Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Just don’t ask Timo about music.

What happened to Spinefarm’s YouTube channel?

January 17th, 2009 by Jarmo Puskala

Account has been suspended

Just heard from a friend of a friend that their band’s music videos have been removed from YouTube. And behold, if you go to the bands official website and click on any of the videos it tells you that “the video has been removed due to terms of use violation”.

Now what makes this interesting is that those videos were uploaded by their record company Spinefarm Records. Scroll down on their site and they proudly link to the company’s YouTube account. Click on the link and (as of 17th of January 01.00) you get this:

This account is suspended.

Spinefarm is fully owned by Universal Music Group and is one of the biggest Finnish labels. They are home to bands like Children of Bodom, DragonForce, Nightwish and Machinae Supremacy. And it seems the official videos from all of those bands have been nuked as well. For example clicking on The Islander from Nightwish gives you:

This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WMG.

That would put blame on Warner Music Group, a competitor of Universal. Though somehow it seems unlikely that the four largest record companies in the world would be intentionally doing something so petty as to having eachothers YouTube accounts deleted.

WHat’s clear is that there has been a major SNAFU somewhere, but where? In theory being Finnish Spinefarm would not have the right to put their artist’s songs on YouTube without permission from Teosto – the finnish royalties collection agency. But somehow I don’t think they are to blame. And even though the Nightwish videos finger WMG I’d still rather blame incompetence than malice. So has Universal Music ordered the takedown of their entire catalog and their own marketing has been caught in that? Or does this have something to do with the new copyright detection they seem to be testing?

If you have any insight please drop us a comment. I’d very much like to know what has happened here.

Morning Update:
It seems that some bands that have a deal with Spinefarm in Finland/Europe are under different companies elsewhere in the world. Both Nightwish and DragonForce are signed to Roadrunner Records in some parts of the world and Roadrunner is owned by Warner Music Group.

So it seems likely that complaints from WMG might have something to do with this. While many Spinefarm’s bands are not distributed by Warner anywhere in the world it could be that the complainst from the ones that are have beene nough for YouTube to remove the whole account.

Terratorial deals are so much fun in the age of the internet….

Update 2:
As falconer pointed out from the comments all Roadrunner’s official videos have been removed as well. What I forgot was that Warner is, um, in negotioations with YouTube on royalties and has remanded that YouTube removes all videos from their artists.

And I imagined record companies had gotten enough of shooting their own foot with embracing non-DRM downloads and whatnot and not (yet) killing the awesomeness that is Spotify. But apparently there’s still a place for high paid lawyers to find new ways to make life difficult for everyone.

What happened to Spinefarm’s YouTube channel?

January 17th, 2009 by Jarmo Puskala

Account has been suspended

Just heard from a friend of a friend that their band’s music videos have been removed from YouTube. And behold, if you go to the bands official website and click on any of the videos it tells you that “the video has been removed due to terms of use violation”.

Now what makes this interesting is that those videos were uploaded by their record company Spinefarm Records. Scroll down on their site and they proudly link to the company’s YouTube account. Click on the link and (as of 17th of January 01.00) you get this:

This account is suspended.

Spinefarm is fully owned by Universal Music Group and is one of the biggest Finnish labels. They are home to bands like Children of Bodom, DragonForce, Nightwish and Machinae Supremacy. And it seems the official videos from all of those bands have been nuked as well. For example clicking on The Islander from Nightwish gives you:

This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WMG.

That would put blame on Warner Music Group, a competitor of Universal. Though somehow it seems unlikely that the four largest record companies in the world would be intentionally doing something so petty as to having eachothers YouTube accounts deleted.

WHat’s clear is that there has been a major SNAFU somewhere, but where? In theory being Finnish Spinefarm would not have the right to put their artist’s songs on YouTube without permission from Teosto – the finnish royalties collection agency. But somehow I don’t think they are to blame. And even though the Nightwish videos finger WMG I’d still rather blame incompetence than malice. So has Universal Music ordered the takedown of their entire catalog and their own marketing has been caught in that? Or does this have something to do with the new copyright detection they seem to be testing?

If you have any insight please drop us a comment. I’d very much like to know what has happened here.

Morning Update:
It seems that some bands that have a deal with Spinefarm in Finland/Europe are under different companies elsewhere in the world. Both Nightwish and DragonForce are signed to Roadrunner Records in some parts of the world and Roadrunner is owned by Warner Music Group.

So it seems likely that complaints from WMG might have something to do with this. While many Spinefarm’s bands are not distributed by Warner anywhere in the world it could be that the complainst from the ones that are have beene nough for YouTube to remove the whole account.

Terratorial deals are so much fun in the age of the internet….

Update 2:
As falconer pointed out from the comments all Roadrunner’s official videos have been removed as well. What I forgot was that Warner is, um, in negotioations with YouTube on royalties and has remanded that YouTube removes all videos from their artists.

And I imagined record companies had gotten enough of shooting their own foot with embracing non-DRM downloads and whatnot and not (yet) killing the awesomeness that is Spotify. But apparently there’s still a place for high paid lawyers to find new ways to make life difficult for everyone.

