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Music Media Businesses The Almighty Buck

Sony to Buy Gracenote 146

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the taking-from-the-community dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Sony is buying Gracenote for $260 million. Sony will use Gracenote's online music database in its own digital content and devices, but Gracenote will operate separately and keep its own management. It's an interesting move, because many other entertainment companies and services depend on the Gracenote database, including iTunes, Yahoo, Winamp, and even the onboard stereo system used in some new Cadillacs. Gracenote has been criticized for turning the once-open CDDB project into a 'quagmire of heavy contracts, licensing fees, forced user registration and anti-competition clauses.'"
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Sony to Buy Gracenote

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:24AM (#23170570) Journal

    Gracenote has been criticized for turning the once open CDDB project into a 'quagmire of heavy contracts, licensing fees, forced user registration and anti-competition clauses.'
    No no, you've got it all wrong! Sony's changing all that! I just installed a client that they started hosting that allows me to access the compact disc database. No contract, no licensing, no registration, just had to run a simple file called 'sony-mp3-finder-RIAA-notifying-kernel-rootkit.exe.'

    Seriously, where does all this distrust and hate for Sony come from?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      All the hate and distrust comes from the fact that they have done things like that before. But without the users knowledge. Sure they apologized, but it still shows the mentality of their corporation when things like that get signed off on and put into action. Even if the entire upper management claim plausible denial it still stinks.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        People still buy Sony, even after they do all these things.
        • People still buy Sony, even after they do all these things.
          I don't. The only music I buy online is from Wal-Mart where they sell me unlocked MP3 files and never from Sony or EMI.
          • by Nursie (632944)
            I do, I love sony kit. It's both shiny and capable.

            Vaio laptops are great.
            The PS3 is a fantastic machine. So was the PS2.

            I'd buy a Sony TV but they're damned expensive.

            So sod the ethics. I guess I'm not a music customer though.
        • by mosch (204)
          I specifically avoid Sony on electronics and computers, specifically because of their behavior.

          Pioneer, Yamaha and Apple have all done well by Sony's nonsense. And say what you want about those companies, none of them are even close to Sony levels of dumb and evil.

          I have a PS2, but I'm skipping the PS3 even though I'd love to play the new Gran Turismo.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        Sure they apologized

        So did Kevin Mitnick, but he still went to prison. Why didn't anybody go to prison for XCP [wikipedia.org] (alternate less serious link [uncyclopedia.org])?
        • So did Kevin Mitnick, but he still went to prison. Why didn't anybody go to prison for XCP [wikipedia.org] (alternate less serious link [uncyclopedia.org])?

          Kevin had less gold.
      • by mweather (1089505)
        They, and most other labels have done it before. Sony just got caught because their rootkit broke computers. The autorun DRM schemes used by other companies work (if you don't hold down shift), and thus, are not complained about.
      • by anexkahn (935249)

        All the hate and distrust comes from the fact that they have done things like that before. But without the users knowledge. Sure they apologized, but it still shows the mentality of their corporation when things like that get signed off on and put into action. Even if the entire upper management claim plausible denial it still stinks.
        I think you missed the sarcasm in their post.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by allcar (1111567)
      Show me a technology where they did not try to seek to tie people into their proprietary solution - Betamax, Memory Stick, MiniDisc, UMD, BlueRay, to name just a few.
      • by AndrewNeo (979708)
        To be fair, Blu-Ray isn't all Sony, and isn't 100% proprietary, as it uses Java and other company's technologies. It's not some Sony VM and Sony Video Format.
        • Correct. Blu-ray is a *group*, similar to how DVD/HD DVD is part of a group, not just one company.

          Also:

          Show me ANY company that has not tried to introduce proprietary standards. Wii/Gamecube is owned by Nintendo. Compact Disc is a Philips-owned property; ditto the ubiquitous audio cassette. VHS is owned by JVC/Matsushita. It's rare to find a format that is "public domain" for everybody to use. Nearly all formats are owned by some company.

