Your Take: Google (or Amazon) It

Karlie Justus Marlowe | April 23rd, 2011

There’s been a lot of news around technology lately centered around music cloud services from Amazon, Apple and Google.

Amazon won the race in launching first, bringing cloud services to its users in early April. Labels weren’t happy, as the company didn’t secure new licensing; instead, Amazon said the service did not need licenses since the music already belonged to the users.

Now, Google and Apple are playing catch up, with Apple in the lead according to Reuters. But as the race continues, the common theme of labels’ resistance is playing out across the board. Wayne Russo’s Wayne’s World blog posted the rumor that Google may soon join Amazon’s disregard of licensing:

I’m told that this is when the idea of launching without licenses came up. Google may be starting to think that if the industry weren’t going to sue Amazon, then why would they take on Google? After all, who needs whom the most in this scenario? Could you even wrap your brain around the legal costs? As a source pointed out to me, “Larry, Serge and Eric could buy the entire music industry with their personal money”.

Over on Glyn Moody’s Open… blog, the blogger posed this question in response to the rumor:

But that throwaway comment also raises another interesting idea: how about if Google *did* buy the music industry? That would solve its licensing problems at a stroke. Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.

How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?

At the very least, the idea ought to send a shiver down the spine of the fat-cats currently running the record labels, and encourage them to stop whining so much just in case they make the thought of firing them all too attractive to the people whose lives they are currently making an utter misery….

Give us your take – what do you think about the new cloud music services? Have you been using Amazon’s version, and has it improved your way of consuming music digitally?

And what about Moody’s questions – do you see the major labels and these giant technology music providers working together?

  1. plain_jo
    April 23, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I’ve been using Amazon Cloud somewhat. I haven’t gotten used to it yet. I don’t have good 3G coverage in my area, so it’s mostly around the house on the wifi. It is cool that Amazon is offering a one year, 20GB upgrade with your first album purchase. We will see if I like it well enough to buy a subscription when it expires next year.

  2. Jon
    April 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

    To say that Glyn Moody is either a clueless idiot or a profoundly cynical advocate of outright thievery would actually be an understatement. Look here:

    ” the music industry is economically quite small and unimportant compared to the computer industry. And yet somehow – through honed lobbying and old boy networks – it wields a disproportionate power that enables it to block innovative ideas that the online world wants to try.”

    Somehow?! What the online world “wants to try” is to distribute the creative work of others for its own profit. And the “disproportionate power” that the music industry holds is that it created and owns the music that “the online world” wants to distribute. And the “innovative ideas” are ways by which “the online world” seeks to appropriate the work of others without having to negotiate (or, ideally – in their view – pay) for it.

    The way that business works is this: if I’m a retailer (read: “online world”) and you (read: “the music industry”) have something that I would like to sell to consumers (read: music), then we negotiate a price that I must pay for it. If I don’t like the price, I don’t buy it and resell it; if you don’t like the price, you don’t sell it to me. But I don’t have the right to take it and sell it for my own profit without your permission, no matter how much crap I sling around about “innovation” and “fat-cats” and “utter misery.”

    I know that jawboning is part of the negotiating game, but when it takes the form of combining an unwarranted sense of entitlement and an equally unwarranted self-righteousness, it just makes decent people want to puke.

  3. Fizz
    April 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Of course the labels are resisting, the same way they’ve resisted just about every idea the technology industry has come up with regarding music. Because the “online world” wants nothing more than to promote thievery? More likely because they don’t understand it and fear anything they don’t understand. Yet their resistance hasn’t halted technology at all. Remember, it was the labels who fought iTunes and portable MP3 players tooth and nail a decade ago, both of which are now mainstays. They fought Napster and sued 12-year-old kids, and yet illegal downloading has only increased. So obviously, a knee-jerk “No! You can’t! I won’t allow it! Not on my watch! Out of the question! The discussion is over!” reaction only hurts the industry. But do I see labels working together with the likes of Google and Amazon, et al? Only as a desperate last resort.

