May 2008


I’m really digging the new Roots album. As ever with their albums, there are one or two immediately appealing songs, then a couple that creep up on you the more you listen to them. This is a hip-hop band with 8 studio albums, each one pretty unique and innovative. In many ways they have transcended hip-hop, or perhaps more accurately never fully fit in the ‘genre’. At any rate, I’m looking forward to seeing them next month at the Paramount in Oakland, and digging deeper into this latest release.

Here’s the track that’s getting heavy rotation at home and on my decks.

Update 2008-06-09: This track is no longer available to embed on a website, so I’ve removed the player…

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Copyright NYTIMES.com

This is the best news I’ve read all day. Via tailrank and The New York Times, John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama’s candidacy! This is big news for several reasons, among them: the “white, working class” vote that Hillary has been bragging about, Edwards’ solid domestic policies, Edwards’ 19 delegates that will likely go to Obama now, and another high profile super delegate going in Obama’s column. This was a coveted endorsement. Great news for the Obama campaign. Next up, Al Gore?

This weekend I did some housekeeping on the blog. I modified my theme to make it widget aware, and in the process made some other modifications. I’ve been using this theme (Connected) for years and I like it a lot. Now that I’ve made a lot of mods on the theme, I decided to rename it to Reconnected.

After making the theme widget aware, I removed all the hacked up content on the sidebar and rewrote all sidebar modules to be widgets that I can easily manage from the admin dashboard. I also added a few fun modules: the pretty recent listening widget from Last.FM replaces my hacked recent listening plugin; a cool album cloud from Last.FM; and a Google calendar that shows how I’m doing in my 30-day yoga challenge. I also fixed the search box so that it actually works.

In the process of this housecleaning project, I learned a little bit about writing widgets for WordPress, knowledge that may come in handy as I build tools for exploring and organizing music collections.

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Digital Thought Leaders @ MusicTech

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Copyright Panel

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Audience @ Copyright Panel

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Tech Talk

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Tech Talk

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Paul Lamere

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Search Inside the Music

Today I attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit. The name says it all: this conference brings together technologists, musicians and business people to discuss trends and challenges at the intersection of music and technology. What follows is a brief run down of the highlights of the talks I was able to attend. I haven’t had much time to digest any of the talks, so there isn’t much insight here – just the interesting tidbits as I saw them.

Legal Issues in Searching, Linking & Blogging

Panelists: Howie Cockrill, Esq (BEAT LAW), Andrew Bridges, Esq (Winston & Strawn), Mark Palermo, Esp (ASCAP). Moderated by Joe Gratz, Esq (Keker & Van Nest)

The twenty minutes I spent in this talk made me super super stoked I didn’t chose law as a career. The talk focused on the nitty gritty details of the legal implications involved in maintaining music blogs – interesting from an intellectual perspective, but rather mundane in implementation.

Digital Thought Leaders

Panelists: Michael Petricone (Consumer Electronics), Ty Roberts (Gracenote), Tim Westergren (Pandora), Aza Raskin (Mozilla). Moderated by Brian Zisk (SF Music Tech)

Aza Raskin had some great comments on the need for better utilities for search and discovery of music (I think, I didn’t take notes).

Tim Westergren made some interesting observations about how musicians might better take advantage of the new music landscape. He suggested bands might add a member whose sole responsibility was to deal with the emerging technological aspects of the band – blogging, marketing, promotion, and all the various social networks and publishing channels now available. “The 5th Beatle” he called it.

There was a great question asked by an audience member regarding music metadata, and why Gracenote feels entitled to build a business model off other peoples’ data. Ty Roberts effectively brushed off the question, but it does raise the ongoing question of why this kind of data should be proprietary to begin with, and if it is proprietary, why a third party could own it. There were also some interesting points made on the problem of the metadata standards and normalization. While it wasn’t explicitly raised, the MusicBrainz model provides a very compelling counter model to Gracenote: At its core it is an open source, user moderated, better designed alternative to Gracenote.


Copyright Issues in Music Law

Panelists: Richard Idell, Esq. (Idell Seitel), Fred Von Lohmann, Esq. (EFF), Zahavah Levine, Esq. (YouTube), Maia Spilman, Esq. (INgrooves). Moderated by Whitney Broussard, Esq.

This was a great talk about the challenges of building a business given the terribly murky legal issues surrounding music distribution. It was nice to hear some of the newer problems arising in this space, particularly around the differences between purely audio tracks (like MP3s) and audio visual works, which have entirely different licensing requirements.

