Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Facebook Dims Spotlight on Free-Range MP3s

Ah, the perils of being a "platform"...

VentureBeat » Facebook kills Audio for copyright violations

Facebook completely removed the Audio music-sharing application from its platform last night, saying it violated music copyrights.

Audio was developed by a third-party using Facebook’s platform for developers, and Facebook says Audio violates its newly updated developer terms of service.

Audio allowed users to upload audio files in the mp3 format, share them with each other and listen to them within Facebook. By the end of last week, it had nearly 750,000 users.

It seems like the hounds and lawyers are injecting some conservatism over at Facebook. Once you are a "platform" it is much harder to take a hands off approach to potential copyright infringement that is taking place on it. Check out my post from about 6 weeks ago called "Facebook Shining the Spotlight on Free-Range MP3s".

iPhone to Support Streaming Radio?

I came across this story the other day....

iPhoneology : Blog Archive : iPhone Firmware Hints at New Apps, Widgets: "The most exciting of these seems to be the mobile.radio, as it suggests the possibility that Apple may be looking forward to supporting streaming radio or hopefully, an FM tuner on the device."

There is some speculation that this means the iPhone may at some point include an FM receiver - I think that the highly more likely scenario is support for streaming radio over EDGE/WiFi. Considering that the Radio stations that show up in iTunes are really just a selection of SHOUTcast stations, I doubt that Apple is looking to create their own radio programming - but instead just looking to bring a streaming experience to their iPhone consumers.

What would be really interesting is streaming radio support in conjunction with over-the-air downloads. As you are listening/switching stations, your iPhone is tracking what you have listened to, thus giving you the opportunity to click "buy" on any track that you have heard and/or highly rated. The could then download the track directly to the iPhone (and simultaneously make it available in iTunes when you get back to your computer.

If I bought a la carte tracks, I would think that was pretty cool. Cooler yet would be the ability to cache a streaming station to the iPhones hard drive.... RadioTivo, but I find it highly dubious that Apple would ever enable a use case like this that could cannibalize their sales.

Monday, July 30, 2007

MP3Tunes at Last

Last month I wrote about MP3Tunes' Oboe Locker. They recently started offering free unlimited online storage and bi-directional sync capabilities. After several weeks of starting/stopping the maiden upload process, I've finally got my stuff up there (Tip: Kick off the original sync while you are way out your door of an extended vacation). My collection netted out at just over 40GBs - at least of the DRMless MP3s that are useful to sync.

The upload process was unfortunately a bit more painful than I had hoped due to the relatively limited upstream bandwidth afforded my by my cable ISP - the rest of my online experiences suffered through the duration. I actually think the process of ripping all of my CDs several years ago was completed in less absolute time - although it was obviously much more labor intensive.

Now that I've got my music up there, I must say I like it. I have a handful of other remote-access products that I use or have tried in the past that will enable a similar use case. The problem is that I often find that either my machine has rebooted, is offline, or something has failed. And when the planets have aligned and it is all working, some of the web-based UIs I have used have felt unnecessarily heavy and slow for some reason. That is why I particularly like the MP3Tunes' Oboe Locker as integrated within Streampad. It's lightweight, responsive and easy to navigate. Also, with MP3tunes not only can I sync content from one machine to another, I can post MP3s directly to the locker (using the nice MP3Tunes sideloading browser plugins) and then have it sync back down to multiple machines (either Mac or PC). Another nice addition is that the sync utility will find/download/sync album art for all your content as well.

My only complaint at this point is that the syncs don't appear to run automatically on a schedule and/or delta detection. Other than that, now that my entire collection is easily and, more importantly, reliably accessible - I have found myself listening to more of my old stuff than I have in a long time.

