Paid Music Downloads Increased in 2008

There’s an encouraging article at WebProNews entitled Online Music Purchases Increase. It appears that digital music consumers were willing to pay for music in 2008. So while we can all lament the demise of giant record labels and massive blockbuster releases, the independent artist may be better off. Here are some interesting points from the article:

  • The number of people buying music online increased by 8 million people, for a total of 36 million, in 2008
  • 13 million fewer buyers of music in the US last year
  • Online social networks are playing an increasingly important role in shaping music listening. (duh)

Check it out if you feel like it…

Ha ha ha. Or, I like your style…

This brief post is just a late-night acknowledgment. I noticed an email I’d gotten a long time ago back when I was trying to actively review other people’s music but ended up having very little time to actually do so. This guy had sent me a review of one of his band’s songs and it rubbed me the right way as I read over it tonight. Here it is:

Song: Wasted Time by The Dead Letters

Listen, motherf*ckers, prepare to have your shit rocked. Oh damn, is that a quietly building loop? Fuck that is genius, IS THAT REVERSED? Hold on to your seathole, because that’s not weak-ass Chan Marshall, that’s f*cking Ashley Bullock, aka BullROCK. Listen to those lyrics! Thoughtful as a motherf*cker. 

OH SNAP! Is that a guitar/bass break? Yes, you pussy, that is. We don’t fuck around with weak ass shit, we go straight – BUILDING, SLOWLY BUILDING. I AM SO PUMPED RIGHT NOW! – to the ROCK OOOOH WA AH AH AH.

Now that you’ve been skullf*cked by this masterpiece, you best be snifflin. You’re right, that WAS the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard in your life!

Tell your friends. If they can handle it.

The Greatest Song In The World

My comments:

What got my attention before I’d even listened to the song was the line: “Is that a guitar/bass break? Yes, you pussy, that is.” I just love how direct and antagonistic it’s trying to be, given how asburd the use of “p*ssy” here is in the context of someone’s reaction to a bridge in a song. 

The “marketing” of the song is probably the most interesting thing about it here. From the writer’s tone you’d think the song was this over-the-top melodrama that tries to destroy the listener. I was pretty surprised that it turned out to be a melancholic, introspective haze, because that’s pretty much the opposite of the review’s attitude. So that was disappointing.

The song is thoughtful and captures a mood of youthful indie rock revery, but I wouldn’t consider it for “greatest song in the world”, as the writer refers to it, because I don’t really think of it as a song, more of a state of mind or something. The words are not entirely intelligible and I couldn’t find lyrics on their website. That doesn’t bother me, really. Production a little too sparse on the build, meaning the orchestration wasn’t full enough to back the force it was striving for.

I like the vocals, makes me think of the film character Juno, but a kind of deteriorated version of her that got detentions and practiced harmless forms of vandalism. Or Mazzy Starr in high school, getting pissed at boys who can’t hear how beautiful her voice is because she won’t sing to them, and she just walks past them in the hallways in a dark-colored hoodie with a silver metallic zipper down the middle. 

The intro section is very Godspeed You Black Emperor, which I like too.

Anyway, thanks to the Dead Letters for their song. Best of luck!

Don’t Confuse Technology with Marketing

Or: Don’t Confuse Supply with Demand

The use of music marketing technology is not in and of itself an act of music marketing

In my own errant quest to get people to hear my music (and pay me for it), I’ve made an understandable but large mistake. I thought that by using the millions of digital music distribution tools out there, one of them would “stick”, and I’d somehow move forward.

Typical thought process: “If I put my music on MySpace, Reverb Nation, Facebook, etc., then set up my own site and embed my music download widgets everywhere, put it on iTunes and Rhapsody, etc. with Tunecore, blah blah blah, then something’s gotta happen.” Well, I was wrong. Putting a shingle out there with your name on it may be called “marketing”, but it’s so passive that it doesn’t really even qualify.

