Posts from My Music

Feature Friday: DJs Needed

Richard F has been urging me to talk about features I love every friday. I am not committing to make this a weekly feature (no pun intended). One weekly committment is enough. But I will try to run posts about features I love and new features on Fridays under this moniker.

Today, I'd like to talk about something Turntable added this week that I really like. They launched a new lobby page. It looks like this (at 6:30am eastern before most of the US has woken up):

Turntable lobby

We are looking at the view called "DJs needed". This view lets you quickly see the busiest rooms in the service where there are DJ spots available.

Before this feature was released, all you would see in the lobby was the busiest rooms. But the real thrill of Turntable is getting up on stage and seeing if you can deliver the goods. I do it at least three of four times a week. It's a kick.

This feature was among the most commonly requested things users have asked for since the Turntable service launched. Harking back to yesterday's post about focusing on your loyal users, I believe one of the keys to success early in a company's life is listening closely to the users and then delivering quickly on the things they ask for. That creates trust and loyalty, two important traits in an early user base.

So now when you visit Turntable, click on the DJs needed icon in the lobby, and go into a room and start showing your stuff. I think you'll enjoy it. I certainly do.

#My Music#Web/Tech

Turntable.fm

We finally got around to announcing our investment in Turntable.fm. I wrote this on the USV blog today:

Sometimes you end up loving something you don't want to.

When turntable.fm launched, I wanted to avoid it. There was the Facebook login button that I didn't want to use. There was another music service I didn't want to add to my already-exhaustive collection. And then there was the matter of Seth and Billy, who may have the distinction of getting more "no thanks" from me than any other pair of entrepreneurs in the world. Seth got the first one from me in 1996 I believe, and they got the most recent one from me less than a year ago.

But the service kept coming after me. It was showing up in my twitter stream, my facebook feed, my tumblr dashboard. My friends were on it and loving it. Our office was on it and loving it.

So one day in late June or early July, I finally hit that Facebook login and took a tour of turntable. What I found was people, lots of them, they were playing music, they were listening to music, they were talking to each other, they were dancing, they were having fun. And I was too. I was sold in about five minutes. I called up Seth and Billy and said "let's talk."

One of the worst kept secrets in startupland is that Union Square Ventures has led a round of financing for turntable.fm. We've been joined in this financing by Polaris, First Round and Chris Sacca and will also be joined by a collection of strategic angels who will close later this month. Billy has the news up on the turntable blog.

Billy Chasen is one of the most talented web entrepreneurs I've met. He makes software that looks different, feels different, and is different. His Chartbeat service is the most elegant and beautiful analytics product ever created. I've wanted to work with Billy for years. But we never found the right project to work together on. Now we have. I'm very excited about that.

Seth Goldstein is one of the first web entrepreneurs I ever met, back in NYC in the mid 90s. I've been his friend since, and we were colleagues at Flatiron where Seth built a killer mobile web portfolio a decade before its time. We both learned a lot from that. I've been trying to work with Seth again for a decade and now it has happened. A homecoming of sorts.

But the thing that has made all of this is possible is turntable.fm. I'm in the service now as I'm writing this, in my regular early morning hang, the indie while you work room. You'll find me there most mornings between 5am and 7am eastern. If you like to listen to indie music while you work, and if you are an early riser like me, maybe we can listen to some music together, chat about whatever, and maybe even jump on the stage and spin some tracks.

It is this form of socializing together across physical distance that makes the web special. As Dave Weinberger said,

On the Web, however, strangers are the source of everything worthwhile. Strangers and their utterances are the stuff of the Web. They are what give the Web its matter, its shape, its value.

Turntable is where strangers play music they love to each other, talk, and in time become friends. It happens to me most mornings and it is a special experience and I'd encourage you to experience it yourself.

#My Music#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

SoundCloud & Tumblr

I'm very excited this morning. I got to do something that I've wanted to do most every day for the past few years. I posted my song of the day from SoundCloud to Tumblr.

Soundcloud

For those that don't know, I post a song every day to Tumblr. It shows up on my tumblog and is the first song on my internet radio stream, fredwilson.fm.

