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When ‘Idol’-atry is Costly, Do It Yourself….Hardcore

When ‘Idol’-atry is Costly, Do It Yourself….Hardcore

With “American Idol” still a TV hit despite Simon Cowell departing from it to produce and judge a forthcoming US version of an “Idol”-like copycat show he created and made a hit in his native Britain—“The X Factor”—and with “Idol”, despite its penchant for musical unoriginality, still managing to get more viewers than most sporting events, save for football, being a contestant on that show doesn’t come without a cost.

Bankrate.com asked “What will it cost you to make a lunge for that golden ticket? And what can you receive in return?”  They let Richard Rushfield, writer of the book American Idol: The Untold Story, figure it all out for them.

While the article didn’t arrive at an exact dollar figure, Richard does say that anyone who auditions has to go through at least three rounds of such, each of which they have to go to at their own expense, before they find out whether they make the next round in Hollywood.

Once the 12 finalists are determined, they get their own room and board, which Richard describes as “nothing fancy, but it’s not squalor.”  As for the contestants’ families, who are often seen in the stands during the live “Idol” telecasts, Richard says that they pay their own way, which “causes the most trouble for Idols and their families.”

The contestants are given spending money per week on clothes, along with a wardrobe consultant, but even $450 a week isn’t enough when shopping at an expensive store, so they have to go out-of-pocket.  And if a contestant has a job or is attending school, that can be a big sacrifice.

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Music and Money: Exceptions and Empties and ‘The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man’

Music and Money: Exceptions and Empties and ‘The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man’

An NPR blog calls Jonathan Coulton “The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man”, and for good reason. Jonathan, a Yale-graduated software designer whose music is described as “nerd-folk”, and whose song “Code Monkey” got some run from the Slashdot discussion board back in 2006, took in over $500,000 in 2010, mostly by him selling his unique songs directly from his website.

Granted, half a million bucks isn’t that much money, but consider this statistic: For every $1000 in music sold, the average musician makes $23.40. If Jonathan Coulton were on a major label, instead of getting the half million dollars from sales of his recordings, he would be getting only $11,700, assuming he were part of a 4-member band, which is what this average was, to that extent, based on. And if you counted just him, multiply that by 4, and it would be $46,800. Whatever the amount, chances are it would get eaten up by recoupable expenses.

By doing it himself, and keeping overhead costs low,  Jonathan was able to keep most of that half million he took in. All in all, not bad for a guy who challenged himself in 2005 and ’06 with “Thing a Week”, in which Jonathan recorded a song every week for a 52-week stretch.

Despite the thinking of some that Jonathan is an “exception” to the old ways of breaking a musical act, if he can develop his own market for his own musical material, then anyone can.

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Class…Get Your iPads Out…Pencils May Not Be Necessary

Class…Get Your iPads Out…Pencils May Not Be Necessary

It’s not enough that Kindles are being introduced in schools to replace printed textbooks. Now there are some schools that are, on are planning on, going deeper than Kindles, with iPads in the classroom.

In South St. Paul, Minnesota, over $600,000 will be spent during the next 3 years to purchase iPads for 600 of the city’s 3200 students, plus 280 more for staff and school district board members. South St. Paul superintendent Dave Webb told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his town is one that “cares about students and wants the best technology available for them.”

By joining other school districts from several states in purchasing these iPads, South St. Paul is spending $538 for each one. Not bad, considering that’s about how much an iPad2 might cost.

In the Charleston, SC area, students at two elementary schools will be getting iPads after a test run involving several classrooms at one of the schools was considered a success. Teacher Amy Winsted of Drayton Hall Elementary told WCSC-TV 5 in Charleston that iPad usage has “made a huge difference in learning. The kids’ test grades have gotten much better.”

Plans are for iPads, like Kindles, to be used in place of printed texts, with the eventual goal of making sure every student in the Charleston County School District gets an iPad.

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When 4 Become 3: Warner Music Group + EMI Potential Merger and What That Means For Competition

When 4 Become 3: Warner Music Group + EMI Potential Merger and What That Means For Competition

During the first week of May 2011, a Russian-born, New York-based oil and industrial billionaire named Len Blavatnik, who is founder and owner of a firm called Access Industries, put up $3.3 billion to buy the world’s 3rd-largest major-label recorded music firm, Warner Music Group [WMG], from a group of owners that included WMG’s chief executive, Edgar Bronfman, Jr.