(Not so) Long Tail…

December 28th, 2008 by Timo Vuorensola

In 2004, a man named Chris Anderson came up with a theory he was calling The Long Tail. It was an idea of the future of shopping in the environment where shelf space is unlimited – that is, of course, online.

Mr. Anderson’s theory dictated that in the future people will start buying a much wider spectrum of products online, now that they are easilly available, and they don’t have to stick with blockbusters – suggesting that in the future the blockbusters would die, and the future of business would be “selling less of more”.

Anderson called this Long Tail, because, instead of the traditional way where people buy what’s popular, so you need to sell popular stuff in order to make money, consuming habits scatter through a much wider range of products along the long tail of the marketing curve (as shown on the graph on the left, stolen from New Scientist.)

Now, the latest results of the Internet shops claim that mr. Anderson was wrong: it is still the blockbusters that rule. For example, Internet music business, that was one of the great examples of the long tail in effect, shows that out of 13 million tracks only 52,000 (0,4%) cover over 80% of the sales made online, and rest remain virtually untouched. And the same phenomenon keeps on repeating through most of the products on the Internet.

As an example, let’s take HIM and Älymystö, and a music store owner who wants to sell great ambient industrial noise. According to the traditional way, he’d have to sell HIM instead of Älymystö, because that’s what people were buying and that’s what kept him paying the bills. Now, according to Long Tail theory, he takes his shop off the street and moves it to the Internet, and starts selling Älymystö and hundreds of other noise musicians in addition of HIM and The Rasmus, and he would’ve believed he’d make the same income by more people buying only few units of different noise musicians that are wonderfully available through his webstore.

But what happens, he still finds out it’s the HIM the people buy, and nobody buys any units of Älymystö or other great stuff he’d loved to sell. So no matter the fact that now there’s a much wider range of stuff available, people still stick to the big sellers instead of exploring the tail.

This is also shown with Levyvirasto’s recent statement of the inexistent Long Tail effect there: half of the small bands at Levyvirasto don’t sell any units.

According to New Scientist, who wrote an interesting article on this topic, it’s because buying blockbusters is, in addition of being easy way to get entertainment, a way to belong to a bigger group, and that’s what people are all about: belonging to a group. Sort of depressing, but not very surprising.

But I still believe that Long Tail effect does exist, it just takes a much, much longer time for it to actually work. The evolution of consuming is, in the Internet era, always thought of taking maximum of 5 years and after that everything is changed. I’m much more skeptic, and even most of the small changes will take at least 6-10 years to actualize. Also, I think there’s a problem in the marketing – people are still fed with this blockbuster mentality, and the idea of “start exploring” still means “oh, HIM has done other albums, too!”, instead of really getting people excited of digging deeper into the long tail.

(Via Älymystö blog.)

Music consumption sucks

December 15th, 2008 by Timo Vuorensola

Making an Internet service that just works is both hard and rare. Think FaceBook: what an enormous amount of totally useless crap around the fact that it’s a communication channel with people I know. It’s even harder and rarer when working on a media format that’s known for complicated copyright issues – that’s books, audio and video – and very old-fashioned ways of handling these issues. Most usually, an Internet music service is a radio that plays random music based on your preferences, and finding exactly the song, or – God forbid – an album you’d like to listen to, is impossible. In addition to that, there’s more often than not some territorial restrictions, which is even more stupid, with the Internet being, by nature, non-territorial…

I’ve been following the music services pretty closely ever since they closed down Napster, which I’m really missing now. I’ve also seen my preferences on how I want to consume music change dramatically. No more am I interested in buying a CD album, which I was still strongly promoting only few years ago. But after iTunes came and did not suck quite as hard as every other online music store, I’ve begun to believe that buying online is the way. And after that, of course, what soon follows is the natural dealbumization of music consumption – no more do I feel it necessary to buy the whole album, when I’m just looking for the one song. The question is, why would I want to buy an album full of “songs I maybe don’t want to listen to”, when I can just buy the one I want?

Now don’t take me wrong, I don’t think that this is the way. Although limiting the idea of a “musical body” to 70 minutes and X number of songs is not the way, but a technical restriction, I still think that the album-thinking is one of the basic principles I’d like to preserve in music for the future generations. I know many wiser men than me say that album is disappearing, but I still have faith. A little.

Back to the issue, which is online music. After Napster, there hasn’t been one single good Internet music service. Emule had it’s moments (and a cute donkey), but it was way too complicated. iTunes is OK, but the problem is that it’s iTunes – a DRM-infested bloatware that tries to think for you. And while it often does quite a good job at it, when fails, there’s nothing – absolutely *nothing* – you can do about it, and there’s nobody you can contact to help you out with it. It’s the Mac way – if it fails, you’ll just have to eat it up. BitTorrent is, I think, way too heavy on music – it’s great for movies & software, that are naturally much bigger chunks, but downloading a single song via BitTorrent feels a bit stupid, and I still have a bit of a bad feeling on downloading the whole discography of say, uh, Miles Davis in just a few hours. It’s his whole life’s work, to listen to just one song, or an album, and tossing the rest to rot on my hard drive just doesn’t feel right

And this brings us also to the question of paying. Most of the services I mentioned above made their success by offering the music for free. That means two things: it’s free for you, but the musician doesn’t get paid either. Now how is that different from you buying an album from the store? You have to pay for it, but the musician doesn’t get paid. So, where’s the competition? In me owning more plastic cases and colourful papers?

