Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twones May Be a Legal Hype Machine. But It’s No Hype Machine.

In olden times, when you wanted to learn about new music, you listened to the radio or maybe flipped through a copy of Rolling Stone. Today, you consult the music blogs.

But how do you find cool music blogs? That’s where Twones, a Dutch start-up wants to come in: It has launched a new service designed to bring you stuff you might like. Or at least that you’ve never heard before.

Sound familiar? It should: You can describe The Hype Machine the same way, and that service is already cherished by Web-savvy music lovers.

And investors, too. But due to worries that it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, Hype Machine hasn’t attracted any serious money despite four years of accolades.

That’s because the MP3s the music blogs post are almost always copyright violations, technically speaking. That’s not a problem for the blogs because the big labels now tend to turn a blind eye (usually).

But Hype Machine caches those songs, which means you can hear them almost instantly, but which also puts it in a legal gray area (at best). I know of at least a couple prominent investors who are convinced they would be sued as soon as they sent the company a check. So they haven’t.

Back to Twones. The service, which is set up as a toolbar for Firefox browsers, sidesteps Hype Machine’s legal landmines (I think) by simply sending users directly to the music blogs themselves. When you select a song (or Twones picks one for you) it opens the page in a new browser window, and the song is supposed to play automatically.

So no legal liability (theoretically). No licensing fees either.

But it’s not nearly so much fun. At least in the brief spins I’ve seen. Precisely because the songs aren’t cached, going from one Twones blog to another can mean there’s a gap between songs as the page loads. Or no song at all if Twones steers you to a dead link.

It could be that all of this is simply early-stage kinks, because the service just opened to the public this morning. But I fear that playing by the rules will ultimately cost Twones here.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald