Friday, September 29, 2006

Music Festivals Partner with MusicIP to Help Fans find New Artists

So let's say I'm interested in an upcoming music festival but I don't know a lot of the bands. How can I do my homework ahead of time to find artists I might enjoy based on my current tastes?

This is exactly the question that MusicIP is answering with their new playground sites. For example, the company worked with the Nemo Music Festival in Boston going on this week to set up a playground site. I go to the playground and type in an artist or song I know and love then based on the super secret big ass MusicIP database, it tells me similar artists who are playing the festival. A click or two more and you're at the artist's Sonicbids bio page where you can read more about the artist and download a free track. Cool stuff!

I suggest taking it a couple of steps further. Let me rate the artists I sample and create my own agenda of sorts that I can have emailed to me or printed out to take to the festival so I don't miss any of the artists that are always playing concurrently at these things. Or even better let me stop by the MusicIP booth at the festival where they can print a nice color version of my agenda, laminate it, and throw it on a free lanyard!

The promise of the Internet helping music fans find new artists based on their current tastes has been around a long, long time. I remember around 1995 a simple Web app that let me pick artists in my collection and based on all of the other users' data would recommend other artists I might like. Problem was, it was based on a person's entire music collection. Just because I own R.E.M. and Penguin Cafe Orchestra, doesn't mean another R.E.M. fan will like PCO. And many online retailers didn't do much better. Just because I purchased a Dwight Yoakam CD as a gift doesn't mean I like the Bakersfield sound.

MusicIP's approach appears to have finally broken out of the unworkable molds and the fans are the real winners.

Scissor Sisters Impress with New Release

Scissor Sisters are back after a two year break from recording with their new record Ta-Dah. 2004's self-titled debut featured the infectious "Take Your Mama" and dance club favorite "Comfortably Numb" cover.

The new record is richer and has more depth than the debut, but still contains the playful trashiness I loved in the first. Elton John helped out with co-writing and playing on a couple tracks and his overall influence can be felt throughout. Elton, like Paul Weller, seems to impress me more lately when he collaborates with other artists (see Weller-produced Ocean Colour Scene) rather than his own solo releases. Ta-Dah is a more listenable album than the previous, with the best of dance, disco, Bee Gees falsetto, and groove thrown in. Favorite tracks: "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," "Kiss You Off," "Land of a Thousand Words," "Might Tell You Tonight."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A professional wrassler once owned my home

When I moved into my current home two years ago, I found some battered 35mm negatives in the attic of what appeared to be men in underwear and one man as an Elvis impersonator. I carried the negatives around for a year meaning to get prints made of them. Last summer I finally did that and here were the results:

The nice ladies at Walgreens said they recognized them as "TV wrasslers" from the 70s. I just thought the photos were a hoot. Apparently these guys wrestled under the team name "The Jet Set" (see undies, above). I then did what every Webhead would do and created a t-shirt at Cafe Press.

I emailed the photos to several friends asking if they could help identify the wrestlers. No luck. A few weeks later our friend Pam was scouring the real estate records to find out what all her friends had paid for their homes (like you do) and she discovered that wrestler George Gulas and/or his wrestling promoter father Nick had once owned our home.

Anyway, my kids won't allow me to wear the t-shirt anywhere near them. George, let me know if you want those negatives back.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

MusicIP Mixer Initial Reactions

Last week I downloaded the free version of MusicIP Mixer in order to catalog my MP3s and create mixes based on similarities between tracks in my collection. What this allows you to do is select one song and create a mix based on the sonic qualities of that first song. I've been using the Winamp plug in from the same company for a while now and this was my first experiment with the standalone mixer.

After about four days of indexing 30,000 or so songs, I was quite surprised to find that only 80 or so songs were considered "unanalyzable." To compare, my most recent indexing via the Winamp plug-in (formerly known as Predixis MusicMatch) rendered nearly 2/3 of my collection unanalyzable. This was unacceptable; I'm concerned about the future relationship between Winamp and MusicIP.

FYI, I treat my music collection as my own personal radio station so I want as much "predictable randomization" as possible.

My first impressions of MusicIP Mixer have been incredible. I can select one song and create an instant mix of 20 songs, 20 minutes, or 20 megabytes, for example. Great for party mixes or that special mood, and the mixes render very quickly. I haven't yet played around with the preferences but you can tweak the criteria for mixing such as limiting the genre and number of songs by the same artist.

I'll post more about this great tool so stay tuned.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jack White, Won't You Be My Neighbor

Much has been published and blogged about Jack White's (The Raconteurs and The White Stripes) move to Nashville. All I can say is that we're overjoyed to have the rocker here in Music City. Sorry Detroit.

White bought a home in Nashville and realty records show the house and nearly seven acres changed hands in December '05 for $3.1 million. The best thing is that he's had the chimneys and front door painted Jack White signature red and the outbuildings painted with theme colors (grey, red, yellow). The 1910 home has gained a new flair.

