Thursday, January 16, 2014

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Spotify or Rdio: Artist Pick Cautiously

When you're an independent artist you have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to distributing your musical master piece. Should you distribute your music through the big boy distribution networks-- iTunes, Google Play and Rhapsody? Should you go the route of selling your music through direct to consumer platforms such as ReverbNation, Nimbit or other similar services?


There is a lot of information on the internet about the former and latter distribution platforms, but what about the newer distribution platforms that are being developed now and will possibly reshape the way music is discovered and sold?


In this blog post we are going to look at two streaming music on demand services Spotify and Rdio. These services are reshaping the way a consumer discovers, socializes, shares and purchases music. By the end of this post I want you to be able to answer this question-- I have the choice of releasing my debut album on one of these two music on demand services-- Spotify or Rdio. I have chosen "______" to release my debut album on because "_____".


Definitions


Music On Demand:

A music service that allows the user to directly select the artist and track they would like to listen to. Delivery of music is carried out by streaming.

API:

Application Programmer Interface or API are a set of tools used to build applications for the web, desktop or mobile environment. Services such as Facebook, Youtube and Tumblr allow developers access to information from their website through API's.

Streaming Radio:

A music service where the user can select an artist and have that artist music played alongside similar artist. The user generally does not have a choice over the specific track that is played as is not the case with "Music On Demand" services. Streaming radio can also be a feature of a music on demand service.

Content Aggregator/Distributor:

A company that is able to submit content to a distribution platform (iTunes, Spotify, Netflix, etc) on behalf of the content creator. The aggregator will charge fee's for content submission.

App:

A program that operates on a-- Mobile Device, Desktop/Laptop, Smart/Connected Tv, Infotainment System, PMP or through a Web Browser.


The Comparison


Do a quick web search for "Spotify v. Rdio" and you will come across a wealth of articles. This is good, but not many of those articles inspect these two services from the perspective of an independent musician-- they're written from the perspective of a consumer of the service. What we are going to do is look at the service from the perspective of the musician by investigating the technology and the potential business model these services offer.


Spotify & Rdio Similarities

  • Rdio and Spotify are music on demand service that also offers social networking built around music.
  • Social Sharing features-- Facebook, Twitter, Embeddable media player, In service messaging
  • Offers API For Developers.
  • Offers Radio feature.
  • Mobile and Desktop App.
  • Artist are required to submit music through a content aggregator or distributor to have access to either platform.

Spotify & Rdio Differences

  • Rdio allows the musician to sale their music.
  • Both services offer an embedded media player-- Rdio media player plays the song in the browser (20 sec preview--non member, full song-- member), Spotifys' media player is a place holder that requires the user to have the Spotify client to play the song. Media players are available below.
  • Rdio allows their users to write reviews and comments for a song or album. You're also able to post links to songs in the comments section.
  • Rdio is accessible through the set top box Roku
  • Rdio works through your internet browser as well as through a desktop app and mobile app.
  • Rdio offers an affiliate program for business to participate in reaping financial benefits of signing up new users.
  • Spotify allows developers to create apps that work inside of the desktop application.
  • Spotify works only if you have the desktop client or mobile app.
  • Spotify is available on Samsung Smart Tv's

Spotify Media Player


Rdio Media Player


Winners Circle

If you're keeping count of the differences these seemingly similar services offer, then you realize Rdio has a lead on Spotify by light years. As an independent artist whom has to make a choice of service to use, the similarities and differences have made my choice clear. I'd definitely choose Rdio for my debut album release.

Here is why Rdio is the best choice for an artist-- Rdio isn't limited to only working through a desktop client or mobile app, it works through the internet browser as well. Since Rdio works through the internet browser, the service doesn't create an unnecessary barrier for a registered user to access the service if they aren't around the primary device(s) they use to consume music. Nor is Rdio stuck trying to convince a new user to download an desktop client or mobile app to utilize the service. We can speculate Rdio focus on making their service accessible through the internet browser is the reason their embedded media player is equipped to work directly in the browser.


