Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"This is like a last stand for webcasting."

Been down this road before, once hopeful, once despairing, and it looks like the third time's the charm, this time towards an elegy. If you haven't seen already, The Washington Post reported that Pandora will most likely be shutting down thanks to the draconian royalties of SoundExchange. It's a pretty dark day for digital music and radio and any internet-hopefuls who were looking forward to Music 2.0. Internet music start-ups can be rounded up by the barrel. They run the gamut from practical but boring to revolutionary and thus illegal. The thing about Pandora, though, is how effective it was: the Music Genome Project actually worked. The jaded masses will agree.

Next up on the industry's sado-masochistic plate? Muxtape. The recording industry's left it's black dot on Muxtape currently; visiting the site returns an image of an suitably unplayed cassette and the last words of "Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA." Great. Whereas Pandora did a lot of the legwork for you, Muxtape put musical exploration directly into the hands of those on the ground. You remember mixtapes, right? No? How about just "mixes" that powered you through long drives and maybe into a few lovers' beds? The chance of discovery of not just new intimacy but new tastes was the mission statement for Muxtape, and it was rather ingenious, rather simple: streaming mixes. Throw a bunch of songs into the easy user interface, click a few buttons (I'm going off of memory here), copy/paste the link, and BAM! New music for the masses. And it's streaming so except for the savvy out there this was all about the discovery and not the ownership. Guess that gig's up, too.

Pandora and Muxtape may not be completely out to pasture yet, and let's hope they don't get forced into the glue factory. I can't help but wonder what the industry might find out about itself if it spent half the time getting a long-overdue facelift instead of going after good ideas that illustrate the potential at the music/internet nexus. Until then, though, PopMatters is right:
The end result is another example of the industry and labels stupidly killing themselves off. But don’t worry, they’ll be sure to scapegoat everyone except themselves. And ultimately it won’t matter because they’ll be shrinking and bleeding more each day. Good sound business policy it ain’t.

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