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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Apple introduces Ping. Why?













Join another conversation? I want to listen to music, not talk.

So as I sit here blogging angry while streaming Blip, I’m wondering how a brand like Apple, one that wrote the new rules on how people access and buy music, one with a leader like iGod who goes to great lengths to *get it right* before releasing music devices that wrote the new rules, could put out Ping.

I try a lot of things out before deciding if it works for what I need or not, and immediately I knew this was a fail, for no other reason than its interface feels corporate and lacks the features the majority of music sites offer. Others who have issues with it too, and hopefully Apple pulls the plug faster than Google did with Wave.

With this and Genius, they seem to just not get it when it comes to the development of a music community. Much as they might think it is, iTunes is *not* a music community, rather a way into one that they never came up with. And I don’t need Genius algorithms telling what I like. If Jobs was responding in his classic terseness, he might just say “We like it.” Good for you guys, really.

Me, not so much.

Maybe they think existing Mac fans at large will give them a built-in community to make this work. Maybe one of the main problems I have with it—the heavy emphasis on paying for downloads—is actually the medicine Jobs knows consumers will all have to start taking, so why not start implementing it now? I can *sorta* see that logic if that were the case. (Hey, I’m trying to understand the motives here people.)

Except, there are too many case studies of other sites who have gotten it right. Blip, Last.fm, or Pandora are about the latest song you heard. They allow me to see something, immediately sample it, then add it if I want and add the person who found it. These sites have figured out how to add commerce into the equation by providing links on where to buy things. They haven’t sacrificed the overall music experience to do it either.

Ironically, listener supported Radio Paradise, a streaming radio station in iTunes, is an example of what Pandora figured out some time ago—aggregate what’s out there. RP is an active community that not only shares new music but also makes it easy to buy and allows comments on each song. All Apple had to do was work out a deal with them and other streaming radio stations to build one large community.

Launching Ping doesn’t take me right to the act of sharing/discovering music the way current music sites do. Like those above and the newer ones such as Said the Gramophone, The Hood Internet or Mad Descent, they put an emphasis on remixes and original works by emerging artists. (As for a selection test, searching for artists on the sites I mentioned has already yielded zero results in Ping.)

I know licensing is a big part of this too; you only have to look at the recent Gama Bomb vs. U2 fight over streaming to see where the industry is still at on the issue. Yes, people will have to pay for stuff at some point. But a bigger part of the equation is how much exposure listeners get to new music.

Barring that, what’s the point of community if you make access difficult to the very thing people came for in the first place?

2 comments:

Ben Kunz said...

Bill, I see this differently.

The web portal is fading as we move to handsets. Apple makes the best current handsets, including the new iPod Touch which allow user-to-user video communication. The iPod Touch is also the best video/music player on the market.

So if you play this through, it makes sense to tap user-to-user music sharing using the portable devices most used to play music.

I don't think this is about web portal competition at all. I think Jobs is after a new way to build sales by encouraging communities of young mobile handset users to share music recommendations from their pocket.

That's an entirely new dynamic, and one to watch. Our kids already do this rabidly with ring tones ... just wait til then find out how to buy their friends' music collections.

Ping!

mtlb said...

I get that part, in that they have the hardware thing down, but my point is that they haven’t made the act of finding music any easier—they’ve put all their emphasis on finding people I don’t know. I wouldn’t follow someone who likes music I don’t, so the music has to be the way into a potential future online social connection/relationship, not the other way around.

If you ask anyone into music what they use to manage their life in that regard, I bet 9 out of 10 say they use iTunes to store songs they bought (or converted from CDs) and then anywhere else (insert Last.fm, Pandora, etc.) to find new music.