Sort of by accident, I found this wonderful documentary called “Downloaded (2013).” This film is almost two hours long. I’d never thought I would sit through a documentary like this; but like I said, it is extremely interesting and educational for me as far as hearing intimate feed back from RIAA and record labels. In essence, it is a very interesting look at the history of Napster, and how it changed the music industry forever. First, I’d like to say very quickly upfront, the film is not a “how to,” nor is this entire film about labeling all file sharers evil. I wanted to share this not because I want to sway people to think a certain way, but to help both music and film lovers be aware of the effects of file sharing, and how it really could have destroyed the industry.
Shawn Fanning was one of the original co-founders of Napster (long before Rhapsody took over). He quit school to pursue his dream of building a company with a fan based application, that would allow other fans to share files and communicate with other fans of the same artists or movie. Back then, because it has never been done before, it wasn’t officially illegal yet, in terms of sharing files. The music industry was slow to understanding the scope as to how many people were actually downloading, exactly how much was downloaded, as well as the ease of downloading with Napster. However, Fanning very much wanted to work a relationship with the music labels in order to get artists paid, this was his intent all along. However, the music industry still had problems with Fanning’s vision, because the music industry as a whole wanted to stick with their old ways and old formulas.
Many artists were divided on this issue. Some artists felt that Napster was doing a good thing; because statistics has shown that a significant amount of people that used Napster, actually purchased the music later on. Some artist saw it as stealing. But again, it boils down to something that was new, and the people that theoretically stand to lose money (in their eyes) was the ones that were most against it. However, the courts understand that you can’t stop technology, in addition to the fact that the music labels gave no room for fair use instances. Many fans saw Napster as no different than borrowing their friend’s record, then taping it on cassette and giving it back to them (which was legal for personal use). However, the sheer massiveness of the Internet changed the game as far as how fans get their entertainment.
I understand both sides. As I’ve said before, there are those who vow never to buy one piece of music ever again; as a form of rebellion against the greed of the music industry. It is interesting that throughout the legal battles, the music industry NEVER discussed the fact that the reason why many download so much, is because they couldn’t afford it. Once technology moved to CD, those prices went off the chain! However, through the years of long legal battles Napster had with the record labels and the RIAA, it’s helped shape the new business model we have today. Because the music labels felt that if they get rid of the “threat,” and the treat meaning Napster, everyone would stop downloading for free. This never happened; in fact, literally thousands of other file sharing software was developed using the same type of Napster infrastructure. But through the aftermath of all that mess, they have found away for fans to listen to music for free, and the labels can still get paid through an ad supported services. But I think the old peer to peer mindset still exist, and I think it will still take a while longer for old habits to break. JMHO.
After watching this documentary, I realized this might be one of the many reasons why the music labels haven’t attacked YouTube as harshly as they did Napster. They are literally scared of having an even worse repeat performance of piracy, and that people could theoretically stop using legal services like Rhapsody, etc, altogether; and really end the music industry as we know it for good. Even though the music industry would never admit it, the fans won; and the days of milking fans dry was over; and that was the bottom line. It was because of Napster, that music (and film) has now become more affordable/accessible to those who support their artists/actors. There are many companies such as Spotify who have a vision of making music free by using an ad based system. So far, despite the apposing view from companies like Apple, this formula does seem to work (they’re not making loads of money, but they work). But you know what? It is my view that it really doesn’t matter, because no matter what any music streaming service does, at a standard price point of 9.99 a month, the music labels are going to take 80% of the revenue anyway. Music streaming is a very hard business to get into. Which is why business like Live365 has folded. This is largely because labels want more and more money; labels just have a hard time understanding that our economy has changed. Especially when it comes to music, music is a part of our culture, fans have a right to afford their favorite music. Watch it on Netflix Downloaded (2013).
