How ‘420’ Became the Big Day for Weed Smokers Across America

Happy420Mickey

The little known origins of the 4-20 holiday

This story originally ran on huffingtonpost.com and has been reprinted with permission by the author, Ryan Grim. He is the author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.

Warren Haynes, the Allman Brothers Band guitarist, routinely plays with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, now touring as “The Dead.” Having just finished a Dead show in Washington, D.C., the musician gets a pop quiz from this reporter: Where does “420” come from?

He pauses and thinks, hands on his side.  “I don’t know the real origin.  I know myths and rumors,” he says.  “I’m really confused about the first time I heard it.  It was like a police code for smoking in progress or something.  What’s the real story?” Depending on who you ask, or their state of inebriation, there are as many varieties of answers as strains of medical bud in California: It’s the number of active chemicals in marijuana; it’s tea time in Holland; it’s those numbers in that Bob Dylan song multiplied.

The origin of the term 420, celebrated around the world by pot smokers every April 20, has long been obscured by the clouded memories of the folks who made it a phenomenon.

An exhaustive search chased the term back to its roots, where it was found in a lost patch of cannabis in a Point Reyes, Calif., forest.  Just as interesting as its origin, it turns out, is how it spread.

It starts with the Dead.  It was Christmas week in Oakland, 1990.  Steven Bloom was wandering through the Lot – that timeless gathering of hippies that springs up in the parking lot before every Grateful Dead concert – when a Deadhead handed him a yellow flier.

“We are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing in Marin County at the Bolinas Ridge sunset spot on Mt.  Tamalpais,” reads the message, which Bloom managed to dig up for this story.  Bloom, then a reporter for High Timesmagazine and now the publisher of CelebStoner.com and co-author of Pot Culture, had never heard of “420-ing” before.

The flier came complete with a 420 backstory: “420 started somewhere in San Rafael, California in the late ’70s.  It started as the police code for Marijuana Smoking in Progress.  After local heads heard of the police call, they started using the expression 420 when referring to herb: Let’s Go 420, dude!”

Bloom reported his find in the May 1991 issue of High Times, which the magazine found in its archives and courteously offered up for this piece.  The story, though, was only partially right.  It had nothing to do with a police code, though the San Rafael part was dead on.

Indeed, a group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos by virtue of their chosen hangout spot, a wall outside the school, coined the term in 1971.  This reporter spoke with Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave and Dave’s older brother, Patrick, and confirmed their full names and identities, which they asked to keep secret for professional reasons.  ( Pot is still, after all, illegal.  )

The Waldos never envisioned that pot smokers the world over would celebrate each April 20 as a result of their foray into the Point Reyes forest.  The day has managed to become something of a national holiday in the face of official condemnation.

The code often creeps into popular culture and mainstream settings.  All of the clocks in Pulp Fiction, for instance, are set to 4:20.  In 2003, when the California legislature codified the medical marijuana law voters had approved, the bill was named SB420.

“We think it was a staffer working for [lead assembly sponsor Mark] Leno, but no one has ever fessed up,” says Steph Sherer, head of Americans for Safe Access, which lobbied on behalf of the bill.  California legislative staffers spoken to for this story say that the 420 designation remains a mystery, but that both Leno and the lead Senate sponsor, John Vasconcellos, are hip enough that they must have known what it meant.

The code pops up in Craigslist postings when fellow smokers search for “420-friendly” roommates.  “It’s just a vaguer way of saying it and it kind of makes it kind of cool,” Bloom says.  “Like, you know you’re in the know, but that does show you how it’s in the mainstream.” The Waldos do have proof, however, that they used the term in the early ’70s in the form of an old 420 flag and numerous letters with 420 references and early ’70s post marks.  They also have a story.

It goes like this: One day, in the fall of 1971 harvest time, the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station.  A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.  The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside the school at 4:20 p.m., after practice, to begin the hunt.

“We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20.  It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis,” Waldo Steve recalls.  The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop.  “We’d meet at 4:20 and get in my old ’66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we’d smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Point Reyes, and smoke the entire time we were out there.  We did it week after week,” Steve says.  “We never actually found the patch.”

But they did find a useful code word.  “I could say to one of my friends, I’d go, ‘420,’ and it was telepathic.  He would know if I was saying, ‘Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?’ Or, ‘Do you have any?’ Or, ‘Are you stoned right now?’ It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it,” Steve says.  “Our teachers didn’t know what we were talking about.  Our parents didn’t know what we were talking about.” It’s one thing to identify the origin of the term.  Indeed, Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary already include references to the Waldos.  The bigger question: How did 420 spread from a circle of California stoners across the globe?

As fortune would have it, the collapse of San Francisco’s hippie utopia in the late ’60s set the stage.  As speed freaks, thugs and con artists took over the Haight, San Francisco’s legendary hippie mecca and home to the Grateful Dead, the band picked up and moved to the Marin County hills just blocks from San Rafael High School.  “Marin Country was kind of ground zero for the counterculture,” Steve says.

The Waldos had more than just a geographic connection to the Dead.  Mark Waldo’s father took care of real estate for the Dead.  And Waldo Dave’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with bassist Phil Lesh.  Patrick says that he smoked with Lesh on numerous occasions.  He couldn’t recall if he used the term 420 around him, but guessed that he must have.

The Dead, recalls Waldo Steve, “had this rehearsal hall on Front Street in San Rafael, Calif., and they used to practice there.  So we used to go hang out and listen to them play music and get high while they’re practicing for gigs.  But I think it’s possible my brother Patrick might have spread it through Phil Lesh.  And me too, because I was hanging out with Lesh and his band when they were doing a summer tour my brother was managing.”

The band that Patrick managed was called Too Loose to Truck and featured not only Lesh but rock legend David Crosby and acclaimed guitarist Terry Haggerty.  The Waldos also had open access to Dead parties and rehearsals.  “We’d go with [Mark’s] dad, who was a hip dad from the ’60s,” Steve says.  “There was a place called Winterland, and we’d always be backstage running around or onstage and, of course, we’re using those phrases.  When somebody passes a joint or something, ‘Hey, 420.’ So it started spreading through that community.”

Lesh, walking off the stage after a recent Dead concert, confirmed that Patrick is a friend and said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Waldos had coined 420.  He wasn’t sure, he said, when the first time he heard it was.  “I do not remember.  I’m very sorry.  I wish I could help,” he said.  Wavy-Gravy is a hippie icon with his own ice cream flavor and has been hanging out with the Dead for decades.  Spotted outside the concert, he was asked about the origin of 420 and suggested it began “somewhere in the foggy mists of time.  What time is it now? I say to you: eternity now.”

