www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Music Labels Tap Downloading Networks
Felix Stalder on Tue, 18 Nov 2003 12:54:57 +0100 (CET)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Music Labels Tap Downloading Networks


It was long suspected that p2p usage stats could reveal more accurate user
preferences than traditional traditional charts and 'hit parades'. Sad to
see it implemented like this.

> "Our hope was that we could take the technology revolution that 
> Napster made popular and create tools for the benefit of copyright 
> holders," said Eric Garland, BigChampagne's chief executive.

Felix



Music Labels Tap Downloading Networks
Mon Nov 17,10:17 AM ET
By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer
http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=487&u=/ap/file_swapping_intelligence

LOS ANGELES - The recording industry, it seems, doesn't hate absolutely
everything about illicit music downloading. Despite their legal blitzkrieg
to stop online song-swapping, many music labels are benefiting from —
and paying for -- intelligence on the latest trends in Internet trading.

It's a rich digital trove these recording executives are mining. By
following the buzz online, they can determine where geographically to
market specific artists for maximum profitability.

"The record industry has always been more about vibe and hype," said
Jeremy Welt, head of new media for Maverick Records in Los Angeles. "For
the first time, we're making decisions based on what consumers are doing
and saying as opposed to just looking at radio charts."

One company, Beverly Hills-based BigChampagne, began mining such data from
popular peer-to-peer networks in 2000 and has built a thriving business
selling it to recording labels.

The company -- which takes its name from the Peter Tosh song lyric, "You
drink your big champagne and laugh" -- taps directly into file-sharing
networks like Kazaa's FastTrack. It checks on how often its clients'
artists show up in searches or how frequently their songs are downloaded.
The data can be sorted by market or geographical region.

BigChampagne also has a "TopSwaps" chart that ranks the most shared songs.  
Rapper Eminem (news - web sites) was first in a recent scan, his songs
downloaded more than 8.6 million times in one day.

"Our hope was that we could take the technology revolution that Napster
(news - web sites) made popular and create tools for the benefit of
copyright holders," said Eric Garland, BigChampagne's chief executive.

The bountiful market research is gleaned from behavior for which the music
industry otherwise shows no tolerance. Hurt by a three-year decline in
music sales, the industry has sued the major file-sharing networks, along
with individuals who have used them.

"It wouldn't be very smart if we weren't looking at what they're doing,"
Welt said.

The file-sharing companies are also taking notice. This week, Altnet
threatened legal action against nine companies, including BigChampagne,
that it accused of violating patents on file-identifying technology.
BigChampagne denies using the Altnet technology or playing any role in
helping recording companies identify users for lawsuits.

BigChampagne has certainly done well by file-swapping. It formed in July
2000, just as the Internet boom was beginning to bust, and now counts
Maverick, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Disney and Atlantic Records among its
clients. All the major labels have worked with BigChampagne "in one
capacity or another,"  Garland said.

Traditionally, labels had relied for market research largely on commercial
radio, MTV and music store sales.

Label executives waited weeks to get feedback based on limited audience
sampling -- typically by randomly calling listeners and asking if they
recognized a song after hearing a snippet.

Only after several weeks would they begin to get a picture of whether a
single was getting heard. And until Soundscan began electronically
tracking album sales in the 1990s, the industry relied only on a survey of
music retailers to gauge fan interest.

The emergence of free online trading, beginning in the late 1990s with
MP3.com and the original Napster, suddenly made it technologically
feasible to track music consumption in a whole new way.

"It's the most vast and scaleable sample audience that the world has ever
seen," Garland said.

BigChampagne data are essentially a tally of what millions of music fans
are doing every hour.

Peer-to-peer systems function by sending search queries and file transfers
across a network of several computer users. Every time someone searches
Kazaa for a song, that query is passed along the network. BigChampagne
taps in as if it were a regular user and compiles the traffic flows in a
database it later sorts.

"What we do in effect is act like a superuser who demands access to the
network in its entirety," Garland said.

BigChampagne doesn't identify individuals or gather usernames, Garland
said.  But by analyzing users' numeric Internet addresses, BigChampagne
can still pinpoint location and give clients a sense of where an artist is
most popular.

By using BigChampagne, labels can release a song to radio and, if there
are signs demand is brewing on the song-swapping networks, immediately
make the single available on online retailers like Apple's iTunes Music
Store, Welt said.

The music industry's appetite for data is only growing as online sales
begin to replace CDs.

Earlier this year, BigChampagne granted a sales and licensing agreement to
Premier Radio Networks, whose Mediabase service tracks radio airplay. The
deal fuses Mediabase's tracking data with BigChampagne's, giving
subscribers a way to see whether airplay or radio promotions spur online
music downloads or sales, Garland said.

Sales data from iTunes and other licensed music services can, of course,
be in and of themselves excellent indicators of a song's popularity.

"When someone plops down 99 cents to buy a single, that shows a higher
level of interest than just getting it for free," Welt said.



----+-------+---------+---
http://felix.openflows.org




#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net