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Tag Archives: music

What should be done about illegal music downloading?

Recently, David Lowery of The Trichordist penned a thoughtful, impassioned and well-reasoned response to NPR’s All Things Considered intern Emily White, who stated on her employer’s blog that she engaged in illegal downloading and filesharing. Lowery laid out the anti-torrenting argument as well as I’ve seen anyone do it, highlighting its negative impact on the future of the music industry and the devastating effects it has on the >99% of music artists that aren’t dominating the radio waves. That said, I’m not sure any quantity of cogent arguments will be enough to fix this problem. Here’s why:

Simply put, people are motivated by incentives and disincentives. The incentives to download illegally are obvious; it’s free, easy and fast. The disincentives, which include a (very remote) chance of legal ramifications, poor audio quality and a moral tangle, are not always strong enough to overcome the incentives. In order to affect behavior on a large scale, one must manipulate incentives and disincentives.

This brings me to the practical side of this debate: assuming the goal is the elimination of illegal downloading, which disincentives should be magnified, and which incentives tempered? Just as crucially, whose job is it to do this? Looking at the dis/incentives laid out above, those who are losing money due to illegal downloading (i.e. the entire music industry) have a few options. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but without all the cool dragons and stuff:

Option A: Reduce the incentive to download illegally by making it harder. In other words, take away the widespread availability of illegal mp3s by targeting filesharing sites. This option has been explored by the government as well as the music industry; Metallica (followed by large record companies and other industry leaders) famously sued filesharing platform Napster in 2000, while the US Justice Department brought Megaupload to its knees in January of this year. Alas, this hasn’t stopped illegal downloading, and new sites will continue to crop up as long as filesharing continues to be profitable (i.e. forever).

Option B: Increase the legal risk of illegal downloading. This has been tried too; according to the New York Times, the industry sued thousands between 2003 and 2008, but ended up losing money due to litigation fees despite collecting handsome fines. Plus, making an example out of a few did nothing to stop the many; illegal downloads continued, and the industry gave up this approach in 2009.

Option C: Bring morality to the forefront. This is what David Lowery does masterfully in his article, and it’s what ads such as the one below attempt to do. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the message hasn’t really hit home on a wide enough scale to make a difference. I’m sure you can think of plenty of examples of money trumping morals, and the reality is it would take, at the very least, a much more well-funded campaign of these ads to make anyone feel genuine remorse for their torrenting transgressions.

Option D: Add a new disincentive. Surprise: the industry’s trying this one too. As of July 2011, internet service providers such as Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have joined the fight by threatening noncompliant customers with numerous warning notices and slower service (info via NYT). I personally know someone who’s been on the receiving end of one of these warnings, and so far it does appear to have made an impact on her. Still, it remains to be seen whether this will be effective enough to save the bottom line of the music industry. I’m personally not very optimistic. Unless these warnings are consistently backed by more concrete consequences, which they aren’t as far as I can tell, my guess is they won’t have enough clout to overcome the allure of unlimited free music.

 

The moral of the story is this: the industry has explored a wide variety of avenues in its attempts to eliminate illegal downloading, with largely discouraging results. Maybe the next step is to look for a new revenue model. This would be a dramatic and painful paradigm shift in the music industry, but those happen all the time in response to new technology and consumer activities. Instead of fighting the tide of illegal downloading, the music industry might do well to evolve new ways of monetizing its product. For instance, artists can preempt illegal downloads by offering name-your-own-price high-quality MP3s on their own sites, generating a high volume of site traffic (which can be monetized with ad revenues). Also, while Kickstarter success stories aren’t the norm, the site can still be a powerful way to get projects off the ground. Finally, while touring revenues for smaller artists aren’t very profitable in their current form (as David Lowery explains), live music in some form might prove to be a better source of income if the model is reexamined.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m inclined to think the onus of change will ultimately fall on the shoulders of those who stand to lose the most money. And the sooner the music industry embraces the tides of change, the better its chances of remaining relevant–and therefore, profitable.

