Otunica — Independent music via Google, Yahoo!, or Amazon

arts and entertainment, google, technology

THE PURPOSE OF OTUNICA

Encouraging and facilitating the annotation, sharing, and discovery of independent music

WHAT WILL OTUNICA CONTAIN?

  • People will be able to upload any music that they have created OR have the permission to distribute.
  • Otunica will also index all music content on the Web tagged with applicable Creative Commons permissions.

WHAT FEATURES WILL IT OFFER?

  • Sophisticated searching
    Members will be able to search by artist, track title, style, key(s) (C# minor, F major…), beats-per-minute (“BPM”) ranges, dynamic contrast, meter (waltz, 5/4, 4/4), and more… gleaned both from composer-supplied metadata and automatic detection mechanisms. I know that, at the very least, programs exist today that are — if not altogether reliably — able to discern BPM and music keys, so the technology is already at least partly there. Additionally, I envision a Flickr-style tagging feature whereby both the original content creators and (optionally) their trusted friends or representatives can add descriptive and obviously searchable tags to tunes (“Piano,” “Hard-driving,” “Melancholy”…)
  • Easy sharing
    Members will be able to easily send links to streams or downloads of their favorite tunes (or playlists of tunes) to friends… perhaps directly via Gmail or Yahoo! Mail.
  • Multi-faceted discovery
    Via composer-supplied and automatically determined metadata, Otunica will identify highly similar tunes (“The following songs are very close-matches to [the current song]”), point out slight variants (“Find similar but higher-tempo songs,” “Find similar songs but in [x] meter…”), and also present collaboratively-filtered recommendations (“Members who streamed/downloaded this song also streamed or downloaded these songs.”)
  • OGG music format
    Given the recent frustrations with DRM’d and proprietary music formats, a powerful company like Google, Yahoo!, or Amazon could substantially improve the survival and even mass-adoption chances of an open source format like OGG… not only avoiding controversial solutions such as WMA and Fairplay’d AAC, but also bypassing MP3 licensing fees.

WHY IS OTUNICA IMPORTANT TO THE FUTURE OF MUSIC?

  • It will offer in-depth exposure for independent artists
    It will provide, for the first time, a depository of independently created music that will be accessible, affordable, and both usefully and enticingly presented to encourage true sharing and discovery.
  • It will present a viable alternative to shackled “big music”
    Otunica will enable DJs, wedding planners, movie-makers, performers, and others in need of specific types of music to easily find what they need and then both affordably and legally gain the access to use it. No need to fret over confusing and byzantine licensing fees for distribution, performance, etc.
  • It will stimulate the creation of really cool new art
    As Law professor and Creative Commons guy Lawrence Lessig has noted (dang, I really need to blog the notes I took at one of his recent fab lectures!), one of the largest and most frustrating impediments to the creation of innovative art is the crippling state of intellectual property laws today. I’d add that, even with so many new songs being added to the Web nowadays with Creative Commons licenses, it’s still practically impossible for artists to find a particular type of song they’d like to work with (e.g., ska in a minor key with a BPM of 160 or greater)

HOW WILL OTUNICA MAKE MONEY?

  • Purchases:
    Via purchase options (for a CD, uncompressed download, and/or extended performance/redistribution rights) to music, with most of the cash going to the artist and a cut going to Otunica
  • Tips:
    A virtual tip jar; members who like particular tunes will be able to make micropayments to artists, and — again — Otunica will take a cut. I expect that Otunica’s percentage will be substantially more artist-friendly than iTunes, Amazon.com, or even the already-rather-artist-friendly CDBaby.
  • Ads:
    Contextual and/or thematic ads (CD media, speakers, recording equipment…)

WHAT ABOUT COPYRIGHT VIOLATIONS?

Technology exists today that should fairly easily be able to identify clear infringements via a combination of aural and other fingerprinting and metadata. Community self-policing would also be likely effective (e.g., on Flickr, spammers and people posting photos that clearly violate the service’s rules are identified and seemingly dealt with quickly).

And it will be made effectively clear from the start that Otunica isn’t the place to share or get Britney Spears’ latest junk.

WHO WILL BUILD OTUNICA?

