I use a lot of music web services but I don't like to invest in this sector. Nonetheless, it's an area that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I've written endlessly on this blog about the music web services I use, why I use them, and where I think the music web is going.

The most interesting music web service to me has been audioscrobbler (aka I'm not all that interested in as a social network, but I am obsessed with it's value as a data asset. I report all my music listens to via the audioscrobbler technology and it has built a deep data asset on my musical listening habits (and therefore musical taste). Since October 2005, I've recorded 60,168 song listens with audioscrobbler. That's roughly 40 listens per day. Sounds like a lot, right? Well we listen to music all the time in our house and we've had audioscrobbler on our Sonos for the past year or so.

There are a bunch of music web services I use that leverage the power of the audioscrobbler data via the api. So I show up at a new music web service and it can instantly know what I like to listen to by simply asking me for my user name and password. It's like magic. I love it.

The developer of audioscrobbler is a guy named Richard Jones (aka RJ) who built it while he was in college. He merged it into and became the CTO.

Well RJ is back to building interesting new web music stuff and his new thing is called Playdar. And like audioscrobbler, I think this could be a powerful foundational platform technology for the music web.

Playdar is a "music content resolver" platform. You put the Playdar software on all the machines you have with music on them. And then Playdar makes it so that you can play your music via the web whenever and wherever you want. This is not the first effort to do this sort of thing, but it is the first time this has been done as an open source platform.

This is an important distinction. Like audioscrobber was the foundational technology for and many other music web services, Playdar can and will be the same.

The Playdar ecosystem is just getting going but there are already some interesting demos. I like Toby Padilla's Playgrub which turns web pages into playlists. I also like James Wheare's Playlick which turns accounts into playlists.

Open platforms and ecosystems are powerful and the music web needs more of them. I am excited to see where Playdar goes. I'll be following it closely and if you are into web music, you should too.

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#My Music#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Interesting – will take a detailed look at this later. I’d like to see this approach applied more to internet public service radio (eg, BBC), educational podcasts, etc. It’s a very human form of bookmarking/marking something as a ‘fave’ and for trend analysis – ie, bookmarking (in whatever form) a web page/blog is often no more than a reminder to read something properly later (and one never does) whilst scrobbling/etc is evidence of having experienced something in its entirety, which is a wholly different style of ‘bookmark’. It is recording the evidence of an experience. This is much more valuable.

    1. Mark Essel

      Thanks Carl that defines the value well in easy to understand terms. Like retweeting only after reading.

  2. chrisadams

    Nice post Fred.Playdar isn’t just a music content resolver – it’s setup for music right now, but it’s basically a way to resolve content from anywhere, and as far as I understand, could be extended for pretty much any kind of media.So you basically have something like an open source take on, where as long as any of your friends have content you want to listen/watch etc., you could stream it from them, without needing to know (or care) where it came from.If you think about how much music we have on our computers, and the 6 degrees theory, it’s not a huge leap to think of Playdar as a possible massively decentralised Spotify.That’s the reason I find Playdar interesting.

    1. Kurt C

      Chris,From my understanding of Playdar, it only plays content that you yourself own – and not content from other people’s machines. While I definitely see the similarities to Simplify Media (I was enamored with their product for some time), the difference of only playing content you own is a differentiator they may need in this litigious climate.Did I understand things incorrectly? In my opinion, if Playdar starts streaming other people’s content, then there are much bigger issues they’d have to start worrying about (e.g. – the copyright holder lawsuits, ISPs concerned about a drastic increase in traffic usage, etc, etc).

  3. kidmercury

    sounds great, until….You put the Playdar software on all the machines you have with music on them.IMHO needs to be pre-installed, so consumer doesn’t have to do anything. i’m not a believer in the ability or willingness of customers to install.though given the potential value to companies and users alike, i think companies would be wise to work with this trend and have playdar or similar technologies installed by default.

    1. markslater

      i’m with you – thats 7 or eight machines potentially in my house – no chance.

      1. fredwilson

        I think it connect to all the music files on the network if you have it on one machine on a network. I’ll check on that

    2. BmoreWire

      they need to cut a deal to bundle with AIM or something like that. Also, they need to get the file size down in the install.

