Jun 19 2012

Artist Compensation and the Lowery/White Conundrum

If you follow my Twitter, you’ve likely seen my screed on this whole NPR Intern/David Lowery thing. The whole thing’s gone viral, but I’m not really sure why. It’s the same old tired argument we’ve been having for about ten years now.

Wait, hold on. Let me fill you in.

So this intern at NPR’s All Songs Considered, Emily White, posted a blog on their site revealing the vast majority of music acquisition in her life has been digital. She’s 21 years old, and like mostly anyone in their twenties or younger, this is not a revolutionary confession. She’s gotten her music the same way nearly all of us did:

I didn’t illegally download (most) of my songs. A few are, admittedly, from a stint in the 5th grade with the file-sharing program Kazaa. Some are from my family. I’ve swapped hundreds of mix CDs with friends. My senior prom date took my iPod home once and returned it to me with 15 gigs of Big Star, The Velvet Underground and Yo La Tengo (I owe him one).

During my first semester at college, my music library more than tripled. I spent hours sitting on the floor of my college radio station, ripping music onto my laptop. The walls were lined with hundreds of albums sent by promo companies and labels to our station over the years.

All of those CDs are gone. My station’s library is completely digital now, and so is my listening experience.

Sound familiar? Yeah, because we all did the EXACT same thing. In fact, we probably downloaded them illegally more often from Kazaa, Audiogalaxy 1.0, Ares, Morpheus, BitTorrent, and, yes, even Napster. The most surprising thing she said, I thought, was that she only had 11,000 songs. In a digital world, where an iPod can hold well over 40,000 songs, that’s a small collection.

Emily stated she envisions a future with a database of every song ever, available wherever she went, with artists being paid on a per-play basis. She basically described Spotify and other streaming-based services that exist, albeit with a flawed compensation strategy. This has been well-documented, as David Lowery points out, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So this ambitious, idealistic, honest intern posts her thoughts and vision for a brighter tomorrow in the music business. And what does the former Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven musician do? He shits all over her. In a well-written, eloquent, well-intentioned way of course. But he does so the same way every old fogey longing for the good ol’ days of physical distribution has for the past decade.

He goes on a lecture briefly explaining how mechanical royalties work, what an “advance” is, he rattles off some statistics of how album sales have declined, as if Emily doesn’t already know this. And then, he briefly takes the low road and mentions two suicides of notable musicians that were struggling financially. You know, because that’s directly related to this conversation (it’s not). Moving on…

He then gets to the beef, beginning with this age-old “it’s always been this way” premise:

“The fundamental shift in principals and morality is about who gets to control and exploit the work of an artist. The accepted norm for hudreds of years of western civilization is the artist exclusively has the right to exploit and control his/her work for a period of time.”

Certainly. Except everything has changed. Technology has changed. The copyright system is in major need of reform. A new emerging generation doesn’t look at this issue the same way. At all. In his rebuttal, Wesley Verhoeve puts it best:

I’d like to remind David for hundreds of years the accepted norm was that the earth was flat, and that women should probably not vote. Lets not get into a debate on the severely broken copyright system, and just accept that it’s severely broken. We change traditions once we gain new insights.

Lowery points the finger at White when she claims her generation won’t pay for albums, but convenience. What’s inconvenient about iTunes, he asks? Nothing, but there’s something arguably even more convenient out there: streaming-based services. Lowery finally gets to those, but of course, the old guy isn’t too fond of them, for moral reasons, naturally:

We are being asked to change our morality and principals to match what I think are immoral and unethical business models….What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting.

Right, Dave. Because in our free, capitalist society, someone is demanding at gunpoint you put your music on Spotify. Hey, guess what I’m listening to right now on Spotify? “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” You’re welcome.

The internet is full of stories from artists detailing just how little they receive from Spotify. I shan’t repeat them here. They are epic. Spotify does not exist in a vacuum. The reason they can get away with paying so little to artists is because the alternative is The ‘Net where people have already purchased all the gear they need to loot those songs for free. Now while something like Spotify may be a solution for how to compensate artists fairly in the future, it is not a fair system now.

