Visit Plague Music on Turntable.fm

I haven’t been quiet about being addicted to loving Turntable.fm.  I took a break from Turntable for about a week, only to be reminded how awesome a platform it is when I came back.  The ability to see immediate feedback to the songs you play is almost better than DJ’ing at an actual club or party where some people go and dig the music, but never get up and dance, preferring to socialize.  It’s hands-down better than other platforms or methods for hosting or broadcasting music to other people.  It provides a more direct line of communication and feedback than a podcast, SHOUTcast stream or Blip.fm and is a great way for musicians to play their music and directly interact with their fans and get a response.  After our listening party earlier this week for the new Raygun Girls album, we’ve been trying to think up ways to do something similar again.

Why not a regular Plague Music room?  We could use it for any live events or just hang out and play some tunes.  You can come see what we’re up to by visiting the Plague Music Netlabel room.  If you’d like to DJ and all the slots are full, you can sign up on our DJ list and we’ll make sure you get in there.  It’s likely to be slow going at first as we gather momentum, but we’re hoping to keep this as a regular feature and staff it every Friday (if not other days during the week).  So stop by and see what’s going on.  If you have an event you’d like us to host in our room, or you are an artist and would like us to play your tracks, give us a shout.

Turntable.fm: A place for DJs, wannabe-DJs, music snobs, and — interestingly enough — musicians to hang out

I’ve been playing on turntable.fm for the last couple weeks.  I’ve been on the site so much that if my wife sees a window with a funky red curtain that looks like a cartoon version of the White Lodge in Twin Peaks (enough that I expect a dancing midget to start talking backwards at me at any minute) with a bunch of bobbing cat, bear, kid and, occasionally huge gorilla avatars, she will give me a look and start complaining about how much time I spend on the site and avoiding work.

If the room names are any indication (a quick glance might give you Indie While You Work, Indie While You Don’t Work, Indie While You Shirk Work, Music to Code By, etc.) there’s a lot of people avoiding work on turntable together.  A lot.  In the last month, it seems, the site has exploded.  Not only in the number of users — with the profiles feature they rolled out earlier this week you can see how long a user has been on the site, many of them under a week — but in news and posts around the blogosphere.  Turntable is, as they say, the new thing, all the while playing nice by the rules of the DMCA (following the same guidelines that Pandora and other streaming radio services need to comply with in the States).

Turntable works for a couple different reasons, but I won’t go overly into game theory (even though that’s a big part of it).  First of all, music is universal.  ”Do you want to come back to my place to listen to some records?” is the sweater-wearing indie version of “why don’t you stay the night?”  Music communicates on a deep level — deeper than words alone — because we respond emotionally to certain kinds of chords, keys, and progressions.  For a music-o-phile, what’s more fun than having some friends over and playing your latest discoveries at them?

Turntable rewards users by giving them points every time another user hits “awesome” on the built-in Rock-o-Meter, which is displayed prominently under their username, and allows access to new avatars, giving a sense of status and l33tness (this is where game theory comes in).  It also allows users to fan other DJs, alerting them when they are DJing in different rooms and serving as yet another status indicator if you have a lot of fans.

For those of us (myself included) who have or do DJ in real life, turntable offers an opportunity to spin to a live audience, get feedback from the audience (in a way that you wouldn’t on, say Blip.fm) and hang out with other DJs and music fans.  And I think it’s fairly universal that anyone who DJs can’t ever DJ enough, so any excuse to throw on some wax is enough to get us moving in that direction.

There’s an interesting thing, though, about turntable if you make your own music.  You can use the right room, with the right kind of audience, to demo out your music and see what kind of feedback it gets.  I’ve done this myself with my own music and that of musicians I know.  It’s rewarding to throw out a track you contributed to and see heads bobbing indicating that other people are digging it.

