My Music Picks of 2007

Since everyone in the SEO universe is doing their year's end compilation posts, I thought I'd share with you Feasters the list of new music albums/songs I enjoyed this year. Other than a few gifts, 2007 was dedicated to iTunes. Others may have their problems and jump ship, but I'm going to stick with iTunes for the foreseeable future. 

2007 was a year of experimenting, and as my wife will agree, of over spending. I got a little crazy with iTunes purchases early on, due to the very easy nature of sampling and clicking to purchase. I never had to look at a balance until my credit card statement came. I didn't go too overboard, but considering the other expenses we had this year, I could have trimmed my music purchaseserepa bit.

I DO love my music, though, and I love discovering bands and artists I've never heard before. iTunes and Starbucks are my crack, and I must moderate usage or else I'll be sucked deep down into the vortex of credit card hell.

Without further ado, my list of new music for 2007:

Linkin' Park – Minutes to Midnight
Boys Like Girls – self titled
Alanis Morisette – Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (note: I'd owned the CD before and it went missing)
Bjork – Homogenic (working on the complete collection)
Bjork – Volta (biggest disappointment of 2007)
Burial – Untrue (biggest surprise of 2007)
Celine Dion – Taking Chances (don't hate… she IS one of the greatest female vocalists)
Feist – The Reminder (purchase totally influenced by the iPod commercial)
KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope (purchased for my wife, but I like it too)
Mat Kearney – Nothing Left to Lose (good album)
Matt Wertz – Somedays
Matthew Good – Hospital Music
Michael Buble – Call Me Irresponsible (greatest lounge voice perhaps ever)
OneRepublic – Dreaming Out Loud
New London Fire – I Sing the Body Holographic

I'd love to see what the rest of you listened to this year. Post your faves in a comment below. Peace out! 

One Change that Will Make iTunes Almost Perfect

Let me just tell you, I love iTunes. Seriously. I don't think I'll ever purchase another CD again (unless it's not available on iTunes, of course). It's so easy to use and allows me to listen to my music in so many ways, I just have no desire to use another service or store. 

Having admitted my serious crush, there is still at least one major flaw with iTunes that, if corrected, would make me a loyal brand evangelist for life. And the only reason this one thing needs to be fixed is because it has already cost me at least $30 that I can't get back.

The problem comes when you purchase music. Once you've purchased, iTunes remembers WHAT you've purchased. You download each song, movie, music video, or podcast onto your PC or Mac and it's stored on your hard drive. That's great, until your hard drive breaks down, is stolen, or reclaimed by your employer. 

I purchased several albums on my work laptop. I used it all the time, both at home and in the office. I was totally planning on burning my new purchases to CD, but never had the opportunity. I was laid off at work, and in an instant, the laptop was no longer mine. I lost those new albums because I hadn't transmitted them sooner. 

This is the problem. If I'm downloading from iTunes, and iTunes keeps track of what I purchase, WHY CAN'T I DOWNLOAD THE SAME THING AGAIN FOR FREE?!?!?!

This is my dilemma. Seriously, how hard would that be? That way, if my computer dies or is lost or stolen, iTunes would always allow me to re-download ONLY the songs or albums or shows that I had already purchased. Sounds perfect to me. 

If you're listening, iTunes, this is my holiday wish: change iTunes so that I can re-download what I've purchased so that I will always have access to the music or videos I have paid for, and you will have my loyalty forever!!!! This is an excellent idea. You know it is. You know I will love you forever if you do this!

As the cheeseballz say, Let's make it happen!
 

Thoughts on the New Linkin Park Album: Minutes to Midnight

new Linkin Park albumLinkin Park received both praise and heavy criticism for their latest effort, Minutes to Midnight. I'll be the first to admit that I was disappointed when I realized that the days of rock/rap were over for the hugely popular band. Of course, any time you take the world by storm, there will always come a time when the excitement and newness fades. 

Like all bands, Linkin Park is looking for that way to combine the exploration of artistic expression with a renewed relevance to contemporary culture. The result was Minutes to Midnight, a surprising mix of styles and genres that both reward and disappoint the listener simultaneously.

Is the new album worth a listen? Sure. Is it worth a purchase? Can't say for sure. Fans will surely be divided on this one. If you demand the combination of rage and heartbreaking vulnerability, you will be disappointed. If you feel a kinship with the band based on the past and you're willing to evolve alongside the band, you may be pleasantly surprised. 

