Choose Your Own Streets Adventure

I'm a big fan of both The Streets and interactive YouTube videos so I was pretty excited to see the promo video for The Streets' new album today. The video series is like a choose your own adventure, with the user deciding how The Streets' Mike Skinner goes about his day. The cool part is that some of the story lines lead you to song samples from the album. Finding the first one was neat, but having to go through parts of the story again to find all of them was a little bit annoying.

Check it out!

Games and Music: The Soundtrack of the Game

A few days ago, I started thinking about the music in my favourite video games. What started as a brief post on the subject grew to what I'm hoping will be a short series on the interconnection between video games and music.

Music has always been a part of video games, from the earliest bloops and beeps, right through to today's sweeping cinematic scores. As we've replayed level after level, so too have we listened to the same game sounds again and again. I'll bet that most of the readers of this blog still have the Mario or Tetris songs stuck in their head. These were simply, and partly so memorable because there was only so much music that could fit onto a game cartridge before it got in the way of memory needed to play the game.

As technology improved, so did the music. I remember liking the soundtrack to the original Wipeout game almost more than the actual game. Wipeout XL one-upped this by having a soundtrack with music by The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Orbital.

That's why it comes as no surprise to read that games are still turning to some heavy-hitters when it comes to recording soundtracks. Apparently, the new Medal of Honor game was scored by the guy that did Iron Man while my go-to favourite, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, was scored by Hans Zimmer (peep those stats!).

Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is a great resource on this subject and even identifies game music as a genre with the following typical characteristics:

-Pieces designed to loop endlessly

-Pieces lacking lyrics, and designed to be played over game sounds

-Limited polyphony (though this last one probably more applicable to old-style video game music due to the limitations of the systems)

NPR has an excellent article and accompanying audio piece about the subject of video game soundtracks, and suggests that one of the goals of the first video game soundtracks, Space Invaders, was designed to get the users heart rate to increase as the game progressed. I think this line of thinking can certainly be seen in today's games, with their atmospheric soundtracks.

What do you think about the music in video games? Do you have a favorite video game song? Is there one that is particularly stuck in your head?


PS: If you're looking for that classic video game tune, you can probably find it at

Nike Sportswear Isn't Going To Just Fade Away

Producing high-quality, shareable content is the way to get noticed these days, and it doesn't have to be that hard. There are tons of musicians and artists out there with huge followings, and the inability of the record industry to deal with this in the internet era means that these artists are looking for other options.

Corporate sponsorship is one of those options, and a great example of this is Nike Sportswear's Pitch Perfect series of albums:

With full-on football (aka soccer) mania about to consume the minds and hearts of billions around the globe, The FADER wanted to express what the sport means to us. Faced with that seemingly daunting task, we decided to focus on what we know—music, art and culture—and view the game through the creative endeavors inspired by it. To that end, The FADER has joined with Nike Sportswear to present our collaborative project, Pitch Perfect.

Starting on June 1, 2010, and stretching over the next several weeks, we will give you new music from all over the world via continental mixtapes made by top selectors, limited edition screen-printed posters inspired by football’s global reach, and, best of all, a special documentary series filmed in South Africa by The FADER crew as football fans deluge the country. While we’re there, Nike Sportswear and The FADER will present a live music event on June 16 at Nike’s brand new Football Training Center in Soweto, featuring artists from all over Africa, that will also be streamed live on and so that all those who couldn’t make it to South Africa can feel like they did.

I've argued before that this kind of promotion is a win-win-win: fans get to listen to the music they like; the artists get paid for their work and gain new fans; and the brand is able to connect with their audience in a meaningful way.

Scion (the car company) has done something similar, and so has the Cartoon Network with their ATL-RMX album (probably the best mix of southern hip-hop and electronic music you're likely to find outside of The Hood Internet).

...And as I was wrapping up this post, I realized that Starbucks has teamed up with iTunes for a similar deal. From

"Starbucks has created a free music mix to complement your Frappuccino® beverage. Featuring electrifying summertime favorites ranging from Frightened Rabbit to Hot Chip, your free Frappuccino® Beverage Music Mix is available to download on iTunes now!"

How do you feel about this model for sponsoring musicians? Do you like it when your artists team up with brands you may or may not like?

We're Getting The Band (website) Back Together

A few weeks ago, my friend asked me if I could help him build a website for his band, A Northern Drawl. They've already got a MySpace page and a Twitter account, but they wanted another presence on the web that they had more control over.

Rather than just setting them up with a blog and saying "have fun", I wanted to make sure it would be something useful. My friend and I went out for coffee, and talked about what they'd be using it for and what they wanted.

Some of the initial things that we agreed the site needed were a way to advertise their upcoming shows and a way for people to contact them for bookings.

My roommate Micker ("a sustainable designer") gave me some ideas on how it should look, and I used Artisteer to put it together (well worth the $50 if you ever design Wordpress or Joomla sites).

