Pew Sez: 1 out of 3 Online Pay For Digital Music – I Say: I'm Not Buying.

Recent Pew Internet survey getting some pick up this morning.

The Pew study shows 1 out of 3 internet users now paying for Digital music.

Here’s the Pew Survey.

With 250 million people now online in the U.S alone, the Digital Music industry should be reaching 83 million buyers, according to my quick and dirty math.

I’m skeptical, as we have seen a statistical leveling of Digital Music sales in 2010.

Jeff Pollack addresses the flattening in a Huffington Post piece here.

I say these Pew numbers don’t add up.

Jives Talking – Apple's #1 Designer

Flattering NPR profile on Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of design.

SIEGEL: Behind the scenes, Jobs has a partner. And many people credit Jonathan Ive with changing the way people think about design. As part of our creative partnership series, NPR’s Laura Sydell reports on the collaboration between Ive and Jobs.

LAURA SYDELL: At Apple, people often refer to the two men as Jives because they’re so close. They often talk quietly over lunch in the company dining room or stroll around the grounds at the Cupertino headquarters…

When Steve Jobs stood onstage in front of hundreds of people and announced the video phone feature on the iPhone 4, he made one call to…

Mr. STEVE JOBS (Co-founder and CEO of Apple): One of my best friends in the whole world, Jonny Ive, the head of our design team. Hey, Jonny, how you doin’?

Read, or listen to, the full NPR piece here.

Did You Notice? : No NPR mention in this piece of the iPhone 4 antenna problems.

iTunes Gets Tweaked — Daft Punk In Everybody's House: iTunes Scorecard Dec 30th.

Facing millions of gift cards still in circulation, iTunes does a bit of homepage tweaking ahead of the New Year’s Eve weekend.

After all, online and mobile shopping seems tailor-made for those revelers who need just a few more hours of non-sexual horizontal positioning.

Below you will find the titles that manifested above the fold & in the 1st cut at iTunes. In other words, you land on the homepage–here’s what you see:

The Homepage 1st Cut SPLASHES: The Beatles, and “iTunes Rewind” (the year in review recap covering Music, Apps, TV, Movies, Audiobooks, & Podcasts).

Homepage 2nd cut SPLASHES: “Indie Spotlight -Best Of 2010” (nicely executed), Slash – iTunes Sessions, Vampire Weekend – iTunes Sessions, Pre-Order New Music (lamest artwork on homepage? – more on this below)

The  Homepage New Release SWOOSHES (aka Minis): Slash Sessions, Vampire Weekend Sessions, Teena Marie, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Ke$ha, Jason Aldean, Rihanna, Ana Tijoux – Live From Soho, The Maine, Bach – 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces (priced at $7.99), Katy Perry, Kanye West, Big Time Rush, Mumford & Sons, Justin Bieber.

Homepage Above The Fold BRICKS: The Beatles Box Set, The Beatles Concert.

Free Single Of The Week: Cage The Elephant “Around My Head”. This is nicely tied to their album pre-order.

Lost 1st Cut Positioning:  Duran Duran, Keyshia Cole, Jamie Foxx, David Banner, Keri Hilson, Brad Paisley, Josh Groban Live From Soho, Grace Potter and Eminem.

Hats Off: Cage The Elephant, for snagging an opportune Single Of The Week slot and for doubling down with their album pre-order, The Beatles, for continuing to stay front  and center on the iTunes homepage and in Apple’s TV advertising, Vampire Weekend, for extending their stay on the homepage, and The Maine, for a smart and unusual 12/28 release date.

Did You Notice?:  With album pre-order numbers down in 2010, observers are starting to see some subtle but interesting tactics being employed around pre-orders. It’s notable to see free songs this week from Cage The Elephant & The Decembrists at iTunes–both tied to album pre-orders. In 2011, look for even more agressive sale pricing and free song stunting around album pre-orders. Let’s also hope that the iTunes Pre-Order  banner gets a refresh/rethink as well.

