Archive | November, 2010

How eMusic changed my music shopping

music is in the air

Music is in the air by *MarS

Earlier this year I signed up for eMusic, a long-running service that operates on a “download to own” model; you pay a monthly subscription fee and redeem that money for DRM-free MP3s.

I joined eMusic only because I saw an offer for a bunch of bonus credits and also needed to get a copy of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS immediately (long story). I had every intention of joining, using the free credits, and quitting. Who needs another monthly bill?

But I forgot to quit, and now I look forward to the monthly charge. The subscription model has changed my music shopping process–it’s like giving yourself a monthly music allowance. Psychologically, it’s easier to allocate pre-paid money for something unknown than it is to buy it outright. So I finally have those songs I bookmarked on Pandora back in 2008 and the album that’s spent years on my Amazon wishlist.

And the subscription model leads to more music discovery. If you know you have money to spend on the site, you’re more likely to browse around and see what your neighbors are into, what’s newly-released, and what’s recommended for you.

So welcome, The Young Knives and Starlight Mints and Hellogoodbye. Serge Gainsbourg, you’re only here because I was on a lot of cold medicine that day, but welcome to you too. Viva la subscription.

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Choices, curation, and CSAs

Greensgrow haul

CSA share from Greensgrow Farms

Back in 2005, I read Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice, a life-changing book*.  I think of Schwartz’s maximizers and satisficers whenever I’m paralyzed by many choices in, say, the toothpaste aisle of Target.

But what if you’re not in the toothpaste aisle of Target?  What if you’re on Amazon.com and can choose from millions of book?  Or you’re facing a feed reader with thousands of unread items?  Assuming that funds and time are finite, how do you choose?

It’s no longer a matter of choosing the first option that meets your needs.  We need to pre-screen and remove the cognitive load of irrelevant options altogether, either through a human curator or an algorithm.

When I tell people about our community supported agriculture (CSA) membership, the first question is usually, “is pre-paying for a season of farm food cheaper than buying it at the store?”

Frankly, I have no idea.  This is the wrong question.  We’re paying first and foremost to support local farmers, but we’re also paying the good folks of Greensgrow (our local urban farm) to build relationships with growers and choose the week’s produce.  We pay them to make sure each delivery has leafy greens, veggies, fruit, and cheese.  In other words, we pay them to curate our food, and it’s a great investment.

*Barry Schwartz recently signed my copy of the book—so cool!

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