Can Fusion-io Save Pandora?

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

A new storage memory platform called Fusion-io announced today that Pandora—the largest internet radio company in the United States—now uses Fusion’s ioMemory to cache its music library. According to the press release, Fusion’s powerful servers that consume less energy than Pandora’s previous disk-based ones are the solution to pleasing its ever-growing listening audience (over 69% of internet radio listeners in the US choose Pandora).

Hold on a minute though, haven’t we been hearing for months that Pandora is losing money? These new servers might help the monthly energy bill go down, but I have to ask: what is Pandora’s solution to increasing royalty fees?According to BusinessInsider.com, Pandora is beloved by its fans, but it’s not making money because every time someone listens to a song, Pandora must pay royalty fees to the artists and record lables that own the content. Pandora tries to make up for that expense in advertising, but advertisers want the largest audience possible and that involves more song fees. According to Business Insider:

It’s a vicious cycle in which any ad money Pandora makes is instantly spent on the songs that generated that ad money. In fiscal 2012, pandora lost $16 million on record high revenues of $240 million.

Pandora has a bleek future if it can’t adapt to competition in the market; Spotify also wants a piece of the Internet radio pie.

Each of these services allow streaming content, but they all have different business models to attract listeners

So now you might be wondering, “what could possibly make it more difficult for Pandora to stay afloat?” Funny you should ask! According to CBSNews.com, music licensing costs are expected to rise between 37 and 47 percent through 2015.

So why would Pandora even consider investing so much money in new servers if they are aware of the factors stacked against them? Fusion-io Chief Technology Officer Neil Carson said they just want to create a better listening experience for fans:

“When listeners tune in, they expect music without interruption, so Pandora’s team was committed to architecting a modern data center that would continue to deliver as the company grows. With Fusion-io, Pandora is able to meet these demands with a solution that uses far less energy, costing less for both Pandora and our planet.”

Do they really think going green will help raise profits? I’m not so sure. My hunch is that Pandora may be developing a pay model similar to Spotify or Hulu where monthly fees allow unlimited access to streaming. After all, there were no mentions of Pandora being a free service in the press release today. Only time will tell the fate of Pandora and free internet streaming, but I think the BusinessInsider.com article said it best:

Good luck trying to make money in an environment where costs are set to increase as prices decline.

Dr. Dre’s Hologram Raises the Dead

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The Tupac hologram (right) created buzz performing at Coachella this year - a festival that didn't exist until after his death 1996

A “hologram” of the late rapper Tupac Shakur made its debut Sunday night at the finale of the Coachella music festival in Indio, CA alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (pictured above), and a handful of other guest performers. The lifelike and elaborate 2D image projection, not an actual hologram according to Gizmodo, was Dre’s idea and he plans to bring the technology along on an upcoming tour.

Aided by Dr. Dre to be sure all of Shakur’s tattoos and swagger were present, the “hologram” was created by CGI masters DDMG (Digital Domain Media Group Inc.) and projected and staged by AV Concepts. According to MTV,

[DDMG is] the Oscar-winning CG factory that made CG images of Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Jeff Bridges in “TRON: Legacy,” Kevin Bacon in “X-Men: First Class” and Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. . . The hologram was the latest visual magic pulled off by AV, which is also behind the 2006 Grammys performance featuring Madonna and the holographic members of the Gorillaz, as well as holograms used in concert by Celine Dion and the Black Eyed Peas.

AV president Nick Smith is staying quiet about how the process works, but claims his company has the ability to recreate long-dead figures and visually recreate them in the studio.

“You can take their likenesses and voice and … take people that haven’t done concerts before or perform music they haven’t sung and digitally recreate it,” he said.

With some magic from Hollywood, the rare opportunity of seeing a performer that was once thought of as long gone on a live stage has goldmine potential. According to Bloomberg News, DDMG has seen a 48% rise in stocks since the “hologram” performed on April 15. Furthermore, the hologram’s Twitter page, @TupacHologram already boasts over 33,000 followers.

The new technology, however, is not cheap. The performance took over four months to plan and cost somewhere between $100,000 – $400,000 to produce. According to AV president Nick Smith,

“I can’t say how much that event cost, but I can say it’s affordable in the sense that if we had to bring entertainers around world and create concerts across the country, we could put [artists] in every venue in the country.