If music is an expression of life, Minutes to Midnight expresses a growth within the band, though perhaps a growth that is still fumbling to find a solid identity post-trauma. Bands like Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, and Korn, though all very different in style, all made it big through the combination of expressing their personal traumas with an unusual vulnerability. The measure of continued success, however, depends somewhat on the artists' ability to grow both as people and as musicians. 

Trent Reznor has lost fan base because people tend to grow up. They mature, God willing, and leave behind them some of their childish rantings. One would hope that people eventually come to terms with their wounds and traumas and find the ability to forgive and move on. Artists who stay locked into a perpetual irresponsible youth phase lose their fan base to maturity and tend to find themselves somewhat irrelevant to the next generation.

Linkin Park shows us that they are willing to grow and to change. They still have good music, so we can't throw them out simply because they didn't provide us with another In the End or Papercut.  

Those of you whose Linkin Park experience is incomplete without a good scream will still have a little juice through songs No More Sorrow and Given Up. If you want a little Limp Bizkit feel, check out the Hands Held High and Bleed It Out. Of course, What I've Done is already a hit on the radio and several movie soundtracks.

For the more melodic side, check out Shadow of the DayThe Little Things You Give Away, and Valentine's Day. Linkin Park is more political here, referencing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the War in Iraq. Regardless of their point of view, it's refreshing to see that they can look beyond their own hurt and engage the world around them. 

Minutes to Midnight is worth listening to. It currently graces my list of top ten albums of the year thus far.  

Will.I.Am and the Black Eyed Peas Take On the World

will.i.amWill.i.am, leader of the Black Eyed Peas, called in to the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show today. He called from Korea, where the band is on an unbelievably comprehensive Pepsi concert tour. Tour locations include Korea, Kazakhstan, Moscow, Poland, China, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico City, and at least ten other countries worldwide. 

During the phone interview, Will discussed the upcoming release of his new album, "Songs About Girls", scheduled for release September 25, 2007. The Peas' new single, "I Got it from my Mama" is now available online.

Will disclosed to Kidd Kraddick that his mentor is Michael Jackson. Will is helping Jackson out on his newest album. Will was the driving force behind Fergie's solo debut album, which they recorded on a bus during the Black Eyed Peas "Monkey Business" tour. 

From a marketer's perspective, it was fascinating to hear Will.i.am's take on the current state of the music industry. Kidd Kraddick asked Will about his goals for the new album, which brought up the subject. While the last album sold some 15 million copies, Will admits that the same standards cannot be held in today's consumer economy. While he didn't outright mention iTunes, it can be assumed that online music stores such as iTunes and free file sharing website applications like BitTorrent and LimeWire have completely transformed the music biz landscape. 

Will says he no longer measures success by the number of albums sold, (since millions of fans will go online and buy singles only or download illegally) but instead he is participating in a new concept gives the fan/user the power to make money off of the Black Eyed Peas new album as an affiliate marketer. 

A new media player will be available for download that each person can place on their favorite social media sites (MySpace, Hi5, Facebook, Blogger, etc). This player will allow visitors to purchase and download the songs directly from the player widget, and the person who posted the player receives a percentage of the sales profits.

It sounds like a brilliant way to take thousands of fans who would normally download for free and turn them into entrepreneurs who will actively seek to help spread the gospel of Will. Of course, with the record will only appeal to a certain demographic, but this could mark a new business proposition for dozens of labels in the future. Imagine if the most popular MySpace profiles sell thousands of music downloads from hundreds of artists. Social media suddenly takes on a new face. The competition would be fierce, and social media marketing efforts would intensify as the average joe enters the fray and attempts to compete for music download dollars.

But Will is the face of the new thing. Put the power of affiliate sales (think Mary Kay) into the hands of the people, and see how far the people can take your business. It is very likely to work only in a limited number of business verticals. Of course, people are already making money from affiliate advertising/sales. But turn the widgets into mini emarkets and you have a million little stores everywhere, all competing for the same market. The oversaturation would eventually be the cause of its demise, but an intelligent marketing strategy could put the power of sales or increased eshop products into the hands of a select few (a thousand or so) successful sellers. Limit the number of people who can sell so that the widgets/players/stores don't become so common that people ignore them just like banner ads.

A lot of potential here. It will be interesting to see how this concept develops, and whether the music industry jumps on board to save itself.  

