Sunday, July 20, 2008

The MP3looza Festival

It's concert festival season, and so I thought I'd make it interesting and come up with my own festival. The way I see it, if you have an MP3 player, or iTunes on your computer, its probably loaded with a lot of the artists you would love to see at a summer music festival. So play along! Set the iPod or MP3 player on shuffle/random/DJ mode and list the first 10 or 20 artists who come up. No skipping, unless you get a repeat of an artist. Here's the initial lineup for my festival...let me know who's playing at yours>

Bill Withers - on the Septuagenarian Legends Stage

Umbrellas - on the Indie Fun Stage

The Divorce - on the Wish They Were Still Around Stage

FAIR - on the Sprinkle Stage

Brown Feather Sparrow - on the Yummy Northern European Music Stage

Lampshade - also on the Yummy Northern European Music Stage

Joe Jackson - on the Takes Me Back to College Stage

CUSH - on the Man, I Miss Them stage

The Violet Burning - on the Trippy Hipster Stage

Trent Dabbs - on the Ten out of Tenn Stage

The Sleeping World - on the Gonna Make it Big Someday stage

Smoosh - on the Hip Little Kid stage

Pedro the Lion - on the Pithy Poignant Observations Stage

The Spirit that Guides Us - once again, the Yummy Northern European Music Stage (great lineup this year!)

Jeremy Enigk - on the Introspective Seattleite Stage

Van Morrison - on the Irish Legends Stage

The Fire Theft - also on the Introspective Seattleite Stage

Anathallo - on the I Can't Describe it But I Like it Stage

The Myriad - on the Emerging Stars stage

Map - on the SoCal Tripster Stage

Thanks for coming! Your turn!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Beg, Borrow, Barter, Buy...?

I'm still pretty much a CD guy. I like having a physical CD of an album, complete with lyrics and liner notes. But as someone who keeps an eye on the Internet, culture, and new technologies, I'm incredibly interested in newer, more relevant forms of content delivery.

We've been thru the much maligned file sharing/peer-to-peer thing with Napster (both old and new), Frostwire, Limewire, Kazaa, on down to newer, more conventional online retailers, such as iTunes and the like. But really, is there a need for a middle man? While many artists have lamented the theft of their music online (and I fully understand and appreciate their arguments) I've long believed that file-sharing, for the most part, can help artists.

But some artists and digital denizens have come up with an interesting business model that takes care of distribution, offers people music inexpesively (or free!) and, in the long run, works for the artist. While there are a number of websites out there following the same business model, one that bears watching is And the man behind the concept knows what he's talking about. Two years ago Derek Webb decided to offer his CD as a free download (pre-Radiohead.) Take what you want, pay what you like...even if its nothing. For his part, Webb collected your email address, and as it says on the NoiseTrade site:

In three month's time Webb gave away over 80,000 full downloads of his record and collected valuable information for as many new fans. In addition, Derek has since seen many sold out shows and increased merchandise and record sales, including a curious spike in sales of the very record that was given for free.
Blows many of the arguments against free-downloads out of the water, eh? Now Webb and his partners are offering that service to an ever-growing roster of other indie artists, including Sixpence None the Richer, Katie Herzig, and Micah Dalton. Offer your album on NoiseTrade and give listeners the chance to download the music by either paying whatever they want...or by telling 3 of their friends about the site. Great marketing tool, and while this may not be the next big thing in music distribution, its a model I REALLY like.
And it's a great model for newer local artists. I haven't heard of a large majority of the artists on the site, but you better believe I'm going to be downloading their albums and sampling them. Some I will like, and others....not so much. But among them will be artists, with no publicity machine, no label, and little audience outside of their home region....and they'll have found a new fan in me, and many others who sample their music as well.
Check it out. Get some new music for your MP3 player, and support these musicians. I'll be interested in seeing how this model of distribution works, both for the artists and the consumers...and how it evolves in the near future.
Any other interesting distribution models out there we should be aware of?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Retro Chic

My kids think I'm old. I keep telling them that since I grew up in the 70's, I'm not old...I'm retro! And therefore I'm "in." But they don't seem to believe me. But back in the 70's I began to amass a rather large "media" collection. LP's, 45's, cassettes, and yes...even a few 8-tracks. And while you can still find the occasional 8-track at flea markets and yard sales, I'm almost certain we'll never ever really see a retro 8-track revival. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the more recent resurgence of leisure suits!!

I still have boatloads of cassettes in my basement, and in my garage there is a wooden crate with the vestiges of a once-flourishing vinyl collection. I've slowly gotten rid of a lot of my albums, but these are the ones I can't bear to part with, such as the original True North versions of all the earliest Bruce Cockburn albums that I imported from Canada while in college...only to see them all re-released on CD here in the U.S. a few years later...But alas, I don't even have a turntable, and its really not on the list of priorities for the near future. Things like electricity and food seem to be a little more important at the moment.

