Category - commentary

Acerbic observations on the state of the world, art, politics, and culture.

M3.0 and The Return of the Album

Here's a thought: Maybe "albums" AREN'T dead.

There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth since the arrival of iTunes over the death of the album, now that buyers can "cherry pick" the two or three actually "good" tracks on an album and ignore the rest. Lots has been said about the return of the single in the digital era.

Here's another angle: 

Since I've been listening to a LOT of new music via Lala.com, I am listening to entire albums.  That's very much part of the appeal:  I come out of Starbucks with a card offering me "one free download" from iTunes, but I go home and listen to the entire album on Lala.com. 

Why is that important?  Because several times, it has not been until I've gotten deep into the album that something has sunk in.  Now, maybe that's an argument for the singles – maybe that's the only track worth listening to.  But what's really happening is I'm getting comfortable with the whole experience, getting softened up for the musical harpoon to come…

Mauracover A couple of cases in point:  Over the weekend when I was listening to Maura O'Connell's album "Don't I Know," it wasn't until I got to the 10th track (Phoenix Falling) that I was really knocked out.  Then I went back and started listening to the whole thing again.  That would not have happened if I hadn't had access to the whole album.

600x600_joe-crookston_profile-280x280 A similar experience took place a few weeks ago when I was listening to a singer/songwriter Joe Crookston at a site called 100000fans.com . I picked Joe from their roster because he looked like my kinda guy — acoustic singer/songwriter, and that he was.  Nice voice, good guitar, interesting lyrics.  And then I got to a song called "Able Baker Charlie and Dog" about… well, don't let me spoil it for you.  Just and listen for yourself.  

But do yourself a favor, and listen to everything.  I mean, it's all there for the listening. 

And, Joe, if you've got a Google alert on yourself… when will you be in Nashville??

(And, just in passing: I don't know about that 100000fans site.  I signed up for Joe's e-newsletter from that site, and haven't heard a thing since…)

Music -v- Marketing

At the core of all of this, it is the music that is key. But putting out good music and being a good marketer are not mutually exclusive. If you do something cool — something fun or valuable or neat beyond just the music — it’s not going to matter as much if the music itself isn’t good. This is why, I have to admit, the one area where I think all three of these artists could have done a better job is actually making the music itself free.

via www.techdirt.com

No Starship but…

BlowsKinda funny to listen to the first "Jefferson Starship" album (ie. the
first after the band ceased to be an Airplane). Written and released in
1970, the album is a musical work of 'science fiction' that looks back
from some time in future to launch of a starship in 1990 that had been
under construction for ten years…

You know – a starship circlin' in the sky 
it ought to be ready by 1990
They'll be buildin' it up in the air even since 1980
People with a clever plan can assume the role of the mighty
and HIJACK THE STARSHIP
Carry 7000 people past the sun
And our babes'll wander naked thru
the cities of the universe
C'mon
free minds, free bodies, free dope, free music
the day is on its way the day is ours

Sorry to say, we never quite got the starship together, minds are still shackled by all manner of things (let's start with religion…), sexuality is still mostly repressed (at the same time it is exploited), and hell, you still can't buy dope, let alone get it for free…

But the "free music" part?  THAT part it appears they got right (but not until long after they'd all earned a tidy fortune from Industrial Rock & Roll).

The celestial jukebox has arrived (?)

The Spotify iPhone app has been approved. With this app, I will now be able to carry 5 million songs in my pocket, and every week thousands more songs will be added to my collection automatically.  This is the proverbial celestial jukebox – the great jukebox in the cloud that lets me listen to any song I want to hear.    This is  going to change how we listen to music.  When we can listen to any song,  anywhere, any time and on any device our current ways of interacting with music will be woefully inadequate.

via musicmachinery.com

Has it really? I keep hearing that the Spotify app has been approved, but I still can’t use Spotify, as previously reported, the Lala.com app for the iPhone has been in limbo for more than six months now. But if and when it does arrive, it’s not really going to change “how we listen to music.” We’ll still use our ears for that, and some sort of delivery device like speakers or earbuds. But it will change how we collect and music. Mostly because… we won’t actually have to collect and store it ourselves any more, nor are we confined to the limitations of shelf (or hard-drive) space and budget.

The question then becomes, if we in fact have access-on-demand to everything, what will we listen to? And how will the people who make that music sustain their efforts?

The linked article continues:

The new challenge that these next generation music services face is
helping their listeners find new and interesting music.  Tools for
music discovery will be key to keeping listener’s coming back.

Which begins to ask the pertinent question: with changes in the media, patterns of behavior change.  What new behavioral patterns will emerge in the era of infinite music — and what business opportunities do those new behavior patterns offer.

