PLUGGED:
Mobile Entertainment Renaissance
The next issue of Billboard (dated March 31) will feature the first-ever top 10 list of artists who are doing the most innovative things in mobile entertainment. It's fascinating to see the broad ways artists are embracing mobile phones outside of the now-eponymous ringtone. Mobile games, trading cards, SMS fan clubs, live streaming concerts, mobile video blogs and more have emerged as the new tools for artists interesting in reaching a mobile audience.

Many of these applications and services are experimental, being used for the first time this summer. I'm not in the business in predicting which will take hold and which will flop... the exciting thing is that artists and their label reps are hungry to try something different.

I'll be headed to Orlando over the weekend to attend the upcoming CTIA WIRELESS 2007 event, where Billboard will host a one-day pre conference called Mobile Entertainment Live! that explores these issues and more.

This will mark the tenth year I've attended CTIA's event in one capacity or another, always with a focus on mobile content. For most of that time, it was the technology companies or wireless operators doing the innovating around mobile entertainment based on what they thought was a good exploitation of their products.

It's a refreshing change to see the entertainment industry now doing the innovating with a more content-driven philosophy.

UNPLUGGED:
Webcasters vs SoundExchange Round II
I can tell this isn't going away anytime soon. Internet radio broadcasters and their allies traded accusatory press releases with SoundExchange this week in represents Round II in the fight over the recent CBR rate decision.

The good news -- the judge agree to rehear written arguments through April 2, which gives the Internet radio community a chance to air their concerns more directly and lets the music industry respond in kind.

But what's concerning about the situation is that we, yet again, have two industries that desperately need each other to survive arguing amongst themselves rather than working together as they should. Both camps seem more concerned with jockeying for position against each other in the court of law and public opinion than joining forces and working together for their mutual benefit.

The Internet radio camp must accept the fact that the music industry is not going to just give its music away to help them build an audience. If that means a few smaller Webcasters go out of business because of it, so be it. If you can't figure out a way to make money, get out of the game.

At the same time, the music industry must set those costs at a reasonable level that takes into account the functionality available via Internet radio. Take for example the $500 minimum per channel/per stream fee set by the new rates. If each user-created custom radio stream or artist-branded channel comes at a $500 cost to the provider, that functionality will either go away or be severely limited. Internet radio won't die, but will be extremely hobbled, to the benefit of no one.

Now I don't mean to get all "kumbaya" on you (do I owe anybody a royalty check for saying that?), but a little less rhetoric and a little more rationalization from all involved would be a nice change of pace.

For more information on the upcoming Billboard Mobile Entertainment Live! conference held March 26, click here.