Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Favorite Albums of 2008

It seems like every year I'm trying to figure out the best way to bookmark and display my favorite albums of the year. This year was no exception. To determine my favorites, I looked at a number of sources... first I created a smartlist in iTunes that just included music that was released in 2008 (and then another for 2007 to see what was "new to me" in '08 even if it was technically released last year). That information combined with some of my chart data from and helped me figure out what I listened to most. I then went and searched for each at AmazonMP3 (and eMusic for one import) and then bookmarked them using Delicious. Take the rss feed for those "bestof2008" tags and then feed them into an embeddable widget from YourMinis.

Yes, it shouldn't be this hard and I'm sure (or at least I hope) there is a much simplier way that I just happened to overlook. There were were things that *should* have worked much more easily but all seemed buggy and weren't producing the desired output. If there isn't then my resolution for 2009 will be to make sure something gets built. Anyway... enough soapboxing, here's the list. Enjoy them... I know I did.

UPDATE (1/08/2009): Here are a few of them for your listening pleasure... in their entirety.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Macrovision's IPTV Discovery Guide

Want to know what Macrovision is working on with their acquisitions of AMG and TV Guide? Check out their promotional video, specifically the "Everything Guide" chapter.

Personally, sign me up... or more accurately, sign Comcast up. Their programming guide is one of the biggest frustration-generators in my life. Something like this on my Set-Top Box would be a very welcome addition. Although judging by the speed at which the cable and satellite companies move, I'm not going to hold my breath....

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Times Are-A Changin'

This was my first email of the day...

"Today is my last day at Strands. I feel fortunate to have worked with many of you, and I think together we have built something really special - and something that was, and will continue to be, the foundation of something even bigger and better.

Whenever so much of one's spirit and soul are invested into the creation of something from nothing to a full, living and breathing product, it is saddening to not be able to take it further with you all. I hope to see everyone succeed on the path that we began down, regardless of what direction it ultimately takes.

I wish you all well.

- J"

What's next for me? I'm not quite sure yet other than a deep-breath and spending a little time evaluating a few options. I'll probably get back to blogging in depth on a few topics that I've been spending some time thinking about lately. I've got a couple of loose product ideas that I may further work through. And I've got (and now that need some TLC. After that, I'm not sure yet... but I'll let you guys know once I figure it out.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Don't Blog Much Anymore... I Taste Stream

I was going to write a long blog post talking about why I don't write long blog posts much anymore. But instead, I figured I'd just create a video...

You will also notice that I added a bunch of Strands Tips & Tricks videos in the sidebar that you may be interested in. Meanwhile, if you want to come follow my on Strands, feel free to come join. Just go to, click on "request an invite" and then enter your email address and promo code "jtwit".

I look forward to seeing you over there. And don't worry... when I do have something to ramble on about I will still do so here, but you will get it there ( Along with my photos, bookmarks, favorite videos, songs, etc.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Deja Vu - Physical Retailer (Best Buy) buys Digital Music Provider (Napster)

Best Buy Co., Inc.Image via Wikipedia What's old is new again, eh? News just broke that Best Buy purchased Napster for $121 Million. Congrats to Napster for finding an exit, but I'm not all that bullish on the prospects for Best Buy to be successful with this. This has been tried numerous times in the past by physical retailers, without one highlight coming to mind. The one I am most familiar with was Circuit City's purchase of MusicNow several years ago, only to see Circuit City (re)sell it to AOL (for cheap) after being unable to capitalize on it.

I've spent all of 10 minutes thinking about the implications of this, but I'll start with these knee-jerk reactions:

  • Yet another subscription model disappears... do you want a subscription relationship with a retailer? I don't. I'm not sure why I find this so unappealing when I have subscription relationships with many (less trusted) companies than big box retailers, but it just doesn't *seem* right to me.
  • Would Best Buy consider selling off the subscribers to Rhapsody and just focus on selling DRM-free MP3s? Perhaps... that's an easier sell to their current customers. Buy and iPod at Best Buy and get 10 free MP3s? That could actually be a pretty interesting conversion strategy.
  • Most consumers have relationships with a digital goods provider right now (e.g. Apple) and I don't see an incentive for them to switch. Granted, Amazon has been successful in selling both physical and digital goods, but I think they are the exception not the rule. Although, I'm thinking that Best Buy sees the digital platform giving them the ability to more proactively push digital commerce affiliate relationships with "click to buy" MP3 links that are meant to compete with Amazon's and iTunes.
I'm sure my thoughts will continue to evolve on this over the next day or so, but what is for certain is that the digital music space continues to have more rehashed storylines and drama than your average daytime soap opera...