 

Benevolent Siren

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Raising Lil’ Bow Wow: hiding my taste in music from my child

The little guy's first ultrasound at 16 weeks.

As soon as I got pregnant, I had to rethink many things in my life, including one of my most prized possessions – the small case of CDs mixes I had made in high school during the glorious days when Napster was alive. With the help of free downloads, every Friday night my friends and I would cruise down the streets of downtown suburbia belting out the lyrics to a new music mix blasting from our car speakers. But here’s where it gets weird – on our way to Uptown Yogurt, we enjoyed exposing our quiet neighborhood to the nastiest songs we could find – classics like Freaks of the Industry by Digital Underground and Give me that Nut by Easy E. Looking back, I realize how inappropriate this was. But we were otherwise such good girls, which is probably why we found this activity so hilarious and thrilling.

Fast forward ten years and I still know every lyric to Snoop Dogg’s Aint No Fun and still find great enjoyment in singing along to them – windows rolled up of course so I don’t overwhelm unsuspecting shoppers in the Trader Joe’s parking lot with references to Snoop Dogg’s balls. Maybe it sounds odd or even perverted. But my love affair with these songs isn’t really about the dirty words, it’s about reliving a carefree time when outings meant frozen yogurt not the grocery store, extra sprinkles not responsibilities. Speaking of which….I was now becoming a mother, which I had heard was the biggest responsibility of all. What did this mean for myself, my husband, and most importantly, my mix CDs?

I turned to BabyCenter.com for some answers, which had been sending me vital information about my pregnancy like when my baby was developing fingernails or had reached the size of a kumquat. I found an article called Music and your unborn child, and while there wasn’t much talk about the musings of Snoop Dogg, one obstetrician said he “observed a 33-week-old fetus pattern his breathing to the beat of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.” Well, perhaps I needed to get my sh*t together then! With a protective hand over my pregnant belly, I changed my Pandora radio station from Two Pac to Beethoven and read on.

“You may have heard that exposure to music makes kids of all ages smarter in math, but Gordon Shaw [a neuroscientist at the University of California at Irvine], who pioneered this type of research, says these studies focused on older children, not fetuses. “ Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist who studies fetal development at Johns Hopkins University adds, “There are no studies on the effects of stimulation before birth on intelligence, creativity, or later development.” The article cautioned against wearing headphones around your pregnant belly (those new mamas sure get creative!) because amniotic fluid is a good sound conductor. Luckily, I hadn’t thought of putting my vPulse anywhere besides my ears.

So I kept the classical station going for a couple of hours – feeling smart – but when Sunday rolled around and it was grocery time, I knew this was going to be the real test. Sure enough, the instant I was back in my car and stopped at a red light, my fingers itched for my CD case – craving to feel those inappropriate lyrics and heavy beats flowing through my body.  I thought, When do I kill this habit in order to hide from my child truths about the world and about myself? I took a deep breath – pregnancy could be so exhausting sometimes. Feeling my tension rise, I gave up and slid in a tattered disk titled “Rap Mix!” I turned up the volume (not too loud) and let myself be me. If the little one was bobbing his head to the Notorious B.I.G, I decided, for now, let him jam. 

Here's my son at 20 weeks, rocking out.

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Must-Hear Song of the Day: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (ft. Kimbra)

“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye (ft. Kimbra) is, in the words of American Idol judge Steven Tyler, “changing music.” This #1 hit stands in stark musical contrast to most other contemporary radio fare, featuring a xylophone solo and haunting vocals evocative of Peter Gabriel. This earworm has surfaced across many television platforms in multiple interpretations, from the Glee version dripping with brotherly angst to “The Voice” contestant Lindsey Pavao’s dubstep-influenced arrangement to the duet from “American Idol” semifinalists Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips. Which version catches your fancy?

