The return of MuxtapeFebruary 19, 2009
Guest blogger Scott writes:
On Monday, the NYT Freakonomics blog reported on the return of mix tape site Muxtape. While the blog entry has pictures and content links that give a sense of where Muxtape is going, there’s very little at the website itself right now, although the story of what Muxtape was, and how it got to where it is now, is interesting. The major change from the original Muxtape format is that, instead of anyone being able to upload songs and create mix tapes, only artists with licensing rights will be allowed to upload music. On its face, that makes this Myspace without the thirteen-year-old-who-just-learned-HTML design dynamic (which might be sufficient, actually). But, for me at least, the important aspect is this: “The goal of Muxtape remains facilitating the discovery of new music, and anyone can still create a mix from the music available on the site.” (emphasis mine) In other words, while only those with legal authority can upload music (the charter members include Amanda Palmer, Girl Talk, Dan Deacon, and Of Montreal), a user-created mix tape can include any of the uploaded music. That’s a fairly straight-forward tipping point business model—once a critical volume of music is reached, the ability of Muxtape to reach new listeners has the potential to expand drastically.
Even as improvements in technology have greatly increased the ease with which music can be shared and distributed, the technology of what-the-database-thinks-you’ll-like has been a huge step back, for me. I’ve never been a big fan of Pandora and its ilk, and much prefer recommendations with the human touch. The Shuffle function on my iPod hasn’t seen use since the first two weeks I owned it. While I don’t always know what song I want to listen to at any given moment, I do know that randomization (even based on a seed/relational database or a playlist of things I know I like) does a very poor job. Mix tapes, on the other hand, follow a path that someone has laid out, and if that path passes through something I know I like, then there’s an excellent chance that there will be other steps in that path that appeal. Mix tapes and personal recommendations from people whose taste I understand are generally how I learn about new music, and although there are many options for the latter, the options on the Internet for the former haven’t been especially successful to date. So the return of Muxtape is welcome.
On a related topic, the Freakonomics blog entry also includes a link to an economics paper suggesting that television availability on the Internet increases total television program viewing, even though (as would be expected) it decreases television program viewing on television. The models are sufficiently different that it’s hard to claim that this argument is generalizable to music, but it might help to explain why Alec Baldwin was laughing maniacally during the Super Bowl.