James Vasile and music influence networks

James Vasile of the Software Freedom Law Center came by IFTF to talk about the future of internet radio. We realized over the course of the discussion that there were so many variables regarding the current situation that out of a room of avid internet music listeners, we couldn’t put together exactly who gets paid what and why (though I know a little more after Jess Hemerly pointed me to an article at The Register on how Last.fm might be able to get around the SoundExchange/RIAA fee hike).

James’ idea was interesting and very much related to my experiment with building a very simple recommendation aggregator. We all agreed that there is the potential to sell a lot more music through influence networks than through radio, but the burden of distribution and copyright infringement currently rests on the recommender or the recommender’s platform.

He proposed separating the recommendation from distribution of the actual song – either by referencing an audio fingerprint or some other unique id (CDDB?). Then each listener can choose a hierarchy of how they would like to find the audio: find the mp3s on the web, last.fm, amazon samples, purchase the songs, etc. This would involve the creation of some standardized XML style format for playlists, and we talked about how Songbird seems like a good open platform for receiving these playlists and then using a diversity of networks to find the audio or at least a sample. (I’m hoping that somehow last.fm, amazon or itunes will make their samples more portable to benefit from click-through – maybe this is impossible or unlikely)

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3 thoughts on “James Vasile and music influence networks”

  1. Mike: The technologies that you suggest are necessary to promote a music recommendation ecosystem are spot on. We need universal song id and a standard playlist format. The latter already exists. There is a XML playlist format called XSPF (pronounced ‘spiff’) that captures all the information needed for portable playlists. It is the product of many smart people (including Lucas Gonze from WebJay and Robert Kaye from MusicBrainz). Many folks are working on tools, APIs and players that generate XSPF playlists, that play XSPF playlists and resolve XSPF playlists. I think XSPF has the best chance at becoming *the* universal playlist format. As for SongID, there are many commercial audio fingerprinting systems out there that can derive a unique (or nearly unique) ID just based upon the audio. The problem, however, is that they all cost money to license, and because of that no system has become the standard (defacto or otherwise). The MusicDNS system probably has the best chance, since it is very low cost (essentially free for all but the biggest users), and it ties in with the public domain music metadata being created by the MusicBrainz folk. Still, the problem with a songID system is that unless it is universally used, it is not too useful. Companies like Apple have little incentive to use such a system, since they already own the market. They’d rather not make it easier for others to work in thise space. My hope has been that a company like Amazon would come along and adopt these standard formats (you can read more about this in this post) and make a a recommendation ecosystem possible. It hasn’t happened yet.

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