Like I said, and I have said, everyone knows major labels own a 30%+ share of Spotify. Everyone knows their revenue scheme is godawful. Play a song 800 times, and that’s $1 of royalties. Pathetic.

Spotify and the other streaming-based services aren’t perfect. But they’re convenient. And they’re a start. And they’re the future. I’ll let Verhoeve have the floor on this one:

David goes on to calculate a back of the envelope number based on Emily’s 11,000 song library, and extrapolates that over time, concluding that she should pay around $18 dollars a month to turn her consumption into an “ethical one”. This is where he could’ve segued into the solution proposed by Emily, the Spotify-like library in the sky that synchs to everything everywhere, but he doesn’t.

No, instead, Dave proposes donating to a charity, or campaigning against corporate exploiters, or what Emily said her generation would never do, which is buy albums.

For Lowery, this is about ethics and morals and rebellion against “the man.” For Emily, it’s about a future business model that successfully adapts to the behaviors of consumers in the 21st century. So, yeah, Lowery can’t see the forest for the trees, as the adage goes.

Bob Lefsetz’s rebuttal is probably the best one I’ve read thus far, though his focus is on quality of music. It’s the typical Lefsetz argument: make music people want to hear, and they will ride against the trend. I call it the Adele Method. And while I disagree with Lefsetz’s obvious distaste for Lowery’s excellent music, his ability to understand we can’t go back to the old way is refreshing.

I believe artists should be paid. But that does not mean they should be paid the same way they used to be….To be fighting file-sharing is akin to protesting dot matrix printers. File-trading is on its way out. Because it takes too much time to do it. And you don’t fight piracy with laws, but economic solutions. It doesn’t pay to steal if you can listen instantly on Spotify and its ilk.

Bingo. Shaming the young generation into reverting back to a business model you understand won’t work. Accepting the future and shifting towards it is the obvious answer to the problem of digital music compensation. It’s blatantly obtuse for anyone, especially someone who has used Spotify, to think otherwise. There’s no reason to go back. And people won’t. Adapt or die.

Lefsetz continues:

That intern David Lowery is beating up on has no power. He’s wasting his time. And you’re high-fiving him as if it all makes a difference. You’re involved in a circle jerk anybody with the chance of making a difference is ignoring….Why do musicians think they can shame people into doing the right thing?…[T]he public is gonna say that fourteen dollars for a CD with one good track is stupid.

You start first with a killer product. And then you leverage this for change. Knowing that economics are more powerful than emotions.

David Lowery is not gonna make a difference. He’s speaking in an echo chamber. He’s got the right to do this, but that does not mean we should applaud it.

He’s right. The artists have suffered financially with the collapse of the CD model/Napster. But with destruction comes opportunity… Don’t forget, the record companies sued to kill the Diamond Rio, the predecessor of the iPod….Just hang in there. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Spotify pays most of its revenues to rights holders. The fact that labels come before acts and they don’t distribute all their income… Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Lowery’s post, probably the most-quoted part of it I saw. It’s a sound byte that people latch onto, and rightly so: it’s pretty much Lowery’s entire point.

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!
Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

You are doing it wrong.

At least he knows he’s old. But in making his point, Lowery misses the biggest one: this girl, and this young generation of music lovers, are all on his side. NO ONE thinks artists shouldn’t be paid. The question is how, but we already know what the answer shouldn’t be in these changing times. Out with the old, in with the new.

Jun 18 2012

Will Green Day Be the Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 Headliner?

Now just hear me out a second. First let’s look at the obvious immediate assumptions:

-Green Day’s a big 90’s arena rock-type band that probably costs an arm and a leg to book. Along with the Foo Fighters, they’re really the only 90’s band to continue to have sustained success. It’s more ACL’s style than Fun Fun Fun’s, or at least if you look at Fun Fun Fun’s lineup in the past.

-They’re a pretty divisive band, and have been pretty much since 1994. If people aren’t mad at them for having a Broadway musical, or rallying against George W. Bush, they’re mad at them for “destroying punk.” You can bet a big chunk of Fun Fun Fun faithful, including the punk/metal-loving Black stage crowd, will either be indifferent or downright angry they’re booked. An outright Fun Fun Fun backlash? That seems like a bit much, especially if Transmission puts someone across the Shores at the same time that will tame them. Maybe Danzig wants to redeem himself?

