music


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.”

Wikio Music Blog Rank
Wikio Badge

Wikio recently ranked this blog as number #291 for Music blogs! Yay! Thanks to my loyal readership (Jeannie) for all of your dedicated work. C’mon Jeannie, let’s get this bad boy up to 289!

Music Mesh

Via Paul Lamere’s blog, a new music exploration tool recently came on line called MusicMesh. This application immediately caught my attention because it so closely resembles some of the novel features of Orpheus, and some of the ‘future steps‘ we wanted to incorporate. The graph based browsing, where nodes are artists or albums and the vertices represent finely grained measures of similarity, the rich information panes populated with track listings, discographies, interviews and album reviews, and the use of disparate web-based data, are all components of the original Orpheus application written in 2005. MusicMesh does this style of music exploration well.

MusicMesh also tackles some of the ‘future steps’ we imagined but never achieved in Orpheus. It is web-based, forgoing a fat client altogether; the graph is more visually appealing as it incorporates album art and artist photos directly into the graph; and it allows to users listen to full songs as they browse. In a cool twist, it actually uses YouTube videos to play the music and show some video footage while users listen. This is awesome. In general, the application makes good use of sources that were not yet available when Orpheus was developed, and makes better use of some of the sources that were available in 2004/2005.

What seems to be lacking is any personalized understanding of a users’ tastes. In Orpheus, we knew what music users had in their libraries, and we captured user rating information for that music as well. This data is potentially powerful as one begins to serve up implicit or explicit recommendations in the graph or elsewhere. That doesn’t seem to exist (yet) in MusicMesh.

The meaning of the vertices in the MusicMesh graph are also curious. The majority of first degree neighbors are other albums in an artists discography; and then there are a few random artists thrown in. It’s not immediately clear why these additional artists are presented. What is the connection supposed to represent? It is implied that the data is derived from Last.FM, but the semantic value of the connection remains unclear. Also, the value of displaying the artists’ discography in the graph is questionable. Why not show that in one of the information panes, freeing up graph space for other similar artists or recommendations?

We discovered in our Orpheus user studies that users liked being able to control what measures of similarity were used to construct connections between artists. Some users cared about collaboration, for example, while others were more concerned with label affiliation or sound similiarity. Giving users the power to choose what constitutes the vertices may improve the relevance of these connections, and by extension the browsing experience.

It’s interesting to see how they are dealing with the intellectual property issues that come with using potentially copyrighted data, including music, album art, 3rd party text, and video. Their ‘About’ section is mostly concerned with disclaimers and legalese that suggests you’ll be tarred and feathered if you do what they do: namely use someone else’s content on your site. They claim to have licensed their data from Amazon and YouTube, but I kind of doubt they actually license the music and video content. If they have, I’m sure there are a lot of companies that would love to learn how to convince big media companies to bend over and give it up so easily.

At any rate, it’s pretty cool to see people developing applications like this, and it’s fun to be able to browse around the graph and listen to the music at the same time, and see some video footage of the artist playing. Nice work!

Olive DJ Booth
View From the DJ Booth @ Olive

Jeannie and I are very pleased to announce our new, regular DJ engagement at Olive. We’ll be on the decks the 3rd Friday of every month. Tonight is the inaugural set, so come check it out! The fun starts at 9PM and will go until y’all go home.

Drop by for a drink, some delicious food and good music. Olive is under new ownership, and they have a revamped menu and some new faces behind the bar, but the same great vibe and tasty stuff. Jeannie will be spinning her eclectic house records, and I’ll be augmenting her set with intermittent old school hip-hop, soul, funk and anything else that pops into my head. I’ll be aided by the wonders of my new toy, Serato Scratch Live.

Great Whatsit

Tomorrow morning (10/17/2007), I’ll be posting over on my favorite community blog, The Great Whatsit. The post will be available at 8:00AM EST, so way before you west coast suckers wake up.

The topic is non-existent. Instead I just review the new Radiohead album, the new Me’shell Ndegeocello album, the concert I attended on Friday, and a hilarious YouTube video that I finally got bored of watching about 5 minutes ago. Enjoy!

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Radiohead – In Rainbows

Over the last 3 weeks, several major artists have parted ways with record labels and their traditional business and marketing strategies in favor of leveraging new-fangled Internet mechanisms for distribution and promotion.

Radiohead announced a week or two back that they would offer their new album “In Rainbows” for digital download, and let their fans pick the price they wanted to pay for it. This is a revolutionary (and maybe crazy) idea, and we’ll need to wait to see how it turns out. As one commenter put it, this “cuts straight to the moral dilemma of downloading,” but it also puts the question squarely on the fans: how much is this music worth to you?