I've so been rocked by Mr. White's work from the Stripes to Cold Mountain to Van Lear Rose to The Raconteurs to The Simpsons. I've been listening for my doorbell...

When I drove my brother (from Athens, GA) and younger son Harry by the White house on Sunday, my kid declared that he wanted to trick-or-treat at the Jack White home. If the gate is open on October 31, we're going to pay a visit. I bet his house is gonna rock on Halloween.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Where is Farkministan?

I was looking through some of my podcast stats at Web Pasties a few days ago, and noticed that I had 146 downloads from Farkministan:

That's quite interesting. A country I had never heard of. I asked my coworker Garry "where is Farkministan" and he said "I don't know, try to Wiki it."

Wiki, nothing.

Google maps, nothing. would surely show me the way, but nothing there.

So I emailed the first-class folks at Web Pasties and Bill Bercik emailed me a nice reply saying that Farkministan is a joke (don't let the fine Farkministanians know). Any time IP_TO_COUNTRY comes up null, he throws it into the Farkministan bucket instead of reporting "Unknown Country." The Farkministan flag Bill uses is actually a nautical flag meaning something like "I can't control my bladder, stay out of my way."

I'm loving LogMeIn

My dad turned me on to a remote admin-like tool called LogMeIn. When I see the URL I want to pronounce it "LOG MAIN" as in Chinese food for beavers. LogMeIn is really easy to install and now when I'm not at home I can remotely fiddle with my home machines. Best thing is they have a free version.

Mildred Philpots and the terrible, terrible Web design

When I first started working for NewOrder Media (an interactive shop which morphed into HealthStream) in the mid 90s, we were too small to have an actual receptionist. That wasn't going to stop us though. Mac Hardcastle and I fabricated a receptionist, Mildred Philpots!

Mildred was an elderly woman, and it seemed she was frequently absent in order to take her husband Archie to the doctor. But she was a hoot!

Mac and I referred to her often with very straight faces, such as "If you can't find me, hit zero and ask Mildred to track us down." Or, "I asked Mildred to schedule that meeting. I guess she forgot." We even set her up a desk and lovingly draped a sweater over the back of her chair.

The Mildred jig was up when a client realized she only existed in our imaginations.

Fast forward to 2005 when I had the bright idea to put together a NewOrder Media reunion. I had kept in touch with most of the old gang but there were some people who had left town without a forwarding address and others I purposely didn't invite. I set up an Evite and as I tracked down each person I would add them to the Evite. It was actually a fun exercise to find some of my long lost co-workers.

Well, Mildred had to be invited. And in order to give her an appearance of reality, I set her up with a profile on Evite in case someone clicked through. (Several guests admitted later that they had not remembered working with a Mildred Philpots.)

But then, she had to have her own Web site! Shocker, wasn't taken. I then set out to "design" the worst Web site ever, one that made me long for the days of 1994. Since Mildred's favorite song was "Top of the World" by The Carpenters (in reality it was Mac's mother Fran's favorite), her site had to have a bad MIDI version that you couldn't turn off.

That Mildred!

Domain names as baby gifts

You know it's the twenty first century when you find yourself reserving domain names of your friends' new babies as a gift celebrating their new offspring. For example, last year my gift to my brother and sister-in-law was a site dedicated to my new niece, Nora. Now if I could just get them to update the damn content on the site.

The Stewart house is all agog about Nora's visit to Nashville this weekend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crap, I have a lot of MP3s

I have now surpassed the 30,000 song mark. That's a lot of nuts!

A little bit about me: first of all, I'm a nazi about song organization. Second, I fear a meteor will crash on my house and I'll lose my beloved hard drive. [Shatner as Kirk voice] Must...back...up.

I'm in the process of indexing the files with MusicIP Mixer (formerly Predixis MusicMatch) because the MusicMatch plug in was never that reliable in Winamp. We'll see about the standalone MusicIP Mixer.

What MusicIP basically does is scour your music collection to find similar songs so you can make mix lists based on the original song. So, if you're in a Josh Rouse "1972" mood (which I frequently find myself), select that song and create a mix list of similar songs. MusicIP has some big-ass database behind the scenes that stores the similarity info. It does a darn good job in my experience, and is a must for large collections.

Wolfmother at Exit In

Wolfmother, the much-hyped Aussie band, paid a musical visit to the Exit In here in Nashville last night. I'd been fired up to see them partly because I enjoy their record and partly because I fell victim to the hype and partly because the show was sold out.

After the band The Mess Hall rocked us out in their opening set, the headliner went on at about 10:20 P.M. The show was good, not great. Part of the problem was that it was a little too good, in that the songs seemed to be note-by-note identical to the album.

The best part of the evening was running into my old friend Don who's co-owner of The Gold Rush. I don't think Don ever ages. After fifteen years or so he still looks the same.

Who knows what Wolfmother will come up with for a sophomore release, but for now, I'm enjoying the hype.