An Alternative Music Review Of 2006

It was a year that saw pop music decline, music sites prosper and a Sheffield act take complete domination; 2006 was a productive year for everyone involved in British music. Bands were reforming & reintroducing themselves, and whilst most collected music awards few gained entrance to the annual Hall Of Fame event at Earls Court. Whether it was on television, on the internet or at festivals all year round bands were propelling themselves towards stardom.

And none other so than the Arctic Monkey’s, headed by Alex Turner, showed how a band could gain national attention; collect the Mercury Prize, and have two no.1 singles all whilst sparking a guitar-rock revival. Their unique take on college-life for a teen gained them a wide audience leading to the no. 1 fastest selling album: ever. And spearheaded by the successes of The Kooks, Snow Patrol, Fratellis and Kasabian they all began to eat away into pop’s inner sanctum – the U.K. Top 40. Aided by the fall of Top Of The Pops and the crumbling of Smash Hits!; overall 2006 was a bad year for pop. Girl groups like Sugababes and Girls Aloud found the shoes were too big to fill, and despite desperate reforms of Take That and All Saints, pop had been struck a belting blow from rock both commercially and nationally in 2006.

In fact the biggest punch may have been by the under-estimated power of the Internet. As Pete Doherty had already exploited with The Libertines the Internet was a powerful tool for communication. Yet the rise and rise of sites like Myspace and YouTube added with the increased use of peer-to-peer illegal software have had just as critical affect on the music scene. On one hand, it was a major gain for unsigned acts who could post free demos online (sound familiar Arctic Monkeys?) in hope of a label catching on. And though the contribution of mp3 players’ sales supplemented the success of “downloading”, more and more people became aware of the phenomenon as the year grew on. Regardless of this, the more negative effect of “downloading” has lead to heavy losses for the four biggest labels (Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner) as people became more selective on what music they listen to in 2006. Yet although counter-measures have been put in place – stricter laws and download charts – at the moment the Internet is winning its battle against the CD. However 2007 will be the only ground to find out whether digital music stays on course and win the war to kill off the CD.

Nevertheless don’t go thinking that 2006 was all doom & gloom, because as the B.P.I. got to work over the summer, the rest of us were out gigging across the whole country. Whether it was at – Oxygen, V Festival, T in the Park, Isle Of Wight or the Carling Weekend – none were short of living up to expectation. Supported by global acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam along with local headliners such as The Who and Kaiser Chiefs, gigging had a whole new meaning in 2006. Furthermore helped by the BBC and MTV, television (and radio) brought yet more extensive coverage for live music as well as for over-seas excursions like Benicassim and SXSW. Nevertheless back in the U.K. bands were touring to their fullest extent, and even Bob Dylan restarted his Never Ending Tour with gig no.1811 through to 1912. Though the sold-out scene of Brixton Academy became as frequent as the number of times Pete Doherty had been in rehab, sites all over the U.K. were to witness new talent spawning from the modern age of music.

In part this has been down to the variety of music that has become more popular throughout the year. “Emo” (short for emotional) defined as “a sub-genre of punk” has become contagious amongst adolescents and whilst parents are alien to it, it is creating real divisions. Fronted by acts like Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance, whom speak of “cut my [their] wrists and black my [their] eyes” talk about the portrayals of love mixed with violent actions. And as well as affecting haircut, appearance and fashion “emo” was not the only genre to have affected us in 2006. Although not as commercial, goth under-went a mini-revival in the form of The Horrors whilst The Klaxons even front lined the creation of their own genre – new rave. The London quartet armed with glow sticks + red bull created havoc inside the Carling Tent at Reading and Leeds, have released four singles on Marok Records even cracking the U.K. top 40 showing just any type of music was breaking into the charts. Yes, it seemed everyone on the alternative music circuit was trying to create their own gimmick. And with The Long Blondes adding a retro 50’s fashion look, Wolfmother reviving 70’s heavy metal (accompanied with big ‘fro) 2006 was all about one thing – gettin’ noticed.

Indeed whether it was to accessorize, to fashionize, or in many cases to plagiarize 2006 was full of surprises. Whether it was The Libertines re-uniting (only for a drinking session) or Bono going to Africa, one thing was clear in 2006: ships are ready to set sail. Despite what lies ahead for many, most paths being unwritten, tails of fame and fortune are going to lead some into the life of showbiz. Although the perception on the rise to fame is a pleasant one, the demise can often be overlooked and for 2007 inevitably some ships are just going to sink.

Record Companies Against Music Downloading

When file-sharing first became popular a few years ago, there was huge backlash in the recording industry. Rightfully so, executives were concerned that their reign at the top would soon be over, and for the most part, they were right. Record companies against music downloading was the hot topic of the time, and many people wondered how distribution through file sharing sites and over private internet communication would change the recording industry. This was a widely popular question, and now that we are in that future, I think it is safe to say that record companies had legitimate worry.

