Really thoughtful and inspiring interview, Lucas. One thing that jumped out at me in the piece was Jon’s refusal to take on board the idea that mp3 blogs or their aggregators (like Hype Machine) were really adequate inheritors to the webjay legacy in terms of the individual curatorial voices that he so valued from that community. This was surprising to me because from a certain point of view, the current mp3 blog ecosystem is worlds richer, more accessible, more diverse, and more influential than any individual community site like webjay could ever be. There are tons of blogs out there that do a great job curating tracks in a whole variety of styles.
But, as you guys talked more, I think I realized that there’s a further feature to Jon’s desire that the mp3 blogs don’t fulfill: he wants his recommendations to come from a community of peers. Even though technically anyone can create a music blog, there’s still a fundamental difference between people who will put up a shingle and say ‘here I am; come listen to what I have to say about music’ and people who simply put together collections of songs, point and them, and say ‘listen to these; these are worth your time’. The second activity involves a lot less ego and puts the potential listener into much more of a peer relationship with the curator than the very clear power relationship that’s implied by the blogger-reader situation. I can see how someone who is not themselves comfortable writing about music would prefer this second context.
That said, there are a lot of relatively egalitarian playlist-generating sites online nowadays: from Tumblr (which still involves some writing) to Last.fm (which auto-generates your playlist from your actual listening) to Muxtape (which allows you build your own 12 song playlist and publish it in a very clean interface on a single web page). What are all these sites missing that make is so that none of them scratch Jon’s itch?
I think the answer is: people. None of those sites really feel alive with the personality of their users and the interrelations between them in the way that webjay did. None of those sites help you find your own audiokatia.