Napster 3.0

Disclaimer: The service I’m about to write about I’m absolutely in love with. I think it’s visionary, and is hands down the best music experience I’ve ever had on the web. However, it brings up some interesting questions about copyright, the DMCA, and the freedom to build tools that other folks might use for illegal activity–we should be talking about it.

The service I’m speaking of is The Hype Machine. The Hype Machine is a free service that scours music blogs for posts that include links to Mp3 files. It turns out there are a ton of blogs out there doing this, and blogs are the perfect format for sharing music. However, hunting and pecking for MP3 files across hundreds of sites is time consuming and unorganized (i.e. you can visit a bunch of blogs looking for Bob Dylan bootlegs but you’re gonna have a heck of time).

The Hype Machine takes all this unstructed data including blogs, blog posts, artists, track names, and mp3 files, and organizes the information. They then let you play this information in your favorite music player or Flash. However, that’s not where the magic really happens. The magic is when the service creates RSS feeds with enclosures of any artist or blog out there.

So, you could subscribe to a Neil Young RSS feed in iTunes and see something like this:

Now, you’re not going to know as the user where these mp3s are coming from and if they’re illegal. In fact, I don’t use the service for existing artists. Nope, I use it for discovery. I subscribe to all these odd-named blogs and download a cross section of odd-named music that I’ve never heard about, and that is selected by people with much better taste and time on their hands than I have. With these Niel Young tracks you might be able to figure out if some of them are copyrighted, but who the heck knows since Niel Young likes to give away mp3s for free on this site.

If YouTube.com was the tool that I referred to Napster 2.0 the HypeMachine is Napster 3.0.

Should this thing be stopped? I don’t think so since the a) the site has a very legal use, b) they seem to take anything down that anyone complains about, and c) they are not hosting the files they are just pointing to them. Also, they make a point all over their site of linking to the paid options for people (I wonder how many folks take that option?).

The music industry should, in my mind, get behind the Hype Machine and pay them to promote their artists. It’s gotta be the greatest music discovery site ever created.