November 17, 2008

Interactive Album Art: A New Music Package?

After exploring the intricate ways that social networking sites have been using iPhone applications to expand their user base in last week’s post, I have decided to turn my attention to the future of album art and how advances in web technology, specifically the iPhone (see left) and interactive websites, are beginning to address an issue that has been plaguing the music industry for over 20 years. Album art has been debated ever since CD’s replaced vinyl records as the primary music product in the early eighties. While nobody was very happy when the beautiful 12x12 images that adorned LP’s were reduced to an unflattering 5x5 CD insert, it seems as though everyone has waited until now to express their dissatisfaction. Recently, many artists have taken steps to digitize their album artwork utilizing new media in order to create a new music package that could potentially replace the conventional album format made commonplace by CD’s. I have commented on two blog posts, “The Future of Album Art” by Bob Boilen from NPR: All Songs Considered and “Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance” by Eliot Van Buskirk from Wired: Listening Post. Each post offers slightly different viewpoints on where the future of album art lies, as well as examples of interactive artwork. Developments like this could open new doors from a promotion and marketing perspective as artists will be able to reap the rewards of having “album art” that can distribute audio files, play videos, build a fan base or incorporate any other social networking or web-based feature imaginable. Each comment appears on the respective blogs, and both are attached below for convenience. I have added NPR: All Songs Considered to the linkroll to the right, and Wired: Listening Post can be found there as well.

“The Future of Album Art”

Thank you for your excellent post on the future of album art and specifically for citing the visual elements of an album as a definitive part of any listening experience. I can identify with having my attention drawn away from a cover image or lyric sheet by the multitude of far more interactive art forms available at my fingertips. A new precedent has been set by the Internet for what others expect when it comes to graphic design. I agree with the following statement from your post: “The music may hold my interest, but the artwork rarely does. I've come to the conclusion that it's the fault of the art and not my short attention span.” I believe that while an album’s cover art may be visually stimulating, a normal image does not satisfy the level of user interaction even the most elementary web surfers are used to finding on a website or blog. In a time when not only the internet-savvy demand clickable features, and CD sales decline more everyday, the transformation of physical cover art into interactive digital media is becoming an increasingly more important topic. Do you think that the transition from physical art to digital art will have an impact on album format? While perusing cyberspace, I have found a number of blog posts expressing a need for a “new package” to replace the CD, as audio files are only a piece of an album. For example “Designers Work to Rescue a Dying Art Form – the Album Cover” from Wired: Listening Post touches on this topic. As a student closely following technology’s impact on the music industry, I maintain that eventually bands will release groups of songs via interactive websites serving as the “album art” and distribution mechanism, updating the “CD package” for the internet age. The artwork in your post is an excellent example of this because it maximizes any fan’s connectivity to the band while satisfying the original intentions of traditional album art. The post “Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance” from Wired: Listening Post outlines even more ways in which artists have begun to accomplish this, focusing on Amazon’s new artist pages.

“Amazon’s Artist Stores Highlight Album’s Declining Importance”

Thank you for your comprehensive post on the declining importance of the traditional album as a means for artists to release their music by exploring the transformation of album art into an interactive digital medium. As a music listener who values the visual elements of an album in my listening experience, and a student studying the ways that technology is changing the music industry, I absolutely agree that the future of album art will be iPhone applications, “artist pages” on sites like Amazon or MySpace and even websites rather than a simple digital version of lyric sheets and album covers. The essential factor in creating successful album art is finding a way to visually engage the listener while keeping their focus on the music. “The Future of Album Art” by Bob Boilen from the NPR Music blog highlights this point. In the past before the internet, some of the most popular record covers such as the Velvet Underground and Nico’s famous Andy Warhol-designed banana cover (see right) and the Rolling Stones “Sticky Finger’s” zipper album cover boasted features that maximized user interaction in an age when such features could not be imagined. Today liner notes can come in any form, such as a video, videogame, photo gallery or application. In response to your statement “The album is receding as a means of organizing music, which has been splintering into re-shuffleable digital singles for years,” do you think singles will be more readily accepted, or will albums just get shorter? Will the transition of physical album art to a digital format change the way that songs are grouped upon release?