-This goes back to the first point, but in a roundabout way: amongst all those DJs, rappers, indie rockers, metalheads, and punk purists….Green Day would stick out like a sore thumb. I mean, headliners usually do anyway, that’s kind of the point, but not to the extent that Green Day would. One look at last year’s headliners (Spoon, Public Enemy, Passion Pit, Slayer, Danzig), and you can surmise that Green Day would be a very odd choice for a burgeoning fest that still caters to more of an underground crowd.

The facts:

-Ticket prices have gone way, way up for the fest, indicating Transmission’s looking to book some bigger bands. Regardless of Green Day’s rep with the Black Stage crowd, you know they will sell tickets, the same way the Foo Fighters or Chili Peppers would for ACL. Guaranteed they would be an Orange Stage headliner, with the naysayers catching somebody like….Motorhead?… and the hipsters meandering to the Blue Stage for….Hot Chip?

-Transmission’s worked with the trio before. Remember that secret show at Red 7 last November? There’s certainly a business relationship already in place, so Transmission’s favorite son (Green Day Pun!), Fun Fun Fun, would be a logical step forward.

-Green Day are releasing a trilogy of new albums this fall/winter. The first one comes out in September, so you can bet they’ll be doing what they love to do: launch a worldwide tour, or, at the very least, hit up some fests.

-In fact, Green Day are already confirmed to headline the Voodoo Music Fest in New Orleans on October 27. The weekend before FFF…and not too far from Austin…

Now, having said all this, everyone knows where my heart is: I’m a huge, enormous, insufferable Green Day fan. I love the musical. I’ve thrown an insane amount of money at them. I have a tattoo on my back proclaiming my love for them. So…..yes…..this post is wishful thinking. That I’m 95% sure won’t happen.   It makes no sense at all now that I think of it.

I mean, come on, GREEN DAY AT FUN FUN FUN? Sounds crazy, right?

Crazier things have happened.

Actually, don’t listen to me. I’m dumb. Refused is coming for sure. Maybe At the Drive In, too.

You’ve heard my .02, now it’s your turn: for those of you who already bought your tickets, if Green Day were announced to be one of the headliners, what would your reaction be?  Would you be stoked to sing along to some old skool Green Day tunes?  Would you be pissed and sell your ticket, feeling betrayed by Fun Fun Fun?  Would you care at all?

Feb 3 2012

Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

Two weeks ago, I was a perfect 2-0 for my divisional championship picks, and, as I predicted, this year’s Super Bowl is a repeat of 2007. That makes my record 6-4, and even if I screw this one up, I go out a winner. Having said that, I’m pretty stumped as to who’s gonna win this one. The media likes to pretend the Giants are underdogs again, yet every time I turn on Sportscenter, they’re talking aout Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. The past few weeks I’ve gone with stats and whathaveyou, but this time around I’m going with my gut, simply because I feel these are two pretty evenly matched teams all around. The Giants have improved, but so has the Patriots defense, and Tom Brady is still sensational. Eli’s been playing better, but I just don’t think a repeat comeback is in order this time around.

So yeah, I’m going with the Patriots. The NFL is an offensive league, and Tom Brady’s the best QB left standing. And I still don’t think the Giants deserve to be in the Super Bowl. Call it wishful thinking the 49ers would do better. or leftover sore feelings from the Packers stomping, but New York is not the best NFC team by far. And I’m a Cowboys fan, so going for the boys in blue just rubs me wrong. So yeah, nothing revelatory here, I’m jut betting the Patriots offense can outlast the Giants. Even though everyone at ESPN wants the opposite to happen.

Jan 20 2012

NFL Divisional Championship Picks

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots

I’m an even 4-4 for my playoff picks, but that hardly matters now that my precious Packers are out. Having said that, I think I’ve got the right picks this time around for sure. This one’s in Mass, and Tom Brady has been playing better than he has in his entire career. So that’s pretty damn good to say the least. The Ravens have a pretty explosive defense, however, and the Patriots…well….don’t. Still, Flacco is a hot-cold QB, and New England will ultimately win this one.