The embedded media player offers an array of options that allows the listener to re-embed the player, share a link to the song and if they click on the album art they are redirected to the Rdio page. The key feature Rdio offers an artist that really set it apart from Spotify is Rdio allows the artist to sale songs and albums-- the sales feature is available through the internet browser and the desktop client but is only available once the user is logged.

As I was putting together my strategy on how to tackle this post I decided to leave out the pay scale an artist receives for each time their song is played. That topic requires it own post because there are a lot of legalese that would need to be explained.

The Spotify Offensive

In no way is Spotify a bad choice for an album release but I'm looking at the value the services offer that help artist distribute their music and have the potential to monetize it. What I do want to cover is a feature of the Spotify platform that will easily create new dimensions for music discovery, distribution, socialization, merchandising, really the sky is the limit with this feature that Spotify has designed.

How many remember what Facebook was like before they opened their platform to developers? There were no apps and nothing to spend your time doing after you photo stalked past flings and people from high school. Then came along apps to the Facebook platform and everything became real interesting. Your best friends would send request for you to join their mafia family or help them buy cattle for their farm, from this the whole site took on a new dimension. This is just a small snapshot of what opening a platform to developers will do for a service and their site visitors. It brings diversity to the platform in ways the powers that control it never could of imagined but at the same time creating new business opportunities and models that institute its own economic system within the larger system.

We can say that Spotify paid attention and has decided to implement a similar structure within their desktop client. The Spotify Apps API allows developers to create a range of applications by utilizing the data Spotify provides. These apps are built using web technologies such as HTML5, Javascript and CSS. Even better, a developer can access API's that reside outside of the Spotify domain-- Facebook, Youtube, Echonest, Gracenote and pretty much any API the developer believes will enable them to build a killer app. So, lets look at the categories of apps that are available to the user in the Spotify App Store as of right now.

Spotify App Categories

  • Top Charts
  • Discovery
  • Concerts & Events
  • Games
  • Lyrics
  • Reviews
  • Social

You might be wondering how does this app platform help the artist? I can only answer that question subjectively. If you look at what developers have done when given access to platforms that generate a lot of data, you find that new services and business models emerge. As of now Spotify App API is in its infant stage, but imagine the unique apps that will emerge. How about an app that can take any artist that is on Spotify, search the web and third-party services for information about the artist such as videos, images, tour dates, links to music stores or direct to consumer platforms where fans can purchase songs, albums and merchandise the artist is selling.


What about a music magazine app that merges the musicians they interview, highlight or reviews music and makes the song or album accessible in the article. If you like it you can add the song to a playlist or star it. If you don't like it, the app could make it possible for you to voice your opinion (vote) about the song or album.


How about a fashion app that enables artist to release their fashion line on the Spotify platform just as they would their music. Why should music be the only product made available over the Spotify platform? Artist set fashion trends, so why shouldn't they release their new designs where those who consume it go for music? I could go on and on about this, just know, if Spotify gets it right with their App platform, they will have a cutting edge service to be reckoned with.


The Technology


If you've read my eBook Distributing Digital Content From Your Blog then you understand what API's are and how they are of benefit. If you have not read the eBook then I'll do a quick fly by for you. API's are such a big deal because they allow developers to create new services with the data exposed from the API. Look around the internet and you'll see major services such as the LA Times, NBA.com and any major web proprietary utilizing API's.
Not all API's are created equal but Rdio and Spotify offer a robust API that opens the door for developers to create new ways for users to interact with the data these services provide.


Rdio API's

  • Web Service API
  • IOS API
  • Android API
  • Web Playback API

Spotify API's

  • libspotify API
  • Spotify Apps API
  • Web API

The Wrap-Up


When it comes to selecting a service that will allow you to benefit from on demand streaming as well as digital sales, Rdio is the front runner. But the power both of these developing platforms offer cannot be fully understood because they are still relatively new to the music consumer. If the sang "first come, first serve" is correct, then you as an artist need to look at how you can get onto one of these two platforms. Because right now they might not be as big as iTunes, Rhapsody or any of the other big boy distribution platforms, but watch as these two services carve out their own channel and people start turning to them for all their music discovery and purchases.



