Archive for June, 2012

Google Unveils Nexus Q: 8 Things It Will Do For Music Fans

Nexus

Source: Hypebot

Guest post by Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.

Yesterday, Google announced a new hardware device: Google Nexus Q, a $300 Android entertainment system for the home that Google calls “the first social streaming media player.” Here’s what it will do for music fans, according to what we know so far:

Change Color With the Beat. The spherical Google Nexus Q has “32 LEDs” around it that “shift and change color in time to your music,” sort of like a software visualizer. Google says you’ll be able to choose your favorite effect. This sounds cool.

Social Music Selection. As with the Sonos system, Google Nexus Q will allow multiple people to add songs to a queue. This could make it attractive to people in offices, apartments with multiple roommates, and family homes. However, you’ll only be able to add the songs to the queue from an Android phone or tablet. In the video below, Google says this is “the first device that lets you create a social playlist with your friends.” That is utter hokum, but the feature is still great to have.

Multiroom Music. According to Google, you’ll be able to sync multiple Nexus Qs around your house, playing the same music on all of them. You can also do this with Apple’s AirPlay devices, although according to Sonos, that leads to phase cancellation (which can affect sound quality, because the music doesn’t arrive at the speakers at the same time). However, we have not noticed that effect with AirPlay systems, and suspect we won’t notice it with Nexus Q either.

Nexus_q_ecosystem-313x204Power for Speakers. The Google Nexus Q has a 25-watt “Class D” amplifier. According to my extensive research into “Class D” amplifiers, that will be more than enough power to fill one or more rooms with music at a loud level, because they are far more efficient than the ones you’d find in grandpa’s hi-fi system. Class D amps are already fairly green, and Nexus Q makes this one even greener by shutting down the power to the unit automatically when it’s not in use. (Incidentally, Google will sell you $50 speaker cables or $400 speakers to go with the Nexus Q, but you can probably do better on both fronts in terms of price/quality.)

At Least Two Music Apps. We know that Google Nexus Q runs Android 4.0 (the so-called “Ice Cream Sandwich” operating system). We also know that SiriusXM and other app developers are going to demonstrate their apps later today on some sort of Google TV device. Is this that device? It looks fairly likely, although for now, Google only lists three compatible apps (two that play music), and they are all made by Google:

To be fair, third-party apps for Nexus Q could be coming later; SiriusXM says its app will be available from Google Play “soon.”

Bluetooth. In addition to WiFi and NFC (near-field communication), Nexus Q has a third wireless compatibility: Bluetooth. This should mean that you’ll be able to beam music from any app on any smartphone (including the iPhone) to the Nexus Q and have the music come out of its speakers, the same way you would with, say, the Jambone Jambox.

Touch To Mute. Twist for Volume. Google says Nexus Q has a “rotating top dome volume control” and ”capacitive touch sensor for mute on/off.”

Optical and Digital Outputs. If you like super-clean sound and you have a modern home entertainment unit near the Google Nexus Q, you’re in luck. The device includes a TOSLink (S/PDIF) optical connector, as well as an HDMI port, so you can send the 1s and 0s that represent your music to your more expensive home theater system with a single, thin wire, and do the D/A conversion there.

June 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

Xeinge Group CEO Kevin Rivers Celebrates 25th Birthday!!!

Happy_birthday1

Hey guys,

I am excited that today is my 25th birthday. I am extremely grateful of the wonderful wishes and gifts from everyone. I'd like to thank first and foremost God for everything He has given and done for me. I also thank my wife and supportive family, friends, and even clients who took their time to join the celebration. Its been more than 8 years since Xeinge Group (parent of Venzo Digital, WaTunes, and other great brands) was founded, and we've had some great memories. I am very pleased to have worked with many talented individuals as well as very great people within the company. Mostly, I am proud to have served and work with many new and establishing artists, record labels, distributors, publishers, and other affiliates. You guys made everything happen.

