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?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Universal Music CEO in the Sunday Funnies

I've been traveling the last 2 weeks and haven't posted much - including my lack of commentary on Universal Music's CEO (Doug Morris) much maligned interview in Wired a few days ago. I would give you my take, but this comic from Hijinks Ensue pretty much wraps it up in 4 frames...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Music Day

I discovered from David Jenning's status message this morning that today is "No Music Day". I didn't know what sort of statement was being made, so I went to to check it out.

It turns out, you can make whatever statement you want. Perhaps you want to abstain because you think the quality or music being produced lately is sub-par. Perhaps you want to send a message to the major labels that they should stop suing their customers. It could be that by not listening today, you will appreciate it more tomorrow. Maybe you want to make a statement that if consumers keep stealing music, artists will stop making it. Whatever you want. Make a statement for why you are supporting it or not.

Personally, while I'd like to make some noble statement about how I'm not going to listen today until the major labels get their shit together (in general) - honestly I'm ultimately *not* going to support it because I don't think I can go all day without it. You wouldn't ask a schizophrenic to abstain from taking their anti-psychotic drugs for a day to make a point would you?! :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AOL Music - When Ads Attack

I just went to go see what's been going on at AOL Music lately and was virtually accosted and groped inappropriately by Kohl's department store.

Now, I have no inherent dislikes of advertising... it is often a business necessity, and on rare occasion the ads are even enjoyable or personally relevant. Unfortunately, that was not the case today - and I sincerely hope that the site is broken and this is not working as intended. I went to the site with the intention of watching some music videos, so I landed on their home page and clicked the "videos" tab.

(Aside: I fully expect as a consumer that I will see ads on each of these pages, and expect at a site like AOL that I will most likely see some video pre- or post-roll every other video I watch.)

But, when it went to load the video "hub" page I was presented with a full-page interstitial. OK, not *that* horrific... many sites do that (a number of news sites comes to mind). The issue I have is that the interstitial was a video commercial for Kohl's department store! Considering I'm currently online using my AT&T wireless card the whole process freaked out my machine while the video buffered... there was no escape. Later, I finally got the "skip this ad" (about 30 seconds too late). My other issue? I have no interest in Kohl's. There is one down the street from me and I've never been in it. No interest, not relevant to me.

The question I have is... given all of the options for music videos out there would you (as a consumer) ever come back after experiencing this? It's one thing if you're the only game in town, it's quite another when you have new competitors every day.

Industry Moves: Swarms Musicmobs

Toby Padilla, creator of Musicmobs (one of the first "music 2.0" sites out there) has packed his bags, ideas and talent and moved to London to join (nee CBS) as their VP of Client Software.

I heart Musicmobs: "In the end, I accepted's offer to help create the social music dream team :) I'll be heading up the desktop and client software division and working with some really amazing people to take the desktop player to the next level."

Congrats to Toby - and to for getting him. Not only has he shown he is a visionary in the industry (and all-around good guy) but he has the unique distinction of getting me to join Facebook. Perhaps I can file charges against him for drug dealing?! :-)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Where Classic Rock Goes to Live

I drove from my home in Northern Virginia to upstate New York this weekend, and every time I do so I am amazed that apparently the only thing you can find on the radio from Gettysburg, PA all the way to Syracuse, NY is classic rock. All Zeppelin, all the time. You've got to wonder if these stations have had the same rotation for the last 30+ years.

"Radio?" Yeah, I almost never listen to terrestrial radio anymore, but what are you to do when your portable player's battery dies and you don't have a car charger with you? Well, apparently you just listen to the Top 10 playlist from 1969... and put it on repeat.

Get me (and everyone else) cheap/pervasive high-speed internet access to my car and/or mobile and watch how fast terrestrial radio goes into the toilet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

RocketSurgeon & the Brain Scientists

I'm guessing that most of you that read my blog are also very familiar with the posts and directory of RocketSurgeon. What most people probably don't know is that RocketSurgeon (aka Jadam Kahn) and I worked together on the music service formerly known as MusicNow (aka AOL Music Now or more commonly..."the service AOL shot in the head because they could make a quick buck by selling off the subscribers to Napster").

Well, I'm excited to say that (some of) the band is getting back together... Jadam and I are now working together again on the next generation of MyStrands products and services.

I've heard from a number of people who have been watching the activity at MyStrands ask, "what the hell are you guys working on"? Usually right before or after the reference to the recent $25 million round of funding we raised this summer and the stable of Ph.Ds we have squirreled away in various corners of the world.

Well, of course I can't tell you that, but we are very excited about the stuff we've got cooking, and it won't be long before we give you all a whiff. :-)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Song of the Day: Manchester Orchestra - Where Have You Been?

I am a fan of Simplify Media, and their iTunes plug-in just got better by now also supporting Winamp. Now I can stream songs off my friends' machines regardless of which media player they use.

Today, I was trawling a friend's collection and saw an artist I had never heard before... Manchester Orchestra. So I just clicked and listened. It turns out that it was a great discovery, so I thought I'd share.

The Manchester Orchestra - Where Have You Been?

Found at

A nice side-effect of this use case is that all of my "scrobblers" track these so if I'm streaming off an friends machine and I missed what I had played, I can just go and check out my play history.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

muSick in the Head Logo

I have no real creative talent... musical, design or the such. But that doesn't keep me from occasionally trying to create a logo. Here's one I came up with today for m.i.t.h. (muSick in the Head).