Original (Warning: This video contains some nudity, but nothing graphic or explicit.)

Glee (Darren Criss and Matt Bomer)

 

The Voice (Lindsey Pavao)

American Idol (Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips)

 

Which version(s) do you think do this song justice?

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The Perfect Hopelessly Romantic Playlist

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

Ah, love. The ultimate motivator for music, poetry, even a few fingerpaints somewhere, probably; every artistic medium is fueled by overwhelming devotion or shattered hearts. Here’s a collection of songs that will have the hopeless romantic in you sighing about that special someone–or the one that got away.

1. “Easy Silence” by The Dixie Chicks: “I just want to hold on to the easy silence you create for me / … / And the peaceful quiet you create for me / And the way you keep the world at bay for me.” A sweet ode to the comfortable quiet of a relationship, “Easy Silence” is about finding peace in another person. Or, if you’re single, just pretend this song is about noise-reducing headphones; they’re almost as good as sharing your life with someone, right?

2. “Make You Feel my Love” by Adele: Bob Dylan’s lyrics get a stunning makeover in Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love”: “When the rain is blowing in your face / And the whole world is on your case / I could offer you a warm embrace / To make you feel my love.”

3. “The Nearness of You” by Norah Jones: “It’s not the pale moon that excites me / That thrills and delights me / Oh no, it’s just the nearness of you.” This song captures the electricity of proximity–surely you’ve felt your pulse quicken in the presence of that one person (you know the one I’m talking about). As an aside, many, many artists have recorded versions of this song. I’m partial to Norah Jones’ slow and sweetly sultry rendition, but the Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong recording is thoroughly lovely as well.

4. “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain: A classic wedding song, this anthemic track is one long promise of undying devotion. “I’ll be your crying shoulder / I’ll be love’s suicide / I’ll be better when I’m older / I’ll be the greatest fan of your life.”

5. “No Man is an Island” by Jack’s Mannequin: This song was written as a wedding present, and you can definitely tell. Self-explanatory: “As long as your heart’s beating it should never beat alone / No man is an island when a woman is his home.”

6. “You Don’t Know Me” by Michael Buble: Fear and shyness gets in the way of love in this story: “You think you know me well / But you don’t know me / No, you don’t know the one who dreams of you at night / … / Afraid and shy, I let my chance go by / A chance that you might love me too.”

7. “Blue Eyes” by the Cary Brothers: This song is slow and sweet and carries a hint of sadness behind the yearning lyrics. “All the lights on and you are alive / But you can’t point the way to your heart / … / I just want to be the one / I just want to sing a song with you.”

8. “In Your Atmosphere (L.A. Song)” by John Mayer: Sometimes when love goes bad, certain places are rendered uninhabitable by a coating of painful memories. This phenomenon is the focus of John Mayer’s plaintive lyrics: “I don’t think I’m gonna go to LA anymore / I’m not sure that I really ever could / … / I’m gonna steer clear / I’d burn up in your atmosphere.”

9. “One and Only” by Adele: I’ll admit this song didn’t catch my notice the first few times I listened to Adele’s Grammy-winning album, 21. It’s a bit of a sleeper, but it gets under your skin–give it a couple listens and you’ll be hooked on her brazen pleas. “I dare you to let me be your / Your one and only / I promise I’m worth it / To hold in your arms / So come on and give me a chance.”

 10. “Basket Case” by Sara Bareilles: As the title suggests, this song is about the emotional destruction a bad breakup can wreak. Simple guitar and harmonica support Ms. Bareilles’ silky voice perfectly. Listen to this if you’re in a wallowing mood. “He’s not a magic man or a perfect fit / But had a steady hand and I got used to it / … / Now I’m just a basket case”

11. “Colors” by Amos Lee: Simple in sentiment, delicate in delivery. “When you’re gone / Colors seem to fade.”