Regardless of the past, the present situation with music downloading has forced the recording industry to examine their old business model. Not only has technology made it easier to distribute music freely and independent of corporate representation, but it has also provided aspiring artists and label owners with the ability to create their own unique tracks and albums. Recording software is also now being shared in the same fashion that music was nearly ten years ago, and not only is it free, but it’s also pretty phenomenal.

Because of this sharing concept, people have been able to start their own record labels out of their house. Considering that you now have a portable recording studio in your laptop, once you have digital music to distribute, you can officially consider yourself a record label. With a legitimate label name, the proper filings with various agencies, and a few thousand bucks, you are a bona fide business in the music industry. This is what has probably scared the original record labels the most.

Record companies make all of their money on album sales, so with less albums being sold due to free distribution on the internet, the less sales their physical compact discs will generate. With more artists committing to their own music production, record companies are becoming less and less necessary as well. Because of this they are being forced to drastically change their business plans if they want to stay competitive, or even alive, in this quickly changing market. Many of them have switched to marketing and promotion, which is where the transfer of wealth in this industry is headed. Artists who generate enough listeners are obvious candidates for endorsements and sponsorships, which is now what record companies are learning, so they are making more attempts to get involved clients in a more promotional capacity, as opposed to their traditional productive capacity.

Samsung X830: Get Reasons for a Hi-Fi Digital Music Revolution

Samsung mobile phones take digital music a step ahead with the latest ultra-unique Samsung X830. The attractive slim swivel design with slide mechanism makes this handset more sophisticated and stylish, and a must-have techno accessory. Its number keys are arranged in two columns which make it easier and comfortable to hold.

The Samsung X830 is a new age music phone with an in-built highly functional digital music player. The music player ensures that your mobile music experience can not get any better than this! The Samsung X830 plays all your music files in MP3, WMA, OGG, DCF and SMP formats. With the integrated 1 GB memory card slot, you have sufficient storage space for your favourite tracks. So play your music and rock up your life.

The Samsung X830 also incorporates a 1.3 mega pixel camera with in-built digital zoom and flash. Capture your special moments with Samsung X830 and view your photo files on the high definition 262K colours 128 x 220 pixels LCD screen. You can also view your music videos with ease now.

The Samsung X830 provides you high-speed Internet connectivity with the powerful GSM technology. With EDGE and GPRS, you can stay connected to the world in an instant. Share your photos and music with friends via fast-paced web browsing. You can also transfer your music files to any compatible device through Bluetooth or by using USB cable.

The Samsung X830 comes in stunning backdrops, so you are left with options to pick any of the four models in gorgeous black, classy white, vigorous orange or tantalising pink background. Get hold of this ultimate fashionable Samsung mobile phone. Get ready for an enticing musical ride.

iPod High End Audio – Are You Getting the Best Sound From Your Digital Music Files?

This article is for people who love the sound of their iPod with a great pair of earphones, but are unsatisfied with the other ways they have to play their music on their iPods in their homes.

Let’s face it; the iPod has changed the world of music playback as we know it. Who do you know who does NOT use some form of music storage device to enjoy their favorite artists? A great set of earphones and an iPod can recreate a very pleasing experience, but for most of us, the question is, how can we enjoy that same level of quality throughout our homes that is offered by the earphone experience?

Many iPod docking stations have come on the market that allow one to drop their iPod into a dock that provides some sort of small speaker system. In 99% of the cases, these docking systems do not even come close to the earphone experience. Even the best ones out there are a far cry away from how a decent stereo system sounds. Yes, a good old-fashioned stereo is the first step in getting the music on your iPod to sound good on something other than your earphones. The great news is, the stereo business is still alive and kicking. Find a local audio specialist and they can open your ears to all kinds of great solutions for listening to music. Then, all you need to do is connect the docking station to a stereo input with a simple audio cable and you have hit level 1 in enjoying your digital music!

The real key if you want the best sound requires getting back to the source of the music. For all of us, the music on our iPods landed on our computer in the first place. The first step is to make sure the music gets to our computers in the best possible form. If you are putting your legacy CD collection on your computer, be sure to set up iTunes to rip in Apple Lossless. This will capture much more of the music on those discs than the default setting of 128kbs. It’s under the advanced tabs in the preferences menu. This will take up more space on your hard drive, but space is so cheap these days, the difference in sound is well worth the extra storage.

Once you have your music stored in digital form, there are lots of new options for playing it back that can surpass the earphone experience. That good ole fashioned stereo is step 1, but now the fun begins. Imagine having all of your music available essentially in the palm of your hand!

