The Rolling Stone Of Our Time

Josh Stylman sent out a tweet yesterday that I agree with:

The Hype Machine is the Rolling Stone of our time – defining, interpreting and pushing culture.

I don’t want to belittle what Rolling Stone was in terms of defining and interpreting culture. It’s impact was much greater than music. In fact, I think it’s political work in the age of Hunter Thompson and Richard Nixon was among its finest moments. And I don’t mean to insult Rolling Stone by writing this in the past tense, but honestly it stopped meaning anything to me about 25 years ago.

But in this day and age, when you want to know what’s happening in the music scene, you log onto the Hype Machine and see what’s going down. It’s participatory culture at it’s finest. The Hype Machine is not programmed, it’s a smart aggregator, like Techmeme or Real Clear Politics. The Hype Machine goes out and crawls the music blogs and figures out what’s getting blogged the most and then pulls that together onto a single page so you can listen and link out and go check things out.

I’ve been obsessed with the Hype Machine for years and readers of this blog will certainly be well aware of my fondness for the service. I check it every day to see what’s happening. But it’s greatest strength is when I am tired of what I am listening to and want something new. Pat McCarthy said it yesterday on twitter:

Yes, Hype Machine is great.  Anytime I’m tired of whatever I’m listening to I go to the popular page
to find something new.

The cool thing is that’s how the Hype Machine was formed. Anthony was tired of what he was listening to and wanted to find something new. So he built a crawler of music blogs and the rest is history. Like many of the best web services, the Hype Machine is a low cost lean and mean operation. It’s built and maintained by just four people; Anthony, Taylor, Zoya, and Scott.

There are many web music services with more users than the Hype Machine.


But none of the other web music services (imeem, playlist, pandora,, jango,, lala, 8tracks, myspace music,, …..) do what Josh so nicely articulated. The Hype Machine defines music culture.

And I’m telling you all this as a prelude to the big point. Team Hype Machine has launched The Music Blog Zeitgeist 2008. Each day this week, they’ll release the names of ten artists and ten albums that collectively make up the top 50. And they are also showcasing the top 50 songs by month.

They’ve also teamed up with Blog Fresh Radio to produce a radio show featuring all of this music. I’m listening now and so can you.

The Hype Machine is small, influential, and profitable. It doesn’t take a lot of revenue to cover their costs and they are the model of a bootstrapped, scrappy, and useful web service. I love the Hype Machine and think they killed it with the music blog zeitgeist this year.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    Better than nothing but this is one of the all time great failings of the digital age

  2. fredwilson

    We are too old andy

  3. aweissman

    Hypem works because it solves is specific problem in an incredibly user friendly way. With an attention to detail (their rollover links, eg) and amazing design. The real measure of any products success is “would you recommend it to your friends.” I cant count how many times I have done that with hypem.But again, I thought you and my blogs were the Rolling Stone on our time? 😉

  4. S.t

    Fred — I read something pretty cool on VentureBeat yesterday about The Beatles music coming online…

  5. chrisherbert

    Couldn’t agree more, the Hype Machine is amazing and if word of mouth recommendation is a success factor, then it’s just another reason why HM is doing so well; I may recommend this website/web service more than anything else out there.They got flack from some old-time users when they changed from the white design to the new green design and removed some features (I liked the shuffle and repeat function in the old pop-up Flash player) but the new design and features (especially the favorites, your own and your friends, and the popular playlist) is much stronger and valuable.Whenever I hear new music, whether it be via blog posts, the newspaper, NPR, at the coffee shop, etc., I go straight to HM to find it and listen to it. I still use b/c of the iPhone and iTunes integration but for discovering new music and bookmarking/saving those new discoveries, that all happens on HM.

    1. jon

      When you think about it, iPhone integration could really make a difference for Hypem…

      1. Taylor McKnight

        After Zeitgeist is done, it’s one of the next things on our list 😉

        1. fredwilson

          i might have to get an iphone then taylor!

        2. chrisherbert

          Can’t wait for that Taylor, thanks!