No sooner did Blavatnik buy WMG, which is expected to close in September 2011, than the media are reporting that he might also put up enough money to buy 4th-ranked EMI from Citigroup, the banking and financial services company which has owned EMI since repossessing it from Guy Hands’ insolvent Terra Firma equity business back in February 2011. Edgar Bronfman had also broached the idea of a Warner-EMI merger in the past, so one would think Blavatnik may be the guy with the money to consummate such a merger.

If Blavatnik does decide to buy EMI, it could save Citigroup the trouble of staging an auction for the record label’s assets, which is said to include a bigger recorded music catalog than WMG, as well as extensive publishing rights. Both of those, many think, are more valuable than the current product is. So extensive are EMI’s publishing holdings that they recently decided to no longer do business with ASCAP in licensing digital performance rights.

Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires for 2011 puts Len Blavatnik in 80th place with over $10 billion of wealth, so perhaps he can afford to buy EMI, but what would that mean if it were to happen? To put it simply, it’ll mean WMG and EMI will be combined, and that, in turn, means the “Big Four” recorded music label groups will become a “Big Three.”

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Golden Gut Guru Gets Gabcast Going

Golden Gut Guru Gets Gabcast Going

Back in April 2011, I asked whether YouTube was late to the party with their introduction of live video streaming, similar to what uStream, Stickam and others have offered. But no sooner did YouTube join that fray than another outfit decided to join in. True, in this Internet world, there can be room for more, and part of what distinguishes this newcomer from the others is that they are backed by people who have largely worked in ordinary TV, one of whom could be thought of as a “golden gut guru.”

Gabcast.tv, based in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, went into alpha testing [one step below beta, of course] on May 9, 2011. Now on the surface, they might be no different than the other companies I just named, but according to its Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Paul Wagner, Gabcast “want[s] to bring the creation process and the engagement process closer together,” as its pitch is all about helping any of its users “become a reality star on the next generation of TV.”

Mr. Wagner’s credits include everything from writing TV shows in Boston to his involvement with Will Ferrell’s ‘Funny or Die’ comedy website, while Gabcast’s other Co-Founder, Fred Silverman, was famous from his days in the 1960’s, ’70s and early ’80s as either a programming executive or overall head of each of the so-called “original 3″ TV networks—first, CBS; then, ABC; and finally, NBC. He has worked as an independent TV producer in recent years.

Serving as advisers to Gabcast are two other legacy media veterans: Michael Eisner, who once programmed ABC television in the early 1970’s, only to end up running the company that bought ABC—Walt Disney Company—in the mid-1990’s; and Lloyd Braun, who was a TV programming executive at ABC in the early 2000’s.

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Cheaper By the Groupon

Cheaper By the Groupon

If you’ve seen Groupon, you’ve noticed that their online offers, usually for restaurants and businesses, are generally given at a discount of between 50 and 90 percent. It’s those kinds of offers that have made Groupon one of the Internet’s newest and hottest things going, as well as has inspired competitors ranging from LivingSocial and Bloomspot to even discount offer ventures from Legacy Media, such as the Tampa Tribune’s “TribRewards.”

So what’s Groupon got up their sleeves next? How about offering discounts for concert tickets? Live Nation, by far the leading promoter of major rock concerts and other events, as well as owner of 117 venues worldwide, including the House of Blues chain; plus a fledgling record label; the artist-management firm Front Line Management; and the ticket-selling enterprise Ticketmaster, has been in a slump lately, with seats to many of their concerts left unsold due to high prices. Those unsold seats have been a big factor in Live Nation continuing to lose money.

With the usually-big summer concert season approaching, Live Nation has joined forces with Groupon to offer concert tickets at half off face value, on a limited-time-only basis.  The venture, called Groupon Live, is expected to launch just in time for that summer season, and will, according to Live Nation executive Michael Rapino, “help artists and others to reach ever larger audiences” while “driv[ing] value for fans” and provide venues “with another option for driving ticket sales across a wide range of events.”

So that $50 concert ticket could end up being worth a decent $25, maybe less. But I’m not sure I would expect those discounts to be available for every ticket or every event. Nor would I expect every act whose tour is promoted through Live Nation to agree to such discounts. But even so, it’s what many, myself included, think is a step in the right direction as far as concert ticket prices go.

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SF MusicTech Summit—Music. People. Tech.

SF MusicTech Summit—Music. People. Tech.

