27 September 02004

Paying for music in the next decade

The very interesting text of a talk by Andrew Orlowski of The Register projects the problems and opportunities for the music business in the next ten years.

The main problems are that attempts to restrict music distribution through Digital Rights Management are destined to remain very 'leaky'. The opportunities are that record companies will still own the rights to a commodity — if music can be called that — which will always be in demand. Part of the solution is to find a revenue stream for units of consumption that cannot reliably be counted: Orlowski proposes a flat fee model as a solution.

Gratifyingly several of the conclusions are similar to ones I've posted here before. Here are the key points as I see them.

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19 September 02004

Usability of museum web sites

Paul Marty and Michael Twidale's article A conceptual framework for analyzing the usability flaws of museum web sites is very clearly written and pretty much delivers what its title promises.

It reports evaluations of 36 museum web sites (I'm guessing that most, if not all, were for US museums), on the basis of which usability issues common to the museums sector are identified. The evaluation approach is based in the sound principles of user scenarios, though the authors implicitly concede that their application of it might be termed 'quick and dirty'. Whether or not you want to pick holes in the methodology, some of the results are certainly interesting, and at least plausible, not to say provocative.

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18 September 02004

This is not a music museum

Next week there's a seminar to consult on proposals for the Manchester District Music Archive.

Now I like a cheeky acronym, but how popular are they going to be when staid grown-ups who control grant funds imagine teenagers googling for MDMA? Very Madchester.

No-one (not even the press) has mentioned comparisons with Sheffield's National Centre for Popular Music, but I will.

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Me and Mr Mu

Thumbnail of Mike Paradinas photo - click for original contextDavid JenningsI went to the Planet Mu album launch gig last night — courtesy of a Mixing It competition I won — and someone asked me if I was Mike Paradinas (a.k.a. µ-Ziq, and founder of Planet Mu Records). Hmmm. Well it's better than being compared to Hugh F'ing-Whittingstall.

17 September 02004

Handy ways to listen to online radio

Imagine a service where you could select your favourite radio programming from around the world, have it recorded for you, and then provided in a format you can load onto a portable player for you to listen to when you want. Wouldn't that guarantee more fresh and exciting listening than you get even with 10,000 pre-selected songs in your pocket? That is the direction that the AudioFeast service is heading.

You can take a 15-day free trial of the service — as long as you have player that runs Windows Media Player (i.e. not an iPod) — and then it costs $49.95 a year. I'm not sure if the service works outside the US (as a Mac user, I can't test it).

In a complementary way to the Bug — radio you can pause, rewind and store — AudioFeast is a step towards anytime, anyplace, anywhere martini media.

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16 September 02004

Enforced licensing of BBC radio archive

There's a new spin on access to the BBC's archive in this article in today's Guardian. The regulator Ofcom is proposing that the BBC could be forced to share its radio archive with the commercial world. The idea is that this would make digital radio more attractive and thus drive take-up by listeners.

In his speech yesterday, Ofcom's Chief Executive says: "My question is… this: would non-discriminatory, non-exclusive access — for a fair payment — to the BBC sound archive allow commercial services to enhance their offering to the listening public; and, crucially, do so without damaging the BBC's ability and commitment to offer a strong digital radio service proposition?"

At the moment, access to this archive is a unique selling point of digital stations like BBC 6 Music (see my posting on their use of the archive) and BBC 7. Ofcom's proposal must be seen as a vote of confidence in the value of what 6 Music is doing, even if it could be seen as threatening their pre-eminent position. It could also, indirectly, accelerate the timescale for offering the kind of service I'd like to develop.

11 September 02004

The BBC's digital direction

Based on interviews in the last fortnight with the BBC's Director General (Mark Thompson), Chief Technology Officer (John Varney), and Director of New Media & Technology (Ashley Highfield), you might hope to be able to discern, by process of triangulation, a clear corporate position and direction. But what you get is a much more postmodern mix of perspectives that only rarely hint at connections.

Given the scale and complexity of the issues, combined with the uncertain organisational context with the impending renewal of the Charter, you can forgive the interviewees sounding a bit tentative in some areas. Here's a summary of the points I found interesting.

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7 September 02004

The ingredients of online radio

Here's an article about MSN radio in the US, which I found interesting because it presses my buttons on both online radio and new 'gatekeepers' for discovering music. Microsoft is producing online stations that mimic local radio stations by adopting their playlists, but without DJs, traffic news, weather and commercials. The coup de grace is that they are — according to the article — using the local stations' call letters and slogans to promote their clones.

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5 September 02004

Cues for learning about and discovering new music

Imagine someone who's interested in jazz and has heard a little bit about Miles Davis's reputation. A bit of web searching may give you an overview of Miles' extensive career, such as this brief overview or this more extensive review. But if you go to Amazon.co.uk and search on "Miles Davis" you get 872 results. The iTunes Music Store (in UK) has a Miles Davis selection comprising 863 songs from among 62 albums, with a strong emphasis on selections from posthumous collections rather than the original albums.

There's a meticulously researched article by Wayne Bremser that highlights one-by-one the differences between the contextual information that is available about albums on iTunes compared with the original vinyl releases.

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