Coulton on Mix-a-Lot

Via Digiphile, the inimitable Jonathan Coulton (mentioned here before) performs my new favorite version of Baby Got Back:

I hesitate to embed the original Sir Mix-a-Lot version. Instead, here’s a link. Potentially not safe for work.

Also via Digiphile, Love 2.0, perhaps the first variation on the 09F0 meme to make me laugh out loud.

Grimmelmann on PrawfsBlawg

Not to be missed: well-known enfant terrible James Grimmelmann is guest-blogging on PrawfsBlawg. His opening commentary on the relationship between law practice and computer science:

Practicing lawyers, like practicing programmers, are professional pragmatists. Both must make their cases (and case mods) out of the materials they have available; both starve or eat steak depending on whether their creations work. The day-to-day practice of law is unlikely ever to require much high theory. We can mourn that fact because it means that they look at us with suspicion, or celebrate it because it frees us to chase Truth and Beauty—and it will remain a fact either way.

Aside from the fact that I don’t eat steak, I think this is correct.

Via a commenter on James’ entry, I learned that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is implementing a wiki (the entry page could surely use some more content). Surprisingly, it was not Posner but Easterbrook who spearheaded the effort. This is a very interesting development, but I expect it will be quite a while before any other circuit takes up the idea.

Finally, I have been meaning to write about this New York Times story describing Jonathan Coulton’s success as a musician breaking with the traditional distribution /promotional channels (via 43 folders, a productivity blog that is still on my “probation” list). Unfortunately, slashdot beat me to it. I first re-discovered Jonathan Coulton during his guest episode of the Show with Ze Frank. In any event, the article is well worth reading:

More than 3,000 people, on average, were visiting his site every day, and his most popular songs were being downloaded as many as 500,000 times; he was making what he described as “a reasonable middle-class living” — between $3,000 and $5,000 a month — by selling CDs and digital downloads of his work on iTunes and on his own site…

Coulton realized he could simply poll his existing online audience members, find out where they lived and stage a tactical strike on any town with more than 100 fans, the point at which he’d be likely to make $1,000 for a concert. It is a flash-mob approach to touring: he parachutes into out-of-the-way towns like Ardmore, Pa., where he recently played to a sold-out club of 140….

In total, 41 percent of Coulton’s income is from digital-music sales, three-quarters of which are sold directly off his own Web site. Another 29 percent of his income is from CD sales; 18 percent is from ticket sales for his live shows. The final 11 percent comes from T-shirts, often bought online…

Ralph’s World, More Music For “Children”

For those who care about kids…

I recently blogged about TMBG’s marketing genius in releasing “kids’” albums that adults who grew up to TMBG will love and buy. Another good example of kids’ music that you, too, can enjoy is Ralph’s World. It’s not quite as ironic or odd as TMBG, but still a good listen. Check out, for example, the RealAudio clips for Clean-Up (much better than the Barney version!), Baa-Baa Black Sheep, and The Coffee Song.

Speaking of Barney, apparently his music has been used to torture Iraqi detainees.

[Tags]Children’s Music, Music[/Tags]

Chaiyya Chaiyya

A reason to love YouTube: Chaiyya Chaiyya.

[Tags]Bollywood, Youtube[/Tags]

They Might Be Giants Are Marketing Geniuses

When They Might Be Giants started releasing kid’s albums back in 2002 with “No!”, I didn’t really understand why they had chosen to go in that direction. Two years later, though, I had a kid, and now I realize They are marketing geniuses.

(my kid)

They Might Be Giants made their mainstream debut in 1986. The oddball audience that really got it would have been between 13 and 25 years old at the time (as was I). Most of those folks now have settled down into stable jobs, disposable income (read: can afford to purchase music), and kids.