“The State Of The Entertainment Industry Today,” kind of sound like a magazine title doesn’t it? I wanted to write a little bit on this topic, because it seems that the more I try to research this very topic, the more I’m sort of confused. The reason being, the opinions are so diverse that it becomes really difficult to discern what is fact and what’s fiction. Some of the opinions are bias, some uninformed, and some writers thoughts are just all over the place. I think part of the problem is, since the age of streaming, both music labels and streaming services are very secretive in terms of their numbers. This is understandably so, since it is both considered intellectual property and a “secret recipe” of sorts. But this makes it really hard to determine how well the music industry is really doing, all we can all do is speculate and have opinions with the information the labels allow us to have.
However, right now, I really think that the question we should be asking is, how does YouTube factor in on the success of the music industry? Those who may not fully understand digital technology as it pertains to the music and film industry, may not realize that in reality YouTube is just another piracy site just like Pirate Bay in a different form (but multiple times its size). What has changed in the music industry in particular, that has made YouTube the exception to the rule?
I think what’s changed is YouTube new “Music Key” service, or now called “YouTube Red.” For the same basic price of $9.99, they are offering commercial/ad-free content, and the ability to download for off-line use. They also have original video content, but the samples I saw sucked (maybe they are still experimenting with the service). I’m really interested as to how this would work out in the future. While the service doesn’t answer my question about the ad-free user uploads, and the illegal monetizing of user uploads, it does show that YouTube is doing all it can to use it’s popularity to do the right thing. However, if I didn’t have Rhapsody, would I actually pay to use YouTube service? No. I would pay for Spotify before I would ever use YouTube as a main music source. Why? For two VERY important reasons. Number one, as I’ve said in previous articles, YouTube is not designed as a traditional streaming service; in fact, creating and saving videos to playlists is not as easy as it should be (it’s almost primitive). It is not designed for the daily music lover in mind. I guess for someone who just wants to listen to music while on the job, or doing a quick travel from A to B, then I guess it’s fine for those kinds of listeners. However, for a power user such as myself, the YouTube service isn’t attractive to people like us.
The second most important reason I would never pay to use YouTube service (especially on my phone), is because the amount of battery power it pulls to stream each video. I can’t believe I haven’t read any blogger talk about this. Using YouTube to stream your music, the way you use regular music, is like trying to use your GPS on your phone all day. It pulls a lot of power! Not to mention the fact that depending on how good your WiFi/4G connection is, can take a while to download multiple videos. I don’t remember if they offer an option to just download the sound only or not; but if they do, that means there is additional conversion time. If I can quickly add a third, its setup doesn’t allow for robust music discovery. I could discover better music by using Shazam’s music selections; hell, even Pandora does a better job of suggesting good music. Again, I don’t want my prior statement to be interpreted as a discouragement, just something to think about. The nice thing is though, YouTube will still have their free service available. Now, If the reports are true, that streaming sales have finally exceeded CD sales; then YouTube’s new “Red” service could put the music industry back on the map. In terms of film, it’s a different animal, however, the film industry recognizes that the public wants more on-demand videos, and we’ll start to see more free services like Crackle with paid commercials.
I decided to take some time to quickly write about the subject of sound quality, in terms of video streaming services. I’m not going to go into anything technical, because there’s so much to audio that it would make your head spin. It truly is hard to keep up, unless you are already working inside the technical areas of film and music. Software engineers are frequently developing new ‘n’ improved sound and video codecs for all devices. There are quite a few popular codecs, some of them are PCM, DTS-MA, DTS-HD & Dolby HDtrue DDPlus, AC3, and all are uncompressed. Now, which ones are the best? Well, some times that all depends on the ear that is listening to them. They’re those people who will say that there is absolutely no difference them; then there are others who’d think that “those” people are crazy and out of there minds. There are those who think that PCM is better, but in my opinion, it is louder not necessarily better. However, many people have always associated a louder sound with better quality, and that’s just not true. Personally, I think it also boils down to the equipment, in addition to how it is setup. The best analogy I can think of is, if you’re still using an old analog television, and you’ve connected a Blu-Ray player to it, you’re not going to see a big difference in quality. But unfortunately, those people will make an unwavering assumption that it doesn’t matter what you use, all sound and video are the same; which is not quite correct. Other times we don’t have much of a choice. Personally I’ve always preferred DTS; in fact, older movies that were originally recorded in DTS were exponentially better. I’m not sure what happened with the newer DTS, all I can tell you, it doesn’t sound as crisp and pristine as it once was. But unfortunately, the vast majority of movies now are produced using either PCM or DD5.1/DD True (although DD5.1 is better than PCM, but neither is as good as DTS). Eventually I realized it doesn’t make any sense bitching about it, because our equipment can only process what’s encoded on the Blu-Ray. Sometimes studios would come out with special edition Blu-Rays that would include different codecs, but that also means you’re usually spending more money because it’s most likely a collector’s item.
