Category Archives: Music

Ticket Re-Sellers and Scalpers

Trent Reznor wrote a post on his Nine Inch Nails (NIN) forum about re-sellers and scalpers of concert tickets.  In it, he discusses the motivations for TicketMaster to encourage the secondary market for tickets, which leads to scalpers poaching tickets and re-selling to customers at huge mark-ups and at huge inconvenience to them.

As I’m sure you’re familiar with, event ticket purchasing is a scam, the bigger the event is.  Smaller events use an online purchasing framework and charge a usage fee, which you’re somewhat willing to pay because event organizers don’t have the infrastructure to go around middlemen.  But as events get larger, the more likely they’re swept up into TicketMaster’s orbit.  TicketMaster is tightly coupled with the physical venues where events are held, and thus they can control all distribution, access, and promotion.

If someone were so inclined, this subject would probably make for an excellent muck-raking book.  I certainly don’t understand the business and economics behind it but I think most of us can intuit what’s going on behind the scenes.

So Reznor, who put his last album up on his web site for free under a Creative Commons license, and who put his album with Saul Williams up for $5, is pissed off with the music industry labels and monopolists.

And it’s fair to say that most of us are too.  I have not been to many concerts in my life.  The sort of ninja moves you need to obtain tickets are not in my repertoire.  People fight over a small pool of tickets released online at a known time, crushing servers in the process.  Tickets are sold out in minutes.  This certainly incentivizes certain people to game the system, knowing they can re-sell the tickets at a mark-up that companies like TicketMaster benefit from (especially since they apparently own re-sellers, according to Reznor’s post).

TicketMaster is pushing a future of auctions, but this is still a closed system, so essentially all it’s doing is creating more profit for them while letting us see just how much we’re getting screwed in a public arena.

So I just skip out on concerts.  Some bands just plain suck live, anyway.  So the variables required for me to find a concert I can get tickets to while also enjoying and making sure my friends can all go too are too much for me.  I just give up.

Right now with the advent of internet collaboration (through web 2.0/web 3.0 tools) and the success of the movement, a bunch of people are looking to organize to solve systemic problems that have existed since before most of them were born.  A lot of problems were created in the 50’s and 60’s and were institutionalized in people like in my generation:  we grew up buying CDs from Columbia House and seeing a newspaper on our front lawn and watching junk food ads in between our Saturday morning cartoons.  The next generation won’t even know what I’m talking about.

It’s quite amazing to see the problem-solvers approach every entrenched, fucked-up problem out there.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I’m finally reading now, discusses our culture of corn and petroleum.  So people are trying to figure out how to wean our culture off the industrial food complex.

Electricity, oil, and cars go hand-in-hand.  They have promised us cheap solutions but those solutions are going to be far less palatable very quickly.  So people are now excited about solar energy, sustainable living, electric cars, the smart grid, and radically new forms of housing and energy usage to break away from the cartels.

American politics has become somewhat frozen — the Democrats and Republicans for a while became clients to Bush’s administration, both differing very little and unwilling to break too far from what the elite thought was.  So people voted in a candidate using web sites and community organization and grassroots initiatives.  That energy is now being put into transparency and collaboration tools for monitoring the government, and insurgents within Obama’s administration are now wanting to push government data out to the public, after Cheney’s attempt to classify everything.

Universities pay exhorbitant license fees for software and administration tools.  But MIT just decided to open up its scholarly articles for free while people like Kevin Donovan and CNDLS at Georgetown are pushing free tools and OpenCourseWare as alternatives.

Cellphones are notoriously tying together handsets, access providers, spectrum control, and software in the United States.  It’s a very restrictive model.  Google, while out to make a profit, is now testing the limits of the incumbent system with Android, its fairly open system that will work across devices.

Then there’s the busting of cable TV and the advent of online content streaming…  And new journalism models…  And more and more and more.  Information is being distributed faster than organizations can lock it down.  So what’s going on is a war.  And we’re winning.  All these shitty businesses that exist by locking people into a closet and abusing them are now being blown apart by the internet and by peoples’ sharing of ideas.  Facilitated by a brutal economic and financial crisis that no one can avoid.

Concerts are another battleground.  Why can’t music artists successfully organize against companies like TicketMaster?  If more of them worked like Reznor does, eschewing contracts and the desire to maximize profit without any of the negative effects of current ticket-selling schemes, then they could quickly tip the balance.  Wikipedia’s “Ticket resale” page lists alternatives.

