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 for 2009. With no pedigree of clairvoyance to fall back upon, we probably erred on the side of caution at times, but all in all we feel we acquitted ourselves quite well in the end. Our overall score turned out to be a very respectable x/10. But then we scored ourselves of course (largely because we can) but we tried to be as even-handed as possible. Honestly. We’re bloggers, after all.
Our original 2009 prediction post can be read here. This post was co-written by Chris McLellan and Cassandra Calais. Our music industry predictions for 2010 will be published in early January.
- iTunes & Amazon Will Launch Subscription Services
Our Score: 0/10
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. Amazon also hasn’t had much interest in furthering the 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. With the recently not so inspiring statistics from services like Spotify and Rhapsody it seems subscription services are not going to be in favor for a while.
- iTunes Will Go ‘All MP3’
Our Score: 7/10
Ok, perhaps in the face of increased competition from the likes of Amazon, 7 Digital and We7 this was perhaps not the boldest prediction we made last December, but perhaps more surprising is that it still hasn’t become completely accurate as yet. 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.
Press Release: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2009/01/06itunes.html
- Mobile Social Music Will Fail To Make Major In-roads
Our Score: 8/10
With the exception of Spotify Mobile in Europe perhaps, we think it’s fair to say we got this one about right. We doubt very much that any option poll of 100 people on any given street 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 the music brands of mobile network operators. If 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 the same as we once encountered with SMS messaging. It only really took off when it went cross-network. It’s actually hard to believe it once wasn’t.
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 going 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, get a Facebook/iLike app, see what the Lala app has to offer (with Apple recently purchasing the company we should definitely see it soon) and get Google music searches into mobile for discovery/sharing. Only then will we see things really start moving in this vital area for the future of the music industry.
- Mobile Ticketing Will Go Mass Market
Our Score: 5/10
Our crystal ball crashes back to Earth on this one. While mobile ticketing is 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 concertgoers. Perhaps the on-going saga that is the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger is distracting the obvious leader in this sector from, erm, leading. iPhones and Androids will surely change this at some point soon. One wonders if there is not an iPhone-iPhone ticketing app in the works somewhere. 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 still doesn’t exist. When it does, one can imagine the power of a service like Songkick alerting us to a local gig that we can then open, select seats, purchase ticket and receive m-tickets for all 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 on to 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 how 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?
- 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: http://www.themusicvoid.com/2009/04/nokia-5800-express-music-handset-review/), 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.
- Playlist Sharing Will Take Off
Our Score: 5/10
As much as people still love to share music and playlists, playlist sharing still hasn’t launched into the mainstream. iTunes and Last.fm still 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 MySpace (the site says they’re working on migrating everything but who knows how that’ll turn out). Spotify as well was another start-up that intended on popularizing playlist sharing except instead of building into the software, they simply created an external site (http://www.spotyshare.com/) which hasn’t exactly taken off. One exception 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 said sites, as well as Spotify who intend to compete in the states sometime next year.
- 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 (xx) were emerging from a fair amount of controversy which surrounded them in 2008, a 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-organized cyber scalpers and the picture was getting very ugly indeed. Artists were in uproar due to the fact their out-payments from secondary ticketing sites were the same or smaller than what they received from the primary outlets despite the higher prices fetched. Of course, you don’t need to be a Rock Star to work out that consolidation within the sector meant that really there was no longer any difference between the two types of outlets and that live acts and fans were getting royally shafted.
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.
Seems it’s just desperate fans left holding the bag, and higher prices for live music. 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 vast ground lost when album sales began tanking several years ago.
- 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 bestselling 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. Even The Beatles went semi-digital with the USB drive “Remasters” bundle, although most of the fuss surrounding their ‘day’ on the 9th of September did revolve around the remastered CD boxsets. 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.
- Promoter 360 Deals Will Be Challenged
Our Score: 6/10
Well, we were right in terms of Live Music Promoters staying away from any more signings in terms of 360 deals, evidenced by the fact AEG, Live Nation’s largest competitor not joining the fray. However, the proposed merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster signifies that 360 deals would make even more commercial sense in terms of synergy.
We were also right in terms of the Majors pushing full steam ahead with these types of deals and yes that is still the case, we were quite wrong in our prediction that we would see a challenge to these deals by some fairly big artists. So two rights and one wrong ain’t that bad, albeit it would have been good to not be right in TMVs view. Strange but this was the kind of prediction we had hoped would be challenged in the courts.
- 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 xxx track they want with the e-voucher you’re (not) going to buy them. What are they doing on MySpace anyway? Don’t they know it’s owned by Murdoch and the majors? What’s indie about them?
Anyway, the recent news of their deal is still quite vague although Billboard noted, “the deal allows Merlin to assign, attend and participate in certain meetings of MySpace Music’s board. Merlin is not a member of the board, but will serve in more of an advisory and informative role”. (http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3ied5661580e6e68a1eca22e33f03c25f8)
- ISPs Will Take Increasing Responsibility For Illegal File Sharing
Our Score: 7/10
While this issue needs to be studied on a country-by-country basis, the two main instigators for the past year were the UK and France who have been intensely debating government ‘three strikes’ proposals the most this year. In November, France finally passed a ‘three strikes’ bill, giving copyright owners the ability to disconnect infringing users after a court review. After a rather messy online feud between artists sounding off on the UK’s situation, the Featured Artists Coalition issued a decree for a slightly revised ‘three strikes’ proposal (throttling bandwidth instead of disconnection). This compelled the UK Secretary of State Peter Mandelson to take the issue head on himself, pressing not only a ‘three strikes’ plan (with disconnection) but he’s also striving for the power to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) himself in an upcoming Digital Economy Bill. UK ISP Talk Talk said the recommendations were likely to “breach fundamental rights” and would not work (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8219652.stm).
TMV contributor Wayne Rosso neatly summed up Europe’s problem with pressuring ISPs here (http://www.themusicvoid.com/2009/11/three-strikes-not-a-done-deal-in-europe/). 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.
The only clincher quote I was able to find was from a small US ISP: “They [the RIAA] have the right to protect their songs or music or pictures,” Bayou owner Jerry Scroggin says. “But they don’t have the right to tell me I have to be the one protecting it. I don’t want anyone doing anything illegal on my network, but we don’t work for free.” (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10127841-93.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-5)
Here’s one from AT&T but it’s nicer: “This trial is about customer education and deterrence,” AT&T’s Mike Balmoris explains. “We do not assume or make any accusations of wrongdoing by the customer.”
And Comcast- “While we have always supported copyright holders in their efforts to reduce piracy under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and continue to do so, we have no plans to test a so-called ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ policy,” Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas added.