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Does The ‘TV Everywhere’ (Almost, But Not Quite) Business Model Violate Antitrust Laws?

Does The ‘TV Everywhere’ (Almost, But Not Quite) Business Model Violate Antitrust Laws?

During a video advertising summit meeting held in New York during the first week of June 2011, representatives from Comcast/NBC, TimeWarner’s Turner, and Disney’s ESPN, predicted that TV “everywhere” was imminent, and that by 2013, three-fourths of TV content would be available online and on mobile devices.

The representatives are already aware of the impact that Netflix is making, but they also think that broadband caps could be what would hold it back, to say nothing of trying to clear the rights for much of that content.

Since Comcast is both an owner of cable-phone-broadband systems, as well as a content provider through its ownership of NBC, USA, Syfy, MSNBC, CNBC, Versus, Golf Channel, Weather Channel, Bravo, Oxygen and a few other channels, it can be argued that the idea of “TV everywhere” advocated by Comcast, among others, could clash with their own idea of capping their subscribers’ use of broadband.

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Touche To The Douche TechCrunch—From The Silicon To The Silicone

Touche To The Douche TechCrunch—From The Silicon To The Silicone

A TechCrunch article today announced a new Silicon Valley douchebag: “There’s a new douchebag in town. We’ve written several times about how easy it is now to start a company in the Valley, and this new gold seeker isn’t the biz dev guy. He’s the knock-off wunderkind.”

Funny—just yesterday while attending an AIMP (Association of Independent Music Publishers) lunch at The House Of Blues in Hollywood, I sat next to a native Angelino in the independent music publishing business and yes, I proceeded to chat his ear off—that’s what I do best—great conversation ensued, including that of “the douchebag.” We were there for a panel called “Show Me More Money” (reviewing royalty statements, questioning PRO’s, conducting royalty audits, etc.), which I suppose is oddly appropriate for a quick-blip commentary on “douchebagery,” plus nary I waste a face-to-face opportunity to meet and greet industry people—relationships are king. Although, make no mistake, yesterday’s AIMP panel was the bomb—brilliant minds in the fields of finance and litigation, including the creator of (David) Bowie Bonds, coming together on a serious subject. I merely found the panel title, “Show Me More Money,” somewhat humorous against the douchebag backdrop of this post.

Anyway, during our conversation when I found out my ‘new best friend’ was born and raised in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills to be precise, I asked him how he felt about all of the transplants, i.e. non-natives, who manage to follow the yellow brick road, making their way to a place where dreams come true and only the tough survive—welcome to Hollywood. On the whole, he said that he loved the influx of new people into the L.A. scene, but very keenly noted that yes, there was a Hollywood Douchebag, often a transplant, and it wasn’t pretty.

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Lipsmack: Social Music Scene On The Rise—Turntable.fm

Lipsmack: Social Music Scene On The Rise—Turntable.fm

Turntable.fm and SoundCloud Ushering In New Era Of Social Music

Read Article Here: http://tinyurl.com/452g97j

A couple nights ago, I spent some time spinning Turntable.fm—the latest social music site currently in beta. Well, not literally spinning, rather perusing this precious new site and I wound up spending the majority of my time in the “Coding Soundtrack” room developed by Andrew Brackin, a young entrepreneur-coder in South London. It was quite delicious. The “Coding Soundtrack” room had the most visitors that night with a steady stream of social chat in the mix. At last check-in on Turntable.fm just minutes ago, there were 200 visitors in the “Coding Soundtrack” room—up 105 from two nights ago—and yep, the chat stream was still cranking. Turntable.fm hosts a really cool vibe—tune in and take a listen today.

Turntable.fm ‘Coding Soundtrack’ Room Created by Andrew Brackin

“Be fair, don’t spam, no bots, play coding tunes and chill!” — Andrew Brackin

Watch How To Use Turntable.fm—Overview:

Play Youtube VideoHOW TO USE TURNTABLE.FM


Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification. It has become one the top buzz words in tech advertising. Every agency that makes websites or apps for non-gaming products have started looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept.