    3. fredwilson

      If it is successful, that will happen. Like is happening with Boxee now. You have to start with the geeks and early adopters

      1. kidmercury

        IMHO it is a classic cross the chasm issue. i think geeks will install because they are geeks, although i think the mainstream will need a holistic solution fits into their current lifestyle. i’m sure boxee will pursue distribution deals to ensure people will natively, almost accidentally, start using it. and once they do i’m sure they’ll be hooked, because the value proposition for this type of stuff is great, as the early adopters are letting us know.

        1. fredwilson

          I just asked avner if boxee should ship with a playdar clientThat’s the way these open source guys can work together to beat the system

      2. ShanaC

        Great to know I’m turning into a geek-ette.

    4. Mark Essel

      Web services wouldn’t require installation. Any chance you can just click on a playdar page and “connect” to your local network. Maybe each system has to connect to run the service once?I installed dropbox on some systems, and browse to it on others.

  4. Fred Destin

    I always liked the music discovery aspects of As I understand it few users were using AudioScrobbler (or the radio) but that core user group fed content that millions of casual “taste sharers” would use. From a business model standpoint the nice thing about is that they managed to get away from stream licensing hell and build a model simply based on user preferences expression and page views. In a time when licensing fees still killed tech startups, this was a way to become “immortal”, with tiny marginal cost per pages and tiny revenue per user.

    1. fredwilson

      Good point fred about avoiding the rights holders. A key strategy in any music web startup. The correlation between web music failures (and essentially failures) and companies that were forced to deal with rights holders is shockingly high

    2. davidporter

      Freds, I think that’s partially right. Actually a LOT of people used AudioScrobbler (as I understood it) and people’s profiles (top artists/tracks) are what ultimate drove a lot of traffic. I recall Martin saying at the time that relatively few actually used the radio service (I think he said only ~3%) and so the royalty burden per average user was low.For those visitors who actually tuned in, took advantage of compulsory licensing (like other internet radio services) to avoid the unsustainable on-demand rates.

      1. fredwilson

        Great model

  5. im2b_dl

    I still am thinking it is it’s effects on the home media dashboard and it’s interoperability that i think fascinates me about Playdar

    1. fredwilson

      I’m trying to get all of that to work for me. This stuff is very raw still

  6. Joe Siewert

    Sounds like a cool service, thanks for the tip. Despite having a ton of music at home, I don’t put much on my work PC and constantly find myself heading out to Hype Machine during the workday. Love that this is going in an open source direction.

  7. ErikSchwartz

    Just my usual comment regarding mobile music. Unlimited mobile data is a temporary situation.Here’s an interesting read on the subject

    1. Joe Siewert

      Thanks for the link. Interesting post.

    2. fredwilson

      I think there will be unlimited at a price. Just not sure what that price is. I pay $300/month for a 50mb cable connection to my home

  8. Frozen Collusion Delusion

    I have been using Grooveshark, where you can set up playlists and stream music. Very easy and functional and you don’t have to give someone access to your computers.Personal internet radio, I suppose.I like it. Your thoughts Fred ?

    1. fredwilson

      I’ve never taken to grooveshark. Lots of people love it though

  9. adamwexler

    As evidenced by his success, it’s safe to say RJ knows what he’s doing. if he sees this as an opportunity, i think we should all pay attention…although i’m kind of with kid mercury that there will be a hurdle if it requires downloading off that bat.

  10. Dave Pinsen

    Playdar should run a contest to find a better name.

    1. fredwilson

      I love it. What don’t you like about it?

      1. Dave Pinsen

        It sounds like a combination of Play-Doh and Gaydar.

