iTunes To Go DRM Free?

DRM sign, Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan.JPG
Creative Commons License photo credit: gruntzooki

It looks like iTunes is possibly going (completely) DRM-free? Great news for music lovers but whether or not it actually materialises is another thing. There are plenty of alternatives in the marketplace for DRM-free music downloads but according to this BBC article, it looks like Apple (who already sell DRM-free tracks from the EMI label) are about to sign off on a deal with the rest of the big four including Sony, Warner and Universal which would see all DRM copyright restrictions lifted from the iTunes store.

It might also bring about a change in pricing on the iTunes store – more for recent tracks, less for older tracks, but Apple’s pricing is a whole other kettle of fish.

We all knew it was going to come around eventually, right?

Update: TUAW has the details on price changes for 2009.

40th Playlist Mix Podcast Lands

Bloc Party
Creative Commons License photo credit: wonker

The first of this week’s podcasts is finally online. I’ve got to learn not to go browsing around MySpace with 20 tabs open on the laptop while ProTools is bouncing out the show.

Especially when it’s getting close to 1am and you’re already tired.

Technical difficulties aside, you can listen to the 40th Playlist Mix here or click here to download the show (27mb mp3). There’s music from Bloc Party, Ingrid Michaelson, Gum and more. You’ll also get a listen to the current radio advert for The Devious Theatre Company‘s ‘War Of The Worlds’ which wraps recording this Sunday.

The Sound System Podcast with KilkennyMusic.com records and airs tonight and will likely feature a lot of chat, recaps and mental flashbacks from the 2008 Irish Web Awards in Dublin on Saturday gone.

Playlist Mix #40
[audio:http://www.playlistmix.com/podpress_trac/web/94/0/podcast040.mp3]

Tuesday Push For DownloadMusic.ie

DownloadMusic.ie

It’s about time I offered up a post for the Tuesday Push and I’m happy to see my first one being for DownloadMusic.ie.

With almost 900 artists on the books and close on 45,000 legal music downloads – which, by the way, contribute to standings in the Irish music charts – DownloadMusic.ie has become the place to be seen for independent Irish acts looking to make any kind of a name for themselves.

I’ll admit, I’ve never purchased music from the site. However, I use the site from the other side, as an artist and promoter helping other acts to get online and start selling their music.

While anyone can go online and purchase music via credit card or online payment, it’s nice to see DownloadMusic.ie give bands the chance to sell their music via text message. In a mobile-hungry country where mobile handset saturation exceeds 100% (I know myself I’ve got three active handsets on three different numbers with two spare handsets just in case), the service seems ideal. We are a texting nation. We’re possibly there-or-there abouts for phone calls, but we’re certainly there for texting.

Texting is where it’s at for DownloadMusic.ie. Fans of the bands can send a short code to 57501 e.g. ‘music XYZ’. They’ll be charged just a Euro for the text with the revenue split between the operator, DownloadMusic.ie (DownloadMusic.ie don’t actually take any money, leaving more to the artist again), the bulk going to the band (yes, IMRO are in there too looking for their percentage if you’re IMRO registered). The result is a text link and password for a secure download area to grab your new track and in the process of doing so you’re helping a band move one step closer to inclusion in the national music charts.

There’s no doubt that the majority of acts I work with through KilkennyMusic.com and under the One Take Sessions gig series have a presence on DownloadMusic.ie. Vesta Varro (were due in Kilkenny on Saturday), currently touring in support of new single ‘Believe’ are the featured artist on the DownloadMusic.ie homepage.

Local favourites Saving J, Myp Et Jeep and The Fundamentals are there too. At the last One Take Sessions in Kilkenny, Carlow performer Joe Cleere made a great point of asking people to text his shortcode to the DownloadMusic.ie number (57501) to buy his new single ‘Queue’.

CDs at gigs will shortly become a thing of the past. Further proof to this is the relase of DownloadMusic.ie’s first USB album (I was on the panel of judges asked to select the acts for inclusion), which is also registered for the Irish music charts and features the likes of Dirty Epics, Vesta Varro, Ro Tierney, Codes and more – €12.99 for a 1gb USB key with 15 tracks included isn’t a bad deal at all.

But you can get so much more – browse artists, get gig listings, check out the DownloadMusic.ie blog and there’s also the future possibility of bands selling tickets for gigs, band merch and more.

