Sunday, January 23, 2011

Patent Pending: Virtual Music Library

By now everybody is (or should be) familiar with the idea of cloud computing--the movement of computing power from individual machines to big data centers, allowing applications and storage services to be accessed online from any location. Google Docs and Dropbox are great examples.

The music industry has a complicated relationship with cloud computing. Apple's iTunes successfully makes money by allowing users to download music, but having your music trapped in one device (like a computer) is becoming increasingly frustrating. That's because websites like Pandora and YouTube offer a wide variety of music that is accessible anywhere via the internet. The main drawback of streaming music on these websites is the lack of an organized music library.

It seems clear that somebody could develop a music system that combines the best of both worlds: a smartly organized music library that is accessible anywhere. In terms of existing online music stores (like iTunes), this means simply keeping a list of customers' downloads and allowing them free access to their music online. Tweaking existing streaming websites is a bit trickier, but very doable. For YouTube, a slick organization system could create a library comprised entirely of YouTube links. For Pandora, this could mean keeping a list of all "thumbs up" songs and organizing them logically. Because Pandora codes songs across tons of dimensions, I could see some cool data visualization features being available to users. Grouping songs based on the same-old artist/album/genre categories is so C20th.

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