    As for the cloud-based services themselves, I haven’t really been paying much attention. Let me see if I’ve got this right: Amazon Cloud is basically selling an invisible digital storage locker for your MP3′s, that you can access anywhere with an Internet connection? Do the files sdtored there have to be purchased from Amazon, or can you upload digital copies of your own CD’s that you’ve ripped to your computer or from any other source? Also, presumably everything is protected, so only you have access to your music, unlike those “upload servers” that people pass around links to.

    At this point, I don’t have much interest in it. But then, I still have a rotary phone and an icebox. Now if you’ll excuse me, got to go change the oil in my Model A.

  4. Matt B
    April 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Fizz,

    You can upload your own files to Amazon. This is the thing labels are upset by. They see it as a way for people to ‘store’ stuff they may have already stolen. Most of them want to make it ‘rented’ monthly fees an charge a ‘streaming fee’ for EACH time the song gets played, even for stuff you already purchased. At least that’s what I’ve read in various reports about the service.

    Yes, they’re private but that wouldn’t stop hackers from figuring a way to steal it.

  5. Jon
    April 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Remember, it was the labels who fought iTunes and portable MP3 players tooth and nail a decade ago…

    Well, no, that’s wrong. The labels fought the original mp3 player, the Diamond Rio, but that was more than a decade ago, and it was hardly “tooth and nail.” And as for iTunes, the labels didn’t fight it AT ALL; in fact, when it launched, the press was full of praise for the service from…record label execs. Because it was an innovative tech move that negotiated a mutually-agreed-upon price and delivery system in advance. The way that honest business always works. The way that Glyn Moody thinks is so bad.

    Here, for instance, is an excerpt from a Salon.com article published the week that the iTunes Music Store was unveiled, back in April, 2003:

    “The product is clearly the result of what must have been tough negotiations between Apple and the labels — and in the end, Steve Jobs seems to have convinced music execs
    of the folly of their ways. How did he do it? Dealing with the music
    industry, Jobs explained in his press conference, was not easy. A year
    and a half ago, when he came up with a plan to offer an easy way to buy
    digital music online, he didn’t know whether anyone in music would see
    things his way. The industry was going after Napster and other
    file-trading services in the courts, and they were pushing draconian
    legislation in Washington. But when he met with the labels, Jobs found
    many executives who shared his passion to “change the world,” and
    according to some reports, Jobs personally negotiated with key artists
    to get them to let their music go online. By Monday, Apple had struck
    “landmark” licensing deals with the five biggest music companies, and it
    garnered the blessing of no less a critic of the tech industry than
    Hilary Rosen, the head of the Recording Industry Association of America.
    “The Apple system has the potential to do for music sales what the
    Walkman did for the cassette,” Rosen told the New York Times on Monday.”

    Also not really true that the RIAA “sued 12 year old kids,” not really true that “illegal downloading has only increased” and more, but since thoughtful folks understand that those are actually separate matters from the one under discussion here, I’ll not comment further on them.

  6. Josh
    April 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    On a related note, “intellectual property” just doesn’t mean anything to the generation of kids growing up right now. On youtube, the “top rated” comments for many VEVO songs will go something like this (that was on a video I was watching earlier):

    “Do you remember….

    1. When you could get on youtube without a huge ad at the top of your homepage?

    2. When EVERY music video was from a user, not Vevo?

    3. When you could use it as a music player without having an ad in the beginning of a music vid?

    4. When copyright infringement wasn’t a big deal?

    5. When it was YOUtube?

    Copy and paste onto videos telling youtube how PISSED we, the YOU in YOUtube, are with their greedy corporate butts

    thumbs up if you agree”

    Kinda scary.

  7. Donald
    April 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Overheard in the record store yesterday while shopping:
    #1- Look- .38 Special. Man, it has “Teacher, Teacher.” [insert snicker here] I’ve looked for this forever!
    #2- Why would you by a CD when you can download it for free?
    #1- I wouldn’t.

    Both were in their early 20s, not that I can right tell ages anymore. Not sure why they were in HMV. Maybe looking at video games.

    Intellectual (!) property. Yeah, right.

