HBO Lands On iTunes

Apple’s standard pricing policy for iTunes might not be as solid as previously thought.

One of the most-heard complaints about the online entertainment store is the company’s standard pricing of songs for 99 cents, CDs for $9.99 and most videos, such as TV programming, for $1.99.

But Apple recently inked a deal with Time Warner for the latter’s HBO programming. Under the terms of the agreement, HBO programming like "The Sopranos" and "Sex And The City" could sell for $2.99 on iTunes.

Apple’s spin is that any HBO show priced at $2.99 is still cheaper than purchasing episodes as part of total-season DVD sets.

"I don’t think it’s a shift in strategy," said Apple’s VP of iTunes, Eddy Cue. "I view this as an extension of the strategy we’ve had."

Content owners have criticized Apple’s standard pricing for iTunes. The major record labels want more control over pricing, including being able to set prices based on song or album popularity.

As the television industry becomes more comfortable with offering programs online, individual networks are taking a second look at iTunes’ standard pricing policy.

Citing pricing disagreements, NBC Universal pulled all of its programming off of iTunes last fall. The TV network eventually ended up cutting a deal with Microsoft to provide content for that company’s Zune player – a deal that gave the network control over pricing.

But Apple’s standard pricing policy for iTunes isn’t so much about competing with other online purveyors of entertainment programming as it is about selling iPods. Apple isn’t getting rich selling music and video on iTunes, so one network’s defection isn’t likely to make Steve Jobs suddenly see the light and turn pricing control over to content providers.

On the other hand, if another company’s personal player, say Microsoft’s Zune, seriously started to cut into iPod sales, then Jobs might have to rethink his iTunes pricing strategy.


Lyrically Speaking

Long before Napster, Kazaa and torrents, a big music piracy problem wasn’t about illicitly distributing recordings over the Internet. Instead, it was about the unauthorized distribution of song lyrics.

Music publishing has always been one of the major income engines in the music industry. Long before recorded music, sheet music and songbooks brought big bucks in the form of royalty payments to songwriters and publishers. Sure, the recording and concert industries appear more glamorous, but publishing royalties paid the bills, and, in some cases, paid for second houses, boats, trains, planes and automobiles.

So it must have come as a shock to those first webmasters posting song lyrics during the Web’s first years of existence to learn that they were infringing on copyrights. After all, who doesn’t know the lyrics to "Stairway To Heaven," "Freebird" or "A Hard Day’s Night?" Reciting those lyrics won’t cause anyone a problem. But writing them down and then distributing them? Well, that’s another story.

Which is why the deal between Gracenote and Clear Channel resulting in posting song lyrics on the latter’s radio station Web sites is interesting. Sure, other sites have obtained licensing for publishing song lyrics on the Internet, but the Gracenote / Clear Channel deal gives music fans the opportunity to easily locate and read a song’s lyrics as soon as they hear the tune on the radio.

Gracenote does the heavy lifting, including handling all the finer points of lyric licensing, and then turns it over to Clear Channel for distribution. Covering streaming players, on-demand lists and exclusive programming, listeners can eyeball the lyrics while listening to their favorite radio station.

"We are pleased to be providing Clear Channel listeners with the largest database of high quality lyrics available in the industry," said Gracenote’s senior VP of sales and marketing, Jim Hollingsworth. "Song lyrics remain immensely popular, and through this agreement we are able to give Clear Channel station listeners easy and direct access to the most comprehensive set of legal and licensed lyrics."


Judas Priest Cops A Widget / Metallica Goes On A Mission

As record labels, bands and artists continue looking for new ways to sell music, metal masters Judas Priest and Metallica have opted for wider exposure through different online ventures.

For Judas Priest, it’s ReverbNation’s TuneWidget. By using the widget, Judas Priest was able to pre-release the title track to its upcoming Nostradamus CD more than a month before the album drops.

Now, before you go thinking this is just another online stunt, think again. Radio isn’t exactly friendly to bands like the Priest, making metal acts look for other ways to get the word out on new albums. And, by using the ReverbNation Widget, it looks as if Judas Priest has found a viable alternative to airwave circulation.

Initially, the band placed the widget on only four Web sites. However, fans could grab the widget and place it on their own Web pages, blogs and social networking profiles like MySpace. The end result was more than 200,000 impressions on launch day alone. Furthermore, the track was streamed once every two seconds during the first 24 hours of the promotion to listeners most apt to buy the album.

"We are ecstatic at the results that Judas Priest has realized," said ReverbNation co-founder and COO Jed Carlson. "TuneWidget was designed to deliver viral promotional impact in conjunction with additional ongoing value like e-mail collection and demographic data. Artists only get one chance to release a new single to the public, and they should capitalize on it in as many ways as possible."

Metallica may not have a name for its upcoming album, but the band has a plan – promote the hell out of it through a new Web site called

At Mission Metallica, fans can assume the proverbial "fly on the wall" position in the studio and watch the metal men at work. Future plans include riffs and excerpts from the new album, exclusive new studio and archive photos and chances to win backstage passes to see the boys during their upcoming summer tour.

Mission Metallica offers fans different levels of access, with the free level acting as an introduction to what the site is about, while platinum level membership privileges include receiving the new album the day of release, plus additional video, contests, tickets and downloads of live shows.

For bands and artists that attract as fervent a fan base as Metallica, Mission Metallica represents another way to drum up excitement for an upcoming release, as well as build upon that important band / fan connection.

"Shortly after you’ve had a chance to surf around, roll a few videos, and see what it’s all about," reads a message from the band, "we’re going to step it up another notch, get that platinum thing going we told you about and in general, bring it the f**k on!"


Going Once, Going Twice …

How would you like to play golf with Alice Cooper? How about a guitar personally signed and played by Slash? Or how does a Blue Man Group Vegas VIP package grab you?

Those are just a few of the items available to the highest bidders during the Grammy Foundation’s May auction series. Running through May 22nd and presented in partnership with Kompolt, you’ll find all the bidding action at

And there’s plenty to bid on.

For example, the golf date with Alice is more than hitting the links with the master of horror rock. The package also includes Delta Air Lines vouchers and a two-night stay at the Mondrian in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Other packages include memorabilia from artists like Ozzy Osbourne, John Mayer, Jonas Brothers, Fergie, Brandi Carlile, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Les Paul, R.E.M., Ringo Starr and more. What’s more, there are travel packages to exotic places like the Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay in the Sultante of Oman, and the Nam Hai in Vietnam.

Of course, as the Grammy Foundation is behind the auction, there are VIP packages featuring tickets to the 51st Grammy Awards ceremony, plus other assorted goodies.

Grammy Charity Online Auctions benefit MusiCares and Grammy Foundations. But don’t just file that away in the memory vault. Grab that credit card, surf on over to and bid, bid bid!