August, 2010

Cinema Advertising

Over the weekend I saw a couple of films, and because I showed up early, I saw most of the ad-reel in front of each film.
A couple of things occurred to me with cinema ads that are relatively unique to the medium:
– Advertisers aren’t scared of running long ads. The Spanish beer brand Estrella is running an ad that’s around three and a half minutes long and is effectively a short film with musical accompaniament. It’s a fun video (although oddly Estrella’s 2009 video rather than their 2010 version which is along very similar lines) with a catchy song. I guess that if you don’t like the music, then it becomes very painful. In the same ad reel, there was also TFL’s cycling ad campaign featuring a similarly catchy number by Mark Ronson (An aside with this is that at 1:24, Radio 1’s Edith Bowman rides right in front of Absolute Radio – although you’ll have to watch the full version to have any chance of seeing it). A Guardian piece today suggested that the £441,000 campaign was based around a £300,000 creative cost and £141,000 media spend. Even allowing for YouTube views that’s an odd way to spend on a campaign like this – in other words spending less on the ad and more on making it seen might have been smarter. But it looks good, and gets the message across relatively well.
– Category exclusivity doesn’t really exist in the cinema. Listen to the radio, and you won’t usually hear ads for two brands for different products in the same category in the same break. Advertisers demand exclusivity. In TV, the same is broadly true too. You might get two ads for non-competing brands in the same break (e.g. a Ford Focus and a Jaguar ad), but even then they’ll be split up. That Estrella ad ran straight into a 60 second Grolsch ad. We also had ads for Heineken (very funny, although it’s a year old, originates in Holland and has been superceded by this excellent one) and Stella. Then there was a Jack Daniels ad, but if that’s just a little too much alcohol, there was also a Buxton ad (and let’s face it, coming up with a way to differentiate your water from any other water has got to be one of the toughest asks imaginable). To be fair, there are normally plenty of opportunities to play ads in other media, whereas cinema has one shot at the start of the film.
– People mostly like the Orange ads, but they don’t listen to the message. I wasn’t totally sure about the A-Team ad, but it’s been replaced by a Jack Black Gulliver’s Travels ad which is pretty decent. But the ad ends with “Don’t let a mobile phone ruin your movie. Turn if off.” I think they also need to address texting and emailing. I saw The Girl Who Played With Fire over the weekend – which is in Swedish. I’m pretty sure the couple next to me didn’t speak Swedish, and even though they’re probably familiar with the story from the novel, I suspect they needed the subtitles as much as I did (Note to Momentum pictures: put a bit of drop-shadow on your subtitles. White text on a white background is really hard to read). So why did they spend half the film alternately checking their Blackberrys? Perhaps they were surgeons on call, or taking part in a complicated legal exchange that needed their minute by minute attention. In which case, they shouldn’t have gone to the cinema. I had to tell them off. If I can’t see you, I’m not fussed. But these devices tend to have illuminated screens, and that means that waving them around is a bit like waving a torch around. I’m going to notice. Especially in a darkened room.

Prom 54: Sibelius’s Second Symphony

Royal Albert Hall

[Not taken last night when it was pouring with rain]

I love Sibelius’s Second Symphony, so I cycled over to the Royal Albert Hall last night to see it performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It was also being broadcast on BBC Four (and Radio 3, of course).
Before that we had the premiere of a new piece by Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Barber’s Violin Concerto with an exquisite violin solo from Gil Shaham.
Then we had the second symphony, and it’s just a wonderful piece – easily in my top ten of classical compositions.
As an aside, it was pouring with rain last night and yet for complicated reasons, I took a Borisbike to the Royal Albert Hall. I was soaked to the skin below the waist as I only had a waterproof jacket. On the way back the rain had relented a little, although it was still wet. Since it’s a fair walk to South Kensington tube, I took another bike back and attempted the Royal Albert Hall to King’s Cross inside half an hour. It should be quite possible, although with traffic lights against you, it’s a challenge. And that’s without the weather. In the end – I got within one docking station of King’s Cross, convinced I was about to trip a pound fee, something I try not to do if I can. But a printout revealed I still had four minutes which would have been plenty of time to reach the final stop. And with all the rain, full docking stations were not going to be an issue.

