MUBU, The Savage Beast & The Wizards of IZ - sound like Sci-Fi Fantasy to you?
I have always tended to suspect claims about technology that could make decisions for people. My avid reading of science fiction (then & now) in all it's dazzling nooks and crannies made me believe that humans are far more intuitive and unpredictable than a machine/program could capture. Events and technological announcements over the last two years have softened my attitude somewhat (even if only a little bit - I still retain my right to be a cautious curmudgeon, of course).
Press releases from 3 recent entries ("Savage Beast Technologies", "Music Buddha" and "MUSIC.IZ.COM") into the ever-widening WWW world are bent on changing my attitudes and yours.
The Music Buddha site was quite interesting, offering a system that "profiles" a listener's taste(s) based on samples listened to & ratings they feedback to the system. The web interface was (both) sonically and visually appealing and serves as an excellent example of how a site can help a listener tell a system what they want to hear. While Music Buddha seems to support the idea of a "genetic code" in music, their FAQ didn't make terribly clear how they are going to accomplish this for the listener. It seemed (to this writer) to be more like a "listener" generated ratings system.
The information from Savage Beast Technologies was far more compelling, I thought. Their first partnerships with RIFFAGE.com and Tower Records; according to the press release, are able to offer a more unique and exciting listening experience "by matching music to an individual's unique musical taste - Savage Beast finally enables music delivery channels to recommend the right music to the right listener."
Jon Kraft, CEO and co-founder of Savage Beast Technologies, said "We have developed a method for uncovering the 'genetic code' of music and understanding what makes a person like their favorite music." This announcement should generate a great deal of excitement for indie music producers, if Mr. Kraft and the staff are as dedicated (as they say they are) to making sure that they "introduce consumers to exciting, new music by providing quality recommendations that fit their personal music tastes."
That is where "the rub", as they say, may be... the core of their technology, a huge database of music called "The Music Genome project", has experts highly trained in music theory analyze each piece of music based on over 180 music characteristics to determine the genetic make-up of the song. Who are these "experts"? How "open-minded" are they towards "new" music(s)? Is there a danger that the experts will exclude a certain type of music, or lump it in together with some "acceptable" placeholder because it doesn't fit some "pre-conceived" notion of genre? These are all questions that must be asked, but during a conversation with Mr. Kraft on 11/20/00, he quelled my concerns about these negative possibilities to quite some degree. He made it clear that their vision goes far beyond (just) genres, when he stated that... "Because Savage Beast analyzes music on such a deep level, we can transcend genre barriers and introduce people to music in a completely new way. The great news for the consumer and the independent artist is that we will find the right music for the right listener regardless of how popular it is or how well it fits into existing genre categories." I was very pleased to hear such perception from the top levels of a company, & will continue to pursue the topic with Jon (& others at his company); if they can prove to me (with tests of my own music, which is VERY "non-genre" oriented, & often reviewed as "unclassifiable") that their software/services can hook up listeners (no matter how few and far between they might be) with my music (at RIFFAGE.com), they will get a glowing testimonial from me!
One thing that comes to mind immediately... what if the two approaches were combined? Use a "team approach" that combines user ratings/genre specifications together with the expert/trained opinions. Think of it - 10 (maybe 100) new genres every day... contests (with free CD's or full-tilt advanced music systems as the prizes) for "best new genre name"... a stimulating environment where even the "experts" learn that the accessibility and equality offered by the Internet can be used to the advantage of ALL people, everywhere!
I also took a trip through the magical world of IZ - MUSIC.IZ.com to be more precise. These wizards have set up a site that features a "targeted" music newsletter that comes straight to the subscribers' email inbox from Jaan Uhelszki, one of the most respected names in music journalism (Rolling Stone online, Mojo, NME, Playgirl, Spin, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Guitar World and others). Each issue of Jaan Uhelszki's free MUSIC.IZ newsletter contains brief summaries of the latest music news, reviews, exclusive interviews and insider gossip, plus links to more information on the MUSIC.IZ Web site. Though the site doesn't currently have full-blown user-driven "tailoring" of content, Nicci Noteboom, Editorial Director, said during a brief phone interview (11/20/00) that they are negotiating partnerships that will soon put this capability in place!
I believe (as do many) that these "new approaches" to technology are what the "Digital Age" really has to offer, & that we've only begun to see the tip of the iceberg. Of course, when it comes to music and distribution, (he says, "tongue-in-cheekly") I believe in anarchy, too. In other words, kiddies, "MUBU", "The Savage Beast" and MUSIC.IZ.com are no more science fiction that "1984" was.
Music Buddha - www.mubu.com
Music.Iz - www.music.iz.com
RIFFAGE.com - www.riffage.com
Savage Beast Technologies - www.savagebeast.com
Tower Records - www.towerrecords.com
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