Music Is The Best, 2009 Edition

I love this time of year. I’ve found some of my favorite music in the past going through the year-end lists at Pitchfork, Emusic, WFMU, Hype Machine, and various random blogs. I always end up stumbling across something great I’ve never heard of or meant to listen to but forgot, etc.

Sharing is caring and I’d be remiss not to throw my choices out there in hopes someone else will discover something they’ll come to love.

So here are my favorites from 2009 as I remember them, in alphabetical order. All very worth owning and loving, IMHO. I’m going to include streaming players for a few of them but not all because too many of these little Flash widgets on the page might freak your Web browser out, and I don’t want to do that.

Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali [buy from Amazon]
Funky and soulful, worldly yet modern, Amadou and Miriam are blind, 50+, from Mali, and opened for Coldplay this year. What a world.

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Antony and The Johnsons – The Crying Light [buy from Amazon]
Three cheers for Antony and Bloomington’s own Secretly Canadian.

Apathy – Wanna Snuggle? [buy from Amazon]
Still underrated, Apathy released this incredibly solid record in late 2009. Yeah, he’s a friend but I listened to this album so many times this year because I love it, not because I know the dude. Check out the tracks “I’m a Demigod” and “Victim”.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns [buy from Amazon]
I heard a few people say they were disappointed by this and I wasn’t blown away at first but after multiple headphone listens on a few plane rides I fell in love. This got many many many spins (in a row) from me this year.

Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy [buy from Amazon]
I love Built to Spill. Doug Martsch is as important an artiste as our generation has, IMHO. He makes these amazing records sound effortless, like he could create them in his sleep. Keep ’em comin, plz.

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Chuck Prophet – ¡Let Freedom Ring! [buy from Amazon]
A great late-in-the-year entry. I can’t stop listening to this. It’s a relatively basic rock record, with hints of Petty, Springsteen, Stones, and even The Kinks, but when rock-n-roll songwriting is witty and sublime, delivered with attitude, and recorded sounding live in Mexico City by Greg Leisz, what’s not to like?

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Dave Rawlings Machine – A Friend of a Friend [buy from Amazon]
Dave Rawlings is best known as the incredible guitar player who plays alongside Gillian Welsh but he’s been doing shows here in LA at Largo all summer with a crazy cast of characters ranging from Gillian to John Paul Jones under the name “Dave Rawlings Machine”. Finally he’s released some of the Machine’s goodness on an album. Hit play on the above and check out just the first song — “Ruby” is as fine a slice of Americana as has ever come before it. I play it over and over and over.

Dinosaur Jr – Farm [buy from Amazon]
Let’s hear it for the silver foxes! I’m such a huge J Mascis fan I wasn’t that excited for the D Jr reunion — I love the Mascis records where *he* plays drums (check out the J Mascis and The Fog records if you haven’t heard them, he’s a monster behind the kit as well as the axe). But Farm delivers. “I love my guitar more than anything” gems dripping with Mascis melody with a couple straight up Sebadoh numbers in the middle? Yeah, count me in.

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca [buy from Amazon]
I liked the idea of an arty band covering Black Flag’s Damaged, but try as I might, I couldn’t get into Dirty Projectors’ 2007 release, Rise Above. Bitte Orca is another story. I love the way this album sounds. Saying their sound is unique is an understatement, but the songs really work and hold up, too. We managed to catch them live at Bonnaroo this year and I was really impressed. I’m buying the hype here.

Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N Cheek [buy from iTunes]
I wasn’t a big fan of Dizzee early on but I loved Maths + English. Tongue N Cheek hasn’t even been released here in the US apart from iTunes yet which is too bad because this is a great record. Highly recommended if you’re so inclined.

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The Drones – Havillah [buy from artist]
Australia’s The Drones, who I usually describe to the uninitiated as a cross between Neil Young and The Laughing Hyenas, are the most underrated rock band in the world (again, IMHO). I fell in love with their 2005 record Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By but the follow ups Gala Mill and this year’s Havillah have each been incredible in their own way. The Drones have probably accounted for more damage to my car speakers than any other band. Grab Havillah, turn the volume to its maximum, and enjoy.
DISCLAIMER: They released this album direct-to-fan via Topspin. Because I stalked them.

