Online music fans dig more music

A just released study by the Digital Media Association finds that “digital music consumers” report that they are more into music than they were before they started using the internet as a source of new tunes. I was interested to read that they not only find new artists (to be expected) but they also get into new genres. When I was working in a record store in the late 80s/early 90s, people were defined by The Genre they listened to. Grandmas would come in just before Christmas asking what “all the kids were listening to” so they could buy a gift for their grandsons (rarely granddaughters) and we’d be able to say “well, what kind of haircut does he have?” and make reasoned guesses from there. But then there was a lot of noise about the kids genre hopping, not binding themselves to any particular kind of sound. If the internet is spreading taste across genres even more, that’s an intruiging development. The survey also finds that online music consumers also drop 2-3 times the annual dollars on buying music that offline heavy consumers do.

Furthermore, using the net to listen to music:

has increased music fans’ overall music discussion with friends and co-workers, with more than 35 percent now talking about music more. And, more than 75 percent of online music consumers report they have recommended a particular service to a friend or co-worker.

So the internet is not just changing online listening habits and spending habits, it’s changing conversational habits. I love it!

This resonates completely with my own experience. After LIVING BREATHING music for so many years, after I stopped working at the record store, finished the PhD, became a prof, had kids, etc etc, music started slipping away. I just didn’t spend the time listening to it, and I just didn’t find as much new stuff that interested me. When I got my first iPod for Christmas, 2002, and digitized my CD collection, I found that just having it on my computer meant that I listened more since that was where my body was. Then I found that having the shuffle function meant that I HEARD my music for the first time in years. So much of it I’d listened to so many times that it went straight to subconscience when I listened, but with shuffle, each song’s juxtaposition with unexpected other songs made it new again. I started hearing things I’d never heard in songs I’d heard hundreds of times before. Then I started finding recommendations and buying records through Parasol Records. And then I got into Last.fm, which re-energized my sense of self as a music fan and made me even more of a listener and music talker-abouter.

This is one slice of a big picture of what the internet does to fandom — give people a way to explore, to consume, to get creative (not discussed in this study), and to talk with one another and their engagement as fans is magnified. The more we can do with our fandom, the more we will.

List of Lists

I don’t know about you, but I generally find myself overwhelmed by year end lists. So much I haven’t heard, and experience tells that a pretty good chunk of it, I wouldn’t like. So what to make of the Largehearted Boy’s 2006 Lists Archive in which he’s keeping a running list of 2006 Best of Lists. Now I realize I don’t even have the insight to keep up with the LISTS, let alone the things listed. Kind of drives home the information overload dimension of it all. Especially now that every blogger gets to have his or her own top list. I’d like a meta-analysis of the most-repeated ones across lists. Till then I’ll stick with my trusty sources and Metacritic.

Since it’s just not information overload if I’m not doing some of the loading, here’s the list of my favorite Scandinavian records this year that I wrote for Its A Trap:

01. Hell On Wheels – The odd church (Hybris/PlayRec)
It’s catchy, it’s quirky, it’s consistently strong. And it’s interesting too.

02. Skywriter – Where both worlds never meet (Iceberg Records)
The slow ones drag a bit, but the fast songs are a sublime mix of sexy, cool, driving and restrained.

03. Consequences – s/t (BOW/Groover Recordings)
Puts the “infection” in infectious pop. I can’t stop listening to it and really don’t want to either.

04. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s block (V2/Wichita)
Not as good as last year’s “Falling out”, but an okay Peter Bjorn and John record is still better than most.

05. Pelle Carlberg – Everything. Now! (Labrador)
He’s thoughtful, he’s sensitive, he’s twee, but most of all he’s the perfect mix of soothing and beautiful. Frazzled nerves be gone!

06. The Phonies – Gran tourettes (Money Laundry Records)
Inconsistent record from Finland’s Phonies, but it’s best songs are exhuberant enough to carry the rest.

07. Billie the Vision & the Dancers – The world according to Pablo (self-released)
While I’m From Barcelona gets all the buzz, I prefer this. It’s kind of mellow, a little dark, sort of conceptual if you bother to figure it out, but most of all, it just sounds good.

08. David & the Citizens – Stop the tape! Stop the tape! (Bad Taste)
David Fridlund‘s a melodic genius and the music may be better than ever, but Fridlund‘s angst runs too close to whining too much of the time.

