exportable radio

Earlier I wrote (in a deleted post that went to feed first): just debuted a new (currently subscriber-only) beta site. Not a lot of big changes (a good thing!). The coolest change is that you can now create playlists and embed them in your blog. So let’s see if this cute little playlist of songs you can download for free on their site works here.

Well, it didn’t, plus it screwed up the blog formatting something awful, though I think that’s my blog theme’s fault and not’s. I’d embed it in the sidebar but that seems a little too far astray from this blog’s purpose. Plus it’s too wide.

You can also now export your personal radio stream to another site — that means all the songs it knows that I’ve listened to since subscribing that it has rights to license (a lot of them!) can now be embedded as a flash player radio in any website I have. Not a player that automatically makes noise when you load the page (is that MySpace’s most annoying quality or what?), but one that lets you click to play. And they are going to make this available to everyone, not just subscribers.  This is something users have been requesting for quite a while.
This effectively means that everyone can easily run a radio station of the music they listen to off of their web page (MySpace page too). I’d think that as more of these start popping up on websites outside it will generate a lot of viral publicity for them and get more people using their service.
Color me impressed.

Suitcase Full of Cash

A&E has launched a fantasy-league sort of contest to go along with their re-running of the Sopranos. Players have an online board:

THE SETUP: Collect game pieces – in ads online and in the real world – and score points every time a new episode of The Sopranos premieres on A&E.

THE PAYOFF: The top scoring player wins a suitcase with $100,000 in cash, and everyone has a chance to win weekly prizes.

From their descriptions of the rules:

The Sopranos A&E Connection is an online interactive game…a scavenger hunt meets fantasy sports. Collect game pieces that represent characters, settings, and objects from the world of The Sopranos on A&E. Then, each Wednesday when a new episode of The Sopranos airs on A&E, you’ll earn points when the pieces in your collection appear in the show. The player who scores the most points at the end of Season 1 will win a suitcase with $100,000 in cash! Plus everyone has a chance to win weekly prizes just for signing up!

The way you place your pieces on the game board affects how many points you’ll score. Pieces that are next to each other (horizontally or vertically) will score more points if they appear on screen together. So if you arrange the Tony piece next to the Cigar piece, you’ll score double points (20 points for each piece) every time Tony and the Cigar appear on screen at the same time. If you arrange Tony, the Cigar and the Gold Chain game pieces next to each other and they appear together you’ll earn triple points (30 points for each piece). There are also x2 and x3 bonus boxes scattered on the game board. Each piece placed on these squares will earn double or triple points. Become an A&E Insider – for tips and tactics on how to play.

Like the concept of fantasy soaps, but with a cash payoff worth playing along for, this seems to focus on the dullest parts of the narrative, and is based entirely on luck and persistence rather than skill or actual engagement with the narrative. At least people can play in groups as well as alone, which adds a social layer it otherwise lacks. It’s an interesting effort to get people engaged socially and playfully around television narrative, which is perhaps even more important with a show that has aired already and is available on DVD. It looks from their point boards like they’ve got some viewers doing it.

Any readers checked it out? Anyone have any sense of how well it’s working for them?

More on MOG

…and the adventures in trying out new music social networking sites continues:

When last we saw me and MOG, I was expressing tremendous frustration that their software was taking all day to learn what I had in my collection and slowing my machine down terribly while it did it. Well, it did eventually do an amazing job of capturing my collection — too amazing in some ways, I’m not sure I want every single bootleg I’ve got up there for all to explore, even though I think they’re all from bands who don’t mind. However, I did ultimately uninstall the “Mog-o-meter” plug in because it continued to slow down my machine tremendously. I have a Mac G4 that is not even 2 years old. If it can’t run on that without making Firefox take forever to open a new window from scratch or switch between Firefox and Word, that’s not good. So another way of tracking listens down :(

[in fairness, as a fan I'll say that I've heard their MacOSX client is a memory hog too, but since they have an open-source API that allows others to develop plug ins, I've been able to keep using the all but invisible iScrobbler plugin that has no impact on computer performance]

So MOG’s big thing is blogging (I assume “MOG” is meant to conjure “music blog” with potatoes in the mouth). They have some nice features in this regard:

– Upload an mp3 built into every blog entry window. Great idea but aren’t they BEGGING for lawsuits?!?!?!?!

– “Explore the MOG-o-sphere” which compiles everyone’s blog entries into a single stream, and has columns on the side for the ones that are the day’s and all-time top entries (based on user votes).

