Last.fm cuts off third-party mobile apps

By on March 25, 2009 at 1:41 PM.

Last.fm cuts off third-party mobile apps

Sad news from custom internet radio land as Last.fm announces some big changes that are sure to upset plenty of listeners. While the company has never provided an official API in the past, it has turned a blind eye to third-party developers with apps that stream Last.fm content to computers and/or mobile devices. No more — according to an official statement, the CBS-owned company will be releasing a formal streaming API and it will only be available to developers with an API account. Fair enough. The problem comes in with the following bullet point however:

You won’t be allowed to use our API to stream to mobile phones. This is unfortunately a limitation of some of our licensing agreements. Again, we may be able to make an exception to this if you talk to us directly.

Last.fm traffic is up over 50 percent YoY and this is due in no small part to the release of its official iPhone application. As such, we imagine the company is well aware of the potential mobile streaming has. At the same time, Last.fm has plenty of bosses to answer to and we imagine this new policy was handed down from above. It is our understanding that apps such as Flipside for BlackBerry and other apps that only scrobble locally-played music will continue to operate just fine. The problem lies in apps like Mobbler for S60 and Pocket Scrobbler for Windows Mobile as they can kiss streaming functionality goodbye… Unless the devs can convince Last.fm to “make an exception”, ie fork over some cash to appease CBS. The iPhone and Android apps, for those concerned, will continue to work fine as they were developed in-house.

[Via Giz]

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VUDU soon to add PC-streaming feature

By on March 16, 2009 at 3:56 PM.

VUDU soon to add PC-streaming feature

Official word that VUDU jazzed up its service offering with the addition of Pandora came through this morning but now some less-than-official news is creeping out that may be even more interesting. As you can see in the leaked screen shot above, VUDU is currently working on a new feature called Home Movies. According to Zatz Not Funny!, Home Movies will provide a Slingcatcher-like PC to TV streaming experience. It will reportedly allow users to stream H.264 video from a PC to the VUDU box, plugging yet another hole hole as the team continues to add value beyond HD movie rentals and purchases. It looks like the advent of the RIA platform was indeed a pretty effective catalyst for VUDU — let’s hope it can continue to add new features and services as the company makes its best effort to weather the storm.

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VUDU adds Pandora as content expansion continues

By on March 16, 2009 at 12:01 AM.

VUDU adds Pandora as content expansion continues

Since the announcement of VUDU’s Rich Internet Application (RIA) platform, we’ve been waiting for some new big news to come down from the Santa Clara-based set top box-based movie distributor and this morning it looks like we’ve got it. Pandora, perhaps the most popular among a new wave of intelligent internet radio services, is now available via VUDU hardware. Pandora represents the first music application to hit the VUDU box and owners will have full access to just about all of Pandora’s great functionality. VUDU’s implementation also allows for multiple log-ins, allowing each member of a household to easily access his/her custom stations. The Pandora application is integrated seamlessly into VUDU’s sexy UI, as seen above, likely making it the most attractive Pandora-streaming option currently available. The addition of Pandora is awesome of course, but we’re still waiting for a monthly subscription option in addition to a la carte movie rentals/purchases before we get too excited about the service in general.

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Pandora tries to boost revenue, implements audio ads

By on January 20, 2009 at 6:09 PM.

Pandora tries to boost revenue, implements audio ads

We’ve covered Pandora’s troubles before here on BGR and while the custom internet radio provider struggles to strike a workable deal with the RIAA, subscriptions just aren’t covering the bills apparently. Pandora, for those unaware, is a fantastic streaming music service that creates custom stations based on the tonal qualities of songs in its extensive catalog. By way of Twitter, Pandora clarified the fact that it has implemented audio ads in its guest streams. In other words, non-paying Pandora users may hear audio advertisements while subscribers ($36/year) will continue to enjoy unlimited music without interruption. No, we’re not talking about anything close to terrestrial radio’s music to ad ratio of 1:1 or worse – just a quick word from a sponsor every now and then. The move is a logical one of course, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Pandora ends up increasing its subscription charges as well. Users happy about the addition of audio commercials can send thank you notes directly to SoundExchange and the RIAA. Those of you unhappy about the news, will it stop you from using the service – or push you to subscribe?