Some Media Reading

There have been a few reports, publications and press releases recently that are worth highlighting.
The BBC has published its latest monthly iPlayer Performance Pack detailing results for July 2010. I always find this is worth a read.
It’s interesting to note that requests for BBC iPlayer dipped a bit during both June and July. While the weather is almost certainly a contributing factor (and we’re obviously not all into watching programmes on our laptops in the garden), this was during the period of the World Cup which ate up much of the primetime schedule. Even when ITV was showing games, the BBC tended to counter with repeats and non-essential programming.
The slide on page 11 of the report makes for interesting reading too. It details average weekly use of the iPlayer. It breaks out radio, TV, and users of both. So in the week of 26 July, 4.3m users (or more particularly, “user agents”) used the TV functionality, while 1.3m used radio. 0.4m used both. That means an awful lot of people are using TV but not using radio – 9% in fact. Whereas around 31% of radio users also use TV. Seeing how that 9% changes over a longer period will be something to watch out for.
That said, people who listen to radio listen for much longer than television. In July radio users averaged 184 minutes, whereas TV users average just 69 minutes.
Top Gear continues to be the most popular show with episode 3 of the most recent series getting 1.273m requests. This was the episode that clashed with the World Cup Final…
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is the most popular radio programme with three episodes filling up the top three places each getting about 100,000 plays. I’m always surprised how many people listen to Chris Moyles on the iPlayer, since it’s surely a show you need to listen to live? Yet it fills half the top 20 places.
The other notable radio performer was the World Cup quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Brazil. Because it took place in the afternoon, 69,000 people heard it streaming online.
There’s plenty more to look at in the report.
Deloitte has commissioned another report into TV to accompany the Mediaguardian Edinburgh Television Festival. Perspectives on Television in Words and Numbers is well worth a read as there’s lots to digest.
The headlines from this research centered around the fact that 86% of viewers watching pre-recorded programmes on PVRs always skip through the ads. Interestingly, this made the press release, but not the final report.
Instead the report digs deeper into how people used and trusted different media during the election, with television easily winning out. As other reports have also made clear, we’ve not yet really had our “internet” election.
The report goes into greater detail about television on demand, with a growing number of respondents claiming that this is important – significantly so amongst 18-24 year olds, the majority of whom consider this important. (As an aside, why does Sky still consider giving me access to the Sky Player an extra I should consider myself lucky to have? For the last couple of summers they’ve provided access to Sky Sports, for which I pay a subscription. And now I should consider myself fortunate to have it until the end year.)
The report shows that relatively few people are using their laptops, netbooks or smartphones to comment contemporaneously with live broadcasts of TV shows. Yet, this is surely only going to rise. Using Twitter or Facebook to comment on live shows like the X-Factor only makes them more unmissable to those who like those shows (In the case of X Factor, that absolutely does not include me. Indeed, I’m thankful that Tweetdeck has a filter option that lets users remove Tweets with certain keywords).
