Monthly Archives: November 2010

The new music model

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I’ve been writing songs and playing music since high school. I’ve been in several bands, and even once imagined that I’d someday be famous.

During college I played in a pretty good band. We wrote good songs, performed with heart and drew a crowd. We paid for studio time and self-released our own album. It was expensive and time consuming, but we felt as though we were headed for the big time. We started shopping our music to record labels big and small, just hoping to sign a record deal.

Time and again we were turned down. Though executives repeatedly praised our music, they weren’t willing to take a chance on us. They said we weren’t attractive enough to be marketable.

That experience left me fairly devastated. I lost faith in my music. Though I never stopped playing, I decided to stop trying to get the attention of record companies. I decided to make music for me.

Why am I telling you this?

The recording industry has long dictated what we’ll listen to. And it’s not about who makes the best music; it’s about who will sell the most records. It’s about who has the best image, who will look best on a poster and who is willing to perform exactly what the label expects. Certainly there are notable exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between. As a result, our airwaves are filled with simple pop songs that, for the most part, sound the same and say the same things. It’s McMusic.

Though I gave up on record labels, I never gave up on music.┬áMy best friends and I continued to write and record songs together, and a few years ago decided we’d recorded enough songs to make an album. So we gave ourselves a name, launched a website, put out the album and have been selling it online. A few months ago, I decided to start recording my own music. I shoot video of my recording sessions and post the videos with the finished songs to YouTube. I’m by no means a star, but my videos are watched hundreds of times and I generally get good feedback.

The most interesting thing I’ve found is the incredible number of musicians who are doing essentially the same thing: creating music and circumventing the music industry, finding a niche and getting recognized for their work. The leaders in that group are Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, who play together as Pomplamoose.

Pomplamoose videos are fun to watch. Jack and Nataly are talented and attractive. They’ve gained thousands of fans and millions of video views. Jack says they’ve had plenty of interest from major labels, but they don’t want a record deal; they make their money off their YouTube ads, iTunes sales of their songs and various endorsements.

Whether Pomplamoose would have achieved notoriety without YouTube is debatable. They’re talented and attractive. Their songs are pretty good. If they were willing to play the game, I’ve no doubt the industry would embrace them, market them, make them stars. But they seem to enjoy doing things their way. They play their own instruments, do their own engineering and mixing, write their owns songs. The recording industry hates that kind of behavior.

What we’re seeing these days is a new music model — one in which listeners have more control than they’ve ever had. Thanks to the Internet, you can discover artists you’d never have heard of 10 years ago. There’s a buffet of music out there, waiting to be enjoyed at the click of a mouse. Many of these artists — me included — are writing, playing and recording their work themselves. There are no middlemen. What you hear is what the artist intends. Often you can purchase the songs you like, and the artists receive a much bigger cut of your purchase.

YouTube is filled with original artists making songs and videos, just begging for an audience. It’s time for consumers to take the power in our own hands, to listen to what we like — not just what’s on the radio. It’s time for us to explore everything that’s out there, instead of the handful of acts the recording industry allows us to hear. It’s time to start being active about our habits. You’ll find that those you support online will not only appreciate that support, but will often respond to your comments, take your suggestions, and make you an active participant in the process.

Get started now! Visit my YouTube channel or my website, where you can download my album for free. Shameless plug.

Don’t ignore the PlayBook.

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I’m a bit of a BlackBerry fanboy at this point. I can’t imagine life without my Torch.

These days, I find myself most frustrated by the jabs RIM takes for not being innovative enough, or when bloggers write that RIM is struggling for mindshare or fighting an uphill battle to remain relevant. It frustrates me most because these bloggers might be tech heads, but few of them are using BlackBerrys and even fewer know just how great the new Torch really is.

I’ll reiterate: I own a brand-new iPod Touch. I know what it does and how it works. I think it’s a great device. I’ve also played with several Android phones and flavors. I even successfully rooted and manually installed Froyo on a MyTouch 3G. I’m a gadget nerd. I’m tough on my technology and I tend not to overlook a device’s shortcomings.

These days, I’m excited about the new BlackBerry PlayBook, an iPad rival I’m hoping to get my hands on pretty soon.

First thing I want to get out of the way: the name.

Bloggers say the name is too cute for a BlackBerry device…because BlackBerrys are for business rather than play. Point taken. Except my BlackBerry is filled with games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-Man and such. And I use it for YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and general web surfing. Plenty of playtime there. But even for the enterprise user, the name PlayBook works. It’s not random; playbooks are used by coaches and managers in sports. Unfortunately, the bloggers who take issue with the name are probably not sports fans. But the name PlayBook is pretty genius. It’s the device for the person who makes the decisions. It’s the place where the plans are kept. It’s the Bible of the sport. And, for crying out loud, have we forgotten what a terrible name iPad is?

On to the device itself:

First, RIM knows business better than anyone. And so the PlayBook will be enterprise ready, with full compatibility with BlackBerry Enterprise Server and corporate data access. All of that goes beyond what you’ll get with your iPad.

Web browsing? How about full Flash support and HTML 5? You’ll never get that on the iPad.

As for hardware, it’s got a dual-core processor and a GB of RAM. That’s more powerful than my netbook. So you’ll get real multitasking. You’ll get speed. You’ll get the experience you expect from a computer.

Multimedia: Apple loves to brag about the multimedia experience on the iPad and iPhone. Frankly, I find the interface clunky and cumbersome. Whatever RIM comes up with can’t be far off. And judging by demos and pics I’ve seen, along with using my Torch, I think users will be pleasantly surprised.

And that brings us to the most important part: Apps.

Obviously, Apple is way ahead in the app game. There are a half million apps available for the iPhone and iPad. And that’s impressive. But the good news is most of those apps — the vast majority — are utterly useless. BlackBerry App World is finally starting to grow, and I believe many iPad and iPhone developers will begin making apps for BlackBerry devices, which will level the playing field. The really good news is that the developers who’ll do that won’t be the one-off crap game developers, but the big-time developers who create truly rich apps. BlackBerry users will benefit from that. And, frankly, I’d always rather have access to 20,000 good apps than 500,000 terrible ones.

Oh…but let’s not forget: Tethering and bluetooth so you can connect to the 3G network without another data plan; video conferencing; dual HD cameras (iPad has none); HDMI output…

Bottom line: Don’t ignore the PlayBook. It may actually be the best tablet available. RIM is showing it’s not just keeping up in this space, but proving it’s still a real player. Stay tuned.

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