A music deal worth investing in

Chance is having a sale until the 7th of Feb. I haven’t mentioned anything about music in a while, but I highly recommend picking up a CD (or two, or all four) while they’re cheap. His music is awesome, being one of the artists I discovered through podcasts you can listen to a few of his tracks on the podsafe music network. If that doesn’t convince you well just listen to them a few more times and eventually you’ll catch on 😉

I’m also telling you about this because I can’t actually participate myself. I have his first two CDs, and would love to pick up the others (especially at half price) but his store uses paypal exclusively. Paypal’s hatred of me being as well documented as it is, I’ll just have to wait until I actually get another CD Baby order together and grab them at full price.

I don’t mind, it’s totally worth it. The music is that good.

Matthew Ebel live in concert

One of my favourite artists, Matthew Ebel, has a habit of performing in Second Life.  I can’t remember the whole story, but he records all of his music digitally and at some point discovered that his setup was ideally suited to streaming an online performance.  Well, now one of his recent concerts is available in a podcast.  It’s called the Virtual Thirst Concert, performed as part of a coke advertising campaign in Second Life.  There is no lead-in voiceover, no lead-out, no interruptions.  Just two hours of great music, and some banter with people you can’t hear (because they’re chatting in Second Life 😉

If you like what you hear, and don’t pick it up from the many many times it’s mentioned during the concert, you can download more of Matthew’s life stuff at Virtual Hot Wings.  It’s a collection of songs he’s performed in Second Life, including a few concerts.  Something like 7 hours of music, for US$20.  I’d buy it myself but they only take paypal and my issues with that are more than well documented 😦

There are plenty of cover songs in the concert, which would normally be illegal; the whole thing is podcasted thanks to the Financial Aid Podcast who recently acquired ASCAP/BMI licenses to play cover music.  The first episode of their Student Loan Radio editions using the license was hosted by CC Chapman – that is also a very cool show.  With 3 episodes of what they’re calling the “Covercast” out so far it looks like the licenses will get good use which I’m looking forward to.  Unfortunately there’s no radio-only subscription feed, I may have to create one using yahoo pipes or something.  I’m not interested in the main FA podcast but cover songs from podsafe artists are right up my alley.

My Little Radio CD is available

In case you hadn’t realised from the five or six times I’ve mentioned them, I’m a huge fan of My Little Radio.

I’ve been trying to get my hands on their music for about 18 months.  I first heard they were going to record an album in Feb 2006, then early this year there was news they’d finally released it – but no mention of where to buy it.  Turns out, I should’ve checked their myspace page more often because they announced such things over a month ago!

After digging up links for my previous post, I noticed an entry on My Little Radio’s myspace blog titled “Updates on the album“.  This made me very happy 😀

Unfortunately, out of the options currently available I can only access iTunes and eMusic (it doesn’t seem to be available on CDBaby yet).  That would’ve been good to know at the start of July – my eMusic quota doesn’t roll over again until the beginning of August, so I’m stuck waiting a week for it 😦

Oh well.  I’ll just have to keep myself occupied listening to Paramore (the album finished downloading btw, it rocks!) and listening to MLR tracks on the PMN.

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Totally digging Paramore

I’ve been catching up on some music podcasts this week, and once again I heard a song that I loved so much I put it at the top of my “buy this stuff you fool” list.  This happens a lot, but it’s such a good song that I can’t help myself.  I have to post about it.

I found it on an episode of StarCAST from a few weeks ago.  The track is called Misery Business, by Paramore.  Courtesy of their website, here’s the video:

YouTube has counted nearly 5.4 million views in 2 months, which does not surprise me.  I’ve watched it at least 5 times myself (including the performance edit) while looking for places to buy the album.  This track is addictive.  Reminds me of My Little Radio, who I love.

Normally, music on my list goes in eMusic’s “save for later” list, but unfortunately Fuelled By Ramen records doesn’t list any tracks on eMusic.  (This is probably a good thing, at 40 tracks a month I’ve already queued up 2 months worth of purchases).

