It’s a new site that hunts out what music people are listening to online and aggregates it into a chart. IMHO, it’s an incredibly pretty place to visit, not to mention interesting and useful. Go take a look:
There’s even a dedicated sister site devoted entirely to watching the songs and bands that show up on Twitter.
The music industry is littered with lists. You know the sort of thing. Top 100 albums of all time. Rock’s Greatest Guitarists. Greatest Female Singers of the 80s. Ten Best Sax Solos Since WWII. Best Use of a Janacek Theme in a Prog Rock Song since the Vietnam War. They are a staple of music magazines and pub arguments.
But the granddaddy of all music lists is undoubtedly the Top 40 chart and the endless variations on that. Anyone who’s ever had anything to do with their compilation knows how dodgy they can be. When the radio stations used to ring the stores I’ve worked in for our data, any number of things could affect the figures they were given, from simple human error through to the staff member being too lazy or too busy to compile an accurate list, to more nefarious sorts of manipulation. Rattling off figures over the phone hardly elicited the sort of concern generated by the confessional or a tax audit.
None of which really mattered in a general sense in that the chart was only ever a marketing tool, a way of shifting units, and at the end of the day, the companies weren’t that concerned which actual song was making the money, as long as it was one of theirs. (And so you can imagine the temptation that existed for each company to try and rig things so that it was their songs that were rocketing up the charts…and I could tell you some stories.)
So when I spotted this new “chart” I was curious as to how it worked.
We Are Hunted is the brainchild of web developers Native Digital and is a joint venture between them and wotnews.com.au. As Nick Crocker from ND explained to me, what first got him thinking about the developing such a site was the idea of trying to understand what “popular” means in an online world.
“I guess I wanted to redefine the idea of popular music,” Nick said in what sounded like a nicely rehearsed soundbite.
Nick has a background in community radio in Brisbane as well as a law and pol sci degree. At the tender age of twenty-five, he sees himself as part of generation born into the reflexive and automatic use of technology, a digital native if you will, thus the name of his company. It was with partner Ben Johnson that he came up with the idea for We Are Hunted (W’r’H).
With no technical ability (or interest) of their own, they shopped the idea around, looking for someone to take care of that side of things, and found a match made in heaven with the guys at wot.news.au.
“They are incredible developers,” Nick explained. “And what we had fitted perfectly with their incredibly sophisticated search engine. So I started describing what I wanted and the more difficult I made the brief, the better they responded. It’s turned out to be a great relationship, personally and professionally, which I think shows in the end product.”
Okay, so bot-trawling the internets to find out who is playing/buying/recommending what strikes me as as good a way as any of getting a handle on what music people are keen on at any given moment.
W’r’H also takes advantage of the available technology by not only listing the songs from one to ninety-nine, but by linking to audio files and/or YouTube clips of each song and providing a link so that you can buy the music. As well, they provide social networking links so that you share a given track via Twitter or email.
So far, so good, but how does a budding entrepreneur make a quid out of something like this?
Nick says, “Basically there are three ways. One is that we get a cut if someone buys a track via the site, that is, affiliate revenue. Second, we are looking at putting ads on the site itself. But the method with the biggest potential is to crunch the data that the site gathers and on-sell that in different forms to the music companies themselves.”
In other words, mining data so that companies can use it to better target consumers.
“The music industry is like the media industry at the moment,” Nick said. “The old model that used to rain money no longer works. The current model is a mess and is in meltdown. And then there’s the ‘next thing’, but no-one knows what that is yet. Whatever it is, we are hoping to help define it.”
Yeah, well, as with journalism, we’ve got a long way to go, I reckon, before that Holy Grail is attained. The mess each industry has made of their business models in the online world is kinda breathtaking. The music industry is pretty much a disgrace as far as I can tell. Even promising ventures like eMusic are currently having their problems (and more on that in another post).
Although I have no better idea than the next person about what the music business will look like in the future, online listening and purchasing will obviously be part of the mix and so you would imagine something like We Are Hunted will find its place. In fact, the site launched to a lot of excitement. As media and marketing industry watch-site Mumbrella noted, W’r’H was “an instant online sensation.”
Anyway, back to that original question: what does the Crikey demographic make of the site?
For me, it seems like a useful window into some music I might not otherwise have noticed, but I’m guessing the average reader here isn’t going to find a lot of use for it. Then again, the Crikey demographic is as much a part of the social networking scene as any other, so they might find a use for We Are Hunted in that context. Be interested to hear your thoughts…