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase, source unknown I just read a really good post from Read/WriteWeb with more speculation on what is coming with iTunes 8.0 software next month (click the link below to see the whole story):

The Case for an Apple iNetwork: Welcome to the Social - ReadWriteWeb: "While most of that is common knowledge, what most people overlook is the glaring lack of any community aspect to iTunes. There are millions of people, many of them with similar tastes, flocking to the same destination every day, yet they never interact with each other... because they can't. If Kevin Rose is to be believed, however, (as discussed on TWiT 157) that all is about to change with iTunes 8.0.

He says, '... the one thing I hear about iTunes 8.0 is that it's gonna do something along the lines of, um, looking at your music, and, uh, kind of recommendations based on certain things.' In other words, the next version of iTunes will monitor your media purchasing and consuming habits and correlate them with everyone else using the system to figure out which songs you will probably like but haven't bought/listened to. If you're a fan of collaborative filtering systems or internet radio (Pandora,, etc), you're probably familiar with the idea already and that iTunes may be considering implementing this doesn't come as a surprise (I found myself wondering why this wasn't introduced 2-3 years ago)."

To make a real play at being a music network I think Apple needs to give iTunes a web presence (outside of the client application), but nonetheless the potential notion of Subscription + Cloud + iPhone + Taste Networking = pretty compelling proposition., iLike and iMeem have established the market for such experiences now. This is about the time when Jobs likes to walk in with an offering (while claiming they *invented* it).

I still think that they will come in with subscription at some point (if not now), but I'd put pretty good money that September announcements include MobileMe + enhanced taste networking/discovery features (with still an outside shot of full-blown subscription being announced too). Apple wouldn't be going through the headaches with MobileMe transition (aka "upgrade") if it wasn't key to their strategy moving forward - the next logical step for it is cloud storage (and playback) of your iTunes library with the additional kick of wireless (push) sync management of that media down to your iPhone/WiFiPod. Once your content is in the cloud and universally accessible, then limited sharing (streaming) to a small social network of your friends enhances discovery of new content, with easy "buy" links back to iTunes which can then push the newly purchased content to your device, computer and cloud all simultaneously.


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

iTunes Unlimited Coming Next Month?

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase, source unknown We'll see if this actually plays out... but news is (re)surfacing that Apple's iTunes subscription plans are for real.

Rumors of iTunes music subscriptions fly again | The Industry Standard: "MacDailyNews says the service will be called 'iTunes Unlimited' and offer 50% of the songs currently on the traditional U.S. iTunes store through the program at launch. The subscription will be for one year and be available through iTunes or a retail box, similar to how MobileMe/DotMac is sold. iTunes Unlimited would launch, initially, on the U.S. store only. The subscription would cost $129.99 on its own, $179.99 with MobileMe or $99.99 for existing MobileMe subscribers. The site claims a late September announcement with late October rollout, just in time for the holiday season. TUAW received (almost certainly from the same source) a similar report."

But if it does, I won't hesitate to be the first to say "I told you so". :-)

Also check out some of my speculation on Apple's continued subscription world domination plan from January of this year.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Radio Royalties on Repeat Mode

The RIAA Logo.Image via Wikipedia The latest (yet not new) story on Pandora claiming they will pull the plug if there isn't relief on the proposed new streaming radio royalty rates has people talking again. The discussions and debates on these potentially crippling rates (see previous posts and are heating up again thanks to the Pandora story (and the recent RIAA-backed shutdown of Muxtape).