DownloadMusic.ie is an absolute credit to the independent Irish music scene and long may the service continue.

Bandcamp Launched & It Looks Interesting


Bandcamp Screencast from Ethan Diamond on Vimeo.

Cheers to Will Knott for the nudge on this one but it looks like BandCamp.mu has gotten underway and could provide a nice outlet for bands looking to distribute music online and further enhance their fan base.

On the front of things from watching the screencast (above) it all seems pretty straightforward – add you profile, add your tracks, add some cover art and away you go. Grant API access to your PayPal account and you can start selling tracks direct from Bandcamp on a very Radiohead-esque “name your price” basis.

I’ve signed up to give the service a try and see what it does for my own music (something I keep meaning to publish online and get away from the older demos clouding the MySpace) and those of other bands we have involved with KilkennyMusic.com.

In their own words about what they do…

We’re not yet another site wanting to host your tracks alongside the trailer for High School Musical 4: I’m Pregnant. Instead, we power a site that’s truly yours, and hang out in the background handling all the technical issues you dread (and several you’ve probably never even considered). We keep your music streaming and downloading quickly and reliably, whether it’s 3am on a Sunday, or the hour your new record drops and Pitchfork gives it a scathingly positive review. We make your tracks available in every format under the sun, so the audiophilic nerderati can have their FLAC and eat mp3 v2. We adorn your songs with all the right metadata, so they sail into iTunes with artwork, album, band and track names intact. We mutter the various incantations necessary to keep your site top-ranked in Google, so when your fans search for your hits, they find your music long before they find bonkersforlyrics.com or iMyFace. We give your fans easy ways to share your music with their friends, and we give you gorgeous tools that reveal exactly how your music is spreading, so you can fan the fire.

The signup process (for me) has been delayed as I don’t have AIFF or WAV dumps of the music. Unlike MySpace, Bebo, NumberOneMusic etc where MP3s are the in thing, Bandcamp looks for the highest quality (loss-less) audio file you’ve got available and they’ll take care of the conversions to a variety of MP3 formats (192k and above), FLAC etc. The user or fan of your music can then decided how high a quality track they want to take, what format they want it delivered in and how much they’re willing to pay for it.

The stats behind Bandcamp let you see where the visitors are coming from, who’s linking to and using your music online, what are your most popular tracks, how have they been played (complete, partial, skipped), everything you’ve wanted to know about who’s been listening to your tunes.

Once I sort out a WAV dump of some of the session files I have gathering dust here I’ll give it a full run through, but for now, it looks rather promising indeed.

Update:Andy Baio (Waxy.org) has an interview with Ethan here.

MySpace, Record Labels Team Up For MySpace Music

The much rumoured and often spoken about ‘MySpace Music’ service has come to light, as I read this morning that MySpace have officially announced their new ‘MySpace Music’ service, a partnership between News Corporation and “three out of the four top record labels”.

The service is looking to become a one-stop shop for everything music; DRM free downloads and music sales, ticket sales for gigs and tours, band merchandise, ringtones – everything and anything goes.

It is a good move for the record industry and a great play for MySpace whose existing music service is used by millions of bands worldwide (I’m even in there) as a platform for showcasing music, listing gigs and connecting with fans.

Couple with that the ability to sell your tracks, merchandise and tickets directly through MySpace and you really have a powerful promotional tool for aspiring and established artists.

That said, with the deal seemingly focusing around the participation of three major record labels (EMI were holding out as of Friday), I would hope the the tools established by the service would be available to the smaller bands and those unaffiliated with record labels.

While the record labels look for ways to dig into online sales and catch up with the rest of the world, independent artists have been steaming ahead, safe in the knowledge that you don’t need a record label in order to release music. I’ve worked with enough bands over the last few years to see first hand you don’t need a record label to succeed and gone are the days of needing millions of dollars, pounds or Euro in order to record, launch and promote a single, EP or album.

Thomas Hesse, the President of Global Digital Business at Sony BMG Music Entertainment said in Thursday’s article on CNET that they are simply “aligning our efforts to reach fans through every conceivable platform”.

I haven’t seen any indication of what percentage of the market they’re trying to grab, likely away from Apple’s iTunes service, but here’s to hoping they don’t forget about the independent artists and make their new resources available for everyone.