Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Track of the Day - Gonna Be Sick by The DO


great song - check it out!!

The DO - Gonna Be Sick

Monday, February 27, 2012

Track of the Day - Open Rhythms by Bodies of Water


Great folk/indie rock track by Bodies of Water.  A bit of a Grateful Dead feel to it.

Bodies of Water - Open Rhythyms


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Track of the Day - Slow Doomsday by Elvis Perkins in Dearland

This track is off an album that came out a couple years ago, but I had never heard of these guys until I found them on songspin.fm.

It's a slow build with a funereal vibe to it, and the guy can really sing.

Slow Doomsday by Elvis Perkins in Dearland


Friday, February 17, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Track of the Day - Skullcrush by Salem

This track came out a couple of years ago but kind of went under the radar.

It's got a dark feel to it - I guess that's why they call it this genre "Witch House".

Anyway - have a listen!

Salem - Skullcrush



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Track of the Day - We All Buy Stars by The Cairos

The Cairos are a band from Australia.  I don't know a lot about them, but I really like this track.

The Cairos - We All Buy Stars


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Track of the Day - Great Unknown by Various Cruelties

Nice track from this UK band.  Reminds me a bit of Manic Street Preachers. They're on the hideout recordings label  - I think they have a bright future ahead of them.

Check it out here:

Various Cruelties - Great Unknown

Friday, January 20, 2012

Can we kill the music business too?

There's a pretty good discussion going on over at Hacker News around YCombinator's request for startups to "Kill Hollywood".  Lots of ideas there about how to essentially replace the old guard in Hollywood with new forms of entertainment. Somehow though, it seems that the other big player in the room for your entertainment dollars, the recording industry, has been left out of the discussion. I think the music industry, particularly as it is run by the major recording labels, is a regime in need of change as much as Hollywood.  Here's my take on what needs to happen.

In a nutshell, to kill the major label run music industry, startups will need to:
  1.  find great music from people who aren't assholes
  2.  let people do cool things with that music
  3.  let users share what they create
  4.  profit!
That might sound easy but there's a lot work of in there, and it's an uphill battle.

Find great music from people who aren't assholes
By assholes, I mean people who will sue you for using their music in your startup, which probably makes this first step the hardest. You can't have a great music startup without the music and more than that you need good music.

We've seen sites before where anyone can upload their music and let people play it for free. It's a nice idea and sites like that are a great outlet for musicians. But there's one huge problem - most of the music sucks, and listeners can tell that right away.  There are no filters or gatekeepers and that's one thing major labels are very good at.  They act as a filter that stops you from having to hear all the out of tune, talent-less wanna be stars who have no idea how bad they really are.

So the startup that wants to disrupt this industry will need to find a source of good music they can use without worry until they are big enough to have the music come to them.  Right now, it looks like Soundcloud, with their excellent API, might be that source. There's a lot of high quality, well produced music that mostly independent artists and labels have put there with the purpose of being shared.

Ideally, once big enough, the startup could become the equivalent of a label, in the sense that it would be the first place up and coming artists would submit their music to in the hope of being "discovered". The startup would in turn fulfill the filtering, distribution and publicity needs that labels currently provide.

That would be one big nail in the coffin of the major labels, when artists are bypassing them to submit their music to startups.

Let people do cool things with that music
This is what startups are good at. I'm always astounded by the cool things hackers can do with music. The major label run music industry is bad at this, and has been very slow to adapt to technological change.

Here's an example of their backwards thinking, even when trying to move forward:

I was at first pretty excited to hear that major label EMI was partnering with the cool music API startup, EchoNest. I couldn't believe a major label was making some of their catalog available to developers to put to use building music apps. And then I read the details. If you use their music, EMI will have the power to approve your app, publish it themselves, and take a huge cut of any profit your app makes.  Sound familiar?  The labels want developers to become their slaves just like artists have always been. It's the only way they know how to operate. No thanks.

So it's up to startups and developers to build cool things with non major label music that lets end users do cool things with non major label music.  Let users remix, chop up, speed up, slow down the music. Let them make videos, make radio stations, make ringtones. Let them wear music, let them see music, let them feel music.  I am confident we haven't even begun to see the cool things hackers will let us do with music.

And maybe if it's cool enough the majors will come begging to let you include their music too.

Let users share what they create
Letting users share what they create may seem obvious in this day and age, but if there is one thing the music industry hates it's sharing. To them, sharing is the root of all evil and a lot of their money, time and effort has gone into putting an end to it.

