Live From Key West

Dave and company playing live down in Key West, FL.

Live from Key West

If you tune in right now, you can catch Dave Coleman, along with Paul Deakin, Robert Reynolds (both of the Mavericks), and Scotty Huff playing at the Hog’s Breath Saloon in Key West, FL. They’re doing pretty much exclusively covers, and some damn good ones, too. Quick, click here and check ’em out.

Dave called me yesterday to let me know he had run a 5k, in which he set a personal best, and was then having coffee at a small place accross the street from the Earnest Hemingway house. This after playing with the guys until 2:00 am the night before. What a guy.

The Coal Men On The Web

Talk about Cool. The Coal Men have four videos of songs from an accoustic set for a CMT show of up-and-coming country artists. I don’t regularly watch CMT, but it’s great they have stuff like this.

Talk about Cool. The Coal Men have four videos of songs (Windows Media) from an acoustic set for a CMT show of up-and-coming country artists. I don’t regularly watch CMT, but it’s great they have stuff like this. I honestly had no idea. I just happened to follow a link from The Coal Men‘s home page, and there they have it. The CMT series is call New Voices No Cover, and it actually seems like a pretty cool idea. It’s nice that someone down in Nashville is pushing stuff other than Top 40 crud.

Anyway, check out these videos. They probably won’t win any cinematography awards this year, but they’re pretty good quality. It’s like getting to watch a concert of Dave and the guys. Now, if only my older brother Stephen would post some video’s online. It’d be like a little tele-reunion.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Not much going on today, other than tons of work and still under the sick spell. I did want to point out a very short, but glowing review of the The Coal Men on the Tennessean web site posted yesterday. Just in case you’re too lazy to click:

You won’t find a shortage of skilled roots-rock bands slingin’ chords around on any given night in Nashville, sure, but really, really good ones still stand out.
And The Coal Men — singer Dave Coleman and cohorts Dave Ray and Jason Hitchcock — are really, really good, bashing out a collection of expertly crafted songs that have as much bite as they do twang. Coleman’s got a heck of a baritone and Ray and Hitchcock’s rhythms are spot-on, but their sets are still loose enough to feel lived in.

That’s about typical for the Tennessean’s reviews of the band. They love the local guys, and they really love The Coal Men. Oh yeah, about locals: If you read (in the Tennessean or elsewhere) last week about the 27 year old female school teacher who was busted for multiple counts of rape of a 13 year old boy, then you may have read on to learn that she’s from my home county. It’s always great to see someone from a small town striking it big in the news. I didn’t know the woman back then, although I’m sure I saw her play some basketball and recognized her maiden name: Pamela Rogers.

Lastly, on the subject of famous people, be sure and read Wired’s article on celebrities that come into the Apple Store at The Grove Mall in Los Angeles. Funny stuff.

iPod Shuffle And The Bigger Question

I think that we should consider how we really listen to our music, and not just what we think we’ll be missing. It’s role in the iPod family is not to be your entire music library on the go, it is just a random snapshot of it.

Photo by pt courtesy of Flickr

So it would seem that Apple’s latest hot product, the iPod Shuffle, might as well be called the iPod Ruffle, as in feathers. Just to mention a couple of posts I came across today from poeple whose opinions I value. Chris Anderson of The Long Tail fame writes that it suffers from the same problem as commercial radio in that the user gives up the ability to hear the songs they really like, or in his words, "the signal-to-noise ratio in your own collection can be nearly as variable as that in any commercial music service." Anderson ends his article by stating that he doesn’t think the Shuffle will have the same impact on the market that the now nearly ubiquitous iPod had. Irman Ali seems to like the Shuffle okay, but finds interest in the fact that Apple markets what he writes is the products greatest weakness, the randomness, as it’s strength.

First, I know that I can’t speak for everyone who listens to music (that’d be about everyone with hearing, right?). I have some purist friends that prefer to listen to only entire albums from start to finish. They’re not big fans of the shuffle (or random, if you don’t use Apple products). However, I almost exclusively listen to iTunes or my iPod using that feature. I am my own radio station, so to speak. Sure I like some songs more than others, but I am constantly coming back across songs I hadn’t heard in quite a while and had nearly forgotten about. I see this as the opposite of Anderson, in that I am looking down into the long tail of my own collection. Rather than using the recommendation mechanics of Amazon or iTunes Store, I am using "chance," to quote Apple’s Ad. Honestly, I find this an economical way of keeping myself entertained, as it keeps me from buying new music as much. Instead, I’m rediscovering music I already had.

Sure, I’ve got some duds (namely, that Best of James album I bought for the song Laid), but I could just as well take those songs out of my collection. I’d never miss them. But so what if I didn’t and occasionally they got loaded onto the Shuffle. There’s a skip button for just such emergencies, which I suppose works in shuffle mode. Also, autofill has the option to choose higher rated songs more often. This is about as ideal as shuffle gets, and although I don’t much use the ratings feature of iTunes or my iPod, I imagine that’d become of your routine with the Shuffle. My only complaint there not having the ability to export that information (maybe as xml like one of Anderson’s commentors suggests).

