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First Dutch Last.fm Live Meeting

posted in Events on January 19th, 2008

After a rather mediocre conference day at Video Vortex, I finally got a shot at meeting some other Dutch Last.fm’ers during the first (of hopefully many) Dutch Last.fm Live Meeting.

Now, for those that do not know last.fm let me give you a quick overview: last.fm is a kind of social network that tracks what you are listening to. It is a great way of showing of your taste (or lack thereof), but also works nicely as a way to discover new music through friends and Last.fm’s music matching features.

Set-up by Stephan and Walter, two other xolo.tv colleagues of mine, it is safe to say that, even though we were a tad on the light side as far as attendance goes, with ten of 70 members showing up, we all had a great time and we even have proof for it!

All in all, a great evening and definitely something I will be back for next time.

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Three great songs you should listen to

posted in Media on August 12th, 2007

Every once in a while, I come across a great song that just kicks in the way many songs do not.

First up is These Arms from Matt Costa. I heard this song in the second season finale from The Unit, a TV show that combines drama and action the right way, even better than JAG managed to do.

The song stuck with me, mostly because of the scenes that it was used in during the season finale, and if you have seen it and look at the lyrics, you will know why.

The song is available on YouTube with great audio quality. Disregard the video though, since that is not part of Costa’s masterpiece but rather a collection of clips from Veronica Mars.

Second spot goes to Mo’Jones’ Runnin’ Blind for you. Although the musical style is different to many of the other artists I enjoy, this easy going song really makes me smile. Not just because of the story that is told, but also because the whole idea of the song is so true for many people; we often let good chances pass by without making a (our) move.

Lyrics are available at the official site and the original clip is up on YouTube, go watch.

Finally, there ain’t no reason you should be missing out on a song from Brett Dennen, called Ain’t No Reason (yes, yes, cheap pun, I know).

Like These Arms, I first discovered this song in an episode of The Unit, again, with a very fitting scene. It appears that Dennen also saw some airplay in Grey’s Anatomy, which makes him even cooler.

Again, a deep and meaningful song with very interesting lyrics. I found a good quality version of the song on YouTube and while the clip links up with the military theme of The Unit it is not related to the TV show.

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How to sell digital music 101

posted in Marketing on January 14th, 2007

Whenever you read news from the entertainment industry, you hear C - level staff complaining about how bad digital music is hurting sales and how hard it is to sell music to people because everyone just pirates it, you’ve heard those for years now, you’ll keep hearing them for quite some time more.

Sure, there’s Apple and the iTMS, which is doing quite well - because there are lots of iPods out there and people are easily tricked into buying more than one song ( “come on mom, it’s only a buck!” ). The whole store is doing well, in fact, a lot better than the top 10 stores that sell DRM-secured Windows Media Audio files together, but there are still those that dislike how Apple handles DRM.

Now, I don’t feel like getting into the whole DRM discussion more than I have to, mostly because I’m no expert on it, but from personal experience I know that certain DRM schemes are hurting the customers and put them off.

For example, my ISP provides those that subscribe to one of the better packages with credits for their (WMA-powered) online music store. You don’t pay for it 1:1, it’s all included in your subscription. A nice idea, it keeps people from downloading pirated music … or does it?

In the past, I’d “buy” my albums at the store, then proceed to a P2P site to download the MP3s, including coverart and intelligently named files (rather than “artistid_tracknumber_trackname.wma”). Technically speaking, I didn’t do anything bad, I didn’t share those MP3s with anyone and I was able to listen to them on the device of my choosing (I have / had quite a few devices and I dislike the idea of losing 50% of my media library because of device lock-in). I didn’t even bother downloading the WMA-encrypted files, why waste bandwidth after all?

So, you won’t believe how happy I was when I first discovered the goodness that is MagnaTune. Sure, they haven’t signed any uber-famous acts like Britney Spears or Robbie Williams (who’d want them anyway?), but that doesn’t mean that any of their artists aren’t great musicians. All of the performers are screened and the team from MagnaTune then decides who actually gets to be included in their portfolio.

While that is a a good feature on it’s own, here’s what I really love about them: when you buy a CD, you get to decide how much you pay for it. Say, if you’re short on cash, you could spend a couple bucks, burn that CD, then impress your girlfriend with it while you propose to her. She accepts and you’re so thankful that you decided to buy the CD again and now pay a bigger amount. Granted, I’m quite sure this hasn’t happened (yet), but it’s one way to describe their pricing policies.

