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Mobile is becoming increasingly important for musicians and music fans. Consumers seem to be using their smart phones and other portable devices like the tablets for just about everything, and music is no exception. Fans today can listen to their favorite music through streaming services like Pandora from anywhere and discover new bands and musicians on the go. In addition to listening and discovery, there are also a wide range of music apps that allow fans to keep track of their favorite bands. The market for mobile in music will no doubt continue to grow, providing fans and musicians with new opportunities to connect.

To get a better picture of some of these trends check out this infographic from Hypebot:

Mobile_Music_Infographic

 

Here is a presentation developed for clothing manufacturer Carhartt as they try and capitalize on the popularity of their products with the youth market. Interesting trends and stats posted by students from Parsons The New School for Design.  “By identifying the forces at play in the world of music and the behaviors that are driving those forces, one can identify particular patterns that support current trends. By looking forward to what the future of music may encompass, this presentation aims to provide Carhartt, with valuable insight that will help the brand as a whole, cater to the future of urban millenials.”

This video from James West and Len Henriksen shows that the consumption of music has come along way since the days of vinyl records. But now with all the digital variants of music available to anyone with an internet connection, what has become of the stability of the industry and the ability of artists’ to make money?

To sum it up, while digital consumption has absolutely exploded – the revenue per download, or spin, or play has collapsed. Data is from 2010.

My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.


Hypebot reports: Technology has changed a lot about how concerts are marketed, ticketed and produced since Woodstock.  Recently, the greatest driver of change – particularly from the fan perspective – has been the smartphone.  From taking photos to texting friends and song requests, smartphones are changing how concerts are  consumed and remembered.  But early glimpses of projects from Live Nation Labs and startups like  Tastemate show that we’re on at the start of a smartphone driven live music revolution. This infographic above chronicles the journey so far.
Lots more to come…

All markets are not the same.  Most people in India have not had access to high-speed Internet or a PC. The wired broadband penetration of India stands at about 13 million subscriptions and there are only 50 million PCs in the country. Very few Indians have broadband or a PC of their own.

3G expands consumer audience by 100 million listeners

Despite the lack of broadband and PC penetration, there are currently 121 million Internet users in India. Guess where they are? Mobile. With the rollout of 3G in India, access to high-speed Internet has become cheaper and more widely available. People don’t need to own a desktop computer to get online or, most importantly, to participate in e-commerce — all they need is a mobile phone.

The mobile model — and by extension, the mobile music model — scales. It took broadband 7 years to reach 11.5 million wired subscribers. In less than half that time, 3G subscriptions in India topped 13 million, and that number is rapidly growing. There are 884 million mobile users in India, and as smartphones flood the market, more of them will be making the switch, becoming not just first-time smartphone users, but first-time Internet users as well.

Already, 59 percent of mobile web users access the Internet via mobile only. A study by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the total number of mobile Internet users will balloon to 237 million by 2015. It is connectivity, now more than ever.

Advertisers, rather than end users, are footing the bill.

Brands are embarking on the biggest consumer grab of the century as China’s and India’s multi-billion audiences rise in economic status. Thousands of brands are competing to become the future soda, life insurance and auto brands of this part of the planet. That’s a major influx of ad dollars looking for a scalable way to engage consumers.

Asking consumers to shell out 15 to 25 rupees for a song online was unrealistic when pirated options were widely available for free. But as legal sites gain popularity and engagement numbers soar, major brands are ready to spend their advertising dollars on digital music Web sites and apps, so music services like Saavn, Smashhits and Ragga provide large catalogs of ad-supported music for free.

The benefits are abundant for the brand advertisers, end users and record labels; the end user gets something customizable and valuable for free, while major brands can finally capture the attention of one of the world’s largest emerging markets.

So what made advertisers change their minds? Piracy.  Piracy is being addressed in India via the ISPs — in February, the High Court of Calcutta handed down the decision to ban the pirate site songs.pk on major ISPs. This is a move that many have hoped to see in other territories, and India is stepping up to address the issue directly via the ISPs.

While pirated music is still an issue in India, legitimate and fully legal music streaming Web sites and apps are restoring the faith of advertisers, meaning a huge new audience for advertisers, profits for the music labels from brands with deep pockets and top-notch quality for users.

Digital means data

Labels are excited that they can finally reach audiences who are passionate about their niche content, thanks to the kind of targeting that digital platforms make possible from user data. It’s especially great for indie labels, who now have fast entry to market and an opportunity to get in front of the right audience, despite not having the major-label marketing moolah.

Thanks to the wealth of data digital music supplies, the Indian music industry can get the right music to the right people at the right time. No need to make assumptions based on demographic information or guess what people will like. Data provides the ultimate customization tool for an industry in which customization and understanding the preferences and tastes of the end user is key.

This is the moment the music industry in India has been waiting for; it can finally focus on its core business — producing music — while advertisers happily foot the bill. And users get to sit back and enjoy, share and discover for free.

Read the original article as published on All Things D.

My friend Roger McNamee, a founding Partner and Managing Director of Elevation Partners has been getting some great press lately on his thoughts on the new music business, investing in technology, Apple, Google, Facebook and much more.  Here is the transcript of a speech he gave at NARM earlier this summer, a must read.

“Our band – Moonalice – is inventing new opportunities in music. We would like you all to join us.

