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Posts Tagged ‘curation’

groopEase – New Music Discovery / Group Music Purchasing Service

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

groopEase

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While I was checking out Google’s web alternative to popular iPad app FlipBoard, (Google Fast Flip,which is nice, btw) I discovered a story about a new service through a post at Mashable from April 6th. It immediately sounded interesting to me in concept. I appreciate and desire to support any new or unique approach to getting new music to new listeners. And this one really seemed unique, at least in the world of new music curation/promotion. While I prefer less commercial approaches, you can’t blame a guy for making a buck or two, as long as it’s legit and not scammy.

I’m sure many of you either have heard of or use “deal of the day” services and apps like Groupon. This is a bit like that, but with a tiny bit more of a buyer’s “club” feeling to it, and so far not actually a “daily” service.  I assume many of you are also open to trying AND buying new music.  groopEase takes an interesting, new approach to discovery and then deeply discounted purchase. Members to the service/site are initially getting the opportunity to purchase about 2 or 3 new digital albums a week for as much as 75% off,  as well as a single track to download and preview from each album.  The site also reports that some artists will have videos to preview on the site.  It’s invitation-only, but with a 1 dollar credit for each person you invite that joins and makes a purchase once you get in.  Mashable seems to have missed that detail, claiming that you get the credit simply by getting your friend to “sign up”, which is not the case.  (no, I have no invites and would not use this venue to take advantage of the discount/credit)  Check the Mashable article’s comments for what SEEMS to be an open invitation, but could simply be someone trying to get dollar credits. Hard to tell. No accusation here, I just do not know.

Since I have not tried the service out myself, yet (I will), I cannot be sure exactly what types of music they will be featuring. The site’s FAQ describes the artists/bands as “indie” and “up and coming”, which could be utter crap or utterly interesting, depending on whether or not they consider bands that sound like Coldplay or Kings of Leon to be  “indie”. ( one simple test is to ask yourself, “would this be available in a little bin at Starbucks?” )  Or whether they think of things like “hipsters” and skinny jeans when they hear the word indie rather than imagining artists doing it all themselves in a garage or basement somewhere. Time will tell, and I will certainly report back with my opinion. My impression, or “gut” feeling is that they have their hearts in the right place, which is why I wrote this article. I get a good vibe from them.

I think it’s very important to find new ways to bring community back to music discovery.  Especially beyond the more mundane, almost mechanical and ephemeral/disposable places that pass for community these days.  ( I still like you last.fm , but Farcebook and Theirspace are just depressing..as are many other sites that focus either on streaming or garish profiles combined with a tendency to encourage the cultivation of attention spans similar to hummingbirds and houseflies…. in my opinion .. and no, I will not water your crops!) It remains to be seen if this particular community turns out to be a purely commercial enterprise. But it’s another step in a new direction and I like that the steps are being taken at all. Rather than being like radio curators, it feels like they are instead closer to CD-store-employee curators. More personal and cliquey, less broad. I hope they end up being at least as opinionated, or have haircuts I wish I had already. But that’s just an impression from the outside.

I find that this is maybe the longest review I have ever written for a service I have not yet tried. But if you’ve read this far, that cookie has crumbled.

In any case, I suggest you give it a try if you can get your paws on an invite.  CHECK IT OUT.

And to make you feel even better about your purchase, if you end up making one, is the fact that they are giving away 5% of sales to charity. Currently, the charity is “Empower Nepali Girls”, which is a very, very worthy charity. They help the most neglected and impoverished girls in Nepal reach their potential and beyond by providing educational funding based on financial need combined with academic potential/performance.  90% of all money donated goes directly to the children’s  education. Females in Nepali culture face numerous challenges and barriers, including the possibility of being married off at extremely young ages (as young as 11!! ?? !!) and a high statistical probability of being sold into sex slavery. This is why the focus is on girls while not excluding boys. It’s easy to forget sometimes, especially during genuinely rough economic times, just how lucky we are to be living where we do, (assuming a large majority of my readers are from western nations) when we do.  Even if you don’t check out groopEase, at least check out this charity, and take a moment to read some of the very moving stories.

namaste.

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Indie Rock Playlist Database (new site/service)

April 11, 2011 3 comments

Old school database

Old school database

I discovered this service/site when its creator, Javier Fernandez, e-mailed me for permission to include my playlists in his database. I of course said yes and was immediately curious about the whole thing. Well, it turns out it’s a great service. If you’re looking for a song based on title or artist or even just want to see what was on the playlists in a particular month or year, this could be a convenient way of doing it. And the potential is there for it to become even more. It’s also nice in the sense that this is another sign of these playlist things becoming more like a larger community, with associated and related services, aggregators and forums (which BIRP is the best at IMHO, great site).