I basically knocked it off from something I saw on iStockPhoto. I may still play around with it... but thought I'd share just for the hell of it.

mith logo

me*dia*or: Finally Gets Some Fixes

The relaunch of Tumblr finally forced me to clean up me*dia*or and I think it should be much more user-friendly now. Before I had just been using Tumblr to aggregate all of the "music 2.0" feeds that I pull (almost 100 now I think) - which is not really it's primary purpose, but it worked. Then a few months ago I reimplemented the me*dia*or tumblelog as more of it's own social network built upon Ning. Then I started using Yahoo Pipes to pull, filter and aggregate some more sources that covered a wider range of subjects (but I only wanted the music related ones). I then had a number of different uber-feeds and depending on which one you subscribed to, you got slightly different behaviors. Worst of all if you subscribed to the me*dia*or feed and clicked on a link, it took you to the same synopsis of that feed on my Tumblr site where you'd have to click again to get the full/original story. Yeah, a total frankenstein.

Tumblr's new build (launched last week) has some nice additions, but they have now implemented some new rules that limit users ability to use it in the manner I was. First of all, they have removed all the source attribution links. I had been asking the Tumblr folks if there was a way to make the sources *more* prominent (e.g. in the Title of each story) - but unfortunately they went the other way. I'm not sure if it is just a bug - but I have a feeling this is tied to the second TOS change they implemented... you are now only allowed to aggregate up to 5 RSS feeds into Tumblr (slightly less than the 100 I was using it for) and they state that any/all feeds you aggregate must be your own original content. OK, OK, I've got it.... you don't want me using your service the way I was. :-)

So, I went back and built a massive RSS feed splicer, filter, renamer thingamajig using Yahoo Pipes (which *is* exactly what it was meant for). I took the resulting Pipe feed and ran it through feedburner, then took that feed and sucked it back into my Ning site. Clear as mud?!

To make a short story long, all it means is that when you subscribe to the feed ( you will now get nice clean links (with attribution in the title) that takes you directly to the source of the story - no need to make a superfluous stop on my site. If you want the more full experience - with community, jobs, photos, etc then you can still get it all at

Any comments, suggestions, ideas? Just let me know. Hope you enjoy the new and improved me*dia*or.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Qloud & iLike Talk OpenSocial

Everyone is talking about OpenSocial, and the music 2.0 services are no exception.

Toby Murdock - CEO, Qloud

Ali Partovi - CEO, iLike

The thing that most immediately strikes me is that iLike, Qloud and MySpace all have their own versions of an "artist page" within the same network. So, now the consumer experience is fragmented. "Did you see my post on 50 Cent's wall?!". "Uh, no. Which wall? The MySpace artist page, the iLike artist page or the Qloud artist page?". The same problem already exists in Facebook.

How does this all shake out?! I don't know yet. Any thoughts?

TechCrunch covers some of the upcoming battle here.

UPDATE: It turns out that Tim O'Reily is a bit disappointed with OpenSocial in general...

OpenSocial: It's the data, stupid: "If all OpenSocial does is allow developers to port their applications more easily from one social network to another, that's a big win for the developer, as they get to shop their application to users of every participating social network. But it provides little incremental value to the user, the real target. We don't want to have the same application on multiple social networks. We want applications that can use data from multiple social networks."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Macrovision Acquires AMG

Breaking news.... Macrovision acquires AMG (aka All Media Guide). AMG is most widely known for their music database products (which powers many media players and music stores), and also has a portfolio that include recommendation engines (Tapestry), music recognition technology (LASSO), and their consumer sites AllMusic, AllMovie and AllGame. - The Economics of Content - Financial: "The acquisition of AMG extends Macrovision’s solutions for the enhancement and distribution of digital content by making it easier for consumers to discover, purchase, interact with and play back digital media assets, which is a strategic priority for Macrovision. Macrovision and AMG’s combined solutions offer consumer electronics device manufacturers the ability to better manage media while putting information about millions of movies, videos and songs within the easy reach of consumers. AMG’s comprehensive data is also intended to strongly appeal to Macrovision video content customers, which include Hollywood studios. AMG’s content enables those customers to more easily monetize digital media by making content identification, navigation, recommendation and enjoyment simpler for consumers. “In an era when consumers have many choices, cell phone manufacturers, electronics device makers and service providers want to make video and all other entertainment content quick and easy to find,” said Fred Amoroso, CEO of Macrovision Corporation. “AMG plays a critical role in enhancing the overall consumers’ user experience in searching, discovering, purchasing and enjoying entertainment media. Its offerings complement our existing sol and partnerships for helping content owners monetize their digital media assets and device makers retain and grow their customer base.”

“Metadata is a critical component of media commerce and demand for rich descriptive data such as reviews, album art, artist biographies and accompanying editorials is growing quickly,” said Karl Ryser Jr., President of AMG. “It takes years to accumulate a high-quality database of metadata, and AMG has become an essential partner for its customers. Joining together with Macrovision puts us in an even better position to help more consumer electronics manufacturers, retailers and content owners collaborate with customers to create outstanding online media experiences.”

UPDATE: For those curious, the reports say the deal was for $82 million.

Name Your Own Price Trend Grows

I forgot to post about this when the news first broke, but Paste Magazine is offering a "name your own price" deal for a 1 year (11 issue) subscription to their magazine. Their gamble is really that you will be a multi-year subscriber and will re-up at their standard rate starting year 2.

The hard-costs are substantial for a print magazine (with a 20-song promotional music CD with every issue), but I bet it ends up working out well for them. I would have probably never subscribed without this promo (in fact I had never heard of the pub before), but now have thrown $5 their way to see what it's all about.

Paste Magazine :: Name Your Own Price: "For a limited time, name your own price for a one-year subscription to Paste. Yes, it's up to you. What's it worth to have a great read and a great listen delivered to your door every month? 11 issues and 11 CDs (roughly 220 songs) covering the best in music, film and culture. On the newsstand, one year of Paste costs $65.45; one-year subscriptions are $19.95. In February, we will recognize those who pay the most (more than the subscription price) in the magazine—and we even made it easy for you to give gifts."

Check it out... don't cost nuthin' (well, $1 is the minimum - but that's almost free).

