Tag Archives: music

Micropixie raises funds for Women’s Building mural, Women’s Audio Mission

This amazing mural on the Women's Building in San Francisco could use a bit of TLC. Micropixie is donating part of the sales from "Sounds So Different" to the project.

A few years ago my brother and I went to San Francisco and spent several days exploring the city. One of my favorite sites was the Women’s Building in the Mission District, with its amazing mural. Pictures can’t quite do it justice. You have to see it in person.

A fundraiser is under way to get that amazing mural some TLC and Micropixie (recently interviewed on this blog) is helping out.   She is giving 25% of sales from “Sounds So Different” – her cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Feels So Different” – to the Women’s Building fundraiser,

MPX is supporting another non-profit as well. She is donating 25% of the sales from the radio edit of “Testosteronica” to the Women’s Audio Mission, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts through training, career counseling and job placement.

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Listening Room – a great way to share music with friends (without stealing it)

I spent countless hours as a teenager listening to music with friends. “Have you heard this?” “Pretty cool, now check this out…” It was a neat social activity and a great way to discover new favorites. Nothing in the digital age has ever quite captured that feeling. I just discovered something that comes close: The Listening Room.

A friend introduced me to the site last night. It’s innovative in one way, but in another, it’s almost old-fashioned. It lets you have that shared musical experience with people you can’t hang out with in person, yet it still feels personal.

Basically, someone starts a listening room and invites people in, who can in turn invite others in. Each person can then upload an mp3 out of his or her collection and it will play once it comes up in the queue. The site makes a little player that looks like a 45 rpm vinyl player. If it can find the album art, that goes on your record as it spins around. Beside the player, there’s a little chat room.

The Listening Room hasn’t been around long and it’s still a bit buggy. It wouldn’t let me upload songs from Rekonq browser (in other ways a very good browser), though Opera worked just fine. Some songs also wouldn’t upload for my friend. It did let us put up some very obscure tracks though. Overall it was definitely worth it. I am impressed.

Give it a spin now so you can be all hip later and say you remember it before it got huge.

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The death of the album?

A few years ago, my friend offered to download a song his teenage step-daughter liked. When he asked if she wanted the whole album, she said, “What do you mean?” That’s pretty telling. Not only are today’s young people not buying or listening to albums, many of them don’t even understand the concept. The digital age has definitely had a major impact on music. Is it killing music? That’s what the industry would have you believe. Labels and musicians aren’t making the kind of money they used to. I recently came across an article that raises the possibility that what’s actually going on is the return to a singles model: The state of internet music on Youtube, Pandora, iTunes and Facebook.

As illustrated by the chart above, people are still buying music, but appear to be abandoning the album. It looks like the album model that has dominated the music business for the past several decades was an anomaly. If that’s true, is it a bad thing?

I don’t know that it has to be a disaster for the music industry. Popular music has been singles-oriented before. When my mother was a kid, she and her friends didn’t buy albums, they bought 45s and played them over and over. Yet people were able to make a living in the business.

I think the digital age really has changed the way we think of music. And it didn’t just start with Napster and downloading. The seeds were sown when they came up with the compact disc (in a way the industry asked for it by forcing us to switch to another format to squeeze more money out of us). When the CD met the personal computer, people were bound to figure out that an album didn’t have to be a unit any more. A song is a “file” that can be separated from that album, and an album when you get down to it, has become a “folder” or directory.

I’m still not sure what I think about that. Does it mean musicians will just start doing singles? No more coherent themes, no more Dark Side of the Moon or Led Zeppelin 4, no more 2112? The idea bothers me, because I’m a collector. Anytime I find a song I like, I instinctively wonder what album it came from and if I would like it too. Maybe I just have to change my way of thinking and learn to love a good song for its own sake and forget about albums.

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Great music memories from my childhood

I didn’t get to be a music nut overnight. It started at a very early age. Below are some of my favorite music-related memories from childhood:

When I was a kid, we had an old Beatles 45 that used to be Mom’s, with “Hello Goodbye” on one side and “I Am the Walrus” on the other. We played it constantly, nearly drove Dad nuts. Another 45 that we played into the ground was “Beep Beep” by the Playmates.

When I was really little I liked “Puff the Magic Dragon,” by Peter Paul & Mary and some song that was something like “Blue Blue My Love is Blue,” but I thought it said “My love is Goo…” Everyone got a kick out of that. (I believe it was “Love Is Blue” by Paul Muriat.)