I also convinced them that it would be great for them to post any tracks they record and make them available as a free download. As a band that is still building up a fan base, giving away MP3s for free is a great way for people to easily learn about the band without having to put down any money. Its also a great way for existing fans to share the music with their friends, potentially growing their fan base.

A newsletter plugin (via Satollo) was also added, and I've encouraged the band to tell people to sign up for this newsletter. Rather than just sending all their posts like Feedburner might, a news letter plugin like this instead allows them to capture the names and email addresses of their fans so that they can send them more personalized, relevant updates later on.

While all you social media types that read BlogCampaigning might be hip to the RSS scene, I don't think the average music fan is, and I think a newsletter like this will be a good way to reach their potential fans. Later on, I'd like to expand this newsletter function so that it captures which city the subscriber is in, as well as their name and email address. That way, the band can reach out to fans in different regions when they go on tour.

They asked me if I could set the site up so that any updates they made on the blog would be posted to their Twitter account and MySpace page, but I advised against this. It isn't because I didn't feel like doing it (setting up a feed to Twitter is easy, one to MySpace a pain in the ass), but because I think they'll have different audiences on each of the different sites. As a new band, they've got a huge opportunity to start connecting with fans, and automated messages across different social networks isn't the way to do this.

I also added a plugin that would enable users to vote on the comments. In my discussions with the band, one idea we came up with was that before a show they could ask their fans which song they should cover. Fans would be able to make suggestions via the comments, and then vote on the suggestions that they wanted to hear. Its a great way for the band to get feedback about what kind of music their fans want to hear. I think it is also a great way to draw people to shows, as people might be more interested in going if they think that the band is going to play one of their favourite songs.

Once the band makes merchandise, I'd like to add some sort of system so that people can order it from their site. I'm sure that as the band's needs change, so will the site, and I look forward to working on it with them for the next little while.

If you've got a few minutes, check out, and let me know what you think of the design. I'm particularly interested in hearing what you think of how the background image shows up on your monitor. I certainly wouldn't describe myself as a "web designer", but I do like making and designing sites like this.

They haven't started posting anything yet, but if you like Pearl Jam-inspired alternative music, it might be worth your while to subscribe their RSS feed or follow A Northern Drawl on Twitter to get updates from the guys. They frequently play shows in Toronto, and are worth checking out.

What sort of things do you expect your favourite artists to have on their websites?


Spreading The Noise

As regular readers of BlogCampaigning might know, I also write a music blog. That means aspiring artists, their labels and their PR people always email me new music. Some of it is good. Most of it isn't. Nearly all of the pitches I get are amateurish at best, and nearly all of them are poorly targeted.

However, one name has consistently stood out over the past few months for sending me music that I usually like wrapped in well written emails: Alastair Sloan from Spread The Noise. Curious to find out more about what he's doing, I wrote him an email and he was nice enough to answer some of my questions.

Describing his company as a "music marketing agency specializing in digital relations", Alastair explained to me via email that he got his start because his own music blog, Noise Porn, received so many poorly written pitches that he recognized a need in the market.

Alastair also mentioned that he doesn't have any formal marketing or communications training, but rather draws on his experience as a music blogger and from time spent working for newspapers and the PR department of a major organization. I think we'll see a lot more of this in the future, as PR education programs start to focus on production and internships rather than teaching the theory, while many more self-taught online communicators will have the skill and self-confidence to start their own companies or enter the working world.

Since I've always got an interest in how artists feel about giving away their music for free, I asked Alastair for his thoughts on it.

"It tends to be larger labels with an established position within the industry who are less keen to give away music", he wrote. "Sometimes I convince them; sometimes I don't. The important issue to point out here is that the business model of the record industry can have a 'free' aspect to it. Building your profile online can lead to more gigs, and more money. And building that profile is a lot easier if you're prepared to give away something to the bloggers." He goes on to mention that in a lot of cases, the artists he represents are actually paying him to see that their music is given away to the blogs, quite the reverse of the traditional model.

His parting advice for others wanting to reach out to bloggers and the online community is to be personable and not too formal. "Follow up your emails, and show you care", he says. He also adds that if you are a large PR agency, you shouldn't be sending the same formal news release to blogs that you would send to more traditional publications.

From what I can tell, this British bloke seems to be doing pretty well for himself, so go check out to see for yourself.

For some more posts on music blogging from BlogCampaigning, check out A Round Table of Music Blogging Knights and Music Blogging: Posting, Pitching and PR


Watch Out iTunes and Amazon, Here Come HMV and Wal-Mart?

HMV Digital I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail discussing the hot battle for online book sales. For the last decade, Amazon has enjoyed a cushy spot on top of their competition—wait, did they even have any real competition? If I had a penny for every time I proclaimed my love for Amazon, I'd probably have enough to order at least one more book.  Over the last few years, Amazon has moved beyond paperbacks into other retail markets, including a broad offering of consumer goods. (I ordered a hair straightener from their site just last month.) Their offering is a no-brainer: a trusted site + quick delivery + great deals on goods =  happy consumers. Other online and retail giants, namely Wal-Mart and Google, have been eyeing Amazon's success for some time. In the Globe article, Forrester analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps, notes:

“Amazon and Wal-Mart have been competing for that consumer for a long time. The reason why this is important now is that whoever has a strong relationship with the book-buying consumer today is well-positioned to keep that customer tomorrow."

