And now a few thoughts about Spotify

I’ve been hearing about Spotify, one of the seemingly endless number of music listening applications and sites out there, for months. But as it was not available in the U.S. I didn’t pay it much mind.

But that all changed today, as Spotify is now available to us here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. And like every other service I’ve ever used, Spotify promises to change the way we listen to music. Just like their nifty little promo video says:

Sounds good huh? I decided to take the plunge and download Spotify, so I could see just how much my world would be rocked. For reference, I already use the following services to one degree or another:

  • Rhapsody
  • Slacker

All of those services have their good and bad points, and between the three of them I pretty much get what I need as far as music. Based off my limited experience with Spotify, here is how it measures up…

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Listening Booth – Dream Theater, “The Answer Lies Within”

In honor of scrobbling my 80,000th track on today, here’s the lucky song.  It’s a decidedly understated cut from modern prog rock stalwarts Dream Theater called “The Answer Lies Within”, from their excellent 2005 album Octavarium.  It proves, if nothing else, that they can halt the noodling and still write good songs.  I just wish they’d remember that more often.


Listening Booth – Tab Benoit, “So High”

This popped up on a mix the other day, and I stopped what I was doing and proceeded to dance around the room like a mental patient.  I figure this little blues boogie is as good a way as any to kick off the week, now that spring is at the doorstep and the last vestiges of snow are melting away.

It’s Tab Benoit with “So High”, off of his 1992 debut album Nice & Warm.  This is recommended for fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan, although this has more of a New Orleans flavor than a Texas one.

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Listening Booth – Ray Bryant, “Up Above the Rock”

I discovered this vintage tune quite by jazz pianist Ray Bryant quite by chance recently, when it came up on a random playlist.  Actually I should say that a remix of the song, by Irish DJ David Holmes, came up on a random playlist.  You won’t find too many jazz songs that start with a drum break, but then this is probably one of the better jazz/soul hybrids I’ve heard in some time.  Joining Bryant are Grady Tate (drums), Ron Carter (bass), and the horn section of Dobbie Hiques and Snookie Young.

Enjoy “Up Above the Rock” by Ray Bryant, the lead track from the 1968 album of the same name.

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The sad, inevitable death of Pandora

Music lovers will have one less place to discover new music if the worst comes to pass, and internet radio pioneer Pandora shuts down as threatened.  And that would be a damn shame for me, as I’ve discovered a lot of wonderful new artists and songs through the service.

For those who haven’t used the (free) site, Pandora basically works like this – you create a “station” by entering an artist or a song you like.  The site, taking advantage of the Music Genome Project, streams random tracks that share similar qualities to your selection.  As each song plays, you can issue a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”, and that further fine-tunes what you hear.

It’s a fantastic idea, and as I said I’ve found a lot of great stuff using it.  But its existence is now threatened, thanks to a 2007 ruling from the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board.  That ruling more than doubles by 2010 the royalties that internet-based radio stations must pay to stream music.  The problem is that while a terrestrial radio station only plays one song at a time, internet radio can play multiple ones at the same time (in Pandora’s case, they can serve thousands of songs at any moment).  Since most of these outlets are struggling for revenue as it is, the future of internet radio is very dark indeed.

Negotiations are underway to bring some sanity to the issue, but from reading the public comments by Pandora founder Tim Westergren I don’t hold out a lot of hope.  It sounds more like a matter of when than if.

While Pandora would be far from the only casualty here, they would be one of the more notable ones.  And with their demise, the music industry would have once again shot themselves in their already bullet-riddled foot.  A truly innovative way for artists to get their music heard would be sealed off due to the short-sighted pursuit of the dollar.

Thanks, assholes

Your U.S. Copyright Royalty Board - Thanks, assholes!

I’m certainly not suggesting that Pandora be allowed to play songs for free, but my mind reels when I try to think of a good reason for allowing this potentially beneficial avenue for music promotion to die on the vine without finding some sort of mutually beneficial compromise.  I guess the music industry feels that 100% of nothing is better than 1% of something.

Luckily there are still other viable alternatives for discovering and exploring music, like  But I have to think that even their future would be called into question at some point.

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Turn up the radio

A little housecleaning seems to be in order on the ol’ site, especially since the sidebars are getting rather full.  So I took out a few things you probably won’t miss anyway, and added one new feature – GFS Radio.  If your inter-webs browser is fully functional you should see it on the top of the right sidebar.  It’s provided by and the playlist is comprised of songs that yours truly listens to.  Now I can be the tastemaker I always knew I should be.  So listen and enjoy!