And how much do we have to think about such things before we can get a clue what the answer is…??

A Paradigm Shift in 280 Characters

LMDFA09_1-310x176 Last month, Nashville's Leadership Music held its annual Dale Franklin Awards Banquet at which the honorees were producer Allen Reynolds, music executive Jim Fogelsong, and some country crooner named Garth Brooks. The morning after the gala event, I learned that the esteemed Mr. Brooks had used his after dinner remarks to rail against the evils of all things digital in the music business.

During the event, I'd noticed the editor of Music Row posting to Twitter from the venue about the goings on, so I posed the question to him: "What exactly did Garth say about digital last night?"  To which he replied:

Screen-capture-1 

To which I replied:

Screen-capture-3  

And there, in two 140 character statements, is the essential paradigm shift that the arrival of the Celestial Jukebox portends.

Music 3.0 – The Historical Premise

Note: December 27, 2010:  Much has changed since this essay was first posted in September, 2009.  For starters, the referenced service “Lala.com” has been acquired by Apple, Inc., and is now defunct as we await the delivery of whatever cloud music service the people who brought you the iPod and iTunes and the iPhone have up their sleeve.  And, as mentioned at the very end, the Beatles are finally available in digital format, but only through iTunes, and only for download, still no streaming.  Both topics have been addressed in prior posts).

– – – – – – – –

The glimmer of a new beginning came at the end.

The “end” in this case is the final scene of a documentary called “Any Day Now,” which follows the summer, 2008 tour of a Nashville-based musicians’ collective called “Ten Out Of Tenn.”

10Tenn The movie documents how ten mostly Nashville-based musicians pooled their resources and put together an extraordinary tour.  All the participants are accomplished musicians and recording artists at various stages in their careers – one or two ‘major label’ names, some coming off major label deals, mostly talented indies still forging their careers amid the ruins of the dying music “industry.”

But what is most compelling about both the movie and the tour it follows is the ‘Ten ouf of Tenn’ experience and its spirit of shared resources.  Traveling individually, each of these artists would have had to book their own gigs, make their own travel arrangements, drive their own cars or rentals, and played their own shows.

By pooling their resources, the ten together could afford to hire a bus and a driver.  And they all became each other’s band.  The film shows them all playing in different combinations, all the accompaniment you could possibly want right there in the pool.  Want to play solo acoustic?   No prob.  But if you need a keyboard or a bassist or even a cello, well guess what, there’s somebody already on the bus who plays what you need to embellish your sound on stage.

Hiresphoto In the film, each of the ten principals performs one of their songs.  The stage performances are interspersed with segments depicting the sort of antics you might expect of creative personalities filling their days on the road.  Each of the performances is captivating, and the all of the clips in between are entertaining and engaging and offer a good sense of just what being on such a tour would be like.

But it is the penultimate scene that seals the deal and, I think, firmly places Ten Out Of Tenn — both the tour and the documentary — squarely astride the shifting paradigms of today’s music experience.

In this nearly final scene the musicians have finished their last show, but no one wants to leave the venue.  Not the audience, not the musicians.  And so the players come down off the stage, and with unplugged acoustic guitars lead their audience in an enthusiastic sing-along of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

In that moment, the proscenium that separates the troubadours from their audience was erased.  The artists became the audience and the audience became the artists.  And I as I felt the chicken skin bubbling up on my arm I turned to the friend who’d invited me to the screening and said “THAT’s ‘Music three-point-oh.'”

Which statement I will now try to defend.

As I see it, “Music 3.0” is the perfect description of the tectonic shift that music — live and recorded – is now experiencing.  And following the transitions from 1.0 to 2.0 gives us some idea what to expect from 3.0

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Chuck Klosterman Sends Up The Beatles

via www.avclub.com

The Beatles: A band so obscure you cannot find their music on iTunes.

As I type that, the remaster release of "I'll Be Back" (from "A Hard Day's Night") is playing on the speakers at a Starbucks. So far, I don't hear any difference. But then, there's quite a din in the room, and I don't recall any Espresso Machine sound effects on the original…

Scenic Ireland – October 2006

In October, 2006. we spent two weeks driving all over the most scenic parts of Ireland.  Well, let’s just say that the parts we saw — the west and southern counties of Mayo, Galway. Kerry, Cork and whatever is in between, are among the most dramatic landscapes we’ve ever seen.  We only saw SIX of the THIRTY-TWO counties in Ireland.  We have been trying to get back there every since.

Ireland - County Mayo

Burrishoole Abbey in County Mayo

This slide show was delivered via flickr.com, in the days before we started using Lightroom to process and upload photos.  Looking at the image quality now (January, 2010), I can see we need to go back and recreate this gallery.