As the Grateful Dead toured the globe through the ’70s and ’80s, playing hundreds of shows a year, the term spread through the Dead underground.  Once High Timesgot hip to it, the magazine helped take it global.  “I started incorporating it into everything we were doing,” High Times editor Steve Hager said.  “I started doing all these big events – the World Hemp Expo Extravaganza and the Cannabis Cup – and we built everything around 420.  The publicity that High Timesgave it is what made it an international thing.  Until then, it was relatively confined to the Grateful Dead subculture.  But we blew it out into an international phenomenon.”

Sometime in the early ’90s, High Times wisely purchased the Web domain 420.com.  Bloom, the reporter who first stumbled on it, gives High Times less credit.  “We posted that flier and then we started to see little references to it.  It wasn’t really much of High Times‘ doing,” he says.  “We weren’t really pushing it that hard, just kind of referencing the phrase.”

The Waldos say that, within a few years, the term had spread throughout San Rafael and was cropping up elsewhere in the state.  By the early ’90s, it had penetrated deep enough that Dave and Steve started hearing people use it in unexpected places – Ohio, Florida, Canada – and spotted it painted on signs and etched into park benches.

In 1997, the Waldos decided to set the record straight and got in touch withHigh Times.  “They said, ‘The fact is, there is no 420 [police] code in California.  You guys ever look it up?'” Blooms recalls.  He had to admit that no, he had never looked it up.  Hager flew out to San Rafael, met the Waldos, examined their evidence, spoke with others in town, and concluded they were telling the truth.  Hager still believes them.  “No one’s ever been able to come up with any use of 420 that predates the 1971 usage, which they had established.  So unless somebody can come up with something that predates them, then I don’t think anybody’s going to get credit for it other than them,” he says.

“We never made a dime on the thing,” says Dave, half boasting, half lamenting.  He does take pride in his role, though.  “I still have a lot of friends who tell their friends that they know one of the guys that started the 420 thing.  So it’s kind of like a cult celebrity thing.  Two years ago I went to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.  High Times magazine flew me out,” says Dave.  Dave is now a credit analyst and works for Steve, who owns a specialty lending institution and lost money to the con artist Bernie Madoff.  He spends more time today, he says, composing angry letters to the SEC than he does getting high.  The other three Waldos have also been successful, Steve says.  One is head of marketing for a Napa Valley winery.  Another is in printing and graphics.  A third works for a roofing and gutter company.  “He’s like, head of their gutter division,” says Steve, who keeps in close touch with them all.  “I’ve got to run a business.  I’ve got to stay sharp,” says Steve, explaining why he rarely smokes pot anymore.  “Seems like everybody I know who smokes daily, or many times in a week, it seems like there’s always something going wrong with their life, professionally, or in their relationships, or financially or something.  It’s a lot of fun, but it seems like if someone does it too much, there’s some karmic cost to it.” “I never endorsed the use of marijuana.  But, hey, it worked for me,” Waldo Dave says.  “I’m sure on my headstone it’ll say: ‘One of the 420 guys.'”

Ryan Grim is a staff writer for Huffington Post. This story originally ran on huffingtonpost.com and has been reprinted with permission by the author. Grim is also the author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-420-became-big-day-weed-smokers-across-america?akid=13020.265072.E_FP1q&rd=1&src=newsletter1035039&t=7

R.E.M.’s “Monster” ranked from start to finish

An under-appreciated, polarizing album that’s aged very well

The subversive and shape-shifting 1994 album topped the charts but was never necessarily beloved. Why it should be

R.E.M.'s "Monster" ranked from start to finish: An underappreciated, polarizing album that's aged very well
Michael Stipe, lead singer for R.E.M., sings to an audience at the Shoreline Ampitheatre during Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit concert Saturday, Oct. 18, 1998, in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/John Todd)(Credit: John Todd)

As the years pass, R.E.M.’s “Monster” has emerged as one of the most polarizing albums in the band’s catalog. Still, the record is also one of the most interesting artifacts of the Athens, Georgia, group’s career. First of all, it was unexpected: After previous attempts to make a rock-oriented album yielded two decidedly quieter affairs–1991′s “Out Of Time” and 1992′s “Automatic for the People”–the band finally succeeded in crafting a loud, brash record suitable for live concerts. Second (and perhaps most important), the album was a thematic curveball akin to U2′s 1991 opus “Achtung Baby,” in that R.E.M. toyed with their own mythology and decidedly tried not to sound like themselves.

As guitarist Peter Buck put it in David Buckley’s “R.E.M.: Fiction, An Alternative Biography”: “The whole record was a kind of reaction to having people following us around to a big degree, making the news in all these weird ways. … I would say that this was the only time where [vocalist Michael Stipe’s] done characters that are creepy, and I don’t know if people got that. He was getting out his things by acting out these parts that are not him. He took the mantle of front person to a degree he hadn’t done in the past. It is a record that is our least direct and our tour was the least direct. … I think it was all character-driven in a way–let’s be someone else for a while.”

This personality shapeshifting didn’t hurt “Monster” commercially: The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, sold 4 million copies and spawned several hits. Time has also been kind to the record, which sounds far weirder–and far more subversive–than it did at the time. And like many R.E.M. albums, its themes–ruminations on obsession, identity and fame–seem eerily prescient and timeless.

While there’s no real bad song on “Monster,” we decided to revisit the album and rank its songs. In ascending order:

12. “Bang and Blame”



The band’s last Top 40 hit has, over time, also come to feel like one of its most dated singles–and one of its least-essential songs. The protagonist is smugly satisfied that a deceitful person is getting their comeuppance and is refusing to be a victim anymore–”Stop laying blame/You know that’s not my thing”–although an exact motive for this vindictiveness is never clear. The song’s charred riffs and explosive chorus are engaging, but not as innovative as other moments on “Monster.”

11. “Tongue”

Musically, the weakest link on “Monster” is the delicate, piano- and organ-driven “Tongue,” an homage to genteel baroque pop that would eventually be overshadowed by plenty of moments on 1998′s “Up” and 2001′s “Reveal.” Still, the lyrics are far worthier: Written from the perspective of a woman who rues her inability to resist a paramour who is simply using her for sex, “Tongue” adroitly captures the feeling of self-loathing intrinsic to such a situation.

