Who says the music industry is dead? While Napster might have spelled doom at one point in history, the past 10 years have seen an ever-accelerating comeback in the digital music space. While iTunes might still hold a dominant spot over digital music sales, more innovations and startups are breaking into the scene and making their own noise (nudge at Spotify). I literally couldn’t decide what to write about for this week’s column, so I’ve decided to do a short summary of all the interesting news around digital music.
- As previously covered here, there’s an indication that iTunes Store might finally be opening up in Indonesia. Although iOS device penetration is lowest here, it also means that there will finally be an easy-to-use music download store in Indonesia. But would it have the relevant music catalog to match?
- Spotify wants to cannibalize piracy. With 10 million active users and 3 milion paying customers, they might just do that, and catch up with iTunes to boot. But there’s a monster looming around the corner – the artists who aren’t getting paid from streaming services, not to mention big names like Coldplay and Adele withholding their catalog from streaming services, as part of a sales strategy, apparently. But with Spotify already paying out a lot in royalties, time will tell if they have a change of tune.
- Rdio is trying to take on Spotify by revamping the entire experience – and seriously, it looks good, albeit design wise it still looks like iTunes in a browser. And will it be enough to take away some market share from Spotify? My bet is, the browser-based app will make a difference at some point.
- Turntable.fm, which basically is a site for virtual DJ rooms, has signed deals with all of the four major labels. My take? Turntable.fm basically paid the major labels some money so they wouldn’t get sued, while still working on how to actually monetize their users. Sounds like an uphill battle.
- A slew of music apps has been launched at SXSW, and Live Nation has announced LN Labs Fund to fund music tech startups. Let’s hope all this encouragement for innovation in music experience brings more business instead of more lawsuits.
- With MySpace virtually losing relevance, MTV, partnering with Topspin, sees an opportunity with Artists.MTV , a direct-to-fans platform for musicians, not unlike what MySpace was. I dare say with MTV’s existing media and brand power, it might just work.
- And finally music streaming services get a nod of recognition from Billboard, which has started to include streaming plays to factor in to the Billboard Hot 100 and have also launched a streaming airplay chart. Services included in the Hot 100 calculation: Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Slacker, Muve Music, and MOG.
- Also from SXSW: the winner of this year’s SXSW Music Accelerator is Ovelin, which has made a great iPad app to learn guitar chords and proper techniques, the fun way. A good reminder that making money from music does not always mean selling music, but it can also mean teaching music.
With all the action going on in digital music in the US and Europe, the question comes to mind – what’s happening in Asia? Now that question, deserves its own article.
Ario worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog on http://barijoe.wordpress.com