November 10, 2008

iPhone Applications: Making OurStage Bigger

While Myspace and Facebook struggle to incorporate music-marketing platforms into their existing online empires, many websites that began exclusively streaming audio continue to evolve, utilizing new technology to attain the mainstream success the other social networking websites have been experiencing. After some online investigation, I learned that both Pandora and have produced iPhone applications, which upon release doubled their user base in a few short months. However, while Pandora and are the definitive independent music outlets, especially given their recent mobile achievements, a new player has entered cyberspace within the last year fronting the most indie-centric business model of all. Welcome OurStage, an online “music discovery destination dedicated to finding new artists” that boasts a rating system allowing users to determine which independent bands will get maximum exposure and which will have to assess their careers. Having enjoyed moderate success upon its inception in 2007, OurStage has mimicked Pandora and by releasing OurStage Radio just last week. An iPhone application that simplifies the website’s voting process into a mobile stream-and-vote platform, OurStage Radio is poised to take streaming applications to a new level of usability and interactivity. Although Myspace and Facebook have large goals and business models such as breaking down multiple applications into their larger interfaces, the more refined websites like Pandora, and now OurStage have successfully utilized the iPhone application, spreading their focused media initiatives to a larger audience.

Given “the iPhone and related products accounted for 40% of Apple’s revenue last quarter," it is clear that a large number of people are using iPhone applications. By developing mobile software as an extension of what has already been established online, often overlooked streaming audio websites are finding ways to effectively introduce their services to a large reserve of consumers. This works due to the simplistic nature of the iPhone interface, which in Pandora’s case proved to be even more user friendly than the website itself (see graphic above.) Pandora unleashed their iPhone application in July of this year and currently have almost 2 million registered members using it. Before this however, Pandora founder Tim Westergren began the “Music Genome” project in 2000 and built an undying fan dedication to fast, functional and user-friendly streaming that eventually caught on with tech-savvy music listeners. Despite recent struggles to stay afloat, Pandora continues to have extremely loyal support from its users. Their reputation, coupled with the revised structure and simple layout of the iPhone application, bred success in the form of an overwhelming burst of new interest when the application was released. To borrow from the post “Pandora Doubles Listeners With iPhone App” by Eric Benderoff of The Chicago Tribune, “I’m amazed at how many people have said they have known about Pandora but have not used it until the iPhone came out,” Westergren said. “I would not have expected that.” The Pandora iPhone application had a new member sign up every two seconds over the first few days of release.

As Pandora continues to have success, and works to revise their current application, whether or not OurStage Radio will introduce more users to the service remains questionable. However, by starting iPhone promotion later than Pandora and, OurStage has the advantage of learning from the other's accomplishments and failures. They also seem to have the same mentality as Pandora in terms of structuring the software as a simplified version of the main webpage. By simplifying the cage-match style voting process to a thumbs up, thumbs down method, depicted in the graphic to the left, and streaming only one song at a time, OurStage Radio increases user interactivity. This way, the application can fit and function on an iPhone while still generating meaningful statistics and streaming content, achieving both of OurStage's marketing goals. OurStage Radio has a leg up on both Pandora and’s iPhone programs because of the degree to which the users interact with the mobile interface. Pandora's has limited options,’s is too complex, yet OurStage's employs a simple rating system with streaming content as well as the standard playlist and share features that are commonplace in all three applications. No statistics regarding potential accomplishments are available yet, but there is a great chance for OurStage Radio to be triumphant. Though the underlying punch line to these websites' mobile marketing plans is Apple rules the current online music world, and will continue to do so for a very long time as they continue to provide the innovative outlets these websites need to compete in a congested industry.

November 3, 2008

MP3 Blogs: Setbacks and Solutions

This week, I came across some very interesting posts in my journey through the blogosphere regarding mp3 blogs and their recent struggles with the RIAA. “Are MP3 Blogs Under Attack?” an article on the music technology blog Hypebot, begins a discourse on the RIAA's secret takedown of blog posts that release free mp3's that, according to them, the bloggers do not have rights to distribute. Many bloggers feel that they have been violated, as many were not notified when their posts were removed. So when I found the post “Now You Can Add Free Legal Music to Your Blogs” the word legal caught my eye. This post on about a new widget from we7, an ad-supported music service that allows bloggers to legally post content from the we7 site directly into their blog, simply describes that the widget is a great, legal way for bloggers to post audio content. I commented on the Hypebot post hoping to spark some discussion about using widgets to keep content in the right places, and also on the post. While the we7 widget could be of use to mp3 bloggers, it is still a few steps away from a definitive blog release widget that artists and record labels control the parameters of in order to even out some kinks in mp3 blogging regarding free downloads, and who has the rights to post mp3's. However, it is a step in the right direction. My comments are posted below for reading convenience, but also appear on each articles comment thread.