Qloud Beta: Take 2

It was brought to my attention that the link to the Qloud beta I posted a couple of weeks ago was broken. The guys over they have now fixed the problem, so if you tried before - you may want to try again at:

Qloud Private Beta

You can also check out my original post here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Missing in Action

I'm on vacation this week, but I'll be back next week with some more thoughts and news - including news on my upcoming career move. Those of you are friends of mine on Facebook know that I dropped a hint in my status last week that I was leaving AOL. When I'm back in town, I will let you all know where I am going... but as you can imagine it will still be heavily involved in the "music 2.0" space.

Friday, July 20, 2007

3am Curiousity - iSafari? SafariTunes?

Lately I have this habit of waking up in the middle of the night, my mind just spinning.... usually about what's going on in "music 2.0". By the way, it's a terrible habit and I don't recommend it to anyone. Last night's magically hour was from 3am to 4am, and the thing I spent most of my time contemplating during this episode was.... is Apple working down a path where iTunes and Safari ultimately merge?

I have no evidence that this is the case, I found it an interesting enough proposition that I'm still thinking about it today. What do you guys think?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One Llama

I haven't had time to review it in detail myself yet, but check out Somewhat Frank's coverage of One Llama...

One Llama For 'Fun' Music Discovery : Somewhat Frank :: web 2.0 ● technology ● life :: blog by Frank Gruber

My first impressions are positive ones. Clean/fun UI, easy to generate playlists and the integration with Rhapsody is really nice, although not very obvious (hint: generate a playlist then click "play all" in the upper right of the page). It generated some pretty good recommendations based on a seed... some obvious some a bit more obscure.

The playlist above was created using "Bridge and Tunnel" by The Honorary Title as the seed. Some of these artists I know, others I don't. Although, the first generation of this playlist included "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" by BJ Thomas. That seemed a bit out of left field, but I've learned to love the unexpected in recommendations... they drag you out of your comfort zone and expose some new things every once in a while (although in this case I deleted the song and it was instantly replaced with something else).

My only real complaints is that the whole experience seemed a bit too solitary for my liking... even with the user profiles integrated "post to Facebook" feature. And the other is the embedded widget itself (above) - while is is pretty slick looking - there doesn't seem to be a way to get to the page and/or my profile itself (which is the only place you can leverage the freeplay Rhapsody integration. So, in that case you are stuck with a 30-second sample experience only. Not hard to fix... just a couple of hiccups on an otherwise impressive first release.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blender's Powergeek 25 - The New Music Power Brokers

Blender magazine posted their list of the 25 most powerful and influential people in the music 2.0 business...

The Powergeek 25 at Vicarious Music:

25. Pete Wentz: net-obsessed star of Fall Out Boy
24. Bob Leftsetz: The Leftsetz Letter (music business blog)
23. Eric Garland: BigChampagne (online music research firm)
22. Brett Woitunski: PureVolume (indie-punk community site)
21. Matthew Perpetua: Fluxblog (mp3 blog)
20. David Music: EMusic (online music retailer) (Note: I've got to think this is a typo and should be David Pakman)
19. Bram Cohen and Ashwin Navin: BitTorrent (file-sharing service)
18. Jason Tate: AbsolutePunk (indie-punk news and community)
17. “Oinkylicious” Alan: Oink’s Pink Palace (invite-only file sharing site)
16. Vadim Mamotin: AllOfMp3 (discount retailer)
15. Tim Quirk: Rhapsody (subscription music service)
14. Anthony Volodkin: The Hype Machine (mp3 blog aggregation)
13. Perez Hilton: PerezHilton (gossip blog)
12. Mitch Bainwol: RIAA (music business trade group)
11. Scott Lapatine: Stereogum (indie-rock blog)
10. Coran Capshaw: MusicToday (online ticketer and merchandiser)
9. Christian Schmid: RapidShare (file-hosting service)
8. Greg Bildson: LimeWire (file-sharing program)
7. Martin Stinksel and Felix Miller: Last.FM (music community site)
6. Ian Rogers: Yahoo! Music (music portal)
5. Ryan Schreiber: Pitchfork (indie-rock magazine)
4. Doug Morris: Universal Music Group (recording company)
3. Chad Hurley and Steve Chen: YouTube (video-sharing site)
2. Tom Anderson and Chris Dewolfe: MySpace (social-networking site)
1. Steve Jobs: Apple (Technology corporation)

