The broadband music jam arrives

Forget collaborating on a Google spreadsheet — why not collaborate on a kick-ass cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train.
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We plugged guitars into computers and adjusted our headphones. I clicked “record” and began laying down a bass track alongside the guitarist’s. As we watched our tracks appear in the audio-mixing software, he recognized something familiar in the chord progression and played a guitar part from the Beatles’ “Let It Be” that fit perfectly over my bass line.

This guitarist and I had successfully traded a musical idea — a common enough occurrence, except that we’d never met, and weren’t in the same room or even the same city. But we were collaborating in near real time using the music-making site eJamming. Although we’d hit a few glitches, it felt like a breakthrough moment.

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Watch, share, embed, distribute

A couple of interesting developments today that bring social aspects to large content sites — specifically, YouTube and eBay. The former, which hasn’t really had all that much of a social-networking bent to it (apart from comments and the ability to embed videos elsewhere) has launched something called Active Share, which lets you see who has been viewing your videos.

Meanwhile, eBay has taken a page from YouTube’s early success and added the ability to embed auction-tracking widgets in a webpage, so that people can follow an item without having to reload a page or get an email alert. Both of these make total sense to me — to the point where I’m almost surprised they didn’t already have these features.

Give it away, make it up on volume

The band Crimea is going to give away downloads of its entire self-financed new album, and hopes to make money on touring, merchandising and licensing deals.
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An acclaimed indie band will next month leap into the unknown by becoming the first established act to give away an entire album for nothing in a move which could spark a music industry revolution.
Convinced that changes in the industry and the spread of digital piracy have made it ever more difficult to make money from selling records, the Crimea plan to turn the economics on their head by giving away downloads of their self-financed second album, Secrets of the Witching Hour.

By giving away the album in its entirety on May 13, the band hope to widen their fanbase and ultimately make more money from touring, merchandising and licensing deals than they would from sales of the album.
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Media bites: fewer words, same great taste

Some items that may grow up to be blog posts someday:

  • The Beeb is going to expand the on-demand TV service it has been testing, saying the video and audio service has been used by “well over” one million people watching a total of 20 million programmes since it launched six months ago. The new iPlayer system will allow viewers to store shows on a PC for 30 days.
  • Chad Hurley writes a new media manifesto for Forbes magazine: “Never before has the opportunity been so great for independent writers and actors, musicians and producers to create compelling content on par with the studios, networks and labels,” he writes. “The playing field has been truly leveled.” Party on, Chad.
  • Sony Pictures Television will launch a new Internet service featuring “minisodes” — short (three to five minute) versions of classic TV shows such as Charlie’s Angels and T.J. Hooker. But these aren’t clips — it’s the entire show crammed into five minutes.
  • Rupert Murdoch writes his own version of a new media manifesto for Forbes, saying: “Media companies don’t control the conversation anymore, at least not to the extent that we once did. The big hits of the past were often, if not exactly flukes, then at least the beneficiaries of limited options.” You go, Rupe.
  • Jesse England was experimenting with film and video, and came up with the brilliant idea of printing an eight-millimetre movie strip onto clear laminate using a bog-standard inkjet printer. It may not be high quality, but it sure is cool (hat tip to BoingBoing for the link).

Blogs that make me think

I wanted to take a minute before I forget (again) and pay some respect to several bloggers who have tagged me as a “thinking blog,” which is indeed an honour. As far as I can tell, the Thinking Blog memetag got started with this blog, which is fittingly named The Thinking Blog. I got tagged first a couple of weeks ago by Jack Lail — thanks, Jack. Then just a couple of days ago I got tagged again by Jason at Webomatica and then by Steve at WinExtra.

Thanks a lot, guys. In order to push this thing forward, I’m not going to choose Jason or Steve — although I think that both of their blogs are excellent (I don’t know Jack’s as well yet) — and I’m not going to name some of the usual suspects, such as my friends Rob Hyndman or Mark Evans, or the more obvious suspects such as Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0, or my friend Paul Kedrosky, although it should go without saying that they are all excellent.

Instead, I’m going to name my friend Leigh Himel of Oponia Networks, who always has something interesting to say that makes me think, as well as Cory and Steve at Lost Remote — who cover new media like almost no one else (except maybe Rafat at PaidContent) — and my friend Dr. Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests, who seems to find time to save lives as well as blog his heart out.

I’m not sick, but I’m not well

Sometimes I wish I worked at a small startup with lots of hip young kids — like, say, the group behind Connected Ventures, who run sites like Vimeo, CollegeHumor, BustedTees and Defunker. Embedded below is a lip-synch video they put together in what appears to be their office in New York.

[vimeo w=400&h=300]

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger on Vimeo

Also worth checking out: Vimeo founder Jakob Ludwick’s version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. Thanks to Theory Is The Reason for the links. Just noticed that Fimoculous spotted this one too.

