Some simple stats to start with:
In this year, I have
- "purchased" 1304 songs and they are available DRM-free for as many downloads as I want or to play online in my library. It is called purchasing a song, even when you get it for free. Since about 2/3 of my library or more are songs I got for free, I tend to think of them as "purchased", rather than purchased.
- earned nearly 150.00 in credits that can be spent on buying more music. Nearly means that I currently have 142.04 in credit, and last December I cashed in about 6.50. There is a detailed transaction history available to the penny, and I could go back and recreate the total if I were feeling that anal, but hey... almost 150.00 is close enough for me on a Monday morning. This means that if I wanted to just cash it all in, I could go on a shopping spree and buy 150.00 worth of DRM free mp3s.
- made 340 friends who send me new music recommendations, and hot tips on great new music finds. There are more people than that recieving my recommendations, but I do not keep a count. I make a rec because I love a song and it moves me, not to think about how many people are or are not listening to what I have to say.
- lived through a major face lift/site design change. It was all for the better and small tweaks and changes to the site continue on an almost weekly basis.
What keeps me coming back over and over again ? First off it is the very intimate interaction with other users and with musicians on the site ( get your mind out of the gutter- I did not mean that kind of intimate). On a weekly basis, I get emails directly from the musicians after I have rec'd one of their songs. They are not just a form letter "thanks so much for your comments" sort of email, but insights into why they wrote it, what it means to them, discussions about the genre and its evolution. These are interesting, engaging, thought-provoking conversations with talented artists I never would have met out here in small town mid-america, much less ones I would have been able to correspond with. These musicians seem to relish the didactic as much as I do. I even had one musician write a song for me and send it to me. My very own song- how cool is that? Makes me feel a little like Delilah.
Closely related to this is the fact that I have uncovered and come to love music I never would have discovered in my local record store, on eMusic or randomly cruising around the web. The rec system ( in addition to earning you site credits) really works. If you are friends with people who kinda sorta have similar tastes to yours, you are going to end up with more interesting new music to check out than you have hours in the day.
On a technical level, the team has done a great job with the functionality of the site. It is generally very fast, does not force my browser to consume me out of memory and they have a browser based music player that works perfectly, even on my linux computers. That little browser based music player is a hidden gem of the site and as it evolves, I anticipate people starting to think about it and pay a little more attention to it in the future. Now if I could only load external playlists into it and use it to play music on my shared media drive, as well as those on the amiestreet servers, it would get very interesting.
There is even the ability to create mini-players that are embed-able, like this one that will play back to you the last songs I have rec'd on the site:
( EDIT:That player is an example of why I love this company so much. When you are listening to music in the player, you can easily load and listen to a play list of your recs. But when I tried to make an embedded one with my recs, it failed. I instead put in a playlist with Shannon Hurley's music, and send the support team an email asking what I was doing wrong. We emailed back and forth and it turns out it was not my mistake, but a function they had not yet added. However, they agreed it was an obvious good idea and created this custom bit of code for me to use here, I just got it in my email less than 24 hours later- at no charge. And they say they are planning on adding this in for everyone-- so watch for it and you can add this sidebar to your blog soon as well. The development team on AmieStreet has been amazingly responsive any time I have found a bug or had interface suggestions - with replies and fixes within an hour in some cases. 2.12.08)
I do not want to give the indication that I think that this site is a perfect solution and has no room for growth or improvement. Their message handling system is painful to be kind ( they know I think so, I have told them this more than once). If you have a dozen or so friends who make a rec or two a week, it is just fine. As soon as your friends list grows large, or you have friends who are prolifically rec'ing songs, unanesthetized surgery seems preferable to working your way through the messages. They have some basic search features for finding items in either the system database or your own library, but having been spoiled by the over the top search flexibility in iTunes, I always want more. Again, if your library is fine, the existing tools are great- but you want to encourage people to build up a large library of media in your system, right?? I have faith this will come ( and send them monthly email reminders as well), so I will not bitch about it too much. The cashout process is still very clunky, and needs some more refinement to make it easier to decide which song recs you want to cash out and when. This is a lot like playing the market, and more data analysis tools would be helpful. Then again, maybe I am making a big deal out of a potential 98 cent cash out...
Song and album pricing has been an interesting social experiment for me to watch, and it continues to fascinate me. I wish they had some more tracking tools, but that is just me being nosy- not in any way something that would be useful on the site. It is interesting to me that because there are a bunch of people out there who buy only a couple of individual songs, it is possible for the album price to go higher than what you would pay for the entire album on other sites. If all, or most, of the songs on a 13-16 track album get driven to the full .98 cent cap, the album as a whole becomes priced much higher than the 5.99-9.99 album price you see on Amazon.com mp3 downloads ( or even on iTunes). I will admit to at least once discovering very cool music here after it hit a price of 9.99 for the album and buying it on Amazon.com mp3 for 7.99 instead. I am still an old fashioned "album" kinda gal, if I can get an entire album for 35 cents more, Ii will just buy the whole album, even if 2 of the songs are not my favorites. I have not decided if this is just old fashioned or shows some strange psychological trait about me.
The short summary? It has been a terrific first year and I am excited about year 2. I have found, learned and grown to love an incredible variety of music from old classics to brand new never heard before originals. The site is clean, easy to use and continues on a trend of continuous improvements, so I forgive them some few faults.
Their biggest problem? Not understanding and making use of the PR machine. They are music and tech geeks who needs some help with PR and getting the word out. I am constantly surprised how many times they are not mentioned in the media, and how many people I am still introducing to the site. Hopefully they will get some help and make some changes with this and the site will continue to grow. No, I am not an investor, I have nothing to disclose. I just really love this site and want to be able to continue using it. If they went under, I would be endlessly bummed.
Now, for those of you who actually made it to the end of this- the free money. Nope, it was not a gimmick. As a part of seasonal promotions they were doing last year, I ended up with a few 10$ gift packs I can give away. Comment here and tell me your AmieStreet story, or why you deserve the freebie. I will pick the best ones at the end of February and have them sent to you. Be sure you include an email, or some way for me to contact you ( twitter link, etc..) to get the email if your comment is selected.