Friday, November 11, 2005

File Sharing Continues to Grow

...latest data from Big Champagne shows roughly a 40% increase in P2P usage over the last year.

Average simultaneous users using file sharing during July - October 2005

- U.S. - 6.7mm
- Global - 9.4mm

vs. Year Ago Levels

- U.S. - 4.5mm
- Global - 6.7mm

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Who benefits from "The Long Tail?"

There's been a lot written about The Long Tail, the theory that our culture and economy are shifting from "hits" to "niches."

The theory goes that the Internet, with its zero-cost shelf space, enables more artists to get distribution, and therefore sales, than is possible in the shelf-space constrained physical world. There are lower barriers to entry for artists, lower inventory carrying costs for retailers and lower costs of distribution, especially for digital music, which benefits artists, retailers and consumers. Only as more content gets exposed to more consumers does the true shape of the demand curve get revelead. People's interests, the theory goes, are not so mainstream afterall.

All of this seems great for the artists, writers and musicians, right? In theory, yes. All of those talented people who've been held back by "the man" can now self-publish their way into our living rooms and on to our iPods.

In practice though, the individual artists seem to be no better off than before - they still face the daunting task of "being heard" or at least, figuring out how to stand out from the crowd.

Does this mean that the only beneficiaries of The Long Tail will be aggregators and consumers? That no individual artist could ever sell enough to their niche to make a sustainable living?

Some say that it is too early to tell. That the "internet" hasn't broken a monster star yet.

Others point to success stories like where artists are achieving success based on "fan to fan" promotion, rather than top down corporate record label support/marketing.

My money is on the The Long Tail. When I say that, I'm defining it as an environment where increasingly curious consumers interested in content beyond the Top 10 utilize on-line outlets that both have the ability to "shelve" infinte SKUs and have the ability/algorithm to help interested consumers find relevant content/art.

I think, while only initially benefitting aggregators, "The Long Tail" will ultimately benefit more artists and more fans than the current system based on hits and scarcity ever could.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Memorable Internet "Videos"

For some reason I'm fascinated by these "internet memes" as some call them.

Some, like this video from Saddle Brook, NJ of 19 year-old Gary Brolsma become so famous that that they have their own Wikipedia entries.

Others, like the Star Wars Kid start out as a simple home made video and then get so many parodies and mash ups that they end up needing a whole website to keep them straight.

Others, like this video of Two Chinese Students or this video shot by Michael Rubin on his Droidmaker book tour, are less well known, for now.

The one thing they all have in common? They make me wonder how soooo many people have sooooo much free time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Why Do I Want What I Can't Have?

Here's a mix posted by an user - beyondfallen - who's completely in love with someone they can't have, and its killing them. Interesting and sad all at the same time. Click here to listen via Rhapsody.

1. The Trouble With Love Is - Kelly Clarkson
2. Someday We'll Know - Mandy Moore/Jonathan Foreman
3. Only Hope - Switchfoot
4. Vindicated - Dashboard Confessional
5. Wish You Were Here - Incubus
6. Everytime - Britney Spears
7. I'd Do Anything - Simple Plan
8. Things I'll Never Say - Avril Lavigne
9. If You're Not The One - Daniel Bedingfield
10. Beautiful Disaster - Kelly Clarkson
11. I'll Be - Edwin McCain
12. But For Now - Jamie Cullum
13. You And I Both - Jason Mraz
14. You Don't Know Me - Ray Charles with Diana Krall
15. I've Got You Under My Skin - Michael Buble
16. Still On My Brain - Justin Timberlake
17. Goodbye To You - Michelle Branch

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Music Pricing Maze

So the band Gorillaz just came out with a new album - Demon Days, and I wanted to go get a copy of it for an upcoming flight to San Jose. Seems to have been generally well received by fans and critics.

Here are the (dizzying) *LEGAL* options available to me today to meet my need.

Amazon - $13.49 + shipping. I get uncompressed files and the ability to rip to whatever format I like to play back on my PC, iPod or RIO.

iTunes - $12.99
I get 128kbps AAC files of all 15 tracks on the album. They are copy restricted. I can burn to a CD and transfer to my iPod.

MSN Music - $11.88 - cheaper if I take advantage of their "buy 1 song, get 5 free promotion" - by my math that would be buy 10 for $9.99, get the other 5 free.
I get 160kbps WMA files that can be played on my computer, but can't be copied or transferred to my iPod. I can burn them a CD. - $9.44 - I get 128kbps WMA files. No copies. No transfer to iPod. Burn to CD. - not available yet. Would be $5.99 for a CD. - $1.54 - I get MP3 files (or other formats) that can be copied, burned to a CD and played on my PC, iPod or RIO

Rhapsody - "free"
Thanks to my $9.99 a month subscription I get to download all 15 songs from the album to my hard drive. I get 160kbps WMA files that will keep working as long as I maintain an active subscription. I can't copy the files, nor can I burn a CD or copy to my iPod. But I can listen to the files off line on my PC.

Yahoo - "free"
If I pre-paid a year for $60 ($5 a month), AND I had a WMA compliant portable device, I'd be able to download the album and transfer the songs to a portable for "free."

