Posts Tagged 'Pandora'

Spooonful: Hand Delivered and Easy to Swallow Music Discovery

You love discovering new music. You love social networking and social media. Everything that ends with 2.0 gets your attention. Out of sheer enthusiasm for emerging technologies and your obsession with music, you sign up for every new service you find.

When it comes to music discovery, maybe you’ve tooled around with the likes of Last.fm, Grooveshark, Fuzz, iLike, Pandora, imeem, or one of the many others out there. If so, you may have experienced a sense of disorientation, information overload, or maybe you became paralyzed by indecision. Or maybe you’re simply too busy to spend time looking for new music and you’d rather that new music could just come looking for you for once.

A nice little service called Spooonful has a solution to that problem. In their own words: “Our mission is simple. A free weekly email newsletter delivered right to your inbox introducing you to one great new artist or band at a time. You’ll get a preview of what they sound like as well as links to buy a track, a whole album, even get out to a show.” Your weekly spoonful of new music! Check it out.

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Kick Ass Music Apps for the iPhone

Ah, mobile music. How sad would our lives be without it?

First came the iPod that we all know and love, which made its predecessors (the Boombox, the Walkman, the MiniDisc, the MP3 player) look just…silly. Its many subsequent iterations became sleeker and cooler each time. Then the iPhone came along and more and more of us drank the Apple flavored Kool-Aid. With 3G and the rapidly expanding App Store, the iPhone has become a veritable phenomenon.

Despite ongoing issues with MobileMe, email, low battery life and more, the little phone machine is charging down its steep rocky path alone, leaving its competitors in the dust and getting better every day.

Random sidenote: Someone actually told me they were torn between the new iPhone and the new Blackberry. I told him that’s like saying you’re torn between Prime Rib and a Big Mac. (He bought the iPhone the next day.)

Combining your phone and your music player into one device was certainly a convenient first step. But now, with the App Store going nuts, more and more innovative music apps for the iPhone are popping up. Here are my favorites so far:

Pandora
Yes, I know. We rave about Pandora ad nauseum. But, quite frankly, they deserve it. What was already a killer service is now one of the leading iPhone apps. Sick of your own music? Hate the radio? Then open up Pandora at home, in your car, or in your earphones while you’re on the go and have your customized radio station at your finger tips. Remember, the more you use it the better it gets. In this case I say go ahead Captain Curious! Open up Pandora’s box and watch the magic unfold.

Shazam
How often do you find yourself saying “Wait, who sings this song?” You make a mental note to find out later and never actually do? Here is the answer to your dilemma. Open Shazam, let your iPhone “listen” to the song in question and it will tell you the artist and track name. Freaking great. I’ve also been using it as a way to effortlessly tag songs that I want to possibly download later, as I hear them.

SeeqPod
On the flip side of Shazam’s service, you have SeeqPod. You know the artist or track name but don’t have the song when you want it. Type it into SeeqPod and, boom, their crawler finds songs and videos for you. (We’ve mentioned them before too, as pioneers of a growing digital music trend – “playable search”.) So now, with SeeqPod on your iPhone, whenever a song pops into your head that you want to hear it’s there for you.

Midomi
Midomi is like Shazam, but with with more flavors to choose from. In addition to letting your phone “listen” to the song à la Shazam (Midomi calls it “grab” not “listen”), you can also sing/hum the tune, or say/type the song name. Very handy. Naturally, once you find the song you can buy it on iTunes, bookmark and share, watch YouTube videos etc. Watch the overview video here.

All of the above are easy to use, insanely practical, and really fun to have. But, for the more musically inclined among you, here are a few others worth checking out:

For musicians, there is Stay in Tune, TyroRuner (guitars only), and OmniTuner to tune your instrument on the go. If you want a mobile click track check out Orfeo or iMetronome. For DJ types, MixMeister scratch (cool concept, reviews not great though) and BeatMaker (see a review and video here).

And these are just the early apps. Imagine how prehistoric they will seem in a year or two…

Is Last.fm the Profit Mechanism DIY Musicians are Looking for?

The $18 billion music industry includes a relative handful of famous acts and tens of millions of independent and semi-professional artists who have very limited opportunities to profit from their art. Because of the Digital Audio Workstation (music software) revolution, more people are recording music than ever before. And through the use of music discovery sites, more people are distributing music than ever before. But, what we haven’t seen from the music discovery model is a way for DIY and unsigned artists to profit from their art online. Last.fm hopes to change that, apparently.