Are you addicted to the Internet?

There is no shortage of press and academic research covering the topic of so-called Internet Addiction. Of course, the first reaction of any true addict is “not me!” This denial is usually followed by surprise, realization, and then descent into an all-too familiar shame spiral. In the interest of science and self-improvement I’ve spent the last few weeks keeping a meticulous log of my daily activities, in order to better understand just how the Internet fits into my life.

The results, needless to say, confirm that I totally have this thing under control. Just take a look at last Thursday’s log (time spent is total throughout the day, not consecutive):

  • 45 minutes spent updating my Wikipedia watchlist to make sure some snot-nosed high school punk hasn’t vandalized one of my favorite articles.
  • 1 hour 20 minutes spent participating in and refreshing various message board threads to see if anyone was able to recover from any of my scathingly sarcastic rejoinders. (I totally blew away that one jerk with the picture of the Comic Book Guy saying “Worst post ever!”)
  • 15 minutes spent checking to see if my charts on have been updated.
  • 25 minutes spent reviewing my blog traffic figures, and thinking of ways to increase said traffic. (Note to self: More posts about either Harry Potter or porn. Or Harry Potter porn.)
  • 50 minutes spent scouring the far reaches of the Internet for anything related to David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, and the Burger King.
  • 1 hour spent checking my Yahoo! email account, only to find it full of nothing more than dozens of seemingly legitimate ads for dirt-cheap copies of Photoshop CS3.
  • 2 hours spent reliving my childhood by searching for and reviewing material even tangentially related to it (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Garbage Pail Kids, Atari 2600 games, old issues or Thor and The Avengers, Wacky Packages, V, The Karate Kid, etc.).
  • 35 minutes spent racking my brain for material for this stupid blog.

So how do you stack up? Of course, I don’t expect anyone to display the incredible level of self-restraint I obviously do, but now at least you have something to shoot for. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see if there are any new lolcats out there.

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I am 27.98% mainstream! (whatever that means)

As I opined about three weeks ago, joining has taken my obsession with music and music statistics to a scary new level. Recently I found yet another way to build on this experience – the Mainstream-O-Meter. Using some sort of high-tech algorithms and reverse polarities, this little tool can tell anyone who uploads their information to just how mainstream (or not) their listening tastes are.

As the site explains, it draws its numbers based off the 30 most-listened to groups, and how mainstream each of those groups is. I guess the higher the number, the more mainstream you are. Looks like I’m just outside the really meaty part of the curve. One thing I find interesting about this tool is it really shows you what the demographics of’s users are. For instance, while The Beatles are predictably high, so too are Muse and Queen. So I guess users like their rock bombastic and British?

Some of my favorite acts get no love, sadly – Steve Hackett, King’s X, Steely Dan, and the Jazz Crusaders all ensure that I will always be on the outside of the mainstream looking in. But that’s just fine with me. I am surprised to see XTC so low, as I thought they had a much bigger fanbase even now. I guess not on

So what does all this mean? Well, nothing really. Just more numbers to pore over and come through for hidden significance. Guess I have to go listen to more David Lee Roth, just to ensure I don’t become too hip. Wouldn’t want to lose my indie cred you know.

As if I needed another excuse to be anal about music

Last.fmOne of the great things about the iPod and iTunes is that, apart from the ability to listen to any song I want with just a few clicks, it feeds the habit of a statistics junkie like me. I am addicted to tracking the play counts of my songs, and have even gone so far as to scold Mrs. Suit for skipping a song on the iPod before it finished, because doing so meant it wouldn’t count as having been played. Yeah, it’s that bad.

So now I’ve discovered, and my world of borderline-obsessive music tracking is even bigger. You see, it’s no longer good enough for me to know how much I listen to certain songs or bands – now EVERYONE can know, and I’m loving it! Yes, the word scrobbling is now a major part of vocabulary, and I’m loving it. Now I’ve got charts and pretty pictures to show me just how much time I spend listening to music, and I’m loving it. Now I can see who else has voluntarily listened to Frank Stallone’s classic anthem of affirmation, “Far From Over,” and I’m loving it.

As soon as I can figure out how to integrate my list of recently listened songs with this blog, I think I can die happy. That may take awhile though, as I’m less savant and more idiot when it comes to that stuff. In the meantime, you can check out my profile and immerse yourselves in my beautiful musical world.

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