Check the database out HERE and try a search.

I’d been meaning to write about this for a while but somehow set it aside and forgot to get back to it.

Currently the database uses Criznittle’s original Indie Rock Playlist, BIRP, Jimdo, The IndieRockPlaylists.com site, Indie69, last.fm and myspace, although I’m not sure how the database uses data from last.fm or myspace. Perhaps this is a future addition or feature. Hopefully the site will eventually include Samy’s, Cut The Crap, SaG’s, Shankly and PlayIndie. The database interface is simple, clean and to the point. No bells and whistles. I like that, a lot. I can just imagine how useful something like this would be if it could also get an unlimited “firehose” of data from a site like Hypem. Wondrous! Or perhaps even bypass the use of another aggregator/curator like Hypem and just seek out the direct rss feeds of particular blogs that feature artist and label submitted promotional tracks. You could have the future of free legal music search encompassing the best of both music blog curation and the playlist community. The database could be useful to artists as well, as a way to track their exposure.

The only bug I noticed was with bands that have “and” in their names, which is quite a few. If you use the word “and” , some bands won’t show up.  Eliminate the “and” part of the band name and they DO show up, with some of them using “&” instead of “and”. (*another reason why I avoid using characters like “&” in filenames) Once you have results you can sort them by artist, song title, file size, length of the track, the month of the playlist, the year and the playlist (IRP, BIRP, Jimdo, etc etc). This is a great service to both music fans and the playlist community, and I hope Javier continues to work on it in the future. Fantastic work. It’s even available en Espanol !

Image Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/adesigna/3237575990/

Image and this document: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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* I have come under fire for my “weird” file naming structure in the past, but this is just another example of why I’m right and this criticism is based on a lack of understanding. (OOOH, arrogance!!)The way I name files is standard based on being the most compatible with things such as databases, alternative operating systems and file systems.  But the way I do it balances between being human-readable and machine-readable quite nicely. I certainly didn’t come up with it myself. This is why I avoid empty spaces/special characters. The rest is just logical. The dash represents a division in the file name clearly pointing out when the band name stops and the song name begins. The underscores are used because using a dash would be confusing. Duh. 😉  And seeing as how many don’t even include the name of the band in the filenames when they create mp3s lately (hrmph) , my way is at least an improvement in that regard. Having learned to use computers on a machine that was not running windows, (not linux) a filename with empty spaces within it seems alien to me and always will. Endrant.

What is selling out? Is the accusation still relevant?

April 5, 2010 Leave a comment

The elusive sellout.

Actual Sell-Out, seen here in the wild.

I remember hearing the word “sellout” a lot about 7 or 8 years ago. I hear it less and less these days, as it relates to music, for good reason. Many bands are still able to tour and produce new recordings ONLY because they are willing to allow commercial use of their songs, tour sponsorships and other less common means of monetizing their content/personas. Before, a corporate sponsor usually meant an artist (who was not really an artist at all in many cases) had probably figured out that his or her 15 minutes were at the 14.5 minute mark and wanted to secure some kind of post-popularity survival. Or said artist wanted a LOT more money.  Maybe because they blew it all on coke or an expensive party habit. Maybe because they were generous and thought it was all going to keep rolling in forever. I mean, how many people who end up being one hit wonders actually know they will be one hit wonders? Probably not very many.

Now, go to a show and you can meet band members standing behind the merch booth right with the fans, signing and selling. Bands that, a few short years ago, would have maintained that false wall and distant, unattainable persona. Noo-one calls them sell-outs. What happened? What changed?

There was a well-attended panel at SxSW talking about how “subcultures” (or niches) can prosper (make the moneys) without “selling out”. Like it’s a magic trick, and maybe there are rules. Listen, if someone wants to call you or think you are a “sell out”, nothing YOU do or say will make that person change his or her mind until someone calls that person out for being an ass-hat. And I have to ask. Is it always necessary for the curators and taste-makers of the world to make a living off it? I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to do so, but I’m also not suggesting it’s always appropriate. Certainly, I would never attack someone for taking a buck for having really good taste and magical powers of discovery. I am saying that typically ad-trickery, sneaky ads, obvious under-the-table swag and cash for critical art-love and questionable partnerships/sponsorships CAN be a bad sign. And you cannot blame folks for making at least some assumptions. Then again, I tend to write only about stuff I love, which some people see as a red flag. I usually simply side with the fictional, animated character Thumper when it comes to my critical focus. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say “nothin’ ” at all. Well, isn’t that quaint? Of course this doesn’t apply to my non-music articles or music-biz articles. I think those balance things out a little. I can be, let’s say, a little hard on certain points of view or ways of doing business. This article could well be an example.