I have been a working musician for more than 30 years, and a technology investor for 29 years. I have played about 1000 concerts over the past 15 years, which means I have personally experienced everything in Spinal Tap except the exploding drummers. I also spent three years helping the Grateful Dead with technology and many more advising other bands, most notably U2.

My band is called Moonalice. We play 100 shows a year in clubs and small theaters, mostly on the coasts. Moonalice was the first band broken on social networks. What broke us was 845,000 downloads – and counting – of the single “It’s 4:20 Somewhere.” We’re the band that Mooncasts every show live, via satellite to thousands of fans on iPads, cell phones, and computers. We’re the band that has a unique psychedelic poster for every show. After four years, Moonalice has 371 poster images from the likes of Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, and David Singer. Licensing those images will eventually a big business for us. We’re the band that offers the EP of the Month for $5. And we’re the band that uses the latest technology to radically improve both the production cost and commercial value of the content we produce. Now I’m looking for people who want get on this bandwagon with me.

The first question I hope you ask is “Why now?” The world of technology is beginning a period of disruptive change. The old guard – represented in this case by Microsoft Windows and Google search – is under assault and hundreds of billions of dollars may become available for new and better ideas. I hope that gets your attention!!!

The biggest beneficiaries of this disruption should be the people who got the short end of Google’s business model, especially creators of differentiated content. For the past twelve years the technology of the internet has been static. Every tool commoditized content by eliminating differentiation. The most successful companies monetized content created by others. Google was king.

I believe Microsoft and Google are about to get a taste of what the music industry has been dealing with for a decade. Their world is going to change and they won’t be able to stop it. Not so long ago Microsoft’s Windows monopoly gave it control of 96% of internet connected devices. Thanks to smartphones and tables – especially the iPhone and iPad — Windows’ share of internet connected devices has fallen below 50% … and it will fall much further in the years ahead.

Consumers are abandoning Windows as fast as they can. I expect businesses to follow suit.

This is a HUGE deal. Businesses whose employees use smart phones and iPads instead of PCs will save up to $1000 per employee per year in support costs.If corporations buy fewer PCs, they will save tens, if not hundreds of billions per year.

This is happening because today’s strategic applications – email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other internet applications – don’t need a PC . . . in fact, they are far more useful on a phone.

Microsoft has been in trouble since it first missed the web in 1994. Then it was unable to prevent Google from taking charge in 1998. When Google showed up, the World Wide Web was a wild environment. No one was in charge. The prevailing philosophy was “open source” . . . and free software.

Google had a plan for organizing the web’s information that treated every piece of information as if all were equally valuable. To create order, Google ranked every page based on how many people linked to it.

What we all missed at the time is that by treating every piece of information the same, Google enforced a standard that permitted no differentiation. Every word on every Google page is in the same typeface. No brand images appear other than Google’s. This action essentially neutered the production values of every high end content creator. The Long Tail took off and the music industry got its ass kicked.

Google captured about 80% of the index search business, which gave it a huge percentage of total web advertising. Google’s success eventually filled the web with crap, so consumers began using other products to search: Wikipedia for facts, Facebook for matters of taste, time or money, Twitter for news, Yelp for restaurants, Realtor.com for places to live, LinkedIn for jobs. Over the past three years, these alternatives have gone from 10% of search volume to about half.

As if all this competition wasn’t bad enough for Google, then along came Apple with the iPhone and App Store. Apple offers a fundamentally different vision of the internet than Google. Google is about the long tail, open source, and free, but also had to remove 64 apps from the Android app store for stealing confidential information. Apple is about trusted brands, authority, security, copyright and the like. In Apple’s world, the web is just another app; it is called Safari.

People who have iPhones and iPads do far fewer Google searches than people on PCs. The reason is that Apple has branded, trustworthy apps for everything. If they want news, Apple customers use apps from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. If they want to know which camera to buy, they ask friends on Facebook. If they want to go to dinner, they use the Yelp app. These searches have economic value and its not going to Google, even on Android.

When Apple and the app model win, Google’s search business loses. Like Microsoft, Google has plenty of business opportunities, but the era of Google controlling all content is over. Consumers compared Google’s open source web to Apple’s app model and they overwhelmingly prefer Apple’s model. Software development and innovation has shifted from “web first” to “iPad first” . . . which is a monster long term advantage. Get this: Apple may sell nearly 100 million internet connected devices this year!

Apple’s strength can be seen best in the iPhone vs. Android competition. There are many Android vendors. Together they sell more phones than Apple does. But Apple gets around $750 wholesale for an iPhone. The other guys get between $300 and $450. This means Apple’s gross margin on the iPhone is nearly as big as its competitors’ gross revenues. Game over.

The other thing that makes Apple amazing is the iPad. No electronic product in history – not even the DVD player – can match the adoption rate of the iPad. Apple may sell another 30 million this year. At this point, the competing products have not put a dent in the iPad. Image what happens if Apple’s share of the tablet market remains closer to the iPod (at 80%) than to the iPhone (20%)?

This sounds like, “Game Over, Apple wins” . . . but it’s not . . . at least, not yet. The open source World Wide Web has finally responded to Apple. A new programming language has come to market called HTML 5. HTML is the foundation of the World Wide Web. For the past decade, HTML has been static, which allowed Google to dominate.

