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By Matt Paulin

For several blog entries we have been discussing the theory and more “meta” aspects of brainstorming and ideation.  We are going to attempt to raise the level of discussion around certain topics.  Instead of explaining this every time I post, here is an FAQ if you would like to know more

Now onto the topic.

Music has been at the heart of the Internet for, well, since the beginning.  I even tried my hand at creating a startup around it years ago.  Think of all the drama that revolved around music; napster,, iTunes, myspace, Amazon cloud drive, and lots and lots more.  Finding music, sharing music, and helping musicians make money.  This domain has been all over the place.  

I listened to this “Planet Money” podcast the other day

It pointed out how much of this domain is unsolved.  So I started a conversation on the Seattle Think Tank mailing list about music.  The question is, “what are the problems and possible solutions that revolve around music as we know it?”

The following snippets of discussion came out of that email thread.


“The big problem with this area is the most value is in the work done in the physical world, dealing with physical issues and that’s a nontrivial and messy problem”

“a good tour manager/booking agent is super important.”

“Lack of time to discover musicians”

“There doesn’t seem to be a site yet that lays out a visionary road-map for the future of the Internet and music”

“The side of the music distribution and storage seems a bit scary right now with the giant, cash heavy, big guys like Google, Apple, and Amazon getting into it.”

Tracking down the club promoter after a gig and making sure you got what you were promised is “must have”.

“Getting the right T-shirts shipped to the right address at the right time”

“Answering the email from the pissed off fan that ordered something but didn’t get it”

“I’m just sick of having to use 2-3 players depending on what I want to listen to.”

“it’s really really hard to make money now as a musician”

“Finding someone to run your merch table”

“lacking a great stable (even boring) open source cross-platform music manager similar to iTunes.”

“Probably another case of bad pricing models keeping people from using/buying the legitimate product.”

“there must always be professional musicians. So. How do they get paid?”

“People need an easier way to pay for music.”


“What’s needed is effectively a Redfin for artists”

“music needs to be considered a marketing expense.“

“tying perks to concerts. Tape trees never hurt the Dead but don’t know if it would be as much fun run by the organizers.”

“What if you released an album for free. But you charged a small fee to join that album’s Fan Club? The artist could engage that group much more deeply.  For instance, release material specifically related to that album.  This could be a making-of video, more tracks that “sound like they should have been on that album”.  The user would get some sort of badge to show they are part of that community”

“When looking for a coffee shop – I could check the Band Fan group and see which coffee shop near me liked to play Amanda Palmer songs? I would choose to go there, rather than the Emo cafe around the corner.”

“It would be cool if I had unlimited personal use of the materials on my devices and a limited number of DRM’ed streams I could share with friends (with a redirect to a pay for one stream).”

“I would love to hear the music streaming from the coffee shop downstairs. I don’t want to manage my stream of music and they do a good job.  If they had a device that they could plug some music widget into and stream it on the internet, I could listen to the “ETG Coffee” music stream.  They would have my ambient attention and I would get music.”

“I think a site to help musicians plan a tour would be super handy.  Think tripit for a band”

When I listen to any of the free radio on the web, it should keep my statistics and help me understand what I liked and make suggestions. Based on those stats, a website should offer me (nag me, beg me, ask me) to donate artists money once in a while.

  • Every time I click “like” on a video or music file on Facebook, Youtube or whatever, it should add it to my stats.
  • Every time I listen to that artist in my local player on PC, it should add it to my stats. Phone, iPad, MP3 player – same thing. Upload stats during sync.

“We need a provider, like Amazon Payments or Paypal, but for a virtual currency ( which can be embedded to any website. Buttons like “2 cents”, “5 cents” on each video, blog post, facebook page etc”

Whats next?

The topic I kicked this off with is very broad.  But, it is one of those domains that will always be evolving.  I think that at the heart of it, the world is wrestling with a compromise of what the trade is between a musician and a listener.  I plan on coming back to this subject occasionally.  But, in the future refining the question to focus on particular aspect or technologies that affect the music industry.

If you are thinking about building a start-up in the world of music, perhaps these ideas or problems will give you a good starting point for where to begin.

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