A major artist releasing his latest album via BitTorrent, the service most commonly associated with pirated content? It had to be Thom Yorke, renewing the shock effect of 2007’s ‘pay what you want’ In Rainbows stunt. But as time has told, the latter was more of a statement than a stunt; and this time, BitTorrent was not lacking in statements about the unprecedented release of Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.
The service’s chief content officer, Matt Mason, told The Guardian (via Music Ally) the move was an alternative to his vision of today’s major label system: “it does seem like the senior executives at the majors have said ‘we give up, let’s just make some money on the Spotify IPO, then go home and let the next generation sort it out.” But is Yorke & BitTorrent’s reponse working, at a minimum of $6 a pop? 360,000+ downloads to date seem to suggest it is; but with the download link down at time of writing, it’s hard to say for sure.
Shortly afterwards, alternative music platforms took a blow as controversial streaming service Grooveshark was taken down further to a US court copyright infringement case brought by the RIAA and major labels, as TorrentFreak reported. The ruling notably confirmed that Grooveshark’s founders had encouraged staff members to upload their own mp3s to populate the service’s streaming catalogue.
Next through the ringer was Apple. Not for its new iPhones, nor even for the much-hyped Apple Watch; but rather for forcing U2’s new album into 500 million iTunes accounts after its iPhone-unveiling event. What was meant to be “the biggest album release of all time” quickly caused such an uproar that the tech company had to develop a website allowing users to uninstall the U2 LP. “Apple’s removal website is probably the best thing that a technology company released in terms of a music product this year. It’s been a pretty miserable time for innovation,” continued BitTorrent’s Mason in his anti-industry tirade…
Things got no easier for Apple a few days later, when it had to deny rumours it was about to kill Beats Music, the streaming service it acquired from Dr Dre & Jimmy Iovine not long ago. As BrandChannel reported, Apple simply said in a statement the notion was “not true”, leading to the more plausible theory that whilst the ‘Beats Music’ brand may die, the streaming service will most likely live on, under the iTunes brand.
Speaking of streaming, analyst Mark Mulligan set the record straight in his insightful post “The Three Things Streaming Needs To Fix Next”, namely deciding what streaming’s main role is; what happens to the middling majority of artists; and how to monetise the relationship between artists and fans. The second point was illustrated by this somewhat chilling graph:
Meanwhile, bigger artists continue to cash in on streaming: Calvin Harris’ single Summer made around $1.2m on Spotify, reports Music Ally; and, according to The Guardian, Ed Sheeran says he is “in the music industry to play live”, and that any other revenue, including from Spotify, is a bonus. Everyone else — including the “middling majority of artists” — can now do the opposite and pay Spotify to place video ads on the platform, a development widely and positively echoed by music media, including Music Week.
Not to be outdone, Twitter quickly struck back but revealing its new in-tweet “buy” button, supported by stars such as Eminem, reported Billboard; its six second video platform, Vine, became The Music Industry’s Next Great Hope, according to Buzzfeed; and Deezer finally did what it said it would never do, by launching in the US (source: The Verge). Observers were, however, sceptical that its plan to offer HD streaming would help the French company stand out in an already-crowded market.
As for “one more thing“… Vevo took everyone by surprise by revealing it was working on what Billboard called a “fully immersive music video experience”, with footage designed for Samsung’s forthcoming virtual reality headset. Billboard notably cited a Mashable reporter describing what watching a VR Coldplay concert video is like: “Through the headset, it looked as if I was standing right in front of the band. A dancing Chris Martin appeared close enough to touch…”
Proof if need be that when it comes to music-meets-technology, anything’s possible…
This is the latest in a series of monthly digests of news curated by the Midem team. Check out our music biz news picks year-round, right here!