So as we move forward into 2013, I thank everyone for making this possible.

June 27, 2012 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

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June 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Music Is Now Less Than 0.3% of Revenues at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, & Target…

Source: Digital Music News

For years, the music industry blamed big box retailers for destroying mom-and-pop record stores.  Now, it simply looks like physical retail itself – small, medium, or large – is evaporating entirely.  Here's what EMI Music chief executive Roger Faxon told a Senate panel on Thursday about the state of the largest retailers. 

"Let's understand.  Best Buy and Target, music is a very small part." 

 

"If you take Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, music represents less than 0.3 percent of their turnover."  

 

"If we as an industry or even a significant player tries to raise prices in a way that is going to reduce demand, and therefore reduce turnover per square foot, what is going to happen?  It's a very simple thing, and so they will resist and we have to supply at the terms that they will accept.  And these stores, they look at their square footage and say, what's my turn, what's my profit retention, and if music isn't providing it, they put something else in."

 

"We know that, because shelf space has vastly reduced in our industry, and our prices in the physical world have declined, and they continue to decline even to this day."

 

June 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Why Investors Don’t Want to Back Your Music Startup!

Source: BetaBeat

The problem, as one philosophically-minded audience member pointed out, is that there are too many problems in the music industry. It certainly felt that way Tuesday afternoon at the New Music Seminar Tech Summit, “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained – A Look at the Digital Music Vertical.”

The discussion at the AMC Loews Theatre focused on the difficulty of acquiring investment as a music industry startup, the issues with music copyright laws, the free-downloading plague and innumerable other chinks in the business.

To bring an investors viewpoint into the mix, Chris Fralic, a partner at First Round Capital, explained why many financers are hesitant to back music-technology startups.

“You can not only lose money, you can end up in court for years and years,” he said, pointing to Napster as an example. “There’s a graveyard of companies that have failed in the music industry.”

But his speech wasn’t all blood and gore. He did note that the music industry was picking up now because startups can grow faster at a much lower cost. A good investment is a lot of “engagement and reach,” even if it doesn’t initially generate revenue, he said.

So what companies did Mr. Fralic miss the boat on? “Kickstarter,” he said, a company he had the opportunity to invest in twice but never quite took the bate. Mr. Fralic also passed up LyricFind, the brainchild of Darryl Ballantyne, who was one of the four other panelists.

“We couldn’t convince Chris to invest in us, or anyone else, except for my mother, and that was with a whole bunch of strings attached,” Mr. Ballantyne said. “It took us three years to get all the majors signed … We were either clairvoyant or stupid.” One of the problems Mr. Ballantyne faced was getting the licensing for the songs and their lyrics, and he certainly was not the only frustrated attendee.

Copyright laws and licensing were a hot-button issue at the discussion, something that inspired quite a few metaphors. It’s like charging the hungry to look at the menu, said the panel’s co-host Bill Wilson of digitalmusic.org. It’s like buying a car and having to pay separately for the engine, said audience member John Simpson.

In a nut shell: The music industry doesn’t like the current state of copyright laws, and no one in the audience could really come to a consensus on how to improve the problem.

Mr. Wilson’s fellow co-host, Ted Cohen, a managing partner of TAG Strategic, pointed to another problem in the music business in an interview after the panel with Betabeat. “Big companies have a tendency to assimilate things that are cool. There’s innovation, followed by real apprehension, followed by assimilation,” he said, a vicious cycle that he thinks sometimes kills the uniqueness of record labels and other music start-ups. “I don’t think that Def Jam Records at Universal is what Def Jam Records was when Russel Simmons and Rick Rubin ran it 20 years ago.” Hipsters, I think you have found a new spokesperson.

So, Mr. Cohen, as the expert on all things too-mainstream, what is the most overdone pitch-line in the music industry?

“‘We’re going to save the business,’” he said, noting that many so-called “cool” companies don’t have business models or a clear purpose, a problem echoed during the panel.

