Xconomy’s Curt Woodward has a point…

Curt Woodward reviewed Murfie for Xconomy, and found some areas we need to work on.

First of all, I want to thank Curt for his review. It’s a thorough, fair, and objective take on Murfie from fresh eyes. Good stuff. Some bits of it make me cringe, but we find that sort of thing motivating – we’re obsessed with getting better.

This post is a reaction to and apology for the part of the piece that makes me cringe, and in coming days I’ll also write up some good news for Curt and anyone considering Murfie. Things already in the pipeline address some of his other points – we’re giving greater ease and flexibility for sending in discs, and improving our music player interfaces.

On to Curt’s experience. Anyone can shop at Murfie and buy new discs, customer accounts are free. That said, our core service for music collectors involves importing their existing CD collections and hosting them in Murfie’s cloud. That is a service members pay for. Curt’s review of Murfie therefore included trying that out by sending in a 25 CD kit, with which we gave out an automatic Gold Membership, and that’s where the trouble started.

Curt’s kit experience was far from ideal, and had one key frustration – he didn’t know yet if he wanted an ongoing membership at all, and yet he couldn’t opt out of the one we include with a kit. Since our memberships auto-renew by default and we handle subscription changes via our support desk, this constituted in Curt’s review an “insistence on getting me locked into an annual membership” with “no way to turn off the auto-renew on the Murfie website.”

OK. Yeah. Hmmm. I can’t disagree with that, and it does suck. It makes me feel bad that Curt found our service dodgy in this way, and he’s right to find it overly aggressive. We got this wrong. We should not ‘force’ an auto-renewing membership on someone who sends in a kit, or in fact at all. It’s also not reasonable at this stage in Murfie’s growth to have this be something customers can’t manage on the website.

Therefore, I apologize to Curt and every Murfie member for the lack of control on this up til now, and we’re going to do a few things to fix it:

1. We’ll clarify what paid membership is required for, and how many discs you can send in for free with one

2. We’ll make any membership that comes with a package or kit something you can decline

3. We’ll switch auto-renewal to an opt in anywhere a member buys or accepts a membership, add controls on the website for changing that setting, and keep the current warnings of upcoming renewal

We got here because our member collection hosting products are high touch and often involve some discussion with our customer. As we’ve grown we’ve always handled a lot of things via our support desk, because we have the greatest flexibility and agility that way, where we do our damnedest to satisfy each customer on any request. In this case that and our desire to make subscribing the default to help us grow led us astray. We should have added more user-control to subscription renewal a while ago, and we’ll do it now. I’ll let you and Curt know when it’s done.

Thanks,
Preston – Murfie Co-Founder

photo credit: hannah k

The bookshelf is dead! Long live the bookshelf!

This post belongs to Murfie Musings–a series where folks at Murfie and our guests take the time to share what Murfie is up to as well as explore issues that matter to media ecology.

I have a fascination with the ways in which people create and experience media, and the financial transactions that support these value creating activities. Lately, I spend a lot of time staring at bookshelves full of books, CDs, magazines, DVDs. I call this stuff “flatmedia” – not only because it’s basically two-dimensional, but also because my experience of it is flat relative to what I’ve come to expect from digital versions on networked devices from web browser to iPod to Android to Kindle.

This is not a niche concern – most of the owned media in the world, by an enormous margin, is flatmedia that someone purchased at some point and currently owns. Virtually all of the accrued equity in media in the world exists in flatmedia form. It’s a collective repository of our culture on shelves in homes, libraries, archives, and used book and record shops. These copies we own, plus the unique rights we have to use them as we see fit, are the very reasons why we have any say over how we experience major parts of our often copyrighted culture.

But right now, we’re on a course to give all of that up. Our flatmedia infrastructure is slowly dying, many if not most new and used book shops and record stores will close as they can’t offer the new digital services folks want. As the ecology of flatmedia is displaced, but not replaced, the world of digital media is growing. In that world, the music and book buyer has no strong legal ownership rights to the digital copy of the product they buy, if they even have a copy, and their experiences and flexibility are vendor-controlled. Often, this control is used to subject them to marketing or other manipulation. This is fine for many folks, but many are not happy with the trend, and it drives otherwise lawful people into quasi-legal and illegal niches to get legitimate needs met.

I feel that liberty of experience and the use of one’s personal property and tools is an intrinsic good. Copyright and other legal and cultural norms surrounding flatmedia give us a lot of liberty with personal copies, and this mostly happened because it creates value for the rights holder and copy owner alike. Today we have this liberty in a million little ways. One such easily accomplished liberty is that I can loan a book to Julie, who can then allow her mom to read part of it, and then give it back to me. I don’t need an account or permission or a feature to do that. I can also put some of her CDs in my car legally. Books and movies that I don’t want anymore are material property with real value, and that property can be sold or traded at used shops or online. I can get some money for new CDs while making used ones available to people who could not or would not buy full-price music.

That’s part of why, starting with CDs, Murfie seeks to upgrade our members’ flatmedia from their bookshelf to the digital world and protect both their existing rights and their material property. We’re the friendly platform for media owners with an approach that respects artists’ rights and needs and offers them services and direct access to our marketplace. We want artists to sell lots of new music on Murfie. We also respect the rights and needs of those who support and facilitate artists, like labels, publishers, distributors, and in fact new and used retail stores. These groups are not obsolete – they have all sorts of value-creating power and we’re happy to partner with them. Murfie will list and sell every new title we can find in CD format, and we’ll continue reaching out to labels to find other ways to work together.

While we do this, we’ll always respect and protect the rights, needs and desires of our members. Ultimately, it’s the music listeners, the movie watchers and the book readers who provide the revenue that makes the creative ecology tick, and Murfie’s here to help.