For those of us worried about inculcating our children with an appropriately developed sense of irony to get them through the next century, TMBG is the perfect prescription. We can play our kids these new albums and rest assured that our kids will eventually appreciate Terry Gilliam, Ze Frank, John Belushi, and the like. And learn the alphabet (mp3) (ogg) while they’re at it:

F is far too fussy and only eats with fancy wine
G eats only gourmet but never can decide
H burns food so horrible
all I tastes is smoke
J just likes drinking juice
and K drinks only soda

(Please note the Cake tribute — which is interesting, since Cake was undoubtedly influence by TMBG.) (If you don’t get the joke, it’s “soda.”)

The target audience, of course, is still “us” — those of us over 30, who are more likely to actually purchase music rather than copy it. It’s an interesting reversal of the more typical marketing plan which involves getting kids to nag their parents to buy things.

It thus makes a lot of sense that TMBG is selling tracks direct online from their website in unencumbered formats — $9.99/album in MP3 format, or $11.99/album as FLAC files. An extra two bucks for lossless audio? Of course I’ll buy that! You should too.

Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra just announced the launch of an online store, where they are selling tracks directly from their own website. Following in the tentative steps of MySpace, eMusic, and Yahoo!, the Orchestra is selling unencumbered (i.e., DRM-free) MP3’s. Even better, for a slightly higher price, you can download content in the higher quality (lossless) FLAC format.

Performances currently seemed to be priced at approximately $5 for the MP3 version and $6 for the FLAC version. This seems just about right to me.

As an added bonus, they’re offering Beethoven’s Fifth in C minor for free.

I’d love to see more of the industry move in this direction, particularly for longer-tail type cultural content like classical and world music. These recent developments are certainly a good start. It will be interesting to see if the iTunes Store eventually is forced to respond to these pressures.

Real Gone

Great Tom Waits album that had slipped my memory: Real Gone. Actually, add to that every other Tom Waits album. I can’t think of many artists 35 years into their careers who are still pushing their edge.

Green Mountain Moonshine

Check out my brother Jonah’s band, Green Mountain Moonshine. They have the least annoying Myspace page I’ve ever seen. And the music is really pretty good.

Rocket Man Meme

I can’t believe I’m almost thirty years old and only just now saw William Shatner’s rendition of Rocket Man (discovered via Wikipedia, indirectly via this excellent episode of This American Life and the “one-day band’s” cover of Rocketman). If you’re almost thirty and you haven’t seen it yet, do it now! In fact, even if you’re over thirty, see it. (If you’re under thirty, you probably aren’t quite ready.)

Once you are up to date on this valuable artifact of cultural history, you can experience the postmodern repackaging as performed by Stewie from the Family Guy.

Addendum: I am also surprised to learn just now that Ray Bradbury (whose work inspired Rocket Man) has never driven a car or used a computer.

How Music Should and Will Be Sold

Dave Douglas’ new album, Keystone, can be purchased as a CD (includes a DVD as well, free shipping), MP3 (entire album, cheaper than the CD), or MP3 (individual tracks). Douglas has started his own web-based label, Greenleaf Music. I’d like to see the MP3 album, which is now $10, even more cheaper than the CD, which is $15, but this model makes a lot more sense to me than the DRM-encumbered iTunes Music Store, where you end up paying as much or more for an album than a CD version of the same thing.

Douglas also has some sheet music on his site which is interesting.

This quote from the About Greenleaf page is right on:

And how will Greenleafs business approach differ? “We endeavor to be as innovative in our marketing plans as the artists are in their music,” says Friedman. “We plan to re-evaluate current approaches to everything from package design to marketing, promotion and sales strategies and look at every marketing expense in light of its potential resonance with each individual project. We will count on web marketing as a means of artist development and as our artists will be on tour, utilize the live performances to sell records and create sales bases. We also believe that what interests listeners is not just the recorded product, but the artists themselves. As such we are interested in making available sheet music, artist commentary, discussion and more.”

I expect we will look back on these sort of efforts and wonder why it wasn’t obvious to everyone at the time that this is the way the music industry would end up.