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App makers get equal billing at music retailers conference

The National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers features a smorgasbord of apps and other technologies at its conference in Los Angeles.

May 10, 2012|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

The new face of music retail isn't a rack at Best Buy or Barry, the record store clerk in the movie "High Fidelity."

It's a small screen on the smartphone, the giant television screen in the living room and the ubiquitous Web browser on laptops and desktops.

The National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers, the 54-year-old group representing music retailers, featured a smorgasbord of apps and other technologies Wednesday at its conference in Los Angeles.

It was the first time app developers were treated with the same deference as buyers from Amoeba Records at NARM's annual shindig, which once was dominated by bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Here's a sampling of the technology companies exhibiting there, and their products.

• is streaming radio, like Pandora, but with music by DJ artists and producers. What's new about it? When DJ artists such as Girl Talk sample songs from other bands into a single track, figuring out the digital royalties can get messy. has built a program that can identify snippets of songs and automatically calculate royalties. For now, the service is free and supported by ads, but a premium pay version with more bells and whistles is on the way.

•Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox Live is an online marketplace for the Xbox 360 video game console. The Xbox Live nerds at Microsoft are focusing on music in the race to become your all-in-one digital entertainment hub. Epitaph Records recently used Xbox Live to stream a new release from the band Pennywise. Word is that the technology giant wants to do more deals like that to beef up its entertainment lineup.

•BandsInTown is an app for Facebook and iPhones that tells users when their favorite bands will be in town on tour.

In surveys by ticketing companies, the No. 1 reason people cite for not attending concerts of bands they like is that they didn't know the band was in town. BandsInTown connects its 3 million users with local concerts by more than 50,000 bands. BandsInTown also has plans to let bands sell ticket "upgrades" at checkout to help boost their total take. That could mean a meal voucher, backstage access or the ability to cut to the front of the line.

•Spotify is an on-demand streaming music service. Outside of the U.S., the Swedish digital music company also sells downloads for individual tracks and albums. While Spotify hasn't flipped the switch for this feature in the U.S., it's widely expected to do so at some point. In the meantime, Spotify has launched a platform that lets other developers build applications on its service. That means companies such as Songkick — which offers a service similar to BandsInTown — can let Spotify users know about upcoming concerts.

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