  8. Fizz
    April 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Matt B, if that’s the case, then the industry must want to kill the whole proposition by structuring it in a way tha tmakes it not even worth using. And their scenario as you related it doesn’t even address the problem they’re so concerned about, which is supposed to be piracy.

    Jon, as I recall, the industry took the Diamond Rio company (not the band) to court, or attempted to. And for several years prior to the launch of iTunes, they insisted they would not license music for digital sales, no way, no how. As for suing 12-year-olds, those stories received enough publicity at the time that your “if Fizz says it, I must issue a rebuttal” is useless. I guess you don’t consider it actually suing them if they settled before it got to court.

    Beyond that, I think we’ve established that them young’uns got to have everythang right now and always want sump’m fer nuthin’.

  9. Matt B
    April 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Fizz, that’s the ‘solution’ some think to send out for the illegal downloads, to charge if they’re filed to cloud services.

    People, even ‘them young’n’s’ will buy if they like the music.

  10. Fizz
    April 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Some solution, since it punishes people that actually do buy the music. It’s no wonder the industry is often viewed as being out of touch with the consumers.

  11. Matt B
    April 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Well, hopefully it won’t come to that but we shall see..

  12. Fizz
    April 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Probably won’t. MP3 players are everywhere, iTunes has its own Billboard chart, and the RIAA reluctantly quit suing kids for a quick three-grand settlement. They’ll probably knuckle under in this case too. But I don’t really see the Cloud being all that successful. It’s not like digital music is a bulky, heavy thing that’s so hard to lug around with you wherever you go. Why pay to “store” it on somebody else’s servers?

  13. the pistolero
    April 24, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Why pay to “store” it on somebody else’s servers?

    Good question. I have a good bit of my music on my iPod classic, and I can listen to it whenever I want, with no Internet connection needed. And then there’s the matter of hard drives on personal computers getting bigger all the time…

  14. Mike Wimmer
    April 24, 2011 at 7:35 am

    This news doesnt really do much for me. I’m sure for some people it’s great, but for me right now I am content with my MP3 player and home hard drive.

    I am far more interested in the US finally getting Spotify.

  15. Jon
    April 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    @Fizz Jon, as I recall, the industry took the Diamond Rio company (not the band) to court, or attempted to.

    Yeah, that’s what I said. They asked for and got a TRO against production that was lifted a few days later, they lost the case about 6 months after that and didn’t bother to appeal. That’s not fighting “tooth and nail,” which was your original claim. If you want to talk about really fighting something tooth and nail, look no further than the “tech industry” that Mr. Moody is shilling for, and its years-long legislative and judicial battle against paying webcasting royalties. Or the decades-long legislative fight the terrestrial broadcast industry has waged against paying performance royalties to recording copyright owners. Compared to those, the RIAA rolled over and played dead with respect to the Diamond Rio.

    And for several years prior to the launch of iTunes, they insisted they would not license music for digital sales, no way, no how.

    Repeating something that ain’t true doesn’t make it any more true. And that ain’t true. I already provided one contemporaneous account that refutes your claim – it took me all of about 3 seconds to find it.

    As for suing 12-year-olds, those stories received enough publicity at the time that your “if Fizz says it, I must issue a rebuttal” is useless.

    The RIAA successfully sued a – that is, one (1) – 12 year old, who had posted approximately one thousand (1000) files to a piracy-facilitating service that was subsequently found to be engaged in massive copyright infringement. She and her family settled for a payment of $2000 and a statement from the young lady expressing remorse for her thievery: “I am sorry for what I have done,” LaHara said. “I love music and don’t want to hurt the artists I love.”

    In my book, that’s a good outcome, and so was every other case where folks engaged in or facilitating the theft of music were deterred from doing so in the future.

    More to the point, though, is that while the statement that the RIAA “sued 12 year old kids” isn’t an outright falsehood, its use of the plural is misleading, hence, “not really true.” Which – hey, how about that! – is exactly what I said.

    But like I also said, that’s not really germane to the topic here, except to folks for whom anything to do with digital distribution of music gets rolled up into one big Stickin’ It To Da Man ball.

