Bonnaroo 2010 Wrap Up

21 06 2010

The crowd at Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo 2010 ended Sunday night, and not until now have I had the time and brain capacity to put my thoughts about it onto paper.  The atmosphere, the people, the scorching Tennessee sun, the music, the sweat, have all been left in Manchester, but the 100,000 people who were there for the greatest weekend in music will never forget it.  I’ve decided that the easiest way to put ‘Roo into words would be to hand out grades to the artists that I saw, so here they are without further ado.

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This is not your Grandmother’s Techno

5 04 2010

Dubstep is on the rise

Anyone who has been reading this blog with any sort of regularity knows that I am really excited for Bonnaroo this summer, but Bonnaroo isn’t the only festival making noise this year.  Some friends of mine made the trip down to Miami for Ultra Music Fest over spring break, and they brought something back that has blown my mind, despite my early uncertainty about this fledgling genre.  The music I’m speaking of here is called Dubstep, and after hearing some this weekend, I’m convinced that it’s the future of dance and electronic music. Read the rest of this entry »

What I’m Listening To – Cold War Kids: Robbers and Cowards

4 03 2010

Robbers and Cowards is a must have for any music fan

When Long Beach CA quartet Cold War Kids released their major label debut Robbers and Cowards in the fall of 2006, I thought they were going to blow up like Hiroshima or Nagasaki (too soon?).  Instead it seems to me that their best work, as of right now, is in the past. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Kings of Leon, Are you guys actually any good?

23 02 2010


Yesterday in my post about OK Go, I went on a little rant about how excited I am for Bonnaroo, and how it’s the best festival out, and how every summer they have the best acts, both established and up-and-comers.  Now even though ‘Roo is my personal favorite of all the  festivals out there, I still pay attention to what the other ones are doing, and I noticed a trend.  Kings of Leon is, and has been for  two or three years now, playing EVERY DAMN FESTIVAL in the whole world (hyperbole perhaps, but you get it).  Now I expect this booking from some of the other festivals out there, but Bonnaroo? Really?  I’m not really pissed at the fact that Kings of Leon are going to be in attendance at Bonnaroo, but they shouldn’t be headliners (which at this point it seems they’ll be joining Jay-Z and DMB in that category).

KOL are a good band in my opinion, but thats about where it stops.  Maybe their live show is awesome and full of energy, I don’t know.  What I do know is if you take the three or four best songs off of each of their albums, and combine them into a greatest hits album of sorts, its still just not that great.  Every time they put out a new album I get excited and go out and get it because all I hear from everyone is how good they are.  Well my friends I guess that’s why I write the music blog and you don’t!  Their albums are always incomplete.  There’s always three or four really good songs and the rest just leaves me scratching my head.  And the acclaim doesn’t just come from the people with which I associate myself, it comes from everywhere around the industry too.

So here is my challenge to Kings of Leon: Prove that you belong on the same stage that has hosted Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Stevie Wonder, and a countless number of other acts who are significantly more talented than yourselves, and maybe you’ll talk me into buying your next album.  Until then you better believe you won’t find much Kings of Leon on this guy’s iPod.

Google, iTunes, and…clouds?

19 02 2010

How will cloud computing change the way we access media?

Yesterday CNET had a story about a coming revolution in the delivery of digital content to consumers.  You may or may not have heard of cloud computing by now, but its not an extremely complex concept to grasp if you have not.  Basically “the cloud” is the internet, and the idea is that instead of filling up your local hard disk with 300 gigabytes of music, movies, photos, applications, etc. one can leave all these things up in the cloud, where they can be accessed anywhere across the globe.  Translation: Soon it won’t matter that the memory capacity of my iPod is only big enough to fit 1/4 of my iTunes library onto it.  Google and Apple both have plans in place to make this happen in the near future.

Now obviously a couple of things have to happen before this becomes plausible.  First of all, bandwidth and internet speeds need to catch up to the technology that is being developed (better believe Google is working on this, they announced plans last week to become a high speed internet provider in the U.S.).  It won’t matter if  you can stream content from your cloud to  your mobile device if your device isn’t connected to the internet, or the connection isn’t fast enough to support streaming content.  Second of all, the content providers (i.e. record labels, movie studios) need to agree to allow this.  Apple supposedly has had talks with the big four labels about such a service, but no deal has been reached yet.  Obviously there are concerns over digital rights management (DRM) and copyright protection, but I’m certain that those are minor aspects in accomplishing the goal of a “media cloud”.

Personally, the sooner this happens the better.  I already complained about how small my iPod is (this is not one of those “you know what they say about guys with small iPods things, ladies), but how great will it be when that doesn’t matter?  Google may have botched up the release of “Buzz”, but don’t think that this has discouraged them in any way.  If they can come out with a nice cloud service for digital media, they could become the first real competitor that iTunes has ever seen, which is something the music industry has been desiring for quite some time now.

Music Manifesto

16 02 2010

Waiting for Detox to be released? He knows, but he doesn't care.

I recently saw an article that included quotes from Dr. Dre and president of Interscope Records Jimmy Iovine from the announcement of Dre’s new line of HP laptops. The comments from one of the best rappers ever and the head honcho from the label that owns Dre’s Aftermath Records really caught my eye. Essentially Dre said that there’s no money in music anymore. Now although I agree to an extent, we’ll get into that a little later. Dre makes the point that he spends hundreds of hours slaving infront of the monitors recording and mixing, tweaking each tiny little detail of every song, and then people listen to low-fidelity mp3s through their iPod earbuds and they don’t hear any of the fine tuning that Dre spent so much time working on. So why should he bother anymore?