  6. kidmercury

    i’d prefer to see hype machine do more syndication-based stuff, namely help others develop their own music community. in other words rather than trying to define music culture, i think it’d be cool if hype machine focused on helping and other music blogs build their own powerful music community. hypemachine has the music and the technology, though i don’t think it has the community feel that a blog or a niche social network can have. perhaps they’ll explore this route in the future.not hatin’ on it, though, i think it’s great. as noted it is low cost and profitable. IMO well positioned to survive economic armageddon.

  7. jon

    I am huge fan of Hypem, I discovered it this year and am constantly impressed by it. My feeling is that they need to leverage all the info they provide for register users on top of a big social graph to truly scale in terms of users. I believe that If they adopt FB connect (and/or google and myspace alternatives) they will become the quintessential case study of success for this service. I commented earlier in this here:…twitter: jgheller

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a great idea. a lot of my music social net is on tumblr and twitter though. but i agree that FB connect is the biggest oppty for them

      1. fascinated

        We are thinking about FB Connect.If we can determine that they are not data-predators in our use case, we’ll be happy to integrate. This is something that’s often overlooked in all the excitement about their new service. For comments, it may work splendidly, but if you are looking to cultivate a relationship with your audience, it may not be the case.

  8. Jason_Chervokas

    I dunno, Fred. I’ve been hoping for a killer music discovery solution for years and for a music blog aggregator too. Hypemachine just doesn’t do it for me.First of all it seems too narrowly focused on indie rock—I can’t be the only one who listens to dozens of genres of music but all the music stuff online is extremely siloed. Second, I find the interface all but impenetrable–not enough info up front per post to give me a hook to enter, nothing as functional as Techmeme. Third, I despise the name–“hype” has nothing but negative connotations for me.One other thing, w/ respect to the Rolling Stone comparison, I also think that our cultural relationship to pop music is different than it was in the heydays of Rolling Stone. Culturally pop music is not nearly as central or shared as it was in the late 1960s, early 1970s. Also there’s so much more music and so many more kinds of music available today (like the differences in TV programming between the network TV era and today) that my favorites and your favorites might have little overlap. Finally, we actually listen to music more privately than before thanks to portable players. Finally, the kind of magazine that Rolling Stone was when it was good (and that Playboy was when it was good)–w/ an editorial gatekeeper’s package of content beyond just music reviews and infographics–was something that worked for a format and time that no longer exists. Not mourning its passing or bemoaning the difference, just noting that I think the comparison is apples to oranges.Good luck to the guys. Glad it works for so many of you. As for me, I’m still looking for a solution.

    1. fredwilson

      you make a bunch of valid points. hype machine is for new music. old stuff isn’t there very much. but its not by any means an indie rock focused service. there’s plenty of hip hop and electronica there. possibly too much for my taste.

      1. Jason_Chervokas

        Yeah, I should have mentioned both indie rock and dance music, seems to be heavy on those genres…..I dig both, but I also dig country, classical, opera, jazz, blues, standards, etc… Have no real beef w/ Hype Machine (except the name), and I don’t think we’re going back to a “network tv” kind of central music discovery universe that radio, MTV, Rolling Stone, etc represented…but personally I’d love to find (or make) something broader & maybe a little more “curated.”

    2. Dan Blank

      Jason – I love Hype machine, but have to agree with you on these points. I use Hype Machine, am amazed by it, and feel it delivers value to me that few other services due. But it is still in its infancy. This is not a failing of Hype Machine, just an admission that our media and communication habits still have a ways to evolve. And I have to say, I am looking forward to it!Thanks, have a nice evening.-Dan

  9. Seth Lieberman

    HypeM embodies for me one of the key trends that I have noticed about my music consumption over the past several years– namely that I consume music much more the way I consume other content now. That is, music has become much more “snacky content” to me than it use to be. With awesome new music discovery engines like Hype Machine, the phenomenal ease and speed of downloading MP3s and the real and significant price drop in music I buy a lot (3-4 times as much) more music and churn through it than I did 5 years ago. At $3.50 an album on emusic and $7-8 on Amazon I’ll take a flier on almost anything, listen to it for a week and love it, leave it or let it wander into playlists. I now tend to go from band to band *much* more quickly that I ever did in the past which for me, is great. I love new music and so I tend to burn out on something less often than I use to and thus enjoy it much longer.And so, if you have not heard Marching Band: Spark Large I highly recommend a listen to a track since I still love a human recommendation the most.