I don't know if this exists, but the source this came from said "photo credit: TechCrunch" for what it's worth…

Due to DMCA restrictions, there’s a limit to the number of times a single artist can be played.  However, I’m hopeful that the service will open up to allow artists to contact them directly for listening parties and virtual concerts (in fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing later this month).  For those of us who never leave the house, this is another tool in an artist’s arsenal for spreading your music.  Already I’ve seen recognizable names like Neil Gaiman and Ben Folds headlining popular rooms.  It’s only a matter of time before that spreads and we have a Daft Punk room or a Paul Oakenfold room — assuming they, or someone in their entourage, has time to waste on the site, that is.  Independent artists can use turntable as a promotional tool and netlabels in particular can use it to promote artists on their label and create exclusive live events without the need to book a club.  You can even make a room private and potentially sell access to the room on turntable through your website.

The site is in beta and has some very obvious glitches, particularly in peak hours.  Despite this, it’s addictive as cocaine, sending users into spiraling withdrawal when the site goes down or experiences problems.  The only limitation to access is that you have a friend on Facebook that’s using turntable, which you probably do.  Even if you aren’t a music snob, it’s a great way to be exposed to new artists and new music in much the same way as hanging around in a dorm room and playing records is.

Visit turntable.fm
Register for our Raygun Girls The Taker release party

Google Music: The revolution you’ve been waiting for is (still) not here yet

A month or so back, Google announced its new plan to take over the world: Google Music.  No one was really sure what it did, but it was made by Google and it had something to do with music, so it had to be good right?  Oh, and there was something in there about syncing your Android devices…whatever that means.

Just like when Google said “hey, we’re going to give a whole bunch of people some of our brand-spanking-new ChromeOS tablets that haven’t actually been built yet,” or when they said “hey, we’ve got this new technology called Wave…we’re not really sure what it does, but we want you to test it for us,” I put my email address in the box to sign up for the beta.  Last week, I got my invite.

Here’s what Google Music (presumably) does:

You upload your music to the server (up to 20,000 files for free).  Once there, you can access, stream, and play it from pretty much anywhere.  The application is web-based, so it’s not platform specific (except for the Music Manager tool which runs on your desktop computer and handles the uploading part).  The interface is sparse bordering on unfinished.  The features are limited.  It’s sort of like a simplified iTunes if iTunes was what it was circa version 1 or so.  To be honest, I’ve barely used it, and this is why.

The first problem I had was that I couldn’t sign into the Music Manager application.  It said it didn’t like my password and locked me out.  I decided that this was most likely because my Google Apps password for my email address was different than the password I used for the same email address that I used for my Google identity everywhere else.  However, knowing this didn’t fix the problem.  Eventually, I found a bit of a hack/workaround by using my YouTube screenname (jazzs3quence) and the same password I use for my regular Google identity (which is also used by YouTube). This worked and it turned my YouTube screen name into a Gmail address ([email protected]) — an interesting trick.  A couple days after I figured this out, I got a response to my reported issue to Google saying that it was because my Google Apps account hadn’t migrated over to the new version yet.  I more or less ignored this piece of useless information since I had already managed to get it working.

The second problem may only be a problem for me, which is the 20,000 file upload limit.  Presumably when this thing launches, you’ll be able to upload more for a fee.  I have between 30-40,000 music files, so 20k doesn’t really cut it.  The Music Manager program far from lives up to its name, not really providing a place to manage your music — it does what pretty much every other program of its ilk does, which is let you specify where your music files are stored (or import via your iTunes playlist).  However, if I’m limited to 20k, I’d like to be able to pick what gets uploaded and what doesn’t — the Music Manager doesn’t really offer a good way of doing this other than drilling down your directory tree and individually adding each folder.  Since I let iTunes handle my files, that means I have a separate folder for every artist (as well as artists iTunes doesn’t have a clue about and dumps in Unknown Artist).  Doing that for the equivalent of 20,000 files would be a glorious waste of time.  Once uploaded, you can delete songs, albums, and presumably entire artists from the Google Music interface, but I’m unconvinced that doing so would have any influence over whether that artist got uploaded again after it scanned your collection again and realized you had music by them.   Say I don’t plan on listening to Dizzy Gillespie on the Android device that I don’t actually own, if I delete Dizzy from Google Music, how do I know that Dizzy won’t get uploaded again before, say, Trent Reznor since it exists alphabetically sooner?  The only real way to be sure would be to exclude the Dizzy Gillespie folder, which, as I’ve pointed out, isn’t very manageable with a huge number of artists.

