Monday, September 27, 2010

A Look At If You Make It and The Pink Couch

If You Make It, commonly abbreviated as simply IYMI, is a Web site operated by Dave Garwacke that focuses on original audio and video content. According to the site's About page,  Garwacke (who plays in many bands himself) started the Web site to document the bands that he knows personally or just bands he really enjoyed. IYMI features video series, a forum, music videos, and comics. However, the site's two most popular features are the Pink Couch Sessions and the free album database.
According to the site's About page, Garwacke said the decision to do the Pink Couch Sessions stemmed from his desire to control the sounds of shows. The Pink Couch Sessions feature either a band or a solo artist performing on a big pink couch (hence the name) in Garwacke's apartment. The audio of the sessions are perfect and it feels like watching a small concert. Throughout the years Garwacke has had popular musicians such as the Vivian Girls, Maps and Atlases, Lemuria, Kevin Devine, Walter Schreifels, and Franz Nicolay (formerly of The Hold Steady) appear on the Pink Couch Sessions.

The free albums portion of the page features numerous albums available for free download, although donations are suggested in order to help support the bands. Some of the more popular records on the site are Snowing's debut EP, Grown Ups "Songs", and Everyone Everywhere's "A Lot of Weird People Standing Around".

What I like most about the site is the fact that it is very interactive, comments can be left on almost every page of the Web site. The free download section of IYMI is also beneficial to bands because it exposes their music to a large audience and the donations go straight to the band in order to help them fund other projects. IYMI is one of the most original music Web sites I have come across and I have been exposed to so many great bands through the site. Below is one of my favorite Pink Couch Sessions, Failures' Union's "Lake Erie Nosedive".

Failures' Union - Lake Erie Nosedive from If You Make It on Vimeo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Google Plans To Launch Music Service

My last post talked about Bandcamp and its possibility of being the future of how music is distributed from artists to fans and the role it has played in some musician’s recent success. I came across a news post on by Matthew Tsai about Google's attempt to launch a music service that sort of plays into the future of music and how consumers access it. Aside from distribution methods by services such as Bandcamp, the way consumers  obtain music has largely been dominated by Apple’s iTunes store. However, Google is planning a launch of its new service Google Music which may draw some users away from iTunes.

The news posting links to Jacob Ganz’s NPR article "What Google Music Might Look Like" details Google’s plans to enter the world of music distribution. One of the major innovation Ganz mentions in his article is Google’s desire to allow streaming of music purchased from the store as well as songs from CDs users have ripped to the storage service. According to the article, subscriptions to the service will be about $25 a year. The service allows users to stream their music from any device that can access the Internet, which means virtually every personal device that is popular today.

This simple aspect of Google Music, regardless of any other features, is what makes this idea such an interesting prospect. Almost everyone I know, including myself, owns an iPod or other mp3 storage device and the main appeal behind them is the ability to carry around your entire musical library with you so that whenever the idea of ‘Oh, I really wish I could listen to such and such a song right now” pops into your head, you are able to switch that song almost instantly.

The problem with these devices is that people have to transfer the files from their hard drive to the device in order to hear them. With the Google Music service, that restriction is eliminated. Once the song is purchased or placed into the storage section of your profile, you can stream it wirelessly from any device with an Internet connection.  Sadly this is not possible for users who have placed the music in their iTunes library and forgot to place the album on their iPods because the music on an iTunes library is stored on the computer’s hard drive and therefore cannot be remotely accessed.

I am intrigued by this service and although I am not certain if I will subscribe to it when it goes live, I think the service will appeal to many people who are constantly on the go. The thought that you can now access your music library from virtually any of your electronic devices that can be as small is a cell phone is an incredibly exciting idea. I cannot wait for Google to roll out this new service and see what sort of impact it has on other services and the music business in general.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bandcamp: The Future of the Music Business?

I was browsing the other day when I stumbled upon a news post by Tony Pascarella detailing changes made to the music download service Bandcamp when I noticed something that stuck out to me. Popular indie artist Sufjan Stevens released his new EP "All Delighted People" through the site on the day it was released and Pascarella reported that the service helped Stevens sell over 10,000 copies in three days. This was enough to land Stevens at #48 on the Billboard 200 chart, which is quite a feat for an indie artist.

This made me wonder about one question that I have been thinking about lately, "Is Bandcamp the future of the music business?" While many music consumers look at iTunes as a company that dominates the music landscape in terms of digital sales, I think that Bandcamp is making strides to eventually surpass the iTunes model. Bandcamp's site provides many interesting facts that make me believe that they will soon become the standard for digital music services, such as the fact that albums outsell individual track sales 4-to-1 and the ration for other services is 16-to-1.

Also, Bandcamp allows artists to control the sale price of their albums, including the option of giving it away for free, which most larger services do not allow. According to Bandcamp's FAQ, they also provide SEO services to ensure the artist's Bandcamp page is ahead of other retail service. This allows the artist to interact directly with the fans and most likely earn more money since they are selling directly to the fans rather than through a distributor. I think the flexibility of the service and the control it offers artists looking to sell their music is what will eventually put Bandcamp ahead of iTunes.

As a music journalist, I also find it interesting that journalism and record companies are both having trouble adapting to change. Media companies are slowly moving to the Internet to promote their content and are taking advantage of all the innovations available but not before they had to deal with crippling financial losses. Record companies are also moving at the same glacial pace as the media companies. They may have finally caught on to iTunes and figured how to make that a viable option for consumers, but the artists are still not seeing the sort of money they should due to an outdated business model.  The industry will be forced to either change their entire business structure or risk losing great new artists who simply decide to strike out on their own, a process that will be made easier with Bandcamp.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Demise of Paste Magazine

Decatur, Ga. based Paste Magazine confirmed that it was no longer printing issues of the magazine on September 1st via Twitter. Paste closed because it was struggling financially and even launched a campaign in which they asked for donations from readers, which helped keep the magazine afloat for a couple of more issues. As a new subscriber but longtime reader of the magazine, I was heartbroken to learn that most of the Paste staff had been let go (one of my favorite writers at Paste, Rachael Maddux, chronicles this event in a story for Salon) and that the state of the magazine is up in the air.

Paste was in my opinion, one of the best music magazines out there and also had a subscription plan that I thought would be the future for all music magazines. For example, my subscription that I purchased last Christmas entitled me to all of these perks - print copies of the magazine, digital copies of the magazine I could read before the issue hit newsstands, digital versions of Pastes sampler series, a live MP3 of the week and 2 free albums that were a part of their Artist Discovery Series. I thought this idea was incredibly brilliant and would be the blueprint for how music magazines would function in the future, but I guess that even having such incredible subscription options was not enough to save the magazine.

Maddux's story for Salon details the sort of criticism and praise that was directed at the magazine over its eight year run and I must say that my experience as a reader is that Paste was a bold magazine that had the ability to create a magazine that not only featured stories about some of my favorite musicians (The National, Ryan Adams and Death Cab For Cutie) but also opened my eyes to a wider variety of music I had never even heard of, which is saying a lot consider I eat, sleep, and breathe music. They also wrote some great articles that sometimes made me stare in astonishment and thinking "How did they come up with that?" It is sad to see a magazine with such character and originality be forced to close and I can only hope that the writers will appear in other publications since they were all excellent writers.