10. “You”

The “Monster” album-closer is mesmerizing, with an underbelly of sludgy, droning buzz overlaid with coiled rhythm guitars and wild-eyed declarations of all-consuming desire and obsession (“I can wing around your Saturn smile, shout at the moon,” “And I want you like a Pisces rising”). Yet it’s also the most unsettling song on a record full of both blatant and subtle unease; the relationship described in the song isn’t necessarily consensual–and it’s not necessarily going to have a happy ending. Either way, it’s an appropriate capper for an album that never goes for easy answers.

9. “Circus Envy”

One of those subtly genius songs, “Circus Envy” is written from the perspective of a circus animal seething with anger over mistreatment; the character threatens mayhem should escape ever occur. But like George Orwell’s “1984,” the song also functions as an allegory for anyone oppressed by government tactics, the patriarchy or any other suppressive forces. The underlying bomb-fuse sound effects, metallic-coated vocal processing and martial-sounding drums further contribute to the song’s uneasy, apocalyptic feel.

8. “I Took Your Name”

“I Took Your Name” is a sonic and lyrical cousin to “Crush with Eyeliner”; the tune deals with chameleonic personalities and the subsequent havoc wreaked by those who shape-shift with nefarious intentions. Choppy guitar riffs, menacing vocals and spates of falsetto harmonies only encourage this tension.

7. “King of Comedy”

A satirical look at commercial success and toying with labels (e.g., sexual preferences, religious beliefs) to curry attention and financial gain, the growling, gravelly “King Of Comedy” sounds like a fractured take on the liquid post-punk favored by R.E.M.’s longtime influence Gang of Four. Thematically, it also shares traits with the latter band’s output; in the end, the lyrics condone the crassness of fame and superstars-as-objects:  “I’m not commodity.”

6. “Star 69″

About as punk as R.E.M. ever sounded (on record, at least), “Star 69″ ranks up there with the Replacements’ “Answering Machine” as one of the best rock & roll songs about antiquated technology. Take a chaotic tempo–the aural equivalent of amusement park bumper cars careening all over the place–add plenty of vocal delay and then pile on of stacks of jangly, haywire riffs; the result is oddly life-affirming.

5. “Strange Currencies”

Consider this a song a sonic holdover from R.E.M.’s recent acoustic elegies, and a welcome respite from “Monster”‘s noisier songs, courtesy of its arpeggiated guitars and waltzing tempo. Like “The One I Love,” “Strange Currencies” is also deeply misunderstood. On the surface, the tune’s about a love affair; however, its lyrical desperation–”I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance…”–and pointed descriptions (“I don’t know why you’re mean to me/When I call on the telephone”) reveal the song’s about an unrequited love affair where the rejected person isn’t taking no for an answer.

4. “Crush with Eyeliner”

On the surface, “Crush With Eyeliner” is about the age-old phenomenon of changing personality to attract a gorgeous crush. But like many songs on “Monster,” the song has a creepy bent (“What can I make myself be (Fake her)/To make her mine?”) and has quiet depth–in this case, an exploration of the slippery nature of identity. Sleazy, woozy electric riffs and grooves (as well as an ominous second voice from Thurston Moore) complete the seductive package.

3. “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream”

Perhaps the most underrated song on “Monster” is “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream.” Sonically, it’s a foggy daydream centered around glassy piano shards, askew guitar chime and pounding-heartbeat percussion; lyrically, it’s an enigmatic, cryptic song that leaves things wide open to interpretation: “I’ll settle for a cup of coffee, but you know what I really need.” Plus, Michael Stipe’s falsetto surge when he sings “I don’t sleep, I dream” amps up the emotional urgency.

2. “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

The buzzsawing first single from “Monster” heralded that R.E.M. was going in a different musical direction, from the tremolo-drenched riffs and the elliptical choruses to Peter Buck’s rare solo on the bridge–a distorted, malleable beast that never turned out exactly the same way twice in concert. But “Kenneth”–which refers to a phrase uttered during a 1986 attack on Dan Rather–also fell in line with the album’s commentary on pop culture and mass media. The titular phrase is intoxicating to the protagonist (perhaps because it’s so slangy), while the sharply observant line, “You said that irony was the shackles of youth,” sums up the generation gap that broke wide open during the ’90s.

1. “Let Me In”

The death of Kurt Cobain hovered over “Monster,” which was released less than six months after he passed. (Buck even played one of the Nirvana frontman’s guitars in the “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” video.) Fittingly, R.E.M. memorialized Cobain with the achingly straightforward, grief-stricken “Let Me In.” As Stipe cries out in anguish at being unable to stop his death–”I had a mind to try to stop you. let me in. let me in/But I’ve got tar on my feet and I can’t see”–the band surrounds him with dusty clouds of unfocused, distorted guitar and a keening, funereal organ. “Let Me In” succeeds because it is so wrenching–wishing only for a small, universal gesture that’s heartbreaking in its simplicity.

Annie Zaleski is a freelance writer based in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/04/r_e_m_s_monster_ranked_from_start_to_finish_an_underappreciated_polarizing_album_thats_aged_very_well/?source=newsletter

Alec Empire’s latest statement on electronic music

A New Kind of Brutality

Alec Empire’s latest statement regarding the direction electronic music has taken, published in French in this month’s Trax Magazine.

It is 2015, and I feel like God’s hand has wiped us all off the continent, right into the icy water of the Antarctic. It was easy, even smooth, but with a new kind of brutality.

He is laughing at us, we can hear his deep, low voice in the winds, coming from all sides. A storm is coming. The earth is opening underneath our feet.

I have actually never believed in God or the concept of it. I always believed that we self determine our lives. I still believe this very strongly. We don’t have to believe blindly everything that other men have written down in religious books in some ancient time, when life was completely different. Believing something is one thing, but to let that drive our actions is another. The same goes for all these rules and unwritten laws in what we call “DJ culture”.

The second half of each decade is always completely different than the first half.

A new phase has begun. The first half was dominated by the euphoria we all felt about the free internet, social media and all hopes that came with it… The hope that we will be truly free. But instead, we seem to be riding on this train through a tunnel into darkness, the black hole that sucks us further into something we’ve lost control over.

Everyone can be creative, everyone can be a producer, everyone is equal.
But only if we buy certain technology that enables us to do so. This was the mantra for decades, Silicon Valley built its wealth on selling us this idea.