When you buy a CD, it’s up to you how you want it. There are quite a few different formats, high and higher bitrate MP3, FLAC, WAV, everything really. And if you happen to lose your music along the road, you just hit up their re-download form and you’ll get a mail with all your music downloads again, at no extra charge, naturally.

Another thing I love is that with every album you purchase, you get three tickets to give away to friends. They can then download the same album you bought for free. Sure, you could send out more tickets, but then again, why hurt those that try to please you?

Like every good web-based company, they have a blog available, with lots of great information, should you be looking for more reading. Oh, and they’re working on a Second Life space too.

Another company that just gets it is CANDdYRAT Records. Like MagnaTune, they have a nice selection of artists in their line up. They approach marketing in an innovative way, if you ask me. I am, like most people, too busy to go out and look for music, I’d much rather get a list of suggestions (just like last.fm and Pandora do) and then take my pick.

Recently, I’ve been using YouTube to discover new music and came across a great clip called Drifting from Andy McKee. The whole clip is available on YouTube and the user that uploaded it, who actually is the owner of CANdYRAT Records, had another 44 videos available for my entertainment.

I was so fascinated by the Andy McKee stuff that I kept watching clip after clip. His music sounds great, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have bought it if I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the guy in action. Thanks to the use of some innovative marketing of his assets, Mr. R. Poland managed to turn a listener into a customer and so I decided to order my very own copy of the “Art of Motion”.

Ordering the CD didn’t go down without a hitch though, the first time I tried, Paypal asked me for a credit card, even though I had enough funds in my account to cover it. After asking for some assistance from CANdYRAT Records, I was quickly presented with alternate solutions. In the end, I tried again with Paypal a day later and it just worked. During the whole order process, I received quick replies to emails whenever I had a question and was finally told that my order would arrive in 7 to 10 business days.

Well, what do you know - 2 business days (not counting Saturday, where postal service is, technically speaking available) later, I received a small package with the CD I longed for.

With both companies, support has been great. I wasn’t hassled by any DRM-schemes, I received personal support whenever I had questions and paying for the media was easy too. So if you’re looking to expand your media library, have a look at both MagnaTune and CANdYRAT Records, maybe you’ll find your new favorite artist(s) there…

Current styles of preference

posted in Media on January 7th, 2007

While just about everyone is writing about Google Reader’s new Trend feature, I’d much rather talk about another statistics page that has been available for quite some time now but hasn’t generated the same buzz:

Last.fm, a site that lets you track what you’re listening too (and has done so for close to three years for me now) has an interesting array of statistical reportings available to users.

While I did talk about my favourite music of 2006, and listed various artists, it would appear that I totally forgot the one group I’ve listened to most throughout 2006: The Oddities.

I was first introduced to The Oddities in May 2006, while reading up on some of the characters of Stargate: Atlantis. Turns out that one of the main actors from Season 1, Rainbow Sun Francks also produces a hip hop group and being the true fan that I am, I set out to discover their music.

Long story short, according to Last.fm’s rolling year charts, I’ve listened to their track “Oddities” a staggering 306 times on my PC, probably another 50 times on my iPod.

Second in line was Bløf’s “De mooiste verliezers”, a beautiful, Dutch, track about (personal) change(s). Acid Food, from a band called Mogwai, concludes this top 3. Their track was featured on MadV’s Video “Goodbye” (in other news, MadV’s video “The Message” is simply amazing.)

Looking at my other charts, it’s quite interesting to see that I don’t have a particular preference for any one genre; I’ve listened to hip hop, rock, electric music, alternative, post-rock, instrumental and most of all indie stuff during the last years and I’m guessing that that will not change in the foreseeable future.

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2006 - the final recap

posted in personal stuff on December 31st, 2006

2006, was indeed, a great year. With lots of changes, both personally as well as professionally, this year will be something I’ll remember for a long time.

Filled with lots of new musical influences, courtesy of friends and last.fm, quite a few new skills, thanks to my college, employers and my own striving and a new appreciation for the arts of our culture - yes, 2006 did indeed kick some serious butt.

Now, there’s one more thing that I want to get off my chest before I head out to conclude this past year in a fitting manner:

Happy New Year, may 2007 bring you and your loved ones the things you are longing for and if it does, think a minute about all those who aren’t able to live life in the same great way as most of us are able to, be it because of financial problems or because of other circumstances. If you are in the position, donate something to an organization you deem worthy of your support. It may not make you feel any better, but it will make someone else, somewhere else thankful. That should be rewarding enough, I know that it works for me.

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