed legitimate, the service acts as a conduit for piracy as well. For example, it is often used by music bloggers to host files that are listed in their blog posts. The company has had a good share of legal trouble over the years. German collection society GEMA has had some courtroom tussles with Rapidshare. Last year, GEMA won a decision that meant Rapidshare had to make sure 5,000 copyrighted music tracks were not made available through its site. (Press release)

Spotify Updates App
-- Spotify has updated its Android app, overhauling the design, upping the resolution of the graphics and adding a slew of minor but important changes to both the UI and data transfer. The Android app now works with more Android phones, including HTC’s Desire HD and Desire Z, Motorola Cliq, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 3, and a few others.
The Android app is quite a bit different from the iPhone app. The look and feel are very different. Navigating the Android app is different than getting around the iPhone app. It’s hard to say if one is better than the other. They’re just different. All in all, the Android app runs just as smoothly as the iPhone app. (Spotify blog)