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The name-your-own-price model: some data

October 26, 2009

WoG distributionIndie musicians are thinking and talking about the name-your-own-price model for digital music (what Radiohead did with their last album). There’s a dearth of data though—Radiohead, for example, never released their numbers. But last week, San Francisco-based indie game developers 2D Boy ran a NYOP birthday sale for their game World of Goo, and they plotted and shared the distribution of how much people paid for it. As well, they surveyed purchasers about why they paid what they did. (You can read their full analysis here.) One thing that really stood out for me—and that has clear parallels to musicians—was the collateral rise in full-price purchases of 2DBoy’s other titles.

The other thing that struck me was that they plotted a distribution of how many people bought the game at different price points. But that plot didn’t take into account how much money they made at each price point – one person who pays a dollar is ‘worth’ as much as 100 people who pay a penny. So I took their data and replotted it, first multiplying the number of people who paid in each price range by how much they paid (this is analogous to something I do in my day job). It’s only an approximation, since I took the amount paid as the mean of each bin but it’s probably a little lower, since a lot more people would have paid the round number than any other amount (for example, for the $2.00-$2.99 bin, I approximated the amount paid as $2.50, but I imagine a lot more people paid $2 than any other number, so that would skew the mean lower). You can see from the graph (click for a cleaner PDF) that people who paid around $5 contributed the most revenue, followed by people who paid $1 and people who paid $10.

What does this mean for musicians? Well, it seems really discouraging that most people paid the minimum amount. But you can think of this group of people as just taking a chance on you, and helping to get the word out. Because when you put it in dollar terms, the many fewer people who paid $1, $5, 0r $10 had a disproportionate impact.

Note, of course, that the NYOP model is a whole different world when you’re dealing with physical CDs, since they don’t have a negligible incremental cost.

(thanks to @zeroday for the pointer!)

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In heavy rotation at zed equals zee

October 19, 2009

DNFMOMD photo

Some music, mostly local, that’s getting a lot of listens here at zed equals zee headquarters.

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (pictured): Boston music power-couple Sophia Cacciola and Michael Epstein (also of The Motion Sick) are Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, currently working on a Prisoner-themed EP.  I went to their debut show and was just blown away by Sophia’s vocals, and I’ve been listening to the few songs they’ve released, on repeat. DNFMOMD don’t really lend itself to a ‘recommended if you like,’ since they don’t sound like anyone else, but maybe Kim Deal Gordon*-fronted Sonic Youth?

MP3: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – Episode 1: Arrival [more]

The Beatings: What post-punk is supposed to sound like. There’s a fantastic (in both senses) review of Boston’s The Beatings new album, Late Season Kids, over at Ryan’s Smashing Life, and more MP3s for you to listen to.

MP3: The Beatings – Bury You [buy]

Eric Schmider: We’re welcoming new Boston arts and music blog Bean Town Vision to the scene and thanking them for the intro to local retro-oriented indie rocker Eric Schmider. You can read a full bio and a preview of the upcoming show (Wednesday, October 21st at Toad) with his current project, Mollycoddle, over at Bean Town Vision, as well as download some more demo MP3s.

MP3: Eric Schmider – Knee Deep [more]

Rah Rah: Regina, SK’s Rah Rah just released their debut full-length, Going Steady, and I’m enjoying it immensely, especially the quirky love song, “Tentacles” (about accepting free tango lessons from a beautiful troll, and a betentacled beloved).

MP3: Rah Rah – Tentacles [buy]

*Edit: Gordon, not Deal. Not like I didn’t just read Goodbye 20th Century. Where is my mind?

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Music, tech and culture roundup

October 13, 2009

sunboxes

Help with research on music blogs: This came out a month or so ago, but I forgot to share it. Sophie Vernon, a master’s student at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, is trying to understand the relationship between music blogs and word of mouth. She’s put together a survey; it’s really short, and if you’re reading this it’s relevant to you, so go help her out.

Billy Bragg on piracy. A couple of weeks ago, a group of UK artists convened to discuss the issue of Internet piracy. Billy Bragg wrote an editorial for the Guardian where he makes a point I haven’t seen very often: he argues that any attempt to suppress filesharing entirely (by the recording industry asking legislators for ever-more-draconian sanctions) would entail giving unacceptably high control of the Internet to corporations. Read the full editorial here.

