Posts from Music

Follower Counts

The other day we gave a friend of my son a ride from one side of Park City to the other. While I was driving, my son and his friends were chatting about the state of hip hop in Salt Lake City. Turns out another of my son’s friends met a local hip hop artist in the SLC airport earlier this week. They got to discussing this local hip hop artist. My son’s friend said “he’s very under the radar right now, he only has a couple hundred SoundCloud followers.”

Contrast that with Lorde, who emerged as an “under the radar” artist on SoundCloud a few years ago. Lorde now has almost 2.8mm followers on SoundCloud.

This phenomenon is certainly not limited to SoundCloud. Follower counts on Twitter have been a thing from the earliest days of Twitter. Subscriber counts on YouTube matter to emerging video artists. Follower counts on Wattpad matter to emerging writers.

The comment about the local hip hop artist got me thinking that for emerging artists, follower counts on the platform of choice for their media type might be the most important metric to asses the state of their career. It certainly sounded that way coming out of my son’s friend’s mouth. Under the radar means less than 1000 followers. Emerging means 1000 to 10,000 followers. Breaking out means 50,000 to 100,000 followers. More than 500,000 followers and you have arrived. More than 2.5mm followers and you are a superstar. Something like that.

Maybe follower counts are the new Billboard, Variety, etc of the entertainment and media business. It certainly seems that way.

Video Of The Week: Alex Ljung on Emergent Behavior

I've frequently said on this blog that emergent behavior in a service is a sign to me that the service is scaling into something important and valuable. It is a feature that we look for a lot in our investments. I don't love it when entrepreneurs build services that are too tightly constructed around a single use case. I do love it when entrepreneurs build services that the users can take and do interesting things with.

Here's a short (3min) video where Alex Ljung, founder and CEO of our portfolio company SoundCloud, talks about how that happened in SoundCloud.

Five Years Of SoundCloud

Our portfolio company SoundCloud turned five years old yesterday. To celebrate they posted this 6 minute clip where 5 soundclouders tell their stories. What I like so much about this is that each of the 5 soundclouders have very different talents, very different use cases, and very different stories. Happy Birthday SoundCloud

Feature Friday: Posting Music

Every morning I post a song to the Internet. I have been doing this for at least six years. For as long as I've been on Tumblr.

You all know how obsessed I am about posting every day. It's probably a mortality thing for me. Wake up, be glad to be alive, post something on the Internet. Like a dog marking his spot.

Posting music is a bit different than posting text. Because you can listen to it. It comes alive. It makes you smile, dance, tap, and at times, cry. I cried a fair bit last week as Lou Reed songs filled up my feed for a couple days. We sat shiva with his music.

Friday is particularly special because a group of us have played a game called cover friday for something like five years now. The group is loose. Anyone can join by simply posting a cover song on friday morning. But participating requires committment. Because you have to post a cover song to your Tumblr every friday morning. This is what my Tumblr looked like this morning.

Cover friday

Posting music used to mean finding a mp3 and uploading it. I never do that anymore. I post three ways. I find songs on soundcloud and embed them, I find music posts on Tumblr and reblog them, and I find mp3s on the web and post the links. Search and reblog is all it takes. I think pretty much every song in the world is somewhere online. At least that's been my experience for a long time now.

You can also do this with YouTube. Pretty much every song is on YouTube as well. But I don't like the video. I find it distracting. I just want the music. So I don't post YouTube music and don't watch much of it either.

Posting and streaming music has changed music discovery for me. I like to post so others can discover. And I like to follow people who post music so I can discover from them. I've made a bunch of great friends this way. Some of whom I've never met in person. But they light up my feed with music. Which is one of the best things a friend can do for a friend.

Here's my cover song for today:


I've written a fair bit about the fact that I think we will use our mobile devices (phones, tablets, watches, glasses, etc) to control the more expensive devices in our lives (TVs, car dashboards, refridgerators, etc). I think this mode of user interaction will win out over software solutions built for and running on the more expensive and therefore longer lasting devices we own.

Until now, Apple's Airplay and Bluetooth were the only good solutions for this kind of interaction. I use both in my home and office and I use them every day. But, as I have written here before, both have issues. Airplay is proprietary and not available on all devices (Sonos being a prime example). And Bluetooth is old and doesn't scale well into high bandwidth applications.

I've tried DLNA which Google and others have supported and its wonky right now. It's possible that DLNA will evolve and emerge as another good alternative.

But yesterday Google announced Chromecast which is an interesting take on this approach. Chromecast is a HDMI dongle that you put into the HDMI port of your TV and then connect to your home wifi network.


I've just purchased four of them from the Google Play store. I will put them on all the TVs I've got in my homes and see how they work. We use Nexus 7s to control the TVs in our homes and so those Nexus 7s will now be able to do a lot more than switch inputs. They will be able to be the input.