I spend hours every day streaming music on the web and mobile and when I discover something great, I add it to the list of songs to post to Tumblr. Many times, I discover the music on SoundCloud. But getting the song from SoundCloud to Tumblr has hard and at times impossible. Many tracks on SoundCloud don't allow download of the mp3. And so I've had to go out on the web and find the mp3 somewhere else. And there are times when it is not on the web in mp3 form. It's a time consuming and often futile exercise.

Sometime in the past day or two, Tumblr added the ability to enter a soundcloud URL into the audio posting flow. I discovered it this morning. And almost jumped out of my chair with joy.

I hope that SoundCloud adds a share to Tumblr link in their UI soon. That will make it even easier.

But what we've got now is great and I'm very very happy about it.

Here are some other tumbloggers who are using the SoundCloud/Tumblr integration this morning:

Kirk Love with Santogold and The Beastie Boys

Andy Weissman with Vetiver

Enjoy



#My Music#Web/Tech

Going Out On Top

Last night we went up to Madison Square Garden with some friends to see James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem go out on top. For those not into LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy is a producer and record label owner who started LCD Soundsystem as a project in the early part of the last decade. They put out three records, each one besting the one before. The most recent came out last year and was one of the top records of the year.

Then, at the top of their game, LCD decided to call it quits. They played four shows this past week at Terminal 5, and then played their last show ever at The Garden last night. It's over now.

As we watched the band put on a fantastic show last night, I was thinking about going out on top. So few manage to do it. Shaq is warming the bench in Boston. Brett Favre should have called it quits after he threw the pick in OT against the Saints. The Stones haven't written a great song in thirty years. The money and the burning desire to "win another one" drives the great ones to stick around too long.

And I wondered if the rules of the entertainment and sports world can be applied to venture capital and startups. Is there a time to call it quits in business? I look at Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch and I see individuals still enjoying the work and delivering for their shareholders and investors into their 80s.

But I also look around the venture capital business and I see investors who were at the top of their games in the 90s struggling to remain relevant. And I think about how I want to manage this issue myself.

How do you know when you've done your last great startup? How do you know when you've done your last great investment? How do you know when you don't have the drive, hunger, and insights to keep delivering top performance?

Right now, coming off two weeks of totally relaxing vacation with my family, I find myself up early, thinking, writing, and planning. I don't sense it is yet time to hang up my cleats or walk of the stage like James Murphy did last night. But the thought is in my mind and I want it to stay there. The investment business is not easy. You are only as good as your last trade, fund, or year. And the venture capital business is particulary tricky. All the returns in the business accrue to the top ten or, at best, twenty percent of investors. When you lose your edge, your performance suffers, often badly. But it can take a decade for the rest of the world to notice because there is so much latency in the venture capital business.

I don't want to be the investor who sticks around milking the investors for fee income and raising funds based on returns that are over a decade old. That's a Rolling Stones move and it is not for me. I'd prefer to do what James Murphy and his band did last night.

#My Music#VC & Technology

Lockers vs Streaming Services

I'm on vacation so I'll keep this short.

I don't get the idea of music locker services like the one Amazon just announced. If I'm going to stream music from the cloud, why should I continue to buy files and collect them? I've been a Rhapsody subscriber for something like 11 or 12 years and although it has taken a while to get used to, I vastly prefer subscription streaming services over file based music. I've just stared using rdio on my Android and on the web and I love it too. I've used Spotify and it is also excellent (once it is fully licensed in the US).

Locker services seem like they are designed to continue the physical model of collecting music and buying music when there is a new and better way – just subscribe to music dial tone and listen to whatever you want wherever you want.

I'm bearish on locker services and bullish on subscription streaming services.



#My Music#Web/Tech

ex.fm

I blog a song every day on my tumblog. At the bottom of the page on my tumblog is a banner which you can click and play every song in reverse chronological order. And I've gone one step further and created a website called fredwilson.fm where you can have that experience immediately once the page loads.