If your stereo is also used for your home theater, one really simple option is to pick up an Apple TV. You will have to point the Apple TV to the computer or computers your music is stored on, but its pretty simple if you are a bit network savvy. The music came to your computer in digital form, and your home theater system should have the ability to decode those digits into music. The Apple TV has a digital output that is the format called Toslink or SPDIF. You should have a spare toslink input on your home theater gear. Connect the two, program that input on your home theater receiver to look for “PCM” audio; set it to play it back in two channel or a music surround mode if you prefer and prepare to be amazed. You can even connect the Apple TV’s video outputs to your home theater gear so you have complete control of your entire music collection in the palm of your hand. If this all seems daunting, hire a professional, but it’s really well worth it. You’ll also get a dual use out of your home theater to enjoy music on it. You are now at Level 2!

Level 3 is for the music lover who already has a pretty good audio playback system and wants to get the very best possible sound from their digitally stored music. This one is a bit trickier to pull off, but if you’ve got a great system, you will be rewarded. This will require putting either a Mac or PC into your audio system (the Mac sounds better by the way) and having a small computer monitor to view the method you choose to catalog your music. Ok, the key is getting a great new type of device that is called a USB DAC. This is a device that pulls the digital music directly off your hard drive via a usb cable, then decodes the music into two channel audio and passes it on to your stereo system. These devices can cost anywhere from $200 to about $7,500 and are made by the cream of the crop of mostly small, specialty, American made (can you believe it!) companies. If you visit your local audio store, you see them from the likes of Signal Path, Ayre, Audio Research, Sumiko, Wavelength and more. The sound will astound you if your stereo system is up to the task. There is even some debate as to the methods used to rip your music to your computer. The Ayre website has some great information on these methods. A lot of us in the baby boomer generation loved music in our early years and have accumulated a ton of CD’s since they came out in the early 80’s. This is one heck of a great way to get all of these CD’s organized and sounding far better than even some of the most expensive CD players you can buy. There is nothing like sitting in front of your system with instant access to every single CD you have ever owned. This method is also a great way to playback the copyright free concerts you can legally download on line, and the new crop of very high resolution music that is starting to show up for online downloads.

Digitally stored music is the future of music as we know it. There are many paths you can go down to attempt to reproduce it in its original, live form. The first step is obviously just a good stereo system, but whatever method you decide on, enjoy the music, and be sure to have a good back up system in place for all of your music files and more.

What’s Your Digital Music Promotions Report Card?

You might have gotten a passing grade for producing a good single, but how do you grade in your digital music promotions?

It’s no longer the wave of the music industry- it’s practically the only way to succeed in today’s music industry. Yes, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and etc is all the rave, and you need to join the bandwagon or not even bother at all, but it’s far more than having a social profile. Digital music promotions is all about SEO (search engine optimization) and cross promoting across various online outlets. It’s about blogging and being blogged about. It’s about P2P networks and online music stores. There’s so much to digital promotions, and if you think it’s one-dimensional and all about Myspace & Facebook, then you’re in for a rude awakening.

Here’s a few factors to grade your digital music promotions strategy:

1. If you Google search your name, your record label, or the title of your single/album, do you come up first on the searches or at least in the first page? If not, then you have NO online visibility and this is a dead end for your digital promotions strategy. Let me prove you in this. Do a simple Google search of the following phrases and you’ll see how a small number of companies dominate the first page on the Google search: “Music Marketing Company,” “Publicist in Atlanta,” “Atlanta Music Labels,” and “Fashion Marketing Companies.” There’s about 50+ other industry related key phrases that we dominate, but no need to list all of them here. How did we do it? Well, that’s another conversation. The point is that you need to be highly visible in the search engines.

2. Speaking of online visibility, what type of buzz have you built online? Do you have any writeups online? Is your music circulating the online music download circuit? Is it easy to find you online?

3. If someone were to surf the various online DJ networks and music boards, would they find your single?

4. Have DJs included your single in their online mixtapes, podcasts, and streaming stations?

5. How many different sources are you using to promote your music? Remember, the key in marketing is frequency. A DJ is more likely to gravitate towards your single if they notice that it’s being promoted among different sources. It’s called “buy-in” and you need a lot of it in this industry.

6. Are you just running through these social networking sites or are you cultivating a meaningful database of potential fans?

7. Is your Widget going viral? If you’re not familiar with using Widgets in using promotions or about Viral Internet Marketing then chances are that you failed on this factor.

8. Do you have a mechanism for capturing the email addresses and mobile numbers of those who listen to your music or visit your page?

Based on your answers above, what grade would you receive on your Digital Music Promotions Report Card? Anything less than a “C” means that it’s time to go back to the drawing board. A grade of a “B” means that you’re probably on the right track, but there’s still a lot more work to be done in order to secure profitable sales levels.