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport [buy from Amazon]
Fuck Buttons win the “music to work to” award, 2009. Followed closely by…

Fever Ray – Fever Ray [buy from Amazon]
Half of The Knife returns with an amazingly great, moody (creepy, even) record. This is another one on my list that pushed me through many a long flight/email marathon.

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Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another [buy from Amazon]
When McClusky broke up we all cried. Until they formed Future Of The Left and released Curses, which was even better. And now a second full-length and a tour — it’s Christmas all year long. Obtuse, poignant one-liners, repeated over fuzz bass and sometimes mathy riffs, FotL are new punk, no retro, the real deal. Not as exciting as if there was a new Steel Pole Bath Tub record in 2009, but close.

Get Busy Committee – Uzi Does It [buy from artist]
If you read this blog you know I manage this band so this entry probably doesn’t surprise you, but you also know I manage this band because I LOVED THIS RECORD when I heard it so I think it’s a valid entry despite my personal involvement. More blog posts to come on this topic (I just haven’t had time the past few weeks, sorry) but this has been a very fun project and we’re far from done. Look for lots of goodies (including a new album) from GBC in 2010. For now buy one of the Uzi-shaped USB flash drives before they’re all gone, we have less than 100 in-stock and I hand-package each one right here in my house.
DISCLAIMER: Topspin-released.

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Girls – Album [buy on Amazon]
One of Lucinda’s (age 3) favorites of the year (after we took her to see them live), this is still on repeat in our house/car. Beautiful. And there’s nothing like hearing a three year-old sing the chorus to “Hellhole Ratrace”.

Japandroids – Post-Nothing [buy on Amazon]
Are Japandroids 2009’s Death From Above 1979? Two dudes from Canada hiding incredible songwriting and melodies under a wall of sound? Yeah, guess so. Saw this duo live recently, too. Ultimate energy and connection to the crowd. The real deal. Gives me hope.

Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications [buy on Amazon]
Speaking of the real deal, Jarvis Cocker found himself making a record at Steve Albini’s studio and while his wit might have gotten trampled afoot by the rock it’s still full of gems. “Angela” and “I Never Said I Was Deep” are instant JC classics.

Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall [buy from Amazon]
It was a big year for Jay Reatard. From the underground to Matador, two singles collection releases, a $75 fan club, and a tour where his band quit. The first Matador record, Watch Me Fall, is probably the highlight, though. Take a listen.
DISCLAIMER: The above-mentioned fan club is Topspin-powered.

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Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – ‘Em Are I [buy from Amazon]
Jeffrey Lewis’ 12 Crass Songs is still one of my favorite records of the past however many years, but I love this new collection of originals, too. Understated, poetic honesty. Is this what they call “new folk”? Whatever. ‘Tis great. “Slogans” is a corker, “Broken Broken Heart” is one of the best sad songs of the decade, and “To Be Objectified” seems contrived at first but turns out to be the work of a genius working patiently at his craft.

Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine [by from Amazon]
Maybe it’s just my age but the people I know don’t seem as excited to hear a new Jello Biafra record in 2009 as they were in 1981. But take a listen, he’s nearly as good now as ever, pointed lyrics over excellent, raw music (provided by Ralph from The Victims Family). Don’t front. If you ever liked Jello, you’ll still like Jello. He hasn’t softened at all, have you?

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Let’s Wrestle – In The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s [buy at Amazon]
Another late entrant (for me), I forgot to throw this on after Yancey from Kickstarter told me this was his favorite band and I regretted the lost time when I finally got around to it. Let’s Wrestle are limey indie rockers with the sense of humor of Art Brut but lyrical abilities leaning more toward Morrissey. According to their Wikipedia page they are “ultimatly trying to be as raw as possible and they try to write songs that make your soul crumble as well as making you smile, sing along and clap your hands”. It’s working, lads, keep it coming!

Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine [buy at Amazon]
Some Magnolia fans thought this record was a downer but not me. I could put on pretty much anything in their catalog any time of day and be happy.

Metric – Fantasies [buy from artist]
It’s been beyond fun to watch Metric do their thing this year, a band with no label selling records, selling out clubs, playing larger clubs every month, getting radio play, etc. What magic trick did they play to make it happen? They made a great record that was true to their growing fan base and accessible to an even larger group of people. This album was a huge favorite in our household this year, one that was loved by both girls (age 3 and 19) as well as mom and dad.
DISCLAIMER: Topspin-released.

