Getting Past Just 'Putting Radio On The Internet' – Killer Apps Come Next

from the time-to-step-up dept

Musician (Gang of Four) and marketing guru, Dave Allen, recently put up one of his insightful blog posts, questioning where the real disruption in online music is these days, and complaining that all of the services we see out there today are basically just “creating radio on the internet.” And they’re all almost identical.

The modern version of that is the wholesale commoditizing of music catalogs by the labels who create licensing deals with the streaming music services. Those actions in turn further homogenize the streaming music service systems as the services only have access to the same catalogs ? there is no differentiation. Artists get pennies, or less than a penny, when someone streams their song, and the listener gets advertising in the stream unless they pay to escape the ads.

Music streaming on the web is not a Big Idea, it?s simply a lack of intellectual vision and thinking. Worse, it has advanced the ?passive listening? experience. It?s just terrestrial radio dumped on to the web in other words ? including advertising….


The bottom line is that there is no differentiation at the end of the day between Mog, Rdio, Spotify, Rhapsody, and all the others too numerous to mention, if they all have the same music catologs ? widgets and tactics don?t count.

I agree that we haven’t yet seen all that much that’s really innovative in music, but I’m not as worried about it as Dave. As I noted about the SF MusicTech conference (where Dave moderated a panel on exactly this subject), it really felt like we’d finally gotten past the doom and gloom and started looking at the real opportunities in the music business today. I think that much of the lack of innovation is because pretty much anyone who has really tried to innovate has been shot down by lawsuits. Seriously. The second you do something marginally innovative that starts getting attention, a major label comes up with an excuse to sue, mainly to regain some amount of control. So these clone music services are, in part, a reaction to all of that. The reason they all look the same is because they now know what it takes to fall into line and not get sued.

But I don’t think that’s a problem for the next wave of innovation in the space. Yes, many of these services effectively replicate radio on the internet today. But when you look through history, that often is the first wave of history when dealing with new media. You take the old media and move it to the new platform. It takes a generation or two before people start to recognize that the new media has special or different characteristics that really let you do something unique and new. Then it takes a little while before people start figuring out what that is. It’s why I’m excited about things like Whether or not it’s really the next generation offering that becomes a success story, it is a sign that people are finally starting to branch out and try things that are unique and different and really only possible on the medium of the internet.

In fact, while I’m a fan of Spotify and Pandora, since playing with, I always feel sort of disappointed that I can’t merge the three. Spotify has a huge collection, and I’d love to be able to move my playlists directly into, or use Pandora’s matching engine to find similar songs to what I’m playing or what others are playing within Turntable.

So I think we’re just entering the very beginning phase of real innovation in the music service market space. The companies here today may or may not survive. Or maybe they’ll drive the changes and come up with the next great innovations themselves. But it’s still early in the game.

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Companies: mog, rdio, rhapsody, spotify

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Comments on “Getting Past Just 'Putting Radio On The Internet' – Killer Apps Come Next”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It all sounds wonderful, but I think it goes against human nature in the end. Most of us don’t listen to music to be challenged by new music, but rather to enjoy, relax, or be inspired (for those who work with music on). We may not get those feeling from listening to obscure music or new bands / acts we aren’t comfortable with.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it is much harder to change human nature.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, that is not the argument.

The argument is that there are times when we like new music, and there are times when we just want to listen to what we know and enjoy. For some people, that may be turning to an Ipod or an MP3 collection to play stuff we know and like, for others, it may be tuning to a radio station that plays the music we like.

People like to sing along. They like to know the song. Constantly challenged by new music, they would seem likely to tune out.

The suggestion from the story is that “radio on the internet” will be replaced by “things that are unique and different and really only possible on the medium of the internet”. My thoughts are only that this goes against human nature, and how we appear to enjoy music.

I can understand these services as a plus, a bonus, and addition, but I cannot see them as a replacement.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

but I cannot see them as a replacement.

I’m glad the future doesn’t depend on your vision.

HP didn’t see PCs as a replacement to mainframes when Steve Wozniak showed them his idea. IBM didn’t see an OS license as a replacement to the money from hardware sales. The content industries still don’t see the internet as a viable replacement to their distribution models.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yet, to this very day, we have both mainframes and PCs, and the shift to “the cloud” is pretty much a shift back to the wonderful days of more centralized computing.

