Thursday, 31 October 2013

The beauty of the internet; where music and technology meet


I recently discovered Massive Open Online Courses, or 'Moocs'. These are free online courses delivered by academic institutions and available for all to consume.

Over 7 weeks, I had the immense pleasure of watching Professor John Covach (University of Rochester) explore 'The History of Rock Music'. Part of the appeal for me was discovering all of these old rock n' roll bands that I might never have found out about.

Now, despite the canonised tour of rock music through the ages, copyright law meant that no music was played in the video lectures. John notes the ease of hunting down the music cited online as a viable substitute. This is what I want to talk about.

Firstly though, and importantly, I love making playlists and compilations. I have almost 400 playlists on my i-Tunes. Most are expanded versions of my favourite albums, with b-sides and live cuts, etc. I take immense pleasure in putting them together. It's one of my hobbies.

As the online course moved from Bing Crosby to The Beatles via BB King, etc., I pledged to put together some stellar playlists. And so I did. But, not without a little help from my friends...

Someone else, a chap called Rick Leanord who I will never meet or get to thank, took the liberty of putting together Spotify playlists of all of the songs mentioned in each video; week by week. I couldn't believe it. Now, I have recently moved from Spotify to Deezer to fulfil my music discovery needs and thought 'what now?'. Well..

A few clicks and I was stunned to learn how easily it was to copy playlists from Spotify to Deezer. As in, super simple stuff. And, with a premium Deezer account on my phone... I'm up and running with hundreds of songs spanning some 70 decades of rock music. On demand. Whenever I want. No big thing? Let's back track.

The Process

For free, I was treated to a distinguished Professor teaching me all about the History of Rock.

For free, a selfless Spotify user collated the music cited on the video lectures to playlists.

For free, I used software to copy the playlists to another subscription service.

For free, I can listen to these playlists on this service (Deezer).

The Outcome

I am now in a position where I have a staggering volume of recorded music at my fingertips. It not only cost me zero pence, but virtually no time at all. Along the way, an untold amount of people I don't know (and don't know me) made this possible. It's unbelievable.

Concluding remarks

Accessing music has never been easier, or cheaper. It's everywhere. You don't even need to be particularly savvy online to find it. People take it for granted, but remember, the internet is not some living organism but a tool which allows people to come together in creative ways. It's people who post that YouTube video about how to wire a plug.

People help other people, they always have; they are social creatures. People love music; it's a social phenomenon. The case study above is illustrative of the beauty of the internet when music and technology come together; and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 25 October 2013

Recommended Journals #3 'Convergence'

Continuing the new series of recommended Journals, this entry concerns the excellent multidisciplinary publication 'Convergence'. Like the previous recommendations, Convergence also published a special issue ('Special issue on online piracy') which was the subject of a previous blog entry here. Dating back to just February 2013, this is one of the most recent special issues.

Published via Sage, the Journal includes articles 'ahead of print'. One of the perks of publishing in the digital era, this allows research to be widely read before it is formally printed in the paper versions (and digital versions) of the actual Journals. Linking back to the first blog entry in this series, this relatively speedy process represents one of the main benefits of publishing in Journals over books - the speed with which you can get your research out there.

Convergence will be of interest to anyone with a general interest in technology, with articles exploring a variety of issues exploring the impact of new media technologies.

Check it out.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

'Official bootlegs'

Further to a previous blog entry 'Is bootlegging piracy?', this short entry explores 'official bootlegs'.

What's an official bootleg? Well, it's essentially a fancy word for a live album. Nothing more. It's a clever fancy word though (think 'b-sides') beyond being an oxymoron as it conjures up ideas of illegitimacy.

Pearl Jam are the market leader in the land of official bootlegs, making high-quality recordings of live shows available to fans since their 2000 Binaural tour. That is, EVERY show (with a few exceptions) can be listened to by fans. Think of how awesome that is, especially if you were at the show (Indeed, I picked up official bootlegs of the 2012 Manchester shows I was at for that very awesome reason).

Pearl Jam, as a live band, essentially capitalised on the fact that fans were trading unofficial bootlegs of their shows by offering them high-quality audio recordings of their shows at a relatively low price. Now trading in digital recordings, Pearl Jam offer even more reasonable prices for these recordings (hence why I bought digital bootlegs and not physical ones, with expensive USA to UK shipping. TRIVIA: This was the first digital song/album I bought and for this reason alone).

There hasn't been much research into official bootlegs, where the most relevant articles are discussed in this article. Importantly, they offer bands a way to advertise themselves in a live context; provide a means for fans to re-live their live concert experiences and presents an additional source of revenue for artists.

They are a good thing - for everyone.

As such, it's no coincidence that more and more bands are monetising recordings of live shows (check out Tori Amos' Spotify profile), with some even including purchases immediately after the show.

Will it roll out into common practice in the future?

We shall see (or hear...).

Tweets @musicpiracyblog