09. Starflower – Moment in the sun (Music Is My Girlfriend)
Tranquil and poppy, youthful and tuneful, it’s a gentle little debut from a band I hope will diversify its sound in releases to come.

10. The Charade – Real Life Drama (Skipping Stones)
Half of this is too sweet for me, but the rest is charming as all get out, and “September” easily wins the award for catchiest sugar pop song of the year.

Honorable Mentions:

Sivert Høyem and the Volunteers – Exiles (Hektor Grammofon)
It’s not out yet and I’ve only heard 2 songs, but given his track record with Madrugada and his last solo record, it’s guaranteed a spot in my top 10 when I do get to hear the rest.

Tiger Lou – The loyal (Startracks)
It came out in 2005 but now I’ve finally heard this record. It’s got such a cool consistent vibe, such a unique sound, and I’m under it’s spell completely.

Pandora Gets Social

Pandora has now added the social features it promised a few months ago.

… as of today users can now list bio information, leave comments, bookmark other users and create artist lists.

…While the focus of Pandora hasn’t radically shifted, the new features do put some additional emphasis on Pandora users and community, rather than just services.

All the new profile features come with privacy controls, users can set their profiles public or private and turn comments on and off. It would nice if Pandora had an option to control the privacy of comments rather than just turning them on and off, for instance perhaps an option to allow trusted users to comment but block everyone else. Unfortunately that isn’t currently possible.

In addition to the new profile features, there’s also a couple of new search possibilities that let you find other users with similar tastes. When you find another user with a station that fits your musical taste, you can add that person by clicking the blue “bookmark this person” button on their profile page (assuming their profile is public).

Good stuff.

This adds Pandora to the growing list of music-based social networking sites, along with Last.fm, MOG, iLike, ProjectOPUS, Finetune, Goombah, Lala, Haystack, MusicHawk, ReverbNation, Bandwagon

And to think that just a few months ago it really looked like Last.fm had no competition.

My ambition (well, one of them) for the new year is to spend some time exploring these sites and figuring out just what they have in common and where they differ. If you know any others I should add to the list, or have opinions about any of the ones I’ve mentioned, please leave mention in the comments.

Zeromind’s Social Network Website

Metal band Zeromind have put out a press release claiming they are the first band with their own social networking site. I’m always skeptical of claims to be the first anything, but I don’t know of any other band sites like their’s (if you do please tell me!).

They’ve got the usual stuff about them — videos, news, forums, etc — but they’ve also got it set up with user profiles, user blogs, and are generally doing an ace job of putting the focus on the fans as individuals.

I’m of 2 minds about this. Heaven knows I can get as obsessive about a band as anyone. Just ask my 10 year old son who would be happy never to hear Madrugada again as long as he lives. But how much of your online identity construction do you really want to invest in one band’s space? The beauty of something like MySpace or MOG or Last.FM is that you can have your music-based profile where you show off that you’re in love with that one band the most, but you can construct yourself a music-based identity that is wider than that slice of your taste. What do you do when Zeromind put out a record that you don’t like? Or break up?

At any rate, the proof is in the pudding, and they’ve certainly got a lot of action going on there so it’s probably a model worth watching. If they really want it to take off though, they may want to speed up its load times. And be warned if you go investigating that you’re gonna get a really loud blast of their music out your speakers as soon as it does load.

A Peeve: Unsearchable Names

This should be Rule #1 in choosing what to name your band: GOOGLE IT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!

Unless you are going for the megamystique approach to stardom, or the ‘no matter what happens please God don’t let me become a star’ approach to music making, when people stick your name in the search box, they ought to be able to find you.

This week I’m in love with the first album by a band called Consequences. I wanted to learn more about them. Try googling that band name and see what comes up. Rock bands? I think not. Unless you put “sweden” in there and then there’s hope. If you can weed through all the other consequences of this and that in Sweden. But there’s no hope for finding them on YouTube.

Or how about another intruiging band, Second Class Citizen? Gave up on that one (you know it’s bad when I’m glad for MySpace). Never found any kind of official site for Starlet. I was commiserating about this with a friend who’d spent way too much time trying to track down a band called White Flight.

I know it’s hard to come up with names, but please oh please oh please, if you want to be found, don’t make it so hard! And if you’ve gotta have a name that’s a word or an oft used phrase, give your record a name that’s not. The name of the Consequences’ record? Consequences.

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