I agree that it is a very complex issue - with many parties to be considered. Webcasters, songwriters, artists, record labels, technologists, legislators, consumers. There are some that think that the music "establishment" (aka major labels, RIAA, SoundExchange) are doing everything in their power to reverse the clock so they can go back into history and undo some of their previous actions. The hope is, that in doing so, they create a better future for recorded music sales - one in which they own and control every piece of the pie. Others go so far to say that the labels actually have a vested interest in *killing* streaming radio as they see it as actually a replacement to sales. By killing the existing ecosystem, they can start over (an idea I don't totally disagree with). It's like those movies where some madman wants to nuke the planet so we can "start anew" and cleanse the sins of humanity's past.

I don't really know where I am going with this... other than, this is how I see the most recent actions of the "establishment". I may be somewhat naive, this is how this whole thing seems to be playing out:

Act 1
  • labels give terrestrial radio the rights to broadcast royalty-free (to generate awareness and sales of physical product)

Act 2
  • labels want more promotion so they start *paying* to get the content played (payola)

Act 3
  • labels told that "pay for play" is illegal and start looking for additional (free to them) promotional outlets

Act 4
  • labels want more promotion so they give MTV rights to royalty-free broadcast of music videos

Act 5
  • labels see other parts of the music ecosystem starting to make money (or *not* make money, but attracting users) and think "hey, that should be ours too"

Act 6
  • labels start demanding/increasing payment on plays (where they used to gladly pay for such a thing and would still be doing so if the federal government deemed it illegal)

Act 7
  • streaming/radio ecosystem can't afford to be in the radio business and all exit - or move to royalty free programming (talk, news, etc.) - this is in addition to MTV/VH1's continued shift to reality TV and away from music

Act 8
  • labels don't have any promotional outlets to get their content heard

Act 9
  • labels continue to explore new media distribution outlets for their content (commercials, soundtracks, etc)

Act 10
  • due to limited inventory and increased competition to get song "placement" labels offer royalty-free content

Act 11
  • go to Act 1

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” - Albert Einstein

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

RealPlayer 11 + Mac = No WiFi

RealPlayerImage via WikipediaI have been having major connectivity issues on my MacBook for the past week. Dropping the connection, pages not loading, streaming media stuttering. I spent days searching Google to find out what the issue could be and tried everything - deleting preference files, clearing my PRAM, rebooting, reconfiging my Airport, reboot, reboot, reboot.... all with no luck. There are tons of forums that have lots of theories as to what is causing it (and lots of people yelling at Apple to fix the problem).

In my case, it was something simple. RealPlayer 11 was the cause. Presumably something to do with the "stream catching" feature. Granted, it is a cool feature that will let you rip YouTube videos, songs from Pandora, and more... but the damn thing my computer virtually unusable for 3 days. I dragged the app to my trashcan and all my issues were resolved instantly (didn't even need to reboot).

I'm not sure if there was a setting or config in RealPlayer 11 that could have been switched to remedy the problem, but if you are having similar problems you may want to see if this is the culprit.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Apple's SDK Restrictions Limit Innovation in Social Media Applications

The lack of multitasking support is a bigger limiting factor than what appears on the surface for the iPhone (e.g. "it sucks that I can't view my calendar and listen to Pandora at the same time"). Particularly hamstrung are the social music and discovery applications, and the consumers that love them.

  • You can't run apps in the background therefore you can't build a "scrobbler" for things you listen to locally on your device - see the (shameless plug) Strands Social Player that runs on Symbian, Windows Mobile and other mobile OSes but can't be implemented on the iPhone due to their restrictions
  • The SDK doesn't allow you to touch any of the local music, only streaming content (or so I've been told), so you can't build an alternative local music application that has social features built-in (who else is listening, top fans, etc.)
  • No support for flash - so you can't port/expose existing flash players in the Browser

Therefore, if you are a social media company/developer that wants to do something with music you are really pretty limited to building streaming applications (much to the chagrin of AT&T I'm guessing). Unfortunately, that hinders many discovery companies and applications from doing really compelling stuff around helping people discover new content based on what they are currently listening to (locally).

