April 25, 2007
Trolling SSRN I came across another academic report destroying much of the FUD put out by the RIAA in their attempt to criminalize digital downloads. Like all good academic studies it has a cumbersome and wordy title, The Analog Hole and the Price of Music: An Empirical Study, which belies the rather simple text contained within.
The report starts off with an exploration of the analog hole , which frankly isnt that interesting but then goes into how the analog hole will effect the pricing of digital music. They set off to answer two questions: Do consumers perceive a difference between analog hole copies and the originals? Kinda. At what price would they be willing to sacrifice some quality? Twenty-five cents. The sample size is pretty small for the survey, only 66 respondents, but the findings are really interesting. Read the full report here and check out the abstract here:
April 23, 2007
A Pew Research report it aint, but the good folks at P2pnet.net have released the raw data from their online survey of Internet users, entitled “Sultans of Spin“. The data is released under the creative commons license and is in MS access format for easy crunching if your a database geek (I’m not). I mentioned the report last week and while I hear the folks at P2Pnet have caught a lot of flack for the survey its a great resource for getting the pulse of the folks the RIAA’s lawsuits are intended to pawn. If you do anything with the numbers ping me so I can get a look. Here is the data file zipped.
April 23, 2007
Last week serial business starter and aging Internet super-star, Michael Robertson, launched the 6th iconoclastic Internet venture in his portfolio of disruptive ventures. The new business, called AnywhereCD, billed itself as an MP3 music vendor with a CD delivery option. And while the business itself is a bit of a yawner, its pricing and sales pitch are at least entertaining.
Explaining the AnywhereCD business model is a bit complex, largely because of how they are trying to market the service. Basically for around $15 bucks you can buy a CD from the site and get it sent to you in the mail. With each CD purchase you also get DRM-free files of songs from the CD int eh MP3 format. This is pretty impressive given the labels resistance to MP3 downloads even when they might make money from it. This is of course where things get kinda wonky. For $3 less than price of both the CD and MP3 files, AnywhereCD will sell you the CD and MP3 files but only give you the MP3 files. Confused?
The CD is clearly the basis of pricing on the site but their sales pitch is fashioned in a way to make it seem that the MP3 files are what’s being sold. The MP3 delivery and all the digital goodness that flows from having a DRM-free digital file is ancillary to the basic transaction of buying a CD for 12 bucks. The sites original pricing model featured two sets of prices one for MP3’s + a CD and the other for just the MP3’s. Thankfully, before anyone really had a chance to ask any questions or point out what was truly being offered, the MP3 album option disappeared.
In less then 12 hours after the sites launch, on April 12th, the MP3 only option was gone from the site. Apparently even the pretense of being able to buy albums exclusively as MP3 files is more then the labels can stomach. Gone is the “MP3 Album + CD” verbiage, replaced by the much safer and probably more truthful CD plus MP3 wording. Thus an interesting, if not truly new, online marketing and sales scheme was killed on the vine by the luddite music business. But wait, there’s more…
On April 20th Reuters reported that AnywhereCD had filed a lawsuit against Warner Music for breach of contract, business defamation and trade libel. Former liquor vendor and current Warner Music topper, Edgar Bronfman Jr., is reported to have said that selling digital music without DRM is illogical, clearly he believes not selling any music at all is the better option.
April 18, 2007
A couple of weeks ago a little known government body called the Copyright Royalty Board set new rates for webcasters like Pandora, Last.fm and other streaming music services. The new rates made many webcasters and streaming music entrepreneurs apoplectic. Only being tangentially related to the streaming music space I was a bit confused by all the doom and gloom talk that had lots of really intelligent and articulate folks claiming that this was the end of streaming radio. It all sounded so over the top that I sent an email to the ever accommodating Tim Westergren, of Pandora, asking for his take on the controversy. I sent him a series of questions largely based on some projections Michael Robertson posted to the Pho List and one of this responses at the time really shocked me.
“There will be no Internet radio by the end of 2007 if these [new rates] go unchanged.”
At the time I thought there was no way that the music industry would allow the mostly legal and fee paying interactive music services to go under. Services like Pandora and Last.fm have been hailed in the media as the new “it” companies for music promotion and fans across the globe embrace these services for music sampling and discovery. But as of yesterday, influenced by the ever present RIAA in the guise of its bastard child SoundExchange, the CRB denied webcasters like Pandora’s attempts to rehear the case. Effectively putting an end to the nascent interactive radio business.
The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. Tim Westergren in letter to Pandora commuity
In what seems like a last ditch effort to make a change to the deadly new rates, Tim Westernger sent a letter to the Pandora community asking people to write their lawmakers for a literal stay of execution. If you’ve enjoyed Pandora and Last.fm you might want to go ahead, sign the petition and get involved. Normally I’d also suggest that you go ahead and enjoy Pandora and Last.fm before they go out of business, but since the rates are being retroactively enforced, they apply to everyone that used the service in 2006 and everyone that uses it now, potentially tripling the fees these services owe copyright holders.