Unfortunately, because of the RIAA and their campaigns of suing people, your users will need to be confident that your service is legal and they won't be sued for using it. Parents will want assurances that the site their teenager is using to remix music won't somehow cost them their home.

So make sure it's legal, and then make sure users know its legal.

Let people share what they create without fear of reprisals and they will come running to use your service.

Well, this is always the hard part, but it seems to me that if you can get the first three parts to work, then this should follow.  Build a compelling product that puts power in the hands of users, not in the hands of the major labels and they will thank you for it.  Get them all on your side and some money should follow.

If you've read this far, thanks for your time. I have a lot more to say on this topic but wanted to get some thoughts out there. We're starting to put some of these ideas to work over at songspin.fm. We have a long way to go, but it will be worth it.

contact me: james at songspin dot fm

Track of the Day - Damn Your Eyes by Alex Clare

Loving this track by newcomer Alex Clare.
It's a nice little snippet of modern soul from England.  There seems to be a real soul revival going on, no doubt largely thanks to Amy Winehouse, who Alex Clare once dated. There are a lots more soul gems you can find on Songspin.FM and we'll feature some of them in the next few weeks.
Check it out here:
Alex Clare - Damn Your Eyes

They want you to be a couch potato

I think this video is really worth watching - it not only explains why SOPA is so bad, but it gets to the underlying motives of big media.  Ultimately the goal (which Shirky outlines so well) is to stop the amateur from creating content.  Big media companies want you to be a passive consumer of the content they create, not an active creator of new content for which they earn no revenue.  I urge everyone to watch this!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting traffic for your site - a couple of tips.

One of the things that can be hard when first starting out with a new website is getting visitors to your site. Here's a couple of suggestions for getting a a bit of traffic.

First is Yahoo! Answers.  I know - it's widely regarded with derision and not a place any sane person would go looking for real solutions to life's problems. However, it is a place where you can answer questions with links to your site, and I guarantee you'll get some traffic.

For example, my site songspin.fm is a music site.  There are tons of music related questions on Yahoo Answers.  So every now and then I go browse the music category for some questions where people are looking for new music and I answer their question with a link to my site.

I seem to average about 30-40 visits from http://answers.yahoo.com/ per day. It's not a ton of traffic but it's steady and free.  With a little imagination I think you could find the right categories and questions for almost any website. Give it a try.

Next is Reddit.  Reddit has "sub-reddits" (think of them as specialized forums) for almost everything you can think of.  Cars, music, electronics, sports - everything. If you can find a sub-reddit that relates to your site and become a member you can drive some good quality traffic to your website.

For example, one of my favorite sub-reddits is "listentothis" - a place where people share their music discoveries with other people who love newer, lesser known bands.  This is a perfect fit with my site, so every now and then I post a link to a great song I think people will love to hear.  Today alone my site got 100 visits from posting one link on listentothis.  And the traffic is good quality with an average time on site of about 6 minutes.

One caveat though about reddit - they don't take kindly to spammers and you must participate in the community. However I see this as a win - win because it means you have to provide the kind of quality content that will make the site a success in the long term anyway.

I know a lot of people might think answering questions on Yahoo Answers and slowly fostering a relationship with a community on reddit are a waste of time.  But these are strategies that will build a steady stream of traffic over time.  Yes it would be great to be on the front page of reddit, but it's not a realistic expectation and even a big burst of traffic doesn't always lead to repeat visits.  But if you can consistently get 50 or 100 visits every day from a site and you can get that from a bunch of sites, eventually it all adds up!

I'll post again soon with some more tips about places I get traffic from.


It's been a couple of years since anything happened here, but I'm bringing this blog back to life to document some of the challenges we're facing with our new music startup, songspin.fm.  I've let the blog stagnate for a couple of years as I had planned to leave the music startup life behind - but there's something about music that pulls you back in! I have another blog over on posterous that is the "offical" songspin.fm blog, but that's more for consumer friendly information and press release type stuff. This blog will be geared more toward people interested in startups, digital music and the places where those 2 worlds meet.  I hope to talk about what is going on with online music today and also maybe be able to share some helpful tips to other startup founders, particularly those doing music startups.  It can be a hard road to follow at times!  Of course the test with any blog is how well the blogger can consistently keep it updated but my plan is to do a new original post at least once a week and occasionally post things I find interesting and useful from around the web.