Monthly Archives: April 2009

100% in-page navigation for music sites

I was browsing Masterbeat and noticed that all navigation is in-page, using either Flash or Ajax. There is only one page for the entire site.

The reason as always with music sites is to allow the user to browse without interrupting playback. Not interrupting the music is such a pressing need that I can imagine virtually all music-oriented sites moving to this development paradigm.

Other music sites doing it: Hype Machine, Bandzoogle, Critical Metrics.

mainstreaming electronica

Masterbeat bridges the electronic music gap:

Masterbeat's goals are noble: they hope to bridge the gap between the underground and mainstream dance music audiences by offering accessible electronic music that a large audience can enjoy. Their hope is that if enough mainstream music listeners are introduced to good dance music via Masterbeat's techno remixes of their favorite artists, perhaps they can be brought into the “fold” and learn to get down with the more esoteric electronica music that deserves widespread support. Electronica purists might balk at the prospect of an influx of fans, but we think it can only be good for the music.

(RT @artistshouse)

undermined by regulations designed around past industries

Jay Fienberg on what to do about it:

It is, I think, a similar formula as what needs to apply to other “homegrown” industries. For example, organic health foods, green building materials, hand-made goods (e.g., Etsy). All of those areas have been undermined and/or currently are undermined by regulations designed around past industries.

Altogether, it’s interesting to recognize that the music business is heavily regulated through copyright laws, technology laws like the DMCA, the sanctioning of performance royalty organizations and FCC regulations on broadcasters.

what to do about it

Assume that the internet has music in a mess. What can be done about it?

Step one: identify musicians who are finding ways to thrive in the new conditions.

For example, DJs make recordings to promote their live performances. They earn a living on performances, not recordings, and so are usually at ease with gratis distribution and redistribution of their recordings.

Another example is Jonathan Coulton, who says:

I’m an artist who’s making a very good living, and maybe this will surprise people, but the largest chunk of my income is from selling mp3s (about 40%). Everything is CC licensed and a lot of it is freely available, but people still choose to buy music from me. Touring would be a bigger part of it but I keep the schedule light to spend more time with my family.

In my experience the benefits of the new landscape easily offset whatever devaluation trend is happening, at least in terms of independent artists. I compete with free and come out ahead, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one seeing this kind of result.

Step two: help these musicians grow until gains in their businesses offset losses for other musicians. For example, identify legislation which benefits singing stars at the expense of DJs and nix it.

Step three: there is no step three.

Anyway, if the internet really does have music in a mess then this process is already happening naturally.


Music like water is a flying car.


While I was writing this I was listening to a good song on Jonathan Coulton’s web site: Re: Your Brains (mp3)

merchandising/licensing

With Shelf Space Receding, EMI Eyes Grocery Stores

EMI has announced a couple ventures that will get their artists into your neighborhood grocery and convenient stores, places where few musicians have set up shop before.

No, we’re not looking at more artist-branded Fritos in the snack aisle or small music selections at the check-out as labels have done in the U.K.; EMI is integrating its artists into branded impulse buys like pre-paid debit cards and lotto tickets.

Who knows how much these partnerships will really be worth to EMI, but they’re notable attempts to find revenue streams that are independent of traditional retail spaces, and they seem like relatively straightforward ways to maximize assets that EMI has already invested in. And, of course, they’re yet more examples of recorded music as a new “value-added” item for other, more profitable products.

is it 3.0 yet?

In a blog post by Albert Wenger entitled A Coming Paradigm Shift in (Online) Music?, he asks what spurs “runs” of new ideas in science, and identifies advances in technology as one contributor. When these advances happen “new observations can be made which in some cases don’t fit with the existing scientific paradigm, ultimately shattering that paradigm and replacing it with a new one. During such periods of transition runs of ideas are likely to occur.

Albert then looks at current runs of new ideas in the context of changes in the music industry.

First, there is a new technology: Internet distribution. The vast initial activity is in using this technology within the existing business paradigm, in particular selling music (essentially same as selling physical media) or ad-supported (essentially same as radio). Apart from a few successes (notably Apple with iTunes), most online music startups fall in one of two categories: illegal or unprofitable.

Then, however, there are new experiments that may portend a different paradigm. In music, there are at least three services that take quite new approaches. First, there is FreshHotRadio which provides a super simple and streamlined experience for listening to free music sourced from around the web. By free, I mean music with licenses that are sufficiently permissive to let them be included in FreshHotRadio. Then there is the TheSixtyOne, which is based on user submitted music that gives TheSixtyOne the ability to play the music as it sees fit and again without paying a fee. This allows the TheSixtyOne to overlay game dynamics on the listening experience (e.g., you get reputation points for discovering songs). In both of these cases, a fundamental premise of the old paradigm is discarded: that online distribution must be based on a paid license. There is a third experiment that is discarding a different premise: the RjDj app for the iphone. Here the premise that is discarded is that music is a passive listening experience in which a song is the same each time it is played. Instead, when you run the RjDj app you get “scenes” which play differently each time based on your interaction with them via external sounds, touching and moving the phone.

So let’s characterize a music 3.0 app as one which is neither easy to sue nor hopelessly unprofitable. Calling it “music 3.0” distinguishes it from the the music 2.0 generation that occurred during the web 2.0 phase, with major music 2.0 apps being Last.fm, Webjay, imeem, Project Playlist, Hype Machine, and maybe Myspace.

Is this really a distinct generation? Are we are really on a new round? Is it fair to say that the new generation is building on the last one, so that (e.g.) RjDj is a successor to (e.g.) Hype Machine?

Steve Gravell blows top on one-stop-shop music sites

mokele.co.uk | Blog – I do not need a single destination for my music consumption needs.:

Once a site pushes to become the be all and end all of destinations for music related content consumption and makes that point obvious to me, I’m trusting their site less and less and less and less and less. Even if they’re an aggregator. I don’t go to NME.com, I get linked there because they generally post music news that’s the most important. How do I get there? From being linked on Gigulate.com. How did I get to there? I follow @gigulate on Twitter.com. It’s not one service. It’s a natural progression of channels and my interest.

Right on, brother.

When it comes to music and the internet, people lose their heads and go back to Compuserve-generation thinking.

If some one source of music, like Rhapsody or the iTunes Music Store, is in a situation where they realistically need to provide every bit of music the user might ask for, that’s Compuserve. If you can get one song here and another there, then put them together in a single playlist, that’s the internet.