Information Mash-Up

The best album I have heard in years is the Best of the Booties 2005. The “Booties” is a party thrown every month in San Francisco and they compile the best mash-up music. “Mash-ups” are songs made from splicing other songs together. Kind of like a remix, but without the need to put on something new. For example, one song is the lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” on top of the beat of Jay-Zs “Big Pimpin”. Or the Beatles on top of the music of the Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get Retarded” with Ludacris. Now these mash-ups are the hottest songs in many clubs in NYC.

The most famous mash-up album is the Grey Album, by DJ Danger Mouse. It plays Jay Z’s lyrics from the Black Album with musical loops from the Beatles “White Album.” And here is the important thing - it went platinum without selling a single album!

You can’t release a mash-up song commercially because the terms of reuse in the music industry make it too costly. You have too many royalties to pay off of real samples. Yet the Internet has become a free channel for the distribution of music. If you don’t mind not getting paid, you can reach millions. And Danger Mouse did. Of course with that notoriety he partnered to launch Gnarls Barkley, which has the #3 album and song on iTunes. So he did just fine.

But there are several interesting points here. The Internet is challenging all kinds of traditional industries and their revenue strategies and channels. From music licensing to sales taxes to buying books. These industries are not adapting nearly as quickly as you would expect. That’s an opportunity.

The cost of distributing information has gone to zero; the challenge is to rise above the noise. Distributors and middle men are being commoditized: the value they provide is approaching zero. That’s why record companies are struggling. They have spent so much time protecting themselves as a distribution network that they didn’t realize that distribution no longer is the valuable part of their business.

So here is the opportunity:

1. Information is free, available widely for consumption on the Internet,
2. The challenge is to get the right info to the right people in new ways
3. And existing companies haven’t been up for the challenge

The next wave of killer apps will be those that mash-up all kinds of information and package it for you in innovative ways you haven’t even thought of: automatic text messages when your friends are within blocks of each other (GPS). Driving directions from Google combined with real-time traffic analysis for optimal driving directions. Combining music listings with MP3 services, Podbop allows users to choose a city and listen to legally available music from bands playing in town that day and in the future. A host of new services will be created by people in garages, not in MSFT offices. It’s the long tail of innovation.

I would really like something that looks at my top rated iTunes artists from my collection and sends me an alert when they are playing in NYC. No need to set it up with Ticketmaster or anyone else. Just works automatically. How nice would that be?

What sources of information do you have trouble putting together, or in other words, what mash-up do you need?