Archive for May, 2012

Check out the latest antics from OK Go …

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There are few podcasts/radio shows better than This American Life (maybe Radiolab is on par, and – of course – the mighty Best Of BAMM podcast) – Ira Levin’s weekly look at the narrative underbelly of the nation, packed with amazing journalism, stories and insights. If you’ve never heard, you’re missing out.

Why are we even talking about it? Because This American Life have teamed up with Ok Go – the Chicago-born four piece indie act whose curious viral marketing techniques have long been the subject of analysis here on this very blog. After these fame-snaring antics with treadmills and rally courses …

… they’ve hatched plans to do something really special.

New Yorkers can catch a live theater recording of the show tomorrow, and those of you outside the Big Apple should be able to catch live-feed screenings at selected cinemas across the country. During the show, Ok Go will be performing, and they’ve released an app which they’re requesting viewers to download – something which add a little extra magic to their stage show. No-one is sure what exactly, but we’re guessing some sort of augmented reality fun and frolics. Given their track record with a good gimmick, it’s safe to say that attendees won’t be disappointed.

BAMM Rundown: The Secrets Hidden In Your Music Collection …

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We’ve written before about the best hidden tracks that lie tucked away in your music collection, but now we’re going one step further: there are some downright incredible things that certain creative-types have tucked away amidst albums you once thought were familiar. Want to join us as we take a look at some of them? Let’s go …

5. Aphex Twin – hidden images

Aphex Twin – Richard D. James to his friends – has always maintained a reputation for being a little eccentric. His endeavours on the Windowlicker EP set a whole new standard for creepiness, however. By utilising a spectrograph and playing the right track at the right moment, you get this:

Sleep tight.

4. Mike Oldfield – secret swearing

Everyone knows Mike Oldfield as the mastermind behind ‘Tubular Bells’, the pioneering electro-prog album which both birthed the theme to The Exorcist and made Richard Branson’s Virgin Records a massive success story. Mike and Rick never did quite see eye to eye after that, however. Sick of ongoing label intervention, Mike slipped a morse code message into his album Amarok. 48 minutes in …

… is the message ‘F**k Off RB’. Nice.

3. The Flaming Lips – secret message

Got a CD copy of the Flaming Lips classic ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’? Take it apart and look at the inside of the right spine. You should come across a cheeky hidden message which reads “You Have Found The Secret Message, Do You Have too Much Time on Your Hands? …Let it Go.” At which point, you should find something better to do – like listening to the album itself, which is awesome.

2. Pink Floyd – backwards chatter

Backwards messages are a staple ‘hidden’ item in the music world, but – as with so many other things – no-one pulled it off with the same weird uniqueness as Pink Floyd. Play a section of ‘Empty Spaces’ from ‘The Wall’ in reverse, and this is what you get:

In case you couldn’t make it out, the band congratulate the listener upon finding the message, before being interrupted by a phone call …

1. Radiohead – two masterpieces in one

Now this … this is special. You know ‘OK Computer’ and ‘In Rainbows’, those two seminal Radiohead albums that have enriched your life over the years? Well, guess what? Go on, guess.

There’s a hidden album in them both.

Released ten years apart, you can stagger the playing order of both albums to create a cohesive listening experience. Create a playlist. Begin with ‘Airbag’ (track one of OK Computer), then fade over to ’15 Step’ (track one of In Rainbows). Keep fading back and forth between albums between tracks and something incredible emerges – these two albums seem designed to complement each other. Not just in a ‘nice coincidence’ sort of way – in a ‘these songs drift perfectly from one to the other in complete connection’ sort of way.

Argument rages as to whether this was intentional or just a happy accident. Either way, it’s an intriguing listen.

How much is a song ‘worth’?

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We’re going to stay well away from spoiler territory here, but anyone who watched last Sunday’s episode of ‘Mad Men’ – the stylish soap opera (come on, admit it) about 1960s advertising execs – will have witnessed something very remarkable indeed. Lead character Don Draper sat down and listened to The Beatles.

Nothing amazing about that, one might think. Until you realise that licensing a Beatles track for anything – film, TV, whatever – has long been seen as an absolute impossibility. There a number of reasons behind this, the main one being that the Fab Four (Terrific Two?) are notoriously protective of their legacy, and refuse to let their music be used as an accompaniment to other media. Think about it: you may have seen cover versions in certain movies, but – Beatles self-made productions aside – you’ve never seen an actual original recording featured.

Mad Men has dared to go where others fear to tread, however, and – insisting that the track was the perfect fit – persuaded Apple Corps to let them use thirty seconds of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, the frenzied final track from Revolver that arguably stands as the group’s defining moment.

The price?


Let’s go over that again.


For thirty f**king seconds.

This isn’t even to say that most other licensing opportunities are cheap – using a Rolling Stones hit, say, would set you back a not-inconsiderable 100 grand. But it all raises the issue of what a song is ‘worth’ – and whether such preciousness/financial giganticism is an inescapable thing of the past.

