Are Consumers Ready to Spend This Summer?
-- While economic indicators are mixed, it appears investors may be feeling better about this summer's concert season. Live Nation shares rose 4.44% on twice the average daily trading volume Tuesday. Shares closed at $11.53, their highest closing price since closing at $11.58 on February 14. Year-to-date, shares of Live Nation are up 0.96% while the S&P 500 is up 6.96% and the Nasdaq is up 6.88%.
Tuesday's optimism for concerts extends to other entertainment companies. Shares of Madison Square Garden rose 2.34%, Six Flags rose 4.11%, Speedway Motorsports Inc. rose 2.7% and Orbitz rose 2.68%.
Lower gas prices are one reason to think consumer spending will be steady this summer. The average price for a gallon of gas dropped to $3.780 from $3.943 a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gage Report. That's a nice drop, and it's getting a lot of media attention. However, compared to the $2.732 average gallon price last year, it's understandable if consumers are still feeling pinched.
Another important indicator is the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which fell in May to its lowest level since November. "Economists said consumers were losing confidence due to a choppy rebound in the job market, high gas prices and an ongoing slump in home values," notes the AP.
PlayStation Network Services Getting Back on Track
-- Sony says it expects to return full PlayStation Network services this week in the Americas, Europe and Asia, excluding Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea. It will also resume Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PlayStation 3, PSP, VAIO and other PCs. Qriocity's video-on-demand function will be restored at a later, unnamed date. In an apparent effort to help make amends with its customers, Sony will offer a special "Welcome Back" package of services and premium content to all registered users of PlayStation and Qriocity services.
Sony's PlayStation and Qriocity networks were hit by a hacker attack in April. Sony Corp. chairman Sir Howard Stringer called it "a hiccup in the road to a network future." In addition, hackers broke into the website of Sony Music Greece in May. (PlayStation Blog)
What Makes Spotify Run So Smoothly?
-- If you're wondering what makes Spotify run so smoothly, check out the presentation made by Spotify's Gunnar Kreitz at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The data in the Ph.D student's presentation is also found in this paper co-authored by Kreitz titled "Spotify -- Large Scale, Low Latency, P2P Music-on-Demand Streaming."
One important aspect of Spotify is that it streams 55% of its data from caches compared to 34% from P2P network (of other Spotify users) and less than 11% from its own servers. The time period analyzed was March 23-29, 2010.
One result of Spotify's architecture, which is described in detail in the presentation, is a median latency of 256 milliseconds. That means there is very little delay between hitting a play button and hearing a song (it's a very nice characteristic singled out by many Spotify users). According to Kreitz, below 1% of playbacks had "stutter occurrences."
Digital Economy Act Update: BT, TalkTalk Appeal Court Ruling
-- The U.K.'s Digital Economy Act is getting little attention in the United States lately, so you might have missed the news that telecom giants BT and TalkTalk are appealing four of the five parts in a court's ruling against the company's challenge of the Digital Economy Act.
"Both companies continue to take the view that the regime represents a disproportionate interference with the rights of Internet service providers, subscribers and Internet users and with the concept of freedom of expression," the companies said in a statement. "They recognise, however, the Court's view that there is an exceptionally high threshold to show that this legislation was not a proportionate response prior to the code of practice being published and have concluded not to pursue leave to appeal on this ground."
Audiophile Blogger: Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Music Beta Not All That
-- One audiophile blogger calls Amazon and Google's cloud music services "DOA" primarily because of the sound quality of the streamed music files. On the other hand, subscription service MOG was praised for its superior sound quality (320kbps) and pleasant user interface. An excerpt:
"Allowing users to stream lower quality versions of their own files and to store these lower quality versions on a mobile device is marketing at its best. What's more, charging these users for the 'privilege' of accessing their own music is a joke. Without lossless support there is no need for a cloud music service that doesn't literally allow access to ten million tracks like MOG.
Amazon Cloud Drive and Google Music Beta just don't make sense. Services with such limited features are singing the praises of their offerings out of one side of their mouth while singing Hey (hey) you (you) get off of my cloud out of the other side. The big cloud music services thus far are like the reopening of Al Capone's vault in 2011. All bark and no BYTE."
One problem cited was Music Beta's lack of support for the FLAC file format (instead it transcodes FLAC files into 320kbps MP3 files). So don't expect audio purists to fall in love with most streaming services -- at least until they're offering high quality audio, and if the service takes a high-quality file and converts.