With the hype surrounding last night’s unveiling of the Samsung flagship S4, the UNPACKED event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall had been long-anticipated for us here at 7digital. Not least for the sensational ergonomics that J. K Shin, the president and head of IT & mobile communications division, flaunted on stage – with new features including a touchless ‘Smart Scroll / Pause’ feature, the ‘S Translator’, ‘S Health’ and 13-megapixel, 360-degree camera - but mainly for the fact that this new device in the Galaxy range has our technology powering the Samsung Music Hub app.
In the midst of this year’s Mobile World Congress, hints at the next ‘big thing’ from Korean tech giant Samsung began to unfurl. Amid dozens of product launches at the the annual GSMA event in Barcelona, Samsung were head and shoulders above the rest, boldly announcing their very own UNPACKED event to take place on 14th March to springboard their new smartphone.
February is a month of big business in Barcelona as the Mobile World Congress and Heroes of the Mobile Fringe – an event that runs in tandem – hold monopoly over the city for a week-long mega mobile blowout. Having been running for almost a decade, it has inevitably become a fundamental part of every mobile enthusiast’s calendar, and so to escape an extended British winter we joined tens of thousands of delegates who descended en masse to the Catalan capital to immerse ourselves in pure mobile tech innovation.
Our CEO Ben Drury, VP of Global Marketing Kelaine Blades, Commercial Director Stephen Somerville, Business Development Manager Izabela Rekowska and VP of Strategic Partnerships Alyssa Tisne were all in attendance this year, and aside from a tight agenda of meetings scheduled throughout the day, we were particularly excited to be hosting our own panel discussion on the Wednesday. We also saw a fair amount of product launches over the course of the four days, a standout of which being the unveiling of the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 which we were lucky enough to test-drive and demo our application on.
This week was teeming with industry news, not least for Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress that took place, and once again showcased the crème de la crème in mobile craftsmanship and innovation. Of course, the IFPI’s 2013 edition of their Digital Music Report, revealing the music industry’s growth for the first time since 1999, became a hot topic, the extensive document nurturing widespread optimism from within the notion of an ever-diversifying and expanding market.
Last week we unveiled the expansion of our digital music services into new international territories in South Africa, Asia and South America, news that cemented an auspicious start to the year and marked a true milestone…
The expansion of our platform to include new worldwide destinations is a natural step for us in extending an ever-widening global reach for our open digital content. We have acquired digital music licensing agreements with major and numerous independent labels in India, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and South Africa, meaning a total footprint of 42 countries for our platform. Most people in the industry are aware that international music licensing is no light task. Before we reach for our champagne glasses it is important to take a minute to acknowledge that acquiring licensing agreements for new territories is really only half of the battle. The work to manage new massive catalogues, engage with new markets and the ongoing maintenance of new relationships in four new territories is admittedly a challenge. As our platform approach enables us to reduce the complexity for others looking to create digital music services, this challenge is right up our alley. It is great to see our teams come together to make this happen, and further reinforce our leadership position with the broadest reach of digital music rights globally.
Next week we take to Spain for a number of events vital to every mobile enthusiast’s calendar (or at least we think so). The first of which is the Mobile World Congress, which, after last year’s record-breaking turn-out with over 67, 000 attendees and nigh-on 1500 exhibitors, we hope will fuel the fire of mobile inspiration ever more. Kick-starting on the 25th and running through to the 28th February, it remains to be seen how the new venue will be received as they have relocated from their old stomping grounds for a new site in Barcelona, a huge state-of-the-art space Fira Gran Via.
We’re just back from Midem 2013, where the music industry’s finest kick the year off in style at various Cannes hotel bars and restaurants, with the occasional visit to the conference centre when it can’t be avoided.
Over the last few years we’ve seen more and more tech companies attending, and it’s encouraging seeing the focus on developers and tech grow even more in 2013.
API’s were everywhere this year! We met with Open EMI’s Neil Tinegate, and got some insight into how that programme is working for developers and the label, and we sat in on the Midemlab competition and watched a panel of judges pull apart Apps and ideas from start-ups. It was also rewarding to meet a whole host of developers who have started using the 7digital API and to see their apps in action.
At the other end of the spectrum, another app built on our API is the Samsung Music Hub and it was also great to hear TJ Kang (SVP Media Services, Samsung Electronics) discuss Music Hub, at length, in a panel session with Olivia Solon (Associate Editor of Wired) and Paul Mascarenas (CTO of US car giant Ford).