Is this confusing or what? Granted we are in a really unique time in music and technology history, but this wide range of prices for what is basically the same product (a few full length listens to a full album) only serves to confuse the consumer and raise questions as to the underlying value of the music.

No wonder people choose the relative simplicity of the MP3 and P2P.

In the end, I chose Rhapsody and within a couple of minutes had downloaded the album.

I'm all set for a few serious listens on the flight out to the coast.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

25 Years of Music and Technology Milestones

1979 July 1, Walkman introduced in Japan

1980 RIAA launches "home taping is killing music campaign"

1982/1983 - CD player and format introduced - welcome 0s and 1s

1983 MP3 Invented in Germany, for the Film Industry

1984 - Jack Valenti says "the VCR is to the American film the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

1986 prerecorded cassettes outsell vinyl 3:1

1988 CD sales exceed sales on vinyl

1994 First CD-Rs produced

1997 Winamp released - MP3 craze begins - 15mm people download the application - plays CDs - rips MP3s

1998 CD Burners cost $500, Blank 74 minute Discs cost $2.60 a piece

1999 Napster launched

1999 Napster sued

1999 Winamp sold to AOL for $86mm

1999 Diamond introduces the Rio 500 - first USB player - has 64 MB + 64MB expansion slot - 2 hrs of music

2000 Gnutella developed by the same folks who created winamp. Bearshare, Morpheus, LimeWire launch - central server no longer needed

2000 Metallica sues Napster - 300,000 users banned from the Napster Network for offering Metallica sonce

2000 In February, Napster traffic peaks at 26.4mm users world wide

2000 In April, tracks from Radiohead's album appear on Napster 3 months before CD release. In spite of little promotion and airplay, Album debuts at #1

2001 In March, Napster served with injunction from the 9th circuit. In July, Napster closes.

2001 Kazaa reaches 10mm users

2001 Generation 1 iPods shipped 11/10/01 - 5 gig, costs $400

2003 "The best selling CD is blank" - 30 Billion discs sold worldwide

2003 iTunes music store has 200,000 song catalog - 10gig iPod costs $299

2003 In September, the RIAA begins suing P2P users

2003 iTunes music store launches for Windows - October

2004 Podcasting begins in October when former MTV VJ Adam Curry launches

2005 CD Burners cost $60, spindle of 50 Blank 80 minute discs cost $20 - 40 cents a piece

2005 In March, Apple announces that sales have surpassed 300 million songs - 60 billion have been traded via P2P during the same time period

2005 Some estimates put simultaneous users of P2P at 8.5mm in March (+80% vs 2003) - Pew Study finds 20mm have used email, IM, trading iPods as means of sharing music files

2005 Finding Music recommendations gets a whole lot easier - launches in March

2005 In May Apple crosses 400mm downloads - this amounts to only about 20 per ipod

2005 In September, the average number of people logged in to P2P networks was 9.3mm, up from 4.3mm in September of 2003.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Los Angelus - An "Angel" Soundtrack

Los Angelus - An "Angel" Soundtrack:

This playlst, minus one song not available at Rhapsody, was posted to today by the user eclectomaniac. Nice one!

Clicking on the link above will enable you to listen to the mix via Rhapsody. Don't have Rhapsody? No problem, you'll be prompted to download and install the app, and then, given their new service, you'll get to listen to each of these songs for free (you get up to 25 plays a month for free now).

1. Eternal Life - Jeff Buckley
2. Haze - Electronic
3. Sadness Soot - Grant-Lee Phillips
4. Struck - Joe Henry
5. Black - Pete Yorn
6. Bloodsuckers - David Garza
7. Daylight - Delerium
8. And If I Fall - Charlatans U.K."
9. Belong - Remy Zero
10. Darkside - Tanya Donelly (not on Rhapsody)
11. This World - Zero 7
12. Demons - Fatboy Slim

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Ways to Share Files, Yet Shipments are Up

A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Group showed that about 18-20mm people are engaged in the sharing of digital music files via means other than P2P apps like Kazaa, Limewire, etc. Email, IM and "taking songs from someone else's iPod"(whatever that means) were quoted as the leading choices for folks who share outside of P2P apps.

All of these new capabilities combined with traditional P2P usage (which the study shows is flat in terms of % Internet users using P2P) should be enough to tank the music industry if they really were that damaging.

Strangely though, unit shipments in 2004 vs. 2003 were up slightly (2.7%) proving that there is still healthy consumer interest in a physical product / uncompressed files. Note: revenues were down during this period in part due to price reductions.

Given this data, some are crowing that P2P helps sales. And while that may ultimately be proven to be the case, the fact that year on year unit shipments were up for one year may not be sufficient evidence yet to that say that file sharing helps sales.

But it certainly casts some warm sunshine on the contention that file sharing can only do harm.

Clearly, at, we see proof of the power of P2P to drive sales every day. Fans discover music by exploring P2P user's shared collections and then go on to buy music at Amazon, iTunes. Our sense is that most, if not all of these transactions are sales that might never have occurred had P2P-based recommendations not been available.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Wisdom of Crowds

Cory Doctorow posted his notes today at Boing Boing from a presentation given by James Surowiecki at ETECH. That post is here for reference.

