Archive for March, 2009

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♬.ws: music search engine for Twitter

March 10, 2009

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There’s a new music-related-service for Twitter, ♬.ws. The basic premise is that you can enter the name of a band, and you’ll get a page with info on the band, a listing of relevant tweets, and links to iTunes, Amazon MP3s, and Musebin (a website of one-line music reviews and, not incidentally, the creators of ♬.ws). But the big advantage to the memorable-but-annoying domain name is a very short URL for your query, which can be embedded directly into a tweet (in lieu of a hashtag, for example).

I beta-tested it with two z=z faves, The Motion Sick and Logan 5 and the Runners. The Motion Sick worked pretty well, with only one nausea-related false positive. I was less successful with L5R; their album name, Featurette, hit lots of non-music-related tweets.

It’s an interesting concept, but I think it still needs some work. It’d be great if it also gave website and Myspace pages for the artists. And I hope they redesign the results page – I’d happily trade the 18-pt type and ugly Roman font for more tweets on a page and something more legible.

MP3: The Motion Sick – Winged Bicycle [more]

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Click track or unassisted drummer?

March 9, 2009

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A really neat exercise from the fantastic music-tech blog, Music Machinery. Using a set of software tools that allow you to manipulate audio, Paul Lamere analysed a number of songs to try to determine if the drummer  used a click track or not. The basic idea was to average the tempo over the course of the tune, and then look at each beat to see if it deviated from where it was ‘supposed’ to fall. He then plotted the deviation, in seconds, as a function of elapsed time in the song. You can see an example above, for Weezer‘s song “Troublemaker.” The hills and valleys suggest that their drummer wasn’t using a click track; it contrasts sharply with the graphs for Britney Spears’s “One More Time” and Nickelback’s “Never Again,” which were pretty much flat.

If you’re interested in the details, check out the original post here, where there are plots for many more songs. And make sure you take a look at the comments – there are a lot of interesting suggestions and thoughts there. In particular, someone ran the code on a Rush song, since Neil Peart has a reputation for being almost inhumanly precise; as you’d expect, the peaks and valleys were much shallower than most of the other drummers, but not quite as flat as the bands that used (or were presumed to use) click tracks.

MP3: Weezer – Troublemaker [buy]

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SXSeattle Send-off at the Tractor Tavern

March 6, 2009

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Even if you can’t make it to Austin this year, you get an excellent side benefit – the SXSeattle Sendoff show at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. The lineup includes z=z faves New Faces and Hey Marseilles, together with Battle Hymns (pictured), the new band of Cameron Elliott, formerly of the Western States. I’m really looking forward to hearing their Silver Jews-esque Americana live. Headlining are Champagne Champagne, who I didn’t really think were my speed, but I’ve only heard great things about their live show (like this Seattle Subsonic review). Top to bottom, it’s a great lineup and well worth checking out on a Friday night. Doors at nine, and a very modest $8 cover, which will help keep the bands in gas and tacos.

MP3: Battle Hymns – For Arlene (on Memantine)

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More new models for music

March 5, 2009

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Adding to our collection of new models for music, here are a pair of subscription models for premium content:

iTunes has finally figured out that they can do better than just give you a digital album for $10. Depeche Mode is the first band to offer the new iTunes pass: for $18.99, you get a download of their new album, Sounds of the Universe, together with a bunch of bonus tracks, remixes and videos over the course of the next few months. At the moment, the new single, “Wrong,” is available for download, and there is also a remix of “Oh Well” exclusively for pass subscribers.

In a similar vein, Freezepop offers their ‘Premium Updates‘ subscription. For $2.99/month, you not only get access to exclusive songs and videos, but you also get updates including, ‘wacky hijinks,’ ‘what we ate for dinner,’ ‘exciting tour stories,’ and ‘pictures of our pets.’ It seems like a good combination of relationship-building and revenue generation – I wonder how it’s working out?

MP3: Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus (Dsico feat. Adrian Roberts Cover)

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Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” is OK’s official state song

March 4, 2009

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The Oklahoma State Legislature announced that “Do You Realize??”, by The Flaming Lips, is now the official rock song of the state (they already have a state folk song and a state country song). Democracy in action: over 21,000 people voted online for their favorite from a shortlist of ten, and the Lips got a majority of the votes (a shade over 50%). I think that’s a mandate.

Yahoo! news story

MP3: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize?? [buy]

[photo credit: J. Michelle Martin]

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Michael Gira at Tractor Tavern, Seattle

March 4, 2009

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Michael Gira is playing at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard tonight. While Gira’s bands, Angels of Light and the Swans (who I usually describe as ‘the band that makes Sonic Youth look like commercial sellouts’), are pretty well-known in their own right, he may be best known for bringing Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family to the masses, via his label, Young God Records.

