Metacuratorship and the CD Revival

I just read A Future History of the CD Revival. Ten years from now, there are clubs based around burning music CDs. The physical discs aren’t just pleasingly shiny.

Unlike today’s collaborative, crowdsourced, and automatically generated playlists, a CD’s tracklisting is fixed, and the CD-burning scene is an opportunity for music lovers to show their deep individual loves of music, its sequencing and presentation.

The article is at Pitchfork. I found it via a selection of the top music articles of 2010, which I in turn found via Largehearted Boy.

I appreciate LHB’s music and lit blog, especially his curatorship of the certain musical strands of the web. He often points in turn to selections, so we have multiple levels of curatorship here…

Wired Prescribes the End of Music Piracy

Is it time to stop pirating music? According to Paul Boutin in Wired (via reddit), yes.

It’s time for everybody to go legit. The reason: We won. And all you audiophiles and copyfighters, you know who fixed our problems? The record labels and online stores we loved to hate.

Paul lines up arguments in favor of pirating, and then attacks each argument in turn. DRM? Gone. Resolution? Improved to the point at which most ears couldn’t hear an improvement in quality. Catalog? Expanded, in fact wider than Paul claims, since you can now find the Beatles in iTunes. And so on.

I’d take issue with Paul on one point (besides the quibble about the Beatles). “The age of stealing music via the Internet is officially over.” But his arguments are that it should be over. In other words, they are prescriptive arguments.

I haven’t seen a strong descriptive case that music piracy is ceasing. That would require data showing that people aren’t taking music for which they payed, and which was not given to them. As the discussion on Reddit shows, there are people who intend to obtain music without paying for it. That raises questions such as: How many of them are there? How responsible is the music industry for their existence? But I won’t go into that here.

I will read with interest Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. I didn’t steal it, I borrowed it from the library. I hope author Steve Knopper doesn’t mind. Perhaps the music industry has become less self-destructive since the book was published.

Isn’t it a little early for best of the year lists?

Best music of 2010? Isn’t it too early too tell, given that there are another 6 weeks of the year, and we could use a little time with music before picking winners? There are already so many lists that the Largehearted Boy list of best of lists is under way, with 9 lists being added today. LHB does a similar list of lists for books.

NPR’s All Songs Considered is in on the best of the year bandwagon. But so far, it’s only gone as far as a nomination-soliciting post on the show’s blog.

My own lists have been qualified with “so far” following “year.” I really can’t pick a front runner from the 9 albums currently on my list. Yes I, like NPR, and old-fashioned enough to think in terms of albums.

It’s a Beatle, Not a Cloud

BritBeatSo today’s big Apple announcement was not streaming iTunes, as widely predicted. It was Beatles music being available for purchase at iTunes.

Mashable Adam provides good brisk coverage. Comments on his post tend to be variations on the theme of “I’m younger than Steve Jobs, so I don’t care.”

CrunchGear’s Devin valiantly tries to explain why we care. “Being that the Beatles MP3 holdout is emblematic of the recording industry’s resistance against modern distribution methods, the way in which the Beatles discography will be made available should be telling.”

I’m inclined to think that those who really want Beatles music already have the CDs, while many of those who want the music in digital form without the hassle of a disc also want to avoid the hassle of payment. But the holiday/gift/rampant commerce season is upon us, so a lot of money may change hands.

I’ll be watching to see when and how the other music services announce: Beatles for Sale. As for Beatles music, I care enough to have allowed myself to be talked into a festival of Beatles cover bands (Abbey Road on the River, in DC earlier this year, and that’s Britbeat in the photo), and to be putting together a Beatles playlist/CD.

When it comes to the playlist, I’m surprised at how much Paul there is. When I think of the Beatles songwriters in the abstract, I think of Paul as sentimental, George as having penned a classic or two, and John as the man. When I listen to the music itself, I’m reminded of just how good McCartney’s best is, how annoyingly self-absorbed Lennon often was, and how Harrison doesn’t quite make the cut in that elite company.

My favorite few minutes of the Beatles come on Revolver, on which John’s “And Your Bird Can Sing” is followed by Paul’s “For No One.” The best of John (and a fine band performance) followed by the best of Paul.

Enough about the Beatles, lest I start sounding as old as Steve Jobs.

Music and Months of 2010

Elvis Costello’s National Ransom came out this week. If I made a list of the year’s music with as many entries as months so far, NR would make that list.

Yes, NR does sprawl, across styles, and for over an hour, but I don’t object. Neither do I object to the sprawl of The Suburbs (at least not to that of the album with that title) so Arcade Fire join Elvis at the recent end of the list. So does Richard Thompson, with another hour-plus album. I posted about his Dream Attic when it came out, and it’s holding up well after many subsequent plays.

That’s 3 albums to add to the 5 I listed at 2010’s 6-month mark. Add John Grant’s Queen of Denmark, which I missed when it came out in the first half of the year, and my favorites of the year list is up to 9 after 10+ months.

Amie Street is One Way to Amazon

Amie Street is a music download site with a business model I thought was brilliant, and Michael Arrington still describes as “awesome.”

Artists upload songs and those songs are free to download to start. As more downloads occur the price goes up. A cent, fifty cents, etc., up to $1… Over time a lot of artists tried out the service, songs were downloaded over 10 million times, and the company raised venture capital from Amazon and others.

