International fandom

One of the things I think is particularly cool about last.fm is its internationalism. They’ve got users submitting their listening data to them from 240 countries. 240. That blows my mind — can you name 240 countries?

Sure we used to be able to get American and British charts. And now we can turn to places like Its A Trap and get Swedish college charts, but where else can you get listening data from 240 countries? See here for a nice visualization of 24 hours of last.fm data submissions. Yeah, most of the world is dark and it’s dominated by Europe and the eastern third of North America, but all in all it looks suspiciously like the distribution of world internet users.

As The Sun discusses, this makes for some surprising discoveries:

Latest figures show that Coldplay’s Clocks is currently the most listened to internet track on www.Last.fm in China.

In Sweden, native indie band Kent top the charts while in Somalia it’s French dance group Air with their song Playground Love.

The Beatles are the most popular band online in Japan and the Fab Four’s Strawberry Fields Forever is also first choice in Argentina.

What would be REALLY cool would be if those charts were all dominated by bands from those nations (I wonder if there would be more of that if they were translating the site into more languages than Japanese). Still, the first way to get music flowing across international boundaries in more than one direction is to let those of us who never hear anything but US and UK artists find out how much of it is out there, and that it’s so much richer and more diverse than a name like “World Music” can suggest. And then give us an easy way to listen to it.

In that regard, their users can tag songs and artists, and those tags give you a glimpse at music from places that never make the radio abroad. Here’s a ton of artists tagged “China”. Only 2 are tagged “Somalia” but lots are tagged “French”. You get the idea. So if you want to check out what Chinese music sounds like these days, click on that tag radio button over on the left and take a sonic vacation.

My own ears spend most of their time in Sweden.

Are women rockers better bloggers?

The Independent Online Edition has a piece up about Lily Allen in which they claim that women are better than men at using the internet to communicate with their fans:

While major record labels complain about the public illegally copying music online, female artists are proving better than their male peers at using it to communicate directly with their fans. And at the vanguard of this phenomenon is Lily Allen, the solo artist whose big mouth repeatedly gets her in the news.

Later in the article they say this:

Until recently, Pallot herself looked after her online presence, whether on her official site or others where she could promote her music and videos. She was responsible for putting tracks online, but also used the internet as a platform for communicating with fans. It is here that women seem to have the edge over male artists, as they tend to be more comfortable about being open about themselves through message boards or blogs.

Well, it would be nice if female musicians finally got the edge in SOMETHING, but given my modest familiarity with the research on sex differences in communication, I have to be a bit skeptical here.

What research finds again and again is that there are some gender differences. Think of men’s communication as one bell curve and women’s as another. Most of both bell curves overlap. There’s stuff on the tail end of either that is more likely to come out of one sex or another. But the overwhelming majority of our communication just isn’t as different as people like to imagine it is. It ain’t Mars and Venus, it’s Earth.

On the other hand, it’s been argued that from early on, we little girls get trained to attend to maintaining relationships while boys get trained to assert themselves and know more. So maybe there’s something to it.

What’s more, it’s well known that even when men and women act the same, they’re evaluated differently. The brilliantly assertive man is a pushy bitch. So maybe the unwritten rules of acceptable or appropriate blogging are different for male and female bloggers. Maybe women who don’t share their feelings when they blog are seen as holding out while men who do are seen as wimpy? Maybe women who talk about partying after the show are seen as floozies while men who do are seen as cool? Maybe women who do share their feelings are seen as creating meaningful connections while men who do are seen as needy?

I don’t think it’s true that men aren’t as good at connecting with fans through the internet than women, but it’s a provocative claim, either way.

What do you think?

More bad fans

Security Fix reports on this ugly incident:

… an apparently obsessed fan of the rock band Linkin Park is accused of hacking into Verizon’s computer system to obtain private information and records of the group’s lead singer and his family. According to documents posted online at FindLaw, 27-year-old Albuquerque resident Devon Townsend has admitted using her employer’s computer — a machine assigned to the Department of Energy on a U.S. Air Force base in New Mexico — to hack into Verizon’s network and obtain private records on Chester Bennington and his wife Talinda. The government also alleges that Townsend used the access to compromise the Bennington’s PayPal account and to steal photographs of the couple and their children. According to court documents, the Benningtons were tipped off to the compromise when they discovered that their Verizon and PayPal account passwords had been changed to “Who is doing this to you?”

It’s easy to forget the stream of digital traces we leave in our wake. Of course, in the old days it was crazy freaks rummaging through Bob Dylan’s garbage cans, so this isn’t totally new to the internet. Still, the more of ourselves we put online, the more vulnerable we are. I hope that in addition to the hacker’s punishment, Verizon takes some serious heat on this one.

The New Establishment or How to Make It Big On The Internet

CNN Money has a piece up about Downtown, the web-savvy record label that brought the U.S. Gnarls Barkley by working the internet for all it was worth. It focuses on their next big thing, Kevin Michael, which is kind of ho-hum (whether he is or not, I can’t say), but has a few tidbits about using the net to market bands:

The company’s web strategy is even more promising. Downtown is creating two tiers of Michael songs and video. There will be “premium content” with a pricetag, as well as free material – for instance, acoustic versions of the album’s songs – on YouTube, MySpace, and other sites frequented by young music lovers. “That’s one of the things we learned,” says Deutsch. “You have to continue to feed content to the audience on the Internet.”

Deutsch is also shrewdly seeking alliances with tech companies to ensure that his artist’s work doesn’t go unnoticed in the digital realm. In recent weeks he has taken Michael to Silicon Valley to perform at the headquarters of YouTube, Apple’s (Charts) iTunes office, and Linden Lab, the company behind the elaborate virtual-reality playground, Second Life.

“I think the idea of breaking a new act is exciting to a lot of these people,” says Josephson. “It’s a recognition that they are truly players in the music business now.”

Michael – who has the voice and Afro of a ’70s soul crooner but also a thoroughly up-to-date YouTube sensibility – is pumped about a possible upcoming appearance as an avatar in Second Life. “I’m going to start doing virtual concerts,” says Michael. “They are going to totally pimp me out with a big ‘fro. I can’t wait.”

So the secret to working the web, aside from using MySpace friends for something more than demonstrating popularity, is sucking up to the tech industry bigwigs. There was a funny sad piece on the net the other day about Lou Reed doing a gig at AOL that suggests these audiences might not be the most appreciative:

He begins playing a song to the buttoned down and sitting down Web 2.0 crowd. Meanwhile there’s an audible drone of people talking in the back of the large room.

Between songs Lou looks pissed, but I think that’s normal. He tells the crowd, “You can keep on talking, I’ve only got 20 minutes. Or I can turn up the music. I can turn it up so loud it will hurt. Do you want me to turn it up? Do you want me to make it hurt?” (rough paraphrase). How awkward.

Pimp me out and make me make it hurt, I wanna be a star! Or something like that…

I’m a comic strip character!

One of the things I’m loving most about blogging is that, like the internet more generally only even more so, it facilitates a lot of unexpected and rewarding connections. It’s like synchronicity on steroids. Here’s a great example:

Some weeks ago I wrote on here about the fabulous rock and roll cartoons of Joel Orff. A few weeks later, I wrote about how the internet led to my friendship with Thirdimension member Slivka and eventually to the redesign of this site.

Last week, Orff found both, and now I’m the narrator of one of his strips!