12. “City Love” by John Mayer: This particular love story paints a picture of day-to-day romance grounded in geography, namely NYC. I love the way he zooms in on the details: “She keeps a toothbrush at my place / As if I had the extra space / She steals my clothes to wear to work / I know her hairs are on my shirt / I tell everyone I smile just because / I’ve got a city love / … / And I can’t remember life before her name.”

13. “This Year’s Love” by David Gray: Poor David Gray. He’s been burned before, and that makes it hard to fall into something new with the same innocence, no matter how right it feels. “When you hold me like you do / It feels so right / I start to forget how my heart gets torn / … / It takes something more this time / Than sweet, sweet lies / Before I open up my arms and fall / Losin’ all control.”

 

You can find this playlist on Spotify by searching for “The Perfect Hopelessly Romantic Playlist”.

-Benevolent Siren

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Must-Hear Song of the Day: In Your Atmosphere (LA Song) by John Mayer

Poignant and raw and dripping with regret, this song breaks my heart into a million pieces every time I hear it.  So, on that note, enjoy! “I’d die if I saw you, I’d die if I didn’t see you…”

I promise I’ll pick a joyful song one of these days, but in the meantime I’ll be keeping Kleenex in the black.

-Benevolent Siren

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Must-Hear Song of the Day: “The Cave (Bookshop sessions)” by Mumford & Sons

A Grammy 2012 nominee for Record of the Year, Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” is a nuanced and engaging track that I can’t stop listening to. The banjo is fun and lends a kind of frenetic energy to the song, while Marcus Mumford’s satisfying growl puts delightful substance behind the lyrics. (I call it a growl mostly because his name sounds to me like a well-dressed British lion detective character from a kid’s book. Maybe I’ll write a kid’s book just so I can use that name.)

 

While you watch that, I’m going to go write chapter one of Marcus Mumford and the Case of the Jungle Bow-Tie Thief. …I’m still workshopping the title.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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I just watched the best thing ever: Depeche Mode cover band DMK on YouTube

There are some days that just seem surreal…and I tend to want to embrace that feeling. I was having one of those days when I came across DMK, a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogota, Columbia. They just took “surreal” to a whole new level. And my view of the world became instantly brighter.

This cover band is unlike any other I have seen. I am obsessed. I’ll admit that I find these videos slightly disturbing for some reason, which I cannot seem to name. But their slightly disturbing nature is part of their appeal. You just need to watch.

The leader singer is a Columbian dad named Dicken Schrader and he has some serious skills. Schrader’s band is comprised of his children, Milah and Korben. Some of their instruments include; keyboards, kazoo, tambourine, soda bottles, beer cans, baby rattles, and chocolate mix cans.

I like to think that this is what happens when children watch less television and spend more time with their parents. They seem to be having a lot of fun together.

Everything Counts: Yes…Korben is playing a metal mixer and cheese grater. He looks like a deer in headlights and, when I first watched, I was certain he could not keep it together. But his timing is spot on.

Strangelove: Yes…those are metal binder clips Milah is attaching to her dad’s face. The play on the word “pain” somehow seems very wrong, but in just the right way.

Shake the Disease: It does appear as if dad might be sporting a bit of a hangover this time, but it doesn’t seem to affect his timing. Yes…Milah is playing scissors and a spray bottle. It does appear there is clear liquid in the spray bottle. And the traveling gnome in the corner is like the cherry on top.

Absolute perfection.

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The Perfect Playlist for Changing Your Life (Part II)

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

To read the first part of this post, visit The Perfect Playlist for Changing Your Life (Part I). As the title suggest, this playlist is the perfect soundtrack for taking action, taking chances and taking charge of your own destiny. Also, the songs are pretty catchy if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

8. “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked: This is the ultimate feel-good, do-your-own-thing, break-all-the-rules anthem. Plus it’s from a musical and thus a perfect sing-along. “Something has changed within me / Something is not the same / I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game / Too late for second guessing / Too late to go back to sleep / It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap / It’s time to try defying gravity / … / And you won’t bring me down” Aaand goosebumps. Yeah, obstacles, you WON’T bring me down. So there.