Rihanna, Avril Lavigne, and Good Charlotte In Concert Friday

KISS Party Concert!That's right, for all you Kidd Kraddick in the Morning listeners, hurry up and get your tickets for this Friday's KISS Party concert. It's August 3rd at Nokia Theater in Grand Prairie (between Dallas and Fort Worth on I-30 and Beltline). The concert features Rihanna, Avril Lavigne, Good Charlotte, Baby Bash, and Paula Deanda!

In addition to the stellar lineup of artists, this year's concert hosted by 106.1 KISS FM will feature Kidd's top 4 contestants for the front of the line American Idol tryouts pass will be performing in front of the 6,000 person audience and one winner will be selected to go straight to the front of the line at Texas Stadium for this year's Dallas/Fort Worth tryouts. 

The lines for American Idol tryouts will open two days early. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people will be waiting in line to try out. One of these four talented singers will be able to jump to the front of the line and avoid the wait. Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show will undoubtedly track the winners (and probably the runners up) as they try out. Who knows? One of Kidd's contestants could make it to the big stage! 

Let us know if you plan on going to this year's KISS Party concert!

An Interview with StefanAnion

We met up with Dallas-based musical artist StefanAnion, a German/Italian dual citizen mixing tracks in the U.S. We spoke with him for a few minutes and we're posting the conversation right here. CF: Stefan, how many years have you been mixing? SA: I've been a DJ for about 13 years and writing music for 10. CF: Has your approach to the "remix" changed over that time? SA: My approach to doing remixes hasn't really changed much. I usually take the best bits from the parts I get and write a new track with them. CF: What technology did you start off using and what are you into now? SA: Technology-wise, things have changed quite a bit for me over the past few years. I originally started out using Tracker software and stuff like Re-birth before I got into using synths and samplers. A few years into having a fully stocked studio and as computers became more powerful, I sold off most of the synths and started using software again. Nowadays it's a combination of both, but a lot is done using plugins and such. CF: What's been your most successful remix so far? Where has it been a hit? SA: Hmm..interesting question. I don't really pay too much attention to how well my music does once it's been released, but i would say that the recent remix of Hybrid's "Until Tomorrow" seems to have gotten the most attention. CF: So you've been doing this for a while and you've experienced some success. What's the next step? How do you take your work to the next level? Or is it more an issue of increasing your production? SA: Well, the next step at this point is to work on the album and see how that will do. In the meantime, I'm hoping to pick up more remix work and also get out and play a few gigs here and there. Eventually I'd like to get into scoring films, so i've been using more of that "soundtrack" type of approach when i work on tracks. CF: Who out there are you tracking year by year in the industry? Do they inspire your tracks, or are they a different feel just for your personal use? SA: I'm a big fan of bands like Radiohead and Kasabian. I don't really "track" them, but i do check in to see if new albums are available. I really like going out on iTunes or in local music shops and find new and interesting stuff I've never heard before – which has so far had a positive impact on my creativity. CF: Okay… New subject. Money or Recognition? Which one motivates your music more? SA: Neither. I LOVE music. I love writing and learning new things each time I'm in the studio. It's the experience of writing music and seeing a track through from beginning to end that motivates me the most. It is, of course, my dream to make music full time and make a living with it, but that's going to take a lot more work 🙂 CF: Give us an idea of how much time you dedicate to your music each week. SA: That usually depends. Sometimes i'm in the studio 60 hours a week and sometimes i just need a break and go do other stuff, like hang with my mates or go to the lake and chill. CF: You obviously listen to quite a few genres. But which genre will you return to over and over again to recharge and get away from dance/club music? SA: 2 genres actually: Rock and Classical. I really don't listen to dance music all the time, but more so to rock, acoustic or classical. CF: Any strange hobbies or interests that influence your work in some way? SA: No strange hobbies really. I love being outside and going for a walk to recharge. Inbetween remixes i like playing video games every once in a while too 🙂 CF: What about art? painting? sculpture? literature? composers? Any major influences or greats that you appreciate? SA: As far as composers go i would have to go with Claude DeBussy, Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson Williams. Literature-wise i love all of Douglas Adams' work (although i don't read that much) CF: Do you consider yourself a success based upon income, exposure, travel invitations, etc? SA: I don't really think about that, but I guess the more requests for remixes and gigs i get – that could be seen as increasing success, I suppose. CF: I've heard you're your own worst critic. How do you overcome your own opinion? Do you have some friends or other DJs in the industry that you run your stuff by for a creative opinion? SA: I am… hehe 🙂 I'll always be that way, but that's a good thing. it drives me to continue learning more about music and production as i go along. I'll never be done learning. Most of the time i don't play unfinished tracks to anyone except for my best friend, but that's rare. CF: For all those kids out there thinking about becoming a DJ, throw out 3-5 tips you'd give them to help them get started in the industry. SA: 1. Do it for the Music 2. Listen to as much music as you can and always try to explore new genres 3. Experiment with making sounds and have fun with it * * * * * Thanks, Stefan. For more information about StefanAnion and to listen to his music, visit www.stefananion.com. I am personally a fan of his Mad World Remix, available online.