How Do I Set Up a Digital Music System With Squeezebox Touch

How did I set up a digital music system using Squeezebox Touch as core player, part I

It was five years ago I took the plunge to join the digital music bandwagon, during the period I have learnt numerous techniques, tweaks, tuning, settings, modifications both in software & hardware from the internet trying to improve the performance from the music server. I think it is time for me to give something back in return.

I, as an early adapter and a normal user, based on my own experience will cover each of the below one by one so as to let the newcomers easily build up their own digital music library.

A digital music system should consist of:-

(1) a ripping software to turn our CDs into digital files
(2) a music library management system to arrange the digital files in a orderly fashion for easy editing, sorting, searching
(3) a storage to store the music files
(4) a player
(5) a local area network if the player and the audio system is separated.

Five years ago, it was rare to hear general discussion about this topics over the web except some computer audio heavily skewed forums. At that time when people talked about computer music they mean mp3. Over time people start to appreciate the benefits of the digital music system over the conventional players. With the rapid development of technology previously it required an expert in computer to manage the system now becoming so easy that anyone with some basic computer knowledge can handle the system with ease.

There are many turnkey solutions in the market, mainly by some big name, eg. Linn, Meridian, Sooloo etc. They are expensive and proprietary meaning once you took its route you get stuck with it forever as you cannot move to other system easily without a big hassle, also you will be at the brand’s mercy for any upgrade or improvement. With my tips & hints the end result is nothing to be ashamed of comparing to these megabuck system.

Ok, first we need to rip our beloved CDs to computer file. There are more than hundred of CD ripping software over the internet more or less doing the same thing-converting the music stored in the CD to a digital file which can be storage in the harddisk. Most of them are free including the MS Mediaplayer, iTunes, CDex, EAC (Exact Audio Copy)…. The major difference between them is the workflow and the output format they allowed. Amongst them EAC is the most preferred one for its accuracy of ripping because it will do the ripping twice in order to make sure both result are identical before output, if not it will continue to re-read the data.

The data stored in the CD is in a wav format, it is encoded using 16 bit and 44.1kHz sampling. The goal of ripping is to ensure everything within the songs are being retrieved and stored in a computer recognizable format. There are a lot of computer audio file formats available, some are lossy and some are lossless.

Wav-original format, file size is big and lacks of tagging feature which make the library management difficult

Lossy-mean some of the data is removed during compression, without which the listener won’t detect the difference (similar to jpeg in photography) eg. mp3, isf,

Lossless-by mean of compression the file size is reduced (usually 50% of the original size) but when the lossless file is uncompressed it will be bit by bit perfect comparing to the original wav file. Eg. AIFF, FLAC

The Best Ways to Listen to Your Music Library on the Go

More people are looking for ways to take their music library on the go due to their busy lifestyles. The best music programs and players allow listeners to access the music from their car, portable device, or computer. If you’re looking for a way to access music or audio while working or during your commute, you might consider one of the devices or applications below. Each option allows you to take your music or audiobook collection with you while on the go, without having to worry about lugging around a computer or case of CD’s.

iPod

Apple products are increasingly popular due to their increased portability. Users can load music onto their iPod, iPhone, or iPad, and take it nearly anywhere. They can also back up their music collection online using the iTunes library. This means that if they ever lose their portable device, they don’t lose access to their entire collection of purchased music. Most Apple devices are also capable of streaming video, such as movies and television shows. While the iPod was originally created for listening to music while on the go, the iPhone and iPad are also capable of running multiple productivity applications, making them true multipurpose devices.

SmartPhone Apps

Users who have opted for another type of smart phone, such as an Android or Blackberry, don’t have to be left out in the cold. There are multiple applications available for download that allow users to listen to their music on the go. Smart phone users have the choice to either load their music collection onto the phone itself via an SD card, or to stream their music collection using an application on the phone and a 3G or Internet connection. Applications for smart phones include Google music, Pandora, ShoutCast, and more. If you decide to use one of these applications, be sure to check with your carrier regarding data charges, so that you’re not caught by surprise when your wireless bill arrives. These apps work best with an unlimited data connection, especially if you’re frequently streaming music.

Generic MP3 Player

Users without a smart phone or iPod can still take their music collection on the go the old-fashioned way. Generic MP3 players are becoming less and less expensive, and are still a great way to transport a large music collection. Most MP3 players hook up to a computer via a USB or mini USB cable, and hold a large amount of music. These inexpensive players are a good option for college students, high school students, or those who work in high crime areas were an expensive phone might be stolen. They allow you to transport a large amount of music, without having to worry about carrying around an expensive device.

In short, it’s easier than ever to take your entire music collection with you wherever you go. Websites such as Amazon and iTunes offer inexpensive downloads, and many albums can now be purchased with the digital edition. This makes it affordable and effective to quickly compose a digital music collection.