Archive for the ‘Digital Age’ Category

Shit, no more Tzadik at eMusic

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Doh. There have been recent rumors about various indie labels being dissatisfied with eMusic — specifically its royalty system, which according to a post today at Digital Audio Insider pays less than 28 cents per song to be split between the label and artist (and that’s much higher than I would have guessed, frankly) — and today I noticed that all the Tzadik albums are gone from the service. Bummer.

eMusic is all over the place these days — in addition to the Ars Technica and Digital Audio Insider posts, I somehow just descovered eMusic’s own staff blog, 17 dots, which highlights new music and also features a very long philosophical post from eMusic’s CEO on the state of digital music distribution and the eMusic model. Also, the music/technology/business blog HypeBot started today a four-part series on eMusic, including coverage of recent label dissatisfaction; and an old thread at I Love Music has been revived with renewed discussion over eMusic’s business model.

Whether or not said model proves to be efficacious (and, much as I love the service, their scant payouts seem to make statistics like “eMusic receives on average more than $13 per subscriber every month. Compare this with the $7 per year that iTunes receives” less than relevant), it is undoubtedly at the center of the current debate regarding the future of music distribution, especially as regards indie music, and so I’ll be following it closely.

Interesting digital music distro blog

Monday, May 7th, 2007

For those with a passing (or more than passing) interest in the frontiers of digital music distribution, I recently discovered an excellent blog, Digital Audio Insider. Provides timely news and solid analysis of trends and developments in the current changing landscape of music distribution. (I sound like I’m writing a press release.) If this is your thing, this is a blog to subscribe to for sure.

Internet radio update

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Also, there is some small good news on the Internet radio front. Basically, we now have two months to get Congress to overturn the royalty fee restructuring. There is already a bipartisan bill in the House that would do just that — HR 2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act. The SaveNetRadio Coalition has set up an excellent action alert giving step-by-step instructions on calling your representative to urge them to support HR 2060, and I strongly recommend that you do so. Working in DC for an advocacy group, I know exactly how important these kinds of phone calls are — they really do matter. So hop to it!

I’m on last.fm

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

“What the hell is that thing at the top of your blog?”

I’m still trying to figure out how to integrate it into the blog, or even if I want it at all, but for now, that graphic up there is a list of my recent listening courtesy of last.fm (and if you click on it, you can see an expanded list and much more). In my recent efforts to figure out just what the whole Web 2.0 social networking thing is all about, I’ve gotten myself to start using the likes of del.icio.us, flickr, Digg, and now last.fm. Actually, I started using last.fm a while ago, maybe a year and a half ago, but when I upgraded to the newer version of my music playback software (as detailed in this post), at the time version I upgraded to didn’t support the last.fm functionality.

So what exactly is this thing, anyway? It’s a “social music” site, which catalogs everything you listen to on your computer and sticks it in a database. Then, it shows you other listeners who have been listening to similar stuff as you, so that you can see who shares your tastes and what else they are listening to — kind of a cool way to find music you might like, in the same manner that del.icio.us lets you find links you might like. It’s a neat idea, especially with some of the new functionality allowing users to list concerts they’re going to and hook up with like-minded listeners in real life.

The flaw, of course, is that not all of my listening is done at my computer at home — I also listen on my MP3 player, in my car, and at work, and none of that can be catalogued by last.fm. Still, a neat idea and one that I am only just beginning to explore the full implications of.

This Internet radio bullshit…

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

I’m just now tuning in to this really, really unfortunate controversy over Internet radio royalties. Basically, from here it looks like independent Internet radio is pretty much dead after the latest news. This is too damn bad — I was never much of a listener, but I did enjoy popping over to Aural Moon once in a while, especially for Sean Powell and Sean McFee’s shows. There are good summaries of the issue — specifically, a March ruling that would force Internet radio providers to pay massive royalty fees — at Ars Technica and Save Our Internet Radio. The following is from the latter site:

On March 2, 2007 the US Copyright Office stunned the Internet radio industry by releasing a ruling on performance royalty fees that are based exclusively on the number of people tuned into an Internet radio station, rather than on a portion of the station’s revenue… Under this royalty structure, an Internet radio station with an average listenership of 1000 people would owe $134,000 in royalties during 2007 - plus $98,000 in back payments for 2006. In 2008 they would owe $171,000, and $220,000 in 2009.

Like so many other things the RIAA has done, this doesn’t even seem to make very much long-term economic sense. If I understand this correctly, this is obviously going to drive all but the biggest corporate Internet radio sites out of the market. Unlike file-sharing, where the arguments are a bit muddier, Internet radio is a pretty obvious case of a distribution mechanism by which listeners “try before they buy” rather than simply taking and running. I can’t imagine there are many folks out there making the effort to copy low-quality Internet radio streams to MP3. Instead, they’re listening casually, hearing the occasional song they like, and then maybe buying the CD off of that experience.

All this of course is my own conjecture and based on no evidence at all, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the industry would accomplish by condemning Internet radio to extinction. It’s true that artists and labels probably were receiving very little in the way of royalties from Internet radio, but now they’re not going to be receiving any.

Also, speaking of Aural Moon, over at their discussion forums there’s a pretty active thread on this matter.

NYT op-ed slams RIAA

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Yesterday, the New York Times published an excellent op-ed by a couple guys who owned an independent record store in NYC that went under in 2005. What’s great about this piece is that it puts forth the argument that, while downloading and file-sharing is hurting not just the major labels but also the little guys, a good portion of the blame can still be placed on big industry (RIAA being the figurehead of course) rather than the inherent selfishness or evil of consumers (the stock RIAA argument — “they don’t play by the rules and we’re the victims!” — that makes me severely uncomfortable, to say the least).