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the iPod would have the dramatic market explosion that we’ve witnessed. It wasn’t the first portable digital music player (remember when we just called them all mp3 players?) and it has never been the cheapest. However, it had a great design, both in style and interface so it sold millions. Further, iTunes is really a great piece of software. If for no other reason, it’s a nice and free ripper. It’s also got great library management features. Is Apple’s motivation to have an online music store to sell iPods or is it to sell iPods just to make a killing off of song downloads? I don’t know. I’m sure they’ve got some pretty good margins on both fronts. I do think, though, that having an entry level, USB drive based mp3 player labled as an iPod is only going to help the brand. I fall on the other side of the fence from Anderson on this one as well. I say the iPod Shuffle is going to solidify the market as Apple’s.

One other point that a lot of people seem to ripping the Shuffle on is it’s lack of screen. Seriously, stop with the jokes about putting a sticky note over the iPod screen. It’s stale now. So what if it doesn’t have a screen? Do people honestly look at the screen during every song? I bought all most of those songs, and I know pretty much what I’m listening to.

Finally, what I’m saying here is that it’s not fair to compare the Shuffle to the good old iPod. One costs $99 and the other costs $249 (the Mini). No one thinks it’s fair to compare a Toyota Corrolla to a Lexus ES330, so why is this apples:apples? So that’s the bigger question, here. My answer is to give the Shuffle a chance. It’s role in the iPod family is not to be your entire music library on the go, it is just a random snapshot of it and that’s also got some interest. I think that we should consider how we really listen to our music, and not just what we think we’ll be missing.

Music Industry

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now.

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music industry, where it’s at and where it might be going. However, if you aren’t familiar with The Long Tail, you have to read the article which appeared in the October issue of Wired Magazine. Go read it here now in a new Firefox tab and then come back here. Later, you can read all the arguments for and against the article at the web site for The Long Tail book.

Okay, so I have to admit that other than a brother and a good friend which most would consider indie musicians, I have absolutely no affiliation with the music industry other than the most common: consumer. That’s not to say it’s not an important role, though. I’m the guy who along with my millions of peers either buys or doesn’t buy the music. It does take me for this whole model to work. I do believe that it starts with the artist, though. The songwriters and performers are both the chicken and the egg here. That being said, I also believe that the middle men perform the most meaningless task in the process. I was recently reminded that coughing up the cash for marketing and mass-production could be seen as the most crucial part, and I’m sure that record executives feel that way about it, too. However, after reading this article, seeing how free journalism (read: blogs) can influence the entire country, and my own personal experience in meeting people from around the globe through my website; I’ve decided that this simply isn’t the case anymore.

Here’s my new improved model: instant access to the tip of the long tail. I put my music in digital format (this goes for books, etc, as well). I’ll pay for hosting the files on iTunes, Amazon, Tower, where ever I want I think I can find some toe-hold of a market. Then, I use word-of-mouth, playing shows, and blogs to find an audience. With sweat and luck, a number of recommendations start pointing to me. As long as these recommendations are genuine, and not like pay-for-play on some Clear Channel station, then they will work. People can listen before they buy and, assuming price is right, they will buy. So, I start to move up the tail some. Best part for all you Downhill Battle geeks, no record label. Period. If I want help with my marketing, etc. I join a musician & songwriter collective. This gains buying power and larger influence. This already works for independent grocery stores, pharmacies, and on and on; why not for musicians? The model for the music business is the most complex I’ve ever heard of. It doesn’t have to be this way. The technology available for communication between humans (which is pretty much what both marketing and music boil down to) is to a point that this model is now obsolete.

Now, I realize that being out on the skinny end of this long tail isn’t going to make stadium-playing-rock-gods out of my friends and family. It will, at best, pay the rent; and that’s going to be about as good as one can hope. But isn’t that much different than the way it is now? I’ve got as good a chance as playing starting forward for the Wizards as I’ve got going platinum, so what’s to loose? If you’re not U2, then not too much. However, the fact that the music industry protects itself doesn’t help someone on the verge of getting in. You start selling your songs on your own, and you’ll never get signed on to a major label. That’s a risk that would be tough if you feel like a deal with a label (major or indie) is just around the corner. However, for all but the best selling musicians these days, that’s not too big of a risk. Unless you’re in the top 10%(or so) of artists in terms of sales, you’re probably not getting much airtime or support.

As an aside, go read up on some great ideas on file sharing networks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well. Also, check out some of the links above. You’ll see that I’m pretty much just regurgitating some great ideas that are already out there, but you’ll also see I’m not alone in my frustration as both a listener of music and someone who gives a damn about artists trying to make a living. Lastly, if you like a song, buy the damn music!