Starting July 1, Last.FM (or rather, CBS, I should say) will have an Artist Royalty Program, where artists get paid whenever their music is streamed from the site. The most important thing is that this program is intended for and marketed to unsigned/DIY artists, as Last.fm already pays royalties to signed acts via SoundExchange. According to Last.Fm: “This is a big day for DIY artists. We’re leveling the playing field by offering them the same opportunities as established bands to make money from their music. The young musician making music in a bedroom studio has the same chance as the latest major label signing to use Last.fm to build an audience and get rewarded.”

Here’s how royalties will be paid:

  • If your track is played on their free radio service you will accrue a 10% of the share of Last.fm’s net revenue from the free radio service.
  • If your track is played on their personalized premium radio service, you will accrue the greater of either 10% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the personalized radio service, or US $0.0005 for each complete transmission on the personalized radio service.
  • If your track is played on their free on-demand service, you will accrue 30% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the on-demand radio service.
  • If your track is played on their premium on-demand service, you will accrue the greater of either 30% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the premium on-demand service, or US $0.005 for each complete transmission on the prepaid or subscription on-demand service.

While the royalties to be paid aren’t much, they’re a good start, demonstrating the larger issue of finding ways for DIYers to profit form their works. Since most people have their music on several (if not all) music discovery sites, hopefully other sites will follow suit (myspace, are you listening?). Imeem implemented a rev share program last year, but it has failed to produce any real revenue for unsigned musicians. With these moves, however, Last.fm has elevated itself past the clutter of music discovery sites, to become a premiere destination for on-demand music discovery. While I personally prefer music recommendation sites like Pandora, after I discover an artist on Pandora, I want to hear more tracks, see more content, and learn more about the artist. That’s where sites like myspace, last.fm, and ilike come in. And while music recommendation sites would be crippled by paying royalties, sites like myspace and last.fm should do so.

Unfortunately, neither Last.Fm nor Imeem is the answer. Rather, they are both part of a solution that will require DIY musicians to aggregate many sources of revenue in order to make some money. But, there are not many of these sources currently available. A lot of DIY musicians have been distributing under Creative Commons (“CC”) for the last 7 years, but nobody has figured out exactly how to monetize CC works. You would think that the collective strength of CC music could be leveraged to make some money for the artists, but this hasn’t happened. The only caveat to this is Magnatune. For this reason, CC has proven to be a valuable alternative to copyright law for reference and informational works, but not for works of art.

So what other profit mechanisms are there for unsigned musicians? There are a ton of iTunes style sites where people can purchase MP3s, but lets face it, most people aren’t buying tracks from us DIY guys. Certainly sites like PumpAudio, YouLicense, and AudioMicro have helped, but the go-to-profit mechanism has yet to be unveiled. Stay tuned!

Top 5 Music Discovery Sites

Long gone are the days of browsing through record stores to find new music (record stores are still awesome hangouts though), making physical mixtapes for your friends (except for the nostalgic among us), and putting CDs on your Christmas list (iTunes gift cards anyone?). Digital technologies and the seemingly endless supply of online music destinations have forever changed the way we discover the tunes we like.

Record Store

Born out of my own frustration with the retardedly over-crowded “music discovery” space, this post aims to sift through the plethora of sites, many of which are variations of the same concept, and pinpoint the best ones.

Do you prefer to listen to short clips of top downloads on iTunes because it’s easy? (Ya, iTunes is more of a place to buy a song/album that you know you want, but you can definitely discover new stuff by poking around, checking the free download of the week etc). Are you a fan of one of the numerous music social networking sites that let you discover people with similar musical taste, create/share playlists, or track down obscure indie bands? Or do you love Pandora’s almost-no-work-involved recommendation system?

We’re all different when it comes to our preferred methods of music discovery, but the end goal is the same, right? We want to consistently discover new music that resonates with us personally – bands we can go see live, music to download, artists we can relate to. There are so many places to do this now it makes my head spin, so I needed to simplify.

With that, here are my top 5:

Pandora
I’ve been a fan of Pandora for a long time. The internet radio station, with its robust recommendation system based on the work of 50 analysts who break songs down into musical attributes, is surprisingly good at finding music that suits your tastes. And with the thumbs-up/thumbs-down rating system, the more you use it the smarter it gets. Their Facebook app is certainly convenient too.

iLike
If you can put up with 30 second clips, iLike is great for discovery. The fact that it can be plugged into Facebook, iTunes, MySpace, Bebo and others makes it a versatile social platform and is probably why they have so many registered users making profiles, sharing playlists and the like. And you can get lots of free music from new artists.