On Monday, May 9, visionaries and high-tech players from all parts of the music technology spectrum will meet in San Francisco for the SF MusicTech Summit to “talk shop” on the evolving music industry ecosystem—converging culture and commerce and bringing together the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations in a proactive dealmaking environment.

The range of guest speakers, panelists, and attendees include founders and representatives from leading music-tech companies like Slacker, SoundExchange, Pandora, Topspin Media, Live Nation, and MOG, to tech and business press like TechCrunch, Bloomberg / Businessweek Magazine, and Billboard Magazine, to musicians like Lead Singer of Incubus, Brandon Boyd, and Incubus Guitarist, Mike Einziger, to VC groups like Walden Venture Capital, and organizations like GoGirls Music —”Cuz Chicks Rock!” says their Fearless Leader and Founder of Social Networks for Business, Madaln Sklar.

One of my favorite, new music-tech businesses in attendance is StageIt—a platform that brings together artists and fans, akin to a modern-day fireside chat. StageIt was founded by Evan Lowenstein of Evan and Jaron—the Pop/Rock, Top 40 hit-making duo who topped the charts in 2000 while signed with Columbia Records with their self-titled album Evan and Jaron—the StageIt concept is ripe and ready to blow-open living room doors across the globe by providing a platform for artists to “interact with your fans LIVE at anytime and from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you have millions of fans or just a few, you now have an online stage where you can showcase your talents to the world and make money!”

“StageIt isn’t about broadcasting concerts online. It’s about sharing the amazing moments that happen in between. Did a friend drop by to jam? StageIt. Got a new tune you’re working on? StageIt. Getting ready to go on stage? StageIt. The front row seat is the most expensive in the house, but the place everyone wants to be is backstage. We made it so easy for you to finally give your fans a row seat to your ‘backstage’ experiences.”

How cool is that? What’s even cooler? Alongside an artist’s live performance onscreen is a tip jar, merchandise store, and chat window—clever, classy, brilliant, and 100% on par with the future.

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Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

So AT&T is about to join Comcast and a few others by imposing limits on how much wired broadband subscribers can download per month. While 150-250 gigabytes a month isn’t as extreme as smaller caps in other parts of the world, never mind the caps imposed on many wireless broadband subscribers, it renders the idea of unlimited broadband service all but irrelevant here in the U.S. And that’s on top of the fact that U.S. broadband customers pay more for slower broadband than most other industrialized nations.

These same companies also provide cable TV service that isn’t subject to the imposition of limits on how much a subscriber can watch.

When another cable concern, Time Warner, which hasn’t imposed any downloading limits as of yet, is said to have made, from its revenues, 30 times what it spent on providing broadband service to its customers, then on the surface it could be suggested that the caps that service providers are imposing on Internet downloads is a money grab.

True, AT&T suggested that only 2% of its subscribers will be affected by the caps, and the average consumer downloads 18 gigabytes a month. But when everything from cloud computing and storage to Netflix is either already happening or in the process of happening online, that means more gigabytes to download, and more people at risk of breaking the cap and having to pay more, if not get their service cut off.

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Digital Music: Clear Skies for Cloud Streaming?

Digital Music: Clear Skies for Cloud Streaming?

Near the end of October 2010, the British version of Wired reported that Spotify, with its cloud-based streaming service in which no downloading is necessary, was the top revenue source for music in its home country of Sweden, outdoing even iTunes there. Despite that, Spotify has been having trouble getting started in the U.S., and one of its executives thinks it’s largely because of iTunes’ dominance.

When Spotify business development head Faisal Galaria was asked by Strategy Eye in January 2011 whether the labels were eager to break the hold iTunes has had, he said that if 80% of a label’s digital revenue came from one place, the executives could risk losing their bonuses if they opened up the competition.

Amazon, meanwhile, has beaten Spotify, as well as Apple and Google, to the punch with its own cloud-based streaming music service. However, Amazon claimed at first that their Cloud Player didn’t require licensing from the labels because “the music belongs to the user,” but has since decided to go into licensing talks with those labels. On top of that, Amazon suffered a sort of cloudburst when its service crashed on Apr 21, taking down a host of other websites with it for a couple of days or so, which proves how uneasy a solution cloud computing can be.

Meantime, Apple, the digital music leader, is, as of this writing, negotiating with the big four major label groups—Universal, Sony, Warner and EMI—to license content to Apple’s new cloud-based streaming music service. Reports are that Apple has signed with Warner Music Group, is close to getting Sony and EMI, but isn’t quite ready to lock up marketing leading Universal Music Group.

