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You Need a Music Stylist

Trendsetters.com recently reported that the latest in must-have's for the über-hipster crowd is an iPod whose tunes are custom loaded by a "music stylist." Yes, you heard it correctly: a personalized music stylist. For only $100 a month "cutting edge music service" Activaire will rent you an iPod crammed with 30 hours of tunes sorted by both mood and time of day. Because it's continuous music, "A song repeats only a few times a week," says Activaire. "This keeps you in an acoustically fresh atmosphere at all times."

You know, "acoustically fresh" like when you're sitting on the toilet after a night out drinking whiskey wishing for the appropriate "mood" to ease your banging head and troubled bowels. Or when you're gazing inside an empty fridge, scratching a grumgling tummy and wishing you had even the most meager fixings for a sandwich.

File under: "Hi! I'm hip and obviously intelligent! Can't you see by the brand name merchandise I'm wearing? Ask me how stupid I am... I mean, ask me how much it cost."

RIAA to Sue Downloaders

Another to file under "stupid" is the RIAA's (Recording Industry Association of America) announcement in late June of its intention to file several hundred lawsuits against individuals they claim are illegally sharing music files online, citing that illegal sharing as the reason behind declining music sales (an argument that is far from accurate when examined more closely). "It's stealing. It's both wrong and illegal," RIAA president Carey Sherman was quoted as saying. "You are not anonymous. We're going to begin taking names."

The filing is expected to begin sometime in September, and computer users found guilty of illegally sharing files could face fines anywhere between $750 and $150,000 for each violation. However, something to note: the RIAA can only track those individuals who upload illegal music, not those who simply download. It's called "Disable sharing of files with other Kazaa Media Desktop Users," found under Tools -> Options -> Traffic, kids.

Also, as the reasonably crafty will find, there are plenty of options to hide oneself from prying eyes. MP2P (Manolito Peer-to-Peer) services such as Blubster makes it possible for users to upload and download anonymously by using UDP (User Datagram Protocol) instead of TCP (Transfer Control Protocol) for transfer negotiating. Blubster developer Pablo Soto explains, "It may be possible to gather IP addresses from the network, but not data about what content specific users are sharing."

The tragedy is that while the music business starts crumbling from numerous reasons that, to an extent do include file sharing, they again are making criminals of potential consumers because after several years they still have not been able to embrace the technology and provide a model that's intuitive, bottomless in selection, and easy on the pocketbook. iTunes is coming close, but it's still not entirely there yet. The continuing use and evolution of peer-to-peer technology is not going to dimish anytime soon, ever ever, and all the RIAA and its masters will succeed in doing is continuing to embitter people, which will only further their demise. It's simple Business 101, folks.

Orrin Hatch Guilty of Crimes Against Orrin Hatch

In related news, during a recent hearing on copyright abuse Senate Judiciary Chairman Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) said that he favors developing technology that would destroy the computers of those users who illegally upload or download music from the Internet. "I'm all for destroying their machines," Hatch said. "If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize the seriousness of their actions. There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws."

Of course, what Hatch failed to point out was that such action is completely illegal under current U.S. law. But hey... what's a little law breaking by the government? And if you should happen to have legally downloaded music that by mistake gets your machine knocked upside the head by a technological baseball bat? Too bad.

Why such strong comments? What Senator Hatch was really trying to do is present such a strong statement against downloading that anything less extreme -- like, say, suing kids for $150,000 for each sharing violation -- would seem mild and reasonable in comparison.

The thing that makes Hatch's statements so damn funny, however, came by way of unemployed system administrator Laurence Simon who, while noodling around the code on the Senator's website shortly after Hatch's comments, discovered that the good Senator himself was using unlicensed software on the good Senator's official website. Hatch's site uses a JavaScript menu system created by Milonic Solutions, run by Andy Woolley out of the U.K. Woolley charges $900 for a sitewide license, and offers the code free for nonprofit and personal use (something the Senator would likely qualify for). However, the software license stipulates that users must register the software and provide a link to the source code on Milonic's site. Hatch had done neither. Instead, the Senator's site contains the following: "* i am the license for the menu (duh) *"

"We've had no contact with them. They are in breach of our licensing terms," said Woolley, who further explained the strange comment in the code, "It looks like it's trying to cover something up, as though they [do have] a license."