I didn't make it this year... but there is always next time. :-)

UPDATE: I may not be on the list... but I can take solace in the fact that The ListeNerd has dubbed me a "music 2.0 overlord" (or was he referring to Jobs?). Not sure if that is meant as a compliment or not, but it sounds like good t-shirt fodder nonetheless. (smile)

Qloud's New Silver Lining

The guys over at Qloud have been quite busy lately. They are currently in a closed beta of a totally revamped service and experience. What started of as "people powered search" - which combined scrobbling with 30 second samples - has morphed into "free/legal streaming music on demand". Yes, there are hundreds of sites where you can create playlists from uploaded/free-range MP3s (with the two most popular currently being imeem and Project Playlist), but these services operate in a bit of a legally "gray" area as the content these service run on are generally not licensed.

So, how do you create "free and legal" streaming music on demand? You leverage content that has been licensed and that the rights holders are being compensated for... specifically YouTube. Yes, there has been a bunch of swirl over the past few months on this topic too... but generally speaking the major labels have come to terms where the use of music videos on YouTube are being compensated. And by the nature of YouTube, these videos are freely distributable/embeddable. This is not the first time a company has done this, but Qloud's implementation may indeed be the most complete.

Basically, the service is comprised of:
  • iTunes Plug-In (for awareness of your media library and playlists)
  • A Web Player Destination
  • Community

By matching your local library and playlists to YouTube's available videos (and others like Revver), you now have an online representation of your content that you can play, build playlists out of and generally share among the entire community of Qloud users.

You can also browse Qloud's "cloud" and see what the most popular tracks are, navigate by tag, search or find other users and take a peek at their libraries.

The drawbacks? Well, you guys know YouTube.... some of the songs are crappy recordings of a live show taken with a cellphone. Qloud combats this by matching to other versions of the song (and other sources in addition to YouTube - including what appears to be pending support for Rhapsody). Over time, the most popular version of the song will rise to the top.... but right now they are suffering from a bit of a cold-start problem in this beta.

But, the good news is that you guys are now invited to join the beta. The guys have been nice enough to provide me with the ability to offer all my readers the ability to join. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Finally, the guys showed me a sneak peak at a couple new Facebook apps they are working on. I can't say too much about them, other than they are pretty sweet, and may be able to give the iLike guys a run for their money on that platform.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Free Range MP3s and the iPhone

I have been asking a lot of people lately, "what happens when you click on an URL to an MP3 while web surfing on any iPhone? Does it stream? Does it download? Does it do anything?". I have been a bit shocked that virtually everyone's answer back to me has been, "I don't know, I haven't tried it.".

Well, I finally got my hands on one long enough to try for myself. The answer? It launched the iPhone's QuickTime player, buffers a little bit, then plays it. Cool... as I had hoped. :-)

Granted, I was doing this over AT&T's EDGE network, so it quickly stalled trying to stream a 128k MP3 over a network that is generally slower than that - but I assume that over WiFi it would do just fine.

Warning: Experiences On The Horizon Are Not As Distant As They Appear

I'm traveling again, and all week I have been dreading the fact that part of my journey requires a 2+ hour shuttle bus ride from the airport to my destination. To top it off, my mp3 player died on the flight, my laptop batteries were drained, I forgot a book and there is only a limited amount of entertaining things you can do with a Blackberry. Nothing scares me more than extended time with little other than my own thoughts.

But, as I got settled into my seat on the shuttle bus, I looked up to notice the sign "Free Wireless Internet Now Available on the Bus". Nice! But that only solved half my problem considering the state of my laptop battery. One eureka moment was followed by another when I looked above my seat to notice that there were AC outlets running along the roof of the bus.

