Posts Tagged ‘music’

Beyoncé, Jay-Z, streaming music and earned media

Last week, I read in the WSJ an article about Beyoncé and Jay-Z and their new album, “Everything is Love”. If you have a subscription, feel free to read: Beyoncé and Jay-Z Go Pay-to-Play With New Album.

Naturally, that tempted me to listen to the album with my Apple Music subscription. I was not moved (keeping in mind, Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind is one of my favourite tunes).

So Taylor Swift has done before too. One of the reasons why I have subscribed to Apple Music was to listen to her music when she pulled out of Spotify. While this has changed, I have never bothered to change my streaming music service of choice.

It occured to me that these folk only do this to get in the news. It is free advertising, via “earned media”. I generally don’t read music reviews in the papers that I subscribe to, but if it makes the main pages, it is quite hard to skip over.

Region restrictions in a globalised world

I think we can all agree that globalisation has won, and we live in a flat world.

However when it comes to consuming media, we still live in a world of regional restrictions. Rights are not issued globally, and rights owners see this as milking every last penny by ensuring that regional restrictions apply. This is not just true for the movie world, but also the music world, and generally the book world. Apparently the entertainment industry is one of the last holdouts in realising that we live in a truly globalised world.

Yesterday I read an interview in the FT with Kate Tempest, a writer/rapper whom I’ve not heard of. I immediately hopped onto iTunes, searched Apple Music and started playing her tunes from her album Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest. This was a success and I’d discovered a new artist.

A few months back I was in a bar (the recently shuttered La Conserverie) in Paris, speaking to a Japanese friend, and I was telling her that I did know some J-Pop; growing up it wasn’t too far fetched you would listen to some songs that made the mainstream English radio stations. One example was Utada Hikaru’s First Love. The French friend who was there said he’d love to hear it, so I fired up iTunes on my phone, and tried in vain to find the song, and realised its not in the catalogue (don’t worry, YouTube saved the day). This was a failure, and I didn’t get to reminisce properly.

Just last week, I fired up Netflix (now blocking all VPN traffic, an almost impossible thought two years ago, with VPN providers giving up the fight nowadays) and started streaming The Mirror Has Two Faces. I stopped around the half way mark and switched countries only to realise that now I’ll have to wait to be in the same geographical location again to continue watching the movie! I’d mark this as a failure because it hurts the user experience; it isn’t Netflix’s fault, it is the entertainment industry.

I still listen to an old song that I like, that resides on my drive and not in the cloud — Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page – Come With Me from the Godzilla soundtrack. It’s not on Apple Music, but it is available with Amazon Prime Music, that comes for free with an Amazon Prime subscription! I’d mark this as a failure since I’d expect my music collection to be available in one place, not scattered across various services.

We’re living in an increasingly globalised world. We have friends from all over the world. We’re travelling more frequently. This is all supposed to be a good thing – exposure to the world. Why hasn’t the entertainment industry caught up yet? Would they prefer everyone just focused on content piracy? Region restrictions do not work in a globalised world.

Music streaming – Spotify has won?

It seems clear that Spotify won the music streaming battle:

Spotify accounts for 86% of the on-demand music-streaming market in the U.S., according to data shared with music publishers. Its share of the international market is believed to be similar.

I’m an ardent Rdio user. However, they’ve lost songs that I want to listen to (in my playlists). And I just noticed that they’ve also killed Amazon Payments as a method of payment. They’re taking much less than 14% of the market, and were costing me USD$9.99/month.

It looks like I’m moving to Spotify. But I’ll hang in there to see what Apple launches in the meantime (you see, sometimes I might want to listen to some Taylor Swift). My major beef is with playlists – I’ve invested time in curating that experience, and I need to find an easy way out.

Taylor Swift & the music industry

Catching up on reading, it’s worth reading Taylor Swift is the music industry. There’s good insight as to why she pulled her music from Spotify (an all or nothing deal; contrast with Rdio that still has her albums except the latest 1989).

Today I learned that a music CD in Malaysia costs RM62.90. When I used to buy CDs they cost around RM40 at most. Swift’s album is USD$13.99 + tax.

I’ve pretty much given up buying CDs. I purchased music from the iTunes music store & Amazon MP3s. When Rdio (& Spotify) came out that’s what I ended up using.

So I asked Sara how she was listening to Taylor Swift’s latest hit, Shake it Off, and she told me it was via a YouTube video. Simple reason is that I don’t believe her apartment has a CD player any longer (save for the externally attachable one that Apple sells you).

My friend Imran (popularly known as narmi) tells me that special CDs cost more money. Turns out some people really like the physical copies of artwork, and want to read the thank you notes. If you read the above article, that was one of Swift’s strategies – re-tweeting fan photos with the photos in her album. Smart.

Sales of the album have worked well for Swift. I am just unsure how many will pull this off successfully. Let’s hope that others don’t follow suit & streaming services become more useful (and pay the artistes a lot more).

Deathwatch: The business of making music compilations

The business of making music compilations are changing. Ministry of Sound. NOW That’s what I call music. 

Today you can make compilations as a playlist, and share it with the world on services like Rdio and Spotify. It’s clear that the Ministry of Sound isn’t too happy with this – read more about how the Ministry of Sound is suing Spotify.

Listen to the quotes from the MoS:

  • “What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together” – Lohan Presencer, CEO MoS
  • “A lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”
  • “We painstakingly create, compile and market our albums all over the world. We help music fans discover new genres, records and classic catalogues”
  • “Millions trust our brands, our taste and our selection. We give them great listening experiences at a good price.”

I call bullshit on all of this. Yes, people like a curated compilation (I for one enjoy it – like dance hits of the year or something). But everyone can now curate compilations. This doesn’t make the MoS special any longer.

The commercial business of making compilations will go away in time to come. We will soon get to federate playlists so you can take your compilations with you, so it wouldn’t matter if you use Rdio, Spotify or something else. DJs will share their mixes that they played in a club and attendees and others will get to listen to the mix – this will eventually decide how “hot” a DJ is.

This is the future, and compilation manufacturers will find something else to do. MoS has nightclubs to fall back on. Embrace sharing.


I just played with Spotify. I love the idea of streaming music with an unlimited library. I listened to music from younger days – The Verve Pipe’s Freshman, Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work and lots more. I’ve got 20 hours per month in the free account, and I’m absolutely loving it.

I immediately wanted to get a premium subscription (since it allows international playback), but naturally they make it difficult to give them money (PayPal needs to be in the country you signed up in; credit card needs to be issued in similar country).

Streaming music is probably the future. Cloud based storage seems like an extension of files. And why exactly do we need files? Music lockers like Spotify will match many a usage pattern. For me, it means playing back anything I feel like listening to. It means bringing back memories from yesteryear. It means accessing CDs I’ve been too lazy to rip (some are physically in another country).

As usual, Spotify isn’t available for the rest of the world. It launched in some European countries, just got to the United States (in limited availability), and those of us in Asia are stuck, as usual.

Even if I wanted file-based storage (say via the iTunes Music Store or Amazon’s MP3 service) its generally not available. I paid Bimbit a visit again. The site design made me spasm.

Zee Avi is available on Spotify. One Reza Salleh song is available too – Stracciatella. Nothing from my favourite local band One Buck Short or narmi.

Why is it so hard to buy legal music online?