I was slightly annoyed at having to pay $17 for the album on iTunes, then I noticed that their online store has 192kb MP3 album downloads as well as the CD shipments.  For $11.  BONUS! 😀

I’m now the proud owner of Riot!, or at least I will be if it ever downloads.  Whenever the internet goes flaky in San Francisco, we Australians really feel the pinch because that’s the area that our primary link to the world connects to.

It started out at around 20kb/sec but it’s dropped to 15 – an hour for one 60mb album download is annoying.  Maybe I’ll go watch the video a few more times…

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Mark March 22nd on your calendar

I meant to post this on the weekend, so unfortunately you won’t have much time after reading this.  March 22nd is the day I’m asking you to buy a song on iTunes for a worthwhile cause.

Bum Rush The Charts is an initiative to show the recording industry that we’re taking back control of our music.  Word is spreading via Podcasts, Blogs, MySpace, etc that we’re going to get an independent artist, a band who was dropped from their recording contract, to #1 on iTunes.  50% of all revenue the band receives will go to college scholarships, and if you use the link below the Apple’s 5% affiliate fee will be donated too.

The song is called Mine Again by Black Lab from their most recent CD release (link is NSFW, the album cover has a topless female figure drawn on it).  If the name sounds familiar, it’s because they are one of the bands I raved about in my eMusic post.  They’ve become very popular on podcasts, because they’re a damn good band.

It doesn’t matter what country you are in – the idea is to get the song, the band, and the bum rush as much exposure as possible.  Even if you don’t like the music, this is about the message.

Please click here on Thursday and buy the song.  I’m going to be buying the entire album on eMusic, but I don’t mind having 2 copies of this track.

eMusic are good, depending what you want – and getting better

After hearing about eMusic on Coverville back in September, I thought I’d give it a shot and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The service has a monthly fee, but it’s not your average subscription service – you get to download each purchase as a DRM-free MP3. At the end of my trial period, I’d downloaded one full CD and a few of other tracks from a second CD so I paid for the basic subscription in order to get the rest. This sequence continues every month, so now I have 100+ songs downloaded and I can still see a few more I want 😀

The subscription is cheap. If you use this Coverville link you get 25 free downloads to start with, and after that it’s US$10, $15 or $20 a month for 30/60/75 downloads respectively, 20% discount if you sign up for a year. I must apologise for not posting this earlier – 4 weeks ago ago they announced that their monthly download limits for each plan were dropping – it used to be 40/65/90 and the yearly discount was 25%. Luckily existing customers aren’t affected, so I still get 40 for $10 😉

I thought about posting at the time, but I didn’t even find time to use my 40 downloads in November so that should give you some idea of how busy I’ve been 😦

I’ve had a lot of fun with this and found some nice surprises. I’ve not only made a dent in songs that I wanted from podsafe artists, I’ve found a few mainstream albums that I wouldn’t have picked up normally except they’re so damn cheap on here!

Here’s my collection, in order of purchase with eMusic links and a little explanation.

  • Rodrigo y Gabriela – Self Titled and a live album. If you haven’t heard this pair, you are seriously missing out – the music they can produce with nothing but two guitars is insane.
    (edit: my apologies, it seems they’ve been removed from eMusic. Such a shame!)
  • Danko Jones – Sleep is the Enemy. These guys are next up on my list of artists to feature, DAMN this is a good solid rock album. “First Date” is the song they conquered the podosphere with, it and many others are on the Podsafe Music Network.
  • Supersuckers (NSFW album title). I only wanted 2 tracks that have been popular on the PMN, #1 and 6 from that link. The rest of the album is a bit meh.
  • The Shakes – Liberty Jones (single track from the EP). Fantastic, fantastic song that I’ve featured and is (quite rightly) immensely popular on podcasts. You can see my review on eMusic, and the iTunes review mentions
    podcasts too 😛
  • Beau Hall – Unh!. “Super Hot Lady Cop” has been played on many many podcasts along with “Oh Face”, and will be on my featured artist list sometime in the future. Full tracks on the PMN.
  • Coldplay – Brothers and Sisters. Coldplay’s debut 3-track EP that I didn’t know existed, it’s interesting to hear where it all started.
  • Lamb – What Sound and Between Darkness and Wonder. I’ve loved Lamb for a very long time, never got around to buying their third album and couldn’t help but pick up their fourth at the same time.
  • The White Stripes – Elephant. Fairly self explanatory popular mainstream artist, I’ll probably pick up one of their other albums next month too.
  • Black Lab – See the Sun. Simply an amazing album, the title track along with “Ecstasy” are the popular ones on the PMN.

