Posts from January 2008

Pier 40 Rally On Sunday

I’ve been blogging about Pier 40 since last spring.

For those who don’t know Pier 40 is in the Hudson River Park at Houston Street and is a 15 acre, 1.2mm square foot structure that currently houses downtown manhattan’s largest soccer and ballfields and numerous recreation and community groups.

Next week the Hudson River Park Trust is going to decide on a plan to turn it into a huge entertainment complex. This Sunday at noon, there is a rally to "celebrate Pier 40." It will be held, naturally, on the center courtyard ballfields (shown below).

If you live in NYC and care about parks and communities, please come and show your support. Again it’s a noon on Sunday in the Pier 40 courtyard.


#NYC Jumps On The On-Demand Streaming Bandwagon

I’ve been saying for as long as anyone would listen to me that one day all the music ever recorded is going to be on the Internet and we are going to have sufficient bandwidth and connections on every possible listening device and at that point file based music is going to be history. I’d go back and find all the posts I’ve written on this topic but it would fill up the whole front page of this blog. I believe this with all my mind, heart, and soul.

We’ll have a bunch of ways we can listen to this music.

We can listen in "radio" mode where we tune into some kind of DJ and we let them play music for us. This largely exists already. You can listen to Radio Paradise which is exactly what it sounds like, you can listen to neighbor radio (here’s mine), and you can listen to hype machine’s popular list. The services I’ve listed here and many others pay the compulsory streaming radio license to soundexchange or directly to the various rights holders.

Or we can listen on-demand meaning we pick the music we want to play, either song by song, album by album, or via building playlists. These services pay a royalty to the rights holders of $0.01 per song and to date have funded those payments by charging a monthly subscription of between $5/month and $15/month. The leading on-demand streaming service has been Rhapsody which I’ve advocated for years, particularly when combined with an in-home device like Sonos. There are others in this market like Yahoo! Unlimited (which is rumored to be leaving the subscription music business) and Napster (the new Napster). I have heard that none of these services is profitable, but I could be wrong about that. announced today that they are offering their own on demand service. They are pushing the envelope with this service in two important ways. First, they are allowing anyone to listen to three free plays of any song before they have to become a subscriber. Second, the monthly subscription is $3, much lower than anyone else (at least to my knowledge).

Will I switch from Rhapsopdy? Not yet. I’ll probably add a subscription to’s service for two reasons. First, I believe in paying for music. This money will go to the artists (at least for unsigned artists who put their music on Second I might want to listen to a song more than three times on and I’ll need a subscription to do that.

But right now Rhapsody works on Sonos and doesn’t. Since we do most of our Rhapsody listening on Sonos, that’s a good reason to stay on Rhapsody even though it’s 3-4x as much as

It appears that is planning on paying for the on-demand royalties through a combination of advertising and subscriptions (that’s why the subscription is lower). That’s certainly a step in the right direction.

In my vision of a pure streaming world (which I outlined in the opening paragraph of this post), we’d have a third option. Which is fully ad supported on-demand listening. It’s too bad that can’t go all the way to free (they are getting close). Because until on-demand listening can be supported entirely by ads, I don’t think it will be a mainstream service. It’s still possible to get music for free and many people choose to do that instead of paying for a streaming subscription service.

I do think that paid and ad-supported/free can co-exist in the market. It works in radio where some are willing to pay for XM and Sirius while most are happy to get some ads and not have to pay for their radio.

I hope will consider offering a totally free on-demand service supported by in stream advertising (supplied by targetspot of course!). I think that’s something that the market would really respond to.

I’ve been beta testing a service called Spotify that I can’t talk much about other than to say it’s another on-demand streaming service and it’s very good. I hope they’ll have the courage to try the free/ad-supported model in addition to the subscription model.

Back to’s announcement today, there’s one thing I really wish they’d have done. I’d like them to offer embedding an on-demand player on blogs and social net profiles. If you click on this link to, you can listen to Vampire Weekend’s song, Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa, which I like very much. But I don’t really want to force you off this page to hear the song. Instead I could upload the mp3, like this – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa – Vampire Weekend. If they offered an embeddable player, that allowed anyone to listen to a song, monetized by audio ads after the song and before the next song, I would stop uploading mp3s and start embedding the player.

If they don’t do it, someone will. Because it’s the logical next step in the streaming audio game.

#My Music#VC & Technology

MP3 Blogging - Tying Things Back Together

I mentioned recently that I had moved my daily mp3 posting from this blog to

A bunch of commenters said that was too bad because they weren’t going to read two blogs.

But one commenter, Daryn, did something about it.

He gave me (and anyone else who wants it) some javascript that creates a portable tumblr music player. Here’s daryn’s comment along with the code.

you just need to add the following two lines of javascript whereever
you want the widget to appear, replacing the dn_tmblr value with your
own tumblr url ( )

<script>var dn_tmblr="";</script>
<script src=""></script>


Here’s the player it creates.