So, here I am.... in the middle of nowhere, writing this, charging my laptop, streaming music from Streampad and being all-around productive. Yes, this will be a huge welcome addition to airline travel (hopefully soon), but what is more exciting is the in-car experience. Yes, Slacker is building out a dedicated satellite network to do this. Zing enables some great portable music consumption experiences via WiFi (in the Sansa Connect) - although it requires a Yahoo Music subscription. iPhones obviously support WiFi, although no one has yet to tell me how it works for streaming music from the web (and I haven't broken down and gotten one... yet). But, some of my buddies over at Sprint have been assuring me that WiMax (aka "4G") is real, and it is coming sooner than you might think.

As I've ranted about before, once we can get reliable IP access in the car (and to a lesser degree to our pocket) - the music consumption experience for the masses changes forever. Bye bye, XM/Sirus. Adios terrestrial radio. CDs, what the hell is a CD good for? The technological solution is virtually on top of us. The *real* challenge is the user experience - UI, personalization and discovery. Whoever gets those right - on mobile devices, PCs and car stereos - owns the layer between the consumer and the content. And, whoever owns that layer controls the advertising - and reaps the lion's share of the benefit.

Let the battle begin....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SoundExchange Only Cares About the Labels?

Are SoundExchange and RIAA trying to screw the artists and only interested in (re)building a business for the 4 major record labels? I can't say for sure, but Kurt Hanson lays out a very interesting theory. Below is just an excerpt... I recommend you read the whole thing...

RAIN: Radio And Internet Newsletter: "If webcasters had in fact accepted SoundExchange's proposed 'solution' from last week, what soundexelse could AOL Radio do in 2008 but accept? They'd be looking at bankruptcy otherwise... and they'd be prevented from going to Congress for help!

So in offering to discount AOL Radio's royalty obligation from $66 million to $24 million, the big four labels could not only get increased airplay for their priority acts, but they could actually increase their royalty take an additional 20%! Sweet!

But because it's not a statutory license, the artists would GET NOTHING!

And as for the independent labels, most of them want airplay. If this scenario plays out as I've hypothesized, the conditions that the major labels impose on webcasters might leave little room on station playlists for indie-label product anyway,riaa so I would bet that the indies would eventually start offering waivers — i.e., 'Play our music and we won't charge you any royalties.' In that event, they would also GET NOTHING!"

Monday, July 09, 2007

iPhone - Stream Your Media

My biggest question about the iPhone has been "can it stream MP3s over WiFi and/or EDGE?". Until this morning, that question still remained unanswered. To be honest, I have been a bit shocked that every first review didn't go about answering this most basic and compelling (given the nature of the device) question.

It appears that they answer is... "yeah, kind of". Insight was gathered from application details on one of the applications ("telekinisis" aka "iPhone Remote") created at iPhoneDevCamp.

MediaStreaming - telekinesis - Google Code: "Streaming video and audio

If you store movie or music files on your computer, you can watch and listen to them on your iPhone using telekinesis after enabling the feature in the preference pane. This feature is off by default for security reasons, please see below.

The files you play have to be supported by the iPhone:

* H.264 Baseline Profile Level 3.0 video, up to 640 x 480 at 30 fps.
* MPEG-4 Part 2 video (Simple Profile)
* AAC-LC audio, up to 48 kHz
* .mov, .mp4, .m4v, .3gp file formats
* Any movies or audio files that can play on an iPod.

Over EDGE you stream media in real time up to 160kbits (in practice 80-100 however.)

To play a media file, simply touch it in the file browser mode. The CoreMedia (Quicktime plugin) player will launch and start to buffer the media. You can use other applications (Mail, Phone, etc) while the media is playing but you cannot navigate to other MobileSafari pages.

As of now there is no way to stream playlists or queue multiple files.