In it he asserts
"HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT ANTS. We do not have the biological programming or tools to allow this kind of interaction to produce intelligence."
In general I agree.

When it comes to music fans as a "crowd" I must disagree. They can in fact be harnessed to produce intelligence - namely relevant recommendations - is a case in point.

Surowiecki's "recipe" for a wise crowd is that it meets 4 criteria, and I believe music fans meet all 4 of them. They are:
  1. Diversity of opinion - music fans, like the music they love, come from all ages, regions, professions etc - a truly diverse crowd
  2. Independence from one-another - most fans make up their own minds about what artists, albums and songs they like. True, there are plenty of influences that bear down on a fan (friends, radio, music TV, etc.) but no set of fans is swayed by a single opinion leader
  3. Decentralized - music fans live everywhere, and other than at concerts, rarely get together in one place
  4. Easily summarized - P2P software apps and the networks they run on provide a great tool for aggregating users and for the collection of data on how fans collect music.
The "wisdom" that can be produced from music fans, and their digital music collections, as a crowd, is pretty amazing.

For the music fan who is asking the question "what band should I listen to next?" the crowd can seem very wise indeed.

Who cares about "The Long Tail?"

Well, music fans for one.

What is the long tail? In music, its comprised of all those artists and albums that never got much radio airplay, and therefore had little sales. For more background on "The Long Tail" check out this article at the Wikipedia.

So why am I so sure about music fans and the long tail? A few reasons...

#1 Over the last few years iTunes, with their 1mm song catalog (think head, not tail) have sold 300mm songs. Over the same period, the P2P networks, which feature much greater selection (see #2 below), have seen 80 Billion downloads, or 250 times as many transactions.

#2 If you look at the digital music collections of P2P users in aggregate, there are close to 4mm different unique songs being shared. That's 4x the variety of iTunes and other on-line stores and services.

#3 If you look at the distribution of what people have searched for at, you will find over 6,000 different songs, albums and artists - and that's just in 2 weeks - and, only 500 of them have been searched for more than 4 times. Truly a long tail.

Hardly a "torrent"

Been trying to download the 2.6gig SXSW mp3 song bundle via bittorrent off and on for two days. So far I'm finding it more than a little slow. Sort of illustrates the point that without peers, P2P is like one hand clapping.

Update - did a little router configuration and the flood gates opened!

Kudos for Jeff Buckley Documentary

Proud hubby Peter blogs about wife Nyla's (with Laurie Trombley of course) documentary getting some much deserved recognition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

User profiles are interesting

Just spent a bit of time looking at "who" has signed up - and it's fascinating.

There's fairly straight forward folk like "drew.farris" from Olney, MD - who's a fan of electronica and "loveinhaight" from San Francisco who works in Land Conservation and has a taste for Indie bands.

There are folks who take time to put in a crazy photo and a bunch of info about themselves like "base2wave"

And, there are still others put in a photo, but leave us to fill in the blanks as they have just given us a hint of who they are like "masc19".

What's so fascinating about this?

I dunno, to me is just seems interesting that for the most part, people seem to be more comfortable filling in the "favorite bands" field than other fields like hometown, which perhaps seem too personal to them.

I say, "to know me, know my iPod."

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Quick update - 2 weeks out

Well, its been about 2 weeks since we launched. As of this AM we had our 10,000th session. Traffic continues at a steady rate each day due almost entirely to pass-along referrals and expanding blog coverage. Over the next few weeks we'll be rolling out some minor enhancements and testing out some on-line advertising. We'll see how that goes.

So far we're seeing a lot of usage of "the tour" and clicks on the latest file unders and latest artist bookmarks. And, we're also seeing quite broad usage of the search features with the variety of bands being searched for ranging pretty widely - from The Shins to Thelonius Monk to Pink Floyd to Josh Rouse. In total, there have been searches for around 2500 different artists thus far.

More later...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Some thoughts on the launch of

We launched about a week and a half ago and so far, so good.

We've gotten some good coverage from places as far away as Japan, Holland, the UK and Italy.

Some notable quotes include:
  • "Pretty decent, actually"
  • "the upto11 service could be one of the single most awesome music finding tools evar."
  • "simply the most amazing music recommendation engine"
We've enjoyed a day or so on the "most popular" bookmarks list, had a number of folks add us to their favorites over at Furl, and had enough mentions to fill up most of the first 4 pages of results at Google.

We've had visitors become members from all over the last count I think we had a member from 15 countries and 18 of 50 states. Members are bookmarking artists, adding "file under" tags and creating playlists.

In general people are finding the site usable, the recommendations relevant and the popularity slider helpful at "chopping off the head" of the results.

That's not to say that everyone loves everything about it. We've had a few bugs reported, the look and feel is not working for some folks, and as always, people want more functionality like being able to upload your library, get longer previews and add /correct artist information.

I'd say, on balance, things are going about as we expected.

What's next?

Well we're on to the business of finishing up some features that didn't quite make it in time for launch, and working through prioritizing bug fixes and enhancements.

Stay tuned for future updates.