HTML 5 is a new generation of HTML and it changes the game fundamentally. It allows web developers replicate the iPhone experience, but with many extra bells and whistles … and no App Store. One reason HTML 5 matters is because it eliminates Adobe Flash, which has been an inadvertent barrier to creativity

Creativity enables differentiation. Differentiation can be monetized. Huge differentiation can be monetized hugely. With HTML 5, creative people can now use the entire web page as a single canvas. For the first time in a dozen years, web pages will be limited only by the creativity of the people making them. They can create experiences that will be more engaging to consumers and more profitable for advertisers than network television.

New forms of entertainment will emerge. New forms of business. Companies the size of Facebook and Google will develop in categories I can’t guess at. Companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix will emerge to support what new content comes to market.

Whether you view Apple as friend or foe, HTML 5 offers real opportunity. Why?

Because you can deliver a better experience than an app . . . without an app. HTML 5 is cheaper to build, cheaper to support, no 30% fee . . . oh, and the apps perform better, too.

I believe Apple’s best response would be to focus on selling hardware and accept that consumers will demand products that happen to bypass the app store. Based on the argument with Amazon, I sense Apple is not ready to concede the point. That’s ironic, because the only way Apple can get hurt would be if they try to force all commerce through the App Store. The would create a real reason for customers to buy a tablet other than iPad.

Let me review my key points so far:

Google and Microsoft will remain huge, but their influence is evaporating, which means we can ignore them

Apple is winning big, which means we have to support their platforms first

For people who make content, Apple is a better monopolist to deal with than Google.

HTML 5 will give you a better product than the Apple app model at a lower cost and with more value.

Now let’s figure out what we can do together. My band Moonalice exists because T Bone Burnett wanted to produce an album of new and original hippie music in the old school San Francisco style. We put together an all-star band with in late 2006 and recorded the album. T Bone was about to win the GRAMMY for the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album, Raising Sand, so we thought we were made.

We had a budget
We had an A-list PR guy
We had a really fine manager
We had custom label deal with a nice budget
T Bone’s innovative sound technology would make the album cutting edge

Old school music is good. Old school marketing wasn’t going to work for us. About four months before release, I reviewed the media plan with our PR guy. He said, “Sorry, man, but nobody cares.”

A few moments of somber reflection followed. Then, with great regret, I let our manager go. I let our publicist go. I let our label go. For all intents and purposes, we wrote off an album everyone was extremely proud of and which accounted for half of T. Bone’s portfolio the following year when he was nominated for Producer of the Year.

But I freed up most of our operating budget. Real money. And I focused it all on Twitter and Facebook. Our goal was to build an audience of dedicated fans around a Moonalice lifestyle. Three years later, we have 57,000 fans on Facebook and 75,000 on Twitter. We learned a great truth: as hard as it is to get people to spend money, it is much harder to persuade them to spend enough time listening to you to become a long term fan. We traded our music for their time. We discovered we could build an audience by giving away stuff that costs nothing to produce and distribute. These are serious fans who engage with us dozens and often hundreds of times a year.

The first thing we invented was the Twittercast. Before us, no one had ever done a concert over Twitter. Now we have done 103. Our marginal cost is exactly zero. Next we created Moonalice Radio, which has broadcast one song every hour on Twitter for the past two years. Then our drum tech bought a video camera and started recording the shows. Then he bought more cameras, put them on mic stands and started doing live video mixes. About a year ago, he figured out how to mooncast our concerts over the net for free.

Nearly all of our past 100 shows have been mooncast live on MoonaliceTV and then archived. Because we play mostly late shows on the west coast, only 10% of the audience watches in real time. But approximately 3,000 people watch EVERY show on a time shifted basis. Fans like the Moonalice Couch tour because they can chat, make friends, and do things that are not permitted at a live venue. They even buy Couch Tour tee shirts. And they are helping us create a new ecosystem where most of the music is free, because Moonalice art and life style products have huge economic value.

Thanks to HTML 5 and a satellite dish, Mooncasts can now be viewed on a smart phone without an app. Our video quality competes favorably with the best you have seen on an iPhone, and the technology to do all this costs the equivalent of six months of our former manager. He was a really good guy, but a satellite-based tv network is more valuable.

I want to finish up by recommending a course of action for you

Step 1: Remember that HTML 5 is just getting started, but the learning curve is less expensive and more profitable for those who commit to it from the beginning. The new business is going to emerge over a few years, not overnight

Step 2: Don’t wait for the labels to figure this out. Labels are not organized to get this right, which leaves a big hole in the new music market where labels used to be.

Step 3: Don’t wait for major artists to figure it out. The great new stuff is going to come from artists who have nothing to lose. Artists who come out of nowhere will create huge value for next to no cost.

Step 4: Make sure you are successful addressing the needs of next generation content creators … not just listeners. There are WAY more of content creators than you may realize. Thanks to Moore’s Law, Karl Marx is right at last: the means of production are in the hands of the proletariat. At the peak, there were 8 million bands registered on Myspace. They weren’t playing gigs, they were creating stuff, mostly for their own entertainment. Those people spent a lot more money creating the content they posted on Myspace than they did on recorded music. Thanks to Apple’s Garageband, the population of people capable of mixing something is now measured in tens of millions. Making these people successful is the key to creating new markets and new music products.

Step 5: Do everything in your power to encourage new product ideas and new forms of content. HTML 5 is a blank canvas and there is no telling what people will do with it. For all I know, HTML 5 may produce five or even ten amazing categories of product.