Suggested Reading
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/11/29/music-ownership-vs-streaming/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/10/08/music-tastes-change/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/23/its-the-hard-knock-life-for-artists-online/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/11/music-not-on-itunes/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/06/23/the-cloud-music/

Murfie Musings–a new series of thoughtful posts about Murfie

Murfie seeks to be the friendly media ownership platform. In these posts we talk about what it means to us to respect the stakeholders in the media ecology, and how Murfie is doing it. We discuss our thinking, implementation, and plans for rights holders and collection owners alike to sell new and used media backed by material objects you can hold in your hand. We talk about how and where we seek to improve digital access by owners and partners via the services and APIs we provide. We’ll provide information about our design and how it performs to discourage infringing and illegal use cases, and we’ll want to hear everyone’s concerns. We want to bring attention to the evolution of copyright and its impact on people within creative industries: musicians, producers and writers, to name a few. We’ll talk about where we would like to see the law and market go to increase healthy cooperation and competition among vendors, increase prosperity and exposure for professional creators, and foster both great consumer experiences and broadened opportunity to create and contribute for everyone.

Disc Drive for Charity at Madison Holiday Happy Hour

Got Discs? Sell & trade them on Murfie and help Goodman Community Center!

Box of compact discsIf you have music on compact discs you don’t play anymore Murfie will donate $1 to the center for every 10 music CDs you bring to the event for us to list on murfie.com. We’re donating to charity on your behalf, but your discs still belong to you, we just load them into a new murfie.com account for you to sell and trade for cash and new music. We offer a variety of delivery formats for new music you buy or trade for on Murfie.

We’ll collect an email address along with your discs and contact you after we list them. Murfie is currently in private beta so we’ll send you an invite after the event – but you can watch this video or read more about how murfie.com works today. Key point is that it is risk free, if you don’t love selling or trading on Murfie, we’ll ship your discs back to you on request free of charge.

Murfie Disc Drive DropoffSo turn music collecting dust into cash & music you love while helping the Goodman Center. Bring that box or caselogic folder full of discs from the attic, closet, or shelf where they’re hiding and come enjoy a drink at imby.info‘s Holiday Happy Hour fundraiser. It’s on Wednesday, Dec 15, between 5 and 7:30*

Update: you can also drop discs off earlier that day at our offices in downtown Madison: 1 South Pinckney St, Suite 818 in the US Bank building

Intern as a developer for Murfie

(if you are awesome :)

We’re looking for a highly talented software development intern to fill an immediate opening for a half-time paid position with our development team. We’re a locally owned and operated startup in Madison, WI launching an online venture: Murfie.com. It’s built around a novel way to buy, sell, and trade music and used CDs. We’re approaching launch of our beta and would like to add an up and coming developer of entrepreneurial bent who’s looking for a great experience: contributing to a small technology startup through its launch and initial growth.

You would work directly with our lead developer as part of the team operating out of our offices on the Capitol square in Madison, as well as performing coordinated work with our local development company Bendyworks and designers Swink as well as other partners as required.

Murfie is a results oriented environment with high expectations; this will be a very challenging position in the kind of job where failure is a very real possibility and where success offers excellent opportunities for professional growth and portfolio building work. There is tangible upside as well, we’ll pay you a good bit more over time if you’re blowing our minds. Your commitment is simple: contribute materially to making our product more awesome. Our commitment will be to offer awesome professional opportunities and a great local work environment.

You are: Smarter than the other kids or willing to work twice as hard. Either early in your professional arc as a software developer or still a student. Totally fearless about programming, new technology, and new frameworks. Happy arguing about user experience and happy to win the argument by building an example of your side of it overnight. Planning to be in Madison for a year if you take the position. Not more than 1-2 years from expected graduation if still a student. Available for most of 20 hours a week for the next year, where you will be developing solo and pairing with others at our office. Not planning to go find yourself on a mountaintop any time soon. Strong programming and web development skills are a must.

We are: Matt Younkle and Preston Austin are the founders – local entrepreneurs with a lot of history behind us and a diverse set of connections to fund and execute this project. We’re moving fast because that’s what startups do. Development is currently managed by Philip Crawford as tech lead, also a local and experienced entrepreneur.

Details: Working in Rails, so you have to be interested in doing that, but we don’t care if you’ve ever even seen it so long as you have the chops. Development is currently coordinated using Pivotal Tracker and Basecamp. Code management is Github. We’re deploying initially on Heroku using S3 storage and Postgres DB. Our site will do extensive ecommerce with internal accounting and microtransactions via our merchant services provider Braintree. On the back-end, Murfie will operate via a novel proprietary inventory management system that you don’t get to know about until after you learn the secret handshake. You’ll work on your own laptop, or one we provide for your use.

Interested? Contact Preston Austin at preston.h.austin@gmail.com with something showing how you develop, write, and why you really want the job along with any questions about stuff I missed here.

A better way to buy, sell, and trade music

About Murfie.com – A better way to buy, sell, and trade music

This is your basic startup blog, a little narrative from behind our curtain.

Murfie goes beyond the local or online media store by offering a selling, trading, and buying community where music lovers acquire music they want via purchase or trade for existing CDs of other members. Our customers are able to take delivery of music in the form of those CDs or the digital files that most now prefer.

Shoppers can simply buy digital music or CDs to add to their personal collection at competitive prices. Folks wanting more can join and have fun trading CDs they’ve outgrown for music they want, or painlessly sell old and used CDs for cash or store credit.  In a very rapidly growing online digital media market, our solution to the hassles of selling real properties and offering a true-ownership alternative to arbitrary licenses and format restrictions make a powerful combination.

Have a box of CDs in your closet? Sign up to get notified as we open up our beta.