Mission Of Burma – The Sound the Speed the Light [buy on Amazon]
Can you name another time when a seminal band has disappeared only to reappear 20+ years later and be EVEN MORE vital than they were originally? The Sound The Speed The Light is not as chaotic and is more melodic than The Obliterati (one of my favorite albums of the last few years, period), but different isn’t bad in this case — this record rules.

Morrissey – Years of Refusal [buy on Amazon]
I was never a huge Smiths fan and had never really spent much time with Morrissey’s solo records until You Are The Quarry, which I loved more than anything he’d done previously. Also produced by the late Jerry Finn (his last), Years Of Refusal is as close to You Are The Quarry as you could ask for. Forget what you think about Morrissey and spend some time with both of these albums.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone [buy on Amazon]
Another family favorite, Neko Case still gets almost daily play in our house and this album has been on repeat all year. At Bonnaroo this summer our friend Jeff Colvin was in the back seat with a then two-year old Lucinda. We turned on the local Bonnaroo FM and Neko Case was playing. Lucinda turned to Jeff and said matter of factly before anyone else commented, “That’s Neko Case.” I think then he understood why I dragged her across the country to see live music, Neko in particular.

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P.O.S. – Never Better [buy on Amazon]
I’d like to officially thank Leonard Lin for turning me on to this early in the year. One of my favorite hip hop albums in recent memory, for sure. It’s hard for me to find hip hop that captures the spirit which made me love hip hop once upon a time and this does it. Smart, furious, and punk as fuck. I love it.

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Communion [buy on Amazon]
Soundtrack of Our Lives returned after a five year hiatus with a 24-track double album, a song for every hour of the day. I love everything about this album, starting with the cover.

Spinnerette – Spinnerette [buy on Amazon]
Brody from The Distillers re-emerged this year with a record I loved without any guilt. But it was Lucinda who asked this to be played over and over this year — another family favorite. Sorry but I’ll take this record over either Them Crooked Vultures or Dead Weather any day.
NON-DISCLAIMER: While Spinnerette released singles via Topspin, this full-length album was not released via Topspin.

The Thermals – Now We Can See [buy on Amazon]
Forget Green Day, The Thermals rule the pop-punk concept album mountain. Simple tunes you can’t get out of your head which happen to be about the circle (or evolution) of life.

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Vetiver – Tight Knit [buy on Amazon]
I’m calling any 2009 best-of list which doesn’t include this album suspect. We’ve played this album over and over and over this year. It’s also responsible for one of my favorite moments, a cross-country, three way Skype call with my daughter and my mom where we all found ourselves talking about how much we love Vetiver and this album. When three generations can all get what ails them from one album it’s either a great family, a great album, or both. Another great Vetiver moment this year was standing next to Cardinal Neal Casal at the Vetiver show while he sang every word. HE’S the real deal, and he was pointing at them, saying they’re the real deal. (Neal’s 2009 Topspin-released record is great, too, check it out at this link.)

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White Denim – Fits [buy on Amazon]
This band is just unreal. If you’ve never seen them live, please do at the first opportunity. But recorded they’re incredible, too. I wish I could easily compare them to something but really, they’re just their own animal, the sum of their component parts: an incredible rhythm section and a guitar player who is sometimes funky sometimes proggy and sometimes just writing a song to sing. Fits finally came out on Downtown coupled with last year’s under-distributed album, too, and at $5 for all 23 MP3s has to be the best bargain in rock. Dig in and enjoy.
NON-DISCLAIMER: While their last record was released via Topspin, this album is not.

The XX – XX [buy on Amazon]
This was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I’d never heard of them when the label sent me a link to the MP3s. I downloaded, stuffed in my iTunes, and forgot about for a couple weeks. Then, when rummaging for something to listen to one day, I decided to give it a bash. I was taken immediately. Wow. Then to find out this seductive, mature album was made by *teenagers*? Woah. Love it. Really a special treasure.

And one final favorite…Reissue of the year, hands down:

Death – …For the Whole World to See
If you haven’t already read the NYT article Mike Rubin wrote about and bought this long lost 1975 proto-punk masterpiece, don’t hesitate. It turns out there was a bridge between The Stooges, The MC5, and Bad Brains, and they were Death. This thing blows my mind over and over and over.