        1. fredwilson

          Oh snap.I was thinking play and radar

        2. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Freud would find that rather fascinating 😉

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  11. Jon Smirl

    The music industry has it backwards with streaming services like Personal radio streaming takes away the control over what you are listening to. I’ve added 1,200 artists to my library and I stream every day (56,600 scrobbles). There are hundreds of things I don’t like about this stream. But I rarely go back to the site to try and alter the stream because there really isn’t any way to control it. Sooner or later is going to do in stream ads and then I’ll have to find another service.Now turn this process around. Give me much finer control over the stream contents. I’ll spend hundreds of hours in a browser futzing around with my streams. I don’t mind if the web UI for this has a bunch of ads. Even better fill them with relevant ads for band paraphernalia and local concerts.This is same model Google is using with free navigation. You pay for the “free” navigation using the currency of attention instead of cash. Google then converts the attention into real cash via advertising.Can’t they see that I am receptive to ads during the discovery and editing process and not receptive during streaming? Why aren’t they trying to maximize the time I spend in the ad receptive state while building my listening profile?Another corollary. Let people use an ad support discovery and editing service to fill their iPod for free. If I can fill my iPod as much as I want for free, I’ll keep coming back the the editing service site. If you make me buy the track I’m never coming back and instead I’ll spend all of my attention in back up programs making sure I don’t lose the track I bought. And I hate doing back ups so I don’t buy very many tracks.

    1. fredwilson

      Another 50k plus scrobbler. I think we need to form a club

  12. JeremiahKane

    I believe that music as an ecossystem is a leading indicator of where a lot of spaces are going because music has some unique characteristics that lend itself to the easy construction of large preference data sets. With music its:1) Easier to capture past preferences. A data set gathering tool can be much more passive. I regularly re-listen to songs I like but re-read books much less frequently. To build a “reading” data set requires me to manually rate past books or a record my current preferences over a longer observation period.2) Almost all digital. Related to 1) since if my past preferences are already digital I can find a way to extract them (perhaps from my Amazon history or Netflix ratings). However, many data sets upon which you could build powerful and interesting tool and applications aren’t digital. The meals I eat and the food I buy – as an example. A data set of things I own is another example.3) Lots of data. You said it yourself – 60K songs is a ton of information to play with.Eventually these other spaces will get there and some are mostly there, but there is still a ways to go and if the applications that gather the data set aren’t open then it only further slows the process.

    1. fredwilson

      Agreed. The interesting thing about those 60k plays is that hasn’t really done that much interesting with themSure, you can see my favorite tracks and artists and who has similar tastesBut I feel like there is so much more insight there to be mined

      1. matthewogle

        Fred, you’re absolutely right.We’re on it. 😉

  13. MikePLewis

    Couldn’t agree more about Playdar.As the founder of the music service Qloud I completely understand, respect, and fear the complexity around licensing music. And, any music service that charges users by play (Lala, Launch, etc.) is a challenging consumer experience. Something like Playdar, which allows the user to pay for content he/she doesn’t own and listen from a local (aka legal) location for the rest, could dramatically change the economic model for music services and allow more to experiment.Even subscription services, which pay the music labels per play would benefit from something like this as many users play the same songs over and over. It might come to a point where once a user plays a track over 70 times the service just gives them the mp3 to download to caps the license fee for that track.My hope is that many more legal options emerge around Playdar. Spotify and MOG are new but are just better versions of Rhapsody. It’s great to see some more innovation.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree about spotify and MOG. I really like both companies and their founders david and daniel. But they aren’t doing anything radically new. I’ve been a rhapsody customer for ten years. Its time for something truly paradigm shifting the way all you can listen services were a decade ago

      1. Richard Bauer

        Very perceptive comment. I was a principle in N2K, CDuctive and Emusic (following major label stints at Universal and Sony). Those were exciting times. New faces, but very little change in the last 10 years. I just want to have access to an entire legal collection of music, wherever I am. I am feeling it coming…

  14. niallsmart

    Fred, your opening gambit might be worth a blog post in itself – “I use a lot of music web services but I don’t like to invest in this sector”. Like most music lovers you seem excited about the latest innovations in the digital music space (like Playdar) and USV has not been shy about investing in disruptive media companies – so your take on the challenges of investing in the sector would be a great piece (and timely, given the forthcoming launches by and MOG, and Spotify’s ongoing will-they-wont-they US launch).

    1. fredwilson

      I can sum it up in 140 characters or less:Rights holders that are hostile to innovations don’t make for a compelling sector for vc investment

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Luckily for us it’s a creative sector that is more vibrant than it has ever been, with routes to market increasingly accessible to one and all globally, at zero to minimal cost. Win, win (for us music fans at least).Music should never have gone ‘Corporate’ to the extent it did in the first place.

