music- my way

My promised post about my music consumption online is finally ready.
The times/places of music listening determine the formats that I listen to;
On my way to the train I listen to my mp3 player, and on the train I listen to either my mp3 player or tracks on my computer.
At home I listen to records.
In the car I listen to CD’s.

In terms of music I have a browsing method of finding music that I like. Surprisingly enough for these days I actually do buy music, after years of only downloading I started buying vinyl about 2 or 3 years ago. One of the cool things with vinyl (aside from great big pictures, and the act of putting a record on) is that it now comes with a free download coupon inside the vinyl, so you can get the digital version too. the wierd thing is that as yet I haven’t used one of them.

The process I go through in terms of discovery and acquisition goes something like this;
1. consistently browsing pitchfork and the mp3 blogs that I read (on my iGoogle page).
2. If I hear something that I like (or that I have downloaded from an mp3 blog) or read about something with a high score/from an artist I really like, I see if it is on Rhapsody.
3. If its on Rhapsody I put it on my mp3 player and listen to it a while, until I decide if I want to buy it. If it isn’t on Rhapsody and I still like the track that I’ve heard I’ll go to Myspace and try to hear some more, or I’ll go to the Hypemachine and see if it on any other blogs and try to download more.
4. if it’s a band that I’ve heard, I want to buy an album of but I’m not sure of which one, I’ll go to amazon and look at the reviews and see which one I think is best.
5. Once I’ve been through this process and I have an idea of what I want to purchase, I look on ebay for older stuff, and if its new releases I tend to buy from the us (cheaper with the $ value, and cheaper anyway), my personal favourite being insound.

This is a fairly constant process of iteration, so I can be on top of the “next big thing”, because as with all hobbies/passions there is a joy in outgeeking your peers. I always enjoy telling my friends about new bands/factoids, or making a mixtape for them. One service that may make this process a lot more cohesive for me is something like Last.fm (a friend of mine works for them, and is a true evangelist). The problem is that I don’t use iTunes (except for making mix cd’s); vinyl isn’t digital, Rhapsody doesn’t get indexed and a random collection of mp3’s are not expansive enough to collate. So my music listening remains unclassified without a central point to manage it digitally. This is not the end of the world for me, I enjoy the process that I go through, but I can understand how a pandora or last.fm would allow you through the wisdom of crowds to find music that you like more effectively.

I wanted to also take a look at the major channels that I consume, see what I liked and disliked about them, and what could be done to improve the service;

pitchfork
pitchfork is the premier indie music website. It has a monthly readership of 1.5MM unique users, and has included a section which gives trial mp3’s, videos and streaming tracks It has recently launched a tv channel (pitchfork.tv).
Strengths
I like it for telling me which albums are coming out (even though their reviews are often a little florid), I really like the q & a with artists and music “gossip” (which includes upcoming gigs). Good seo on review pages means that they often come up top when searching for albums (I was in a record store last week, and could search it in on my blackberry)
Weaknesses
Snarky editorial tone may not appeal. Navigation is very flat, it all happens on the homepage which is then indexed according to age, it doesn’t go into different channels. They could do a lot more with their advertising, I saw them pushing Adsense ads, when they could be doing great things with the demographic they reach (its impossible to find this demographic on tv these days)
Opportunities
I am surprised that they haven’t tried to launch some kind of community around the site, I think that they inspire a committed kind of music nerd, and as soon as there is more of a reason to come back to the site (even if its just to see how someone has commented on your initial comments) it brings more traffic and ad revenues. as yet I haven’t got involved in their new pitchfork.tv offering, but it seems a little backwards to me, more of a “push strategy” when they have content available for a certain period of time, rather than having an ability to search through it. Its early days yet.

Myspace
i don’t go to myspace very often. I use it if there is a link to a Myspace exclusive, free tracks to download from someone’s myspace or to check up on gig dates or maybe explore who someone is in a little more detail (if there isn’t a lot of pr about, also the blog posts could be interesting)
strengths
good showcase of a single act, listen to tracks, watch videos and find out more about their band aside from just hearing the songs
weaknesses
I’m probably not the first one to say that myspace is extremely chaotic. The design is cluttered and there are too many distracting elements
Opportunities
Myspace is well known for their music coverage, but they could do a little more to leverage it (especially considering their reach); a Myspace music widget that streams all my favourite choices, some form of recommendation; “you like this, you might like this”. To me it seems like the product hasn’t developed very far since being acquired by news corp, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good, just that it hasn’t moved.

Music/mp3 blogs
I read a number of music blogs on a fairly regular basis. Some of them concentrate on a specific genre, some only on cover versions; most are imbued with the writer’s personality and tastes. The average post talks about a specific track or album and gives you one track to download and listen to. These are often pre release, or new releases and mostly illegal. As they are hobbyists there is a degree of enthusiasm, and non professionalism/lack of editing which I find refreshing. Some blogs have grown significantly over the last while, so they have essentially become part of the “establishment”. Stereogum has begun these projects where they get popular artists to cover classic albums (bjork-post, rem- new adventures in hifi) to provide full covered albums, gorilla vs bear puts on live shows, and music-for-robots makes compilation cds and clothing.
Strengths
There are so many of them, get pre-release tracks, you get an opinion
Weaknesses
Posting can be erratic, doesn’t fit with a
Opportunities
I’m not sure what the opportunities are for music blogging. I think that the fact that they are so small and not part of a larger organisation is part of their charm, people like AOL have tried to get involved, but it doesn’t have them same feel, i think the MP blogs are destined to be best as they are.

Rhapsody
I love Rhapsody. I think it’s the future of digital music consumption. You search for something and they have all the albums, nice clean design, a short review/info and a useful suggestion tool. Im not sure if the person-in-the-street is ready for using only a subscription program, I think ownership of a product is still important (but for the price, $10/month forever you could never accumulate enough music).
Strengths
Huge array of content, cheap cost/ song, ease of use
Weaknesses
Doesn’t appeal to the casual music consumer, non-ownership is scary.
Opportunity
Like I said earlier, I think rhapsody is the future of music consumption; its key usp I think is the ease of use and depth of content (I don’t have a sonos, but apparently that’s the way to go)

Anyway enough talking about music, here’s a muxtape of current favourites to keep you happy…

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