      • by dakameleon (1126377) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:54AM (#23170928)
        Walkman. Discman. Arguably both Sony's most successful consumer electronics products.
        • by WeblionX (675030)
          You'd think they'd learn something from the success of those...
        • by rvw (755107)

          Walkman. Discman. Arguably both Sony's most successful consumer electronics products.
          You forget Trinitron.
          • by EXMSFT (935404)
            IIRC, Trinitron wasn't a product, it was a tech tradename... Sony TV's featured Trinitron...
            • by jacquesm (154384)
              it wasn't a product per-se, more of an improvement on shadow mask technology for colour tvs using CRTs.
      • by Arivia (783328) <arivia@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @10:32AM (#23171444) Journal
        The PS3 (with the exception of Blu-Ray) is pretty open. It's all Bluetooth/USB (including support for the plug and play standard for keyboards, mice, USB keys, external hard disks, and so on). The ones with MemoryStick slots don't care if you use it or not - you are free to do things that you would do with external storage (backing up game saves, copying media, and copying firmware updates) on USB keys, MemorySticks, SD cards, or whatever, depending upon your fancy. The only case in which it overtly favors something proprietary is that certain features (DVD upscaling, for example) are limited or not available unless you're using the HDMI port for video. However, it doesn't complain if you simply switch out for a HDMI to DVI cable and run audio on RCA cables.

        In fact, it's downright weird to find proprietary things on the PS3 - GHIII's proprietary wireless dongles just make no sense in the context of how the system operates.
      • 3.5" floppy
        CD

        And the PS2 had a Linux distro made for it - by Sony.
      • PS2 DVD player. PS1 CD player. Any Sony TV with a build in VCR.
      • Sony's ebook reader can use SD cards or their Memory Stick.
    • 'sony-mp3-finder-RIAA-notifying-kernel-rootkit.exe.'
      while your at it, download 'sony-mpg-finder-MPAA-notifiying-kernal-rootkit.exe'
    • That is the crime but it's more Gracenote's than Sony's. The CDDB was created by it's users and Gracenote has no right to treat it like an exclusively owned resource. The database itself is everyone's property and the free alternatives, of course, will be easier to use and better kept. Gracenote's new deal with Sony is a low point but one that was entirely predictable when they started acting like they owned the CDDB. Sony should be ashamed of this too unless they turn it back into an unrestricted resou

    • by SeePage87 (923251)
      Yes, but does it run on linux?
    • by MrNemesis (587188)
      The best thing about these new bits of Sony software is that you don't even need to type in your name, DoB, SSN or any of the rest of it - it finds it all out for you! Nonsensical Bullshit Paradigm Shift 2.0 is SO cool!
  • I'm sure this is destined to be yet another rip-roaring success in the area of online music company purchases in the same manner as, errrrm, Napster, errrrr. Hang on a minute and I'll be able to think of one.
  • ... that's the end of that then...
  • freedb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:33AM (#23170672)
    What is this CDDB you speak of? Some crufty, proprietary version of freedb? I'm sorry, how is this relevant again?
    • by Bazman (4849)
      For the same reason that Internet Explorer is a crufty, proprietary version of Firefox :) Try and kill off the free stuff and then charge for what they've got?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah sure, until the current administrators of FreeDB sell out as Ti Kan and Steve Scherf did, and another grubby little company tells lies about it's "open" intentions then locks out the existing users by changing formats and switching to a draconian license.

      If you want to protect something like FreeDB from sell outs you need to

      1) Ensure that the data format and service protocol is wide WIDE open (XML, standard query structures), but the license prohibits switching the service protocol to the same data set
      • by CSMatt (1175471)
        FreeDB is under the GPL. If the license is changed, then someone can fork from the last GPL-licensed version. Thus is unlike CDDB, which only offered the CDDB software under the GPL but not the database itself.
    • I imagine you know this, but it's relevant because of history. CDDB came first and was free. FreeDB only appeared to fill the hole left when CDDB was commercialized. It was exactly the same as if FreeDB were purchased tomorrow and then required a $50/month registration fee.
      • by zjbs14 (549864)
        One difference though. You can go right now and download the GPL2-licensed freedb data to fork the service if you wish.
    • by wattrlz (1162603)
      It's where the nine-out-of-ten people in Sony, Apple, M$, and most of the big name proprietary companies's target demographics get their Freedb functionality.
    • by cparker15 (779546)
      What is this freedb you speak of? Some watered-down version of MusicBrainz? I'm sorry, how is this relevant again? ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hondo77 (324058)

      What is this CDDB you speak of? Some crufty, proprietary version of freedb? I'm sorry, how is this relevant again?
      <realitycheck>It's relevant because most of us are using iTunes.</realitycheck>
      • by CSMatt (1175471)
        What is this iTunes you speak of? Some crufty, proprietary version of Amarok? I'm sorry, how is this relevant again?
    • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @01:38PM (#23173864) Homepage
      Do you mean the version of FreeDB that is missing the spelling errors and the duplicates?
      • by dasunt (249686)

        You forgot the most entertaining part -- genres.

