Boston: The Hidden Hub of Music and Technology

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Headquarters: Newton, MA
Year Launched: 2006
CEO: Martin Kay

Finetune is a free, personalizable streaming Internet music service that combines a large catalog of music (more than 2 million songs, from both major and independent labels) with a recommendation technology that can assemble playlists based on a few initial suggestions from the user. Finetune keeps the service free by requiring that playlists consist of at least 45 songs, played in random order; labels charge much lower royalties under these conditions than if Finetune allowed users to play songs on demand.

Founder and CEO Martin Kay was part of the original Napster, which, as everyone knows, shut down under legal attack by the mainstream music industry. Kay says he’s still surprised by the industry’s resistance to the Internet as a medium. “Never have I seen anybody spend so much money trying to prevent people from consuming their product,” he jokes. With Finetune, he’s trying to “thread the needle,” Kay says. “Most Internet radio is too passive. But Rhapsody and the other subscription services are too expensive. We said, let’s find some middle ground where we can keep the experience essentially free and advertising-supported, but give users some level of control over the programming.”

Finetune streams music at MP3 quality; in the future, says Kay, Finetune may introduce a subscription service that sends music at CD quality. “What we’re seeing in our user base is not that people would like to avoid advertising, but that they’d like to hear higher-bit-rate streams on their home stereo systems,” he says. … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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14 responses to “Boston: The Hidden Hub of Music and Technology”

  1. This is all true, as a Boston area musician, I can say that there are much more opportunities here for musicians than most anywhere else. I believe Boston has the most shows than any other city on any given night. The technology is also very true, with MIT, etc. however, it is a very tough business to be in. I own a record label and just released an album for the band theINFORMATI And we believe it will explode because of the Boston/Cambridge scene.

  2. Don’t forget Tourfilter, the most popular concert notification service:

  3. gary says:

    In addition to Tourfilter, there’s also and Boston appears to be a concert tracking hub!

  4. Kyle says:

    In terms of local area software companies with some sort of music/media technology, there also is Peermeta ( in Acton with a mobile content / Web 2.0 twist.

  5. So it seem like after Venue Czar conquers Vermont, they should target Boston? Venue Czar is the ultimate localized online booking platform.

  6. You could add us to this list as soon as we’re out of stealth mode. (

  7. Paul Kamp says:

    Backbone Networks is another local company in this space. We provide internet radio automation systems and is the system behind the IBS Student Radio Network. There are over 30 station on the network and a number of them are local including:

    Simmons College
    New England Art Institute
    Babson College

    Separately, a non-profit start up is the Public Radio Exchange in Cambridge. They are the online clearinghouse for Public Radio content.

  8. New England has a great recource of musicians who have many opportunites and folks who are ready to help them with their careers. The cites Boston, Providence & Worcester all offer great venues and support services.

  9. Derek says:

    I’m from the Boston area and am in the process of creating a music promotion website, Artistir. It’s not just for local musicians or bands either, but we’re steadily getting more and more.

  10. Mason says:

    Thanks for this, I just finished my AD in programming after working as a sound engineer for the last 7-8 years so I really appreciate the compilation of these companies because I want to eventually work writing audio software.