Why I Could Not Sell My Music

I became more interested in the means of delivery than the process of actively winning someone over with my music. It’s easy to find the details of technology interesting and consuming when the daunting tasks of real success are terrifying. 

This train of thought was spawned tonight by a musician who asked what I thought of Audiolife, a company I hadn’t heard of but which offers another turnkey solution for indie musicians to create embedded widgets of their music and merchandise. 

Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees

With sites like Nimbit, Musicane, and from the looks of it, Audiolife, you can have some great technology that allows any crappy musician to have some incredible tools to conduct all sorts of online “business”. And since my interest in music marketing has morphed primarily into the tech side of things, I can really appreciate these turnkey, embeddable solutions that people are putting out. Each empowers artists like never before, in different ways. From my very brief scan of Audiolife’s site, they look to be similar. They’ve extended the functionality ever further, but still depend on artists to actually sell things to make their money. They operate on a commission basis, meaning if artists aren’t selling music and merchandise, then Audiolife doesn’t make any money.

If We’re All Starring in Our Own TV Shows, Who’s at Home to Watch Us?

My general “feeling” is that the entire model is a losing enterprise.  In my narrow experience, no one wants to pay for music anymore, and no one cares about the merchandise of some unknown artist. Especially in today’s era of American Idol and Facebook, where everyone wants to and can be a celebrity in their own way. A company like Audiolife may be able to stay in business by taking a tiny piece of a tiny piece from the millions of amateur musicians out there. But for these amateur musicians, whether they choose Audiolife, Nimbit, or Santa Clause isn’t going to change the lack of demand for their “products”.

The Question to Now Ask Yourself

Can you can create demand sufficient enough to warrant the time and energy in setting up an online merch widget?

Update: Revenue Model Abandoned?

I just went to Musicane‘s website, and noted that they now have generic banner ads on their site. Which tells me that their revenue model isn’t working. The ads are for auto insurance and checking your credit scores. This smells of desperation. I can relate. But encouraging people to leave their site isn’t going to improve their business. In my opinion…

Axl Rose, Guns N Roses, and Chinese Democracy – Part I

I’ve been listening a lot to Chinese Democracy, the product of Axl Rose’s 17-year stint as a psychopathic hermit in Malibu. I’ve been a huge GNR fan since the 5th grade of elementary school (1986 I think?), so I’ve been looking forward to this forever. In 1999 or 2000, my then-girlfriend sent me a copy of an article in Rolling Stone where Axl talked about how the “new” album was just about ready for release. It seems that the world wasn’t yet ready for Chinese democracy.

Chinese Creativity
Axl’s creative life itself seems to be a good metaphor for Chinese democracy. Pretend to be open to other ideas, while being so paranoid that you either imprison those around you or drive them away. Back in the GNR heyday, he reportedly refused to go onstage before a concert until the entire band signed over the rights to the Guns N Roses name. Which is why he can still call himself Guns N Roses while Slash has to form a toolish band called Velvet Revolver. WTF?!

Executions On-the-Go
China allegedly still operates “mobile execution units,” vans that drive around and euthanize so-called criminals. This makes it harder for citizens to track the events, and perhaps reduces the psychological impact of executing thousands of people per year. The fact that the Chinese government banned the album Chinese Democracy shows the ridiculous truth, that their government is pathetically paranoid. Next time I’m in Shanghai, I’ll be wondering whether the van driving past is a euthanasia-mobile, or if the Falon Gong is somewhere being tortured.

Continue reading “Axl Rose, Guns N Roses, and Chinese Democracy – Part I”

8pm – Screwmaker’s Mid-Evening Crisis

It’s 8pm, do you know where your children are? 

If your child is Anthony Mena, well then, he’s having an existential crisis somewhere. But don’t worry, it appears that the forces of tranquility will prevail over his darker impulses. 

