International fandom

One of the things I think is particularly cool about is its internationalism. They’ve got users submitting their listening data to them from 240 countries. 240. That blows my mind — can you name 240 countries?

Sure we used to be able to get American and British charts. And now we can turn to places like Its A Trap and get Swedish college charts, but where else can you get listening data from 240 countries? See here for a nice visualization of 24 hours of data submissions. Yeah, most of the world is dark and it’s dominated by Europe and the eastern third of North America, but all in all it looks suspiciously like the distribution of world internet users.

As The Sun discusses, this makes for some surprising discoveries:

Latest figures show that Coldplay’s Clocks is currently the most listened to internet track on in China.

In Sweden, native indie band Kent top the charts while in Somalia it’s French dance group Air with their song Playground Love.

The Beatles are the most popular band online in Japan and the Fab Four’s Strawberry Fields Forever is also first choice in Argentina.

What would be REALLY cool would be if those charts were all dominated by bands from those nations (I wonder if there would be more of that if they were translating the site into more languages than Japanese). Still, the first way to get music flowing across international boundaries in more than one direction is to let those of us who never hear anything but US and UK artists find out how much of it is out there, and that it’s so much richer and more diverse than a name like “World Music” can suggest. And then give us an easy way to listen to it.

In that regard, their users can tag songs and artists, and those tags give you a glimpse at music from places that never make the radio abroad. Here’s a ton of artists tagged “China”. Only 2 are tagged “Somalia” but lots are tagged “French”. You get the idea. So if you want to check out what Chinese music sounds like these days, click on that tag radio button over on the left and take a sonic vacation.

My own ears spend most of their time in Sweden.

The dangers of proprietary promotion

At, Joe Taylor tells a cautionary tale with a happy ending about a band called Bones who almost lost their MySpace profile, complete with history and friends aplenty, to Fox TV, who wanted it to promote a new TV show also called Bones. As he points out, while this story ended ok (the band got to keep the screen name):

it’s another reminder that promoting someone else’s domain name on your printed material and press kit is an invitation to disaster. [...] MySpace’s terms of service indicate that they can — and will — take back your screen name if they want to. It’s really nice to hear that they stuck up for a member this time, but you can’t guarantee that they’ll do it again.

And, for all the folks that think MySpace is never going anywhere, ask the senior members of your favorite music business bulletin boards what it was like when vanished after it was purchased by an international media conglomerate. (Some folks are still stinging from that one.)

It’s such a good point. The more we build our online personaes and social networks through sites that other people own, the more vulnerable we are to changes in their ownership, design, vision, or even existence. We can be thrown off without reason or recourse. We can be erased through some bug and we don’t have the backup to reload. All kinds of nasty things can happen. We extend an incredible amount of trust in their goodwill and faith in the Computer Gods who make them work.

How not to blog

Ok, give the guy some credit for trying to do right. Tim Story, director of the Fantastic Four sequel has got a blog on his MySpace page on which he’s trying to keep fans up to date on the filming and apparently getting ideas from them. But he’s also demonstrating a cardinal no-no of blogging: not posting. Since September 3rd there’s been one post, about 3 weeks ago. It was brief and apologized for not blogging more often.

I think this is a classic problem. Everyone suspects that blogging might be a good thing to do. Build fan commitment, generate buzz, all that. But blogging takes time and commitment. If you post once a month, people give up on checking in before long. Buzz doesn’t build, it fizzles. Are they better off doing nothing? Well, a regularly updated web site that doesn’t pretend to be a blog might be a better way to go about it. That way the same thing looks like a nice monthly effort to keep in touch instead of a failed effort to create an ongoing person-to-person relationship with fans.

I don’t mean to pick on Story, my point is that this happens all the time and it doesn’t have to if you understand the different expectations and requirements of different online venues, realistically assess what you have the resources to maintain, and pick the right one.

Taking down YouTube clips

I’m coming a little late to this party, but if you’ve missed it, PBS’s MediaShift has been the site of some very interesting discussion about the YouTube/Comedy Central break-up, make up, we weren’t really breaking up we’re still friends debacle/genius. It starts with Mark Glaser’s open letter to Stephen Colbert, which as of today was still stimulating a lively discussion in the comments regarding how much power Colbert has and what’s really going on, and continues in this post which transcribes Colbert’s response. Good reading on the economics and, since Colbert is involved, humor of the situation.

Lala’s Social CD Swapping is a semi-socialnetworking website that hooks up people looking to discard the cds they don’t want in exchange for the cds other people don’t want. The charge? $1, plus 75 cents shipping. And they provide the envelopes. From the PSU Daily Collegian:

The site’s logistics are simple — to find music, users browse other member’s profiles or search by album title, genre or artist among a broad range of albums from newly released titles to old school classics.

It’s even got a non-profit musician support component:

The music-sharing organization helps to support working musicians through their charity, The Z Foundation, Kuch said. The Web site has a definition of a working musician as “any individual who has performed live or on a recorded release in the last year and whose music-related income accounts for more than half of their total income.”

Bill Nguyen, co-founder of, said he is glad to see musicians finally getting compensated for their work.

“For the first time, musicians will receive economic support directly from their fans,” he said.

Twenty percent of each traded CD goes to The Z Foundation, Kuch said.

“Giving back even 20 percent can help them buy more studio time or new equipment, so they can make more music,” Sung said. The money collected by the Z Foundation provides musicians with medical and dental care, he said.

As always “for the first time” is pretty far from accurate, but it’s a great idea nonetheless: a nice legal alternative to illegal downloading, and gets the object into the hand for those who still like to read liner notes and see the pictures.