Posts Tagged ‘streaming’

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.

Netflix & streaming from overseas

New 37" LCDIt is disappointing reading that Netflix is cracking down on VPN and proxy “pirates”. This is how odd the movie industry has it when it comes to thinking about licensing – after all, people are subscribing to Netflix for $8.99 and then getting onto a VPN service like Unotelly from anywhere between $4.95-$7.95/mo.

Effectively due to the movie industry’s idiotic practices, foreign viewers are already willing to pay almost double in “taxes” to the VPN provider.

Where will these people turn to when Netflix stops streaming them movies? Torrents. Who loses when those offering to pay use torrents? The movie industry. 

Update: Why Netflix won’t block VPN users – it has too many of them. Apparently the numbers are in excess of 30 million subscribers.

Bluetooth speakers

Back in 2012, we spent Christmas in London and when it came time to listen to some Christmas songs, we ended up using none other than the phone streaming music from Rdio. There was no external speaker or anything. It was just the four of us huddled together in a room. This experience was far from ideal.

Fast forward to 2015 and its worth noting things have changed. Today, hotels come with devices like the JBL Flip Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by default. This is an improvement to the standard iPod docks that I’ve seen at most hotels because Bluetooth works with pretty much any phone/tablet.

At Christmas this year, we had a smaller party, and for the first time we used an iPad streaming music from Rdio to a Jawbone Mini Jambox. Audiophiles said it had good bass, but was missing a bit of treble. Keep in mind that the normal equipment is a Marantz CD Player, a Quad amplifier, and Harbeth speakers. At another property, the setup is similar, with a Tempest amplifier; and again we were impressed by the Jambox.

I don’t consider myself an audiophile by any stretch, but I do like to listen to music and am all the happier when I can hear it everywhere I am. Do I miss the quality of CDs? Nope. And I’m beginning to think more will listen to music the way I do so now.

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).


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?