        FreeDB is like having the idiot know-it-all-friend that provides hours of conversation after he's gone.

    • by MarkGriz (520778)

      I'm sorry, how is this relevant again?
      Well, if you didn't *already* despise CDDB/Gracenote, *now* you have a reason to.
      • I was part of the original cddb free database project. Gracenote dropped me an email one day notifying me they had wiped it all off my server, thanking me for helping out the internet, and promising me a gift for my troubles. No gift ever showed up, nor did email queries about the state of things get answered.

        So they made sure I didn't trust them out of the box.
  • I've got a bad feeling about this.
  • Sony's Obsession with Proprietary Formats [slashdot.org] -- "Obsessed with owning proprietary formats, Sony keeps picking fights. It keeps losing. And yet it keeps coming back for more, convinced that all it needs to do is push a bigger stack of chips to the center of the table."

    • by njfuzzy (734116) <ian@nOspAm.ian-x.com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:50AM (#23170888) Homepage
      Losses like BluRay, you mean?
      • by webword (82711)
        I was pointing out that SONY has a certain type of positioning. An attitude. Their posture is to choose 'closed' systems and formats when they can, so they can control.
        • And the problem in that is? It is very simple. For some reason people get in a tizzy about proprietary media but then I sat down and thought about it. Why is it a big deal? The truth is.... it isn't. If you look at a device and it doesn't do what you want it to do, including the way you handle your own media, do not buy it. Second of all their formats are only as successful as their hardware... because that is what they are aiming for. So all this amounts to is people trying to find a reason to hate Sony.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @10:20AM (#23171278)
        Blue-ray's hardly a win, yet. Sure, they beat HD-DVD. Good for them.

        Then prices on Blue-ray shot up (gee, who'd have ever expected that to happen), early adopters have discovered that their expensive players can't play new Blue-ray discs thanks to Sony continuing to muck with the spec, leaving the PS3 the only future-proof Blue-ray player.

        But thanks to Sony purposely crippling the PS3 in order to try and leverage what they viewed as their console monopoly into winning the HD format war, they lost out to Nintendo and Microsoft. Every game release that has a PS3 version and an XBox360 version is better on the XBox360, without fail. Check the reviews.

        As an added bonus to Sony, just when they were starting to get close to actually making money on the PS3, the US economy started to collapse. Since Sony is a Japanese company which is based in yen, the falling US dollar is causing them to lose even more on every US sale than they were before. The US won't be seeing a price cut until the dollar stops its nosedive. The way the US economy is going, Sony may have to actually increase prices.

        They did manage to "win" the Blue-ray war. They won by losing their strength in the console market, and they won just in time to have the US economy collapse so that they can no longer count on sales there.

        To top it all off, the war they "won" wasn't really worth winning. HDTV adoption is picking up, but it's still a trifling fraction of the viewing population. Blue-ray became more expensive. DVD is good enough: Blue-ray won a meaningless war, at a great cost for Sony.

        Blue-ray's victory is meaningless.
        • Geez. I know people love Sony bashing and all that, but does that mean that obvious trolls need to be modded as "insightful". Some comments:
          • Blu-ray prices shooting up --- You can hardly blame Sony for retailers taking advantage of the situation and increasing their profit margins. I suspect the same would have been true if HD-DVD had emerged as the winning format.
          • Incompatible early BD players --- You're talking complete and utter rubbish. Older players can still play newer movies. They will just
        • by rtechie (244489) *

          Every game release that has a PS3 version and an XBox360 version is better on the XBox360, without fail. Check the reviews.

          This simply isn't true. For example, the preferred version of Assassin's Creed is the PS3 version. The big problem is that Blu-Ray is very slow at loading data off the disc (compared to DVD-ROM) and designers have to take that into account, usually by caching data on the hard disc. In theory, this means that PS3 games can actually perform better, but only when they're loading game data off the hard disc.