So, I may not be able to have a hologram of Daft Punk playing at my house anytime soon, but the Tupac performance at Coachella made the possibility a little easier to imagine.

See the video below for the Coachella performance – warning, clip contains foul language.

SXSW 2012 Recap

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

The South by Southwest 2012 dust has settled, and attendees are now left with sore feet, devices that need re-charging, more corporate freebies than we know what to do with, and a lot to talk about! This year’s SXSW was focused more on new media and technology than ever before, and in the live music capitol of the world, we learned how bands and music industry professionals are putting it all to good use today.

After arriving in Texas and checking into our hotel, it was time to pick up our badges and Swag Bags at the Austin Convention Center (ACC). There, we had our first glimpse into the SXSW lifestyle as we saw thousands of people, all wearing colored lanyards indicating which conference they were in Austin for –  blue for film, orange for interactive, and green for music. Gold and platinum badges were also offered for those who want to see more than one. According to SXSW.com,

the Convention Center was used for official events like the music, film and interactive trade shows, registration, conference events (talks, interviews, and mentor sessions), ScreenBurn Arcade, Flatstock Poster Show, Day Stage, film screenings at the ACC Theater, trade show happy hours and more.

Our KNDS 96.3 group posed for a picture at the Esurance lounge in the SXSW Music Trade Show - http://blog.esurance.com/sxsw-recap/

For my group (pictured left), the trade show and the panels held every afternoon, both located in the ACC, were the two best places to be to learn about new media. The panels were hosted by the top leaders in areas of social media, emerging mobile technologies, design/development, non-profits, and more. Check out this cool graphic of all the different panel topics this year. The trade show hosted thousands of booths from different organizations, each with different “groundbreaking ideas” in technology to share. Until then, I had never heard so many sales pitches in my entire life.

After Kyla, another officer at KNDS, and I first got our press kits with listings of all official SXSW events, we were eager to plan out our schedules. Wary of burning up our phone batteries, we decided to go the old fashioned route and find something to write with. We began our search at the East end of the ACC, making our way, booth by booth, dodging sales pitches to save time, but to our dismay, there were no pens in anyone’s promotional swag. That’s the sign, I think, that being “plugged in” is essential to our society and it’s newest innovations today. We eventually found pens from a company called DasKeyboard, and the key to an awesome time at SXSW.

Carly’s top 5 of SXSW

1. Dancing my butt off at all the INCREDIBLE bands
2. Flatstock Poster Show
3. Day parties = free food/drinks/swag
4. Trade show/career-meetup
5. People watching

Pre-SXSW 2012: Part II

Friday, March 9th, 2012

The rental car and hotel are confirmed, passes are printed, and I even managed to find a cat sitter for Stallone while I’m gone. So what’s left to prepare before I travel to the mecca of all music, film, and interactive festivals?

Oodles.

SXSW 2012 Swag Bag

This year's Swag Bag contains official tote, guidebooks, local newspaper and maps. img. via austin360.com

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog or know anything about SXSW, you know it’s impossible to catch everything related to new media, but nobody said I couldn’t try. Here’s a small list I came up with to get the best out of music and new media innovations at SXSW 2012.

1. Pick up Badge, Swag Bag, and download SXSW GO App : Monday, March 12 – Austin Convention Center (ACC)

Badges grant admission to SXSW events – they give us press access and that means no lines! We’ll also pick up Swag Bags filled with guidebooks to help you get around all the events at SXSW. According to Austin360.com, the tech-friendly totes were designed by Yiying Lu (of Twitter Fail Whale fame). If paper guidebooks aren’t your style, it’ll be a good idea to download SXSW GO, the mobile app that allows you to organize your schedule.

2. Music Accelerator Showcase Wednesday, March 14 – ACC

This showcase features 11 winners from 670 companies that competed in this web-based music technologies competition. From app development to music genies to mobile merchandise sales, these are the most innovative submissions in the world. My favorite is a Facebook app called “ConcertCrowd” that uses your location, music likes, and friends list to help you stream and discover new live music in your town.