"Are MP3 Blogs Under Attack?"

Thank you for this insightful yet open-ended post about the RIAA’s impact on mp3 blogging. As a student blogger new to the blogosphere, but well versed on the importance of blogs to online music marketing strategies, I am just becoming familiar with the process of releasing material to blogs for promotional means. There is no denying that a traditional mp3 blog post is a great way for band’s to gain exposure on the web. However, I believe that the way in which material is presented to blogs should be honed by the artists and labels that control the content so that artists who release their material in the hopes of getting publicity know what content is being released and how those releases are being presented. If artist’s and record labels were specific about the way they want their songs presented on blogs, defining which songs off their album, or how many they want included in the post, there would be far less confusion in terms of what ends up in an mp3 post and whether or not a post is valid by the RIAA’s standards. Ideally, the integration of widgets or other applications in blog press releases, developed and preset by artist’s and labels, would both ensure that bloggers have the artist’s permission to make a post and release a few songs. Widgets would allow the parameters of the release, like how many songs are released for free download, to be controlled by the artist and would also limit the amount of content released in an mp3 post. Then the mp3 blog post would be of maximum benefit to both the artist and blogger, keeping the phenomenon of free album release against the artist’s will to a minimum. If there was a simple and attractive almost cut and paste application that artist’s and labels could drop a few mp3’s into and include with their press releases, it would even make the job easier on bloggers. Thinking ahead to what a widget like this could potentially do, if a digital download feature or link was included with a stream, mp3 blogs could become the music stores of the future. While I have been thinking about this idea for quite sometime, a post was recently made on about such a widget.

"Now You Can Add Free Legal Music to Your Blogs"

Thank you for the heads up on this cool phenomenon. While perusing the blogosphere I also came across a post on entitled "Are MP3 Blogs Under Attack?" which sheds some light on the recent RIAA actions against bloggers who are posting content that does not belong to them. My comment on that post is available here. Seeing this post made me think: Are widgets the answer to the sometimes-harsh legal actions that bloggers face when posting content? While I don’t think this specific widget is the one that will solve this problem, it is most certainly a step in the right direction. If there was a definitive widget specifically for mp3 posts, it could solve a number of legal issues while at the same time open promotional and even monetary doors for artists and record labels. I imagine such a widget to include not only streams, but also even a digital download capability and some artwork as well. If the widget had a simple cut and paste app design that bloggers could just drop into their post, it would be great for press releases, and artists would be able to use mp3 blogs to their full marketing advantage without fears of having their album leaked for free. They would have the ability to control and post whatever content they want. While the we7 widget seems great for casual bloggers who just want to post about mainstream artist’s, those who do multiple blog posts on mostly independent artists may not have much use for the widget if the content they wish to post is not a part of we7. I was wondering: Do you know of any other widgets such as this one that maybe cater more toward the indie mp3 blogger? What are your thoughts on the RIAA’s actions against mp3 bloggers? Thank you for your post.

October 28, 2008

Facebook Music: Are the Rumors True?

Last week I compiled a list of music technology websites and blogs in the post "On the Web: Music Technology Resources" as a resource for my readers. This week, I will return my focus to the evolution of online marketing pertaining to the music industry. In earlier posts, I outlined how both Apple and Myspace have consolidated basic web promotion tools into larger, more mainstream platforms to provide artists with the help they need to market, promote and “break” themselves. Similar trends are certainly continuing with a number of websites and new media platforms. For instance, online rumors have been circulating that Facebook, the most visited social networking site in the world, has been developing Facebook Music to claim a share of the online music market and to open up new revenue streams. However, the details surrounding the social networking behemoth’s plans to innovate with such an undertaking are little more than predictions at best. Interestingly, Facebook did attempt to launch a definitive music section in 2007 that never quite caught on, from which the graphic above is leftover. Around this time, an all-encompassing "Audio" application was removed from Facebook because of licensing issues. Given that the effective music applications and widgets featured within Facebook are already a staple in many users’ daily online activities, the results of the new Facebook Music seem promising. Although Myspace Music is up and running, and slowly but surely integrating the independent community back into their new business plan, Facebook has a better chance at pulling ahead in all aspects of online marketing if it does in fact surface soon.

