Piracy in the age of streaming music

04.22.10 Posted in Blog by

As you might have read in the about section of this website, I’m currently busy with working on my master thesis. In this post I’ll quickly guide you through the concept of this research. As the title of this post already reveals, I am questioning the effects of streaming music on music piracy. Will music piracy disappear when we all have access to (free) streaming music libraries?

Is the end of music piracy near?

When looking at popular sources writing about streaming music, a certain belief can be found suggesting that this new way of consuming music will discourage and maybe even make an end to music piracy. The American newsmagazine TIME for example recently stated:

“Who needs to rip CDs or buy songs when nearly any song imaginable is available, providing you have an active Internet connection?” (TIME, March 22, 2010)

This belief is quite reasonable because why would you have to illegaly download music when you have access to all music ever published? At the same time when looking at the history of music piracy, this belief sounds quite unrealistic. Since the advent of a music industry that promotes songs as commodities there has been music piracy. Different carriers and technologies all have had their own specific piracy cultures. Will streaming music put an end to this ‘tradition’?

Pros of music piracy

Next to this, piracy has in history often led to the innovation of systems of distribution, legislation and consumption habits. How will this develop in an age when there is supposed to be no music piracy?

In my thesis I am investigating these contradictions and ask the question how streaming music is affecting the notion of music piracy. I search for answers by analyzing the archeology of music piracy, the motivations behind it, its relationship with the music industry, and how these elements are affected in the age of streaming music.

Sounds good?

Create music with ToneMatrix

03.12.10 Posted in Blog by

If you get excited from seeing Yamaha’s Tenori-on in action and liked to play Electroplankton on the Nintendo DS, you’ll love this one too: The ToneMatrix.

Developed by aM Laboratory it’s a small and free music synthesizer in your browser. Easily create the most beautiful music by selecting steps in a 16×16 matrix. Definitely a nice timewaster!

Two competing online music models

03.10.10 Posted in Blog by

Predictions and rumors are fun and exiting but often also a tricky business. One of the main lessons a new media student therefore quickly gets taught is to avoid sources with titles like ‘How xxx will change everything‘. But after reading different stories and rumors about Apple’s plans with the acquisition of Lala last December and more recently of Apple having talks with the big movie companies I couldn’t help thinking about the often rumored cloud-version of iTunes and what this could mean for the direction online music is heading. So here, completely off the record, an description of two competing streaming music business models.

Connecting the dots

When ‘connecting the dots’ of Apple’s moves the last months (the acquisition of online music service Lala and the talks with movie companies) and looking at the vectors in time that can be distinguished at this moment (increased mobility with connected devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs) it is very likely that Apple will get into streaming music soon as well. But using the now popular Spotify and MOG model doesn’t seem to be a logical step for Apple. This because it would likely rival their iTunes Store sales and thus also damage their relations with the major record companies. Looking at the service Lala previously provided to their users, the ‘all you can eat’ streaming music model Spotify uses is likely to be competing with the online locker model in the near future.

The online locker model

If Apple gets into streaming music the company would most likely develop a version of iTunes that let’s you put (a selection of) your music library online in a personal locker, accessible from everywhere when connected to the Internet with your iPhone or iPad. At this moment these mobile devices all have little storage space so having your whole music collection available online, without using all your precious gigabytes would likely sound attractive to the owners of such devices. Having exclusive access to a cloud version of iTunes on Apple devices will likely also increase the sales of their products and finally, using this model will probably not affect the sales of the iTunes Store since music still has to be purchased.

Already there are companies out there that provide such services, an example of this is MP3tunes that lets you store your music online and stream it to your mobile devices. With the back-up of the already known user interface of iTunes, the $1 billion data centre Apple has built and the possible standard presence of such a feature on every new device this model could definately compete with the online library model.

Challenging ownership

The most important part on which the online locker model could compete with the online library model is the sense of ownership. Users can now create playlists and build personal libraries in services like Spotify and MOG but when a user ends his subscription all of this is lost. While an online locker version could be subscription based too, users will still retain their sense of ownership since all music can, if necessary, be withdrawn from the locker. Tilting the notion of music as a product to a notion of music as a service has proven to be very hard in the last years with subscription-based services working hard not only to gain but also to keep users interested.  A possible future online locker model for streaming music therefore surely is a model to take in account when thinking about a possible ‘winning’ online streaming music model.

Articles and Essays

03.08.10 Posted in Portfolio, Work by

Over the years I’ve written several articles and essays about online music for newspapers, websites and of course for my studies. Check out some examples of the articles and essays below.

5 Psychological Principles To Help You Sell More Music
(Published on Music Think Tank)

This article elaborates on Chialdini’s persuasive principles and applies them to today’s music business.

Tomahawk: Next Generation Music Player?Hypebot
(Published on Hypebot)

This article covers the introduction of the promising open-source social music player Tomahawk.

Why You Should Start Using Flattr Hypebot
(Published on Hypebot)

In this essay I try to convince the reader to start using the micropayment tool Flattr. You should do so too!

Why Piracy Is Good For InnovationHypebot
(Published on Hypebot)

In this essay I explain how entrepreneurs, politics, and the entertainment industry can all learn and benefit from piracy cultures.

