A wheel in the revolution

The following article was taken from a post on wired.com and can be found here. The article was written by Eliot Van Buskirk and is an interesting insight into the world of music blogging and the concepts that inspired mine and Harry’s Anablogue show which aired on Fuse FM last broadcast.

The Music Fan Behind Hype Machine: Q&A With Anthony Volodkin

Taken on the whole, MP3 blogs offer more breadth, depth and music than a magazine or radio station ever could. But how, exactly, does one take MP3 blogs “on the whole”? That’s the question answered by MP3 blog-indexing sites like the Hype Machine — the creation of the now-21-year-old Anthony Volodkin.

In 2005, Volodkin found himself frustrated by music magazines and radio stations, which seemed stale, slow and suspect. He had become fascinated by MP3 blogs, which since 2003 were posting actual MP3s of the music they reviewed, rather than just talking about how the band dressed and who they claimed as influences. After spending too many nights scouring MP3 blogs for new music, he decided to automate the process. The result is Hype Machine: A live index and music-streaming station consisting of whatever’s being talked about on MP3 blogs.

Volodkin took a break from preparing for his physics final exam at New York’s Hunter College to tell us where Hype Machine came from, where it’s going and why record labels don’t sue MP3 blogs.

Wired News: There’s a David Byrne quote you may have seen: “Soon enough a site will open that is like a Google search for music downloads — downloads that are not copy-protected but you still pay for … a meta-search will turn up the tracks you want, wherever they live, on whomever’s site. Consumers don’t care who they buy them from if the interface is easy and intuitive.” It strikes me as similar to what you’re doing on Hype Machine with blog indexing. Do you see yourself also setting up a similar service that scrapes all the stores, such as Other Music‘s?

Anthony Volodkin: I definitely want to do that. We’re working with Insound right now, and there will be a couple others down the pipeline. Ultimately, (Byrne’s) quote is very much on point. People don’t really care where they buy something, they want it to be easy, seamless and painless, and they want to be treated fairly as a consumer. As long as those things happen, I think many more people will buy music.

WN: How do you think Hype Machine is changing the music scene and the music business?

AV: I think Hype Machine plays in an ecosystem of several new things that have developed, with regard to music and how people interact with it. People discover something when friends send a link to YouTube video, and they’re just like, “Wow, what is this song?” And they get really excited about it. Hype Machine isn’t really that (per se), but it’s in that spectrum … people just getting excited about music and communicating about it, without any sort of marketing — just because they enjoy it. It’s an interesting change in the way that music discussion gets exposed on the net, and [becomes] accessible to other people.

WN: If there is a problem with Hype Machine, what would it be?

AV: Given that music blogs are overwhelming in their number, size and frequency, our job is to sort that out and make it more accessible, easier and more user-friendly. We’re not quite there yet, but we’ve made some progress. It can be overwhelming at times.

WN: One avenue might be to offer RSS feeds from a subset — sort of like channels or categories.

AV: We’re trying to avoid genres, because you can pretty much put everything on Hype Machine into “rock/alternative,” and that’s just not very useful.

WN: Does the site receive a lot of cease-and-desist letters from labels under the DMCA’s takedown provision?

AV: In the entire time I’ve been operating Hype Machine, I’ve received maybe 4 or 5 (such) letters. They vary; sometimes it’s a band that wants to remove a track, or sometimes a track is bad quality and they write about that. Sometimes it’s just, “can you remove these?”

WN: Four cease-and-desist letters in over two years … that’s pretty much unanimous approval. Do you think labels appreciate Hype Machine?

AV: Definitely, because I think it’s an interesting, honest way to help consumers discover new music — by exposing a voice they can trust — and that’s a big deal. Consumers just don’t trust a lot of sources…. They have certain perceptions of why music is in those particular channels. I’ve had more positive conversations with labels about Hype Machine.

WN: A few months ago, a magazine got in trouble for telling a label guy, “if you’re not going to buy ads from us, we’ll never review another one of your albums.” It seems like Hype Machine has a purer approach, and that there isn’t a way to subvert it because it draws from so many places. Are you dedicated to that?

AV: Yeah, what you’ve pointed out is really part of the reason I started Hype Machine in the first place. I’d reached this moment where I didn’t know where to turn for new music and it mostly had to do with me not trusting sources. I couldn’t trust certain magazines; I couldn’t trust commercial radio in New York. The ideals and the concepts you’re pointing out … that’s definitely the goal, to continue operating in that fashion.

WN: Can you tell us about the criteria for music blogs you index versus those you don’t?

AV: It has to do with building us as a community, so there are not any strict rules. Ultimately, I look for people who write about music they like — whatever that happens to be — and who start discussions, participate in discussions and do it all out of their love for music. To give you examples of some blogs that I look up to as a standard, a site called Said the Gramophone (by Sean Michaels, occasional contributor to Wired News’ Listening Post blog) is one, and FluxBlog is another.

WN: You mentioned you’re in New York; I’m in New York also. I used to be in San Francisco. Do you think there’s a difference between East Coast and West Coast bloggers, coders and web people?

AV: There’s been some recent talk about how the West Coast drinks its own Kool-Aid and gets really excited about these crazy technologies that nobody will use. I don’t quite agree with that, but I do get the sense that since there is less going on in terms of technology and web startups
in New York, things develop differently. There’s a bigger set of bullshit tests. Whatever your product is, it really has to be useful, it really has to be all these other things … or at least that’s the impression I got. But I’ve never been to San Francisco, so what do I know?

WN: Speaking of trips to San Francisco, are you looking for funding?

AV: Well I’m looking for funding to support my growing team (currently four people, some part-time). There are a few people in New York that are interested, and I’m open to talking to people on the West Coast as well.

WN: Is there anything else you want to say about Hype Machine?

AV: I think there’s much more music discovery (there) than on Last.FM or Pandora. Of course I love those guys, and Last.FM is amazing. But the discovery experience, where people find new music, it’s so complex. That’s why I find that Hype Machine complements Pandora and Last.FM. It grows the space…. It’s more active, in a way, but the payoff is greater.

For me, the most memorable discovery experiences are the result of some kind of late night browsing session when you click on a bunch of links and you’re not sure how you got there … (and then it’s) “Whoa, what is this!?” And that’s the moment that Hype Machine wants to replicate, over and over.

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