piers & bob on playlists

gurdonark on playlists:

so much of music corporate culture depends on the water-cooler-sharing experience of mobs of buyers. what if music were shared one track at a time, among small groups, even in little parlor settings?

i personally never want to listen to anyone’s playlist, but i love to get a single song to hear.

I love browsing my friends’ collections, and I always associate my discoveries with the people who introduced me to them. It makes the music more flavorful.

It also reflects back on the friendship. “Do I like this person’s taste?” is a proxy for “Do I like this person?”

I haven’t really enjoyed people’s playlists since the Webjay days, though. Since then my interest has been more in Audioscrobbler-style voyeurism.

Piers sez:

When I was first involved in campus radio years ago, I was annoyed that the station supplied a playlist because this seemed “corporate” – but then I realized that the playlist was maintained by a community whose concern was to make sure that artists meeting the station’s mandate didn’t get overlooked.

Again, this was process, not product.

IMHO, publishing a “playlist” as an act of canonization is MUCH more important than as an act of “sharing” – I think there is something to be lost in conflating the two ideas.

In that sense the playlist is less about expression and more about data. It says “here are the items in the set.” The set is a tribal thing. Belonging to the set means that you are a member of the tribe.

a couple good shared playlists

In the music blog Aurgasm, the songs in the posts play one after another. Play one and when it’s over the next will start. It’s a blog but it’s also a playlist.

Also, it’s good. It’s just plainly obviously not lame.

And then there’s this Robert Radish playlist about rock songs inspired by Alice in Wonderland. It has an idea behind it. It has artwork. It has a ton of explanatory text. It has a recognizable human presence. It has a social existence in the form of comments.

It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s pretty cool in its own way. The page is full of color and life and it’s fun to think about all those songs being influenced by Alice in Wonderland.

Jeremy Schlossberg is a pretty decent writer. Here’s a piece he did ragging on shared playlists. It’s mainly self indulgent sport typing but towards the end he has some thought provoking words.

The Orchard

Check out
this snippet of a Techcrunch story on The Orchard going private:

The Orchard has yet to file an annual report for last year, but for the first nine months of 2009,it has lost $17.5 million on revenues of $45.5 million.

The Orchard specializes in digital distribution. The fact that it cannot make any money is yet another nail in the coffin of the music industry. Perhaps under private ownership, it can transition to a different business model.

I like this because it encapsulates the journalistic narrative on the music industry perfectly: yet another nail in the coffin of the music industry. Pretty much any story on music is shaped around that narrative, regardless of what the story is and regardless of the truth of the narrative.

In many ways (instruments, publishing, licensing) the music industry is doing better than ever. It is only the record industry that’s dying, just like the wax cylinder industry before it and the mass market for sheet music. _Recordings_ as a whole continue to drive a lot of transactions for third party products like jeans, cars and liquor, so there will continue to be money made. Managing recordings continues to be a hassle for consumers, and the business of making their problems go away isn’t becoming obsolete.

Journalists write whatever attracts readers. Readers love the narrative that the music industry is dying. That doesn’t mean it’s a true story, it just means that it’s dramatic and entertaining.

That also doesn’t mean The Orchard’s valuation isn’t really weak. Licensed distribution products don’t yet do a high volume of transactions — $45 million dollars is pretty lame considering how much music they represent. But I don’t know why their costs are so high.

Any thoughts on why The Orchard needed to spend $63 million to earn $46 million in the first nine months of 2009? Why is their business so expensive to run?



Venue.fm assembles a playlist of bands coming to clubs in your area, then correlates each play with concert info. The net effect is to let you use your ears to browse the concert listings.

Really tight product focus. It does one thing well. You get the concept right away and the software delivers on the premise.

And plainly a good thing for bands.

war on iPr0n

victor on Apple’s war on porn on the iPhone:

I’ve been thinking about how the iPhone is one of the few (only?) media technology deliver systems that did NOT use porn as a catalyst. Porn is tasteless, style-less, demeaning (basically the Church of Apple anti-christ) – but porn is a serious technology innovator. I know I’m missing a bunch of cases but virtual shopping carts/payment systems, video streaming, security, scaling all owe a debt to porn. I guess the Apple brand and the fact that we all, er, need a phone, allowed them to skip over the steep adoption curve that porn enabled in everything from photography, movies, VCRs, cable to the Internet itself but they could end up really, really sorry by voluntarily denying themselves the technology innovations porn could have brought to them.

By the way, those apps they removed from store – porn? really? calling that porn… now THAT’s motherfuckin offensive.

gettin’ married

I am awed and inspired to say that Karen Agresti accepted my proposal of marriage, which involved the songs “Ring of Fire”, “Ring My Bell,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”, a jar of herring, a can of Pringles, a spring, a key ring, an onion and an engagement ring on a plate.

The proposal idea was to do a series of subliminal “ring” hints until she finally couldn’t not get it. She could tell there was something staged going on but I had to go all the way to the “onion rings”, which had the ring itself, for the thing to become clear.

Life is good, I have to admit. Pretty damn good alright.

This kind of post is more of a Facebook thing than a blog thing, given that this blog is about technology and business and not about my personal life. But since it is a personal blog I thought it would be awkward to not say something here.

mog hiring for rad dev

MOG is hiring a senior developer in our Berkeley office to implement our music service on devices like Boxee, Roku, Vudu, Sonos, etc. It’s cutting edge technology, and we need somebody with the experience to go where few have gone before.

Daily activities include:

  • Working with partner(s) technical teams to gain clarity around services, SDKs, and device-side requirements
  • Working with internal teams to extend internal APIs to meet partner device/integration requirements
  • Ability to design core functionalities, libraries and port to end-device configurations

The core profile for this job is coding, but it would be handy if you could do backfill on wireframes and Photoshop work. Light skills in interaction design or graphic design are a plus.

Another bonus would be prior hacking on new teevee systems, just being familiar with the whole genre of applications.

Another bonus is a background in music dev.

Keywords: XML, RoR, Lua, Javascript, VB, ActionScript