Facebook currently has a solid foundation of music marketing resources that fit seamlessly with its well designed and easy to use interface. A number of independent and mainstream artists already utilize features like fan pages and the wide range of music programs to promote themselves on Facebook. The inclusion of specialized widgets in user profiles could give Facebook the upper hand over other networking sites because it would allow bands to warp and change the functionality of their profile to fit different online marketing plans. Most of the popular applications on Facebook are from other related websites such as, iLike, and imeem that anybody can include in their Facebook profile. The article “Facebook Music is Getting Its Act Together” from the New York Times technology section raises an important point, “Facebook does not want to have to deal with licensing streaming music directly from record labels.” Therefore, instead of seeking out licensing deals from major labels, and building their own widgets like Myspace Music did, Facebook is turning its focus instead to other established websites, hoping they will lend their marketing content to Facebook for a symbiotic partnership. Some of these websites, like imeem and iLike, already have licensing agreements in place. If Facebook were to develop a music-specific profile based on the inclusion of these existing third-party applications by striking a deal with one or all of the websites that currently host applications on Facebook, they could continue to build upon what has already been an effective way for bands to promote and market themselves and keep legal negotiations over licensing content to a minimum. This would put them ahead of Myspace Music because they would have more time to concentrate on functionality and site usability instead of putting all their energy into obtaining licensing deals.

Given these factors, Facebook must now decide which website it will partner with to make Facebook Music a reality. iLike seems to be the clear choice. Their programs were introduced before music pages had surfaced and one is even designated a "Great App," causing any iLike activity on Facebook to show up more frequently in a user's news feed. Although iLike applications have been tested and function well, the media company does not have its own licensing for streaming content and instead covers digital material through Rhapsody's deals. For Facebook to take advantage of built in licensing, which is essential as described above, they would have to make a deal with Rhapsody directly because dealing with iLike as a middle man may become difficult. Imeem seems like a stronger candidate in this regard. They already have licensing for streaming content and their agreement also allows the content to be posted on external websites. However, if Facebook is looking to compete with Myspace Music they will have to provide more than just the ability to stream audio. Currently imeem only features a playlist generator and lacks effective search data or a solidified database of songs. This limits artists' options at a time when other marketing hubs are opening all promotional avenues in inventive ways. iLike, who's logo is pictured above, is much more developed in this area. With easily searchable artist databases, statistics and genre information it seems that is the most overlooked of the other websites in the Facebook Music partnership debate. With the most comprehensive artist and song search criteria, a huge independent artist presence and their own licensing deals they seem to be the premier choice, even over iLike. As of now, the struggle between Myspace and Facebook for control of the internet continues. When Facebook Music matures, we will see whether it stands up to the competition.

October 13, 2008

On The Web: Music Technology Resources

This week, I explored the Internet and blogosphere in search of online resources containing recent and relevant information on the technological developments in the music industry in order to construct a concrete list of informational links that could act as a resource to my readers. I concentrated on websites and blogs that had a definitive and thorough focus, fulfilled the Webby and IMSA criteria and cohesively supplemented the topics I will be addressing in my blog posts. All the sites and blogs discovered in my search can be found in the linkroll on the right side of the blog, and I will briefly discuss each in this post. The first links added to the linkroll were music news blogs that provide definitive information on recent topics in a succinct fashion. Defined as “very clearheaded music industry stuff,” the Coolfer: Music and the Industry blog offers concise posts on music technology and its assimilation into the modern music business. Topics on the site range from how record labels are developing new online marketing techniques to how artists are using the Internet to compete in the fledgling industry. The Wired: Listening Post blog has a similar post style to Coolfer, but a more interactive layout that includes pictures and audio streams as well as informative entries. Another music technology blog, The Hypebot, follows a traditional blog format yet presents many of the entries in bullet form with thumbnail images, conveying only the most essential information on a large number of topics. Though less aesthetically pleasing then its counterparts, The Hypebot offers more information more quickly than the other blogs for a fast update on current topics. A good counterpoint blog to the Hypebot is the Future of Music blog maintained by Dave Kusek author of “The Future of Music.” Constructed as a keystone resource to all levels of the music business, Dave’s blog boasts smart, lengthy and detailed posts amidst multiple linkrolls of different types and categories. Since there is an almost overwhelming amount of information, readers must do some hunting to find what they are looking for and there are no images. has a format that mimics the others previously mentioned in this post, and is an average yet organized blog. The last music news blog included in the linkroll has a different scope than those previously described. Last HQ: The Blog delves into the music news pertinent to and its role in the music industry.

