Article by deo2.crew

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Digicaine for taste
In the junk culture - everyone’s a junkie.

Microsoft’s ‘cyber world’ for gourmands

Microsoft has struck deals with record companies including Universal and SonyBMG that will provide it with as many as one million songs to sell from its long-awaited online music store. He world’s largest software company has negotiated with each of the four big music companies, which also include EMI and Warner Music Group, for access to their vast libraries of digital; music as it prepares to complete with existing online music stores such as Apple’s iTunes, Napster and Sony Connect.

The new service, which is being developed by MSN, Microsoft’s internet business, is expected to be launched in the US in early September. It should be fully operational by the end of the year. Microsoft is eager to ensure that its music store will open with as large a selection of music as its key competitors. Apple announced this month that iTunes had more than 1 million tracks available, while Napster has about 750,000.

The latest deals are likely to rankle with Apple, which originally sought to muscle out its competitors by seeking exclusive deals with record companies.

“MSN is working very closely with the music industry service to build a top-quality music service for consumers, which includes providing a wide selection of music and an easy-to-yes service,” a company spokeswoman said.

Microsoft is seeking to wield greater influence in the media market through products such as Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Player. The plan is part of its blueprint to diversify beyond the PC and into home and portable entertainment. Although the company is a latecomer to the online music market, its imminent arrival is likely to cause a major stir in the industry. Considering that something like 95% of the global computing is done using Microsoft software, their penetration has got to formidable.

“It will be a fantastic development for the industry because, although apple has done great work, and deserves to be applauded, it is and always will a niche player and music downloads need someone like Microsoft to come along and take them to a wider audience,” one record company executive said.

One person familiar with the developments said: “Microsoft has a working platform, and they will be using essentially the same model as iTunes.”

A key difference, however, will be that the store is expected to offer the ability for customers to chart with one another. [And whah? Discuss the crappy music they are downloading!?]

The new online store will be boasted by MSN’s status as one of the most popular internet destinations in the world, with more than 300 million people visiting its various sites each month. The store will also have the advantage of a widening range of compatible digital music players, with manufacturers such as Samsung and Philips planning to release several new devices within the next few months.

The cost of downloading on the MSN music store is expected to be attuned with iTunes at 99 cents [and twice what RealPlayer Music Store is charging, 49c - talking about the States] but it is more than its MSN Music Club [powered by OD2] is pricing its Euro-customers where song pricing ranges from 80 to 99 pence. [The same with MyCokeMusic download service that is also powered by OD2.]

As far as the EU-denizens are concerned, the cheapest DL songs [globally] are offered by iTunes at 79 pence and the most expensive is Sony Connect at £1.09 per track. [21 Aug. 04]

Major store halts singles selling

WH Smith is to pull out of selling chart singles because of falling sales, it has emerged. The chain is expected to tell suppliers this week that it will no longer stock CD singles, using the shelf space for more popular products such as albums, DVDs and computer games.

A WHS spokesperson [capable of childbearing] said: “If consumers aren’t buying them, then why are we selling them?”

[At what price, we may add!?]

New chief executive Kate Swann, tasked with reviving the retailer’s fortunes, is expected to update the market on progress when the company reports interim results on 22 April.

Plunging further

Single sales fell by a third last year, according to new figures from the BPI (British Phonographic Industry). The fall, from 52.5 million in 2002 to 35.9m last year is blamed on the rise of the illegal Internet downloads.

The BPI has urged member not to reveal the news until after the Brit Awards. But, there’s good news that digital music services hit first major milestone as downloads outsold physical formats for the first time.

New figures from the Official Charts’ Company reveal that over 150,000 downloads were sold in January 2004 – with 50,000 sold in the week of MyCokeMusic’s launch alone. This means that a digital format has outsold physical formats for the first time, with downloads now outselling vinyl, cassettes and DVD.