Fuzz
“Music Uprising…Connecting people who create and love music”. Other than having pretty good music discovery tools, I like Fuzz because I like the Fuzz Manifesto. This is the kind of mentality that I think everyone in the music industry needs to adopt, and soon, in order to survive and thrive in the exciting new frontier that is developing. Open, participatory, fair etc…

Grooveshark
In addition to letting you listen to any song in its entirety, Grooveshark rewards you for sharing music with people by giving you credits for free music. It also serves as an online library so you can store your music and access it from anywhere. There is a tagging/ranking system to help you find what you want as well as playlist creation/sharing.

Last.fm
Easily one of the most dominant players in the social music discovery space, Last.fm has a powerful recommendation engine based on data from the user community (unlike Pandora’s engine which matches similar musical attributes). Worth noting here is that Last.fm is now paying royalties to unsigned artists – and thus providing an alternative for artists who are not part of SoundExchange.

If this list is too short for you, check Mashable’s Music News Toolbox: 50+ Links for Discovering New Music to read about sites like iJigg, MOG, Goombah, Music Nation, and many more. Or leave us a comment with your favorite ones.

And of course, soon you will be able to discover kick-ass new music at MixMatchMusic. Stay tuned.

SanFran MusicTech Summit 2: Guestlist Wish, Artist Activism, and Label Survival

Brian Zisk has done it again. After the wildly successful SanFran MusicTech Summit last February at Hotel Kabuki, he rallied the troops for round two of what I hope will be a regular event going forward. The first Summit, which I reviewed here, set the bar high. What a brilliant meeting of minds from the music and technology industries!

Through a mix of thought-provoking panels on new technologies, heated group discussions about the future of (online) music, and lots of giddy lobby schmoozing, this event provides its very diverse attendees with a plethora of opportunities to learn, contribute, and meet resourceful people.

SanFran MusicTech Panel

Photo by Crazywanda. Some rights reserved.

For the virtual comment box, here’s a suggestion: How bout a list of attendees on the website? (Yes, there was a Facebook page you could RSVP on, but not everyone on the planet uses Facebook. Silly planet.) A simple list of attendee names, companies, and titles would be great.

The Web 2.0 Expo brilliantly utilized Crowdvine to set up a social networking site for their event. Here, you could create a profile, view other attendees and ping the people you wanted to meet. Consequently, my first day at the expo was consumed by meetings with some very cool people. Though randomly networking is great, it would be awesome to knows who’s gonna be there beforehand. Brian, whadya think?

My co-worker had the idea of placing RFID tags in everyone’s nametags so you could track people’s whereabouts throughout the day and find those you need to meet, but eventually we all agreed that would be too creepy…”Hey man! Saw that you were in the bathroom, so I thought I’d come introduce myself…” Ha.

At the Artist Activism Workshop Mike Relm, Chris Skarakis (founder and VP of Music at Fuzz), and moderator Erin Potts (Executive Director of Air Traffic Control) discussed how artists can be activists using new technologies. Very inspiring.

Mike Relm, whose live shows feature audio/video mashups “manipulated in real time with a turntable-like device” [Wikipedia] showed us a powerful Katrina video with vivid images, music, and video clips that he made to raise awareness of the disaster.

I so love where this trend is going. There are obviously a ton of ways to get involved in your community or on a more global scale, but musicians are in the perfect position to make a real difference due to their visibility. As much as we (and especially Actual) hate on American Idol, I have to admit I was impressed by how much money they raised during their Idol Gives Back special ($65 million or something, right?). At least they are doing some good with the massive captive audience they have…

But no matter how big or small your reach, there are always ways for musicians to get involved. And organizations like Air Traffic Control, Project Noise and Axis of Justice to help you on your way.

At the Record Labels and New Technologies panel, I walked in anticipating an hour of (big) label bashing, but was quite mistaken. Rather than harping on why big labels are evil and how they are all going to disappear, the consensus seemed to be that record labels are not going anywhere. They are, however, changing. Drastically. Whereas a new artist used to need a label to even get started, now the label has a very different role to play. Turns out that independent labels are actually doing quite well – at least the ones that have found innovative ways to market their bands online. Dave Allen, of the Gang of Four, pointed out that artists and their labels should keep the end user in mind and what most end users want is at least 1 free mp3, not DRM, and the ability to play music on different devices. Dave also has a great music blog, Pampelmoose. Check it out.

