portable song IDs and music influencer networks

Mike Love said:

We all agreed that there is the potential to sell a lot more music through influence networks than through radio, but the burden of distribution and copyright infringement currently rests on the recommender or the recommender’s platform.

He proposed separating the recommendation from distribution of the actual song – either by referencing an audio fingerprint or some other unique id (CDDB?). Then each listener can choose a hierarchy of how they would like to find the audio: find the mp3s on the web, last.fm, amazon samples, purchase the songs, etc. This would involve the creation of some standardized XML style format for playlists, and we talked about how Songbird seems like a good open platform for receiving these playlists and then using a diversity of networks to find the audio or at least a sample.

Paul Lamere replied:

We need universal song id and a standard playlist format. The latter already exists. There is a XML playlist format called XSPF (pronounced ‘spiff’) that captures all the information needed for portable playlists. […]
As for SongID, there are many commercial audio fingerprinting systems out there that can derive a unique (or nearly unique) ID just based upon the audio. The problem, however, is that they all cost money to license, and because of that no system has become the standard (defacto or otherwise). The MusicDNS system probably has the best chance, since it is very low cost (essentially free for all but the biggest users), and it ties in with the public domain music metadata being created by the MusicBrainz folk. Still, the problem with a songID system is that unless it is universally used, it is not too useful. Companies like Apple have little incentive to use such a system, since they already own the market.

About portable song IDs, the problem is not so much technical as it is economic. No major content provider has an incentive to use anybody else’s song IDs. Maybe if there was a huge installed base of playlists that used Musicbrainz song IDs or iTunes IDs then it would make sense for Rhapsody to resolve these IDs to their own catalog, but until that point Rhapsody would be unilaterally disarming by allowing a third party to define the namespace.  This market is just getting established, and we’re currently at the point where the major players are competing to own the identifiers.

XSPF tries to address this issue by redefining the concept of portable song identifiers as query strings. For now, anyway, that hasn’t hit a sweet spot in anybody’s business model.