Back in 2000, I joined a video-sharing website pretty much like YouTube. We raised $12 million including a fair share from AOL. AOL had just launched YouGotPictures and had purchased both Spinner and WinAmp. That is to say, they’d made their moves in photos and music…we were pretty sure video would be next. We were in heaven. The AOL investment could only mean that they’d acquire us at some point.
Fast-forward 24 months and we had run out of money. Broadband was in its infancy and limited to Bay Area nerd community. Camcorders captured rather longish videos on tape which either mostly stayed on tape or whose length made them too boring for online viewing. There was no dominant playback format so UIs were very cumbersome offering the user the option to playback in Real (remember that one?), Quicktime and Windows Media formats…to say nothing of the backend infrastructure required to support all three formats.
There were about 5-8 other venture-backed companies that entered the space in the same era – VideoShare, Eveo, Spotlife, POPcast, Wirebreak…all RIP. Five years later, YouTube comes along and takes it all. Today, there are a bunch of companies slogging it out in the music subscription services. Here is a quick table listing a few:
Add to these (and I may have forgot some) Apple’s upcoming iCloud service. Projections are wildly optimistic for this sector. ABI research projects massive growth from about 6 million by the end of 2011 to about 160 million by 2016.
These projections depict massive growth in Asia-Pacific. If we were to look simply at North America — the geographic target for the bulk of the services above — and, for Spotify, at Europe, the growth is good but this is over five years.
Is there enough for ten or twelve players? It seems that companies in this arena will have the market the shit out of their products and that differentiation will be difficult (they’re all dealing with essentially the same catalogue).
Deep pockets (names in italics) and patience will ultimately prevail as companies will need enough to last them at least another 3-5 years until these projections take hold. Traditional VCs may not have it in them to keep funding the new entrants for so long round after round…
I don’t have the patience (much less the deep pockets) to weather this one. Expect consolidation, fire sales…and, yes, new entrants…
Things were so much clearer then. You bought an album or a CD and they’d come with a cover with liner notes and perhaps lyrics. You’d pore over them, roll j’s with them and spill coffee on them. Nowadays, it just ain’t so clear. Nowadays, it just ain’t so clear.
I had to do a start-up to build a tool to ge all the cover art for my digital music collection.
Online use of cover art has always been a nebulous area. Ecommerce sites like Amazon and iTunes can obviously use cover art to promote sales of the actual product. Digital music purchased from these sites come with the album art in the ID3 tag (or equivalent for other file formats). Pitchfork, Rolling Stones and other online magazines claim editorial fair use.
But what about Microsoft’s Windows Media Player? When you insert a CD into your computer and rip it with WMP, it uses a CDDB-like 4k technology to determine the Artist/Album and sends down all the appropriate metadata including the cover art saving it into the file itself in the ID3 tag field for Album Art.
Has Microsoft licensed every piece of cover art that match their CD recognition? iTunes has a similar feature — Get Album Artwork — but I’ve never actually been able to get it to work. I presume it does some text matching and only finds artwork for what is in its store (which is why it never works for me). Either way, it doesn’t save the artwork to the music file but puts it in some odd location on your hard drive, renames the image file and does some base64encoding so you can’t easily access it.
In 2006, when i was working on cover art solutions, there were rumors that Universal Music Groups was sending cease & desist letters to software companies that were using cover art without licensing it.
Mobile Cloud Music Services - 2011 to 2016 Projections
When Yahoo! bought MusicMatch (sometime in late 2004) , they closed down its awesome SuperTagger feature which was the best and easiest way to get cover art for your digital music collection in those days… was it due to legal problems or cost of running a service for a piece of software they were going to kill because it competed with their own Yahoo! Music Player?
But who really owns the rights to all that cover art out there. Think of an album like Patti Smith’s Horses. The photograph is of Patti Smith…does she own the rights? The photograph was taken by Robert Mapplethorpe? Does the Robert Mapplethorpe estate own the rights? Does Arista Records own it? Or does Sony own it because Arista is their subsidiary? I can’t imagine these parties ever signed any agreement detailing the rights for digital use of the photograph.
Fire up your browser, point it at Bing or Google Images and earch for Patti Smith Horses…or just about any combination of aritst/album or your likinng. Then simply drag and drop any of the image results (large is nice!) straight into iTunes’ lower left-hand corner (make sure you’ve highlighted the matching album in iTunes!) This does indeed copy the image into the file making it viewable on any device or software you bring that file into.
Does this make Microsoft and Google in violation of some copyright law? Or iTunes for “encouraging” people to go searching for cover art to put into iTunes? Have the labels or the RIAA sent them cease and desist letters for not protecting copyrighted material? Or do the labels and other copyright owners of the cover art have to send all these search engines takedown notices for each and every item?
There are (t)rumors that the labels are again sending out cease and desist letters to software companies that automate the process of getting cover art for their music collection.
Should they fight or try to license?
Dragging Cover Art from Google Images in a browser to iTunes