Sun Box installation: Important Records is hosting an installation art piece by Craig Colorusso this Saturday, October 17th. The piece consists of an array of speakers, each playing a guitar sample. As they’re solar-powered, what you hear will depend not only on your trajectory through the site but also the length of the day. Important is a Boston-area label, but it’s not clear where the piece will be set up; you can e-mail for details. (Via Justin Snow of Anti-Gravity Bunny.)

Policing leaks with politesse. Last year, z=z covered the new Hold Steady album, which had been leaked. We had noted that a company called Web Sheriff was sending ‘highly civilized takedown notices’ to blogs posting leaked tracks, so we posted a link to the approved track—and received a thank-you note, much to our surprise. The Guardian has an article on the company that is policing unauthorized tracks with reason and social engineering, not by threats.

What CD sales mean for artists. Last year, of 115,000 CDs released, only 6000 sold more than 1000 copies. Over at CNet, Matt Rosoff takes a sobering look at what different levels of CD sales means for artists. This is not likely to be news, but it pretty succinctly makes the case that CD sales alone aren’t going to make being an artist sustainable.

And, finally, some nerd love. Rolling Stone has a track-by-track guide to They Might Be Giants breakthrough album, Flood.

464 Massachusetts Avenue

Arlington, MA  02474

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What will music fans pay for?

October 9, 2009

portrait-debcha

This piece was crossposted to Music Think Tank.

Earlier this week, I talked about how NPR and webcomics have a business model that’s predicated on the primary work (the radio broadcast and the webcomics themselves, respectively) being available for free; once the overhead is covered, the incremental cost of additional readers or listeners is approximately zero. I pointed out that music has historically been very different: the business model for music is based on people paying for the music itself. But now that music can be transmitted digitally it also has, not coincidentally, an incremental cost of zero. And unlike NPR, you don’t need a radio transmitter to share it with your friends.

I know that there is ideology on both sides: people who feel that all music should be free, and people who feel that downloading any music you didn’t pay for is theft. But how you feel about the issue doesn’t change the facts: listeners have the option of not paying for music. And, as Cory Doctorow has pointed out, it’s never going to get harder to move bits around than it is right now. So it might be time to think about a business model that reflects this.

I’m not a musician. I’m a fan. And from my perspective, it’s clear that fans do want to support artists that they like. Taking a page from NPR’s book, here’s a list of things that fans will pay for, even if they can get your music for free:

The music. First and foremost, many people will (and do) pay for digital music, even if they don’t have to. This might be because it’s easier to use iTunes than BitTorrent. Or it might be because they want to support the artist. Or both.

CDs and merch. Atoms, not bits. Do you pledge money to NPR to support the programming, or for the This American Life DVD? I’ve bought merchandise even when there was no rational reason for me to, simply because it was a way to support an artist I love. I buy CDs at concerts, because I know the money goes directly to the artists (and because I can listen to them in my car).

Relationships. Anything signed or limited-edition is not just about the article itself—it’s about expressing a relationship with the artist. And relationships aren’t fungible. Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer are two excellent artists who have close relationships with their fans, who in turn support them.

An experience. The canonical example of this is, of course, the concert – whether it’s $5 to see your favorite local band or hundreds of dollars for an arena show. But this also includes things like doing ‘shrooms in a Lamborghini with your favorite drummer.

Something unique. The illustration at the top of this post is a commissioned portrait (“Portrait of the Blogger, with Johnny Toaster,” by rstevens). Definitely worth paying for.

A narrative. What’s a story worth? Apparently, quite a bit. The Significant Objects art project posts thrift-store finds for auction on eBay, along with the back stories. But the back stories are fictional, and are described as such. Nevertheless,  the items go for substantially more than their market value.

What are you willing to pay for? What have you offered to your fans? Other thoughts?

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Music, webcomics, NPR, and money

October 5, 2009

box of money[click for full Diesel Sweeties strip]

The topic of creators and money seems to be in the air at the moment. Last week, Amanda Palmer wrote a blog post, “Why I am not afraid to take your money,” which is burning up the Twitterverse and the blogosphere, and a recent PBS MediaShift article discussed financially self-sustaining webcomics.