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Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 passed

By on October 1, 2008 at 12:39 PM.

Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 passed

Following our post from Saturday regarding the NAB’s efforts to prevent the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 from passing, here’s a quick update: Long story short, H.R. 7084 has passed through both Congress and the Senate. Woo! So what exactly does that mean? It simply means that Pandora and other internet broadcasters can continue to negotiate with SoundExchange and the RIAA with regards to fair royalties. Wait, huh? It’s just a bill that allows them to continue talking? That’s right folks – pretty funny how opposed the NAB was to this procedural bill, no? What a joke the NAB has become. But we digress… Kudos to all who took the time to reach out to their state reps and express support for the bill. Who knows – maybe the RIAA, SoundExchange and internet radio can actually come to an agreement!

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Congress to vote on the future of Pandora this morning

By on September 27, 2008 at 9:32 AM.

Congress to vote on the future of Pandora this morning

At 11 am Eastern Standard Time this morning congress is scheduled to vote on a bill that, if defeated, will represent a major nail in Pandora’s coffin. In fact it’s not just Pandora, we’re talking about legitimate internet radio in general. The major opposition? Why it’s none other than the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)! Surprise, surprise. The bill in question is H.R. 7084 (Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008); merely a procedural bill that would give Pandora, SoundExchange and the RIAA more time to come to a new agreement with regards to revising the royalty program currently in place. You know, the one that’s killing internet radio. From Pandora Founder Tim Westergren:

We were just starting to feel optimistic about getting close to a settlement. H.R. 7084 is a procedural bill that would extend the negotiation period and give us all the time we need.

The thing that’s so crass is that this bill is beneficial to broadcasters, it just gives us more time to reduce Webcasting fees. They [the NAB] know we’re running out of time and if they can kill the bill they can kill Internet radio.

It’s amazing how terrified the NAB has become of progress. This issue of course is that collectively, they know they have a terrible product. Does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore? For years the ratio of advertising to music has been a sick joke on popular stations. With the increasing popularity of Satellite radio and portable audio player-friendly inputs in car stereos we would hope everyone is on the road to moving beyond the dinosaur that is terrestrial radio. After all, you wouldn’t ride a donkey to get to work or use a handful of leaves to… Well, you know.

The House vote on H.R. 7084 is at 11:00 am EST this morning. If passed, it will go before the Senate on Monday. If you’re tired of cleaning yourself with leaves, give Congress a ring (202-225-3121) and tell your representative you support H.R. 7084.

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Muxtape forced to dump original model; prepares for relaunch

By on September 26, 2008 at 1:40 PM.

Muxtape forced to dump original model; prepares for relaunch

Talk about great reads. Muxtape founder Justin Ouellette finally let the cat out of the bag today and published a lengthy report of his recent trials and tribulations. For outsiders looking in, reading about dealings with the unmitigated disaster that is the music industry is like a guilty pleasure. Rage seems to build with each passing paragraph and one can’t help but think, “are they really this stupid?” Ouellette’s recount of his experiences in recent history fits the mold perfectly. The behind the scenes plan for Muxtape was anything but ill-intentioned; Ouelette had some pretty big ideas and spent a great deal of time reaching out to labels in an effort to move music consumption forward in a very symbiotic manner. In fact in the midst of an extended series of meetings with major labels that seemed to be progressing, albeit slowly, the RIAA struck without warning and dropped an axe that would force Muxtape to go offline. It registered a complaint with Amazon Web Services, Muxtape’s host, that required Muxtape to dump a launrdy list of content within one business day or risk having his data deleted and servers shut down. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ouelette has plans to relaunch as a service geared exclusively toward bands:

The new Muxtape will allow bands to upload their own music and offer an embeddable player that works anywhere on the web, in addition to the original muxtape format. Bands will be able to assemble an attractive profile with simple modules that enable optional functionality such as a calendar, photos, comments, downloads and sales, or anything else they need.