We witness that this hasn’t worked. We could even argue that creativity never worked this way. Now whenever creatives meet an audience online, they face a new kind of hostility. Frustration and aggressive behavior have increased a lot, I hear this from many creative people. The mob is winning. And most people choose apathy, so they don’t get noticed by the mob.

I grew up with the original ideals of the Techno movement. People should listen to the music they themselves have selected and not because context, location or their peers have pressured them to do so. Staying anonymous helps you to become who you want to be. The best DJs and producers in the history of electronic music will stay unknown, don’t win awards and don’t get a mention in history books or appear in exhibitions in museums.

Decentralization. We should set this as our highest goal again because creativity flourishes in a decentralized system. Decentralization does not happen when everyone acts like rivals on the same social media platforms, trying to become the most popular. Decentralization also means that we abandon and ignore stats systems like YouTube, Facebook or Instagram.

Our blind naive faith in technology has led us into a dead end. Many will understand what I mean in the coming years. Some are already feeling the consequences. Pay close attention, then ask yourself which headline DJ is absorbing the energy of the crowd, transforms it into creativity and then feeds it back into the crowd? We get this uneasy feeling in our stomachs, that in reality this has become a rare moment, it feels almost surreal when it does happen, it’s like a distant dream that we can’t recall after we’ve woken up.

What I am saying here is that if we give up that dialogue between crowd and DJ and the philosophy behind it, then we give up the very essence of what Electronic Music is about. A mass of people should never be brought in line by a DJ. But I see that since the explosion of American EDM, that this is exactly what everyone aspires to do. Are we witnessing how our generation is giving birth to a new kind of cultural fascism to that was unthinkable before? We can measure those changes, we can “see” them. We can see events like the destruction of Charlie Hebdo, the rise of Anti-Semitism all over Europe and the PEGIDA protests in Germany in which Neo-Nazis proudly participate without shame. These are just examples. We can try to create a parallel world in our clubs and festivals, even for a short moment. For a few hours we can agree on our core values, defend them, celebrate them. We won’t feel isolated or alone anymore. But this means that we must define those values from new, or remind ourselves of those we want to bring with us from the past into the future. I am totally aware of all those cynics out there who giggle in embarrassment right now, because this is is an inconvenient truth for them. I can only say to them, we don’t live in an ivory tower…sooner or later this will concern all of us. The music scene is always a reflection of the society it exists in.

The Electronic Music scene can continue to twiddle knobs, press buttons, like those gambling addicts in Las Vegas, who keep trying and trying to take their chance… Or we decide how the future will look like for us. I choose the second.

Stay strong, my friends and allies!

Alec Empire
Berlin , Friday, February 13, 2015

https://medium.com/atari-teenage-riot/a-new-kind-of-brutality-6b9199ccb67b

DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS

Jay Z Formally Launches New Tidal

Streaming Service At NYC Event

 

     Music artist Jay Z formally announced the launch of his new digital streaming platform Tidal earlier this week at a New York event featuring his wife Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Usher, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Madonna. Jay Z – also known as Shawn Carter – acquired Sweden-based Aspiro for $56 million, and the artists featured onstage were introduced as co-owners of the company. According to Variety, this represents the first artist-owned digital-music service, although the extent of their actual financial participation is not known. Other artists reportedly involved in the service include Arcade Fire, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, Jack White (formerly of the White Stripes), and Deadmau5.

“Our goal is to create a better service and a better experience for both fans and artitsts,” Alicia Keys said at the event. “We believe that it is in everyone’s interests – fans, artists, and the industry as a whole – to preserve the value of music, and to ensure a healthy and robust industry for years to come.”

Tidal is designed to compete with Spotify and Apple’s highly anticipated streaming service, expected to launch in June. The service is available across all iOS and Android devices, as well as in web browsers and desktop players, and offers a library of more than 25 million tracks, 75,000 music videos, and curated editorial articles. The standard audio version (Tidal Premium) will cost $9.99 per month and the high-def audio version (Tidal HiFi) will be $19.99 per month. Both tiers are free to try out for 30 days, according to the company.

 

Investor Group Says Vivendi

Undervalues UMG, Should Spin It Off

 

     P. Schoenfeld Asset Management (PSAM) is calling for changes at French media conglomerate Vivendi, insisting – among other things – that the company spin off Universal Music, which controls more than 30% of the global recording industry. While PSAM owns less than 1% of Vivendi, it maintains that Universal’s underlying value – tied to an expected bump in streaming revenues and Apple’s pending entry into the business – is obscured by the parent company’s conglomerate structure, and therefore is not a good fit. PSAM repeatedly has accused Vivendi and its chairman, Vincent Bolloré, of trying to keep the company’s market value (and shareholder returns) artificially low.

“By not distributing adequate cash to shareholders and providing vague guidance about Vivendi’s acquisition plans, Mr. Bolloré and Vivendi’s management board are asking investors to have blind faith in their plan for the company’s future,” the hedge fund said in advance of an April 17 shareholders meeting.

As reported by Quartz, PSAM says there will be more than 250 million streaming music subscribers globally by 2020 (that number is about 5% of the predicted global smartphone customer base in 2020, which PSAM thinks will be 5.03 billion). These subscribers alone, the firm believes, will generate $16.42 billion in revenue – more than the entire global recorded music industry (including physical sales and downloads) is expected to generate this year ($14 billion). Interestingly, that $16.42 billion works out to just $5.45 per month per subscriber – less than the $10 a month most streaming services currently charge – which would suggest that different pricing models may take hold.

Streaming platforms (e.g., Spotify) typically return about 70% of their revenues to record labels and publishers in royalties and, since Universal is both the world’s largest record company and one of its largest publishers, it would presumably receive a significant chunk of that money. PSAM says Bolloré’s investor group recently doubled its stake in Vivendi to approximately 10%, thus benefiting from Vivendi’s undervaluation and the absence of a detailed capital allocation plan. As a result, PSAM said it was “concerned about the investors’ opportunistic purchases.” [Read more: Wall Street Journal

Apple’s Anticipated Digital Streaming

Service Is No Slam-Dunk Against Pandora

 

     Despite the media hyperbole surrounding the anticipated launch of Apple’s music service, some analysts remain skeptical that the company’s established position as a music store (with its legions of customers) will instantly propel it to the front of the digital streaming line. “Whenever Apple does anything you have to take notice,” said Paul Verna, a senior analyst with research firm eMarketer. “[But] Pandora has established leadership in this space and Apple will have a hard time threatening that position…so it is not a slam dunk for them.”