News of the licensing violation spread like wildfire across the digital frontier and in short order Hatch's office changed the code and licensed the software faster than you can say, "There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws, destroy their computer!"

Even funnier, it was further discovered by sleuthful netizens that a link on Hatch's site to an outside website offering information on the Senator's home state of Utah linked instead to a pornography site. Apparently the domain registration to the informational site had slipped and the porn army snapped it up quicker than you can say "destroy their computer!"

Believe it.

Senate Overturns FCC Ruling

Much to the surprise of every decent person who was familiar with the Federal Communications Commission's plans to further deregulate the telecommuniations industry, in some much-needed good technology news the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee voted on June 19th to overturn the national broadcast ownership limit, which the FCC ruled in a split-vote to increase to 45 percent. The Senate committee approved legislation to roll back the limit to its previous cap of 35 percent.

The measure also approves overturning the FCC decision that allowed network broadcasters to own newspapers in their respective markets. Such acquisitions would generally be barred, excepting for waivers granting the 60 smallest markets a merger option if it was deemed to be in the public interest.

Moral of the story: your vote does count. Write the congressmen responsible for overturning the FCC decision and thank them for their dedicated work in keeping the airwaves public.

Get Well Soon, Alejandro Escovedo

Austin musician Alejandro Escovedo is battling Hepatitis C, a disease causing liver inflammation which can be spread through contact with blood or contaminated needles, and for which there is currently no known cure. "He's doing OK," friend Alan Durham said. "It depends on the day. If it's a treatment day, then it's really, really bad."

Escovedo, highly regarded for his bittersweet take on alt-country, is a well-known and much loved figure both in the Austin music community and far beyond. While he continues to treat the disease, several benefit shows have been arranged to help raise funds for his medical bills. Like most musicians, Escovedo has no insurance to cover his medical costs.

More information can be found at www.alejandrofund.com. Donations can also be placed through the website. Get well soon, Alejandro!

Rest in Peace Joe Teresa

Rest in peace Joe Teresa, owner of Mr. T's Bowl in Highland Park, who died at the age of 87 after battling a long illness. Teresa bought the run down bowling alley in the '60s, changing it into a club (except for two private lanes he kept in the back) and starting an underground venue that would be revered for decades to come. Never an absentee owner, Teresa was a strong supporter of community and diversity, and even into his 80s he often could be found leading karaoke night until the wee hours of the morning. Sleep well, Joe.

Rest in Peace Christian Morgenstern

Rest In Peace Christian Morgenstern, highly respected musician and founder of Forte Records. Morgenstern died at the much, much too young age of 27 of apparent heart failure. "It's a loss to the progress of electronic music that such a dynamic and inventive artist has left us," wrote a friend. "May his name live on through all of us who enjoyed and appreciated what he did for us." Rest in peace.

Rest in Peace Seattle's Cloud Room

Rest in peace Seattle's Cloud Room, much-loved piano lounge that sat atop the Camlin Hotel overlooking the Seattle skyline. First opening in 1949, the lounge had a long and illustrious history, with musicians from Frank Sinatra to Miles Davis to Elvis Costello playing intimate sets inside, and on whose piano the lovely Michelle Pfeiffer slithered across and sang in the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys.

Recently sold to Trendwest Resorts, the Camlin's Cloud Room will be converted in to luxury penthouse suites for Trendwest members. Yeah, it really is that ugly. So much history... so many memories. They don't build them like that anymore. Somewhere Ol' Blue Eyes is cursing up a storm.

Shizzle My Nizzle Not an Offense

A High Court Judge in the U.K. recently ruled that "shizzle my nizzle," in reference to "mish mish man" did not qualify as an offense under the law. Producing Andrew Alcee had filed suit against the Heartless Crew for remixing the 2001 Ant'ill Mob hit of his "Burnin'" for using lyrics that referenced violence and drugs.