Contests, prizes and publicity will give you an opportunity to associate yourself with whoever creates the cool new stuff. If you have local stores, do local events. Think Alan Freed.

Step 6: Near term, focus your platform strategy on Apple.

Step 7: Long term, focus on HTML 5. The sooner you commit to HTML 5, the more likely you will produce something of economic value.

Step 8: Remember that HTML 5 will produce companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix. It costs musicians practically nothing to create good digital video and fantastic audio, but they need distribution systems optimized for their content.

Step 9: Make music fun again”

And if that isn’t enough, Roger was kind enough to share with me his thoughts on investing in technology related businesses.  TechInvestingHypotheses

Another Wordle rendering.

This is how Wordle sees my blog

This is how Wordle sees my blog

Here is a list of 9 trends and challenges that were recently published as part of an overall report on Digital Music by Redwood Capital.  You can download the entire report here.  What I find most bothersome about all of this is that it is a very backward looking, rationalization and justification about the collapse of the recorded music business and the fantasizing about protection of the label’s assets and proliferation of the traditional business model.  While it may be a good snapshot of some of the major issues the industry has faced and a good way for people to orient themselves, this is hardly the way to think about the future.  No wonder the investments made in music startups over the past decade or so by the VCs and Investment Bankers have not panned out.  If this is the way VCs and investors look at the world of music, I got to tell you, we are all in a lot of trouble.

I have pitched and have had many deep discussions with investors over the years about the music industry and have learned one thing that is holding the entire industry back.  Investors say they care about the music business, but when it comes right down to it, they don’t care about the musicians.  Not one of them would bet on a new label or artist driven business model.  They all wanted to back technology or distribution, but not musicians.  Pathetic.

I have taken the liberty of annotating some of these “treneds and challenges” below:

1) Rampant Piracy Continues

Despite a decade of aggressive attempts by the industry to reduce illegal downloads and peer-to-peer file sharing and preserve what remained of the old model, the biggest challenge facing the industry is still the fact that consumer attitudes towards paying for music have been forever changed, especially amongst the ever-important younger demographic. This places tremendous pressure on industry players to provide the consumer with an experience that exceeds that which can be achieved illegally and for free. The solution likely lies in packaging music with other products and services that consumers expect to pay for, such as mobile phone service, Internet connections, ringtones, concerts, merchandise, etc., and taking advantage of improvements in broadband speed and access to provide a service that can’t be replicated for free. – Certainly this is true for recorded music and something that we predicted nearly 8 years ago in our book on the Future of Music. However you cannot expect a healthy market when you have to “package” what you are trying to sell with something else as the primary means of distribution.  New forms of music experiences would certainly trump “bundles”.

2) Strategy of Major Labels

Despite numerous attempts to cut out the labels as middlemen, and the potential damage they have done to their relationships with the public after years of suing their customers, the major labels still have tremendous clout in determining the fate of the various new distribution models and emerging companies. While backing by the major labels by no means guarantees any degree of success, opposition from the labels is an obstacle that is extremely difficult to overcome. That being said, many of the larger players today began without the blessing of the labels, but once they became too big to ignore the labels were willing to make a deal. – Again I would argue this perspective assumes that the existing music, the existing catalog is more important than the new music, or the music yet to be created.  Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted and countless hours of negotiation sunk into trying to secure licenses to existing major label content by many companies trying to recreate the distribution model for an asset class in severe decline.  I will go out on a limb here and say that the new music matters far more in the future than the existing music, and that licenses from the major labels are far less valuable than the labels think they are.  Perhaps an order of magnitude less.

3) Legal Complexity

Many US copyright laws were written when the only form of music distribution was printed sheet music and as such, obtaining the proper licenses from all relevant content owners is extremely complex. Given the relative youth of the digital music industry, the law is being written and applied haphazardly and has been difficult to interpret. International differences make it difficult to offer consistent products on a global basis. For example, currently Pandora is legal in the US, but illegal in the U.K, and vice versa for Spotify. Developing a business plan in this environment is extraordinarily difficult. – Of course this is true if you are building a business based on catalog.  New labels and music companies that are forming to support new artists can completely eliminate this issue by creating licenses for their content that bundle all the rights in one global license that can be easily acquired.  By using this strategy, new content businesses can outrun old content business and begin to take over the landscape.

4) The End of DRM

The recent decisions by the labels to finally eliminate digital rights management for many applications should represent a landmark change for emerging growth companies in the music space. This greatly reduces a longstanding barrier by allowing compatibility of content and devices across platforms. By decoupling content and devices, consumers can now download a song from their choice of providers and listen to that song on their choice of devices. – Excuse me but the labels had nothing to do with the elimination of digital rights management.  That was eliminated long ago when people began trading MP3 files while all the attempts to distribute “legitimate” digital music failed. This is just the labels saying uncle.

