5 New startups to look out for – April

Here’s 5 news startups to keep an eye on…

Trakt.tv is taking GetGlue and Miso on at their own game, providing a TV check-in service that aims to do what Last.fm did for your listening habits. LIVE!

Shopitize wants to make shopping easy, fun and social. Also availble for your mobile device of choice. LIVE!

Pingram is a mash up of Instagr.am and Pinterest, what’s not to love! LIVE!

GetArtUp wants to turn your bare walls into curated spaces by commissioning up and coming artists to create something amazing on your behalf. LIVE!

Budgetable is the latest in a long line of financial planning aids. Tale a look for yourself and see if it can help you! US & Canada only, Beta

Spotify Apps

Spotify have confirmed the launch of their apps offering, working with 11 partners:

Billboard – they’ll provide music from the Billboard charts
Fuse – a combination of news and themed playlists
The Guardian – News and reviews
Last.fm – Music recommendations based on your scrobbles
Moodagent – How do you feel today? Pick a genre to match your mood
Pitchfork – playlist curation based on Pitchfork’s impeccable taste
Rolling Stone – tracks recommended by the world’s biggest music magazine
Songkick – finds gigs based on your playlists
Soundrop – share your playlists with your friends
Tunewiki – sees what song your playing and brings up the lyrics (Spotify karaoke!)
We Are Hunted – the best new songs from the brilliant new bands blog

Spotify Apps, despite being in it’s infancy, present us with an interesting new use of Spotify, socialising the music experience further than just sharing what you’re listening to on Facebook.

I’m genuinely excited by this development. Despite the relative simplicity of the apps on offer so far, there is great potential for content providers, curators and brands.

It presents brands with a better way to reach consumers than the standard playlist or advert. Integration with Last.fm’s app could allow you to create a bespoke playlist as a consumer browses your website or Facebook Page, for example.

We’ve seen how apps can evolve a platform experience, look at Foursquare’s ecosystem for example, and by keeping the apps integrated within the Spotify platform, the Swedish company will be able to exercise a little control over what is produced, ensuring that a certain level of quality is maintained.

Have you tried out the new apps yet? What do you think of them and the offering itself?

Spotify TV

Swedish music streaming service Spotify has launched it’s own app for TeliaSonera, providers of digital TV in Sweden and Finland.

This experiments sees the Spotify platform transposed for the Spotify Premium account holding viewing public, allowing them to listen to music through their tellyboxes.

The development is intriguing. It’s not the first time an Internet-based music streaming platform has converged with another medium – Last.fm and Xbox (disclosure: Edelman client) being the principle merging that comes to mind – and it won’t be the last.

Where this really gets interesting however is the potential for on-demand music videos through the Spotify platform.

Again, this is not a new trick; digital TV channels have been offering this for a while, but not with the same freedom and huge catalogue that a potential Spotify operation could bring.

Spotify have teased us with video recently with the Jimi Hendrix video stream and this further tickles the vehicle of visual content consumption.

Is there a desire to watch music videos in the same manner you’d listen to music online though? About $40bn was spent consuming music through subscription TV in 2009 according to BPI and Future Source data. That, of a $100bn industry is quite a chunk, suggests that there is a business opportunity there for someone.

Online Music Wars

Which online music service is offering a compelling product that users want to engage with? The answer it appears, is Spotify. A simple Google trends comparison demonstrates that whilst other major music streaming services such as We7, Last.fm and Grooveshark have had a consistent level of interest over the last 12 months, Spotify is running away with the public’s imagination.

It is interesting to see that searches for Last.fm have very slowly declined, but that searches for We7 and Grooveshark had improved significantly since this time last year.

There are probably several reasons for this:

Public awareness of the availability of free, legal online music to listen to may be starting to hit the mainstream and ordinary Internet users.

Spotify is getting people interested in the different options available, so they/we are trying out different services to see which one suits us.

Last.fm has had run ins with the RIAA, so users are slowly turning to alternative solutions.

What is clear though, is that interest in Spotify shows no sign of abating and the freemium business model has captured the public’s imagination. This has of course been stoked to boiling point with news of an iPhone app, reported on many blogs over the last few weeks.

The chance to listen to music on the move through Spotify is exciting the legions of iPhone users, who although only make up 10% of the overall mobile handset market, are set to grow over the next 18 months.

