News & Notes from the Digital Music Universe

This past month has witnessed a lot of news and developments in the world of digital music, whether major acquisitions, new studies on teen habits, and cool new technologies. Here’s an extensive rundown…

  • Myspace recently announced that it was developing an online social music experience, to be rolled out over the upcoming months. Offering DRM-free MP3s with support from labels like Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, Myspace plans on giving a platform for all of its 5,000,000 bands to sell merch, digital downloads, tickets, and provide the same free streaming music and videos it already offers. They haven’t released any of the licensing or financial details yet, so whether these files can serve you as a replacement for digital music collections (iTunes uses DRM but also offers flexible licensing) remains to be seen. This should be interesting to watch unfold.
  • Meanwhile, imeem purchased Snocap, in a deal that will tie Snocap’s large, user-based licensing and sales database for digital music (whew) together with the social media site, which struggles with copyright issues. If imeem tries to leverage that database against its competitors, it could cause a licensing rift amongst digital music services.
  • Another social music site, MOG (sort of like a blog of your music listening habits), recently gained a lot of funding from record labels, making it poised for a hearty future as a music outreach option for your library.
  • Microsoft, and its spin-off service MSN Music, recently demonstrated everything that could go wrong with using DRM with digital downloads. Basically, Microsoft will not be giving people the tools to reregister their music files (which must be registered to specific computers and devices) after August 31st of this year. If somebody’s hard drive crashes or they get a new device, then they are just plain out of luck. Their music is useless. These issues bode fairly gravely on your library’s ability to provide materials in the digital age. In honor of National Library Legislation Day (May 13th & 14th), be sure to contact your elected officials and advocate for sane copyright laws that allow libraries to offer convenient lending of digital content.
  • Create Digital Music reports on MIT’s development of the “musical brain”, a musical API that can figure out the rhythmic, timbral, and structural aspects of music and translate that information in a variety of ways. Unlike Pandora, in which humans are responsible for listening to music and checking off boxes that relate to the music they listen to, the musical API can build a rich descriptive profile, culled both from the data gleaned from its analysis and the words it matches to that analysis based on crawling music reviews. Take a look at some of the examples to see where this technology is headed (check out This Is My Jam to make your own micro-mixes!).
  • Pitchfork Media, the popular music review site for indie rock and related music, launched Pitchfork.tv. Pitchfork.tv is an online music video channel that is promoting itself as the place to fill the gap that MTV left when it more or less stopped playing music. If your teen clientele skews a little older, or if they like being part of the “tastemaker” clique, this will be a great resource.
  • Electronic Art’s music mogul Steve Schnur recently gave a very interesting interview about the growing interrelationship of music and video games. Indeed, video game soundtracks are poised to be a huge success in your collections, from Guitar Hero to Grand Theft Auto.
  • A new survey shows that 87% of teens now have an MP3 player, of which 86% is an iPod. They also showed that more and more teens are starting to invest in iPhones, making it an attractive platform for the future in developing applications connecting teens and your library. This news also comes in the midst of a new patent for high-speed data transfer over cellular networks, making music phones and delivering streaming multimedia content to teens more and more part of the future, even as it’s already made many inroads into the present.
  • Finally, shortly after news leaked that nearly half of all teenagers never bought a CD in 2007, that same report shows that 61% of teens download music without licenses or authorization. While this is down from last year’s 64%, it’s very possible that the number would be higher if more teens knew what downloads were “illegal” and which weren’t in the midst of ever-increasing options for downloading song files. Perhaps you could entice teens with a workshop on legal options for free downloads? Either way, the convenience of downloading and experiencing digital music, which is unparalleled when compared to literary or visual media, will have an interesting effect on our collections and services for years to come.

Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.
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