Leopard Gets Some Flea Collars

Yesterday I mentioned that there was an update to Quicktime and iTunes that I hoped killed some of the changes/bugs that had been perpetuated onto virtually every company that had ever built an iTunes plug-in. I'm not sure if Apple's fix helped pave the way for other fixes, but today saw the release of new clients for both iLike and Qloud that got them both up and running again on the new OS (MyStrands and fixes posted last week).

Pandora Builds Some Additions to their Box

Pandora has finally started to add some more social features to their radio product. Nothing earth-shattering (at least not yet) but they are good first steps....

Pandora: Everything starts with listening... some big changes at Pandora: "The new system is called Pandora Extras and it lets us place dynamic content and functionality alongside the music player. Tonight we're shipping four of these Extras:

  • Now Playing: tells you all about the song, album, and artist you're hearing, recommends other similar songs and bands, and points you to other Pandora listeners that are fans.
  • Friends: helps you keep tabs on all your friends that use Pandora so you can learn from their music discoveries. Find all your friends with a few clicks by importing your web mail address book.
  • Genre Stations: lets you explore unfamiliar parts of the music universe by sampling over 100 genre stations.
  • Pandora Presents...: features our new series of Pandora-produced podcasts and videos.

What's most exciting about this though is it's an entirely new palette for us to paint on; this is the beginning of a larger vision for Pandora. We've got all kinds of ideas for future 'Extras' to add to the system and what we're rolling out tonight gives us a flexible design that will allow us to add literally dozens of new options to compliment listening. It's a whole new world for us. There are a few other little things tucked into this release for you to enjoy as well. For example, you can now comment on album, artist, and song pages."

Monday, November 05, 2007

iTunes & Quicktime Updates

I've been regularly and manually hammering away on "check for software updates" on Leopard. Today came new builds of both iTunes and Quicktime - there are some minor feature additions, but what I'm really hopeful of is that the undisclosed "bug fixes" remedies some of the issues with this machine since I upgraded to Leopard. Specifically, Front Row (often times it won't render the video, only the audio) and iTunes (many broken plug-ins).

Let's hope....

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Tale of Two Cats, A Diamond and Commercial Success

There is a diamond commercial that is playing right now that has the web abuzz. The commercial is simple... a man quietly puts a diamond necklace on his wife while she is sleeping. The entire tone and emotional power of the commercial is provided by Cat Power doing a cover of "How Can I Tell You" by another Cat... Cat Stevens.

I don't go out of my way to buy Cat Power albums, but every time I hear any of her songs I like it. So, I went to search for it and you can find post after post of people asking "who does that song, I love it!". Well, the song is not available in anything more than the 30 second snippet from the commercial.

Cat Power - How Can I Tell You

The word is that there is a Cat Power album of covers coming out next year. This commercial may very well turn Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) into a mainstream star. Some people may call this a sellout, but I think when done right commercial soundtracks can be a very powerful tool. Nick Drake and Volkswagen. Feist and Apple. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and eToys.

What to get a Cat Power fix to hold you over until the album comes out? Check out the Cat Power Channel on MyStrands.TV.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mac OS X (Leopard) - Just How Buggy Is it?

I was one of the 2 million people that bought and installed Apple's latest upgrade to OS X (commonly referred to as "Leopard") this week. While I don't really see it as consisting of any *major* enhancements, it comes with a couple hundred smaller improvements that make life a bit easier - my personal favorite being "Spaces".

But, that being said, I am running into a number of bugs and frequent crashes of what used to be a very stable machine. Judging by status messages and tweets from my friends, I'm not the only one.

FrontRow has been especially problematic, as has my AT&T 3G card - the 3rd party software that came with it no longer launches, and the OS-level connection software seems to not like my card.

But, the biggest issue for me (both as consumer and professional) are the incompatibilities with iTunes plug-ins. Leopard has broken most 3rd party iTunes plug-ins, including iLike, Qloud, MyStrands (at least temporarily - a fix posted quickly), and something is just not quite right with either (UPDATE: a fix has just been posted).

Anyone else having issues?

Monday, October 29, 2007

NBC - Almost a Good Online TV Experience

I applaud NBC for providing a huge amount of TV content on the web for free (streaming at least). I'm pretty good about recording my shows, but this week my cable went out and therefore I missed a bunch of my favorites. In the past, I have watched episodes online at without much trouble and was pleased with experience - high quality video resolution, low buffering times, clean flash player experience, light on commercial interruptions.

Where the flaws get exposed though is when you try to move that experience to your living room. I have a graveyard in my basement with headstones for a myriad of devices designed to move PC-bound content to your home theater (with the honor of my earliest/first such device being the "Audiotron" from Turtle Beach). I've now simplified my set up a bit by simply taking my MacBook down to the basement, plopping it down next to the TV and running a DVI-to-HDMI cable to my TV and mini-jack to RCA to my stereo. Decidedly low-tech but works great for this purpose.

So, back to my story.... I did this to watch a bunch of missed NBC shows this week. Easy enough.... click play, select "fullscreen" and then go sit on the couch. Now the problems... there was 1 pre-roll ad and 5 commercial breaks during the show. I don't fault them for that at all. The problem is that every time it hit a commercial it would kick out of full-screen mode back into normal size (oh yeah, and I had to stand there waiting for the 30 second pre-roll to end before I could select "fullscreen" to begin with). So, 5 times during the show I had to get up, walk across the room and reselect "fullscreen". NBC, if you are listening, please fix this - I can't imagine it's a hard problem to solve.

Problem #2... I was watching Friday Night Lights (apparently the target demo for that show is middle-aged women) and I got the *same* ad every single commercial break (Dove Body Wash). C'mon, I had just watched The Office and 30 Rock... is that all they could come up with to advertise to me?

TV online has come a *long* way... but still has a little bit further to go. I've signed up to get on the beta for Hulu, let's hope they can get us a bit closer.