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers

This one should be fun to watch, and currently it’s impossible to predict. Eli Manning has been going strong, and the Giants defense is on a roll after stomping my Packers at home. The 49ers are formidable on both sides of the ball, especially their D, and they have home-field advantage, which is a big deal to me….but I’m gonna go with the Giants this time, strictly because they handily beat a better team last week, whereas San Francisco barely pulled it off against the excellent Saints.

Jan 13 2012

NFL Divisional Playoffs Picks

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

So I’m 2-2 so far in the postseason picks, but I have a feeling after this weekend I’ll be in the win column, especially if Tebow plays like Tebow and not like the superhuman, make-me-look-like-an-idiot passing machine that he was last week against the Steelers. There’s no way a guy who has completed for less than half during the regular season has any chance of keeping up with Tom Brady and the best offense in the AFC. No matter what the TeBros tell you this week, New England will win this one handily.

New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers

This one’s another slam-dunk offensive show; Drew Brees is unstoppable right now, even though the 49ers defense is well rested. Brees threw for 466 yards last week against the Lions, and San Fran has done pretty average against the passing game. Stopping Frank Gore and the rushing offense will be a challenge, but nothing the Saints aren’t capable of handling. This one goes to New Orleans in a game that should be pretty much done by the time the fourth quarter comes around.

Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens

Yates and Flacco aren’t the story here. This one’s all about running backs; whichever defense stops the leading rusher is the winner. So whether the Texans can kill Ray Rice, or the Ravens can crush Arian Foster, that’s what the scoreboard will show. So it should be a pretty close game, but I think Baltimore has the edge on this one – home-field advantage, more experience in the quarterback position, and a well-rested D-line.

New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

This one’s the nail biter, and speaking as a Packers fan, I’m pretty damn scared of Eli Manning and the Giants defense. Green Bay’s well rested and playing in cold-as-hell Wisconsin, but New York is pretty hot right now. This one will be a blow-for-blow offensive shootout, and it will be incredibly fun to watch. In the end, my money’s on Green Bay, but expect a last minute finish similar to when these two teams met in Week 13.

Jan 6 2012

NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans

This one should be sloppy. Frankly, the Bengals lucked their way into the postseason, and the Texans haven’t looked like a playoff team in a while, thanks to a slew of key injuries. So it’s the battle of the rookie quarterbacks, and someone’s gotta win, so my money’s on the Bengals, if only because Dalton has played more consistently overall than Yates, who, along with his team, lost three straight heading into this game, including one to the abysmal Colts.

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints

This one’s going to be a shootout for sure. The NFC games are just going to be more exciting, period. Great offenses will battle. But ultimately New Orleans will win, thanks to MVP contender Drew Brees and Detroit’s lack of discipline when things get heated. Expect Stafford to throw more than Brees, but penalties will hurt the Lions overall.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

The Steelers are banged up bad. Big Ben will struggle. But he won’t struggle as bad as the overrated Tim Tebow, who hasn’t decidedly won against a challenging team all season. And, dare I say, he hasn’t experienced a defense like Pittsburgh. Expect a low-scoring game that Tebow won’t be able to fourth-quarter-miracle his way out of. Pardon the irony, but the Broncos haven’t got a prayer.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

The Falcons’ defense is sharp, and the Giants’ is not. Having said that, New York has the momentum after embarrassing Romo in Jerryville, and they have Eli Manning, who is throwing like a veteran. This will be another red zone game, but ultimately I expect the boys in blue to wrap this one up early in the fourth quarter.

Dec 17 2011

Most Disappointing Albums of 2011

A recent NBC/WSJ poll revealed 76% of Americans consider 2011 to be a “below average” year or “one of the worst” in their lives. Certainly times are tough in the world. Obama is a lame duck, and the competing Republicans are clinically insane adulterers and fundamentalists. The economy remains on the brink of collapse; Congress is a brainless, yelling mob of idiocy. REM broke up. Limp Bizkit got back together.