And to prove that we don’t only ‘talk the talk’ we got our hands dirty at the 3rd annual Midem Hack Day, which saw developers from all over the world get together for a weekend to turn ideas around music and technology into working prototypes. The outcome was impressive as usual, with applications ranging from music creation and audio manipulation, (e.g. Girl Talk in a Box, Music Collective or LeapMix), through artist support (e.g. SoundCard or Ephemeral Playback) to music consumption and just plain fun (e.g. VidSwappr or [EXPLICIT] Feedback)
Our own hack resulted in RadioMe, a radio app powered by the 7digital streaming API linked to last.fm and This Is My Jam that lets users run their own personalized radio station. Give it a try and let us know what you think! You can check out the full list of hacks created over the week-end here.
Our week culminated with the exciting BlackBerry 10 six city simultaneous launch which we attended in London and NYC. The BlackBerry 10 devices boast fast browsers, new features, smart cameras and, unlike previous BlackBerry models, enter the market primed with a large application library… and an amazing music service powered by none other than 7digital! We’ve been playing with the two new phone models and we love them already.
That’s our wrap for the week… now where are those Friday beers??
The latest BPI figures released earlier this month show, yet again, an upswing in digital music consumption in the UK.
Digital album sales increased by 14.8% to 30.5 million, with 16 albums selling more than 100,000 digital copies in 2012 – but it still wasn’t enough to make up the shortfall in physical sales. Overall album sales dropped by more than 10% in 2012 as the CD market shrank by a fifth.
Streaming has also seen strong growth, albeit from a smaller base, with more than 3.7 billion track streams in 2012. As varying forms of digital music access continue to grow, it’s clear any remaining resistance to digital is diminishing.
It’s also clear that one level of ‘access’ does not suffice for all music fans, and it’s important to keep in mind not everyone will want only downloads or only streaming. While some services, such as Spotify, have refocused on more limited options of access, the right model is the one that offers access to your music, anywhere in the world, on any device.
This ‘multi-access’ is the music industry’s best option in making up the physical decline.
It was interesting to read the latest news from Amazon regarding the launch of a HTML5 version of the MP3 music store, specifically aimed at those using Apple mobile devices. Interesting for two reasons; Amazon seems about two years off the pace, and it’s a departure from the lock-in Kindle/ebook strategy.
Apple has always been a strict master of the App Store, and upset a number of content holders back in February 2011 when it introduced a 30% ‘tax ’ on all digital content purchased through apps on an Apple device. Many looked at alternatives to avoid the 30% fee, as it made the slim margins on digital content impossible for some publishers to work with. Almost two years later, it seems Amazon has caught up with its HTML5 mobile site.
At 7digital, we launched a similar mobile site (m.7digital.com) in February 2011. Unlike Amazon, our HTML5 store was not solely aimed at Apple users. Of course music fans can easily browse and purchase music through their iPad or iPhone on the site, but back then it was an early hint of where we saw the market going.
Even two years ago we were sure music was heading to mobile. We were right.
Over two thirds of 7digital purchases now happen through a mobile device, and this number is only going to get bigger. Since we introduced the mobile store we’ve built more 7digital apps, including an iOS app, so everyone has easy access to high quality digital music on any device – whether we have a dedicated app or not.
2012 has been a great year at 7digital, and mobile in particular has been a standout area of change and growth. We’ve seen a 277% increase in our mobile user base, with 67% of downloads now coming though tablets and phones. We added a Windows Phone app to our mobile line up, and watched our Android install base surpass the 4 million mark.
It’s not just digital music that’s seeing this growth; ebooks, magazines, newspapers, and TV and movies are all continuing to attract attention from readers, listeners and viewers. New mobile and connected devices have driven this, in part, and as more devices come to market, it becomes increasingly important to enable access to a user’s content on multiple devices. Right now you may have a music collection on your PC and need to get it to a smartphone or MP3 player. It won’t be long until you also want access to the same collection in the car, on your connected TV and even your fridge.
The music industry is guilty of getting hung-up on the wrong debate; that of access vs ownership. Subscription services are often labelled as ‘access’, but in reality they are ‘rental’ services. Once you stop paying the monthly subscription, you lose your carefully curated collection. As mobile and connected device growth continues in 2013 on beyond, the right levels of access to digital content you own will be the winning combination.
Next up, our top selling tracks and albums for 2012…