While the TV advertising is demonstrated has having the most impact, it’s got to be worrying that as PVR ownership increases, fewer of those ads are going to be seen. Which brings us onto…
Product placement! While this is something of a step into the unknown for UK broadcasters, we’re familiar with the very obvious branding in films (what action film doesn’t partner with a mobile handset provider these days?) and imported TV like 24’s Cisco kit and American Idol’s blurred Coke glasses. The report quotes some American research that suggests recall can increase by 20% through product placement.
The BPI announced that music revenues were up 2.3% in 2009. That’s right up! The BPI puts this increase down to innovation in the digital world and finding new revenue streams.
If you look at the full release, you’ll see that although the overall revenue from Trade Income has increased by 1.4%, it’s secondary revenues that have increased the most at 6.6%. Of that secondary revenues, “more than a third” of it comes from broadcasting and performance revenues (PPL announced pretty decent results earlier in the year).
While the development of new revenue streams is to be admired, it’s interesting that even in these tougher times, revenues continue to rise in the music industry.
Finally, there’s the big one. Ofcom’s annual Communication Market Report. Weighing in at well over 350 pages, it’s a canter through all areas of the media. I’ll just pull a few points from the radio section and highlight them here.
Ofcom noted that while commercial radio’s revenues have fallen 22% over the last five years, BBC Radio expenditure has risen by 26%. And despite the overall number of listeners increasing over the last five years reaching an all time high, the amount of time spent listening has diminished with commercial radio being especially badly hit over the last five years.
Those numbers would suggest that during a period when radio revenues decreased, perhaps less was invested in programming with a resultant fall in listening. I think it’s arguable that radio is investing more in programming now – albeit not necessarily at a local level.
It’s worth noting that in reporting podcast listening based on MIDAS results, Ofcom hasn’t taken into account methodological changes in the most recent MIDAS survey. This results in a dip in podcast listening if you look at the numbers Ofcom shows in their chart (Fig 3.4 on p193). You only have to look at the reported podcast listening numbers from stations like Absolute Radio and the BBC to see that this isn’t the case.
Fig 3.5 in the Ofcom report shows that 16-24s remain an audience for radio to be concerned about, with only 32% of listening time spent on live radio in this age group compared with 69% for all adults (Source: Ofcom research, June 2010).
Fig 3.36 (P223) is worth noting. It highlights just how well commercial radio does in Scotland, whereas BBC Local/National radio in Northern Ireland is especially strong.
While 66% of people have now heard of DAB, only 17% of people said that they intended to buy one in the next 12 months. It’s going to take a few more cheaper radios (like the announcement of a new sub-£40 Pure radio yesterday) to actually get them to commit though.
Satisfaction is amazingly high – both with the choice of stations, and what’s carried on them. 93% of people are satisfied with thier station selection and 94% are satisfied with what’s carried on them.
There’s a lot in here, even if much of it has previously been reported. It’s definitely worth a browse.