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The Countdown Begins: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PlayStation Network Hacked

The Countdown Begins: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PlayStation Network Hacked

Will Sony PlayStation Network get back up off the mat?

It has been six days and Sony PlayStation Network is still down. Initially, the outage as reported by IDG, Sony said the outage was caused by an external intrusion, but for five days Sony had yet to provide details.

As a gamer, I found that troubling. I could imagine the service being down for a day, but at that point, since there wasn’t any news on what was happening—the frustration was mounting.

Then Tuesday night of day five, Sony announced that PlayStation Network has been hacked into and revealed that information of PSN user accounts was accessed during the intrusion—names, addresses, birth dates, passwords, security questions and answers.

There is no way of telling the effects to the user base Sony will incure at this time, but if all things being equal, they have a long, hard uphill battle to face. The real question is how this will change the perception that Sony can compete with Xbox in the network space.

PlayStation users have been vocal on Twitter and Facebook, perhaps Sony will have to appease the angry villagers some way.

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Wii Successor Announced

Wii Successor Announced

Nintendo has begun its trek to the second generation of Wii. This year, we can only imagine that they hope to grab the hearts of gamers worldwide again. Nintendo this week announced that it will have playable versions of the next Wii console at E3 2011. The gaming show will help Nintendo showcase the console, that still remains nameless but codenamed ‘Project Café’.  The scheduled release of the product is in 2012. The details are sparse. Okay, there are no details except that they said it will be next generation. The news came on the back of Nintendo’s fiscal results, which were dismal. The company reported a 66% decline in profits.

So the speculation is rampant around the net. Some say the controller is completely new, while others speculate that the hardware is more sophisticated, including blu-ray DVD and HD capabilities. But so far the tight-lipped Nintendo isn’t saying anything!

So for me, I think it is wise to wait and see it at E3.

Broken Horse and the Falling Tree: Unworkable Business Models

Broken Horse and the Falling Tree: Unworkable Business Models

During a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, KT Tunstall, of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” fame, was asked about whether she still hates “American Idol” even though Katharine McPhee had covered Tunstall’s hit on that show in 2006. While Tunstall doesn’t entirely hate “Idol,” she did talk about how the music industry is “in a pretty perilous situation where record companies don’t have the money to compete with promoting their artists as these TV shows do.”

While Tunstall thought it was cool of McPhee to have covered “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” she did describe “Idol,” and could just as well be describing other shows like Simon Cowell’s forthcoming US version of “X Factor” and NBC’s Dutch-imported “Idol” knockoff “The Voice,” as “basically young people doing karaoke and being promised an awful lot and most of them don’t end up with very much. So the reality pop shows end up dominating the airwaves and real, new artists can’t get heard.”

Strong statements from an artist who’s currently signed to a major label, EMI, that ended up being owned by Citibank after Guy Hands’ 2007 leveraged buyout of the company went sour in early 2011, and as of this writing, has the “For Sale” sign on it. And Tunstall also makes a good point about what happens to TV music reality show contestants because only recently, Joe McElderry, who won Britain’s version of “X Factor” back in 2009, was cut by major label Sony Music and the aforementioned Simon Cowell, whose Syco label product is distributed by Sony, after his post-“X Factor” recording career tanked—sending McElderry literally back to his mother.

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Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement  of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.

This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.

This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC.  Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.

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Reality is Broken: Gaming Makes the World Better!

Reality is Broken: Gaming Makes the World Better!

Gaming has always made me happy. But now, I have proof that I NEED to play. Last year, relatively unknown game designer, Jane McGonigal gave a speech at TED that began a movement by which a new term, and industry would evolve. Jane postulated that playing games, makes us better people. And now, she is launching a book that describes in detail that theory. To be honest, this is something I already knew being an avid gamer, but what makes her “studies” more poignant is the fact that we are starting to believe the science behind Gamification.

Jane said some, at the time, outrageous thing like: “If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week, by the end of the next decade.”

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YouTube Live: Late to the Party?

YouTube Live: Late to the Party?

Over the last four years or so, a few websites have sprung up to offer anyone with at least a webcam and broadband the ability to do live TV online.  Websites like uStream, Justin.tv, Stickam and Livestream have made “lifecasting” and other forms of live streaming video possible.