Chart Glance: On the Album Chart, Daft Punk has a strong #1 on their Tron project,; Taylor Swift at #2, and Mumford & Sons impressively holding at #3….On the Tracks Chart, exactly the same as Boxing Day: #1 Bruno Mars #2, Katy Perry,#3 Ke$ha, #4 Rihanna & Drake, #5 Enrique Iglesias. Again, the key stat here will be what the total sales look like for these tracks come the first soundscan report of 2011. How many of these will crack 250k for the week?…Stay tuned.

Valleywag Sez: Steve Jobs Bigger Than Time Magazine's Man Of The Year In 2010.

On Nov. 16th, on the announcement of the Beatles/Apple deal,  I noted that Steve Jobs might just be bigger than John Lennon and….

If Apple has now sold more devices than the Beatles have sold records/CDs, does that mean that Steve Jobs is bigger than Lennon AND….

Now, Valleywag says you can add Mark Zuckerberg to the list of folks that Jobs is bigger than.

More from Valleywag’s 2010 Recap of Tech’s Winners & Losers here.

Rock Journalism Ain't Dead, It's Just < 141 Characters

If you are a music geek over the age of 25, the blogsphere has been a goldmine of opinions, minutiae, and information.

But despite all these online words — or maybe because of all these words — my bet is you probably do miss some of the great  music critics of your youth.

After all, times are tough for the elite rock journalist. The music magazine death list is formidable – – Blender, Ice, Circus, Melody Maker, No Depression, Harp, Musician, Vibe for starters.

While there is good music writing to be found in Rolling Stone, XXL, Spin, Mojo, The Big Takeover etc., and the occassional interesting profile in GQ, Esquire and the like, I find myself definitley missing my favorite music writers.

I like to follow a certain kind of writer — essentially someone who likes both the mainstream and the underground, and treats all comers with humorous skepticism balanced with a dollop of hope. Idealistic and snarky.  My all-time favorites include Lester Bangs, Rob Sheffield, Tom Carson, Paul Williams, Debra Rae Cohen, Craig Marks, & Robert Christgau.

In fact, I used to think of the Christgau record review as the ultimate haiku of the artform.

Here are some all time Christagu classics:

Leif Garrett: Leif Garrett  (Atlantic, 1977) This is not punk rock. And it isn’t Shaun Cassidy, either. GRADE: D

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls (Rolling Stones, 1978) The Stones’ best album since Exile on Main Street is also their easiest since Let It Bleed or before. They haven’t gone for a knockdown uptempo classic, a “Brown Sugar” or “Jumping Jack Flash”–just straight rock and roll unencumbered by horn sections or Billy Preston. Even Jagger takes a relatively direct approach, and if he retains any credibility for you after six years of dicking around, there should be no agonizing over whether you like this record, no waiting for tunes to kick in. Lyrically, there are some bad moments–especially on the title cut, which is too fucking indirect to suit me–but in general the abrasiveness seems personal, earned, unposed, and the vulnerability more genuine than ever. Also, the band is a real good one–especially the drummer.  GRADE: A

Grateful Dead: Blues for Allah (Grateful Dead, 1975) I’ve been hypersensitive to this band’s virtues for years. This time I find the arch aimlessness of their musical approach neurasthenic and their general muddleheadedness worthy of Yes or the Strawbs. GRADE C-

Joe Jackson: I’m the Man (A&M, 1979) Oh yeah? Then get the knack back. GARDE: C+

The Runaways: Queens of Noise (Mercury, 1977) I’ll tell you what kind of street rock and roll these bimbos make–when the title cut came on I thought I was hearing Evita twice in a row. Only I couldn’t figure out why the singer wasn’t in tune. GRADE: C

Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (Epic, 1979) In which fast-stepping Michael J. and quick-witted Quncy J. fashion the dance groove of the year. Michael’s vocabulary of grunts, squeals, hiccups, moans, and asides is a vivid reminder that he’s grown up, and the title tune suggests that maybe what makes Stevie Wonder (who contributes a good ballad) such an oddball isn’t his genius or even his blindness so much as the fact that since childhood his main contact with the real world has been on stage and in bed.  Grade: A

Paul McCartney: (Apple, 1973) Having decided that rock and roll was fun, a good enough idea within reason, he then decided that fun wasn’t so much sex and humor and high spirits as aimless whimsy, and here he finally achieves disaster with that idea. His new love ballad meanders hopelessly where “Yesterday” shifted enticingly, and his screaming Little Richard tribute now sounds like Dicky Do and the Don’ts. Quite possibly the worst album ever made by a rock and roller of the first rank–unless David Crosby counts. Grade D+

To me these Christgau Consumer Guide Reviews from the 70’s were some of the best music writing of the last 30-40 years. He was sometimes spot-on, sometimes dead wrong, but (almost) always highly entertaining.