  10. Bruce Warila

    Craig Hamilton just wrote a similar post about Hype Machine on Music Think Tankhttp://www.musicthinktank.c…

  11. Kenosha_Kid

    Poor Lester Bangs, God rest his soul, is no doubt rolling in his grave… although he did see all this coming.

    1. fredwilson

      i didn’t know lester but my bet is he’d be happy to see where we’ve gotten with this stuff

  12. Jason

    I wonder if that comparison really works. Certainly in terms of prestige, it’s not there yet. Brand recognition alone makes me think that. I’m sure most artists would still prefer to be somewhere in RS before somewhere in HM. Now, in terms of bringing new music to music enthusiasts, HM might have something, but I’m still not sure it’s the same. I think of the path to the top of the charts as funnel. You start with all the artists and they get screened out, by various methods (downloads, radio play, media commentary, videos, soundtracks), until only a few are left. Does HM replace Rolling Stone, or has someone found a way to build another, wider layer of the funnel on top of the screening mechanism that is Rolling Stone?

  13. Graham Siener

    As someone who doesn’t have high quality internet access at work, it’s a real bummer to see the plethora of streaming music sites out there. I guess I’ll keep up my discovery at night and go with what I know during the day…

  14. Paolo

    Yes, Hypem is a nice aggregator, but I seriously doubt that they can “define music culture”. IMHO is much more powerful in that sense. Today it’s the end user that actually defines music culture. Pretty exciting, isn’t it?

  15. Bryan

    I am a youngish music feen and I have to say, the Zeitgeist represents more than just a smart, algorithmic, best-of-tastemaker platter. It’s more than just “defining music culture”. It’s the future of music itself. Best 2008 today. Music in general in ’09 and beyond. The template they created with Zeitgeist and their everyday site can be reproduced for any genre, any size, any sets of social media, etc. Couple tweaks, a twist of imagination. This is exciting stuff.

  16. alphanaliste

    Rolling Stone was counter-cultural, but not actually based on stealing — sorry, I mean, borrowing without asking — intellectual property. Hype Machine sure is.Here’s how it works:1. I’m a musician. I sign a deal with a label. (Yay!)2. My record is done. My label releases my music. (Yay!) 3. A music blogger likes my record (Yay!), rips it, and posts it on his blog without permission or compensation. (Oh, no!)4. Hype Machine aggregates that blogger’s feed, along with the link to my ‘borrowed’ music. (Gulp.)5. Lots of people listen to that ‘borrowed’ track, favorite it, etc., instead of going to iTunes or even my MySpace site. (Sigh.)But I guess Hype Machine is pretty awesome. I’m sure I can make enough money from touring and selling t-shirts; just wish they would have asked.

    1. fredwilson

      They pay internet radio royalties on their streamsAnd they are generating fans like radio used to do in the old daysAnd they also sell a lot of music through links to amazon, emusic, anditunesI guess you could take the position you should get asked permission beforesomeone tells people how great your music isBut I think that¹s pretty old school thinking

      1. alphanaliste

        Hype Machine pays radio royalties?!?!? Since when? And how? They don’t even normalize the data — how would they know who to pay??!?!

        1. fredwilson

          Anthony told me they pay them. I believe him.

          1. alphanaliste

            Respectfully, Fred, HyepM can’t even match from a recommended song on its site to a specific MP3 file.Look, for example, at the post on the front page touting Neil Young’s awesome song, “Don’t Be Denied.” Anthony’s Amazon link goes to a ‘dumb’ search result on Amazon which doesn’t even list that song on its first 24 results.Incidentally, I love HypeM also. Love!

          2. fascinated

            I think this was due to an issue specifically with searching the Amazon MP3 store. With other stores such as iTunes and eMusic we match as closely as possible, except that it’s not always possible 🙂

          3. Olivier Rosset

            i am a music business affair working with most of the artists and labels hitting hypemachine most popular page. >HM is dope for promo and .. maybe they pay somebody… but not the right holds for sure.most of the popular indie blogs, labels and artists (justice, bloc party, chromeo,subpop, jagjaguare, world circuits,defjux, warp, domino …) are starting to use soundcloud features meets hypemachine meets tubemogul distribution and datas …plus wolrdwide perfomance agreement deal, and probably the best A&R traction right now. content owner generated is the key for new music start ups. thats why myspace made it in the first place.