The next group of sites added to the linkroll feature opinion centered blogs that breach merely reporting phenomenon in the business and technology realm of the music industry. Blackrimglasses is a casual blog maintained by Ethan Kaplan, Vice President of Technology at Warner Brothers Records, in which he expresses his opinions about the business and technological aspects of the music industry in an informal, yet informative manner. The blog also features posts about “random nonsense from the music industry” and links to multimedia content, including video and streaming audio. A similar and much more renowned blog, Stereogum follows the same casual model as Blackrimglasses while commenting on industry developments, and also saves time for artists integrating multimedia into their live shows and discography. Stereogum has full streaming content within many of their posts, a developed archive of past posts and interactive statistics in the form of a linkroll to feature reader comments. Although popular, Stereogum does not pack the informational punch of the Rolling Stone: Rock & Roll Daily blog, which defines the apex of the general music news blog formula through its streaming content, matured linkable content and a time-tested brand reputation. Although Rock & Roll daily does not focus primarily on music technology, many of the general music posts integrate commentary on such topics. In the realm of blogs, search engines have started to surface that compile posts from different blogs and provide them in a common blog format., the blog social network, encourages users to join the community, and features select posts on their front page in a blog format. Many users post regularly about music technology. is extremely well laid out, integrates streaming audio and video into their users experience and also links to external blogs and web pages. Similar to, Machine Shop: The Hype Machine Blog about Hype Machine (and things we love) provides updates on the progress of the Hype Machine search engine and posts other entries about web technology's integration with the music industry. The Hype Machine search engine compiles album reviews and streaming audio according to a user's search and displays them in a series of posts.

The last group of websites that I added to the linkroll were exclusively either technology or business news websites that reported their material through articles and posts. Mashable and Tech Crunch are both technology websites that regularly report new developments in the music industry as well as computer and Internet technology. Mashable has a unique search bar at the top of their website featuring blog posts about developing web 2.0 projects that often pertain to online music promotion or distribution. Mashable and Tech Crunch are formatted like blogs with the structure of a standard website. M.E.L.O.N: Multimedia Entertainment Law Online News is an entertainment law news website going over legal issues with various new web technologies that often have to do with music. Like the technology websites, M.E.L.O.N. shares the same post format and tagging system as blogs. New Music Strategies is another website with a specific topical focus and blog format, including information about how to run an independent record label and integrate web 2.0 applications., Billboard’s online news website is a one-stop-shop for current articles on every aspect of the music industry including technological developments and chart statistics. Laid out like a condensed version of the Billboard magazine, the content is well presented and readily available. is the definitive source for online music news. All the newly added linkroll resources provide current and insightful information on technology's impact on the music industry through user friendly and aesthetically pleasing websites that supplement the content on this blog.

September 30, 2008

MySpace Music: iTunes or Indie?

In my latest post, entitled “Pure Genius: Apple Innovates Once Again” I discussed the Genius search feature included in iTunes 8. By examining the ways Genius compares to existing online music search technologies, specifically Pandora and, I found that although the Genius feature may be a lucrative asset for iTunes on a large scale, there is still room for other sites such as Pandora and to continue to prosper and meet the promotion needs of new independent musicians that iTunes does not serve. (Especially since legislation was just passed to give Pandora and other internet-radio outlets more time to come to a royalty deal with major labels, here.) Although Pandora and both have comprehensive and user-friendly search features, iTunes is the first to pair such a search tool with their existing digital music storefront.