        1. fredwilson

          You can thank four boys from a town not far from sheffield for that carl

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith


      2. niallsmart

        It’s interesting to note that in’s earliest incarnation (Audioscrobbler) they presumably didn’t have to license anything from the rights holders, as back then the service only dealt with user generated metadata.A combination of Spotify + Playdar would be a potentially transformative infrastructure for innovations that need to work closer to the actual content. It would essentially offload the complexities of licensing, scaling, catalog maintenance, content resolution and managing the end-user subscription. The early availability of open APIs for Spotify (although, linux only) indicate some willingness to experiment with this model.

  15. cyanbane

    I have almost 50k songs recorded on I find myself multiple times a week going to that data and finding not only dates of when I was listening to a certain album that came up in a conversation, but also what I was listening to around that same period. It has been great in watching the ebb and flow of my tastes in the context of what albums are new at some point in time x and what older albums I was listening at the time. I personally would love to see more analytics by the guys.Messing with a song battle on playlick between you and I as we speak. Very interested in seeing where this goes ( APIs, not our battle 😉 ).

    1. fredwilson

      I also want so much more from the data. Just left another comment to that effect

  16. Dave Hodson

    Maybe I’m missing something, but this sounds quite a bit like the Squeezebox server (, an open-source streaming app (GPL license) that can play your library of songs anywhere that you have an Internet connection (plus it has audioscrobble)

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll check it out and see if it is the same thing

  17. ShanaC

    There is too much going on in this sector. Most of it isn’t helpful nor revolutionary. I’m trying to imagine why I need this. Mostly because even though I love music, and I think I am now on my second Last.FM account, I’m not sure why I need it. I was trying LaLa last night -I’m not sure why I need it either. Nor am I sure why I need this. We’re talking the boxee problem- maybe it isn’t a computer I need to access, maybe it’s a nothing and I can’t tell the difference, it is just a chip and a program.The concept of scrobbing and streaming is also difficult to get your head around- where is the music, where did it go? How do I categorize it? What if I am borrowing a track from youtube, or sampling to death for a movie? Without simplifying the interface for someone to understand at least from the computer with a keboard and mouse/trackpad point of view, I have it, but I’m not sure why…

    1. fredwilson

      This is not end user stuff. This is a platform for others to create end user stuff. Think linux, iphone, twitter

      1. ShanaC

        I’m disgruntled because I think that should be seamless. Life is getting too confusing is everything is separated….

        1. fredwilson


          1. ShanaC

            Hahaha, this and shaking up banking. Second time this month. I’m sort of wondering what you are thinking of what I’ll say next.

  18. Mark Essel

    I use, dig the song seeding/instant radio. I’ve favorited a bunch but haven’t scrobbled (what the heck is scrobbling). Maybe I have scrobbled. Who’s got time to keep up with all these made up words.It’s time I go back to malzoinkafying my reboobatron with the xarblazatrix. Only the most meustorious folks should try this.scrobbled… ;)Update, I now understand scrobbling, and yes I use it.

    1. fredwilson

      Don’t knock it. You should try scrobbling. Its basically recording your listening data and sharing it with the world via an open api

      1. Mark Essel

        Geez I get more homework from AVC than when I was in college. Reading, studying, philosophy, business jujitsu, value discovery, investment innovating, and now scrobbling.At least now I do it for fun 😉

        1. fredwilson

          You are getting an A+ right now. Sorry for that but I just came from a parent teacher conference 🙂

          1. Mark Essel

            I see a big opportunity for the AVC social game. We all get tasked with various fun and educational topics (entrepreneurship, tech, social, venture) and get back points based on performance.Bring on the who’s line is it anyway scoring system where the points don’t matter. Yet we’ll fiercely contend for them.

          2. fredwilson

            believe it or not, disqus has real product ideas that are related to thisconcept. not identical, but related.

          3. Mark Essel

            I believe it. Those guys have my trust and confidence. I get most of my points from my comments here. I comment more on your blog than my own (hopefully that’ll shift in the next year).