In between panels and meeting new people, we also ran into our friends Todd Tate (co-founder of Angry Coffee and now one of our rockstar MixMatchMusic beta testers), Hannes Hesse (the Bubblegum Sequencer guy), and my hero Tom Conrad (CTO of Pandora) among others. One of our guys was chatting with Vince Wilburn, Jr., nephew (and spitting image of) the late Miles Davis (and accomplished drummer and producer)! Seemed like a very cool guy.

All in all, another rockin Summit. Great job, Brian!

The SanFran MusicTech Summit: Rockstars, Lawyers, Nerds and Me

Last week, a few of us attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit to worship learn from some of the innovative leaders in our rapidly evolving and still young(ish) industry. After nearly breaking off my big toe during a confused jog through Japantown, I limped into Hotel Kabuki armed and ready for note-taking, question-asking, and hand-shaking.

The group I found there was a rather predictable (yet lovable) mix of demographics including your standard socially awkward tech geeks (my favorite), the token I-was-born-for-networking (and my-Rolodex-is-bigger-than-yours) schmoozers, some badass rocker chicks turned marketing gurus, the young and fearless CEO/CTO/COO/founders of countless startups, the smartypants intellectual property attorneys (bless their souls – I’d rather be forced to listen to Mariah Carey* on repeat for a year while locked in a windowless room than be in their shoes), career musicians and producers, and a smattering of randoms. Each hour we had the choice of attending one of two panels or general schmoozing in the lobby.
* To be fair, I think she has an amazing voice, I just hate her music. A lot.

Halfway through one of the panels I noticed someone on their laptop twittering. Of course! I thought. Twitter! This is the perfect time to twitter. (Until then, I had only used the service a few times to say mundane things like “sore from working out” or “yay iPhones” or some such nonsense, and when you only have two people following you that seems pretty pointless). Suddenly it was starting to sink in how Twitter can be a very powerful tool. I quickly logged on and found the SFMusicTech live feed which, to my pleasant surprise, was filled with commentary ranging from concise updates about the panels (helpful for those not at the summit or just in the other room) to snarky comments about the speakers. It felt like a cross between real-time news coverage and anonymous chatroom blather.

When I twittered later in the day noting that most of the food on the snack table was yellow, someone promptly reiterated my observation and wondered if there was a hidden symbolism we were missing. Later one of the panelists messaged me directly and thanked me for quoting her earlier. That’s when I suddenly felt like part of some sort of cozy little invisible family. Want to join my twitter family? Follow me here.

Here are some highlights from the day:

  • During the “Future of Radio” panel – major trends include personalization and recommendation (think Pandora and Last.fm) and mobility (internet radio integrated into your car stereo, tabletop devices, on your phone, in your stereo etc).
  • During the “Creator’s Perspective on Technology” panel – Creeper Lagoon‘s Sharky Laguana talked about a cool service he created called MixPal. MixPal allows you to upload your music, choose the price, place a “MixLink” anywhere online (website, blog, MySpace, whatever) and you keep almost all the proceeds (they get 10% commission). Look at how their pricing compares to iTunes and Snocap. Since they’re non-exclusive you can use them in addition to any other service you use. MixPal is simple, straightforward and all about letting the musician decide.
  • Also during “Creator’s Perspective…” – panel moderator and summit co-producer Shoshana Zisk commented that now in the music tech industry “People don’t have to learn the language to speak music”, which resonated with me because that is very much one of the things that MixMatchMusic is facilitating – allowing non-musicians and music fans to participate in the creative process too.
  • During the “Social Networking and Music” panel – Ali Partovi, CEO of iLike, noted that they DO compete with MySpace Music. He recommended that artists keep a MySpace presence, but also use iLike because they will find far more fans on the latter.* Also interesting – apparently, people who use iLike purchase 250% more music online than people who don’t! I bet the ringtone companies love them… Toward the end of the panel, Ali asked with a note of exasperation in his voice why there isn’t just a “buy this” button anywhere and everywhere that you find music?? Excellent point. Anyone know if this is a realistic expectation in the future?

*Are you a musician who has a profile on both iLike and MySpace (and/or other sites)? I’d be curious to hear where you feel you’ve established a larger fan base. Leave a comment or email me.

  • During the “Business Models That Work…and Those That Don’t” panel – moderator Andrew Stess, CEO of Music IP, mused that someone should build a choose-your-own-price service for concert tickets a la Radiohead. I so agree. In the meantime, Inticketing, one of the summit sponsors, has a great online ticketing system and event management solution (not to mention a green business) with clients like Burning Man, the Great American Music Hall (where our buddy Scott recently performed), Yoshi’s, and Victor Wooten.

