The Year in Online Music

So much has happened...

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Recently I dug back through our archives to put together something of a retrospective looking at the year in online video. Now I have done basically the same thing looking at 2008’s happenings in online music.

Just as with the video article, I’m not going to claim that every single piece of news to happen in the online music industry over the year is here, but we covered plenty of stories in the industry (many courtesy of our blog partner Bruce Houghton of Hypebot), and it should still be fun to reflect back on some of the events that have transpired. I hope you enjoy it. It’s not quite the War and Peace sized novel that the video one was (although it’s not exactly a Little Golden Book either). Here we go…


The year kicked off with Sony BMG becoming the last major label to drop digital rights management (DRM). Shortly thereafter, Amazon began selling their entire catalog. Amazon also announced a big giveaway with Pepsi to promote its digital music business.

Apple disappointed fans with no major iPod/iTunes news from MacWorld, while Last.FM released an on-demand service, and Yahoo launched a new version of its browser-based music player. SeeqPod was being sued by Warner, and U2’s manager was calling for legal pressure to be put on companies like Microsoft, Google, AOL, Yahoo, Comcast, Vodafone, Facebook and even Apple for illegal file-sharing woes.


FoxyTunesIn February, Yahoo acquired FoxyTunes, while Baidu was getting sued by Sony BMG, Universal Music, and Warner Music. Google on the other hand was talking about offering music downloads in China according to rumors. Meanwhile in Europe, the EU was talking about extending copyrights for musicians.


Facebook was counting major record labels while MySpace was exploring a possible deal with Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI. In a somewhat fresh idea of a move, R.E.M. released a new album via social network iLike before the album’s actual release date. Warner’s Edgar Bronfman, Jr. was talking about bundling a fee into Internet access in exchange for unlimited access to music. USA reported that Amazon was the number 2 online music retailer, of course behind iTunes.


Kelly ClarksonYahoo Music’s Ian Rogers left Yahoo for a gig as CEO of Topspin Media. A study from Insight Research indicated that streaming video and music would bring in $70 billion in revenue over the next six years. What some thought was an April Fool’s day joke turned out to be legitimate Kelly Clarkson songs leaking onto the Internet, much to the displeasure of Clarkson, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was reported by Hollywood Reporter to have suggested that the In Rainbows experiment was only a one time thing.


In an interesting turn of events, reports indicated that Metallica now welcomed the possibilities the Internet had to offer when it came to music. This attitude was a far cry from the infamous ways of Alcoholica vs. Napster. The Rolling Stones were embracing the Internet themselves, teaming up with YouTube to interact with fans after the release of Martin Scorcese’s Stones documentary "Shine a Light."

TuneGlue emerged as a companion piece to Last.fm for revealing new music you may like or may have forgotten about, and concert promoter Live Nation partnered with AdBrite on tracking shows. A Federal Court ruled that Yahoo and AOL (along with RealNetworks) must pay millions in licensing fees to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).


Apple announced iTunes reached the 5 billion song download mark, Rhapsody launched an mp3 store, and music sales dropped to their lowest level in a decade even though there was an increase in digital sales.

Wolfgang's VaultMusic and memorabilia site Wolfgang’s Vault struck a deal with Universal Music Group to make vintage concert performances available, and songs of American Idol artists became available for download on iTunes, with David Cook selling 888,000 downloads in one week.


Yahoo Music closed the doors on its download store and started pointing customers to Rhapsody, and BskyB partnered with Universal Music Group to launch an online music subscription service. Meanwhile, TrueAnthem emerged to roll music promotion and monetization into one widget.


BuckcherryIn August, the band Buckcherry complained about the piracy of one of their songs, when in actuality, it was their own manager who leaked it to promote the band. Meanwhile, a blogger was arrested for leaking the incredibly-long awaited Chinese Democracy album from Guns N’ Roses.

Yahoo released the Yahoo Music API to developers, and Google launched Music Onebox in China. The Wall Street Journal looked at why some artists are keeping their music off iTunes, and the iTunes store was blocked in China for pushing a controversial benefit album.