This week, I have decided to research the launch of the new MySpace Music platform to further discuss the integration of marketing tools, like Genius, with digital music platforms, and specifically digital storefronts, like iTunes. In fact, the launch of MySpace Music shares common ground with the iTunes updates, as there have been a host of blog posts regarding MySpace’s chances to compete with iTunes’ standing as the current leader in digital downloads. However, if MySpace wishes to stand a chance in that battle, they must take advantage of the aforementioned opportunity to work with the Independent labels and artists that iTunes does not reach. So does MySpace have a place for Indies? Based on the press surrounding the launch, MySpace Music may be neglecting to include the artists that may give them a shot at iTunes’ title as the industry’s primary digital distribution hub.

Through extensively exploring the blogosphere, I was able to find a number of resources pertaining to the launch of MySpace Music. One of which, entitled "MySpace Music Finally Shows Up!" by Chris Crum, a staff writer at Web Pro News, reports on MySpace Music's new features, and analyzes the digital music platform’s relationship with Indies. This post led me to an earlier post written by Chris before the MySpace Music launch entitled “Big Expectations For MySpace Music”, which touches on how the integration of MySpace Music’s new online marketing tools could prove beneficial to a number of parties, including Major Labels and music listeners alike. As far as MySpace and Apple are concerned, I discovered a post by Romain Pechard entitled "Myspace Music + Long Tail = Indie labels not worthy enough for MySpace" where he discusses the importance of MySpace striking deals with Indie labels and artists to keep them in the mainstream music market currently dominated by Apple. I commented on each post (with each comment posted below), as they were written in congruence with my position on MySpace’s relationship with Independent labels and artists.

“MySpace Music Finally Shows Up!”
I want to thank you for your thorough reports on MySpace Music leading up to its launch, and for examining the different factors surrounding its release. From your post "Big Expectations for MySpace Music" to your discussions about their new ad program in "MySpace Compliments MySpace Music with Ad Service," your previous posts culminate in this latest entry with ruminations on where MySpace Music may go from here. After reading other posts on the matter, and linking to the various sources that you cited, I think that in future months MySpace has the potential to become a multi-faceted service provider including, and maybe even focusing on, independent bands - although they have not taken full advantage of the opportunity at this point in time. But as you said, "The is just the beginning though. More deals are likely to be reached..."

Last week I analyzed the new Genius feature on iTunes 8 for a blog post, and focused on how the direct integration of online marketing tools with a digital download platform will prove extremely lucrative for online music distributors, in this case Apple. However, I realized that while the Genius feature benefits established acts through iTunes, what will help the independent and up-and-coming artists? I believe that if MySpace Music wants to compete, they not only have to integrate the Major and bigger Indie label catalogs, but also must provide services for newer independent labels and artists – as iTunes’ market does not stretch that far, and MySpace is in a better position to successfully achieve this.

As an entrepreneur in the music industry, I believe MySpace should gear its efforts to being a service provider for these new independent entities; equipping independent bands with the online marketing tools they need to promote themselves via the MySpace Music platform. It seems that this could be extremely profitable in a number of ways, and it would fill a void that seems to have developed as online music platforms like iTunes and MySpace continue to evolve. Do you think this will happen? And if so to what degree? Your comments would be greatly appreciated.

“MySpace Music + Long tail = Indie labels not worthy enough for MySpace”
I appreciate your post and agree with many of the valid points that you are making. I too believe it is essential that MySpace focuses on integrating Independent labels and artists in MySpace Music, in addition to the Majors, as it will definitely give them a leg up in the inevitable competition, as you said, with iTunes and MTV. I had not even considered that MySpace was originally founded as an independent social networking site, and I think that speaks volumes. It has certainly changed over the years. I was wondering: what steps do you think MySpace should take in order to reintroduce Independent labels and artists to their new platform?

You also state that this scenario is "providing an opening for indie labels to go out of MySpace and create a new platform would finally lead to the death of the current biggest music platform." Do you think this could potentially be better than MySpace seeking out Independent labels and artists for inclusion in MySpace Music?

I recently wrote a post about iTunes 8 and the new Genius search tool. I thought the implementation of such a marketing tool with the iTunes storefront was a huge development, but only for established artists. I feel as though the MySpace features have the potential to be extremely beneficial to those who use the service in the way that they combine specific, new features from a multitude of different social networking and music promotion sites (i.e. imeem, Pandora, iLike, etc.) into one music marketing platform.