There is also one more factor we may not realize. I’ve written quite a lot about fake 3D movies, where a movie studio would print 3D on the package, however, in reality they’re just 3D conversions, because it cost too much to shoot in 3D. Well, the truth of the matter is, sound is kind of like that too. Depending on how the movie was produced, or sometimes even how old the movie is, you may not get improved sound just because your movie is on Blu-Ray. For instance, A Blu-Ray may state that an old movie has DTS 5.1/7.1 sound; but in reality, all they did what copy the same sound to 5-7 channels; giving the illusion that it is actually 5.1/7.1. Yet, they will charge you 40-70% more because it’s on Blu-Ray. Anybody who is real finicky about sound, would know right away that it’s fake.
I don’t think movie fans talk about this much, maybe a lot of us haven’t realized it yet. But sound quality have improved tremendously in the video streaming world. Do you realized that video sound on streaming is now superior to cable? Granted, I’m not familiar with all the major cable companies out there, but, lets look at the company I am for familiar with, CableVision. If you browse through your premium HD movie channels, and even a lot of the “Pay-Per-View” movies, all of them are in HD Stereo sound (actually I shouldn’t say all, but a significant number of them are stereo). Some of the HD channels are still only broadcasting 720p, WTF?? But Netflix movies are both HD and DTS/DD 5.1, and Netflix movies cost in the pennies in comparison to cable movies. Hulu also has Dolby Digital 5.1 movies, but they may be available only on certain devices. I think Amazon is DD5.1 too (on Roku/Amazon Fire/SmartTV). There are even some totally free streaming services that have DD5.1 as well, I think it was TubiTV I saw it. So why can’t cable? [By the way, google movies are regular stereo; I purchased Vampire Hunter, Battleship and Prometheus and they were stereo when I bought them. @ $15, I should have gotten bare minimum DD5.1. Never again] Because of issues like these, I never saw a good reason to buy a 4K TV, when very few things would be able to watch on 4K. By the time 4K becomes standard, your unit would be out of warranty and time for a new one. Although Netflix has 4K streaming available, they are a small selection (not Netflix fault). It’s so important to understand these technologies before you spend your hard earned money. These are just more reasons why cable/premium networks/HBO, etc.) companies will eventually go down by the next 15-20 years (maybe not extinct, but they will crumble significantly). Trust me, as soon as T-mobile’s bandwidth improves (probably around 6-7G), I will have no need for cable.
You know the interesting thing about all of this? Cable companies will tier your internet bandwidth to make more money, but in terms of actually watching movies on through your cable box, it’s full bandwidth, so there’s no reason they should be holding back on any parts of movie quality (especially sound). As a whole, in the era of movie streaming, most very old movies will never be remastered because of cost. But at least we can expect the highest of video and audio quality for all future movies, as digital technology improves, and cost goes down for the independent film maker. As Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon stream continue to grow, I wouldn’t be surprised if later on down the line; HBO, ShowTime, Starz, and all the other greedy networks start offering 1 and 2 year deals to win back customers. Kind of like how movie studios started packaging Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital bundles! Now, why would I want 3 versions of the same movie? Well, I guess I can give two away, maybe that’s it! Involuntarily pay more money for a movie, to give as a gift to someone else. Or they may just decide to come up with their own streaming service, which will cost just as much as cable if not more. Like the music industry, they had to make some serious changes and adjust for this current economy; the movie industry will learn the same. Can’t continue to charge these bloated prices, or the same circulated movies.