3. What Happened to the Big Idea in Music Technology?: Wednesday, March 14 2 – 3 p.m. ACC 16AB
Here’s the big debate in the music industry – to stream, or not to stream? According to SXSW.com:

“Artists get pennies, or less than a penny, when someone streams their song, and the listener gets advertising in the stream unless they pay to escape the ads. The correct question that all music technologists ought to be asking is: What problem are we trying to solve? Then ask: Who are we solving it for? Who will use it? Why will they use it?”

Presenters from Interactive Strategy, The Rumpus, Cash Music, Uncorked Studios, and Katalyst all aim to answer these tough questions.

4. Find the Best Live Shows: March 13 – 18 - the Austin, TX airport, downtown clubs, parking lots and outdoor spaces along Lady Bird Lake

SXSW is best known for its reputation as a music industry feeding frenzy – it’s where the newest acts go to get signed, and where the trends start. This year’s lineup doesn’t have many household names (yet) but some will be by the end of the year. Here are just a few of the bands I’m most excited to see:

  • Wavves
  • Washed Out
  • P.O.S.
  • Youth Lagoon
  • Tennis
  • The Shins
  • Yelle
  • Zola Jesus
  • Fiona Apple
  • Of Montreal
  • Polica
  • Miike Snow
  • Lana Del Rey

5. Learn Something New!

With all this rich information at your fingertips, why not take every opportunity you can?

SXSW Interactive Map img. via austin360.com

Pre-SXSW 2012: Part I

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

South By Southwest (SXSW) is just around the corner, and your humble blogger is preparing to be in the middle of the action next week in Austin, TX. According to the SXSW press page:

The South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conferences & Festivals offer the unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW is the premier destination for discovery.

I’ll be traveling with a group of NDSU students I work with at ThunderRadio, KNDS 96.3 LP-FM. As it coincides with the week of spring break, each year we attend the festival to network with industry professionals, attend panels and workshops, go to shows of emerging and favorite acts, and fight to figure out how to balance all the chaos.

img. via aux.tv

From new media presentations to music showcases and film screenings, SXSW has a little something for everyone. To paint a picture, last year’s crew came back with guidebooks of all 2,000+ bands and booked shows that was as thick as a phone book. According to Financial.com, over 20,000 attendees swarmed SXSW 2011, and Austin is preparing for even more in 2012. Because of the sheer size, three festivals, SXSW Music, SXSW Interactive, and SXSW Film each take place over different weeks in the month of March.

Due to time constraints, I’ll get to see most of SXSW Music and a few days of SXSW Interactive. According to Hypebot.com, the way to get the most from these two is by attending tech-sponsored parties and events like Mashable SXSWi House, and Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel where registrants can learn about thousands of topics ranging from audio equipment to social media use. The hardest part is choosing.

SXSW is also an ideal place for industry professionals and those looking for a foot in the door to meet – Mentor Sessions and the Meet Up Pavilion provide the opportunity for one-on-one answers and connections. Score! My resumes are packed, but I have to admit:

I can’t wait to see the bands live!

Stay tuned for the second installment of my Pre-SXSW reporting when I’ll explore aspects of the festival I’m particularly interested in like the festival’s mobile app (SXSW-Go), highlighted music/tech expos, and breaking bands I’m antsy to see. I’ll leave you with some highlights of last year.

Tune-Yards was listed as one of the "Top Ten Bands to Watch" at SXSW 2011 img. via imposemagazine.com

James Blake performs in 2011 - img. via NPR.com

After a breakout performance at SXSW, Austra made it on countless 2011 year-end lists - img. via Isaac Schmidt

“Every March, thousands of young, jeans-wearing techies, filmmakers and musicians descend upon Austin, Texas, harboring dreams of getting noticed and hitting it big. They come not just for the balmy weather or the Tex-Mex food but for South by Southwest, a collection of conferences and festivals that’s considered one of the most influential happenings on the annual cultural calendar.” – CNN, March 10, 2011

Soundrop

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Soundrop CEO img. courtesy http://www.evolver.fm

Late last year, Spotify upgraded to version 0.8.0.952, adding more addicting music-sharing apps for us to enjoy. The most exciting to me (and this blog) is Soundrop. It premiers the idea of a “social jukebox” to the web. Music was always meant to be shared, but since most of the listening done online is personalized as I’ve discussed before, we lose the fun group aspect to it. We go to shows, bars, or parties and belt along to songs in groups of people, but not daily. To me, Soundrop has potential to bring this all back.

