Thanks to all of you who have written with examples of sites and services that offer varying degrees of what I asked for in yesterday's post. It appears that although there are lots of bits of pieces of this out there, you can't (yet) have it all.
Today you can have: A) abundant information, rich metadata, and the ability to organize the library any way you want, but not in a full-featured music service with the industry-standard track downloading, streaming and custom radio channels. Or: B) all the standard commercial music service features.
But you can't have both.
In category A, here are some of the interesting music information services that, together, offer a good bit of what I asked for. But note that none of them are, at least in my quick review, full-featured listening/buying services:
Allmusic.com (great info, but no streaming, downloading or radio)
MusicBrainz (wiki-style, no music listening)
Last.FM (incorporates audiscrobbler; just radio)
upto11 (no music listening)
Discogs (no music listening)
Why isn't the great information in these services incorporated into iTunes, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music, MSN Music, or Napster? After all, it works terrifically well for movies on IMDB, and that's part of Amazon. Why don't we have the same for music?
In an email (posted with permission) Barry Ritholtz suggests four explanations:
- There is much, much more music than film, so [any rich database that attempts to covers most of it] may be a bit "kludgy";
- Musical preferences are so much more personal and less communal experience than film; Most music recommendation engines have been less successful than that of movies; [Chris: I'm not sure I agree with Barry on this.]
- The language of Film is far more accessible than that of Music in our modern era of Irony. Ever since Animal House and Caddyshack, we use film quotes as a shorthand for nearly any situation we encounter. Not so with Music (and its why a good musical director for a film can make such a difference);
- The lingua franca of Music is so much broader and deeper than film that it encourages smaller niches. [Chris: I'm not sure I agree with Barry on this, either.]
One reason I think they haven't seen wider exposure is that powerful forces like Gracenote are threatening companies who consider working with these open projects, seeing them as a threat to their desired metadata monopoly. Not to mentioned misguided record companies who consider any information related to their properties to be 100% owned by them.
And finally, several people have noted the rumor that Google may be announcing some kind of link-up with iTunes. I wouldn't expect too much of that in the near term, but it's clear that this is exactly the kind of problem that Google's great at solving. The information is out there, people want it, and it's simply a matter of connecting the supply with the demand to create a big new market. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.