          The 360's online service is also generally regarded as better than the PS3's, so online-heavy games (lik

      • Nah, more like Beta, CRVdisc, UMD or Minidisc.
        • Beta and Minidisc were used in the professional industry ( the last beta recorder was made in 2002). And explain how umd's are a failur with more than 15 mill PSP's worldwide and growing? Didn't Capcom just sell 2 millions copies of Monster hunter..... on UMD's? I have no Idea what CRVdisc is, I guess that must really be a failure.
          • by wattrlz (1162603)

            Beta and Minidisc were used in the professional industry...
            Remember way back when they were marketed to consumers? That's how they were failures. As far as most non-industry folk are concerned the last beta recorder was made in the mid 80s, the last minidisc was pressed toward the end of the 90s, and the letters, "UMD" stand for Univeristy of MarylanD unless said hypothetical person owns a PSP.
          • >>>"Beta and Minidisc were used in the professional industry"

            False. Well, half-false. I don't know much about minidisc, but I do know the pros did NOT use the Betamax standard. They used the Betacam standard with component video recording that produced a higher-resolution image. (Today the pros use Digital Betacam.)
          • "Beta and Minidisc were used in the professional industry ( the last beta recorder was made in 2002). And explain how umd's are a failur with more than 15 mill PSP's worldwide and growing? Didn't Capcom just sell 2 millions copies of Monster hunter..... on UMD's?"

            Beta is pretty obvious. Ask anyone who owned one who didn't switch to VHS a few years after purchase. Since then you can probably find remaining Beta tapes and players rotting in attics across the world, despite the higher video quality.

            Minidisc co
            • >>>"despite the higher video quality."

              Betamax-II (used by Hollywood for commercial release) was 240 horizontal analog resolution.
              VHS-SP (again, used by Hollywood for their releases) was 240 on standard VHS and 250 on VHS HQ.

              There's no difference in video quality. They are virtually identical.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by R2.0 (532027)
        Yes, Sony finally won one of their format wars. Finally, after years of failing to achieve market dominance, they have a success.

        Now what?

        They have lots of experience making money with consumer electronics that leverage open formats - Walkman, Discman, and the metric assloads of VHS and DVD players they have sold. They have ZERO experience leveraging a market dominant position into profit.

        Their attitude seems to have been "We make X dollars with Y percent of the market. So we will make X*(1/Y) dollars wi
        • >>>"Finally, after years of failing to achieve market dominance, they have a success."

          Incorrect. Sony already achieved success with:

          Betacam (professionals)
          Compact Disc
          3.5" floppy
          DVD (Sony is a founding member of the consortium which developed the format)

          • Incorrect. The CD was mostly Phillips. It was based on the Phillips laserdisc, Phillips contributed the manufacturing process, and the first units were manufactured by Phillips.

            All sony contributed was the (bad) error correction.

            Betacam is just a product line, not a media standard. DVD is another example of a joint effort that sony did not control.
            • >>>"Betacam is just a product line, not a media standard."

              To say Betacam is not a "media standard" is akin to saying VHS is not a media standard (or more accurately: formats). They are both a type of media format, with VHS dominating the consumer world, and Betacam dominating the professional world (almost every show between 1985-2000 is stored on Betacam-format)(example: Star Trek TNG and DS9).

    • How is that relevant in any way, shape or form to the purchase of Gracenote?

      I'm no Sony apologist, but whenever Sony appears here, people point out that Sony always push for proprietary formats. If and when Sony is launching a new consumer product which uses a proprietary format, I can see the validity of raising the formats. However, in this case, the burden of proof is on the people raising it. Gracenote CDDB has an entrenched market position - Sony can't exactly introduce a new proprietary format here.

      Ot
      • by wattrlz (1162603)
        The purchase of Gracenote puts SONY in an excellent position to squeeze online mp3 vendors. They also now have the power to introduce their own, "standard," for which they charge ludicrous licensing fees and kill the CDDB standard. If you look at SONY's past behavior this does seem likely, and even though there are several benign reasons they'd make a move like this one has to consider all the likely options.
    • Wait for it...

      Profit (with fewer lawyers).

      Who can't understand and endorse something the requires fewer lawyers?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder how big the check Sony will be sending me is!
  • Musicbrainz (Score:5, Informative)

    by AceJohnny (253840) <jlargentaye@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @09:57AM (#23170958) Journal
    Use MusicBrainz [musicbrainz.org]. All the cool kids are doing it!

