Tag Archives: Pandora

Bandcamp begins charging artists for free downloads

Looks like another installment in the continuing story of “No Free Lunch” on the Internet. I don’t think it affects listeners, but Bandcamp is trying to get musicians who give away all their music for free to start selling. Evidently, the site wasn’t getting enough money from its cut of purchased music to pay for the streaming and upkeep of the site, since most of the downloads turned out to be from artists who were giving everything away. Nothing to take a cut from. Now musicians have a limited amount of songs they can give away. After that they have to pay.

300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)

If they sell $500 worth of songs, they get 1,000 added to their free download allotment.

Here’s Bandcamp’s explanation.

As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t change anything. I still like Bandcamp because it’s easy to embed in places like this blog, which in turn gives a lot of value to the musician because it’s easier to get spread around and potentially go viral. I can see where it might cause problems for a struggling musician though. How do you sell music when no one knows who you are yet?

I’ve heard from a couple of indie artists about it and one, The Venopian Solitude, whose music I reviewed in March, is unhappy (Here’s her take on it). She wants to give her songs away and not have to bother about money. Although in my opinion, her songs are already beyond the point where she ought to be selling them. She just keeps getting better and better. She’s looking for a free place to host her songs though, other than Reverbnation, which her school blocks, so if anyone’s got ideas, send ’em her way.

Aviv Cohn aka The Widest Smiling Faces basically took it in stride. He gets good value out of Bandcamp and said, “Yeah, it sucks, but it seems fair.” Obviously the service has to be paid somehow.

That’s the reality of the Internet that we keep having to face. Startup services might do cool things that attract a lot of users, but don’t actually pay for themselves. Maybe they have to do so to satisfy investors, or they at least have to break even. They might make drastic changes and basically sell out, the way TheSixtyOne did in my opinion. Or they can do like Pandora and basically pull a bait & switch on us, pretend to be free till they get us hooked, and then spring a surprise cost on us. I don’t think Bandcamp has done either of those things yet. Hopefully they won’t have to.

It’s a huge dilemma for us users and for the startups. There’s a ton of free content on the Internet, some of it amazing and very useful. But when the bills come due, they tend to go away. Either they make changes like I mentioned, or they just get exhausted and let their sites go dead. On the other hand, when they try to start charging for things, some other site is liable to spring up and start giving the same stuff away again.

It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out. Despite the piss poor economy, people still want to make and listen to music. The demand is there. If only we could figure out how all our broke asses can still eat and pay the rent. No answers here, unfortunately. Only questions.

P.S. I recently did an exensive interview with the Widest Smiling Faces which I will put on this blog as soon as I get a chance to edit. Stay tuned…

Note: Jennifer from Bandcamp just replied to this post, saying, “Just wanted to be sure you saw the update on our site – we took the suggestion from several artists to refresh free download credits every month, which seems to work for most bands who give their music for free on Bandcamp.” She also left a link explaining the policy in detail. (see below in comments)

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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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Jango – my Internet radio till further notice

I might have found the Internet radio to carry me through the busy times ahead at work: Jango. I’m still giving it a test run, but at this point, I am extremely happy with it. Almost as happy as I was with Pandora before they pissed me off. Just made two stations that compared very well with a couple I made in Pandora: Dark Electric Dreams (featuring artists like Legendary Pink Dots, Coil, Severed Heads and Gary Numan) and Smooth Soul (featuring a lot of Philly Soul by the likes of The Dramatics, The Spinners, Blue Magic and the Delfonics.)

I have a feeling their algorithms aren’t as sophisticated as the one Pandora uses. No mention of anything like a “Music Genome Project” and when you rate a song – don’t like, like or love – it tells you whether it will play that song again, not whether it will play songs “with similar qualities.” Also, you can share via e-mail and by posting a link to the station, but you can’t embed on Facebook or Twitter. Still, I’m getting the mixes I want so far, and they have artists like the Legendary Pink Dots and Paul Schütze, so there’s a decent selection.

