Ian Roger's Aspen Music Talk

So I am going to blog about something that happened a month ago. In the world of tech blogging, that’s like talking about ancient history. This won’t get on Techmeme because all the linking to Ian’s talk happened a month ago. But honestly I didn’t get around to reading Ian’s talk until the flight out to SF earlier this week.

I have never met Ian Rogers. That must change. He’s made the same mistakes I’ve made. He loves music as much as I do. He sees the path forward pretty much the same way that I do. And he enjoys skiing the cat on the backside of Aspen as much as I do.


Almost two years ago, I wrote a post called Abundance in which I argued that scarcity is not possible in digital media and abundance is the dimension you must play on if you want to succeed. In that post, I talked about how my friend Steve Greenberg was trying to break a band called The Jonas Brothers using embedded videos on MySpace. That tricked worked out pretty well and the Jonas Brothers are now a huge act for Disney.

Ian makes that same point in his Aspen talk.


Winners leverage scale. That’s right. There’s only one way I’ve ever seen to win big on the web and it’s to leverage scale. I honestly can’t think of a big Internet company built on the concept of scarcity. If you can, please leave it in the comments and I’ll try to get my head around a scarcity model.

Ian also talks about Umair’s snowball vs. blockbuster meme. This is really important. Elf Yourself may have been the web blockbuster of 2007. 31mm unique visitors in December alone. But would you rather be Elf Yourself or Addicting Games? You choose.


But possibly the most important point Ian made in his talk was about the lack of native audio (and video) support in the web. As Ian says:

While there’s an image tag in HTML, there isn’t an audio or a video tag

Flash makes this a but less of a problem. But Flash isn’t a standard. It’s a proprietary standard owned by Adobe. Just yesterday I heard of a major radio company that is standardizing on silverlight for its web music player. What are they thinking? We need audio and video to play anywhere and everywhere on the web no matter what device and operating system you are using. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

So this past week Yahoo!, where Ian runs the music business (at least I think he does), introduced a browser based music player. As most of you know, I use the delicious playtagger to play mp3s on this blog. That uses flash and I think most everyone has flash and is able to use it. And since Yahoo! bought delicious, they own that tool too.

I’ll add the new Yahoo! music player code to this blog, replacing the delicious playtagger. Let me know what you think. I really love the simplicity and elegance of the delicious playtagger so if the new Yahoo! player isn’t univerally loved, I may well go back to the playtagger.

Google may be the Internet company with the most mojo, but they’ve never done anything interesting with music. Yahoo!, on the other hand, seems to be up to some really interesting stuff and Ian’s Aspen talk has me rooting for them.

#My Music#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Marcel Weiss

    Great post as always. Only one thing we should discuss in my eyes:You say: “I talked about how my friend Steve Greenberg was trying to break a band called The Jonas Brothers using embedded videos on MySpace. That tricked worked out pretty well and the Jonas Brothers are now a huge act for Disney.”To generalize that: this way represents getting big on the internet so you can make a jump into the places of the web (with bigger audience and scarcity and so on). the thing though is that in say 20+ years for all or most of the kinds of media that exist there won’t be many places off the web to go to. the web will the the beginning and the end for the must mediastuff. So this strategy (as in get big on the web than make your money on tv or radio or whatever) won’t exist anmore more or less. or am I wrong?(Dunno if that makes sense. It’s late in the evening here and I’m not a native English speaker)

    1. Marcel Weiss

      (argh. I meant “places off the web”)

    2. fredwilson

      I think the web will evolve so that getting big on the web will be all thatyou need to do to make moneyfred

  2. SilviaPfeiffer

    The idea of having a native video tag (and audio tag) similar to the existing image tag for HTML is one that the W3C is currently developing for HTML5 (see http://www.whatwg.org/specs….You might want to check out the demos at http://metavid.ucsc.edu/blo… and http://blog.gingertech.net/… to get a feeling for what could be possible if we had a new set of Web video standards.At Annodex http://www.annodex.net/ the technology that enables those screencasts is being developed, all in a truly open technology fashion, such that they can really become the foundation of the future video web. It is based on the open Theora http://www.theora.org/faq/ video codec technology, which is also under discussion for adoption for HTML5.Thought this could be of interest to you.

  3. leigh

    “But would you rather be Elf Yourself or Addicting Games? You choose”If I were an agency given the job to create a xmas promo to drive awareness that would be unpaid media (aka ‘viral’) that wouldn’t have to be supported passed the holidays then I would prefer to be Elf Yourself.:)

  4. Lucas Gonze

    Fred, I think you’ll dig the player. If you want more precise control over the player than with the default view, check out: http://yahoomediaplayer.wik…This is very much a first release and there are still bugs big enough to matter. For example the play state sometimes gets out of sync and you end up with two songs going at once.Also, we’re eating too much screen real estate in the default layout. In the next rev we’ll have the same footprint as PlayTagger.BTW, I am both the product lead for this player (I report to Ian) and Sylvia’s peer at Xiph. The business and standards issues are aligned.

  5. Guest

    fred, how would you apply your abundance/scarcity thinking to:a service offering proprietary time sensitive information that could be reverse engineered – data that would be gamed when scaled? Example – Cake or Covestor or Vestopia – if these web models scale with their ‘open view’, an advantaged fund will wait for an opportunity to take out the leaders portfolio stops, along with all the followers.how do these models hope to get big and make money?

  6. Mark Evans

    There’s been some terrific writing recently – Seth Godin’s 14 Rules and a story in The Economist. Music executives would be wise to make these must-reads.

  7. paul pangaro

    perhaps scarcity is always involved: the abundant resource [here: computation + connectivity] is required to ‘leverage’ the scarce resource [usually: expertise, creativity, novelty]. this is a somewhat cliched economic principle, but makes sense here, i think

  8. beach

    Ian is awesome. I’ve said this internally at Yahoo, but I’ll say it here, Ian is key to Yahoo’s future.I’m using the yahoo player on my tumblog and on my mp3 blog:http://beach.tumblr.comhttp://www.swedelife.comI agree with lucas about the size of the player, but since my sites don’t flex 100% it works well for me.