Why?
It’s free and easy to use. All you need is a Facebook and Spotify account, “Spotify is the world’s best streaming music player, and now Soundrop will bring the world’s best social music experience through Facebook to Spotify,” says Inge Andre Sandvik, CEO and co-founder of Soundrop.

How does it work?
I started out exploring the app by tuning into one of the many of the live listening rooms – at that point there were 73 online with 4,385 listeners. Genres from Indie Wok, to Jazz, Comedy, African, Post Rock, and Pop are being created constantly! Anyone can find something they like. An added bonus, once you join a listening room, you can add or vote on tracks you want to hear next.

Only a few moments into my first live listening room, “Post Rock,” I had voted on some songs near the top of the queue and listeners commented on their agreement in the chat box. It was great! I wasn’t able to click on their faces and link to their Facebook profiles, but their photos and name were clear. With this, I have to bring up: double check your privacy settings.

Spotify recommends starting with your own playlist, and sharing it with your friends. From there you can vote and select music in your own private room. I understand the marketing technique of that (because you’re inviting friends to use the app too) but I am intrigued by the ability to join a room that is already genre-specific to meet new people. Apps like Last.fm allow you to listen to music socially, but I think since Last.fm doesn’t connect with Facebook, it’s harder to reach out and network. Albeit sometimes embarrassing to share your music with your friends, I think this will catch on fast.

Tell me more. 
I’ve only covered my favorite aspects of the Soundrop app, and there’s plenty to know! Check out the video below to learn more and let me know what you think in the comments.

Bandcamp: Music Direct from the Artist

Friday, February 10th, 2012

We all know internet piracy is bad. Stealing “intellectual property” like a song or film is illegal in the United States, and organizations like SOPA and PIPA have declared they’ll do almost anything to protect that property.

So what if the artists want to give permission?

Image

img. via jpluna.com

The simplest answer lies in Bandcamp. To learn more, check out this really awesome video WordPress doesn’t support embedding. Long story short, Bandcamp is known for connecting fans directly to their favorite artists through the store. According to Bandcamp, each band/artist is assigned a microsite where they can display full discographies and merchandise like posters and t-shirts. All music posted on Bandcamp is free to stream, but the artist decides if the files can be downloaded, and for what cost. Bandcamp offers to host everything for 15% of the profits until sales reach $5,000, at which point the cut drops to 10%. With that out of the way…

What does this mean for the artists?

According to HypeBot, In December 2011 alone, artists using Bandcamp grossed more than $1 million in sales, bringing the total to-date to $12.6 million. However, I think the most promising thing about Bandcamp is that it’s reversing the idea that fans don’t need to pay for their music. In fact, Bandcamp said 40% of the time, fans pay more than the asking price for name-your-price albums:

For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling “lelia broussard torrent.” A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for “murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire.” Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea “They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!”

This is fantastic exposure for independent acts, but given the nature of this blog I have to ask:

What does this mean for the music industry?

You might think this setup will eliminate jobs. Traditionally, music industry professionals are the “middle men” that help promote and distribute recorded music. They also hold the rights to the music their artists create, making larger than life labels that will sue anyone who breaches the copyright laws. But now more than ever, instead of paying record labels, independent bands seek out Bandcamp to do the same thing for a fraction of the price. Record execs of the future will need to get creative to keep fans and artists paying for their services.

Finally, what does this mean for the fans?

img. via jennieallen.com

Fans using Bandcamp, much like Spotify, now have access to a huge chunk of music. Listeners can browse through collections of music that the artists actually want them to have, stream, and share. This more personal connection has rekindled the idea that fans should pay for their music that Napster took away years ago. I hope it’s here to stay.

iStormclouds?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

img. via themarketingmuse.net

After its debut just over three months ago, Apple’s beloved iCloud is already facing tough competition from Google and Amazon. The Apple iCloud is a new digital remote storage and synchronization service that allows Mac and iOS users access to 5GB of their music, photos, videos, and other select files across devices for free.

