creativity, music

Vulfpeck 1, Spotify 0

I love Spotify as a consumer. But frankly, I’d be willing to chip in a few more bucks.

Given the current system, I have to admire the creativity here:

A Scrappy Young Band Just Outsmarted Spotify for $20,000 to Give Their Fans Free Concerts – PolicyMic.

They uploaded several tracks of silence and urged fans to listen on repeat while they slept.

Seems to me the simplest solution would be to start charging listeners the 10th time they play a particular song. That gives you all the serendipity and browsing you want, but it makes you pay to make a song a permanent part of your “record” collection. Still much cheaper than CDs.


How many subscriptions can I afford?

The news that Andrew Sullivan — in many senses the pre-eminent political blogger of the format’s brief history — is going to a pay model has forced me to do some thinking.

I like Andrew’s blog. He’s one of those truly gifted analysts and writers who is often able to express common-sense thinking better than the rest of us, helping us put words to our thoughts. At the same time, I don’t spend hours on the blog every day. He branches out beyond politics, which I appreciate, but I still have plenty of days in which I’d like to have no politics on my mind. Sanity preservation and so forth. (Same reason I don’t watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every day, brilliant as they are.)

It’s not just about one blog, of course. It’s about the number of subscriptions you can keep. 

My current list, though I’m probably forgetting something:

Sports Illustrated. I can justify it as a work expense.

– ESPN, magazine and Insider web. Ditto. I work for them from time to time — you’d think I’d get it free or at least be able to barter it for some work.

Soccer America. Mostly for the e-newsletters.

Wired. Comes with my account. Might reconsider this one. It used to be a fascinating look at technology’s progress. Now it’s getting a little drearier and argumentative.

– Spotify. Gotta have music. 

– Amazon Prime. Probably. I have a free month, and I’m likely to keep it. Like Wired/mediabistro, this is more complicated than a simple subscription — it also includes shipping discounts.

Then one more for the household: Weekend Washington Post delivery. And my wife gets a couple more magazines I occasionally peruse.

With the Kindle, it’s tempting to add so many more. Rolling Stone online? Possibly. I used to get The Economist as a gift, and I felt guilty that the unfinished magazines would pile up — as an online subscriber, I’d feel free to check in on my own time and not waste so much paper.

Then there’s the New York Times site, whose model is brilliant: 10 free articles a month (more if you’re following links from somewhere), then a subscription. Don’t you hate getting the “this is your final article this month” notice on the 15th of a given month?

So in terms of adding another subscription, I have a lot of competition. The New York Times. Andrew Sullivan. The Economist. Rolling Stone. I’m even getting blocked when I try to read Philip Hersh’s Olympic-sports column at the Chicago Tribune.

But wait, there’s more. We have cable. We don’t get any of the full-fledged pay channels (HBO, Showtime), but we get a couple of tiers for sports and variety. Gotta have Fox Soccer. Still waiting on beIN Sport and Universal Sports. Any day now, local cable provider.

Last but not least, in the past year, we’ve seen the launch of two extravagant soccer magazines. XI Quarterly did a Kickstarter campaign and produced a brilliant first issue. But it’s Howler magazine that seems to have all the hip media connections, getting mentioned in the New Yorker (or at least on its site) and in SI’s best-of-2012 media roundup.

Their price tags? $15 per issue. But you can subscribe annually for $45 or $50.

Being a magnanimous person — or at least a guilt-ridden writer who knows he sometimes has to ask people to pay up for his work as well (Long-Range Goals is now available on Kindle for just $10.33, you cheapskates!) — I’d like to subscribe to all of this great stuff. I’m not one of these people who surfs the Web with ad blockers and complains about Facebook ads as if we’re entitled to consume limitless content while someone else pays for the servers and occasionally the writers and editors.

But should I pay $20 a year for Andrew Sullivan’s blog? Or $15 per issue of a glossy soccer mag (Howler) or a literary soccer mag (XI Quarterly)? What’s a cost-conscious reader to do? Can I just look at your ads?

journalism, music

Washington Post “contemporary classical” piece makes clever use of Spotify

As a music major who didn’t pursue a career in music partially because I finally realized I just didn’t care that deeply for “classical” music, I thought this was a terrific guide.

Most notable: This is a creative use of Spotify. The Post set up a playlist of music that fits the story — basically a sampler of contemporary classical styles.

I’m a little annoyed with myself because I actually had this idea a couple of weeks ago, intending to do something that’s sort of the opposite of this piece — introducing classical fans to quality 21st century rock and pop. But I’m happy to see someone else thinks it’s a good idea.

Contemporary classical: A primer – The Washington Post.

music, web

Can Spotify finally fill Launch void?

While social networks get more sophisticated and online video (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, streaming sports) gets better and better and better, online music is an area that has frankly gone backward.

No one will ever convince me that Pandora and are better than Launch, the old service Yahoo ran.

Launch was simple but sophisticated. You could listen to a genre radio station and rate songs — 100, 90, 80 on down to “X.” An “X” meant you wouldn’t hear that song again. (If you changed your mind, it wasn’t hard to undo.) The more you listened, the more Launch understood your preferences and played songs (and comedy routines) that fit. I discovered so much new music that way.

And you could still vary things by mood or occasion. I could tell it I wanted quieter fare for background or stuff that really rocked.

Pandora isn’t bad. You can pick genre stations and mix them up a little bit. Yet it’s a little erratic. Add too much variety, and it doesn’t know what to pick. You can’t rate by number — just “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” — and your preferences are only recorded on that particular “station.” In other words, I can tell it I really don’t want to hear Matt Nathanson on the alt-pop “station,” but then I have to tell it again on the “Metric” station.

I finally made peace with it when I compiled most of my “thumbs up” songs onto one station and used them as “seed” songs, but even so, it tends to play five songs reflecting one “seed” and then five from “another.” Not quite the same sense of serendipity that I got from Launch, and I had to remove a Fall Out Boy song so I wouldn’t hear a five-pack of Fall Out Boy clones. Now I’m hearing five straight flamenco songs based on one or two of my “seeds,” and that’s actually kind of cool. Please. I could never get much control over what I heard, and then I could see all these charts telling me what was popular.

Spotify addresses at least one vital purpose. You can pick out a new release and listen to the whole thing. It’s safe to say my buying decisions will be better informed from here on out.

And as they keep adding features, I’m finding other impressive aspects. For one thing, their genre list is staggering. “Celtic Rock”? Sure, I’ll give that a try. This page teaches you how to do advanced searches.

So that’s promising, at least. Now can we get videos for these people on MTV? MTV2? VH1?