New Concept?

Yes, for those outside of gaming, this concept of gamification is BRAND new. The idea of game concepts in a serious business doesn’t seem to be a normal leap. First, let’s examine the concept of gamification.

Definition: Gamification is the integration of game theory or concept to non-gaming environments to increase engagement, loyalty, and entertainment values. Simply, engage users in a better way. This can be applied to any industry from health and fitness to education and transportation.

How to apply this to your needs. First a basic understanding of your customers is key. People want to feel accomplished and recognized. Then they like to share within their social circles. Games are the epitome of the Risk/ Reward system. To apply these to your business will most likely yield great results. So let’s take imaginary company X and apply this:

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FACEBOOK…The News Is Buzzing

FACEBOOK…The News Is Buzzing

No, not that Mark Zuckerberg might change his relationship status as all the news channels have been reporting. There is something more ominous for the social giant. Facebook is losing ground in the U.S. As reported by Inside Facebook, the company has lost more than 6 million users in the U.S. and more than 1.52 million in Canada. The drop is only significant in North America. Meanwhile in UK, Norway, and Russia the drop was less significant with just over 100,000 users.

TO BE CLEAR: Facebook is still growing. Countries in emerging markets are coming on strong (i.e. Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, etc.) Facebook is closing in on the 687 million user mark.

The trend in the U.S. is what is more significant to evaluate. Nothing really seems to be clear about why this happened. Some noted that June comes around and students are leaving their respective schools, Facebook accounts get cancelled. Whatever the reason, this may have a larger impact if the trend continues.

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Rupert Murdoch…Digital Education Innovator?

Rupert Murdoch…Digital Education Innovator?

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about school being out and virtual school being in. The latest twist on this idea could come from someone you never thought would involve himself in education, but this person has what he thinks is a good reason why.

Say what you want about media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, but at a Paris forum of Internet entrepreneurs and European policymakers, the 20th Century-Fox / Wall Street Journal / Sky News owner said that education was “the last holdout from the digital revolution,” and that “today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age.” That’s the 19th century he was just referencing.

Mr. Murdoch also told this forum, the e-G8 conference, attended by everyone from Google head Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to President Sarkozy of France, that throwing money at the problem doesn’t work, and challenged the assembled to “bring to our schools the same creative force that makes businesses competitive and nations thrive.”

Rupert Murdoch

Given that this is the same Rupert Murdoch who’s had his hands in everything over the years from those naked “Page 3 Girls” in his daily Sun tabloid in London to such “wild” TV cartoon shows as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” to the “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel, who knew that he would go into the education business? And to help him out in this cause, he hired a former New York City schools chancellor named Joel Klein.

Even while he was running the schools in New York City, then-Chancellor Klein supervised a pilot project in the Chinatown neighborhood back in 2009 called “School of One,” which implies the kind of online individualized instruction that Mr. Murdoch has been pushing for, in a variation on that “Victorian age” model of an adult giving lessons to a group of young students who learn at different levels.

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Lady Gaga and the Bigger 360 Monster; Plus Backplane and Beyond

Lady Gaga and the Bigger 360 Monster; Plus Backplane and Beyond

Statistically speaking, there is no denying that Lady Gaga is the most powerful celebrity in the world. In making that declaration, Forbes magazine noted that Gaga took in $90 million in 2010. There’s also no denying how extremely popular Gaga is on Facebook and Twitter, to say nothing of what she wears, nor the stands she takes on many of the hot-button issues of the day. And while Lady Gaga is the creative master-mind behind Lady Gaga Inc., she shares the business stage with Troy Carter, her Manager and the quintessential digital strategist behind her well-oiled machine—a duo like none other who claim to practice the 95/5 rule.  [95% of the time Carter does not comment on the creative side and 95% of the time Gaga does not comment on the business side—a “real trust relationship”.]