Written By: Ontwayne Hill

Twitter: @jusgomobile

Friday, May 24, 2013

Echonest, Gracenote, Rovi:: Content Metadata Suppliers You Should Know About


If you read my post on Metadata & Your Content, then you have an understanding of what metadata is, now you will learn about three companies that specialize in compiling metadata. The three companies are Echonest, Gracenote, and Rovi. This isn't an in depth post about the companies, it's more of a who they are and how you can get your content metadata into there database.




Echonest

Echonest collects metadata for music only (as of now). It is true what they say, do one thing, and do it well. Echonest focus on music has allowed them to create an amazing music metadata hub. Echonest doesn't have a content submission section, but a representative of Echonest sent this explanation of how their platform discovers your content – “We currently don't offer a way for artists to submit music directly. However, if you have recordings on the web or through digital retailers, our platform is designed to discover new artists as they release music organically through web presence”.

API available to developers: Yes


Gracenote

Gracenote collects metadata for two categories of entertainment, music and video. If you use iTunes then you've interacted with metadata supplied by Gracenote. Gracenote doesn't stop because they supply iTunes with metadata, they also supply in car infotainment centers with metadata. Some of Gracenote platforms are, Music ID, Scan & Match and Gracenote Powered Mobile Apps. You can submit your metadata directly to Gracenote.

Gracenote content submission information
API available to developers: Yes


Rovi Corp

Rovi is a metadata service that compiles metadata for multiple intellectual property categories – music, television, video/DVD content and books. You can submit your metadata directly to Rovi.

Rovi content submission information
API available to develpers: Yes


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Music Artist Guide To Building A Free Website. "eBook"

Here are excerpts from my eBook "Distributing Digital Content From Your Blog"


Distributing Digital Content From Your Blog

Published By: JusGoMobile

Written By: Ontwayne Hill

Year Published:2013

Technology, Business, Website Building

This eBook is a must read for, independent artist, bands, record labels, independent film producers, content creators and entertainment brands. Written for a novice technical audience, you will learn to build your own website without being internet savvy or having to learn a bunch of technical jargon. In this eBook--

  • You'll learn how to utilize the powerful tools supplied by Googles' Blogger or Tumblrs' blogging platform to create and maintain your own website.
  • You will learn how to incorporate analytics and their importance.
  • You will learn how to set up your website for mobile accessibility.
  • You will learn the importance of API's and their role in the new internet information economy.
  • You will learn the role of third-party service providers and how to evaluate them.
  • You will work with real examples that give you simple concrete step by step instructions, with visual aids to show you how to build your website.
  • And much more...
By the end of this eBook you will be able to build a cost effective, low overhead website, that will allow you to enjoy your own web presence, monetize your content and engage your audience all while avoiding the complications of owning a conventional website.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

Metadata and Your Content

As I was making my rounds on social media websites, I noticed that a lot of the content on user generated sites lacked adequate information about the media being viewed or the information presented wasn't descriptive. In this post We're going to cover the importance of metadata to the files (picture, video, audio) you upload to social media websites.

Definitions

User Generated Site/Social media website: A website where the users create majority of the content that resides on the website. E.G. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Blogger, etc.

API: Application Programming Interface is a set of tools used to build applications.

Introduction

Metadata is data about data. I know that sounds strange, when I first heard this I felt the same way. The best written explanation I've found comes from the NISO pdf "Understanding Metadata"-- Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource. Some concepts are understood easier once you see it in video form. So the nice folks who made this video have illustrated Metadata very well.

Anytime you fill out a registration form for a website, upload a piece of content or even tweet-- your creating metadata.

How & When Is Meta-Data Used?

The importance of metadata to your content isn't always visible because metadata is accessed by the website for search purposes and a programmer or developer uses it when querying the API from their application.

Developers are given access to a websites data through API's. The information the developer is accessing through these API's are related to metadata about the content that resides on the website. The website determines what is relevant metadata about your file. But the most common way you create metadata is through the input fields that are available for you to enter information in about your file. The information you enter is stored in a database and tied to the content.

As you go through the content upload process, thoroughly think about what you are entering into those fields the site offers. Is the name of your audio file descriptive enough? Are the tags you've added to that picture remotely close to describing it? As developers create apps for connected devices and websites, sufficient, descriptive metadata will make a difference in your content being discovered or it not being discovered.