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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

irate rated

this has been sitting around gathering dust for months (september!), and i never got around to writing about it, so i thought i’d take a fresh peek and see what was going on….

way back in the distant past, i stumbled into an interview over at kuro5hin with irate geek anthony jones by this idiot programmer.

this, of course, not to be confused with the other irate, which apparently comes from this guy, who is not anthony jones. nor should you confuse this or this anthony jones. this is turning into something as complex as the paris hilton problem. but that’s a different subject. back to the irate of interest….

what we have here is a sort of peer-reviewed search engine – an aggregator, of sorts. it’s centralized, managed, and precisely limited in its scope (apparently no plans to include p2p integration or payment mechanisms) – it’s simply about finding decent music. that’s important as a potential solution to the problem of the missing musigeeks.

on the downside, this solution is based on a widely distributed review model, so rather than finding a musigeek that’s deeply into something and that you can trust to tell you what you like (hey dj), you’re relying on thousands of one-click reviews. as a discovery tool, it’s not a bad thing, as long as you’re willing to be active enough to twist it to your taste.

new in development is a mechanism to normalize volume, which is a huge deal for me, since there’s a race to be louder with a lot of tracks, and the chances of getting thousands of bands to stick to a concept of recording standards is about zero. even with just a few major labels, they ended up in a race for volume at the expense of the music. anyway, this problem is pretty much completely unpossible to fix – if musicians put crappy recordings out there, you can’t blame anyone but the musicians. i think you really have two options when it come to recording – make it sound good, or make it mean something and give it context. if you’re smart, you’ll score a little bit of both. someone remind me to come back to that subject someday.

also new is some good news from the people at creative commons – support for the cc licenses and integration with magnatune. important developments, because this means musicians can engage irate and a path to revenue at the same time and on the terms they think work best.

the can of worms this does open is the whole active vs. passive media experience question – rating music is an active mode, and even a one-click vote (is that patented yet?) means being engaged in the listening experience. that shows up in the comment here:

I’ve been surprised by how few people actually use the rating facility on iTunes. I thought it was normal to use it continually, but so few people I know share that compulsion.

long time meta-roj music business co-conspirator barry ritholtz has his review of irate from back in october. in his follow-up there, he brings up an interesting, constant problem in the business of music – which bin do you get stuck in?

The lack of genre distinction colors the rating process. Example: I tend to be pretty forgiving of alt.rock, as long as there’s a melody and tasty guitar licks. So my overall rating on songs from that genre are probably on average higher then lets say pop or hip hop, where I tend to be much more critical (as I like the genre less). iRate has been feeding me more alt.rock songs; Good for listening, perhaps less good for musical discovery.

ever since we started slapping labels on music, there’s been some difficulty with how well they stick, and who gets to pick the label. is she a folk singer because she doesn’t have a drum kit behind her, or is she an acoustic rock goddess? and the finer the grain gets, the more problem you have with discovery – spend all your time in the folk category and you missed some great music you really would enjoy over in the world music (what?) bin.

i’ll throw the freebie at anthony on that subject. i’m a big fan of a simple, elegant user interface, but… maybe there’s some room for the musigeekier irate users to collaboratively tag genres while they’re tagging ratings. since the data is centralized, maybe there’s some potential in following them by individual – point me in the direction of barry’s idea of “good” “alt.rock.”

for a [very] little more on irate…. i drop the following suggestions:


there you have it – because irate is still around, and the web is timeless.

posted by roj at 10:57 am