on user unhappiness with the Hype Machine redesign

Greg‘s reaction to the TinySong post:

Lucas, Hype Machine pretty much “manages redirects to third party song hosts”. They don’t have all this fancy “pastable URL” technology, but you could build it on top of their site as Greasemonkey script that mashed them up with TinyURL.

In fact, when Hype Machine relaunched with their current vc-funded site lo these many moons ago (fall ‘07), they had greatly de-emphasized the ability to listen to the music on their own site to the point of making it quite difficult and were focusing solely on the ability to read snippets of blog posts, with listening left to clicking through to the original page. There was such an incredible outcry from their users that, to their credit, they rapidly retreated, restoring much of the listen-on-site functionality that had been the core of the previous Hype Machine (read their blog posts around this moment, here: http://blog.hypem.com/page/4/ and particularly the very striking contrast between: http://blog.hypem.com/2007/10/whats-new-on-the-hype-machine/ and http://blog.hypem.com/2007/10/so-wheres-the-flash-pop-up-player/ and the following posts; just watch them struggle to convince their audience that hypem is about more than just listening to the songs in the face of the obvious rejection of that idea).

The idea that some other more contemporary technology (such as micro-blog linking or taste publishing) can supersede actually listening to music as the core of a successful web-based music technology, an idea that the labels have pushed had via their all-out war on the actual listening technology of all stripes and we web-devs have accepted in the name of peace and practicability, is why their has been no really large scale breakout music site in this era of large scale breakout media sites. On the web, finding stuff means search. And listening means mp3s and flash. There just aren’t that many ways to combine those technologies, and there, apparently, aren’t any that can both withstand labels’ legal pressure and provide a user experience of any large scale value.

VCs need music businesses that can grow to very large size. For scalability you need well known songs. For well known songs you need to commit to high royalties. For high royalties you need to give up on good return on investment.

It’s the cycle that defines the Dead Man’s Gulch of internet music.

5 thoughts on “on user unhappiness with the Hype Machine redesign

  1. “VCs need music businesses that can grow to very large size. For scalability you need well known songs. For well known songs you need to commit to high royalties. For high royalties you need to give up on good return on investment.

    It’s the cycle that defines the Dead Man’s Gulch of internet music.”

    Yup – you got it – sumthins’ gotta give for growth to be realized.

  2. Incredibly well and succinctly summarized, Lucas. In fact, when put that way, the reasoning is so sound that it makes me want to click over and make sure that YouTube is still there! Online video should, by all rights, be dead in that same gulch.

    I thought about it for a minute and I figured out what made the difference. Almost everyone makes videos for non-commercial reasons: to document their kids’ birthdays, to capture their cat doing something goofy, etc. So, they have no problem imagining that a user-generated video site that specializes in giving away video for free could be for mainly non-infringing purposes. They might wonder why anyone would want to watch all those cat videos, but they see the piracy as a sidelight, a nuisance or an unexpected illicit treasure.

    On the contrary, though, when people see music on a site, they assume that it is pirated. Even if they know people in bands who play music for fun and for free at parties or wherever, most people who consume music still assume that anyone who makes music is only willing to part with it for cash. This is the main legacy of the RIAA’s endless battle these last few years: they convinced everyone that all musicians are selfish short-sighted boobs. This is why no one would think twice before enjoying a video of a high school jazz band playing the mario theme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyZscqQQ6qQ&eurl=http://idfdz.tumblr.com/page/2&feature=player_embedded but all seem to radiate an aura of illegality.

  3. So many inaccuracies in Greg’s comment.

    “In fact, when Hype Machine relaunched with their current vc-funded site lo these many moons ago (fall ‘07)”
    We’ve never taken any funding, VC, angel or otherwise. It began out of Anthony’s dorm room and I joined him once the site was making enough to pay the bills.

    “they had greatly de-emphasized the ability to listen to the music on their own site to the point of making it quite difficult”
    As the designer of the new layout I can tell you that this is not true (or at the very least if you think so, then I’ve failed miserably). We redesigned the layout to be more usable and understandable by new visitors. Our challenge (that still continues today) is to get new visitors who end up on our site via Google etc to understand what Hype Machine is about, why it’s unique and not just some MP3 search engine.

    “and were focusing solely on the ability to read snippets of blog posts”
    I added the blog snippets to further promote our “music with context” goal. The beauty of The Hype Machine is that every song that ends up within our system is there because somebody LOVED it so much they posted it and wrote about it on their blog. We didn’t feel that the original version showcased that there was a blog entry (and music lover) behind each and every song, so we added the snippets.

    “with listening left to clicking through to the original page. There was such an incredible outcry from their users that, to their credit, they rapidly retreated, restoring much of the listen-on-site functionality that had been the core of the previous Hype Machine”
    This is simply not true. We’ve never taken out the ability to listen to the music from within The Hype Machine. We removed the pop-up player (that used http://musicplayer.sourceforge.net/ ) because we really didn’t think it was needed after we added in-page playing (we strive for simplicity). The community outcries were because we underestimated how many people wanted to pop-up the player (instead of just listening to it in-page like we usually do). So we ended up designing a version that fit better with our new layout and launched it (which you can see near the top of the left column on the home page http://hypem.com ).

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