Music Technology

Looking For New, Innovative Products ?

Amazon has decided to showcase new, innovative and interesting products on its site.

Amazon Launchpad features tech accessories and gadgets. It also features tools, products for the home & kitchen and products for pets.

The Canadian version of the site has significantly less product compared to its American counterpart but I suspect this lack of product is just temporary.

Canadian Amazon Prime subscribers should also note that Amazon Prime Video may be made available to Canadians shortly.

This service offers free television episodes and films to Amazon Prime subscribers, who can also rent and purchase films they can download or stream. Click here to see what the American service offers.

Bell & Apple Team Up

Bell and Apple have partnered to offer their television and app services to their customers.

Bell Fibe TV subscribers who have iPhones and iPads had been able to view 450 channels and control their television receiver from an app since October 2013. But now Apple TV users who have a fourth generation device can view live channels and on demand programming from Bell Fibe TV.

Basically a person can now use their Apple TV as an additional Bell Fibe TV receiver, simply by downloading the appropriate app on their device. But it should be noted that an unlimited internet usage package is required to so because the content will be streamed off the internet, and not through your Bell Fibe receiver/PVR.

I suspect Rogers, Shaw and Videotron will eventually offer similar services shortly because they already offer apps to iOS and android users. And some individual television channels are already available on Apple TV.

No to Internet Tax !

Apparently Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is considering an Internet Tax to fund Canadian content, according to University of Ottawa professor Micheal Geist. And unfortunately for Canadians this tax may make internet access more expensive.

There are currently two taxes being considered ; One on content providers like Netflix and iTunes and another general sales tax on internet access. And although the previous tax may sound better than the latter, one has to wonder if all music, television programs and films purchased or rented online would be subjected to this tax, including those that are made available through the internet television providers.

SiriusXM subscribers are already subject to taxes and a “Music Royalty and Regulatory Fee of 14.2%”. But would the service also be subjected to this additional tax ? Will Apple Music subscribers need to pay for this additional tax ?

We currently pay nothing to listen to radio and to watch television offline. We also already pay taxes on compact disc, DVD and blu-ray purchases, which would not be subject to this new tax. It therefore makes no sense to charge people more taxes for the same content, especially when it involves the streaming of purchases matched or uploaded to a Cloud service.

Why does the government not fund Canadian Content by taxing Canadian broadcasters that run adverts online, when they stream foreign content ?

I’m sure Rogers and Bell would likely oppose this because they’d likely rather see the foreign services taxed instead. But the foreign services have no legal obligation to collect these taxes and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement would disallow this requirement, if passed.

We also currently pay taxes on our internet provider subscription fees so any additional tax would simply make it unaffordable for many Canadians.

Canadians spent on average $203 per month on communication services in 2014, according to a CRTC Report released in 2015, an increase of approximately 6% from 2013 ($11.92). And according to CBC News, there was a 10% increase on wireless and internet services specifically from 2013.

To dissuade use of foreign services like Netflix and iTunes, Canadians are also already subject to data caps and the proposed tax would simply make the unlimited internet plans less affordable.

Many Canadians also still pay a “Digital Services Fee” on their cable, satellite and television subscriptions, a fee that cannot be justified now that an analog service has been fazed out.

Could the government not demand this fee be replaced with a Canadian Content Improvement Fund fee instead ? Or will this obsolete fee be buried like that of Bell’s $2.80 Touch-Tone fee, which netted Bell $80 Million in 2013 according to CBC News ?

At the moment Bell is claiming the Digital Service Fee is collected to improve their services. But isn’t that what their investors are paying for ? Why their customers are being asked to pay more per month for television ?

Prior to September 2014, cable and satellite television subscribers in Canada paid a monthly 1.5% fee to the Local Programming Improvement Fund, which netted $106 million in 2011 for television stations in markets smaller than a million. And although this fee was discontinued, these subscribers barely noticed because they were asked to pay more for their television subscriptions shortly after.

The average monthly rate for television services paid by Canadians climbed from $65.25 in 2014 to $66.08 in 2015, according to CBC News ; A difference of 83 cents per month when the average monthly rate for Canadians for the Local Programming Improvement Fund was 50 cents. And with the mandated “skinny package” changes some have seen their monthly rates rise significantly since the spring of 2016.

I believe it makes more sense to apply a Canadian Content fee of a dollar or two to the sale of television antennas, digital converter boxes, digital television receivers/set top boxes, satellite/internet radio receivers and streaming media players in Canada, although some members of the public would likely not enjoy the prospect of paying it in addition to a Provincial environmental handling fee and having both fees taxed.

