Grooveshark's New Data Product Beluga Offers Listener Insights
-- Grooveshark has launched a new analytics tool that provides information on artists' fans while generating revenue for the company. Called Beluga, the service allows anybody to look up information on any given artist and view listener data like strong and weak demographics and top markets ranked by affinity.
What separates Beluga from most analytics products are the market research questions that cover culture and lifestyle, socioeconomics, affinity for various consumer products and music listening habits. According to a spokesperson for Grooveshark parent company Escape Media Group, the standard list of market research questions was given to listeners and is presented online according to users' streaming data. To tap into the survey data, just type in an artist name and start browsing.
Take the Lady Gaga page at Beluga , for example. We learn that, among Grooveshark's 20 million-plus listeners, Lady Gaga's strongest demographic is 18- to 24-year-old females and Japanese fans have the highest level of affinity. We also find out that Lady Gaga has a relatively high number of listeners who are vegetarians relative to all listeners who participated in the survey. In case you were wondering, Grooveshark's data also shows listeners of country artists Toby Keith and Luke Bryan have relatively few vegetarian listeners and a relatively high number of meat-eating listeners (hardly a surprise but nice to know).
Much information is free at Beluga. The service offers a wealth of demographic and psychographic information on artists' listeners that goes well beyond the type of shallow metrics -- streams, views, likes -- that have become commonplace. A spokesperson says the new service was launched "to benefit artists and equip the music industry with transparent, actionable data for confidently building artists' careers and connecting with fans."
But the company does plan to make money from Beluga through custom reports -- look for the red rectangle marked "custom reports" in the upper-right corner on most pages. The spokesperson confirmed to Billboard.biz that custom market research reports "will have a cost based on the depth of the report and how customizable the report is."
The idea of making money from listener data will sound familiar if you have followed the Grooveshark saga since late last year. Emails contained in Universal Music Group's November 2011 lawsuit against Grooveshark owner Escape Media Group  described how the company planned to sell listener data back to record labels. Escape director Sina Simantob indicated the company planned to use the labels songs without a license until the service was big enough it could "tell the labels who is listening to their music where, and then turn around and charge them" for the data.
The Beluga website lists a number of possible uses for the data: understand a fan base, improve booking shows and routing tours, make decisions on actions such as selling merchandise and recorded music, use the demographic data to help pitch music to brands and music supervisors.
A more cynical view of Beluga would call upon the email in Universal's complaint against Escape. Critics might say Grooveshark is engaging in copyright infringement to sell advertising and listener data. The very least one could say is Grooveshark is using its controversial business model to sell listener data back to some of the artists, manager and labels that don't approve of its business.
Abbey Road Live U.S. Rebrands
-- Abbey Road Live U.S., the live-recording and production company that for the past several years was affiliated with EMI Music Group, has rebranded and relaunched as DiscLive Network. DiscLive will be headed by Zach Bair, who also headed Abbey Road Live U.S. through his company RockHouse Live Media Productions.
The company launches its new name with deals with 3 Doors Down, which launches its tour June 6 in Simpsonville, S.C. DiscLive will offer limited-edition collectible USB Wristbands. Beginning June 9, DiscLive will also go on tour with Tesla, offering limited edition, individually numbered CD sets. Both products can be pre-ordered on DiscLive's website.
In addition to rebranding and separating from EMI, DiscLive also announced the appointment of Ted Cohen, president of TAGStrategic, to its board of directors.
Soundtracking Videgogames Future for Bands?
-- The Guardian asks a good question: Could soundtracking games be the future for bands? The short answer is no. The longer answer is yes, but only for a very small number of artists.
As the article explains, everybody from Paul McCartney to the National has composed either music or entire scores for videogames. Videogames outsell the best-selling albums and have become more like movies in their scopes and budgets.
But the numbers reveal why creating soundtracks for games is not an option for most bands: only 267 videogames were released in 2011 for the major gaming platforms, according to a Wikipedia page  that lists each one (smaller and independent games are released each year as well). Compare that to the 76,000 or so albums (from EPs to box sets) that came out in 2011, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
There were only 196 films by major studios released in the U.S. in 2011, according to a Wikipedia page  that lists each one by release date. There were certainly more independent films released last year, but the point is the same: games aren't going to be available for all but a select few artists.
( The Guardian )