Herinneringen delen in een wolk van data
(Published in the Dutch quality newspaper NRC Next)

In this essay I explore the personal music collection and how it is affected by the next generation of streaming music applications. It was published in the Dutch quality newspaper NRC Next on the 17th of June, 2010. Read the full article (in Dutch) here, or download the PDF.

A Record Collection of Links Hypebot
– Collecting in the Age of Streaming Music –
(Published on Hypebot)

This essay asks what remains of the intimate relationship between collector and collection in the age of streaming music. It was published on Hypebot on the 25th of May, 2010. Read the full article on Hypebot.

The Art Of Collecting In The Age Of Streaming Music
(written for the master New Media & Digital Culture)

In this paper I explore how streaming music affects the notion of collecting. By analyzing the behavior of users of the Dutch online music platform Twones, by reviewing literature about collecting and by applying this to developments in online music in the last decade, this paper makes clear how the private music collection and the use that is made of it looks like in the age of streaming music. Read the paper below (Flash) or download the PDF.

Reinvented Twones empowers music bloggers

02.24.10 Posted in Blog by

While during the last two weeks the debate around online music bloggers infringing copyrights reached a new high again with Blogger (read Google) taking down at least six regularly read music blogs, the Dutch Twones released a new tool today that empowers this same music blogger again. The new tool that accompanies the reinvention of Twones is called the Music Bar and comes in the form of a light browser add-on that lets users bookmark music from several online sources and players. How can it empower the musical blogosphere?

The introduction of the Music Bar comes after a period of about half a year in which the Amsterdam based company clearly was searching for a new direction for their platform. With previous versions of the platform users had to install an add-on in their browser that could keep track of both on- and offline players. Especially the possibility of keeping track of offline players resulted in people seeing the platform as an extended version of Last.fm, with their profile representing not only their offline plays but also their occasional played YouTube videos, MySpace music clips and Grooveshark plays. In a review on Lifehacker this sentiment got echoed:

“Like Last.fm, web service Twones aims to help you keep track of all the music you listen to. Unlike Last.fm, Twones can track virtually any place you may listen to music on your computer”.

While Twones did this quite well, Last.fm had far better tools to visualize the musical identity of a user. But becoming a better Last.fm actually wasn’t the idea that the founder Heineke and Martens had with Twones. With the new release Twones really shows its colors and what it wants to be.

Organizing online music

That is, THE place to organize your online music. Having used the Music Marker for a while now it sure comes close to realizing this goal. Twones got rid of the offline players and now recognizes plays not only on several online music services but also of embedded players (YouTube, Vimeo, JW Player) and it makes it possible to stream embedded MP3s. Especially these last two options make the tool interesting and not just another streaming music service. With the option to organize the bookmarks in nifty playlists and to share real-time music activity feeds with followers Twones turns the browser into a great player for the musical blogosphere.

While the musical blogosphere formerly was a place to read about music, listen to music and occasionally a place to download it too, Twones can now potentially turn this whole network of music blogs into a streaming music network. As the Music Bar makes it easier for individuals to organize online music and redirects the listener to the place where a track was bookmarked it provides the blogger a platform to promote their site and it can make this sphere a lot easier to access for the individual.

Finally, with the ressurection of tastemaker selecting the best (new) music instead of a ‘Genius’ or a ‘Similar artists radio’, Twones might do a nice one-two with the musical blogosphere distinguishing itself from other streaming music services and providing the music lover both with a richer context and who knows even with better music!

Disclaimer: I have worked for Twones for several months and have done a large part of their copywriting and marketing efforts.

Online Marketing Campaigns

02.22.10 Posted in Portfolio, Work by

In 2009/2010 I’ve helped the online music platform TwonesTwones with solving several communications and marketing related issues like setting up their online marketing campaigns. Twones was an exciting Dutch online music start-up that got wide coverage in the international tech-press. Although low-budget, the campaigns reached among others TechCrunchThe Next Web and All Things Digital.

Unfortunately the music platform Twones had to close in July 2010 due to financial issues. The technology powering the platform got a second life in Shuffler.fm.

Introducing Have You Heard It

02.09.10 Posted in Blog by

Welcome to Have You Heard It, a website run by Robbert van Ooijen. I am a Dutch Master student specialized in and writing about online streaming music and music piracy.

I believe that we are living in an exciting time for online music. After several initiatives have kickstarted developments in the last years that could lead to a new evolution in music, this transition seems to be happening right now! Wired magazine already characterized the year 2009 as the year in which streaming music ‘really took off’, more and more press is starting to write about it and the technological and cultural climate seems to be optimal.

After researching digital music trends and working in the online music business myself I’m currently busy writing my Master thesis about online (streaming) music and music piracy. Here, on Have You Heard It, I’m glad to share the things I encounter with you along the process of writing! Sharing these things on my own company’s website (I work as a freelance copywriter, marketeer, consultant and always looking for new projects!) has two goals:

– To share interesting insights with fellow online music enthusiasts and
– To archive all the things I encounter during the process of writing my thesis for use by others.

If you’re reading along, feel free to share your insights with me!