Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Rentals Coming to iTunes - What About Music?

As rumored for a while (and previously mentioned) Fox and Disney will both be offering movie rentals via iTunes (for between $2 - $5 for a 24 hour period). So, Apple's FairPlay DRM scheme - and complete hardware line - has now obviously evolved to support time-constrained subscription licenses.

As the music world continues to move to a DRMless ecosystem - with Warner now the 3rd of the 4 major labels to join - one must wonder if Apple is considering entering the subscription music market.

Why?! Well, in a DRM world iTunes became the dominant player partly because the only place you could buy major-label music that worked on an iPod was from iTunes. But now.... now I can unprotected MP3s from multiple sources that work with my iPod. Amazon being the most notable.

So, if Amazon all of a sudden started eating into iTunes sales.... would Apple flick the switch on subscription music to lock them (the consumers) back in? I don't know, but at this point one of the few people that could get people to "rent" their music is the same person that told people not to in the first place.

I still need to post my 2008 predictions... maybe this will be one of my long-shot picks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Holiday Gift from MyStrands - iStrands

OK, so maybe you didn't get a Wii this year (see previous post) but you still want some MyStrands love for you sparkly new iPhone? Well, if you have one of those devices that you have "jailbreaked" (or is it "jailbroken"?) and you want to be able to track what you are listening to while you are out and about, do we have a hack for you!

Last week the "iStrands" app was added to the STE Repository which can be found in the Nullriver Installer App (aka AppTapp). Unfortunately, no one has made it real easy to use AppTapp on an iPhone that is running the latest firmware (1.1.2), but if you are still running 1.1.1 then it's a snap.


1) Tap on "Installer" in your iPhone(if you don't have it, download it in your mac from here: "" follow instructions, and install as required if you iphone version is allowed)

2) Install iStrands tracker. To do so tap on "Install" tab of "Installer" app, navigate inside the "Multimedia" folder and then install the "iStrands"

3) Congrats, iStrands is now installed in your iPhone you now just need to configure it, this is done through the regular iPod preferences in your iPhone (down to the bottom of the iphone preferences list)

iStrands will now be sending playcounts when connected over WiFi or EDGE (presumably you can deactivate EDGE connection through Settings->General->Network->Data Roaming). While being offline iStrands keeps a backlog (up to several hundred songs) that is sent to our servers when becoming online again.

If (like me) you are running the latest firmware (1.1.2), it is a bit more complicated. So, for the brave you can follow theses detailed instructions.

Otherwise, look for some more goodness when the official iPhone SDK is released... the last I heard was this was looking to be February (perhaps more details to be released at Macworld in a few weeks).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

MyStrands.TV on Your Wii

For those of you that just got a Nintendo Wii for the holidays (or like me you claim to have gotten for your kids but somehow you seem to be the one that is always playing it), I highly recommend that you download the Opera Browser (aka "Internet Channel") for 500 Wii points and then fire up on it. It works great and now easily brings personalized music into your living room.

Ho, ho, ho!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cat Power Stikes Again

Damn, Cat Power did it to me again! I watched "Juno" last night (great flick... highly recommend it) and was sitting there enjoying the quirky little film with a pleasant soundtrack when all of a sudden I heard Cat Power signing a cover of "Sea of Love".

Cat Power - Sea of Love
Found at

It was almost too good for the soundtrack, it actually took my attention away from the movie as I sat there and said... "whoa, I've got to get this soundtrack!".

I never knew that I had such at thing for Cat Power, but this is the second time this winter where one of her songs has literally reached out from a soundtrack (or commercial) and made me sit up and take notice.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My Top 10 Albums of 2007

Unlike some who require that the albums on their list be *released* in 2007, I'm much more lax than that. Basically, I just went through my MyStrands charts month-by-month and plucked out the artists/albums that I have listened to the most this year. I disregarded albums that were more than a couple of years old, but have included many that were released in 2006 (hey, sometimes I'm late to the party). Here we go, in no particular order...

Out of those above, I've got to say that right now Manchester Orchestra may take the top spot for me this year. Here they are performing "Wolves at Night" on Letterman:

And in honor of my post about Imeem the other day, a playlist of the "best of the best".

And there are still some gems that I listen to a lot from last year's best-of list.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Imeem - Doomed by Success?

Michael Robertson (CEO/Founder of MP3tunes formerly of the original has very interesting analysis of the deals Imeem had to cut with the labels, and how they have essentially solidified their own death....

Michael Robertson . com: "Far from a breakthrough, it is a death sentence for Imeem. Under a dark cloud of looming lawsuits, Imeem entered into a crushing financial agreement that allows them to survive as long as venture capital money continues to flow into the company, but spells almost certain financial calamity once outside funding halts. Reporters classified the deal as a 'license' with 'advertising revenue sharing', implying it is a new structure from the labels. A more accurate description would be an ownership position with substantial upfront payments, plus required ongoing payments regardless of revenue generated by Imeem. To put it another way, it is the same onerous deal labels have foisted on digital music companies for the last decade."

If you buy into the picture that Michael paints, it sounds like the Imeem folks had their back up against the wall. Either get sued out of existence, or sign up for financial commitments that are impossible to meet. The only happy ending? Sell, sell, sell! But to who? The labels already basically own them, and who else would want to buy such a money losing venture?

Michael's is obviously just one opinion based on information that he has been able to scrape together from his industry contacts, but I find it fascinating nonetheless.