After the panels ended, we were unleashed into the boozing and networking portion of the event, which also included a performance by singer-songwriter Samantha Murphy. Though I had to run off to my own weekly musical endeavor, in the hour or so I was there I met some interesting people. One musician/student I was chatting with about MMM emailed me later to say he was delighted to see that I had blogged about the Bubblegum Sequencer. Turns out he is one of the Berkeley students that made it! Small world.

Overall, I found the Summit to be helpful and inspiring. What struck me was how nobody really knows where the music industry (especially the online music industry) is going. Licensing, copyright, distribution…these areas are rapidly being dismantled and slowly rebuilt without any concrete blueprint. Or vague guideline for that matter. All I know is that I’m excited to be riding the wave that is technology and I can’t wait to see what kind of distant exotic shore it dumps us on.

Social media, which wikipedia says uses “the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to connect information in a collaborative manner” is redefining the way that we interact with technology, one another, and our environment. I think this is especially true for those of us who are building something online (a fan base, a website, a blog, a clientèle, an identity) or those of us who simply enjoy being a prosumer/producer/content creator/participant (via blogging, twittering, digging, social networking, posting YouTube videos etc) rather than just a consumer. Passivity is so…well, passè. But it’s not just a matter of getting involved. Once you’re involved, you have to participate. And regularly. Let’s face it – no one is going to read a blog that you update once a year.

Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity put it best when she said: “New media is like an endless garden – you can’t just plant it and walk away”.

5 Predictions for Digital Music Trends in 2008

After watching my Mac-obsessed friends win/lose their bets about Steve Jobs’ announcements at the MacWorld Expo this week, I feel obligated to make some predictions of my own. Plus, every self-respecting tech or music blog has to make some predictions for the coming year, right? In no particular order:

1. The beginning of the end of big record labels: With CD sales continuing to plummet and big name artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails cutting out the middle man in favor of a direct relationship with their fans, record labels are beginning to look a bit outdated. Probably not the best place to look for a job right now, anyway.

There are now so many ways that artists and fans can find each other online: band websites, social networking and/or music sharing communities (e.g. MySpace, iMeem, iLike), individual mp3 sales (e.g. iTunes, eMusic, Amie Street), music discovery sites (e.g. Musicovery), internet radio sites (e.g. Pandora, Last.fm) subscription services (e.g. Rhapsody, Napster), webzines (e.g. Pitchfork, Mix) etc. Furthermore, services like Slicethepie and Sellaband are paving the way for a more direct financial and emotional connection between creators and consumers.

Not to mention that artists don’t really need a label to get them started on recording an album anymore. With the plethora of affordable software and equipment available, virtually anyone can record their music at home. At this point, it seems the labels have all but given up on reviving CD sales. So, the question is can they find other ways to be profitable? What’s in store for them in their not-so-big future?

2. Music Search Engines: Several new “playable search” engines allow you to simply type in an artist name and then give you a host of options for a song/artist such as: listen to, buy, share, embed, blog, download ringtone, find tour dates, youtube videos, photos etc. Seeqpod, in my opinion, is the best service so far. Also worth checking out are Songza and SkreemR.

On the flip side, there is the concept of search based on sound recognition, which I think is likely to start catching on. Midomi, a community for music fans, uses MARS (Multimodal Recognition System) Search technology, developed by Melodis. Their goal is to “create a comprehensive database of searchable music based on user contribution”. Can’t remember the name of that song stuck in your head? Sing, whistle or hum it to Midomi, then search!

3. Music Widgets – More and more widgets, typically music players that you can embed into, say, your myspace profile or your blog, are popping up. Facebook, with its innumerable enthusiastic application creators, is of course churning out a ton of music-related apps. I think that 2008 will see not only an increasing number of music widgets but also a much higher level of sophistication in these apps.

4. Copyright Restrictions Lesson – Though still a very sensitive area, it seems there is a general trend toward dropping DRM protections. Even Sony BMG is preparing to join the other top music labels in doing so, in an effort to man up and compete with Apple and its market share.

5. Niche Social Networks for Musicians – Now that social networking has pretty much infiltrated the mainstream and everyone from grandparents to business people are hip to the concept, the industry has begun to specialize. All kinds of niche social networks have been popping up, and I predict that in 2008 this trend will gain significant momentum. With special interest groups ranging from beer lovers (Coastr) to shoestring travelers (CouchSurfing) and everything in between, clearly musicians will be trying the various music related social networks on for size. There are quite a few communities and networks for musicians out there now. Some pretty decent. Some…not so much. Luckily, musicians far and wide will soon have a place to call home.


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