11/07/13: Digital radio ready to go in Netherlands

Brad Hill
November 7, 2013 - 11:50am

A press release from Harris Broadcast and Broadcast Partners today announced that the DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcasting) infrastructure has been completed in The Netherlands. The Dutch government has set 2017 as a deadline for a national switch-over to digital broadcast.

The system uses IP (Internet Protocol) delivery rather than cable, which offers great signal delivery flexibility, according to the notice.

The Radio.nl website reports that some regional stations in The Netherlands might switch to digital by next summer. 

Brad Hill
November 7, 2013 - 11:50am

Listn is a music app owned by MFive Labs that expands the social possibilities of music listening by connecting people, and their music collections, across platforms and services. The company received $500-thousand in seed funding this week, giving it a foothold for future growth.

The presumption is that many people use more than one music service, or have more than one collection source -- for example an iTunes collector might also have a YouTube account and be registered at Spotify. Listn solves the “walled garden” problem by providing an encompassing space in which to share content from multiple sources, and develop a social network that likewise crosses boundaries.

Currently, Listn has connection agreements with YouTube, Spotify, Rdio, and SoundCloud. An Apple-only app presently, Listn also soaks up information about your iPod or iPhone collection purchased from iTunes, adding those tracks to YouTube favorites, and your music associated with membership in the other services.

Listn provides a twofold benefit. First, the user doesn’t have to hop from one app to another -- one’s entire macro-collection is presented in a single location. Second, the realm of social sharing and following is greatly expanded. In Listn you meet new people and are exposed to more facets of a person’s music life.

That second point has yet to be fully proved out, in our opinion. Listn provides an interesting way to meet new people, but does not transfer social relationships from connected music service, as it does with music. So, while you can listen to your Spotify tracks in Listn, you cannot listen to your Spotify friends’ playlists unless those friends pile into the Listn app. A socially active subscriber to Spotify, for example, would probably fall back to Spotify where his or her friends are.

Listn’s core mission is reminiscent of the Instant Message startups which pulled that form of communication out of the early web services (CompuServe, Genie, Prodigy, AOL), and unleashed it to the open web in the mid-1990s. That transition can be difficult, when users are reluctant to jump off their islands into the ocean. But the idea behind Listn is solid. People who use multiple music services are forced to engage with separate social schemes. The social aspect of online listening would be more useful and enjoyable if it were more open.

Brad Hill
November 7, 2013 - 11:50am

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has stepped into the Spotify debate with a Facebook post that’s getting picked up in the digital music news. Bragg joins Thom Yorke, David Byrne, Dave Allen, and others who critique artist-royalty system in spotify’s business model. In this diverse series of publicized opinion statements, Spotify is the proxy for streaming music platforms generally, and the main complaint is that musicians don’t get enough money from them.

Bragg spins from a different angle, saying that the record labels are to blame more than the music services which license albums and tracks from the labels. He likens arguing against Spotify to a complaint against the Sony Walkman in the 1980s. Bragg identifies label contracts as the problem. Many contractual terms were made for the analog era, he argues, and don’t carry over effectively to digital realities like music streaming. 

Bragg’s statement adds to an emerging aspect of the Spotify debate, which points the finger of complaint at how labels share streaming revenue with their artists. The argument hinges on whether Spotify streaming (and similar distribution deals) should be contractually accounted as royalty revenue, or licensing revenue. Generally in music contracts, royalties are much smaller percentages to the artist than licensing.

Last week, a union of Swedish musicians threatened to sue their labels over this issue. (RAIN coverage here.) 

Brad Hill
November 7, 2013 - 11:50am

We love us some blues rock. It inspires euphorically ungrammatical declarations.

Not since we bestowed Pureplay of the Day on BellyUp4Blues have we found an Internet station with the same outstanding quality of programming, paired with a more immersive website.

Inspired by radio (“ON AIR NOW”),The World of Blues (www.theworldofblues.com) engages human DJs to present its playlists -- only two of them so far, but 24/7 human hosting is the station’s aspiration. The site is ambitious, shaping up as a info-social music portal. Registration is encouraged, which is unusual for a pureplay music channel. Registering gives you access to the chat room, where listeners can hang out in a decidedly old-style social environment. A listener map shows where in the world current listeners are located.

Playlists are archived, which assists music discovery, and a nifty scrolling module continuously updates the last-ten played tracks. The site proudly publicizes its recent library additions, and also facilitates indie-musician submissions.

The whole experience is engaging, in a Web 1.0 sort of way … the lack of modernism somehow harmonizes with the bluesy music. But the main thing is programming. This morning we’ve heard Bill Perry, Walter Trout, Dan Aykroyd (!), Dave Fields, The No Refund Band, Mitch Woods, and others. This is nicely-curated, straight-ahead blues rock for people who are serious about their feel-good music.