Category Archives: music

The Web is what we make of it

I saw a Google Chrome commercial twice tonight that struck a chord with me. The extended version, embedded below, has been online since May.

On the one hand, it’s a slick ad for a search engine giant’s Web browser that features a glowing treatment of a megacelebrity and her happy fans.

On the other, it’s a view into a changed world that still feels very much of the moment, months after its debut. It reminded me that the Internet has fundamentally changed how we can directly connect with the people who inspire us and on another.

There’s something both deeply joyful and poignant seeing Lady Gaga’s fans dance and sing along with her to that particular song.

On a night where I also saw so much pain, anger, fear, cruelty and misunderstanding flow over the same global electronic network of networks, it felt good to be reminded of how much more connected we can be. If we choose, we can reach out and connect to hundreds of other millions of humans, who are both different and fundamentally the same, looking at a growing mobile Web of billions of screens, small, medium and large.

We can see, share and celebrate the best of human nature in real-time or mourn, censor and condemn that which is worst in us. We go online and find ourselves, for good or ill, and leave a Web that is what we make of it.

Every time we log on, we have an opportunity to change how we think or connect with someone else around this pale blue dot.

Thank you for sharing that journey and teaching me something new, every day.

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Awesome Foundation DC Launch Party warmly welcomed in District

Over the past year, the Awesome Foundation has been growing globally, providing micro-grants for creative genius in multiple continents. Last night, hundreds of people bought “Tickets to Awesome” and joined the DC chapter of the Awesome Foundation at a launch party in One Lounge in Dupont Circle.

Party goers mixed and mingled with the DC chapter’s microtrustees, including this correspondent, and checked out exhibits and demonstrations from the first four recipients of awesome grants. DC FabLab, Ward 8, Petworth and Counterpoint were in attendance for awards ceremony. Bonnie Shaw (@Bon_Zai), DC’s “Dean of Awesome,” gave a brief speech at the launch party ceremony:

Curious folks also checked out exhibits from My Dream of Jeanne, ExAparatus and ScrapAction, donating to the projects they liked the most using the awesome tokens that came with their tickets. Counterpoint even performed upstairs in front of a packed lounge.

You can follow the Awesome Foundation DC on Twitter for updates on new grants, performances, installations and other awesome events at @AFdnDC.

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Esperanza Spalding wins Grammy for Best New Artist, @WhiteHouse celebrates the moment

Esperanza Spalding won a Grammy for Best New Artist tonight. She’s an extraordinary talent. Moments after her win, White House new media director Macon Phillips congratulated her on Twitter and linked to a video of her performance at the White House Poetry Jam on YouTube:

Shortly after that, the White House account shared the same video, along with a link to all of the performances on the White House YouTube channel.

It’s good to know there are some music fans down the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Congratulations to Spalding for the well-deserved recognition.

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Flash Wedding [VIDEO]

Some days, a joyous video can bring a tear to your eye. (That happens even more easily to when you’re planning your own wedding.) This “flash wedding” in Prudential Center last December in Boston did just that, riffing on the idea of a “flash mob.”

Unlike many flash mobs, however, this one had a point. Mazel tov, folks.

[Hat tip: Steve Garfield]

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Sting and the Roots rock the Mall for Earth Day [Video]

The National Mall in Washington, D.C. has had pavilions, windmills and solar panels atop the new grass since the official celebration of Earth Day earlier this week.

One dome even contained an electric motorcyle from Siemens, the beautiful “smart chopper.”

Tonight, the Mall also featured some of the world’s best musicians bouncing rock, rhythm and soul off of the walls of the Smithsonian.

While I didn’t record the cover of “Crazy” that Joss Stone belted out, backed by the Roots and Booker T, or any of John Legend or Bob Weir’s performances, I did manage to capture video of Sting’s performance.

He and the Roots put on a tight four song set. Sorry for the shaky camera work; a man’s gotta dance.

Sting and the Roots: “Fragile”

Sting and the Roots: “Driven to Tears”

Sting and the Roots: “One World

Sting and the Roots: “Message in a Bottle”

For more sights from around today’s Earth Rally on the National Mall, check out my gallery on Posterous.

