Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Warner Music opens up to Youtubers

Arstechnica reports that Warner Music is set to offer youtubers the freedom of its back catalogue.

Distibuting official music videos via youtube is a brave step. Allowing consumers to soundtrack their home-made video with Warner's premium audio content is a flea-like leap into the unknown.

But, like fortune, Diginatives favour the brave (and adore the flea-like). When a youtube user integrates a Warner artist's music into his or her creation, that artist will become a contributor, or even a co-creator. The positive experience of creating that content will, in part, be a positive experience of the artist's brand, and that brand will forever be associated with a moment of inspiration, creativity and pride. Not bad for zero work, plus a pay cheque and a bit of free advertising every time the video is viewed!

Of course there is the risk of Warner's music being included in, and associated with, some truly awful and amateurish content. Worse still, it is only a matter of time before an artist is the target of a vicious video polemic to which he or she provides the soundtrack. But this is the nature of web 2.0: consumers are in the driving seat, and brands can either buckle up and enjoy the ride, or readjust their blinkers and keep walking... until a similarly vicious blog post bounces them into the gutter.

Dueting with Zune

A couple of cute Zune films are available here. Both communicate the idea of dueting, which is what Microsoft are calling Zune's wireless sharing functionality.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wireless and portable is the future, but what about the present?

The future of peer-to-peer communication and content-sharing is wireless and portable. Or so thinks Sony and Microsoft, if their forthcoming devices are anything to go by.

According to widespread rumour, Microsoft's iPod killer, the Zune, which is due for release later this year, will allow users to share downloaded music via a wireless connection. Sharing here equates to borrowing, as transferred tunes will need to be purchased from an itunes-esque music store within 24 hours for the borrower to enjoy permanent playback.

Meanwhile, Sony's newly released Mylo, whose title is a cringe-worthy acronymn of My Life Online, has an impressive range of wireless communication options. After selecting a friend from a list of avatars, a Mylo user can converse using either Yahoo's or Google's email or instant messaging applications. Alternatively, he or she can make free VOIP calls using Skype software. If that's not enough, a full HTML web browser with innovative zoom functionality can provide access to social networking websites like Myspace. In order to utilise these features, Mylo users must first locate a WiFi hotspot where they can access a wireless broadband internet connection - thankfully, a further application provided by JiWire is on hand to help them find one nearby. In addition to online wireless capability, the Mylo allows for offline wireless text-based communication with in-range friends, and Zune-style music sharing.

So, that's what Zune and Mylo can do. But is it what the Diginative masses, and not merely the innovators and early adopters, want to do?

I'm not entirely convinced. With regards to the Sony Mylo, mobile phones cater perfectly well for functional on-the-go communication needs with voice calls and SMS. They are surely too ubiquitous and too convenient to be usurped by a new and relatively bulky device such as the Mylo. Moreover, Mylo requires users to get off-the-go and find a Wi Fi hotspot, which kind of defeats the object of a device intended for functional on-the-go communication.

But what about recreational communication? Is the prospect of Diginatives sat in WiFi-enabled cafes chatting via Yahoo messenger, Gmail, Skype or Myspace a plausible one? Again, I'm not convinced. Sitting in front of a hi-tech PC in the comfort of your own bedroom is one thing, but sitting in front of a handheld device with limited functionality in a busy cafe is quite another. Until the advent of city-wide WiFi zones, it seems unlikely that millions of young people will choose ultra-public spaces to service their online communication needs.

The Zune/Mylo music sharing initiative is perhaps more plausible. Whilst mobile phones allow for basic mobile communication, they are limited in their ability to send and receive content. The consumer demand for simple download-swapping in a playground/common room/pub scenario has not yet been met.

So, will these devices be a hit or a miss with Diginatives? In the case of Mylo, I think it's functionality is one-step ahead of current wireless infrastructure. In the case of Zune, the signs are more promising, although talk of Apple-style coercion relating to the use of Microsoft's proprietary WMA music format is worrying. Consumer needs, and not the bottom line, will surely need to be prioritised if Zune is to challenge its iPod and 3G handset rivals in the mobile music player market.

Monetising Myspace music

On 05 September The Guardian reported that Myspace is planning to shortcut record labels by giving artists the chance to sell their music direct to consumers via the popular social-networking site.

Whereas previous generations of artists required agents, managers and labels to publish and promote their music, it seems likely that the content-generating generation will relish the opportunity to take control of their artistic destiny.

Online infrastructure has empowered people in many ways. It has enabled them to wrestle back control of their media consumption from broadcasters, to engage in small-scale commerce without overheads, to express uncensored opinion as citizen journalists. Diginative Myspace artists who have grown-up with these new powers and freedoms will surely relish the opportunity to apply eBay and Adwords-taught marketing methods to their own creative product.

Record labels everywhere should be afraid. Very afraid. The chace to vastly increase their share of sales revenue will be too good for many up-and-coming bands to resist.