Basically, the argument is one that I’ve put forth before and read in a few other places, but rarely in so concise and cogent a form: that the record industry is guilty of mishandling the onset of new technology and basically just been flat-out stupid, not only trying to defend a technology that is over two decades old (CDs) and grossly inefficient and out of date, but actually jacking up prices on them in some cases. It’s akin to paying $5,000 for an IBM PC-AT or an Apple IIgs.

The recording industry association saw the threat that illegal downloads would pose to CD sales. But rather than working with Napster, it tried to sue the company out of existence — which was like thinking you’ve killed all the roaches in your apartment because you squashed the one you saw in the kitchen. More illegal download sites cropped up faster than the association’s lawyers could say “cease and desist.”

Also, they bemoan the record industry getting in bed with the likes of Best Buy and Wal-Mart to undercut prices, “[b]ecause, ideally, the person who came in to get the new Eagles release with exclusive bonus material would also decide to pick up a high-speed blender that frappéed.” It’s a great article, arguing that not only has the RIAA put profits before music, which is something that should surprise no one at all, but also that they’ve put short-term profits before long-term business savvy.

Fun Within Temptation DVD on Dimeadozen

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

A while back I mentioned I might try to do a “live recording of the week” sort of thing here, because I keep accumulating live shows from Dimeadozen but never get around to actually listening to half of them. There’s been a particularly fruitful run of stuff on Dime lately, including some cool Fred Frith/Bob Ostertag duos and a ridiculous flood of Magma torrents with several DVDs of classic-period material (a totally awesome 1977 concert featuring “De Futura” and “MDK” is tops on my list right now).

But what I want to highlight is something I got a little while back, and something considerably newer and cheesier. Within Temptation’s new album came out in Europe this weekend (and yes, I am fan enough to order the import version because the US release doesn’t happen until July; and yes, I feel slightly silly for admitting this), and I was watching a couple short DVDs I have of their live shows. There’s a neat one broadcast on Rockpalast from January 10, 2004, a little show at the Dutch Eurosonic Festival. The stage is absurdly Gothic, the kind of thing that’s probably all over Europe but that you’d never find anywhere in the USA. The performance is fun; Sharon den Adel does her goofy undulating/dancing, wears a really low-cut flowing dress (I don’t understand how she manages to move in it without some dramatic, er, wardrobe malfunctions), and sings beautifully — you know, pretty standard for these guys. She also goes up to an audience balcony to sing part of “Mother Earth,” giving us some pretty hilarious footage of a couple fans clapping sort of to the beat, really awkwardly, and just generally “doing the standing still” as Travis Morrison would say. But the really neat bit is a cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which somehow absolutely rocks. Pretty cool, I wonder if this is on any of their official live releases? I don’t have any of those… yet.

DC Improvisers Collective: good stuff

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

The soundtrack for much of my workday today has consisted of the free live MP3s available from the DC Improvisers Collective, who oddly enough I never knew anything about until I got an e-mail yesterday advertising their CD release show at Crooked Beat Records later this month. I’m leery of bad improv (I’ve seen a few failed*, noisy improv shows here in DC and they are not generally a pleasant experience), but this stuff was a really pleasant surprise. I will be going to this show for sure, and I’m bummed I haven’t known about these folks until now.

If you’re looking for some free-improv to (not) groove to today, check the first link above, there’s a lot of music there. I especially like the cut from The Warehouse Nextdoor on January 18, 2006.

* “Failed” improv of course is a strange term, and really only refers to improv that doesn’t trigger any positive response in my head. That is, I can’t see the connections between what the different players are doing, in addition to the fact that the sounds they are making don’t move me intellectually or emotionally. I’m pretty close to aesthetic relativism in general when it comes to music, but this is especially true when it comes to improv.

ReR Megacorp in the spotlight at eMusic

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Nice! On the front page of eMusic, today’s featured “eMusic dozen” (in which eMusic staff pick a theme and choose a dozen albums under that theme that are available for download, complete with descriptions of each) spotlights ReR Megacorp. Amidst the expected stuff like Henry Cow and Faust, there is plenty of stuff that I’m not really familiar with but may now end up checking out.

Musea now available at eMusic

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Alert for prog fans: albums on the prolific Musea label are beginning to show up at eMusic. There’s already some great stuff up, including both Carpe Diem albums, Weidorje’s only album, a couple Wapassou albums, and so on. If you haven’t taken the plunge, maybe now is the time. For me, the Musea catalog is a perfect match for my eMusic downloading habits, as many of their releases are albums I’d probably enjoy but would never spend a full $16-$18 on. Now everyone’s happy: Musea is getting a little bit of money from me, and I’m getting a bunch of music I would never have otherwise heard.

A little while ago there was a discussion on the ReRmegacorp Yahoo! group about the merits of electronic distribution. That Mike Borella was a proponent of releasing all future ReR releases electronically is no surprise to anyone who follows his Avant Music News blog — apparently he now buys all his music electronically and has not purchased a CD in two years. A few months ago, I made my first tentative steps into the world of downloading legal MP3s; now I’m pretty much sold. I still buy a lot of music on CD, but only music I can’t otherwise get online. I realized that when I get a CD, the first thing I do is rip it into a high-quality MP3 so I can listen at my computer (which I have hooked up to my stereo) or on my portable player. Most of the time I don’t even really look at the liner notes.

Besides, with eMusic so ridiculously cheap, why pay $15 for a CD when I can have it for less than a dollar? Under the iTunes model, buying CDs is still economically justifiable, but under the eMusic model it’s lunacy. Given how little the end user pays, I would be very, very interested to hear the details of how exactly the artists and labels make enough money to justify hosting their albums at eMusic.