Hype Machine and Seeqpod

The new Hype Machine aroused much… hype, you might call it. Fred Wilson was enthusiastic. Marshall Kirkpatrick was positively giddy: “beautifully redesigned… social networking component is very nicely put together… very handy Twitter integration… a widely loved service.”

My reaction is rather more mixed. I should start by saying that I value what I see as Hype Machine’s basic service: it helps me find music that people have posted to their blogs. I like the favorites feature: here are my favorites @HM. On the other hand, I am among those who regret the loss of the playlist feature.

The lack of playlists sent me scuttling over to my account at Seeqpod, where there be playlists. I just created one: CoverBurb, which starts with Thom Yorke announcing “the sexiest song ever written” and then Radiohead doing an amazing version of… Hey, go and listen for yourself, then enjoy the duet between Billy Bragg and Jill Sobule.

Seeqpod is very much in beta, so I won’t grumble about its awkward aspects. I will say that it’s not (yet?) as good at finding music as Hype Machine. For example, when I try to find Yo La Tengo backing Daniel Johnson on his song “Speeding Motorcycle,” I get Daniel doing it solo (which is great, but not quite what I was looking for).

Hey, wouldn’t it be good if it was possible to mash the two services together? Seeqpod has an API. Unfortunately, HM doesn’t. Or, if it does, it evaded my attempts to find it. (I have an email in to HM to check this, and will pass on the reply if it say anything other than “No, we don’t provide an API.”)

More on Major Music Labels

The world’s most powerful music executive aims to join forces with other record companies to launch an industry-owned subscription service, according to Business Week. Said exec is Doug Morris of Universal. Doug thinks that the music labels have given Apple too sweet a deal. “We got rolled like a bunch of puppies” is his description of the negotiations.

The new service will be called Total Music, and will be funded by a tax on TM-compatible music players. Gizmodo identifies one downside: “this is clearly not a move away from DRM, but towards more of it. You can bet those downloads are going to be wrapped thicker than a 5-year-old’s Christmas present.”

TechCrunch identifies another problem: it’ll make the music players too expensive. “Total Music may market itself as offering free unlimited music, but it’s not really free, the cost is just hidden. That cost: $90 per device.”

Total Music already looks to me… how to put this… as dead as DRM? In as much trouble as a major music label?

Talking of major labels, it seems that one of the big four will release In Rainbows early next year. Gizmodo described this as a cop-out. Indeed, if you follow the link, you’ll see far harsher terms. You’ll also see a more recent acknowledgment that the CD release was intended all along, and shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’m neither surprised at the news nor annoyed that I paid for the download.

I’m tempted to describe Radiohead’s impending bargain with a major as Faustian, but I think they’ll get a far better deal than that would imply. But here’s “Faust Arp,” one of my favorite tracks from In Rainbows.

Radiohead: In Rainbows

ThomMy first two attempts to give Radiohead money for In Rainbows failed. But third time was lucky, or the site’s problems were fixed, and there were no problems with payment last night. Neither were there problems with download this morning.

So I’m among the millions of people currently listening to In Rainbows, and among the (thousands?) currently writing about it. The Guardian has a predictably large amount of coverage. For example, Paul Morely reviews it, pointing out with tiresome frequency that it’s too soon to do so.

The image is from a 15 years of Radiohead photo feature. It bears a pleasingly snide caption.

The Observer listed the Bends… as one of the 50 albums that changed music: ‘In parallel with Jeff Buckley, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke popularised the angst-laden falsetto… Without this Coldplay would not exist, nor Keane, nor James Blunt.’ Talk about a backhanded compliment.

I’m enjoying my first listen to the album, thanks very much. I paid 3.14 (+ .49) UK. I’m afraid to check how much that it is US$ these days.

Radiohead: Free as in No Record Label

Radiohead have finished their new album. It will be available as a download, without any record label or store as an intermediary. It will also be available as a deluxe “discbox,” but let’s concentrate on the download.

This is huge news, for reasons including the following: the price for the download is set by the customer; there is no record label involved; it’s Radiohead! Choosing your own price to download music isn’t new; for example, Jane Siberry has used this model for years now. But the current story is about… Radiohead!

Daniel Langendorf at last100 found some good quotes for his post on the story.

  • Thom Yorke, when the band’s contract with EMI expired four years ago: “it probably would give us perverse pleasure to say ‘f*** you’ to this decaying business model.”
  • A record company exec: “If the best band in the world doesn’t want any part of us, I’m not sure what’s left for this business.”
  • A record producer: “if you can pay whatever you want for the music by the best band in the world, why would you pay 13 dollars or 99 cents for music by somebody less talented?”

Daniel also remarks that “pre-ordering In Rainbows was a pain.” I certainly found it so. I got two different error messages while using the site, and no confirmation email. I’ll try again tomorrow, and I’ll check my credit card statement soon.

I dread to think how busy the site will be when it starts to allow the (millions of?) prepaid downloads. Perhaps dread is too strong a word; perhaps it should be reserved for how major record labels must be feeling now.