Wagging the long tail


Mick and Keith, they couldn’t always get what they wanted.

But this is the era of Web 2.0, in which music-minded innovators can set their algorithms to the beat of the latest and greatest — as well as the late and great.

Whatever you like, really.
“As production becomes cheaper, the barrier of entry is lowered and an increased range of products available to consumers created,” Susanne Stürmer said in German on Friday in Cologne. “The demand of these niche markets can be fulfilled.”

Stürmer, the director of corporate affairs for UFA Film & TV, used her keynote address at the Cologne conference, “Wag the Long Tail,” to display ways in which a traditional mass media outlet like UFA can profitably fulfill niches in the spirit of the so-called long-tail effect.

The one-day conference brought together mass media providers, in particular broadcasters and music providers, to discuss how they are dealing with a media landscape which is shifting toward a market of one — and away from a market of many.

Most of the solutions presented involved the creation of platforms for personalized recommendation of content in music and television.

Following Stürmer’s overview, the frontmen of several innovative music delivery platforms — like the London-based Last.fm and New York City’s Hype Machine — took the stage to spread the gospel of individualized music recommendations.

Stefan Glaenzer, the Austrian entrepreneur who bankrolled Last.fm, demonstrated the simplicity of the five-year-old Internet radio station that was in May sold to American broadcasting group CBS for about $280 million.
Last.fm is so called because its founders — three guys in their mid-20s — wanted it to be the last radio station ever needed.

“All you have to do is listen to music,” Glaenzer said as he demonstrated. “Fullstop.”

Last.fm is just one of several seamless interfaces music listeners can use to create personally-tailored playlists — and social networking.

Barcelona resident Pedro Cano is a senior researcher at Music Technology Group. He helped develop the groundbreaking technology used with Bmat, a product which uses sound recognition to create new playlists.
Bmat has mapped the data of millions of songs (to which it owns the licences) down to each chord. It can use this information to give better recommendations.

Say you like the Stones. But, you know, that long cool woman in a black dress, well, she’s not bringing you so much satisfaction anymore — but neither are the played-out playlists of mainstream FM stations.

No worries.

Just play your favorite Stones song for Bmat — or Mufin, a similar product which chairman Jürgen Jaron demoed Friday — and watch as they pull up similar-sounding music.

Maybe you want to find Stones-esque bands from Australia. No problem — it’s as easy as asking. The slick Web 2.0 interfaces allow users to enjoy music discovery without understanding the complicated technological process which make the recommendation programs go.

Another avenue: Plunk in “Rolling Stones” to Last.fm and listen to a radio station featuring similar artists.

And if you happen to hear something you like via one of these platforms, you can use social networking features built into Last.fm — Bmat and Mufin also incorporate social networking — to see who else is listening, or when a group is coming to a town near you.

Or, hop over to Anthony Volodkin’s Hype Machine to both have a listen and see what music bloggers are saying about a particular artist. If it sounds good - in print and to your ears - you can even use Hype Machine as a portal to buy your new jam at iTunes or Amazon.

Volodkin, 21, created Hype Machine when he became dissatisfied with the commercial nature of music available on traditional platforms, like FM radio.

“I didn’t want to spend time opening up a magazine,” the New York resident said — so he instead wrote a program to mine more than 1,000 music blogs, thus simultaneously outsourcing and automating the search for new music.

Volodkin figured bloggers, who typically are not paid for their work, are just the kind of purists with whom he’d want to liaise with in an effort to find exciting music.

Now the Moscow native — who maintains the site with the help of four friends — is touted in publications like Business 2.0 as one of the premiere up-and-comers in the world of personalized music.

Nearly all the panelists, from European Commission representative Barbara Gessler to Heiko Hebig, a coordinator of digital media development for Burda Media, a German publishing house, spoke in glowing terms about the personalization of media — as well as the need for a favourable legal climate.

“Europe is very conscious of this challenge,” Gessler said through a translator. “We have to create the right legal climate… Amend international issues… pool available content and make it available all across Europe.”

About 15 speakers assembled at Cologne’s Rheinpalis as part of C/O Pop, a five-day music fair and business jam. Wilfried Runde and Jochen Spangenberg of Deutsche Welle hosted the audience of about 200 people from around Europe.

Audio was translated live, into both German and English, during the entire day-long conference.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


Chris Anderson
Essen & Trinken
Hype Machine
Last FM
What Last FM chairman Stefan Glaenzer is listening to
Heiko Hebig
Lycos IQ