The battleground is heating up. Amazon and Wal-Mart are now in a fully fledged price war, selling many popular books and e-books for under 10 dollars. While they may not be turning an actual profit on book sales, they are able to promote other items and sections of their site leading to increased sales overall.

In similar news, HMV, a store that up until a few years ago I visited weekly, has finally decided to enter this century and offer their content online—gasp! Since most people have already become accustomed to using iTunes or just downloading everything for free, is this move too little too late? The new site (HMV Digital) offers all MP3s free of digital rights management (DRM) and includes a "My Downloads" section which stores recently downloaded songs and allows users to access them remotely. The site also aims to make customer service a top priority with a visible help section, a comments section on their blog, and by providing contact details of the editor. Time will tell, but I feel that even with these features HMV will have to make some serious marketing and advertising efforts to gain back their market share.

No matter who comes out on top, a little healthy competition is good for the soul, and great for the consumer. Let the games begin!

More thoughts on laptop DJing (in response to...)

Recently I wrote a post for BlogCampaigning on my experience transitioning from a vinyl DJ to a laptop DJ, which, from personal comments, appears to have been generally well received. But the only comment anyone actually posted on the blog was quite negative and passively critical. Initially, I wanted to tell the semi-anonymous commenter where to go, but I decided to take the high road, thanking the fellow for his post and offering a very brief apologetic response. I was wrong. I've thought about it, and I now recognize that that person's comment was uninformed and thoughtless, and I had no reason to apologize. I don't want to insult him, and I hope this response doesn't simply come off as petty. I have a far more appropriate response in mind, and it is basically a brief description of the nature of entertainment media today.

In his passive-aggressive note, the commenter appears to make three points:

1. DJs who use iTunes (or similar software) don't deserve to entertain club or bar crowds. 2. Whatever happened to DJs who can match beats by simply listening to songs (as opposed to using software to digitally and automatically beat-match)? 3. DJs today suck.

Where to begin?

First, the nature of DJing has changed completely in recent years, and "disc jockeying" is basically an anachronism in the same way as "film processing" or "going to print". With digital music collections advancing far faster than physical collections, and the ease of collecting and transporting digital music, it should be no surprise that DJs are turning to software solutions. And now, there are hardware solutions, as well, to replace bulky turntables and CD players. Everyone who wants to be a DJ has already got a laptop. A DJ starting out now would almost be a fool to choose physical media over virtual. As for iTunes, well, as I said in my original post, it's not good for DJing, and it's not appropriate for DJing, but in a pinch, which is where I found myself on that night, it will perform the required function.

What software or hardware one chooses to use, however, is basically irrelevant—a simple matter of pleasure or circumstance. I started DJing on a kit hobbled together from whatever bits of stereo equipment my friends, Josh and James, and I had at home—and later some rented gear. Even when MP3s came around, I only used them to create mixes that I could play on CD decks. But if the software existed at the time, I almost certainly would have chosen to use a laptop over CDs. (Vinyl is always a special case.) The only relevant question is: how well does the DJ entertain the crowd?

So, complain all you want, but this mode of DJing is just the way it is and will be. Frankly, these days I'd be more surprised to see a DJ using turntables at a club than using a laptop—with or without some extra hardware.

(I'm not saying I fully approve of the rise of the laptop DJ. As with photography, and journalism, and any other medium that has found itself in a similar situation, not everyone who performs as a DJ deserves to call themselves a DJ. There is a core skill set that one must develop, and no software or hardware can allow a person to bypass that process. No doubt many DJs today never bother to acquire those skills; but this has ever been the case.)

The other thing is that the digital revolution has caused a tsunami of DJs, just as it has turned everyone into a photographer, and a web designer, and an illustrator, and a journalist, and a media expert, and so on. There's more to this: I don't want to get into the details, but the expanding middle class has somehow achieved a sort of critical nexus of leisure time and disposable income that practically compels their young to go to bars and clubs and dance. In Toronto, at least, new bars, clubs, and restaurants open all the time and everywhere. Each one of them needs to entertain their clientele—ideally at a low cost—and more than ever now the common factor is the DJ.

More venues + more leisure time and money = more DJs

Unfortunately, as I touched on above—and in this I agree with the commenter—more DJs doesn't mean more quality. In fact, it almost definitely means lower quality overall; but it doesn't simply mean that all laptop DJs are awful or that the club owner has hired his inexperienced cousin who just downloaded some trial software and wants to give it a go. There are certainly many experienced and skilled DJs who use (and choose) computers over traditional DJ gear.

You know what, I'm not even ashamed to say that I have played a song here and there from YouTube when I haven't found it in my collection. I would never do this in a club or bar with a high-quality sound system, but for a private party or a standard bar night, why not? If you can mix it and make it fit, and it sounds good, that is really the only issue.

