Author Topic: Kim Dotcom on Mega, Baboom's ad-funded model and his album release (part 1)  (Read 1278 times)

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Kim Dotcom on Mega, Baboom's ad-funded model and his album release

19 November 13 by Olivia Solon

"I did some vocals as well on three or four songs, but I sound like crap, obviously. Fortunately there's a thing called Auto-Tune so they make it sound OK"

Kim Dotcom

When Kim Dotcom isn't fighting the US government in a major legal case for running an "international organised criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide piracy" (in the words of the Department of Justice), he's slogging away on a range of other products including a cloud storage company called Mega, which will have encrypted messaging features in the near future, and a website called Baboom, which has an innovative ad-funded business model to remunerate artists. Outside of these businesses the German-born provocateur has been working on an album of electronic dance music and on building a political party that will focus on the digital future of his home country New Zealand. No biggie. That's all before he finds time to spend with his wife and five children.

In part one of a two part interview, spoke to Dotcom about making encryption mainstream through Mega, what it was like working with Black Eyed Peas producer Printz Board on his album Good Times, and how his browser-based music service will compare to iTunes and Spotify. How are you splitting your time at the moment?
Kim Dotcom: I am still involved in Mega, so I have frequent calls with the developers and the management team there. Then of course, there's my case. Each day I have a few phone calls with my lawyers strategising about the different actions we can take in different countries. It's a case that involves lawyers in Hong Kong, Canada, Germany, the United States and New Zealand so there's a lot of work on that end. I'm also organising a new political party and finding time to play with my five kids. I'm trying to spend two to three hours a day with them. Then in the evening when they are in bed, I'm playing Call of Duty or watching a movie.

Your cloud storage company Mega is out of beta and overtook RapidShare in September. Why do you think people are attracted to the service?
It's faster than anything else out there because of our multiplexing technology within the browser. Users can open up to six connections to the site through the browser -- no other file storage site does that. Also, the world has awoken to the privacy intrusions by the NSA and 'Five Eyes' members and they are looking for a solution that will give them more privacy. Mega does that.

How are the plans to add an encrypted messaging system going?
The plan is to launch messaging by the end of this year and then a Skype-like chat and video conferencing app next year. That's all happening within the browser as well. You'll be able to do whatever you do with the Skype client but it's point-to-point encrypted and we as the service provider have no way of knowing what the raw data is, so your communications will be truly private.

What do you see as your biggest challenge?
We want to make encryption easy for everybody, so you don't have to think about how it works. It just happens in the background. The challenge is to make it seamless and not hassle you with any installation.

In September a developer called Michael Koziarski released a piece of software called Megapwn that claimed to be able to reveal Mega users' master keys. Does that worry you?
He wrote a little script that allows you on your local machine to retrieve the Mega key from the RAM. So it's really quite pointless -- anyone who has access to your computer can of course do that. Your key needs to be in the RAM somewhere in order to communicate in an encrypted way. He showed that if I get access to your computer I could run this tool and get your key. But it's like saying if I break into your house I could wear your underwear. So it was not really something we were too concerned about.

The key to our security is that no man-in-the-middle attack is going to work. So even if data traverses through the US network or through servers that are located in the US, the government has no ability to access the raw data even if it wanted to. In 99 percent of cases that is what matters.

Do you think Mega will be bigger than MegaUpload (which had 180 million registered users)?
Yes. It will take another year, maybe 18 months. We are growing at around 20,000 users a day and once we launch those communications suites, we'll see a real increase in users.

How's your browser-based music service, Baboom going? 
Great. That's something I'm very passionate about it. I've been working on it for 3.5 years (with some interruptions after the raid) and we have a team of 22 people in Portugal developing the site. We are making an iTunes-Spotify hybrid competitor which allows artists to sell direct to their fanbase and keep 90 percent of sales. On top of that we'll be the first site that offers a solution for artists to make money even when we offer music for free.

Baboom users can install a little plugin that replaces the ads you'd normally see on the internet with ones that we control through our ad network. Just as advertisers go to AdWords to buy ads from Google for certain search terms, they'll be able to come to us and buy these ads at half the price and still have ads shown against the same keywords. And 100 percent of the money is credited to the user, who can spend it on music. It's basically rewarding the user for the ad impressions that they are exposed to every day. We estimate that users will be able to buy around ten additional albums each year without charge.

Do users get to give artists as much or as little as they want?
No. Artists choose the price point, not the user. The user just surfs the internet as they normally would.

How does this tie in with the album you've been working on? (Dotcom launched a single track called Dance back in May)

I'm launching my own album -- of electronic dance music -- in January because I wanted to understand what an artist goes through to make a record. We'll do a soft launch of Baboom in January where you will only see my artist page so you can see how the service works and use different options to purchase music or download it for free. The full site will launch a few months later.

What's the creative process of making the album been like?
I spent a lot of days in the studio and flew in some of the top producers in the world, including Printz Board from the Black Eyed Peas [he came out to New Zealand for six months] and JD Walker, who recently had a number one with Cher, Woman's World. I am working with guys who are at the top of their game.

I've been working on it for two years and back in the studio for the last three months. It's really hard to make an album. I have a lot of appreciation of the hard work it takes artists to go from an initial idea, putting it together in ProTools, then getting it mixed and mastered. Most people listen to tracks that last three to four minutes and don't realise that it's sometimes one-and-a-half to two months of work per song.

How involved were you?
I told them what I like in the early stages and then we'd find melodies and I'd tell them what I liked and what I wanted them to change and they executed on these ideas. I was the architect of the music but they were the guys putting it all together with the keyboard, software and recordings of artists. I did some vocals as well on three or four songs, but I sound like crap, obviously. Fortunately there's a thing called Auto-Tune so they make it sound OK.

How would you sum up the album?
It's called Good Times and it's electronic dance music -- not techno. It's basically like what the Black Eyed Peas do. It's poppy dance music that you would listen to in the clubs.

Do you have any favourite tracks?
One I love very much is Take Me Away -- my wife is singing on that one and I'm really proud of that. Another is called Live My Life and I talk about what I want to do with my life. I have lyrics such as "I don't wanna nine to five, I just wanna live my life" and "I don't want to go to war, know what happened before", "don't trust politics, don't like dirty tricks". It's cool. I've taken different stories from my life and turned them into songs.