I saw Gira play a few years ago (with Banhart and the Dresden Dolls), and I asked him about the story behind my favourite Swans song, “God Damn the Sun.” It’s a narrative about being left by his lover and learning that his best friend was found “face down in the street, with a bottle in your hand, and a wide smile on your face, and a knife in your back.” It turns out that he did write it about a particular friend who, however, was still alive and well (and none too pleased about his fictional demise).

If you are at all prone to depression or self-pity, you may not want to listen to this song; I’d prefer not to be responsible for a rash of z=z-related suicides. Cheerfully optimistic people only, please.

MP3: Swans – God Damn the Sun [buy]

[photo credit: Anne Helmond]

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New Röyksopp track, remixed by Holy Fuck

March 3, 2009

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The new Röyksopp track, “Happy Up Here” (from the upcoming album Junior), and a remix by z=z faves Holy Fuck were leaked. I normally wouldn’t post leaked tracks, but I did hear about it in a tweet by Holy Fuck’s manager, so it carries a certain imprimatur. Enjoy!

MP3: Röyksopp – Happy Up Here (more Röyksopp)

MP3: Röyksopp – Happy Up Here (Holy Fuck remix) (more Holy Fuck)

[via Discopunk]

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Neophile: The Rest, Everyone All At Once

March 3, 2009

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Hamilton, Ontario’s The Rest are set to release their sophomore album, Everyone All At Once, in April. It’s an appropriate title for an intensely-collaborative effort from the seven-member group (large groups seem to in the zeitgeist these days). Nearly two years in the making, the album was a two-stage process. First, they left the distractions of the city behind and holed up in a pair of cabins on a lake to write and arrange all the songs, and then followed it up with a return to the city and an intense period of rehearsals and recording.

And boy, does it show. The arrangements are gorgeous, and the production is clear and atmospheric without sounding overproduced. The music cross-pollinates intense, bombastic Arcade Fire-like sounds with melancholy and heart-tugging vocals, reminiscent of The Awkward Stage. The combination is both immediately engaging and rewarding of multiple listens. “Apples and Allergies” is the official single, but I found myself humming the B-side, “Walk On Water” to myself at odd times, so I’m going to share that here instead.

Hear more of The Rest at their Myspace page, where you can also buy their first album and the new single. So far all their tour dates are in Southern Ontario, but I’m hoping for a wider-ranging summer tour in support of the new album.

MP3: The Rest – Walk on Water

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Tiered pricing for music

March 2, 2009

wkapWhy should all your fans pay the same amount and get the same thing? We’ve talked about name-your-own-price merchandise in the context of establishing and maintaining a relationship with your fans. Here’s the other side of it: tiered pricing for music and merchandise.

I’m a huge fan of The National. I own all their CDs and bought their DVD. In the last few years, I’ve seen them in concert in Montreal, Boston (two nights in a row), and New York, and I brought people with me to all the concerts. I just bought the benefit CD Dark Was the Night, largely because it was curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner. And, well, that’s kind of the best I can do for them.

In contrast, Amanda Palmer and Nine Inch Nails both released albums that came with a wide range of extras and a corresponding range of prices. And Josh Freese is taking tiered pricing to its logical extreme, ranging from $7 for a digital download of his album to a $75,000 package that includes him joining your band (or being your personal assistant) for a month, a five-song EP written and recorded just for you, one of his drumsets, and more.  For all of these artists, what you choose to pay is therefore a combination of what you can afford, how appealing each package is to you, and how much you want to support the artist. In the days of distribution via physical outlets, this wouldn’t have been an option—there would simply be no way to make sure that the right mix of regular and premium versions would go to any given record store. With direct distribution, however, matching up a fan, a pricepoint, and a package is no problem.

While it’s not a very romantic image, it’s not dissimilar to what airlines do: they maximize their revenue by selling economy-class seats  at wide range of prices (ranging from full-price, walk-up seats to ultra-discounted seats sold through consolidators), which reflects what the purchaser is willing to pay. There are a couple of crucial differences, of course: one is that all of the seats are basically the same – once you’re on the plane, no one cares how much you paid for your seat, and the people who paid full price for their tickets don’t get anything extra. More importantly, in the context of art and artists, is that paying more money is not really reflective of a relationship. Much as I prefer JetBlue to its competitors, I’m not going to volunteer to pay extra for my seat to help support the airline. I would, however, pay for extra goodies to support an artist that I really like. And apparently, I’m not alone – the Who Killed Amanda Palmer? package that I wanted sold out while I was in a meeting that coincided with the preorder page going live (argh!), and Nine Inch Nail’s $300 Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition of Ghosts I-IV sold out in 72 hours.

MP3: Amanda Palmer – Leeds United [buy]