Eliot Van Buskirk

New web app builds radio streams out of SoundCloud users' tastes

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 11:30am

Radio.SCRadio.SC is a web app that builds radio streams out of the music tastes of any SoundCloud user. (SoundCloud is a website designed to help musicians upload and share music.) As Radio.SC promises it on its website: "Every SoundCloud user is a radio station."

The streams are built using "the information that SoundCloud has about who follows whom and who favorites which tracks, to intelligently select the music it plays," Radio.SC developer Tom Price told Evolver.fm.

"This won’t become the only way you ever listen to music (what will, these days?)," writes Eliot Van Buskirk, "but if you’re a SoundCloud person or know lots of SoundCloud people, it’s a powerful way to flip a channel on in seconds and listen to someone’s taste."

You can find Evolver.fm's coverage here and try Radio.SC here.

Tell Songza's new Music Concierge what you're doing, it picks the music for you

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 11:40am

Music playlist service Songza today launched a new service designed to deliver musical experiences based on when you're listening and what you're doing. Songza's new Music Concierge automatically notes day and time.Songza Tell it you're about to go jogging, for example, and it draws from its library of expert-designed playlists of songs for a radio-like experience suited to exercise.

Evolver.fm's Eliot Van Buskirk reviewed the Music Concierge today. He wrote (here):

To be fair, no music recommendation system is ever going to be exactly perfect. Songza succeeds, to an extent, in its attempt to cut through the millions of songs out there that any of us can now listen to without paying a cent in seconds on Spotify, YouTube, or elsewhere. The admittedly-thin proof: I am still listening to the station it recommended.

In 2010 indie music online retailer Amie Street's online business was sold to Amazon. The company itself remained independent and owns Songza.com.


Now more smartphones than feature phones in U.S. as AT&T tweaks "unlimited" data offering

Friday, March 2, 2012 - 11:15am

iPhoneThere are now more smartphone owners in the U.S. than feature phone owners, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. "Feature phones" are more basic than smartphones and usually don't support apps or other web-based features.

“Nearly every major demographic group — men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well off — experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration," Pew noted. Boy Genius Report has more coverage here.

Meanwhile, AT&T yesterday responded to customer complaints regarding its "unlimited" data plan. Previously the company was throttling data speeds for "unlimited" data plan customers after they consumed 2GB of data in a billing period. AT&T has now upped that limit to 3GB.

Eliot Van Buskirk made some calculations about how much web radio or music one could listen to before hitting the 3GB throttle point. Find his analysis at Evolver.fm here.

Van Buskirk investigates why Pandora, unlike some other services, does not offer offline mobile playback

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 12:20pm

Pandora mobileLast week Evolver.fm's Eliot Van Buskirk suggested web music services offer offline playback options to help mobile users get around restrictive data plans (RAIN coverage here). He noticed Slacker includes such a feature, as do many on-demand services, but Pandora and other web radio companies do not. Why?

Two reasons, he found. The first is that "Pandora doesn’t have the necessary license from copyright holders that would allow them to store hours of programming on your smartphone."

The second is that Pandora "doesn't view offline playback as a necessary feature." Pandora VP of corporate communications Deborah Roth told Van Buskirk that the company's mobile app offers a "seamless listening experience regardless of signal drop... it doesn't really have relevance to the data plans. Audio streams extremely efficiently and we've seen no impact of data plan caps for our listeners."

You can find Van Buskirk's coverage here.

CNN Money reports "we are running out of wireless bandwidth"

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 12:20pm

CNN Money's chart using FCC dataCNN Money recently reported that "the supply of wireless data in the United States -- the stuff that lets us use the Internet on our smartphones and tablets -- is fast disappearing," writes Eliot Van Buskirk in Evolver.fm.

He argues that, if true, that may pose problems to media services like Internet radio. Van Buskirk encourages web radio services to offer offline playback options (like Slacker and most on-demand services) as one solution.

He also notes that customers of at least one mobile carrier, AT&T, "are already feeling the squeeze." The carrier is apparently throttling unlimited data users' mobile speeds after they consume less than 2GB of data in a billing period.

Sean Ross ran into that issue earlier this year (RAIN coverage here), though he noted such a issue probably wouldn't impact most mobile web radio listeners.

A new study from wireless bill analysis firm Validas found such behavior on the part of AT&T to be "pointless... throttling does nothing to alleviate network bandwidth issues."

You can find Van Buskirk's article here and more on Validas' study in Boy Genius Report here.

Spotify CEO: "What's needed on top of our library is curated experiences"

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 11:00am

Spotify CEO Daniel EkIn a recent interview with Evolver.fm's Eliot Van Buskirk, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek (pictured) discussed royalty issues and the company's future plans -- some of which involve ground usually associated with traditional radio, like publicity and music curation.

"What's needed on top of [our library of 15 or 16 million tracks] is curated experiences," said Ek. That should include friends, he says, but also "trusted sources -- people who tend to be really, really good at music."

Spotify recently unveiled several third-party apps that help curate the service's massive library (RAIN coverage here). Some even create instant radio-like playlists for users.

Ek also said Spotify will delve deeper into breaking new musical acts "and [trying] to promote them as well." He argues that will help address the needs of musicians faced with a difficult marketing challenge: "Today, the media landscape is much more fragmented. MTV’s not about music anymore, and radio is even hard[er] to break through. There are tons of radio channels, and most of them play stuff people already know."

On the topic of royalties -- and artists who have recently pulled their new releases from Spotify -- Ek stressed that "this is a very, very different model than just selling a record.

Spotify"Spotify users are the exact same people [who] used to listen to music every day on YouTube, whose entire music collection was pulled off BitTorrent sites...Do you really want to hold back your album from people who are finally paying for music again? If you think that by doing so you’re getting them to buy your album on a CD, or as an album download, again, there’s absolutely no evidence to back that theory up."

He continues, "When someone creates a Spotify playlist, and they put an album or songs in there, they don’t just play them once...the sales cycle of that record is anywhere from four to 12 weeks in most typical cases. With Spotify, we keep seeing the effect up to 25, 35 [weeks], or even a year...And every time someone plays a song, we pay the music industry."

That argument was seconded by Radical.fm CEO Thomas McAlevey in an email sent to RAIN and other publication (in response to this Billboard article).

You can find Ek's full interview with Van Burksirk at Evolver.fm here.

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