Many started predicting the demise of Pandora because of a federal panel ruling ordering them to pay twice the royalties to artists that they already were, which was really an issue affecting the entire Internet radio industry. Even Karaoke performances were in danger. The popular Muxtape was shut down, but an open source program similar in nature was launched as a slap in the face to the recording industry.


After much anticipation and rigmarole, MySpace Music was finally launched, exciting some and disappointing others. Amazon launched their own social music site, and Apple started trying to kill off CDs by offering album art applications.

Echoing reports from earlier in the year about Metallica embracing the Internet, drummer Lars Ulrich came out and said he didn’t care if Metallica’s new album was pirated, presumably to salvage some kind of hip image that he left back in previous decades (if you want my honest opinion, some of the new album could’ve been better with different drum beats, but that’s neither here nor there).

In general, things were looking a little more positive for Internet music in September than in August as Pandora’s situation was looking more hopeful, and even Muxtape was said to be coming back.


In October, Facebook was considering entering into the digital music business and becoming a streaming competitor to iTunes and MySpace. MySpace was improving its Karaoke service, by adding video features.

Limewire, the file-sharing service known for music downloading said that it wanted to go legit, similar to how Napster did. Amazon and iTunes downloads were announced to be coming to YouTube as an eCommerce entity on the popular social video site.

MTV launched a site for….music videos! What a concept from the network that basically introduced the world to music videos in the first place. They censored Weird Al though.


In November, MySpace Music finally found a leader in Courtney Holt. Meebo and Universal partnered up to offer an interactive experience between users and musicians, and a ComScore study showed that Japan prefers Yahoo Music for their online music destination.

MySpace Music debuted Chinese Democracy after a decade and a half of waiting.

MySpace Music


We’re not even half way through December yet, but so far, we have seen a site trying to cash in on "used" MP3s, while social bookmarking site Delicious has added a new way to listen to music.

Digital music sales have been predicted to rise dramatically over the next five years, YouTube has enhanced its audio library through a deal with Rumblefish, and Warner Music Group’s Jim Griffen is pushing the concept of blanket music licensing at the ISP level.

Like I said, there is no doubt plenty more that happened in the online music industry over the past year that is worth talking about, but music isn’t exactly the niche of WebProNews, so we have not covered every nugget. You can surely find plenty more in Hypebot’s archives. I would also like to encourage you to extend the conversation in the comments and talk about other things that happened.

All in all, the year in online music wasn’t exactly as exciting as it was for online video. There was a lot more legal turmoil involved, not that that is surprising. There were some ups and downs, but there were still some cool things to come out of it. What do you think about the year for this industry? Where do you think it is going next year?

The Year in Online Music
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  • http://www.squidoo.com/why-does-my-computer-freeze-up James

    What I have noticed more this year over years past is how easy it is to stream and song you want online. With so many options now you can literally find anything!

    • Chris Crum

      Definitely a lot of options.

  • http://www.afvallentips.jouwpagina.nl snel afvallen

    Too easy to download the music online. They miss alot of money for it.

  • Guest

    Radioheads last CD wasnt called “No Rainbows”…it was “In Rainbows”. Seriously guy.

    • Chris Crum

      That is correct, mental error on my part. The article linked to was titled “No More Rainbows: Radiohead Won’t Repeat Online Stunt” and I probably had the Deadboy & the Elephantmen Song “No Rainbow” on the brain as well. I’ve heard a lot of it as well as the “In Rainbows” album a lot over the past year. My bad. Thanks for correcting.

  • http://www.iyazam.com Hillel

    Hi all
    If we are already talking about music – not to long ago I wrote two articles on how to market music online;

  • http://www.apellmusic.com Apell Music

    Used Mp3s are hilarious – it’s like selling used software!

  • http://car2be.com/ used acura mdx

    Yahoo Music closed the doors on its download store and started pointing customers to Rhapsody, and BskyB partnered with Universal Music Group to launch an online music subscription service. Meanwhile, TrueAnthem emerged to roll music promotion and monetization into one widget.

  • http://www.uycw.co.cc/ Young Web World

    Yes we have lot of option with us

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