Daddy, what’s a record store?
Sounds funny, unless you’re a dad who’s actually heard that question. Which brings us to Bleecker Bob’s Records, the latest brick n’ mortar relic destroyed by digital disruption. Bob’s is now officially out of business, for obvious reasons, though a strange lifeline did appear towards the end. According to the New York Observer, incoming tenant Forever Frozen Yogurt offered to cohabitate a stylized version of the old record shop, with a small amount of purchasable music in the corner. The bid for fro-yo authenticity was ultimately rejected.
Of course, the death of one species means the birth of another, but what to make of the emergent, hyper-competitive concert alert space? Despite a proliferation of alert-focused startups, there doesn’t seem to be an appreciable impact on actual concert attendance (not to mention a return for investors). But let’s see: just today, Bandsintown popped the cork on its five millionth app install (across Facebook, iOS, Android, whatever), not to mention a spread of 210 countries and a catalog of roughly 3.5 million gigs.
Ten years: it’s an epoch in internet time, which is why the tenth anniversary of the iTunes Store is so remarkable. According to just-release stats from NPD Group, Apple still sells 63 percent of all paid song downloads (as of Q4 2012), with Amazon pushing a very respectable 22 percent. But how robust is the paid MP3, anyway? On that note, NPD found that 44 million Americans purchased at least one paid download or album last year, a figure that has remained relatively constant over the past three years.
That’s despite some serious surges from the likes of Spotify and Pandora, both of whom may soon be grappling with elevated licensing rates. Spotify is wrangling over rates for a freemium mobile app, while Pandora enemigo ASCAP is rattling its saber a bit. In a just-published piece in Variety, ASCAP president and chairman of the board Paul Williams pointed to continued lobbying for higher rates. “We do need to get the numbers up to what we believe is fair payment,” Williams reaffirmed. In November of last year, Pandora filed suit against ASCAP to forcibly lower its rates.
Which brings us to SoundExchange, a company now managing some seriously-collosal levels of cash (for better, and for worse). SoundExchange just reported $117.5 million in digital performance royalty payouts during the first quarter of 2013; though the company has aggressively defended massive holding balances and non-payment issues over the years.
And the Grooveshark grilling is over, for now. After a four-plus hour deposition against Digital Music News last week in Washington, DC, it’s back to business as usual. Meanwhile, a dragged out subpoena battle (involving an anonymous DMN commenter in late 2011) is entering appeal in California. Both are tied to Grooveshark’s own battle against Universal Music Group (at both the state and federal levels); more updates as the defense continues.
Which brings us to the very well-financed Deezer, a streamer with an ambitious eye towards global domination. Deezer, now swimming in the kind of cash that can only come from a benevolent Russian billionaire, just pushed a Windows 8-compatible version (ahead of Spotify, Rdio, et al). But let’s see what else these rubles can buy…
Which also brings us to the loophole-loving Aereo, a massive disruptor in the oft-parallel universe of television. The Barry Diller-backed, New York-based Aereo shuttles broadcast television across the internet for subscribers, with endpoints including smartphones. But Aereo also sidesteps all sorts of broadcast copyright issues by offering a mini-receiver to each subscriber, thereby creating a direct broadcast instead of a mass retransmission (ie, a giant copyright loophole). Anyway, this has all been the broil of an ongoing lawsuit, where broadcasters recently lost an appeal to forcibly shut Aereo down — and continue to push for injunction.