For me, it’s less of a moral dilemma than a simple question. I don’t quibble with the argument that stealing music is wrong, but I do take issue with the cost of music, DRM-strapped files, and the fact that some record label is taking ninety cents on the dollar for every CD that goes out the door. The behavior of these major corporations doesn’t change the basic laws or ethics around illegal file sharing, but it is refreshing to see artists taking the music industry out of the equation. I downloaded Radiohead’s album today, and my price point was about 5 euros (about $7). I would pay about $10 for the CD or vinyl. That’s the standard Dischord price and I think it’s fair.

The album, by the way, is worth every penny I paid. Go get it. Besides the music, I’m thrilled that the money goes directly to Radiohead and whomever they have worked with to get this album out. This is what it should feel like to interact with your music and favorite artists. It feels good, empowering and personal.

Shortly after Radiohead’s announcement, Nine Inch Nails announced that the band will no longer have a relationship with a record label, and will heretofore be considered “free agents.” I don’t know what that means, and frankly I don’t care, but it’s another chip in the foundation of an already weak music empire. Funk rockers Jamiroquai and the crap Brit-pop outfit Oasis have made similar announcements.

Yesterday came the kicker from the godmother of pop, Madonna, that she too would forgo the support of the major music industry. Madonna’s business savvy has always been part of her brilliance as an artist, so the fact that she has made this decision suggests that the tide has turned conclusively against the labels.

Their options are slimming — if they can’t convince artists big artists like Madonna to stay on, they will lose their major revenue stream, which means they won’t have as much capitol to invest in up-and-comers. Conversely, if these young acts only view the major labels as a stepping stone to independence, rather than the other way around, the label’s expectation that they can milk an artist for 3 or 4 albums before putting them out to pasture will be gone. In short, their revenue model went bust.

The landscape is wide open, and fans and artists are winning. Digital downloads, Internet promotion, viral marketing, crowd-sourced videos, mash-ups. This has been on the horizon for a long time, but it’s by no means a stretch to say that the future of music is now.

Google Search

This is probably one of the least informative searches I’ve ever encountered on Google. I was googling the band ‘!!!‘ (pronounced Chk Chk Chk), but evidently Google can’t handle that kind of search. Funny. You’d think that someone would have encountered this bug and provided some sort of a fix or something…

Orpheus Logo
Explore the Musical Universe

Orpheus Visualizer
A Dynamic Graph of Artists

Despite my Waldorfian upbringing, I’m not schooled on the details of Greek mythology – otherwise I’d attempt a wise crack along those lines.

But rather than embarrass myself, I’ll just put it like this: My Master’s thesis from UC Berkeley’s iSchool (then S.I.M.S.) was a music exploration and discovery tool called Orpheus. It was well received in 2005, and ever since I’ve been promising/threatening to resurrect it and try to improve some of the more compelling features and turn them into a web-based application. This latter part is in the works, but the first two steps were to get the Orpheus server installed and running, and make the Exploration Tool/MP3 Player client available for download. These two steps, I’m thrilled to announce, are completed!

Orpheus is all about mining a wide variety of information about music from Internet sites like Last.FM, Pitchfork Music, and Wikipedia; from structured sources like MusicBrainz and Freebase; from users’ music libraries, and from user contributed metadata, and turning this information into knowledge that can be used to discover new artists and explore the musical universe in novel ways. It’s about finding compelling new means of exploration and discovery.

As several of our professors pointed out at the time, our approach could prove useful for exploring the corpora around many other types of media – books, academic articles, movies, etc. But my primary joy and passion is music, so music is the first and foremost focus of this project.

Without further delay, you can download the Orpheus client and start using it right away. If you are new to Orpheus, you might benefit from watching this slideshow first. Before you get too excited, the rich information that Orpheus collects hasn’t been updated in a while (I’m working on adding new feeds and cleaning up the feeds we currently have). So you might not find too much about new artists in Orpheus at the moment. But don’t let that stop you! Please be sure to contact me with any problems or bugs you encounter. And stay tuned for updates and new features.

Enjoy!

Olive DJ Booth
View From the DJ Booth @ Olive

The infamous Jeannie Yang and I will be trading off on the turntables at Olive tonight. Drop by for a drink, some delicious food and good music. Olive is under new ownership, and they have a revamped menu and some new faces behind the bar, but the same great vibe and tasty stuff. Jeannie will be spinning her eclectic house records, and I’ll be augmenting her set with intermittent old school hip-hop, soul, funk and anything else that pops into my head. I’ll be aided by the wonders of my new toy, Serato Scratch Live. Come check it out!

Max Roach

Max Roach
was a jazz giant who consistently changed the rules of percussion and challenged listeners and fellow musicians alike. I love his work, with Mingus especially. He was one of those players who, when I see his name on an album, I know it’s worth owning before I even hear a beat or a note. His style was always fresh and refreshing. His passing slims the ranks of the original jazz masters to just a handful of folks. R.I.P.

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