Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boomshuffle Boxed

Launched by Snocap in late last year Boomshuffle was yet another playlist site, while I'm sure there were users who had their own reasons for preferring it over the alternatives, I believe the primary reason for its existence was an attempt to add value to snocap as it tried to find a buyer.

That buyer was imeem, and they primarily wanted it for the audio filtering system and the catalog of millions of known tracks. imeem already has the most popular playlist site on the net, so boomshuffle was likely considered surplus to requirements and it came as no surprise to me when I started noticing blog posts from users asking where it had gone. simply redirects to

Did anyone have an account? I'm trying to find out if any notification was sent and whether existing account information was transferred to imeem. Given the surprise of users I'm guessing imeem simply switched the domain without any concern for users, or perhaps the majority of users simply hadn't signed up in any way that allowed them to be notified. Still you'd expect at least a transitional page on imeem explaining the situation and introducing them to the new awesomeness.

This seems like a particularly ham-fisted move by imeem, while imeem lets users do a whole lot more than boomshuffle ever did, the abruptness of this is likely to alienate users.

Searching for 'boomshuffle' on returns a few playlists

I hate imeem "I want boomshuffle you fags"
Awesome - "what happened to boomshuffle?"
Garry's Mix - "Bring Back Boomshuffle"

So, I wish I could track former boomshuffle users and see how many choose to go to other playlist sites just to spite imeem.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plays For Sure.... Until Microsoft Shut Down Their DRM Servers.

Word is that Microsoft is going to be disabling the DRM servers used to authorize music purchased from the now defunct MSN music store after August 31st of this year. If you were stupid enough to buy music from Microsoft's store then you won't be able to activate the music if you move it to new computers or upgrade your operating system, so, if you've haven't moved to vista and you want to keep your music playable you'd better hurry, otherwise you'll either have to buy a new computer or lose all those tunes you thought you were buying, when in fact you were just renting.

The bizarre thing is, I don't really understand why Microsoft feels it has to shut these machines down, I mean it can't take a huge amount of horsepower to keep these old servers working, and Microsoft is hardly lacking in resources. There's probably some upgrade policy which is forcing the migration of hardware to new revisions of windows which just don't support the old DRM servers, and there's nobody working on keeping this old software up to date. There's probably some scary security holes in the old DRM server software which have never been patched and it's easier for Microsoft to betray those trusting pioneers who bought music from them 5 years ago, than it is to ask a few interns to keep the servers up to date.

Gracenote Sells Out To Sony

Wow, I know I was speculating about music companies finding exit strategies, but having 2 in one day is getting spooky. I think that's the 3rd acquisition in the last month: Snocap acquired by Imeem, QLoud Acquired by Buzznet and now Gracenote sells to Sony.

Billy Bragg talked abou how musicians deserved a share of the Bebo acquisition price since they helped propel the site to its successful position, well I deserve part of the $260 million that Gracenote investors are getting. I contributed to CDDB in the early days, and I know I didn't agree to any license that let them use my hard typed keystrokes as part of a commercial enterprise.

So.... which company is next I wonder?

Update: I just realised something spooky, both Gracenote and Snocap built their audio fingerprinting technology on top of the software developed by Philips, I wonder if anyone else has licensed this, and whether they're up for sale?

Sonfic Silenced By Catch 22

Sonific is shutting down its site on May 1st, the site provides an explanation of this decision in which it describes the online music industry as 'certifiably dysfunctional' with all the available business options being unacceptable to the company.

The document also includes links to other sites which labels and artists can use to promote its music. Notably absent are the 3 biggest players - myspace, imeem and - sites which sonific has complained about in the past. I'm sure they're devastated about being left out of the will and I expect their respective CEO's to be out at the local dive bars crying into their drink.

A message by Gerd Leonhard, Co-Founder & CEO
As a consequence of a the unworkable music licensing situation and the resulting lack of solid revenue modeling Sonific's founders and investors have decided to temporarily take and offline. While we are looking for other ways to realize our vision we are also open to talking to any interested partythat may have use for Sonific's user base, content relationships, technologies or distribution network (please contact us anytime to find out more). Together with some other partners, we may also investigate the concept of making Sonific a paid-for service that is provided to artists, record labels and other content providers on a white-label basis.Here are some background details on our decision:

1) There are countless startups providing access to any and all music streams without any license whatsoever. However, when we approached the major record label decision makers in order to obtain licenses for some of the music in their catalogs we have routinely faced demands for very large cash advances and fixed per-stream minimum payments, pressure to give them 'free' company equity, and requirements of utterly bizarre usage restrictions. It seems that the industry's major stakeholders still prefer this turf to remain unlicensed rather than to allow real-life, workable and market-based solutions to emerge by working with new companies such as Sonific. This is not the way forward.

