I had the good fortune of interviewing Nick Alexander of Bluetunes recently. blueTunes is one of a growing number of companies that are taking advantage of the push towards cloud computing. I had my list of questions ready and was happy to finally speak with Nick. We had managed to miss one another for over month. I’ll list out the questions/answers to keep this simple
Q: How did you come up with the name Bluetunes?
A: It was a reference to the sky and cloud computing.
Q: Are you developing any add-ons for Firefox?
A: Not specifically for Firefox but we are creating apps you can embed in your blog or your Facebook page. You can’t share your songs entirely, but you can allow others to listen to the song for 30 seconds so they see if they like the song. Pandora is great because it is easy and it is pretty good at recommending music.
This goes against most of the Web 2.0 plays that has sharing at the center piece of their business models’. But blueTunes is going to utilize existing social networks such as Facebook to enable their users to access and share their music. Recently due to developments in the mobile web world I’ve been thinking that the browser is going to end up being the killer app once again. But this model would have my social network account in the cross hairs of aggregating all of my cloud services. My photo’s from flickr, my music from blueTunes, my video from YouTube, etc . . . The aggregation will happen, it is simply a matter of where.
Q: Have you used Seeqpod?
A: I’m sure I’ve looked at it and there are so many.
The Seeqpod model brings up the issue of ownership. With Bluetunes you own all of the music that you upload. With Seeqpod, you own nothing other than your playlist. Seepod relys on others owning music and you get pull in their music. I’m curious to see if the younger generation feels any affinity for ownership when it comes to music. They have shown that owning a CD is not important to them and yet with an iPod, they still own their songs.
Q; Is the freemium model in Bluetunes future?
A: It is and initially we offered the first gig for free and then began charged $2 for 5gig. For obvious reasons we then introduced a change to our pricing scheme. It is not free for the first 100 songs and then a one time fee of $.01 per with a minimum of $5. That first decision to pay is a huge one and we did not want to limit ourselves by overcharging. Sites like MediaMaster allow you to upload as much music as you want and I’m not sure they have a sustainable model.
Q: What is the long-term plan for revenue?
A: We want to help sell music. Recommend music (the song you’re listening to or similar music) and then send them to a partner who handles the transaction. We are currently partnered with Amazon primarily because of their willingness to share the profit from those sales. We would like to incorporate this into our widget (blog, Facebook, etc) as well. We are with Amazon now and will add iTunes soon. If we stayed with a subscription model and you weren’t using all of the memory available you may feel like you’re wasting your money.
Again, the question of ownership and its role in the future of music (and any type of media) is an interesting one. Bluetunes method of distribution/advertising could be a powerful tool.
Q: Are you doing anything with Twitter?
A: We aren’t and would like to.
Q: Do you own iTunes?
Q: What company do you most admire and why?
A: Google. I love how they got started. They provide a great level of services and a seamless monetization scheme. The transition from where they came from to where they are now is amazing.
Q: You’re a part of a movement toward cloud computing. What do you think needs to happen for this to become dominant model?
A: The big thing is the ubiquity of the Internet and Internet access wherever you go. The iPhone is happening and people have caught on to that wave. That combined with people needing storage will make cloud computing the future. The topic of privacy does come up and this is primarily a generational issue.
Q: What does the recent (yes recent) birth of the mobile Internet mean to you?
A: Within the context if the iPhone, Bluetunes is a mobile play. It is a software problem at its core. blueTunes will be one of the companies that provides content delivered from the cloud to your mobile device wherever you go.
I now realize that if cloud computing is going to succeed it will be a bi-product of the proliferation of the mobile Internet. As people demand thinner devices with more screen real estate, the push to store data elsewhere will increase. The carriers could stave off their eventual death by providing an aggregation of these services. I’ll say it again to make sure you’re paying attention: Mobile is the key to cloud computing.
Q: Are there any strategic partnerships you would like to develop?
A: Not company specific. We want to focus on the software behind the player. Along with that, recommendations via the widget, recommendations. Cloud storage, server clusters, MP3 affiliate programs.
This answer led to a conversation about their upload technology (patent pending). You would not believe how fast it is. When I uploaded my gig of free music I was amazed at how quickly my files flew out the door. They realized early on that upload times would be the limiting factor for their service. I really think they need to brand this upload to show that they have solved on of cloud services biggest issues. I also recommended to Nick that they license their technology. Companies that allow you to upload and store any medium would gladly pay a licensing fee if they felt it was the obstacle.
Q: What is your favorite game on the iPhone?
A: I don’t have an iPhone but will as soon as they leave AT&T.
Q: Are you really in Ohio? (Nick’s number started with area code 330.)
A: Used to be but am now in North Carolina in the RTP (Research Triangle Park).
Update/1.8.2011: I received an email today from Bluetunes indicating that the service was no longer going to be offered. I’ve included the subject and body of the email below. Sad to see it go but with Apple moving iTunes into the cloud eventually, it was inevitable.
Subject: blueTunes is shutting down
After over two years of providing a way to listen to your music from anywhere, we’re sorry to announce that we will be shutting down the blueTunes service. Effective January 31, 2011, the service will cease to operate and your data will be deleted. We believe technologies like blueTunes will become the standard in the future with the growing prevalence of the Internet and connected devices, but we’re unable to continue supporting blueTunes in its current form. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this will cause you. If you need to download your data, contact us at http://www.bluetunes.net/contact and we’ll provide you a method to do so.
Thank you for your understanding, and hope you have a rockin’ 2011.
Andrew and Nick