The judge dismissed the claim, stating that he had surfed the Internet and could not establish whether Heartless Crew's lyrics referenced drugs or violence. He added, "Some definitions carried sexual connotations. The most popular definitions were definitions of the phrase 'fo' shizzle my nizzle' and indicated that it meant 'for sure.' There were no entries for 'mish mish man.'"

However, we here at eP are pretty sure that the judge used Snoop Dog's Shizzolator instead.

Thieves Are Scum (When You Let Them Remix)

While boarding a plane at New York's Kennedy Airport recently, rap artist Lil' Kim checked a bag that contained $500,000 (yup, that's half-a-million) in jewelry, including her signature diamond-encrusted "Queen Bee" necklace, all of which she meant to take on the plane as carry-on. After boarding the flight Lil' Kim realized the mistake and after recovering her bag noticed that it was $250,000 lighter and one "Queen Bee" necklace short.

People get what they deserve, they say, and the story should end here, but one week after the incident authorities at Kennedy Airport discovered the missing quarter-million dollars in jewelry (including her precious "Queen Bee" necklace) inside a rag in a locker room for airline employees.

Adam Ant Goes Berserk (Play It Again Sam Remix)

Adam Ant, real name Stuart Goddard, has been arrested (again) for going nutso in a London pub. Police arrested the 49-year-old man after he allegedly went berserk in a café and stripped off his clothes. It all started with Goddard hurling stones at his neighbors windows, where after he went inside the Curly Dog Café, stripped off his pants, ranted about a number of things, and then went into the café's basement where he curled up in a ball and refused to come out. Café staff said they found a roll of paper in the basement covered with illegible scribbling, including "Heratio Lord Nelson was his guide."

Said one diner, " He was very stressed but not aggressive. You could tell he really wasn't well at all."

Goddard has been battling mental illness for some years, and was arrested previously last year earlier after having a breakdown in a London pub. Take care of yourself and get well soon, Adam!

Stop Buying CDs/DVDs Says Malaysia

Straddling news of the weird between berserk musicians and just plain crazy politicians, in late May Datuk S. Subramanian, Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister of Malaysia (whew!), asked the denizens of his country to stop buying CDs and DVDs temporarily in order to force the industry to reduce prices. Ironically enough, the move was made by the government in order to help the industry itself in an effort to stave off the real culprit: piracy.

The government claims that the high price of electronic media has created a large demand for black market copies of CDs and DVDs, and in an attempt to shut the market down (or at least downsize it) they're trying to force the industry to reduce prices by any means necessary, apparently, so the regular Joe's can afford the real deal.

Makes sense in a completely nonsensical way, no?

Nine Things the Record Industry Should Know

In the aftermath of the RIAA recent announcement to begin a determined witch hunt for those they deem to be download violators, here's some food for thought taken from the MusicIndustryLaw, a website that has a number of insightful articles well worth taking the time to read, so check it out already.

The following material is copyright MusicIndustryLaw.com. Click here for their disclaimer, copyright and trademark notices.

Nine Things the Record Industry Should Know

1. It's the pricing, stupid.
Okay, it isn't just the pricing. Fans also want choice and convenience. They want real choice in the artists, albums and songs they can purchase, they want the ability to purchase just the 3 or 4 songs on modern pop albums that really catch their interest, they want the convenience of getting their choice in multiple formats to play on any device they own.

2. The Genie is out of the Bottle. Advice - let it go.
No amount of prayer, pleading or policing will make downloading music go away. Bullying, creating scapegoats, scare mongering and engaging in hi-tech vigilantism will not win you friends or customers. Instead of suing college students and other music fans, try offering them an online music product that will command their attention and money.

3. DRM is DOA
There's a fundamental reason why digital rights management (DRM) will not solve the record industry's woes - the human ear is an analog device. Every 'digital' recording must be converted into analog sound waves to be perceived by human beings. If it can be heard, it can be re-digitized at high quality sans any DRM.

Moreover, even if a completely hack-proof DRM scheme could be developed, every CD currently in circulation would still provide would-be infringers with pristine masters.

4. Technology doesn't 'steal' music. Dissatisfied music fans 'steal' music.
Make no mistake. Every person you denounce as a "thief" is a music enthusiast and potential customer. Piracy is largely a symptom of consumer dissatisfaction with industry offerings. And it is not just an online problem. As long as CDs are priced exorbitantly, the incentive for piracy - online and physical - will persist. It's laughably easy and cheap to "manufacture" bootlegs - whether in virtual copies or otherwise.