Ex-Cranberries Lead Singer’s Debut Album Now Available!

Despite the fact that my wife refuses to acknowledge her greatness, Dolores O'Riordan is, in my opinion, one of the top 5 best female singers in popular music today. After five amazing albums as the lead singer of The Cranberries, O'Riordan took a few years to relax at her home in Canada.

Now she's back with a vengeance! Her new album, Are You Listening? is incredible! Of course, I'm such a huge fan that it would be difficult for me to not love it. I expect "In the Garden" to be one of the biggest hits on the album. It's upbeat, without sounding a thing like "Zombie" or "Salvation". There's more heartfelt angst involved here. "Human Spirit" is my favorite track. The intro piano and flute give it a different feel than the typical Cranberries song.

Of course, once she starts singing, O'Riordan's sound is impossible to miss. The chorus sounds more like the band we're all familiar with. "Loser brings me back to the feel of my favorite Cranberries songs. "Black Widow" bears a very listless intro, with a whispering quality to her voice, which somehow evokes images of Gibson's Hamlet in my mind. Perhaps there's a bit of Ophelia in this song.

And if you ever wondered what a hybrid of O'Riordan and Mazzy Star would sound like, check out "Ecstasy". It's still distinctly O'Riordan, with a breathy, husky quality that somehow reminds me of Star. It's a solid album, for sure. Check it out on iTunes today! Show her some love!

Nine Inch Nails is the Perfect Example of Music I Outgrew

After the post I wrote recently about returning to old music, I started thinking about all the bands and artists I’ve listened to over the past two years, and I have to say, I’ve listened to so much. I started wondering if I’ve actually outgrown any of it. There are still times when I listen to angry, angst-ridden music. I still enjoy The Exies, whose lyrics are something like: “We are dirt. We are alone. You know we’re far from sober. We are fake. We are afraid. You know it’s far from over.”

Nine Inch Nails, however, is the perfect example of a band / artist (since we all know that it’s all about Trent Reznor) I have no use for. I will occasionally listen to one of his non-explosive songs for old time’s sake, but that’s it. And I don’t know who writes the album reviews on iTunes, but here is a perfect quote to explain NIN and why it lacks relevance to its audience:

His biggest problem is that while he shows considerable skill, even subtlety, in his music, the tortured sentiments of his lyrics are frozen in amber. They’re eternally adolescent and they sound juvenile, even embarrassing, coming from a man on the verge of his 40th birthday. These words work when sung by a young man, when they’re sung with a sense of urgency, but ‘urgency’ is not a word that can be associated with NIN, even on a record like this (With Teeth) that takes great pains to sound visceral and alive.

Great quote. The iTunes reviewer hit the nail on the head. I belted out Reznor’s songs with everything in me when I was seventeen years old. And hey, that was cool (or at least appropriate). He was one of the few artists who put some of my feelings into music (and vice versa, influenced my feelings with his music).

Nearly 13 years later, if I’m struggling with the exact same problems I faced at 17, there’s little hope for me. Same for Reznor. Let’s face it: the guy needs emotional healing. He needs to be vulnerable in front of someone who can listen and love him despite all the filth that would inevitably come out of his mouth. He doesn’t appear to be considering that option, however, so we’ll just hope that he grows up at some point, accepts some adult responsibility, and pursues personal growth and healing.

Still, some of his tunes are catchy, and I occasionally hear one that draws me in. I guard myself these days, however. The seductions of self-pity, self-loathing, and self-obsession are nothing to scoff at.

Here’s my final thought: I’d just like to see what a guy like Trent Reznor could do if he was emotionally healed and became a Christian. What kind of worship music might he produce? That could be some of the greatest, most powerful music ever. The gifts and talents God gave us stick with us regardless of our heart’s condition. Here’s hoping that Trent Reznor has a change of heart in time to give something truly spectacular to the world.