This is a far cry from the original Muxtape model and it will likely have a much more difficult climb in terms of being widely adopted. Here at BGR, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the relaunch and we wish Ouellette all the success in the world. As for the RIAA and music industry in general, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support any means of music distribution that puts money in their pockets. The dilemma of course is in order to financially support the bands you enjoy, you are also feeding the hand that bites. Talk about a catch 22. Whatever, music industry. Keep doing things your way because it seems to really be working out well for you. We’re sure people will be lining up in droves to buy music on microSD cards. You know, just like how we all went running out to get their hands on Ringles. That went over really well.

Do yourself a favor and hit the read link.

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Muxtape Takes Fire from the RIAA

By on August 19, 2008 at 5:47 PM.

Muxtape Takes Fire from the RIAA

It looks like the big guys aren’t the only ones feeling the wrath of the RIAA these days, and it’s only bound to get worse. Muxtape, a service that allows users to upload music from their personal libraries to create an online mixtape, currently services less than 90,000 unique visitors per month according to Compete. That won’t keep it under the RIAA’s radar it would appear, as the service went down yesterday with the note “Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA” on its homepage. A post on the Muxtape blog provides the following message:

No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned.

It’s funny; rather than embrace this newer wave of online music providers, it appears that labels and the RIAA are intent on destroying these emerging technologies and completely eliminating new revenue streams that have the potential to become massive. By putting a fair royalty scheme in place, the RIAA stands to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars in the short-term and this figure would only increase as internet radio stations and other online music sites continue to gain momentum. Instead, the RIAA is trying to run these sites into the ground in order to maintain the current power structure – even if that means losing out on all of this new money. Users of sites like Muxtape aren’t going to replace their “free” listening habits with purchases, they’re going to find other off-shore sites with similar functionality. Apparently for the RIAA,  “nothing” is better than “something” when that “something” helps illustrate just how useless the current record label model is these days.

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Pandora’s Woes: RIAA Would Rather Artists Make Nothing

By on August 17, 2008 at 11:14 AM.

Pandora’s Woes: RIAA Would Rather Artists Make Nothing

As traffic to Pandora continues to climb at an impressive rate, far more steep than that of competitor Last.fm as seen in the chart above, the popular custom internet radio provider may be a breath away from closing its doors. Why, you might ask? The answer is not very far from being obvious these days. Wherever there is an emerging revolution in the realm of music consumption, loved by many yet still on the brink of defeat; the RIAA is never far from the scene. Pandora’s current woes fit the mold precisely. Pandora usage is at all all-time high and usage increased by almost two million visits per month from June to July alone, yet elevated royalty rates are making it nearly impossible for the company to stay afloat. After last year’s decision that internet radio provider per-song royalty rates would double there has been an ongoing battle between providers and SoundExchange, an unincorporated division of the RIAA tasked with collecting royalties from digital providers such as satellite and internet radio. The decision determined that the rate would increase incrementally from .08¢ per song per listener in 2006 to .19¢ per song per listener by 2010. While tiny fractions of a penny seem insignificant, they add up quickly. Pandora projects that it will pay out about $17 million this year, or a staggering 70% of its revenue, in royalties. Long story short, it is losing money. The problem is even worse for smaller internet radio providers, where increased royalty rates are expected to amount to between 100% and 300% of annual revenues. Translation: By way of SoundExchange and lawmaker support, the RIAA would rather wipe internet radio off the map with outrageous royalty rates than find a fair way to make some money for its clients (labels and, theoretically, musicians). Why is that? There is no way for us to say but as per-song performance royalties are positioned to wipe internet radio off the map, it should be noted that terrestrial radio pays no such fees.

Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora, had this to say to the Washington Post:

We’re funded by venture capital. They’re not going to chase a company whose business model has been broken. So if it doesn’t feel like its headed towards a solution, we’re done.

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