September 28, 2004
"Digital Music:" silly use of language
I've noticed that the term "digital music" is usually used to differentiate music that is usually obtained by download from music that is usually obtained on plastic circular objects known as CD's.
But of course the music on a CD is exactly as digital as a downloaded MP3 is. A CD is nothing but a set of large data files which encode the music as bits. It's a highly accurate encoding because there's no compression.
It's a bit weird to use a term which equally well describes two classes of entities as the primary linguistic means of differentiating one from the other.
September 27, 2004
Virgin launches online music service
Virgin Digital, the online arm of the Virgin Group, will launch an online music service Monday aimed at replicating on the Net the success of its offline chain of retail music stores.
The company is jumping into the market with a full-featured music jukebox written from scratch, in which it is offering a music download store and music subscription service powered by wholesaler MusicNet. [CNet News]
One interesting thing about the music store "space" is that there are few "increasing returns" advantages to the front runner. It does not matter how many people are buying from iTunes -- the store is essentially the same whether 1 person uses it of 100,000,000 people use it.
Compare that to, for instance, an eBay. If only 1 person is using an auction site, there is virtually no marketplace and little reason for anyone else to use it. But if millions are using a particular site, there is a marketplace and great reason for other people to use it -- further increasing the size of that marketplace and its advantage competitive advantage over other auction sites.
This means that the iTunes Music Store is much more vulnerable to late competition than eBay is. The music store space is more akin to the search engine space. There were well-established front-runners long before Google came on to the seen, but there were no increasing-returns advantages helping the front-runners solidify their position. So Google could enter the market late and come to dominate it. Of course the same can happen to Google.
The only real increasing-returns advantage the iTunes Music Store has is iMix, which is better as there are more playlists shared on it. But still that seems pretty weak to me, since the iTunes Music Store doesn't provide a powerful way of connecting users to the playlists they will like the most. It doesn't matter how many playlists there are if they don't match your tastes all that well.
September 23, 2004
eBay music store experiment launched today
PassAlong Networks launches its digital music service today as part of a 180-day experiment to determine whether eBay's 114 million registered users are interested in using the world's largest online auction site to download music.
PassAlong, like a growing number of online music retailers, features a store where consumers can buy singles or albums. However, it launches with less selection than its established rivals: It has 200,000 downloadable songs from three of the five major labels, compared with 1 million tracks available on Apple's popular iTunes Music Store. [Monterey Herald]
Sony adding MP3
Sony confirmed on Wednesday that it is working to add native MP3 support to its portable music players--a major strategy reversal that could help it compete more effectively with rivals such as Apple Computer. [Cnet News]They sure needed to do that, if only because of the bad PR from their original strategy.
September 20, 2004
If this is true, Bush must go
I am amazed to see an article by Robert Novak which begins:
Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go. [Chicago Sun-Times]
If that is actually what is going on, then in my view Bush is being incredibly dishonest in presenting himself as Mr. Steadfast in contrast to Kerry's flip-flopping.
If I knew it was true, I would vote for Kerry even though I don't think he's the right guy to lead the country. But I don't know it's true, so it's looking more and more like I just may not be able to vote with a good conscience at all.
The issue isn't whether the Bush administration's judgment is wrong, it's whether Bush is being a cravan liar, pandering to the public today to get their votes, and then planning to say something totally different after the election.
The whole article is well worth reading. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for pointing it out.
My panel today went really well...
I enjoyed meeting Richard Jones of AudioScrobbler/last.fm, Gerd Leanhard of Media Rights Technologies, and Nick Watt, who ran the panel (but who I can't come up with a URL for). Also, after the panel, Oliver Petro of Sony Network Services Europe.
It was especially interesting to talk with Richard about possibilities for interaction between Goombah and AudioScrobbler. He also explained some things to me about MusicBrainz that I didn't know, which could lead to MusicBrainz support in Goombah.
In The City panel
I'm in Manchester in the UK today at the In The City conference (more specifically, the Interactive@ITC subconference) to participate in a panel called The Tastemakers. Here's the blurb describing the panel:
THE TASTEMAKERS – NAVIGATING THE CELESITIAL JUKEBOX
With the advent of the Celestial Jukebox, where every piece of music ever recorded is available to anyone, anywhere and at anytime, how do we solve the problem of helping consumers discover ‘new’ music?
Imagine a record store with over a million albums and tens of millions of tracks to choose from, how would you find anything new?
We’ll look at some of the solutions and get you to decide who gives the best results, humans or technology?
