Listening: (grabbit the rabbit) (nibbling on) (Mike Relm’s mixes). is a major rewrite of that site. It includes a lot of stellar XSPF work, and Chris Anderson, one of the makers, posted this announcement to the XSPF list:

  An online music player that will create playlists for any web page
that links to music files. You can remember, download, and share the
songs you find.


And an informal api announcement: can now directly output xspf for any web page that links to
mp3s (...I know I wish 95% of browsers could play ogg... and there's
no reason we won't support ogg in the future.)

The API call is designed to be compatible with the standard xspf flash
player (it has not query params, so it can be passed into the
playlist_url param to the xspf_player.swf), and it is super simple to
use. will
output an xspf file of

We can also generate rss and jspf.

So for those of you that want to convert xspf to jspf, you can do it
with a line like this

or for rss, it is like this

One caveat is that this API uses the internal processing, so
the mp3 links returned are all @ and redirect to the original
sources - this is so we can add content resolver features to provide
redundancy among urls. The other idiosyncracy is that if you are
requesting that parse a page it hasn't seen before the first
response will not be xspf. Once the page is parsed, it will be useful.
So if you are using the API to embed a flash player on your blog, it
won't work right away, but once the pump has been primed it should be

The "official" announcement is here:

$.99 is not the market rate for downloads

Some of the major indies are complaining about the per-piece rate they get for sales on eMusic vs sales on iTunes music store (iTMS). Per Reuters:

After factoring in distribution costs and other expenses, some labels receive as little as 12 cents per song in profit, sources say — far less than the 60 cents to 65 cents per track received from iTunes.

These labels are complaining that the market rate for paid downloads is the $1 price at the iTunes Music Store. And this isn’t the only place for the idea that the going rate is $1. The recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board to quadruple the rates paid by webcasters also used the iTMS price as the marker:

The Board concluded that the rapidly escalating rate was justified as it brought the statutory services closer to the interactive services as the advertising market grows over the next few years.

But here’s the problem: people who use the iTunes Music Store don’t use it enough for their purchases there to count. They get their music by ripping CDs and by filesharing. The actual price for these users is not what iTMS charges — they don’t really use iTMS. The actual price is free, because they have opted out of the paid download market completely. If iTMS is setting the market rate, the market rate is $0.

eMusic users, on the other hand, are real customers. They spend three times more on downloads in their first paid month than iTMS customers spend in the lifetime of their device, and they probably own tens or hundreds of times more paid downloads than iTMS customers. iTMS customers spend about $3 per device, which lasts a couple years at least, and own about 3 paid downloads. eMusic users spend at least $10 a month, for which they can have 30 downloads. Over the course of ten months an eMusic subscriber has paid for 1000 times more downloads than most iPod owners will pay for over the lifetime of their device.

It’s true that iTMS supplies the vast majority of paid downloads, but their customers don’t take their product seriously, because $1 is the wrong price. eMusic’s customers, on the other hand, use the service for a large portion of their music acquisition. iTMS’ customers pay far less than $1 for music, because they hardly ever pay for music at all. eMusic’s customers spend at least $10 a month; given that they don’t download their maximum every month this comes out to an average download price a little north of $.50.

The market rate for paid downloads, then, is $.50.

“Recording Industry vs The People” is a good blog

Ty Rogers and Ray Beckerman

I am a compulsive reader of a legal blog called Recording Industry vs The People, which describes itself as a blog devoted to the RIAA’s lawsuits of intimidation brought against ordinary working people. It is about the law as it relates to the Napsterization crisis, mainly in the small scale cases of filesharing lawsuits brought by the RIAA.

I love this blog because of how much I learn about law as it relates to Napsterization. Even though this blog is clearly advocacy, it is more truthful and informative than any other source I know of.

Most of the posts are dry reports on minute developments in one case or another, like this one:

Magistrate Levy has appointed Eli Uncyk, a Manhattan attorney, as guardian ad litem for the defendant Rae J Schwartz, in Elektra v. Schwartz. The appointment was made necessary by conditions arising from Ms. Schwartz’s Multiple Sclerosis.

