Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: music (page 2 of 3)

What would an economist do?

I really want to buy the new Neko Case album, released last week, but I have a suspicion that Amazon.com is going to make it the deal of the day sometime soon. What would an economist tell me? On one hand, it’s only $7.99, and it would probably be on sale for $1.99 (or $3.99, the daily deal price for most new releases). On the other hand, if I buy it for full price and they put it on sale a few days later, I’ll feel a tinge of regret. On one hand I want it now, on the other, I have the whole rest of my life to listen to it either way.

I’m pretty sure that any economist would tell me that every minute I’ve spent trying to time the market for this album has been wasted.

How music gets sold (in 2009)

Today’s number one selling track in Amazon’s MP3 store is “Right Round” by Flo Rida.

Amazon.com MP3 Downloads_ Free music, bestselling songs from $.79, most albums $8.99 or lower. Compatible with MP3 players, including the iPodĀ®..png

Why is this obscure track today’s best seller? It was played over the opening credits of CSI: Miami last night. I know because I used Shazam for the iPhone to figure it out. There are a number of web sites that identify the songs played on TV shows as well. I think there’s a lesson in this for the music business.

Update: Rogers Cadenhead’s post on Life on Mars has some interesting music-related notes as well.

Links from March 1st

  • Dries Buytaert: Drupal sites. A big list of Drupal sites.
  • Hivelogic: Review: The NewerTech Voyager Q. Docking station that lets you use internal hard drives as external hard drives. Seems like a great solution for certain backup strategies.
  • Music Machinery: In search of the click track. Programmatically determining which drummers use click tracks and which don’t. Really, really interesting.
  • David Plotz: What I learned from reading the entire Biblee. I was obsessed with his Blogging the Bible series, and I’m glad to see it’s now a book.
  • TheMoneyIllusion: An open letter to Mr. Krugman. A really interesting alternative to the stimulus plan, suggesting novel monetary policy rather than fiscal policy. I have no idea whether this would work, but it’s an interesting idea.

MP3 is for audiophiles (of the future)

People who are accustomed to listened to music in MP3 format prefer it to other, higher quality formats. This mirrors the phonograph affectation that many audiophiles have:

I remember wondering what audiophiles were up to, buying extremely expensive home audio systems to play old vinyl records. They put turntables in sand-filled enclosures with elaborate cabling schemes. I wondered what they heard in that music that I didn’t. Someone explained to me that audiophiles liked the sound artifacts of vinyl records — the crackles of that format. It was familiar and comfortable to them, and maybe those affects became a fetish. Is it now becoming the same with iPod lovers?

One wonders whether, when MP3 is eventually supplanted by a lossless format (it’s bound to happen when we have mobile phones with a terabyte of music storage), people will preserve their MP3 files for nostalgic reasons. Or will there be an MP3 filter in software that plays music that enables you to listen to it in the manner to which you are accustomed?

Links from February 3rd

A few links from the past few days.

iTunes Genius playlists

Apple - iTunes - What's New in iTunes

I’m fascinated by the new Genius playlists feature in iTunes. I have an entire other post in me explaining how they have changed how I listen to music, but as a developer I’m also interested in how the feature works.

I was excited when I saw this button on the iTunes What’s New page, but unfortunately all it tells you is how to create a Genius playlist. I’m interested in how iTunes creates the playlists, and I don’t think this illustration is quite what I’m after.

What I do know is that for Genius to be able to make use of tracks, you have to send information about them to Apple. Genius won’t work until you initialize it, and you have to update Genius when you add new tracks to generate playlists from them.

I know Pandora has an algorithmic approach to mapping related music, called the Music Genome Project. Wikipedia has a brief explanation of how it works:

A given song is represented by a vector containing approximately 150 genes. Each gene corresponds to a characteristic of the music, for example, gender of lead vocalist, level of distortion on the electric guitar, type of background vocals, etc. Rock and pop songs have 150 genes, rap songs have 350, and jazz songs have approximately 400. Other genres of music, such as world and classical, have 300-500 genes. The system depends on a sufficient number of genes to render useful results. Each gene is assigned a number between 1 and 5, and fractional values are allowed but are limited to half integers.[1] (The term genome is borrowed from genetics.)