Well he probably shouldn’t. Dre is clearly making good money on his headphones and it was a smart decision to apply his brand to a product category that is expanding with the growth of mp3 players. Mr Iovine jokes that if it weren’t for Beats by Dre headphones then Dre’s much anticipated follow up to 2001, Detox, would have been released years ago. So how do musicians make money, and why is it that the record industry has taken such a hit in the last decade?

This industry shot itself in the foot and then salted the wound over the rise of digital music.  Most obvious to me is that the industry as a whole was taking advantage of it’s customers.  CD prices were inconsistent and costing up to as much as $25!  When mp3s were introduced and people realized that for the price of one CD from the local retailers, they could buy 100 blank CDs and have 100 albums from their favorite artists they started to get suspicious and restless.  People wondered: why is it that the physical CD itself costs about seven cents to manufacture, yet I’m paying over $20 for it?   Now I’m not knowledgeable about what sort of profit margins record companies were bringing in at the time, but I do know that to the average consumer it seems like being robbed.  So then the labels tried bringing prices down. Well now we KNOW you were robbing us.  So then they tried to sue us.

Not long ago I was a mischevious teenager whose every action was an act of rebellion against my parents. Tell me not to do something and I just did it more. When the RIAA began suing consumers over copyright infringement they basically dared the entire youth of America to rebel against their parents, and naturally we obliged.  One of the reasons corporations market to children is because if you get them young you often get them for life.  Instead of recognizing what young people were doing and trying to make it profitable, they tried to kill it and amped up resentment among the young people whom they should have been trying to court (maybe they confused courting with taking to court).  So now there’s an entire generation of angry, technologically proficient, trend setting teens who want nothing more than to stick it to the man, and the industry still has no long-term solution to increase falling revenues.   So what is the answer?  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue, but there are a few actions the industry can take.

1. Horizontal Integration
The one bright spot of the industy is the live music sector, but the recent merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation has a lot of people worried. The concern is that it is a monopoly that will raise prices for concert tickets, but obviously the two companies claim that new synergys gained by the merger will actually lower prices and fees for everyone. These two arguments aside, I wonder if the new concept of a 360° deal can help the situation. The basic idea behind this type of deal is that instead of only bringing in revenue from an artist’s record sales, the company gets a percentage of merchandise, ticket sales, record sales, appearance fees, etc. This has created tension between the labels and their artists because the artists feel as though they are getting a smaller piece of the pie. Fortunately for the labels however, they hold all the leverage in contract negotiations with new artists. EVERY new artist that signs to a label should be signed to a 360° deal, and they’ll do it because it allows them to realize their dream.

2. Promotion
In my opinion, one reason mediums for promoting musicians have remained so static for so many years is the fact that music is too subjective of a product to mass promote it.  This was true for quite some time, but with the growth of social media and real-time location based services, it is now possible to promote artists to smaller, more targeted markets with similar tastes in music.  The problem, in my opinion, is non-fans with preferences for musicians of a similar style are often unaware of an artist who they may love.   There is so much music to be had out there that any person on earth, if properly motivated, could discover a new band that they like every single day for the rest of their life.  Labels need to focus more on generating awareness for the newer, lesser-known artists, because these artists are where there is the most room for growth.  In promoting these artists the labels need to get creative so that they can encourage people to actually purchase the music, and try to make it part of the process of consuming music again.

One promotional idea that I think is a small step in the right direction is bundling.  Yes that’s bundling as in the ‘my cable company tries to trick me into thinking I’m getting things for cheaper because they package them together and tell me I’m saving’ bundling.  What if with a purchase of a digital album, you had the option to purchase the vinyl or CD hard-copy of the album for only five dollars?  What if the purchase of a band’s concert ticket got you special access to exclusive content and deals on the band’s own website?  What if a purchase of Beats By Dre headphones netted you an early listen to Dre’s much anticipated Detox by allowing you to stream it from the web?

What I’m really getting at here is that record labels do not treat their artists in the same manner that Proctor and Gamble treats a roll of toilet paper, and this strategy has its positives and negatives.  That being said I think it is time that the labels took a more integrated approach to promoting their artists.  The above are just minor suggestions, but I believe they are a step in the right direction towards mending the self-inflicted wounds of the music industry.

What I’m Listening To – Fleet Foxes

1 02 2010

Fleet Foxes self-titled debut

Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut was released summer of 2008 and has seen heavy play in my iTunes ever since.  As you’ll come to find from following this blog there are two things which I value when it comes to music: Talent and originality.  Fleet Foxes undoubtedly possess both of these characteristics to the nth degree.

The opening track, Sun it Rises, is about as upbeat and loud as the album gets, even though it begins with the quiet acoustic strumming and ghostly harmonies that soon become commonplace.  The album continues on to be mostly downtrodden, acoustic, folk-rock, with introspective melodies and storytelling lyrics such as “In the town one morning I went/ staggering through premonitions of my death/ I don’t see anybody that dear to me”

Lead singer Robin Pecknold has a clear knack for melody, as well as harmony, and his unique tenor croon delivers his best lines with a reserved passion.  “Tell me anything you want/ any old lie will do” Pecknold cries in Ragged Wood. This direct lyrical style continues on throughout the album and culminates in two of the album’s stand out tracks: The jangly He Doesn’t Know Why, and Blue Ridge Mountains.

This album is great for waking up on a cold winter morning.   The relaxing, laid-back demeanor of the band, and the cold, wet reverberant feel of the album, combined with the beautiful harmonies makes this album one of my all-time favorites