Google — Why

  • Already getting into the (related multimedia) video space in at least three different ways
  • Google has already been indexing many other forms of information… images, books, various document formats (PDF, .doc), and — of course — Web pages… and could learn a lot about indexing multimedia from the project of Otunica.
  • Google has posteriorloads of space and bandwidth and is acquiring more all the time.

Google — What Otunica could integrate with

  • Maps (see the location of fellow artists who fit certain criteria so you could jam in person…)
  • Groups (mailing lists on particular styles, fan lists for certain artists, etc.)
  • Mail (one-click send of stream/download links)
  • Answers (set a price on a particular composition, and have artists bid to create the piece for you)
  • Blogger (drag-and-drop a snippet of a piece onto a blog entry)

Yahoo! — Why

  • Already an established (albeit currently small) community memberbase and structure with Yahoo! 360
  • Also, from recent acquisition, a hugely dedicated memberbase in Flickr
  • And of course, a humungous general userbase, complete with already-established sign-ins, cross-referenceable demographic information and preference settings, etc.
  • Experience with groups via Yahoo! Groups
  • Experience with multimedia via Yahoo! Photos and Launchcast

Yahoo! — What Otunica could integrate with

  • Launchcast
  • 360 (network with other artists, include snippets of a song in your blog…)
  • Mail
  • Groups
  • Recently-acquired Musicmatch (useful for preparation, uploading, browsing, sharing, etc.)
  • Flickr (though this would seem tenuous at present, IMHO)
  • IM (great way to share streams!)

Amazon — Why

  • A substantial userbase
  • Strong recommendation engine, coupled with a ratings system, already in place
  • Tie-ins with ‘established’ media (Members who liked Sting also enjoyed [independent artist] or visa-versa)
  • Payment processing and distribution strengths (“Buy a CD of [independent artist’s music] with one click!”)
  • May offer good synergy with Amazon.com’s upcoming social networking service / feature set (how do I know this is coming up? I saw an Amazon.com job requsition for social-networking experts)

Amazon — What Otunica could integrate with
I must admit, I’m at a bit of a loss on this one. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

In general — why not

  • Possibly very expensive proposition (bandwidth, storage, actual staffing for monitoring, etc.)
  • Potential threat of rabid opposition from ‘professional’ content creators and management organizations, such as mainstream artists and record labels (particularly a worry for those with established relationships with these players, such as Amazon and Yahoo!)
  • Music sharing and discovery has, at least at the elemental level, already been done (mp3.cnet.com, mp3.com before that, etc.)

WHY NOT THESE COMPANIES…?

  • Apple
    Too tied-at-the-hip with the major labels, not a search company, lacks the substantial bandwidth and storage capabilities of the major search engines.
  • Microsoft
    MS is a “me too” company, not an innovator, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Overture and Google came out with paid search, now Microsoft is entering it. Nintendo –> Xbox. You get the idea (though I admit, I am slightly exaggerating the “me too” aspect to get a rise or at least a comment out of endearingly prolific Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble :D). Also, like Apple, Microsoft is too closely aligned with the major labels and has its own property, MSN music, which might present a conflict of interest (or, playing devil’s advocate, a cross-linking opportunity).

SKILLSETS OF THE PEOPLE NEEDED TO ESTABLISH AND WORK ON OTUNICA

  • Musical abilities! (performer, composer)
  • Related management strengths (band manager, entertainment-related product manager, etc.)
  • Programming chops
  • UI design talents
  • Mad QA skillz
  • Online community planning and design
  • Online community moderation experience / patience of a saint
  • Social science smarts / social network structural and policy design knowledge

* * *

– Who will create Otunica? A major (or even minor) entity I’ve not identified?
– What are some of the features I have overlooked?
– How about the values to the world of music? Any I’ve missed? Or is this just a pie-in-the-sky utopia?
– Particular implementation challenges?

What do you think of the whole idea in general? Please add a comment below 🙂

(and hey, Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon.com people — please forward this entry to people at your company who can make Otunica happen! As a musician, Lindy Hopper, and budding jack-of-many-dances, I would be incredibly overjoyed to see something like this come to fruition!!!)

1 comment… add one
  • John Mar 4, 2008

    Great resources for music lovers.
    Thanks for sharing.

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