Yahoo’s Latest Musical Gambit

Considering that Yahoo was one of the Internet’s first Web portals, it’s somewhat ironic the company that started by providing users with a guide to the Internet is now going back to relying on content from other sites instead of producing its own.

The old Yahoo Music was all about ownership. As in having its own music download service, providing original reporting and creating original content.
However, the new Yahoo Music is all about aggregating. That is, assembling content from a variety of sources.

For example, a look at Bob Dylan’s Yahoo Music listing shows the page is made up of various modules containing content related to Mr. Zimmerman, including albums, videos, songs and lyrics as well as a list of ticket brokers waiting to fulfill your ducat requests, with all content coming from outside sources.

Got a hankering to listen to Dylan’s seminal 1974 album Blood on the Tracks? Although you can access it through Yahoo Music, online music service Rhapsody does the actual streaming.

Although some Yahoo Music content does come from Yahoo-owned sites, such as photos from Flickr, most of the content comes from outside sources, such as Internet radio from Pandora and, videos from YouTube and downloads from Amazon MP3 and iTunes. The new Yahoo Music has everything fans want; however, not everything fans get is from Yahoo.

The reason for this is cost – specifically, operating costs. Under Yahoo’s old model, the company developed most of its music-oriented content. With the new Yahoo Music, the company merely presents content from other sources and does not have to shoulder the development costs. It does, however, receive ad revenue from presenting that content within the Yahoo Music environment.

What’s more, users can customize their personal Yahoo Music pages, adding and deleting modules as they wish. It’s a step backward while taking a step forward – aggregating content for users, while at the same time, putting the users in charge.

Furthermore, Yahoo Music users will be able to create their own artist pages, and pick and choose the kinds of content they want from the service.
Although the revamped Yahoo Music features content from other sources, the service hasn’t completely stopped providing exclusive material. Yahoo will still deliver original content, although exclusive material will probably be sponsor-financed and aimed at a tight demographic slice of the audience pie, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times also quoted Yahoo Music chief Michael Spiegelman saying many music sites have a considerable amount of “overlap” in that they all offer users much of the same thing. With the new Yahoo Music, the service doesn’t spend tons of money just to keep up with the other sites. Instead, it accrues content from other sites, and spends money to create unique content. Like the aforementioned, sponsor-financed material.

“The more people have to read, the more media they can play and the more videos they can consumer, the better off we are overall,” Spiegelman told the Times, saying it was in Yahoo’s “enlightened self interest” to drive traffic to other sites and services in order to create and maintain a healthy Internet music environment.

Which is kind of like the old axiom about a rising tide lifting all boats, Yahoo Music’s newfound wisdom maintains that if artists are successful, more people will create pages devoted to those artists, thus more ad-driven dollars in Yahoo’s pockets.

Or, as Spiegelman told the Times, more successful artists means “the more [users] have to blog about, the more content they’ll create for us, the more users will come to us, and the more time they’ll want to spend on our pages.”


iTunes Makes A Pass

Bending to the record labels, iTunes initiated its new pricing model April 7, listing the most popular tracks at $1.29 per download, lesser known songs for 69 cents per, and leaving almost everything else up for grabs at 99 cents a song. The new prices arrived about six weeks after Apple introduced another new way to purchase music from iTunes – the iTunes “Pass.”

The change in pricing represents Apple’s capitulation to the recording industry, which once praised iTunes as a legitimate online channel for music but lately has been critical of the service’s original 99 cents-per-track pricing for all songs in the online music purveyor’s inventory.

Seems iTunes has been a blessing and a curse for the recording industry. While it encourages people to legally download songs, the labels also credit the online service for being partly responsible for the decline of the album, as many iTunes customers pick and choose individual songs instead of purchasing entire CDs.

However, along with a new pricing structure, Apple has also added an interesting new feature for iTunes shoppers.

The iTunes “Pass” is a subscription-like package wrapped around a band or artist offering fans exclusive material such as previously unreleased tracks for one price. The latest iTunes Pass is for The Fray, costs $16.99 and includes the group’s Live At Soho session plus video clips and audio recordings of live performances.

Purchasing The Pass means, after you’ve coughed up the bucks, downloading a widget from iTunes enabling content to be sent directly to your computer as soon as iTunes adds it to the Pass package. ITunes Passes are good for only a limited time. In The Fray’s case, the Pass ends Aug. 26 of this year.

The Fray isn’t the first band to get an iTunes Pass. Earlier this year, Depeche Mode got its own Pass priced at $19. What did fans get for their money? More than 30 songs and videos, many of which had never before been released, plus the band’s new album, Sounds of the Universe, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal also reports that neither EMI nor Apple has revealed how many people purchased the Depeche Mode Pass, but both parties said they were extremely happy with the results.

What’s more, it looks as if members of The Fray are happy with their own iTunes Pass.

“It’s like buying a ticket,” said lead singer Isaac Slade. “But it doesn’t go to the show, it goes to the backstage room where we’re showing each other YouTube videos. It’s a chance to let the fan in.”