Monday, October 29, 2007

As Much as I Love Digital Media, This News is Comforting

From Wired:

As counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl -- the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles -- is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary.

Talk to almost anyone in the music business' vital indie and DJ scenes and you'll encounter a uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market.

"I'm hearing from labels and distributors that vinyl is way up," said Ian Connelly, client relations manager of independent distributor alliance IODA, in an e-mail interview. "And not just the boutique, limited-edition colored vinyl that Jesu/Isis-style fans are hot for right now."

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today's music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.

"For many of us, and certainly for many of our artists, the vinyl is the true version of the release," said Matador's Patrick Amory. "The size and presence of the artwork, the division into sides, the better sound quality, above all the involvement and work the listener has to put in, all make it the format of choice for people who really care about music."

Because these music fans also listen using portable players and computers, Matador and other labels include coupons in record packaging that can be used to download MP3 versions of the songs. Amory called the coupon program "hugely popular."

Portability is no longer any reason to stick with CDs, and neither is audio quality. Although vinyl purists are ripe for parody, they're right about one thing: Records can sound better than CDs.

Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It's the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound.

Another reason for vinyl's sonic superiority is that no matter how high a sampling rate is, it can never contain all of the data present in an analog groove, Nyquist's theorem to the contrary.

"The digital world will never get there," said Chris Ashworth, owner of United Record Pressing, the country's largest record pressing plant.

Golden-eared audiophiles have long testified to vinyl's warmer, richer sound. And now demand for vinyl is on the rise. Pressing plants that were already at capacity are staying there, while others are cranking out more records than they did last year in order to keep pace with demand.

Don MacInnis, owner of Record Technology in Camarillo, California, predicts production will be up 25 percent over last year by the end of 2007. And he's not talking about small runs of dance music for DJs, but the whole gamut of music: "new albums, reissues, majors and indies ... jazz, blues, classical, pop and a lot of (classic) rock."

Turntables are hot again as well. Insound, an online music retailer that recently began selling USB turntables alongside vinyl, can't keep them in stock, according to the company's director, Patrick McNamara.

And on Oct. 17, launched a vinyl-only section stocked with a growing collection of titles and several models of record players.

Big labels still aren't buying the vinyl comeback, but it wouldn't be the first time the industry failed to identify a new trend in the music biz.

"Our numbers, at least, don't really point to a resurgence," said Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America's director of communications. Likewise, Nielsen SoundScan, which registered a slight increase in vinyl sales last year, nonetheless showed a 43 percent decrease between 2000 and 2006.

But when it comes to vinyl, these organizations don't really know what they're talking about. The RIAA's numbers are misleading because its member labels are only now beginning to react to the growing demand for vinyl. As for SoundScan, its numbers don't include many of the small indie and dance shops where records are sold. More importantly, neither organization tracks used records sold at stores or on eBay -- arguably the central clearinghouse for vinyl worldwide.

Vinyl's popularity has been underreported before.

"The Consumer Electronics Association said that only 100,000 turntables were sold in 2004. Numark alone sold more than that to pro DJs that year," said Chris Roman, product manager for Numark.

And the vinyl-MP3 tag team might just hasten the long-predicted death of the CD.

San Francisco indie band The Society of Rockets, for example, plans to release its next album strictly on vinyl and as MP3 files.

"Having just gone through the process of mastering our new album for digital and for vinyl, I can say it is completely amazing how different they really sound," said lead singer and guitarist Joshua Babcock in an e-mail interview. "The way the vinyl is so much better and warmer and more interesting to listen to is a wonder."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Amittyville Horror

Just the other night I was reminded that the Amittyville Horror remake is a horrid joke of a film. Don't ever...EVER, let curiosity about this movie get the best of you. EVER.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bad Rap Music Review: Oblivion with Bells

Underworld's new album has been catching a lot of undeserved flack. Critics are calling it not up to snuff with Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest in the Infants, and Beaucoup Fish; calling it an unbelievable disappointment. They're lumping this album in the same basket as Hundred Days off; saying the band has lost something since Darren Emerson's departure. Of course, everyone knows that it's never cool to like a band's new album. Everything ways always better back in the "Hay-Day". And that's the other major point of this, there's much talk of Electronica's hay-day as well. To those people, I say wake up. Electronica, as you mainstream media types like to call it, didn't go anywhere or stop being good just because you stopped paying attention to it when the hype around it died down in the late nineties. Lets face it, the only electronic music you think is good these days is the stuff you hear on car and ipod commercials. Just shut up and go back to listening to Crunk.

Back to underworld, there's also a lot of critics who like write as if "Born Slippy" from the Trainspotting soundtrack was the only worthwhile thing they did and everything else is just background noise. Sure, even to underworld fans this was a hit, but by no stretch was it their only hit.

The new album, Oblivion with Bells, is right up there in quality with the rest of their work (Yes, including Hundred Days Off). There isn't a bad song to be found on this album. My only complaint might be that theirs only 10 songs, and a couple of those are short ambient segways into other tracks. I'm not going to go into details about the specific songs, but just remember it's pretty much never a good idea to listen to mainstream music critics (I'm talking to you Rolling Stone). Most of the time they write as if they hate all music and would rather be in a different profession.

Sammy at Cedar Point, Sandusky Ohio

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"In Rainbows" Update: Pirating Still More Fun


That's one of the surprising discoveries to come out of an experiment by the British band Radiohead last week. On Thursday, the group made its latest album, In Rainbows, available for direct downloading from the Web at an unusual price: whatever fans feel like paying. Downloaders who want to pay nothing can enter "zero" in the site's price field and download the album for free.