You'll probably be better off paying attention to what music the DJ is playing and how well she does it, rather than the gear she is using. If you find it still doesn't live up to your standards, you can always try your hand at DJing yourself.

Thanks for your comment.

RZA and The Wu-Tang Clan Are Huge Geeks (You Read it Here First!)

Earlier today, I watched this interview (embedded below, via BoingBoing) with RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, in which he talks about how much of a geek he is and how that influenced his music.

"I'd rather raise nerds than raise gangsters", the hip-hop star says as he talks about his interest in new music-creating software, and that hip-hop has a lot of geeks amongst its ranks.

I've been saying that the Wu-Tang Clan were huge needs for a while now. Last year, I wrote that that they were huge nerds ("36 Chambers of Social Media") due to the fact that they were obsessed with Kung-Fu movies and Voltron, and I'm glad that the RZA has confirmed my thoughts.

For examples of some of their music and its relation to nerd culture, check here.

The DJ Edits My Blog

Adam Gorley is BlogCampaigning's resident copy-editor, but he also moonlights as a DJ. Here's his take on using a laptop to spin tracks. Imagine this: you’re the DJ at a bar—the night’s entertainment. You’re using a laptop; you’ve got some software that you’ve tried out before and you like better than anything else you’ve tried for the purpose.

Things are going pretty well, until right in the middle of the tenth song or so the application quits unexpectedly with no warning and no message—what! You scramble to switch to another program (iTunes is all you’ve got available) and find a song quickly to fill the gap. Then you load up the application again—it probably just crashed, right?—surely it won’t happen again. But no, it does happen again after another ten songs, and you realize it’s because you’re using a trial version of the software. Well, bloody hell, a little warning somewhere would have been nice, you think, and you spend the rest of the night cueing songs in iTunes and hoping nobody notices—and of course, cursing the company that made that other application.

Well, that happened to me about eight weeks ago at The Painted Lady—the first time I played at that bar—and, man, was I unhappy about it, by which I mean Embarrassed. I won’t name the application that closed down on me, because I don’t want anyone to use it, which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a decent lightweight laptop DJing app.

I might sound like an ass for trying to use a software trial to DJ a party, but, you know what? To me, that’s the purpose of a trial: to try the product out—not for ten songs, not for 100 songs, but until I’m ready to buy it. I would prefer to have the functionality of the application somehow restricted rather than face a completely unexpected shutdown. All I’m asking for is a warning here software developers, that’s all I’m saying.

It turns out that iTunes is an acceptable—if very weak—substitute for bare bones software. (You might laugh—please feel free—but I can say this confidently because I’ve had to use it exclusively on three occasions now.) And by adding a few features, it could actually be good—yes, iTunes could be a reasonably good (basic) DJing application, with the addition of greater crossfading control, current song protection, and two music windows. That’s all. It would be far from great, but in a pinch, I wouldn’t worry about using it.

Of course, none of that can take away the fact that I’m using a laptop and a mouse (or, worse, a trackpad) to DJ, but that’s another story.

So, maybe you can help me find a good free/open source mixing application for Macs?—the simpler the better. And if it’s compatible with the M-Audio Torq Xponent, I like that too.

-Adam Gorley

Check out Gorley's playlist from that night on

A Round Table of Music-Blogging Knights

Via The Hype Machine's blog, I came across an interesting round-table discussion on The Morning News among a group of music bloggers. It's interesting to hear their thoughts on the relationship music bloggers have with the Public Relations people in the record industry, and there is definitely some take-away for all PR pros there.

Matthew Perpetua, who writes, says, "I am glad to get records sent to me because sometimes I get something that I really enjoy." However, as a hat-tip to the growing importance that PR pros are placing on reaching bloggers rather than traditional media, Perpetua adds, "I work for the regular press too, and aside from my experience with New York Magazine and Pitchfork, the difference seems to be that no one really cares about what I write for money, but they are sometimes very invested in what I do for free."

When asked if they read other music blogs, the panellists said almost universally that they did not. I feel like this kind of mentality is what has set them apart from other music bloggers and is similar to my suggestion that PR props stop reading PR blogs.

And as great as all that is, I think that this round-table discussion is more important to understand the opinions of these bloggers about giving away content for free and the future of the music industry.

It is slightly depressing to hear Andrew Noz complain that CDs will "be all but unattainable to towns with only one Wal-Mart" without him acknowledging that a) the CD is essentially a dead format and b) thanks to blogs like his, people in towns of all sizes have access to way more music than they would have ever discovered before.

I also disagree with Sean Michaels and David Gutowski, who both think that the future of music is in paying for subscription services packaged with our phone and internet plans. To think that the way for artists to make money off of the art they make (whether it is music or film or writing) by sharing their revenues with wireless and internet providers is ridiculous. All that does is replace one inefficient middleman (today's record companies) with another.

However, some of the bloggers do seem to get it. "I believe pretty strongly that the next frontier lies in monetizing live performance", says John Seroff. In fact, his suggestion that perhaps we'll see something "along the lines of $20 for an album, four live shows and access to ongoing projects" sounds pretty Masnickian and forward-thinking.