Google’s YouTube, which has been famous for hosting video clips past and present, homemade and otherwise, had also been doing some occasional video streaming of live events during this time.  But that is nothing compared to what they have just come up with.  Yes, they’re venturing into what had been the territory of uStream and the others by starting up their own live streaming video service. Might they be late to the party?

Maybe not, thanks to YouTube being so well-known and well-established, with over 2 billion views a day. I used data from Alexa, which monitors website traffic, to figure out that YouTube, at #3 in terms of page views as of the time of this writing, is well ahead of uStream [421], Justin.tv [423], Livestream [1111] and Stickam [5335].

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Feuding Over ‘Friday’

Feuding Over ‘Friday’

Rebecca Black’s video of “Friday,” which has now been seen over 82 million times on YouTube, has spawned a few parodies, as well as dozens and dozens of cover versions, including one performed recently by late night TV hosts Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” and Jimmy Fallon of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Miley Cyrus | Rebecca Black

It has also drawn impressive praises from former “American Idol” panelist-turned-creator, producer and lead judge for “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell, as well as caused Miley Cyrus to do a 180, going from hating to liking Rebecca so much that she, too, wants to do her own cover version of “Friday”.

What’s even more amazing about Rebecca Black and “Friday” is how radio, the time-honored way of breaking a new song, was not used as much as the viral spreading of that video via YouTube, with a little help from mainstream TV airplay.

Along with that success, “Friday” has generated its share of controversy, some of it based on the way Rebecca sang the song, and some based on how ridiculous the lyrics are perceived to be. But all that pales by comparison to a deeper controversy that has developed behind the song itself, and it’s one that may have ended up setting the song’s co-writers against each other.

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From the Developers Notebook: Zipline Games Looking to Take Mobile and Cloud Development to New Levels

From the Developers Notebook: Zipline Games Looking to Take Mobile and Cloud Development to New Levels

From the Developers Notebook:

Seattle startup Zipline Games looks to make mobile development a speedy process with its new platform. The new platform will allow developers of mobile, social and web-based games and applications to easily get started—up-and-running the same day. It promises to remove the difficulty of cross platform development.

“I wanted to make it possible for game developers and designers to go have a crazy conversation at lunch, then come back and get those new ideas working in the game by the end of the day,” said founder and CTO Patrick Meehan in an interview on Zipline’s website.

The Mobile Platform For Pro Game Developers

Zipline has released the beta version of its development platform MOAI which allows mobile game developers to write the games in Lua rather than writing for each device. Then once the games are completely developed, Zipline offers cloud hosting and royalty free distribution. This is a stand out for smaller developers.  The Moai SDK can handle graphics, animation, input, physics, collisions, and more. Moai Cloud hosts your game logic, databases and additional game content.

“There’s a lot of interesting challenges in the market,” said Zipline co-founder Todd Hooper. “People want to be on board with IOS and Android and you need a solution that lets you get on board with those.”

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Game On, GameStop!

Game On, GameStop!

Last week, hot news off the press was abuzz with acquisitions. Mostly business growing and expanding. The regular boring drab that keeps us business people questioning strategic decisions. But something caught my eye. GameStop buys Impluse and Spawn Labs. Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to mergers and acquisitions of a retailer, but I thought this one might be worth further investigation. You see, when I was young I loved going to video game arcades and record stores. I watched as Tower Records dominated the industry and it was always a treat when I could walk into the one on Sunset Blvd. I went to Egghead Software and eventually GameStop. But as with all things digital, Brick and Mortar stores are no longer needed. It has been no surprise that the GameStop stores are seeing a decline. But the move last week, just may keep them in business.

Impulse and Spawn Labs have made names for themselves by supplying games to consumers digitally. Spawn Labs, although still testing the technology, says it will be able to deliver games on demand to any computer with an internet connection. Impulse, as subsidiary of Stardock Systems, has been creating systems that have been delivering games digitally for over 10 years. This kind of experience is exactly what GameStop needs to stay in the distribution game.

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The Shadiness of Unpaid Digital Royalties

The Shadiness of Unpaid Digital Royalties

It has already been widely known that record labels can be a rather shady bunch thanks to such creative accounting devices as recoupable expenses, as well as unpaid or underpaid royalties, the latter an issue that has been a subject of many court cases over the years. The latest twist on unpaid royalties concerns a recent court case that indirectly involved the rapper who sometimes calls himself Slim Shady.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States turned down an appeal of a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, that Mark & Jeff Bass, the Detroit-based brothers who produced rapper Eminem’s early recordings from the mid-to-late 1990’s, were entitled to more revenues from digital download and ringtone sales than was previously negotiated.

