Now Playing on the Celestial Jukebox: Bonnie Bishop

Bonniebishop After the Americana Conference last month, I sat down with the showcase listing and Lala.com and started listening to the performers (someday I’ll explain why I hate the word “acts”) whose performances I’d missed.

One of the first performers I discovered was Bonnie Bishop, out of Austin.  The tune that sunk the harpoon is the second cut from this album, “Lucky Ones.”  With Bonnie’s throaty, softly growling vocals and a unique take on the vagaries of love, here’s the sort of song you will likely never hear on the radio that makes you — well, me, anyway — so grateful to have access through this channel I’m calling the Celestial Jukebox.

I listened to “Lucky Ones” about a half dozen times, and decided this morning I need to spring (right, the whole buck…) for the entire album.  And the rest of the record is just as strong as Lucky Ones.  But I’m going to hold out until Bonnie plays a show here in Nashville later this month before I spring to the actual CD, and maybe get Bonnie to sign it for me.

Photo of Bonnie Bishop by jbwutx via flickr.com

Now Playing on the Celestial Jukebox: Owl City

Owlcity I’ve heard some of this record before.  Electronica is not ordinarily my thing, but this is pretty infectious. If the first track doesn’t grab you, skip down to “Fireflies” and then come back for more.

This comes with a nod to digital music denizen Bob Lefsetz, who writes of the single “Fireflies:”

Where does the magic start?

Sure, there’s an ethereal intro, but it’s not riveting.

Then there’s that hooky groove, with the big bass beat, without sounding like what’s on Top Forty radio, which is only groove, sans melody. This guy with a thin voice is singing up and down the scale, this is not a Timbaland production.

Then there are the strings! Brian Wilson knew the power of strings, they’re not anathema to pop music, they’re not inherently schmaltzy, they add meaning, and texture.

Then the processed vocals when the song breaks down, kind of like Steve Marriott in “Itchycoo Park”, if Steve Marriott was a wimp.

Then, when the verse begins again, there’s more in the track. The calliope-like sound brings in joy, those strings add counterpoint. The line about the disco ball warms you up, then the whole track comes alive, like a denizen finally awaking from a slumber.

Then, back into that verse groove. You may tire of counting sheep, but now you’re fully enraptured, you’ve left the planet, you’re in music wonderland.

“I’d like to make myself believe”

That this track will be inspirational, that it will cause the business to do a 180, that melody will return, that music will eclipse marketing, that a whole row of infectious tracks will come driving down the pike.

Doubtful.

But this guy did cut this wholly alone, in his basement. He didn’t go on “American Idol”, didn’t need Kara DioGuardi to polish it into oblivion. All he needed was tools, to follow his muse.

I’d like to make myself believe that music this good doesn’t need a major label to break through. That just putting it up online is enough to get you started. That appears to be the Owl City story, then again, who knows where truth lies.

But the truth is “Fireflies” is a fucking great track. The best on the Owl City album, but not the only good one.

Admittedly, some of the music on this album is an acquired taste, especially for an acoustic-oriented fogie like yours truly. But, lLike the music or not, there is no denying that Owl City is a story that could not have happened in any era other than the one we’re now entering, Music 3.0.

Now Playing on the Celestial Jukebox: Landon Pigg

LandonPiggBoyCover

I've been taking a keen interest this week in the pioneering music marketing efforts of Nettwerks, the management firm spearheaded by Terry McBrideLandon Pigg is one of Nettwerk's clients.  Listen to his new album, The Boy Who Never free and in its entirely from the playlist on the right (cloud source: Lala.com)

More on McBride and his approach to the paradigm shift in a future post (as soon as I can find a work-around for a script-loaded web page that refuses to play nicely with my browsers).

And, please, Landon, if you're reading this, ask your webmaster to turn off the auto-play audio feature on your website.  I'm already listening to your music, I don't need to be listening to it from two simultaneous sources.  Remember, it's about choice.  MY choice.  Love the record, btw.  Happy to tell folks about it.

Breaking News! Music Biz Needs “Radical Overhaul” !

One of tenets of the “Music 3.0” concept that I’m articulating here is that the experience is less about the “product” and more about… well, the “experience.”

Now uber-market research firm Forrester (via Ars Technica) confirms the theory, and takes a few sacred cows — like Digital Rights Management (DRM) and 20th Century copyright law — over the falls with them.