Based on this blog post, it sounds like Apple uses an approach based on listener behavior:

Genius works by looking at the songs you play and the songs you skip. It analyzes the data, along with all the data from everyone else in the world who uses iTunes and Genius, and picks artists it thinks you’ll like. The more people use Genius, the better it should work.

I’m wondering whether the data Apple has been collecting since 2006 when they launched the iTunes MiniStore was used to create the Genius feature.

Anyone seen any additional details?

Cory Doctorow on the music industry

Cory Doctorow on the deal between ISPs and the music industry to spy on and interfere with music sharers:

This month’s announcement of a back-room deal between ISPs (internet service providers) and the big record companies to spy on suspected copyright infringers and reduce the quality of their internet connections is just the latest paragraph in the record industry’s long, self-pitying suicide note, and it’s left me wishing they’d just pull the trigger already and stop beating their chests and telling us all how unfair it all is.

This paragraph is my favorite:

Will this stop kids from trading infringing files? Kids are time-rich and cash-poor and have an infinite supply of ingenuity and impecuniousness to apply to the job of getting music for free. Last year, my freshman university students in Los Angeles regaled me with stories of “hard-drive parties” where everyone would gather with guitars, beers and whopping great hard drives that cost less than either the guitars or the beers. While the students jammed, sang and danced, they simply synchronised their drives using whatever laptops were lying around, transferring hundreds of gigabytes’ worth of music while composing and recording songs of their own.

Physical CDs, what should I do with them?

We’re reorganizing the closet, and I had the chance to get down all of the boxes of CDs that I’ve accumulated over the years. The question is, what do I do with them? I never touch them any more, because I’ve ripped them all. I have a copy on my laptop, a backup on an external hard drive, and another backup copy on my iPod. Do I really need the CDs any more?

Would you keep them? If not, what would you do with them?

The concert experience

Last week we went to go see The Swell Season, the traveling name of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s band. If you don’t know who they are, go get the DVD for the movie Once and watch it immediately. The story behind the movie is pretty incredible in and of itself, so be sure to read that, too.

The concert was at Meymandi Concert Hall, and judging from the sound in our seats at the back of the upper balcony, otherwise known as the worst seats in the house, the acoustics of the room are impressive. Hansard sang the first song of the concert without a microphone or amplification of any kind, and we could hear him perfectly well from the very back. The view was not quite as good, I could barely see what the people on stage were doing.

The bad seats were the result of bad user experience. I knew what day the tickets were going on sale but I could not find them on the Ticketmaster web site. A couple of days later, I found a way to buy them going a completely different route, and judging from the seats, I was lucky to get them at all.

One thing that surprised me was the number of people taking pictures and video with their mobile phones. Trying to take pictures of a backlit subject in a dark room from a long way away with a non-zoom lens just isn’t going to work, people. I’m sure all of the pictures came out as white blobs in the center of a black field, but people were undeterred. There was also some guy a couple of rows up texting on his phone throughout the concert. All of these shenanigans would be fine except that a glowing mobile phone screen is really distracting. Just put your phone on vibrate and leave it your pocket during the concert. Thanks.

When we left the concert, at the merch table there were a bunch of cards provided by playedlastnight.com, a site that sells recordings of the concert you just attended. With the code on the card, you can buy the recording (in MP3 format) for $6, which seems to be a steal. They don’t have the recording of the show available for download quite yet, but when they do I’ll certainly buy it. This seems like a really nice way for bands to supplement their income, and I was surprised to see that the only two bands on the site right now are Iron & Wine and The Swell Season. I suspect there are other sites doing the same thing, but I don’t know about them.

Overall, this show left me wanting to go see more shows. If you have a chance to see The Swell Season, don’t miss it. The overall level of showmanship and audience engagement was outstanding.

Links for April 13

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