My first New Year’s resolution is to finish off the running series that I started before Christmas… With that in mind, it’s time to hit numbers 21 to 25 of my 30 Trends in Digital Music feature (for a primer on the previous ones, check 1-5, 6-10, 11-15 and 16-20).
21. Unexpected companies distributing digital music
You thought digital music was just about iTunes? Think again, and then some. Plenty of companies want to get into the market, with some – Amazon for instance – having already made their moves. In the US, supermarket chain Wal-Mart already has a well-established music downloads site too.
But there are plenty more where they came from. Last year, for example, UK broadcaster ITV set up its own digital music store, while coffee chain Starbucks has teamed up with Apple to sell iTunes albums (not to mention launching its own record label, complete with Sir Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell). Even British Airways has ambitions to sell digital music.
Not all these companies are focused on turning a profit from digital tunes, necessarily. It’s more about building customer loyalty, promoting their other products, and selling more Grande Lattes (guess which that is). We’re sure to see more unexpected companies ‘doing an iTunes’ in 2008, too.
22. AllOfMP3 is dead… long live AllOfMP3!
Well, long live its descendents, anyway. Last year saw the music industry and the long arm of the law team up to squeeze the life out of Russian downloads store AllOfMP3, which had long been criticised for its attitude towards music licensing (and its rock-bottom prices). Once the ability to make credit card payments was removed, the site was effectively dead.
Yet that wasn’t the end of the story. Partly because AllOfMP3’s founders appeared to simply set up shop under a new name, but also because several other sites immediately sprang up offering basically the same service – ultra cheap music downloads with no questions asked. As we enter 2008, it seems that the music industry hasn’t heard the last of its Russian nemesis.
23. Widgets everywhere
Music-based Web 2.0 widgets are already pretty common, and will only become more so this year. They take many forms though. For example, you’ve got widgets like SnoCap, which let musicians embed a widget into their MySpace profiles to sell their own songs from. You’ve got bands like Daft Punk and the White Stripes experimenting with their own promotional widgets.
And most of all, you’ve got dozens and dozens of Facebook applications, with record labels realising that they can get fans to do the hard promotional work for them, in a peer-to-peer stylee. This basic concept will be improved upon in 2008 though, with more sophisticated widgets coming out that potentially turn every music fan into a digital downloads store, getting commission from the songs they recommend to friends.
24. Music in podcasts… at last!
It’s perhaps not surprising that it’s taken a long time for the music industry to get its head around podcasts, particularly those from commercial radio stations. It’s the reason why for a long time you didn’t hear any music at all in commercial podcasts, even when they were from music radio shows – they didn’t have the licence to include any. And those amateur podcasters who did include music didn’t either (but didn’t care).
That’s now changed, albeit step by step. First, commercial podcasters here in the UK secured the rights to use 30-second clips of music in their podcasts – a start. It’s been the spur for a bunch of new launches, such as BBC Radio’s launch of podcasts from its pop, folk, hip hop, jazz and indie shows last November.
This year, will advertising-funded podcasts finally be able to offer full songs? Watch this space…
25. Cool viral promotions
This is kinda linked to the widget point above. Record labels are getting more innovative and experimental in how they use the web to promote new and established artists alike. The idea: websites and interactive thingies that are so cool, you’ll want to pass them onto friends rather than just see them as advertising.
The best example in 2007 was the Dylan messaging site launched to promote the latest Bob compilation, allowing you to make Dylan say whatever you wanted him to, in that famous video with the bits of paper. You know the one. More of this sort of thing in 2008 please! I’m looking forward to digitally daubing ‘CAPITALISM KILLS’ on all the yachts in Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ video. Or something.