His Girl Friday on TV Tomorrow

Tomorrow BBC2 is showing a couple of classic films during the daytime. At 11.00am there’s Holiday from 1938 with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. And then at 12.30 is 1940’s His Girl Friday.
This is a film that I’ve mentioned before as it’s one of my favourites of all time.
But Wikipedia noted a couple of things that I hadn’t come across – the radio adaptions. Nine months after its January 1940 release, it was adapted by the Lux Radio Theater – the subject of a recent Radio 4 Archive on 4 programme. That adaption featured Claudette Colbert, Fred Macmurray and Jack Carson in the main roles.
Six months later, however, it was again adapted by the rival Screen Guild Theater, this time with Grant and Russell in the main roles.
Happily the Internet Archive has both versions available to download! Of course, these radio versions do lose quite a lot of the original panache of the film, and in the Screen Guild Theater version, lose over two thirds of the running time (even with the famous rapid-fire dialogue, that’s a lot of missing action).
Lux Radio Theater version.
The Screen Guild Theater version.
Anyway, if you’ve never seen this film, set your Sky+, Freeview+, V+ or other PVR.

At The Front of the Queue

Remember when you were little, and there was always the annoying kid who had everything? He was the person who’d completed their Panini sticker collection before we’d even stuck in the free pack that came with the album. He had Bigtrak or a ZX81 even when he didn’t really like computer programming? He got a shiny new Chopper while you had to make do with a no-brand? He had Adidas football boots while yours were made of Hi-Tec.
Maybe I’m letting a few too many of my own personal “issues” come into the open, but regardless of the generation you were brought up in, you recognise the type. When you complained to your parents that it was “so unfair…” they’d tell you were lucky to get what you had and the other child was spoilt.
Flash forward 30 or more years, and we live in basically the same world. Yesterday Samsung teased a 2 September announcement regarding their latest iPad-style tablet, while “everyone” is excited that Apple is going to announce some new iPods and possibly some other stuff.
And it is Apple and the video game manufacturers that have driven this growing need for rapid consumer satisfaction. They set very clear dates when their products are available to buy, and love the fact that people will queue outside stores to be sure of getting their device first. They worry about whether they’ll get their product faster if they pre-order online or queue up.
Is this a healthy state of affairs?
I’d say, it’s definitively not.
Perhaps it’s my own fault. Should I step away from the tech blogs and news sites that breathlessly report this stuff? Do I eagerly read the review sites when new devices come out, keen to discover what new features this upgrade has?
I wonder if even the electronics industry really likes this state of affairs. While they’re probably jealous of the coverage that companies like Apple, Nintendo, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox achieve by releasing their products on a single day, encouraging pre-orders and queues for the devices, having a massive spike at the start of sales is not an easy way to manage inventory – particularly when consumers demand a worldwide simultaneous release. That means a lot of ramped up production to meet initial demands rather than a perhaps more measured production timetable.
It’s the materialism and greed of it all that I’m finding more difficult. Should I feel guilty? We hear stories about suicides at Foxconn which manufacturers many of these devices as workers are put under intolerable pressure to meet production timetables.
Am I immune to it? No. I jumped on the phone to order my HTC Desire from Orange on the day it was made available, and I remember pre-ordering my PlayStation 2 for the day of release.
Sorry – this has all been a bit rambling, and I’ve certainly got no solutions. But this is something I find troubling.
[Note: The genesis of this blog entry is from something I’ve been thinking about anyway, but was catalised by what could be characterised as a Twitter “tiff” between myself and James Cridland last night – James was disappointed that he wasn’t getting his new Amazon Kindle on its promised release date. In retrospect I was probably unfair to castigate him about Amazon’s failure to manage their customers’ expectations.]

Star Island


It’s been too long. Much too long.
Carl Hiaasen has finally published a new novel, four years after his last adult novel (yes, I realise that fans of Donna Tartt or readers awaiting the next in the A Song of Fire and Ice saga have had to wait longer). In the intervening years, Hiaasen has been publishing some non-fiction as well as a series of books for kids. But he’s back with something for the rest of us, and it’s a return to form.
If you’ve not read a Carl HIaasen novel before, then stop reading this blog, and run out and buy one. His comic take on the lowlifes and sleazeballs may seem to be far too ridiculous to be true. But readers of his (infuriatingly infrequent) column in the Miami Herald will realise that fiction can barely capture what happens in real life in that part of the world.
Star Island tells the tale of a pop-starlet who most certainly isn’t Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Miley Cyrus. We know this, because they, and many others who regularly appear in tacky weekly publications, are name-checked. Instead we follow the exploits of “Cherry Pye” a young singer managed by her parents in the period leading up to the release of her new album “Skantily Klad”.
Pye’s sole talents seem to be her libido and ability to hoover up narcotics in any form that they come. So her management team also hire a lookalike to go to parties and be photographed when their young ward is dealing with one of her regular bouts of “dietary problems.”
Meanwhile, “Bang Abbot” is a former Pulitzer Prize winning photographer (the exact details of his prize-winning shot, I shan’t spoil) turned paparazzo who is stalking Pye in the belief that he can capture some shots of her last hours before she inevitably pops her clogs.
The action flits around Miami and the Everglades, with some familiar characters making a reappearances amongst the many new grotesques that Hiaasen conjours up here.
Aside from the fact that Hiaasen obviously doesn’t know a great deal about DSLR cameras, it’s a great romp, and a fun read. It’s probably not his best book, but it’s plenty good enough. It’s just a shame that Hachette/Little Brown/Sphere are making UK readers wait until November for the UK publication. I had to order the US edition from Amazon.com to sate my thirst.