With expectations of a possible java app also brewing, Spotify will be available to users of mid to low end handsets too, something iTunes does not address, making it a potential mobile super app.

Spotify is innovating and has the potential to be the next element of Internet lexicon to become widely used as a verb – think Google or Tweet – a sign that it may just be one of the most important evolutions in the consumption of online media yet.

Microsoft to Rival Spotify?

Reports over the last few days have said that Microsoft plan to enter the online music market with a new service to rival the likes of Spotify, Last.fm and Grooveshark.

According to the stories, the engine would be built on Seeqpod, which is interesting as of this morning, the website kept 404ing.

There’s many rivals for Microsoft to enter into battle with, but they’ve identified a growing market, as music streaming seems to be increasingly accepted within the music industry.

However, I don’t see Microsoft being able to compete with Spotify in Europe. Spotify is established as the fresh face of Internet music streaming and as such, I think their way in will be the US, where Spotify is still only available to those with invites.

Microsoft will have a much greater capacity to cope with the vast amounts of traffic that heads their way than the Swedish start up, and as such, can corner that side of the market. In Europe though, i think the story will be different as Spotify is very highly regarded by industry commentators.

The other area Microsoft can dominate is money. Spotify is looking for investment and it is yet to be proven whether the freemium model works. MS on the other hand can spread their pockets to cover initial losses and make a greater amount of money through advertising.

I forsee that the Microsoft offering will be a bumbling paid for product which will not match that of it’s rivals, it seems to me as if they’ve seen a gravy train and are looking to jump on it – just look at Zune – so they don’t get left behind what could be a lucrative market as we head out of the recession.

Online Streaming Beating Illegal Sharing

An article in the Guardian on Sunday reports on a study by the guys at Music Ally which says that music streaming has paved the way for an increase in sales and a drop in illegal filesharing

The key points:

a) 26% of 14 to 18 year olds admitted filesharing at least once a month this January, against 42% in December 2007

b) 65% of teenagers are streaming music regularly

c) 31% of 14 to 18 year olds listen to streamed music on their computer every day

d) 19% of music fans are buying single track downloads

e) 17% of music fans are illegally using filesharing platforms

According to the BPI, digital singles were up 41.5% in 2008, while physical singles sales plunged 43.5%, a good demonstration that music is alive and well.

This is interesting timing following the news last week that the BPI and Virgin will begin contacting people suspected of filesharing and last month’s Digital Britain report which outlined planjs to give Ofcom an increased role in preventing filesharing.

Indeed, earlier this year, in agreement seemingly with this new report, RIAA and IFPI research showed that only 10% of all illegal downloads are considered to be a loss in sales. This with the admission that the BPI got it wrong over Napster would indicate that there is a U-turn in the offing.

So where do you think the likes of Spotify, Last.FM and We7 will fit into the next BPI report, and how will these services affect music downloads over the next 12 months?

Weekly Round Up 23.05.09

It’s all gone a bit crazy over at Techcrunch after Michael Arrington’s blog ran a story questioning whether Last.FM’s parent company CBS had sold user’s data to the RIAA. There is a history to this, and i’ll let you read it here. The sharing of user data is a huge issue and of course has many legal implications, but are Techcrunch going above their station by offering legal counsel to the CBS employee who has subsequently been fired because he leaked an e-mail?

And to the CBS employee who was fired and threatened based on this story – we believe certain U.S. Whistle Blower laws may protect you from retaliation from CBS in this matter. We’d like to provide you with legal counsel at our cost.

Two small stories of epic Twitter fail this week. Firstly, @Astro_Mike was allegedly the first person to Tweet from space, he wasn’t . And secondly, there were widespread rumours on Twitter that Patrick Swayze had died. He hadn’t. This of course brings into question the reliability of Twitter as a source of information, and also shows how a subject can snowball and get out of hand very quickly, if no-one is there to fight the fire.

Not only is the Pope on Youtube, the Pontif has made his way onto Facebook and the iPhone. Good to see that even the most conservative of groups are mebracing the Internet, albeit slowly, and using it to communicate!

U2, Spotify and Richard Gibbs

Epic Irish rockers, U2, have teamed up with Spotify to give the service’s users an exclusive pre-release listen of the band’s next album, No Line On The Horizon, due out on March 1st. The Guardian have also got in on the act, with both U2 and Spotify featuring heavily in its online music section.

