Friday, July 18, 2008

Putting the lid on Pandora's box

When the iPhone 2.0 software came out about a week ago, I downloaded one of the most popular applications for it: Pandora. Basically, you enter a genre/artist/song, and from there it uses data from the Music Genome Project to find similar songs, which it plays to you. You indicate to the software what you like by giving the songs it plays a thumbs up or thumbs down. The songs are pretty random, so it's a lot like radio – you can listen to lots of music, but you don't have precise control over what plays. It's great for discovering new bands and songs and it's free, and since the songs are unpredictable and streaming, you can't use it as a way to listen to whatever music you want without paying for it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it could be a boon for the music industry, as people buy music that they discover using Pandora.

So, naturally, the record companies are trying to shut it down. Just another example of government favors (in this case, copyrights) interfering with market signals and putting power in the hands of people who haven't legitimately earned it, who in turn are oblivious to true market forces and therefore litigate and legislate themselves out of business. It would be nice if artists stood up for themselves and their future profits and demanded that their labels stop this nonsense, but that doesn't seem likely.

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