Barclays Boris Bikes – A Few Weeks In

The London Cycle Hire scheme has been live for a few weeks now, and although there have been the odd teething problem such as people being overcharged or the system crashing entirely, a more fundamental problem has reared its head.
Logistics.
As someone who’s currently cycling between King’s Cross and the West End daily on his own bike, as well as being an occassional user of the bike hire scheme, I’ve been able to see this first hand in a small way. But the problem has been reported to me by more than one person.
So far, the scheme is only open to people who pre-register to get a key to unlock the bikes. By the very nature of this limitation, these are likely to be Londoners. More specifically, they’ll be Londoners who for whatever reason, go into Zone 1 – the very centre of the capital. In effect, that means people who work there, or commuters.
TFL did anticipate this, and deliberately didn’t put docking stations in mainline stations. They realised that they wouldn’t be able to meet demand in either direction. But they put them near enough mainline stations that eager commuters were able to seek out the bikes. So if you cross the Euston Road, there’s a rack of about twenty bikes. Up until now, the last bike in this rack has usually been taken by about 8.30am. And when you pass the rack in the evening at around 6.30pm, it’s full again – meaning you have a problem if you want to dock a bike.
What’s more, in the West End, the docking stations tend to all be full by around 9.00am – at least in my part of Soho. And I don’t just mean the nearest dock, but many further away.
Talking to people who’ve been frustrated by this, it’s clear that not many people know that you can get information about nearby empty docking station places from the computer units in each bay. Just touch the screen and choose the appropriate button. Similarly, people don’t seem to know that you can get an extra 15 minutes cycle time by using the same console if your preferred dock is full.
These are mentioned on the TFL website, but in no great detail. A friend also claims he phoned the helpline and wasn’t told about either of these things when he complained – he’d ended up parking his bike in Russell Square when he wanted to be in Soho. Of course, there are also all the various apps that make use of TFL’s API to tell users where there are spaces.
So it was interesting to visit Kings Cross last night. I was using a hire bike rather than my own for various reasons and was concerned that my 6.30pm arrival would probably be met by no free spaces and I’d have to back track a little to find a space.
But no! There was a team from TFL’s contractors stacking bikes outside the docking station, leaving plenty of free spaces for new cyclists to dock their bikes.
I had a chat with the man in charge, who I can only assume is a manager of the scheme. I know they’ve done similar things at other mainline stations, but this was the first time I’d seen this at King’s Cross. He told me that, yes, logistics was an enormous issue. He said that they were now getting 40,000 hires daily from 6,000 bikes – 6.5 trips per bike daily on average. He also said that they had to put some bikes into storage to allow this peak time to work.
That’s an interesting thought because a colleague and I had not much earlier been trying to work through possible options. One option was to remove bikes from the scheme leaving a higher space to bike ratio. Mainline stations are an easy place to ease the issue, but racks near workplaces in the West End and the City get full in the mornings too, and that’s a harder equation to balance.
In the short term, the only solution is to keep the bikes moving via those trailers of bikes. In the medium term, letting more people use the scheme by turning on the system that allows people to just pop their card into a slot, might ease the issue. If more of the bikes are being used at the same time and not in docking stations, then the problem eases.
Other things that could be considered:
– Variable pricing (which seems to go against the principle of the scheme)
– Incetivised pricing (e.g. free travel if you return a bike to a mainline station before 9am)
– Higher dock to bike ration (involves capital expenditure, and there may be none left at this juncture)
One other thought is that more people would use their own bikes if they had somewhere secure to leave their bike in central London somewhere. While land is expensive, there must be a solution using some unused rail/tube land in various locations.
There are some really interesting visualisations of the problem being faced by the bike hire scheme using data from the TFL API. This one from Oliver O’Brien is a good one. I’m looking at 9am, and it already shows outer areas being empty, and the central area being full (although at time of writing, there are still 6 bikes at King’s Cross!).
You only have to look around the city in the morning to see people cycling the bikes in helmets and reflective clothing (which aren’t provided), to realise that many have adopted these bikes as part of their commute. The scheme is undoubtedly a success. But that brings with it its own problems.