  19. davidporter

    Fred, my impression is that Playdar’s innovation is that other music services can use it to reduce their royalty burden by pulling bits from a local/owned server instead of the music service’s cloud.For example, if you’re streaming a Pandora station and during the course of an hour, 5 of 15 tracks are already on your laptop or your main home hard drive, then you’ve reduced the effective hourly royalty by [15 tracks x $0.001 x 1/3] = $0.005 (a $5 CPM saved).This means fewer ads, a cheaper subscription and/or a greater likelihood of enterprise viability.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. That is one big thing. But not the only big thingI don’t even want files. I want licensesThis gets us closer to that model

      1. davidporter

        I’m not sure I understand. Do you mean you want some sort of compulsory on-demand licensing? Or something else?

        1. fredwilson

          no, just an indication that you own the song

          1. davidporter

            Fred, do you mean an indication that I own (or have owned) the song, so that whether I still have a copy handy locally or not is irrelevant.Sort of like a master registry of ownership, so that people can grab the song when/where they need it, without having to buy it in a new format over time?

          2. fredwilson

            yes, that’s what i was thinking

          3. davidporter

            There was a company a few years back that started getting those sort of licenses – I can’t recall name and oddly can’t find the keyword combination to track down on gmail. Think investors were based in Korea.Though we (8tracks) are a couple years away from doing any direct licensing given time/cash involved, this was the approach I’d hoped we could negotiate.

      2. theslinglster

        That’s why I like youtube. It is not only a free radio station so to speak, but it video too and has a vast selection of rarities and live performances going back to the dawn of radio AND TV. You wanna see spectacul;ary live performances of Supremes from the 1960s? You got it. You wanna see incredible live beatles performances? Where else would you go? BB KIng in the 50s? Yep. You wanna see Leon Russel performing incredilbe live versions of Delta Lady? Yep. Ethel Merman? Yep. LIttle Feats first recorded performance (on a 1965 episode of F-Troop!) Yep. Live Aid, Woodstock, Altamount, etc.? Beatle documentaries, Yep. Beside live versions, most popular recorded music is there too.If youtube initialed a $100 year subscription gate, I would gladely pay it for the breathd and depth of music options that you can’t really get anywhere else. Anyone else agee?slingAnd its free!!

        1. fredwilson

          I agree. We spent an hour on youtube on our big screen TV with our family on thanksgiving day instead of watching two horrible football games

        2. theslingster

          $20 dollars says your family watched Alice’s restaurant@!!LAL

    2. theslingster

      I think it will be a long time before the RIAA buys into this scenario. If you are listening to your own music (that which resides on your hard drive) then you are listening to your own music an no royalty is involved.If you listen to an online radio station, or any BROADCAST service for that matter, you are listening to THEIR broadcast license of the song and they will have to pay a royalty, regardless of whether you have your own legal copy on your hard drive.Plus broadcast royalties are generally calculated statistically based on the aggregate audience listening, the historical popularity of the song and the statistacal frequency which it is played accross all radio stations. Individual streams are not looked so much as the aggregate amount of streams.

      1. davidporter

        As I understand it, Playdar actually allows you to pull the song locally so you can forgo having to play the streamed copy. Other than Live365 and some terrestrial webcasts, I don’t believe most internet radio is *broadcast* any longer, but your point is no less applicable for services that play music from a pre-defined playlist (even if not broadcast). Where I’d think Playdar would have the most value is in a personalized radio service. If the service knows what tracks a user has locally, it could select local tracks for playback instead of those copies in the service’s library in crafting the programming.