There is even an elaborate diagram that attempts to illustrate the myriad ways that “users” will cease to be “consumers” in the new era. The “creators” will not so much offer up an end-product as they will drop a marker that starts the process — around which will form the various tribes who will respond in kind:

Forrester_music_ars

The music industry needs a “radical overhaul” to its products if it wants to revive sales, and that overhaul revolves around actually catering to consumer needs. That’s the argument in a new report from market research firm Forrester, which says that the music business needs to give up being obsessed with itself in favor of letting users create their own music experiences with ease. This goes far beyond offering mere albums for purchase—Forrester suggests users be allowed to completely customize and share their music in an extremely open, platform-agnostic manner.

First and foremost, the firm says consumers have the “right” to a unique music experience. This means that they should be able to completely customize what they’re looking at and listening to by having lyrics, on-demand live footage, photos, live chat with other fans, expandable music/video players, and more right at their fingertips. Imagine the recently introduced iTunes LP, but with much more content to choose from and fully customizable.

So this new model, it’s not so much about the shouting as it is about the “call and response.”  That is an expression of the return to the “oral traditions” of music that will thrive in the new era in which music is no longer “product” based.

Unfortunately, the Forrester Research report that Ars Technica cites above can only be had in its entirety for the low, low price of just $499.  That’s a bit of a deterrent to precisely the kind of “mash up” the report would seem to encourage.

But, then, $500 is a bit much to pay for something that seems so… obvious.

There Will Always Be SOMEbody Who Has to Buy CDs

Unfortunately, it will be the few million people who will be unable to tune into the Celestial Jukebox because they live too far out in the sticks to get decent broadband:

Rural broadband_0

Depending on the definition of broadband speed, providing universal broadband would cost between $20 billion and $350 billion, according to a preliminary report released Sept. 29 by Federal Communications Commission task force charged with delivering the National Broadband Plan to Congress. The wide-ranging report also noted that its initial findings show actual broadband speeds lag advertised speeds by at least 50 percent.

The task force said its early analysis indicates that approximately 3 million to 6 million people are unserved by basic broadband, defined as speeds of 768 Kbps or less, but the number of unserved increases as the definition of minimum broadband speed increases. The FCC estimated it
would cost $20 billion to provide
768 Kbps
or less
universal broadband service and northwards of $350 billion for 100 Mbps or faster service.

On the brighter side, most of those digitally disenfranchised millions probably live within driving distance of a Wal-Mart, so there will always be a market for Toby Keith Urban CDs.

Other than that, the only future for physical products will be indie road warriors selling (or ‘giving away‘) prodcuts at their gigs.  But if it’s all “in the ether,” then even the imperative to purchase at the scene is eventually going to evaporate.

You know, like the crazy French Kinniggit in Holy Grail, “He’s already got one…” because with the Jukebox, he’s already got everything.

Spotify (again) Adopts PayPal to Encourage Subscriptions

I continue to be annoyed that Spotify generates all this press, when it is still not available in the United States. Meanwhile, services like Lala.com, which is both viable and available today, continue to languish in the public consciousness.
That said, anything Spotify or any other company can do to encourage subscriptions, and thus advance the “access” over “ownership” paradigm shift, is a step in the right direction.

Spotify today encouraged more of its users to pay for premium services by integrating PayPal.

Previously Spotify only accepted Visa and Mastercard.

Adding PayPal will open subscription to many more users, particularly under-18s who aren’t eligible for a credit card. PayPal payments can be directly linked to bank accounts.

The venture-funded jukebox service faces a battle to convert tens of thousands of non-paying users into £9.99 per month subscribers. Revenues from the advertising Spotify inserts into free streams are understood to be very low.

via www.theregister.co.uk

Unfettered Access: Here’s a Blogger Who Gets It

Unfortunately, he has to get it from his Zune…

Zune-hd-leak

This is the best $15/mo I spend.

I have gladly given up owning my music for the convenience of having access to all the music I can discover. (The only bands I haven’t been able to find on Zune’s subscription service are Tool and Rammstein).

Who’da thunk that Microsoft would ever get ahead of the curve that Apple has been bending for an entire decade?  Or that an Apple/Mac/iPod convert like me would have something favorable to say about the friggin’ Zune?

