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.

2005/03/24: The Case for a Human Future

I attended a talk that referred to trends and extrapolated them to talk of people living much longer than before, and of intelligent robots that surpass our abilities.

Humans are the most amazing thing that has happened in this universe. David Barrow summed it up neatly in the title of his book: "The Universe that Discovered Itself". The idea that the human story should end and be replaced by a superhuman or nonhuman world is something that people are too willing to accept: even otherwise intelligent people.

The first point to make is that there is not a requirement for change to make way for progress. Humans are tool users. Humans with intellectual and communication tools provided by Information and Communication Technologies are not limited in what they can achieve (relative to computers or improved humans).

There is an idea in the populace that when computers pass a certain level of intelligence they will magically acquire motivation. This is not the case. Our motivation comes from our genes. Our genes have motivation but it is not the same as ours. In the simplest example: If I or my identical twin brother is going to drown, then my genes don't care which. Genes give us complex motivation in which the desire to live and the desire to reproduce are only the most trivial parts. But the fact that genes, even in the simplest bacteria or virus, display clear though unconscious motivation shows that motivation is unrelated to intelligence.

Sure we could give our little machines motivation. We might accidentally give them enough motivation to wipe us out. What we couldn't do is give them the sort of subtle motivation which genes supply that keep us striving to understand, to explore and to conquer the universe, while at the same time perpetuating ourselves and living fascinating lives that we turn into literature and other art. In fact I'm certain that any motivation that us junior gods could bestow on our creations would grind to a halt very soon after we became unable to guide it.

And losing the ability to lead is the great danger of this inhuman or partly human world. If people start living for ever then we will quickly lose the input of youth that keeps human society fresh. The replacement of humans with computers and robots in positions of any importance will lead even more quickly to the loss of humanity's spark.

If machines were given motivation that would make them independent of humans then that would be a terrible crime which would hold the seeds of our destruction. Any motivation less than that would be sufficiently weak as to be no motivation in the big scheme of things.

There is no choice to a human future. The hard bit is to understand what that means in a world where many people have ignorant plans to change humanity. Our present life has already acquired features which will drive evolution towards something which is not fully human.