The ruling treated digital downloads as material that is “licensed” to distributors like iTunes rather than as a physical product like a compact disc, and thus meant that the Basses should have received half, or 50%, of the revenues from it being licensed as a digital download, instead of the negotiated 12 to 20% it got because the record label—in this case, market leader Universal Music Group—decided to give digital royalties the same percentage rate as compact discs.

Granted, Eminem himself was not necessarily a party to the lawsuit, but a representative for its lead plaintiff said that Eminem’s net worth could grow, probably by another $30 million, if not more, as a result of that suit.

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InAppliCable: Legacy Media and Disruptive Technology

InAppliCable: Legacy Media and Disruptive Technology

Cable systems pay a fee per subscriber for the right to carry channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT, USA Network and many more, on their systems. But does that right extend to putting those channels on iPads?

Time Warner iPad App Prototype

Back on March 15, 2011, TimeWarner Cable introduced an app that allows subscribers to view cable channels on their iPads, workable only with subscribers’ wireless home networking and Internet access. No sooner was that app introduced than some cable channels, including those owned by Fox—like FX, Fox News and Fox Sports—and Scripps—like Food Network and HGTV—ordered TimeWarner to remove them from that app, saying that it was prohibited under their carriage agreements.

Though TimeWarner Cable still, as of this writing, has some three dozen channels on their iPad app, the Los Angeles Times compares the scenario that the cable company is facing to one in which you buy peanut butter from a store, put it in a Tupperware container, refrigerate it, and then have the peanut butter manufacturer tell you that you have to pay extra for doing so.

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Google Management: Musical Chairs, Facebook Frenemies, and One Man Overboard—Possibly

Google Management: Musical Chairs, Facebook Frenemies, and One Man Overboard—Possibly

Jonathan Rosenberg, the Chief of Product Development at Google, said Monday that he plans to step down in coming months. A nine year veteran at Google, Rosenberg makes the announcement on the very day that Co-Founder Larry Page takes the reins in the CEO chair.

Jonathan Rosenberg

San Jose Mercury News reported that as Page reclaims the role of CEO from Eric Schmidt, Google’s co-founder has asked his senior executives to make long-term, multiyear commitments that they will remain at the company. Rosenberg, a member of the executive committee that makes Google’s key strategic decisions, said in an interview Monday that he decided he could not fulfill that promise to Page, given his long-held plans to leave the company around the time his daughter goes to college in 2013.

Larry Page, CEO Google, and Wife Lucy

This just can’t be good. If after all these years the tight-knitted group of the executive team begins to unravel as Page comes in, there is more a-brewing at the company than the normal anti-trust lawsuits and Facebook frenemy fighting. Clearly Rosenberg saw something that has weighed on him. Is it Page? Or is it because he was one of the trusted ones on team Schmidt? And is it important to anyone, especially Page, that he decided to announce the decision on the very day that Page starts as CEO?

Googleplex Culture

It’s not lost on any of us that Google has had some retention problems. They started a mass hiring a few months back and are still trying to attract great talent. But at what cost? Google isn’t necessarily the place people love to go to work, but to be fair it’s not the most hated either. Whatever it is about the company culture at Google, what is clear is that the ship is turning and one of the top officers is about to jump overboard.

This doesn’t mean that things cannot be great or on the verge of getting better. Sometimes change is needed. This.. this is a big one!

Zynga on Wall Street with Sheep—Yes, Sheep.

Zynga on Wall Street with Sheep—Yes, Sheep.

CityVille, FarmVille, and Mafia Wars are part of Zynga’s portfolio. Zynga is considered one of the fastest growing startups with no end in sight. To be realistic Zynga is doing great, but at a big cost. Games like FarmVille do very well in the first 6 months. After that, the numbers fall drastically, in fact so much so that CityVille peaked in one month, then showed decline by the three month mark. But that doesn’t deter a company like Zynga. They reinvent the games, at the latest outing by the company, does just that.

Zynga showed up on Wall Street with a few sheep. Yes, sheep. The company was promoting FarmVille English Countryside, the expansion to its popular FarmVille. With Zynga being valued at around $10 Billion, it’s easy to see how they can march sheep around the Big Apple.