It’s painfully dry sometimes, but in a way similar to sports scores. You are supposed to be able to place the raw data in the context of some story. The story in this blog is always about a filesharing lawsuit where the specifics of the law are being explored in real time.

I think that the narrative behind this posting is about the limits of who can be considered competent, or maybe its about painting the RIAA member labels as heartless bastards. Ray Beckerman, the blogger, keeps coming back to these posts about guardians being appointed, as part of a general theme of responsibility — what obligations does a person who owns an internet-connected computer have? Should you keep it locked up and tightly controlled? Are you responsible if somebody uses your computer for filesharing?

The reason that this approach to blogging is valuable is that very few court cases related to filesharing have gone all the way through. They get settled out of court because the cost of losing a case could be extreme, and as a result most of what we think we know about the law as it relates to filesharing is no more than a guess. Internet law overall still has a lot of unknown territory, and until case law is established through actual rulings much of the consensus reality on filesharing will be based on bluster and gullibility. In these court cases the reality is being discovered.

Most tech bloggers write regularly about copyright, the RIAA, and Napsterization, but don’t have much to say except that they’re mad as hell. This guy adds light to the conversation as well as heat.

why not peer to peer?

Remember those hypey days of 2000-2001, when peer to peer was going to sweep the world of internet software development? What happened? Why is the current hype *web* 2.0 rather than p2p 2.0? Why is hip software these days written for the browser rather than for client-based P2P? What were P2P’s technical shortcomings that led to the LAMP stack becoming dominant in its place?

The [decentralization] list, which was a home for p2p discussion during the hype bubble, briefly revived from its long deep sleep this week when, as Phil Wolff put it in a blog post titled Skype Journal: The decline of P2P and Decentralisation,

Ecademy’s Julian Bond kicked the decentralization mailing list to life with a post asking about The decline of P2P and Decentralisation.

Phil did a great job summarizing the conversation, so don’t read me, read him.

vlog soundtrackster pile up

Back on 4/20 I posted about a collaborative project I did with Jay Dedman where he did a videoblog and I slacked together a soundtrack for it in a bloggy style. On his own blog entry about it Jay contrasted it with the remix scene:

CC Mixter would be a great place for people to put out requests for collaborations. This goes beyond the idea of a mashup…and starts entering the way that commercial media is created. People with different talents work together to create something none of them could do alone.

Now enough time has gone by for comments to accumulate there. One thread is about resistance to cultural oppression:

I think the boundaries of Fair Use need to be pushed. […] Bring on the stupid copyright battles!

GirlTalk ( is a good example of how someone pushes Fair Use in a smart way.

I appreciate the point that the best solution to copyright extremism can’t just be to withdraw from the world into a perfect ivory tower of all-Creative Commons all the time. Still, we’re hardly at that point. The vast majority of what’s happening in the real world is childish regression — “I’ll do it until I get caught” and then “Fuck you for catching me!” To my mind it’s idiotic to keep doing that, over and over again, year in and year out. Hello, Lab Rat? Quit pushing the button that gives you the electrical shock. Try this button over here, the one that requires you to be an adult but that also accomplishes something. Isn’t it kind of nice to be able to demand respect?

Another thread — more interesting if less volatile — is about the conversational interaction between music and video in a soundtrack:

new track – completely different feel.It’s funny because I was playing around with this video last week. …
I’ve been thinking about videos for my wife Kate’s new album …
So just as a little experiment for myself, i ran about five of her tracks with it. Amazingly different experiences, even though the tracks themselves are not *wildly* different. There was one that really worked (although it was 30 seconds too long).

And that’s exactly the point of the exercise. This whole situation started when Jay released the same videoblog with different music, music that he didn’t have the rights to use. There was a flood of comments on the copyright situation, then this third party tried out five different alternate pieces of music, then Jay himself changed the music over. And each one of these steps was about conversational interactions.

