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Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Yahoo! Music spits the dummy

Bryan O'Sullivan pointed me to this great blog post by Ian Rogers of Yahoo! Music. It's a transcript of a talk he gave to some music industry people, and it's solid gold for understanding what works on the Internet. Ian knows what works on the Internet, he built a lot of great working stuff until he hit music-industry-mandated DRM. So after too many years watching DRMed bounce off users, he's finally in a position to tell the music industry he's not going to help them torture customers any more:

I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience.

Because Ian understands that what works on the Internet is what's convenient: Inconvenient experiences don’t have Web-scale potential. He ends with his vision of what will succeed:

Lets get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music. The opportunity is in the chasm between the way we experience the content and the incredible user-created context of the Web. [...] But the content experience on the Web is crap. Go to Aquarium Drunkard, click an MP3. If you don’t get a 404, you’ll get a Save As… dialog or the SAME GOD DAMN QUICKTIME BAR FROM 1995. OMFG. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS IS ALL WE’VE ACCOMPLISHED IN 15 YEARS ON THE WEB? It makes me insane.

There's more in his post that's even better than this. Read it. Normally I like to add context, but Ian's post is eloquent and says everything that needs to be said about putting users first and what's wrong with the current range of Internet media experiences.

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History tells us: convenience wins, hubris loses. “Who is going to want a shitty quality LP when these 78s sound so good? Who wants a hissy cassette when they have an awesome quadrophonic system? Who wants digitized music on... Read More

Comments: 3

Ken McNamara   [10.09.07 02:37 AM]

One of the original accomplishments of the web was to negate trivial patents and copyrights. Take the GIF patent - creative people on the web chose not to violate the law or steal from other people - they simply wrote something better - a lot better.

If Ian is so concerned about protecting users from "Inconvenient experiences" by removing the dredded DRM - then perhaps he should find artists and composers who are willing to imitate the spirit of the early web - "create better" and "share" their work.

Lets face it - music is not software - not even close.

BTW - I find Ian's casual use of swear words and swear acronyms pretty offensive.

gnat   [10.10.07 01:37 AM]

Hi, Ken. Your argument's not clearly put here--you'd have Ian start an alternative music industry of artists who want to "share" rather than convince the current music industry that their obsessive demand for control is leading them to release a product that nobody wants to buy (and, since piracy is so easy, nobody really has to buy)? I'm not sure what's wrong with the course of action he's on, myself.

Sorry to hear you found the language was a problem. Personally, I thought it was bloody brilliant.

Ken McNamara   [10.10.07 05:30 PM]

Hi Gnat -

Thanks for your reply.

Somehow I thnk that Ian's chance of turning the music industry around is about equal to his chance of starting an alternative music industry.

But it's beyond me why he thinks swearing at them and telling them how stupid they are is going to accomplish anything - but I've been wrong before. Then again, people have been doing that for years - with about the same result - maybe a different approach is in order?

I just think that the best of the web has come from people who refused to steal - and instead created. I'm certain it would have been easier for them to just copy it - but somehow that didn't please the author of their did it?

Thanks again for a great blog that's still open to comment.

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