I like few things more than talking about music. In college, I spent ten times more time listening to records and discussing them with friends than I did doing work (sorry Mom and Dad). In my experience, music is inherently social and the experience of consuming it is best when done with others or at the suggestion of others.
Which is why I am so disappointed with the social music offerings on the web. Tons of startups have tried and failed to offer a good experience to music fans like me. But I think they are all getting it wrong from the start. While streaming services and online music lockers are neat, what I really want is a way to bring conversations into my every day listening experience. I want my music to come with meta-data that includes every comment my friends have ever made about that song, that band, that album. Further, I want my music to come with album and song reviews and historical context.
Here is what I envision: I leave the house with my iPod/iPad/Android/netbook and put on the first Pretenders album. As it starts, I see that a friend says that Kid is his favorite song. Another says that the second album is better. I also read AllMusic.com’s review of the album and I type out that they are reuniting soon. These comments would be made either online, in iTunes, or on our phones. That wouldn’t matter. The important thing is that every song I listened to would have a social context.
This idea could also have commercial implications (besides raising customer captivity for Apple if they embedded this in the iTunes platform) if music publications bundled songs with liner notes and reviews. In fact, I started thinking about this idea when I left my house this morning and put on the Pitchfork 500 playlist. I found myself wishing I could read song reviews as I listened to the songs. That’s something I would pay for. I also find myself unwilling to pay for classical music but if I could buy a classical album that came with liner notes that were embedded into the song so I could read them as I listened on the go, I would definitely shell out a few bucks to expand my musical tastes.
What do you think? Am I just a total music nerd or would any one else pay for such a service?
Here’s a scene that happens every day with my new iPad: I wake up late, gather my stuff together and rush out of the house on the way to a meeting/class/appointment. I hop on the the subway, pull out my iPad, open up Pulse, Flipboard, NYT, WSJ or any other news app only to discover I forgot to open them up while I still had 3G or wifi service. So now I have a shiny new iPad loaded with great news apps that are full of yesterday’s news.
I know I’m only complaining that the iPad doesn’t have true multi-tasking, which has been a sore point for iPhone and iPad owners since they debuted. However, for New Yorkers, this is a huge drawback as many of us probably turn on our iPad or news app on our iPhone for the first time every day while on the subway. It’s a huge problem and I wish there was a way around it.
When I used to have a Droid (before it was stolen), I would keep all my news apps open in the background. Sure, it drained the battery a bit, but every morning I had all the news I wanted at my finger tips, whether or not I was 30 feet below the streets of New York hurtling downtown on a 3 train.
I was a first gen Kindle lover and then I was a second gen Kindle lover. It is a fantastic way to read books. I even have subscribed to the WSJ and the FT on it and have enjoyed the interface for both. But as soon as I got an iPad, I put my Kindle in a drawer and have not taken it out since. I have been playing games on my iPad, emailing friends and reading two books so far through the Kindle app [Jonathan Knee's Curse of the Mogul and Jeff Bussgang's Mastering the VC Game btw].
However, as a nice relaxing family vacation approaches, I am finding myself excited to pull out the old Kindle once again. This is because three of my favorite things about the iPad make it an incredibly frustrating reading device:
- The beautiful high gloss screen – The iPad’s screen is gorgeous for movies, photos and games but it sucks for reading large quantities of text. When I’m outside, the sun’s reflection makes it impossible to read. And when I’m inside, every light source within a mile seems to find its way to my iPad so it can reflect directly in my eyes. The Kindle on the other hand has a dull, ugly screen that is perfect for reading.
- The multi-touch screen – While great for web browsing and playing Harbor Master, the touch screen causes me to repeatedly and inadvertently change the page while reading. Every time I reposition the iPad, I inevitably hit the screen by accident and advance one page. Very annoying.
- All the awesome other stuff you can do – Sometimes when I settle down to read, I don’t want to be able to easily surf the web, check my email, or play a game. I just want to read. But if a distraction is there, I won’t be able to resist it. I wish I was more disciplined but I’m just not.
So even though I love my iPad and have been seriously neglecting my Kindle, I have come to the conclusion that there definitely is room, not just in the market but in my life, for both devices.
During the last few weeks, I have rediscovered my love of blowing hours aimlessly playing the guitar. And in so doing, I had a thought about how simple technologies are going to create a super class of guitar maestros in the near future.
When I was in high school, I had to learn how to play songs the hard way. Playing songs on repeat while trying to work out the parts. Or I would shell out hard-earned cash for sheet music with tabs. Or most likely I would beg a friend to teach me. As a result, it was hard for me to build a growing repertoire of songs that were challenging but fun to play. However, in my most recent phase of music playing, whenever I hear a great song that I’d like to learn, I fire up YouTube and search for “how to play ______ on guitar” and I usually have a number of video tutorials to choose from. This has made it infinitely easier to learn licks and riffs that I never could figure out on my own. In the past four weeks, I have gotten better at guitar than I did in the past six years. That is exciting. That is disruptive. And that makes me excited to see what kids who grow up with this infinite supply of free lessons make of it.
Here’s one video that I recently watched while learning how to play Neil Young‘s “The Needle and the Damage Done.”
Needle and the Damage Done Tutorial
Yesterday, InSITE hosted entrepreneur turned VC Jeff Bussgang (twitter, blog) at the Stone Creek Tavern in NYC for a talk about his book “Mastering the VC Game.” It was a great event overall, but one thing that Jeff said really struck me.
It was a piece of advice for business school students with a passion for entrepreneurship who don’t immediately go work for a startup. He said that the more traditional paths for MBAs, e.g., consulting, big companies, finance, can have some benefits for an entrepreneurial career, but they come with one huge danger – golden handcuffs. These jobs start you out at a salary that is roughly comparable to a startup salary (maybe 40-60K more but in the same ballpark), but after a few years, you might be making upwards of 100-200k more than you would at a startup. At that point, when you presumably have a mortgage, an expensive lifestyle, perhaps a family, it can be very hard to take such a pay cut.
So Jeff’s advice for MBAs entering these more lucrative fields was keep your burn rate low. If you think you want to go back to a startup, live like you would live on a startup salary. His way of phrasing it really struck me. It’s the same thing I would think you’d tell a startup that is temporarily flush with VC cash. Don’t fly first class. Don’t rent expensive office space. Don’t buy the fancy stuff for your launch party. Live like you might need that cash more later.
And while I personally don’t know how my life and career will pan out, I know that entrepreneurship is a passion of mine. So this concept of keeping your burn rate low is something I think I will consider no matter what I do in the next five to ten years. Don’t buy an apartment on the upper-whichever-side. Don’t eat at Nobu every weekend. Don’t holiday on St. Barts. Go to the same bars that you went to before school. Borrow your friend’s family house in the country like you did in college. Live in a rental in Brooklyn. Eat at that great Thai place with the $8 pad thai. Doesn’t sound so bad at all…