I am not suggesting one over the other, and that is my point – these don’t appear to be replacement services, in the same manner that a skateboard is not a replacement for a long distance bus. Each one has it’s purpose and place, neither replacing the other at what it does best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The cloud is not happening, not with centralized servers anyways, who wants the government snooping on them?

Thanks PROTECT IP you are just a wonderful law just showing how dangerous it is to let third parties handle your data.

Here is my prediction, people will try to use the cloud and some idiot will try to sue someone and force the provider of a service to show what the person has.

Everybody and their dog will get out of there once the word gets out.

Unless of course America wants to create cloud services in other countries it will be like outsourcing but for IT infra-structure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Here is a thing about human nature, people share, my friends send me music, they tell me where I can go and here some mean band playing or whatever.

Now how would this be possible in the 21th century?

Augmented reality, people will use augmented reality social networks to tag what they like is more or less like twitter but instead you use tags to describe some place or to link that place to some data, other than that one can create local networks that are not connected to the internet using cellphones where everybody could share the songs they have at the moment on their phones and create the local version of a DJ party mixed with radio station.

Now who will provide the music for them to be on the legal side of things?

It is not going to be anybody represented by the RIAA, probably Jamendo or Magnatune.

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: Human Nature

Before the labels destroyed the opportunity in Canada, I loved Pandora because it offered a chance for me to discover new music that I was likely to enjoy. I liked it better than Garageband (the site not the app) because the music was pre-filtered for me. Obscure stuff that is nothing like my favorites might be hard to take, might be too challenging to the status quo. But Pandora proved to me that I could “discover” new music while enjoying a similar experience to my old favorites.

Blatant Coward (profile) says:

What's old is new again

My favorite radio station is actually a fan site for a MMO video game. They provide a real sense of community with the old style DJ interface with the audience that make it so different from the current ‘clearchannel’ BS with the broadcast stations.
They also have a real variety of music unlike the cookie cutter “Pop or Hip-Hop Only” choices out there.

Richard (profile) says:

I'll be controversial

Maybe it’s because music itself isn’t in a great innovative phase right now.

Imagine what would have happened if the new media had come in in the 60’s – when the labels were struggling to keep up.

What is needed is new distribution models married with new and innovative music.

Come to think of it what is really needed is not so much a music service that is only possible on the internet – but music that is only possible on the internet (not sure what that means – else I ‘d be doing it myself…).

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: I'll be controversial

I’m pretty sure there’s some very strong innovation on both sides of your suggestion — despite the best efforts of the record labels to kill it all. Of course it may not be statistically true, but anecdotes abound. Start with deadmau5 and check out the many artists on SuperNova, Soundcloud or other “seedling” sites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'll be controversial

Remix artists are not innovative by nature, they are playing on your familiarity with the music they are using to prop up their “mad skillz” as remixers. The same thing done with obscure or unknown music wouldn’t come out the same way.

In essence, they leverage the work done by the “radio style” world in order to make their own work, well, work.

Try deadmau5 with nothing but corey smith and Amanda Marshall songs, and see exactly how long the lineup is to see him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'll be controversial

Millions of dollars in Rap(crap) music say otherwise.
You do know that rap music is basic cut and paste music right?

Not to mention heavy metal that borough heavily from classical music.

And I’m not a musician but even I can see how everything is a mix and match of other things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'll be controversial

Music that is only possible in today’s age…

Imagine you’re listening to a song on something like Pandora. Based on your ratings, that platform builds up an idea of what kind of music you like. But then, instead of just playing songs it thinks you’ll like, it starts customizing the songs themselves to meet your expectations. What if the platform could anticipate you on these kinds of things

– Increase/decrease the bass to the song automatically
– speed up or slow it down (without ruining the song)
– switch out male/female singer
– shorten the song by taking out a redundant verse
– lengthen the song by adding some sort of solo you’ll like
– go accoustic
– replace the backup singers with some strings
– add a singer and lyrics (from a dead poet) to an instrumental

If you don’t like the suggestions that the platform implemented for you, or have some tweaks of your own, it will have a way for you to let it know, and it will remember for next time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'll be controversial

What if people start playing singing games to see who do better?

What if people start using singing games to learn other languages?

What if you pass near a club and want to know what others are saying about it and point your cellphone and get that info?

What if your phone could recognize a tune, fetch the lyrics, art and info from that tune?