Lottery…  Have a period of time where anyone can offer to purchase tickets.  But then winners are randomly selected.  This allows anyone a chance to get in.  Tie it to credit cards.

Authentication…  Print out names and photos on tickets, then verify at the gates.

Float prices…  Obviously some people will pay more.  Let them pay for the front seats, fine.  Float the front-row prices but make everything else lottery.

Distribution…  Must be combined with floating prices.  Bands should see concert tours as a way to promote their brand, not just make a shitload of money from each appearance.  That is, internet stream the concert to all those who couldn’t make it to the venue.  Bands may not want this kind of accountability though, to be judged by the same online viewers through each performance every other night.  But that drives up incentives to produce quality while maximizing potential future customers of your band’s music and product.

Venues…  Venues need the big acts to make revenue.  What if all these abandoned stores and buildings were turned into cheap venues themselves? (they’re already being filled with churches, libraries, and other public centers)  Then you don’t need the mid-size venues anymore.

It’s a war.  A war on the middlemen who begin to enjoy their cut a little too much and try to grow it.  A war on the people who act as gatekeepers between content and consumer.  It’s a war they are going to lose.

The Great Disruption is going to destroy the old infrastructure and build a sustainable infrastructure in its place, one that links value directly with those willing to pay for it.  In time, the middlemen will be back in new forms, but for now, the internet is giving us infinite tools to take control of our lives back.


Filed under Business, Internet, Music, Tech

Inauguration Weekend

I’ve been waiting for this weekend for years now…  When I first entertained the thoughts of going to Georgetown for grad school, I recognized that the timing would be such that I’d be in DC for this.

It will be historic.  Everyone’s a little nervous, not sure what will happen.  Hopefully a lot of good stuff will happen, a little surprising stuff too, and nothing bad.  America deserves to celebrate this one.

On Sunday there is a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial in front of the reflecting pool.  I jogged past there last night and the pool was frozen over and there were Port-a-Johns lining the mall.  A stage was being built as well.  I’m going to try to catch some of the music but it is going to be absolutely PACKED…  Not to mention freezing, since there’s a massive cold front moving in.  Guess I should record it off TV too…

“Confirmed musical performers include: Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder.”

I don’t know what I’m doing Monday yet.  I tried to get tickets for a Beastie Boys/Sheryl Crow concert but it sold out online within ten minutes of being available. =(  Not ninja enough.

Tuesday I’ll try to go downtown and see part of the parade and fun during the day, but mainly to see the spectacle of the throng of people expected.  And in the evening I’m going to the Russian Cultural Center for their Unity Ball — celebrating freedom and democracy by sharing the night with the Russkies.

I’m taking my camera with me…and will try to provide photos and video of the splendor — I’m predicting there will be tons of cool media online after the national celebratory party is over.  Obama is certainly inspirational to the creative artists and “communitas” out there.


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Filed under Government, Music, Politics

Mash-Up Culture is Still Young

A buddy of mine on IRC posted a YouTube video that mashes up (a phrase meaning to mix up different sources of music and video and other media into one product) drum n’ bass (dnb) music with footage from church sermons with people dancing and being overcome by religious experience and priests giving emotional sermons.  I used to listen to a lot of dnb so I enjoyed the video a lot.

These particular videos below are 3 parts of “Baptazia” called “Super Sunday”, posted on YouTube by a user named airloaf.  I don’t know much about him except for what’s on his profile.

Watch the three below:

Well done, dude! Indeed, there’s a whole slew of related videos that mash up gospel stuff with dnb. airloaf calls it “speedgospel”, but I guess it could be dnb gospel too.

It’s funny posting so many YouTube links; the “other” founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, used to be in the IRC channel I still use to this day.

One of the more well-known mash-up artists right now is Girl Talk. The guy behind Girl Talk is mentioned quite a bit in Lawrence Lessig‘s new book about remix culture, entitled “Remix”.

Girl Talk, coincidentally, has a similar video for the new single off his album “Feed the Animals”; “Play Your Part” also uses church footage:

I don’t know who thought to put the two together, but obviously mash-up artists like using the crazy dancing in church sermons for their video bases.

