Monday, April 28, 2008

Strands - Tying it All Together

I've been really quiet lately, and that is always the first sign that things at work are really humming along and keeping me busy. Lots of things are going on, and we are quickly approaching the time when we will unveil some of the new big pieces. But, leading up to that point are a number of new Strands releases that are quickly becoming available. To begin with, last week we announced that we were changing our brand from MyStrands to just "Strands".

We have also unveiled a new business solutions initiative that "delivers advanced social recommendation and personalization technology as an easy-to-use Strands hosted service that enables high quality individualized discovery and community features in your site."

Perhaps you've also seen us starting to bang the drum about the importance of data portability. We strongly believe that a user's taste data should be their own - and given that, they should be able to control who they share it with (or not).

What else? Well, since you asked...

Since we partnered with MTV to run partyStrands at their New Year's Event (on the big screen on Times Square), the website just got a shiny new facelift and has been rockin' large and small nightclubs and events across the country.

Also, a few weeks ago our Social Player won the MobileRules 08 "best multimedia application" award. And today we are announcing the last version of that application that adds the ability for users to send playcount data (aka "scrobble") from your mobile phone to in addition to

Strands Blog: "We have just released version 3.1 of Nokia’s Mobile Rules! 2008 winning application, MyStrands Social Player, which allows you to scrobble tracks to as you play music on your Symbian S60 3rd Edition and J2ME (optimized for Nokia S40) devices (download for S60 devices here and for S40 devices here). Recently listened tracks on your mobile device will now be available on your profile.

The MyStrands Social Player is a music player for mobile devices that lets you discover new music, connect with people, and share your tastes with friends. Version 3.1 works with Nokia S60 3rd edition or S40 devices (optimized for most recent Nokia S40 devices), which brings the MyStrands Social Player not only to 10s of millions of smart phones but to the true mass market of 100s of millions of Java devices.

Powered by Strands’ Recommender, MyStrands Social Player provides artist and song recommendations from over 6 million songs, automatically shows cover art and fully integrates with a social network of music enthusiasts.

The “Who’s Listening” feature lets you discover like-minded people who are listening to the same songs you are playing. You can send messages, see the listening histories of your friends, and keep an ear on what’s hot."

The next event in this year's award season for the Social Player is our nomination for a Mobile User Experience award. If you like what you see, vote for us!

Vote for us in the MEX Design Competition

This stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, with much more to come. I promise.

In the meantime, don't forget to enjoy your personalized music video channel on MyStrands.TV, or a personalized radio station of indie/unsigned artists (and upload your own band's stuff for inclusion), and of course - track your listening behavior, get personalized music recommendations, and much more at


Today we announced our acquisition of Expensr and the beta release of moneyStrands.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reply Channels

Every once in a while, when I'm in a music rut and being lazy, I will just ask people for recommendations on what I should be listening to. Yeah, everybody does that, I know. But want I find interesting is the different modes in which the recommendations come in.

Take today for example... I tweeted (or is "twittered"?) the following:

Need some new music... what do you guys suggest?

Because of the multiple status broadcast and aggregation tools I use, that message found it's way to my Twitter account, Pownce account, Facebook status, FriendFeed (and other lifestreaming sites), and a number of other channels.

What I found interesting where the multiple modes of response I received.

  • public @replies via Twitter
  • direct Twitter replies
  • posts to my Facebook wall
  • private (inbox) messages via Facebook
  • messages from friends with links sent from their music site of choice
  • comments on a number of lifestream aggregators (to where my tweets get published)
  • instant messages
  • emails
  • and I'm guessing that I get some more recommendations from people via comments on this post

I find it to be a very interesting (and growing) phenomenon. What do you guys think? What's your preferred channel?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sony Buys Gracenote

Wow... hello left-field. I didn't see that one coming.... : Sony Corporation of America to Acquire Gracenote: "NEW YORK, April 22 --
Sony Corporation of America (SCA) announced today that it has signed a merger agreement with Gracenote, Inc. Sony will pay approximately $260 million plus other contingent consideration."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two Minutes and 42 Seconds in Heaven

Great story. Follow the link and learn why 2:42 is the ideal length for the perfect song.

Two Minutes and 42 Seconds in Heaven by Joshua Allen - The Morning News: "How many horn solos does it take to kill a perfect pop song? JOSHUA ALLEN applies science and taste to determine the exact best length—down to the second—for the platonic song, including a full mix tape of samples."

Then head on over to Muxtape to experience a mixtape comprised solely of 2:42 long songs.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Seems Like Old Times

It seems like it has been forever since I've been to a club show (when it fact it probably has indeed been the lifetime of my children). Last night I finally got motivated to get back out there - with the help of my wife and a babysitter.