I really got into music in 1976 as when I was in 5th grade. Some of the songs I liked then were “Telephone Line” and “Livin’ Thing” by ELO; “Love Roller Coaster” by The Ohio Players; every song I ever heard by Stevie Wonder; “The Things We Do for Love” by 10cc; “Convoy” by CW McCall (and all that other CB radio/trucker stuff that was a big deal back then); and “Strawberry Letter 23,” by the Brothers Johnson.

Mom and Dad really liked Glenn Campbell and Jose Feliciano, and we used to listen to them on trips. They also had a cassette by this group called The Match that sang in harmony and kind of sounded like The Association (I’ve tried in vain for years to track that one down – way too many false “matches”).

Dad was always playing classical music records. He was a band director and was an excellent clarinet player. He could play the Rondo from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto… Mom played piano, and sometimes they got together at the piano and sang. They also used to play duets on recorders, usually Irish songs. Always some kind of music going on in the house…

I think it would be neat if others could chip in with their own early music memories. When did you first get into music and what were your favorite songs?

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Two theories about drugs and music

Theory #1: Metal today sucks because they’re doing the wrong drugs.

I grew up on hard rock and still loved it for a long time after they started calling it metal, but at some point it just went to hell in a hand basket. I think it began to go down the toilet when the rock ‘n’ roll guys switched from LSD & heroin to cocaine & speed.

Hard rock/early metal was much more interesting when it bordered on psychedelic or delved into philosophical themes, eg. music from Jimi Hendrix, early Judas Priest, early Scorpions, guys like Frank Marino. As time when on, cocaine and various other “up” drugs began to take hold and the music became more about aggression. A little aggression is fine, but when it’s all you’ve got, it’s boring. I think that’s why so much of today’s metal is almost unlistenable.

Theory #2: Doing drugs doesn’t make musicians creative, but it can make them more intensely creative for a while before it kills them

I don’t do drugs myself. I think it’s dangerous, bordering on suicidal. But let’s be honest. Drugs and music, especially rock music, go together like peanut butter n bananas. I don’t condone it but as long as they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for my entertainment I might as well show a little appreciation.

So back to my theory. I think most artistic people have a quota of creativity. When it runs out that’s it. After that their stuff is gonna suck. Say a rock ‘n’ roller is gifted to a level that will allow him to make decent songs for about 15 years. If he does the right drugs he might be able to instead have 2-3 years of totally freakin’ awesome songs before he OD’s or jumps off a bridge or chokes on his own vomit or whatever. If he records during that period you’ll get 1-3 albums of such awesomeness that no one could recreate them w/o OD’ing on something. What do y’all think, am I onto something?

P.S. I’m only a little serious.

P.P.S. I realize  my theories can’t explain why the guys from Aerosmith or Keith Richards are still alive.

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Lessons we learned from T61 (that the owners did not)

Just a few more thoughts about the “Old 61” and I’ll be ready to move on. During the past several months, certain things became apparent to me about how an ideal music community and distribution network might operate. There were so many things T61 was doing right, or was just on the edge of doing right. It wasn’t perfect. The competition was tough, but the charts always sounded very good and there was at least a chance for an unsigned artist to come out of nowhere and get into the charts alongside the stars.

I didn’t really think consciously about those lessons, but I’m going to make an effort. It’s too late to help the site so many of us just left. The owners obviously don’t care and are committed to the choices they’ve made. But if we keep them in mind, maybe we can have a positive impact on the places we go to share and listen to music.

Here are some lessons I think we learned as a community (but Sam and James probably didn’t):

1. Music – or at least good music – is not a commodity. A song is a gift from the heart. It means something to the artist, who puts it out there even at the risk of rejection, hoping to find a connection. Artists were able to find their niche under the old T61 system. A song might not top the charts, might not be for everyone, but might have a dozen people who loved it intensely. In an ideal world, any artist, however esoteric, should be able to make those connections.

2. Musicians are people. They aren’t factories that make a product, but living breathing people. It’s so easy to forget that when you don’t meet them and talk to them.  When you get to know them as people, you are more likely to support them with your money, or by helping them get the word out about their music.

3. Listeners are people. They aren’t just numbers for an artist to count and measure. Getting to know their fans and making personal connections is also good for musicians. It helps them create and it helps them succeed. The artists who were inconsiderate or inactive on the site tended to be less successful.

4. Musicians are also music lovers. Taking some time to appreciate others’ music helps build connections with fans and with other musicians.