And just for Bob Lefsetz, who says I’m too nice and never dis, here’s a list of albums I wanted to like, or everyone else seemed to like, but I couldn’t get in to:

Animal Collective – Meriweather Post Pavilion
I loved the Panda Bear record but I’m yet to find an AC record I truly love.

Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
I want to like Bill Callahan, but I just can’t get into it.

DJ Quik & Kurupt – BlaQKout
I was excited about this record, I’m a Quik fan and the idea of him teaming up with Kurupt for a guilty pleasure masterpiece was exciting to me. But I played it twice and then didn’t come back to it, unfortunately.

St. Vincent – Actor
This record sounds cool enough sonically but I didn’t find myself returning to it at all.

Real Estate – Real Estate
Like Fleet Foxes for me last year — what’s all the excitement about? Makes me sleepy.

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
See Real Estate.

Woods – Songs of Shame
See Grizzly Bear.

The Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
I wish I liked The Mountain Goats but they are officially “for others”.

That’s it! Thanks for another great year, music. You’re the best.

Please let me know what albums I forgot in the comments. Would love to find some more great stuff I forgot. There are a few albums I’m guessing should be on this list but I just haven’t put the time into yet.

For some more hits from 2009, check out my daughter Zoe’s “Best of 2009″ show on MIT’s WMBR from December 14th. Click here to stream.

Music is the best,
ian

@lefsetz vs. @iancr: Mixing sincerity and marketing on Twitter

BobsBlog

I like Bob Lefsetz and while I don’t always agree with him I think the music industry is lucky to have such a prolific and unfiltered voice of dissent. I originally discovered Bob via the Rhino podcast many years ago. The podcast included “The Lefsetz Letter”, a portion of the show where an animated character (Bob) would tell you a story about some music he loved and how that music impacted him and his life. I remember one story in particular, a story of his driving to the mountains to ski with his dentist and listening closely to the group Yes for the first time. I hadn’t listened to Yes since I was 12, didn’t know this guy or care about his dentist, but because he was clearly a music fan I loved listening to his story. I distinctly remember thinking, “I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying this.” I didn’t care that Bob’s stories seemed to be reviews of things from Rhino’s catalog, I trusted his genuine music fandom enough to find it entertaining and even when he sang the praises of Loggins and Messina I assumed he was selecting the titles from the Rhino catalog he enjoyed enough to share some sincere stories about.

I met Bob many years later (but many years ago) when I worked at Yahoo!. As a result of my being passionate and outspoken about issues in the music business I’ve received praise in Bob’s written “Letter” more than once (for which I’ve received a few offerings of condolences but I’ve always taken pride in nonetheless). The biggest compliment Bob ever tossed my way was (paraphrasing) “Ian is first and foremost a music fan”. My life has been listening to and loving music and this was close to the highest praise I could have been given. As my friends/family will tell you, music is everything to me and has been since I’ve been old enough to have a personality (my mom could share that picture of me in footie pajamas playing the yardstick as a guitar). I don’t watch movies or TV (apart from the occasional music documentary), I just prefer music. Apparently I’ve passed the bug on to my kids, my older daughter (19) is the general manager of MIT’s radio station WMBR and my younger daughter (3) has already lived and loved her first Bonnaroo.

So you can imagine my disappointment when Bob called me out last week, saying I was all hype and insincere when I talk about music, specifically on Twitter. Here’s his original salvo:

…And those who think Twitter is purely for hype. Hell, I’ve now learned that Ian Rogers is not a discerning listener. Makes me wonder about Topspin. He’s constantly tweeting that the music of every act the company works with is good. That’s utter hogwash. Especially when the tunes are outside his normal flavor field.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Bob’s statement wasn’t factual, he was assuming more of what I was tweeting about was Topspin-related than actually was. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but unfortunately we don’t (yet) work with all the artists I love. 😉