Moreover, Christgau was WAY ahead of his time and even more impressively most of these reviews were 200 characters or less.

Which brings me to Twitter.

Had I not read Christgau as a kid, I  would never buy  Twitter as the catalyst to save rock journalism.

But, I think the journalist/humorist Rob Tannenbaum is onto something here in claiming Twitter as the force to, if not save rock journalism, then at the least reinvigorate it.

Tannenbaum spotlights the music journalism sensation known primarily to the twitterati as “@Discographies”.

Here’s the deal: @Discographies takes the Christgau record review methodology,  limits the form via twitter, and in a stroke of less-is-more genius applies it to artists full discographies. Full.

@Discographies’ identity remains mysterious. It matters not.

Take a look at the tweet for Madonna’s career:

Madonna: 1-4 “SWF seeks audience. Turn-ons: 5 edgeplay; 6 cuddling; 7,8 fake British accents; 9 Ché Guevara t-shirts; 10 disco; 11 botox.”

Or ponder Yoko Ono, Brian Eno, & Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Yoko Ono: 1-5 “She’s awful! She broke up the Beatles! She–” 6 “(Uh-oh.)” 7-8 “(Do we have to be nice to her now?)” 9-11 “She’s a genius!”

Brian Eno: 1-3,5 “Whatcha doin’, Professor?” “I’m inventing the future of music.” 4,6-24 “Now whatcha doin’?” “Inventing it again. Quietly.”

CSN(Y): 1-2 After reducing the 1960’s to feel-good mush…; 3-8 …they kept returning to the scene of the crime in garish Hawaiian shirts.

Read the full Rob Tannenbaum interview with @discographies here.

And if you don’t have the attention span for that, even Twitter can’t help you.

Amazon Scorecard Dec 26th 2010 — 1,000 $5 albums. You Read Right; That's One Thousand Five-Dollar Albums.

Over to Amazon’s MP3 store to see how they are handling Boxing Day 2010.

If you are a regular Amazon MP3 customer, then you know well that the real estate allocated for pure editorial “push” programming isn’t the main Amazon strategy.  Instead, Amazon relies on your recent click & buying patterns to push out well targeted titles based on your previous purchasing & browsing history.

That said, there are some very coveted positions that are unaffected by previous browsing & purchasing behavior — with Daily Deal certainly being the most high profile.

So what does the Amazon scorecard look like today?

Let’s take a look:

Daily Deal: Rihanna Loud is selling for $3.99.

Above the homepage fold call-outs:

1. MP3 gifting. Taylor Swift gets the mini.

2. Best Music of 2010. Mumford & Sons gets the mini.

3. Over 1000 $5 albums. Cee Lo Green gets the mini.

Did You Notice: Every month at Amazon there is a substantial list (approx. 100 titles or so) of $5 albums, that cuts across most genres and psychographics. Today, Amazon ups the ante on this strategy by offering one thousand (1,000) $5 albums. Front line titles include Cee Lo Green, Katy Perry, Michael Buble, Coldplay, Beach House , Pink Floyd and , umm,……. many many more. Certainly, Amazon’s aggressive discounting strategy has been a hot button issue for many label and artist stakeholders over the last few months.

When the Seattle Alternative band Fleet Foxes tweeted:

Been working for nine months on something that will sell for 3.99 on Amazon MP3. That’s about the price of a whoopie cushion.

The discussion picked up some mainstream press coverage,  most notably at the Wall Street Journal & NPR.

Read the NPR story here.

I will cover this $5 discounting strategy, and dive in with some analysis, in the weeks to come.