Musically speaking, do I consider 2011 to be a disappointing year overall? Not really, but I don’t consider it to be a revelatory one either. So I’m indifferent. That said, as is the case with every year, 2011 had its share of disappointments. Maybe in these five cases, my expectations were set unreasonably high. But for at least a couple, I don’t think that’s the situation; some of these albums just flat-out suck.

Radiohead – King of Limbs

This is a good album. Not a great one. And when it comes to Radiohead, “great” is the caliber the world expects. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it’s realistic. It took them a while, but they finally churned out a dud. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it ambitious? Absolutely. Does it sound forced, lost, sometimes even lazy? Unfortunately, but definitely. I look forward to hearing the next great transformation in the sound of Radiohead, because this was obviously a stumbling transition of some sort.

Tyler the Creator – Goblin

It’s incredible how one album can utterly silence an excited mob. Count me as one of the many who saw Odd Future at SXSW, on Jimmy Fallon, and was psyched to hear Tyler’s new solo outing. With the exception of “Yonkers” this is a complete mess from start to finish. It is patently offensive in an auditory, not lyrical, sense. The real disgust lies not within the misogynistic, homophobic verses, but the tuneless, boring dreck that surrounds them. Unlistenable.

Washed Out – Within and Without

Speaking of boring….I guess I should have seen this one coming. Abandoning the fun, infectious, danceable influence evident on the excellent Life of Leisure EP, Ernest Greene conjured up a full-length full of mood, but absolutely nothing that stands out.

The Strokes – Angles

That dreadful, thrown-together album cover says it all, doesn’t it? How bummed were you after hearing this all the way through for the first time? What a sinking feeling. Exactly three tracks here are great, even if they’re not exactly progressive. The rest is uncharacteristically confused. The listener feels the same way the band probably did after finishing this: what?

Justice – Audio Video Disco

It’s generally expected when you take four years to make a follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut, that means you’re taking some risks, trying some new things, and the result will be an interesting one. That’s exactly what Justice did. In fact, that’s all they did. Going the way of MGMT, there’s very little here that sounds even remotely like the 2007 French house duo that isn’t Daft Punk. More prog than anything else, Audio Video Disco throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and almost none of it sticks. Props for changing the formula, but I would have preferred a simple Cross Part 2.

Dec 16 2011

Most Overrated Albums of 2011

Let’s get the negative lists out of the way first. As 2011’s Listmas continues, there are a plethora of albums ranking high on prominent lists that frankly don’t deserve the accolades given. I’ve limited my selection to five of what I feel are the most overrated albums this year. Granted, there are several more I feel could have made the cut (Wilco, Smith Westerns, Kate Bush, Kurt Vile, Karl Maus, Juliana Barwick, The Antlers, Wild Beasts, Wild Flag, Nicolas Jaar), but for the sake of not being TOO snobby about it, the following are the ones I’m most sick of hearing about.

Disclaimer: “Overrated” doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy the album, it just means I apparently didn’t enjoy it as much as the rest of the world.

Bon Iver – S/T

To give this snoozer sophomore slump comparable praise to the brilliant For Emma, Forever Ago is blasphemous. And now it’s got apparently unwanted Grammy recognition behind it. In between producing a classic and smoking weed with Kanye, Vernon apparently decided anything second-rate he put out would receive “album of the year” nods, and he was so very, very correct.

James Blake – S/T

Let’s be clear: there is STRONG potential here. The highs are high, but the lows are dreadfully low. “Limit to Your Love” and “The Wilhelm Scream” are examples of the genius amalgamate of noise and melody, beauty and chaos, that Blake has to offer. The rest? A collage of ideas tinkering for mood over melody. I look forward to the next try, when this up-and-comer will hopefully embrace his more structured side.

Foster the People – Torches

Foster the People are the MC Hammer of the new electro-indie sound – they took a fresh sound that had already earned popular recognition (MGMT, Passion Pit), watered it down with repetition, trite lyrics, and gimmicks, and became an overnight success story. If I wanted to hear this derivative mess in any fashion, I’d take Adam Levine to a karaoke bar and make him sing “Kids.”