I asked Bob which tweets he was referring to and he sent a sampling. Neko Case and David Rawlings showed up as “outside my flavor field”, but not only do they have nothing at all do do with Topspin (I wish they did), I love both those artists and have gone out of my way to see them both live. He seemed surprised I’d want to watch the new Paul McCartney DVD (which was released via Topspin), but watch it I did (both discs), and was surprised myself how much I liked it. He mentioned Sloan which is much closer to the line he was saying I crossed — I probably wouldn’t have known about that release if a manager who is enthusiastic about Topspin hadn’t tweet’d the link to me. I listened to it, liked it, and tweet’d that I was listening to it for free, assuming my followers like free music and might want to check it out, too. Bob mentioned a Harmonia and Eno reissue but (unfortunately) Topspin has nothing to do with that, either. Of course there were two mentions of the band I’m managing, Get Busy Committee, and one which was letting people know there’s a list of Topspin bands people can follow en masse. As I said to Bob and laid out in detail in an earlier post, I started managing Get Busy Committee because I loved the record, and Topspin is more than a job, it’s a company I have most of my personal net worth and time wrapped up in. I love it and am insanely proud of what we’re doing. It’s a lot to ask me not to talk about it. I know not Marx’s alienated labor. I admit the line between personal and professional is very blurry for me, but that’s not a marketing ploy, it’s genuinely blurry in my life at the moment. Not sure a CEO of a startup can/should live any other way.

But thankfully I don’t actually talk about every Topspin artist and my tweets aren’t all hype. I took a look through my tweets for the week previous to Bob’s comment and did a little tally. I counted a total of 63 tweets from the previous Friday to that Thursday. In those tweets only 18 were Topspin-related (including the 5 Get Busy Committee ones). I covered 37 distinct topics and only 9 were of those referenced Topspin or artists we work with. Most importantly, the number of tweets which were about something I didn’t personally like, care about and think someone else might be interested in was equal to ZERO. So yeah, I like music and talk about our artists, but I don’t *only* talk about our artists, I certainly don’t promote all our artists regardless of my opinion and I don’t talk about things that are “outside of my normal flavor field” just because they’re on Topspin. If you’re curious, the tally is here, check it out for yourself and please let me know if/where you find something off-base with my personal tastes.

But as Bob said (in an email to my wife, one of Bob’s readers who came to my defense without my asking her to), “Perception is everything in this business. Truth is two steps behind.” Just because Bob’s statement isn’t factual doesn’t mean that isn’t the way my activities are perceived. I really don’t think he was calling me a hypester to be mean, this was truly how he perceived my relentless enthusiasm — he assumed most of the bands I was excited about were somehow Topspin-related even though this wasn’t the case — and he wasn’t alone. Bob forwarded me a note from another reader who feels the same way and someone else on my Twitter feed @replied and said they often feel marketed to by my tweets. As someone who is genuinely passionate about what I do the last thing I want to be perceived as is a phony; I started thinking about the issue here and how to improve it.

So, starting now if I’m tweeting about something related to my company, Topspin, it will be clearly marked with the hash tag #topspin. Bob’s point was a good one, I wasn’t delineating when my tweets were or were not related to my company. I naively thought it was fairly obvious, if I was linking to Amazon, iTunes, Lala, Rhapsody, or some other non-Topspin experience then it was unaffiliated, but obviously that’s not very well thought through — most people don’t click nor do they have the same ability to immediately ascertain if something is or isn’t Topspin-related. Very poor assumption on my part. So from now on I’m going to make it clear: if my tweets don’t contain the hash tag #topspin you can rest assured I don’t have a personal interest in what I’m tweeting.

Additionally, I’ll tell you right now I won’t tweet about something I don’t care about or think you’d be interested in even if it does have to do with Topspin, but I appreciate that’s difficult to believe and it seems it’s just good practice to disclose things which could be construed as pure hype or promotional in nature.

There’s a semantic web-esque side effect of creating a stream of easily segmented #topspin tweets, too, and while that’s fun that’s definitely not my motivation here.

You might think this is a bit pointless and/or pedantic but I actually think it merits at least a little thought and discussion. For whatever reason more than five thousand people follow me on Twitter, vaguely caring what I have to say. I appreciate their sharing a bit of their scarce attention with me and want to respect that connection. If this simple step makes my voice more legitimate I’m all for it, and I thank Bob for the nudge.
 I’m sure many will think I’m overreacting to Bob’s criticism but I’m not one to take my credibility lightly, sorry.