When we were creating CC Mixter, the idea was to unleash an art form that needed permissive licensing to survive. The original interaction design was in the form of threaded comments — Bob’s mix responding to Ellen’s Mix of Sally’s original. Similarly, my music was a response to Jay’s video, and if somebody remixed my audio the thread would be one deeper.

This whole vlog+blog-musician business is no different. It’s culture happening in real time. The video and the music are part of a back and forth flow of works, and the flow is a primary component of the art.

time for Internet Radio 2.0

It’s time for Internet Radio 2.0:

Independent and forward-thinking artists have an enormous opportunity now to get in front of listeners. Online stations have a chance to become next generation leaders, to provide rich new music, and most importantly to engage the listeners with them in their battle to find new sources of content.

Please, people, stand up and do the right thing, MOVE ON.

Sure. It’s a great opportunity for Creative Commons music — which sometimes allows on-demand redistribution — and for URL playlisting — which puts together a continuous listening experience without involving the webcasting regulations.

(link via Mike Dierken)

save internet radio

I’m in pre-mourning for net radio. I’ve seen the financial numbers on the 2006-2010 rates for webcasters and they don’t work. Appeals are exhausted now, and absent a deus ex machina like Congress whipping up emergency legislation in a jiffy — legislation which powerful industries oppose — there is about to be mass extinction of webcasters.

Things are pretty hosed when something as wonderful as Soma FM disappears in a flash because an obscure panel of judges who work for the library comes down off the mountain with a crazy whole-hog rewrite of the ground rules for an entire industry.

Don’t fool yourself — the only internet radio which will survive will be so thickly encrusted with ads that it makes Times Square look like a monastery, and any webcaster without the sales muscle to get top-dollar rates isn’t even going to have the option to sleaze up like that.

And forget really high-quality playlists generated just for you via machine learning algorithms fed a steady diet of raw information about your listening habits — the new rules set a $500 per station minimum. You would need to generate at least $500 a year for your webcaster just to break even on the up-front costs. From now on every unique set of tastes costs extra, just like with over the air broadcasting. You’ll get pre-programmed stations and be grateful.

So fucking save net radio, goddammit.

I know this comes off as overwrought, but I feel really sad about this.

Pointers to related stuff:

Radio and Internet Newsletter has a great Fisking related to the bill.

Wind In The Wire explains the situation.

Broadcast Law Blog goes over the procedural background, including this nugget:

The Board concluded that the rapidly escalating rate was justified as it brought the statutory services closer to the interactive services as the advertising market grows over the next few years.

wifi devices don’t fear the iphone

Jon Healy has a couple pieces up about the Sansa Connect, one on his weblog

I look at what it means to add real WiFi capability (as opposed to what Microsoft put in its Zune players) to a digital audio player, and how the Connect may signal the beginning of the post-iPod era.

— and a longer piece in the LA Times:

SanDisk ranks a distant number two to Apple in digital music player sales, accounting for less than 10% of the market compared to more than 70% for Apple’s iPods. But its new Sansa Connect player provides a glimpse of what a post-iPod world might look like, with players tapping into online jukeboxes and friends’ collections instead of relying on the tracks stored inside them.

Apple is not an internet company. It doesn’t matter whether the devices it sells are connected via telephone or internet or not at all. In the days when the soul of the company was being formed, it was primarily the third option — these computers were not designed with connectivity a forethought.

Its contemporary flagship — the iPod –has only a hardware bus, which is a throwback to the Wozniak days almost 30 years ago. This is a device which is fundamentally disconnected, just a brick with power cables and headphones.

That’s why the iPhone makes just as much sense for Apple as an internet device would have. You could add a dial-up modem to the iPod and it would be an improvement. There’s nowhere to go but up.

It’s also why the Sansa thing is special: it looks to become the first wifi music device which manages to cover its bills and stay in business. Portable music devices need to get hooked up to the internet. The telecoms are blocking that; the iPhone is part of the blockage.

Not to say that the Sansa is all that open, since it can only get network music from Yahoo, but my guess is that Sansa took that approach for simplicity, so that they could have a narrowly defined target for their first ship date.