Caveats of media streaming

The iPhone doesn't appear to accept media encrypted with a self signed certificate. To enable streaming, iPhone Remote needs to send it insecurely.

If you choose to enable this feature, anyone can connect to your machine to access m4b, m4v, m4a, mov, and mp3 files if they can access your computer and know the full path to the file

Do not enable this unless you are sure your network is secure.

You can enable this feature in the preference pane. Hit "Restart Server" after checking the box.

This application (still alpha) sounds very promising to me although I will certaily wait until it is at least Beta (and I actually have an iPhone). Any of you out there that already have one want to give it a try and let me know how it works?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Live Earth Promotes Going Digital

So, I'm sitting here watching some of the Live Earth concert footage on Bravo. I found it interesting that one of the PSAs was telling people to by their music digitally - pointing out that if everyone downloaded instead of buying physical CDs, then that could lead to the reduction of pollution from the manufacturing and distribution of those CDs. Interesting... I wonder how much Apple influenced that one. :-)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Twitter DJ by Foxytunes

Things have been a little hectic lately, and after read Fred Wilson's post on Twitter DJ the other day, I realized that I had forgotten to say anything about it myself.

Twitter DJ leverages Twitter as a human-powered recommendation channel. It was built by the guys at Foxytunes (which btw is a very slick little browser extension) and I was asked to be one of their “featured DJs”.

In their own words...

FoxyTunes Twitter DJ is a Twitter channel with music recommendations from a selected group of "FoxyTunes DJs".

Also, it allows all Twitter users to share their favorite songs with the community.

How do I post songs?

1. Add FoxyTunesDJ as your Twitter friend
2. Wait for a few moments until FoxyTunesDJ adds you back as a friend
3. Use TwittyTunes to post music to Twitter, prefixing it with "@FoxyTunesDJ". All music twits will appear right here on this page (http://www.foxytunes.com/twitterdj) - as well as showing up in each contributors Twitter status

Featured DJs:

Chris Messina

Fred Wilson

Jason Herskowitz

Ouriel Ohayon

Basically, when you click receive the Twitter message, they provide an URL for artists that resolve to their “FoxyTunes Planet” mashup (which pulls in YouTube, Pandora, Last.fm, Flickr and lots of other feeds). Also, when you visit either my DJ channel (or the aggregated channel), you can then listen to the songs I've recommended since they map them to YouTube videos. Voila... personalized radio that doesn't cost them anything to broadcast.

If this takes off for them it will generate a good number of page views for them without actually having to generate any content themselves. There is a growing trend of Music 2.0 services using freely available/licensed music videos to create "personalized radio stations". I'm not sure how this trend ultimately gets reconciled with the Streaming Radio Royalty Rates, but obviously more and more loopholes and workarounds pop-up everyday.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Universal Music not on iTunes??

Wow, this would be big news.

DRUDGE REPORT 2007®: "FLASH: APPLE FACES A REBELLION OVER ITUNES... Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music corporation, notified Apple that it will not renew its annual contract to sell music through iTunes... Developing.."

Not that I'm a huge fan of iTunes (nor the power they yield), but shutting down *another* consumer-loved mechanism for delivery of music is going to help UMG how exactly? I can only sincerely hope that they are getting ready to announce that they will offer DRM-free MP3s via the other channels simultaneously with turning off Apple.

If not, you are going to have hundreds of millions of iPod/iPhone consumers that can't get Universal content on their love-and-joys. I shudder to think of the consumer backlash of such a scenario... And guess who will fill the role of villain? It certainly won't be the Santa Claus in Cupertino that just delivered everyone's favorite new toy. It will be the "evil" (market's perception) record companies that "sue their customers" and now won't even sell them content that they want to buy.

But, if they *do* go DRMless MP3s (which I would applaud wildly) then guys like Amazon must be licking their chops - as this could force a mass migration to another platform where a consumer knows he can get most of what he/she is looking for from the same place.