Intellectual Property Law Hurting Innovation

In Lessig’s “Remix”, he talks about how intellectual property law is constricting innovation in video and music at a time when it’s possible for any individual to mash stuff up easily on their computers. The freedom we have to mash-up and remix text is what needs to happen for video and music next, but we’re a long way from that both in terms of technology and of legal protection.

The Concept of the Screen

Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired Magazine and well-known internet visionary, recently published an article in the New York Times Magazine about “screen literacy”. Kelly makes similar points to Lessig, saying that we have already achieved “text literacy”, freely cutting and pasting text and bookmarking and Kindle-ing and quoting and referencing in papers freely. Both Lessig and Kelly point out that no one has any problem or legal disagreement with being able to quote someone else’s text without their permission, as long as attribution is made.

Kelly then goes on to say that video sharing is still in its infancy. We can’t yet really link an article about a scene from a movie to the actual scene from a high-quality feed of that movie. Says Kelly:

“With true screen fluency, I’d be able to cite specific frames of a film, or specific items in a frame. Perhaps I am a historian interested in oriental dress, and I want to refer to a fez worn by someone in the movie “Casablanca.” I should be able to refer to the fez itself (and not the head it is on) by linking to its image as it “moves” across many frames, just as I can easily link to a printed reference of the fez in text. Or even better, I’d like to annotate the fez in the film with other film clips of fezzes as references.”

Kelly then closes his article as follows:

“With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene.”

The Four Screens

Interestingly, Nokia has been doing a lot of hardcore research into the future.  It employs the now well-known (as the result of an inspiring NYTimes article from April of this year) Jan Chipchase as an anthropologist who goes out and studies how people use cellphones or how they build solutions to everyday problems.

Nokia also published a video called “The Fourth Screen”, about how cell phones are a fourth screen of history that are just beginning to revolutionize our world:

Nokia argues that the moving picture or movie was the first screen we ever used.  It was a public meeting place-type viewing experience.  The second screen was the TV, which allowed us to stay in our homes.  The third screen was the computer screen and internet, which let us share with each other again, but still from our homes.

And now there’s the fourth screen, the mobile phone, that lets us go out and be social again, while still having the power of the internet and digital communication with us.

It is interesting to think about this only being the beginning.  In many ways we consider technology to have a predictable path now.  We have cellphones, and okay, maybe they will be a little faster on the internet and have better cameras soon.  But do we really imagine much more?

Nokia and more international development-oriented organizations (Grameenphone, etc.) think that cellphones can do a lot for poor people.  A lot’s been written on the topic.  But how will humankind interact and mash things up once technology is freed from the tyranny of the literate towards video and music, which even the illiterate and uneducated can relate with?  What will happen when we can search videos with the same relative ease as we can with text on Google?

It’s still too difficult.  I’ve been messing with ACID (audio editing) and Final Cut Pro (movie editing) and it takes a long time and it’s hard to get all the different file formats from different media under one roof.  You have to use the tools a lot to learn how to mix up the content well.  I just made a mixtape for a Christmas gift, under a silly pseudonym I like to use, DJ Industrial Average (for DJIA, the acronym for the Dow Jones index), and the quality of my mixing was poor, given especially that it took me many hours to do it.

So there’s still lots of work to be done before everyone can use this stuff.  But the flood is coming.

More on Girl Talk

To conclude this post, I’ll leave you with some more mashed up YouTube videos, this time using Girl Talk’s blend of 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s music with their accompanying music videos.  Make sure to watch all 14 parts, which are not all from one user as YouTube is probably removing them gradually for copyright infringement (sadly).

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Filed under Anthropology, Economics, Mobile, Movies, Music, Openness, Tech

Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

This video haunts me.

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Filed under Military, Music, War

Searching for Perfect Tunes

I didn’t bring my MP3 drive to Iraq so I quickly got bored with the music on my MP3 player (which I didn’t fill with my favorite stuff because my old laptop is still USB 1.1) and on my laptop. So I started using iTunes again to find something new to listen to. I’d only bought The Pixies’ best hits compilation previously, which I loved. Now I wanted some new music, funky and fun and energetic. Luckily, I found some awesome stuff! Like Jamiroquai’s “Dynamite”, The Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang”, Brazilian Girls, LCD Soundsystem, and General Elektriks’ “Cliquety Kliqk”. And off my lovely girlfriend’s deployment music mix, various Rasputina tracks including the “Frustration Plantation” album. What tracks I’m listening to off those albums:



Jamiroquai live in concert.