In the past when Apple entered a new category, it usually counted on its current customer base to quickly make whatever new product it was offering a top-seller, but the company would be ill-advised to make the same assumption in the streaming music sector. As Michael Inouye, a senior analyst at ABI Research, says, “With a device, it’s an image thing. People want to be seen with it. With a service, it is a behind the scenes thing and not as apparent to everyone else.”

Pandora understandably is putting a positive spin on its own dominance in digital streaming, even though the platform’s new user numbers appear to have stalled. “We believe we’ve cracked the code on providing the best lean-back listening experience ever created, and the loyalty of our listeners is unmatched and only continues to grow,” Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews told attendees at a recent investors meeting. “We’ve done this by assembling the greatest combination of music, people, and technology ever.”

As TheStreet noted in a recent analysis, Apple will have to launch something either radically different, or at a much lower price, in order to encourage people to make the switch. Plus, the acquisition of Beats and its executive team is hardly a guarantee of success for Apple: “Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are smart and know the music business, but you can’t just take your expertise in music marketing and move it over,” eMarketer’s Verna said.

 

Sony Launches PlayStation

Music “Powered By” Spotify

 

     Sony and Spotify this week launched their PlayStation Music streaming service in 41 countries, making it available for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games consoles as well as Sony’s smartphones and tablets. The new system is a replacement for Music Unlimited, the Sony-branded streaming music service that launched in 2010, and is billed as a third-party service given first-party priority on the Sony platform. PlayStation Music essentially is Spotify, adapted for TV screens and PlayStation controller devices. It will be available as a free, advertising-supported service or a premium subscription, with users able to sign up from their consoles, including a 30-day trial of the premium tier.

“We’ve optimized the experience for the big screen,” Tim Grimsditch, Spotify’s head of global product marketing, told The Guardian. “We’ve been looking at how to make Spotify available on smart TVs and other non-mobile devices, and for us this is the pinnacle experience in terms of big screens. We’ve learned over the years to try to really simplify for a big-screen leaning back experience. We’re making the most out of the artwork and creating a very visual navigation, completely in line with how PS4 users would expect to use the platform.”

The partnership between Spotify and Sony is exclusive, but neither company will confirm how long that exclusivity lasts. This means Xbox One console owners won’t know when (or whether) Spotify will be available for their device, while subscribers to other streaming music services, such as Deezer, Rdio, Napster, and Google Play All Access, will be equally unsure whether they’ll be available on PS3 and PS4. 

BMG Signs Music Distribution Deal

With China eCommerce Firm Alibaba

 

     As Alibaba continues its quest to become the world’s largest eCommerce firm, Germany’s BMG music rights company this week signed a digital distribution deal that gives the China-based company more than 2.5 million copyrights. The $250 billion company has set its eyes on becoming an online media powerhouse, touting its potential for selling digital products as well as physical products in China, despite the country’s record of intellectual piracy. BMG sees the partnership as a chance to boost earnings by its artists in China and grow the legitimate music market in that country.

As part of the deal, Alibaba’s digital entertainment  division will “promote BMG writers and artists through channels such as its streaming apps Xiami and TTPod” and “monitor – and take action against – digital and mobile services who may infringe the rights of BMG clients,” the subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, Europe’s largest media company, said in a statement.

“The internet and mobile media are quickly providing an answer to the music industry’s long-time challenge of how to monetize the vast untapped potential of the Chinese market,” BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said in a company statement. [Read more here

Study: YouTube Is Emerging As #1

Streaming Platform…At Least In Finland

 

     Evidence is mounting that mp3s, CDs, and even digital music files are becoming increasingly outdated as young listeners now are finding their favorite music on YouTube and Spotify. A new research study from Aalto University in Finland found that 76% of young adults listen to YouTube music every day, and the music video channel has become the most frequently used service for music listening and new music discovery. Even active Spotify users visited YouTube often to complement Spotify’s incomplete music selection. YouTube also was perceived by the Finnish respondents as the most shareable music source available.

“The popularity of YouTube is overwhelming….nearly everyone uses it for listening to music,” lead researcher Lassi A Liikkanen said in a statement. “YouTube has transformed the digital media world and the practices of music listening. For the first time, we now have a scientific record of the big change that has taken place.”

The study also suggests that, at least in a solitary YouTube music listening context, the video is secondary to audio. “We ran an experiment to evaluate this and found that our participants evaluated their musical experience similarly, regardless of the presence of accompanying picture,” Liikkanen added. “This provokes many questions for future research.” [Read more here]

A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015

DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS

RIAA: U.S. Digital Streaming Revenue

Surpassed CD Retail Sales In 2014

 

Green Dollars      The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) this week reported that music streaming has eclipsed the sale of physical CDs and is closing in on digital downloads as the largest source of revenue in the U.S. recorded music industry. According to RIAA figures, revenues from subscription streaming (e.g., Spotify and Rhapsody) and streaming radio services including Sirius XM hit $1.87 billion in 2014, a 29% increase vs. 2013 and equivalent to 27% per cent of total music industry revenues. CD sales slipped 12.7% to $1.85 billion. As noted by the Financial Times, downloads have been the U.S. music industry’s largest source of digital revenue for a decade, but they peaked in 2012 and have been in decline ever since. In 2014, download revenues fell 8.7% vs. 2013 to $2.58 billion, equivalent to 37% of total industry revenues.

“The music business continues to undergo a staggering transformation,” RIAA Chairman/CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. “Record companies are now digital music firms, earning more than two-thirds of their revenues from a variety of digital formats.”

In aggregate, the various kinds of streaming outlets generated $1.87 billion, up nearly 29% from the year before – and, for the first time, slightly more than the total for CDs. That figure includes not only paid subscription outlets like Spotify, Rdio and Rhapsody, but also such internet radio services as Pandora, which does not let users pick exactly what songs they will hear, and outlets like YouTube and Spotify’s free tier, which let users pick specific songs and are generally supported by advertising.

Performance royalty fees paid by streaming radio services grew sharply from $590 million in FY:13 to $773 million last year. All physical music sales together – including CDs, vinyl and music videos – slipped below a third of the industry’s total revenues for the first time, falling from 35% in 2013 to 32% last year. Total U.S. retail revenues were flat for the fifth year in succession at $6.97 billion. 