You know I was thinking….. I think that in this day and age; where digital technology is here to stay; it’s absolutely hilarious that we are still using the word “albums” to describe non-physical medium. We we’re still using the word “albums” even for CDs. This goes to show you how much of an impact that old school still has on our society as a people (and not even know it). I think that we’ll still be using the word “albums,” long after albums eventually become extinct. Can you imagine a great grandfather trying to explain to his great grandchild what an album was? LOL… I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. I know that would be funny as hell! By then then I truly hope that every single piece of history has been preserved on digital; and easily accessible by all; without “elite membership prices.” You need to help support and fight for the digital archiving of our history; because once it’s gone, it’s gone (even if it exists, it’s lost).
Live365 suffers a collision of misfortunes, lays off most employees and vacates office
Today, I decided to login to my free Live365 listener mobile app, when I kept getting “incorrect login and password” messages. I then decided to go to the live365 website to reset my password, and saw a large message that I interpreted to be very vague. I tried to escape out of the message but could not. It looks like Live365 has shut down January 31, 2016! Why? Upon further research, the Copyright Royalty Board recently released their new rates for webcasters. Unfortunately, the new rates are significantly more than Live365 could afford (what most webcasters could afford). Long story short, Live365 had to make a decision to either raise their already high membership fees to cover the royalty cost, or shut down. It would have cost a web DJ about $40+ a month (lowest package), for a maximum of about 2 hours worth of music uploaded at a time; and a maximum of 10 listeners at a time. According to the following article from “Rain News,” they have chosen to focus more on other business ventures they currently have. I think it’s good to note that streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, etc, have not been effected much, because they are under a different category; I believe it’s called “non-interactive.” However, I think these new rates for webcasters have inadvertently devastated our ability to listen to a broader selection of music, by real people and real fans. You may not see it now, but at least for us older folks, we can clearly hear the difference between music played on the radio that was hand selected by a human fan; and the kinds of music played that was mathematically selected by a computer. As far as I’m concerned a significant chunk of our music history & culture has been lost as of last month; it is because of sites like Live365 that we were able to hear music we no longer hear; it is because of Live365 that we heard music that other services don’t have a licenses for. Live365 was the only station that I could think of, where you could listen to the rarest of music not played anywhere. Not even 8Tracks have the music that Live365 had. There are some things within the human experience that a computer chip cannot replace.
It is interesting, as much as I used to complain that not enough older folks are using streaming technology, a significant amount of seasoned folks were using and DJing with Live365. Only amateur DJs with a certain level of experience could play the kinds of music we heard there. That’s just a fact, whether you’d acknowledge it or not. This really saddened me. Live365 was an extremely unique service, that allowed real fans to share their personal music they already own, with other fans (especially when it came to classic music). Many of the stations played music you’d never hear from any Genome selected music playlist. I will truly miss them. However, again this speaks to the larger existing problem of the music industry. The music industry is trying to price music streaming in the same way they used to sell albums. If this continues, the only business that will be able to afford these licenses, will be the larger mainstream stations like Z100, etc. I really think that the answer here is YouTube. YouTube needs to be structured more like a traditional streaming music service; but unfortunately, I’m beginning to realize that it appears that the music industry is using YouTube more as a promotional tool, and the smaller webcasters/internet radio are being used to off set royalties. Well, the decision holds till about 5 years; and I don’t think that much change will happen till then.
