In 2005 ‘The Value Chain Dynamics Working Group (VCDWG), at MIT Communications Futures Program’  published a paper by Natalie Klym which laid out a very well balanced and insightful vision of the future landscape for digital Music. This was around the time that we first conceived of the idea of an ‘Independent Digital Music Market’ and so the paper was very instrumental in our early thinking and planning.

At the time, iTunes had already started to become the dominant force in legal downloads, but was still eclipsed by the much larger phenomenon of P2P music file sharing.This was before Google and Amazon had begun to build their competitive services to iTunes, and before the Record Labels had started investing in ‘streaming music’ services like Spotify, in a bid to get people to rent music rather than ‘steal’ it, (so called ‘Piracy’) or even buy it.

The conclusion to the paper, on Page 20 makes for interesting reading:


“…it is likely that file sharing will continue, in one form or another. While much of this will comprise illegal activity, there is third trajectory for innovation (besides legal and illegal downloading), which is pushing for alternative licensing and compensation systems — a new legal environment suited to digital distribution — that could leverage the deeply established and growing practice of file sharing rather than stifle it.

Given that digital music distribution arguably makes a greater selection of music available than the traditional star system, distributed methods for music promotion and discovery will be needed, which is one thing social networks are good for. A distributed, grass roots music industry opens up a whole new world of potential business models, but this scenario is further down the road and outside the scope of this paper.”  - [Link to PDF]

“a distributed grass roots music industry”

It was indeed further down the road.

Traditionally there has been a long standing problem with the Web, and that has been that its inherent centralised data-serving logic ‘punishes the popular’. To explain this idea… the more that people download something from a particular server, the higher the bandwidth costs for the provider of that file. P2P file sharing began to dramatically change this situation by distributing the provision of files across numerous peers at the edges of the internet.

Bittorrent in particular took this technology even further by allowing downloaders of a file to begin to upload parts of that file before they even had the complete file. This meant that the more users that are downloading the file, the faster that file will be to download and the cheaper it will be for all those who are providing the file. But the problem with unregulated P2P networks is that they don’t discriminate about which types of files are shared, and this has caused many problems, and in very real way has stigmatized the technology.

Our conception of Edge Principles can broadly be defined as being part of the peer-to-peer meme (wikipedia link) Further information related to this area is discused in the article ‘How to bring the Core to the Edge’ by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison (We have no affiliation with any of the authors listed above)


The other thought leader that has been influential to us is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly. In fact it wasn’t until recently, on looking back over Kelly’s writings on his website ‘The Technium’, that we realised we had inadvertently used the line: ‘Better than Free’ to describe Bittunes, without realising where the line had originally come from. Kevin had used this phrase in relation to describing the web/internet as ‘one big copy machine’. Here is a link to this important article [LINK].

More specifically, Kelly defines ‘Eight Generatives that are better than Free’. These are: Immediacy, Personalisation, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage and Findability.  While this list seems obscure, the article is well worth reading, as Kelly could clearly see the future internet landscape better than almost anyone, and there is a lot of insight within this text.

Many of the ideas evident in Kelly’s work influenced our thinking in terms of guiding principles for various systems which will underpin the Bittunes venture. These are in the areas of ‘discovery’ and ‘recommendation’, which will be of fundamental importance to a successful Global Digital Independent Music Market.

Some pertinent quotes also, by Doc Searls from:

“The internet is stupid… and the reason that stupid is good, has less to do with technology and everything to do with value…”  “When Craig Burton describes the Net’s stupid architecture as a hollow sphere comprised entirely of ends, he’s painting a picture that gets at what’s most remarkable about the Internet’s architecture: Take the value out of the center and you enable an insane flowering of value among the connected end points. Because, of course, when every end is connected, each to each and each to all, the ends aren’t endpoints at all.” “To connect to the Internet is to agree to grow value on its edges. And then something really interesting happens. We are all connected equally. Distance doesn’t matter. The obstacles fall away and for the first time the human need to connect can be realized without artificial barriers”. - Doc Searls
(Doc has no direct affiliation with the project apart from being a long time inspiration)

These people have provided the context, upon which we have built the carefully thought out plan for Bittunes…     Stay tuned.  😉