Zynga continues to add gaming talent to its ranks, it evolved with the gameplay from FarmVille, its first breakout hit, into CityVille, an even more successful game in terms of user ramp and monthly active users. CityVille reached 100 million users in just 43 days. However, CityVille has peaked after its initial growth, and lost almost 5 million monthly active users in February alone, just three months after launch. CityVille is still increasing daily active users, but the writing is on the wall: CityVille will follow FarmVille’s decline, only faster. Now the next iteration of FarmVille, is destined for the same cycle. Rapid growth and even faster decline.

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Pandora: Come on Feds, Leave the Good Ones Alone!

Pandora: Come on Feds, Leave the Good Ones Alone!

Ok here is the good news: Pandora Media, the maker of the popular internet radio station, looks to be going public! READ HERE.

Boss Hogg

However, a federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to the little company as part of a larger investigation on practices of information sharing on apps on the iOS and Android platforms. The FTC is doing some privacy policy investigation stuff. Looks like Boss Hogg ain’t happy with them Duke boys.

Meanwhile back at the Dukes ranch, Jesse and Cooter get the General Lee ready for…

I digress.

It is unclear who the target is of the investigation, but it seems the “Do Not Track” campaign the federal government is conducting now includes mobile apps. US Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the ‘Do Not Track’ Me Online Act of 2011 on February 11. It is the first bill of this Congress to explicitly call for ‘Do Not Track’ regulation.

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More iPhone 5 Rumors: Edge-To-Edge Screen, NFC Chip, A5 Processor. In People-Speak That Means a Bigger Screen, Better Apps, Longer Battery, Faster Speed and Paying for Your Starbuck’s Coffee Without Opening Your Wallet.

More iPhone 5 Rumors: Edge-To-Edge Screen, NFC Chip, A5 Processor. In People-Speak That Means a Bigger Screen, Better Apps, Longer Battery, Faster Speed and Paying for Your Starbuck’s Coffee Without Opening Your Wallet.

I love to hear the latest rumors about the newest technology to hit our favorite-to-hate company: Apple. I have written before about the latest iPad, and now we are beginning to speculate about the newest iPhone. First, if any of the photos are true, which I am certain they are not, then the phone looks great. Not to say that Apple won’t make it a great looking product, but knowing how secretive they are with their products I am pretty certain no one in the public has seen this thing. But as rumors go, let’s spread them some more!

The iPhone 5 is reported to have a new screen, NFC (Near Field Communications chip), and the A5 processor.

iPhone 5 – Rumored Design

First, the iPhone 5 has a purported larger screen. While the form factor for the phone is similar to the iPhone 4, they say the increase in screen size is significant. Some pictures have emerged showing this could be another big step for Apple. Edge-to-Edge screen!

The screen will use the same technology as the iPhone 4 and will remain the best in the business.

iPhone 5 – Alleged Point-Of-Purchase System – NFC Interface

Second, the NFC chip will be a new feature for the phone. Near Field Communications chips in simple terms will allow users to complete contact-less payments. Think about going into Starbucks and buying your coffee with your phone. The ability to complete purchases with your phone brings us one step closer to removing all those pesky cards in our wallets. To be fair, the iPhone is not the first to do this, but with all the recent talk surrounding NFC, it’s clear Apple doesn’t want to be left out of the loop.

And lastly, and probably most importantly, the iPhone 5 will come with a new processor. The A5 processor, which was recently launched with the iPad 2, is incredibly powerful. Speed is the key here. The A5 processor is a dual core processor. For us this means a few things: Better apps, better battery, and speed. As if the phone wasn’t fast enough, the new A5 processor will turn your device into a very powerful computing device.

Safe to say the next generation of the iPhone will not disappoint. It will be a major step in technology advancement and we will benefit from the speed.

Oh MySpace, What Happened?

Oh MySpace, What Happened?

It seems like yesterday I was cutting and pasting html into my MySpace account to get new backgrounds and songs, growing my fledgling friends list, and enjoying the social networking game. But now, a few years later, and News Corporation’s first attempt at social networking has fallen from grace. I am not certain what happened and how, but the likes of Facebook and Twitter proved to be more appealing than MySpace.

Tech analyst Comscore put out some staggering numbers: From January to February of this year MySpace lost 10 million users, 63 million users down from 73 million users. Even though MySpace has gone through a series of changes, focusing on music, the company cannot maintain its user base. At this point, no one at MySpace seems to know how to save it.

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