These figures add to the anticipation surrounding the UK’s first Official Download Chart – which entered its test phase last October. The Official UK Charts Company reports tests are going well, and an announcement on the launch of the chart is expected soon. Plans to integrate downloads into the Official Singles Chart are expected to follow later this year. [09 Feb. 2004]

Pre-volution gets started

Warner Bros’ imprint Reprise Records will begin selling rock act Secret Machines’ debut album, ‘Now Here Is Nowhere’, as a download three months ahead of its physical release, reports. The move pushes the envelope on the lead-time major labels are giving to online sales of new releases. While individual tracks have been serviced to download retailers well in advance of street date, full albums are typically not made available more than a week ahead of time.

As part of the Reprise offer, those who buy the album online will receive six free additional downloads, a bundled collection called ‘Sympathy for the Download 01’. The digital sampler will feature a Secret Machines bonus track and cuts from up-and-coming Warner Bros./Reprise acts the Von Bondies, the Walkmen, the Sun, Head Automatica and Johnathan Rice.

Digital sales of ‘Now Here Is Nowhere’ started yesterday (03 Feb.). Reprise will conduct a similar effort with the Von Bondies, starting 10 Feb. The lead time on that initiative is shorter: the new album ‘Pawn Shoppe Heart’ will be available for sale online one month ahead of street date.

Fans buying through Secret Machines’ [] and participating online retailers will also receive in the mail a free CD-R on which to burn the music to disc. The CD-R is a limited-edition with exclusive Secret Machines artwork.

Digi-realism finally unfolds for the record industry.

Single sales lowest ever...

Sales of music singles have dropped to their lowest levels since 1969, reported The Independent On Sunday.

Records show that only 400,000 singles were purchased across the UK in the week ending 25 January, half the number sold in the same week four years ago.

Last week Michelle McManus sold just 35,040 singles to clinch the No.1 spot, for the third time. [She’s been deposed since by another sampled song, this time U2.]

Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas has championed album tracks: “Singles are a marketing tool - albums are a better indicator of the work of an artists.”

So, the days of single have all but passed… Gone are the days when youngsters would [and could afford to] buy a single with their pocket money each week and pile ten of 45rpm vinyls on their record players before sitting back to enjoy their favourite hits.

In the past, an artists would have to sell at least 100,000 copies to make it to No.1. But, as we’ve mentioned earlier, ‘Pop Idol-ette’ Michelle needed just about one-third of it to remain atop the singles pile for the third week. Furthermore, only ten singles sold more than 10,000 copies, compared with 28 five years ago.

Dance act Boogie Pimps became the lowest seller to enter the Top Three, selling 16,000 copies of ‘Somebody To Love’, according to figures c\ompiled by Alan Jones, chart consultant with industry magazine Music Week.

Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’, reworked in 1997 for the funeral of Diana, Princess Of Wales, remains the best-ever selling single with 4.86 million copies. The 1960s best selling single was The Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ (1.89 million), the 1970s - Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2.13m), the 1980s Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ (3.55m) and 2000s - Will Young’s ‘Evergreen/Anything Is Possible’ (1.78m).

The best selling albums during the same periods are: 1960s - The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, 1970s - Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, 1980s - Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers In Arms’, 1990s - Oasis’ ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’, 2000s - Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’.

Matt Philips, of the British Phonographic Industry, blamed the downturn on downloading, ringtones and price.

“Another big factor is price,” he concluded. “If you can pick up an album for below £10 a lot of buyers don‘t the point in buying the single.”

As we concluded some time ago - the only future for the little thing is under-a-quid Downloads. (02 February 2004)

Singles: online future

That small thing that costs a lot compared with a full-length CD, yep - a single, has been in troubled waters for a long time. Sales of the format have fallen by 30 per cent in recent years: the slump is blamed on music piracy and illegal swapping of music over the ‘Net, as well as legal downloads. [The sales of CD albums remain strong.]

It now looks like the legal downloads are going to save the single song but dispense with mix/instrumental/rubbish on ‘b-side’. And, 2003 could well mark the year when the Web-music finally took off. Latest figures show that digital music for sale online is now threatening the future of the traditional single.

And, surprisingly, the first king of Internet music, the ruler of cyber selling is… Kraftwerk? Goldfrapp? Kylie? Nope - Robbie Williams! His single ‘Feel’ was the most popular bought for download in Britain for 2003. Williams’s album ‘Escapology’ did not make the Top-20 in CD sales - it was originally released in 2002 along with the ‘Feel’ single - it was that track that was the sot popular pair-for download, according to ‘On Demand Distribution’ (OD2).