There are no what ifs here those things are all possible today.

David Muir (profile) says:

You say remix artists are not innovative. But… everything is a remix.

You also suggest that if he used Corey Smith or Amanda Marshall songs as source material, the result would somehow not appeal to deadmau5 fans. That sounds like an excellent challenge for deadmau5. I think DJ Steve Porter proves you can remix just about anything and make it appeal to your fans’ sensibilities.

I’m sure I haven’t convinced you, but I really believe that innovation comes in many forms. To write off “mad skillz” as being less than actual skill and mastery of an art form — well that’s a valid opinion, but it seems kind of narrow-minded to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

David, not at all. I find that many remixers are incredibly skilled people, have an amazing sense of music, and have the unique ability to connect things that most of us just would never connect musically in our minds.

It is an art form, but not an art form based on making music, rather one basic on manipulating it.

I would think of a remixer on the same level as someone who is very good at setting up art galleries or perhaps building theatrical sets. They too are artistic, they too require “skill and mastery of an art form”, but they are absolutely, totally, and without a doubt beholden to the larger source. An art gallery full of empty frames is meaningless (or modern art, if you want), a beautiful set for a theater production that never happens is just a pile of wood and paint. A remix of nothing is, well, dead air.

I don’t write off their mad skillz, rather I applaud them. I actually tend to prefer the older style SL-1200 turntable masters, guys like Mixmaster Mike. Props for their skills, yet I am sure he knows that he is always limited to working with the works of others.

Innovation is a very overused word, especially when it comes to 100% reuse of someone else’s performance.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Everyone relies on someone else – a great Violinist (Pagnanini) relied on a great violin maker (Guarneri) Bach’s “Well Tempered Clavier” was a celebration of innovation in both musical theory and the practical instrument design. I could go on and on here…

The thing is that in spite of your celebration of remix skills you still seem to think that it is somehow a lesser art form (evidence of your final paragraph). This suggests to me that you are too much in awe of what you might call “truly original” music – because you don’t understand how it is created – and how much of it is, at root, formulaic and derivative itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ahh, but see, the violin by itself is nothing without someone to play it. It is not a performance, but an instrument. Putting a finger on a single string does not play a melody, it doesn’t spew out someone else’s performance. If I buy a violin, it doesn’t automatically come with Pagnanini built in.

There is an incredible different between a tool (guitar, keyboard, drum, violin) and performances made with them. Sampling for some blurs that line, but it is pretty easy to to “bright line” it – if you are using the performance of someone else as your music, then you aren’t really a musician, just a manipulator.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some master manipulators out there. But they cannot claim originality on the performance, because the performance is not theirs.

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Musician versus manipulator. Very good point to ponder.

The way the remixers manipulate pitch and tempo. The way they add loops that they actually did create themselves. And the way that they “orchestrate” the multiplicity of elements. I think this blurs the line even more than your bright line statement suggests.

By the way, I really appreciate your civil and well-articulated responses. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

David, thank you. I am being careful here, because certain people here in the past claim I am “anti-this” or “anti-that”. It’s too bad, because it’s all art in it’s own way, it all requires skills, but not all of it is rooted in performance.

I think that remix artists are often in the same place as great conductors. They are not able (or have no desire) to actually play the music themselves, rather they excel at guiding and controlling the performances of others. Yet a conductor in a room full of empty chairs makes about the same sound as the wind going past my ear, there is no music.

There is always some blur, but for the most part you can see things on one side of the line or the other. A few bridge the gap, but they are rare from what I have seen and heard.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I think that remix artists are often in the same place as great conductors. They are not able (or have no desire) to actually play the music themselves, rather they excel at guiding and controlling the performances of others. Yet a conductor in a room full of empty chairs makes about the same sound as the wind going past my ear, there is no music.

Actually most great conductors have been competant to brilliant as players toom – frequently they are also significant composers. It is close to impossible to become a significant conductor with learning an instrument at some stage. I think you are trying to create a bright line where none can exist.

These days the conductor might well be able to dispense with the players and use computer based tools to creat the performance from thin air. Similarly remixers who use very short samples approach the point where they could have used a machine to generate them. I still feel that you overvalue relatively simple physical skills and badly misundedrstand the processes by which music is created.

To me the greatest value of the physical skill is to the performer him/herself – because of the satisfaction it brings – this is a huge thing and I believe (and hope) that it will be spread (once again) to more people in future.

