News and notes from around town:
• If you are like me and have had a broken radio in your F-150 for about the last two years, you may be a little behind on the music scene.
But even I know you have to be a chump to actually pay for music these days. There’s YouTube, where you can find almost any song on the planet, although that does come with surprises occasionally (wait a second, that’s not Garth Brooks. That’s my Uncle Larry in a cowboy hat.)
A more ethical way to get your music for free is through streaming music sites like Pandora and Spotify. While those sites have big fan bases, they aren’t making big money. That is kind of the story of the entire music industry these days. Several reports estimate the music industry has shrunk from about a $14 billion a year industry a few years ago to about a $6 billion a year industry today.
Enter a Lawrence start-up company who hopes to change the trend. Back in March we reported on Audio Anywhere and its founder, Kyle Johnson. The company was in the process of developing a new streaming music site that uses a technology that it says will make online advertising much more relevant to consumers. In other words, the company thinks it has figured out a way that online advertising can actually support a free music site.
Well, the great experiment has begun. Audio Anywhere, which is based out of downtown in second-floor office space, has launched its beta version of the streaming music site.
Click here to go to the site, but if you are hoping to listen, I believe the company is going to ask you to donate a few bucks to the company through its indiegogo campaign.
But if you are an independent band, there are all types of freebies for you. The site is looking for independent bands to sign up and make their music available on the site. Eventually, those bands will get paid based on how often their songs are listened to.
My understanding is that’s how the big streaming music sites work now, but Johnson is betting that his new advertising technology is going to make his site so much more profitable that he’ll be able to pay the bands about five times they would make on Pandora or Spotify.
We’ll see. The advertising technology, called Bixy, really is at the heart of this venture. I don’t know how it works. Its proprietary, or, as Johnson says, “it's the secret sauce” of the operation. But Johnson is not a big fan of current online banner advertising. His technology supposedly will generate much more targeted ads to people.
“There will be fewer ads out there, but they will be ads that give you discounts on products you actually like,” Johnson said.
The online advertising component, I believe, is what has gotten some investors excited about the project. If the company can get online advertising to work for a music site, then it can get it to work for a host of other websites that rely on advertising to pay the bills.
Johnson, a KU engineering graduate, earlier this year was named the “Innovator of the Year” by the Pipeline entrepreneurship program, which honors the top inventors of Middle America. Johnson’s board also includes a couple of former vice presidents from the major record labels — Sony and Universal, I believe — along with some other industry types. In addition, the company has been getting assistance from the KU Bioscience and Technology Business Center.
In other words, the company has some serious people interested in it. Time will tell whether the new revolution in music will happen in Lawrence. I can tell you where it won’t happen: in my F-150. I miss Garth Brooks. He’s still all over the radio waves, right?
• When it comes to revolutions, there is not quite one going on yet in the Lawrence home-building industry. But local builders are starting to pick up their hammers and saws with a little more frequency, according to new numbers out of City Hall.
Through June, Lawrence builders had pulled permits for 67 single-family and duplex homes in the city. That’s up from 63 during the first half of 2011. (By the way, I recognize we are a bit past June. The city has installed new software for its building permits, and I believe it took a bit longer to get the monthly report out this first time, but I’m confident we’ll get caught up.)
The numbers showed home-building activity in June actually was the best it had been since at least 2008. The city issued permits for 16 new homes in June, which is up from nine in June 2011.
As we have reported, home sales in Lawrence have picked up this summer, and the Realtors I talk with are optimistic. Sales were up 40 percent in July. It will be interesting to see if home-building activity starts to pick up at that type of pace. There are still quite a few new homes on the market, so home building may lag home sales for a bit.
It used to be that 300 to 400 new single-family and duplex permits a year constituted a good year in Lawrence. Forget about those numbers. They’re as dead as the F-150’s radio. But if builders could hit the 125 mark in new single-family homes, that would be a positive sign.
• If dog houses interest you more than people houses, there’s a relatively new business right up your alley.
Lucky Dog Outfitters has opened in the former George’s Hobby House space at 1411 W. 23rd St.
Co-owner Jennifer Ybarra describes the place as a “specialty dog boutique.”
So, what special things does a dog need these days? Well, there’s specialty food, specialty training leashes, specialty beds, handmade collars, and, get this, there are little charms that go on the collars.
That’s fitting because charms have dogged me for a long time. Every time we go on vacation my wife has to run around every shop in a city to find a charm for her bracelet. Now my daughter is in on the act. It is good to know that dogs don’t have to miss out on that fun either.
Apparently, lots of other people are glad too because Ybarra said business has been even better than expected.
“People like to spoil their pets here, but we also have a lot of practical items that people have been coming in for,” she said.
It helps that the store is right next to another dog-oriented business, Wagmore Canine Enrichment, which is a training school for dogs. Wagmore previously was located near 25th and Iowa but made the move to 1411 W. 23rd St. awhile back. The result is the area has become a bit of a canine center.
It also has become the place to go if you want one other type of specialty dog product: a dog water bottle. I’m told it looks like a human water bottle, but it has a special ball-bearing nozzle that allows the dog to easily drink from it, and then has another nozzle that allows you to drink from it.
My dog had better be charmed if I’m doing that.