In the webcomics article, Richard Stevens, the creator of Diesel Sweeties, describes how he makes a living off his work by selling merch, like t-shirts. His site gets about 30,000 hits a day; he reports that he only needs one or two percent of these readers to buy something to make the whole thing self-financing. While he provides something to everyone for free (the comics), he also provides the opportunity to support the comics by buying something.

It dawned on me why this sounded familiar when I turned on my radio to discover that WBUR is in the middle of a pledge drive: it’s exactly the model that NPR has been using for decades. It’s the nature of digital distribution that, above a certain threshold, works have an incremental cost of zero: once something has been created, the cost of instantiating and distributing the creation is pretty much negligible. NPR is one of the few cases where this was true in the pre-digital age: once they’ve paid for their news bureaux, staff, and transmission, it doesn’t matter if ten (or a hundred, or a thousand) extra people tune in—it won’t cost them anything extra. And even though only a tiny fraction of their listenership donate, it’s enough to make up 30% or so of their operating budget. NPR puts more emphasis on your money supporting the programming and less on the Car Talk CD you get, while Stevens puts more emphasis on you getting the cute red robot and less on supporting the comic, but the net result is the same: the fraction of the people who pay for physical items can support the whole digital (or radio) endeavour.

NPR and webcomics are native to the world of zero incremental cost, and have a financial model that reflects this. The music industry, on the other hand, does not. They were in the business of recouping their costs with every CD sold, and now they are trying to recoup costs with every track downloaded. But that’s clearly not working anymore. More on this to come.

PART 2: What will music fans pay for?

MP3: The Flying Lizards – Money (extended mix) [buy]

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This weekend in live music: z=z picks

October 2, 2009

BurmaBikes

This is a killer weekend for live music in Cambridge, at least in the z=z worldview.

Friday: Montreal’s Besnard Lakes are headlining at TT the Bear’s, and a lineup of bands including Kingsley Flood are playing a free (as in beer) show at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville.

Saturday: Double-plus-good bill tonight – first up is another show at TT the Bear’s with local luminaries The Motion Sick, Aloud, Sidewalk Driver (CD release) and John Powhida International Airport. A couple of blocks away, Electric Laser People is playing at the Cantab Lounge.

Sunday: The main event – it’s Mission of Burma Day! The legendary Boston band is playing a free outdoor show at MIT to celebrate the release of their new album, The Sound the Speed the Light. Head on over to the East Campus Courtyard at 2:30 pm.

[for a less idiosyncratic and more comprehensive view of what’s happening in Boston musically, I urge you to check out Boston Band Crush’s listings]

MP3: Mission of Burma – 1, 2 ,3, Partyy! [preorder]

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Music, tech and culture roundup

September 28, 2009

oblique strategies

Auto-Tune, by way of Brian Eno: Montreal’s Islands (opening for the Psychedelic Furs and the Happy Mondays at House of Blues on October 10) are taking flak for the track “Heartbeat,” off their brand-new album, Vapours, for the heavily-Auto-Tuned vocals. In this interview over at Street Carnage, Nicholas Thorburn defends their decision to  use it, inspired by their use of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies in the studio.

What does your music look like? Paul Lamere is spending a lot of time thinking about visualizations of music these days. Want to help? He’s collecting visualizations of musical taste. Grab a marker, sketch out what you think your music looks like, and upload it Flickr, tagged with ‘MyMusicTaste.’

Indie music stars on the big screen. Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and James Mercer of the Shins star in upcoming release Some Days are Better Than Others. You can watch the trailer here. No word on whether they’ll be contributing to the soundtrack (via Line Out).

MP3: Islands – Jogging Gorgeous Summer (no Auto-Tune, I promise) [buy]

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The Mark Sandman Memorial Concert

September 25, 2009

MSMC poster

This Sunday is the Mark Sandman Memorial Concert, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the passing of the legendary Morphine frontman. The event takes place at Pacific Park in Cambridge from 1 to 7 pm. Performers include Orchestra Morphine, Elastic Waste Band, Faces on Film and more. There’ll be opportunities to play Harmonix‘s new Beatles Rock Band, as well as an on-site raffle, charity auction, and more. The concert is part of the larger Mark Sandman Music Project, which honors Sandman’s life by supporting music opportunities for youth.

