Tag Archives | Digital Music

“Napster” No More

After being bought out in October by eternal archrival Rhapsody, music subscription service “Napster” has shut down. Heading to Napster.com now gets you an explanation of what happened and a Rhapsody sales pitch.  
I put “Napster” in quotation marks–a practice I’ve followed, albeit inconsistently, for years–because the “Napster” that just died wasn’t really Napster. Napster was the peer-to-peer music sharing service founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker in 1999. It changed the world, and was sued out of business.  
“Napster,” on the other hand, was a commercial enterprise–formerly known as Pressplay–that acquired the Napster name. The folks who did the rebranding presumably thought they were pretty smart, but I always thought it was a mistake. If you loved the original Napster, you probably didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for music. If you did want to pay for music, the “Napster” name sounded slightly disreputable. Either way, it smacked of false advertising and congitive dissonance. 
The fact that “Napster” petered out wasn’t shocking. Between Rhapsody, “Napster,” eMusic, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, MOG, and Zune Pass–am I forgetting any?–there are a lot of subscription music services out there. Given that music with a monthly fee has never become a breakout hit, there may not be enough subscribers to go around. And for several years, “Napster” had felt like it was winding down rather than ramping up. (It was a latecomer to the iPhone, for instance.) 
I like subscription music–I happily pay for Rdio–and would like to see it catch on. The fact that the major services are on a bevy of devices–computers, phones, tablets, TVs, and devices like Sonos–certainly makes them more appealing. Are you paying for subscription music, and if so, from which service? 

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Universal Music Sues Grooveshark for 100,000 Illegal Downloads

Spotify may be about to lose one of its most high-profile competitors, thanks to a copyright infringement lawsuit filed at the end of last week. Grooveshark, the streaming music service that recently relaunched itself with a new site, has been hit by a suit brought by Universal Music Group, which claims that the company has uploaded more than 100,000 songs without permission.

What’s unusual for this type of lawsuit, is that the UMG filing goes as far as naming those it suspects of illegally uploading material, including accusing Grooveshark CEO Samuel Tarantino of personally uploading at least 1,791 songs without permission. UMG is seeking maximum damages of up to $150,000 per infringement from Grooveshark, which could mean more than a $15 billion payout if the lawsuit is successful.

This isn’t the first time that Grooveshark has found itself facing allegations around issues of copyright; not only has UMG previously sued the company’s owner, Escape Media Group, for releasing access to the label’s pre-1972 catalog, but a group of Danish rights-holders filed sued against the company earlier this year, and Google pulled the company’s app from the Android market earlier this year over copyright worries.

The UMG lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Grooveshark, which could result in the service being forced to permanently shut down. The company’s VP of external affairs, Paul Geller, told CNET that the company hadn’t seen the complaint yet and would refrain from comment until it had.

[This post republished from Techland.]

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Second-Hand Songs

A startup called ReDigi wants to let you resell music you bought from online stores such as iTunes. This isn’t going to end well:

A legitimate secondhand marketplace for digital music has never been tried successfully, in part because few people think of reselling anything that is not physical. But last month a new company, ReDigi, opened a system that it calls a legal and secure way for people to get rid of unwanted music files and buy others at a discount.

The service has already drawn concern from music executives and legal scholars, who say it is operating in a gray area of the law. Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record companies, sent ReDigi a cease-and-desist letter, accusing it of copyright infringement.

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Here Comes Google Music: Leaked Screens Show Android Interface

Google Music screen shot as shown on TecnoDroidVE.

Android, meet your not-so-shockingly exposed dance partner, Google Music, and Google, meet another Google Music store rumor roundup, this one bolstered by screens that may indeed depict the upcoming Google-powered online music boutique.

We’ve heard rumblings about a Google Music store all year, since before Google launched its Google Music cloud service last May. But Google Music arrived, ironically, music-free—a blank online storage locker into which Google hoped users would pour unlocked tunes ripped direct from personal media or rival services. The theoretical reason: Google hasn’t been able to shore up relations with labels, prompting it to forestall Google Music’s “store” component. Until now, the service has looked the online equivalent of a Self Storage acreage.

That may all change this week. The Wall Street Journal said as much weeks ago, citing music executives in the biz, who claimed Google would launch a music store at some point between late October and early November. What’s more, the service is said to include Google+ integration, giving it a social networking one-up. For instance, users of the service would have the option to recommend songs in their online library to Google+ contacts, giving those contacts the option to listen to the songs once for free. After that, the MP3-format songs would cost in the vicinity of 99 cents each.

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Google Music’s Twist: Sharing After You Buy

Google music chief Andy Rubin sat on stage Wednesday at All Things Digital’s AsiaD conference and promised us that its Google Music store would be more than just another iTunes. On Thursday we found out why. Business Insider reports that the “twist” Rubin is speaking of involves the ability to share music “on a limited basis” after you purchase the tracks.

Once shared, the tracks can be played a specific number of times by the recipient at no cost, say Business Insider’s sources. It’s not clear exactly how the process will work, although it probably would involve some kind of link to the purchaser’s music “locker,” a feature that launched with the beta of Google Music in May. The move certainly signals that the music industry may be ready to soften its stance.

Previously, the record labels had been pretty steadfast in their opposition to share music that they had purchased legally. But the launch of Spotify here in the US shows that the industry may have realized that the tight controls it has placed on digital content may actually be doing the opposite of what its intended to do: stop piracy.

Just think about it — if your friend tells you about a hot new track, is the 60 or so seconds that iTunes or any other service gives you as a preview enough to tell if you really like it? Why not give the opportunity to listen to the whole thing, in a controlled environment. Who knows, you just might buy it!


Now Jawbone’s Jambox Does 3D Sound

Jambox–Jawbone’s nifty super-small, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker/speakerphone gadget–got even a little niftier this week. Jawbone released version 2.0 of the Jambox’s software. It’s available on new Jamboxes, and current owners can download the free upgrade via the MyTalk service. The big new feature is LiveAudio, a technology that’s designed to make sound more multidimensional, including support for binaural recordings–ones recorded using a special technique that only needs two speakers to create a 3D audio effect that can be spectacular. Jawbone provided me with a unit with the new software for review.

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Wal-Mart Gives Up on MP3s

If you were one of the biggest sellers of CDs in America and saw the digital revolution coming, would you go into the online music business? Of course you would. And Walmart did. But now it’s closing its MP3 store, which distinguished itself mostly by selling tracks for a few pennies under Apple’s price.

Walmart’s neat Vudu streaming movie service–which, full disclosure, my wife has done work for in the past–remains available.

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Rhapsody’s Demi-Milestone

Rhapsody, the longest-lived subscription music service–it’s been around since 2001–is celebrating the fact that it now has 800,000 subscribers. Its president, Jon Irwin, says that “exceeds the lifetime total of all new U.S. competitors combined”–by which I presume it means other services such as MOG, Napster, Rdio, and Slacker. That would mean that fewer than 1.6 million people in the U.S. subscribe to any of these services. Which, given that the companies who offer them have had a decade to try and get the world interested, may mean that the concept simply isn’t all that appealing.  (I like it–I happily pay for Rdio–but at what point does the industry stop insisting that subscription music will be a huge hit once everyone understands how great it is?)