On the other hand if you just want music to listen to then everything can now be produced perfectly using computers – whether from scratch or from samples doesn’t matter a fig – there is no longer a need for human performance to produce recorded music – it’s just a waveform – and any waveform you want can be synthesised.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Richard, a computer can generate any waveform. That is never an issue. But it cannot as easily produce it’s own unique performance. Let me explain.

What is the difference between first chair violin and a kid in a fiddle competition? They are both playing the same instrument, and they both have all of the same notes available to play. A sample of each of the notes on a computer would be the same. Only two of them, however, can create a performance, and one them can play the notes back as recorded.

Why is the child’s performance different from the first chair player? Why are they both different from Ashley MacIsaac or Charlie Daniels? It’s in the performance. It’s in the technique, the subtle movements of the fingers, the interaction between the player and the instrument to create often unique sounds, pitch, and sustain that nobody else can create in that manner.

Not only that, but every time they play it, it will be slightly different. The tension of the bow, the humidity in the room, the temperature, what they had for lunch… all of it does into a performance that is as unique as the person making it.

The computer? Same thing everytime, unless you change the program. Even if you try to program in “feeling”, it will do that feeling in the same sort of mechanical way.

It’s why most samples are not raw samples, but samples of a performance, because they are trying to hard not only to work with a sound, but the performance of that sound. They are manipulating the performance of another, not actually making a performance of their own.

In more modern terms, consider it the difference between shooting a picture with a camera, and copy and pasting someone else’s image in photoshop. You can change reality, but you have to start with someone else’s reality first.

master manipulators, not master musicians.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

How about this for innovation?

The Cyborg in Us All – When he interrupted the Pink Floyd song with moments of silence, the brain?s volume meter continued to tremble up and down, as if the song were still playing. This, Schalk said, showed that the brain creates a model of what it expects to hear ? a shadow song that plunks out its tune in the player piano of our auditory system.

?Isn?t this crazy?? he shouted over the thunder of the bass. ?We?re close to being able to reconstruct the actual music heard in the brain and play it. If we had several times more electrodes, I bet we could do it.?

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Starts by replacing the old

New technologies tend to start out by replacing the old technologies directly, or as closely as possible. It took some time, for example, for people to treat television as more than just radio with pictures. It starts out as a replacement, and as time passes people discover more and more ways to leverage the new technology to do more clever and creative things.

Earlier this month I bought a camera. It’s the size of a pack of cigarettes. It doesn’t use silver nitrate on an acetate backing and require chemicals and a darkroom to develop, but in every important way it does the same job as my old Canon FT. (Let’s not go into the ways it’s inferior; I’m quite aware of those. But I was only looking for a snapshot camera anyway.)

First generation digital cameras were just that: digital replacements for film cameras. But my new one has automatic focusing, facial detection, two kinds of image stabilization, red-eye compensation, optical and digital zoom, several composition modes, white-light detection and compensation, auto-focus assist lamp, automatic macro… and a video screen on the back that not only lets me see the picture I’m about to take, but lets me see the picture I just took. I can also take fast picture sequences and several minutes of full-resolution video at a time. I can store hundreds of pictures on a bit of plastic the size of my pinkie fingernail, and for a pittance I can buy several more.

And that’s just a $150 camera. For a few dollars more I can get one that connects to my computer wirelessly, has better optics, high-definition video, stereo sound, USB recharge, panorama, HDMI output, GPS, and more. All this is available in snapshot cameras that cost a few hundred dollars.

What did Doc Brown say? A portable TV studio? That was describing a camcorder from 2? decades ago and can almost apply to my snapshot camera. Today’s camcorders look like toys — but they have an order of magnitude more functionality, can record a hundred hours of video nonstop, video resolution that knocks your socks off, 3D recording…. A technology that started as a bulky device connected to a video recorder and costing thousands now costs a week’s take-home, is self-contained in a tiny package, better, faster, lasts longer, has almost no moving parts and practically never wears out.

And we’re not finished. Next years’ models will be improved yet more, and even more the year after that.

Internet radio is just getting started. It’s being held back by entrenched corporate interests, I have no doubt about that. But there’s also normal inertia. It starts by being “just radio over the Internet” like any other new technology, and then the dam breaks and before you know it we have the next “portable TV studio”.

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