Download MP3s from the Mark Sandman Music Project site for a PWYC donation.

UPDATE: Looks like rain. The concert has been relocated to the Middle East Downstairs, from 11:30 am to 5;30 pm.

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Read: Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records

September 23, 2009

ournoise

[Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, The Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small, by John Cook with Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance]

Author John Cook has assembled a history of Merge Records‘ two decades, from the early days of hand-screening record sleeves in bedrooms to its current status as home to mega-indie bands like Spoon and Arcade Fire. The book is definitely all about the primary sources and the historical record—while Cook’s writing provides excellent context, much of the text is in the form of direct quotes with artists, colleagues, and friends of the label. The book also highlights the unusually close links between the label and its artists by interleaving chapters on the bands, particularly Superchunk, of course (it’s the band of Merge founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance).

The picture that emerges from the text and interviews is that Merge did everything right (which is why they’re around get books written about them, admittedly). To begin with, it’s a label that was started by musicians, for musicians. But even artist-run labels die off like fruit flies, except that fruit flies are unlikely to disappear with any of your money. Merge’s  no-contract, we’re-all-friends philosophy was coupled with an unstinting focus on the bottom line (the individuals quoted in Our Noise almost unanimously attribute this to Ballance’s influence). Despite that, Merge took a certain number of risks—most notably, the release of Magnetic Fields’ magnum opus, 69 Love Songs, a three-CD box set with an expensive insert booklet. That a massive collection of love songs, in a comprehensive range of musical styles, could sell more than 150,000 copies is wildly improbable—except for one minor detail, which is that the music is brilliant. Finally, Merge benefited (and is continuing to benefit) enormously from the way the world changed around them. The mainstreaming of indie music has helped the label, of course. But more significantly, the rise of digital distribution has flattened the landscape, allowing Merge to compete effectively with the majors, not least because the big players can no longer offer anything useful that Merge can’t, since the value of promotional tools like payola-greased radio play and premium placement in record stores has plummeted.

Appropriately enough, given Merge’s philosophy, the book is inexpensive (the first edition is a sub-$20 paperback) but beautifully designed and crafted, from the matte-finish cover to flyleaves  illustrated with a grid of Merge album covers. It’s also lavishly illustrated with ephemera—photographs, notes, postcards and more—culled from the closets of the interviewees.

Read an excerpt here. Check out the Our Noise website. And then buy it.

Want to win a free copy? E-mail us or DM debcha before 5 pm Eastern on Monday, September 28th. We’ll pick a respondent at random to receive a free copy from Algonquin Books (and extra-special thanks to them for being willing to mail it anywhere).

MP3: Magnetic Fields – Grand Canyon [buy]

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Archive of Crocodile live sets

September 21, 2009

Odegaard media center

Jim Anderson, the sound engineer at Seattle’s legendary (and recently re-opened) live music venue The Crocodile, has donated five years worth of live show recordings (2002-2007) to the University of Washington’s Ethnomusicology Archives – nearly 3000 hours of music. Artists include z=z faves the Dresden Dolls, the Mountain Goats, the National, and oodles more – you can take a look at the huge list and find your own favorites. The good news? They’re all available to the public. The catch: In order to obviate licensing issues and piracy concerns, you have to go in person, to the ‘listening stations’ at UW’s Odegaard Library. I think it’d be great if artists could agree to put their recordings in the public domain or otherwise agree to let them out on the Internet – I sincerely hope the University is looking into the possibility.

Since I spent most of the last year on the University of Washington campus, I’m kicking myself that I only found out about this collection after I returned to the East Coast. On the other hand, it’s probably just as well – I can’t imagine that spending all my time in the library, headphones on, would have really helped my productivity.

(thanks to Scott for the heads-up!)

Image: Media Center by Flickr user University of Washington Libraries, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Music, tech, and culture roundup

September 18, 2009

canadianMusicWikipedia

Colbert Report to stream albums. The Flaming Lips were on the The Colbert Report on Wednesday night, and the Mountain Goats (whoo!) are scheduled to be guests in a couple of weeks. More interesting, though, is that both artists will be streaming their albums, before the official release dates, on the Colbert website.  Here’s hoping it leads to new fans and bigger sales. [via Underwire]

Canadian music wiki. Journalism student and CBC Radio 3 intern Amanda Ash is working on putting together a Wikipedia-style database of Canadian music as her thesis project, tapping into CanCon-loving music fans (whence the awesome illo, above).  She’s soliciting ideas – go help her out.

