Monday, January 23, 2006

There's a MySpace for us...

I first heard about MySpace via the Duke De Mondo, who said something along the lines of "There's a lot crap music posted on MySpace."

Then I was invited to be a 'friend' to the good folks of Drumming Up Hope back in October. I went through the motions of registering and let it go at that.

In January, the Radiators from Space -- Phil Chevron's and Pete Holidai's great Dublin punk band -- invited me to be their friend.

That got me to upload a vintage photo and make a half-assed attempt at a profile. And to browse around.

Five minutes later, I realized that there was indeed a lot of crap music posted on MySpace...and a lot of good music and a lot of music in between. There's the John Matrix Blues Quintet and their song Arnie Syndrome, for instance, which takes a bunch of my Governor's famous movie quotes and strings them out over some "metal fret-wankery" (as one commentator describes it) and basically calls it a song.

After the first 24 hours of listening to it, I've told more people about this Arnie song than I did in a month about my first Horslips album.

To be fair, if Horslips had sampled a local politician in the mix (Gerry Brown? Sonny Bono? Or--God Forbid--Ronald Reagan?), I'da had an angle.

But imagine my surprise at my coworkers' reaction when I mentioned the source of all this free music. And this forum that has expanded my musical-interest base exponentially by the hour.

Me: So I've registered at MySpace and you'll never guess...
Coworker #1: MySpace? Isn't that for kids?
Coworker #2: You saw that program on TV this weekend? About that girl?
Me: Kids? The guys who got me hooked were playing punk rock in Dublin. In the 70s!
Coworker #2: And then this other thing on the radio was talking about the kids who bully on MySpace.
Me: Okay. There's a whole section on CyberBullying with tips and resources! And it is NOT just for kids.
CoWorker #1: My friend was telling me about MySpace. Actually...his kid was telling me about it.
CoWorker #3: Hey. Ease up. MySpace is a perfectly capable and popular Virtual Social Network. One of the most popular on the net...
Me: There! See?
CoWorker #3:..for kids.

The MySpace Generation

At the same time, her boyfriend IMs her a retail store link to see a new PC he just bought, and she starts chatting with him. She's also postering for the next Buzz-Oven concert by tacking the flier on various friends' MySpace profiles, and she's updating her own blog on, another social network she uses mostly to post photos. The TV is set to TBS, which plays a steady stream of reruns like Friends and Seinfeld -- Adams has a TV in her bedroom as well as in the living room -- but she keeps the volume turned down so she can listen to iTunes over her computer speakers. Simultaneously, she's chatting with dorm mate Carrie Clark, 20, who's doing pretty much the same thing from a laptop on her bed.

You have just entered the world of what you might call Generation @. Being online, being a Buzzer, is a way of life for Adams and 3,000-odd Dallas-area youth, just as it is for millions of young Americans across the country. And increasingly, social networks are their medium. As the first cohort to grow up fully wired and technologically fluent, today's teens and twentysomethings are flocking to Web sites like Buzz-Oven as a way to establish their social identities. Here you can get a fast pass to the hip music scene, which carries a hefty amount of social currency offline. It's where you go when you need a friend to nurse you through a breakup, a mentor to tutor you on your calculus homework, an address for the party everyone is going to. For a giant brand like Coke, these networks also offer a direct pipeline to the thirsty but fickle youth market.

Preeminent among these virtual hangouts is, whose membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members. Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Millions also hang out at other up-and-coming networks such as, which connects college students, and, an agglomeration of shared blogs. A second tier of some 300 smaller sites, such as Buzz-Oven,, and, operate under -- and often inside or next to -- the larger ones.

More at the link.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now."

By all that is rock-n-roll, Hapa’s cover of U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love) wouldn't rate much from the critics. With the righteous majesty of Bono’s vocals replaced by Barry Flanagan’s sincere, understated delivery of the lyric and a blend of female backing vocals on the chorus, the song feels less like a rock classic and more like a communal hymn--the sort heard in one of the many open-walled, seafront chapels of the islands. Edge’s pyrotechnic guitar-work is not recalled either. Instead, Flanagan’s years of study in Kiho Alu, or slack-key guitar smooths the melody’s rough edges down to elemental form, polishing away ostentation and fire.

Like grey, featureless pieces of driftwood found in the wash of the tide, U2’s soaring tribute has undergone a sea-change in Hapa’s hands.

But if Hapa has detracted from the power and might of Bono’s stadium anthem, their version brings other qualities to the song. These -- as I describe them -- will sound like the theatrically emotional tricks of the overly-earnest. There’s the inclusion of the recorded voice of Martin Luther King Jr. himself, giving his “I have been to the mountaintop” speech, which, as the link says, he gave in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis the day before he was assassinated.

And then -- and this is the part that will sound the most ridiculous as I describe it, but never fails to send an electric charge of thrill through me when I hear it -- there is a male voice -- older certainly, but strong -- that begins reciting in slow, cadenced Hawaiian a fragmant of the oral, tribal history of his people.

‘Hapa’ in Hawaiian means ‘half.’ It is often used as an adjective to modify a noun signifying some element of aboriginal cutlure touched by the post contact world. ‘Hapa-Haole’ -- half Hawaiian, half white -- describes the macaronic songs in the island’s catalog of music. “Tiny Bubbles,” properly sung with all the verses, is Hapa-Haole. “Little Grass Shack” on the other hand is pure Haole.