5) Mobile Strategy is Critical

Whereas it has been extremely challenging for content owners across all digital media sectors to monetize online content, consumers do not expect mobile content to be free to the same degree because they have been conditioned to pay for such services. Therefore, we believe that online models that don’t have credible mobile strategies will continue to struggle, and killer mobile apps will prosper. We believe that one of the primary reasons for MySpace’s acquisition of Imeem was Imeem’s mobile capabilities. – Here I agree with the basic premise that a mobile strategy is critical, although have yet to see one that works.  Do people really want to listen to music on their phone?  Is that the killer app?  I expect that something far better is around the corner, more integrated into your life at the moments where you can and want to listen to music.  The damage being done to people’s hearing by the “Ear Buds” sold with the iPod and nearly every other mobile listening device is limiting the experience and holding back the growth of mobile music more than anything.  MP3 sound like crap.  Ear Buds are destroying people’s hearing.  No wonder hardly anyone wants to pay for digital music.  Anyone who focuses on improving the sound quality of mobile listening will find a explosive opportunity.

6) Dominance and Importance of the iPhone

With iTunes’ almost 70% US share in digital downloads, and the iPhone quickly taking market share in the smartphone category, alliances with Apple and/ or apps on the iPhone have become critical to success. Rhapsody, Spotify and Sirius have all launched iPhone apps in the past few months, and MOG’s is expected shortly, and this should give each an important boost in marketing their products. Without the iPhone app, customers would have had to spring for another device to use those services. With customers hesitant to even pay monthly service fees, adding a hardware requirement would have been an insurmountable obstacle in reaching a large customer base. We believe that Apple has been smart in its willingness to approve apps even from services that compete with iTunes. – I love my iPhone, I think it is the coolest thing ever invented.  But I also know that worldwide, the iPhone is just a speck on the landscape of mobile phones.  Will Apple really dominate this space over time?  I doubt it very much.  The vast majority of people cannot afford to buy Apple products.

7) Importance of Wireless Broadband

The widespread availability of broadband in the home and the office in the past decade has enabled computer-based downloading and streaming to develop entirely new methods of discovering, purchasing and listening to music. Many of the previously mentioned business models revolve around this experience. However, the next frontier for the developing models is to take the experience mobile without frustrating consumers. Now that consumers have accepted that cell phones are also music players, the market for mobile music has dramatically expanded, given that 139 million smartphones were sold worldwide in 2008 (Source: Gartner). To date, while streaming services such as Rhapsody and Pandora are a great way to listen to music at one’s desk, the experience on a mobile phone is mediocre at best, given dead spots and dropouts, and in the case of Rhapsody, low bitrate streaming. We suspect that many early adopters have tried these mobile services, only to get frustrated and go back to listening to MP3s on their iPods. Spotify’s and Slacker’s ability to cache playlists may prove to be a good workaround until wireless broadband availability and quality catches up. – I am a firm believer that you do not have to worry about storage and bandwidth, that they will always expand faster than you think they will.  Agreed.

8 ) Consumers Remain Willing to Pay for Exciting New Technologies and Products

Consumers have proven that they are indeed willing to pay for new products and technologies that enhance the music experience or provide new uses for music. The tremendous initial growth of the ringtone market is one example. US ringtone sales grew from almost zero in 2002 to a peak of $714 million in 2007, before dropping 24% in 2008 (Source: SNL Kagan) as consumers ultimately figured out how to create ringtones on their own for free. iTunes has created new value added products that sell at a premium, such as iTunes Pass, which automatically delivers all new product, including exclusive extras, from a specific band to its fans, and iTunes LP, which adds album art, videos, and other extras to an album purchase. Shazam is another good example. Shazam is the second most popular music app on the iPhone and claims 50 million users. Shazam is a unique technology that enables users to use their mobile phone to identify and tag any song they hear in public or on the radio and immediately purchase the song. The app is so popular that Shazam is now charging customers $5 for the premium app, and is limiting free users to five tags per month, and its usage is accelerating. – Completely agree.  This is in line with my basic premise that the new stuff matters far more than the old stuff, and if you can deliver a unique experience to a fan, especially one that is fun and sounds incredibly great, they will eat it up.

9) Convergence of Models

Most streaming services also offer the ability to purchase tracks either with their own ecommerce model or with links to others, most often iTunes and Amazon. To date, most ecommerce models have not offered streaming services, likely out of fear of cannibalization as well as licensing requirements. We believe that as streaming catches on with a broader audience, the e-commerce players will have to offer both. Apple is now more likely to move in this direction with its purchase of Lala, and increases our level of confidence that the streaming model is the wave of the future. – I believe as we wrote about in the Future of Music, that a utility model is the only way to make money with recorded music in the future.  Until music become always on and always available and feels like it is free to you, the market will continue to decline.  It is not so much the convergence of models but the ascendance of a model that will work.  The broadband mobile carriers are the ones that can make this happen.  It is a winner take all business strategy for the company with the balls and commitment to bake paid media distribution into their basic business model.

Comments anyone?

My friend Terry McBride was recently interviewed by Carter Smith of Rollo & Grady. Talk about the Future of Music, Nettwerk is doing it now. Here is the interview:

R&G: What made you decide to focus your business on digital products versus physical ones in 2002?

Terry: It was an intuitive thing for me. Obviously, digital had been seeping into our world for about three years and the Napster effect was apparent. Being a small company and working directly with artists, we could really hear and see what was starting to happen. It was a realization that fighting it wouldn’t work; understanding it and being able to grow it was what was going to work. It was a psychological shift for us. It took a few years to get the rest of the company and analysts focused towards that, but that was the psychological shift for me, which means that the company shifts.

R&G: About 80% of your business is from digital sales now, right?

Terry: Yes, that’s correct.

R&G: Why did you drop DRM in 2003?