  16. Fizz
    April 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    As I understand it, the RIAA wants to jack the royalty rates for webcasters to a significantly higher fee than paid by terrestrial broadcasters, which would eeffectively put a large number of webcasters out of business. That’s the industry’s first solution to new technology: kill it off if at all possible. Which hasn’t worked yet.

    Seriously, Jon, just because tyou have a NARAS card doesn’t mean you have to be the industry’s bitch.

  17. Jane
    April 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I’m using Amazons service and I love it…use it at work.

    As for the RIAA, it’s been flogging the same horse since 1998 and Napster. Time to get a new business model.

  18. Jon
    April 24, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    As I understand it, the RIAA wants to jack the royalty rates for webcasters to a significantly higher fee than paid by terrestrial broadcasters, which would eeffectively put a large number of webcasters out of business.

    Then you understand it wrong. Or, more precisely, it appears you’ll swallow any propaganda from the “tech industry” – including mega corporations like Yahoo, AOL and Clear Channel – as long as it can be clothed in some kind of Sticking It To Da Man rhetoric.

    Of course webcasters and broadcasters are going to claim that paying for the music that forms the foundation of their businesses is burdensome. What’s harder to understand is why some people fall for it hook, line and sinker, especially when said operations refuse to open their books to show exactly how burdensome it would be. And why should they, when they can get people like you to spew their propaganda – and for free, to boot – about they’re standing up for the little guy, rather than simply trying to maximize their profits at the expense of the folks who are making the music?

  19. Fizz
    April 24, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Here we go again with “sticking it to da man.” Actually, I’m friends with operators of three different Internet radio stations. None are getting rich, or making any real oney at all. You pay for bandwidth; the more listeners you have, the more bandwidth you pay for. Meanwhile, most advertisers aren’t interested in buying airtime on an Internet-only station. So you have banner ads that nobody in their right mind would click on, and in some cases offer some sort of premium service with exclusive content or higher sound quality. All three do it because they enjoy it and because they fill a void that isn’t served by terrestrial broadcasters. My information comes from conversations with them, not from any “propaganda” from the likes of Yahoo or AOL (whose services would likely be among the only ones to survive a rate increase, so why would they complain–the competition would be decimated).

  20. Jon
    April 24, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Actually, I’m friends with operators of three different Internet radio stations. None are getting rich, or making any real money at all.

    So, then, they’re either unsuccessful business owners or else hobbyists; in either case, why should they get subsidized by the folks providing them with their content? Why aren’t they whining about the cost of electricity? About their ISP charges? About the price of computers? Why is it only the musicians who are supposed to go hungry so that they can play at being broadcasters?

    My information comes from conversations with them…

    Either you didn’t understand what they were telling you, they don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re stuffing your head full of baloney. There’s a good writeup here:

    http://www.broadcastlawblog.com/2011/03/articles/internet-radio/final-webcasting-royalty-rates-published-a-comparison-of-how-much-various-services-pay/

    That makes it clear just how modest these royalties actually are. Note that “small commercial webcasters with less than $1.25 million in annual revenue…can pick a percentage of revenue royalty of 10-12% of gross revenues for services with less than 5 million aggregate tuning hours per month, or 12-14% for those with more monthly hours.”

    So where music’s providing 90% or 100% of their content, they’re being asked to pay 1a maximum of 14% of their revenue. If they can’t make that work, maybe it’s them, not the musicians, who need to get a new business model.

  21. Jon
    April 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Why are musicians supposed to subsidize your buddies’ businesses – or, maybe I should say, hobbies? They’re not asking their ISPs to waive fees, are they? The electric company? Are they demanding free computers on which to assemble their webcasts? I’ll bet not; they’re just complaining about having to pay the folks actually creating their content for them. And the fact is, the rates – especially for small commercial and non-commercial webcasters – are eminently reasonable; in the case of the former (defined as having less than $1.5 million in annual revenues), the upper ceiling is 14% of revenues. If they can’t swing that, then maybe they’re the ones who need to get a new business model.