But vinyl seems to be making a bit of a comeback, though not on a major scale. While I love music, I'm not an audiophile of the type that can really recognize and appreciate the sonic difference between a needle on vinyl as opposed to a digital recording. My friends who inhabit the world of audio-geekdom use words like "warmth" and "richness" to describe the sound...but I'm not hearing it. To me, vinyl is merely nostalgic, especially as one who spent time as a DJ in radio when you actually had to "cue up" a record on the turntable. But for many, collecting new vinyl has become a sign of indie-cred. Which is why many indie labels and artists have begun putting out more new releases on vinyl, some of which include songs that aren't available on CDs. During a recent visit to CI Records in Lancaster, I spotted vinyl releases from artists like Damien Jurado and Vampire Weekend. And more recently, post-indie hipsters like Coldplay and Radiohead have begun re-issuing their discs on vinyl.

And of course if you have vinyl, you have to have a turntable, and the current models are quite a bit pricier than the "hi-fi" stereo system my family had back in the 70s. But of course we probably wouldn't have this resurgence of vinyl culture if it weren't for the club DJs and the emphasis on DJs in the hip hop realm.

The point? Not sure! But it has me thinking about an area close to my heart as someone involved in the radio and music industries: distribution. So in the next blog or two I'm gonna spend some time thinking out loud about old, new, and potential modes of music distribution, with a look at some interesting business models for the digital age.

Into vinyl? If your my age...let me know what you've kept from your old collection. Or, if you're from a younger generation...are you buying any new vinyl?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Everything's Local

There's a big emphasis here in the Lancaster on "Buy Fresh, Buy Local," and I guess the same could go for music. The local music scene seems like it is on the verge of exploding. Lots of talent in these here parts. And on XPN we have our own Philly Local program hosted by Helen Leicht, featuring some of the top bands and musicians from our listening area.

But I got to thinking, what exactly IS local? Here in the age of Indie music and the Internet, what with the proliferation of social media, it's not uncommon for someone like me in Central PA, to discover the music of some guy making music in his basement in Ronkonkoma (it's a real place...look it up...I just think it's fun to say!) Which of course means that there's no better time to be an indie musician...and no worse time to be a record label, especially one of the Major variety. And no matter how big you get, you'll always still be local to someone. To the folks in Freehold, that Springsteen kid is still just Bruce from around the corner. And in Dublin, U2 are still just those four guys named Paul, Larry, Dave, and Adam.

Yet while I'm busying savoring the "local" music scene here in Lancaster and the rest of Central PA, the fact that I'm discovering so many great artists and bands just serves to make me wonder how many more great bands are out there that I'm missing! (Any cool bands out there that I should know about?) But that's why I love independent public radio stations like WXPN, KCRW, KEXP, WFUV and the like. Because they always seek to give airtime to new artists who might not be hear otherwise. Case in point, a new effort XPN is making with what is being called The Music Exchange. XPN has partnered with a similar station, The Current in Minneapolis, to introduce each others listeners to some great local music. So the folks at XPN have chosen 8 local artists from the Philly area, while the folks at The Current have chosen 8 local artists from the Twin Cities...and those bands will get exposure to a whole new market. Kinda like a Fresh Air fund program for musicians! (You can check out the bands that are part of the "swap" need for me to mention them here, but you're bound to find at least a few of them that you like).

So in the future, I'll be letting you know more about some of the "local" bands I like from this region (and perhaps beyond). And I'd like you to do the same. What music are you digging these days? The beauty of the Internet is its viral things can spread quickly. And some bands get their big break solely by getting heard and getting mentioned online. So share!

And if you like the kind of stuff you're reading here, don't forget to subscribe and tell your friends. You know...that whole grassroots, viral, word of mouth works.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-emerge...

Well, it's been over a year and after months of toying with the idea of bringing this blog back, or starting a new one, I've finally decided to wade back into the waters. I initially thought about starting a new blog and letting this one just languish out there in the World Wide Wasteland...but I'm too lazy. So I've restructured this one a little and have decided to be ecologically minded and recycle the existing blog. (Where exactly DO old blogs go? Is there a landfill for them? If so, I'm sure it's pretty darn full!)

Regardless, I've been inspired to re-enter the blogosphere because of how I've immersed myself more in the world of music (thanks in part to my job in radio), and I have become aware of an intensely thriving culture, arts, and music scene here in Central PA, and particularly in Lancaster. In fact, this morning I was jotting down some phrases and ideas to help a friend with a bio, and one phrase that popped into my head was extremely well-intentioned, yet ridiculously silly...especially if you were to use it in a band biography. If I were a musician, I think I would be insulted if this sentence were used to describe me:

"rising out of the cultural compost of a very fertile Lancaster music scene"

But there is a lot of truth in that sentence, and that is why I find myself back here, at least in part. As I meet people throughout the area, the conversation invariably turns to me telling them about how great the local music and arts scene is at the moment. There's a fine line between a dung-heap and a compost pile...and what's going on in this area certainly isn't a pile of crap.

So as I move forward, I plan on talking about some great music, some of which is from this area, and I'm always on the lookout for more great music, so don't hesitate to tell me about the bands and musicians who are pleasing your ears these days. I have no clue where this will take me, but along the way, I plan to have some fun, and perhaps make some observations on the world around me. Music. Books. Culture. Sports. and Life in General.

Hope you enjoy this little visit to the compost heap. Tell your friends, and to steal a phrase from my friend Tom Bodett, "We'll leave the light on for you..."