Terry: I didn’t see any purpose in locking down files; it made no sense to me. People have always been sharing music. Why would I want to stop them? Why would I want to tell them what to do? The way to win was to get them to support my artists, not to force them to do it a certain way. I know I wouldn’t like anyone telling me that.

R&G: You recently spoke about cloud-based servers, mobile applications and smartphones being the future of the music business.

Terry: What’s happened in the last ten years is kind of moot. The next 18 months will determine the future of the music business. It’s a situation where the turnover on phones by the average consumer – now I’m being generous here – is every two years. It’s probably shorter. The smartphones that are starting to dominate the marketplace are specific platforms now open to applications that are being developed outside of the R&D departments of all of the various carriers. Apple, when they opened up their App Store, I think they sold, what, 150 million apps in maybe 9 months. It stunned the world, and Apple is a small player. They might be a noisy player, but they’re a small player within the mobile space. Research In Motion launches their store this month, Nokia is launching Ovi in April and Google has already launched their Android site. You’re going to see millions of applications come onto the marketplace. You’re going to see social filtering of the really good ones, and what’s going to be in there are applications that change the behavioral habits of how you consume music. The need to download music will no longer exist. If anything, it will be a hassle. You’ll have smartphones that can probably handle two to three hundred songs. That’s a gradual download; you’re actually not streaming it. It’s actually on your phone but it’s pulled from some sort of server, whether it’s your own server or a cloud server. To make all of these applications work, you have to have really good metadata, which means that business has to focus its efforts on really good metadata. Rich metadata is going to work with all of these applications. You’re going to see digital maids, digital valets. You’re going to see applications for maybe five bucks a month where you can access all the music that you want, how you want it, when you want it, imported to any device. So why would you want to download? Why would you want to go online to try to find it for free? Besides, something you find free might not work with these smartphone apps. Five bucks is no big deal to have unlimited access. That’s where everything’s going. All of the current arguments and debates are moot. I would even say that the ticker has now started on when the iPod goes away. I think Apple saw that.

R&G: So their primary focus will be to promote the iPhone?

Terry: They’ve been pushing the iPhone more than anything, and when they opened up their App Store, their intuitions were proven right. It is the App Store that has driven iPhone sales.

R&G: Do you think the major labels will sign off on these applications?

Terry: I don’t think they have any choice in the matter. It’s really just a subscription model, but it’s the application. A subscription model has never worked to date because it’s always been a hassle. It only works on your laptop, you can’t port it between devices, and it’s always streaming and always a pain in the ass. Last.fm and Pandora have been nice, but transferring that around has been really difficult. The applications coming with these smartphones will change all that and make it a hassle not to use them. Downloading will seem like a hassle two years from now. It will be like, ‘Download something? Are you nuts? Here, I can instantly access it. Watch, I’ll just type it in and my valet will go find it for me.’

R&G: Your valet, meaning your filter?

Terry: It’s an app. You’ll program your valet to look at what your 20 closest peers are listening to and create something for you to listen to. Maybe you’re a Led Zeppelin fan and all you want to hear is Led Zeppelin today. Maybe something bad happened and you want to listen to Sarah McLachlan today. Your valet will do that for you, and your digital maid will clean up your library for you.

R&G: That will be huge. It will make music consumption easier for the end user.

Terry: I always call it the hassle factor. It’s a hassle right now to be part of a subscription model. It’s even a hassle to download. These smartphones are radically going to change that. I mean, with Shazam you go, ‘What is that song?’ and you can instantly know what it is and instantly buy it, if that’s what you want to do. Slacker is the first one that comes close to being a digital valet. It’s only going to get better. Anyone with a really good idea can actually make it happen. You’re going to see this coming out of garages and university dorms, not Apple and Blackberry campuses.

R&G: You’re a member of the RIAA. What are your thoughts of them monitoring ISP usage?

Terry: Here’s my whole view of this, and this hasn’t changed for quite a long time. Out of all of the sharing of music, who’s making an economic return? Whoever is should then share that with all the people that allowed it to happen, creating a nice alignment of interests to grow any business. A lot of the providers have viewed music as free content, while at the same time paying for the cable content to grow their networks. They’ve been making money off the backs of the artists without any compensation for the artists at all. I think that’s fundamentally wrong. I’ve also said it’s fundamentally wrong to go after the consumers that are using that opportunity. That’s not the right approach either. The phone companies and the cable providers have gotten away with murder in this whole situation.

R&G: What’s your opinion on music blogs?

Terry: I love music blogs because they’re music fans. They’re authentic and passionate about music. They’re no different than me. All they’re doing is spreading the word about stuff they like. The authentic will rise to the top, which is why I like aggregators like The Hype Machine. I think it’s brilliant. It’s a great way of seeing what music fans are talking about versus some other filter. I’d rather the filter be a social filter, and then you can go into niches. Maybe it’s a bluegrass filter or a country filter or a hard rock filter or an ambient filter. Whatever. Those people are really passionate about that music. You know what? That’s what it’s about. Songs are not copyright. Songs are emotions.

Read more great interviews at Rollo & Grady here.

Listen to this episode of “With A Voice Like This” where I am speaking with Jim Goodrich about the future of music.

It’s been four years since The Future of Music book came out and this radio interview starts with what has changed and what has stayed the same since the book was published. But there’s a twist. At the beginning of the show Jim asked that we not focus on the technology itself, since the book had so much more to offer than just a discussion of technology. Among other things we talk about what’s going on in China currently, the Universal Mobile Device (UMD) and of course, the Music like Water concept.