Of course, when those overachievers we love to hate send in 100-page pitches, “no one’s ever read one of those or ever funded one of those that came in,” Mr. Fralic said. According to him, the key is a 10 to 15-slide presentation. “Tell a story. Talk about why this got you excited and why you are willing to go.” And you probably shouldn’t put your potential investor to sleep.

J.J. Rosen, the CEO of Indaba, Benji Rogers, the founder and CEO of Pledge Music, and Olivier de Simone of Webdoc, also participated in the panel discussion, half of which they spent discussing the growth of their company and the other half of which they spent answering and discussing issues with the audience.

“I wish there were more wonderful sort of ‘think sessions’ like this, because I think that the technology sector has a lot of these sort of talks, but I feel like the music sector talking about technology doesn’t have enough yet … It would have been nice to have another two hours to hear even more ideas,” said attendee Neeta Ragoowansi, the vice president of business development of legal affairs for TuneSat LLC.

But possibly the highlight of the whole discussion occurred in the last five minutes, when Mr. Cohen dragged Mr. Fralic’s nephew from the audience, handed him a microphone and asked if he paid to listen to music. Well, of course, the kid replied. (Wink, wink.) Yeah, we pay for our music too.

June 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

Role of Digital Music Underpins Senate Hearings on Universal-EMI Deal

Source: NYTimes

The chief executives of Universal Music Group, Lucian Grainge, and EMI, Roger Faxon, were among those testifying before the Senate on Thursday.Alex Wong/Getty ImagesThe chief executives of Universal Music Group, Lucian Grainge, and EMI, Roger Faxon, were among those testifying before the Senate on Thursday.

6:05 p.m. | Updated The Internet has changed almost everything about the music business, of course, from introducing a vast piracy threat to opening up avenues of distribution that allow musicians everywhere to instantly make their work available online. But when it comes to the big record companies, could the digital revolution actually have made the strong even stronger?

That thorny question was among those being wrangled over at a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday afternoon that featured some of the most powerful executives in music. The topic was the impact of Universal Music Group’s $1.9 billion bid for EMI’s record labels, a deal that would take the beleaguered music industry to a new level of consolidation, going from four major labels to three. (Fifteen years ago, there were six.)

“Market power is why they’re doing this,” Martin Mills, the founder of Beggars Group, said at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights. “The power to dominate Internet services and impose their demands upon them, the power to leverage a disproportionately onerous deal, the power to squeeze out the competition.”

In addition to Mr. Mills, whose acts include the superstar Adele, there also were Edgar M. Bronfman Jr. of the Warner Music Group and Gigi B. Sohn of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge to speak against the merger at the hearings, which were chaired by Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin.

Testifying in favor were Lucian Grainge of Universal; Roger Faxon of EMI; and Irving Azoff of Live Nation Entertainment. They argued that the Internet has weakened the record companies, thus making another step toward consolidation less than worrisome.

In one sense, it’s hard to dispute that: the record business has lost half its value since the late 1990s. The monopoly these big labels once enjoyed in releasing music has also been broken, since high-quality recordings can now be made on a laptop and anyone with a Twitter feed, a Kickstarter project or access to self-service distribution platforms like TuneCore can deliver the music directly to the public.

Nor would there be much dispute that the independent music world is strong. Mr. Mills is one of the rare independent figures who is widely respected among the big shots of the corporate music world for developing a strong, influential company — with the biggest act in the world — on his own terms.

But despite all the ways that musicians can now make and distribute music by themselves, the digital economy has given the big labels a huge advantage: their content — all of it — is crucial to the success of any online service. In an age when iTunes has 20 million tracks, no new Spotify or MOG or Google Play can expect to succeed in the market without a similarly vast offering. (Never mind that plenty of those 20 million tracks might be duplicates or quickie cover versions — the number itself is an advertisement for the fulsomeness of the service.)

