ScoreBig $14 Million Funding Shows Investors Still Bullish on Discounting
-- ScoreBig has raised $14 million in second-round funding led by U.S. Venture Partners. Previous investor Bain Capital also participated in the round. This brings ScoreBig's total funding to $22.5 million. The company offers members-only access to discounts on tickets to sports, concerts, theater and other live events. (There's currently a waiting list, but you can sign up at ScoreBig.com.)
In the last year, discounting sites have received a lot of media attention and a bit of bad sentiment. Many people are concerned that venues and promoters are hurting live events by discounting on the back end to make up for poor ticket sales. The fear is that some consumers will become used to getting discounts and will simply wait for lower prices rather than spend more right when tickets go on sale. At the same time -- as exhibited by Ticketmaster's foray into dynamic pricing -- a lot more attention is going to setting better prices up front and giving consumers a better reason to pay full price (whatever that price may be) from the primary ticketing agent.
But with live events taking a more prominent role in artists' overall revenues, which pushes more and more artists out on the road, it's not inconceivable that some discounting will be needed to move unsold inventory. Investors obviously see value in discounting tickets, which is why ScoreBig has been able to raise $22.5 million to date. The next few years will be fascinating to watch as sellers employ new tools and buyers become savvier about spending money.
Former Ticketmaster CEO Joins Goldstar Advisory Board
-- Speaking of discounted tickets, Sean Moriarty has joined the strategic advisory board of Goldstar, an Internet company that offers discounts on live events tickets to its members. Moriarty is the former CEO of Ticketmaster and a current board member at ticketing startup Eventbrite. Also joining the Goldstar strategic advisory board are actor Neil Patrick Harris and Internet entrepreneur Matt Coffin, co-founder of online daily promotion site FamilyFinds.com and founder of LowerMyBills.com.
Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment Acquires App Company BlueHaze
-- Mobile app developer BlueHaze has been acquired by Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment and its founder, Mark Shedletsky, will become XIX's head of digital. BlueHaze has built apps for the likes of Warner Music, EMI and Ticketmaster. "The move is the first step in the building of XIX Digital, a dedicated digital resource that will focus on the growing area of talent-to-fan interaction in the online and mobile space," XIX said in a statement.
TuneUp Media Unveils New DeDuper Product
-- TuneUp Media unveiled its latest product on Thursday -- DeDuper. As the name suggests, DeDuper removes duplicate tracks from a user's digital music library. DuDuper joins Clean, Cover Art and Tuniverse in the TuneUp Media suite of tools.
At the same time, TuneUp Media is unveiling two new features. First is the new user interface, meant "to streamline and improve the customer experience." In addition, the company is rolling out a new pricing structure that allows users to purchase each product (DeDuper, Clean, Cover Art and Tuniverse) as a separate product for $19.95 per year or $29.95 for a lifetime. A bundle of all products can be purchased for $39.95 per year or $49.95 for a lifetime.
Low Prices Overtaking Amazon's eBook Top Sellers
-- Low prices are taking over Amazon's eBook top-sellers list just as they do the MP3 album top-sellers list. The Wall Street Journal notes that 15 of Amazon's top 50 eBooks on Wednesday cost $5 or less.
"They're training their customers away from brand name authors and are instead creating visibility for self-published titles," said one publishing executive of Amazon.
Oddly, the article doesn't even mention the many eBooks, including the latest from marketing guru Seth Godin, that are being given away for free. In fact, 166 of the 175 eBook titles currently in Amazon's "limited-time offers" are free. Another title costs only one penny. But note the top free title is No. 10 while the top title in the group, "Cottage by the Sea" by Ciji Ware, costs $8.79.
At the Huffington Post, author Karen Dionne explains why 99-cent eBooks are a bad deal for authors (the same arguments have been made against giving albums similarly low prices). She quotes a number of authors who worry consumers expectations will be set artificially low by 99-cent books. Once they expect such inexpensive eBooks, the thinking goes, they won't want to go back to higher prices.
"A 99-cent book depresses the hell out of me," said author Danielle Younge-Ullman. "Not just for myself, but for anyone who has busted their butt to write, revise and polish a book and then have it published, by whatever means. Because at the end of the day, I hope my work is worth more than the price of a Snickers bar."
Author Keith Cronin looks beyond whatever value a writer might attach to a book and points to a simple rule of business. "Ask anybody who sells anything for a living: no business wins in a price war." That quote deserves a slight addendum: low prices in one area must be balanced by higher prices in other areas.
If Amazon sells cheap eBooks, it will make more money selling eBook readers. Similarly, if artists sell more music because of low prices, they will need to make up for it in other areas such as touring, merchandise or licensing. However, the reason we often see low prices is because no writer or musician ever made a career out of being unknown. So, price as a tool to gain awareness and low prices are here to stay.
(Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post)
Report: Google Removes Select MP3 Search Apps From Android Market
-- Google has removed some MP3 search apps from the Android Market, according to Evolver. A partial list includes MP3 Music Box, Music Junk, Music Online Lite, GTunes Music, MP3 Music Search and Download, Music Wizard, Music Downloader Pro, Music Box Classic, Mp3 Music Searcher, Top Female Aritist [sic] Downloader and Free MP3 Downloader & Player.
As I've noted in a Digital Domain column (subscription required) and a few mentions in Business Matters, these apps were widely downloaded at Android Market. They use publicly available search engines to look up and download MP3 files. In some cases they offer lists of songs to help the user locate popular songs. Many were branded with specific artists (such as Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga), although those appear to have been taken down weeks or months ago.
Not all of these MP3 search apps are gone from Android Market. On Thursday, Free MP3 Download is No. 13 on the market's list of free music and audio apps. And the second app in a search for "MP3" is Viky MP3 Music, which promises "millions of free songs" and has been downloaded between 500,000 and 1 million times.