2) We therefore had to realize that a company that wants to provide interactive streaming music services must either a) risk the constant complaints of their users, due to the lack of hit content b) proceed to use any and all music (this is routinely done by allowing users to upload their own MP3s) without the required licenses, and therefore be at the total mercy of the record labels at some point in time, and c) build a huge audience very quickly, based on having the content available - permission or not -, and then very quickly sell themselves to a large company that will take care of placating the labels while the money is plenty and the pockets are deep.

Unfortunately we don't like any of these choices.

The bottom line is that this industry is certifiably dysfunctional and that we do not see a plausible path to take at this time. We neither want to engage in so-called copyright infringement nor do we have millions of dollars available to buy our way in when it is abundantly clear that doing business under the existing rules of the major labels will simply amount to economic suicide.

Almost a billion people now use music to stream on their blogs, social network pages, home-pages and user profiles – this is indeed a veritable gold mine for music marketing and selling, and it can make serious money for artists and composers. Yet, the established players in the music industry are still looking to simply squeeze 'permission fees' from companies that want to serve this market, instead of building new opportunities together. Maybe, just like Radio over 100 years ago, a plausible conclusion may just be that this must apparently be done without permission while the industry catches up - but we shall leave this for others to explore
this theme.

We want to thank all our partners and the many artists, independent record labels as well as the few major label new media people that dared to try us anyway, and the leading music aggregators that have provided the over 200.000 songs that Sonific has offered until now. We also want to thank our faithful users that played our music every day, and the over 80.000 people hat have signed up for our service, and we apologize for having to pull the plug on you. We hope to return in a different incarnation; please stay tuned via our blog.

Gerd Leonhard
Co-Founder & CEO

Scarlett Johansson Record No Longer A Leak

Last week a track from Scarlett Johansson's new album appeared on, the link quickly spread around the music blogs and almost as quickly the track was taken down. Later the track spread to other sites with takedown notices getting delivered to youtube, muxtape and others.

But now, if you really care to hear her attempt to cover the great Tom Waits it's on the front page of, I've no idea if the takedown notices are still getting delivered to other sites.

Photobucket Launches API

Photobucket has always been second place behind flickr, following in its footsteps, so the news that it's launching its own developer api barely came as any surprise.

Frankly I'm more surprised by it being Earth Day today, because I thought that was on Saturday....

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Fate Of Muxtape and Other Music Sites

There are a lot fo music sites right now from the tiny (mystrands, soundpedia) to the huge (imeem and and from the old (napster, rhapsody) to the new (muxtape, mixwit). The proliferation of sites is similar to that seen during the first dotcom boom, and I can see that the next year is going to be make or break for most of them.

The established players, napster, rhapsody and probably aren't going anywhere, they've got solid backing and enough users and brand awareness. imeem is the biggest fish and it's backed by sequoia, but it could well find itself in second place if myspace gets its act together.

Many of the smaller sites are going to get folded into larger sites, but they're increasingly going to find it hard to compete with the massive, freely acessible, legal catalogs of imeem, and myspace. The dynamic will become increasingly content centric and sites without content aren't going to be able to hold much of an audience, except perhaps amongst users who hate flash widgets and advertising.

Those sites with content will either need paid subscribers or a ton of advertising.

This puts muxtape in an interesting position, right now it's the star of the blogosphere, but soon it will have a horrible disfiguring disease that will slowly change it and make it less attractive. The record labels will demand to get paid which means one or more of these things
1) Tons of advertising all over the site. This will piss off those design fixated bloggers who have been justifying its superiority over other sites by its minimalism.
2) Users will have to pay a subscription to post or to listen, this will piss off casual users.
3) Restrictions on what can be posted - no more Beatles for sure, and if the site wants to be cheap it might skip anything from major labels which will probably mean fewer ads or cheaper subscriptions. This will piss off everyone every time they try to add a track and find that it's not covered by the record deals.