I really enjoyed listening to YouTube’s counsel discuss some of the ridiculous requirements and challenges she confronts trying to be sure YouTube’s content is legitimate and rights holders are compensated.

I don’t always agree with the EFF, particularly on the music/copyright issues, but this was one of the better talks I’ve seen Fred give over the years. There are clearly some new emerging problems at the intersection of music & technology, and he was a great advocate for the little guy and the disruptive technologies that make this intersection of music and technology so interesting. I left with a much greater appreciation for the value that EFF contributes in this particular arena. They are very good at thinking about, advocating for and articulating the problems that other lawyers, technologists and the “in” businesses might not care about or think about. Overall a great panel, with some good Q & A afterward as well.

Tech Talk

Panelists: Tom Conrad (Pandora), Marc Urbaitel (In Ticketing), Not Ethan Kaplan (Warner Bros.), Jack Moffit (Chesspark / Xiph), Jeremy Riney (Playlist.com). Moderated by Colin Brummelle (Rilli).

This was basically just serious music tech geek goodness. All the panelists talked about the technology behind their sites. Most were fairly straightforward, Drupal or other PHP implementations. An interesting conversation on Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing app and S3. On balance, Tom Conrad’s discussion of what Pandora’s tech stack took the cake. Their challenges and subsequent solutions are truly unique and worthy of more discussion. Tom did a great job of describing their infrastructure and the numerous challenges of storing a serving up a complicated set of music, playlists and recommendations all in a dynamic, highly scalable, high availability environment. Pandora’s technology: Java, Postgres, C, and Flash for the front end, among other technologies. In another life I’d work on their backend systems.

Individual Presentations

Presenters: Paul Lamere (Sun Labs – Search Inside The Music), Mike Troiano (Matchmine), Paul Anthony (Rumblefish), David Gratton (Project Opus).

I was eager to hear Paul’s talk on the Search Inside the Music project, as this is an area I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. His lab at Sun is doing some really promising work in making use of audio data to power visualizations and recommendation engines. His talk covered the basics on the SITM features, as well as some of the future directions the project may go in. Most exciting was his statement that this technology will be open sourced and available by September. This folds in wonderfully with my research needs. The rest of the presenters were interesting as well, although I had to leave.

There’s a lot more to talk about and see here. For more info, check out the sfmusictech tag on Flickr & Twitter, and the sites of the people who presented.

Major thanks to Brian and Shoshana Zisk for putting this together!

UPDATE 6/1/2008 Now that the yoga challenge is over, I’m no longer updating the calendar below. Thanks to everyone who contributed! We raised at least $223 for Larkin Street Youth Services. I’ll be sending out an email detailing how to make your donation.

On May 1st, I started a 30-day yoga challenge at my local Bikram yoga studio. The challenge is to try to improve one’s practice in some capacity and reach previously unmet goals. Some people will practice every day for 30 days, some will do a double session in the month, others will try not to look at the clock during practice for the entire month. I will try to practice 5+ times per week, which is already proving to be very challenging indeed. I went on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th, and had planned to go today, except when the time came around I had a headache and was pretty exhausted, so I took a nap instead. I woke up and was so hungry that I couldn’t resist eating, which means that I’m missing the 6:15 class as I write this.


I’ll skip today and try to move some stuff around tomorrow so that I can keep the challenge going. Doing a lot of yoga is of course very good for me, but the other reason I’m doing this is that it’s very good for others as well. As part of the challenge, we can raise money for a non-profit called Larkin Street Youth Services, which is dedicated to getting young people off the streets of San Francisco, getting them cleaned up and back in school or a vocational program.

I’m asking the reader(s) of this blog to donate as much as they want per yoga session that I complete. You can donate $1, $5, 50 cents, whatever you wish. Just send me an email or comment here to make a commitment, and I’ll keep track of what you owe.

Alternatively, if you choose to just donate a lump sum, that’s fine also. Checks should be made payable to Larkin Street Youth Services, and if you enclose a self-addressed envelope with your check, I’ll send back a receipt for tax purposes.

If you have any questions about the program, visit the website, or ask me directly. And if you don’t want to contribute, that’s fine too. I’ll be keeping the above calendar up to date, so check back to monitor my progress!

Radiohead and MTV just released this “official” video for the bands song “You’re All I Need” from the album In Rainbows.

I’m impressed that MTV took on a difficult topic like child labor, particularly since it potentially impacts their advertising revenue. The video isn’t that interesting by Radiohead standards, but then again that’s not really point, is it?

It’s a great song also. On a related note, the Amp Live remix of In Rainbows, called Rainy Dayz (free for download), is outstanding, including the remixed version of “You’re All I Need.”