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Website of the Week: We Are Hunted charts the music people are really listening to

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There’s been much talk recently about the death of newspapers and the future of television, but it’s worthwhile remembering that the music industry was hit earliest and hardest by the digital media coup d’état.

Not so long ago, album and single charts, based on physical copies sold, provided the best indication of a musician’s popularity. (Actually, they were an indication of an artist’s commercial success, which was but a thin wedge of the plump pie.) With the advent of digital downloads (legal and illegal) and online media streaming services, the old sales charts have been rendered largely irrelevant.

Enter new Australian site We Are Hunted, a ‘Top 99’ online music chart measuring sentiment across blogs, social networks, forums, torrents and Twitter.

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The site is the fruit of collaboration between the excellent Australian news search site Wotnews.com.au and creative digital agency Native Digital. It created global buzz when it launched last month, which apparently came as a bit of a surprise to Native Digital’s Nick Crocker.

There are lots of smart online tools for new music discovery (Pandora, last.fm, jango and imeem come to mind – most of which have become quite familiar with legal representatives of the music labels). But the idea of comprehensively aggregating the online listening and networking behaviour of users is a breakthrough.

As is often the case with new web tools/services, simplicity and elegance works. We Are Hunted has both in spades. Of course, it will need to stay clear of legal tangles – purchase links to iTunes, Amazon or InSound are provided on each track listed, but that tactic hasn’t shielded other online music streaming services from legal action.

It’s a great service. Let’s hope the music labels don’t interpret the site’s name as an invitation. This is, after all, something the labels could (possibly should) have developed for a fraction of their legal bill over the past decade.

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