          4. Fan

            Anthony’s not being completely honest with you. Yes, their one Hype Machine radio station is SoundExchange compliant, but they don’t pay any royalties on the vast majority of music they are streaming on the site itself. It’s pretty disingenuous to pretend that Hype Machine doesn’t do anything except piggyback on other people’s infringement. Whether that is right or wrong is up for debate (I personally believe that we need to institute some sort of compulsory license so that people like Anthony can build sites like Hype Machine without worry), but right now what he’s doing is illegal.

          5. fascinated

            You are correct here, our streaming radio station is operated via SoundExchange & etc societies.

  17. vruz

    I love how Songbird integrates with Hype Machine and music blogs in general.They’re not only great music observers, they’re getting brilliant businesswise as well.Can they scale ? Does everything good have to scale ? Can they stay afloat doing this for years with minimal private investment ?Whatever makes them happy will make their public happy.I think they’re a good model for a different breed of web startup.

  18. fredwilson

    I’ve never had that problemI bought two albums today from hypem linksDevotchka on amazon mp3Beach House on emusicBoth links worked perfectlyI can tell you that I buy more music from hypem links than any other source by a factor of 5-10It’s an amazing way for musicians to reach new fans and sell their music

    1. alphanaliste

      Okay, I give up. :)I love it also. But he’s not paying royalties on his main site, he’s not asking artists for permission (no matter how wonderful you and I think it is for them), and he will get sued.

  19. fredwilson

    He hasn’t yetAnd he’s been operating hypem for going on three years now

  20. fredwilson

    Olivier – you run Fairtilizer, right?Can I use it to post music to my blog?

    1. olivier rosset

      U r more than welcome Fred !

  21. neil roseman

    I do hope hypem isn’t the RS of our time, particularly as regards music — that would mean Hype Machine had already outlived it’s usefulness. By the early 70’s RS wasn’t a place to discover new music – they didn’t even review “Space Oddity” for example. Maybe they defined the culture if you lived in the Bay Area in 67-68 but that was 40 years ago. This only got worse as time went on.I do love Hype Machine, but like many say, it’s not very good outside of a few categories — and it’s not about “new” versus “old” stuff. It more reflects what is already popular in the current music culture. To that extent, things like hypem (and reflect rather than define the music culture.

    1. fascinated

      We are constantly working to make the set of blogs we monitor more diverse, but there is a pretty distinct demographic bias even in the people who start blogs, so at a certain point we can only do so much.The lack of ability to listen by genre is intentional. We want you to listen to things outside of your comfort zone. Yes, it is more abrasive than Pandora, but it’s worth it.

  22. kenberger

    Biggest difference (between RS and HM) is that Anthony is soooo not Jann Wenner.(a compliment to Anthony)

    1. fredwilson

      That¹s for sure!

  23. DanInCambridge

    I emailed Anthony nearly a year ago asking if I could develop a hypemachine app for the Android platform (this was when it was just a emulator, no phone). He wasn’t interested in exposing the hosted music which was a bummer.And now they plan to develop an app for the iPhone, ugh.

    1. fascinated

      We’ve been debating the iPhone app idea as well (though we will do it v.soon). There are some issues with usage on that platform that have been turning us off:a) Anything potentially audio-related may compete with iTunesb) Streaming over 3G eats your battery alivec) Lack of background support may render certain things impracticald) Esoteric development process. Is it really worth $20-40k to hire a dev to build this, given a) b) and c) and then have a limited audience use this?The Android is a cool platform but the phones so far have been missing headphones jacks (I just couldn’t believe that actually happened!) and have not moved that many units. Likely some of the iPhone issues, in particular b) still apply here too.We aren’t totally against it though, so perhaps we should discuss more.

  24. laptapos

    Isn’t it an old idea? Hype machine is a ranking system right? Ranks the most talked-about on the music industry… But if they make it users friendly and more useful.. More people might use it.. 🙂

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