Category: music

Classic mistake

It’s not only pop music that is stymied by record company madness. Graham Abbott hosts a popular and educational series Keys to Music on ABC Classic FM each week, delving into particular styles or composers or eras. It’s only an hour long, so he plays excerpts from works during the show to illustrate the points being made.

It’s the kind of show that would be great to download for schools and people wanting to learn more about classical music. And, like the Countdown documentary, it’s a terrific primer for people to go and search out more music or the full works being discussed. But of course the industry won’t allow it because they want to be paid.

Further evidence of the music industry being stuck trying to relive their glory days, in the process missing opportunities that are right in front of them.

Do Yourself a Favour - or, if you’re the music industry, don’t

A colleague recently tweeted about the availability a great Countdown documentary ‘Do Yourself a Favour’:

Hey @ABCShop, looking for a DVD of Countdown: Do Yourself a Favour and can’t find it online. Is it ever going to be available for sale? @JaneHolley48 2 Feb 2016

Given there is currently a wave of Countdown nostalgia due to the Molly rockumentary, it would seem like the perfect time for a release. However:

sorry Jane, it won’t be sold on DVD due to the cost of music rights. @JeremyBoylin 2 Feb 2016

2016 and the music industry still don’t get it, withholding rights for a show that spent its entire run promoting and hyping the very same industry. Sales of a DVD highlighting classic bands and artists makes people go and seek that music out.

They should take Molly’s advice just like we all used to.

A bunch of men harmonising

The incomparable harmonies of Vince Noir…I mean Freddie Mercury & Queen. Vince would love that jumpsuit1.

Those voices led to this snippet from the Classic Album series on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (skip to 6:40). How do three skinny rockers make that sound?

Who reminded me of Michael McDonald’s star turn on Steely Dan’s Aja. (skip to 18:00).

And just to show it’s not an art form that died in 70s rock, here’s Ryan Adams and the Cardinals nailing the last verse of Cold Roses, live. These guys were easily the best all male harmonies I’ve seen, just incredible.

  1. And this one. I love how Queen started out looking like proto metal rockers and ended up in one piece spandex. 

“Actually I use Rdio, Not Spotify, Your Link Is No Good To Me”

Tyler Hayes posits another argument for YouTube music:

Is there an etiquette for sharing music? A link to any of the music services, even the most popular ones, will inevitably fall on a few deaf ears of people you’re trying to reach. Not for lack of interest in the music, but rather in having to use a specific service. Since it’s 2013, you can’t just listen to music anymore, you need to be tied into an ecosystem. So, what’s the right way to share music, and actually get the other person to click through and listen?

Music, money, and YouTube

Lots of talk recently about the mechanics and economics of the various streaming music services - Spotify, Rdio, Mog, and Pandora being the most visible examples.

$10 a month for all the music all the time? Sounds like a bargain. However making sense of the economics of it from an artist’s perspective is hard. ​​ Pandora’s founder penned an impressive post about the bundles of cash his service is handing out to artists, which whilst sounding great in theory, was quickly stomped on by music industry guys like Bob Lefsetz (in a typically vitriolic rant), and perhaps more damningly by musicians like Galaxie 500 who report Pandora has given them all of $0.21c for the 7800 plays of one of their tracks.

Meanwhile Spotify finds funding that values the company at $3 billion despite losing $59 million in 2011, all of which supports Galaxie 500’s reasoning that, like a Sex Pistols reunion tour, these companies are only in it for the money:

These aren’t record companies— they don’t make records, or anything else; apparently not even income. They exist to attract speculative capital. And for those who have a claim to ownership of that capital, they are earning millions— in 2012, Pandora’s executives sold $63 million of personal stock in the company. Or as Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has put it, “The question of when we’ll be profitable actually feels irrelevant. Our focus is all on growth. That is priority one, two, three, four and five.”

Everyone agrees that the physical CD era is over 1, but the model to replace it is still being thrashed out:

It’s all about crowdfunding. Streaming is the answer. Streaming services will kill you and then themselves. Vinyl is the future. There’s no retail any more. Amazon is the enemy. Amazon is your friend. The labels are dead. Long live the labels. It’s all about distribution. We need a new format. Formats don’t matter any more.

What doesn’t seem to be discussed in all this coverage of how to make money from music is how people—particularly the lucrative ‘youth’—are actually listening to and finding new music.

The answer, according to my highly scientific polling of my nieces, nephews and assorted other under forties, is YouTube.

Instead of radio, or CDs, or streaming audio, they all turn to YouTube when they want to listen to or discover music. The related links rabbit hole leads them to new and unheard music. Which is the role a good DJ plays on radio: challenging you with new sounds that flow seamlessly from music you already know.

This is quite foreign to old school stereo music nerds. Why go to a video site to listen to music?

Pretty easy really - it’s free, it’s visual, it’s bottomless (like the streaming services), it’s shareable, and you can enjoy it on your iToy or PC or pretty much anywhere. More configurable than radio, and cheaper than Spotify. And YouTube even pays artists some kind of meagre royalty.

Maybe Buggles were right.

  1. Although Tim Bray manages to find some saving graces

Pitchfork & indie music

Richard Beck, writing for n+1 mag, writes what is ostensibly a history of Pitchfork, before coming to a surprisingly vicious conclusion:

A Pitchfork review may ignore history, aesthetics, or the basic technical aspects of tonal music, but it will almost never fail to include a detailed taxonomy of the current hype cycle and media environment. This is a small, petty way of thinking about a large art, and as indie bands have both absorbed and refined the culture’s obsession with who is over- and underhyped, their musical ambitions have been winnowed down to almost nothing at all.

Not sure if I totally agree, but I see his point. In a footnote he uses Vampire Weekend as a critique of M.I.A., which is entertaining in itself as surely VW are a perfect example of the ultimate self-knowing Pitchfork hero band.

Pop will eat itself, indeed.