They don’t have Flaco Jimenez or Texas Tornados, which is a WTF, but they have Fela Kuti. Pandora didn’t have him, which was a bigger WTF.

No mention yet of any “free music limit,” but then again, it’s still early. Right now I’m happy. Will I stay happy? Will this radio make a devil’s bargain to stay in business? Can any online radio stay in business without one? Time will tell.

Here’s a link to my Dark Electric Dreams station, and one for Smooth Soul. Give ’em a whirl and see what you think.

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Filed under music, review

Okay, so now I’m pissed at Pandora (if you’re not ‘free,’ say so up front)

After praising Pandora in my last post, I’ve run across several flies in the ointment, so to speak. First, I was informed that Pandora doesn’t work outside the U.S. Not Pandora’s fault. It has to do with licensing agreements from the record companies. The British service Spotify also does not work in the U.S. for similar reasons. That didn’t piss me off.

What pissed me off was the e-mail I got from Pandora informing me that I was “running out of free listening time.” It turns out that you only get 40 hours of free listening a month (After just a few days I was on hour 34). If you want more, you have to pay for an upgrade at $36 a year. That’s a good deal, really, but it’s the principle of the thing. They tried to trick me into getting hooked on their service and then told me about the catch. They should’ve told me up front. I respect the fact that they have to monetize their service. This just feels dishonest to me. They probably figured they would get me hooked and then I want them so badly I would pay up. That doesn’t work on me. I’m too stubborn. I will avoid things I like just to make a point, or because I’m irritated. I haven’t been in Blockbuster video in years because a clerk pissed me off. It’s just the way I am. Not to mention, I was already putting up with their annoying sound and video ads. Doesn’t that count for anything?

Am I being too hard on Pandora? Maybe. I have a good friend who is a loyal customer. He loves the service so much that he actually bought a standalone Pandora radio to stream music in his home. My friend (who sometimes comments on my posts under the nickname “ceed”) gave me permission to post an exchange we had about the service. He makes some pretty good points about how much more value you can get from the Internet if you’re willing to pay a little. I am still annoyed with Pandora though. I’m not boycotting them, but I am in CD/mp3 mode at the moment.

My first email just said: Bye Bye Pandora. I’m not paying. (Which was harsh. Maybe one day I would be willing to pay, but not right now. I was mad.)

ceed: Ah okay, so here goes:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, still everyone gets 36 hours free music every month from Pandora. Pandora has more than 20 million users. That would be how many hours of free music? Eh? How many zeros do we need? 🙂

We’ve seen it with T61 and now with Pandora. Something’s gotta give. T61 turned into a cheap hooker to get paid. However, I do not think Pandora has since their financial survival plan is much cleaner than the crap T61 pulled. Besides, Pandora cost less than a cent per day! You wear your underwear down for more than that by farting in it! It’s so fuckin cheap! Skip five lunches and there you go! 🙂

Over the last few years I’ve decided to pay for things on the Internet I think is worth it. Pandora is one such thing, Yahoo! Mail Plus is another. I also pay for Individual.net Usenet service and a couple of other minor things like domain hosting and such. I will accept to pay for one music service that I like, and even purchased the Livio Pandora Radio for $100 which in my opinion is a steal! It cost about the same as taking the kids to the movies twice and offers far more entertainment and enlightenment than that. The kids are having a blast creating their own after school channel, They are forced to be aware of music they hear and like to be able to create something meaningful to them. That music awareness in the kids is worth far more than a cent a day in my opinion! It’s worth over yonder more! 🙂

Oh, and I have begun purchasing mp3’s on Amazon.com if I want something. If I can’t find it there I steal it. I’m feel more guilty when it comes to movies which I steal shamelessly. The only excuse is that I think going to the movies is far too expensive for a family. I also think that the movie industry has to go through the same thing as the music industry. There’s no reason an actor should make millions. Who pays for that movie star shit? The movie goers of course. There’s also an enormous unnecessary administration controlled by unions behind every movie. Screw that too! I’ll pay for movies when they can be downloaded for $9.99 on-line without DRM or any hassle. This Flix thing where you have to send stuff back to get new movies is not for me either. I would lose those DVD’s and end up with no movies. And who uses the postal service anyway these days? Suckers use that crap! I wasted a lot of time the other day trying to find somewhere to mail a letter. Couldn’t and had to go to the post office! Horror! 🙂 Everything has to come in right here, right at my fingertips through my own home network. That’s the only distribution channel I pay through for everything except food and clothes.