 

My only problem with this service is at 25-33c a song they can’t be giving much to the artists. For this reason the only independant music I’m buying is stuff that I wouldn’t buy normally (because I’m not totally sure if I will like it), as well as singles and CDs that I can’t order easily online.

It’s a damn good deal if you can find songs you want, and you can cancel at any time (even during the free trial). I highly recommend heading over and checking it out – even if you only sign up for the free trial to give Brian (Coverville host) a $6 kickback 😉

Promoting artists

I was going to make a post last week about Deep Purple and George Thorogood uploading tracks to the Podsafe Music Network via their music label, who I just noticed have today uploaded some Alice Cooper tracks.

But I didn’t, and in fact I’m not even going to link to them because I decided instead I want to start promoting podsafe artists more. Those three along with previous names like James Brown are good examples of how well-known, popular artists are waking up to how good this network is for promotion. That’s great, but I’m using them as a blatant attempt at adding more weight to my words when I say please go check out artists I link to, and encourage any bands you know to upload their tracks to the PMN 😉

The artist I’m linking today is Jenny Dalton who I first heard on a recent episode of Accident Hash. Beautiful voice, more than a little Tori Amos influence and is described thus:

She’s a twist of Tori with a splash of the Cranberries chased with a chilled glass of Kate Bush and with a tenderness and honesty all her own… Fans are taking notice, and this Minneapolis artist has prompted an outpouring of support nationally and internationally.

Not only that, but there’s a very obvious theme behind her debut CD, Fleur de Lily:

Many songs on Fleur de Lily were inspired by her relationship with a soldier through his year-long deployment to Iraq in 2005. The song “At Ease” was written after his two-week visit home in the summer of ’05, and “Iraqi Sky” was based on a dream he had during the separation.

Highly recommended, especially if you’re a Tori Amos fan. You can stream around 30sec of each track from the CD on her website, or 3 complete tracks from her PMN page. Actually I recommend going to the PMN page first, because I find complete tracks better than 30-sec snippets.

Go search for the mainstream artists on the PMN if you want. Me, I just added Jenny’s CD to my wishlist – which is starting to grow to a reasonable size again 😀

Waking up to no DRM

There’s been a bit of excitement recently about Yahoo offering songs without DRM. Most sites fail to mention that it’s only one track so far, a Jessica Simpson track that you can get with your name in it. But quite rightly everybody is excited about the prospect of big labels finally caving in and selling DRM free music.

Podshow has been doing this for a while, they’ve had MP3s for podcasters to play since the site went live a year ago and slowly they’re opening up the purchasing beta so listeners can download the same DRM free files for 99c. The number of times I’ve heard a band thank a podcast via audio feedback is insane, lots of small indie artists are doing well because of promotion on podcasts and that should only increase once anyone can make their music available for sale.

Plenty of small record labels are uploading tracks to the PMN, recognising the value of it for promotional purposes rather than getting bogged down worried about piracy.
There are some big names joining the fun too, the latest being James Brown last week.

 

The revolution is on, indeed.

I still do some of my best work solo

I’ve decided not to talk about work-related stuff until I have a blog policy to refer to (it’s still being written). I’ve considered a few topics, but I wouldn’t feel safe unless I ran every related post by my manager and that’s just too much effort. I’m making an exception tonight though, because I have this nice big post in my head and there’s nothing about it that could reveal some deep dark company secret 😉

Earlier this year we started pair programming as a part of our move towards becoming an XP team. I don’t want to give any specific details right now, but I am going to talk about what happens when we’re not pairing. We take breaks at intervals through the day in order to prevent burnout, however due to varied finishing times in the team I’m left with no pair for 1-2 hours each afternoon. More often than not, I’m the last person in the office for anywhere up to an hour.

I haven’t taken much notice of it until this evening, but these times are when I get some of my best work done. This is not to say that I want to stop pairing, because we get real and noticable benefits from it. And the stuff I produce isn’t necessarily better than what we produce while pairing, I just find that after 4 years of programming solo at this company there are some things that don’t really click until I’m off by myself.