Another fun online musical toy. In the same vein as the online Tenori-On, there’s a web-based musical instrument, Nudge, with a range of sounds and tempos. If you come up with something you like, you can embed it in your blog or share it with your friends. Warning: making pretty melodies is quite the timesuck. [via Indie Music Tech].

There and back again. Over at the New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones has a thoughtful profile of Trent Reznor, tracing his journey from indie, to major label, to indie again.

What does filesharing mean for composers? Lyricist and composer Björn Ulvaeus (sound familiar? argues that musicians can ‘sing for their supper,’ but songwriters can’t, and they might end up the big losers with declining music sales. This probably explain why composers and songwriters are trying to get a cut from 30-second song previews on iTunes.

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Logan Lynn, From Pillar to Post

September 16, 2009

I blogged about Portland, OR electronica artist Logan Lynn waaaay back in April, when I got a pre-release copy of his new album, From Pillar to Post:

I’ve been listening to an early copy of Logan Lynn’s new album, From Pillar to Post, for a few weeks now, and it’s been gradually infiltrating itself into my brain. The Portland-based Lynn describes his music as ‘electro-pop’, but that carries connotations that are a little too saccharine.  The gentle tenor vocals over a background of electronica are like the smooth, reflective surfaces of mirror shards, belying the razor-sharp edges of the complex song structures, syncopation, and bleak lyrics—as his bio puts it, putting the ‘disco’ back into ‘discomfort.’

It’s finally out for the general public. Well, kind of. You can download a digital version now, but the physical CD won’t be out until November (?!). If you decide to go for atoms instead of bits, you can buy one of the packages – I’m partial to the sterling silver knuckles in the shape of a row of hearts – or you can always drop $5000 on a Logan Lynn dance party.

MP3: Logan Lynn – Alone Together (Boy in Static remix)

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Watch: Stingray Sam

September 14, 2009
StingraySam poster

Filmmaker and musician Cory McAbee has created his second sci-fi Western musical, Stingray Sam, featuring his band, The Billy Nayer Show. In the film, Stingray Sam is reunited with his old accomplice, The Quasar Kid, and “the story follows these two space convicts as they earn their freedom in exchange for the rescue of a young girl who is being held captive by the genetically designed figurehead of a very wealthy planet.” David Hyde Pierce provides the deadpan narration, and it’s a decided homage to ‘singing cowboy’ movies and classic sci-fi, aiming for (and doing a pretty good job of hitting) that sweet spot between irony, nostalgia, and kitsch. You can watch the trailer and the first episode here. If this seems up your alley, you can also check out McAbee’s first sci-fi Western musical, The American Astronaut.

The film is ‘designed for screens of all sizes;’ to start, it’s a feature-length film that’s broken into six download-friendly episodes. There’s a screening in LA tomorrow (September 15th) at 7 pm PDT, followed by a Q&A with McAbee, and it’ll be streamed live at the film site. It’ll also be screening theatres around the country and the world, and as of tomorrow, it’ll be available for purchase in a variety of formats, ranging from phone-friendly to hi-def.

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Music, tech and culture roundup

September 11, 2009

heteropoda davidbowie

Spiders from Mars Madagascar: That beauty above? That’s a Heteropoda davidbowie, newly discovered spider named after David Bowie (in honor of his Spiders from Mars). You can read the whole story here.

Sound quality in music: Sasha Frere-Jones has started a new series in the New Yorker called “Dithering: The Sound of Sound” which explores sound quality in music. The first and second posts are up.  If you haven’t yet, you can test yourself to see if you can hear the difference between MP3s at 128 and 320 kbps.

Monkeys find Metallica calming: Primatologist Charles Snowdon at UW-Madison showed that the affective state of tamarind monkeys can be changed by ‘monkey music’ (music based on their calls) but it largely unaltered by human music, with the exception of Metallica, oddly enough. This is interesting because music affects the emotional state of humans in a similar way across cultures, but it these effects don’t seem to cross over to other primates. More information here.

