J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on the Week's Music Technology News
Issue No. 26
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
++ FEATURE: Interview with Kevin Meyerson of Rainbow Partners, Part 1
++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Pressplay CEO to Leave Company
- Proposed Law Would Limit Copying Rights
- Thomas Dolby to Teach Ringtone Creation Seminars
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++ FEATURE: Interview with Kevin Meyerson of Rainbow Partners, Part 1
Over the next several weeks, we're planning to run a collection of
two-part features on interesting companies working in music technology
and digital audio, both inside and outside Japan. We'll begin by
introducing Tokyo-based Rainbow Partners, which handles licensing in
Japan for a wide variety of digital audio products and technologies,
including Gracenote's CDDB music recognition service. Recall that a
few weeks ago, we covered Gracenote's acquisition of Cantometrix and
their waveform recognition technology. This week, in the first of a
two-part feature, we'll provide excerpts from an interview with Kevin
Meyerson, president of Rainbow Partners.
MMW: How did Rainbow Partners get its start?
Meyerson: Well, before Rainbow Partners, I was running Rainbow Japan,
which has been around since 1991. We began doing Web development in
'94 and some of our first clients were record companies. We were doing
a lot of music-related sites -- Sony Music Entertainment, BMG Japan,
J-Wave and a number of artist sites. Through the course of that work,
I was introduced to Ty Roberts (one of the CDDB creators), who told me
that eventually Gracenote and CDDB were going to come to Japan and
asked if we could help them out. He wanted us to become their sales
office in Japan and represent them over here. Because Rainbow Japan
was a Web and digital media production company -- a very different
type of business from what a licensing company does -- I felt that we
needed to form a new company to handle the licensing business. I
talked to my board and we formed Rainbow Partners in June 2000 with
the aim of bringing digital audio products to Japan and making them
successful. We decided to focus intially on Gracenote, and that
comprises the main part of our business.
MMW: What exactly is CDDB?
Meyerson: A lot of people think that CDDB is a database -- it's not.
It is music recognition technology and the ability to deliver metadata
related to what's being played. And you can expand upon that concept
by delivering all kinds of content to the POP, or point-of-play. The
most basic thing is title and artist, so that your MD player or car
navigation system doesn't say "track 1, track 2," it says "Beatles --
Let It Be." Well, taking that a step further, if you're able to
network the device and have a large hard disk, you can have stuff like
a biography or discography of the Beatles. Another step further and
you have chart information -- when the Beatles charted Let It Be,
what else was on the charts at that time or whatever. And you can do
all kinds of things with related content -- put a jacket photo in
there and make a fuller, richer multimedia experience.
MMW: What kind of content are you providing?
Meyerson: Right now it's just title and artist. The first content
we used is from our partner company AIM, which has a database of
Japanese pronunciation data that allows things like phonetic searches
of Japanese playlists or libraries -- even voice recognition-based
searches of Japanese data. This database was created by users too, but
it was checked for typos and other errors. They started building it in
'96, and released a player application in '97. So you had all these
people using AIM's freeware and shareware and they would upload
artist and title info just like with CDDB and they created a really
cool little database for Japanese information. It's a much smaller
data set than CDDB, but the data was checked by them before it went
in. It now has over 40,000 Japanese tracks from Japanese artists. In
addition to AIM, we also have content from Oricon and Ongaku
Shuppansha, and have just signed a deal with a company called
Plantech, which will provide chart data based on radio and TV airplay.
MMW: When will we see the richer content you're describing?
Meyerson: Expect next year to start seeing the first tidbit of
interesting new content being delivered. If you chart it on a graph,
typically what you'll see -- and this should be familiar to anyone
who's done multimedia -- is a chart where you go from narrowband to
broadband then from non-networked to networked. Initially in 2001-2,
we were dealing with narrowband, non-networked devices, so you have to
deal with a lot of locally held content. And that allows for just
title and artist. As we go forward in 2003-4, we're going to see
devices which are connected and that have fairly good bandwith, so
you'll get heavier, richer content -- things like jacket covers,
online biographies and streaming sytems.
MMW: Who are the major Japanese licensees of CDDB?
Meyerson: Current licensees include Pioneer, Matsushita,
Sharp, Sanyo, Kenwood and a few others I can't name. I think that
we've heavily driven Gracenote to license to the consumer electronics
market. The world's first embedded CDDB device was the Pioneer Cyber
Navi car navigation system. Although I can't give sales figures, I can
say that in terms of dollar or yen sales, it was the number one
selling car navigation system last year. And this year, hard
drive-based navigation systems have been announced by Alpine, Clarion,
Kenwood, Matsushita and Fujitsu. I think its safe to say that next
year, every single manufacturer will have an HD-based solution with
music functionality similar to that in the Pioneer system.
Next week: Other digital audio technologies, the Cantometrix
acquisition and Octive.
-- Steve Myers
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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)
** Pressplay CEO to Leave Company
In Brief: Pressplay announced last week that CEO Andy Schuon is
leaving the company after 13 months and will be replaced by the
company's COO, Michael Bebel. The Pressplay music subscription service
is backed by Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group.
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** Proposed Law Would Limit Copying Rights
In Brief: CNET News reported last week that legislators are getting
ready to propose a bill that would considerably cut the legal extent
to which Americans can copy music and video. Under the current law, US
citizens can legally record TV or radio programs and the recordings
may be sold or given to others. The proposed law would make this
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** Thomas Dolby to Teach Ringtone Creation Seminars
In Brief: Back in March, I attended and wrote about a ringtone
creation seminar that was presented in Tokyo. In August, Thomas Dolby,
the founder of Beatnik, will teach all-day seminars in London and
Helsinki covering special composing techniques for some of the new
SUBSCRIBERS: 836 as of July 17, 2002
Written by: Steve Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies,
which specializes in the development of music-related
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