I’ve found two more reasons to add, to the already existing pile of reasons why apple is on my poop list! Now, I kindly ask that my small and faithful blog fans not be upset for this post. Once again, I think Apple makes phenomenal products, so it’s not that I think Apple devices are crap. All their products works damn near flawless! For goodness sake, I’ve owned 3 iPod classics (which all still work); and I still currently use iTunes software because I still think it’s the best music management software for DRM free/mp3 files they have on the market today! My HUGE gripe with Apple, is their quest to hold customers hostage! They hold their customers hostage indirectly with the music content, and the apps. No one can honestly say that they will be using one app, or one type of phone for the rest of their life. I have the right as a consumer (who spent a LOT of money on Apple music and movies), to have the ability/license to switch technologies at will, and not be concerned with all the money I spent before a new technology. Keep in mind, this is one of the huge advantages Android OS has over Apple; Android doesn’t have such a strong choke hold that it doesn’t allow innovation from the outside. Android is open source, and You’ll find many devices and technology that are now using Android OS; they’re not limited to just Samsung smartphones. Including but not limited to video steaming devices [NVIDIA Shield Android TV and other devices], and watches [ASUS ZenWatch and other watch brands]. Even vehicles are using Android Auto. This is one of the huge reason I keep pounding on my readers heads to ALWAYS purchase DRM free mp3 files ONLY!! DRM free files are sold through Amazon, and GooglePlay (both have significant collections of music). If you want to be limited by Apple, that’s your problem. I’ll always be looking for other technologies where I can benefit, or improve the way I do things.
Today, I tried to open up an Apple link that was posted on Facebook. The web page opened, however, much to my surprise, I could not play the music at all. In fact, the play button wasn’t even visible. I thought I needed an upgrade, but my software was current. So I decided rather trying to find the play button, I clicked on the “view/play in iTunes” link. The user that posted the link was a subscriber to their new Apple streaming. I have to be a member of Apple streaming to hear the music. WTF???????? WTF?????? LOLOLOL 😀 I should have gotten at least a 30 second preview. It is standard practice to give previews on all digital products offered for sale. However, they only offer samples on their “pay per download.” In my opinion, that was a really bad move on Apple’s part; non-users should have samples, because samples is what’s needed to make a decision to buy or tryout a service. They need to disable their share features if they insist on doing that; it may be that they don’t want to pay the labels for free samples. Just my humble opinion. The last insult to injury, they took away Apple radio too. Apple radio is now only available to Apple Music subscribers. AHHHHHHHHHHHH. But continued to make their curated radio streams available (for free of course). However, the curated list of stations are very sloppy; meaning you’ll find many duplicates stations; sometimes up to 4 duplicates. Many stations don’t even belong there, such as feeds from Live365. You need to be a subscriber of Live365, because they have a limit of 10 listeners at a time per station. You’ll be forced to use the Live365 software and search for the station you want and play it. I have to say, a lot of the music on their curated stations are not that great either. You’ll do better finding your own radio streams on the internet, and copying the URL in your favorite radio feed software. It’s obvious they are focusing hard on their subscription services. Even the availability of diverse podcasts sucks. Just food for thought guys.
US vinyl market worth more than YouTube, Vevo and Spotify Free combined
The article this quote comes from doesn’t have a date; however, judging from the URL, it was posted on September 24th of last year. Despite the name of the website is called “Fact Magazine,” I call bullshit. You have to be so careful when you read these websites that through these numbers all over the place, because many of them don’t take in to consideration other factors. First of all, Spotify isn’t making any money; which explains why they’ve never made significant improvements to their desktop and mobile applications; and also reasons why many music labels and major online music stores such as iTunes has put so much pressure to limit their free services. I can’t find any proof that YouTube is paying royalties for all of the music videos; but then again I realize I won’t find any proof because YouTube/Google can’t make such a statement; simply because (as I’ve said before) there’s absolutely no way to account for which royalties are being paid to the actual music labels, and which videos are monitored by YouTube users. Vevo is just a smaller version of YouTube. I don’t understand why this blogger is comparing stats between these three online services, and weighing it against album sales. It’s not even in the same ball park! Second, Record labels are not producing vinyls at the same rate they used to before CD technology. That means that a significant portion of the total vinyl sales (in my opinion) must be coming from collector albums that are in mint condition. Collector albums that are higher in price, for a specific elite group of faithful vinyl fans. I hate when bloggers skew numbers to sway people in to believing something that’s not entirely true. Here is the article if you’d like to read it here.
