Posts Tagged ‘streaming media

01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

12
Jan
11

Classical On-Demand and loving it!

Much of the stuff we write about on this blog is often rock oriented or something far remote from Classical music.  Yes, there was that odd entry a few months back about Christopher O’Reilly’s incredible new Tango album, but other than that Classical does not get the highest attention on a regular basis.  To a degree it’s very sad too, with the all too frequent fund drives that local public radio stations are forced to put on these days (it seems like every other month they are begging for support) the one thing they mention over and over again is the death of Classical as a format on many stations nationwide. 

Classical music was a staple in my house growing up, my father primarily was the music lover and introduced me to many genres of music, however, I have surpassed him exponentionally when we discuss music, artists, albums, etc.  Regardless, Classical was something I was introduced to at a very early age.  Granted at the time I thought it was the most boring music created, rather designed for funerals than for fun.  Over the years and the older I became, Classical music became very senimental and soothing, something I could always rely on in times that I needed some calm.  I recall that even in high school I had an art teacher who always had Classical playing in the background for his students; he felt it was the one true music that would allow creativity and inspiration to flourish, and to a degree he was right.  Even today you can find me in my office with some random Classical playing in the background. 

Children, and for that fact, even many adults are not familiar or appreciate Classical music.  I recall one student at the school that I teach asking me if I was interested in being the advisor for the “Classical Music Club”, I was so excited to see what these students were listening to only to be shocked that “classical” was comprised of REO Speedwagon, Rainbow, and Zeppelin, ouch.  When I brought up the possibility of making it a true “Classical” music club, they all scoffed and said that their grandparents listen to that stuff.

In one of my December posts I mentioned that I bought a new television and it is internet ready, something that seemed more like a marketing scam than something truly useful (like 3D television, dumb I think), well, I must admit that Sony really provided some forethought about their consumer base when they created this new generation of televisions and how streaming media (audio or video) can actually enhance your ownership experience. 

Now to the point and topic of this blog entry, sorry for the long intro but I feel it has some merit setting the (ahem) “stage” of my intention.  Last night I decided to plunge deeper into what streaming media capabilities my television had; one of the things that caught my eye under the “Video” section of my internet options there was an icon for the Berlin Philharmoniker – Digital Concert Hall, this is a MUST for any Classical music aficianado!  There were about 30 to 40 concerts HD filmed within the last month and were catagorized by both symphony performing and what composer they were covering.  Most of the featured concerts  had trailer highlights which made choosing what you wanted to watch much easier.  My 3-year old and I had a great time watching several trailers; they were taken had numerous vantage points and all in high definition so the viewing experience was sometimes SO real! The clarity and the sound were top notch as should be expected.  I like the assortment and variety of what they offered, whether they keep updating the performances is yet to be seen.  I also like the concept that it appears to be free and not a charged service though Sony or provider, it appears to be simply a complimentary option for owning the television, very cool.

The other features in the video feature of internet television was the Sony / BMG alliance of MyPlay and the ability to watch free on-demand music videos.  Under “Rock” I think the total was 900 videos that were searchable, under “Pop” (which included bands like Prong, Lamb of God, and Slayer, hardly “Pop” for sure) there were around 9,000 videos to watch, very impressive.  I was surprised to find several Rodrigo y Gabriela video’s available of both live shows and professional MTV quality videos they had done, who knew?

Still, I have to go back to the Digital Concert Hall as the most impressive feature of internet ready televisions so far, the experience and ability to watch great symphonies whereas you feel like you have front row seats (I highly suggest getting an 46″ LED  that is 1080p and 240Gh like the Sony KDLNX800, if you can find it!). 

It is my ultimate hope that with options like on-demand Classical, it may provide some mode of exposure to a younger audience about the validity of Classical music today.  Luckily, performers like cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist’s like Joshua Bell and Nigel Kennedy,  Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang are doing their part to enlighten younger listeners, so perhaps there is still hope for a rebirth in the popularity of Classical as a viable alternative to well, Alternative.

If you have one of the new Sony LED’s check out the  Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall series of concerts that are offered.   Classical fan or not, I’m sure you will agree it is worth taking the time to watch.




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