Real’s fight with Microsoft is profiled, although the real question the article addresses is whether their bet on the subscription model will win out over the iTunes/song-based model of music e-tailing: Musical Chairs With the Big Boys
With its 350,000 subscribers, RealNetworks is the largest of the digital music subscription services, a nascent market that allows users to listen to music without storing it on their computers. It includes MusicNet, Musicmatch, Roxio’s Napster and others. At the end of last year, the music services had more than 700,000 paying subscribers, triple the number of a year earlier, industry analysts estimate.
No one knows how the emerging digital music business will evolve. Some insist that the pay-per-song formula will prevail because it is more like the way people have traditionally bought music. Others say Rhapsody is the future of music, allowing unlimited sampling and experimentation. The subscription model, they say, will transform the experience of listening to music in the same way that TiVo digital video recorders have allowed users to personalize television viewing in all sorts of new ways, by pausing, rewinding and replaying TV programs.
On the subject of digital music, analysts are often sharply divided, as are the industry’s leading executives. “Customers do not like the subscription model – it’s a failure,” said Mr. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive. “They pay $120 a year and they don’t like the idea that if they stop paying monthly fees, their music goes away.”
For his part, Mr. Glaser points to the $7.9 million in revenue that RealNetworks’ subscription music services collected in the fourth quarter of 2003, a 70 percent increase from the third quarter. “If you call 70 percent sequential growth a failure, I’m happy to be a failure,” he said. “Steve’s model works for him, and ours works for us. We don’t compete head-on.”
A followup to Another Datapoint: Sources of Creativity — the article’s last line (cited below) carries quite the mixed message! We’ve Got Algorithm, but How About Soul? [pdf]
Executives at PolyphonicHMI and Anastacia’s representatives are now at odds over whether the software was actually used to produce the single. A producer who worked with the song acknowledges that he uses Hit Song Science but declined to say whether he had used it for this single. Anastacia’s publicists say the software was not used, and in an e-mail message stated that the singer “does not use, support, rely or believe that this is a technology that should figure into any type of creative process now or in the future.”
Whether the technology was used for this particular single or not, sources at several labels, both major and indie, confirmed that the product was being used. But their requested anonymity and the vehemence of protest from Anastacia’s camp are telling. Since Hit Song Science was announced publicly a little more than a year ago, it has been decried as everything from snake oil to the death of innovation in music – largely because, like the Dia art project, it seems to reduce both the creative process and popular tastes to mere equations.
[…] The British neurologist Semir Zeki is at the forefront of a field he calls neuroaesthetics and others call blasphemy. In the soon-to-be-released anthology “Neurology of the Arts: Painting, Music, Literature” (Imperial College Press), he contributes a chapter in which he argues that art is a human activity with a biological basis, ultimately dependent upon – and obedient to – the laws of the brain. He was unfamiliar with Hit Song Science, but supported, in theory, the idea that an algorithm could define popular art. “The brain’s capacities are not infinite,” he said on the phone from London. “There is a finite number of ways in which music can appeal. You get rid of discordant sounds at the beginning. You keep getting rid of the obvious and soon you’re down to a reasonable number.”
Dr. Zeki, too, has heard people get quite upset at his work’s implication. “People say, ‘You cannot reduce beauty to a formula!’ ” he says. “But the fact that I know what happens in my brain when I see something as beautiful will not stop me from seeing it as so.”
Or as Mr. McCready puts it, “We didn’t invent these patterns. We just point them out.”