Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.


Majors Onboard With Russian Video Portal
-- All four majors have licensed their content to Russian online music video service iviMusic. The content of an additional 20 Russian music companies is also available. The service will be available only in Russia. The site is free and contains both music videos and concert videos. (Press release)


FCC Has Concerns Over Comcast-NBC Merger?
-- The FCC has asked for more information from Comcast and NBC Universal regarding the companies’ proposed merger. The agency asked to see Comcast’s agreements to distribute its cable channels (such as E! and the Gold Channel) to competing cable companies. This request can be interpreted as concern over the ways the online video distribution could impact the public interest and increase the combined company’s clout in negotiating future contracts. (Washington Post)


Hulu CEO: With Content, Focus On Convenience
-- Hulu CEO Jason Kilar at the American Magazine Conference: “Content is discretionary, so you better focus on convenience.” It’s a theme that has long been repeated in the music industry. iTunes not only had an excellent physical product (the iPod) that connected with a great application (iTunes), but listening and buying music through Apple was always more convenient than other options.

In this context, however, Kilar is talking about making television more convenient by allowing consumers the ability to watch on their terms. That means offering some free content and charging for other, more desirable content. Hulu has a free service as well as Hulu Plus, a paid service that offers more content and portability for $9.99 per month. “You're going to see us pretty much anywhere there's an Internet connected device,” says Kilar. (AdAge)


Android Gains Momentum
-- Android is the most popular operating system in the U.S. among recent smartphone buyers, according to new data from Nielsen. Of those who acquired a smartphone in the last six months, 32% acquired an Android phone while 26% acquired a Blackberry and 25% purchased an iPhone. As far as overall market share, however, Blackberry is tops at 31%, iPhone is not far behind at 28% and Android is third with 19%. Android’s performance is still pretty incredible when you consider it had just an 8% share in January and a 12% share in April. (NielsenWire)


What's The Music Biz Parallel?
-- There’s got to be a music industry parallel here somewhere: Media writer Howard Kurtz is leaving the Washington Post for online news site Daily Beast. It’s kind of like Radiohead leaving EMI to release a digital-only album. That’s actually an apt comparison. Kurtz isn’t able to make massive amounts of money from touring and merchandise, but he does host CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and has published five books. Kurtz says he wants to work in a “smaller and more nimble platform” after being at the Post for 29 years. Sounds like a musician who wants to step outside the box, record and release music in new ways and engage fans more often and more directly. (Who Runs Gov)


Here's What Artists Should Be Doing
-- Discussed at the Future of Music Summit: The middle class mirage and the cottage industry that supports their efforts. “We're making artists feel that it's more important to participate in social media than make great music," remarked Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne. Others echoed sentiments like musicians cannot be analyzing data or running marketing campaigns. (Digital Music News)


Syd Schwartz Launches Linchpin Digital
-- Syd Schwartz, former digital exec at EMI Music, has launched Linchpin Digital, a provider of marketing and strategic solutions around the artist-fan relationship. Linchpin has already lined up clients such as EMI Music, Red Light Management, Wind-Up Records (where Schwartz worked previous to EMI) and Umphrey’s McGee. Schwartz was Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy for the EMI Music North America before leaving earlier year. (Press release)


Middle Class Slashes Spending
-- Last year middle class Americans made their biggest cuts in discretionary spending in two decades, according to Labor Department numbers released Tuesday. Households in the middle fifth of the population was down 3.1% from 2007 and 3.8% from 2008. The lowest fifth of households spent 5.6% more from 2007 to 2009 because prices for necessities had risen.

Broken out by category, the changes in spending from 2007 to 2009 show just how the music industry could have been affected by the recession. It’s the middle class that cut back most on non-necessities, although households of all incomes made some sort of cutbacks. Middle-class households ($36,000 to $58,000) spent 2% less on entertainment, 20.1% less on alcoholic beverages and 9.5% less on restaurants and other food consumed outside the home. The highest fifth of households (above $91,000 a year) spent nearly 8% less on entertainment, 4% less on alcoholic beverages and 7% more on food away from home. The second fifth of households ($58,000 to $91,000) spent 7% more on entertainment, 7% more on alcohol beverages and 8% more on food away from home. (Wall Street Journal)


Leahy Bill Stalled
-- The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, also known as the Leahy Bill on digital piracy that was introduced two weeks ago, has stalled and did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee before Congressional recess. That has led opponents to claim at least a small victory. They probably understand, however, that supporters of the bill will continue pushing forward.

Within the music industry, the bill was not really expected to make progress in a short amount of time. David Israelite, president and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association, tells Billboard he’s not surprised there was not enough time for the bill to be considered before Congress left for recess. He believes there’s a chance it could be considered in the lame duck session after the upcoming elections, but he’s not optimistic. The Senate bill, which does not yet have a counterpart in the House, is “most likely the first step of a long process,” according to Israelite. (EFF, CNET)


Assorted Links
-- Venture capital firm Foundry Group, an investor in music analytics company Next Big Sound, has launched a new fund, the $225 million Foundry Venture Capital 2010. (TechCrunch)

-- Internet traffic is up 62% in 2010. (IP Carrier)