Andrew Noz and Oliver Wang seem to support this line of argument by saying that physical products in the form of deluxe or limited editions of albums will help fund artists' careers.

Later on in the discussion, as the topic veers towards the "free culture" movement, John Seroff does a great job of comparing his writing being shared online with the way music is being shared online: "I figure anything I write or make that ever hits the internet is gone and I don't resent people doing what they want with it... that's the internet, and that's how it works." He also goes on to say that, although some artists might not like this new way of doing business (giving away their content freely, making a profit on things like live performances rather than individual CDs), "it might not jibe with your professional/creative goals, but thus has it ever been."

His basic point is that you should adapt to the new internet economy. Things have changed, and artists should change with it.

The whole discussion is worth a serious read, as these guys talk about everything from their favourite music, to their actual blogging process (and how to avoid burnout after 5+ years). Read the Music Blogging Roundtable on The Morning News.


The Future Of Music (It Was A Good Day)

It has been fairly obvious that the record industry is in decline, has been for years, and will probably continue to decline for some time. That's because the RECORD industry is based on a decades-old business model of selling discs of either the vinyl or laser-read variety. The music industry, it seems, has never been better.

Artists and record labels that have embraced the internet and new ways of doing business are being rewarded. Imogen Heap, a 31-year old recording artist from England (formerly of the band Frou Frou) is a great example of this. As a recent article on the Telegraph website says, she  "has a lucrative sideline in “sync deals”—licensing her songs for use on television and in ads and film soundtracks."

I truly believe that this sort of licensing of music will be the future of the music industry. Fans will still get to hear and share the music they love and artists will still be rewarded for their hard work. The difference is that it will be companies paying the artist's salary via these licensing deals. The more popular an artist is, the more choices they'll have when it comes to aligning their music with a brand.

A great example of this in action can be seen in this ad from Nike SB featuring pro-skaters Paul Rodriguez and Eric Koston, basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, and music from Ice Cube (SB is Nike's surf/skateboard/snowboard brand):

(Yeah, you can watch it here on BlogCampaigning or your RSS reader, but I highly recommend you watch the full-screen version with the sound on.)

I was out riding my skateboard through the streets of Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood within two hours of seeing the video. I had that song stuck in my head (and will forever associate it with Nike), and although I was wearing a pair of Nikes, they're two years old and the video has me thinking about buying new ones.

I've never been a fan of Ice Cube's music, and didn't even know that the song in the video ("Today Was A Good Day") was was by him.

The result of this video was that I was entertained by a commercial so much that I watched it a few times and shared it with some friends. I became a fan of Ice Cube's song, and he probably got rewarded by Nike for having it play along with the video.

The Most Important Post You'll Read This Week (CwF + RtB = The Business Model)

I've always been impressed with the good ideas that come from Mike Masnick and the Techdirt crew, and their latest initiative is no different. For quite some time now, Masnick has been repeating the mantra that if you are able to Connect with Fans of whatever you are making or selling, AND give them a Reason to Buy, you've got a business model.

The formula looks like this:

CwF + RtB = The Business Model

He's showed us examples of how it can work for a bunch of different industries, and now he's finally applied the model to Techdirt. By offering a number of unique packages, he's making it easy for anyone to give the blog money and get something in return. The most basic package puts a badge on the user's Techdirt profile, showing that they support the site. More sophisticated packages include signed copies of books or t-shirts. They all give the user a reason to pay money (getting something in return) as well as giving them a chance to connect with the Techdirt crew in another way (from a badge to advance views of posts).

While I'm sure that this will create a new revenue stream for Techdirt, I wonder how much it will actually bring in (compared to their other work), and how applicable this model is to other blogs.

Either way, it is a great experiment.

Check out the various packages, then read the post announcing the plan.

For the record, I bought the Approaching Infinity package for $35 USD, and am looking forward to getting my copy of Masnick's book and a Techdirt t-shirt. I also feel like it is a great way to support a blog that I love reading from and learn something new from almost every day.


Music Blogging: Posting, Pitching and PR

One year ago yesterday I wrote my first post on my music blog. A few months after that, it got listed on both The Hype Machine and (two music blog aggregators), both of which deliver considerable amounts of traffic. While the number of RSS subscribers to my music blog doesn't really compare to that of BlogCampaigning, I attribute that more to the fact that people interested in music don't care about RSS as much as people interested in social media and PR.

In the year that I've been blogging there, I've written almost 100 posts. While they aren't as lengthy as the ones you often see here, they require just as much thought and time to put together. Just as each post here is written about something I'm passionate about, so too with my music blog.

So what is a "music blog"?

I don't think there is anyone one definition, but I'd probably describe a music blog as one that exists primarily to talk about and share music. Some examples can be found at Discobelle or Soundtrack2. They are essentially individual radio stations of the 21st century.

