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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Subsidizing Public Music Purchases: Freegal and Libraries

According to BusinessWire on, Library Ideas, LLC, “a new media company focused on Public Libraries,” announced in early May that it would “provide its network of Public Library websites in the United States with access to songs” from Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog.¹   This music service, entitled Freegal, enables patrons—using their library card IDs—to download music for free from their library’s website.

In a Library Journal article, Norman Oder explains that “libraries must pre-pay for a minimum number of downloads from Freegal, and each library user will be limited to, at most, 20 downloads per week. Libraries that see a spike in use can limit the number of system-wide downloads in a week or month to ensure wider access, and library card holders can also reserve downloads.”²  In an effort to allow files to work across multiple platforms, Freegal boasts no Digital Rights Management (DRM) policies and delivers content as MP3 files.

While initially Freegal may seem like a worthwhile venture, the service does have its drawbacks:
  • Freegal charges libraries per download and requires libraries to pre-pay for a minimum amount of downloads, thus subsidizing libraries’ music and eliminating any sort of permanent collection.
    • Over time and especially for popular artists, libraries will end up paying significantly more for Freegal downloads than the initial cost of buying albums on CD.  Additionally, libraries own the content they purchase on CD and can house that content within their collections.  There’s nothing to own with Freegal.
  • Because the service simply uses libraries’ websites as interfaces for content download and not content collection or hosting, Freegal forces libraries to become the middleman in what should be their own system—and music collection. 
  • Freegal leaves it up to the libraries to determine any sort of rights management.  Therefore, if libraries aren’t savvy about their patron downloads, they could essentially give music away for permanent storage and use on their patrons’ hard drives.  Thus, libraries become mechanisms for free music rather than public sources for lending.
Earlier this year, we posted a blog story on CD albums sales vs. digital album sales based on data culled from Nielsen SoundScan; (check out our blog story Did You Know?  In 2009, Compact Discs accounted for 78.9% of all albums sold).  We noted that CDs accounted for 78.9% of all albums sold, while digital albums only made up 20.4% of sales in 2009, meaning that, by and large, patrons still prefer CDs.  Additionally, we discussed how CD audio tracks are better in quality compared to MP3 and AAC downloads.  This blog discussion from February only amplifies the details elucidated above about Freegal.

While there’s no denying that digital music might be the way of the future, one must wonder: Is Freegal a sustainable service for libraries to consider?  With Freegal, instead of paying for a product once and circulating it 1000 times, the library must regulate downloads and renew monetary commitments when the pre-pay runs out.  Essentially, Freegal forces libraries to subsidize their patrons' music collections.   

What are your thoughts on pay-per-download services like Freegal and digital content?  What issues have you or patrons encountered with DRM and usability?  Post your views here as comments.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Street Dates Move Up for Eminem, Miley Cyrus, and Others

Sony, EMI, and Universal Music have bumped up the release dates for their titles originally slated for a June 22nd release. These titles will now street on June 21st.

Among the titles hitting the shelves on this date is Eminem’s follow up to last year’s Relapse—the highly anticipated Recovery (UMM394527C for Parental Advisory/UMM394510C for Edited). Demand for this title has been through the roof, so an early release date comes as good news to fans and libraries alike.

Eminem will share the spotlight on June 21st with Miley Cyrus’s new album Can’t Be Tamed (UMM145446C). Critics claim that Miley displays a new maturity on this, her second full-length release, so eager listeners will surely be anxious to get their hands on this title.

Also scheduled for release on the 21st are Macy Gray’s first album effort since 2007, The Sellout (UMM320093C), Ozzy Osbourne’s Scream (CMJ611326C), and The Roots’ oft-delayed How I Got Over (UMM094601C for Parental Advisory/UMM094632C for Edited).

If you have already received your copies of any of these releases, you can display them starting on Monday, June 21, 2010 instead of waiting until Tuesday.  Please post any questions you have here as comments, or call Customer Service at 1.800.875.2785.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Promote Your Audiovisual Collection with Midwest Tape Posters

Is your library looking for a way to liven its shelves while promoting its audiovisual collection? Midwest Tape has what your library needs– special edition posters.

Created in-house, the free posters feature original and relevant artwork for audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs. We create three new, fun, and attractive designs featuring cohesive themes each month. From seasonal and holiday posters to those centered on genres and trivia questions, libraries have a plethora of designs to choose from.

 A holiday CD poster from December.

 A mystery genre DVD poster from November. 

 A trivia audiobook poster from March.

Pick your favorites, or download a zip file of all the posters currently available. You can find this month’s posters, along with an archive of previous months, on the right sidebar under the free resources tab on the Midwest Tape homepage.

Click image to enlarge.

Here you will be able to view the most recent pieces as well as artwork from months prior.

Click image to enlarge. 

You can print the 8 ½” x 11” posters, formatted as PDFs, from the Midwest Tape homepage or save and use them as wallpaper or screensavers on your libraries’ computer. Make sure to check back often, as well, because we upload three new posters each month.

How has your library taken advantage of our special edition posters? Have you noticed an increase in patron awareness and circulation?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Avatar, Wal-Mart Tackle Blu-ray

Once again, Avatar has made history.

The mega-blockbuster shattered the first-day Blu-ray sales record by selling 1.2 million copies on April 22 and became the number-one bestselling Blu-ray title just two days later.¹ Both records were previously held by The Dark Knight, which sold 600,000 copies its first day and 2.8 million copies since its release. As of now, Avatar has sold more than 6.2 million Blu-rays, ² making up roughly 22% of the entire Blu-ray market.³

Good News, Bad News
On the back of Avatar’s astounding success, Blu-ray’s market share grew to 13%, up 1% from last month. However, global Blu-ray sales are down 20% compared to last year, which is disheartening until you look at DVD sales, down 35%.⁴ It would seem that, until the economy rebounds, consumers will continue to fulfill their entertainment needs through other mediums, such as libraries.

Wal-Mart to the Rescue
Even with the discouraging numbers, Blu-ray is poised to steadily increase its market share. Earlier in May, Wal-Mart announced that it will bring back its $78 Magnavox Blu-ray player, which is the cheapest price on any model across North America. Although there is no word on when it will be available to consumers, Wal-Mart’s decision to sell the affordable player can only help the Blu-ray market. The Arkansas-based department store chain will also boast a number of internet-enabled Blu-ray players and televisions that will allow consumers to get the most out of their Blu-rays’ special features. ⁵

What Does This Mean for Libraries?
With Wal-Mart offering cost-effective Blu-ray players and films such as Avatar providing premier viewing experiences, patron demand for Blu-ray titles, will continue to grow.

Have you noticed any trends with Blu-ray in your library? Has patron demand increased with recent, heavy-hitting Blu-ray releases like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland? Share your thoughts below.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Midwest Tape Presents a Free Webinar on Empowering Selectors and Easing Acquisitions

On Tuesday, June 8, Inside Sales Representative Courtney Wolfe will lead a free webinar on empowering selectors and easing acquisitions. The webinar runs in the afternoon from 1:30 to 2:30 EST, and you can register for the webinar by following this link.

Below is a brief description of this webinar:

Empower Selectors, Ease Acquisitions June 8, 2010 1:30–2:30 EST

Midwest Tape understands that library acquisition responsibilities and workloads are immense. Therefore, on Tuesday, June 8th, we will host an impactful webinar that focuses exclusively on training selectors to share some of the duties. In this free session, we will review developing collections and building carts. We will also provide an overview on the customized features our website offers that allow for a more streamlined, centralized acquisition workflow, such as branch and fund set up and distribution.