As for the streaming apps, it is interesting to note the impact of their format decisions on performance (at least on EDGE).

  • is basically unlistenable on EDGE - each song buffers for an extended period of time (a minute +) so once the song starts playing back it is good but the in-between song silence is almost longer and more unlistenable than a commercial break. This is presumably a byproduct of their 128k MP3 streams (or so I think).
  • Pandora *almost* will sustain a stream in my car at high speeds - I believe they are streaming 64k AAC(plus?)
  • AOL *was* in a prime position to offer a great EDGE streaming use case, for many years they were supporting 16k AACplus streams for their dial-up users - I don't know if this infrastructure was abandoned or whether it was a business decision by CBS, but they disable all but terrestrial simulcasts when you are on EDGE.
Dear Apple, let the reins loose a little bit and let the ecosystem thrive. The first batch of music apps is a great start, but there is so much more that can be done if allowed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

iPhone Music Apps

The iTunes Apps store has started to surface this morning (installiTunes 7.7 update and then click here.

Here is a screenshot of them, with the ones I find most interesting circled. (Not pictured: TapTheBeat, Tuner and TyroTuner.)

I assume that both Pandora and AOL Radio are only streaming over WiFi but at 64kbps AAC/MP4 it is certainly possible that streaming over 3G is possible too. The "Remote" app lets you use your iPhone and/or iPod Touch to control your iTunes - think about your laptop (or AppleTV?) hooked up to your stereo while you site on the couch or sit in the backyard controlling the tunes.

The rest don't look all that interesting to me, but I'm sure there are thousands more in the works as we speak.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wordle - My Delicious Tags as Art

Cool site ( will take your delicious tags and let you turn them into a customizable collage that lets you edit your fonts, colors, etc.

Here is mine...

Friday, May 09, 2008


So, I built me*dia*or a while ago so I could drink from the music 2.0 firehose from a single place. As it was selfishly built to just make my life easier, I'm glad that a handful of others have seem to found it useful too. Although, I haven't done much to improve it lately, although that's the beauty of it I suppose... you don't have to since the content keeps you coming back.

But, yesterday I decided to get me*dia*or on to Twitter. Using twitterfeed I now @mediaor shooting me news updates to my phone every 30 minutes. A bit overwhelming at times, but many times I find that if things don't jump out at me every once in a while and say "look at me!" then I will often miss them as they float on by.

If you're like me... then I hope you get some use out of it. If you are like most of my friends and didn't understand more than 3 words above, then keep on moving... :-)

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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Qloud's Sunny Day

Rumors today that LA-based Buzznet has bought Qloud for "slightly more than Qloud's last round valuation". I don't remember what Qloud's last round valuation was, I will have to go see if I can find it mentioned online somewhere.

Congrats to Mike & Toby, I hope this is a good thing for them and their company. Selfishly, I also hope they get to keep their office in DC as I'm a big fan of the growing digital media startup landscape in this area.

I keep going back to my predictions a couple of months ago, and I'm looking pretty good so far (one quarter into the year)...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Warner Music's Take on Subscription Music

Source: WikipediaNews yesterday that Warner Music is pushing forward with their own take on subscription music... one that bundles a monthly fee (around $5/month) into your ISP bill and then lets you download any/all things you want (presumably most happening via P2P networks) with immunity from litigation.

As I have said numerous times, I am a big fan of the value proposition offered by subscription services, but this opens stirs up far more questions for me than answers based on my (assumed) use case below...

  • Comcast pays some collection agency a couple/few bucks for on every ISP customer they have
  • Comcast either then charges me an extra couple of bucks on my $50/month ISP bill or throws a few more ads at me to cover their incremental cost
  • I (and they) now have "immunity" for anything I download over their network - from MP3 search, P2P, etc.

If that is correct, then that sparks a bunch of related questions...

