Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Technology

Back story of the “Bed Intruder”s song

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Follow-up on a  post from September 13, 2010 — It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1). The Gregory Brothers talking about their surprise hit and their Auto-Tune The News project. Fascinating with some great quotes: “Joe Biden is the Beyonce of the Executive Branch” and great clips of “Bed Intruder” covers (I love the N.Carolina A & T marching band and shamisen versions).

Reposted from Hypebot.com

Video: Gregory Brothers Share Business Back Story On The Bed Intruder Song

image from www.tifr.usSouthwest Virginia’s Gregory Brothers, better known as the “Auto-Tune The News” band, shared the story of how they created and monetized the “Bed Intruder” song at Google’s Zeitgeist conference this week. “Bed Intruder” was the first totally d.i.y. tune to break Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart completely on the strength of YouTube play.

via MediaMemo

It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1)

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The changing face(s) of the music industry

The recording industry has always been dragged kicking and screaming to adopt new technologies and business models (see ). Often the big boys were educated to what was possible by the appearance of new competitors on the margins who responded to new opportunities provided by new technologies or new music markets the majors ignore (and sometimes both). Typically, the big boys eventually swallowed up their upstart competitors and the same thing may happen this time but it seems less likely. And some of the upstarts are convinced the solution must come from somewhere different this time. The memorable quote below comes from an August 22, 2010 edition of “Broken Record: Music in the Download Era”, the LA Times occasional column on the current state of the music industry.

“I don’t want to hear some guy chomping on a cigar in Beverly Hills telling me it’s all gone pear-shaped. The people who invented the paradigm and were trusted to run it let it run afoul. We have to fix it.”Jeff Castelaz, co-owner of LA’s Dangerbird Records quoted in L.A.’s string of indie labels succeeds with a jack-of-all-trades approach.

Castelaz’s Dangerbird Records is one of a new crop of independent record companies that have sprung up and are giving the majors (or what is left of them) a run for their money. And this time it is different — there are new big boys providing low-cost distribution: Amazon, I-Tune… — and new free or low-cost marketing outlets: Twitter, Facebook… It’s no longer simply the independents vs. the majors.

A little historical perspective from Mark Mothersbaugh (from Verbicide Magazine)

I’m in the music industry, so I’ve had to listen to people moaning, lazy record executives who are saying, “Oh no, people aren’t buying our records anymore.” And I want to say, you know what, that is not how people historically have disseminated and listened to music in the history of mankind. It has only been a really short window since Thomas Edison invented the wax disc and then the record companies could start selling platters and then tapes and then digital discs. It has only been a short time. Record companies could control the process of what kids could listen to, which influenced what artists were able or allowed to create. I think the internet… is the most amazing thing that has happened. As far as being an artist, I think now is the greatest time to be an artist…  Now, kids can wake up in the morning and say I want to hear some “cowboy Chinese computer death-metal.” You put those four terms into a search engine,something is going to come up. Some band is playing that kind of music. That is so amazing to me. That is so exciting. It is so inclusive… And now kids who are 16 have cell phones that have more powerful recording systems inside their telephone than the Beatles had to do their first album. The technology is amazing. And who needs a record company? You start a website and people from every corner of the planet now have access to your music.

& New routes to success

Inspiration (local TV news) to Pop Song (“Bed Intruder Song”) to Viral Video (YouTube) to Internet Sales (I-Tunes) to Hot Single (Billboard Top 100)

New York Times coverage

More to follow — the game ain’t over yet

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

“William Gibson On the Future of Publishing: Made to Order Books” (@ Speakeasy)

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Interesting interview with innovative author William Gibson (think cyberpunk) in the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. Thanks to Julie Norvaisis of All This Chittah Chatter for turning me on to it.

An excerpt from the interview by the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Kurutz:

Will you mourn the loss of the physical book if eBooks become the dominant format?

It doesn’t fill me with quite the degree of horror and sorrow that it seems to fill many of my friends. For one thing, I don’t think that physical books will cease to be produced. But the ecological impact of book manufacture and traditional book marketing –- I think that should really be considered. We have this industry in which we cut down trees to make the paper that we then use enormous amounts of electricity to turn into books that weigh a great deal and are then shipped enormous distances to point-of-sale retail. Often times they are remained or returned, using double the carbon footprint. And more electricity is used to pulp them and turn them into more books. If you look at it from a purely ecological point of view, it’s crazy.

How would you do things differently?

