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Friday, June 19, 2009

The Death Of Music Journalism

Rolling Stone and Idolator critic Christopher R. Weingarten shared his views on why Twitter and blogs are leading to the death of music journalism and criticism. In a really witty, clever and passionate presentation at the 140 Characters Conference, Weingarten shared why he felt he'd be out of a job within the next year. Among some great quotes:

"If the people decide (what to listen to), then nothing truly adventurous ever gets out." (explaining why crowdsourcing tends to make everyone listen to the same thing)

"All this music that rises to the middle. The boring, bland, white people guitar music." (on following music blogs that write about music and how they all tend towards alternative genres)

"It's the music that the most people can stand." (again, why following the blog crowd means following trends instead of discovering new music)

"That's what we're missing in a world without critics. The 'because'." (explaining that blogs and Tweets tend to describe what the music does for the writer, instead of a reason anyone else should be interested in it)

"People think that you need a long Internet rant to express some enthusiasm and it's not true." (explaining how it's possible to be articulate within the 140 character confines of Twitter)

The entire presentation is below. It's about 10 minutes long.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jelli - Crowdsourced Radio

Finally, a new idea comes to broadcasting. Jelli, a new format that melds some of the interactivity and networking of the internet with big station reach, launches on June 28th and hopefully, radio will never be the same.

Jelli uses true interactivity and the idea of crowdsourcing to allow the listening audience to select a station's playlist. Not only can the audience make real-time suggestions on the website regarding what to play, but also vote on the suggestions as well.

This is great for radio in several ways:
First, it allows for the audience to truly let their voices be heard in what's actually playing on the station.

Second, if a listener feels as if his voice is actually being heard, his interest in a slowly dying format is enhanced or even rekindled.

And third, the type of taste info collected is a gold mine to radio stations, artists and their labels. Now you can actually have real-time demographic information that a radio station could only dream about in the past.

The first station to adopt the format? Live 105 (105.3FM) in San Francisco. Be part of the public alpha by visiting the Jelli site. A new dawn in radio may be approaching.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Albums Released Now Than Ever According To Nielsen Soundscan

According to the latest study from Nielsen Soundscan entitled "Measuring Music Consumption," 105,000 new albums were released in 2008. This number was up from 80,000 releases in 2007.

Imagine that - 105,000 album releases in a single year!

The problem is that only 950 of them sold more than 25,000 units, and those 950 were responsible for a full 82% of all new release sales! Of the albums that were released in a digital-only form, they accounted for only 1.8% of all the sales - a mere 2.8 million units.

So what were the big sellers of 2008?
Lil Wayne at about 2.9 million
Coldplay at 2.2 million
Taylor Swift at 2.1 million
AC/DC with 1.9 million
Metallica with 1.6 million

These 5 releases totaled 2% of all sales last year.

The stats in the Nielsen report are very telling about the music industry. Here are some observations:
  • With 105,000 album releases a year, it's almost impossible to get traction unless you have a big machine behind you.
  • Of course, none of the top 5 albums were independent releases, and probably won't be in the immediate future either.
  • There's no point in releasing an album unless it's in a physical form. Digital albums just aren't selling well.
It's getting more and more difficult to get separation from the crowd in Music 3.0. While everyone thinks that the democratization of music has leveled the playing field, it's really leveled it too much. Unfortunately, you still need the machinery of a label to get anywhere, at least for the time being, according to the figures in this report. Will 2009 be the year that an artist can really break through on his own? We're half-way through and so far the answer is a resounding "No!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vinyl Still Gaining Steam

The old vinyl record just won't go away. In fact, it's appeal just continues to widen. And it's not just boomers with some time and a turntable or DJs who've not gone hi-tech. A whole new generation of listeners now believe that the format is cool (they're right - it is) with a big part of the demand coming from the under 25 crowd.

Projections for this year's vinyl sales see an increase of about 50%, with indie record stores accounting for about 70% of that. There must be some heat in the format since major retailer Best Buy is even allotting it's valuable floor space to records, even as they decrease CD space.

One of the more interesting aspects of the trend is that some record buyers don't even own a turntable, buying it just for the collectible value. On of the major beneficiaries has been Guns n' Roses Chinese Democracy, a release that has generally been considered a stiff but meeting with great demand in its vinyl version.

And finally, in 2008 there were 400 lp's that sold more than 1000 units, with Radiohead, Metallica, The Beatles, Elliot Smith and Bob Dylan leading the charge. By the looks of things, those numbers will increase in 2009.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Latest Entries To Library Of Congress Sound Archive

Every year the Librarian of Congress selects sound recordings to include in the National Recording Registry, which s a list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States." The registry was established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 and the recordings are selected by members of the public and a panel of music, sound and preservation experts, and the library's National Recording Preservation Board. The panel also aids the librarian in selecting what recordings to add to the archive.

Among the 2008 additions to the registry are:

"Boogie Chillen," John Lee Hooker (1948)

"West Side Story," original cast recording (1957)

"Tom Dooley," The Kingston Trio (1958)

"Rumble," Link Wray (1958)

"At Last!," Etta James (1961)

"2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks," Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961)

"The Who Sings My Generation," The Who (1966)

"He Stopped Loving Her Today," George Jones (1980)

It's pretty cool that the Library of Congress has a program to preserve what they and the public deem to be significant recordings, and it's even better that they have such a diverse taste. It will be interesting to see what's chosen in subsequent years.


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