Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.


Google To Help Fight Piracy?
-- Google has told two music industry trade groups it would have to charge a small fee to to help them track down pirated material more efficiently, reports CNET’s Greg Sandoval. Google said it could help – for a fee of $5 per 1,000 queries. At that rate, 1 million searches would cost $5,000 and 1 billion searches would cost $5 million. The Google product used in these queries would be Safe Search. Google would not charge to remove links to infringing content, but it would charge to search for those links.

Record labels happen to be in a better-than-usual negotiating position. According to a September 14 Billboard report, Google is working on a digital music store and service that would require more than the typical licensing deals from content owners. The pitch being given to labels described not only a standard download store but a music locker from which users could stream their music collections. Labels may be more likely to sign on with Google for such a service if they get a bit more help in dealing with piracy aided by the company’s search results. (CNET)


Subsidies For Music Subscription Services
-- France has an interesting approach to dealing with piracy: subsidies for music subscription services. The plan has won European Union approval. According to Reuters, French residents who purchase a card to download music from subscription-based music platforms will pay half the normal one-year price of €50 ($70). The French government will pick up the other half.

Let’s put aside the facts the French government is effectively setting prices in the music subscription market and giving a handout to music companies. The latter isn’t all that unusual, actually. Government handouts are common – just not in the creative industries. Recall the “cash for clunkers” and first-time home buyers credits offered by the U.S. government in 2009. The creative industries get copyright protection and assistance with fighting counterfeiting but tend not to get outright subsidies.

First, let’s look at the price. A lower price will help nudge this program forward. At $70 a year, the music services covered in this deal would be $10 more than a U.S. service’s PC-only streaming option that goes for $5 per month. In the U.S., the mobile option raises the price to $10 per month, which is far more than the prices given by Reuters. In France, for example, Spotify Premium (which includes the mobile option) costs €10 ($14) per month, which comes out to about $168 per year. But since the French government requires participating services to lower their rates, it’s possible $70 a year could cover a mobile option, too. So, French consumers could end up paying just $35 a year for a subscription service with a mobile offering. That’s big savings – if the services go along with the government’s desires for lower pricing.

Second, let’s consider the quality of the services being offered. The effectiveness of this program will depend not just on price but on the quality and desirability of the music services. Consumers won’t sign up for music services just because they get to pay half the normal price. Half of too much can still be too much to pay. And the quality of the typical subscription service is really the problem. They don’t have a value proposition that resonates with the typical consumer. Will a government subsidy change that?

In the end, government backing of subscription services will likely have some value through increased consumer awareness. The lower price will help.


Wiseguys Tickets Case To Go Forward
-- The case against the four men behind Wiseguys Tickets charged with an online ticket fraud operation can move forward, a judge decided on Tuesday. The four men were charged in March with effectively cutting in line and buying tickets online before normal customers had a chance to buy them. Then they turned around and sold them through their ticketing agency at premium. Said one defendant’s attorney at the time of their arrest, “In essence, this is the e-commerce version of the guy sleeping in a sleeping bag in front of a ticket booth - or lots of guys.” (AP, Daily News)


Seattle's Robust Music Scene
-- A profile on Seattle’s Sonic Boom Records, which turned 13 two weeks ago. Owner Jason Hughes on operating in such a healthy music market: “The one thing that Seattle has that many other cities lack is the music infrastructure. Radio stations like KEXP that play music, clubs, and healthy array of bands that are playing in those clubs regularly. There are four major record stores that are still in this city. I don't know of another city where that's the case, except maybe San Francisco. You look at L.A., the music capitol of the country, and Amoeba has dominated that market.” (NPR)


The All Songs 24/7 Music Channel
-- To mark the 10th anniversary of its feature “All Songs Considered,” National Public Radio is creating an All Songs 24/7 Music Channel that has a non-stop mix of every song played on the show. The page lists about 25 recently played tracks and has links to buy each track at either iTunes or Amazon.com. (Live4Ever)


U2 Manager Calls Out Irish Gov't
-- U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who for years has called for ISPs to do more to combat piracy on their networks, has called on Ireland’s government to improve its fight against digital piracy. This latest statement comes in the wake of a court ruling that said the country did not have the proper laws on the books to force an ISP to implement a graduated response program.

“This is extremely bad for the international reputation of Ireland as a jurisdiction with appropriate legal protection for all kinds of intellectual property and copyright generally,” he told the Belfast Times.

While this is a blow to the hopes of record companies and many artists, the point made by McGuinness is that Ireland has a chance to address the problem by passing laws to remedy what the judge in the case described as a problem that affects the country’s businesses and culture. It would have been very different if the judge had struck down a law that called on ISPs to implement graduated response measures. Even though Eircom, the country’s largest ISP, has voluntarily implement such measures, it was not required by law to do so.

Companies often take voluntary measures so legislators will not pass more restrictive and permanent laws. In Ireland’s case, one ISP’s refusal to adopt graduated response measures could very well result in laws its competitors wanted to avoid. (Belfast Times)


SeatGeek Gets Funding
-- Ticket search engine startup SeatGeek has landed $550,000 in funding from previous backers Founder Collective and NYC Seed. In addition, the company has secured a revenue-share deal with the Wall Street Journal . SeatGeek will provide the WSJ’s sports and local sections ticketing links to sports events and concerts. SeatGeek has a smart take on selling tickets: it forecasts when prices will drop and claims over 80% accuracy. (TechCrunch)


Ticketmaster: 1 Million Fans Have Posted Reviews
-- Ticketmaster claims more than 1 million fan reviews since the feature was launched in July 2009. How did they do it? From the blog: “Every day we email thousands of post-event review invitations to ticket buyers. In return, we’ve received an amazing response from fans eager to report on their live show experiences for fellow fans.” (Ticketology blog)


Assorted Links
-- The Knitting Factory Brooklyn will host a residency by the Williamsburg Theatre Company. (Broadway World)

-- Mobile Roadie has partnered with Ning to allow Mobile Roadie users to integrate their Ning social networks in their Mobile Roadie account. (Mobile Roadie blog)

-- Douglas Merril, the short-lived president of EMI’s digital division, is co-founder of a short-term lending site called ZestCash. (VentureBeat)

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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