Shift From Sales To Digital Streaming

Is Causing Growing Pains For Artists

 

     This week the RIAA reported streaming music services have begun to overtake sales of physical CDs and music downloads in revenue (see story, above), a shifting business model that has many artists seeing red in more ways than one. While advertisers, listeners, and some label execs are embracing this change, the money collected via subscription and ad-supported license fees slows to a trickle by the time it reaches the music creators. That’s one reason Taylor Swift pulled her tracks from Spotify when she released her 1989 album last fall, and other artists continue to withhold their catalogs from the service.

How worrisome is the drought caused by the shift to streaming? As AdWeek pointed out this week, Pharrell’s “Happy” arguably was the song of 2014, topping the charts in the U.S. and selling 6.45 million copies. It also was in heavy rotation on the digital radio platform Pandora, streaming 43 million times in the first quarter alone. Despite all that exposure, Sony/ATV Music Publishing says it received just $2,700 from Pandora for plays of the tune during that period, which it split with writer Pharrell Williams.

“Streaming services are going to be the major method in the way music is accessed [but] I don’t think enough money trickles down to the songwriters,” says Sony/ATV CEO Marty Bandier.

By contrast, Pandora argues that its model is justified, with CEO Brian McAndrews insisting that “we want to be an indispensable partner to music makers, and that involves paying a tremendous amount in royalties.”

Of course, AM/FM radio has never paid performance royalties to labels or artists, but the difference here is that digital streaming appears to be replacing music sales, while traditional radio served to promote it. As AdWeek asks (somewhat rhetorically), are music streaming services in as much trouble as the record business they were meant to give new life to? Or are these merely the growing pains of an emerging medium?

 

Forbes: Internet Radio Poised To

Be “Ad Opportunity Of The Future”

 

     Owners of AM/FM radio stations might not agree (or even want to read further), but internet radio has the potential to be the most ubiquitous form of media ever – and the biggest advertising opportunity of the future. That’s the word from Forbes, which this week detailed the reasons digital streaming – no longer a fledgling medium – is set to become an essential part of the targeted media mainstream. As the magazine’s David Porter points out, one third of Americans used their phones to stream music last year, and those 18-24 listened to internet radio more than terrestrial. Additionally, two of the top five most-popular apps in the U.S. (Pandora and Youtube) are used for streaming music, which increasingly is becoming personalized to individual listening tastes and experiences.

“Internet radio will need to match every part of your day,” Porter wrote in an industry analysis this week. “Imagine passively being pushed the right music that helps you wake up, motivates you to run faster, work more productively, and more. This type of personalization has already begun in advertising…[and] the barriers to this type of hyper-personal internet radio are slowly being eliminated. The swath of personal data that comprise our tastes is growing, which in turn means we are also able to better understand the tastes of similar people.”

Porter explains that, with the decreasing costs of streaming, collecting and storing large sums of data – as well as growth of powerful tools to analyze it – the ability to explore and draw inferences from this wealth of information is seemingly endless. “With the inevitable growth of internet radio, as we continue to shift digitally, the abundance of listener data will provide advertisers improved targeting, as well as awareness of their demographic,” he says. “This new paradigm will offer companies an unprecedented opportunity to connect with the right listeners at the perfect moment. The only question remaining, what will your station look like?”

 

iTunes Has Banned “Soundalikes”

Designed To Fool Paying Customers

 

     Apple’s iTunes store last month responded to a surge of “soundalikes” – cover tracks designed to mimic the original song – by aggressively banning them from the online store. As reported by Forbes writer Shawn Setaro, soundalikes are meant to fool listeners into thinking they’re the real deal, and streaming services are flooded with them. Example: The Cheer Squad’s soundalike of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” both of which can be found on virtually every streaming music platform.

While someone listening to a streaming service typically can skip to the next song if a soundalike comes on, iTunes customers pay for the track, which can fool consumers into buying the wrong download. Hence, iTunes has sent notices to digital distributors laying out new guidelines that ban titling songs in the search-friendly way common to soundalikes: Having the artist’s name in the song’s title, for example, and nixing phrases like “originally performed by” and “in the style of.” The guidelines called these practices “deceptive and misleading.”

Setaro says these guidelines apply only to iTunes, but they probably will affect all digital music services. Example: Such digital distributors as TuneCore put songs on all the digital music services at the same time, so if a song has one title for iTunes, it has to have the same one for all the other streaming services.

 

Sony Music Buys The Rest Of

The Orchard For $200 Million

 

     Sony Music Entertainment has purchased the remaining equity stake in the Orchard from Dimensional Associates for about $200 million. According to an SEC filing, the Orchard is currently owned by Orchard Assets Holdings, believed to be a joint venture between Dimensional Associates and Sony. According to Billboard, Sony bought what has been consistently described as a majority stake in the Orchard in March 2012. While the exact percentages of Sony’s stake have never been publicly disclosed, sources say Sony owed 51% of the company and Dimensional held the remaining 49%.

The new deal requires regulatory approvals and is expected to close after March 31, 2015. In addition to the Orchard, Sony Music Entertainment also owns RED, widely considered to be one of the biggest indie U.S. distributors.

The Orchard was founded by songwriter/producer Richard Gottehrer and digital music executive Scott Cohen in 1997, and currently has annual revenues of $200 million. 

Rhapsody Subscribers Now Can Share

Music Tracks With Twitter Followers

 

     Rhapsody this week announced its subscribers now can share songs from with their Twitter followers, who will be able to play them in full without leaving the social media site – even if they don’t pay for a Rhapsody subscription. Rhapsody claims it’s the first streaming music service to offer full-track playback on Twitter, using its Audio Cards feature. The music is fully licensed by Rhapsody, with a percentage of revenue going to artists, labels, and publishers.

Rhapsody says one reason for the approach – which will be available only in the U.S. – is “to reinforce that music isn’t free.” The streaming music company is testing the feature to see if it can recoup the licensing fees, over time, by converting the Twitter exposure into new subscribers for its $9.99/month music service. “It’s going to be a huge experiment in how we make music social again,” Rhapsody CFO Ethan Rudin said in an interview with Geek Wire. “We’re extraordinarily confident in the success we’re going to have in converting people to loyal Rhapsody subscribers. If there is the opportunity to fine-tune and make sure this is economically viable in perpetuity, we want to have the proof points to get it right.”