As their website states, Hapa, the band is "an amalgam of influences ranging from ancient Polynesian rhythms and genealogical chants to the strummed ballads of Portuguese fisherman, Spanish cowboys, and the inspired melodies and harmonies of the traditional church choirs of the early missionaries." Barry Flanagan, who left New York in 1980, is the founder. Fellow guitarist Nathan Aweau is from Honolulu. Charles Ka’upa, who provides the chant described above, is from a family that

comes from the island of Moloka‘i with another part of the family well established on the island of Hawai'i as well. He has spent the better part of his life teaching, be it History, Culture, Religion, lecturing not only at Maui Community College, Maui Campus, but on the islands of Lana‘i and Moloka‘i as well. He has also traveled to Washington D.C. to lecture at the National Geographic Headquarters, performing there as well at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian's ground-breaking ceremony.

Much can be written about what it was that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered to America. I am inadequate to this task. Instead, I believe that King’s own words speak for his life the best:

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

Monday, January 09, 2006

LPs, CDs and Mp3s

It Goes to Show You Never Can Tell

When I posted yesterday's news about this Christmas being the digital music Christmas, I made an effort to find a rock quote that mentioned the technology of the era...because that 'record machine' in Eddie Cochrane's Twenty Flight Rock was no doubt affordable and portable. And check out the lyrics here in Chuck Berry's Mississippi romance:

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well
You could see that Pierre did truly love the madamoiselle
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell,
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

They furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale
The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale,
But when Pierre found work, the little money comin' worked out well
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast
Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz
But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell
"C'est la vie", say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell

I will assume that the 'seven hundred little records' were 45s. The common currency of rock-n-roll music for a long time until album-length rock became ascendant. And Eddie's rockin Queen would have a fine collection of Sun 45s herself. Put your cat clothes on...

Ticharu makes a great comment under the post:

I currantly own over 3,ooo CDs but the writing is on the wall. Smaller is better. Full circle can't be far behind, where once again musicians will make a living simple playing live for an audience.

And it occurred to me that full circle has already been reached, in part, as the Mp3 of a single song standing alone or in the mix of many, many songs on the Mp3 player is well and truly a descendent of that 45.

Another thought: album length vinyl is actually on the rise among certain groups. I recently thrilled to finding an album from an obscure British psychedelic band called Forest that had first been released in 1971. Looking at the cover in the Brighton Record Shop, I was perplexed to see a web domain for the record label printed on the cover. After buying the album and -- so very carefully -- taking it home, I opened it up to find I had a brand new record! Re-issued obviously, but manufactured in this decade. Delicious!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Well I got a girl with a record machine,

When it comes to rocking she's a queen."

Digital music enjoys a dream week

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - There was so much legitimate downloading in the final week of 2005 that it recalled the impossible tallies research firms used in the late 1990s to dazzle venture capitalists and scare the daylights out of major-label executives.

In the seven-day stretch between Christmas and the new year, millions of consumers armed with new MP3 players (primarily iPods) and stacks of gift cards gobbled up almost 20 million tracks from iTunes and other download retailers, Nielsen SoundScan reports.

In the process, consumers shattered the tracking firm's one-week record for download sales.

A look inside the numbers shows just how unprecedented a week it was for the download business:

- Before the week ending January 1, 2006, the record for the most downloads sold in seven days was 9.5 million tracks -- set just one week earlier.

- Sales of 20 million songs were almost three times the amount of digital tracks sold in the same seven-day span a year ago.

- Fifteen songs on the current Hot Digital Songs chart surpassed the one-week record for sales of a single track.

- Rap group D4L's "Laffy Taffy" took the top spot with 175,000 tracks sold, more than doubling the mark of 80,500 downloads Kanye West's "Gold Digger" set the week of September 17.

- Each of the top 11 titles on the Hot Digital Songs chart sold more than 100,000 downloads.

For the year, the digital track sales tally reached 352 million -- a 147% increase over 2004's total of 142.6 million.

In comparison to the volume of music that is downloaded through peer-to-peer networks, those numbers may not seem like much. P2P monitoring service Big Champagne estimates that at least 250 million tracks are downloaded worldwide each week from file-swapping services.

But a dramatic rise in the tide of authorized download sales in recent weeks suggests that changes may be afoot in the consumer's relationship to digital music.

The important question for the music business is whether 20 million downloads represents the new baseline for digital track sales. A year ago, a 33% pop in download sales in the week following Christmas permanently raised the bar on weekly download volume by 2 million tracks.

Technology and distribution executives at the major labels are not holding their breath that download sales will now run at a rate of almost triple the 7 million tracks that were being sold on average in December. They say big sales of gift cards are likely creating the current volume of such significant downloads.

Yet gift cards were available in 2004, too. If the market can retain volume gain as it did last year, the numbers are tantalizing. Last year, sales fell by about 20% in the weeks following New Year's; such a drop this year would yield a weekly volume baseline close to 16 million tracks. That would put the download market on pace for sales of 750 million to 1 billion tracks in 2006.

Likely to drive the download business is the fact that the number of iPods and other MP3 players in distribution have exploded in the last year. The Computer Electronics Assn. estimates that MP3 player revenue increased 200% to more than $3 billion in 2005.

Apple claims to have sold more than 30 million iPods to date, but will likely have shipped a total close to that number in 2005 alone.

Research firm NPD Group estimates MP3 player revenue at leading retailers topped $500 million on sales of more than 3.3 million units for the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas--a 65% jump in dollar volume from the 2004 holidays. Sales of MP3 accessories were big too, topping $160 million during the five-week period.

NPD figures exclude direct sales of iPods through Apple Computer and online sales.

And for the first time, sales of MP3 players are surpassing sales of personal CD players and CD shelf systems, NPD reports.

"We have definitely moved," says Stephen Baker, VP of analyst services for NPD, "from MP3 players being a computer-oriented product to a consumer-directed product."


Posted in full because it's important news. As soon as one of the digital music sites I've been involved in for a while goes public, I'm buying stock.