Monthly Archives: August 2005
I noticed that the deadline for submitting panel ideas to SXSW is coming up in September. Perhaps it’s just because I can’t decide whether I’m a musician who can code, or a coder who can play music, but I would love to watch (or better, participate!) in a panel that manages to span both the music and interactive technology portions of SXSW. I think it would be interesting to hear a discussion about ways musicians and artists can effectively use the Internet to build online communities and to distribute their works to these communities. The flip side would be looking at the technical challenges involved with providing ‘friendly’ tools to allow musicians to accomplish these goals. As a corollary, I think it would also be fascinating to talk about how blogging, sites like myspace.com, and technology in general is changing the way people locate and consume new music.
In my dream world, I would love to gather an articulate musician or two, some interesting technologists (and some who excel at both) and see what comes out.
If anyone is interested in trying to put something together along these lines, please contact me!
I had a great time at O’Reilly’s OSCON bash in Portland earlier this month, but I think it’s interesting to look at the growing gulf between these large events and grassroots ‘un-conferences’ like Webzine 2005 and Podcast Hotel, to name just two.
For example, compare the registration fee for the European edition of OSCON ($1,367.64) to that of a weekend pass for either Podcast Hotel or Webzine ($20).
I think that in part, this is the inevitable changing of the guard, as exemplified by the recent foo/bar camp escapade. So what would I do if my half baked ideas held any sway with the O’Reilly media empire? How about if O’Reilly put on a series of smaller, more organic conferences targeted at specific niche markets. Micro Conferences, if you will.
If you have not heard of the extremely ambitious Music Genome Project or Pandora before, the idea is to pay professional musicologists to listen to and mark up the entire history of popular music according to a predifined set of musical criteria (such as rhythm, timbre, tonality, etc). Pandora offers a web based music player that mines this collected data to pick accurate musical recommendations based on a purely algorithmic approach, or so the theory goes.
The broad philosophical question raised by this is if music can be broken down successfully to it’s atomic parts, and still retain enough of its original meaning and intent for successful recommendations. Music is created and exists in a messy, chaotic, social environment, so what happens when it is yanked free from its surroundings and dissected under a microscope? For starters, some surprisingly interesting musical choices are made, such as a James Brown track following the Indigo Girls. While both songs happened to feature similar rhythmic elements, and ‘major tonality’ (language taken from the Pandora music client), one group happens to have a strong feminist following while the other is a convicted wife beater. I happen to like both artists, but I just wanted to use this as an example of how social context can play an important role in successful music recommendation.
On a technical level, I really think this is a neat idea though. The flash client is fairly easy to use, and it’s fun to listen to music selections free from record company hype. There are surprises, but I did manage to find some artists that I like that had not heard about before; all one can ask for in a music recommendation system. I found it mildly irritating that I couldn’t replay a song or bookmark a song again to play later, but I bet this is mostly due to licensing issues.
Over all, I was impressed with the service, but I know that the thing to do is to combine their expertly created, pristine musical database with the purely social dataset of last.fm. Pandora plans on charging a reasonable $3 a month for this service, but I would rather pay double for an API that I can incorporate into other applications.
Tom, thanks for the early access. Can’t wait to see what the next step is!
– Update –
Scoble tries. Scoble likes.
“It’s been 10 years since Java started beating C++ in the mindshare game. Sure, C++ is still widely used, but it’s mindshare is small compared to Java. JavaOne this year they celebrated Java’s 10 year anniversary on stage with a big cake. It reminded me that C++ itself was 10 years old when Java came on the scene. Remember back: Java wasn’t as “good” as C++. It did less; it ran slower. Its sole advantage was simplicity — a language easier to write and deploy — and over time it got more featureful and faster. Ruby on Rails today looks poised to eat Java’s mindshare on the web tier. If not Rails, then something else. Empirically 10 years seems like the right point.”
Fellow Vancouverite Tim Bray has an interesting post about podcasting and the economic impact it will have on musicians. I agree with just about everything he says. Which is good, since the same ideas he discusses form the impetus for Bryght’s new musician focused web platform.
