As part of our continuing search for a viable music industry business model . . . iRATE Radio: An open source, collaborative, web filtering, MP3 scraper.
The new Napster is a few weeks away from re-launch, only its missing its best feature — namely, the ability to sift through other people’s hard drives looking for new music.
I frequently would find good stuff from people with similar tastes to myself on the old Napster; I had good luck experimenting with bands I was not familiar with. I found lots and lots of good new (and old!) music that way.
Yes, its true: Napster increased my CD purchases. We’ve discussed this aspect of file sharing in the The Napster Cooption Business Model; It’s what continues to be missing from all of the “legitimate” on line music models (i.e., iTunes, BuyMusic, etc.).
iRATE radio uses collaborative filtering to help select music you like from their large (and expanding) database of music. The Java based, cross platform (Windows/Mac/Linux) player downloads MP3s onto your hard drive; as you rate the tracks, iRATE uses yours and other people’s ratings to guesstimate what you’ll like. The more songs you rate, the better the collaborative filter can match your tastes. All of the downloaded tracks are free and legal MP3s.
Pretty neat, huh?
iRATE was created by New Zealander Anthony Jones — There’s a full interview here if you’d like to learn more.
UPDATE October 12, 2003
iRATE Radio follow up
I’ve been playing with iRate radio for the past week or so. A few things that jump out:
• The system adapts to your tastes fairly rapidly. This is a mixed blessing, depending upon if you are a) looking for new music or b) if you just want a free substitute to satellite radio;
• There is no genre distinction. I would love to see different “channels” for jazz, alternate, hip hop, etc. As the system expands, I think that’s a realistic possibility; Both as a source for new music, or a radio station, it would be more listener friendly to hone in on exactly what you like;
• 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.
• For the most part, the streams were pretty clean. Streaming audio easily gets disrupted, depending upon web traffic. For the most part, the iRate streams have been pretty robust. I would imagine that as traffic picks up, this issue could become more of an problem;
• While the Java based iRate is plenty stable, I was able to disrupt it by launching multiple programs or Safari Windows while iRate was streaming (and I have oodles of RAM). Perhaps it’s the CPU load — I’ve found Java apps often take a backseat to othe rprograms in terms of grabbing the processors attention;
• Considering that there are no major artists on iRate radio, there is a surprising amount of very good talent here. The risk to the business model is that iRate becomes a minor leagues for talent to find an audience and then bail for a major label.
All told, a very enjoyable experience, one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fellow music aficionados as well as casual listeners.