It's too soon for me to know how big of a deal Chromecast will be. I need to get my hands on it, use it, and then I will have a better feel for it.

But this much I know. This commenter on Hacker News is spot on:

people should just think of TV's the way they think of their jamboxes: a higher fidelity dumb pipe for their existing content

Video Of The Week: Cliff Chenfeld on Media Reporter

My friend Cliff Chenfeld recently appeared on the Media Reporter TV show. Cliff has been in the entertainment business for over 25 years and he talks about the changes he has seen in the music industry, film, sports, and other entertainment sectors. It’s about 30 minutes long and worth a watch/listen.

Fun Friday: Best Entertainment This Year So Far

The idea for today's fun friday comes from Tyrone who wrote this in an email to me this week:

fun friday idea: best entertainment this year across the board, albums, films, series, sites, youtube channels etc?

For me, the answer is the NBA playoffs (though the result bums me out), This Is The End (the jonah hill exorcism is hysterical), and my favorite records of the year so far are Lysandre, Modern Vampires Of The City, Random Access Memories, Mala, and Isles.

What are your favorite entertainment moments of the year so far?

Feature Friday: Dedicate A Song

Yesterday I dedicated a song on Piki to my friend Whitney. He DM'd me and said "I haven't had that happen to me since the days of call-in radio shows".

Dedicating a song is my favorite feature on Piki. It is generous, fun, and viral.

I did it this morning with my daughter Jessica.

I picked a song

Dedicate to someone


And then at the bottom of the dialog box, I typed in her name

Dedicate 2

That's all there is to it. She gets notified and ideally comes back to Piki and listens and/or picks some more music for everyone else to hear.

Virality is critical to make a social app spread. But the viral features must also be fun and meaningful. Dedicating a song is both and that's why I do it so much.

By the way, Piki is now available on the web (and iOS). Android is coming soon.

Feature Friday: Pick A Song

Our portfolio company Turntable launched their second product yesterday, called Piki. I saw this comment about Piki in a blog post and posted it to my Tumblr:

If you imagine Twitter not for tweets but for songs, you'll arrive at something like Piki.

In Piki parlance, a tweet is a pick. You pick a song and post it to your feed.

Pick a song

Here is my piki feed.

I have been using Piki in private beta for several months and it's quite good. I am listening to Piki right now as I write this post.

Piki is publicly available for iOS and the web app remains in private beta for a few more weeks. Android is next.

And sadly, because the music industry makes it this way for developers who choose to work with them, it is only available in the US right now.

If you are in the US and have an iPhone, give picking a song a try. You can download Piki here.

A Roaming Network For Subscription Music Services

Back in the early days of the ATM machine, you could only transact on ATMs operated by your bank. If you were a Chase customer, you needed to find a Chase ATM to take cash out. That, of course, was a pain and the banks recognized it and formed roaming networks. The one I recall best was NYCE, which was formed by NatWest, Chase, Manny Hanny, Chemical, Barclays, Marine Midland, and Bank Of New York.

The same thing has happened with mobile wifi networks. If you are a T-Mobile Hotspot customer, you can often roam on a Boingo network or some other mobile wifi network.

Roaming is a great solution to the problem when multiple businesses offer a proprietary commodity service. The customer is forced to choose one provider but in effect the service is identical from vendor to vendor.

And that is the case in subscription music services. I have used Mog (now owned by Beats which is rebranding it as Daisy), Rhapsody, Spotify, and Rdio. They all offer essentially the same libraries. The listening experience is almost identical. They differentiate with slighly different user experiences. Some are more social. Some are faster. Some offer better curation. But in my opinion they are all proprietary commodity services and a roaming service that would allow a subscriber to Rdio to log into Spotify would be a good thing for a lot of reasons.

And the music industry really ought to want to see this happen because they are coming to realize that subscription music services can bring in significant revenues. This is an important future business model for them. But they should not make the mistake they made in the mp3 market where they essentially gave one company, Apple, the dominant position in the market. If the music industry came together, like the banks came together to create ATM roaming networks, to create a subscription music roaming network, they would create a dynamic where no one subscription music service could create the kind of network effects that would allow them to become the dominant subscription music service. And that is very much in the music industry's interest.

It is also in the consumer's interest. Just yesterday my friend Kirk found some new music because he follows me on Rdio. But I can't do the same thing with my friends who are on Spotify. Because all of these services are silos, by definition of their paid business model. If a roaming network existed, there would be more social music discovery, listening, and, I believe, uptake of the paid subscription model by consumers.

Of course, a roaming network could be started by an entrepreneur who thought this was a decent business to be in. It does not require a music industry consortium to come together to create this. But regardless of how it happens, I think it should happen. And I hope it does.