  1. Does it matter how many people are on my network? Theoretically, my ISP is monetizing each user but in reality they would be monetizing the household, no? What if I open up my wireless network, and invite my neighbors that don't have broadband to jump on? What if I open a coffee shop and let hundreds of users a day get on free of charge? What if I resold access, is it then different?
  2. How does my ISP cover their incremental costs via advertising? Many people don't ever visit their ISP's webpages (myself included). Do they they have to require their users to use/frequent their portals/sites? Do they require some application (like some of the old free ISP models) that throws pop-ups at me?
  3. What about wireless? Is my cellphone company considered an ISP and subject to the same fees? If so, then isn't the consumer getting charged twice for the same rights (e.g. once by Comcast and once by AT&T)?
  4. This is repeatedly denied as being "a tax", but to make this work it would have to be a *required* fee to every ISP, no? Otherwise, there is the danger of people switching to the *cheaper* ISPs that don't have cover this cost?
  5. If the ISPs need to monetize these music consumption experiences (to cover their incremental costs of contributing to the pool) that seems to dictate that they (or at least some of them) can no longer just be a dumb pipe to 3rd party music sites.
  6. Does this force Comcast and Verizon Fios (and others) to invest in building out there own music destinations to compete with Yahoo Music, AOL Music and MTV?
  7. Does this trigger an avalanche of music service acquistions by the ISPs? Does Comcast buy Napster? Does Verizon buy imeem? Does Cox Communications buy Seeqpod? If they don't "own" the music experiences of their customers then how do they cover their additional licensing costs? If the ISPs can't cover these costs (or generate additional revenue around music) then what's in it for them? Just immunity from lawsuits themselves?
Public perception will be one of the biggest hurdles (and in my opinion, most important) to overcome in this new plan. The labels have done a fabulous job painting themselves as the bad guys over the past few years and most consumers don't really care whether or not they survive. While there are lots of reasons why the blanket licensing plan has merit, it will be all for naught if the consumers aren't convinced it's in their best interest.

I suggest that Warner Music gets a great PR firm on retainer quick before this rhetoric gets loud enough to smother the plan.

The next *big* question is then... how does this ISP-fee plan work in conjunction with the other approaches that Nokia is pushing with their "comes with music" plan and rumored Apple subscription plan that would put the tax on the devices themselves. How many times do I need to pay for my music... once with my phone + once with my iPod + monthly with my ISP + monthly with my cellphone???!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sony BMG to Launch Own Subscription Service (Again)

News is surfacing that Sony BMG is going to try (yet again) to a launch their own subscription music service. You know the saying about the "definition of insanity", right?

I don't get it at all. Where I used to think that Sony must have some well-thought out plan for their future (that I just didn't have visibility into), I now see them as just completely desperate, completely dis-"Connect"-ed, delusional label that has somehow convinced themselves that consumers know (and care) what label an artist is on.

Would you subscribe to a cable TV tier where you would only get access to shows produced by Ubu Productions (sit, ubu, sit.... good dog). Arguably, Ubu has stronger brand equity than Sony BMG and I still can't name what shows they produce.

It seems to me that these guys are just floating any idea to try and and stem the possibility of Apple beating to them to the punch (remember my 2008 predictions?) and taking what little semblance of power the labels once had in the music industry away from them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Great video highlighting the massive gap between *real* consumers and the rest of us....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AOL Buys Bebo Just to Resell It?

News this morning that AOL is buying social network Bebo for $850 million. This comes one day after the news that Time Warner has finally gone on record that they want to dump AOL. What the hell is going on? Are they acting as middleman here? Buy Bebo for $850 mil, do some simple/basic integration with AIM and then claim it is now worth $1.5 billion in a couple of month? Perhaps Yahoo is interested in Bebo too, and the quickest way for them to get there is to have AOL as their broker? Got me... it all seems a bit odd to me.

Oh yeah, this all comes a couple of days after AOL's "Platform A" division (supposedly the company's saving grace) canned their head honcho... and then today mentioned they are going to cut half their Ad Sales force.

I hope there is some master plan behind all of this, but I have to be honest... I don't hold out hope. At this point I'm going to sit on my TWX stock until AOL is dealt away... I expect a pretty good bounce in price as soon as that happens. Considering the stock price is getting sucked down the toilet lately, that can't happen soon enough in my opinion.

