Machine Shop: Hype Machine Team Blog

A Guide to What I am Missing at SXSW (PodBop Launches a Killer SXSW Scheduling Tool)

I won’t be going to SXSW this year. Missing out on tons of great music and people, but watch out for me next year.

For those of you that are going, do keep in mind that I am really jealous and will be in class as you party and check out dozens of shows. 🙂

Taylor and Daniel at Podbop just launched a kickass scheduling tool that can help you get organized and plan your intoxicated evenings.

podbop's sxsw calendar


The Only Reason to Use Real Rhapsody

Subscription music services are great. Ask anyone who uses one and they will rave about the amazing ability to listen to almost any song anytime. And if they own a compatible portable device, or a Sonos jukebox, then the level of evangelism may reach dangerous proportions. Nothing wrong with that though, those services really ARE that good.

That is, before you count in the obstacles like unstable Windows-only application software (hi there, Napster & Rhapsody), a poor web-based experience, and the frequent inability to stream certain tracks with your subscription (that’s a nasty one). Given that this is an application you would use regularly, these become a major showstopper. So I thought, until a few months ago I signed up for Rhapsody and never looked back. Why?

Fred Wilson showed me the most amazing web interface to the Rhapsody service. Ever.

This service is YottaMusic and it is an incredible way to use Rhapsody. It requires an active account to listen to music, but you can start a trial right from the site.

yotta music header

The UI is beautiful. There is a lightning-fast search which shows results as you type right under the search box:

yotta search


Each album has a neat page with artwork, some basic information and immediate links to play the album and explore a few other destinations. This sounds basic, but there is definite beauty and utility in the way YottaMusic executes this.

yotta rich album artwork

Pretty. Surprise – still useful!

Finally, the audio plays through a popup player which uses a Rhapsody plugin. Amazingly, this plugin worked from the first try in Firefox on Windows or Mac OS. I just couldn’t believe it all worked! After the sense of disbelief wore off though, the music started flowing and I got too excited to sleep.

yotta music player

And that’s YottaMusic.

MORE: Ethan has some kind words about the service and an interview with the creator, Luke Matkins up on his blog. Paul Lamere, audio geek at Sun Research, writes about it here. And Fred’s original post.

Digital Music Forum East – Day 2

The second day of DMFE was indeed more fun.

The DRM argument continued in the morning on the “Device & Format Wars” panel. Tim Bucher (CEO of Zing) and Robert Khedouri (Co-Founder MusicGremlin) discussed the idea of transparent DRM where the music purchased or shared goes from the service provider straight to an audio device (portable player, networked jukebox, etc) without ever spending any time on a PC. This would increase security and provide a hugely better user experience, they said.

This is a great idea, but yet the interoperability issue still doesn’t have me sold. If I got tired of my Zing-powered device, onto which I’ve already loaded 500 purchased tracks (let’s assume $500), and decided to pick up something new from new manufacturer or someone not using compliant technology; I would be screwed. So ultimately, this isn’t the solution either, though a good effort.

The panel also had David Pakman (CEO of eMusic) and Jason Reindorp (Director at Microsoft Zune), which left me waiting for interesting comments to fly between the two. I was not disappointed when Jason opened a comment with:

“There are a lot of business models, like selling open MP3 files, that are not proven yet …”

David didn’t respond, but he may disagree. At the end, the panel was asked to vote on whether selling unprotected MP3s would create a boom in digital music sales, with a nearly unanimous Yes.

At an interview that followed, Marty Diamond (Founder of Little Big Man Booking) spoke about live events and what the Internet has and hasn’t done for him in practice of organizing shows (he found some real limits in the digital world – there’s just no substitute for relationships, a good reminder). He also relayed a conversation with someone from a secondary ticketing service, where the ticketing rep wanted to explain the service and why it exists:

“Didn’t you ever deal drugs while you were in college? … Sell part of your stash so that you can get the rest for free?”

There were two more interviews: one with Thomas Hesse (President of Global Digital Business at Sony BMG) and another with Bruce Warren (Asst. GM of Programming at WXPN). Thomas touched upon the need for encouraging “editorial environments”, which let people “find music they wouldn’t have otherwise found” . Bruce expanded on this further by talking about “music discovery communities”, and how participating in one such community (music blogs) was a huge help in developing better programming at WXPN. Turns out, Bruce even has a music blog: Some Velvet Blog.

This is precisely why I’ve built The Hype Machine – it was thrilling to hear these guys’ take on it too. I love it!
The social discovery panel turned out to be disappointing, with questions like “Does social discovery drive sales of music?” from the moderator. Or maybe, having Ali Partovi (iLike), Tim Westergren (Pandora) and Martin Kay (Finetune) in the same room left me with big expectations.


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