I’m not sure I can solve what seemed to be Bob’s biggest complaint in the end, though: I’m too positive. Bob told me the fact I don’t say enough critical things makes my positive comments lack context and also hurts my credibility. He’s not wrong that I avoid the negative. I stop myself from critical comments from time to time. The example I shared with Bob was this aborted tweet: “RT @nprmusic The Decade’s 50 Most Overrated Recordings http://su.pr/1sCMZD”. I held back because I knew what was meant as humor and sarcasm with a bit of criticism would have been taken as mean-spirited, which I am not. Don’t get me wrong, I am a music snob and an equal opportunity hater and the likelihood I like your favorite band is small. But I also understand the doom metal supergroup I’m listening to in headphones while I type this is not likely up your alley, either. More than ten years ago Phil Wilhelm taught me the important lesson of the concept known as “for others”, and I instantly became less of a dick. Lots of music, art, food, styles of life, belief systems, and entire forms of entertainment are “for others”. Not for me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their place. I’m not writing endless holier-than-thou diatribes about the evils of TV just because I hate it. Do your thing. As Jenny Aurthur famously (in our house) once said, “Don’t yuck yuck my yum yum,” or my favorite Ricky Powell quote, “Why dis when you can be nice?” Sometimes I can’t resist a critical statement, I’m not saying I never dis, but it’s true I don’t make a habit of it.

When my daughter Zoe was in second grade she loved Spice Girls and even had a “Spice Girls Club” at her school. Spice Girls was terrible drivel, non-music, to me and you. To her it was inspiring, (literally) moving and when she and her friends performed dance routines on the playground at recess it had nothing to do with the way you and I heard Spice Girls, it was kids having fun and a-ok by me. It might sound silly but that Spice Girls experience buried the music snob in me at least a few levels deeper. It taught me that taste is not absolute, and there’s little to be gained from me telling you your favorite band sucks. I just don’t have it in me. [As an aside, Kathleen Hanna took something similar from Zoe’s Spice Girls experience, sang “Wannabe” karaoke with Zoe at a wedding, and mentioned it in a Punk Planet interview which you can read as part of the collection, “We Owe You Nothing”.]

I’m sorry, while you will occasionally read critical tweets from me you’re not going to hear me say I don’t get the Kid Cudi record and want to fall asleep every time I listen to Fleet Foxes (both of which are true), I’m not going to waste a lot of energy yuck yucking your yum yum. It’s just not my style. If that makes me less credible I guess I’ll have to live with it. Personally I don’t buy the theory, I am much more interested in what my friends Isac Walter, Sam Velde, and Jay Babcock are listening to than what they are not. They have turned me on to tons of great music to *like* over the years, not music to hate.

If you follow me on Twitter, here’s what you’re going to get: lots of tweets about stuff I like, including:

  • Music
  • Music industry and technology news and commentary
  • Poor, pathetic attempts at humor
  • Proud papa bullshit you probably don’t care about but I don’t care — hopefully you will give me a pass on loving my kids

Here’s what you’re not going to get:

  • Hate
  • Talk about TV shows, sports, or movies (all of which I dislike but I really, truly don’t care if you dig ’em)

If you’re interested, cool. Follow me, subscribe to my blog via RSS or email. If none of that sounds interesting to you or my lack of negativity somehow makes the things I *am* sincerely excited by less interesting, don’t. That’s the best part about the future of media. No one has a megaphone. Consumers of information have infinite choice and power.

Bob, I am truly honored to be one of the 40 people you follow. I hope I stay there. And I hope clearly delineating Topspin-related tweets helps. Maybe TweetDeck can filter those out for you?

While I don’t actually spend time or energy asking people to find/follow me on Twitter, I do appreciate that anyone would care what I have to say. I can’t make people care, but I care enough to not want to be misunderstood. I hope clearly delineating when something has to do with Topspin will help. If not, I’ll try to define my field of flavor here for further clarity: my top three favorite albums are Sly and The Family Stone’s Fresh, The Stooges Fun House, and Willie’s Spirit. Also in the field: Neko Case, The Beatles, Brendan Benson, Robert Wyatt, and Morrissey as well as EYEHATEGOD, Genghis Tron, Slayer, Burzum, and Iron Maiden plus NWA, Lord Finesse, and Jay-Z not to mention Joe Higgs, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear not to forget Lefty Frizell, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Townes Van Zandt and Funkadelic, The Dirtbombs, Jamie Lidell and Arts Blakey and Pepper, Chris Potter, Horaces Silver and Andy… can I stop now? 😉