Eleven and Good Morning Nantwich

I’ve read two books by comedians in the last couple of weeks – which is pretty unusual for me. I tend to stray away from anything written by anyone even approaching “celebrity” status. But for various reasons I made an effort to read these books both pretty much on their respective publication dates.

Eleven is the most recent novel from Mark Watson, who’s worryingly good at what he does. You might know him from We Need Answers, or just about any programme that takes comedians as pannelists. But he also wrote one of the best, if not the best, programme to air on television over Christmas 2009, A Child’s Christmases in Wales.
This book centres around Xavier Ireland, an overnight DJ on a London radio station with an unusual name (there is a reason for this). The number eleven refers to a number of other characters, who are related in various ways to one another, even if they’re not aware of it. Although we spend most of our time with Xavier, who continues to battle some demons from a previous life, while not really getting too involved emotionally in his current one, we also take meandering detours into the lives of others.
I always find books set in radio stations interesting, if only because they rarely, if ever, accurately represent the workplace. The station in Watson’s book isn’t too far from the truth however. And I guess that he either knows people who work on the radio, and has been a guest on enough stations to pick up the general gist of what happens.
I found the book to be a real pager turner with the plot not always following precisely the trajectory that you’re expecting.

Good Morning Nantwich, subtitled Adventures on Breakfast Radio, is also a page turner, if not for exactly the same reasons.
It’s fair that I should point out that I’m not especially a Phill Jupitus fan. I watch Buzcocks when it happens to be on, rather than seeking it out. And I must admit that I’ve never actually heard him on-air. I did hear Jupitus read an extract from this book at Latitude recently, and that did make me buy this, if out of interest only.
This is Jupitus’ book detailing his time spent on GLR, and mostly BBC 6 Music. Jupitus loves radio, but seems to like little of what actually gets broadcast. He admits to listening to solely listening to Radio 2 and Radio 4 towards the beginning of the book.
But when he gets a job on the BBC’s London station, GLR, he first of all enjoys the pleasure that relative freedom offers him, but by the end, he’s fallen out of love with the station as a new management broom sweeps through. The same is broadly speaking the case with 6 Music.
In particular he has a loathing of commercial radio. At one point in this book, he spends an entire chapter detailing a nameless four hour commercial radio breakfast show. I completely agree, that this particular breakfast show obviously is inane, with a woeful selection of music and a pair of presenters who sound dreadful. But, as even he understands, lots of people like this kind of radio. It’s not demanding, but lots of people – for good or for bad – don’t like to be challenged by the radio. It’s something that simply helps to get them through the day. He gets upset that Girls Aloud are played twice in the same show. Yet, the reality is that he wouldn’t ever choose to listen to a station that plays Girls Aloud out of choice. In the same way that I can get upset about what The Sun or the Daily Mail is printing, I make a choice in not buying those publications. However, personally upsetting I find those media outlets, I understand that they wouldn’t exist commercially, were it not for the fact that millions of people do enjoy them.
That of course, does not mean that we should all have to follow a lowest common denominator form of radio. And I believe that as well as 6 Music, there are other stations and programmes that are able avoid that kind of thing. But I also think it’s illuminating that Jupitus, by the end of his book, admits that as he began to fall out with his management, despite having more freedom on his show than just about anybody else in radio, commercial or otherwise, he’d been broadcasting a radio station that was directed to his own personal tastes. He also freely admits personally profiting from recording radio adverts for HMV and Duracell.
The recent hullaballoo surrounding the impending closure, and then saving of 6 Music has resulted in many more listeners finding the staiton and enjoying it. Jupitus’ work is bookended by concerns about the future of the station, although the vast majority of the book was obviously written before the station was placed on the chopping block. As a result, he doesn’t paint a gloriously rosy picture of 6 Music. He’s often upset that budgets didn’t allow for him to do more things with his show. But budgets are a reality for everyone – commercial and BBC. He gets sent to a bad hotel in Belfast and personally pays to book himself and his team into a much nicer (and more expensive) hotel. His annoyance about 6 Music taking three years to get the ability to receive texts from listeners is a fair complaint though.
The book is also a little “padded” for my taste. As well as spending a long chapter taking apart a commercial breakfast show link by link, we’re also treated to a full run-through of Jupitus’ final show which comes across as a bit nauseous in print. While I’m sure it was very special for him, his team, and many of his listeners, I think an editor should have cut it down.
Overall, this is a pretty honest book. It doesn’t especially make me like Jupitus any more or less than I had previously; indeed I’m not sure I’d want to employ Jupitus on the basis of this book. Everyone working in radio should strive to do the best that they can, be they working for the BBC or commercial radio, remaining mindful of the broad church of likes and tastes. Some parts of commercial radio deserve a good kicking, but I think that Jupitus isn’t painting a fair picture. If you were to do something as crass as put my iPod on shuffle, what you’d get is something that I’d love, but almost certainly nobody else. Just because it suits my tastes, I’m not sure it’d make good radio.
Note: Yes – I’ve been woeful at recording what I’m reading on this blog. Anyone would think that I’ve actually stopped reading. That’s not the case!

