As I’ve been saying for years and posted again just days ago, music by subscription is dead. Well, the New York Times agrees with me — Rhapsody Runs Hard Just to Stay in Place — reporting that streaming subscription plans “have essentially failed in the market.” It’s nice being right.
So, Rhapsody has, at long last, formally given up on its subscription model. Rhapsody Looks to MP3 Sales to Topple iTunes [InternetNews.com]. The MTV- and RealNetworks-backed music service “distances itself from subscriptions to focus on appealing to owners of the ubiquitous Apple iPod.” Funny thing, though, is that Rob Glaser of Real has said for years that consumers want “all you can eat” subscription plans, not ownership of music. And at a high-profile industry event last week, the Digital Media Conference, big-wigs from AOL and the like opined the same thing. WRONG!
Today was a very big day for technology at the U.S. Supreme Court, with two hugely significant cases being argued. The first, Grockster v. MGM Studios, arises from the movie and recording industries’ efforts to impose contributory copyright infringement liability on post-Napster providers of P2P file sharing software. Supreme Court Takes Hard Look at P2P [CNET News.com]. The second, BrandX v. FCC, arises from the FCC’s efforts to clear the way for cable modem broadband service without requiring cable companies to share their facilities with ISPs. Supreme Court Asks Why Cable Broadband Lacks Regulation [ITWorld.com].
It’s always hard to predict where the Court will come down from its oral argument questions. But these remarks from Justices Breyer, Scalia and Souter in Grockster are quite revealing.
Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out Xerox copiers, videocassette recorders, iPod music players, and even the Gutenberg press had the potential of abuse by consumers. “In each case there could be vast numbers of infringement illegal uses,” he said, but he added that the benefits to society from those inventions were incalculable.
Justice Antonin Scalia wondered whether innovators would be punished immediately after creating a new product if the entertainment industry had a legal veto. “If I started a business now, how do I know how to proceed?” he asked. “If I’m a new inventor, I’m going to get sued right away.”
“There’s never the intent to break the law when the guy is in the garage inventing the iPod,” added Justice David Souter.
There’s a sense to which both the cable and entertainment industries are overreaching. I’ve got friends and colleagues on both sides of each of these issues, but biting off more than one can legitimately chew is a very bad strategy, since courts (especialy the Supreme Court) are pretty good at sorting out litgants who overstate or overplay their hands.
Twenty years ago Sony was the king of consumer electronics. No more. Thus, it was rather surprising to find this headline in a UK online publication. Say Goodbye to Your iPod [ThisisLondon.com].
Seems that Sony will soon introduce a cellphone that can hold (wow!!) 12 whole CDs of music. Ah, folks, that’s hardly 1GB, which the tiny iPod Shuffle does for $99. Maybe Japanese teenagers want their phones to hold a few songs, but any serious music fan knows that carrying one’s whole music library in a small, white container is WAY better than some second-rate cellphone gadget. The company that invented the Walkman has lost its way. For the Londoners to say Sony has developed “the phone that could mean the end of the iPod” is just plain crazy.
No, they never sang that Chuck Berry classic (unlike Roll Over Beethoven), but The Beatles are a hit once more 40 years after their first appearance in the USA on the Ed Sullivan Show. Here’s an interesting list from CNN of the 40 best Beatles songs of all time. Boy, they were good. Yesterday’s Grammy winners Beyonce and Outkast will be long gone in a year or two, but John, Paul, George and Ringo will rock on for many more decades.
As they wrote (sort of) in Sgt. Pepper’s, it was 40 years ago today that the Beatles burst onto the American scene. Exhibit Marks Beatles’ Journey to U.S. [Yahoo! LAUNCH]. Woah. A lot has changed since then. The relative innocence of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is just astounding in hindsight. But those four lads from Liverpool changed the world, began the youth culture that still pervades our society, and wrote some music that still resonates today.
Local Girl Leaves Town, Makes Good, Breaks Heart [NYTimes.com]. “She, like, broke his heart,” is what locals in Kentwood, Louisiana say about Britney Spears’ quickly-annuled, 55-hour marriage to an old friend from kindergarten.
Britney got an annulment on Monday for the impulsive ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, in which she wore ripped jeans and a baseball cap to wed Jason Alexander, football star and son of an auto mechanic. He says they were just chilling at 3:30 a.m. watching “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” in her hotel room. I can think of a lot better things to do than that with a girl of Britney’s stature — and they don’t include either movies or wedding ceremonies!!
I got XM Radio this week for my cars and have thoroughly enjoyed the service. It made me wonder why I hardly ever listen to music on the radio anymore, even though I am a devoted iTunes Music Store customer and have 20GB of digital music on my MP3 player.
Well, Stephen Holden, music critic for the New York Times, answers that in his article Critic’s Notebook: High-Tech Quirkiness Restores Radio’s Magic. Music beamed by satellite has resurrected “the thrill of musical discovery,” he says, that has all but vanished on regular FM (terrestrial) radio.
Yes, XM rocks. But this helps explain why. Even the old stuff is new on XM. It’s fun to listen without endless commercials and overly-loud DJ voice-overs, as well. At bottom, though, it offers a sense of variety and newness that one just cannot get on commercial FM radio these days. Blame Clear Channel or whatever, but that’s a sad fact.
Well, another arrow has been shot into the rotting corpse of the Recording Industry Association of America. Even though their lawsuits against P2P file-sharing consumers had looked like they were becoming very successful, RIAA could only sue by using private subpoenas to force ISPs to reveal the names and addresses of their customers. Now, a federal court has said it can’t do so anymore, that the DMCA does not allow subpeonas against ISPs unless the ISP itself is serving up the allegedly infringing material. RIAA: Shot Through the Heart? [TechNews.com]
I am sure RIAA will be back with some new strategy, but the tide has turned. As the court said, their argument “borders on the silly.” But that has never stopped them before!!