In order for “The Music” to get me to pay for listening to it, there needs to be a compelling reason for me to do it, so that I don’t just take the easier and cheaper way. We know the reason can’t be both making it easier and cheaper, since that would mean somebody would rebuild Napster (okay, they did, but it sucks). But it can be easier. Other attributes it could have are diversity, quickness, multi-functionality, knowing my money goes to the artist as directly as possible, trustability, etc. And the answer on “who’ll win the Internet” -competition is: the one who comes up with a way to combine these – at least most of these – elements together. The one, who makes music consumption again fun for the consumer and profitable for the artist.

One service has emerged just recently – well, it has been around ever since 2006, but now it’s really starting to be good one: Spotify. I haven’t had so much fun discovering and listening to music in ages. It’s a clever streaming service based on a downloadable client, like Last.FM, but much more versatile. Basically, you can find full albums of whatever music you can come up with, and listen to it whatever way you want. For free, you have to suffer audio ads every 20-30 minutes, but for 9,99e/month there’s simply no restrictions. It’s your music tax, something you pay and then are free to use it as much as you want. Could it be a winner?

Propably not, but it’s getting closer. Spotify gives me a good reason to pay for: nobody bugging me about listening to music. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s fun, it’s about me getting what I want, and it’s about discovery. Now, it’s not a heaven on Earth, although for now I might feel like it is – Spotify requires you to be on the Internet, and since it’s streaming high quality, it’s not actually a small amount of bandwith it’s eating up. Also, you can’t download the music and push it to your iPod, or listen to it on the plane or anything. Another feature missing is the ability to actually buy the music I like (although the FAQ is claiming it’s there, it doesn’t seem to work), because having it locally on my computer still has some advantages.

And then there’s this one cool feature, which is playlists. Now, creating a playlist isn’t actually a big issue with most of the music services out there, although they never work, (it does with iTunes, though, but you need to own that stuff). With Spotify, I can right-click on a song, put it to a playlist I’m working on, and then right-click on the playlist and make it a “collaborative playlist”, and share the HTTP-link of my playlist between all the users of Spotify, my friends and strangers. There’s even a quite active FaceBook group called Spotify Playlists, where you can discover heaps of music you’d propably never come up with any other way.

So Spotify is good. But how about the money? One thing the service doesn’t clearly state is how much of the money I pay for my monthly use of the service goes to the artist, and how it’s distributed. Is it a collecting agency model, where only the ones that get heavy “rotation” get paid? Or is it the Record Industry model where nobody but the label gets paid? One thing is sure: Spotify does earn music from me listening to it. And it’s quite good, as long as I would also know where the rest of the money goes.

But how is that good for us, a small Finnish band called Älymystö that’s not on any of the big labels and that’s distributing it’s music under Creative Commons licensing for free? Spotify claims that they are building an upload platform, and has a following blurb about it:

Promoting your music on Spotify is free. Your own artist area allows you to build a direct relationship with fans, old and new, across the world. Develop revenue streams through the sale of downloads, merchandising, concert tickets and more, as well as earning a share of the revenues we create through our advertising and premium businesses. Powerful, granular, in-depth reporting is available to participating labels and artists.

Ok, sounds great. We’ll see how that’ll work in the end, I have a healthy doze of doubts, but I’d be lying if I wouldn’t say I’m enthusiastic.

Right now, Spotify is in private beta, meaning you need an invitation for the free version, and they are not giving them out easily, so if you come up with one, make sure you’ll use it. I hope they don’t fuck this up, because at least for now, I’ve had just great experiences with Spotify, and I’ve been listening to whole albumfulls of music much more in the last few days I’ve done in months.

A person much wiser than I am, John Buckman, gave a very interesting presentation at the Creative Commons event in Stockholm few months ago, that addressed some of the topics I brought up here, called “Money for Nothing”:

Money for Nothing
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: magnatune bookmooch)

UPDATE!

I emailed the Spotify premium user customer service, and they – I can’t believe it – actually answered. You don’t get that normally with an Internet service. Here are the questions and answers:

1) You seem to have made agreements with record companies, and you share
your revenue (from advertisements, monthly user fees and downloads) with the
companies, right? Have you revealed the % on your cut? Do you know how the
money is then distributed between the musicians?

1. Yes we have sign agreements with the major labels and the biggest indie.aggregators like Merlin and the Orchard. It´s an attractive royaly that´s based on how frequently the tracks is playing. Then how much every artist gets is up to the labels.

2) In the future you propably will accept unsigned musicians as well, that
are working under Creative Commons or such licenses and distributing their
music online for free. How do you pay for these?

2. Yes, we will sign up “unsigned” artists. everyone have the same deal!

3) Do you pay something for collecting agencies?

3. Yes, we have a deal with the collecting societies, so we take care of that!

(Via Älymystö blog)