Pure Flow Songs

EvokeFlow_Front_buffering
Yesterday I went to the press launch of Pure Digital’s latest offering: Flow Songs Beta.
Essentially, it allows listeners to a number of Pure’s internet radios (usually with FM and DAB built in), to identify and buy any track they hear played on their radios. The way it works is that when you’re listening to a track you’re interested in you press a button on the radio. At this point, the song is effectively “Shazamed” and the details of the track are presented to you along with the price. You can then complete your purchase and buy the song.
Once purchased, the song remains “in the cloud”, and you can stream it from Pure’s Lounge direct to your radio. You can also visit the Pure Lounge website and download the song you’ve bought in mp3 format, to place on whatever devices you like.
It seems to work pretty well – at least with Western tracks that are in Shazam’s database, and 7digital’s library (they’re effectively retailing the music for Pure). At the presentation we were told it opened up the music of 15,000 streaming radio stations, which I’m not certain will prove to be the case – there’s a lot of obscure music out there.
But it’s a neat workaround stations either providing inaccurate “now playing” information, or not putting out any information at all. It also lets you identify and buy music from FM, internet and DAB stations.
Pure is using the strapline “Hear it. Buy it. Love it” to describe this service. This may ring a few bells with anyone who remembers a GWR texting initiative that had the strapline “Hear it, buy it, burn it” and also allowed you to purchase music you heard on the radio. Then there was the technology from UBC called Cliq. The fact that these services no longer exist, does suggest that they weren’t glorious successes.
To be fair, that service only worked on certain stations, and was more complex. Using audio tagging via the services of Shazam is a clever workaround. But I’m not convinced that this is going to be quite the big thing that Pure thinks it’ll be.
For starters, it’s only in relatively expensive internet connected devices. And consumers have many different ways to buy music these days. Pure’s not really winning over many radio stations with this technology. Although a listener is able to easily buy a track they’ve heard on the radio, there’s nothing in it for the radio station. So I don’t think many stations will be promoting this service. On the other hand, if you visit a commercial station like Absolute Radio or Classic FM, that publishes its full tracklisting on its website, the station can earn money via affiliate links with whichever music site they’ve done deals with. Although broadcast rules from Ofcom can limit how these services can be promoted, there’s a belief that rules will soon be lifted to an extent allowing explicit calls to buy tracks via station websites.
But it’s a useful bit of technology, and time will tell how much it’s adopted by consumers.
One thing that came up, and I find really curious, is the legality of streaming tracks you’ve bought. Seemingly, even though I’ve purhcased a track, there may be issues about me streaming my tracks via devices like internet radios. There are plenty of applications that let you conncet to your music library remotely – streaming your home iTunes music at work for example. The suggestion is that this might not be legal! I’d like to learn more about this curio. I should add that Pure strenuously pointed out that they respect intellectual property, but this might be a PRS for Music/PPL issue. We’ll see.
These are my opinions and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer. Mind you, I did attend the press event in working hours…
Updated to correct previous technologies.