– A single button “like it” feature that enables people to easily mark a blog as one they like.

I figured the best way for me to test out this would be to repost some of the blog entries I’d posted over at and compare the responses. At first I was flattered that everything I posted was instantly liked by one person, until I realized that ALL blog entries were instantly liked by one person, and that the one person was the system itself. All in all, the comments I’ve gotten on the posts on MOG are so inferior to the quality of comments I got on for the same entries that I’m not sure I’m going to continue the experiment. For instance, in response to the post about bands I saw in 1982, on I heard from other old folks who’d seen some of those bands too and had reminiscences to share and from teenagers who were listening to them now and thought it was cool that I’d seen them then. On MOG I got “I was born in 1982.” Wow.

The blog entry that had the most likes on the MOG-o-sphere last time I checked was a profanity laced trashing of other users.

I’m sure there is good music blogging on there, but you wouldn’t know it without searching.

There are several problems with the design of the blogging system – if you’re going to make blogging the centerpiece of your system, you need to give people ways to treat it like a blog. The blog needs a page of its own rather than an eternal column on your profile. You need to be able to have archives with links. You need to be able to highlight what you think are your own best or most liked posts in sidebars. None of that is there.

Now it’s not the fault of the system if it’s attracting people with little to say, but it doesn’t make me want to stick around or contribute.

End analysis thus far: not impressed. The enhanced blogging has great potential for people who mostly want to write about music, but I don’t think they’ve done a good enough job setting it up to really make it superior to any other way of blogging about music that’s out there.

Meet the Smithereens

One of my favorite albums ever is also one of the first I ever heard, Meet the Beatles (I still have the mono vinyl my parents bought when it came out). Now New Jersey powerpop band, The Smithereens, has just released a track-for-track remake of the whole record in order entitled, not surprisingly, Meet the Smithereens (“the Jersey beat meets the Mersey beat” they say). And where did they get this wacky idea?

The idea of covering the Beatles at all, DiNizio says, came from a concert the Smithereens performed at an Abbey Road on the River festival in Louisville, Ky. After that, he recalls, “We started to get e-mail from fans, When are you gonna do a Beatles tribute album?’ We put the word out on the Internet to Smithereens fans and got a terrific response. Then I had the brainstorm to do [Meet the Beatles!] and it was full speed ahead from there.”

Very silly, and can they really better what the Beatles did (I want to hold your hand still makes me grin every time I hear it), but who cares? It’s great to see a band have fun and listen to their fans at the same time.

I saw them a LOOOOOOOONG time ago because the opening band was Paul Kelly and the Messengers. Paul Kelly was great. The Smithereens were boring. Maybe I’d have liked them better if they’d been doing Beatles covers!

From Myspace to Livingrooms

This story about Quebec musician Craig Cardiff’s use of MySpace and Facebook isn’t really groundbreaking, but if I were a fan of his, I’d be seriously excited by what he’s up to:

Through his website, he asked fans to suggest which cities and bars he should play on his current Canadian tour. Much of the booking was then done on MySpace and another Web community, Facebook. (He also works through the booking agency Fleming Artists.)The venues on the tour are small and intimate — so intimate that three gigs are in people’s living rooms, which he will play just so long as those hosting the performance can get enough friends to chip in to make it economically feasible for him.

Since he is going where his fans suggest, Cardiff asked them to spread the word about his gigs, maybe stick up a flyer or two, all the old-fashioned stuff.

“It’s not unmediated. It’s just more fan-directed, and that’s exciting,” Cardiff says. It’s tour economics on a good-neighbour level. “I think I’ll manage to avoid hotels for most of the tour because of fans and friends who are able to offer spare rooms and couches,” he adds. Keeping tour expenses low is a must.

Cardiff rewards his fans by playing unique sets in which he works through sketches of new songs, singing and composing in front of the audience. The performances are recorded and made available as free podcasts, another element in Cardiff’s grassroots strategy.

Nice to see someone go past friend collecting and figure out a way to spin it into something local, body-to-body, and unique for a particular set of fans. Also nice to see someone using these things as a way to get fans actively engaged on a local level. I’ve been known to note the overlaps between political grassroots activity via the web and online fandom more than once, and this bears quite a resemblance to meet ups, only with someone actually going from place to place singing songs.

I’m curious how many of the final decisions are made via online communication with fans and how much is ultimately decided by the booking agency.