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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   listening to Pandora
Thursday, March 29 2007
It seems the end of internet radio is nigh, with music interests, acting through a suspiciously-compliant U.S. Copyright Royalty Board, reaching to snuff out all music narrowcasting within strangling distance, hoping (perhaps) that in so doing they can somehow salvage what remains of their 1970s-era music business models. Should this latest outrage prove successful (and I suspect it will), this will leave us, in terms of broadcast music options, with either unlistenable homogenized conventional radio or subscription satellite radio. (There will probably still be internet radio available from overseas, though things can be done to destroy that as well.)
Due to such developments, I suspect the future of music discovery will have to take place entirely outside the RIAA broadcast licensing system. Musicians hoping to be discovered know that conventional radio is hopeless, so to be broadcast on the internet, they'll have to sign special deals with webcasters bypassing the revenue model approved by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board. The result will be sites like Magnatune. The musicians there are all completely unknown, of course, but when the competition is silence or conventional FM radio, they can seem pretty attractive. And, as with the millions of blogs on the web, there's bound to be some good stuff on there.
In the meantime, though, before internet radio descends into its inevitable dark age, today I set up my first Pandora radio station. When setting up a Pandora station, you give them the name of an artist or song you like and then they run a zillion calculations to come up with a playlist featuring similar music. The similar music bears a relation to your seed song based on information from something Pandora calls "the Music Genome Project." According to the Pandora verbiage, songs can be similar based on their use of major or minor scales, instrumentation, vocal arrangements, and what not. In listening, though, I'm finding that such mathematical similarities are not enough. For me, the difference between a good song and a bad song is a subtle thing depending on the particular qualities of a musician's voice, the lyrics, the details of percussive timing, the choice of instruments, and decisions made in the final mix of those elements. The seed song for my station was Guided by Voice's "Blimps Go 90," a sweetly-sad song built on a warmly-arpeggiated guitar riff overlain with a delightfully-inept violin, beautiful vocals, and quietly-competent drums. Evidently none of those "genes" have yet been discovered by "the Music Genome Project," because my station never managed to unearth anything anywhere near as charming. Amusingly, though, the second song Pandora came up with was by the proto-metal band UFO.

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Contact the Copyright Royalty Board at the following address and phone:

Copyright Royalty Board
P.O. Box 70977
Washington DC 20024-0977

(202) 707-7658

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