Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Music and Data

July 28th, 2010 1 comment

Two of my favorite things in the world are “Data” and “Music”. Data is my lifeblood, my source of income. Having an understanding of it at it’s core and trying to determine what it is doing is the foundation for what I do.


From my profession to the REM Chronicle, that looked at R.E.M. concerts since it’s inception or even sorting through baseball cards, there was a certain “Context” to it all. 


Data starts with actually collecting it. The aspect of gathering and organizing it in such a manner that it actually makes some sense. Then comes the analysis. What are you expecting out of the data. Do you have theories or hypothesis that you want to check out?


My fear of course is where my two worlds collide. Analyzing the emotional context of a song for purchasing power is both fascinating and scary. While we have always focused on sorting through data, not to the level at which we have the power to do right now.


Consider your favorite record store. They might sort the records by Genre: Rock, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop, Classical, World, .etc. Pretty basic concepts that separate music into fairly simple groupings that the consumer could then go in and view their favorite section(s) of the store looking for something interesting.


Today we have iTunes, a database, in itself that allows the user to create simple queries that if their music is tagged can sort Punk Songs that contain the word ‘Riot’ from albums from 1976-1986 by bands that start with the letter C.


I made a joke years ago with a friend of mine that I wanted to rate (give stars ratings) every one of the songs that are in iTunes so that I could then create “Best Of” lists based on years, genre, girl bands, whatever my hearts desire. My eventual goal would be to have the perfect mix tapes of my favorite “5 Star” songs from emo chick bands from 1993-1998 and send them along their eventual path.  In fact, the limited ITunes data gathering that I have accomplished has gone a long way in using iTunes rather than my brain to remember each and every song that I appreciate. Sometimes, it is too hard to be put on the spot at the moment when someone asks you what you really like now. Now if you give me a couple moments to search iTunes, I can probably come up with a good representation of some classic songs.


And yet at the same time while I enjoy all this power with my music collection I get scared of the idea of having my purchasing decisions being determined by the songs that I listen to. Since I bought a copy of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, I might also enjoy these other 20 albums that listeners bought. To be fair, data analysis can go well beyond finding weird correlations such as fans of Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ also purchased ‘The Basic Writings of Nietzsche’, although maybe Richard Meltzer might find this interesting.


I write all of this in response to Ethan Kaplan’s blog piece on the future of music for WBR, a piece that should be read by all fans.


Ethan speaks of the delicate balance of using data and representing artists:


I work in the music business. Our business is representing artists. The work that we represent for those artists is their life. It is our job to make sure we treat their life with the preciousness it deserves.


The reason that I think that this article is important is that it changes the construct at which record companies focused their energies. Sure, we can always focus on the “Promotion” aspect; that record companies played a key role in getting songs on the radio, promoting the record, etc. The key aspect for many years was distribution. Larger labels had more resources to make sure albums hit global markets vs. small labels which might only be available on a limited basis, mail order, import, etc. One of the reasons R.E.M. switched from IRS to Warner Bros. was so the band could hit many untapped markets that IRS did not have the resources to enter.


Today, it’s not distribution. Even small indie label artists can get their albums on iTunes and attract a global audience, minus some legal hassles. Hell, I can play the banjo and sing off key and put my songs up on this site for free.


Where data plays a role is being able to focus on artists individually and find ways to properly promote their work.


Now, only time will tell as to whether data will save the record industry. As Ethan mentioned, in an era when we are being bombarded with more information than we can handle, will the industry be able to filter that down to the consumer in a context that they will be able to understand.  It is a challenge and a mighty big one. 

Categories: Music, Technology Tags:

Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirkey

May 13th, 2008 No comments

Here Comes Everybody

I am a big Barack Obama supporter, however, one of the historic areas that Barack Obama was able to gather support and votes was by using social networking sites to gather support. As the Washington Post called him “Social Networking King” and other sites championed his cause, he was not only the first black person that will be nominated for a Presidential Primary he was able to build up support from the bottom-up. This is much different from convential organizations that are organized from the top down and describes the premise of this book.

Clay Shirkey’s argument is that we are in a communication revolution. With the advent of the internet, it is becoming much easier to form social groups to organize much better than we could years ago. It is becoming much cheaper to publish material for the entire world to see. For example, this blog, (outside of where it might be censored) is available everywhere in the world and is costing me very little in terms of distribution costs. It is a point in history, that Shirkey explains that we must all be aware of. If we go back through the history of time we realize that there have been those points that have allowed for a greater ability to communicate with each other.

What is different about this revolution is that it is the first time that industry is playing a lesser and lesser role in the ability to communicate and form groups.

If you think back 20 years ago it would have been difficult for a presidential campaign to organize like they could now. It would have to be from the top down, organizing in every city and state as there were not those mechanisms for groups to form on their own. Money would have to be spent organizing locations where they would speak and that information would have to distributed in such a fashion that would ultimately be very expensive to do so.

With tools such as Facebook, however, groups can form very cheaply and at no expense to the organization. Their support is more run by the group themselves rather than from the top which allows for very little guidance necessary.