In honor of Daryn’s work, I have replaced my avatar on the upper right of this blog with the tumblr player for a little while.

You can forward and rewind through the various songs I’ve posted on tumblr and you can play them with the play button at the botttom.

I’ve got two requests for Daryn:

1) can you make the player a little thinner (175px would be ideal) so it fits better in my sidebar?
2) can you give us an option to play the entire playlist in reverse chronological order instead of just one song?

In any case, this is a big improvement. It ties everything back together nicely. It brings a daily source of new music to this blog. Thanks Daryn!

#My Music#VC & Technology

Attention Stock Bloggers – Here’s A Great Way To Make Some Money

I’ve been an investor in a company called Alacra for almost 10 years, via the Flatiron Partners portfolio. Alacra has a database of premium financial content that includes equity and credit research, merger and acquisition data, market research, and a host of other content. The Alacra database includes data from hundreds of premium content partners.

The Alacra data is sold mostly to large corporations via subscription deals but in recent years Alacra has built a nice business selling the same data to individual investors and small businesses via The Alacra Store.

Today, Alacra is launching something pretty neat. They call it the Premium Content Ad Network (PCAN). Here’s how it works. You put a PCAN ad network on your blog or web page and when you write about a public company, Alacra serves an ad featuring premium content related to that company.

Here’s the elevator pitch, taken straight from the press release:

A reader researching Apple on an investment site will often be served an ad for iPods or Apple accessories. However, that reader is interested in information on Apple’s stock (AAPL) and financial performance – not in purchasing an iPod. As a result, the reader is more likely to ignore those ads, resulting in less advertising revenue for the publisher. With PCAN, that reader would be served ads for relevant equity, credit and financial research concerning Apple, Inc.

Currently PCAN only supports public company related content. In a few weeks Alacra will add private company research to PCAN and I’ll add the PCAN ad unit to this blog. Currently I don’t write about enough public companies to make it worth it to you or me.

But if you are stock blogger (Trader Mike, Howard, etc), this should be great for you and your readers.

#stocks#VC & Technology

Pricing In The Digital Age

Via Bob Lefsetz, I went to Seth’s blog this morning and read his post about pricing in the digital age. Seth argues that you need to drop prices agressively in the digital age in order to get scale. He suggests that Apple and the movie studios charge 50 cents for a rental instead of the $3 per rental that Blockbuster gets.

Seth’s right and I suggest you go read his post.

But to me a low price is only half the equation. Convenience is the other half. Bit torrent is still damn hard. You have to find the torrent, then download it, then open it in a download client. Then hope the file you download isn’t bogus, will play in VLC or Quicktime, and that it’s of decent viewing quality. It really shouldn’t be that hard to beat that experience.

I suggested on Saturday that texting in purchases is a very convenient way to buy stuff online and specifically suggested that iTunes offer it for their movie rental business. That’s another way to offer convenience.

How about lifting the 5 authorized computer rule? We have nine Macs in our house. Each family member has a laptop (that’s five) and we have a shared laptop in our kitchen. And we have Mac Minis in each of our three media cabinets. It would be nice if we could download a movie or TV show from iTunes onto any one of those machines and watch it on any other one. The five authorized computer rule makes that impossible and as a result we have many inconvenient moments with iTunes.

So take advantage of the economics of online distribution and make your products less expensive (for content it can be dramatically less expensive) but make it convenient too.

That’s the winning formula.

#VC & Technology

Economic Policy: Don’t Fight The Next War With The Last War’s Tactics

The NY Times business section had several articles yesterday on the effort by the Bush administration and congress to address the financial problems facing the US economy. I read them all on the plane out to LA.

The Bush administration is looking to push through policies that they used in 2001 to address the last economic downturn. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says, “The research I’ve seen indicates that the programs in 2001 clearly worked.” Those programs include a tax rebate of $300 to $600 per household and a tax incentive for businesses to invest in plant and equipment.

Those measures may have worked in 2001, but I am not sure they will work this time. When treating a patient, doctors focus on the problems a patient is currently facing, not what they were facing seven years ago.

In late 2001/early 2002, the economy was suffering from the triple whammy of a stock market downturn including a full-blown meltdown in the NASDAQ, the shock induced by 9/11, and uncertainty around our government’s response (which was resolved by the invasion of Iraq). Businesses were holding back from hiring and investing and the consumer was holding off from spending. So it makes total sense to me that a tax rebate and business incentives were the proper stimulus.

This time around, we are facing very different issues. The primary problem our economy faces is a financial system that is badly damaged by the implosion of the housing bubble. In addition, consumers have lost a lot of paper wealth in their homes. This paper wealth was a large source of funds for the consumer in the past five years via home equity loans and other forms of mortgages. The banking system is in a risk adverse phase and it is unlikely that consumers will be able to tap other forms of debt like credit cards to make up for the loss of home equity finance. We have a credit crunch on our hands.

