Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Camelot, Amazon & Co

beaTunes2 logoThe fine folks over at Digital DJ Tips just published a very favorable review of beaTunes. The few negative things they mention have to do with Camelot, Amazon and artwork.

Since these things come up again and again, I'd like to take the opportunity to comment on them.

Camelot Notation

beaTunes used to show those numbers a.k.a. Camelot Notation. For those who don't know this notation - it's a trivial mapping of musical chord names to the numbers 1-12 in the order of the circle of fifths.
But then Mixed in Key started claiming their copyright over this mapping. They started asking other companies to license their notation. Now, call me stubborn, but having to license a trivial mapping that follows a principle that is centuries old, is something I simply refuse to do. However, running a very small company, I also won't just use it without checking the legality and wait for the lawsuit.
Perhaps what's needed is an alternative notation that can be used freely by everyone.

Amazon Associates Commissions

This has been written about a couple of times, e.g. here. And it is true, when you click on the Amazon provided content and end up buying something from Amazon, tagtraum industries (my tiny company) used to collect a commission. All in all this has been less than $400 in about four years.

If you ask me, there is a word that describes this rather nicely: negligible.

Also, tagtraum industries is a North Carolina corporation and since NC has reformed sales tax this year, Amazon cancelled all their NC associates agreements (Amazon associates terms ยง2 - residents of NC are excluded from the program).
At this point you might wonder why I kept the Amazon links in the app. Well, isn't it obvious? It's not about money - it's about content! In exchange for traffic, Amazon provides reviews, artwork, charts and relationships between products. All of these have value for beaTunes users and therefore make beaTunes a better product.

Artwork

This is the one feature people want and I would love to provide it. Unfortunately, there are a couple of legal strings attached to it. Artwork is naturally copyrighted, so it's a little hairy to simply grab it and embed it. Amazon for example does not allow users of their APIs to store any of the data obtained from them for an extended period of time. And this is why beaTunes doesn't let you embed Amazon artwork automatically, even though it has access to the data.
Of course there are third party providers of artwork that are happy to hand out their data. But unfortunately not for free. Which leaves me with the choice of making beaTunes more expensive or not providing artwork. For now I have opted for the lower price.

So...

I hope this explains a little why beaTunes offers certain features, doesn't offer others, and also dispells the myth that I'm making lots of money by integrating Amazon content into the application.

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