But this approach requires the publisher (me) to provide that stream for you. What if you find a page full of music that you want to play and there is no banner at the bottom? Enter ex.fm.

ex.fm (short for extension.fm) is a chrome extension that allows you to play all the music you find on a web page in reverse chronological order. Once you add it to chrome, you simply click on the ex.fm logo on the upper right of the chrome browser and you are listening.

ex.fm offers a lot more. The founder, Dan Kantor, was one of the team members on delicious and naturally you can bookmark (they call it note) a song and add it to your collection on ex.fm. And, of course, you can play a person's noted songs. Here's my friend Bijan's noted songs. Bijan is an investor in ex.fm. I am not, yet. So this is not a "pimp my portfolio" post. It's just a "pimp the things I love" post.

I find ex.fm works best on tumblogs. So visit a great tumblog, like this one, or this one, or this one and run ex.fm against it and sit back and enjoy.

#My Music

Computers and Blues

When music and computers come together, interesting stuff happens. When I was a kid, I'd imagine that my entire record collection was a bunch of digital files that I could access from any computer. I thought we'd all own huge file servers full of our music. I got it sort of right. I missed the cloud and streaming thing. But I've been thinking of what can happen when computers and music come together for a long time, at least 45 years, and I've been writing about this passion of mine since I started blogging in the fall of 2003.

Last month I posted a rant called Anatomy Of A Pirate in which I detailed my efforts to buy a record called Computers and Blues by The Streets. It was a healthy conversation (450 comments) and a fair bit of hating and loving on Twitter too.

I guess the record company in question saw the post because I got this email yesterday (name of sender withheld by request):

Since you're a fan, I wanted you to know The Streets' Computers and Blues will be released digitally next week by Rhino Records here in the US.
It's frustrating when albums don't have coordinated/shared international release dates - especially at digital retail - but it's not always that simple. Label repertoires can vary greatly by territory; oftentimes there are different rights holders/distributors depending on where the title is released.
In this case, Atlantic Records US is not the repertoire owner. The Streets are not on Atlantic's roster and Atlantic wasn't scheduled to release Computers and Blues. (As a fan, I personally badgered my contacts for months trying to get information on the project.) 
Rhino Records and the Warner Music UK int'l team worked ridiculously fast to gain the clearances necessary to schedule this title to US digital partners, including the publishing approvals that are typically out of our hands.  I know it seems like another example of the recorded music industry dropping the ball, a lot of hard work went into getting this release approved for US release, and quickly.

That's really useful information and I wanted to add it to the debate. I'd like to thank the teams at Rhino and Warner who got this record out in the US quickly.

I also immediately went to iTunes and pre-ordered the mp3s to purchase a bunch of files I've had for just over a month now. You can do that too if you'd like. The files will be available for legal download on March 15th (tuesday of course, why is it always Tuesday?).

Like Mike Skinner sings on Without Thinking (1.25 in), when it comes to music "I have to think I'm a thief and plan it on my own." I'm not happy about that and I'd really like the people in the music business to figure out how to release music all over the world at the same time. When computers and computers come together, things need to change and this is one of them.



#My Music#Web/Tech

Anatomy Of A Pirate

I like to buy music. I buy it from emusic (where I pay $23/month for use it or lose it credits for music downloads), Amazon, and when in a pinch, iTunes. I also have two Rhapsody music subscriptions that cost an additional $20/month. My kids also regularly spend money on iTunes for music (often for tracks we already own somewhere else in the house). I suspect between all of this, our family spends well over $1000/year on mp3s, probably closer to $2000/year.

And yet, today I find myself pirating an album on the Internet. I thought I'd outline how this happened to showcase what a fucked up system we have for content sales on the web.

Last week, I saw a tweet from my friend Anthony:

Streets tweet
I'm a huge fan of Mike Skinner/The Streets so that was an instant click. It turns out The Streets had uploaded their new record, Computers and Blues, to Soundcloud and the Hype Machine was featuring it. I gave it a listen and was smitten. I tweeted it out myself.

Then I searched the Internet for the record. It was not even listed in iTunes or emusic. It was listed on Amazon US as an import that would be available on Feb 15th, but only in CD form. I'm not buying plastic just to rip the files and throw it out. Seeing as it was an import, I searched Amazon UK. And there I found the record in mp3 form for 4 pounds. It was going to be released on Feb 4th. I made a mental note to come back and get it when it was released.

I got around to doing that today. I clicked on "buy with one click" and was greeted with this nonsense (click on the image if you want to read it).