Before I forget, I just wanted to write something quick about the differences between the 3 major video streaming services. They are, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. I’m not going to tell you which one is the best, because they are all 3 are good, they just offer different things. This really is about personal taste, and the kinds of movies you like. All 3 services offer free trials, I highly suggest that you sign up for them, because it’s the only way you’ll know what’s best for YOU. All three are inexpensive. Keep in mind that none of them will offer any “new” movies younger than about 6 months old (sometimes longer depending on how popular it is in the theater, and licensing). They all have “original TV programming,” and some of these original programs have some big names in the movie business. Depending on the device you’re using to stream your video, you’re going to have different features available. For example, You’re not going to have the same options on your Roku box, they way you would on your computer. The same is true between boxes; so a Roku interface is going to be different from a Sony PlayStation, or Smart TV, etc.
If I’m not mistaken, their movie streaming service only comes as a package with Amazon’s Prime. Like all the other services, you can watch either on your computer, phone, tablet, or Roku box, or any streaming enabled box. However, be forewarned, I purchased a couple of digital movies from them, and they do not display on my computer or phone in high-definition. It they only display in HD if I use my Roku (keep that in mind). Amazon did offer to refund me, but since I use my Roku more, I just decided to keep it. One of the things I had a real problem with, is the fact that their licenses change frequently. For instance, you can save a movie for viewing later, then next month that same movie will be off prime, then you’ll have to pay for it. The same is true for quite a few of their music streaming too. But they do have a lot of good action movies, as well as children stuff. For original content, they have shows like “Bosch,” and “Catastrophe.” For regular shows, they have “Falling Skies,” “Suites,” and “Hannibal.” Their TV classics are “Bonanza,” and “Batman.” Movies are “Slow West,” “Expendables 3.”
Like Amazon, you can use the service across most platforms. Hulu is really good for TV shows rather than their movies. If you skim through their movies, you’ll notice that a lot of them are cheesy horror movies you’d find in the $4 dollar bin, in the closeout section of your local media store. But their TV shows are on point. They have most of the popular TV shows that are out today such as “Empire,” “Gotham,” and Vampire Diaries. They also have their own TV originals such as “Doorgy,” and “Difficult People.” I almost forgot, the have a decent selection of classic TV shows too, such as “I Love Lucy,” “Kojak,” and “Remington Steel.” If you’re a TV show buff, you’ll probably lean toward Hulu.
The nice thing about Netflix is that, although their DVD/Blu-Rays and streaming are two separate services now, they are still integrated features in your account. You can have one or the other, or both if you wish. Personally, I’d take Netflix over Amazon, because just about all the movies that are on Amazon, you can get from Netflix (with the exception of Amazon’s original content). Also, you don’t have to deal with frequent license expiration; and not to mention the fact that they have the biggest DVD/Blu-Ray library than anybody else (including foreign films, documentaries, and special interests). Netflix has lots of popular TV shows too, the only difference, is that Netflix tends to be back by one season compared to Hulu. Hulu is better if you want near current episodes. HOWEVER, if you want last season of “whatever,” you’ll probably need to go to Netflix, because Hulu doesn’t always have all of the seasons. Netflix has TV originals such as “Jessica Jones,” and “Daredevil.” They have regular shows like “Supernatural,” and “Continuum.” They also have nice classics such as “Xena,” and “Farscape.” I think Netflix has better movies available for streaming, such as “The Rite,” “Swelter,” and “Anacondas.”