The large financial institutions have gone overseas to fix their balance sheets, tapping the growing pools of capital in the middle east and asia. But just because they have shorn up their balance sheets doesn’t mean they will start lending again.

Meanwhile the US government is also in a bit of a pickle. We have large budget deficits that we have also been funding with debt bought by foreign investors and governments. The US dollar has been falling for six years against most of the major currencies and US government debt is worth less and less every day because it is dollar denominated. I suspect the US government is also facing its own credit crunch.

We can try the economic stimulus that worked in 2001/2002. Maybe it will make consumers feel better and they’ll start spending again. Maybe that’s all it will take to get the housing market to bottom and banks and other financial institutions will start lending again.

But I think we need to focus on measures that will address the credit crunch for consumers and our government. And they are different problems that require different solutions. We need a very easy monetary policy right now. We need to make it so that banks and other financial institutions can make a lot of money lending right now. Only then will they re-open their balance sheets and start lending.

I think using fiscal policy to address the economic problems we face is a mistake. We should not go deeper into debt as a country. First and foremost, we need to restore confidence in the US economy and government credit. We need to balance our budget and stop living beyond our means (as a nation and as individuals).

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the Soviet Union essentially went bankrupt because it could no longer afford to keep pace with the United States militarily and economically. Many point to the Afghanistan war as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The US is in a similar position with our war in Iraq. We are burning through billions of dollars fighting a largely unilateral war in Iraq that we can no longer afford. We must leave Iraq as soon as possible as a first step in getting our financial house in order.

We must also tax our citizens at a rate that is necessary to cover our expenses. We can reduce our government expenses if we have the political willpower to do that. But if we don’t then we need to tax our citizens to cover our bills. Since the early 80s (with a short and successful departure in the Clinton/Rubin era), our government has taken the approach of reducing taxes in advance of reducing spending. We’ve never gotten the corresponding reduction in spending and instead have borrowed trillions from overseas. That must stop.

And we must have economic policies that incent our citizens to save instead of spend. I think its time for rethinking our entire federal tax system. What if we eliminated the income tax for taxpayers who make less than $250,000 per year (indexed with inflation)? What if we replaced the lost income with a broad based sales tax? And what if we stopped taxing income from investments of less than $250,000 per year per taxpayer (again indexed with inflation). Want to think radically? What if we stopped allowing taxpayers to deduct any form of debt including home mortgages?

I am not saying we should do any of these things. All of them will cause huge market dislocations and it’s certainly not time to make homes less valuable by removing the mortgage deduction. But we are a debtor nation. We have a balance sheet problem as a country and as citizens. We need to wake up and realize that and do something about it.

These are difficult choices that I am certain we do not have the political will to implement without serious pain. So instead we’ll put a bandaid on. And it might work in the short term. But it won’t work in the long term. I think we are headed toward bankruptcy in this country, on a governmental level and on a consumer level, unless we change our stripes.


Texting In Purchases

We were in the car this morning headed to the airport at 5:15am and surprisingly were having a coherent discussion about the new iTunes rent a movie service.

My kids are big users of iTunes to buy TV shows but have never been interested in buying movies. It’s probably because of the price point. But the idea that they can “rent” a movie for $3-$4 by downloading a file that will erase itself in 30 days really interests them. I explained that this model has been around for years (Starz comes to mind) but hasn’t taken off. They think Apple/iTunes will have a different and more successful experience.

But everyone, particularly The Gotham Gal, pointed out the 2 hour download is a problem with this model. If you want to watch a movie right away, this won’t work.

I suggested that Apple add a feature to iTunes that allows you to send a text message to iTunes with the name of a movie or a song or a TV show and it will start downloading it to your computer right away (or the next time you connect if you are offline). Everyone loved that idea.

The Gotham Gal said that Amazon should do the same thing. She gets her best book ideas when she’s out and about, with friends, or reading the paper on the couch. If she could simply whip out her phone, text amazon, and be done, she’d love that.

I honestly don’t know if anyone has tried this model. I am sure there are startups that offer such services and I am interested to hear about them. I also suspect that this kind of behavior is common (or is becoming common) in the countries where texting has been popular for years.

But I think texting has arrived in a big way in the US in the past year and it’s time for the large web commerce players to incorporate short codes and texting into their purchasing systems. It’s going to be big.

#VC & Technology

Seesmic Invites

I just sent out about 40 invite codes based on all the emails I received in the past week.

Sorry about the delay but it takes a certain amount of concentration and coordination to get a different invite code via email to everyone.

A cross country plane ride is the ideal environment!

If you have asked me for one and have not received it, that means you either did not send me an email which is the only way I can really process invite requests or it means you did not include the word seesmic in the subject line.

If you asked for one and didn¹t get one, please resend an email with the word seesmic in the subject line.

I have a few more, but not many, so if you want a seesmic invite get your request in soon.