AOL Music Gets Bold

Originally uploaded by jherskowitz

AOL Music launched their new Song pages this week (part of a rolling relaunch of the site), and I applaud the direction they are going lately (disregarding the overzealous ads I talked about a couple of weeks ago).

The legal mucketymucks over there have been slowly loosening their collars a bit and letting the product folks actually compete with the smaller players who don't ask permission, but rather forgiveness. First was the AIMtunes plug-in earlier this fall - which, to be honest, I was shocked that Legal let them launch. Now comes the new AOL Music song pages/player which includes a stay of execution for the once great - now on respiratory - AOL search property of SingingFish.

Basically, when you search for a song at AOL Music they first try to fulfill that request with a licensed/promotional copy of the song that they have secured from the labels. The new piece of the puzzle is that if they don't have it, they will present you a list of free-range MP3 search results. Those results are presented with a white play icon (versus blue icon of the AOL catalog songs)... click on it and it presents a list of possible matches that you can select and play.

They also do a nice job of merging the two sources.

Both official content and free-range MP3s are played back in the same pop-up player, and the assets can be mixed in the queue.


Next they need to be able to let users create a mixed playlist that they can embed and share... but I'm sure that is coming.

Shoutouts to Georgina, Grant and Dan.

The downside? The SingingFish fish ship basically has no captain. It used to be great but there is no one steering the ship anymore. AOL should reinvest in this (or similar) platform because right now too many songs are presented as being "found" but the links are dead. Let's hope they do... otherwise there is always Skreemr, Seeqpod and MP3Realm.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Roundtable: Portable Playlists & Catalog Resolution

One of my MyStrands partners-in-crime, Scott Kveton, was on a panel this past week about data portability, microformats and standards with respect to media. Others on the panel included Lucas Gonze, Tom Conrad and Tantek Celic.

Scott Kveton · Portable Playlist and other POSH-ibilities Meetup: "Before the panel both Tom and I were chatting about how there is really only one big problem that both Pandora and MyStrands face: catalog resolution. This is a huge problem that consumes quite a bit of developer time in both of our camps. Unfortunately, every playlist format out there simply punts on this problem. They point at some “resource” that is the catalog entry. Now, from a portability standpoint that’s great and I can appreciate the why’s of why you’d do that."

Follow the link to the full post, and then you can follow it up with Lucas Gonze's (creator of Webjay, author of XSPF and now part of Yahoo Music) post too.

the Wordpress of Lucas Gonze: "Or is the real problem still economic and not technical? Are there features which it would be profitable to support which entail portability? The problem isn’t how to enable portability, it’s why a business would want that. The status quo is lack of portability, with each music service an island. This sector as a whole hasn’t developed into a collective ecosystem, and businesses which do invest in portable identifiers don’t stand to gain any value until other businesses join them."

Also check out the comment threads on both posts too... the conversation continues there.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fully Converted

My monitor on my home PC fried last week while I was traveling. I talked to HP's customer support who, after determining that my monitor was indeed fried and that my warranty expired a few months ago, asked... "would you like to order a new one?".

Uh, yeah... but certainly not from you guys. Has that ever worked for them? We're sorry you just had a terrible experience with one of our products... you want to pay us to try again?

So, with some quick research it is once again confirmed that PCs are disposable... a new 20" widescreen monitor is $300, and a new AMD PC with 20" widescreen monitor is only $100 more. I considered taking that path (as I have before) but then decided that I would just bite the bullet and convert to an iMac at home since I've been on a MacBook Pro for about 6 months and am very fond of it.

After running up to Best Buy and having to track down somebody to take my money, I got home and as expected got the new Mac up and running in about 20 minutes. The wife and kids are already very fond of it.

The old PC? Well, I'm going to move it to another part of the house and getting it configured to do so is taking hours (had to slap a spare wireless card into the tower). There goes the rest of my night.... but at least my purchase has already been validated.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Foiled by GeoFiltering

I just arrived in Spain and had some time to kill. I flipped through the TV channels and decided that there is only some much CNN I can watch, and my 3 years of high school Spanish (that I took 20 years ago) has somehow failed to provide me with the tools I need to fully appreciate Spanish language programming.

So, I was excited by the prospect of logging into Hulu and catching up on a couple of shows I missed last week. Foiled!

Hulu - Geofiltering

Anyone know a good trick for getting around geofilters? I thought I could use Google Translate to trick it into thinking I was in the US, but that didn't work. Suggestions anyone?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hulu Hoop

I just got my invite to the Hulu beta yesterday and am diving into it now. My first impressions are that it's pretty elegant. Very good video quality, clean design and nice flash player. You can even edit your own clips and just post the piece you want.

As for content, there is a bunch of current NBC and Fox shows (The Office, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, The Simpsons, House, Prison Break, etc.), some old shows (Simon & Simon, WKRP in Cinncinati) and even a few movies (Sideways, The Jerk, The Breakfast Club).

And now for your viewing pleasure, my current favorite network show:

And one of my all-time favorite network series (may it rest in peace):

The problem? They don't let you easily change the size of the embedded player, I had to go in and manually edit the object width on each of the videos above to get them to fit...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

MyStrands Raises Another $24M

Things have been quite busy lately (see below), part of the reason I've been so quiet on the blogging front...

MyStrands Raises Another $24M for Music Recommendations: "MyStrands, the music recommendation service with a focus on the mobile sec, has raised another $24 million in a Series B2 round of funding, led by Spanish bank BBVA with existing investor Debaeque participating. With MyStrands’ last round in June closing out at $25 million, the company has now raised a cool $55 million to play around with."

Want more details?