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Milwaukee Symphony dives into iTunes

Last year the Milwaukee Symphony became the first American orchestra to sell archival recordings in iTunes. Their press release states:

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced the launch today of MSO Classics, an e-label created specifically for digital distribution of its recordings at the iTunes Music Store and other digital music stores and services, including Yahoo! Music, Napster, RealNetworks Rhapsody, and MusicNet outlets including AOL, Virgin, and HMV, via a worldwide digital distribution deal with IODA, the Independent Online Distribution Alliance. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the first American orchestra to distribute, through digital music stores, recordings previously unavailable for purchase. Performances on “MSO Classics,” an e-label owned by the Symphony, will be available for 90 days, beginning today, exclusively on the iTunes Music Store – the world’s most popular digital music store.

“The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has always been a pioneer – in the world of new music, through innovative programming and by being the first American orchestra to visit Cuba,” said Andreas Delfs, MSO Music Director. “Now a new age for classical music distribution has begun, and we are pioneers once again.”

I firmly believe that iTunes and other forms of online distribution will be a huge thing for symphonic music in America and the rest of the world. The “good old days” of frequent recordings beefing up the paychecks of symphony musicians are long gone. New methods of distribution need to be explored, and symphony orchestras are finally beginning to take some progressive steps.

I have written about classical music and iTunes several times in the past. You can read about other classical music/iTunes developments on these previous posts:

New iTunes innovations

Last holdout bands join iTunes
Big demand for classical downloads

It is great that the Milwaukee Symphony is also putting their music up on IODA Promonet. Many people may not be aware of Promonet–it is a service similar to the Podsafe Music Network, only for musicians on record labels. The PMN is generally for independent artists. Promonet allows podcasters to play certain tracks from artists on their podcast, and as podcasting continues to mushroom in popularity this will be an increasingly smart way to market classical music. Podcasting is great for narrowcasting to a specific audience. The audience for classical music is a small but loyal percentage of the population, and as podcasts continue to become more mainstreamed and more classical music fans start subscribing it will be perhaps the best way to market this music. Being ne of the first to market will be a very good thing for the Milwaukee Symphony.

The Milwaukee Symphony should start a podcast about their upcoming performances, play clips from their archives, and offer links to purchase the archived tracks from iTunes on their website.

I would love to see orchestras begin to organize their websites like a blog. Each week could be a new blog entry on the website. That entry would include a podcast for the week highlighting the music being played, links to download all of the tracks from the orchestra archives (for a fee), embedded video of an interview/performance clip with either the guest artist, conductor, orchestra musician, or music lecturer, a blog entry about what was happening behind the scenes for that week (see Brian Dickie‘s blog for a great example of this kind of blog), and Amazon/Borders/Barnes & Noble links to purchase albums containing these pieces. Orchestras could set up affiliate accounts with these three companies and thereby get a cut of each recording sale even if they had no involvement with the recording.

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September 11, 2006 Posted by | iTunes, Music, Orchestra, podcast | 1 Comment

New iTunes innovations

Fall is fast approaching, and that means new product announcements from Apple. I have written about some of Apple’s new developments earlier on my blog–you can find my previous posts here and here. Apple is set to make some new announcements in mid-September, and the word is that a new iPod Video is likely to be announced. The biggest anticipated new development for iTunes is downloadable movies. These movies are expected to be priced at $9.99 or $14.99. Either of these price points seem too high–one can go to Wal-Mart and pick up the same movie at a higher resolution and with special features on DVD, and people wth even a little tecnical knowledge can convert their existing DVDs to iPod format already. The convenience factor of direct iPod movie downloads will likely rack up a lot of sales for Apple (and the movie industry), however.

Some of the expected movie release titles for iTunes include American Psycho, Dogma, Cold Mountain, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Chicken Little.  You can find a complete list here.
Apple is notorious for keeping their new products under wraps, and the new Pod is no exception. The AppleInsider recently reported on some new features supposedly coming from Apple this month. :

Although the semi-official word out of Apple Americas is that invitations to the event have “not been sent” out, a seemingly inadvertent leak out of Apple Europe last week pinned the affair for Tuesday, September 12. It will be hosted by Jobs in a yet-to-be disclosed California location and beamed via satellite throughout the world.

