October 14, 2004

Long Tail, But Short Memory

This WIRED article's getting a lot of coverage and rightly so. "Long Tail" was the Top Meme at Web2.0.


But there's one troubling section that makes an historical reference (history is WIRED's perennial weak point):

Deep in the article (scroll down to the section "Rule 3") Chris writes about the story of Michael Robertson and MP3.com, and then Anderson makes a pretty outrageous claim, one I have never, ever heard of before:

Putting aside the fact that many people actually used the service to illegally upload and share commercial tracks, leading the labels to sue MP3.com, the model failed at its intended purpose, too. Struggling bands did not, as a rule, find new audiences, and independent music was not transformed. Indeed, MP3.com got a reputation for being exactly what it was: an undifferentiated mass of mostly bad music that deserved its obscurity.

Many people illegally uploaded and shared commercial tracks? Who says? Got a cite for that, Chris? I sure would love to hear some facts on that assertion. I worked at MP3 in 1999 and 2000 and this is the first I've heard of this. Gee, I thought that's what the large staff of musicologists were there for: meticulously filter and review every song that was put on the site. Chris, did you ever use MP3.com during that era?

Paging Rod Underhill, white courtesy phone...

Posted by brian at October 14, 2004 06:22 PM


In the same sentence you first say that people did NOT upload any "illegal" music to mp3.com, and shortly after you say that mp3.com had to review stuff people upload. This is just illogical. If they/you had to screen the stuff it was probably because of kids uploading it.

Posted by: Jonas at October 15, 2004 07:04 AM

The main MP3.com service was designed for independent artists to upload their own music for people to download free, or purchase custom CDs. The musicologists were in place to make sure the music being uploaded was really original and not taken from commercial sources. Separate issue entirely from the my.mp3.com / RIAA controversy which had to do with commercial music.

Posted by: brian at October 15, 2004 08:01 AM

Yeah ... lazy journalism, effective shilling.

But isn't it customary for Wired articles to rewrite history, hype a fairly basic idea into a corporate spin and to shill one of its advertisers products in the bargain. Other than that ... great article.

Posted by: vic at October 25, 2004 10:10 PM

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