Listen to the interview here.

Download the MP3 file here.

T H E F U T U R E O F M U S I C

In our (2005) book we wrote about the “Universal Mobile Device”

June 1, 2015. Our Universal Mobile Devices (UMD) are “always-on” at 8 MB/second, and we have anytime-anywhere access to music, films, games, books, news, streaming video, online banking, stock market transactions, instant messaging, e-mail, and chats. It’s a global telephone, a digital communication and data transfer device, a Global Positioning Device (GPS), a personal digital assistant, a music/images/film storage device, a recorder, a personal computer, a gaming platform . . . and much more that we haven’t even gotten around to trying yet. Still, it is only a little bit larger than a cigarette pack, its processor is one hundred times as fast as the good old Intel Centrino chip, and with over 5 terabytes of data storage, there is plenty of room for anything we want. Our UMD can project a fairly large and sharp image onto any white surface, it can set up instant secure wireless connections to other computers, beamers, monitors, screens, and printers, and it can connect to other UMDs to exchange data and files, instantly and securely.

The UMD “off-road” version is so durable that you can drive a truck over it, or leave it out in the rain for a few days. Ten days of battery power lets us forget about hunting for electric outlets everywhere we go. In short, our UMDs are irresistible, and sometimes we even struggle with ourselves to put them away.

And how much do we pay to get this device and the wireless service? Less than what a year of dial-up Internet service used to cost only ten years ago. Speaking of those days, we are so relieved to have lost all the cables, the multiple billing procedures, the restrictions on usage, the endless calls to customer service to figure out how to make it work, the non-compatibility, and all of the other burdens. Now, the pricing—and what you get for your money—is so compelling that everyone considers it a part of their basic expenses, like the phone bill, cable television, or car registrations.

Today, the basic content service comes packaged with the monthly service fee, and a content levy is imposed on the device itself. It took ten years for the device makers, software providers, and entertainment companies to agree on a voluntary compulsory licensing scheme, but now the content providers make much more money than they did before UMDs were around. In addition, their marketing costs have shrunk to one tenth of what they used to be, their delivery costs keep falling, administration and accounting is handled by smart automated software agents, and their legal budgets have been reduced to a fraction of what they used to be because there is nothing left to sue for. Finding cool new stuff rules the day. Get our attention, and let us make a connection.

Music companies, book publishers, game companies, and filmmakers are eager for us to check out their stuff, watch their films, play their games, or try their software. The more of their content we use, the more they get paid, pro rata. We still pay the same flat fee, unless we select some premium content—which we do all too often, we have to admit. It may cost only a dollar to “sit-in” on the latest recording sessions with your favorite artist, to order a copy of an issue of Twilight Zone that is not on the UMD Network, or to watch a special backstage Webcast of the Grammy awards. Our UMDs make media and entertainment content so irresistible that our cash just keeps flowing out on the network—a “dream come true” for any content provider that can get our attention.

The UMD service and its built-in tracking software allows the content providers and their agents to find out how their content is doing on the network—how many people have tried it, how many people have shared it, how many people have rated it, and who is talking about it. If we want to, we can share some, a little, or all of our data and other feedback with the UMD service, our friends, or the content providers themselves. We can also provide detailed feedback on their content and earn free UMD “points” that we can use to get free stuff. This way, some of our friends even make more money on the UMD network than they spend on getting the content! They review new bands, recommend new songs and movies to their peers, test new games, or become part of focus groups that evaluate new UMD services.

No longer are we tethered to our computer, the LAN connection, or the power plug. UMDs have become as commonplace as cell phones were a decade ago. Gone are the days of having to worry about where to get cool ring tones, how to turn the cell phone into a real gaming device, or where to watch our favorite soccer game.
The UMD comes fully licensed, and we can do whatever we want with it because most ways of using it are simply already included in the price of the device and related service fees. “Fair use” rules and, as customers, we really like the sense of empowerment. If we want access to special content, we simply use the various premium billing options that bill our UMD accounts, deduct directly from our electronic bank accounts, or use any of the cyber-cash services that we can subscribe to.

So what about the prices? It’s 2015, and we’re paying $59 a month to get all the basic content on the network for free, plus of course, thousands of minutes of free voice and videophone calls. Stream it, download it, listen to or view it on demand, transfer it, share it—whatever we want, anytime, anywhere. Peer-to-peer has taken on an entirely new meaning, and it smells like roses to the content providers and media companies.

Best of all, the sheer amount of content on the network is more than we could ever consume: more than five million music tracks from almost any record label, producer, or lately, directly from the artist. In addition, there are more than one million books; two hundred thousand movies, television shows, and video clips; twenty thousand games, and thousands of software packages. And we are talking about the good stuff here, not just back catalog and “archives.” These offerings are instantly available, instantly archived, bookmarkable, searchable with our content agents, and cross-referenced with our network buddies and friends. The only thing we are really missing is the time to try it all!

——

Sounds an awful lot like an iPhone or Blackberry Bold to me. The only thing really missing is the processor power and storage, and then some agreement about global content licenses and a little clearer thinking on the part of copyright owners and we’ll be there.

2,015 is only 6 years away. You know what, I think we are going to get there way before that.