    Seriously. Musicbrainz was created after the CDDB fiasco (and FreeDB had its own share of problems). It operates under a non-profit organization to guarantee its freedom.
    And on that feature bullet-point list, they add an API to recognize what that "Unknown Artist - Unknown Title.mp3" file you have.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by himself (66589)
      So how can I tell iTunes to use it?

            I already have tens of GB of MP3s in iTunes that I burned from CDs myself -- and iTunes automatically looks up the tags in CDDB. I see that I can short-circuit that lookup and manually tag all the files myself via unchecking the "Look up CD names from the Internet?" option in the Advanced pane of the preferences, but is there a tool (e.g., an AppleScript) that'll update my Library from Musicbrainz or FreeDB or whatever?
    • Use MusicBrainz [musicbrainz.org]. All the cool kids are doing it!
      As per The Fine Summary, this isn't as simple as it seems. For instance, all of the multimedia radios in the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep lineup use Gracenote. Harman-Becker are the only ones who can change how the data lookup works. End-users get screwed yet again.

      *Admittedly it's possible Sony won't close off access to Gracenote for other companies.
  • the news announcement of the purchase? Yep, it was the sound of a flushing toilet (American Standard if I heard it right). Why a flushing toilet? Because Sony just flushed another part of the Internet multimedia experience down the shitter. All we can do now is watch it slowly slide into oblivion.

    These days, even though Sony is huge and not all parts or employees are particularly evil, I don't think I'd even use their batteries as a paperweight on my desk.
    • by PRMan (959735)
      I think American Standard should send their lawyers after Sony for using their sound without permission.
    • by Kamineko (851857)
      Because they'd roll away?
  • Anybody know of a good media player, now that I can't use Winamp any more? One that's like XMMS [wikipedia.org] would be my first choice.

    Or better yet, get Winamp to not use Gracenote? [uncyclopedia.org] If it's using Gracenote to get song titles, why won't it use FreeDB? [wikipedia.org]
    • by PlatyPaul (690601)
      Just a guess, but trash these:

      Filenames: Plugins\Gracenote dir: CDDBControlWinamp.dll | CDDBUIWinamp.dll | CddbMusicIDWinamp.dll | CddbWOManagerWinamp.dll | Cddb*.dll (misc libraries).
      Adds support for looking up Artist/Album/Title/etc info for Audio CD's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MadKeithV (102058)
      Can't you just redirect the gracenote CDDB URLs in your hosts file, to the FreeDB ones?
      (See Point 4 here. [freedb.org] )
    • 1) If you *really* want to use Winamp, and assuming Gracenote and FreeDb use the same protocol (I'm not sure about that?), you might be able to trick Winamp into *thinking* that it's using Gracenote, by redirecting DNS queries from Gracenote to FreeDb - e.g hack your hosts file, or setup your own nameserver and hack it to alias the Gracenote URL to to FreeDb.

      2) If that's not possible, there are several open source media players (I'm not sure if they all use freedb or can be configured to, but. . .), includi
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        1) I'm getting senile in my old age, I should have thought of the hosts file

        2) Search engines will give you a list of players, and I'm sure there are hundreds of them at least, but the search engines won't tell you which ones are like XMMS (My favorite, it's on the Linux side of the PC) or which ones suck. Having a few dozen friends (fans? slashdot is weird) give reccomendations is far, far more useful than any search engine.
    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      Songbird may be to "heavy" for you, but it's pretty cool.
  • Did Ti Kan get a stake in Gracenote when they bought CDDB? Hope he made out well on the deal, since he was the genesis for the whole thing.
  • "a 'quagmire of heavy contracts, licensing fees, forced user registration and anti-competition clauses.'"

    Wow, I can see the boner in Sony's pants all the way from here.
  • now that iTunes is reliant on Sony for it's data? Sony will surely extort their way into becoming part of the chain - forcing Apple to use something other than Gracenote.
    • by nerdacus (1161321)
      That would be a retarded thing to do. While Sony has made many blunders in the past, they are not stupid. I cannot imagine that they would lord Gracenote over companies like Apple, lest Sony competitors abandon Gracenote. Keep in mind, Sony invented the CD (with Philips), and the technology is licensed to anyone and everyone. Bluray seems to be working out in a similar way. For their sake, I hope they use Gracenote the same way.
  • ... that Gracenote still exists with FDDB around.

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