According to my understanding, most music blogs are probably illegal under today's copyright law because of the way they allow you to download mp3 files. However, I think that we are due for a shift in the way that copyright law is viewed and the entire model of the music industry. I'm happy to contribute to the acceleration of this shift.

I view what I do as contributing to the promotion of the artists, and subscribe to a Masnickian theory of economics that emphasizes the difference between infinite and scarce goods. The short of it is that mp3 files can be copied for free, and doing so doesn't equate to stealing the track. Each track shared doesn't result in one less sale for the artist, but rather has the potential to create one more fan. These fans will gladly pay money to see their favorite artists in concert or buy merchandise related to that artist (both scarce goods).

I've written previously about my beliefs on this topic in the posts "The New Music Industry" and "On Piracy and The Future of the Entertainment Industry." While I post a combination of music that artists send in to me and stuff that I find on my own, I do it out of the love of the music, and sincerely think that I'm benefiting them by making their music available for all.

What have I learned through my music blog?

I've learned at least as much about PR and social media in 12 months of music blogging as I have in three years of being part of the PR echo chamber with BlogCampaigning. As both independent artists and record labels constantly pitch me to write about their music, I see the side of PR and blogger relations that many in the field might not (I also get to fill my iPod up with tons of cool new music that I would have otherwise never heard about).  I'm sure that Eden Spodek's work at Bargainista has helped her understand the other side of the communications fence, and similarly, Keith MacArthur's background as a journalist has surely helped him develop media-friendly stories while at Com.motion or Rogers.

I've also learned a ton about Wordpress. As I've often told people, stop learning about social media and start using it. Maintaining two Wordpress blogs and experimenting with plugins and design has taught me a ton of the technical stuff that I don't think I would have learned anywhere else.

Lastly, I've learned that maintaining two blogs is a lot of work. When you're torn between contributing to one or the other, often contributing to neither is the end result. (Summer weather, online Halo 3 and Trinity Bellwoods around the corner from me aren't helping the after-work blogging productivity, either.)

So where is my other blog? Well, you can probably figure it out if you've been a particularly attentive reader of BlogCampaigning. Or I might have told you about it. Otherwise, maybe you'll stumble across it one day and wonder if that's me in one of the photos on it or just a Parker Mason Doppleganger, as one reader thought.

My parting advice to you is to not worry about blogging about something immediately relevant to the Public Relations/Communications industry.  I've said it before, but you'll learn just as much (and maybe more) blogging about something else. As Gary Vaynerchuck once famously said, "I promize you can monetize that shit. If you love ALF, start an ALF blog. You like Smurfs? Smurf it up!" I don't necessarily think you'll be able to monetize that blog by selling ad space on it, but you'll learn a lot.  And isn't knowledge worth more than money?

Do you read any music blogs? How do you feel about sharing music online?


The New Music 'Industry': A German Example

As an addition to the Parker's post about the future of the music industry (or lack thereof), here is an example from Germany of how the will to innovate can benefit everyone involved: in order to gain independence from the industry, hard rocking guitar pop band Angelika Express financed its last album by selling 'shares' to fans. To give fans an impression of the new album the Cologne based group first released rough versions of new songs on Myspace on a weekly basis. They then decided to issue 500 'shares' at 50 Euros (which sold out in record time and came with a detailed plan of how the money would be spent). With those 25.000 Euros Angelika Express financed the recording of their album, the album artwork, the manufacture of the actual CDs, and the accompanying promotion. They also plan to fund upcoming singles from this pool.

The thing is: Not only do the people who signed up for the shares get the new album but in return they also receive 80% of the earnings made with CDs sales and downloads (including upcoming singles and EPs) for the next seven years!

I have to say that this is really one of the most innovative and sympathetic concepts I came across so far. The band gained its independence and its fans get paid to support them. Everybody wins!


The New Music Industry

The New Music Industry Part One: Little Boots As I've alluded to a few times here, I've been working on a music blog as a side project. One of the coolest things about it is that artists are constantly sending me tracks to listen to and post on the blog. They recognize the power of the internet and music blogs as promotional tools. These artists know that they are only worth as much as the number of people that listen to their music.

This wasn't always the case.

It used to be that an artists worth was measured in how many physical copies of the music they could sell. That is because in order to listen to and enjoy the music at home, you had to buy a physical copy of that music. Throughout the ages, this meant buying CDs, tapes, records and (way back in the day) actual sheet music. Record companies were necessary in order to professionally record, produce then distribute these physical copies of the music. It was an expensive process, and record labels took chance on artists by fronting the cost of all this work in exchange for part of the revenue that would eventually be

Part of the reason that people who would probably never shoplift a CD from their local record store "steal" music all the time by downloading it is because they don't feel like they've taken anything. They aren't holding an object in their hands, and someone else isn't physically out an object.

And that's because it hasn't been stolen. It has only been copied .

Music is no longer a scarce object, tied to physical objects. Like most of society's information, it has become an infinite good that can be copied endlessly for a negligible cost and with out any loss of quality (props to Mike Masnick and the Techdirt crew for drilling this concept into my head).