Rudin says Rhapsody will collect audience data and share the results with its industry partners in an effort to find an approach that works. 

 

A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015

City of Austin Braces For Massive Influx of Nerds

The city of Austin has begun bracing for the arrival of what experts are predicting will be a record-breaking number of nerds. Residents have grown accustomed to the annual migratory patterns of nerds, particularly the mid-March influx, which most attribute to the South by Southwest festival. But what has baffled locals of late is the sheer diversity of the strains of nerd infiltrating the Texan capital.

Studies have found that what was originally identified as a homogeneous nerd population has now split into several distinct subspecies. A lead researcher explained, “What were once typical nerd signifiers—thick glasses, an obsession with gadgets, a certain loveable gawkiness—are no longer reliable markers. While all nerds originate from the same family (Nerdus loserus sapiens), they now display a wide range of character traits.”

One of the most prominent breeds, the music nerd, has long thrived in Austin. At times mistaken for a cool person, the music nerd is identifiable by the speed at which he or she informs you that SXSW “used to be about the music, man.” One such music nerd was found outside of the Spotify House wearing a made-to-look-vintage Talking Heads tee purchased in 2012. “It’s just a damn shame, you know?” she said, ashing her cigarette. “South-by was our oasis from all of the mainstream bullshit out there, a place where we could celebrate raw sound. I mean, people who don’t know the history don’t even realize that John Mayer was discovered here.”

Yet music nerds have faced challenges at SXSW following the rise of their natural enemy, the tech nerd. Tech nerds tend to exhibit fewer traditional nerd characteristics as they amass more wealth than other nerds could ever imagine. Outside the convention center, one tech nerd struggled to untangle his badge from his new Apple Watch, pausing to say, “Obviously the Apple Watch isn’t out yet, but I’m basically boys with Tim Cook.” He later followed up on LinkedIn: “Hey, if you plan on quoting me in your piece, please specify that I was wearing the expensive kind of Apple Watch, not the one for poors.”

One of the fastest-growing yet most difficult-to-classify types of nerd is the corporate-brand nerd. A relative newcomer to the Nerdus family, the corporate-brand nerd hides in plain sight, wearing expensive denim and Oxford shirts in whimsical colors, like salmon. Typical traits include a love of harnessing the power of human emotion and leveraging data to drive interactions. Asked how it felt to represent corporate-brand nerds at SXSW, one individual replied, “I actually reject the ‘nerd’ characterization. The personal brand that I’ve cultivated for myself is more that of an avant-garde tastemaker, or #AvanTastemaker. Do you need me to spell that?”

This year, Austin city officials have assured the public that they are taking extra precautions to keep the nerds contained. Authorities have already instituted fines for the overuse of words such as “disrupt,” “drones,” and “passionate storytellers” in public spaces. Later this week, anti-nerd task forces will begin to roll out their most drastic initiative—random WiFi outages.

Yet even with these preëmptive measures in place, new strains of nerd are expected to crop up every day at SXSW. One of the most dangerous types is already multiplying rapidly along Sixth Street: the dad nerd. Long thought to be extinct in these parts, dad nerds most successfully reach maturation in a cage of familial obligation and conference calls. When allowed to roam freely in new pastures, dad nerds are famous for going out too hard and overdoing it. Asked how he was enjoying Austin, one dad nerd exclaimed, “I loooooooooooove SXSWALDSJFASLKDJRELKDCCKKFRD!”

 

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/city-of-austin-braces-for-massive-influx-of-nerds?mbid=nl_031415_Daily&CNDID=22625076&mbid=nl_031415_Daily&CNDID=22625076&spMailingID=7583307&spUserID=MjY0MzU4Nzc0MDMS1&spJobID=641196267&spReportId=NjQxMTk2MjY3S0

DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS

Marvin Gaye’s Estate Awarded

$7.4 MillionIn “Blurred Lines” Suit

 

Justice      Homage or copying? That was the question presented to a jury of five men and three women in a high-profile (and big-money) trial that pitted musicians Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. against the estate of soul/R&B legend Marvin Gaye. At issue was whether the three infringed on the copyright of Gaye’s 1977 recording “Got To Give It Up” with their 2013 mega-hit “Blurred Lines.” The eight-member jury yesterday (March 10) voted unanimously that Thicke et al infringed on the 1977 Gaye song, and they subsequently awarded nearly $7.4 million to Gaye’s family. His children – Nona, Frankie and Marvin Gaye III – were present in court when the verdict was read.

“Right now, I feel free,” Nona Gaye said after the verdict. “Free from … Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”

Via a spokesperson, Williams told USA Today, “While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward. Pharrell created ‘Blurred Lines’ from his heart, mind, and soul and the song was not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision, considering our options, and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.”

Thicke and Williams both denied that “Blurred Lines,” which earned them more than $5 million apiece, in any way was a copy of Gaye’s work. While both are credited as its songwriters, Williams wrote the song in about an hour in 2012, and the pair recorded it in one night, according to testimony.

Nashville entertainment law attorney Richard Busch, who represented the Gaye estate, said his clients were thrilled with the verdict. “This is as satisfying or more satisfying than any case I’ve ever had,” he said in a statement. “Winning the Eminem digital download case was obviously a very big deal. But winning this might be more satisfying because of the machine we were up against and who Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke are.”

 

Reports: Apple’s Streaming Music

Service Is Set To Launch In June

 

Apple      Apple’s much-anticipated streaming music service that integrates iTunes Radio and Beats will debut in June, most likely as part of the company’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference. The new music service is designed to integrate some of the Beats-style personalization and recommendation features with Apple’s existing digital music platform, but without the Beats branding. The service is expected to be available across all computer and mobile applications, including Android. In fact, it’s the Android app that reportedly is delaying the launch to June rather than this month.

As noted by TechCrunch, a cross-platform offering makes a lot of sense for Apple, which has a history of reaching out to competing platforms, as it did with iTunes for Windows. Also, as has been widely reported, Apple is seeking to offer more attractive pricing than other on-demand pay services, pricing its new service at $7.99 per month. That’s $2 less than the going rate for paid subscriptions to Spotify and Rdio.

Additionally, Apple has a massive existing user base that should make it an instant giant in the music streaming business. While Spotify recently hit 60 million users and 15 million paying customers, Apple is expecting to tap into hundreds of millions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, and also has an estimated 800 million credit cards on file, making it easy for customers to become paid subscribers.