People get impatient. When that first thousand (or ms. million if you’re nasty) doesn’t fall into their hands after that first diss-article on Radiohead or Grizzly Bear gets the attention of the editors at Pitchfork, they can get lazy and “other options” fall into their laps. And it’s so hard to find the signal in all the ad-supported noise out there. It can be much easier for people to simply dismiss a blogger, magazine or site and lazily call them sell-outs. So, in a way, it can be difficult to feel sorry for these publishers, since they’ve taken the easy way out (or in).

A little patience and observation of sites and businesses that have been very careful how they proceed commercially could just lead to the building of trust. Take for instance TWIT, ex-Tech-TV host and radio host-programmer Leo Laporte’s home-built network. For decades, Leo has built trust with his audience. That’s right, DECADES. Of course, not all of us can do this, especially if what we cover is current pop or sub-culture. When you’re worried about breaking a hip, it’s hard to find time to stay hip. But he is still a great example of how to build trust. Don’t accept sponsorships from companies you would not do business with yourself. Be careful about advice, be protective of your audience(and they will, in turn, protect you). Never participate in duping them or ripping them off. Always remember your audience/readers and keep them in mind. If you do all of these things and someone still calls you a sell-out, chances are they’re not only wrong, but also in the minority.Even big names worry about this kind of thing. Filmmaker Kevin Smith recently worried publicly about being seen as a sell-out when a company offered to make him a Twitter Book, an actual bound book containing all of his Tweets. In exchange, they simply asked that he take a picture of himself with his free book and post it. Not exactly a sell-out move. He got a free book and they got a single instance of almost-free publicity. No big deal, right? Oh no. See, what Kevin didn’t realize was that people (or, rather, celebrities) are getting paid THOUSANDS for a single Tweet mention. His followers started accusing him, asking him how much he “got paid for that one”. But, see, the other thing he maybe doesn’t realize is that a certain portion of the public not only always assumes the worst, but actually hates the celebrities they follow more than they love them. And worrying about what they think is a bit like trying to convince a bully how cool you are. You will never change them. Whatever change they make happen within will most likely never involve you. They’ve already made up their minds about you. Some brains, also, will always remain tiny and walled-off. The best you can hope for is that they grow bored with you and move on to a Kardashian rather than sticking around and finding out you don’t live down to their expectations.

But, you may ask, what about now? How will I pay the bills now!? Well, ask yourself if you’re homeless. If not, why not? Whatever it is you do to make sure that doesn’t happen, extend it to what you love doing, whether it’s blogging, podcasting, writing,music, film, criticism, commentary, community-building. Whatever it is, treat it like you’d treat food and water, shelter and electricity. Because I guarantee you, the other people who succeeded doing the thing you do? They did this. And if that means you have to put it first, above something else you love or love doing, make the leap and put it first, no matter the cost. And if it isn’t worth it, if it’s not important enough to you to do that, do THE OTHER THING that comes first instead and quit wasting your time doing this other thing that doesn’t matter as much. Quite simple, really. And you don’t need me or some guru to charge you money to tell it to you either. (oops, bubble-burster.. sorry gurus!!) But don’t listen to me, I haven’t made my first million yet. Seriously, I have not “made it” on any level at anything much at all.

But always remember, if there’s a hole in your pocket and your keys, change, etc are falling out, does it matter if it’s the homeless guy that tells you about it 10 feet down the road.. or the “Marketing Professional” at the next block? The messenger is not always important. But the message almost always is, if it is.

In a world filled with blatant, audacious, garish, gaudy marketing and in-your-face, empty commercialism, whatever a real artist has to do to simply live a creatively prosperous life, reasonably staving off hardship and struggle, is fair game. If it means you might have to hear your favorite indie darlings in a Toyota ad (say, as an older example.. Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” or Soul 2 Soul’s “Keep on movin’..don’t stop“.. lol.. sorry.. could not resist that one) then try to remember there’s a good chance the money they received in exchange probably allowed them to come play in your town.. with equipment that actually sounds good.. and..

kinda get over yourself…

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/armoire/3219951226/

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