As time went on, I developed qualms about the service. If tracks are $1, Amie Street is like lots of other ways to get music. What does it mean if a track is less than $1? That it’s not very good? That I can pay less for it, even though the artist probably needs the money more than those who command the full $1?

Anyway, the Amie Street service is closing down. So what happens to my account? I can’t tell from the site itself, which is currently offline for maintenance. Mashable Stan posts that I have until September 22 to spend my balanced (~$3?). It won’t be transferred to Amazon, which acquired Amie Street. But I will get $5 to spend there.

The Amie Streeters will now focus on the web radio platform Songza. So I don’t see this as a sad story, just as the end of a chapter in the big and growing book about music on the web.

First Swings With Ping

Yesterday, Apple announced bushels of stuff, including a music-based social network named Ping. It’s part of iTunes 10. Since iTunes is running on this very machine, I decided to upgrade and to try Ping. This despite the software’s assurance that 8.2.1, which I was running, is the current version of iTunes.

Anyway, I downloaded and installed iTunes 10. It took a while. I tried it. Like Brenna at Mashable, I am unimpressed. Apparently I’d be even more unimpressed if I was a musician trying to get set up on Ping.

I noted that Ping is a corner of the iTunes store, rather than a destination in its own right. So did Sarah at ReadWriteWeb.

I Googled Ping, and saw the golf clubs above the new Apple thing. So did Leena at TechCrunch, who remarks that it seems many seem to have found and signed up at on Apple Ping day.

So far, I find Ping to be a foolishly-named and uninteresting corner of Apple’s empire. But it’s a large and loyal empire…

New Stuff Tuesday

Tuesday (here in the USA at least) is new release day. That includes albums, in MP3 form as well as in disc form. It also includes books.

So I just bought the new album by my favorite musician, Richard Thompson. Dream Attic is like a live album in the most obvious way: it was recorded before a live audience. It’s the new RT album in that the songs are new, not having appeared on any previous album. It’s more like a live album in that RT stretches out on guitar more than on any of his studio albums.

Because of the guitar-stretching, the 13-track album comes in at 70+ minutes. For us old folk, that sounds like double (vinyl) album length. Slightly younger folks might note that it’ll almost fill the CD to which you burn it. Respectable folks will note that you should buy it before you burn it. You can do so from all sorts of places: Amazon, eMusic, RT’s own website, etc.

Those who understandably want to listen first can do so at AOL’s listening party – but, strangely, not at Spinner, which is owned by AOL, includes a new releases “listening party” and has a coolish name, as well as some interesting additional content.

Yet others might wonder what an album is, and how anyone could muster the attention span for over an hour or music by some greybeard. So the embed for this post is the 6-minute minimix.

Back in the real/analog world, I just got a package from Amazon including a couple of last Tuesday’s dead tree book releases: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games); and The Second Siege(paperback).

Happy new media day!

2010 Music So Far: 6 Months, 5 Albums

Six months into 2010, it seems like a neat idea to list my six favorite albums of the year so far. Or rather, I thought it would be,until I realized that five albums stood out for me as July started. Of these, Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor retains its lead as album of the year (see a previous post for more, including video of the band).

The other four albums comprise two pairs. There’s the Brit-folk pair of Mumford & Sons, with Sigh No More, and Laura Marling, with I Speak Because I Can.

Then there’s the pair of albums that I haven’t seen on many other (any other?) albums of the year so far list, but I really like, so there. Both are folky (again with the folk) and atmospheric. Shearwater’s The Golden Archipelago does indeed shimmer.

Laura Veirs’ July Flame is delicious. It’s named after this track, which is named after a peach, which is named after the month that’s just kicked off the second half of 2010.

If you want to see other selections of albums of 2010 so far, you could check over at Largehearted Boy, that excellent music (and literature, which is a welcome bonus) blog.

Rdio On

Rdio logoI just got my invite to Rdio, and started my free trial. My first thought was that Rdio reminds me of MOG. The free trial lasts three days, with no credit card required to start it. Thereafter, the cost is $5/month (basic – see below for what another $5 gets you).

Rdio also reminds me of some of the reasons I decided MOG is not for me. There are gaps in the music library. I continue to use Josh Ritter’s So Runs The World Away as my first test case. Rdio fails that test.

That’s not an isolated gap in the library (or even in the Josh Ritter collection). Three of my favorite five albums of the year so far (The Golden Archipelago, July Flame and Sigh No More) aren’t available at Rdio.

A different sort of gap in Rdio is the current lack of an Android application. It is apparently coming soon. Use of mobile apps (currently BlackBerry and iPhone) is part of Rdio Unlimited, which costs $10/month.

It may seem premature to criticize such a new service for gaps. I believe that the gaps are being addressed. I don’t mean that I have inside knowledge that the four albums referred to above are seen as particularly high priorities by Rdio management. I mean that I believe Rdio’s statement that the library is growing, and its statement that Android is coming soon.

Rdio did decide that its service is ready for trial. It seems to be, in that I’ve found the site easy to navigate, and encountered no problems with streaming the music that is in the library. I doubt that I’ll subscribe beyond the 3-day trial, although I don’t rule out another trial as the gaps are filled.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, I have some invites to give away. Leave a comment while stocks last, and a Rdio invite will be yours.

Update: my 3 free Rdio days are up. It seems that I can still give out invites. I have 8 left as of June 20, having sent an invite to each of the first two people to comment.