The biggest issue for me, though, came as I was trying to do work.  The Music Manager was chugging along in the background, up to 10,000-something of 30,000-something files, I was listening to iTunes (not Google Music) and trying to code.  I say trying because even though the Notepad++ application I use for coding is tiny, it was straining to do anything.  Alt+TABbing forced me to wait several minutes, and I was increasingly getting the Windows 7 gray screen of death on various windows.  When I finally manged to pull up Task Manager, I found the culprit: Music Manager was sucking up over 90% of my CPU resources.  This is essentially like the midget flame-eater telling the ring leader to step aside, he can take the show from here — screw the clowns.  Once I killed that process, my computer happily went along doing its normal business as if nothing had happened.  It even seemed to flip through windows perkily, like I’d finally been able to find that irritating itch that had been bugging it.  Granted uploading 10,000+ files is fairly excessive, and granted that uploading files at all can be fairly resource-intensive, why a program designed to run in the background can be allowed to use that much of my system resources is astounding.  I started wondering if maybe I had downloaded a virus — instead, the only virus I downloaded was Google Music.

The only positive thing I can say about Google Music is that, after picking your favorite genres from a ridiculously-simplified list of possibilities (for a musicophile like me, anyway) is that Google Music will come pre-loaded with some selections from those selected genres.  However, for the reasons mentioned above (namely having more than 20k files to start with), this really isn’t that helpful, especially considering the inclusion of artists like Cab Calloway (in the Jazz category) and C-40 (in the Hip Hop & Rap category) whom I have little-to-no interest in whatsoever.  (Also included in Rap was Kriss Kross which could be considered a keeper if only for novelty value.)  Meanwhile, checking on my Music Manager informed me that it had made its way to my collection of downloaded audiobooks, which I have absolutely zero interest in actually having on the site when every file counts.

Considering I don’t have an Android device, Google Music has nothing to offer me.  Even if I did, the platform is unappealing and without any features that I would consider essential.  Moreover, there’s nothing that Google Music is doing that couldn’t be done for at least five years or so with a little open source web app I discovered called Ampache, which you could use — with some configuring — to turn your desktop computer into a web server and stream your entire music collection to any device (assuming it could handle Flash, Shoutcast streams, or playlist files).  And since the debut of Ampache (which I discovered sometime around 2005 and it had been in development for several years before that), other things have cropped up that allow you to stream your music (or other files) to various devices like Wiisic, Orb, and dot.tunes, which take care of the server side of things to make it even easier to set up.

So, sorry Google, maybe you’re winning someone over, but I’m unimpressed.  Now get your stupid Music Manager the hell off my system and stop sucking up my processor power.  Thanks.

A new take on digital music

There hasn’t been much on this blog of late.  That’s primarily because, in the topsy-turvy world of Upstart Blogger/Ashley Morgan, there hasn’t been much going on.  Sure I could comment on the 4 different name changes his “record label” has gone through in the past year, or the numerous twists and turns of his Twitter […]

Random Song of the Day #21: HORRORFALL covers KMFDM

Is this a BATTLE of the ALL CAPS BANDS?  Well, maybe, but it’s also a new (and for a limited time, downloadable) track from your favorite indie industrial project from the City of Angels, @HORRORFALL (if they aren’t, they should be).  This was one of the first KMFDM tracks I ever heard (besides, maybe “A Drug Against War“), and HORRORFALL covers it nicely.  Makes me want to fire up the VirtualDJ and start spinning.

HORRORFALL – Juke Joint Jezebel (KMFDM Cover) by colinc