Jobs will have much to talk about during the event, sources familiar with the chief executive’s plans have said, including new iMacs and a much-anticipated update to the iPod nano. But the real push, they say, will be tied to the big screen.

After what has seemed like nearly two years of rampart speculation and unbridled enthusiasm on the part of its fans, the Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is ready to introduce its al la carte feature film download service as part of iTunes.

Though slightly battered in his negotiations with major motion picture studios, Jobs is expected to announce that flicks from at least one major studio will be immediately available for download starting at just $9.99 a pop. In very much the same way national television networks elected to join the iTunes video bandwagon after some initial hesitation, additional studios are likely to follow suit in the coming months.

This is great news for Apple and for iPod fans. Movies downloads are the next logical step after music video and TV show downloads. There are also rumors of an iTunes jukebox and a new 23 inch widescreen iMac. A video-enable AirPort Express base station is also rumored to be announced. It is also anticipated that the new Core 2 Duo chips will be added to Apple’s current desktop and laptop offerings.

It is widely speculated that the new iPod with video will contain a much larger screen. Here is a widely circulated “leaked” image of a new iPod video screen. Who knows if this is actually for real.

In related news, DRM problems with Sony audio from the iTunes music store have been reported. Apparently some tracks from Sony artists are being prevented from being downloaded. Read more on this subject on Kim Cameron’s recent post.

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September 5, 2006 Posted by | iTunes, Tech, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

New Podcast Tracks by Bjorn Berkhout

I just added two new tracks to my podcast Jason Heath’s Double Bass Performances. They are both live cuts or pieces that I premiered by the composer Bjorn Berkhout. Bjorn is a member of the Loyola University faculty and is an internationally recognized composer. His music has been performed by the Gaudeamus Festival in Amsterdam, the June in Buffalo festival in Buffalo, New York, and the Omaha Symphony in Omaha, Nebraska. His double bass music is published by the great double bass publishing company Discordia Music, which was started by Chicago Symphony bassist Michael Hovnanian about 10 years ago.

Click here to download Rise

Click here to download Dakota Sleeps

Both of these pieces are written in a stark style. I have known Bjorn for many years now, and during this time I have seen him go through many different compositional styles. Rise reminds me of a minimalist heavy metal bass quartet, if that makes any sense.  I played the first four performances of Rise in a few different bass quartets. It was recently played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra bass quartet.

Dakota Sleeps is an even bleaker piece. The piece was originally called “Stark Beauty”, which is an excellent description. It is performed here with tape and bass, although it was originally written for piano and bass. Check out Bjorn’s website here.  To order his music, contact him directly or visit Discordia Music’s catalog.

August 27, 2006 Posted by | iTunes, Music, podcast, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Last holdout bands join iTunes

Wired News recently put out a story on some popular artists who only now agreed to sell their music on iTunes. Here is a quote from the story about why certain artists think online distribution is bad:

But the artists argue online distribution leaves them with too small a profit. And, they say, iTunes wrecks the artistic integrity of an album by allowing songs to be purchased by the track for 99 cents. Some bands, such as AC/DC have released albums on other, more flexible sites, but not iTunes.

“We’ve always thought certain artists put out albums that aren’t meant to be compilations with 50 other artists,” said Ed “Punch” Andrews, manager for both Seger and Kid Rock. “We’re hoping at some point albums become important again like they were in the past 30 years.”

There are other reasons bands avoid cyberspace. In some cases, various parties that own or control older music catalogs can’t agree to a distribution contract. Others have avoided the internet altogether out of piracy concerns. (Most online stores, however, use rights-management technology to protect against unauthorized distribution.)

It is my understanding that Apple gives record companies a very large percentage of each individual download. Record companies have started to renegotiate contracts with artists (since legal online distribution took off) to give even less to the artist. Many artists that were making the equivalent of 30 cents per song sold are now making only 10 cents.

It is not online distribution that is hurting artists but rather the greedy tactics of record companies. Many recording musicians make substantially more distributing their music themselves rather than dealing with a record company. Michael Dean (formerly of BOMB) is a great example. Put out your own music, offer some tracks for free from your band website, put some tracks out on the Podsafe Music Network, and sell your music through CD Baby (thereby getting into the iTunes music store). Who needs a record contract?

August 24, 2006 Posted by | iTunes, Music, Tech, Uncategorized | Leave a comment