The #s : Meantime, let’s look at the Amazon MP3 charts.  On the Album Chart –Rhianna, showing the impact of The Daily Deal is at #1. Essential Christmas Classical Masterpieces (#2),  Kings of Leon (#3),  Bruno Mars (#4), & Katy Perry (#5) round out the Top 5.  All five albums are discounted; with Bruno Mars & Rhianna in particular selling well below iTunes prices. A quick look at iTunes shows Rhianna at #12 and Bruno Mars at #18. On the Songs chart, just like iTunes, not too many surprises. Taio Cruz, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry lead the way. Again, the real action will come in looking at the total units for the holiday week. That info comes on January 5th.

Hats Off: Rhianna for nabbing the Daily Deal on digital’s most trafficked day, Mumford and Sons for cutting through the superstar clutter and being recoginized as worthy of a homepage Best Music Of The Year mini, and likewise to Taylor Swift & Cee Lo Green for nabbing minis.  Lastly, hats off to Kanye West for holding strong at #6 on the album chart at Amazon, despite no “monster” hit single.

iTunes Scorecard Dec 26th 2010 – Eminem Joins The Beatles

Let’s take a look at iTunes store placements today. It’s only the most important day & week of the year; thats all.

Here are the titles that manifested above the fold & in the 1st cut. In other words, you land on the homepage–here’s what you see:

The Homepage 1st Cut SPLASHES: The Beatles, Duran Duran, and the “iTunes Year In Review”. Homepage 2nd cut SPLASHES: Eminem “Recovery’ (Pricing called out–$7.99 standard/$9.99 deluxe), Josh Groban “Live From Soho“, Grace Potter and the Noncturnals (again pricing called out–$6.99 for the new album).

The  Homepage New Release SWOOSHES (aka Minis): Keyshia Cole, Duran Duran, Jamie Foxx, David Banner, Keri Hilson, Brad Paisley, Joah Groban Live From Soho, Vampire Weekend iTunes Session, both versions of the Eminem album, The Lonely Island feat. Akon “I Just Had Sex”,  Jimmy Fallon ‘Drunk On Christmas”, Kanye West “Christmas in Harlem”, Ray Lamontagne Live EP.

Homepage Above The Fold BRICKS: The Beatles Box Set, The Beatles Concert.

Free Single Of The Week: Sick Puppies “Maybe”.

Didn’t make 1st Homepage cut:  Shakira’s free video, Sean Kingston single, Train video premiere, R.E.M. new single.

Hats Off:  Eminem for dominating the homepage with a well executed sale, The Beatles for continuing to stay front  & center all over the iTunes homepage and in Apple’s TV advertising, Duran Duran for a great look, and Grace Potter for cracking the superstar traffic with a daring release date and sale pricing strategy.

Did You Notice?:  On the Album Chart — Eminem charting both versions of The Recovery in the Top 10; with the Deluxe at #3 & the Standard version at #6;  Duran Duran holding steady in the Top 10; Kanye’s album strong at #4 despite no “monster” hit single. ……..On the Tracks Chart — not many surprises here…#1 Bruno Mars #2 Katy Perry #3 Ke$ha #4 Rihanna & Drake #5-Enrique Iglesias.  The key stat here will be in seeing what the total sales look like for these tracks come the first soundscan report of 2011. How many of these will crack 250k for the week?…Stay tuned.

The Day AFTER Christmas – Single Most Important Day Of The Year

Got your new new iTouch or iPad up & rolling? Wondering whats the best streaming App for your new Droid?  Your “march to the beat of his own drummer'” brother lay that Zune HD or  SanDisc on  your kids?

You are not alone.

In Digital Music circles today, the day after Christmas, is the most important day of the year. With millions of  shiny new smartphones, digital music players, tablets, laptops etc. just begging for content, it’s no wonder that the music industry is ferociously focused on December 26th. Add in a U.S. overall giftcard business estimated at $100 Billion dollars, and that’s an awful lot of  people online and looking at whats for sale at iTunes, Amazon and the like.

This year, with label executives and retailers wrestling with the first significant slowing of the paid download market, we will take a good look at the strategies, placements, pricing, early chart results, and oddities that you will find at Digital Music providers on the single most important day of their year.