It’s clear that we’re dealing with Big Boys here: Mad Men is one of the highest-rated and critically acclaimed shows on TV, while The Beatles are, well, The Beatles. Both aren’t exactly short of cash. But this whole scenario seems like the dying gasp of a great empire – a time when the distribution system for TV and music was a private club, a locked-down suit and tie venue available only to those with the authority to get there (kind of like the Sterling Cooper offices in a way).

Can you imagine a show being made in fifty years time about the modern era? What kind of music do you think they would use? And do you think any band would be able to get away with charging a quarter of a million to use one of their tunes? No-one is saying artists shouldn’t get paid, but such over the odds cash-exchange harks back to an era in which rock stars were untouchable gods. Nowadays – with the advent of a rising breed of ‘middle-class’ musician – such a future deal would be carried out on a practical, reasonable, well-budgeted level (yes, even with artistic considerations included).

Oh: we know. It’s The Beatles. They’re an exception. Alongside Michael Jackson, they’re the act who define the 20th century. So: in three hundred years time, when they’re held in cultural terms alongside Shakespeare and their recordings are free for anyone to get hold of, what will have changed? Will the music be worth ‘less’ because no money is changing hands?

Those in old-school authority (whatever the industry) will always try to up the price whenever they can. A new, more communal and progressive music industry (we’ve no choice in a digital world, kids) will deal with that issue eventually. In the meantime, though, the question remains: how do you judge the monetary ‘worth’ of a particular song against another?

What do you guys think? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below. And then treat yourself to the best clip from Mad Men ever. Ignore this Beatles nonsense – this is where it’s at:

Remembering Adam Yauch

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Some very sad news for you today – Adam Yauch, one third of hugely influential hip-hop pioneers the Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 47. He was diagnosed with cancer back in 2009 and had been battling the disease ever since.

There’s an old maxim that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – not something that we agree with entirely here at, but something that occasionally feels quite appropriate nonetheless. The Beastie Boys are one of the all-time great party bands, yet also fused their hedonistic antics with genuine musical skill, a fun and frenzied sense of experimentation and a way of crafting a killer tune that left most of their contemporaries in the dust.

In short, we’re saying: it’s Friday, kids. The best way to celebrate the music of Adam Yauch is to raise a glass (or several) – and then dance. Here’s a selection to start you off:

So … who ‘owns’ your digital content exactly?

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It’s long been held as a given in the digital/music industry that the ‘Rock Band’ franchise – those console video games which allowed users to play along to famous hits on a plastic guitar – has jumped the shark. Actually, that’s being generous: it’s jumped several sharks. Using a NASA-built prototype device which was designed with the sole purpose of broadening the horizons of the shark-jumping experience.

If you want concrete proof of this, check out the announcement from video game overlords EA, who have decided to completely shut down the iPhone version of their Rock Band vehicle. That’s right – if you purchased the game, it’s no longer playable. Understandably there’s been a great degree of backlash against this decision, and on the surface it seems inherently justified – if a user has paid for an app, shouldn’t it be theirs forever? By all means the company can stop supporting it with updates and the like, but just imagine if one day Rovio decided that you weren’t allowed to play Angry Birds ever again. That’s unfair. Right?

With Rock Band, however, things run much deeper than that – and carry over questions that affect the digital music industry in general. Users of Rock Band didn’t just pay for the app, you see (although they shelled out five dollars, which isn’t exactly chump change) – they also paid 99 cents/69p for each and every song they used, via an in-app store. It’s theoretically possible that someone could have sunk hundreds of dollars into Rock Band content. And now they’ll never have access to it again.

This raises an issue: just how does the concept of ‘ownership’ translate into a digital world? Things were so simple twenty years ago – you had a shelf full of CDs, and you’d only lose them if you left your front door unlocked or lent them to particularly unscrupulous friends.

Nowadays most of our music is either downloaded or (increasingly) broadcast from the cloud. Now – let’s take a look at iTunes as a good example. If you find that your hard drive has gone kaput, you can easily log into your account and download all your previous purchases all over again. Imagine, one terrible day, you lost all your iTunes library. Annoying, but you can always just grab them all again – it’s just a matter of inconvenience. Now … what if – this same terrible day – Apple went bankrupt and had to shut down? All their services vanished – and before you’d had the chance to get your music. It’s gone. Forever. All the stuff you paid for. Where do you stand? Where are your consumer rights?

This is apocalyptic hyperbole on a Michael Bay level, of course. Apple won’t be shutting down anytime soon. But what if you signed up to a similar, lesser-known service, and the same thing happened? Of course, there are different gradients to the argument here. If a company went bust, then that’s a shame, but no-one is theoretically in the wrong – we all take a certain level of risk in our consumer investments, that’s the way it works in a free-market society.

But the situation with EA? It’s a tricky one. One glance at the Twitter feed indicates customers are none too happy. And why would they be? This isn’t a company shutting down or something similarly upsetting – it’s a deliberate decision to stop customers from accessing content they’ve paid for.

What do you guys think? Legally and logistically … how can the industry deal with this issue?