Monday, August 6, 2007

75%-baked: Only Live Music

I have various half-baked ideas for making money, but I reckon this one is 75% baked. It would definitely attract a significant following if it got going. The problem will be how to make money out of the popularity. Perhaps sell it to google, like YouTube.

The day is fast approaching when all radio and video will be delivered over the Internet. You pick a radio station by clicking an icon on your PDA. As we see on YouTube and many other places, this opens things up to the amateur contributor.

Another trend we see is the return to live music. Why do we have shows like "Australian Idol"? Because the whole point of music production is for the performers to show off their natural talent and for the audience to evaluate the performers. Music produced by electronic trickery in studios is increasingly recognized as comparatively empty.

It is possible to stream live sound over the Internet today. Internode is leading the way in Australia: Many of the network providers can do this very efficiently using multicast. So my idea is to start an internet radio station providing only live music. It would later be split into multiple stations providing different sorts of music.

Initially it would be all free with amateur sound engineers and performers not paid. Later some extra channels would be supported by advertising or require a subscription (or both), and those channels would pay production staff and performers, not to mention management. Initially expenses, including some payment to management, will attempt to be covered by subscribers who will be able to vote on which acts they prefer to hear.

The station announcement between performances is "This is OLM: Only Live Music. We don't believe that recorded music is real music, and now you don't need it because OLM streams live music, produced with analog devices, 24 hours a day. Recording OLM performances is not permitted and detracts from their intentionally transient and contemporary nature. This doesn't prohibit technical aspects of streamed radio transmission such as the necessary cache delay. If you miss something then encourage the performers to do OLM again. And become a paid up subscriber so that you can vote on which performers you want us to feature".

The assertion that only live music is real, is a marketing position. It is designed to annoy and make people talk. Participants don't have to agree with it.

The key to OLM is to broadcast performances from different time zones around the world. This can be as simple as a solo performer with a good quality microphone broadcasting from their own home. However it will be better to broadcast actual live performances from venues. That requires some sound engineering, though these days that can be just multiple microphones feeding into a computer running some sound software.

Obviously OLM needs lots of people around the world. The sort of things one needs to do to achieve this are:

  • Set up discussion forums for interested people: a wiki and a blog seem likely to be a good start.
  • Put information on the wiki pointing to anything that can be found out about how to broadcast music on the Internet.
  • Look for support from useful people. Simon Hackett the head of Internode has been involved in Internet multimedia for a long time and might well be interested -- I remember him demoing listening to California radio from Australia, including remote tuning using SNMP.
  • Communicate with groups where interested people might hang out (without spamming too much), to invite them to join it.
  • Start practicing broadcasting music, preferably as early as possible from different places around the world, to see how well it reaches.

My view is that if some major ISP owner was interested to be part of it then all the technical issues would be addressed. I also think that OLM would attract amateur sound people and musicians willing to work for no payment if the technical issues were sorted out.