PLUGGED:
Videogame publishers like Electronic Arts and 2K Sports are becoming the music industry's best friends. They are coming up with more innovative ways to promote artists and their music than more traditional outlets like radio or MTV.

Just day's after launching a music download service, EA has begun hosting karaoke competitions on the SingShot service, which it recently bought, featuring Lilly Allen. 2K Sports is promoting the soundtrack to the new Major League Baseball game with custom iPod that ships with all the songs in the game embedded.

There are a host of other examples of how the videogame industry is embracing music in more and more creative ways. They just "get it."

The reason, I believe, is that the videogame industry culture is very much based on out-of-the box thinking. Sure it has the same problems with too many sequels of popular franchises that the movie industry does, and I could list dozens of games that didn't hit their mark.

But at its core, creativity is a staple feature of the videogame world-be it players, developers or marketers. Most digital services are driven by a need to find a use for a specific technology, with thought of user interface or the overall experience left to suffer.

The "gamer mentality" though is focused on how to achieve a specific task, and then developing creative strategies to accomplish it.

Generally, that task is to have fun. And if there's one thing the digital music industry needs to do more of, it's make the experience fun.

UNPLUGGED:
The Copyright Royalty Board's new licensing rate system for Internet radio has caused a mighty stir among fans of the popular medium, and highlights the growing disconnect between digital media companies and the music industry.

In this case, I think both sides are wrong.

Internet radio operators are convinced the new rules will destroy the medium as we know it. Pandora's founder predicts the service will have to shut down if the rates aren't amended, and Live365 says half the member broadcasters on its network will immediately disappear.

While I'm sure some of the smaller broadcasters will likely be affected, I have a hard time believing these rates spell the death of Internet radio. To date, no one has figured out how to really make money off of Internet radio, so perhaps these new fees will force somebody to develop a profitable business model. This "sky-is-falling" rhetoric doesn't pass the sniff test.

But neither does the rationale behind the rates. The music industry has long been criticized by digital media companies for setting licensing rates so high that struggling startups can't survive long enough to build a sustainable business. The music industry reaction-the only thing labels ad publishers seem to agree on, issue after issue, case after case- is a collective shrug.

"The rates for music have always been based on the value of the music, not whether or not someone is making a profit," said Irwin Robinson, chairman of the National Music Publishers' Association in a Q&A with my colleague Susan Butler last month.

But the value of music is determined by how much people will pay for it, not by how much those who own it would like to get. And in an age where digital music services are competing with FREE, some rationalization on pricing must be reached in order to create an environment where everybody profits.