The End of Music Alerts + One Great Memory

Music Alerts Logo

Earlier today I shut down Music Alerts, our service that allowed you to enter a list of your favorite musicians and receive alerts via RSS of their new album releases.  Here’s an example of what you’d see in your RSS reader:

Music Alerts Eminem Example

I launched it just over five years ago, back in September of 2007, after I was unable to find a service to notify me when my favorite artists were releasing new albums.  It only took a weekend of programming to create.  I spent an hour marketing it, and to my surprise it took off, landing on both tech blogs like Lifehacker and in mainstream media like  I even received a few phone calls from people in the music industry inquiring about working with us (more on one of those in a moment).  The Facebook App launched in November of 2007 was also briefly popular.

In the end,  the maintenance was it’s undoing.  Amazon’s API has morphed and changed many times since 2007, and each time I’ve rewritten the code to keep Music Alerts up and running.  When something broke a few weeks ago and I wasn’t able to get a satisfactory response from Amazon, we decided that the time had come to shut it down.  I don’t have the available time nor the desire at the moment to rebuild it from scratch in the way that it would need to be done to be a useful tool once again.

There were over 13,000 feeds created, and although it never made much money (maybe $100/month in Amazon affiliate sales from links clicked in the feeds), it will always be one of my favorite projects.  I got a crash course in Amazon’s API, early Facebook Apps, scaling a site, and seen firsthand how something simple and useful can go viral with very little work.   There were a lot of good lessons learned.

And there’s also this…

After one of my talks at JMU in 2009, one of the students asked me for an introduction to someone I was connected to on LinkedIn.  The student was looking to break in to the music-tech industry. The person I was connected to was from Grooveshark, someone I had met during Music Alerts’ brief fame.  I sent them both an email, and didn’t hear anything more until this appeared in my inbox in June of 2010:

Subject: Thanks!

Hey Adam-
Just wanted to say thanks again for the Linked in introduction to {name}.  That evolved into an introduction to the Cofounder of Grooveshark which turned into a few more introductions– eventually turning into an internship with them.  I’m now in Gainesville FL (instead of VA), starting the internship today.  I’m hoping for a job opportunity out of it — I’ll keep you posted.


That will be my best Music Alerts memory.

8 comments on The End of Music Alerts + One Great Memory

  1. Scott Messner says:

    In the end it all comes down to helping people, doesn’t it? Nice job

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks Scott. Good perspective – makes you think sometimes right? It’s so easy to get priorities out of whack.

  2. Rob says:

    Knowing when to draw a line under something and move on is a skill that I think is very important. Choosing to end something that you’ve worked on and been a part of for a considerable period can feel like failure, or giving up if you’re not careful.

    Ultimately, the decision needs to be grounded in reality. If the project is intended as a source of revenue and the cost/benefit ratio doesn’t work out, end it. If the project is intended as a hobby and it’s no longer fun, end it.

    From some of the “ending” type decisions you’ve made over the past few years regarding Tastefully Driven (I’d like to know a bit more of the TD story btw), Amazon integration with DI, overseas shipping on DI etc. it seems you’ve got this skill nailed.

    I’d say that music-alerts served its purpose well and you should be very proud of what you achieved with it. How do you keep up with album releases now?

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Ultimately, the decision needs to be grounded in reality. If the project is intended as a source of revenue and the cost/benefit ratio doesn’t work out, end it. If the project is intended as a hobby and it’s no longer fun, end it.

      Knowing when to end something is soooo HARD but this is spot on. I’ve wanted to kill SportsLizard for a few years from an interest standpoint, but it makes us a significant amount of money for very little work so for now it makes sense to keep it running. But when something isn’t fun, and it isn’t making money, there’s no sense in keeping it going.

      As far as TD, the post I wrote when we killed it pretty much sums everything up. It was the right choice, but the health & fitness section was pretty popular so part of me wonders if we shouldn’t have spun that off into it’s own site. We have quite a few good fitness domains so maybe this is something for the future, although we wouldn’t benefit at all from anything we did with TD.

      For album releases, the best service I’ve found is Album Reminder. It’s shockingly similar to Music Alerts had we kept iterating on it.

      • Rob says:

        Oh yeah, knowing when to end something is hella hard, it’s a skill I’m unfortunately yet to master, I get far too sentimental and obsess over what it could be in the future, “if only…” etc.

        I re-read your post about killing TD, that lead to me re-reading all the TD posts. I’d completely forgotten what grand plans you had for it. You mention in that post that you’re not really interested in another ecommerce type company, do you see (or hope for) a point where Pure Adapt won’t have DI?

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Haha yea it’s fun sometimes to go back and read those old posts on TD. I loved that we had such a grand vision, we just didn’t have enough to pull it off.

          Do you see (or hope for) a point where Pure Adapt won’t have DI?

          I don’t know. Right now I like what we are doing and see DI as a steady, long-term, growing revenue stream, which is very appealing to me. As long as we are able to take shots with more risky things like LockerPulse I’ll be happy I think. Certainly if the right offer came along for DI though we’d have to listen 🙂

          And personally, if I ever had to start over by myself, I might actually go the e-commerce route again. I think I’m much more interested/fascinated by the industry than I was a few years ago. Then again, I’m also fascinated by software…and hardware…so who knows what I’d do!

      • Rob says:

        Also – I hope you and your family stay safe through Hurricane Sandy.

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Thank you Rob. We’re preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. I don’t think our area will get hit as hard as last year, but who knows.

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