Destroyer – Kaputt

Really? Is this album as great as everyone claims it is? For that matter, is ANY Destroyer album as great as everyone claims it is? Chalk it up as another project that will always make the year-end rounds regardless of output. There’s nothing criminal here, just formulaic and overdone, and it gets pretty samey about halfway through.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

Daniel Lopatin’s better project, without a doubt, is Ford & Loptain; here, in OPN, he embraces his ambient, “Brooklyn” tendencies, and the result is a journey into atonal slumber. The “trying too hard” distate is overpowering throughout, with mindless repeated samples amongst a directionless hiss and unfocused arrangements. After dropping the fantastic Channel Pressure this year, one has to wonder what’s the point of this particular mess?

Dec 15 2011

My Year In Live Music – 2011

Compared to my first year as an Austin resident, I took it pretty easy this year. I suppose the combination of budgeting, starting grad school, and just generally growing old has slowed me down a bit, but I still saw some cool shows. And with M83, Radiohead, Drake, and Born Gold all coming in the first half of 2012, looks like I’ll be getting a head start on this list for next year. In the meantime, here are some highlights, at least ones I could remember, from 2011.

Hooray For Earth @ Emo’s Inside – 10/1

I believe this was the last show I saw at Emo’s Inside (I remember seeing Twin Shadow around ACL time on the outside stage just before they shut it down), and I’ve yet to see a show at the new locale on East Riverside. I had been dying to witness Hooray For Earth for many many months, and finally seeing them rock out was rewarding, as was a nice conversation with the lead singer afterwards.

Deftones @ Austin Music Hall – 6/4

Call it making up for lost time; I’m not a huge fan of AMH – actually, I hate it quite a bit, but I’m never missing a Deftones show. I finally saw them for the first time last year, and as long as these guys make it to Austin, I’ll be going. The crowd was awful, as was the case last time, but Deftones more than make up for all the teenage rudeness.

Bill Maher @ ACL Live – 3/26

Not a music show, but man was it hilarious. My second show in the ACL Live venue, and Bill proved he loves Austin. The crowd was mostly receptive, but I did get some looks for applauding loudly at the atheist jokes. Do people know who they came to see?

Robyn @ ACL Live – 2/17

Robyn is incredible, see her live the first chance you get. High energy, tons of dancing, great acoustics, great venue. The crowd up front was crazy annoying, especially during Diamond Rings, but what are ya gonna do?

Sleigh Bells @ The Glass House – Pomona, CA – 4/13

The Glass House is a weird little venue; I honestly had no idea how far Pomona was from West Hollywood, but we drove a long way to see this awesome awesome show. It was all ages, no alcohol. Not that I had a lot of cash anyway. Sleigh Bells killed, as is the routine.

The Go! Team @ Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – 4/19

The Echoplex was closer, but it felt like a shady neighborhood. The venue, however, is pretty damn awesome, and the Go! Team were just as fun as I could have imagined. Hopefully these guys make a new album, because I’m betting they’ll make a stop here in Austin if they do.

Primus @ Stubb’s – 5/24

It’s so great to have these guys back and playing new stuff. Have I said that lately? Great show in one of the best venues in town, and we met Les (again!) and got a pic with him afterwards. Swell fella!

Dwight Yoakam @ ACL Live – 7/21

Another strong showing from the hillbilly king, this time at a venue within walking distance. Now if he would just get back in the studio!

Austin Psych Fest @ Seaholm Power Plant – 4/30-5/1

I really had no idea what to expect, but this ended up being a pleasant surprise. I got sufficiently drunk and listened to some crazy great psych music from all around the world, in the most appropriately creepy place to see a show in Austin, the echo-riffic Seaholm. Capping off the fest with Roky Erikson providing the soundtrack to the news of bin Laden’s death is a memory I will never forget.