As I posted about 6 months ago, trance music helps me to concentrate. Most programmers (and likely others too) will recognise what I was trying to say then as being “in the zone” and I often surprise myself how quickly I can get there. I put my ear buds in and turn the volume to just above idle conversation level so I don’t get any noise interruptions (I try to keep it quiet enough that I’m not going to damage my hearing though ;)). I’ve trained myself well, and it rarely takes more than a few minutes as long as I don’t get any other distractions.

If it’s the middle of the work day and I’m not working on a huge challenge, I’ve actually taken to listening to a music podcast instead because the talking bits serve to break up my concentration and distract me. As my workmates can attest, if I accidentally end up in the zone it can be very hard to get my attention and that’s not only counter-productive for them it leads to me getting annoyed when they force me out for normal day-to-day stuff. Like pairing 🙂

Luckily it’s much harder to get in the zone during the day because either people are moving around or something flashes up on my screen pretty regularly – this was one of the reasons I chose my current seating position, as a frequently-used walkway is within my field of view instead of just blank walls. On evenings like tonight though most people had gone home giving me over hour of time to myself so I resumed listening to the latest Trance Tuesday episode. I was only partway though the nearly 3hr set so there was no chance of it finishing and spoiling my fun.

I was working on a problem with a few tests that were failing incorrectly due to some third-party code; we’d been aware of the problem for about a week but nobody was immediatelysure of how to fix it so it had been left for someone to research. I had intended to investigate complete alternatives, but instead decided to look further into the code of what we were using, since it’s an open source project. In a very short amount of time I found an option we’d all missed, managing to implement a test utility
method for it using TDD and fix the failing tests before I left 😉

I’m sure this option would have been found eventually, but it wasn’t something I’d really considered before then and it turned out to be a very productive end to the day. The downside is that I had to spend a few minutes writing an email to explain what I’d done, because it wasn’t done paired and so there was no knowledge sharing. But I had fun doing it, and have already planned out what I want to do next time I’m going solo.

 

As far as I know doing decent sized tasks away from our pairing environments goes against the grain of the XP methodology we’re slowly implementing, but I don’t expect or want it to go away. One of the things I remember from discussions about pairing is that trying to do absolutely every line of code in pairs is insane. Going off solo to research something is quite normal, and (at least in my case) often leads to a different perspective on code – so I like to do more than just researchy things.

Music to concentrate to

Being my first week back at work after my christmas holidays, there has been the usual deluge of things to catch up on. When combined with trying to get back into proper work and sleep habits, it has made trying to sit down and write code rather difficult. It is times like this that I turn to the single best thing I’ve found to make me concentrate – Trance music.

I first discovered that I was really into Trance during uni; I’d been a fan of various Techno tracks around at the time but it wasn’t until a friend told me to listen to a Paul Oakenfold bootleg live set (gatecrasher in 1999) that I became really hooked. That was the first time I’d heard a full length live mix, and it’s still one of my favourites. While living on campus at uni I started collecting all of his ’99 essential mix world tour, along with stacks of bootlegs by other DJs (currently Armin Van Buuren‘s State Of Trance mixes).

Since I work in a mostly R&D office, we are not only allowed but encouraged to bring in headphones and listen to whatever music we want. When I started 4 years ago, it didn’t take me long to realise that the continual beats not only drowned out any distractions but helped to keep me alert (although drinking far too much coke at the time probably contributed to that too ;)). With a sizable collection to draw from, that’s all I listened to at work for a very long time.

So I was happy to discover that over the break I had a few episodes of Trance podcasts to catch up on. Techtronic Sound is the best by far, but I’ve also been enjoying the TrancePortal “Trance Tuesday” podcasts as they are usually an hour or two long live mix. In particular their Live at SUBmerge episode is some of the best Trance I’ve heard in a while; I’ve listened to it twice already.

 

The irony is that for most of my Uni assignments I took someone’s recommendation and used a CD full of Pink Floyd MP3s to keep me going. It did help but any time I hear the first beats of “Money” and “Time” it conjurs up memories of all nighters and trying not to fall asleep.

bonus tags: . Just a taste of how varied my musical interests are.