At the hearing, Mr. Kohl, asked directly: “In almost all industries, reducing the number of competitors from four to three expands the market power of the remaining companies and increases the risk of higher prices. Why shouldn’t these same principles apply to the music business?”

Mr. Grainge argued in the hearing that increased size would give Universal no advantage over other labels, since a record company’s strength depends on the quality of its artists’ music and it has an incentive to license as many services as possible.

“The thought that we would constrict our artists who we’ve invested in, and construct the investment we make in EMI to dissolve the market would be commercial suicide,” he said.

The opposition on the panel portrayed that attitude as disingenuous, saying that Universal’s real aim was to wrest as much control over the marketplace as possible.

Mr. Bronfman — who years ago tried to merge Warner and EMI, a fact that executives in favor of the Universal deal made sure to mention — said in written testimony that Universal “would become the troll guarding the bridge, exacting a toll on innovation.” Ms. Sohn and Mr. Bronfman also made numerous comparisons to the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, which would have given the combined company a market share of about 43 percent, but was opposed by the Justice Department and dropped late last year.

Since the major labels control anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the music out there — the accounting depends on which side of an argument you are on — this means that most new digital services are paralyzed until they can first come to terms with the big labels for licenses. And those big labels often have big demands, which over the years many digital executives have called onerous; a typical deal calls for labels to receive up to 70 percent of a service’s revenue, with other restrictions over free trial periods, users’ ability to share content, and other matters. The digital graveyard is filled with dozens if not hundreds of companies that could not make their business work.

The biggest worry among most opponents of Universal’s deal isn’t that it would prevent other people from making music or getting it — somehow — to their fans. It is that when one company controls 40 percent of all songs, it can effectively call all the shots, and therefore stifle innovation.

Universal’s central challenge is to convince regulators that the Internet has leveled the market enough that its 40 percent market share won’t matter. So far its chances of success are unclear. It has come under close scrutiny from the European Commission, which this week delivered to the company a “statement of objections,” a formal list of problems to the deal, which could be a prelude to either concessions or an outright block. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has made no public statements about the deal, and may still take weeks or even months to make a decision.

But on Thursday one ray of light opened for Universal: New Zealand’s Commerce Commission approved the company’s acquisition of EMI.

“We continue to work with regulators in other jurisdictions,” Universal said in a response on Thursday morning, “and remain confident of other clearances.”

June 22, 2012 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

Google Looking To Shut Down YouTube-To-MP3 Conversion Sites

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Source: Hypebot

YouTube is easily a top destination for music consumption, and not just in the viewing of music videos, but for general streaming of music as well. Recognizing this, several websites have been created and utilized by large numbers of people that allow for the conversion of audio from YouTube videos into downloadable mp3s, making it easy for people to “own” the tracks they’ve streamed – and Google, owner of YouTube, is not happy about this. According to a report over at TorrentFreak, sites like YouTube-Mp3.org and Music-clips.net have been receiving letters indicating that their services allow users to download material from YouTube, which directly violates the company's terms of service. The sites even allow users to input the YouTube link directly and receive a download with the video's audio. While YouTube-Mp3.org does not use YouTube's API, they remain in Google’s crosshairs, having been sent a letter on June 8 threatening to be sued if they did not shut down in seven days (Google’s own DoubleClick service reports that the site receives 1.3 million hits per day).

YouTube-MP3’s owner, named only as “Philip”, is contesting the action and sent a long response to Associate Product Counsel at YouTube, Harris Cohen, looking to negotiate. YouTube and Google, however, do not seem to be interested. In fact, Google has blocked all of YouTube-MP3′s servers from accessing YouTube, essentially stripping the site of its primary service.

While there are certainly several other sites that provide a suitable alternative to YouTube-Mp3.org or Music-clips.net, Google looks to be eliminating the issue by starting out with the biggest ones first, saying they have a mandate from their users to protect how the content they upload to YouTube is shared and disseminated.

June 21, 2012 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

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