The Greatest Coldplay Video Ever?

What on earth is going on here?! Coldplay playing live on a morning show as a musical backdrop to octogenarian Dancing with the Stars?!

See the video at The Frames Channel on MyStrandsTV

Blackberry & Omnifone Team Up in Europe

Earlier this summer, before the iPhone hype, a little company called Omnifone announced there were working on a mobile-centric music subscription product called "MusicStation".

muSick in the Head: Mobile Music - All You Can Eat from MusicStation

If the service works as advertised, it seems pretty compelling. Basically, there is an incremental fee of 2 to 3 euros/week (8 - 12 euros/month) added to your mobile bill for the right to download and stream as much content from their 1.2 million track catalog as your heart desires (or your phone can handle). This includes the ability to stream one song while downloading another in the background. The weekly fees are inclusive of the data fees - where the higher subscription fees allow you to transfer the tracks that you downloaded to your phone back over to a PC. These tracks can *not* be burned to a CD, and it is unclear whether they can be synced to another mobile device.

The service works on "most" phones (symbian, java, 2.5g, 3g, etc), although Windows Mobile is conspicuosly missing from the list. The service has many "music 2.0" features including user playlist creation/sharing, charts, recommendations, member profiles, and the like. It also will send news, new release alerts and other related information on your favorite artists to your phone. Presumably, this is based on your listening history and doesn't require you to do anything special to receive this info besides just listening to your music.

Well, that list of phones now has extended to include RIM's Blackberry line (at least those running on Vodafone's network). It should be interesting to see what the uptake looks like for this feature - considering it is not cheap.

Want to add social "music 2.0" features and discovery tools to your current mobile music experience without the need to subscribe to content? Check out the MyStrands Social Player (for Windows Mobile & Symbian).

UPDATE: Nokia has launched a new marketing campaign for their N-Series that features - you guessed it - MyStrands. Check it out (some screenshots below).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Product RockStars (and Freaks) Wanted

Freaks wanted
Originally uploaded by MyStrands
MyStrands is looking for talent of all sorts - development, product, marketing - and I have decided it is time shake some of trees out there to see what falls out.

Specifically, I'm looking to build out a team of great product managers and UX talent - focused on building first-class consumer web destinations and habitual online experiences built around digital media/entertainment content.

Ideally in DC area, but will consider other locations. Sound interesting? If you read my blog, I'm guessing it sounds at least somewhat interesting. Not for you, but you've got a friend that would be perfect? Tell them to drop us a line.

Not a product person but a superstar of another flavor? Tell us what you've got!

As you may be able to tell, we have *big* plans over at MyStrands and what you see today is only a small taste of what you are going to get tomorrow (ok, maybe not tomorrow but soon).

By the way, to my LinkedIn contacts that I inadvertently spammed yesterday... my apologies. I was under the impression that it only would show up on your LinkedIn dashboard and not send an email directly to your inbox. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Facebook: Over 15 Billion Served

It's supposedly official...

Microsoft acquires equity stake in Facebook; Facebook's valuation at 15 billion | The Social - CNET "It's official: Microsoft will take a $240 million equity stake in Facebook during its next round of financing, valuing the company at a whopping $15 billion."

Not a comment on whether they are worth it or not, but just to add some perspective... the entirety of AOL (portals, dial-up access business,, AIM & ICQ, Winamp, Mapquest, Netscape, Moviefone, etc.) was valued at $20 Billion a couple of years ago (when Google invested $1B for a 5% stake).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

RecSys 2007

I spent a few days in Minneapolis last week attending the Recommender Systems Conference. The conference is in its 2nd year and brings together academics and industry to discuss the future, challenges and opportunities for recommender systems. This year there are about 110 participants from 16 countries, including industry representation from Google, Netflix, Amazon, AMG, Digg, AOL, eBay, Unilever, Aggregate Knowledge and MyStrands.

Day 1 featured a very interesting keynote speech from Khrishna Bharat, Principal Scientist from Google, about the history and future of news journalism and the social responsibility we all share in ensuring the continued freedom of speech. He also touched on the process by which Google crawls, clusters, ranks, classifies the most relevant stories in Google News. Followed by some insight into the increased user engagement they were able to realize with the introduction of their personalized news stories. The clickthrough of personalized news stories is indeed higher than on just a blind list of "top stories".

The keynote was followed by a number of academic papers presentations - focused on the hot topics of privacy and trust in collaborative filtering engines. Indeed some very interesting research going on in these fields, and I look forward to seeing what the continued research here bears out in the coming months and years.

After lunch, I was honored to take part in a panel with the focus of "Where should we be investing most in research and practice to increase the value of recommenders?". This was the opportunity for the industry folks like ourselves to provide some insight to the academics about the "real world" issues that we are trying to solve or improve. It was a lively discussion that extended the dialog on recommenders beyond the science and into user experience, consumer value and business models built around them. The panel included:

  • Joaquin Delgado, CTO, Lending Club Corp.

  • Jason Herskowitz, VP of Consumer Products, MyStrands

  • Kartik Hosanagar, Assistant Professor, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

  • David Jennings, DJ Alchemi LLC

  • Zac Johnson, Product Manager, All Media Guide, Inc.

The day closed out with Poster Sessions by the academic community and some very interesting demos, with the lively discussion moving on to dinner and drinks.

