First: Napster Love
The NY Times’ Wilson Rothman wrote what was perhaps the most glowing (and one of the few positive) mainstream media reviews of the Napster To Go subscription service. “Napster Starts To Look Good” has a few caveats. First, the potential consumer has to overcome the “competing allure of iPod style and the Apple brand.” He also points out that the cost of burning a song to CD costs the same as an iTunes download, $0.99.
What seemed to tip the scales was the fraction of music Rothman wanted that was “buy only,” meaning that some songs are accessible only if purchased and cannot be rented under the subscription fee. Though he feared the ratio would be 50/50, Rothman wrote that less than 10% of his desired downloads were “buy only.”
DIY Heroes Go Online
The catalog of DIY label Dischord, including out of print LPs and CDs, will soon be available via online music stores, according to the label’s latest email. Dischord is among the most independent and fan-conscious labels in the country. The label has always insisted on low prices for CDs and LPs as well as concert tickets. Its music is a staple of independent and punk-leaning stores around the country, but it also is sold in national retailers. In a similar fashion, its music will now be found in underground and mainstream online stores.
Here’s a blurb:
“We have always maintained that the effort to make music widely available should always include independent options along with the usual mainstream outlets. With that in mind we have made our catalog available to the folks at Downloadpunk.com as well as the iTunes online music stores in the US and Europe. These sites have a large number of Dischord releases available right now and the entire catalog should be online within the month. The back catalog will also soon be available from Microsoft Music and in the future we hope to offer these services directly through our own website.”
Beefs Bad For Business?
When do you know that hip hop beefs have gone into the mainstream consciousness? When Crain’s New York Business weighs in and says they’re bad for business.
With so much at stake, including multimillion-dollar endorsement deals for sneakers, cars, clothing and energy drinks, the misbehavior that once gave hip-hop artists street cred has lost its cachet.”
What could really hurt hip hop would be if public sentiment changes direction. The Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for temporary radio play bands for violent musicians. Others are speaking out against hip hop as well. The NY Times ran a comprehensive article on the trials and tribulations of New York City’s Hot 97 radio station, which is the leading hip hop station in the city.
A Week For the Music Critics
Even though album sales are about 9% behind last year’s pace, the last few weeks have seen some powerful new releases. Two weeks ago the story was 50 Cent and J.Lo, neither of which scored big with many critics. Last week Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 18 , the musical equivalent to fast food, was the big release.
This week, there’s a lack of blockbusters but a wealth of great albums that, for the most part, will find more favorable press than favorable sales. Queens of the Stone Age Lullabies To Paralyze is certain to be among the week’s top sellers. Beyond that, the titles are a mix of hype, buzz, established artists and much anticipation. Three of the underground’s most talked about records of the year were released on Tuesday: M.I.A.’s Arular , The Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm (one of the year’s finest albums to date, without a doubt) and Louis XIV’s The Best Little Secrets Are Kept . Add to those a retrospective by indie rock superstars Yo La Tengo, a new album by veteran Robyn Hitchcock and Joe Doe (of X fame) and you’ve got yourself one of the better new release weeks in recent memory. It may not have the quantity of other weeks, but it definitely has quality.
Optimism… For A Change
The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s article on SXSW showed just how optimistic people are about the music industry and its incorporation of future technologies. (Still lots of wrinkles to iron out and impasses to overcome, though.) The GM of Hollywood Records compared this year to last year: “Everybody last year was whining that the music industry is dead. Look out there. It’s very much alive.”
Said InRadio co-founder Ben Goldfarb: “The music universe is exploding, and people are just swimming in a sea of content trying to figure what would interest them.” Very true. Having access to so much music doesn’t mean much unless people have good ways to purchase, organize and access. Without a way to find music of interest (or even music that you never would have guessed you’d enjoy), people will continue to listen to the big money artists and the promise of ubiquitous music will not be realized.
Another insightful comment came from Superchuck and Merge Records leader Mac McCaughan. “The one thing that hasn’t changed is that the best way a band can promote itself is onstage. People don’t forget a great live show like they do” a downloaded single.” This is something that goes forgotten in the quest to get music online. Just putting it there is a small part of the goal. Getting people to buy it, or access it regularly, takes much more thought and effort.
Glenn works in the music industry in New York City. He writes about the industry and music in general at his blog, Coolfer.