Regardless of how fast muxtape goes I don't see it having a chance of getting major label content. They all want big advances - spiralfrog paid 3 million dollars for Universal, some sources suggest imeem's advance payments were more like 20million. So Muxtape will need this amount of cash on hand to negotiate, and I don't see any investor riding in to help it, by the time this is a possibility myspace music will be launched and both and imeem will be properly established. No investor is going to want to get into a market that crowded, especially when the primary appeal of the site is confined to

  1. Users who haven't heard of
  2. Users who've heard of imeem but prefer the 'less is more' design
  3. Users who've heard of imeem and are annoyed that their beatles tracks turn into 30 second previews

So, if muxtape tries to go with the major labels it's going have to lose the advantage that it has with groups 2 & 3 to have a chance of being legal, and then there's no guarantee that it'll be able to do all this on day one, it could take months for them to get on board, during which muxtape with have a partial catalog and 2-3 other competitors with full catalogs.

So, muxtape will go where the bloggers are, and try to get profitable using only indie music, accepting a smaller slice of the pie, while perhaps hoping the music tax becomes a reality and gives them a chance of getting into the major label game without putting itself at a massive disadvantage.

So.... enjoy your muxtape while it lasts, it's not going to get sued out of existence, it's just going to die slowly as it turns into a clone of

Pro-Chinese Hackers Take Over Sports Website

From Techcrunch
The SportsNetwork, a privately held sports website located in Hatboro, PA, has been under attack from hackers for about 24 hours. Early Sunday the site was defaced with “Tibet was, is and will always be part of China” messages. Engineers returned the site to normal, but late Sunday evening the site was again hacked and taken offline. The message in the image second above is now all that can be viewed on the site.
The site itself is relatively small, attracting just 264,000 visitors in February 2008 (Comscore, worldwide). But it also powers parts of other large sports sites such as CNN/SI. The domain, for example, is also down.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grooveshark Launches P2P Music service

Do I even need to say that the whole thing reeks of the term 'dubious legality', word is that in addition to pissing off record labels they're also using GPL code in the client without the proper credit.

Still Waiting on Better Video quality at youtube

Actually I'm not, but millions of users apparently are, despite the fact that there are many video sites that support better video quality than youtube.

Youtube has such a grip on the market it hasn't worked particularly hard to provide anything better than 320x240 blurry vision. Dailymotion, Vimeo and others are now doing 720p but that hasn't helped them assault youtube's market share.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The blog world is full of posts about muxtape, which is the latest in a long line of playlist sites, imeem, projectplaylist, seeqpod, mixwit and now muxtape.

muxtape takes simple to ridiculous extremes, only 1 'muxtape' per account, 12 track limit, and max file size of 10mb. However many of the people who are calling themselves fans of the site clearly think this has made the site better than all the others which have been around longer.

Or, reading the blog posts about the site it's more likely that they haven't actually heard of the other sites and muxtape is their first experience with the world of online mixes.

The site appears to suffer from poor browser support, failing completely on my firefox install. However there's no real security and all the files are stored in mp3 format on amazon's s3 elastic storage service so it's trivial to download the files from muxes... errr mixes that you like. Which is nice because the other services have made compromises on their content to protect themselves from legal action, actions which have soured opinions towards these more established sites. So if you want to download Beatles tracks then muxtape with a bit of help from its friends at Amazon have them all available for you.

I give the site a couple of months before it makes changes to protect itself and triggers a blogger backlash.

Social Media Mojo

Words, Photos, Videos, Music and people interacting with them.
What is a social media site? Well it needs to combine media and social interaction, depending on your definition of media and social interaction you can include ancient web institutions like Usenet and BBS's. But I'm more interested in fancy schmancy media types like videos, music and possibly photos if the site is interesting enough.

The typical social media site I'm interested in covering is more media than social, to be honest the social side of things is converging to a model whereby site developers can tick the checkboxes for the social features they want. The interesting part is the media, how it's hosted, how it's discovered and also how the site's legal team handles the interesting issues surrounding copyright.

As it stands the biggest names in social media are closely identified with content -
Flickr => Photos
Youtube => Videos
Imeem => Audio

but there are plenty of other sites which are chasing these 3 with their own strategies, indeed, Imeem has only recently emerged as the frontrunner in the music space, but it's still a long way from the stature of the other two and there are many other sites gunning for it. The biggest threat to Imeem however is an old site in a new guise, myspace music is coming and Imeem will have a fight on its hands.

more to come.