The second day presented us with more research papers and another industry session titled "Appraising Recommender Systems" featuring:

  • Jennifer Consalvo, Director of Personalization, AOL
  • Greg Linden, Founder, Findory, Inc.
  • Shail Patel, Platform Leader, Unilever Corporate Research
  • Neel Sundaresan, Director, eBay Research Labs
  • Tim Vogel, Chief Scientist, Aggregate Knowledge, Inc
All-in-all, the industry folks (myself included) challenged the academics with problems and questions.... not answers. Some of the ones I found more interesting were:

  • How conservative should a "good" recommendation be? The pro is the con, in that a conservative recommendation is rarely wrong, but also just as rarely leads to a serendipitous discovery.
  • When is a recommendation "good enough"? Where is the point of diminishing returns in further research into the algorithms?
  • How do you differentiate based on algorithm? Is it possible, or do companies need to focus on differentiating the experience they present *around* the algorithm?
  • Do consumers even want the "best" recommendation, or just the most useful? Greg Linden suggested that if Amazon just recommended Harry Potter to every customer, that would probably be the *best*, but not nearly as useful the consumer as recommending something less obvious.
  • How do you present a "story" around a recommendation that makes it interesting enough for a user to invest in?
  • Can the industry get behind a standard "taste data" format that enables users to own their preferences and consumption history and seamless share that information with any site they desire without having to train yet another system?

The side-benefit of this trip is that I got to meet a number of "Facebook Friends" in person for the first time - David Jennings, Paul Lamere, Zac Johnson, Oscar Celma and others from the "music 2.0" community. Sorry about the tequila shots guys... not my idea. :-)

Monday, October 22, 2007 Now with Quick Launch Video Channels

We just made it supremely easy for MyStrands users to launch music video channels from every Artist and User page. You will notice a new link on each that says “Watch the Channel on MyStrands.TV”.

Just click the link to open a new tab/window and enjoy the show. For artists, we will launch you into a virtually endless stream of their music videos, interviews and coverage from their live shows. For users, we create the channel based on content they listen to, like, and have not yet discovered yet but we think they will be into. Listen to your's, or listen to someone else's! Want to know what I’m into, just check it out:

Now so simple even my mother could do it!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Moby Equation - How to Calculate Musical Sellouts

I was reading the Washington Post this morning and came across this article and calculation. I thought it was amusing, albeit a bit harsh to Moby. Take a look...

Sellout Songs | "The Moby Quotient, generated by the formula below, determines the degree to which artists besmirch their reputations when they lend their music to hawk products or companies. (The name salutes the techno artist Moby, who took the practice to new extremes with his 1999 album 'Play.' The Moby Quotient is designated by the Greek letter mu.) Each factor is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10; the number assignments can be subjective, but the formula is useful in gauging the relative outrage fans should feel with each instance of this continuing cultural blight. The higher the result, the greater the degree of selling out. Read more about the Moby Equation."

Check out some of the recent reader submissions too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Universal Music to Take the Reins - But Can they Reign?

BusinessWeek breaks more details on Universal's plans to try and wretch the power back from Apple. Basically, they want to build a consortium (comprised of the major labels) to launch a new tweaked model of music subscription service.

Universal Music Takes on iTunes: "While the details are in flux, insiders say Morris & Co. have an intriguing business model: get hardware makers or cell carriers to absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with all-you-can-eat music that's essentially free. Music companies would collect the subscription fee, while hardware makers theoretically would move many more players."

This feels a bit like Microsoft telling all their device and subscription/DRM partners, "we're tired of waiting for you guys to make a market, get out of the way and we will do it ourselves". Now that frustration has moved further up the chain and the world's largest record label is saying, "I'm watching my business go down the drain and a guy in black mock turtleneck has got me over a barrel - get out of the way, we will do it ourselves".

Questions? Sure, I've got a few...

Q. What about the indies? How bad are they screwed in this scenario?

Q. DRM? I sure as hell hope not. If it doesn't play on iPods and iPhones, it doesn't play.

Q. How quickly does Napster and Rhapsody America bleed customers if this happens?

Q. Pressplay and MusicNet... anyone remember the fate of those major label subscription consortiums?

Q. Will they expose APIs so that they can syndicate this content everywhere, or are they going to drag everyone to a central "store"?

I'm sure I will have more thoughts on this over the coming days. What do you guys think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Radiohead's "In Rainbows" - What's it Worth To Ya?

UPDATE: There is a far bigger poll going on over at Between that and some other polls I've seen (at Read/Write Web), it looks like the average is around $7 (after converted from pounds). That feels about right to me.... if the name your own price was in dollars (instead of pounds) I bet you'd see spikes at the $5 multiples (particularly $5 and $10 with the average falling somewhere in between).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Winamp 5.5 Now Gold

Check it out. Congrats to the fellas...

Winamp Media Player - MP3, Multimedia, and Music Player: "Winamp 5.5: 10th Anniversary Edition Launches

Packed with new features, the latest edition of Winamp is available now. The 10th Anniversary Edition and take the all new leading multimedia player for a ride. Here's a sampling of some of the great Winamp features:
* A completely redesigned interface, including Album Art
* Multiple device support, including Apple iPods
* Access and Share your Music and Videos with Winamp Remote
* Play and Playlist the Best Music on the Web with Media Monitor
* Enjoy Dynamic Song Recommendations
* Experience MP3 Surround Sound Support
* Access to Thousands of Online Radio Stations, Videos and More!
* 50 Free MP3 Music downloads compliments of eMusic's 2-week Trial
* Auto-Tagger provides automatic updates to file information
* Control Winamp from your browser with a the Winamp Toolbar

Download Winamp 5.5 and enjoy the ride.

Check out one of the early reviews.

In Over Their Radioheads - Technically Speaking

I love what Radiohead is doing with their name-your-own-price, flip-off-the-record-industry, new DRMless digital album. It (sort of) went live this morning at I firmly endorse their DIY stance on the sales, distribution and marketing of this album - and when it's all said and done I think it is going to make them a fortune. Even if you only pay a couple of bucks for it, virtually *all* of that couple bucks goes in their pocket. That's roughly equivalent to all they would see on the sale of a $15 CD released and distributed by a major label. So, worst case they basically get what they would have gotten... best case they get about 10x what they would have gotten in their old deal. Granted, these numbers are very rough (someone from the label side of the business can better model this for sure), but you get the picture.