Tim suggests a subscription based podcast service, and this is one type of revenue generating solution Bryght plans to offer to musicians. I’ve said this before, but based on my own informal surveys, I think there are many musicians out there who might want to be free from the constraints of the album. As an artist, why not just release and sell a few tracks a month, delivered straight to your fans MP3 player through Podcasts?
One could argue that the very concept of the “album” is arbitrary and is simply an artifact of our current (and physical) distribution channels. In the past, an album has been a convenient way to get music to the people. Stores stocked high selling albums, due to limited shelf space. People came and bought them. But now, we are at an interesting time. Digital distribution channels have matured to the point where they will start to influence the art that people produce and consume. Music distribution technology influencing music? That’s right, it’s a two way street!
For example, the phonograph and radio drastically influenced the music that was produced, simply by creating new markets. Would 80’s rock bands have worn as much makeup if their faces weren’t being beamed via MTV to millions of homes?
Looking ahead, I think a post-album future filled with regular releases of individual tracks will be more then simply a sea of singles, and I can’t wait to find out what takes shape.
– Update –
Richard chimes in with some good thoughts
It is being reported in a few different places that the core developers for Mambo have split from Miro, the commercial entity that holds the Mambo copyright and trademark. The problems stem from how Miro set up the Mambo Foundation, particularily how they failed to consult many of the main developers.
In response, it seems that the Mambo development team is going to fork the open source project and go forth on their own, which certainly puts many members of the Mambo community in a tight spot.
Lessons for the Drupal community? Greed sucks, be open and transparent (especially when setting up a foundation), and play nice with others!
I just purchased 4 tickets to see Sigur Ros in Vancouver at the Orpheum. I fully expected to be gouged by the usual service charges, but even so, I was impressed with the audacity of Ticket Master.
Face Value of Actual Ticket - $35.00
Facility Charge - $1.75
Convenience Charge - $5.00
Processing Fee - $2.25
For four $35 tickets, one might expect to pay around 4 X $35 = $140, but when all the charges add up, I was billed $169.25! Before tax!
At Bryght, I have the enviable job of customizing Drupal for use on recording artists and record label web sites. One of the first things I wanted to do was to beef up audio support in Drupal, and so last week I was able to release the first version of the audio module. It can read and write ID3 tag information, can stream and download audio, and generates proper podcast-safe RSS enclosures. I am still working on adding support for iTunes RSS extensions, and cleaning up the code a bit, but it is working well on my site. Hopefully it will help others out there as well!
I love articulate, thoughtful rockstars…
From the Death Cab For Cutie Journal:
Our record is done and will be out soon, and I suspect many of you will be hearing it before that happens. I, for one, am in support of that, because it’s at that moment that any document is made real. Any book or record or journal or photograph is only a diary entry until it becomes part of the public record. The leak and subsequent radio play of “Soul Meets Body” means that it’s finished – no more mix commentary or mastering tweaks. And it’s thrilling, that feeling, because the listener is the most vital part of any recording. It’s just a file on a server somewhere, or another CD-R coaster, when no one pays attention.
So, how is Death Cab For Cuties new album ‘Plans’?
It sounds quite different then their past albums, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, this release doesn’t immediately grab me the way Transatlanticism did, for example. The guitar of the past is replaced by acoustic piano on many tracks, and at times this album veers dangerously close to AC territory. But there are great moments (such as the acoustic nugget “I will follow you into the dark”), and I have a feeling that ‘Plans’ might grow on me after a few more listens.
Last.fm has relaunched! No mac player available for download yet, but a notice says that there should be one up soon. Although the new site looks nice, I can’t help but pine for the old audioscrobbler look, (Out of nostalgia, most likely).
I’ve been playing with another music recommendation service lately. Pandora, who used to be called Savage Beast, are now in a closed beta. It will be interesting to compare these two services as they represent two very different approaches. (Last.fm being entirely composed of user driven data, and Pandora being carefully created by professional musicologists.)
I will give Pandora a more in depth review after I’ve played with it a little more.