I keep reading that (for example) iTunes won’t offer a similar subscription-based service because of Steve Jobs insistence that users want to “own” and not “rent” the music they listen to.

OK, that’s fine for those narrow-minded consumers who want to listen to the same thing over and over again.  But there are some of us who actually like to discover new music, and are willing to shell out the cost of a single CD each month if it means we get “access” to everything.

Note the use of words here:  “rent” carries this negative connotation of temporariness, the idea that “if you stop subscribing, you loose all your music.” Well, if you do stop subscribing, you don’t really lose all the music, it’s still there.

The better word is “access,” because when you speak of “access” to the entire universe of recorded music, then the notion of a temporary “rental” becomes, well, pretty fucking irrelevant.

It’s sorta like the “public option” in the health care debate.  You want your current plan, fine, keep it (and keep listening to the same damn thing over and over again). But there are some of us who want another option.

So it’s good to see, as this blogger attests, that once people discover the advantages of “access”
over “ownership,” the market is going to continue growing.

All This Free Stuff… And the Business is GROWING?

Skimming through a few unopened e-mails from last week, I find this startling item via TechDirt:

Let me repeat that: despite all of the whining and complaining about the state of the music industry, some of the music industry’s own economists are admitting that the market is growing.

Not surprisingly, it found that retail product sales have declined, but the other parts of the industry have grown noticeably more than the decline in retail sales. This growth has come from a few sources. Live show attendance has increased more than retail sales have decreased. Consumers have actually spent more. On top of that, the business to business side of the industry (sponsorships, licensing, advertisements, etc.) has grown as well, opening up new and lucrative means of making money.

This is encouraging to read. What with all the “free” music I’ve been listening to lately via Lala.com, I’ve been wondering, “so, where’s the money going to come from?” to support all these emerging (and even the established) musicians who are drifting around in my Celestial Jukebox.

OK, so, maybe the cash-flow isn’t coming from direct “sales” of music, but the study cited in this article does seem to be saying that it’s coming from….. somewhere. Whew.

It’s Really Worth More If You Give It Away!

I’ve been trying to get this post from Derek Sivers on here for a few days, various technical conspiracies have intervened.

Derek_sivers2

Call it the McBride/Sivers principal if you must; it started with uber-manager Terry McBride and Derek has breathed more life into it.  Wherever it started, whatever you call it, the importance of the principal as a fundamental tenet of Music 3.0 cannot be overstated.

Because every person left each show with a CD, they were more likely to remember who they saw, tell friends about it, listen to it later, and become an even bigger fan afterwards.

Then, when the band came back to a town where they had insisted that everyone take a CD, attendance at those shows doubled!  The people that took a CD became long-term fans and brought their friends to future shows.

Music 3.0 — aka the era of the Celestial Jukebox — is about getting people to show up for the experience.  If “giving away” the “product” (actually, selling MORE of it…) makes that happen, then it’s entirely worth the price of the exchange.

Also important to note that the artist that McBride first tried this with is Griffin House, one of the artist on the 2008 “10 out of Tenn” tour that demonstrates another important aspect of the shifting paradigm.

Chris Brogan on Music 3.0: Turn The Chairs Around

Brogan

The big deal in Nashville today was an appearance by social media maven (he says he doesn’t like the word “guru”)  Chris Brogan, author New York Times Bestseller Trust Agents.

Among the many pertinent points that Brogan made about utilizing Web 2.0 tools to “build influence,” etc., there was one point in particular that stands out in the context of the Big Shift in music.

Part of the thesis that underlies this blog is that one facet of what I’m calling “Music 3.0” is a return to the “oral” — todays’ word is actually “tribal” — traditions of Music 1.0 — the era before recording turned music into a product that was manufactured, distributed, and advertised like soap.
In my long essay about “Music 3.0” that launched this blog, I described the ending of the movie Any Day Now, a documentary about the 2008 “10 Out of Tenn” tour.
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.'”

And here is Chris Brogan, New York Times bestselling author, with his take on a similar sentiment, as expressed during his appearance today in Nashville:
“The only difference between an audience and a community is which way you face the chairs.”

My point exactly.

Indeed, there are portions of “Trust Agents” that sound like a field manual for musicians who are trying to find their way in the Music 3.0 world.  More on that when I’ve had a chance to spend more time with the book I picked up today.