 

LIKE SO.

9. “I Woke Up In A Car” by Something Corporate: “Here I am, well here I am / … / I’ve never been so lost, I’ve never felt so much at home / Please write my folks and throw away my keys / I woke up in a car.” This song is about the freedom and clarity that can arise from aimlessness, which I definitely need to hear about at this juncture. Plus it’s really fun to dance to, and it’s impossible to worry when you’re dancing with the appropriate level of enthusiasm. (In case you’re wondering, the appropriate level of enthusiasm when dancing is AS ENTHUSIASTIC AS YOU CAN BE.)

 

10. “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine: In which Florence reminds me that you can’t really control what happens, so just get ready to roll with the punches and take chances. All you can do is open yourself up to the world and let the experiences wash over you. “And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t / So here’s to drinks in the dark, at the end of my rope / And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope / It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat / … / But what the hell, I’m gonna let it happen to me, yeah”

 

11. “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons: The Cave was nominated for Record Of The Year at the 2012 Grammys, and it’s easy to hear why—it’s hard to resist screaming along that “I’LL FIND STRENGTH IN PAIN” and “I WILL CHANGE MY WAYS!” Anthemic and singable, this song isn’t to be missed. “But I need freedom now and I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be…”

 

12. “Dancing with a Gun” by Jack’s Mannequin: Dancing with a gun sounds like a fairly dangerous pursuit, but no guts, no glory. Like all the songs in this collection, “Dancing with a Gun” urges the listener to bust out of the comfort zone and take action, however uncertain the outcome. “Sometimes we’re stuck, most times we’re drifting / But tonight let’s move / … / You’re dancing with a gun / Your hands are shaking / Just take another shot in the dark / Don’t keep your safety on…”

 

Ah, the open road.

13. “Boston” by Augustana: This one’s a little melodramatic, but fitting nonetheless. The protagonist of this piano-rock ditty seeks the comfort of anonymity and a fresh start, which is an appropriate theme for a Change Your Life playlist: “I think I’ll start a new life / I think I’ll start it over / where no one knows my name…” As a bonus, the song is lovely.

 

BONUS. “The Motto” by Drake feat. Lil Wayne: Drake didn’t really fit musically into this collection of songs, but I couldn’t resist throwing this song in as a bonus track. It’s a rap song, not a ballad or anthem, but it’s a good one to have in your back pocket when you need to put a little attitude in your step. I certainly do every now and then. Use in case of self-confidence emergency: “You only live once, that’s the motto / … / **** what anybody say / Can’t see ‘em ‘cause the money in the way” …WHAT’S UP. The bass line will have you feeling like a champion in no time. (If you’re interested, you can read more about how bass can affect your mood.)

 

Well, that’s all the songs I have. Armed with this playlist and determination, I’m off into the great unknown to forge my path on this big blue orb. I’ll keep you posted.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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The Perfect Playlist for Changing Your Life (Part I)

Note: You can find this and all my other playlists on Spotify by using the post titles as search terms.

Sometimes you have to make a change, and for me that time is one week from now. I won’t go into details because I don’t really know the details yet, but suffice it to say I’m gearing up to make some major life changes (geographical and otherwise) and my future is totally open-ended. On the one hand, I know through and through that I need to shake things up and open myself to new experiences. On the other hand, change can be daunting and, if I’m totally honest, a little terrifying. I flip on a momentary basis between excitement and fear, and as the date approaches I’m finding the anticipation to be rather exhausting. Luckily, I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing that music flowing through my headphones can’t make a little easier, so I’ve combed through my library of tunes to find the gems that will help me navigate uncertain waters with optimism and joy and certainty that I’m doing the right thing. Without further ado, I give you The Perfect Playlist for Changing Your Life (Part I):

