I watched Aleks Krotowski’s excellent history and analysis of the web – The Virtual Revolution – when it was broadcast in February.
Aleks Krotowski by Paul Downey
Part 3 of the Series was called ‘The Cost of Free’ and looked at what we, as consumers, feed into the web in order to get the benefits of free access to so much. Not only extensive personal information but also the history of our browsing, buying and other interactions. In the case of the latter we unwittingly provide the information that allows web retailers to offer us goods or services on the basis of “people like you like music/books/films like this”. The insidious truth is that if you respond to that stimulus, like a Pavlovian dog, you’re starting to conform to some stereotype, admittedly part-defined by you, from a brave, new future.
“What about serendipity?” asks Doctor Krotowski. How do you discover stuff that’s so far from what you’ve previously liked that no recommendation engine could ever figure out that you might like it? If you’re like me, you’ll probably use a fairly random mix of music journalism, such as the Guardian’s Music Blog or the BBC’s Introducing, and other rooting around, to see what’s new. To try the music recommended in the blogs (and I’m listening to The Fall’s Your Future, Our Clutter recommended by Dave Simpson now) you probably need to go to YouTube, unless the blog author has thoughtfully embedded a We7 player in the post.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to an interesting interface – graphical rather than text – and tell it some random facts about you, your interests, predilictions or even kinks and have it come back with a kind of mind map with a panoply of music of greater or less relevance to the things you seeded it with. Wow! When I asked Rich if he could build it for Psonar, he raised his eyes to heaven, but I’m sure he’s got something in mind.
My CEO, @martinrigby has a bet with an entrepreneurial friend of his about the number of signups we can get for Psonar by midnight on 30th April. We’ve had a really great month thus far and at the time of writing, need a little over a thousand more.
So – what’s at stake? For us: a bottle of Verve Cliquot. For the people who sign up: we couldn’t have a drink without giving one away to a lucky user, so the 1000th new signup gets a bottle too. Everyone also gets all of their digital music, stored safely in the Psonar cloud for ever. Once uploaded, the music is accessible everywhere, from any internet-connected device so it can be streamed, downloaded to a computer, laptop or directly to an MP3 player or phone – all for free (not to mention the incredibly powerful aspirational discovery we’ve got in the pipeline).
The good stuff
What techniques are we employing to drive traction? Well, we’ve been reviewed on tech websites (in many languages other than English), we use the addthis.com buttons to allow easy sharing, we’ve tweeted (@psonar), commented on relevant blog posts and of course written blog posts of our own. We’re currently doing a lot of work on our SEO, developing Facebook and MySpace applications which will allow users to share tracks, playlists and charts with their friends, we’ve got a Facebook group and we’ve also put on music nights to raise awareness of what we’re doing locally. And that’s just a selection.
Of course what we’re really after are users who are willing to embrace cloud technology and help to create the world’s biggest music community. But I can’t help thinking it would be great to taste just a drop of the good stuff come May 1st. If you’d like to do the same, do sign up here for the chance.
Will we do it? Will it be you who gets the bottle? Sign up or follow me (@rich_urwin) on Twitter to find out…
Malcolm McLaren, sometime manager of the Sex Pistols, who died yesterday, was a member of the awkward squad, that self-appointed but utterly vital part of a healthy society that’s prepared to challenge the established order of things.
Malcolm McLaren by Andy Rosen
In a career that encompassed being an artist, performer, manager and entrepreneur, as well as a fugitive in Paris from fraud allegations against him in London, he saw what he did as being as much about politics as about entertainment. A thorn in the side of the 1980s establishment, McLaren famously tried to sail a boat with the Pistols aboard and playing their version of God Save The Queen past the Houses of Parliament during the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations.
He will be missed – even Johnny Rotten, with whom McLaren fell out over the Sex Pistols’ contract rights, added his voice to the tributes describing him as “…an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you.”