My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they’re able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home. Book making machines exist and they’re remarkably sophisticated. You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book -– and it would be a real book. You might even have the option of buying a deluxe edition. You could have it printed with an extra nice binding, low acid paper.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 11, 2010 at 8:01 am

The “HappyLife” home project (@FlowingData)

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How much knowledge is too much? (from FlowingData)

A house that knows when you’re happy and sad

By Nathan Yau – Aug 30, 2010

Auger Loizeau, in collaboration with Reyer Zwiggelaar and Bashar Al-Rjoub, describe their smart-home project Happylife. It monitors facial expressions and movements to estimate a family’s mood, displayed via four glowing orbs on the wall, one for each member.

We built a visual display linked to the thermal image camera. This employs facial recognition to differentiate between members of the family. Each member has one rotary dial and one RGB LED display effectively acting like emotional barometers. These show current state and predicted state, the predicted state being based on years of accumulated statistical data.

They also include a few quite beautiful vignettes from a family that has Happylife in their home. While there are no concrete metrics or instructions on how to read the displays, the family does draw some kind of emotional insights and sometimes finds comfort in the glow:

It was that time of the year. All of the Happylife prediction dials had spun anti-clockwise, like barometers reacting to an incoming storm. we lost David 4 years ago and the system was anticipating our coming sadness. We found this strangely comforting. (to read the rest, click here).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

August 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

The struggle against innovation: the recording industry’s “appetite for self-destruction”

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Examples of industries that fight innovation are not hard to find but it is hard to match the history of Luddism of the recording industry. Kyle Bylin of Hypebot.com summarizes that history well:

In a desperate attempt to preserve existing cultural and social norms or potential damage to the current social institution, the traditional record industry has gone to war with everything from the phonograph to player pianos to home-taping, claiming that these new technologies would effectively kill of music.

All of these innovations, only re-engendered enthusiasm for music.

That quote is from an excellent interview with Steve Knopper of Rolling Stone, author of Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. Knopper and Bylin discuss the often bewildering responses of the recording industry to innovations that they could have seen as opportunities. Well worth checking out.  

Written by Jeffrey Callen

August 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Thinking about Research — Short Takes (4)

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(1) Insights often come from (or are repeated by) unlikely sources. This is the case today with a blog post from Dan T. Cathy of fast food chain Chik-A-Flik based on a point made by author Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a self-help/business book I admit to checking out years ago). The insight is on the importance of knowing where you’re going when embarking on any project, whether it’s a new spicy chicken sandwich or a research project — the projected outcomes of the latter may be more open-ended but the basic principle still applies. Below is  a short excerpt from Why the End Matters at the Beginning

… no journey should start without a clear destination in mind. No adventure should begin without a tangible definition of what the point is. You need to know your true north before you even take your first step..

(2) And then there are the likely sources — a recent study by the Cambridge Group delineates the strategic role of internet and mobile in developed and emerging economies. It’s a changing world (read the study report on nielsenwire).

SUMMARY: Consumers around the world are hungry for access to information and communication, especially in countries with a growing middle class. Defying classic economic models, the demand for communication (cell phones) leads traditional media growth, signifying a global, disruptive phenomenon. The demand for information via the Internet follows slower, more predictable growth patterns. The implications for marketers: lead with mobile advertising in high-growth, emerging economies. (

Written by Jeffrey Callen

August 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Review: Watcha Clan, Live in San Francisco (@Afropop.org)

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It took a little while to post (and it will move to Afropop.org’s front page later this week) but here is my review of Watcha Clan at the finale of the 2010 Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco. And be sure to check out the links to Charming Hostess, the opening band that was truly astounding.

Watcha Clan, Live in San Francisco

Jeffrey Callen

Never judge a band by a single performance. The first time I saw the Marseilles-based Watcha Clan was in July 2009 at a small club in San Francisco and the performance fell flat. The songs lacked the moments of unpredictability that worked so well onDiaspora Hi-Fi, the arrangements felt hackneyed and stale. I left feeling Watcha Clan was just another electronic band that created interesting studio work but was out of its element live (check out my interview with Lado Clem of Watcha Clan on Afropop.org in 2009). I’m here to report that this is one of those times when I’m happy to be wrong. I saw Watcha Clan again on Sunday July 18, 2010 in a very different setting and they killed.

Watcha Clan, headlining the finale of the 25th edition of the Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco, turned in an exciting musical performance where, surprisingly, everything clicked. The staid, buttoned-down performance space of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is not an ideal setting for a “world & bass” band. YBCA books some interesting and innovative musical acts (just take a look at a fascinating installation by Oakland’s musical iconoclasts Charming Hostess) but it feels like what it is: a room tacked onto a museum. The lines of folding chairs set up in the room (for the rest…)

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