But for hard-core music pirates, even free hasn’t been enough of a draw. According to music industry analysts, hundreds of thousands of Web users who frequent copyright-infringing file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and TorrentSpy, have chosen to download In Rainbows illegally, distributing their contraband around the Internet just as they might with any other pirated album.

On the first day that Radiohead's latest became available, around 240,000 users downloaded the album from copyright-infringing peer-to-peer BitTorrent sources, according to Big Champagne, a Los-Angeles-based company that tracks illegal downloading on the Internet. Over the following days, the file was downloaded about 100,000 more times each day—adding up to more than 500,000 total illegal downloads.

That's less than the 1.2 million legitimate online sales of the album reported by the British Web site But Eric Garland, Big Champagne's chief executive, says illegal file-sharing is likely to overtake legal downloads in the coming weeks, given that many of those 1.2 million legitimate sales were pre-orders taken during the 10 days between when the band announced the album and its actual release last Thursday.

With popular album releases, illegal download volumes normally outstrip sales, says Garland. But more surprising is that fans chose to steal music they could legally download for any price they choose.

Garland argues that this kind of digital theft is more a matter of habit than of economics. "People don't know Radiohead's site. They do know their favorite BitTorrent site and they use it every day," he says. "It's quite simply easier for folks to get the illegal version than the legal version."
In Garland's experience, the store price of a new album plays little role in determining how often it will be pirated. Similarly irrelevant are the protective locks that recording companies put on files to try to stop pirates from copying and sharing them, so called digital rights management systems.

"Albums that are popular in retail are popular among pirates," Garland says. "In the big picture, if people want something, some will pay, and others will find a way to take it for free."
Despite the hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads, Radiohead's innovative online release could still be a smart fiscal strategy. By cutting out record companies, the band retains the full revenue stream of album sales, and monies from touring and merchandise sales.
The buzz generated by the band's pay-what-you-want publicity stunt may also boost sales. Radiohead's previous album sold only 300,000 copies in the first week—about one-sixth the number of copies of In Rainbows now in circulation.

An internal memo circulated at EMI, Radiohead's former record label, and obtained by, demonstrates the album's tectonic effects on the music industry.
"The recorded music industry … has for too long been dependent on how many CDs can be sold," writes Guy Hands, EMI's chairman. "The industry, rather than embracing digitalization and the opportunities it brings for promotion of product and distribution through multiple channels, has stuck its head in the sand. Radiohead's actions are a wake-up call which we should all welcome and respond to with creativity and energy."

But for Doug Lichtman, an intellectual property professor at the UCLA School of Law, the volume of piracy following In Rainbows' release erodes the success of Radiohead's innovation. "If the community rejects even forward-thinking experiments like this one, real harm is done to the next generation of experimentation and change," he says.

Lichtman speculates that users may have interpreted Radiohead's offer as a giveaway and so felt more comfortable downloading the album from other free sources. Fans may also have been turned off by the band's requirement that users register by providing their name and e-mail and postal addresses.

The ultimate lesson may simply be that it's hard to compete with free, Lichtman says. "Registration is a small barrier," he says. "Sadly, even that little bit of cost might be too much."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Raidohead "In Rainbows" 1.2 Million in 2 days.

If you haven't gotten this album yet, get it. And the best part is it won't cost you a dime if you don't want. Radiohead has chosen to sell their latest album online for whatever price you choose (I paid 2 bucks US). Since Wednesday when it was released, the band has reported selling more than 1.2 million copies of the album. And how is the album itself? I'll just say it's a bit creepy, and one of their best.

Al Gore, Nobel Prize Winner

Ok, now will you listen to him?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Clinton Assails Bush's 'War on Science'

By DEVLIN BARRETT Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton cited frustrated scientists and a comedian Thursday as she assailed President Bush's record on scientific study and pledged to rescind his restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The presidential candidate also said she would bar political appointees from altering or removing scientific conclusions from government research without a legitimate reason for doing so.
"The Bush administration has declared war on science," the New York senator said. "When I am president, scientific integrity will not be the exception it will be the rule."
Her address to the Carnegie Institution for Science was a preview of what she said would be more detailed proposals in coming weeks on energy and environmental issues.
Clinton focused mostly on policy proposals, but she also drew laughs for paraphrasing the faux right-wing fury of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, saying "this administration doesn't make decisions on facts, it makes facts based on decisions."
The speech was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union. The launch, which caught U.S. scientists by surprise, helped start the U.S.-Soviet space race and led to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The candidate said as a little girl she was fascinated by Sputnik, but that today's scientific challenges often come from political ideology instead of foreign powers.
"For six and half years under President Bush, it has been open season on open inquiry," Clinton said. "By ignoring or manipulating science, the Bush administration is putting our future at risk and letting our economic competitors get an edge in the global economy."
She said Bush's limits on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research amounts to a "ban on hope."
Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz countered that Clinton "manipulates basic mathematics in her attempts to explain how she will pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending."
On the campaign trail, Clinton has repeatedly slammed what she calls Bush's "war on science" and accused the administration of allowing conservative political ideology to interfere with research and scientific evidence. She cites administration officials who have questioned the scientific evidence of global warming and who have suggested a link existed between abortion and breast cancer.
As president, Clinton said she would:
- Expand human and robotic space exploration and speed development of vehicles to would replace the space shuttle.
- Launch a space-based climate change initiative to combat global warming.
- Create a $50-billion strategic energy fund to research ways to boost energy efficiency and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.