We see this with tools like You Tube, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr and Twitter to name a few, some of the group forming tools available on the internet. We are also faced with a wide array of information that does not come from conventional sources. A blog for instance might post photos from Myanmar, to show how the government is withholding information or the London Terrorist Subway Bombing photos can be posted on Flickr at the moment of it happening, not just as a way to inform friends that an individual might be okay but to inform the public as well of the disaster as it is happening. Media is not just limited anymore to those corporations that have in the past accustomed to control it.

As successful as the Obama Campaign has been, one of the bigger attacks against the campaign was a video of the Rev. Wright that contained snippets of some of his sermons at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Seinfeld’s Michael Richards probably did not think that anyone would be pulling out their cellphone and video recording his racist hate filled speech at a couple of blacks in the audience. However, once that went to Youtube and was seen by millions, Richards became faced with a dilemma of his own.

Not only are social networks able to be formed but those networks can connect individuals with common interests. For example, the rise of Open Sourced Software became predominant once people had the ability to communicate freely. Where a topic like open source becomes so important is that it allows the users the ability to access the source code and manipulate and or create additions on their own. WordPress (This blog too) for example is open sourced which means that there are hundreds of people working on applications in order for it to work with other applications. Where open sourced differs, is that failure is free. Like other open sourced software, there is no cost for WordPress. Unlike business when there is a cost for any failure, there would be none for WordPress as it is run by dedicated users that support the product. This is needed for innovation as we realize that not every idea is going to be successful. Industry on the other hand has a harder time dealing with failure.

Shirkey’s book should have not just interest within the tech circuit but read by anyone in any industry trying to get a grasp of the tools of the 21st Century.

Categories: Books, Technology Tags:

I feel better now about not signing up to Facebook

November 30th, 2007 No comments

Facebook Dilemma

Why does someone else need to know where I am going on Amazon, Overstock, etc. This is a great reason why I am not going to sign up for sites such as this, Myspace or anywhere else.

What if I was on Amazon purchasing something for my mother? Do I need the world or even my closest friends to have complete access to where I am going?

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Writer’s Guild Strike does not threaten this Website

November 30th, 2007 No comments

As much as it can be said for the writer’s guild strike, I will be curious to see just how much America will end up missing the writers. While a couple shows have some merit on television, for the most part it is something that can be readily avoided at all costs.

However, I think it can be stated that the Writers Guild strike is more than entertainment but information. The future of America is wrapped up in data, information systems and a way to distribute said data.

It is not the idea that these shows only exist on Television or the Movie Theatre, but on DVDs and the Internet as well. The Writer’s Guild’s argument is that they want a bigger piece of that pie.

However, I think that this idea is just a microcosm for the Information Age in general. As distribution methods change, those that are creating that data have to be mindful of all these aspects (see Radiohead). Radiohead realized that there are different distribution networks and instead of allowing Corporations dictate what their profits would be, they decided to do that on their own.

It doesn’t cost corporations as much to put into distribution the cost of a show, performance or album on the internet as much as it costs them to distribute those same elements in a CD, DVD or other medium. What corporations are complaining about is that they do not have numbers as far as profits are concerned with new media and claim they have been losing money. However, they fail to realize they still need to put money into that aspect of distribution, i.e. Technology and in the long term they will lower costs.

Categories: Music, Technology, Video Tags:

Myanmar shows the benefits of Technology

October 1st, 2007 No comments

As horrifying or atrocious that we see in Myanmar, we are reminded that technology is finally making the right impact. Rather than follow our rock stars and movie stars, real pictures of the despair that is going on in this world as trumped the national news spotlight the last week or so.

The image has a way of conveying much more than words can ever portray and technology will be a constant reminder for any country, government or other entity that they are being watched.

The theme from ‘1984’ has in many respects shown a dualistic role where the public is just as wary at the government as it of the public. There are enough cases over the years of police brutality on tape, photos coming from the Iraq war (see Abu Garaib prison), and other assorted events that have made their way onto YouTube, Flickr or some other site.

We are seeing a changing of the guard where the public are the real police and it will become even more challenging in the years ahead where more and more video and photos are in the hands of Joe Nobody rather than a news organization.

What is interesting is that the Promotional Pundits at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX are following public interest rather than their own polls, that the real stories are not what they force feed us on a nightly basis but something else.

At the end of the day, we see very low approval ratings for our government as they are caught off-guard about what is expected and what the public wants.

Categories: Politics, Technology, Video Tags:

iPhone Part 2

September 13th, 2007 No comments

I have not installed AppTap yet. For those that are curious that is the application that allows you to install other applications to your iPhone. AppTap is a 3rd Party application however in order to use it you need Tiger and since I am still running Panther and Leopard is going to be out next month it seems pointless to spend the money to upgrade. Plus, I can wait a month or so to make my iPhone sound like a lightsaber.

I never had a cell phone because I never saw the need really to own one. If you look at the iPhone as a Cell Phone then you are not understanding what it is. Its a mini computer that you can fit in your pocket and it just so happens that the Operating System of that computer in your pocket is the same one that is in the G5 and the iMac and the MacBook. So that means there are people developing programs and such for this and there are third party developers that will be creating programs as well.

Its great on the bus. It is fun to read the news on the way home from work.

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