Last year saw The Music Void make its first foray into future gazing with our bold (and not so bold) predictions for the music industry in 2009. With no pedigree of clairvoyance to fall back upon, we probably erred on the side of caution at times, but all things considered we acquitted ourselves reasonably well in the end. Our result is an ‘honest’ 6/10 and while the scoring was a touch arbitrary, we tried to be as even-handed as possible. Honestly.
Our original 2009 predictions can be read here. This post was co-written by Chris McLellan and Cassandra Callais. Our music industry predictions for 2010 will be published in early January.
1. iTunes & Amazon Will Launch Subscription Services
Our Score: 2/10
Okay this hasn’t happened. iTunes has been busy fighting off Palm’s synching abilities, the elusive Cocktail/iTunes LP project and now acquiring Lala (which does seem to signal a possible move into subscription via the cloud). Similarly Amazon hasn’t demonstrated much interest in furthering online music competition after setting up the MP3 store. Apart from a few discount promotions it hasn’t done much of anything in terms of promotion or expansion. Add to this the recent and fairly disappointing statistics from more established brands like Spotify and Rhapsody and it seems digital music subscription services may be the stars of the future we thought they might be – at least in the eyes of digital music consumers.
2. iTunes Will Go ‘All MP3’
Our Score: 7/10
Perhaps in the face of increased competition from the likes of Amazon, 7 Digital and We7 this was not the boldest prediction we made last December, but even more surprising is that it is not yet 100% accurate. Apple’s iTunes store went DRM-free on 6th January but the tracks are still in the AAC format. At this point the argument is rather moot since most products play AAC, but it’s still not the universal MP3 format.
3. Mobile Social Music Will Fail To Make Major In-roads
Our Score: 8/10
With the possible exception of Spotify Mobile in Europe we think it’s fair to say The Music Void got this one about right. We doubt very much that any poll of 100 people in the Western hemisphere would yield more than 2 or 3 who have even heard of brands such as ‘Comes With Music/Ovi’ (Nokia), ‘Omnifone’ (Vodafone) or ‘PlayNow Plus’ (Sony Ericsson). As we said last year: people are passionate about artists and genres, and to some degree labels, but not so much about mobile network operators. If mobile music listeners can only discover and share ‘Nokia to Nokia’, as it were, then TMV would submit that operator-driven social music is doomed to fail. It’s similar to the origins of SMS messaging – it only really took off when the service went cross-network. It’s actually hard to believe now that this wasn’t always the case.
But even where mobile social music gained traction with music-related brand names (e.g. with Last.FM on iPhone in the US) that old issue of limited mobile bandwidth has popped up yet again. Indeed AT&T are now planning to throttle mobile data (iPhone) connections as of music listeners of Last.Fm, Pandora and watchers of Youtube. So, social music faces bigger issues, it would seem, than just network interoperability.
Fix the bandwidth issues. Forget about operator-centric ecosystems. Launch a Facebook Mobile/iLike app. See what the Lala app has to offer (with Apple recently purchasing the company we should definitely see it soon). Get Google music searches into mobile for discovery/sharing. Only when some or all of these things come to fruition will this vital area for the future of the music industry begin to thrive.
4. Mobile Ticketing Will Go Mass Market
Our Score: 5/10
Our crystal ball crashes back to Earth on this one. While mobile ticketing is certainly feasible from a technological point of view and has had a few notable trials, there really hasn’t been a concerted effort to make this form of live music ticketing the norm for concert-goers. Perhaps the on-going saga that is the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger is distracting the obvious leader in the sector from, erm, leading. One wonders if there is not an iPhone-Android ticketing app in the works somewhere already. They already exist for iPhone-to-print purchases – check this out.
We know that iPhone Apps like iLike are generating gig discovery, referrals and purchase affiliate traffic, but true mobile-to-mobile ticketing is still a dream. When it does emerge, one can imagine the mobile version of services like Songkick or Spoonfed Media alerting us to a local gig that we can then open, find our seats, purchase tickets and receive m-tickets: all from within the phone itself with no need to run off to find a printer. Add layers of social and location-based alerts to that and you’re onto a real winner. Android already has apps such as ‘Compare Everywhere’ and ‘Shop Savvy’ that by simply taking a picture of a product, they can scan the barcode to compare prices; we don’t see why that can’t be extended to e-ticket barcodes. Or it may just take a Ticketmaster and/or Live Nation app to kick things into gear. Maybe in 2010?
5. Blackberry & Google Will Release Music Handsets
Our Score: 0/10
We find ourselves on a bit of a losing streak now. Back in December 2008 it seemed fairly obvious that HTC wouldn’t be the only Android handset manufacturer for too long, opening room for some more creative types. And you would have placed at least a small wager on those Crazy Cannucks at RIM to launch a handset specifically with music lovers in mind (as Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and others already had). Well, a year later, and seemingly not so on both counts. Perhaps Blackberry’s corporate focus has meant is can’t see beyond the apps and software it has been using thus far to appeal to heavy media consumers and really deliver some hardware music lovers would appreciate. And as for Android handsets…where the Hell are they all? A year later and still all anybody wants in their stockings is an iPhone and a Flip Mino. The only phone that seems to have made any sort of dent creatively is the Nokia 5800 (which we reviewed earlier in the year), which included a decent speaker system, the standard 3.5ml headphone jack and comprehensive music features including complex search functions to properly search your library.
