Tuesday, August 17, 2004Social software part 2: no sympathy for the record industry
That last post wasn't particularly well-formed (I really must learn to set aside time for posting, if I'm going to post, rather than trying to fit it in at work). Anyway....no luck with either Smart Mobs or The Wisdom of Crowds at the library - both on loan. Time to try the university library, I think....
The application that's really got me thinking about social software isn't one of the conventional ones. It's an internet radio station - www.lastfm.com. The interesting thing about this is that it's personalised - it syncs in with iTunes (or whatever other, inferior media player you use) and creates a personalised playlist based on the songs you listen to (so you get your own radio station, wherever you've got net access, and don't need to lug around CDs or an iPod or whatever. It's legal too, they paid the copyright license fees, which helps people like me who live in countries where format shifting is still illegal).
Anyway, the interesting thing for me is the way it automatically creates communities - assigning you 'neighbours' with similar listening taste. So you can cross-reference, triangulate, and find new music that you'll probably like. And it's not being forced on you by a record company. That's key - instead of some marketing manager figuring that, because I like the Clash, I'll like Good Charlotte because they're a "punk" band, I get real, obscure, off the wall, interesting recommendations, from people who care about music, like I do. It's like suddenly finding 50 new friends with cool and interesting taste. And it's not just about seeing someone else's music collection - the site has message facilities, so I can talk to my friends and neighbours.
(There's parallels with the MP3 blogging community, I think. Note the way that music blogs started off worried about being sued, and are already being co-opted by record companies for marketing purposes. And it isn't working. Because the only thing the bloggers have going for them is their reputation, and their only motivation is to share music they like, and have some fun. Sure, they could take kickbacks from the majors to promote their groups - but after a few dud choices their reputation would be shot, so what would the point be?).
This excites me. All along, whenever someone touted the argument that downloading music would destroy the need for record companies, I asked who would act as gatekeepers - how would we ever find decent music among the millions of tunes that would no doubt appear online, most of them not worthy of a large audience? Now I've got my answer - we will all be the gatekeepers. We'll build this thing from the bottom up.
Like the idea of lastfm.com (or already have an account)? Look me up.