Will anyone do that Vudu that you do?

The guys and gals over at Vudu must feel pretty good after getting a nice profile in the New York Times today, complete with everyone’s favourite “plucky underdog taking on the big guys” storyline. In a nutshell, the Vudu gizmo looks like an Apple TV-type box with a funky remote control, and it will reportedly launch with thousands of movies to offer from most of the major Hollywood studios (except Sony, which doesn’t like to play with others).

snipshot_e4wiw4sl62k.jpgOne of the big selling points, as I understand it from the NYT article, is that the Vudu (formerly known as Marquee and Vvond) uses peer-to-peer technology to distribute the load of serving up the movies, in much the same way that Joost does. And the first part of the movie is stored on the device so that it starts playing immediately, another nice touch. The big question, of course, is whether anyone will actually buy and/or use it. It may only be $300, but then users would presumably have to pay for the movies themselves — and based on previous models such as Movielink and CinemaNow and other dogs that failed to hunt, they won’t be cheap. Then there’s Apple TV and Amazon’s UnBox and plenty more.

I wish Vudu well. But I think that the field is getting crowded, and as Om Malik points out, the cable guys are getting smarter — and Vudu sounds a lot like video on demand, which has been held back in part by a lack of good content from the movie studios. Will they play ball by offering up the good stuff through Vudu? That remains to be seen. Rafat brings the dis.

The master of linkbait has arrived

snipshot_e4jmfrbu726.jpgJason Calacanis’s latest post about linkbaiting is a masterpiece of the genre — in the sense that it isn’t actually linkbait but a semi-satirical take on the entire concept of linkbaiting. It’s meta-linkbait. In a way, it’s the kind of post that only a by-the-bootstraps Brooklyn-ite like Jason could write: he’s making fun of the idea of linkbaiting, while at the same time engaging in it in a completely shameless way. It’s like he’s telling you about how dodgy most New Yorkers can be, and at the same time he’s picking your pocket. You have to admire that kind of chutzpah. And no, Jason, I’m not going to mention your dog 🙂 In fact, I’m not even going to try to do a post that fulfills every criteria of the linkbaiting rules, because Chris Finke beat me to it.

Users — take back the media!

Ethan Kaplan at has written something approaching a manifesto for a new age of creativity driven by cheap and accessible technology — something he distinguishes from “user-generated content,” because I think he feels that’s a marketing buzzword used primarily by big corporations, in order to try and co-opt people’s desire to contribute. As he puts it:

“The whole concept behind “User Generated Content” as a means of describing content created by and for the People is flawed in that it simultaneously is presupposing a hierarchal difference — subjugating the “User” as a different class — [and] maintaining this hierarchy by virtue of a disingenuous altruistic elevation of said content to that of Corporate under the guise of Marketing.”

Can you tell that Ethan (the director of technology at Warner Brothers Records) has a degree in fine art and cultural theory? I thought you probably could. But he is right, in the sense that things like the Modest Mouse video contest are an attempt to give fans the illusion that they are actually interacting with the band when they are doing anything but. Ethan goes on to say:

“Here’s the thing: the best of what we now call UGC, and I choose to call GOOD FILM/VIDEO came from subversive desire and goals, as well as the desire for uninhibited creative expression outside of the confines of economics and hierarchy which define the media industry.”

“Take back the media! Do not partake in systems meant to enforce hierarchy, and instead embrace those that seek to diminish and eliminate it.”

A call to arms indeed. Creative artists of the world, unite! Take up the cellphone and the video camera — you have nothing to lose but your media chains.

YouTube, Joost getting cozy with advertisers

First, we got the news that Joost — the Internet TV venture started by the Skype boys, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom — has signed three-month advertising deals with 31 major brand advertisers, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Nike and GM. Joost EVP David Clark said that the traditional 30-second spot “is far from dead” — although I think that remains to be proven. The New York Times has some more details.

tvadvertising.jpgMeanwhile, YouTube is also working on rolling out ads, according to its head of advertising Suzie Reider, who spoke at Ad:Tech in San Francisco, according to Red Herring. BusinessWeek media columnist Jon Fine — who moderated the panel that Ms. Reider was on — has some more details on his blog. Red Herring quotes Ms. Reider as saying “We’re looking at executions like a very quick little intro preceding a video, then the video, then a commercial execution on the backside of the content.” She said the idea is to generate revenue that can be shared with the more than 1,000 premium content creators on the site.

To my mind, the main questions are: 1) How will viewers of YouTube clips take to ads? Many observers have speculated that once ads start appearing, viewers will turn away, but I’m not so sure. And 2) What kinds of advertisers will YouTube be able to attract? Critics such as Mark Cuban have argued that most advertisers won’t want to be associated with the kind of content that’s on the site, whereas Joost is much more like regular TV.