According to TechCrunch.com Tuesday, over 85 million users sync their personal clouds. Now, these two contendors claim to use the cloud better: Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Player (available through new Kindle Fire).

img. via personal.psu.edu   

Google Music:

Google Music is free to all users.

Clean layout like iTunes.

Optimized for mobile use.

No shopping cart or wishlist feature.

Difficult downloading/navigation
interface.

img. via newgadget.org

Amazon Cloud Player

Free up to 5GB like iCloud.

Easy mp3 downloading.

Not the best search engine/hindered by accessibility issues (some music is only available in CD format).

No mobile interaction.

To learn more about comparing these applications, check out Cloud Music Showdown: Amazon vs. Apple vs. Google.

In November 2011 as rebuttal to their competition, Apple released iTunes Match, a companion to iCloud that requires a $24.99 fee per month to stream the music you store. According to an article on Mashable.com:

You can use iTunes in the Cloud without iTunes Match, but when the two are working together, the entire process is utterly seamless . . . The experience is similar to what subscribers to services like Spotify have long enjoyed, but the difference is that now the songs they actually own (or have acquired in other ways) are included.

Spotify happens to be your humble blogger’s favorite source for music, so I’m biased to anything that can enhance its capabilities. In fact, as you might assume from my retro operating system theme, I’m also a Mac user. Apple has been involved in how I experience my music almost daily since the 8th grade. I use my iPod anytime I leave my apartment and podcasts on iTunes help me discover new music.

I do not think Google Music or the Amazon Cloud Player are ready to surpass Apple’s iCloud. Only time will tell. The technology is still new and developers are working out the glitches. For now, just for fun, I’ll gloat that first Apple invented a modern way to listen to music with the iPod and now they’ve created a modern way to store music with iCloud.

A Disclaimer from Mgmt

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Don’t let my blog title fool you – radio is alive and well today. My point is that that today’s radio looks like a distant cousin from what its inventors in the late 1800s, or even commercial DJs from the late 90s, would recognize. Why?

img. via stantograve.com

The internet changed everything.

Internetkilledtheradiostar is about exploring the way people listen to, purchase, and share their music, and what modern advances in technology have to do with it.

In accordance with the blog name, I’ll begin with a look at Internet radio. Just think, instead of waiting for a favorite radio program that only airs once per week, as was the case during the “Golden Age of Radio” pictured above, now anyone with Wi-Fi can hop onto the Internet and instantly gain access to almost any song through streaming sites like YouTube and MySpace. As we know today, this example only scratches the surface of what today’s technology allows us to do.

Fueled by the popularity of streaming music on the Internet, the music fanatics at Pandora developed a way for people to discover new music through something called the Music Genome Project, capable of creating the first personalized internet radio stations. Pandora hosts this database to create playlists generated from the genres and sounds of specific musicians that the listener selects. According to About.com, the best Internet radio stations of 2012 are:

  1. Pandora
  2. Spotify
  3. Grooveshark
  4. AcousticAlternative.com
  5. Canadian Web Radio

The runner up, Spotify, is what About.com calls “arguably the best free music service available today.” After gaining popularity in Europe, the application was introduced to the United States in the summer of 2011. Spotify is special because it combines the streaming capabilities of YouTube and Myspace, the personalized radio stations of Pandora, and the social media aspect of sharing songs and playlists via Facebook all into one triple threat.

I think the last revolution to hit the music industry this hard happened in 1981 when MTV formatted their station around broadcasting music videos 24/7. According to MTV, at 12:01 am on August 1st of 1981, the channel’s debut music video was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by a Brittish band called the Buggles. They must have been on to something:

The song’s message can be applied to the changes happening in the music industry today. New technologies bring listeners new ways to explore the music they love, but should it be at the cost of an industry that jump started music’s commercial success in the first place? Do you use Internet radio more than listening to radio broadcast over the air? Tell me what you think in the comments.

I’ll leave you with this: Surrounding the buzz about SOPA and PIPA in the news this week, I’ll bet “I want my Spotify,” is the next hit ad.

Hold on just a tick…

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

While you wait, check out my About section.

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