This comes at a time when online music piracy is bing scrutinised more heavily than ever. Eminem is suing his record label Universal, claiming over $1.6m in unpaid digital royalties for tracks that have been legally downloaded – heaven knows how much he would sue for if he knew just how much of his music is downloaded illegally, and going by 2008’s most illegally downloaded artists, he should be worried about the release of his forthcoming LP.

According to a Tiscali user survey, 46% have used a p2p file sharing network, with Limewire (34%) and BitTorrent (25%), the most popular. So, to combat this rise in music being allowed to flowly freely, Irish ISP Eircom has announced it will block all file sharing websites to help out the music industry.

Composer Richard Gibbs wants to launch a ‘Day of Sharing’, to highlight:

…the absurdity of people getting music free of charge on the Internet and urge lawmakers to make Internet service providers (ISPs, such as cable and telephone companies) financially responsible to creative artists.

I can understand Richard Gibbs’ view point. As a composer, he is primarily paid by selling his work for use in films or TV, and I imagine he very rarely showcases his work in concert. However, Mr. Gibbs lets you listen to his music streamed from his website – he should be aware that there are programs on t’interweb that let you record sound directly from the web, through your sound card. How else though, could he let people know about his work? A quick Last.fm search reveals he has music uploaded to the streaming site – good man.

So he’s aware of the ways of getting music to people – but is, of course, concerned about royalties and wnats to promote the notion that sharing music illegally is stealing. However, I would wager that in his youth, Mr. Gibbs would make mix tapes for friends, as we all have done. This is exactly the same as sharing an MP3, only not over a whole bunch of wires of course.

The sharing of music for free has been happening for years, and will continue to do so and there is nothing, at the moment, that artists and labels can do to prevent it. The challenge for the music industry then, is to find new revenue streams. What I will be looking out for, is the sales figures for U2’s latest LP, to see if Spotify, and free music streaming, helps or hinders sales – expect a follow up post in the near future on that one.

What do you think of Richard Gibbs’ suggestion, and what advice would you give him?

Jinni – films go social

There are many different music recommendation services out there; We7, Lala.com and of course the big daddy of the lot, Last.fm. You would therefore imagine, that that other great medium, films, would have a similar array of services telling you what films you’ve never heard of that would just simply suit you down to the ground. Jinni is the latest of the very few sites to do this.

After signing in for the first time, you are asked to fill out your profile and do a very quick tick box survey, for want of a better term, to decide what sort of films you like. You run down a list of genres and plots, choosing what you want to watch and what you don’t.

You are then free to explore the site at will. Find films by title or type using key words in the search bar and stills of movies that are deemed to suit what you’re looking for flash up. The pictures are ordered by size in a patchwork quilt of classic shots with the largest being the most relevant to you. The great part about the service is the opportunity to tell your friends what you think they should see, in a very Last.fm stylee.

When you’ve decided on what film you want to see, click on ‘watch it’ and you are taken through to a screen which tells you where you can purchase the film and then stream it. Like Hulu, one of Jinni’s primary competitors, if you’re outside the USA, this is as far as you can go for the moment.

The user interface is easy and not too cluttered, but the intuitive pop up boxes that come up when you place your mouse pointer over a film can take a few seconds to fully fade up and then fade down. The Jinni blog is updated very regularly, with one of my favourite posts being this, a piece about films from around the world.

Jinni is indicative of the way that we are all becoming more entwined with each other’s tastes, be it in music, film or art. The only drawback is the non-watchability of films for anyone outside America, but as licensors wake up to the huge market they’re missing out on, that’ll change, and there will be a whole host of services like Jinni ready to make the most of it.

If you’d like to try Jinni for yourself, e-mail me at matt@seldomseenkid.co.uk for an invite code!

Top 10: Free Music Streaming Services for the MP3 Generation

There are so many sources to get music from, both legally and illegally, but which are the best? Check out the following free music streaming services and decide which you think is the best!

1) Spotify
2) We7
3) Lala.com
4) Deezer.com
5) Rhapsody
6) Grooveshark
7) Last.fm
8) Imeem
9) My Music Stream

I’ve got a handful of invites to Spotify, if you’d like one, please sign up to my e-mail updates! I only have a few, so if you miss out, please don’t worry as i’ll send you an invite when I get some more :-)

What have I missed from this list that should fill spot number ten?