Previously mentioned, it starts with synth keyboard before bursting into riffs and a winding vocal chorus. It slows down into a love song and then morphs into an excited exclamation of love full of bass and uptempo. “Yeah, you’re gonna rock the floor tonight!”

Also listen to:
“Feels Just Like It Should”
“Electric Mistress”

General Elektriks & Lateef the Truth Teller

“Take You Out Tonight”

The mind behind General Elektriks.

A laid-back beat, whimsy vocals, and then Lateef with electronic blips and twicks: “I don’t just want your math. I want your algebra, trig and geometry, calculus and honesty. I want you to be mine but not in the sense of property, no. More in the sense of like the sharing of a commodity, so. Let me touch your mind and watch as our philosophies grow. Massage your spirit, caress your soul, let’s go.” And then the chorus, “Walk a miiile to see youuuuu, doo doo, doodoo dooooo. Cross the city with a smiiiile, doo doo, doodoo dooooo. To be with youuuu.”

Also listen to:
“Facing That Void”

An old Rolling Stones song book.

The Rolling Stones

“She Saw Me Coming”

Mick Jagger wails about seeing a woman in the bar and being held under her influence, while the guitar jams loudly to an easy beat. The Rolling Stones have still got that voice, that swagger, that rock and roll sound that makes you feel like you’re on the prowl.

Also listen to:
“Oh No, Not You Again”
“Laugh, I Nearly Died”
“This Place is Empty”

Slow Train Soul

“Slow Train”

Slow Train Soul's sexy album cover.

Lazy beat with electronic DnB bass flare hook. Smooth, seductive vocals work their way gently into a descending piano key cascade. “I want to ride your soul-oul train.” Industrial echoing Future Sound of London horns. Whispering. Sex music.

Brazilian Girls

“Sirenes de la Fete”

Brazilian Girls' mugshots.

A dance beat with French spoken word. But then it switches into loungey piano and strings. Then she softly sings, “Je veux me reveiller avec moi,” repeatedly and seductively. And then it turns into a brief, ranting, energetic jump-up-and-down bout of dancing and revelry during the
festival. Then it slows back down again and repeats.

Also listen to:
“Don’t Stop”
“Lazy Lover”


“High on Life”

Rasputina together on the couch.

Julie turned me on to Rasputina. An authentic, unique sound. This song starts off with a naughty little crush and then builds up with the trademark Rasputina cello to a rock and roll punkish chorus, “He was it, he was really hot shit. He was tripping, he was lifting, he was high on liyeeeefe.”

Also listen to:
“Hunter’s Kiss”
“Girls’ School”

LCD Soundsystem


The men behind LCD Soundsystem.

The LCD Soundsystem style vocals on fast-tempo electronics. “Everybody makes mistaaakes, but I feel alright when I come undone. You are not making me wait, but it seems alright as long as something’s happening.” Off-key synth key holds and plaintive vocals for the chorus.

Also listen to:
“Losing My Edge”
“Beat Connection”

I completely ignore music reviews so I don’t expect you to listen to mine. I hate music reviewers because they have nothing better to do except listen to music. They like music because it stops them from listening to the voice of thought in their own heads. They like pretty much anything that comes out. There is no discerning, differentiating perspective to music reviewers. They love knowing trivia about bands that don’t have any trivia. There’s so much generic music out there passing as great in the eyes of reviewers. I pretty much zone out when people mention Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, M.I.A., Death Cab for Cutie, and all those other non-descript bands with non-descript music. Where are the music reviewers who swear by Lovage, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Ninjatune, or The Darkness, and then aren’t afraid to “sell out” to “Toxic” or “My Humps”, or puss down and listen to girl music like Julie Delpy’s “A Waltz for a Night” or Colin Hay’s “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”?

I guess I just love funky sounds. I also like songs that change tempo several times. Crescendos, orgasms, you know. I would like more electronica if it had more edge and if it had edgier vocals. I would like more heavy metal if it wasn’t so blatantly heavy metal. I would like rap if it included some singing choruses. I’ve been going back more to classics that I didn’t grow up with, classics like the Stones and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Hendrix. I don’t want my music to be understated, moody, restrained. I want it loud, energetic, loud percussion. I want great vocals — every song should have them, even if it’s just sampling. I want my blood to flow and my heart to sing. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?


Filed under Music