        1. the slingster

          I am not sure what you mean by “Local” Does it mean music which resides on your hard drive? Any other scenario I can think of seems to go against current copyright law.However, it seems to me the model you describe is a step backward rather than forward in relation to the existing model.Existing Model: If you like a song, you buy it. You put it on your record player, you put on your ipod, you put it on your computer. Technically, to put the song onto more than 1 device is illegal(except as a back up copy which is only listened to if the first copy is lost. Everyone does this, and this “illegality” is way to expensive to police. I have never heard of anyone being sued by the RIAA for this (unless they are sharing with other people which is a different issue.Playdar Model- Instead of simply buying the song and enjoying it, now you have to somehow proove you had a legit license for it. You have to go to some central group or web site and somehow prove to them that you have a legit license for the song.Do you really want to do this for every song you buy?Of course, maybe there is an automatic registry system in place. But, how do you differ between john doe of CA’s licenses from john doe of NY licenses? Social security numbers? That probably asking for to much person info for a miserable licesne to one song.Or perhaps some central agency will scan thd music files on your hard drive to determine licenses. But I guarantee the few pennies you will save by prooving you have a legit license will be wiped out by the dollars you will pay for having illegal copies of music on your hard drive. And of course, do you really want yet another central organization intruding on your privacy, studying your music taste, maybe peaking at your non music files?The existing model is much better than anything pladar is promoting.slingster

          1. davidporter

            Yep, by local I meant music from that user’s computer hard drive or home network. There’s also a strong argument for a “private performance” angle here, i.e. a few listeners stream a track from the owner (supposedly the digital equivalent of having friends over in your living room). This is how Apple gets away with allowing users within the same subnet to stream tracks from one another’s computers via iTunes.The existing model you describe is “fair use”. Unless I’m misunderstanding how Playdar works, there’s no notion of a registry or licensing. Rather, you (or more specifically, the webcaster or other digital music service) don’t have to pay to stream tracks that you already own (i.e. have on our hard drive or home network).

          2. theslingster

            Not sure I understand the legalities, but switching to tape mixes. when I was a kid, if someone go a tape of a live performance by the Allman Bros, for example, it would make your whole year. Of course today, those live performance are a dime a dozen an Youtube. Here’s an idea for you. The road trip mix. Peoleuse to give you tapes for a long road trip. Today, I’d love to be able to create a road trip mix for a friend and be able to send it wirelessly to their car radio, wherever it might be, even aftert the started the trip!

          3. davidporter

            Heh, you’re talking to the right guy – I run an “online mixtape” company called 8tracks, which allows people to create and share a playlist fashioned from MP3s or AACs they upload. My profile is for example.You can create a road trip mix and, in about a month, stream it to your iPhone on the road : )

          4. theslingster

            you might be onto something my friend. someone from the boston buning man community emailHey thanks for this!> try sling ——– Original Message ——–> Subject: [burners] OT: Playlist & music sharing sites? Recommendations> sought> From: “Lis> Date: Thu, December 03, 2009 6:01 pm> To: [email protected]>> Do you use a playlist & music sharing site? I’ve used a few, and have> yet> to find a good match.>> I am seeking one where I can both post playlists, and play FULL versions> of the music therein.>>> Any guidance is most appreciated.> -Ku>>

          5. davidporter

            That’s fantastic. Can I weigh in and let them know to check out 8tracks? (I’ve a lot of friends — and fans of 8tracks — that go every year.)

          6. theslingster

            Probzbly not as and email lists are usually commercial free-but feel free to contact list organizer to ask. I will tell you one thing, these community are full of djs, elelcgtronic music fans, etc. In fact, the local burn community as organized years ago by many djs who still today are on th eboard of directors- our regional burn is called firelfy (in VT) and a significant amount of the camp are electonic and dj oriented.If you want, send me some brochures and I will give them out a local meetings- the woman sent the email to the firefly community appears to have already spent time looked hard for a mix service and was thankful to me for introducing her to 8track. I told her to let me know in a few weeks if she likes your service. when I get it, I will distributue the her comments to the community which is allowed because community members can send out in info that is useful to other memebers. If her review is good, its good. If its bad, at least you get some valuable market research.I wish these comment pages had spellcheck!

          7. davidporter

            That sounds great and having her “vouch” for the service (should she like it) would probably be the best possible path. Please let her know that she can reach anytime at dp [at] if she has any questions (and feel free to email there as well). Thx again!

  20. sachmo

    Have got to ask, what makes all that different from Pandora?Seems like Pandora does a pretty good job of taking data, and finding artists that you might like. Has also been around for a while… Is it that Pandora is not built on an open platform?Playdar sounds interesting. Truthfully though, its rare that I’m using the internet for an extended period of time, and am also not using the computer that I store all of my music on.