Nor can you deny how the Mother Monster herself can also do those little things for some of her Little Monsters, like feeding pizza and doughnuts to a couple dozen fans waiting in line for a couple of days outside the NBC Television studios in New York City for tickets to “Saturday Night Live”, where Gaga was not only the musical act on that show’s 2011 season finale, but also joined in some sketches with guest star Justin Timberlake.

But have you ever wondered that someone’s been making money off her power? When major-label leader Universal Music Group [UMG], through its Interscope brand, signed Lady Gaga way back in 2007, they gave her one of those “360 deals”, in which the label takes a cut of any money Gaga takes in, whether it be through album sales, concert tickets, endorsements, website, anything. And the label still owns the master recordings and music videos, among a few other things.

Troy Carter

So far, according to The Wrap’s Johnnie L. Roberts, who cited executives familiar with the numbers, UMG’s share of Gaga’s success these last 4 years has reportedly totaled $200 million, and perhaps with the blitz that centered around her latest album, “Born This Way”, as well as the new Gaga, Google-Chrome commercial, it wouldn’t be surprising if the label’s share cracks the quarter-billion dollar mark.  Of course, we wonder if her label also has a “360” claim in the development of the yet-to-be-unveiled, integrated social platform for celebrities called Backplane, which is led by Troy Carter and a team of seven, including technology investor and entrepreneur Matthew Michelsen [with Lady Gaga acting as an informal consultant with a 20% shareholder stake] and described by Carter as “a platform meant to power online communities around specific interests, like musicians and sports teams, and to integrate feeds from Facebook, Twitter and other sites,” in a recent interview by The New York Times.  Oh who are we kidding, we’d hedge a bet the label has some claim on Gaga’s shares of Backplane—unless there was a legal wrap-around loophole found on behalf of Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Germanotta.

As powerful as the Mother Monster is, I’m thinking, were it not for that 360 deal she has with the Bigger Monster that is the major record label, she would have gotten millions of dollars more than she’s getting now.

Bob Donnelly, of the law firm Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg, wrote about why artists should “do a 180″ on a 360 deal. In addition to extending on the analogy that signing a major-label recording contract is like “taking out a mortgage on a house, repaying the mortgage in full, but the bank winds up owning your house,” Bob says that long-term recording contracts of 8 years’ duration are that way because the labels want that “reasonable return on their investment.” Terms that, as Bob elaborates, motion picture companies and book publishers don’t require.

The record label’s cut from a 360 deal are based on gross revenues, but Bob wonders why that is when the artists and their managers don’t get paid on gross. And if an artist, hypothetically, has to give 20% of tour income to the label, after paying all the production costs and commissions to manager, booking agent, lawyer and business manager, Bob figures that artist is left with half of every net touring dollar, while the label pockets the other half.

Mr. Donnelly also makes some arguments in favor of the 360 deal, if the label used it as collateral against what they spend on the artist, and then revert the 360 rights back to that artist once the debt is paid back, it would make more sense. However, as Bob also writes, many 360 deals extend the label’s rights beyond recoupment, probably to the extent that the label would still take a cut of the artist’s earnings even if the label chooses not to release any more recordings.

What’s to say if Lady Gaga would have gone with one of two alternatives that Bob recommends—either a “Net Profits Deal” [label and artist split profits after manufacturing, distribution and marketing are deducted] or a “Self-Release Deal” [finance your own recording and own the masters, which would be a more truly independent deal]? And what’s to say if, a few years from now, Gaga will come out and say that she lost millions on that 360 deal she signed in 2007 and wants to do that 180?

And if she does, perhaps the time will come when those millions of Little Monsters get asked to “crowd-fund” a future album for their Mother Monster. Or perhaps, going a step further than crowd-funding, what if the Little Monsters could get an actualized monetary return on their investment; which is exactly the vision of start-up company ROCK STOCK, which aims to educate fans on investing and money by providing an opportunity for a fan to invest in their favorite artist, thus providing a new revenue stream and a new economy for artists, industry, brands, and fans by measuring parts and monetizing the sum of an artists career—where artists are stock purchasable by fans. In essence, Rock Stock is Kickstarter with equity.

