iLike’s Rich Pageant

R.E.M. has a new album coming out. It’s called Accelerate and it’s scheduled for release on April 1st. But fans can give it a few spins before the April street date by listening to the stream on iLike.

Called the "iLike Worldwide Listening Party," the collaboration between R.E.M., Warner Bros. and the social music discovery Web site runs March 24-26 and blazes a new path for music promotion and distribution. It’s been 25 years since R.E.M. started making albums, and to say the music-promotion landscape has changed since then would be an understatement.

Today’s world is a world of viral marketing, satellite radio, Internet radio, file-swapping, MP3 blogs and prescription music services. Nowadays, streaming a new album before it hits the stores makes perfect sense. Or, at least more sense than relying on radio stations and record promoters.

And iLike is a great place to stream a new album. After all, people go to iLike because they love music. The site claims 25 million registered users and can create exposure across many Internet platforms compatible with iLike applications.

In R.E.M.’s case, streaming the new album on iLike means exposure, not only on the iLike site itself, but also by way of the iLike Sidebar desktop plugin for iTunes and Windows Media Player and through many other socially oriented Web communities, like Facebook and Bebo.

"Collaborating with iLike, and debuting Accelerate across the Web is in keeping with the spirit and immediacy of the album," R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe said. "We wanted to do something superfast and super real. Music, art and pop culture are about right now, and nothing else matters. Accelerate is our turbo-charged response to the times we live in."


The Irish Connection

In what may be a new chapter in the way the recording industry combats music piracy, the major labels have begun legal proceedings against an Ireland Internet service provider, claiming the ISP isn’t doing all it can to prevent copyrighted material from traversing its network.

ISPs have long claimed that they are merely conduits and not responsible for their users’ activities. However, various major players within the music industry have lately been demanding more cooperation from ISPs. They want the Internet providers to do everything from turning over the names of suspected pirates on demand to providing filters to screen out infringing material.

The High Court action brought against ISP Eircom, the biggest broadband provider in Ireland, is considered to be the first such case, according to The Irish Times.

In response to the legal proceedings, Eircom said it was not on notice for any specific copyright violations, and that it had "no legal obligation" to monitor traffic for infringing material on its network.

Many countries have legal provisions protecting or limiting ISP liability regarding copyright-infringing activities by users. In the U.S. the Digital Millennium Copyright Act calls for ISPs to remove specific material when notified by the content owners.

But the record labels say that particular provision in the DMCA isn’t enough, and many music execs have recently called for ISPs to take action against suspected music pirates without waiting for that official notification from content owners.

Recently, while addressing the MIDEM conference in Cannes, France, U2 manager Paul McGuinness told the audience of music professionals that it was time to take the battle against piracy to ISPs.

"We must shame them into wanting to help us. Their snouts have been at our trough feeding free for too long," McGuinness said.


Say Hello To Hulu made its debut on March 12th, and if its first few hours of existence are any indication, the new, advertising-supported video Web site could be the biggest competitor for a surfer’s free time since YouTube changed the way the world uses and watches video only three short years ago.

Hulu is the product of a collaboration between NBC Universal and Fox, with more than 50 media companies as content partners, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures. On launch day Hulu announced several new content partners, including Warner Bros. Television Group, Lions Gate, the NBA and the NHL.

Hulu’s content inventory on opening day was very impressive.

From clips of movies and TV shows to full-length segments, Hulu’s kick-off featured so much content that users could find themselves lost in a galaxy of choices. Offerings of current TV productions included "The Simpsons," "Saturday Night Live," "New Amsterdam" and "House," while movie selections included "The Big Lebowski," "Sideways," "The Usual Suspects" and "The Jerk."

Along with offering full-length segments of TV shows and movies, Hulu also offers clips of the same, making it very easy for users to select their favorite scene from a movie or TV program. In fact, Hulu’s ease of use in finding these clips might be one of the new video site’s big advantages over YouTube, where the latter’s search engine often retrieves more rust than diamonds.

But then ease-of-use is a major drawing card for Hulu, where it’s not only easy to watch videos but also easy to make your own clips of movies and TV shows as well as embed video links in other Web sites or distribute those links to friends. Hulu is free, licensed video that comes across like YouTube after dipping into Barry Bonds’ medicine cabinet. Minus all those amateur videos of people playing "Guitar Hero" or practicing their light saber moves.

However, the only real drawback at Hulu is that you must use a computer for watching the videos, for there are no instructions regarding TV playback. Having TV functionality would make Hulu perfect.

Well, almost perfect. Despite the roster of major content providers, the notable absence of at least two major TV companies does limit Hulu’s television offerings. Neither ABC nor CBS has signed on the Hulu content bandwagon, according to the New York Times.

But Hulu is off to a great start by showcasing more video content than anyone could watch at one sitting. Furthermore, Hulu is also available through partner sites AOL,, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo.

"’s impressive content line up and user experience are equally important in bringing consumers back again and again," NBC president and CEO Jeff Zucker said. "These are the same attributes that make Hulu attractive to major brands. Both groups see the value in a quality, clutter-free online service."


Too Much Video?

There’s a scene in Terry Gilliam’s "Brazil" depicting people slaving away on their computers, working like mad to please their boss. But when the boss turns his head, all the employees start watching TV shows on their monitors instead of keeping their noses to the grindstone.

Of course, when "Brazil" came out in 1985 watching video on computers was years from becoming a reality.

But that’s not the case anymore, and many companies are discovering that, to no one’s surprise, when it comes down to work or watching video, many employees prefer the latter. Especially when they’re on they’re on the company clock.

Take Carriage Services, Inc., for example. The Houston funeral-services company that employs 125 people recently discovered that 70 percent of its workforce watches Web videos for about an hour a day, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Other than the obvious slowdown in work flow brought about by employees watching YouTube instead of watching their in-trays, on-the-job video watching can also affect a company’s network performance, leading many businesses to employ network filters to block incoming video streams.

One company to do so is Atlanta-based R.J. Griffin & Co., which employs about 600 people. Recently RJ Griffin’s I.T. director, Jason Cunningham, discovered that company employees were accessing YouTube about 3,000 times per month. Needless to say, RJ Griffin’s future plans include blocking outside video from office network.

"I know our people will say we’re acting like Big Brother," Cunningham told WSJ. "But those pipes belong to the company. If management says we need to protect our resources, than that’s what happens."