That's why I was so disapointed to read the comment that the artist Little Boots left on a music blog that had posted one of her songs after ripping it from her MySpace page:

hi, would really appreciate if you wouldn't rip tracks off my myspace. the whole point is to preview them on there for people a week at a time. thanks, little boots.

Yes, it was great of Little Boots to recognize the promotional value of letting her track stream freely on her MySpace page. However, what she doesn't recognize is the statement I made earlier: she is only worth as much as the number of people that listen to her music.

The New Music Industry Part Two: Selling Out So how does the number of people listening to an artist create value?

It does so by driving the demand for that artist up. The more people that listen to a particular artist, the more opportunities there are for that artists. By giving away music for free, artists are making it easier for people to become fans of their music. Rather than relying on fans for revenue, artists can look for corporate sponsorships and I have no problem with this.

Goldfrapp has given her music to Target.

Chris Brown even wrote a song for Wrigley gum, and its pretty catchy (below)

I'm not advocating that every artist write a jingle for a mega-corporation or (though the payday might be worth it). Rather, they should align themselves with brands that they care about. Or, like Gwen Stefani and her L.A.M.B line of clothing, and Kid Rock and his beer, create their own brands.

With this kind of solution, artists get to make money and have a large number of people listen to their music. Is this selling out? Maybe. But I think that it is also considered "being successful" and is something that artists strive for.

Everyone wins.


Dear HypeMachine (a letter to anyone involved in mass email for marketing or newsletters)

Dear HypeMachine, I've been a huge fan of your site for a while now. You're an amazing resource when it comes to finding new music, and ever since you included my music blog in your listings, traffic to it has quadrupled.

When I first signed up to be a member of your site, you asked for my email address. A lot of sites do this. In fact, most sites do this.

Most sites then send you weekly updates, monthly reminders and invites to events that you don't care about or are nowhere near you (I believe the correct term for this type of stuff is "Bacn"). HypeMachine doesn't. In fact, I think this is one of the first I've gotten from you:


# NEWS: We want your Top 10 Albums Music Blog Zeitgeist 2008 is coming in December, and we need your Top 10 Albums. Open to anybody with a blog, enter the link to your blog post and what CDs you picked to be included:

# NEWS: Profile Customization Now you can add a photo, website, & set your location. How: Click settings in the toolbar

# MUSIC: 5 tracks YOUR friends are obsessed with Play All:

# MUSIC: Hottest 3 artists right now 1. Deerhunter: 2. Kanye West: 3. Cut Copy:

# BLOGS: Latest 3 music blogs added 1. New Rave gone wrong: 2. 88 Days In My Veins: 3. The Laundromatinee:

# BLOGS: Hottest 3 music blogs right now 1. Popdose: 2. Metaphor: 3. music is art:

---- <3 The Hype Machine Team (Anthony, Taylor, Zoya, Scott, & Mati)

We make these newsletters for you. Want to see something else added? Let us know: Unsubscribe:

No heavy graphics or lengthy blocks of text - you guys want the simple route. With just a quick glance, I can get the gist of what your news is.

This is probably way more effective than long paragraphs that most readers will probably just skim anyways. Its also easy to read on mobile devices, and its actually worth reading. Not only is it giving me news about your site, but it is also fun in that it gives me some info on the top music.

Not every site or company has something as interesting as top music lists to share with their readers, but surely they can put something interesting. In that case, they could take the time to publicly thank their top customers or users. Or they could provide brief stats or numbers about their industry - people love lists, too.

But you already know that, HypeMachine. A lot of people can probably learn from you.

Keep up the great work on all fronts.


Parker Mason

PS: if you ever get another wordy, graphically-rich marketing email from someone: send them yours and tell them I said it was awesome.

PPS: iStudio's annual Christmas card is an exception to the simplicity-is-best rule, but that's because they are so damn clever. After being fortunate enough to see it last year, it was actually one of the things I was looking forward to the most this holiday season. Check it out at

On Piracy and The Future of the Entertainment Industry

I'm a "pirate." Everyday, I steal. I steal music, by downloading it from music blogs.

I steal movies, by downloading them or streaming them from websites.

I steal information, by reading it online.

Except that stealing information isn't exactly stealing it. Websites everywhere are giving it away. People set up blogs for the sole purpose of giving away what they write for free. News organizations do the same thing all the time: they post content on their website, and give it away freely.

And stealing music and movies isn't stealing either. It's piracy. Stealing removes the original, while piracy merely makes a copy (see this diagram by Danielle for help understanding this concept).

So what is the difference between the print publications (those, not including the Globe and Mail, that realize they can still have a profitable business by giving away content for free) and the entertainment industry that refuses to change its business model in the face of the internet?

Its not like there aren't successful examples of entertainment organizations giving away their content for free and exploring different models.

Michael Moore recently allowed his film "Slacker Uprising" to be downloaded for free. Techdirt reports that Wayne Wang (director of the Joy Luck Club and Maid In Manhattan) is giving away his most recent film for free via YouTube.