Forrester predicts the number of MP3-capable phones will grow from around 50 million to 240 million, or 75 percent of the US, by 2013. That pales in comparison to the mobile revolution that is occurring in Europe, Asia, Latin America. Basically the entire rest of the world. This is the future of music.

Sales of digital music in Latin America jumped over 50 percent according to the IFPI, more than twice the global average increase. Most of the sales in the region are dominated by downloads to wireless phones or embedded music on the devices.

The mobile platform will bring huge catalogs of music to our pockets coupled with, tickets, social networking and commerce. This is going to completely change that we interact with music. My iPhone with Shazam, Pandora and Twitter is already amazing. I can’t wait.

Telecom Report (Dec 2008)

New music and new technologies have always propelled the record industry into more lucrative markets. But is that time over? How is the record industry handling illegal MP3 file sharing and what new business models await those who are embracing the reach of the Internet and the marketing power of the mobile phone?

In this final Telecom Report for 2008 we investigate the emergence of a new music industry and talk to artists, new service providers, traditionalists and industry analysts, who agree that the record industry is dying but the music industry is thriving.


Watch the Video from Sony/Ericsson

From the Business Innovation Factory Summit, my presentation on the Past, Present and Future of Music.

http://e.blip.tv/scripts/flash/showplayer.swf?file=http%3A%2F%2Fblip.tv/rss/flash/1445348&showplayerpath=http%3A%2F%2Fblip.tv/scripts/flash/showplayer.swf&feedurl=http%3A//bif.blip.tv/rss/flash&brandname=BIF&brandlink=http%3A//www.businessinnovationfactory.com&enablejs=true&tabType2=none&tabType1=details&tabTitle1=About&tabType3=none&backcolor=0xffffff&frontcolor=0x999999&lightcolor=0xcccccc&showguidebutton=false&autostart=false&showmorebutton=false

Here is the story they wrote about me for the Summit.

Back in the seventies, David Kusek walked from his freshman dorm at the University of Connecticut, down a long hill to the music department for classes several times a week. When the routine got a little stale, he began taking other routes. One detour took him past the computer science building where he quickly noted the “hot” cars in the parking lot. Naturally, he began taking computer science courses.

Great ideas are born in such serendipitous ways. When Kusek melded his deep-rooted love of music with his newfound affinity for computers, he opened up unchartered territory in the music world by inventing the electronic drum. His company, Synare, took a relatively unfamiliar technology (computers) and combined it with an indigenous musical tradition that tuned percussion to the key of the song. Kusek also knew how to start a business, develop products, and take them to market. Having the right price point added to the appeal of the electronic drum and attracted the attention of fledgling artist Donna Summers who took a chance on the new sound and propelled her career.

“For better or worse, we had our part in the disco age,” Kusek says. “We helped to define the sound of the era.”

Taking another detour for curiosity’s sake led Kusek to study animal communication in California with noted biologist John Lilly. They were trying to use sound to communicate with dolphins when the Apple II computer came to market.

Kusek was already synthesizing the sounds that dolphins make, so he devised a way to do the same with musical instruments, to “put the Apple II between the instruments.” He explains that his new company, Passport Designs, “broke music down into a language of expression, which we mapped to simple computer code and connected it to the instruments. We created a computer language for music.” Witness the birth of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), developed by a group of companies including Passport, which has left an indelible mark on the music industry by becoming the prototype for all music interface software.

If only they had patented it.

Kusek, along with Dave Smith and the other people responsible for creating MIDI could have made millions with MIDI, but he remains philosophical about this missed opportunity. “Maybe the reason why it took off was that it was absolutely free,” he says. “It was a compact way of representing music in a simple and cheap format.”

Kusek has learned to appreciate and even extol the benefits of free and open access to music. He helped create musical notation software and was instrumental in developing enhanced CDs for the commercial market. He supports the creation of a music utility to “monetize” the immense wave of file-sharing that has become standard operating procedure in the industry. He reasons that Internet users already pay for access to a network that supplies the music, so why not add a nominal fee to the ISP bill and allow for legal trading? With approximately 80 million households using the Internet, a monthly music utility fee of $3 would generate almost $3 billion in annual music sales from households alone.

“If you tracked what was downloaded,” Kusek says, “you could create a system where the money flows exactly to the people who are listening. It could be a 30 to 40 billion dollar business again, as it was in the nineties.”

Admittedly, this system would spread those billions among a larger base of artists, establishing an unfamiliar sense of parity in the music industry. But Kusek says that the megastar is gone, anyway: “In the last four to five years, new artists coming to market are not making anywhere near what artists like Madonna made. I think that happens because of file-sharing, but also because the music industry was taking its eye off what was important. In the mid-nineties, the record companies thought their customers were WalMart and Target. They had no connection to their audience at all.”

File-sharing may have killed the megastar, but not the art, Kusek insists. “I think it’s a great time to be an artist,” he says. New performers may have smaller audiences, but they also have a more efficient way of finding that audience and staying connected to it through online chats, newsletters, and blogs. And instead of the record industry’s marketing machine pushing music at fans with an $18 plastic CD case and the elaborate promotion attached to it, word of mouth is shaping the musical tastes of the rising generation.

As it should, according to Kusek. He has brought technological innovations to the music industry by accepting such change and using it to open up the possibilities of sound. He envisions music flowing in a clean stream wherever people communicate, allowing artists and fans to express themselves freely.