Oh yeah, I consider this the death knell for Bebo. They are going to have to now go through what will likely be not one, but two, excruciating integrations. One with AOL (who have a bad record at this) and another with whoever (if anyone) buys AOL. Facebook and MySpace send your thank you cards to Dulles c/o of Ron Grant & Randy Falco.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Off Topic: My Latest "Lost" Theories

I love the show "Lost". I think it is by far the best show on TV and the only one that I actually look forward to every week. The first couple of seasons of the show I used to try to "figure it out". I gave up continually revising my theories last year, and just relaxed and let it wash over me. "Wow, that was crazy... I guess I'll just see what unwinds next week".

Well, yesterday was a big show. One with a lot of questions answered, and that got me going again on my theories. Below are the most recent thoughts, theories, questions and WTFs that are rattling around in my head since last night...

Parallel Lives
  • OK, they are not dead and in purgatory (as I thought in Season 1)... but are living parallel lives, in different time periods, and different "speeds"
  • Time moves slower on the island than in "real" life - that's why it takes so long (island time) for the helicopter to make a "40 minute" trip to the freighter
  • Also some of the "others" haven't really aged since Ben was a little kid (per flashback)
  • Desmond's parallel life is 8 years behind "island time"
  • Per Daniel Faraday, people that are exposed to radiation or electromagnetic activity suffer "side effects" (time/space jumping)
    • Jack (a doctor who deals with XRay machines and other like-equipment) sees his father
    • Hurley sees his "invisible friend" from the looney bin.... was he exposed to radiation/electromagnetic fields at some point? I don't recall anything but who knows....
    • The radio engineer on the freighter (works in highly electromagnetic environment). Is this the same "crazy" WW2 radio engineer (in his "real self") that Hurley gets the "numbers" from in the looney bin????
    • Desmond was in the electromagnetic "blast" when the hatch blew up (and could then see the future regarding Charlie's pending demise)
    • Daniel Faraday did all of those radioactive tests on the mouse. Remember when Faraday was shown watching the story of the plane crash and he starts crying? Someone asks "why are you crying?" and he doesn't know.... it's because he can almost make the connection to his parallel life on the island (and whatever ends up happening there)
    • Rousseau's crew members were studying the electromagnetic properties of the island (?) and "went crazy" and she killed them all. Why not Rousseau herself? Well, she was pregnant so it would make sense that she stayed away from any radioactive/electromagnetic dangers
    • By the way, Locke was in that hatch blast too.... so look for him to be next.
  • Remember in season 1 or 2 when Desmond met Jack at the stadium (in Jack's flashback before he was on the island) and Desmond asked "do we know each other"? That's because Desmond can kind of remember from his parallel life in the future (on the island)
  • Kids can't be conceived on the island because every life has to have a parallel life in the real-world (do the writers have a "life starts at conception" agenda?)
  • Widmore (Penny's dad) learns about the secrets of the island from the journal of the First Mate of the Black Rock (he bought it at the auction) - he sends Desmond there on the race to see if it's true/works. How did the First Mate (or at least his journal full of secrets) make it off the island?
  • Hmmm... could some of the "slow aging" others mentioned above actually have been the crew on the Black Rock???

Master of His Domain

  • Ben knows how to control the mental jumping between the parallel lives/time - as well as physically leave - this is why the scientist team is looking for him... they want to learn how he does it. But, without his submarine is he now physically stuck on the island??
  • Ben can also control other people's jumping between the parallel worlds... that's how he got Locke to see his dad locked in the closet
  • Ben sends Sayid and other's into the parallel world (past) to do his bidding. Are Sayid and the others of Oceanic 6 are actually off the island, or he has just "mentally" sent them there (either by their choice or negotiation to keep the others safe in their alternative realities)?
  • Jack and Kate had to "memorize" their (fake story) of how they escaped the island - the one Jack spouted out at Kate's trial. But how were their "real" bodies saved/recovered considering the reports were that *all* of the victims where found at the crash site????
My Brain Hurts

Now, here is the thing that currently has my head spinning the most...