BTW, the proper term is copyright infringement. Calling it 'theft' might satisfy your sense of moral outrage but it won't bring you any closer to solving your problem.

5. Artists and their rights matter.
On the issue of moral outrage, you should do unto artists as you would have their fans do unto you. Part of the ambivalence that music fans have about downloading music for "free" is the sense that record labels rip off the artists anyway. If fans truly understood the extent of unfairness with which you treat the majority of their idols, that ambivalence would harden into downright hostility.

The answer? Play fair. That means no more 7-album deals, bogus royalty reductions, excessive recoupables, controlled composition clauses, domain name hi-jacking, etc. Treat the talent as valued partners; Hollywood and the professional sports reluctantly did that decades ago and are thriving today.

6. Technology isn't the enemy, it's a potential ally.
P2P, MP3, AAC, as threatening as technology must seem to you, it can help create some win-win solutions. Think catalogs and indie music for example. If you eliminated access to the fewer than 50 multi-platinum albums a year that the industry salivates over, it wouldn't make a dent in the demand for music online because people care for a lot more than the current pop flavor of the day.

The fact is that the current major label dominated system doesn't do a good job of marketing and distributing current non-pop and catalog material - to the continuing frustration of artists and fans alike. There is a tremendous opportunity here to leverage catalog materials in new and exciting ways. But don't forget to play fair with artists and fans. Paying mechanical royalties of 2 cents per sale to songwriters on classic songs sold in 2003 is simply unconscionable. Charging consumers an arm and a leg for music that has generated profits for decades is also verboten.

7. Don't meter music. Make music ubiquitous!
The key to success with music online is in making music more easily and widely available, not locking it up and metering its use. You must increase, not reduce, access to music.

The last thing you should be doing is devising ways to prevent people from listening to music. Apart from the fact that it is an impossible task (see point#3 - DRM is DOA - above), you're competing with films, video games, books, television, and other forms of entertainment for people's leisure time. Viewed properly, your task is to gain as large a share of the 24 hours in a day with compelling, convenient and affordably priced content that the consumer values and will pay for.

The only way to make online music ubiquitous and profitable is in collaboration with technology partners, especially broadband ISPs and consumer electronics players. But don't forget rule #1!

8. It's bigger than the music industry.
First, artists - the creators without whom there truly is no content - have not been adequately represented in the little that has passed for debate about the future of music and copyright. Next, the changes that the record labels and the movie studios are fomenting affect a lot more than copyright but extend to freedom of speech, privacy and other civil liberties. With all due respect, the global information society cannot afford to have the music industry in the driver's seat on these critical issues.

Already, the RIAA and MPAA's litigiousness and bullying is having a chilling effect in academia. Further, it adversely affects the economic interests of the telecommunications, computer hardware, software and consumer electronics industries whose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues dwarf the record industry's $12 billion.

9. You must prove your relevance. How? By reinventing the recording industry.
In the past decade or so, the minimum cost required to create the two essential music business assets - copyrights in music compositions and sound recordings - has dropped remarkably, thanks to new recording technology. Yet, neither musicians (your suppliers) nor music fans (your customers) have benefited economically from this change because the old industry with its bloated economic infrastructure is fossilized. Way too much is spent on promotion and marketing, to the main benefit of radio and Viacom's music video properties.

Technology has also undone CDs and other physical media as containers and de facto units of trade. This means that unlike CDs, introducing audio DVDs will not create windfall revenues. In fact, you can no longer lock people into paying for music they don't want - regardless of the medium. If the album is to remain relevant as a format, it has to represent compelling value to the consumer.

If there is any single lesson to take away from the success of the MP3 format, it is that convenience, choice and affordability trump sound quality for the modern music fan. Give the people what they want!

Picture of the Month

[ pitchshifter's j.s. clayden singing to the home crowd in nottingham, england - photo by craig young ]
photo by craig young

-Craig Young
Editor-in-Chief (or so they keep insisting)

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