Listen to the Song – 8pm

What Does Screwmaker say about his song? 
“ScrewMaker? What the hell is a ScrewMaker? Who the hell are these dorks? Sounds like some kinda statement on how people go do the 9-5, buy another large screen TV, buy another SUV, drink beer, watch TV, get manipulated by the mass media, blippity-blah-blah-blah. Whatever…

And what’s with the drums? like the world needs more bombastic, in your face, tear your headoff, driving and crashing and burning drum loops and other programming crap?

And then those guitars that seem to come in now and again, like the guitar gods decided to fall out of the ether to smash you upside your head or something before they head back to their netherworld. Stupid !!!

Tickity-tock… Tickity-tock… Damn synthesizer arpeggios! Stupid lame ass synth pads and stuff! Next thing I know, I’m on some introspective journey. Who the hell needs to go there?

Oh yeah, and when it slows down you feel all contemplative and like you start thinking about your life and your place in the world and all this other “inner journey” crap. It’s like watching a movie or something. Don’t need it. Don’t want to go there.”

What the Music Snob says about all that…

Well. This guy speaks poorly of his art, but we can only hope that he is nice to his music students! Or maybe he makes his living putting together very competent electronic music, and has grown to hate it. Either way, we don’t really believe his faux self-hatred. The guy knows what he’s doing with his gadgets and that comes across in his music. The production is really nice, and the song has a good flow to it.

I gotta admit that I’m not generally a huge fan of this style of instrumental electronic music, nor do I know a lot about it. But given that it’s on YouLicense with a bunch of his other tracks, my guess is that its intended purpose is slightly different than a regular “song” written for performance would be. 

While we don’t know what a “Screwmaker” is and can only infer that it’s a job for midgets in some factory where they produce tiny metal nuts and bolts all day long, the name seems to accord with his music, a tangle of metallic and digital forces twisting through each other in time. 8pm is really kind of upbeat, particularly when the choral-like synthesizer refrain plays a decending figure that moves from 8 to 1 and keeps going down as it fades…

The electric guitar that comes in is just, well, over the top. As he describes it, the gods smashing you upside the head. 

Reminds me of

Run Lola Run. The circus. Heavenly baths with cherubic virgins. Check it.

Meta Music Reviews – Reviews of Musicians Reviewing their Music

The Music Snob is now introducing meta-reviews to this fine cyberworld. While some of you may have an idea of what this is, and it may in fact exist in many locations elsewhere, I can’t be bothered to seek out and destroy these other locations, or even inquire as to their existence, and so, according to this blog, is now premiering the “meta music review”.

What is a meta music review?

A commentator’s review of a musician’s commentary on his own music.

*Note: they can also be a musician’s review of a commentator’s review of his music. But we will be focusing largely on the former for now.

Why are meta music reviews worthwhile?

  • Meta reviews depend on musicians to think and evaluate their own music, and communicate something about it with words
  • Having musicians review their own music will foster creative and musical dialog
  • Meta reviews will bring humor and insight to the creative process
  • Meta reviews will force us to discover some new music and consider new creative ideas and perspectives


Stay tuned for the first of our meta music reviews. Bear in mind that these depend on the quality of music review submissions we receive, so 


How to Book a Music Tour –

I just came across a great site called Indie on the Move.


What is Indie on the Move?

The site is a free database of booking information for music venues across the US, designed to help bands book tours.

Booking a Music Tour Just Got Easier

  • The information is helpful and to-the-point. Contact info and booking tips.
  • The site design is very visual, making it easy and pleasant to find what you’re looking for.

Nice job on the site, guys. This is akin to what I was hoping to start with the Music Snob venue wiki, but this site has better information in a more visually pleasing way.

Music Licensing and Corrupt Music – A New Way to Sell Out

Yesterday’s New York Times has an interesting discussion on the detrimental effects of music licensing on the creation of music itself.

The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won’t be as memorable or independent.

There are plenty of good points brought up over the tricky relationship between commerce and art. It’s a perennial problem that’s manifesting itself in new ways given the shifts in the music industry.

