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Popcuts. Buy Music. Make Money.
August 4, 2008 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Popcuts. Buy Music. Make Money.
Popcuts is an online music store that gives fans a stake in the music. Every time someone buys a song, the people who have already downloaded that song get paid. Popcuts recognizes great music fans: the ones who discover good music before everyone else, the ones who spark others to try new music. So earlier downloaders get the most, and trendsetters get recognition all over the site. But it's not just for die-hard fans. Every music fan earns rewards, and everyone can discover good music in a social way. Follow your friends' picks, find others who share your taste. Popcuts gives all the respect to artists. So we invite artists to showcase their music in a community of fans actively trying to discover new things.

By recognizing the big role that FANS play in the music world we think good things will happen. The real harm to the music industry comes from this idea that it's all about the end consumer product. Rampant p2p downloading is a symptom of this pervasive notion that music is about the end product. "I have the MP3s, therefore I am a fan." But to us, it's not about the download. It's not about the 99cents. An MP3 is the beginning of a relationship, with the music, with the artist. When fans have a stake in the music, good things will happen. When fans have a sense of ownership in the music, they'll tend to do right by the music, without DRM or lawsuits. Giving fans recognition and a share of the profits, it just seemed right to us.
Musicians can host their tracks in minutes, and keep all the intellectual/creative rights. Artists get to choose how much they make per download, and there's never a fee. We offer MiniStores to people who want promote their music on MySpace, Facebook, or anywhere on the web.
posted by racecar (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

How big is the risk that your system will be gamed because those who are trendspotters simply will go with the most mainstream thing - sort of cart in front of the horse scenario - and climb in ranking because of doing so, thereby accruing even more kudos?

Maybe there's little risk of this happening now, but do you foresee any such trouble should you get a huge number of users?

Cheers on a good idea though; sounds neat.
posted by monocultured at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a cool idea, and good luck to you.

As well as those who simply trendspot and try to game the system, I would be worried about Black Hat SEO scams (once the money becomes considerable, if it does).

The other problem is that $.99 seems too expensive for a digital copy of one song, even if it's a FLAC. I dunno. I guess I still only buy LPs and CDs, so I'm the wrong audience.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2008


monocultured: great question. we've been advised by an ethnomusicologist who researches musical taste, and while he's thrilled to help us, this is actually one of his big questions. hats off to you for a sophisticated first-pass on this idea.

there are research findings that indicate people are conservative when guessing what others will like, relative to what they themselves like. "i like this, but joe public ain't gonna." and that may be a factor in how people explore music on our store. to some degree, the question of "what do others like?" may mix with "what do i like?"

we don't really regard mixing those two questions as "gaming the system" because individual music taste arguably has always been a mix between those two things. a close trendsetter friend who inspired me to work on this idea and consistently shows me good music, he says that reputation matters too: "just because i can earn rewards on downloading this obvious (but embarrassing) hit, doesn't mean i'm gonna do it... i want people to have faith my taste by being real."

we're definitely going to improve and expand on our methods, both for deciding who gets what kind of rewards, and for recognizing who the tastemakers are.

as we grow, we will feature more trendsetters with more distinct tastes. our vision is not to simply sort by rewards/kudos, but to discover other indicators of taste. ultimately, fans are gonna teach us about how to discover the discoverers.

sure, the gross metric of rewards earned is going to be biased towards those people who can just pick a popular mainstream song before it happens. and don't get me wrong, there is value and skill in doing that and we want to recognize people who can. but more interesting things will come up: you can imagine that the overall top rewarded fan may not necessarily dig through every bin to find great hits, but in fact she might just follow and aggregate the picks of trendsetters in specific genres, who are expertly mining their favorite genre for good stuff. we think music taste is more social, so we give fans tools to do things like following and discovering specific peers. that would just be easier (and cooler) than having to swashbuckle through a giant catalog, or having a faceless algorithm recommend things.

so yeah, understanding the fuzzy lines between genre and clusters, understanding the way users start using the twitter-like "follow" feature to monitor other fans' picks... we're going to let the users who are passionate about our site teach us about how to do a better job of recognizing them.
posted by racecar at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: thanks for your kind words.
we're definitely on the lookout for the few people who will try to spoil the party for others. one thing that we think will help us avoid the more nefarious people is the fact that we're not giving money. we're giving store credit.

passionate fans music deserve to get a chunk of the profits, and we think that those people will enjoy trying even more music without dipping into their wallets. giving great fans free, legal music that still pays the artist: that's the vision.

if people decide to cheat other Popcuts fans to get more store credit, it'd just seem silly: if you want free music, there are other places to get it. but yes, mean people are out there, but luckily we have smart guys in house who are already looking ahead to how to keep the real fans safe.

and you're certainly not the first fan to have a distaste for the 99cent mp3. i think it's terrific that you're supporting the artists in the way that you are, i too buy CDs and LPs. but we want to move past the idea that it's the FILE that you're getting. we think that artists should definitely get paid, but that we also need to offer fans more than infinitely-replicable mediocre-bitrate files. you get a real sense of value when you hold that LP in your hand. we hope that fans will get a similar feeling of value when Popcuts gives them a stake in the music, and recognition for their taste. and by giving back to fans, we hope they understand that it wasn't about their 99cents, that we're happy to give it all back (and more!) when the music really succeeds.
posted by racecar at 3:27 PM on August 4, 2008


we're not giving money. we're giving store credit.

... Then I'd say consider a tagline other than "Buy Music. Make Money." and an upfront statement of the credit-not-cash reality.

Right now the implication of that tagline, and the presentation in general, is that buyers will be getting cash back. New users might well like your idea and jump into browsing audio, decide to buy something and only then find out about that non-transparency, in which case it would jump out as a red flag / probable dealbreaker.
posted by kalapierson at 4:30 AM on August 10, 2008


Yeah, I went and uploaded music, and didn't realize that until I came back here. It's definitely not clear anywhere in the interface.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2008


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