Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.


Ping Followers and What They Mean
-- Here are a some artists with iTunes Ping profiles and the number of followers each had as of Wednesday evening: Lady Gaga 368,000, Coldplay 305,000, Katy Perry 299,000, Linkin Park 269,000, U2 261,000, Muse 202,000, Jack Johnson 193,000, Taylor Swift 154,000, Shakira 131,000, Dave Matthews Band 118,000, Death Cab for Cutie 103,000, Pearl Jam 98,000, 50 Cent 95,000, Nine Inch Nails 79,000, Owl City 77,000, Usher 67,000, Jimmy Eat World 65,000, Lady Antebellum 62,000, Kings of Leon 58,000, Ke$ha 58,000, Yo-Yo Ma 56,000, Mark Ronson 46,000, Michael Buble 44,000, P!nk 41,000, Britney Spears 37,000, Keith Urban 36,000, Kenny Chesney 35,000, Robbie Williams 33,000, Jason DeRulo 33,000, Sara Bareilles 32,000, Armin van Buuren 32,000, Daddy Yankee 30,000, T-Pain 28,000, Radiohead 26,000, Juanes 25,000, John Legend 21,000, Slipknot 19,000, Mike Posner 17,000, Norah Jones 15,000, Black Label Society 12,000, Celine Dion 12,000, David Guetta 11,000, Brad Paisley 9,000, David Archuleta 9,000, Miranda Lambert 7,000, Silversun Pickups 7,000, Avett Brothers 6,000, Blake Shelton 5,000, Colt Ford 242.

These numbers should not be taken as definitive indicators of popularity any more than MySpace friends is an accurate measure of popularity. And some artists may benefit more than others from the way iTunes recommends them to consumers – artists earlier in the stack will have more followers than artists deeper in the stack. Nevertheless, it’s fun to look at the types of artists and their followers and see some trends.

One clear trend is the low number of followers for country artists. Except for a few crossover artists (Taylor Swift, Keith Urban), country artists’ Ping followers are in line with country’s relatively weak digital sales compared to other genres. Another is the strong numbers for DJs/producers. Those two trends point to iTunes counting Ping followers in all iTunes markets, not just in the U.S. How else to explain the good numbers for Mark Ronson (46,000) and Robbie Williams (33,000).

Overall, the most popular artists tend to have the most Ping followers. Not a surprise. And it appears that not having an album out recently may not help (see Radiohead, Norah Jones). One number that is hard to explain is Yo-Yo Ma’s 56,000 followers.


Apple App Makers To Charge Subscriptions?
-- Apple may soon allow app makers to charge on a subscription basis, according to one report. That would open the way for sales of newspaper subscriptions via iPad app. (Apple will help newspapers by giving away demographic info that will help them sell geotargeted advertisements, according to the report).

Although no indication was given on the format for which pay-by subscription would be available, such a payment method would open the door for many experiments in music as well as publishing. One possibility is a dynamic album format (for lack of a better term) that would offer a set amount of music (an album, for example) as well as a constantly evolving catalog of additional downloads, audio and video streams, photos, liner notes and other content. Label executives have frequently pondered this type of format over the years and believe it could be a natural evolution of the album format (or possibly the necessary evolution of a format in trouble). It sounds to me more like a product for superfans. In any case, subscription charges for apps would allow content owners to throw even more ideas to the wall in order to see what sticks. (IntoMobile)


9:30 Records' First Signing
-- Justin Jones, the first signing to 9:30 Records (started by 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz), talks to the Washington Post about his new label. “I feel like a lot of labels sign a bunch of people, don’t put a lot of work into stuff, then if something catches on they dump their money into that one. I’ve had many friends signed to different labels and none of them are happy. So I was excited to be a part of starting a new thing.” (Washington Post)


Another Look: Google Music's Pitch To The Labels
- Now that details of Google’s proposed music service have been revealed, questions are surfacing about the chance it has to gain labels’ and publishers’ cooperation. One industry insider doesn’t believe record labels will go for the Google Music pitch, which was detailed by Billboard earlier this week. “I don't see this ever working with the U.S. labels, especially not with a 50-50 split. Google has seriously overestimated their generosity,” this person told Wired.

Actually, labels have been far more generous in the past. Consider the case of Lala, the precedent to Google’s pitch to share revenue from a locker service. The streaming/download hybrid music site, which was acquired by Apple in late 2009 and shuttered not long after, operated a free music locker and streaming service. Unlike some lockers, Lala uploaded only those files that were not already on its servers. If a track was on Lala’s servers, Lala had permission to simply match the file to the user’s collection. Thus, a collection of tracks – regardless of whether or not they were purchased or pirated – was replicated on Lala’s servers. This is how Google Music would work, according to details shared with Billboard.

But Lala did not charge to create and stream from a locker. Nor did it charge for the first stream of any track. Its business model was predicated on the assumption that it would entice enough sales to pay for those features. It did not work as planned, however. Now labels see that failed experiment and are probably thinking they should get a portion of the locker fee – especially if people can upload tracks they did not pay for. In the end, a 50/50 locker fee split is a rich bounty compared to what they took from Lala. And this being Google, who has to pass through some stubborn gatekeepers to get into the music game, they should be ready to share the wealth. But, no, labels’ acceptance of Google’s pitch doesn’t seem completely outrageous. (Wired)


Verizon Launches Cloud-based Media Manager
-- Verizon Wireless has added a new service called V Cast Media Manager that allows the user to upload and store in the cloud 25GB of files (photos, music, videos, documents). The service costs $2.99 per month and currently works with only 11 phones (such as Blackberry Storm and Storm 2, HTD Droid Eris, LG Ally and Motorola Droid, Droid 2 and Droid X models).

Stored music files are played via a web interface. In addition, the service has interesting sharing capabilities. Here’s a quote from the Verizon Wireless page: “You can send files to your friends and family by email or picture/video message or just send people a link to the content you want to share. Of course, you can also post your media directly to Facebook or MySpace.” (mocoNews, Verizon Wireless)


Assorted Links
-- Indie rock band Wavves crosses into branded weed grinders. (Pitchfork)
-- Awdio and Schweppes have partnered to create an iPhone app that offers Awdio’s catalog of live recordings from bands and DJs. (Indie Music Tech)
-- The MOG streaming service is now available on Roku’s Internet-connected devices that play on regular TVs. Also available on Roku are Pandora, MP3Tunes and a few Internet radio aggregators. (Press release)
-- Britain reaches digital download number 500 million. (Reuters)