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.

music mattering

Fourstones says music is dead:

music as a cultural influence has completely dropped off the radar.

Boomers who lived through the 1960’s and still hold sway in the halls of politics and culture were so heavily influenced by the popular musicians of their day it is impossible for them to conceive (i.e. they live in complete denial) of a world where 99% of teen males are gaming and only a tiny percentage identifies in any culturally significant way to musicians.

I think this is overstating it a little, but the basic point is on the money.

TinySong vs MixTurtle smackdown

TinySong is an interesting and original piece of work.

Like Seeqpod and MixTurtle, it’s a search engine for free-range MP3s. But those apps are designed to lock you in to listening in the context of their own web pages. They won’t even give you song URLs for your search results, even though their own business relies on other people publishing URLs.

What TinySong does is different: it gives you a URL that you can use to share the song with friends. Like TinyURL the URL is a short link pointing to their web site which redirects to a remote web site.

This way of doing things complements and integrates with the rest of the web.

There are already many places to listen to music. Apps like MixTurtle block you out from getting to them. Like a pushy salesman, they grab your attention stream and try to prevent you from leaving. TinySong does the opposite. Like a great salesman it makes itself helpful when you need it, then gets out of the way.

TinySong has only one little thing which is special about it, and it invests all its energy there.

TinySong interoperates easily with the rest of the web because it uses the universal API: the URL. You can almost never use Open Social to interface your app with social networks. You can almost always paste in a link.

But TinySong doesn’t work on the level of MP3 links. It works with web pages that expose the media in whatever format they want to, whether as a streaming ASF, the Ogg applet on Wikipedia, or a Flash player. The media file is on a lower level than the user is thinking about. Maybe the user will want to download, but that’s not what TinySong is for. It is for getting a shareable reference to a song, so you can illustrate your comments with listenables.

As a result, TinySong will be a very hard target for legal pressure. Apps like MixTurtle can be forced to incur endless legal bills and have real risk to their investors of getting blown out of the water with a big judgement. TinySong is too light and discrete for that. Not only doesn’t it host the song, it doesn’t host the link or do playback. All it does is give the user a pasteable link.This is an innovative legal angle.

The big downside is that it seems to only index one source right now — a thing called GrooveShark. That’s a big limitation, but I’m assuming it’s temporary.

See also: Crenk.com on MixTurtle.

30 percent of squat still jack

The iTunes music store is dropping the one-price model; Peter Kafka says that the tiers will be $0.79, $0.99 and $1.29 per track.

Given how singles-driven the pay-per-download business has turned out to be, I imagine that the difference between $1 and $1.29 is well within the price elasticity. If users are only choosing to pay for hit singles, why not do this? There are orders of magnitude more friction in a pay-per-download model than in an ad-sponsored model or in filesharing; the thirty cents is only a small increase in friction. People hate whipping out their credit card, but once they’ve gone that far thirty cents is not something that makes a difference.

The problem is that it’s a fixed limit on revenue growth. Even if it grows revenues by a straight 30%, that doesn’t compensate for the loss of CD revenues. Right now pay-per-download units are at about 1/5-1/4 of CD units. Price increases would grow revenues by 30% of that 1/4, which is not a lot of money, and once that growth was achieved it would stop.

Y’know what I’d like to see? Drastic decreases in the price of albums. Have singles prices high and album prices low. $1.30 for the single, $4 for an album. If buyers took the bait, revenue growth would nullify the 3/4 drop in unit sales from the CD business.

P.S. The permalink to this blog entry is broken. That’s a bug in WordPress. If you put a % sign in an entry title, it will try to put that into the URL untouched, and that of course conflicts with normal URL escaping rules.