Licensing hasn’t changed how or why I write music, but I have never made any money from licensing.

It seems to me that anything that can be corrupted will be corrupted, but that’s not necessarily terrible. There will always be a new generation of uncorrupted artists, ready to throw themselves off the cliff. I am generally concerned, though, about the increased branding and marketing of everything in this life.

As we seek a perpetually higher standard of living, how can people make more money without increasing the amount of things they sell to other people?

What do you think? Check out the article.

The Perfect Headphones for the Musician In-Transit

One of my favorite possessions in the entire world is my pair of
Bose® QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones

These headphones have totally improved my quality of life. Gone are the days in college when I would dedicate long nights to hanging out and listening to music. Since I’m so busy now, most of my real music listening occurs while I’m in transit. Taking public transportation without a book to read or music to listen to can be a real bore. But getting these headphones has changed my attitude toward commuting entirely.

#5 – Perfect Headphones for Commuting

I live part-time in NYC and part-time in CT, and spend a lot of time on Greyhound buses going back and forth. Buses are loud, the people can be obnoxious, and all I ever really want to do is pretend that I’m not on a bus surrounded by people disturbing my peace. These headphones have made it such that I look forward to taking the bus, just so I can have some alone time with my latest music finds that I want to get to know better.

#4 – Reduce Hearing Damage

In New York City, it seems that pretty much everyone owns an iPod, and insists on listening to it at full volume on the subways. Not only are they damaging the hell out of their ears but they’re polluting the audio environment around them. I hate that. I don’t understand how people can enjoy music that’s so damn loud. It’s like they want their morning commute to mimic the weekend’s trip to a club.

We all prefer our music loud, and when the external noises are already loud, we gotta jack the volume just to hear the song. iPod users all over with the standard earbuds I’m sure must be totally wrecking their hearing. It makes me cringe every time I see / hear someone totally destroying their ears just so they can hear a crappy song on the subway.

With the Bose noise canceling headphones, I love just sitting on the train, adding whatever soundtrack to my day that I want to my day, in the sealed off, comfortable listening environment over my ears.

#3 – Sleep Easier
Even when I’m not listening to music, I often leave the noise cancelling headphones on. This is super useful on the bus, for example, when it’s a long ride ahead, they’re showing a loud movie on the TVs, and passengers around you are annoyingly energetic. I just flip the switch and zone out, as it cuts a bunch of the background right out of your ears. Wake up in my destination, wondering how long I slept. 

#2 – Make Plane Flights Bearable

The background noise on airplanes is so ridiculous. It’s impossible to enjoy the auditory experiences that correspond with flying somewhere. These Quiet Comfort Bose headphones helped me sleep for 15 hours straight on a flight to Cambodia. It was divine!

#1 – Give the World Your Own Soundtrack

The best reason, though, for using these headphones is because you can color your world however you want. Just put on music for whatever mood strikes you. No need to get stressed out by loud machines at a construction site, or deal with background garbage. Now you can decide what kind of world you live in. If you are sad, make it sad. If you want it to be happy, make it happy. 

One of my fondest memories is of walking around Seville, Spain for days, listening to OK Computer in this way. Music tied to life has so much power, as we can see every time we go to the movies.

Check them out:

Bose® QuietComfort® 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones

Review Your Own Music!

The doctors in our music snob laboratory tell me that we need to mix things up a bit here and try to steer ourselves further off the cliff. So we’ve decided to try something new here at TheMusicSnob.


The Music Snob Challenge
We want musicians to write reviews of their own music. But not boring reviews. And no reviews of famous music. Just unknowns, the guys/girls stranded in Lodi America, maintaining awful MySpace profiles and checking Craigslist.

Here’s the deal.

Write a review of one of your own songs

Make sure it’s either funny, terrible, or inspiring

Include as much ridiculousness and absurdity as possible

Send it to us.

If we think it’s snobbish, terrible, or humorous enough we will post it here…

Get crackin and submit your songs!