Norah Jones was also popular with two tracks in the Top 10, along with Dido and Christina Aguilera. OD2, Europe’s biggest legal music download service, says it has supplied two million tracks in Britain via the Internet in 2003 and this years expects to shift 12 million across Europe. Williams sold thousands of downloads of ‘Fell’ but OD2 wouldn’t give the official figure.

The year’s best-selling high street CD by the Black Eyed Peas sold 650,000 - more than downloads but well behind the biggest hits since the charts began in 1952, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ sold 2.3 million.

This year paid-for DLs are set to count towards the singles chart, while a cheaper version of the iPod player is likely to see the popularity of digital music explode. That’s why the music industry bosses ordered monitoring of sales data. OD2, part-owned by peter Gabriel, has cleared legal rights to a further 750,000 tracks - bringing the total to one million - after a deal with the major record labels that is bound to push online sales further.

The company has also linked up with Coca-Cola, which plans to sell digital music. Apple’s popular iPod is also helping the digital revolution. OD2 songs are not currently compatible with the iPod but that could change - and Apple is to launch its own digital music store in Britain.

OD2 founder Charles Grimsdale said a drop in the price of each song from an average of about £1 to 80p had helped the service’s growth since its 2002 launch. Distributing the digital songs via established on-line retailers such as HMV and sites such as Freeserve, OD2 is understood to sell around 350,000 songs each month.

Users can download a whole album for £4.99 but many choose to cherry pick popular tracks, which is why OD2 has not compiled a download album chart of 2003. But retailers still believe the CD is not dead yet because many sales (40 per cent of yearly purchases occur in the run-up to Chrimbo) are presents and you can’t really gift a Download…

But then, given time…

The prediction is that Online music market will grow from an estimated £44 million ($80m) in 2003 to just over £1.7 billion ($3.2bn) in 2008 as record companies and hi-tech firms rush to follow Apple’s lead. There are more than 50 iPod-style devices on sale capable of storing upwards of four hours of music.

Sony is to began an Online music download service in the spring, while the now-legal Napster will arrive in Britain this year although Apple refuses to be drawn on exactly when iTunes will be available in Europe. Existing download services are also thriving although this doesn’t mean the end of album, more like adding another format to the array. The advantages are ease, comfort and instantaneous, even at 3am. It is also permanent, unlike CDs (physical and perishable items): if you buy a song on OD2 and lose it, you can download it again; yeah, no additional fee.

Thus, welcome to the brave new Online music world.

Top downloaded tracks of 2003

1. Robbie Williams: ‘Feel’
2. Dido: ‘White Flag’
3. Christina Aguilera: ‘Beautiful’
4. T.A.T.U.: ‘All The Things She Said’
5. Norah Jones: ‘Don’t Know Why’
6. The Black Eyed Peas: ‘Where Is The Love?’
7. Eminem: ‘Sing For The Moment’
8. Norah Jones: ‘Come Away With Me’
9. Coldplay: ‘Clocks’
10. Daniel Bedingfield: ‘If You’re Not The One’

(Source: On Demand Distribution)

Official CD single chart 2003

1. The Black Eyed Peas: ‘Where Is The Love?’
2. Gareth Gates: ‘Spirit In The Sky’
3. R Kelly: ‘Ignition Remix’
4. Michael Andrews with Gary Jules: ‘Mad World’
5. Will Young: ‘Leave Right Away’
6. T.A.T.U.:
7. Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne: ‘Changes’
8. Blu Cantrell with Sean Paul: ‘Breathe’
9. Room 5 with Oliver Cheatham: ‘Make Luv’
10. The Darkness: ‘Christian Time’

(Source: The Official UK Charts Company 2003)

It is interesting to notice that only two songs share the lists, The Black Eyes Peas and, gulp, T.A.T.U.. It is also worth mentioning that Norah Jones secured two places among the Top 10 DLs. And, significantly, The Darkness bring up the rear. (11 January 2004)