5. We’re all in this together. An ideal music environment should be friendly and enjoyable for both musicians and listeners. What hurts the musicians will probably also hurt the fans, and vice versa.

Maybe you can think of others? Maybe I’m just being idealistic. I am not a business person, so I can’t say for sure that the music environment I described is the way to make everyone money. Maybe the cynics are right and the “innovative” new T61 model, with fewer choices and even fewer connections, is the way to make music profitable. Maybe folks who work for big companies like good share croppers and passive listeners who like a bit of random music in the background and can’t be bothered to pay attention are the future of music.

All I know is the way we were enjoying music on T61 felt right to me. It felt very close to what I want the future of music to become.

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T61’s redesign – from DABDA to hope

Well, here we go. I finally got around to starting a blog. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while, but kept putting it off. I’m still learning how to use the blogging tools, so bear with me. Things will probably change a little in the beginning until I figure out exactly how to do this.

The recent change at T61 was definitely a punch in the gut for me. I got up at 2:30 in the morning on Jan. 20 and thought, as long as I’m up, I might as well get started on the Refined Taste quest and see what the newest uploads looked like.

And what did I find? A giant blown up picture of some chick, music playing that I didn’t ask for, mysterious symbols for controls and no FAQ to explain them. At first I thought the site might have been hacked, when it hit me. They had been talking about a redesign, one I had been looking forward to in fact. But this was such a huge change I was bewildered. I spent a little time poking around and found out there were still quests, but you couldn’t really do them anymore. I figured out my group had become a channel, and saw a few confused posts on the wall, before they discontinued the wall. Others were just as lost as I was. What the hell was going on? I felt uneasy, but I thought, maybe they’re working on things and it will get better. So I have to learn a few things about the site? I can do that. I went back to bed.

I woke up and realized it wasn’t a nightmare. They really did turn the site I loved into something almost unrecognizable. And the more I explored, the worse it got. They had taken away Recently Submitted, so you had to take the songs they fed you. Walls were taken down so we couldn’t talk to our friends anymore. Artists couldn’t talk to us anymore. Almost all communication cut off, just like that. That’s what really killed me. As hooked as I was on the game, I suddenly didn’t care about it anymore. I just wanted the community back.

And I realized the phenomenon that I thought might be the future of music was over. They killed that phenomenon on purpose and replaced it with something that looked good, but was actually boring and safe. Just another Internet radio.

It has been over a week and I have pretty much worked my way through DABDA – the stages of grief:

Denial – How could they destroy something so special? Something that was becoming such an important part of my life? I spent several days clicking back on the site, thinking maybe, just maybe they would come to their senses and change it back.

Anger – I’ve ranted and raved on the T61 Facebook page, in the comments of all the smarmy, possibly paid-off blog articles. Not that it did any good – all was ignored as usual, or just deleted – but it made me feel better.

Bargaining – In between the ranting, there was a certain amount of begging I suppose. Maybe if we showed how much we really cared, they would listen and bring it back?

Depression – I’ve been really disappointed, and really sad. Sad for me and the lost ability to find and promote the new artists I was so excited about on T61, sad for the artists who suddenly lost any way to talk to us or get their music heard on the site.

Acceptance – I now realize it’s not going to be the same as it was. Sam and James made their decision for financial reasons. I happen to think it was a disastrous business move and that they’re going to lose everything in the end, but they’re committed. They’re not going to listen to us just because we used to respect them and love their site fanatically. We’re just numbers to them, numbers that can be replaced by other numbers.

But guess what? At the same time as I was learning to accept that the T61 wasn’t going to come back, I realized with growing joy that what that site started was NOT over. People have been flocking to other music sites like www.uvumi.com and www.stereofame.com. People – listeners and the artists they love – are turning up on Facebook with their T61 avatars and nicknames. Shawn Douglas (aka lostraven) put together a wonderful website, www.movementsixtyone.com, so the T61 diaspora can keep up with the latest events and connect to one another. And it really does feel like a diaspora. Like a group of people with a common culture, looking for a new homeland.

It is obvious to me that the T61 environment gave birth to something that took on a life of its own, something you can’t kill just by turning a switch. It created a new mindset. We got used to a certain way of appreciating music interacting with one another and we aren’t ready to give it up. As I got immersed in the T61 culture, I increasingly felt like I was seeing the future of music. And you know what? I haven’t changed my mind about that. The trends that took place on the website were revolutionary. The music site we used to love might not get to be a part of that revolution, but they really can’t stop it.

I’m not sad anymore. I’m excited.

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