The show that finally got me off my parental ass was the incomparable Mike Doughty, the venue... the 9:30 Club in DC. He played probably 15 songs, with an even mix of tracks off of Haughty Melodic (my favorite album of last year) and Golden Delicious (released last month). For good measure, he threw 2 Soul Coughing tunes ("Circles" and "St. Louise is Listening") and a cover of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler". A couple of technical problems ruined the flow at times, but Mike and his band adeptly filled the time with amusing banter.

Mike: "This is a very important time of the night. This is the song before the *fake* last song. We are going to play this song, then the *fake* last song with a big rock-and-roll ending. I will introduce the each guy in the band by their full christian name - then the lights will go out. We will turn around and you will pretend we are off the stage. You will cheer and we will turn around and then play 2 more songs".

The show was good, but not great. The technical problems aside, the Soul Coughing songs sounded a bit flat in my opinion and I swear "St. Louise" was in an entirely different key. But, for a $20/ticket it is was a no-brainer. Although when you throw in the $10 service charge + $4 box office charge + $10 parking + $6 beers + $60 babysitter the return on investment becomes a little obvious but still worth it.

The thing that most struck me was how much older Doughty looked to me. Then I remembered that the last time I saw him was in 1995 playing a stellar Soul Coughing show at The Point. He was probably saying the same thing about his mostly 30-something crowd. Where does the time go?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Never Go Up Against a Sicilian When *Death* is on the Line!

US music market shares, according to Nielsen SoundScan (2005)Image from WikipediaVizzini vs. The Man in Black in "The Princess Bride"... one of the most quoted and memorable movie scenes of my generation. The battle of wits to the death comes to mind often when I sit and watch what is going on right now in the music industry. The labels are Vizzini... overconfident, over-thinking, but also over-looking (the obvious). The consumers are The Man in Black... practical, nimble and immune.

For those of you that watch the industry, you have seen a flurry of announcements lately about the new approaches the labels are taking, the partners that used to be defendants, and how everything is the next "iTunes-Killer". While hyperbole is aplenty, clarity is hard to come by when it comes to making bets on what happens next.
  • offering free streaming of millions(?) of tracks has also just announced that they will also offer streaming simulcasts of CBS Radio stations (sister division)
  • imeem cutting deals with all the majors with other "gray" services being coerced into similar deals
  • MySpace Music's announcement today about offering free streams (from 3 of the 4 majors) and selling both DRM'd and DRM free tracks
  • Nokia's "Comes with Music" offering (aka "the hardware tax")
  • Apple's rumored discussions around their own subscription plans ("hardware tax")
  • Omniphone's music subscription as bundled with wireless plan service in Europe ("wireless tax")
  • Universal Music Group's "Total Music" plan(s) that are still unclear ("hardware tax"?)
  • Warner Music Group's announcement last week that they hired Jim Griffin to drive and promote a service offering that would be bundled with your ISP bill (aka "the ISP tax")
  • MP3 Search Engines (aka "information retrieval tools") and online storage lockers, like Seeqod and MP3tunes, being sued by major record labels
  • New playlisting and music services popping up daily (see Muxtape and Mixwit)
  • Other services getting acquired (Foxytunes, Qloud) while others close up shop (Ezmo)
  • XM & Sirius merging
  • EMI hires ex-Google CIO to head up their digital division
  • Yahoo and MTV shedding their subscription music services (to Rhapsody)
  • Yahoo Music VP, Ian Rogers, decided to move on to a new job focused on the *creation* side of the industry... presumably because the consumption side is such a mess?
  • AOL farming out their radio programming (and presumably royalty liabilities) to CBS Radio
  • Amazon is now the second biggest digital music retailer, but iTunes is now the biggest music retailer (digital or physical) surpassing Wal-Mart
The list goes on and on. The good news is that there are a lot of smart and passionate people dedicated to trying to change the way the music business operates. The bad news is that most of the business models being pursued above can only succeed at the expense of all the other models.

I like the notion of making music "feel free" even if it's not. The problem is are you going to pay Nokia, Apple, Verizon and Comcast all an incremental fee for the same rights (all the music you can enjoy)? Some would say the labels have finally gotten smart by recently making some online bets after years of just trying to wish the internet away. Others would say that they are extorting the digital music companies, forcing them to make huge upfront deals and trade away big chunks of their companies in the name of self-preservation. Taken a step further, many claim the labels are moving towards extorting the consumers directly (after years of suing them) by trying to inflict an "optional" ISP music fee that basically buys you (and the ISP) immunity from being sued.

The only thing clear to me is that there is a nuclear bomb coming, and I'm not betting on any of them until the smoke clears. Any one of the (r)evolutionary models will send ripples throughout the music/tech community.... anointing new kings while massacring hundreds of others in the process.

That is, of course, if Steve Jobs decides to let any of it happen or not.