There’s one more thing that stands to make Apple an instant leader in the streaming universe: The company currently has an estimated $180 billion in cash, allowing it to sign exclusive deals or convince hesitant artists to get on board with streaming. One example is Taylor Swift who, after her much-publicized clash with Spotify, has cozied up to iTunes amidst rumors that the company may be looking at acquire her record label, Big Machine.

 

Washington Set To Fix Music Industry’s

“Broken “Business”…But Can It?

 

Capitol Building      “The music business has been screwed up for a hopelessly long time, but change is afoot as Congress, the courts, and the Justice Department are all poised to shake up how companies and consumers pay for music.” That’s the word from GigaOm‘s legal and technology reporter Jeff John Roberts, who says this recent flurry of activity could produce a rational royalty system…”or just make the existing rat hole even deeper.” Here are some factors Roberts says could change the rules of the game for performers, streaming services, radio broadcasters, and everyone else with a stake in music.

Activity In Congress: The last month has seen the return of two proposed bills in Congress. One is the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would ensure that traditional AM/FM stations don’t have to start paying performance royalties on top of the songwriter fees they currently pay. The other is called the Songwriter Equity Act, which would tweak the way so-called “rate courts” calculate how much people who write songs should get paid. “Both bills have appeared before in one guise or another, but never passed,” Roberts points out. “This time, the outcome will be determined in part by whether Congress takes up the issues at stake on its own, or as part of a larger royalty reform effort.”

Justice Dept.: The DoJ held a hearing yesterday (March 10) over so-called consent decrees that essentially are antitrust orders that apply to ASCAP and BMI. The decrees have been a boon to everyone from cover bands to bars to radio stations because they provide an easy, efficient way to clear copyrights. But music publishers say they are getting short-changed and want the orders, which date from the 1940’s, to be changed or abolished outright.

     Digital Music On Trial: The most contentious of these cases involve an aggressive series of class action lawsuits, brought by record labels and former members of the band The Turtles. If these cases go any further, they will have huge financial and legal implications not just for Pandora and SiriusXM, but for any other service that plays old music on the internet.

Royalty Fees: The inequity between what different music services pay in performance royalty fees likely will come to a head this year. There’s a possibility that the entire fee collection process could be recalibrated from the ground up to fix major imbalances in how money is collected and paid. The first imbalance involves a seemingly irrational distinction in how the law treats AM/FM stations and digital radio.

For more insight into what to expect out of Washington this year, please see Bunzel Media Resources’ Radio 2015.

 

While Apple Watch Has Limited Storage,

It Could Work Wonders For Music Business

 

     Both the tech world and mainstream media were buzzing this week about the new Apple Watch, which has significant implications for the future of the recorded (and streaming) music industry. While certainly not as robust as a the typical smartphone or tablet, the device has 8GB of memory – 2 GB of which has been set aside for music storage. This means a user can store close to 500 music tracks on his/her wrist and listen to them via simple Bluetooth connection.

As noted by Forbes, the Apple Watch also has the ability to make streaming even easier than it already is. Until now users had to access music via a phone or desktop, requiring them to keep at least one hand free – and pay full attention – to access a desired song. The Apple Watch makes it possible to listen with just the flick of a finger or a voice command, meaning faster and easier song access.

“The Apple Watch will go hand in hand with the industry’s continued shift to streaming delivery,” Forbes‘ Bobby Owskinski says. “It offers enough features to make millions of people want to buy one without it having to be a fashion accessory (although it clearly can be that as well), and it’s only a matter of time until its users discover the ease at which they can access the music they love. While artists continue to complain about the low royalties received from streaming services (which requires a post all by itself), anything that makes the pie larger can only be good for everyone involved in the business. The Apple Watch could go a long way to making that happen.” 

Google Offers $3.00 Trial For

Its All Access Music Service

 

     The Google Play Store turns three this week and the tech giant is celebrating by offering a $3.00 trial of Google Play Music All Access, which was launched in May 2013. The subscription service has mostly been left out of discussions about the battle for the streaming music market, but Google is hoping to change that just as rumors continue to mount about the pending launch of Apple’s re-vamped digital music platform. Despite its size, Google has experienced difficulty entering a market dominated by Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and even Google’s own YouTube Music Key.

Last fall the service (weighed down by its unwieldy name) unveiled a number of upgrades, including the integration of YouTube’s library and a deep suite of playlists built by Songza, which Google acquired in late June 2014 for $39 million. As the International Business Times reports, measuring All Access’ progress since then has been difficult. Most Android devices come pre-loaded with Google Play Music, an app that allows users to purchase songs and albums individually.

Google execs clearly are hoping the birthday promotion will nudge customers to consider streaming rather than buying their digital music, a move that labels and artists worry could significantly depress income from recordings. 

Samsung Expands Milk Music

Digital Service To Web Browsers

 

     Samsung announced this week it is offering its free Milk Music streaming radio service to web-based listeners via Slacker’s internet platform. As initially revealed in January, users will have access to over 200 curated radio stations across a variety of genres, although the company has not provided a lists of artists or albums associated with the Milk Music service. Instead of the dial interface that’s part of the mobile app, the web version uses a radio-style tuning bar so users can switch between genres and songs.

In addition to the free version, Milk Music also offers a premium subscription feature that gives users the option to pay $3.99 per month to listen to music uninterrupted by ads and skip unlimited songs. Premium subscribers also can play music on the mobile device without an Internet connection.

Milk Music was originally limited to Samsung Galaxy phones, so expanding it to the web and making it available to everyone means new and existing users can use it across all digital platforms.

 

Samsung Expands Milk Music

Digital Service To Web Browsers

 

     Samsung announced this week it is offering its free Milk Music streaming radio service to web-based listeners via Slacker’s internet platform. As initially revealed in January, users will have access to over 200 curated radio stations across a variety of genres, but the company has not provided a lists of artists or albums associated with the Milk Music service. Instead of the dial interface that’s part of the mobile app, the web version uses a radio-style tuning bar so users can switch between genres and songs.

In addition to the free version, Milk Music also offers premium subscription option that gives users the option to pay $3.99 per month to listen to music uninterrupted by ads and skip unlimited songs. Premium subscribers can also play music on the mobile device without an Internet connection.

Milk Music was originally limited to Samsung Galaxy phones, so expanding it to the web and making it available to everyone means new and existing users can use it across all digital platforms.

 

A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015

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