That's happening in a few hours. Should be fun. I've quite enjoyed the conference so far.
In particular I though a point made by Guy Garvey was interesting because of his status as both an artist and a directory of Skinny Dog Records. He stated that music should be free; artists should be paid from concert sales and other sales such as t-shirts.
Personally, I think it is likely that the main barrier to a much broader enjoyment of legal, free music than there is now is that there isn't yet a good mechanism for separating the worthwhile free music from the 99% that is not. I mean, it's great that anybody with a computer and a living room with decent acoustics can make a recording with sound quality rivaling what the great recording studios could do a quarter century ago. That means there is a lot more potential for non-mass-market music to be created and distributed. But it also means that there is no barrier to entry, so most of it will be made by underqualified people and will appeal to no one. So there must be an efficient filtering means in place to make it viable. Of course it's something I'm thinking about and that I hope our upcoming product will help address.
September 13, 2004
Good news from Iraq
I haven't had time to read this whole article yet (I'm not sure if registration is required -- I'm a WSJ subscriber), but from the little I've read, it is a virtual litany of very recent very good news from Iraq, in quite sharp contrast to the very bad news being presented elsewhere. I'm printing it out to finish when I do have time -- probably on a long plane ride I have scheduled for the weekend.
The article asserts that most news outlets are highlighting the violence because that's very sensational and easy to report on, but that there is plenty of positive, encouraging news too.
I'm not taking sides in this debate, but I thought some readers of this blog might appreciate a different picture, so I'm mentioning it.
September 09, 2004
Hypocrisy in Iraq
If you're interested in reading a very cogent, well-informed, negative view of the situation we are now in in Iraq, this article in Foreign Affairs is good reading.
A main point is that we have never supplied anything remotely like the security force necessary to provide stability. And without a basis of stability and rule of law which people could rely on to live their lives in safety and order, our objectives for Iraq seem to be becoming less and less achievable.
Through more manpower, we could have provided stability, and most Iraqis, who just want a decent lives for themselves and their families, would (arguably) have remained as grateful for our presence as most seemed to be in the hours immediately after Saddam's fall. That is, we could have given them a better life than they had under Saddam. But instead, through a lack of committing resources, we allowed chaos to ensue, and their lives were therefore not better than they were under Saddam; in fact, for those who did not have friends or family members who had been tortured or murdered by Saddam's security apparatus, their lives were generally worse.
So of course there was, and is, resentment of Americans and the pro-American government the coalition installed.
The Foreign Affairs article points out that this is a different situation than in postwar Germany and Japan, when the necessary security was provided. It is also different from Bosnia: if Iraq had the same ratio of troops to population as was supplied by NATO in Bosnia, there would be 500,000 troops in Iraq.
I'm saying all this as someone who is fundamentally a supporter of the war. But I am not a supporter of ousting Saddam and then making a choice not to provide the resources needed to make a success of the resulting situation.
In effect we did what the administration mockingly accuses Kerry of: supporting the war and then refusing to provide the necessary resources. (I'm referring to the Bush campaign's take on Kerry's $87 billion vote, the one that was the subject of his frequently-heard statement "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Actually, Kerry is correct: he voted for it as part of a bill that would also have raised taxes to pay for it, and then registered a "protest vote" against the version that did pass, knowing full well that there was an overwhelming majority in favor. That is, his protest vote did not place the bill at risk. I am confident that he would have voted for it both times if it had mattered.)
We could have provided the necessary level of security in Iraq. We chose, and continue to choose, not to. Probably because the Bush administration thought, and thinks, that it would have been too politically unpopular to commit that level of resources. But you can't have it both ways -- you can't start a war, and then not commit the resources precedent has shown are needed to successfully follow through.
The only thing I can say in defense of the administration's minimal-security approach is that many observers had also been quite adamant that they had not committed the resources necessary to win the war in the first place. Those critics were proven to be completely wrong about that, so perhaps from the administration's point of view it was not unreasonable to assume that real security could be provided on-the-cheap too.
But in that case, surely there is ample data now, and in fact there was after a couple of weeks, indicating that much more manpower is needed. And it isn't being supplied.
For a president who presents himself as the only candidate with the courage of his convictions, then it is downright hypocritical if he is not supplying the needed resources for reasons of political popularity.
Ivan reaches cat 5
The most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean in nearly a decade killed at least 15 people, damaged 90 percent Grenada's homes and destroyed a prison that left criminals running loose, officials said Wednesday. ... Ivan strengthened early Thursday to become a Category 5 on a scale of 5. [CNN]