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On @OKGo, viral video and going independent: What is Band 2.0?

Mental Health Break: the wonderfully creative video for “This Too Shall Pass,” from the OK Go album, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.”

According to the shownotes on YouTube, the video was directed by James Frost, OK Go and Syyn Labs and produced by Shirley Moyers.

The video was filmed in a two story warehouse, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The “machine” was designed and built by the band, along with members of Syyn Labs ( http://syynlabs.com/ ) over the course of several months. OK Go thanks State Farm for making this video possible.

I was the 7,869,145th person to discover it. [HT Mark Drapeau] I’m ok with that. The success of this video built further on “Here It Goes Again,” one of the most popular viral videos ever:

This past week, OK Go took one step further along their transition to “Band 2.0″ — they left EMI Records to form Paracadute Recordings. (Paracadute is parachute in Italian, for those wondering, along with being really fun to say.) Fittingly, the move was a;so announced on YouTube:

As Kulash indicated in a New York Times op-ed, “WhoseTube” earlier this year, however, there’s more of a backstory here. As Kulash observed, EMI prevented users from embedding the label’s videos on other websites, a move which likely targeted at increasing the label’s streaming royalties from YouTube. Kulash argued that the policy hamstrung the “viralability” of the video:

When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.

Clearly the embedding restriction is bad news for our band, but is it worth it for EMI? The terms of YouTube’s deals with record companies aren’t public, but news reports say that the labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream, so the most EMI could have grossed for the streams in question is a little over $5,400.

With that move, the “most-downloaded band ever” followed Radiohead and NIN into independent distribution and promotion. Given a press release that credits OK Go with 180 million video streams and counting, perhaps Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross figure they can make it without a label’s backing.

Given the challenges of selling music online, this hybrid model of sponsored viral media, touring and merchandise sales might allow OK Go to make enough to support families. Not every artist is going to be able to pull this off. As Jonathan Coulton showed in 2007, however, for some savvy musicians, the Web offers a new media model. Code Monkey went viral – and fans got involved:

Both Coulton and OK Go have embraced video, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other online networks to distribute their work, promote their appearances and — crucially — engage their fans. Making money from that investment of time is the secret sauce, of course, but for some, “band 2.0″ will pay off. Not every band will be able to make more than $2 million dollars from digital downloads, as Radiohead managed to do through inrainbows.com, but OK Go’s success does show how creativity can be rewarded.

In the meantime, enjoy that Rube Goldbergian video.

UPDATE: NPR’s On the Media ran a terrific show on the the music business this weekend. Highly recommended listening. Direct MP3 download: Facing the (Free) Music

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Imogen Heap reanimates Thriller, just in time for Halloween

Haunting. Gorgeous. And completely different from Michael Jackson’s iconic version.

[First played on the BBC. Hat tip to Popeater, via Kirstin Butler via Steve Silberman]

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Classic Nintendo game themes, acappella? Massive geek WIN.

It may be an “online classic” (read: from 2006) but as a child of the 80s and a confirmed acappella geek, this live performance of classic Nintendo game themes by the University of Washington’s Redefined was too good not to share.

The Tetris choreography was particularly inspired. And when the bass did the little theme from the dungeon level in Mario Brothers, I instantly thought of Stockwell singing “you are in the dungeon. you are in the dungeon.”

Fun diversion on a busy morning.

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Unofficial Poll: Greatest rock guitarist ever?

I had some fun creating a Twitter poll tonight using Twtpoll.com.

After I asked who the “Greatest rock guitarist ever?” was on the way home and received 10 great replies, I used #alexasks and Twtpoll to try to turn those answers into a quick quiz.

I’ll wait for a bit and then ask on Facebook, where I expect more friends might contribute.

It’s an apologetic homage to #andyasks, where HBS professor Andy asks his followers a different interesting question every day. Mine was impromptu but satisfying.

Here’s the result.

My answer? Like Peter Townshend at Rolling Stone I gotta go with Hendrix.

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