Restrictions
So then I went to find a VPN or proxy service that would let me grab a UK IP address so I could buy the record. That was an exercise in frustration. All I could find was monthly or daily services that were 2-3x the cost of the record. I could not find a free service that would let me change my IP address for a few minutes so I could download the file. As much as I wanted to pay the 4 pounds and pay for the record, I wasn't going to lay out $10 or more to do that.

So reluctantly, I went to a bit torrent search. I found plenty of torrents for the record and quickly had the record in mp3 form. That took less than a minute compared to the 20+ minutes I wasted trying pretty hard to buy the record legally.

This is fucked up. I want to pay for music. I value the content. But selling it to some people in some countries and not selling it to others is messed up. And selling it in CD only format is messed up. And posting the entire record on the web for streaming without making the content available for purchase is messed up.

I don't know whose idea this is of the way to market a record but I'm hoping they read this and never do this to a fan again. Fans love music. They want to support the musicians and they want to pay for music. But if you put enough hurdles in front of them, they will become pirates. As I did this morning.

When The Streets and their record label choose to make the Computer and Blues mp3s available for purchase in the US, I will go buy the record legally. Until then, I'm a pirate. 

#My Music#Web/Tech

Music Hackday NYC

The awesome Music Hackday is coming to NYC. Twilio's John Britton has the news and details. It will take place the weekend of Feb 11th and 12th. Location is TBD at this time. NY Hacker is involved as well.

There have been ten Music Hackdays to date and none of them have been in NYC, which is certainly one of the top music and tech destinations in the world. So now it is our turn to bring it.

If you are into hacking in and around music, I hope to see you there. I plan to swing by a couple times during the weekend and be there for the presentations Sunday afternoon.



#My Music#Web/Tech

Top Records of 2010

This has been a tradition since I started this blog. While I have moved all of my music blogging to my tumblog and fredwilson.fm, I've continued to do a year end roundup on this blog. I used to do a top ten and I would post every day for ten days (sometimes eleven or twelve days), but I collapsed that to one post a few years ago. I'll do that again this year. Here are the records I enjoyed the most this year:

Sir Lucious Left Foot - Big Boi – This record is so much fun. In classic Big Boi/Outkast fashion, it combines hip hop and R&B into something unique and special. It's my favorite record of the year.

Brothers - Black Keys – I think this is the best record yet from the awesome blues rock duo from Akron Ohio. It was a close runner up for record of the year.

Teen Dream – Beach House – Beach House's dreamy music held sway in our home all year long. If you check out my last.fm profile, you'll see that this record got more listens in our home than any other this year.

Gorilla Manor – Local Natives – My favorite new band of the year, this indie rock band from LA has a great sound combining cool afro guitar and excellent harmonies.

Down By The Way – Angus and Julia Stone – We discovered this brother and sister duo from Down Under late in the year, but even so, this record was the eighth most listened record all year with only about six weeks of air time. It became our standard morning music late in the year.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West – @kanyewest got on twitter and got his mojo back and this record is on non stop in our family right now. This is another record that was in the top ten in listens this year with only a few weeks of air time.

The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man On Earth – The "Swedish Bob Dylan" put out a great record that was another our morning music standbys.

This Is Happening - LCD Soundsytem – The Gotham Gal wasn't a fan and wouldn't let me play this much until she saw them live at ACL. After that, this record got more rotation. This record is pure fun, perfect for getting your energy up for a late night or anything else.

The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green – Almost perfect soul and R&B from the current master of the genre. 

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire – This was a hard choice as there were really solid records from some of our favorites this year. But on the strength of the outstanding Sprawl II, I am making this one my tenth and final top pick.

Other favorites – Come Around Sundown – KOL (Gotham Gal loves this record), Write About Love – Belle and Sebastian, High Violet – The National, Broken Bells – Broken Bells, Recovery – Eminem, Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons.

Mixtapes – All Day – Girltalk, I Am Taylor Gang – Wiz Khalifa, Vizzy Zone – XV

For the next ten days, until the end of the year, I will feature a track from one of my top ten records on fredwilson.fm and fredwilson.vc. Check them out if you want to sample some of this music.

#My Music