more on filtering out 'junk-music' in a digital age…

In this post from a couple of days ago, commenting on the need to find ways to filter for quality at a time when it seems financial constraints may end up providing less of an incentive to seek out great music to buy, I finished by saying,

“Which only goes to say that we need filters. It doesn’t prove the monetary filters are the only ones, or even the best ones, but it does suggest that we need a way of making sure we doing overdose on junk-music.

And of course, those filters are already there, and I use them. The two i use are Last.Fm and Emusic. Last.fm offers a few different services that can help you discover new music, as well as the option to listen before spending money… firstly, there’s the radio stations, stations that are digitally programmed according to your taste, the tastes of people who like similar things to you, or by the taste of people who happen to also be fans of a particular band, or use a particular tag, so the level of randomness in relation to your own recorded playlists is affected by which of those radio options you choose, and how much listening time you’ve logged. Still, it’s an amazing site, which provides purchasing links with all the artists, data for tracking live music details, tools for blogging about music, forums for connecting with music fans connected by musical or extra-musical interests and a host of other things to make researching music fun.

Emusic is a very different formula, in that it is primarily a shop. The difference being that you ‘subscribe’ for a certain amount per month, and get a certain number of fairly high quality DRM free downloads for your fee. In my case, I get 50 tracks a month for £11.99 – which is about the standard price of a single CD in a specialist music shop. If you happen to like styles of music where the artists record long songs, you can get a heck of a lot of mileage for your money (for example, you could get almost all of the Jonas Hellborg back catalogue with 50 downloads, as few of his albums feature more than 5 or 6 tracks).

This month, I’ve just downloaded John Patitucci’s latest album, ‘Line By Line‘ (which is playing as I write, and is excellent), Gary Willis’ newest project, ‘Slaughterhouse 3‘ (marvellous heavy avant-fusion), and a glorious Kenny Wheeler record called ‘It Takes Two!‘, which I can already tell is going to be become a huge favourite. 3 amazing albums I would have been unlikely to buy on CD, but which I found on emusic via review and recommendation. You see, every artist and album has links next to it to things listened to by people who like that. You also get recommendations via friends and again via digitally compiled lists of users with similar data to your own. The option is there to listen (though the M3U playlist system used to preview music is clumsy and a pain in the arse), or you can just download a couple of tracks and see how you get on.

Both great filters, highly recommended. if you want to find me on either of them, at last.fm my listener page is here and my artist page is here. For emusic, my listener page is here and the place for downloading my music is here.

I really like the emusic model for downloading and paying for music – you’re paying a fraction of the cost of what you would for a CD, but you’re also committing to a certain level of investment each month in the ongoing success of recorded music. Everybody Wins!

More on Microformats

So after posting yesterday about adding the calendar to iCal, Outlook, Sunbird and Google Calendar, I discover that it didn’t work at all in Outlook. Some geek-advice from The Lovely Gareth and Drew helped me discover that Outlook requires a couple more hCalendar tags than the other applications. So those have been dutifully added, and the calendar subscription link now works for all of the above. And I’ve also added Google Maps links to each of the gigs on the Gig listings page.

THEN, clearly not having done enough geeking out, I decided to add an hCard format address card to the Contact page for my site – the mark-up was pretty simple, and by accident I found a link on Technorati that will turn it into an importable vCard that you can then save into your address book.

I’m still working out how best to format the address to prevent spammers – the javascript tweak I usually use is also too clever for the vCard reader to be able to make sense of it as well… at the moment I’ve just done the old ‘replace the symbols with words’ thing – [AT] and [DOT] – you can make sense of that, right?

What’s next on the website tweak list? hmmmm…

(rss) Feed Me, Seymour!!

OK, just how Web 2.0 do you want it? You want feeds? We got feeds, in just about any format you desire.

Here are a few for you –

here’s an hCalendar feed from the gigs page on my website – that’ll import automatically into ical, outlook, sunbird and a few other apps that read the hCalendar Microformat.

Then there’s the normal RSS feed from my gigs at last.fm – this one will give you gigs that other people have added, and links to the relevant gig page at last.fm, so you can see who else on last.fm is going…

Next up there’s a novel one – an RSS feed of my MySpace page’s gig listing – clearly not actually offered by Myspace, because they are, largely, shit, but you can create one for your own myspace page by going here.

And lastly, the new kid on the blog, the gigs RSS feed from my ReverbNation.com page.

Clearly you don’t need all of them, and I’ll keep you posted here if I decide to drop any of them, but given that they all offer something slightly different, I thought I’d offer you the chance to have them all and choose the one you like the format of. The Calendar link is particularly useful if you’re interesting in what I’m up to gig-wise all over the place, rather than just in your town – you can get up in the morning, look at ical or outlook and go ‘oh look, Steve’s playing in Zagreb tonight with the combine Zagreb schools orchestra’, and feel good about the world.

So, consider your feed needs satiated, dear bloglings (obviously, you’ve already got the feeds for this blog, my jaiku microblog, and my myspace blog).

New unreleased tunes!

Thanks to the wonders of ReverbNation, I’ve uploaded a bunch of new tunes that you can have a listen to… The tracks in the player, embedded below, are a previously unheard live version of Scott Peck, a live version of Uncle Bernie from a forthcoming live album with Theo Travis and ‘Endo’ from the brand new ‘Calamateur vs Steve Lawson’ album that will be appearing in my online shop at some point in this week.

Enjoy – just click on the picture!


Steve Lawson

Revisiting an old favourite

Something in a conversation here reminded me of the black metal dialogues – an hilarious email correspondence between a guy pretending to be the 19 year old “king of black metal” from Gary, Indiana (home of the Jackson Five, now clearly demoted to second-most important music export from Gary…) and a a very real owner of a black metal label in Norway. It’s genius stuff, and I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes reading it all again…

enjoy.

This looks interesting

The forthcoming POD X3 from Line 6 looks to be the first Line 6 product since the DL4 that’s got almost everything it should have… Mic preamp modeling in a guitar processor? sounds like lots o’ fun to me.

Now if only I could find a picture of the routing for it – the ones on the website don’t show the connections in and out… and I wish they’d do a 1U rack mount, but I guess in the tradition of the other Pod rackmounts, this’ll be 2U, which makes it too big to fly with – when is someone going to do a range of really powerful tiny processors for musicians who travel by train or plane? One of the best things about the Looperlative is that it’s a small 1U rack mount box that weighs very little and comes with a power supply that’s as light as phone charger.

Still the X3 will definitely be worth investigating…

[ further investigation found this site which suggests that the classic POD Bean-shaped version won’t have a MIDI connector, or the external FX loop, or the XLR outs… I hope those are just unconfirmed rumours, and Line6 get all the features into a tiny box – some of us have to fly to gigs occasionally! ]

How to be creative…

here’s an article that’s doing the rounds in solo bass world at the moment, titled ‘how to be creative’, and is by Hugh MacLeod – it’s a load of ideas about living the creative life, balancing creative urges with commercial concerns, paying the bills etc… lots of gems to be gleaned from reading it, to be sure.