The problem? It appears their DIY stance is crippling them technically speaking. I've been on the site for the last 20 minutes trying to buy the album. You can practically see smoke coming off of the site as it tries to handle the load. I don't know who built/is running the "store" part of the site but I can only imagine a couple of guys running around with their hair on fire with scotch tape and bubble gum trying to piece Humpty Dumpty back together again.

* Pages are taking minutes to load
* Ugh... prices are only in british pounds. Time to do some conversion... off to another site.
* I just had to enter my price 3 times before it would "stick" (for what it's worth I'm paying 2 Pounds plus the 45 pence service fee, or roughly $5)
* Ugh, now I have to register... more pages to load
* OK, got it... it's a zip file
* Extracted and imported into iTunes
* Listening!
* 160kpbs MP3? Really, that's it?! Amazon is giving us 256kbps. Incomplete metadata (track 1 of ___), no album art.

It is sounding pretty good. But all in all I would have preferred to a storefront in Amazon.

UPDATE: Apparently most people aren't having as many issues as I had. In fact, check out today's playcounts by the MyStrands community.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Music Recommenders - Which Do You Recommend?

Paul Lamere (Sun Labs) and Oscar Celma (Music Technology Group) have just posted their recent presentation on music recommenders at the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval conference. It is a good read (albeit probably too math-heavy in parts for most) and I recommend (no pun intended) that you guys check out the slides if this is a space that interests you.

:: MUSIC RECOMMENDATION TUTORIAL -- ISMIR 2007 ::: "As the world of online music grows, music recommendation systems become an increasingly important way for music listeners to discover new music. Commercial recommenders such as and Pandora have enjoyed commercial and critical success. But how well do these systems really work? How good are the recommendations? How far into the 'long tail' do these recommenders reach? In this tutorial we look at the current state-of-the-art in music recommendation. We examine current commercial and research systems, focusing on the advantages and the disadvantages of the various recommendation strategies. We look at some of the challenges in building music recommenders and we explore some of the ways that Music Information Retrieval (MIR) techniques can be used to improve future recommenders."

It would have been great to see the informal survey extended to track-level recommendations (beyond just the artist level), but it is still very interesting even at this higher level.

On a related note, I will be on an panel next week at the Recommender Systems Conference in Minneapolis. Specifically the panel is:

Friday Afternoon Panel: Where should we be investing most in research and practice to increase value of recommenders?

* Moderator: Todd Beaupre, Yahoo, Inc.
* Joaquin Delgado, CTO, Lending Club Corp.
* Jason Herskowitz, VP of Consumer Products, MyStrands
* Kartik Hosanagar, Assistant Professor, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
* David Jennings, DJ Alchemi LLC
* Zac Johnson, Product Manager, All Media Guide, Inc.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Drowning Victims - Sink or Swim?

A couple of months ago a wrote a post (The King is Dead (and has no clothes). Long Live the King) about my coming to terms with the failures inherent in the current music subscription models. Or, more specifically, the failures caused by the convoluted DRM requirements inflicted by the major labels onto their partners and thereby passed along to the consumers. Well, the list of people that have been frustrated beyond repair by this short-sightedness is Ian Rogers - GM of Yahoo Music.

Ian just presented at Digital Music Forum West and had a wake-up call for the industry. Some good stuff in here... you should read the whole post.

Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses and Content vs. Context, a Presentation for Some Music Industry Friends at FISTFULAYEN: "I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out."

AOL and Yahoo *should* have been able to become the de facto destinations for play-on-demand music. Both companies are good corporate citizens - have ad supported and paid music services - and play by the letter of the law (generally speaking). But, by doing so they have both gotten surpassed by smaller start-ups that are willing and able to take some risks (see Imeem, Project Playlist, etc.) - choosing a path where they ask for forgiveness after the fact instead of permission beforehand. It's not like there aren't exceptionally smart people at these companies (AOL/Yahoo) that haven't been whiteboarding and spec'ing out these use cases for years... it's just been that these companies have been "playing nice" with the labels and are therefore getting dragged down with them as their failed business models fill with water.

I was reminiscing this week while on vacation about my lifeguarding days back when I was a teenager. The thing I learned then that had the most lasting impact was - if you go out to save a drowning victim, and they start to pull you under to the point that your life is endangered, extricate yourself as quickly as possible and leave them to drown on their own. Better to lose one life then two.

It is a sobering thought, but one whose time has come in this space. I hear you Ian... time to head back to shore until the labels are ready and willing to be rescued.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Why I'd Like to Euthanize the Major Labels

I am endlessly amazed at how the major labels continue to treat their customers as thieves. I am actually at a loss for words with respect to this latest development where Sony BMG's Chief Anti-Piracy lawyer claims that ripping a CD you own as "stealing".

Sony BMG's chief anti-piracy lawyer: "Copying" music you own is "stealing": "Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, 'When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.' Making 'a copy' of a purchased song is just 'a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy',' she said."

This view is why I have *no* sympathy for the collapse of the labels businesses. Even if you don't like Radiohead, go and purchase a copy of the new "name your own price" album when it comes out. If nothing else than to send these "fat cats and crumb bumbs" a message....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

AIM Tunes

A few months ago I told you guy about the Buddy Tunes plugin for AIM. This basically made people's iTunes libraries appear like they are on your local network - thereby enabling users to stream music from any of their friends' machines. Since then, Simplify Media has essentially launched a productized version of this (albeit not integrated into AIM). The other approach that was being worked on at AOL before I left is now public in the AIM 6.5 release. It is called "AIM Tunes" and it is a similar concept but ditches the deep iTunes integration for a more player-agnostic approach.

