Articles Tagged: Music

Top 75 Albums of the 2000s

The Hold Steady, Wiltern, Los Angeles, Nov. 25, 2008It was a weird decade for the music industry. We watched the major labels implode right before our eyes, all the while protesting the future and trying to criminalize their user base. Would things have been different if the labels had put together a cheap, DRM-free solution in 2000? Maybe, maybe not, but there is no way it could have turned out worse.

It was a weird decade to be a music fan. For my entire life, the album had been the lingua franca of music: songs were the basic unit and singles were cool, but albums were a statement of purpose. But I started out the decade listening to albums from start to finish and ended it fragmenting them into my various mixes.

Now, I have a mix for the house, a mix for work, and a mix for my car: my own personalized “radio stations” that eternally combine older favorites and new songs. As someone who had been making mix tapes for himself since his early 20s, I’d only been waiting for this my entire life. But there was a consequence to the endless resequence: by 2006, most of my favorite albums revealed themselves to be collections of songs that stood out from the others.


The Sad State of Legal DRM-Free Music Services

Just six months after the launch of its mp3 music service, Amazon has emerged as the number two digital music retailer. While Apple still has a huge lead, that lead seems to be dwindling quickly.

The major labels may see this as some form of progress in their efforts to break Apple’s perceived monopoly in the digital music market, but the truth is they are very likely creating a new problem for their industry.

Despite the fact that the majors have begun licensing the rights to distribute DRM-free tracks to multiple retailers, Amazon seems to be the only company that has a clue about building a successful online marketplace. As a result, Amazon could quickly become something of a de facto monopoly for legal mp3 downloads. That’s astounding when you consider that the marketplace for unprotected music downloads should be wide open and highly competitive.

The formula for building a successful digital music marketplace seems relatively easy. Consumers want access to a wide selection of reasonably priced DRM-free music, presented in a well organized marketplace that supports all computing platforms. Retailers who expect to compete should offer decent search and discovery capabilities, and maybe even a few social features. This is 2008, after all.


Second Life, Sony, and Suzanne

Suzanne Vega, Journey, and Aimee the Scary Blowup Doll.My initial reaction was you have GOT to be shitting me, followed closely by huh. that kinda makes sense. That’s been my chain of response to most everything about the online virtual world thingy Second Life thus far, from the basic concept to its immense popularity to the gazillions of dollars spent on it daily to the notion that for many users it’s just high-bandwidth cybersex to the fact that major brands are establishing a marketing presence there. That it even qualifies as a “there” is troubling, but according to consensus reality, it exists. And where people go, they will be sold to. Certainly advertising in video games is nothing new, dating at least back to the Marlboro ads in Pole Position II. The blatant promotion of cigarettes to ten year-olds (as opposed to the comparatively more subtle Joe Camel approach) has that certain early-eighties charm, doesn’t it?

So after a momentary incredulousness, I realized the lack of shock value that the allegedly beleaguered music industry (whose tolerate/hate relationship with the internet is probably the most well-documented struggle since World War II) is attempting to get a piece of the virtual pie’s very real money, in such forms as the imaginatively named Sony Music Media Island. In Second Life parlance, an island is the same thing as in meatspace: a mass of land surrounded by water. The owner can do pretty much whatever they want with it, allowing for the fulfillment of more than a few fascist fantasies. Rule your vampire clan while sitting at your computer in a bathrobe! We may not have flying cars, but the Future’s still pretty great.


Five Lessons The Music Industry Can Learn From AllofMP3

The recording industry has been waging war against Russian-based music websites for years. While the industry has successfully litigated most file sharing networks out of existence, they haven’t had much luck stopping sites like MediaService’s AllofMP3. Despite the RIAA’s best efforts AllofMP3 continues to sell digital downloads to music lovers around the world, while technically complying with Russian copyright laws and licensing agreements.

While complying with the laws of your country may seem like a loophole here in the United States, it makes perfect sense to a company that’s based in Russia. Unfortunately for MediaServices that the loophole is about to be closed. There are signs the Russian government is planning to crack down on grey market download sites like AllofMP3 in an effort to gain admission into the World Trade Organization.

Regardless of what you think about the legality of AllofMP3, there’s no denying that MediaServices has created one of the most innovative and consumer friendly digital music services around. AllofMP3 is so well done that the “legitimate” recording industry could learn quite a bit by studying it. Hopefully the major labels will take a long look at AllofMP3 before it gets shut down.

Here are a few lessons the music industry could learn from AllofMP3:


Report From The Field: Nobody’s Paying Attention

As part of my Medialoper reporting duties, I often venture into the real world to get a sense of what’s happening outside the walls of the Internet. I have set up a little lab to study the media consumption habits of ordinary Americans. In order to keep the science almost rigorous, the group I’ve assembled is pretty much random, much like, well, what you’d find in an average office setting.

Since the dawn of the 2006-2007 Fall television season, I’ve had two conversations relating to traditional motion picture viewing. The first was a rather bizarre discussion about Lost. It started out as a review of the season premiere, but, well, died. Somehow it was a rehash of Season One — which, thankfully, I had seen enough of to fake my way through the conversation. Never let it be said that we don’t go the extra mile here.