Thanks for following,
ian

ps – Interestingly, these barbs from Bob sandwiched an unrelated post referencing Seth Godin and permission marketing. But the post didn’t mention that Twitter is as much a form of permission marketing as opting in to an email list is. The 2.7M people who subscribe to Oprah and the 18K people who subscribe to Pepsi on Twitter are committing an act of permission marketing, giving Oprah and Pepsi permission to market to them amongst the tweets from their friends. And trust needs to be similarly respected, or subsequently lost. That, I suppose, is really what this post is about, why I care, why it’s worth talking about, and why the delineation is a good idea.

Why I’m Excited About Apple Buying Lala

StoogesLala

The rumors hit this week and it was confirmed this morning: Apple is buying streaming site Lala. I had heard the purchaser may be Google and thought Facebook or Amazon also seemed like acquirers, but I wouldn’t have pegged Apple for this. This raises all sorts of questions in the competitive landscape for everyone involved in digital music but at a very high level as a music fan this makes me very excited about the future ubiquitousness of music. Here’s why:

Lala is a great product. Of all the streaming services it’s the one I most prefer using:

  • It’s easy to use, the pages load and music starts playing fast. I’m a Rhapsody subscriber but only really use it with my Control 4. If I’m sitting at my desk I’d rather use Lala. It’s faster and more reliable than Rhapsody.com.
  • Lala consolidates my MP3 collection for me to access anywhere. I buy tracks from Amazon and Emusic and I automatically have access to the tracks I buy from any other computer.
  • http://www.lala.com/external/flash/PlaylistWidget.swf

  • It’s easy to share. Every page has an easy to tweet or email link, and you have a good likelihood to sharee is going to have an easy time playing what you sent them. It’s easy to embed on your blog, share into Facebook or just share into the Lala ecosystem. Derivative community features such as “top influencers” are very smart.
  • The front page stream of friend activity is a great discovery tool. A lot of times I’ll just load the homepage, see what my friends are listening to, and use that as a jumping off point.

It’s come a long way from the original CD sharing service, but they’re finally starting to get the formula right IMHO.

They also have the most forward-looking of all the streaming models. Lala clearly anticipates a day where all consumption is streaming. By converting my local collection to the cloud and selling both download and streams I can stuff in my locker Lala has the only plausible bridge transition from the download world to the world of all streaming. We’ve all been talking about the day music is in the cloud for more than fifteen years, but Lala has a great service timed with the reality of streaming to iPhone, Android, etc. You’ll find a lot of people who predicted the world of music in the cloud a long time ago who are jaded on the topic but the fact is it’s upon us and we’ll all be making the transition over the next five to ten years max.

Let’s face it, the use case for buying downloads is driven primarily by the iPod. When iPods are all connected (and Apple is already reporting iPhone sales are starting to displace iPod sales) and streaming services offer great apps on mobile, the use case for downloads starts to dry up.

It’s amazing to project forward and think how short-lived the download as a format will have been. An industry that took 10 years to get their head around downloads will have to evolve to streaming as a format in the next 10 years. This sort of adaptation is clearly not their forte. I hope they’ve been preparing for it.

I always thought Apple would move up-market away from music, into movies and living room apps in general. But it appears they are going to move up-market *with* music. They have learned that music leads the adoption curve and sells devices and they are going to use it to sell wired devices. For those of us who love music and love to see Apple wowing the market with incredible hardware, this is pretty exciting. If Apple can conquer the living room and the car it will be amazing to watch and a fun time to be a consumer.

This is going to affect a lot of businesses, including ours (Topspin), but personally I love that Apple continues to make music a joy to experience and culturally important. Don’t get me wrong, the entrepreneur and music business person in me is worried about Apple’s dominance and intends to work with Apple to make sure the future of music isn’t available solely via Apple hardware and services. But the music fan in me is excited to think about a beautiful experience in my living room and car where all music is available all the time and easy to share legally, without syncing and managing files.

ian

ps – A funny side effect of this news is that I’ve been getting more Lala friend requests in the last 48 hours than ever. Turns out getting sold is a great marketing plan for a fledgeling service. ;-) Add me as a friend on Lala!