Perhaps a monthly fee of 1.5% on unlimited internet packages or bundled packages over $150/month would be the path of least resistance because it would likely be negligible to the subscribers of these specific bundles or packages.

Rogers & Netflix

Rogers has decided to extend their Netflix offers to their existing Ignite subscribers, in lieu of the Shomi subscription that was included in some of their packages.

The offer, which will include a six month subscription to the Netflix Standard Plan, will be made available November 30th, 2016. And current members of Netflix will also be able to obtain a credit for this membership.

Unfortunately data caps will be an issue to some Ignite subscribers, who will need to limit their viewing to a select number of concerts, music documentaries and films in standard definition to avoid a data overage fee of $1.50/GB.

Existing Ignite users with unlimited usage plans will be able to view films in high definition but at about 4 GB each these films can burn through a 100 GB or 200 GM monthly usage limit quite quickly. And although newer Ignite subscribers have 125 GB and 250 GB monthly usage limits, they will also need to keep an eye on the amount of films, etc they view to avoid the data overage fees.

This of course depends on a person’s surfing habits. For example, i’m not a gamer, I watch television broadcasts on cable/PVR and I already own my favourite films on DVD and Blu-ray so i’m not expecting to stream a significant amount of content off Netflix. But even I am considering an upgrade to an unlimited usage plan because i’m a regular Youtube and Facebook user.

The success of this partnership will also depend on Netflix Canada’s content, that they have been promising to extend.

I haven’t been a Netflix Canada member for months so I don’t know if they’ve had some improvements. But i’m going to give them a chance for those six months.

Fairness Rocks

So, have you guys heard of an independent film called “This Is Spinal Tap” ?

I guess you haven’t heard of this film because according to French media company StudioCanal it allegedly only made US$98 dollars in soundtrack and US$81 in general merchandise sales since it was released 34 years ago.

Yes, the Vivendi subsidiary allegedly stated the vinyl, cassette, compact disc, VHS, laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray sales were that low. A rather interesting claim seeing that I managed to purchase Spinal Tap recordings and merchandise over the past few years, with little to no effort.

Seriously, this is a critically acclaimed film that has had a cult following since it premiered in theatres in March 1984. The quoted figures can’t be right so what happened ?

A lawsuit has just been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by actor, writer and composer Harry Shearer alleging StudioCanal had “engaged in anti-competitive and unfair business practices, as well as fraudulent accounting, directly related to its management of the cult-classic film, This Is Spinal Tap.”

Harry Shearer co-created Spinal Tap with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean in 1978, co-wrote the film’s soundtrack and portrayed the cucumber packing bass player Derek Smalls in the film itself :

“Almost 40 years ago, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner and I created the somewhat legendary band Spinal Tap,” said Shearer. “We thought there was something real and really funny about the characters, and between that inception and the theatrical release of This Is Spinal Tap in 1984, we poured ourselves into nurturing and perfecting the paean to rock loudness that has entertained so many people, even today. But despite the widespread success of the film and its music, we’ve fallen victim to the same sort of fuzzy and falsified entertainment industry accounting schemes that have bedevilled so many other creators. In this instance, the fraud and negligence were just too egregious to ignore. Also, this time, it was personal.” – Press Release 10/2016

As a fan I had hoped that the creators of Spinal Tap had been properly compensated, ensuring the possibility of more sequels. But it as pretty much become the norm in the entertainment industry for creators to get crumbs for their work, making fans like yours truly wonder where content will come from in the future.

Yes, people will continue to write screenplays and compose music but the channels that most fan use to access material are controlled by the major players. And it appears that to have one’s material distributed one must get naked in a desert and hope the vultures won’t come in for a snack.

So what’s a fan to do ?

I, for one, had previously decided to wait for a blu-ray release that included the “Break Like A Wind” music videos, being quite content with the special edition DVD I had purchased years back. And i’m hoping that this will all work out so I will have the opportunity to complete my collection. But for now i’ve decided to only link the official case website, instead of posting links encouraging the purchase of the Spinal Tap film and soundtracks.

I support fair compensation for content creators, whether it is for music or for film, and will actively discuss and promote campaigns for both. I encourage fans to do so as well through their social media accounts.

Apple & Microsoft Security and Glitch Fixes

It’s a long weekend so perhaps you should consider updating your operating systems to get rid of some nasty security issues and glitches ?

Apple had noticed a security issue for their El Capitain, Yosemite, Safari and iOS software so they’ve issued updates for their computers, tables and iPhones.

Microsoft’s Anniversary version of Windows 10 operating system had freezing issues so they also issued updates this weekend.

Have a safe weekend !

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