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Read: M. Specktor, That Summertime Sound

September 9, 2009

that summertime sound

It’s after Labor Day, which means that the summer of 2009 is a fast-fading memory (in US and Canadian culture anyway, even if the astronomers don’t agree). But the debut novel by Matthew Specktor, That Summertime Sound, looks even farther back, to a summer in the 1980s. The narrator has just finished his freshman year of college, and is lured to Columbus, OH by the promise of sharing a town with the girl of his dreams and his musical heroes, Lords of Oblivion.

Heavily laced with references to artists from Hüsker Dü to Elvis Costello (and a disconcertingly veiled-but-transparent reference to Bauhaus), the prose and narrative of That Summertime Sound are sparse and evocative. This works well to elicit the heat and sounds of the Columbus summer but less well to draw the characters, who come across as rather thinly sketched, especially the women. Nevertheless, it’s an engaging read, especially for anyone who was a music-loving adolescent.

More information on the book, including MP3s of excerpts read by Jeremy Irons, J. Mascis, James Franco and others, can be found here. Largehearted Boy asked Matthew Specktor to create and discuss a playlist for the book – you can read it here.

Buy the book here. I also have one free copy to give away. Just e-mail or message me on Twitter before 12 noon Eastern on Monday, September 14th, and I’ll pick someone at random from the responses and have a copy of the book sent out to you (US and Canada addresses only, I’m afraid).

MP3: “The Devil In It Somewhere” – TSS excerpt read by Jeremy Irons

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Nick Hornby on MP3 blogs, and his new novel

September 7, 2009

Nick Hornby, who immortalized intimidating record stores in High Fidelity (as brilliantly conveyed by Jack Black in its on-screen translation: “Do we look like the kind of store that sells “I Just Called to Say I Love You”? Go to the mall.”) wrote a paean to the brave new world of music on the Internet in this weekend’s Guardian Observer:

But more importantly, you need never again feel as though the pop life is drifting away from you – indeed, the anonymity and user-friendliness of the MP3 blogs mean that one feels emboldened to walk into even the scariest-looking website in the full confidence that nobody will laugh at you.

He also makes an amusing (albeit slightly depressing) prediction for the future of musicians and bands. Read the full article here.

Hornby’s new novel, Juliet, Naked, about the relationship between a reclusive songwriter and the girlfriend of his biggest fan, is due out later this month. You can hear him talk about it in the video above or in person at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, September 30th.

I will now sell five copies of  The Three EPs by the Beta Band.

MP3: The Beta Band – Dry The Rain (live) [buy]

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Music, tech and culture roundup, bis

September 2, 2009

The National

It’s the start of school! Here are your reading assignments for the week.

Music History 101: The transition from live music performance to recordings. In the 1950s, music used to be about songs – what we now think of as standards. Whether in Paris or Poughkeepsie, people wanted to hear someone sing Cole Porter’s  “Miss Otis Regrets,” and it didn’t really matter who. With the rise of radio in the 1960s, music began to be about recordings – “Hey Jude” is not only by the Beatles, but there is a single, canonical version of it in our collective memory. In this article by Elijah Wald, he discusses the history and context of this transition, including how it reinforced racial segregation.

Intro to Sociology: Indie rock from the perspective of our parents. While “The Grown-Ups Guide to Indie Rock,” is a less than appealing title, fifty-something music critic D.J. Palladino writes an appreciation of indie music that gets closer to its heart than a score of Pitchfork 9.4 reviews ever could.

[extra credit] Advanced Topics in Neurobiology: Why we respond emotionally to music. Scientific American had a great article last month on the neurological basis of the emotional response to music. You can read a summary here, but unfortunately the full article is behind a paywall (if you happen to actually be at a college, you should have online access).

MP3: Kirsty McColl and the Pogues – Miss Otis Regrets [buy]

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Music, tech and culture roundup

August 31, 2009

long tail graphic

After a summer hiatus, zed equals zee is getting back on a regular posting schedule. But you probably still want to sign up for the RSS feed.

Catching up on some music, tech and culture from around the web and around the world.

Owen Kelly designed the graphic, above, to help bands visualize their fanbase, from casual fans to the long tail of committed fans. Click for a larger version, and read more about it here.