6. Playlist Sharing Will Take Off
Our Score: 5/10
As much as people still love to share music and playlists, this type of sharing still hasn’t found the mainstream. iTunes and Last.fm have yet to improve the user experience. Imeem was a site that was gaining ground especially with the youth, but as of last week it was swallowed up by Newscorp’s MySpace. The site says they’re working on migrating and importing all Imeem features, but who knows. Spotify was another start-up that sought to popularize playlist sharing but instead of building into the software/player, they simply created an external site (http://www.spotyshare.com/) which hasn’t exactly taken off.
One exception within playlist sharing is US music blog aggregate site MOG who have recently introduced a $5 unlimited streaming service with heavy emphasis of playlists and music discovery (boasting it’s superiority to “Rhapsody, Pandora and iTunes…combined”) so it will be interesting to see how that affects the other major web music sites (including Spotify who intend to compete in the States sometime next year).
7. Secondary Ticketers Will Improve Out-payments
Our Score: 3/10
It was an auspicious start for the Secondary Ticketing market in 2009 with gruesome two-some Andre Agassi and Stefi Graf investing in European operator Viagogo. Others in the market such as TicketsNow/Ticket Exchange/Get Me In! (all Ticketmaster), StubHub (eBay) and SeatWave were emerging from a fair amount of controversy which surrounded them in 2008, controversy which saw many music fans and consumer groups concerned that primary operators such as Live Nation and Ticketmaster were simply dumping so-called ‘premium tickets’ directly onto these sites where they generally achieved much higher prices. Add to this a host of criminal-but-well-organised cyber scalpers and the picture was getting very ugly indeed.
Enter 2009, and the hope of a new beginning for secondary ticketing market and its relationships with artists and fans. Have things changed for the better as we predicted a year ago? Well, it didn’t help when many big artists decided to take the “If you can’t beat ’em” approach and began sticking their snouts into the whole mess. So much for the moral high ground. As for out-payments? With a lack of any high-profile lawsuits or declarations to rebel against “the system” to suggest otherwise, artists have seemed to retreat for the most part on this issue.
Not great news for an area of the music industry in high-growth and touted (pun intended) as a major contributor to its future as digital track sales and subscription services continue to re-gain only some of the ground lost when physical sales began tanking.
8. We’ll See More CD-Only Releases
Our Score: 0/10
Oh well. Last year Kid Rock and AC/DC had America’s 3rd and 4th best selling albums for the year. AC/DC alone sold over 6.5 million copies of “Black Ice” while successfully excluding digital. Were they the only major artists to travel this route? It seems so. But back in December of 2008 one could have sworn that a few other dinosaurs would have followed in their wake. With stronger digital returns each year it appears labels don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot by excluding any possible profitable routes anymore.
9. Promoter 360 Deals Will Be Challenged
Our Score: 6/10
We got this about right in terms of Live Music Promoters staying away from any more 360 signings in that AEG (Live Nation’s largest competitor) did not join the 360 Deal fray. However, the proposed merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster signifies that 360 deals would make even more commercial sense in terms of synergy on a corporate commercial level. We also feel we were also right in terms of the Majors pushing full steam ahead with these types of deals.
That being said, we were quite wrong in our prediction that the music establishment would see a challenge to these deals by some fairly big artists. So, two rights and one wrong ain’t that bad. Strange but this was the kind of prediction we had hoped would be challenged in the courts…perhaps 2010?
10. MySpace Music & Merlin Will Kiss & Make Up
Our Score: 10/10
Just in time, the indie fans on your Christmas list who use the MySpace Music store will be able to find that Neutral Milk Hotel track they want with the e-voucher you’re (possibly) going to buy them. What are the indie’s doing on MySpace, anyway? Don’t they know it’s owned by Murdoch and the Majors? What’s ‘indie’ about that?
11. ISPs Will Take Increasing Responsibility For Illegal File Sharing
Our Score: 7/10
While this issue obviously needs to be studied on a country-by-country basis, two of the more interesting markets last year were the UK and France who have been intensely debating ‘three strikes’ proposals for ost of 2008. In November (and after an earlier technical challenge in the high court) France finally passed a ‘three strikes’ bill, giving copyright owners the ability to force ISPs to disconnect infringing users after a court review.
In the UK, after a rather messy online feud between artists sounding off on the situation, the Featured Artists Coalition issued a decree for a slightly revised ‘three strikes’ proposal (throttling bandwidth instead of disconnection). This prompted the UK Secretary of State Peter Mandelson to take the issue head on himself, pressing not only for a ‘three strikes’ plan (with disconnection) but striving for the power to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) himself in the up-coming Digital Economy Bill. UK ISP Talk Talk said the recommendations were likely to “breach fundamental rights” and would not work.
TMV contributor Wayne Rosso neatly summed up Europe’s problem with pressuring ISPs here . As for the US, the RIAA are having increasing difficulty with ISPs. While AT&T and Comcast have been falling in line and sending out warning letters, the RIAA recently has been butting heads with the third major telco Verizon who not only refuse to send out letters but also refuse give up any personal account information, believing if they want to sue Verizon’s customer base they should simply go out and get a court order like in the past.
So perhaps this should have read, “ISPs will be forced to take….” because they sure aren’t doing it willingly. And why would they? Nobody wants to cut off paying broadband daddy because little Billy is looting Pirate Bay.
So there you have it. Keep your eyes peeled for our 2010 predictions in early January.
Chris & Cassandra