However, I agree that to challenge Apple is futile. One of the main points of my recent post about iTunes 8 was the definition by Apple and others of the “opening" for MySpace, or any music platform (even a new one as you said), to assimilate the independent music market – both Independent labels and bands – into a cohesive music promotion and distribution platform. If MySpace focused their site toward being a service provider for Independent artists while simultaneously catering to the needs of mainstream acts and other already established acts on MySpace, they would be in the best position. However, where MySpace currently falls short, like you said, is with their failure to include Independent labels in their deals at this time. Would you prefer MySpace to revert to what it began as; a social networking site driven by Independent artists? Or do you think it should include both Independent labels and artists in addition to mainstream artists from Major labels? Thank you for your post, and any comments are appreciated.

September 23, 2008

Pure Genius: Apple Innovates Once Again

Apple continues to push the boundaries of marketing and selling music with their recent release of iTunes 8 by integrating a plethora of new features that expand the already effective digital music player and download store. Since iTunes was released five short years ago, Apple has held the title of industry trendsetter and leader in digital download sales due in part to the way they integrate new search options and player settings that simultaneously make their software user-friendly and an effective online marketplace. With the integration of the new “Genius” feature, Apple may again break new ground in the music industry. Perhaps the most intriguing new aspect of iTunes 8, the Genius feature allows a user to assemble a playlist of songs “that go great together” at the click of a button by utilizing search technologies that have only been used and developed by smaller, independent websites such as Pandora and By integrating this brand of music search engine with the already established iTunes store, Apple could be on to something that transforms the way record labels and music websites think about marketing music online.

The integration of subjective search engines, meaning those that search for songs based on their musical content or genre, have become increasingly more important to online music marketing. Pandora, the first website to use this search method, has been cited as a hub for the discovery of new music and an outlet for independent and unsigned acts to break through to potential new listeners. boasts a feature that groups artists from similar genres together in the hopes that curious music listeners will sample new bands. However, neither of these websites have integrated the technology directly into an online storefront the way that Apple has with iTunes 8. The Genius feature not only groups similar songs from a listener’s library, but also searches the iTunes store for songs that might "go great with each other."

The Genius feature has the potential to be revolutionary due in part to its Pandora-like search methods but more importantly because of its integration with the iTunes store, which has already been tested and accepted as the easiest, most effective way to legally download music. Through the implementation of the Genius feature, the iTunes store search process becomes more specific, yet at the same time gives the consumer the illusion of control. The ability to obtain a list of songs that sound just like a favorite with the click of a button is niche-marketing at its finest, but it doesn't feel that way. Instead of iTunes posting a single storefront of songs from the same genre, as it sometimes does on the store's frontpage, the Genius button can conjure up list after list of potential purchases masked as new songs. The way Genius searches iTunes and the quality of the playlists it generates are essential factors in the new feature's success.

The Genius search methods rely on the information from iTunes user's libraries to hone its searching capabilities. Apparently the more information that is submitted, the smarter the music search tool becomes. But many have doubts that the Genius feature is anything special. I see the search tool as the first small step in a line of many to reach this search technology's full potential. Technology moves quickly, and many forget what it was like to use Pandora or for the first time. I have always seen Apple as the top tier online music service, and when they integrate a feature or develop a technology it usually becomes commonplace quickly, and then we can't live without it.

As an entrepreneur in the music industry working to figure out how to successfully release new music on the internet, subjective searches seem to be a very promising solution. To pair up-and-coming acts with already established artists of the same genre is an extremely powerful marketing tool. In the past, bands had to share the stage with established acts or make their way onto a compilation to get the kind of exposure that a simple Pandora search can achieve. With this technology, almost any new band can have the opportunity to be featured alongside artists who have defined their genre. Although the Genius feature seems very promising in terms of discovering new music, it may not be the solution for new independent artists. The iTunes store is hard to be a part of if you are a new band. Even if a band were on the iTunes store, it would be difficult to come up in a Genius search if nobody has the album yet. I believe that the Genius feature on iTunes 8 is a step in the right direction for online music marketing, however smaller sites that have been honing this technology for years will not be pushed aside by iTunes as a distribution network for small, new bands. However, iTunes will continue to lead the pack on a large scale, and the Genius search feature will definitely become an asset.
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