As I've pointed out before, BMW gave away a number of short films they created with actor Clive Owen. There's no reason that kind of model of corporate sponsorship (in exchange for product placement) can't work in a future of legal, free downloads.

Similarly, both Radiohead and the Nine Inch Nails have seen a great deal of success in giving away albums or allowing fans to pay what they want for them. Rapper Lil Wayne is constantly giving away his music for free, and that hasn't stopped him from near-record breaking sales.

At least one record label seems to understand this concept, even if their hosting company doesn't. According to this story, Quote Unquote Records worked on a model that allowed fans to download albums and songs from the label's catologue for free. Unfortunately, the company that owned the space they were hosting their content on didn't understand this concept and took down their site for copyright infringement.

South Korean Jin-Young Park also seems to get the new economy. According to an article in Portfolio a few months ago, his entertainment company (I hesitate to call it a music label) is worth over $100 million US, and music sales only make up a small part of that fortune. That's because Jin-Young Park recognizes that the music promotional, and can be used to sell other products and services that his company offers related to that music. This includes concert tickets, cell phones and more.

Oh, and to the American record labels that are lamenting the loss of revenue as a result of declining CD sales: Jin-Young Park created his company in a country where CD sales declined 80% from 2000 to 2006.

The world has changed, and the failure of organizations to realize that they will be unable to profit in ways that they were accustomed to will be their downfall. Those that are capable of adapting will prosper.


Using the Web to Discover Talent

A friend of mine who's a prospective movie producer asked me to act as music supervisor for his (yet to be finished) diploma project. He needed some authentic country and 50s old school rock'n'roll for the soundtrack. Unfortunately there wouldn't be a budget – and he would need the worldwide rights for an indefinite amount of time for all kinds of media (DVD, television, cinema…). Confronted with this task I of course turned to the web – to and Myspace to be precise.

As I'm neither to familiar with country nor with 50s rock'n'roll Last FM's function to look for similar artists came in handy (beginning with Johnny Cash seemed like a good idea...) as did Myspace's search functions, the possibility to listen to several tracks and to contact the band. The seedy bottom of the internet seems to be good for something after all. In regards to  presenting and discovering music it still has quite an edge on Facebook.

In short: There's a vast talent pool out there, pretty much all our needs were covered by (mostly) unsigned or young and upcoming bands.

All this – again – made me realize just how important these platforms became for music and which great chances they offer for both parties involved. Even though we didn't have a budget for the soundtrack what we could offer was a worldwide DVD-release which surely comes in handy in terms of exposing music to new markets – we got great tunes and the bands a chance to introduce themselves to a new audience, all without a middle-man or complicated license agreements.

Another example, even though in a completely different league, are my Australian friends from Operator Please, whose career certainly owes a lot to Myspace. Just recently, they were nominated again for two Aria awards (in one category they're up against Kylie!).

So keep on posting your stuff onto the web, you never know when some random German movie person wants you for the soundtrack of his flick.


PS Check out the trailer for my friend's old movie "Die Schwarze Kolonne" (The Black Platoon), a spoof on comic adaptations with German soap actor Tim Sander.

Hype Machine Rocks User Stats

One of my favourite websites is The Hype Machine, a music blog aggregator. What it does is search through a directory of music blogs, allowing you to listen to the tracks without visiting each site individually. Think of it as an MP3 RSS reader. Start using it, and you'll become more common with CSS standing for "Cansei de Ser Sexy" (which translates from Brazilian Portuguese into "I'm tired of being sexy") rather than Cascading Style Sheets. Hype Machine logo

I've discovered a ton of new music through the site, and have even ended up buying a few albums as a result of listening to songs first through Hype Machine. I've even started my own music blog with dreams of hitting it big and getting listed on the Hype Machine

In looking over the site earlier today, I noticed one of their older blog entries that has the results of one of their users surveys. It is from the end of May, only has a sample size of about 2000, but provides a great look into the way people are using music online.

Music has always been the predecessor to the way other types of popular media (movies, books, video games) are used and consumed, so this is a fascinating little survey. Among the findings are the 91% of HypeMachine users find new music online, and that 47% of them buy their music online.

So what are some other cool things that you can do with Hype Machine? Well, like all Social Media sites you can add a badge from Hype Machine showing what you've been into lately on your blog, and you can also integrate Hype Machine with Twitter so that every "heart" a song, your Twitter followers will know. I wish more people used this feature, and I promise to start doing so in the near future.

I also just learned from the comments on this Tech Crunch post that you can easily browse all tracks listed on the Hype Machine via at Http:// Not only can you browse them from here, but you can also stream them - that's Web 2.0 action at its best.

And while we're on the topic, a recent article in the Financial Times about a recent study (paid for by the music industry!) says that the big record labels should embrace piracy and start offering tracks for free (via Slashdot).

Have you used Hype Machine before? Do you read music blogs at all? If so, recommend some good stuff in the comments.


PS: Definitely check out Yelle on Hype Machine. My roommate got me into this French discobelle a few weeks ago and I've been digging her ever since. And also check out some tracks by the aforementioned CSS. They do electro right.