Basically, everyone on your Buddy List (that has the plug-in installed) appears on your AIM Tunes dashboard (in your browser). From there, you can browse their libraries and either stream them directly from your buddy's machines via an embedded flash player - or if you want - to "pop them out" and have your default media player handle them.

You can also create a playlist of songs from all across your network - although it is currently only a single/temporary playlist.

All-in-all, it is pretty slick. It still could benefit from deeper integration into the AIM client (see who is listening to my stuff and better facilitate communication about what's being shared), Mac support, an aggregated "buddy library" view (lets me search seamlessly across my entire network), multiple playlist support, publishing, etc. But, if you use AIM I recommend giving it a whirl. I may end up just running on a separate AIM instance on my home machine (under a separate screen name) and use it to stream to myself. Then again, there are a ton of other options there... Winamp Remote (also an AOL offering), Streampad (although Dan now works for AOL too), and many others.

I'd be interested to know what you guys think of it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Radiohead(s) in Their Own Direction

Radiohead is releasing their new album on their own... no labels. They leave it up to you, their fans, to decide what it's worth to you. This is big.

Bob Lefsetz has a great piece on this and what it means to the record industry. Read the whole thing, but here are some highlights...

Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » Radiohead

This is big news. This says the major labels are fucked. Untrustworthy with a worthless business model. Radiohead doesn’t seem to care if the music is free. Not that they believe it will be. Because believers will give you ALL THEIR MONEY!

This is the industry’s worst nightmare. Superstar band, THE superstar band, forging ahead by its own wits. Proving that others can too. And they will.

This is what happens when you sell twenty dollar CDs with one good track and sue your customers for trading P2P. This is what happens when you believe you’re ENTITLED to your business. This is what happens when music is a second-class citizen only interested in the bottom line.

Friday, September 28, 2007

WiFiTunes & DRM (Correction)

So, I updated by iPhone with the latest firmware so I could get "WiFiTunes" support on it (you also get a newly skinned calculator for some unknown reason). The store looks pretty sweet at first glance, but what I didn't notice was anywhere I can buy the DRMless "iTunes Plus" tracks. Are they not offered?! And if not, I can only imagine that this was purely a business decision and not a technical one?


Sorry, false alarm. I did indeed fine "plus" (DRMfree) content... it appears your preferences are synced over from your iTunes client.

Also, other new features of this update include (bold added by me for emphasis):

Listed new features in this 152.3MB update include:

* iTunes Wi-Fi music store
* Louder speakerphone and receiver volume
* Home button double-click shortcut to phone favorites or music controls
* Space bar double-tap shortcut to intelligently insert period and space
* Mail attachments are viewable in portrait and landscape
* Stocks and cities in Stocks and Weather can be re-ordered
* Apple Bluetooth Headset battery status in the Status Bar
* Support for TV Out
* Preference to turn off EDGE/GPRS when roaming internationally
* New passcode lock time intervals
* Adjustable alert volume

Undocumented features There are also few new features that Apple didn’t mention:

* There is now the ability to change your voicemail password directly from the iPhone. Tap “Settings,” then “Phone,” then “Change Voicemail Password.”
* You can now change the sound that is played when a new text message is received. Tap “Settings,” then “Sounds,” then “New Text Message.”
* There is now a “Debug console” for Safari, which shows HTML errors when rendering Web pages. Tap “Settings,” then “Safari,” then “Developer”
* There are new options for Video playback. You can start playing videos where they left off or from the beginning, and you can use closed captioning. Tap “Settings,” then “iPod.”

Review: iTunes Wifi Store - Rocketsurgeon's Music 2.0 Blog -

The WiFiTunes firmware update is now available for your iPhone (click "check for update" in your iTunes sync menu. I'm installing it now - hopefully it won't delete all the 3rd party apps that I put on there using AppTapp - but check out Jadam's (aka RocketSurgeon) review below...

Review: iTunes Wifi Store - Rocketsurgeon's Music 2.0 Blog -


After a nerve-wracking several minute update (that appeared to have crashed at times) - I have found that if have used AppTapp to install 3rd party apps to your iPhone, this update will wipe those all out. Not sure if I can reinstall it yet or not...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Song of the Day: "Drugs" by The Cons

Just found this on imeem and was digging it....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What's Up with Amazon's Music Recommendations?!

So I'm just diving into Amazon's new MP3 offering and I came across something strange. When I am at their regular CD store I get different music recommendations than I get at their new Amazon MP3 beta. Supposedly, they are both based on "items I own" (or more specifically, have purchased from Amazon). But, if that were the case shouldn't they be recommending the same things?

Amazon Music Recommendations:
* Lots of Fiona Apple and Peter Gabriel - not really representative of what I like

Amazon MP3 Recommendations:
* Arcade Fire, Ryan Adams, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Hold Steady - these are on the money (although I already own all of the things they are recommending)

These are apparently being calculated off of different data? Why the huge discrepancy?

Someone suggested that this may be due to the fact that the MP3 library is a subset of their CD inventory and therefore so are the MP3 Recommendations. That was my only real theory as well. I'm not sure what labels Peter Gabriel and Fiona are on, but I can look.

But, what I'm actually more surprised by are the good MP3 recommendations. I haven't bought a CD from Amazon in ages yet they seemed to have some insight into my current listening behavior - it's almost like they are scraping data from some of my social networks, taste APIs (like MyStrands or, pulling library info off of my machine, or some how getting more current data of my behavior. Amazon shouldn't know that much about my listening habits, and I highly doubt they could gather such information based on my last purchases of computer accessories and baby toys.

Another suggestion was that the MP3 recommendations were being based on my page viewing history on Amazon. The pages I've viewed at Amazon are only for TVs, ink jet cartridges and toys - I don't browse music there. But, I wonder if any of the album artwork fetchers I use (that pull from Amazon) end up inadvertently sharing my library data back with them (does it appear like I have "viewed" those pages?). If that was true and it didn't have any MP3 purchase behavior to base my MP3 recommendations (and only page views), that could explain it....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Listening Party... Take 1

A long time ago I told you guys about the great story I read about "Listening Parties". Well, it took me and my buddies a long time to finally get off our asses and have our first one.