In case you haven’t been following The Flamings Lips, who played in Boston last night, they have an interesting model for music distribution: when you bought your ticket, you received immediate access to three tracks from their new album. This month, you received access to three B-sides. And finally, after the show, you receive access to an audio download of the concert. All nice and legit, with the cost of the music factored into your ticket.

Nina Paley, creator of Sita Sings the Blues, collaborated with QuestionCopyright.org to come up with the Creator-Endorsed Mark. It complements Creative Commons licensing, in that it allows distributors of CC-licensed work to indicate that they are sharing profits with the creator. Paley argues that, when fans connect with a creative work, they want to give back to the artist and it should be clear when they are doing so. Read a PBS MediaShift article about it here, and you can download the marks here.

Finally, you’ve probably heard that Apple is planning a proprietary album format, code-named Cocktail, which bundles together an album’s worth of music with assorted extras like art, movies, and lyrics, all wrapped up in a shiny DRM’ed wrapper. Since music lovers have made it clear that they aren’t interested in buying albums when they can buy songs they want à la carte, it’s not clear to me why they’d be interested in buying Cocktail packages – Apple’s sweetening the pot, but rather missing the point. But straying a little bit outside the purview of this blog, it does make me wonder about the future of DVD extras – when we are downloading movies instead of buying DVDs, what will become of all the additional goodies that filmmakers provide? Will they just go on a website to help promote the download? Premium content? What do you think about bundling extras with downloadable content?

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Sat Aug 29th: One Night Band, Middle East [Down!]

August 28, 2009

OneNightBand

One Night Band. Saturday, August 29th, 8 pm at the Middle East Up Down! Go.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new bio of Sonic Youth and I commented that one of the striking things about them was how embedded they were in their community, the 1980s New York art-music scene. And Cory Doctorow made the point that, in an age of all creative works being just a click away, only relationships aren’t fungible.  So I’m really intrigued by One Night Band, a music event organized by Boston Band Crush. The deal is that 40 people from local bands get together at the godawfully early hour of 10 am on Saturday, are randomly assorted into eight bands of five people, and then scatter to rehearsal spaces all over Boston. The mayfly bands have to write and learn three original songs, and rehearse one cover, before they present themselves at the Middle East Upstairs Downstairs, ready to rock. One of the neat things about this format it is how it allows for the cross-pollination of local music fans – with any luck, it’ll draw a superset of the followers of all the participants.

Read more about the event here, here, or here, and check out Boston Band Crush’s wall-to-wall coverage of the participants. The z=z award for most honest comment goes to Henry Beguiristain of Aloud, who wrote: Am simultaneously frightened by and looking forward to One Night Band this Saturday. Should be fun and/or horrible.

Of course, One Night Band as part of the development of a local community in the digital age is only part of why I’m going – I’m also hoping to see some trainwrecks.

(Okay, well, not really – I’m hoping to see some great musicians do interesting new songs, leavened by some cool covers. But I do predict that there will be some entertaining trainwrecks.)

EDIT: No one is so wrong as someone who is absolutely sure they’re right. It’s at Middle East Downstairs, not Upstairs. Which means that there’ll be more room for you!

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This week in live music: z=z picks

August 26, 2009

RSL Aug 26 09

Winding down the summer with another great week in 02139. Tonight –  Wednesday, August 26th –  Ryan’s Smashing Life presents a great-looking lineup at the Middle East Upstairs, with Larcenist, Static of the Gods, The Shondes and Ian Adams. Full details at RSL, including lots of pictures and songs to download.

On Thursday night, we’ll be heading back to the Middle East Up to see The Lights Out, The Future Everybody‘s debut showing (featuring bassist Matthew Girard, who really gets around), Golden Bloom, and Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, who I’m especially looking forward to checking out after watching their Michael Pope-directed and distinctly NSFW video for ‘C Star’ (hint: it’s not actually about starfish)

Thinking of  giving Plushgun‘s indie-electro a go on Friday night, not least because The Main Drag is one of the supporting acts.

Finally, Saturday is the long-awaited One Night Band! We’ll have more on this later in the week, but you should go buy your tickets now. Yes, now.

MP3: Static of the Gods – Talk You Down [unreleased track via RSL]