MM: What you’re saying makes a lot of sense. It’s not a bad value. The problem is, I can’t afford it right now, which is when I need it. Also, they didn’t tell me when I started using it, which strikes me as a bit dishonest. I will be back, but now for a while I’m going to listen to what I already paid for. I already spent a fortune on CDs, many of which I never listen to anymore, even though I like them a lot. It’s time to dig some of those out and get back some of my investment.

ceed: You’re right. They want you hooked, so they do not want to give the bad news to your face. If they told up front when you started using it you would have left then. They do not want that! They want to justify value through usage. It’s the same thing software companies do with pre-installed software: They let you use it for free for a month or so, and then they ask you to pay. As with all commercial trickery done by businesses it’s done because it works. Most of us are suckers and they know it.

What I think they should offer is a payment plan where you pay monthly. $3 per month charged is easier to swallow than $36 up front for a lot of people.

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Smooth soul music – sometimes it’s called a ‘classic’ for a reason

When the old T61 came crashing down, replaced by a new model with less choice and no communication between artist and listener, I thought, now they’ve turned into just another Pandora radio. Lately I have to admit that I was being a little unfair – to Pandora.

I enjoyed Pandora online radio quite a lot several years ago. I eventually grew tired of it and drifted away, mainly because they weren’t “indie” enough. I couldn’t find a lot of what I was looking for and I didn’t have enough choice. I made some interesting stations and got to put a bit of my own spin on them, but I wanted to explore a lot more.

Now I find I have a use for Pandora once again. There are some things that annoy me about it. I don’t like the commercials, or the fact that you can only skip so many songs before you get a message saying their licenses won’t let them let you skip anymore. And again, I find some artists are unavailable that they really should have. No Fela Kuti for Christ’s sake!

But there are a few advantages as well. First of all, things just got VERY busy at my job. I can’t afford to get as involved in an online music site right now as I was on the Old T61. I tried to use that as a simple radio when I was busy, but the temptation to always be messing with it was too distracting. Pandora is a lot more hands-off – that’s something I don’t like when I have more free time, but when I’m very busy it keeps me out of trouble. Second, although it might not have enough off-the-wall music for my taste, it has a lot of classic stuff that you can’t get on sites that focus on unsigned and indie-label artists. There is some music that every music lover should hear and know about, no matter how indie you are.

I made a few stations this weekend and tweaked some of my old ones from years ago. “Smooth Soul” is one I can play at work, enjoy, and keep on working without getting distracted. It’s mostly Philly Soul, with some Motown and other things thrown in. Every now and then they toss in something I didn’t know about. I especially love the Philly Soul stuff, because it’s quite pretty and not as overplayed as Motown music.

It won’t let me embed the station or even link to it on my blog, although I was allowed to Tweet it. Below are some of the artists and songs I put in to give the station its  vibe:

The Spinners (“I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”), The Delfonics (“La-La (Means I Love You),” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”), Blue Magic (“Sideshow”), The Dramatics (“Whatcha See is What You Get” is probably their best-known song, but “In the Rain” is my favorite), The O’Jays (tons of great songs, but especially, “Back Stabbers” and “For the Love of Money”), The Intruders (“Cowboys to Girls”), Shuggie Otis (not Philly Soul, but he still fits in the mix – “Aht Uh Mi Head,” “Inspiration Information”), The Main Ingredient (“Everybody Plays the Fool”), The Stylistics (“You Make Me Feel Brand New”).

However you get to hear those songs, you need to hear them. They’re good for your soul.

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