Podcasts Define Web 2.0 Music – billions of downloads each year

The figures are in and the results are inspiring. Old media, large (Murdoch) and small (regional newspapers), are moaning that the web is ruining their business. Radio stations, meanwhile, blow large trumpets about 1% gains in audience share.

Wizard Media podcast digital downloadsThe reality is that the public have been given real choices by Web 2.0 and are moving on from old media. Two quick examples:

  • Wizard Media announce digital downloads increase in one quarter from 241m to 350m
  • Trance Around The World podcast has 21 million listeners per week

Wizard were very happy with a 45% increase in downloads but also announced a very solid 41% increase in audience (5.3 million). Meanwhile, advertising impressions served by Wizard grew from 3.9 million in the second quarter of 2008 to 13.7 million in the second quarter of 2009, an increase of 251%.

Trance Around The World is the podcast from Above & Beyond, a weekly mix available through iTunes or from their own website. Their podcast sits alongside others by Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Paul van Dyk, Paul Okenfold and hundreds other national and international trance stars.

Therefore TATW is successful in a very competitive market, while 21 million listeners would be an extraordinary achievement for most radio stations. TATW is enabled by the most significant brand of the decade – Apple. Lest you object, look at a few examples of the activity around Steve Jobs:

  • Apple iPod podcast digital downloadsApple is 45 times more profitable than Dell
  • iTunes sells more music than Walmart
  • iPhone and iPod features and quality have revolutionised mobile technology
  • Pixar is the most succesful and profitable studio of the past decade
  • Apple is 6 times more popular as a social brand than Microsoft

While Web 2.0 provided a wonderful potential, it is companies like Apple and YouTube who have defined and raised the standards so much higher than anyone else. And the biggest winners are the public – the music listeners and video viewers – who can choose exactly what they wish to download or stream. Further, the public can now enjoy what they want without the interference of the taste bias or old-media commercial ‘necessities’ of a production or advertising team.

RATM versus X Factor – social media to the rescue

Despite Twitter and the blogosphere being full of comment and antagonism, many of the arguments have been shallow concerning the Rage Against The Machine versus X Factor race for No.1. This is not surprising in the UK where the news media, from the BBC to The Times, spend more time promoting ‘entertainment’ than any in-depth coverage of issues. And I used the word ‘promoting’ deliberately.

Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine aka #RATM

High proportions of the morning breakfast news programmes on BBC and ITV are concerned with thinly-disguised plugs for their reality and entertainment shows. Here’s a quick summary of qualities missing from both the UK news media in general and the RATM versus X Factor race in particular.

Medium versus Message
Much of the antagonism towards #RATM and #ratm4xmas enthusiasts has been wrongly directed. Many of the challenges made are shallow or irrelevant. Just to refute a few, the #ratm4xmas enthusiasts were:

  • not anti-competition
  • not led by techies
  • not anti-X Factor in total

In short, the medium (Facebook, Twitter) was the message – instant and global comment allowed instant action. That action sent the messages loud and clear:

  • we want a Christmas No.1 with some musical integrity
  • we want an alternative to a weak X Factor winner
  • we are willing to put our micro-time and micro-money on the line
  • we are motivated as much by charity as by protest

Corporate versus Indie
This may be where many commentators have missed the point. The #RATM and #ratm4xmas enthusiasts have a very different way of approaching music and there is a stepping stone analogy from the past to the present:

  • Social Mediapirate radio stations
  • rave events
  • indie labels
  • MySpace self-promotion
  • YouTube playlists
  • Pandora and Last.FM music streaming
  • peer-to-peer streaming
  • podcasts and Twitter promotion

All of these changes over the past few decades have allowed music-lovers to listen to musicians and bands outside of the corporate marketing straight-jacket. Of most importance may be the way all these methods allow peer-to-peer discussion in an on-going way.

Integrity and Objectivity
Simon Cowell says X Factor contestants like Joe are “superb” singers. This is clearly rubbish as not one of the boys on X Factor 2009 was able to sing the melody of any song correctly. Their notes were off – flat, high, screeching, shouting – on every song they tried.

Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis

There are many singers with power, passion and craft in their vocals, from many genres and varying styles:

  • Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Prince
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Metallica
  • Eminem
  • Leona Lewis

and thousands more. But Simon Cowell has zero integrity left if he claims the X Factor pretty boys are anything more than that – pretty, modern metrosexuals with little more appeal than the pretty (and plastic) malls their music would suit perfectly.

Which, by the way, is fine – the X Factor boys appear to fill a need in the marketplace. But social media allows instant redefinition of the marketplace.

The new features of social media mean the marketplace is now open to independents in ways never dreamed of by Simon Cowell and the old-fashioned corporate marketing departments. Power to the peeps.

Pirate-friendly Island – Watch out Ibiza – Isle of Man to allow unlimited music downloads

The independent, self-governing and former Celtic-Norse island, tucked in between England and Ireland, was originally the Isle of Mann or Manx. Its own dialect of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, also known as Manx, is still being taught at schools.

Settled as far back as 10,000 BC, the island was often seen as a safe haven, but now it is famous as a tax haven with low personal taxation and zero corporate taxes. They also host 3 main music festivals and numerous other gigs and concerts.

Unlimited music downloads?

Now, in a radical approach to the internet, they plan to allow unlimited legal music downloads. Let me repeat that, unlimited legal music downloads. The island has 100% broadband coverage, so a small annual fee will cover a necessary music licence for the whole island, and all residents and visitors. From whatever source!

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to stop piracy,” said a spokesperson. But this plan effectively bypasses the piracy issue. “It legalises what’s already going on … what’s already going on in a big way.” In other words, if the music industry had embraced channels similar to Napster years ago, digital downloads would be very different today, and possibly all ‘paid for’ in one way or another.

The fee may be as low as one euro a month, and if a major network like Telefonica with 120 million users signed up, then music rights companies would get all they need. Go Isle of Manx!

Digital Music Sales Milestones

1m _ July 2004
10m _ April 2005
50m _ May 2006
100m _ March 2007
150m _ November 2007