Important Letter from Pandora Founder, Tim Westergren

I received this letter in my inbox today from Pandora founder, Tim Westergren and felt it was important to share. I’m not sure how many of you are aware of Pandora’s woes. The Internet radio giant has been struggling financially under unfair legislation issued by the Copyright Royalty Board that essentially doubled the royalties web radio stations must pay.  Clearly an overt attempt to thwart the propagation of Internet music. One that threatened to put Pandora out of business.

Thankfully, Pandora reached a resolution that will keep them in business.  But there’s a new bill in Congress, called the Performance Rights Act (H.R. 848), that’s being presented to address this issue for the long term.  If passed it will create a more equitable and fair system for compensating artists across all forms of radio.

Please take just a minute to call Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office to ask her to sponsor and support the Performance Rights Act (H.R. 848):

Representative Nancy Pelosi
202-225-4965

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My Top 10 Music Discovery Tools

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1. Sonos 

This powerful digital music management system is nirvana.  I simply cannot live without it. Not only does it enable me to have music in virtually every room in my house (through zone controllers), I can listen to and discover a limitless variety of music.  Sonos manages your own music collection and gives you access to Rhapsody, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, Internet Radio, Pandora, Last.fm, and good ‘ol terrestrial radio.  And you can control it all from the palm of your hand.

On any given day, you will find me jumping from my ‘new music’ playlist in Rhapsody, to Sirius/XM Channel 26 for a little Blog Radio, then WOXY for some FutureSounds and occasionally, if I’m feeling uninspired and lucky, I’ll plug in a random band in Pandora or Last.fm.  I can’t think of any other tool that can allow you to do that in a quality listening situation (i.e. real speakers).

2. Rhapsody

I’ve long been a fan of the subscription-based music model and, therefore, have been an advocate of services like Rhapsody for quite some time.  The fact that, for $15 a month, I can play ANY artist or album I want, anywhere, anytime is priceless to me.  The integration of the service into Sonos is just the icing on the cake.  Whenever I read an album review or hear a new artist on the Internet, I just go to Rhapsody and queue up their album for a listen.  Granted, there are times they don’t have what I’m looking for but 80-90% of the time they do.  And that’s impressive!

3. Mojo

Another favorite music discovery tool of mine is Mojo, a free music sharing application that makes it ridiculously easy to share music online with your music buddies. With just a couple of clicks, you can browse, select and download music from any Mojo user directly into your iTunes library.  It’s a fabulous tool I use to troll my inner music circle’s music libraries on a regular basis.  I frequently hit their iTunes/Recently Added folder to see what new music they’ve uncovered and what they’re listening to on a regular basis. Music voyeurism at it’s finest!

4Songbird

Good bye iTunes, helllloooo Songbird! Developed by a group calling themselves ‘Pioneers of the Inevitable’ (love it),Songbird is a free open source media player and web browser rolled into one.  It’s like the power of iTunes and Firefox combined.  Not only can you manage and play your own music, now you can play the web too.  

For example, any media files stored on a website will show up as a playable file in the Songbird application that you can download or save to your library.  Even better, it has a built-in RSS subscription and MP3 file download so now you can subscribe to your favorite MP3 blogs as playlists!  Plus, it’s already integrated with HypeMachine, eMusic and InSound.  To get a better sense of all the features, watch their online demo here. The potential of this application is mind-boggling!

5. Internet/Satellite Radio

As unsophisticated as it sounds, I use both Internet and satellite radio on a daily basis to discover new music.  Mostly by listening to my favorite stations and programs, a few of which include:

6Blogs

More than anything, I rely on my trusted music blogs to keep me on the pulse. There’s no better source for cutting edge music information. Of course, there’s the tried and true, Pitchfork and Stereogum.  I follow all the blogs listed in my blogroll, but my personal favorites include: My Old Kentucky Blog, MBV and Aquarium Drunkard, See What You Hear, Hear Ya and The 405.  The MOG network is a good blog aggregator as well.

7Twitter

But why blog when you can micro blog with Twitter!  And I do so more and more these days.  It’s quite addicting and a great way to stay on top of music releases, events and news.  Hell, I even read the NY Times via Twitter these days.  I’m so ADD.  To efficiently use Twitter, you need to install an application like TweetDeck. Otherwise, it’s completely unruly. Get started by following me @indierockgirl, then check out this great Wired blog post on tips for discovering music through Twitter.  It’s a good tutorial!

8MP3 Services

I subscribe to both eMusic and Amie Street and find they have great music recommendations.  Particularly Amie Street. Their community-driven site has become a bit of an obsession and enables you to get music for cheap or for free depending on how much you participate with reviews, recommendations and such.  eMusic’s 17 Dots blog gives me the insider scoop as to what’s hot and what’s coming on the site.  Their subscription based music download model keeps me regimented in my music acquisition!