  22. Jon
    April 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    And by the way, Fizz, when you write:

    As I understand it, the RIAA wants to jack the royalty rates for webcasters to a significantly higher fee than paid by terrestrial broadcasters…

    Do you know what the fee paid by terrestrial broadcasters is? Surprise, it’s $0.00 per play! Thanks to decades’ worth of resistance by terrestrial broadcasters, who (as I said) *really* have been fighting tooth and nail against paying for the music they build their businesses on. Back when a performance royalty was being proposed for webcasters, they whined about how terrestrial radio had an unfair advantage in not having to pay performance royalties. So now that a performance royalty is being contemplated again for terrestrial radio, where are all the webcasters? Weighing in on the side of equity and a level playing field, and in support of the notion that terrestrial broadcasters, too, should pay for the music they make their money on? Why, no, there’s a deafening silence from that quarter. Why don’t you ask your buddies about that next time you talk to them?

  23. FizzFizz
    April 25, 2011 at 9:03 am

    What a hardship, to have your music played on the radio, for people to hear and maybe buy it or come out to a gig. What next: broadcasters should pay their advertisers for the “privilege” of airing their commercials, because after all, spots help the station grow its business?

  24. Barry Mazor
    April 25, 2011 at 10:37 am

    If you can’t see the difference between radio (or any media) paying an advertiser and paying for their basic con tent, Fizz, there’s no way to discuss that subject. The recording industry was immensely foolish, in retrospect, ever to buy into the “well, it’s propmotional” argument–which would ahve fallen apart at any time by recording industry r efusal to supply that product, rtaher than spending genberyaions paying various middlemen to get said records on the air.

    And as has bene noted, online, tiny Web stations have to pay artists now; only often large and in-the-green broadcast stations do not. It’s a situation that demands a compromise beneficial to all to be reached, and it’s proven a tough thing to do, but they’ll get there. I know a number of the people dircetly involved, from both “sides.”.

  25. Jon
    April 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    “The recording industry was immensely foolish, in retrospect, ever to buy into the “well, it’s propmotional” argument–which would ahve fallen apart at any time by recording industry r efusal to supply that product…”

    Seems like the recording industry *did* try to restrict such usage – there’s a great poster that the Country Music Foundation put out of rare record labels that showed a bunch of them marked with phrases like “not for airplay” – and I know that a couple of artists took radio stations to court over the issue, and lost.

  26. Donald
    April 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Commercial, mainstream, and money making radio isn’t about music, it is about selling advertising. Radio loves country music only for the business country music pulls in. If radio could (legally) sell air space of audio sexcapades- and attract an audience attractive to businesses who wish to advertise their wares between the sessions- they would. However, one might suggest they may have to pay the actors/participants for their oral talents. While the promotional aspects of (country music) radio play is well considered- and likely apt- an industry based largely on free milk can’t survive forever. Can it? It has confounded me that the more I learn about the radio business, the less it seems to be ‘on the up and up’ as it were. It is a little like running a store, selling merchandise, and then paying the suppliers pennies on the dollar on the promise that purchasers will like the product so much, they’ll go elsewhere to pay more for it. Okay, that analogy doesn’t quite work.

  27. Rickster
    April 25, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I have no interest in “cloud” based services. I purchase download songs to put eventually on a CD-R so that if my hard drive fails I have a physical back up and the CD is also my main source for listening. I’m happy to remain in the Techno realm equivalent of the stone age.

    The radio approach of not paying for the music it plays (or artist royalties) because of promotional aspects was fine prior to digital music “sharing” and the internet. If you wanted to hear a song again when you chose to you had to go purchase a hard copy plain and simple. Nowadays that whole model has fallen apart. The promo aspects are still there but more likely for concert and merchandise revenues while music sales continue to plummet.

  28. Jeremy Dylan
    April 26, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I’m with Jon.

  29. Jon
    April 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Donald, I don’t know that there are many good analogies to commercial terrestrial broadcasting; probably the best one is the weekly giveaway paper you can find in many cities (e.g., the Nashville Scene). the key thing to always keep in mind is that what’s being sold isn’t the content, but access to the audience attracted by the content.

  30. jessie
    November 2, 2011 at 10:25 am

    i use the amazon service and i think it is great. i have it sitting on my desk and rock out while i work.

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