Last night, at Casa de Herskowitz, I put the family to bed and squirrelled away in the basement with 3 other music loving friends. We threw in a variety beers (some homebrewed, some new experimental purchases, some old favorites), some barleywine, some vodka (I do love me some Grey Goose), and even some scotch for those that partake (I am *not* a fan). Throw in a half eaten bag of pretzels and we were good to go.

I just hooked up a mini-jack to RCA cable to my stereo and we just round-robined songs with each of us just plugging in our respective MP3 players when it was our turn. The basics... don't say who the song is before you play it. Let people discuss, guess and make comparisons while it plays. With the four people at our inaugural listening party we each got threw about 7 or 8 songs. I had a hard time narrowing my playlist down to a manageable size - in fact, I got it down to 12 songs even though we didn't hear them all. The bonus? I burned a CD of that playlist for each of my buddies. Next time, we swore we would make that standard operating procedure.

All in all, I was much enjoyed by everyone and we all swore that we would make this a regular event.

Here's my playlist: Listening Party #1

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

VMware Fusion

I just switched from using Parallels to VMware's Fusion product for running Windows (and Windows applications) on my Mac. I love the "Unity" mode of Fusion that allows each Windows application to run in it's own native window on your Mac desktop. It's a bit of smoke and mirrors but it to the users it looks like each app is native.

Check out the new Winamp beta running on my Mac desktop.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Company Claims Patent on Playlists


Company patents playlists, sues everyone: "The patents describe what essentially comes down to a playlist. 'A plurality of works can be collected together in a list for purposes of establishing a play or a presentation sequence. The list can be visually displayed and edited,' reads the '725' patent. Both of them describe ways to graphically display an arrangement of songs from CDs or any manner of media that can then be played back sequentially or out-of-order."

In related news I have filed a patent for a 'plurality of letters that can be grouped together for the purpose of establishing a word'.

If you guys have violated my patent, I will gladly settle out of court with you. :-)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Apple Tightens Shackles Between iPods & iTunes

I can't say it's a surprise, but it is unfortunate nonetheless...

ipodminusitunes: Apple cuts us off: "So, it's finally happened. Unhappy with other media players being better than iTunes, Apple have apparently decided to stop them from working with the new range of iPods."

This is bad news for Winamp, Songbird, ephpod and/or Linux users in general. This was already basically made a moot point by the iPhone since it uses iTunes to sync your contacts and calendar - but now the entire new line of iPods is literally and physically locked to iTunes too.

Flixster & iLike in Bed Together?

I just noticed that Flixster and iLike are cross-promoting each other from each site's footer. Could they be exploring some sort of merger?

Happy 10th Winamp!

To celebrate Winamp's 10th birthday, the fellas have rolled out a new beta. This was well in the works while I was still there, and I have to say that I'm a big fan of the new features - most importantly the option to have a monolithic UI instead of one that breaks into pieces every time you do something and the "play the web" support similar to Songbird. There are some other goodies in there too...

Welcome to the Winamp 5.5 Beta Test

Winamp 5.5: 10th Anniversary Edition is packed with exciting stuff, including:

* A brand new unified user interface with album art support
* More Like This automatic playlist generator
* Media Monitor tool that automatically playlists playable songs from any web page
* Fully integrated browser with Smart Search functionality
* MP3 surround playback support
* Remote access to your music and videos on the web, compatible mobile devices, and TVs using Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360

**Coming Soon**
* A custom Winamp browser toolbar with integrated Winamp playback controls

There is much more to explore. Click the Download Winamp button to try out the new and improved Winamp features.

I strongly suggest you check it out. To date, Winamp is the *only* reason I can think of needing to run Windows on my Mac. Thanks guys, you just cost me a bunch of money. :-)

Shameless Plug: Download the MyStrands client for Winamp and join the fun. Just by listening to your favorite music in Winamp, you will also be dynamically programming a personalized music video channel at MyStrands.TV for you to watch and share with your friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Great Subscription Music Consolidation Continues

This one is not via acquisition, but attrition...

Heard on the Street - "Its Yahoo Music service, which has about 250 to 300 staff, is among those expected to be trimmed and its fee-based subscription music offering overhauled or shuttered. Overall, the company plans to move staff around and freeze some positions, though significant layoffs aren't expected, people familiar with the matter say."

Since the Rhapsody/Urge merger a whopping couple of weeks ago, even more has happened. Sony Connect has been shut down and it appears that Napster is backing off of their freeplay strategy. This is of course good news for "Rhapsody America" (ugh) as the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscribers will now need to look for a new home.

Also, as of last week Apple announced that they will be rolling out WiFiTunes (my name, not there's) where users can buy any track and download over the air to their iPhone/iPod Touch and sync it back to their computer. Unlike the wireless carriers who thought that you would happily pay 2-3x for this convenience has now had that business chopped at the knees.

Now for my latest conspiracy theories around Apple...

1) iPod Touch has WiFi and Safari - how long until they introduce a VoIP client (Skype anyone) and turn it into a WiFi phone? It seems interesting in conjunction with the rumor that Apple may bid on some of the 700mhz spectrum that Google has been ogling.

2) Other news surfaced this week that iTunes has hidden error messages suggesting that a movie rental service is right around the corner. Of course... if you can do movie rentals, there is no reason you can't do a music subscription service. The fact that some of the earlier iPods didn't have a secure clock that would enable these models has be negated by the fact that Apple is rolling out an entire new *line* of iPods that I'm guessing have the secure clock that enables temporary license management.

What do you guys think?