1. I’m Ready by Jack’s Mannequin: As the title suggests, this is a song about being READY. A strict interpretation indicates that the singer is ready to end a relationship, but this can also apply to making a change in general. I especially love the way this song starts, with the spoken line “And today was a day just like any other.” In a way, this reminds me of why I’m going for broke: I don’t want today, and the next day, and the next day to be just like any other. The rest of the lyrics are a mantra that I need to keep repeating until I believe it: “I’m ready / I’m ready to drop / I’m ready / I’m ready so don’t stop / Keep pushing, I’m ready to fall / Don’t stop, I’m already gone.”

2. No Such Thing by John Mayer: A common theme of this playlist is the assertion that one must forge his or her own path, ignoring preset notions of how to live your life and creating your own destiny. This theme is the core message of Mayer’s hit, with lyrics like “I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.” Amen, John!

3. Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield: This song is a definitive call to action with the most upbeat melody you could hope to find. Singing along makes me feel like I’m on top of the world and I can’t wait to embrace whatever’s next. “Reaching for something in the distance / So close you can almost taste it / Release your inhibitions / Feel the rain on your skin / No one else can feel it for you / … / Live your life with arms wide open / Today is where your book begins / The rest is still unwritten.” In other words, uncertainty is an essential part of an adventurous existence and today is the first day of the rest of my life. If it rained more than twice a year in California, I’d be inspired to go feel it on my skin right now.

4. Live Like We’re Dying by Kris Allen: A little on the nose, but I’m not looking for lyrical subtlety here. Kris Allen has essentially the same message as Ms. Bedingfield, but he’s a little more morbid about it, citing mortality as motivation to live in a meaningful way. At the end of the day, can you think of any better motivation? This song will always give me a kick if I need one. Also, death is pretty scary, so it makes moving away seem a lot less scary by comparison. Key inspirational lyric: “So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would have done?” [Incidentally, another song with the same message is “Hey Hey Hey, We’re All Gonna Die” by Jack’s Mannequin, but I already have far too many Jack’s songs on this playlist. If you want a shortcut to perpetual inspiration, you can stop reading this now and just buy their three albums—I won’t take it personally. On that note, on to another one…]

5. People, Running by Jack’s Mannequin: “We are only chemical and skin barely strapped in for this air-conditioned drive / We are tired of waiting, still we stand in line / … / You drift in no direction so it seems / That we are just these people running around / And I am in no hurry to figure it out / … / I think we’re learning that the answers never come / … / Just watch the people run.” This lyrical commentary on the absurdity of human pursuits is very existentialist, which to me is a comforting belief system. If you accept the premise that everything is inherently meaningless, you can’t possibly get it wrong as long as you indulge your whims and desires; the lack of inherent meaning gives you freedom to create your own. So, in my interpretation of existentialism, the locus of control is placed firmly with the individual and calls for a rejection of external ideals and…Oops, I’m waxing philosophical. Back to the music.

6. Why Georgia by John Mayer: This track documents Mr. Mayer’s “quarter-life crisis,” to which I can relate whole-heartedly. “I am tempted to keep the car in drive and leave it all behind / Cause I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still-verdictless life / Am I living it right?” He perfectly captures the melancholy of monotony and reminds me that I’m not alone in my need to examine and take control of my life direction.

7. I’m Movin’ On by Rascal Flatts: Self-explanatory: “I’m movin’ on / At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me / And I know there’s no guarantees, but I’m not alone / There comes a time in everyone’s life / When all you can see are the years passing by / And I have made up my mind that those days are gone.” I can’t listen to this song without getting emotional, but I’m not afraid of a few tears. Or, okay, a lot of tears.

 

I’m already a bit of  an emotional wreck putting this together, and I’m only half done, so it’s time for an intermission. If you’re still in one piece and ready for the rest, continue with Part II of the Perfect Playlist for Changing Your Life.

 

-Benevolent Siren

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