Well…until that happens, Gaga has to put up with the Bigger Monster that is the 360 deal.

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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Will School Be Out…And Virtual School Be In?

Will School Be Out…And Virtual School Be In?

Back in 1972, legendary rock star Alice Cooper recorded a song that has since become an anthem for the end of the school year. “School’s Out” contained in its lyrics an old childhood rhyme in which the end of school meant no more pencils, books, or teachers’ dirty looks.

A couple of decades after, Lewis J. Perelman, who served as a strategic consultant to industry on matters of technology, published a book entitled, interestingly enough, “School’s Out: Hyperlearning, the New Technology, and the End of Education.” He also wrote a lengthy guest column based on that book for the debut issue of Wired magazine in early 1993. What Perelman touched on in both his book and his Wired column about how “hyperlearning” would replace a 19th-century based “worker-factory” model of education that, he wrote for Wired, has “as much utility in today’s modern economy of advanced information technology as the Conestoga wagon or the blacksmith shop,” is beginning to come true in the early 2010’s.

In one of my previous blogs about how one high school in my home area started replacing hard-copy printed textbooks with the same on electronic Kindle readers, I also mentioned about “virtual schools” that are being tried in practically every state in the US. Some are private, while others are public, but the purpose is the same—to provide students from kindergarten to senior year of high school with an online alternative to on-campus education, particularly when it comes to subjects that aren’t available on campus because certain schools can’t afford to bring in teachers who specialize in those subjects.

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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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OFWGKTA: Odd Future…and Losing a Lot with Major Labels

OFWGKTA: Odd Future…and Losing a Lot with Major Labels

So there’s this hip-hop collective straight out of L.A. with a long name called Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Since they have such a long name, they can also be known by its initials, OFWGKTA, or just by its first two words, Odd Future. For the purposes of this story, I will refer to them by the latter name.

They have been around since about 2009, but began venturing out of Los Angeles in late 2010 with a couple of live shows in New York and London, followed by a guest shot in early 2011 on NBC’s Jimmy Fallon show, as well as several live appearances at SXSW in Austin, and according to a recent Billboard article, are also working on a live-action comedy pilot, described as a cross between Jackass and Dave Chappelle’s old Comedy Central sketch comedy TV show, that they hope will be picked up by Cartoon Network for their late-night Adult Swim block.

But now that they have all this buzz and popularity, Odd Future could have an intriguing future depending on whether they want to go with a major label or not. Currently signed to a technically independent firm out of Britain called XL Recordings, they have been managed since Fall 2010 by a couple of former development executives from Universal Music Group’s Interscope label, Chris Clancy and David Airaudi, who formed a management firm called Three Quarter. In building Odd Future’s name as a brand, Airaudi told the Los Angeles Times that “a record label doesn’t necessarily have pole position. Creative control and freedom come first.” Odd Future lead guy ‘Tyler the Creator’ told the Times that he’d never sign a recording deal without 100% creative control, saying that “You lose a lot when you sign with the major labels.  I’d rather be broke than have to rap over the same chord progressions as everyone else.”

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Engineer Notebook: How to Bring Life into Sampled Drums

Engineer Notebook: How to Bring Life into Sampled Drums

Mixing Drums is most definitely one of the biggest challenges for a mixing engineer. In today’s world of home and project studios—not being able to record acoustic drums a lot of times, combined with the need to have a current sound—this is even more of a challenge.

Here is an approach that works for me and might work for you as well:

First, to note, drums played by a great drummer—sampled or not—will always sound better, so the first step is to try and find a great drummer for your project—it’s more than half the battle won.

Being a drummer myself I tend to play on most recording sessions that I end up mixing and since I can’t record acoustic drums in my project studio due to noise concerns, I invested in a Roland V-Drum Set because it’s the closest to a real drum set in regards to feel, but drum pads and even a keyboard can do the trick as well.

