When the gods dance...

Friday, February 15, 2013


Justice Dept. Urges Supreme Court To Reject Thomas-Rasset Appeal

The Obama Administration this week weighed in on the long-running file-sharing lawsuit known as Capitol vs. Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a young mother from Minnesota who was fined $222,000 for sharing 24 songs on the peer-to-per file-sharing site Kazaa. In a legal brief filed Monday (Feb. 11), the Justice Department rejected Thomas-Rasset's argument and urged the Supreme Court not to consider her appeal. It noted that lower courts agreed with the defense in principle that an award could be "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable," but maintained that the $222,000 judgment fit neither of these descriptions. As noted by the website Ars Technica, the judge in a previous trial rejected a $1.5 million jury award on just those grounds, but the lower courts found that a $222,000 award for sharing 24 songs was not as disproportionate and unreasonable as to violate the U.S. Constitution. In 2007, a jury found Thomas-Rasset liable to the tune of $222,000 for sharing 24 songs. She appealed the verdict, resulting in two more trials that each produced even larger jury awards. These higher figures were thrown out by the courts, but last year the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the $222,000 award. Thomas-Rasset and her attorneys claim that the same 24 songs at issue in the case can be downloaded from iTunes for $24, yet she is being ordered to pay almost 10,000 times as much for sharing them with others. [Full story: Ars Technica]

MySpace Relaunches To (Generally) Good Reviews

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen, so shall they rise again." While no one famous (or infamous) actually ever uttered those words, they could apply to MySpace, which the Los Angeles Times once said was "the Internet's equivalent of the hottest nightclub in town." But Facebook - and News Corp.'s $580 million purchase - changed all that, and even when the site was sold to an Orange County digital media firm in 2011, many people said "stick a fork in it." But the new MySpace has gone through a major re-launch over the past few weeks and, while a few quirks and bugs remain, there are indications that the website may have gotten most things right. Example, MediaPost's Bryan Boettger this week wrote, "The new Myspace is really good. Like really good, if you're a big music fan. If you like to explore. If you enjoy the intersection of recommendations and discovery." Noting that "Myspace represents a shifting dynamic in social media," he said it's a new platform that doesn't look to replace Facebook, but simply wants to own a particular kind of media. "Instagram with photos. Pinterest with clippings. MySpace with music." One big downside, as members and bands have discovered: Old connections/friends have been erased, so bands  must start from scratch in order to develop a fan base." [Full story: MediaPost HypeBot]

Slacker Relaunch Features New Look, New User Options

Welcome to the new Slacker. The digital music streaming service that debuted in 2007 re-launched yesterday (Feb. 13) with a new look, new apps, a new website, and new features that augment what the company's loyal fans have liked from the beginning. Possibly the most obvious change (besides the new logo) is the availability of three "buckets," or tiers, of music service: Slacker Stations, Music Guide, and My Music. The first offering has been a Slacker mainstay, listing a variety of stations the company says are "expertly curated" along with sports, talk, and comedy programming. Music Guide, however, drives what Engadget calls a "lean forward" aspect of the service that is designed to go head-to-head against such services as Spotify and Rdio. Additionally, the My Music section allows users to compile their favorite songs and playlists, and create custom-built stations. "This is a new product across all devices," Slacker CEO Jim Cady said. "It's a product redesign, a brand redesign. If you give people 30 to 60 minutes, we win [compared to competing services]. But that isn't good enough - it needs to be 30 to 60 seconds." [Full story: Engadget]

eMusic Launches New A La Carte Download Store

eMusic this week announced the launch of an "a la carte" download store that gives its customers the ability to purchase music one track at a time rather than through one of its paid download tiers. As reported by Billboard, eMusic CEO Adam Klein says he hopes that reducing the membership fee hurdle will bring  the company more business, and hinted that additional features may be added to the store this year. "We have a number of exciting things we'll be announcing in 2013, many of which will be game-changing and potentially industry-shifting," he said in a statement. "I'd venture to say that eMusic may even double its revenue in the next year."  A la carte buyers will have to pay more than eMusic members who buy a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual subscription plan. For example: Tim McGraw's new album "Two Lanes of Freedom" offers pricing of $0.69 and $6.99 for tracks and albums, respectively, for members compared to $0.99 and $9.99 for non-members. The least expensive subscription plan is $11.99 per month. [Full story: Billboard]

Analysis: Not All Music Pirates Are Freeloading Cheapskates

U.K. music industry group BPI this week released new piracy figures that it says reinforce the notion that people who use peer-to-peer file-sharing sites purchase less music legally. The organization's "Digital Music Nation 2013" report suggests that file-sharers spend 25% less money on music than "legal only" consumers which, in 2012, amounted to £26.64 vs. £33.43. However, Torrent Freak (a website that reports, in part, on P2P activity) said this comparison is misleading, because it assumes that all people who use file-sharing sites share the same download/purchase habits. In fact, the site says  44.8% of file-sharers never buy music, but 55.8% do purchase music and, in fact, spend an average of £48.26 a year, considerably more than the legal-only digital music buyers. TorrentFreak contacted the BPI for a comment, and the music group insisted this break-out was not fair. "You cannot just wave away the 44.8% of file sharers who are not spending anything on music, despite being music 'consumers', and pretend they don't exist or are not relevant," a spokesperson said. "What happens if only 5% of file sharers are spending on music? Do we disregard everyone else who is freeloading?" [Full story: Torrent Freak]

Despite Small Audience, Internet Radio Appeals To Advertisers

The internet radio audience is growing thanks to shifts in consumer listening behavior from terrestrial radio to streaming stations. That's the primary conclusion of a new eMarketer report titled "Internet Radio: Marketers Move In," which says users are embracing digital internet radio on a growing range of devices, from PCs, smartphones, and tablets to automobiles, connected-home appliances, and other gadgets. While growth forecasts for internet radio advertising are more modest than for other categories of digital ad spending, many advertisers still are eager to attach their brands to internet broadcasting and other music-streaming properties. There are several reasons for this, including the appeal of associating a brand with a particular genre or artist, the extent to which internet radio is driven primarily by ads, and the appeal of in-steam audio ads, which are harder to avoid or skip than other forms of digital advertising. eMarketer says the number of U.S. internet radio listeners will grow by 11.1% to 147.3 million by the end of this year, and expansion is expected to continue for the next several years, though rates will taper off to single-digit percentages. [Full story: eMarketer]

Al Bell Presents American Soul Music ... And American Soul TV

If you're into classic and contemporary Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop Soul, Rap Soul, and Neo-Soul, we invite you to listen to Al Bell Presents American Soul Music. Former Stax Records owner and Motown Records Group President Al Bell personally has programmed this awesome radio station online, presenting your favorites from the 1960s and '70s [and some '80s], a lot of the best new music that's being released today, and some real gems you haven't heard in a long, long time. Come to www.AlBellPresents.Com and hear it for yourself!

And now...join us for Al Bell Presents American Soul TV here.

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