Music

Robert Cookson

Taylor Swift clearly touched a nerve at Spotify last week when she pulled all of her music from the streaming service.

Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, has responded to her move by publishing a 1,800 word essay that defends the company’s business model and reveals some fascinating numbers about its growth. Read more

Robert Cookson

Technological utopians have been predicting for years that the internet will weaken the dominance of superstar artists in the music industry and enrich the teeming masses of smaller, niche creators.

But new research suggests that this “long tail” theory is wrong: superstars are capturing the vast majority of music revenues and their share is increasing – not decreasing – because of the rise of digital services like iTunes and Spotify.

The top 1 per cent of artists – the likes of Rihanna and Adele – accounted for a whopping 77 per cent of recorded music income in 2013, according to research by Mark Mulligan of Midia Consulting. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Photo: Pandora

Pandora has just appointed a veteran of Microsoft’s advertising technology business as its new chairman, president and chief executive.

Brian McAndrews left his role at Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, once a seed investor in Amazon.com, to join the internet radio service as it braces for new competition from Apple’s iTunes Radio. He replaces Joe Kennedy, who is retiring after leading Pandora since 2004. Read more

To Tim Westergren, Pandora’s co-founder, Apple’s iTunes Radio is just another “Pandora-killer” that will be less deadly than it first appears. A once wobbly Wall Street now seems to agree: Pandora’s shares have doubled this year – and were up another 8 per cent on Monday morning – as investors focus not on competitive threats or grumbling artists but on growth opportunities such as integrating its internet radio service into cars. Read more

David Gelles

Will.i.am, the futuristic frontman of The Black Eyed Peas, established his Silicon Valley bona fides long ago.

The “technology obsessed” rapper made a viral video for Barack Obama in 2008, sent his music back from Mars via the Curiosity rover, and is Intel’s “director of creative innovation.” He drives an all-electric Tesla, is partnering with Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, and markets a $300 high-tech iPhone case.

But in a song on his poorly-reviewed new album #willpower, will.i.am takes his infatuation with startup culture to another level.

Called “Geekin’”, the track begins with a thudding chorus in which he repeats: “Get my geek on, get my, get my geek on.” Read more

Tim Bradshaw

It’s a moment that many tech industry observers have predicted for the best part of a decade: the US music market is now more digital than physical, by volume at least. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Google has unveiled a new online music store after reaching deals with three of the Big Four record companies.  At an event in Los Angeles on Wednesday, it announced EMI, Universal and Sony were part of the new Google music service, with no agreement having been reached with Warner Music.

The existing “Music beta by Google” service had allowed users to upload their music to Google’s cloud and access it through a browser or an Android app.  The new service replaces it and adds a store and the ability to share music bought – for one play – with friends. But it is only open to US residents.  Our live coverage of Google’s unveiling of its upgraded service is after the jump. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Spotify’s launch in the US has helped to boost its subscriber numbers by more than 400,000 in three months, according to its chief executive. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Research in Motion is attempting to bolster its popular BlackBerry Messenger service against a raft of competition from Facebook, Apple, Google and WhatsApp by bolting on a new subscription music service.

BBM Music will offer tracks from all four major music labels which the BlackBerry owners can share on their “profiles”. Read more

While investors were giddy this week about the latest tech-company IPOs, the technologists themselves were more interested in the advent of services bringing music to people from the cloud–or clouds.  Read more

Joseph Menn

Along with Google, Amazon beat digital-music kingpin Apple in the race to launch a cloud offering that lets users hear their songs on any device, but this week’s deal with Lady Gaga shows just how much it dreads the widely anticipated arrival of competition from Cupertino. Read more

Joseph Menn

Apple is making a more serious bid for the set top box market with 99 cent TV and $4.99 new movie rentals that are streamed through a smaller version of AppleTV.

Chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the new device at an event in San Francisco. It will cost $99, down from $229, and is available for pre-order today, arriving in about a month.

The new AppleTV will offer rentals exclusively, no purchases. This will eliminate storage issues. First-run HD movies will rent for $4.99 on the day of the DVD release. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Spotify knows how to brand a music service.

Last year, the ad-supported streaming service introduced “offline listening” to its mobile and desktop music applications for premium subscribers without ever mentioning the dreaded phrase “DRM” – in spite of the fact that access to the songs disappears as soon as you stop paying.

Today, it has announced a couple of new ways to access its extensive library in the cloud, whose limitations are so cleverly branded that you’d hardly notice. Read more

Maija Palmer

ShazamShazam, the mobile phone music discovery service, could be on track for an IPO, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers taking a stake in the company. Shazam, which was the original service that allowed users to hold up their phone in a noisy bar to identify what music track was playing, has seen phenomenal growth over the last few months, reaching the 50m user milestone this week.

The company has seen rapid growth after launching the service free on the iPhone App Store in the summer of 2008. The iPhone app has been downloaded more than 10m times. Read more

Joseph Menn

UPDATE: follow it live. Chris Nuttall will be providing live coverage from San Francisco of Wednesday’s Apple event, starting at 10am local time. Follow it here.

Apple is holding a music-themed press event tomorrow, where it is expected to unveil a package of  goodies that will start being attached to sales of full digital albums.

The product, code-named Cocktail by the record labels, will include interactive lyric sheets, photos and other virtual extras aimed at replicating and improving on the old experience of opening a vinyl record sleeve or CD boxed set filled with trinkets. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

“It’s a bummer.”

That’s how Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, described the departure of Last.fm’s three founders, Martin Stiksel, Felix Miller and Richard Jones.

CBS paid $280m in 2007 for Last.fm, an online music service and community now used by over 37m people a month. It remains one of the UK’s biggest buyouts in the web 2.0 era and Last.fm is still a fixture of London’s Silicon Roundabout.

Yet Mr Smith was magnanimous as three darlings of the web scene left CBS Interactive, which as a whole generated revenues of over $600m last year. Read more

Maija Palmer

YouTube logoGoogle has waded into another row over music royalty rights in Europe, this time in Germany. Again, it has shut off premium music videos on the YouTube service as it negotiates with the local rights agency, Gema, over how much it has to pay for each video. It did the same thing in the UK two weeks ago.

Like any payment dispute, this is grubby. The rights agencies want more money for their musicians and songwriters. Google wants to pay less – preferably a flat fee – and argues that YouTube doesn’t make enough money to pay any more. Read more

ipod_classic_fam.jpgNews that Apple is in talks with record labels about a possible ‘all-you-can-eat’ model for iTunes is making the rounds on the blogs this morning following last night’s story in the FT.

Over at TechCrunch, Erick Schonfeld asks whether music companies would be willing to go along with a subscription model. We think the answer is clearly yes. Read more