Ok, let’s get started: The overall philosophy here is to treat sampled drums just like acoustic drums—that means you need to get a bit creative.

Taylor Hawkins – Foo Fighters

Do not over quantize, the better the performer the less you should need and the more life-like it will feel, only correct what is absolutely needed, otherwise you will get a drum machine sound.

I record every instrument through a quality preamp, maybe a bit of EQ and some compression. If you don’t have enough pre’s, solo the instruments and record them separately—bass drum, snare, toms, etc.

Stay mono, at least for the snare, hi-hat, and bass drum. Toms and cymbals can be done in stereo, but you will have more room to play in mono when it comes to panning.

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From the Developers Notebook: Game Making—the Largest of the Entertainment Industries

From the Developers Notebook: Game Making—the Largest of the Entertainment Industries

Game makers around the world have been trying to entertain us for years. At current the Games industry is somewhere around a $50 billion worldwide industry. Certainly the largest of the entertainment industries. But how are they made? We are familiar with movies and music but so often no one addresses the game development process. We are here to show a high level view of what goes on behind the doors of a game studio.

All games are produced by a team of very smart and talented people:

  • Game Designer—The principle person who designs the game from beginning to end, this would include story, characters, goals, and game play.
  • Executive Producer—Oversees the development of the game (timelines, resources, planning).
  • Producer—Oversees part/s of the game development under instruction from EP  (Engine Programmer).
  • Artist—Draws all graphical elements of the game.
  • Game Programmer—Responsible for coding the game, there may be one or several coders.
  • Engine Programmer—Creates and programs the game engine. If the engine is created by someone else, this person may be used for game engine integration
  • Level Programmer—Creates the different levels of a game.

There can be more people involved, but this is the basic crew. Now that we have the team in place, let’s make a game!

Part 1: Game Design Basics

I have been asked several times on how games are made. What are the processes and activities that go into a game? Well to start, games can be very simple or very complex, but there are some overarching rules that most game designers use. Games are made of a set of simple rules that allow the player to advance through the game, but sometimes these rules become complex for the designer. Without getting into too much detail I will go over a few things to keep in mind.

First off, games are not puzzles. They are experiences that take players through an interactive journey. Games are different in that they change with the decisions of the player. Puzzles never change.

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Ahh Vegas…Gambling, Drinking, Showgirls. And Wait…A Technology Hub, Too?

Ahh Vegas…Gambling, Drinking, Showgirls. And Wait…A Technology Hub, Too?

Not long ago Las Vegas wasn’t part of the technology innovation. In fact, the basic premise of Vegas has kept it simple in a way—gambling, drinking, and showgirls. The nightlife is unrivaled and the entertainment is unforgettable. “Vegas means comedy, tragedy, happiness, and sadness all at the same time.” —Artie Lange. Artie has it right! Vegas is everything to everyone. But would you ever say Vegas was a technology hub?

Not until recently did I find myself in awe of some of the technology advancements going on in Sin City. I stay at the same room on the strip, great views and superb staff at the Paris/Bally’s, but then I hit the smokey casino floor, the waitresses clad in skimpy dresses, music was loud, and the craps table had a gang around it screaming and clapping. The sounds of slots and people from around the world engaging in all their vices. I found myself at a Pai Gow table. I play poker. I enjoy poker. The cards, the drinks, the felt tables where cards float across as if on a cushion of air, and that is when I noticed. There in the middle of this table, I couldn’t believe it, a small touch-screen LCD panel the dealer keeps tapping. As I watch for the next few hands—it hits me—that screen is a display of all the hands around the table. Wait, wait wait. I have been going to Vegas for years, but I have never seen anything like this. How did it know? If players had problems setting their Pai Gow hand the dealer would simple push the according seat number on the LCD and it would say how to play with best odds and correctly.

So I inquired with the Pit Boss and he explained to me that automatic shufflers not only shuffle, but continuously monitor the cards in the deck. It knows when cards are missing, what card is missing and which players have which cards. It knows everything on that table!

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