Fun Fun Fun Fest @ Auditorium Shores – 11/4-6

I was a bit concerned for the future of my beloved FFF when they announced they were moving to the Shores, but in hindsight I feel ashamed for not having faith in the Transmission crew. Not only was this the best lineup I’ve ever seen in the fest’s six-year history, but the change of venue actually improved the overall experience. Great vendors, great music, not too crowded….best music experience of 2011, hands down.

SXSW 2011 – Spring Break and Beyond

The best week of the year did not disappoint, though this year I focused a lot of energy on getting into shows I didn’t think I would be able to get into. There’s certainly an extra feeling of reward when you’re granted access to an exclusive party with A-list bands and free food and booze. My personal highlights were the Zynga party (flyer above) and catching Queens of the Stone Age at La Zona Rosa. Another great free party showing as well this past year, especially Mess With Texas, which never disappoints. Saw the Strokes at the Shores, too, which was great. While 2010 might be remembered as the year of mini-riots and ridiculous overcrowding, for me it was just a regular old SXSW, fun, booze, catching up with old friends, and seeing some great music.

Dec 14 2011

2011: The Year In Music

For those who truly choose to recognize it, three major shifts happened in 2011.  The first, as is apparent during this year’s Listmas (and will be apparent on my year-end lists as well) is the resurgence of irreverent, smart hip-hop and what is half-mockingly referred to as PBR&B.  The introspection of 2010’s hottest rappers (you know, when Eminem got all mature and serious and junk) has caused a shift in the landscape.  As rap has been semi-tossed aside in the pop world in favor of the Eurodance craze, rappers have become more….sad.  And real.  And risk-taking.  And progressive. And brilliant.  Drake crooned, the Weeknd swooned, Big K.R.I.T., Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky all impressed.

The second one is more important to the industry as a whole: Spotify.  Its launch in the US has caused nothing short of a revolution: millions have signed up for the service, initiating a preference for a streaming-based distribution model over downloading iTunes files.  Spotify isn’t the first of its kind, but certainly its connections and marketing have made it the poster-child for what many are calling the next pivotal shift in how we listen to music.  A vibrant, passionate discussion has formed from the company’s popularity; the service has caused its share of controversy and criticism regarding royalties and high-profile artists like Coldplay and the Black Keys opting out.  Certainly the model isn’t perfect, but could it be the new blueprint?  One thing is for sure: the business of digital music is crazy exciting right now.

The final shift in 2011 happened to me personally, it really wasn’t an event, more of a realization.  I became aware of my adulthood, I suppose, probably for the first time ever, and it has affected my listening habits and preferences.  Not that I’m listening to “mature” music now….quite the opposite, in fact.  I guess I just finally decided life is too fucking short to be pretentious, and that we should just listen to whatever we want.  Though I suppose I’ll always have these so-called “hipster tendencies,” I’ve begun to embrace my love of escapist music, of pop, of rap, of dance, of strong melody, of hooks.  Because, to me, music is probably the most important thing in my life, and it is meant to be stimulating, challenging, but also, prominently, and this is the part we forget in college, kids, it is meant to be enjoyed.  And if I sit around listening to shit I don’t like all the time because I was told it was awesome or groundbreaking, I will die a sad, pompous, stuck-up old man.  So live your life, and stick to your guns. And dance if you want to, damnit.  And listen to music that makes you feel good.  Because this is your life, and you only get one.

One other thing I would like to mention that 2011 will likely be remembered for, but is of no consequence to me: this is the year Adele took over.  And so emerges another AC-friendly artist that the world adores, but I am left all by my lonesome to proclaim: “Meh.”  And look at that: I’m bored already just talking about her.  Damn, there I go again! Hipster tendencies…..baby steps.

So here is the blog schedule for the remainder of 2011.  Stick around and be prepared to disagree!  Should be a grand old time.

December 15: My Year In Live Music
December 16: Most Overrated Albums of 2011
December 17: Most Disappointing Albums of 2011
December 18: Top Music Videos of 2011
December 19-23: Top 200 Songs of 2011
December 24: Top 20 Remixes of 2011
December 25: Honorable Mention Albums of 2011
December 26-30: Top 50 Albums of 2011
December 31: Top TV Shows of 2011
January 1, 2012: Quarterly Review