  • Since time runs slower on the island (the island is currently 8 years ahead of "real life" per Desmond) - at some point "real life" will pass "island time" and the parallel lives will move from being in the past to being in the future!
Then what happens?!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

I realize I have been pretty sparse with my posts lately. I blame that on a couple of things...

1.) I have been using Twitter to more quickly (and granularly) express what I am thinking/doing.

2.) I've been very busy with work. We are starting to get close to with a new product, and that has been keeping me more than occupied. But, once we get closer I will probably get to the point where I won't shut up about it.

That being said, I'll be at the Digital Music Forum East conference tomorrow/Wednesday in New York. Let me know if any of you guys are going.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Imeem Acquires Snocap

More moves by Imeem.... they are piecing together an interesting puzzle over there. I'm not sure how many people come with the Snocap acquisition, or how this will be integrated with both Imeem and (who they acquired a few weeks ago).

Imeem Acquires Snocap: "Digital music wholesaler Snocap, long searching for a buyer, is being acquired by music streaming site Imeem. The price will likely not be disclosed."

Song of the Day: "I Just Want The Girl In The Blue Dress To Keep On Dancing" by Mike Doughty

Man, I love Mike Doughty. Something about his music that just gets me bouncing. Ever since his Soul Coughing days I've been a big fan and after Doughty's Haughty Melodic album a couple of years ago I've been jonesing for what's next.

Well, the wait is just about over. The new album, Golden Delicious, comes out next week, and here is my new favorite song of the moment....

I Just Want The Girl In The Blue Dress To Keep On Dancing by Mike Doughty

Monday, February 11, 2008

Danger, Danger, Will Gates

News today that Microsoft has just bought Danger (creator of the Sidekick phone/PDA). I've never owned a Sidekick (apparently it is the only device I have not owned a version of) - but I know that there was a fairly large group of people that are/were big fans. I don't see them around as much as I used to though... I'm not sure if maybe I'm not the target demographic or whether their sales have tailed off due to increased competition.

Either way, it was Microsoft's Xbox/Zune/Windows Mobile group that drove this acquisition.... so you've got to figure this is the first step in a rush-to-market iPhone competitor. Besides the fact that it just seems like another reactionary "how do we keep up with the Joneses" move, it also once again directly pits Microsoft against their licensees. This is far from the first time they have done this... most recently, this was the shift taken by the same group when they realized that their PlaysForSure/Windows Media Player storefront strategy wasn't working. When none of their PlaysForSure partners (CinemaNow, Napster, Rhapsody, FYE, AOL MusicNow, etc.) could mount a truly competitive offering against Apple, they (MS) went back to the trenches and said.... "ok, let's do what Apple has done and see if we can beat them at their own game".

In mobile phones, the tack was to license Windows Mobile to be the de facto standard of mobile device operating systems. The good news... they managed to kill Palm. The bad news.... Apple and Nokia not so much. So, what about a Zune-phone? I'm skeptical, but I'll be interested to see how it unfolds.

Oh yeah, there is actually another device that I just thought of that I have never owned.... a Zune.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Google Doing Music Search... In China

This market gets more interesting every day...

Google planning China online music tie-up: report | Technology | Internet | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Web search leader Google Inc is planning to boost its presence in China by tying up with a Chinese online music company to provide free music downloads, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday."

If this works in China, how long before they cut the same deals in the US? Last May I waxed poetic about what Google could/should do in the music space. Are they dipping their toes in the Chinese water?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008's Subscription Details (or just speculation?)

Silicon Alley Insider says they have an inside tip on details of's upcoming subscription tiers...'s Subscription Service: Bite-sized And Super-Sized? - Silicon Alley Insider:

  • "A mini-subscription, priced at $4 a month. This would let users stream more music than they can for free --'s current deal limits users to 3 plays per song, per month -- but would be capped at some number. We've heard 100 songs a month, but that seems too tiny to entice many users.
  • An all-you-can-eat, unlimited subscription, priced at $10 a month."

SAI closes saying they are skeptical of the validity of these rumors... what do you guys think?

To me it says Rhapsody better get going and (re)introduce some of the community features that they briefly showed up last year but have subsequently disappeared.