9. Music Recommendation Sites

Everyone loves Pandora, Last.fm, LaLa.  I personally find limitations with these algorithm-based recommendation engines. They are all fundamentally flawed to me.  I always find the same artists coming up over and over again.  I have been turned on recently to tools that take a more interesting approach to music recommendation.  One is We Are Hunted, the first online music chart.  It aggregates social networks, music blogs, torrents to chart what people are listening to on the web.  A true indie music chart!  

The other I’ve been playing with is The Filter,  the brainchild of rocker Peter Gabriel and uses a model based on Bayesian mathematics to predict the similarity of bands. It logs what you play, runs it through the maths-grinder, and pops out a list of what you’ll like.

10. Music Mapping Tools

Music mapping tools are a bit of a novelty for me.  I don’t reference them all the time but do play around with them occasionally, out of skepticism mostly.  I want to see if they can stump me. Try  TuneGlue, StumbleAudio, and Music Map for shits and grins.  After typing in your favorite artist name, you’ll be served up a visual array of related bands to explore.  Here’s a link to a whole review of music visualization tools if you’re into that sort of thing.

Happy hunting!

We Are Hunted – The Online Music Chart

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Via @shakazolo and TechCrunch, I discovered a very interesting website – We Are Hunted, an Online Music Chart that charts what people are listening to on the web. We Are Hunted aggregates social networks, forums, music blogs, Torrents, P2P Networks and Twitter to develop a daily chart of the 99 most popular songs online. Yet another great music discovery tool I plan to add to my repertoire!

Meet VEVO, YouTube’s New Music Video Hub

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I read recently in both Gizmodo and TechCrunch now of the upcoming launch of Vevo,  a site billed as the ‘premium online music hub built for consumers, advertisers, and content owners..’. The site is a collaboration between Universal Music Group and YouTube and is expected to launch later this year.  The launch of the site will feature UMG’s catalog of music videos powered by YouTube’s technology. The two companies will share advertising revenue generated by the site. Reportedly, deals with other labels are in the works.

Why launch a portal for music videos when you can essentially get them for free now on YouTube? It’s a question many are asking, but I suspect Google plans to change the game a bit on music content.  I highly doubt the site will just stream videos.  I’m sure it will be community driven and designed to separate the YouTube hack from the professional, high-quality VEVO content.  So no more scrolling through bogus, homemade videos to find the content you’re looking for.  Yeah! Considering ad revenues on music video content is an area that UMG actually made money, the venture makes sense. Labels need to figure out somewhat to make money these days, don’t they?

Twitter Concerts – SF Band Logs 3000 Downloads Using Twitter

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Moonalice.  Heard of them?  Yeah, you and no one else outside of Silicon Valley either. Luckily lead guitarist Roger McNamee knows a thing or two about technology, being one of the Valley’s most well-known venture capitalists. TechCrunch reported that the band staged it’s first Twitter-integrated concert at a venue in San Francisco recently and logged 3000 downloads of their music using the platform.  Pretty impressive for a band no one’s ever heard of and an eye opening tactic for bands to successfully leverage Twitter as a viral marketing tool.

These so-called Twitter Concerts work something like this: immediately following each live song performed, it’s digitized, uploaded then tweeted about it’s availability with a TinyURL where users can listen and download the song.  It’s like a virtual live concert feed. And if a small local band can see that much success, imagine the impact if well known artists jump on the Twitter Concert bandwagon. By golly, I think we’ve just spotted a trend in the making – Twitter Concerts!  

According to The Underwire, hip hop artist K’naan is leveraging the Twitter platform in equally innovative ways to promote his music as well. Here’s to Web 2.0!

AT&T Fails SXSW iPhone Test

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Hey all you iPhone users heading to SXSW this week: good luck Twittering, texting and making phone calls. The annual SXSW geekfest has been well underway and already reports for iPhone reception is dismal.  This is likely the first year thousands of iPhone users have descended on Austin and AT&T is unprepared.  A recent update says the company is adding capacity but it may be a good idea to buddy up with a friend on a different network just in case.

Product Review: Apple In Ear Headphones

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I practically begged for these for Christmas and Santa did not disappoint.  But boy Apple sure did. These brand spanking new headphones from Apple boast ‘impressive’ sound isolation, two separate high performance drivers – a woofer and a tweeter – for rich, accurate sound and those handy dandy controls to manipulate the volume, terminate calls, etc.  Priced at $79, my guess it was positioned to compete with the Bose In Ear set.

These headphones were so disappointing I took them back to the Apple store, hoping they were defective. Everything sounded tinny – like it was all tweeter and no woofer.  I actually compared them to the $29 basic headphones and the cheap ones sounded better! After consulting with one of the ‘Geniuses’ who told me they were performing to ‘spec’, I promptly returned them.  

Now I’m back to the $29 version and on the hunt for a new high performance headset that is iPhone compatible. Suggestions?  Stay tuned.