A Question of Fidelity: Spotify Goes CD Quality?

Spotify - as good as a CD

Spotify - as good as a CD

We adore the Spotify service. It still has a way to go, but it’s getting there. For those in the dark – it’s a streaming service. There’s a free version with ads scattered across your listening experience. Then there’s a paid version with no ads, exclusive albums, pre-release stuff and, just announced, CD quality streaming.

The word is Spotify are finding it tough getting people to upgrade to their premium service. Offering albums before release date and exclusives will help. It’s already at a good price. But will CD quality streaming convince anyone to make the switch?

There’s a bigger question of sound quality here – if it matters – over convenience. It’s been a dog fight from the beginning. Vinyl sounded great, but it got damaged easily and was hardly portable. The cassette brought great portability but the sound quality was terrible, and cassettes snapped easily. The CD had a nice middle ground, and the war stopped for a while. Until DVDA and SACD came in, beating it’s chest about it’s 5.1 surround sound. It was around that time that the mp3 took over as the main way people listen to music.

So, are people going to care about CD quality streaming? With today’s headphones and computer speakers, it hardly seems worth it. But there is a niche consumer who can hook up their computer with a nice home stereo. But that person will no doubt have surround sound and high definition – something Spotify isn’t offering. It’s the CD all over again, a bit of each without being much of either.

Spotify are growing. They will hit mobile phones this year. Their catalogue continues to grow. We have faith. And we like the risks they are taking. We’re just not sure how many people are taking a risk on them right now.

NME covered the story quite nicely as well – http://www.nme.com/news/spotify/45507

Mos Def's Free Album (with every T-shirt)

Mos Def - passion is a fashion

Mos Def - passion is a fashion

It wasn’t that long ago when you could buy an album and get a free t-shirt. (In the UK, U2 did it last year with their last batch of reissues). With the falling value of music, it seems the tables are turning in favour of the t-shirt. Rapper, and lately, fantastic actor, Mos Def is taking this one step further with his latest album, ‘The Ecstatic‘. When you buy the t-shirt, you get the code to download the album for free.

It’s not the only way to get the album – it’s already out on regular mp3 and CD. But it is a new way. It’s also not completely new – it’s in fact the second in a series by the Music Tee people, but the first to feature a major artist.

The shirt features the album artwork complete with tracklisting. There is a download code on the tag, and you can go online and collect your mp3 album from there. Pretty amazingly, the US music charts people, Soundscan, have agreed to count the sales of the t-shirt as an album sale.

We can’t seem to find out where you can buy this t-shirt. You can checkout http://www.downtownmusic.com, but Mos Def‘s own website is down at the time of writing. There’s also some retail locations on the LNA site. Come on Mos, take a break from the movies and get it together.

It’s a fun idea, but it’s a gimmick. The shirts are actually quite tough to get. It costs $40 US, far more than an album or a t-shirt, so anyeither one being ‘free’ is up in the air. It’s not going to boost Mos Def‘s album sales into the charts. But interesting to think what artists like Dave Matthews Band, whose merch sales exceed their album sales.

Apparently more Music Tee are on the way this year. It will be interesting to see what artists they get, and what impact they make. For now, it seems like people are willing to try just about anything.

LnA – home of Music Tee – right here – http://www.lnaclothing.com
Oh yeah, Mos Def‘s website is still down.

Vinyl Saturdays At Indie Retail

Green Day - Know Your Enemy 7

Green Day - Know Your Enemy 7"

2009’s Record Store Day was the most successful yet. A huge list of exclusive releases was given to Indie retail all around the world (although, mainly in America). It showed that, for at least one day a year, people can still walk into a record shop. Now let’s see if people will do it on the third Saturday of every month.

Again starting in the US but hopefully spreading further, the Record Store Day people have organised Vinyl Saturday on, as stated, the third Saturday of every month. Vinyl made up a bulk of RSD‘s exclusives this year. It’s a format that is experiencing another of it’s occasional booms. It certainly has a lot of good will at the moment.

Vinyl Saturday, a great idea that we support even if our wallets don’t, is starting off with a bang. No less than Green Day, still hot from their 800 billion selling album 21st Century Breakdown, is opening proceedings with a very limited 7″ of their latest single Know Your Enemy backed with Hearts Collide, an unreleased track. Wilco offer a 7″ of You Never Know, from their upcoming album, backed with Unlikely Japan (a demo of Impossible Germany from their last album). Modest Mouse and Scarlett Johansson/Pete Yorn offer tracks on 7″ from upcoming albums as well. All of them are limited to around 5000 copies.

Oh how we love 7″ singles and their unique artwork and 5 minutes promise of bliss. We love the unreleased b-side, the hidden treasure of a 7″. Hopefully there is a flood of cool 7″s coming out because of this initiative. And hopefully it gets out of the US. And looking at the repertoire – someone other than Warner Music Group participates.

Interestingly – what was considered the hottest exclusive of Record store Day was Beck and Sonic Youth‘s split 7″. It’s currently going for almost $50 US on eBay. So get in quick!

More info at the Record Store Day website – http://www.recordstoreday.com

Why Pearl Jam are on Target

Pearl Jam - bullseye.

Pearl Jam - bullseye.

Pearl Jam are copping a lot of criticism the last few days. It has come to light that their next album, rumoured to be called ‘Backspacer‘, will be an exclusive release at Target stores (in the US only). This rings false against the band who publicly fought off Ticketmaster, pioneered recyclable CD packaging and are generally, lets face it, hippies. But look further and we think Pearl Jam are doing the right thing.

The press is focusing on the Target story, they have missed the caveat. The agreement with Target allows Pearl Jam to release their album in “a number of smaller, independent stores” (according to Digital Music News). Is that not the prefect solution in this day and age?

Where some press have taken the indie store additions as an afterthought – they are no competition to Target – we think it’s the main piece here. Pearl Jam are far too big to release their albums in just Indie shops. But that’s the world they come from, they are not leaving them behind. It’s only in the arena of big box chains that Pearl Jam are having an exclusive. Are PJ fans and the Indie Police really against Pearl Jam‘s decision to not have their records in Wal Mart or Best Buy?

For us, it hits all the right buttons. Music lovers can support their local music store. Casual fans of Pearl Jam, who number the millions, can go to Target. They were never going to walk into a record store anyway. And Target will pump advertising and marketing into the album for the exclusive – exposure that the indie stores will benefit from. Of course, there will be a digital version that you can buy from your couch.

This is very different from AC/DC, who screwed indie retail over with their last album. You had to go to Wal Mart. No other choice at all.

This type of retail exclusive has not branched out of the US yet. The US is more it’s own island. Europe with so many countries around make this model almost impossible. We don’t like it, and we hope it’s a trend that will pass. But somehow we don’t think so.

And back to the music…we love Pearl Jam and wait patiently for the record. They are out of contract with Sony now. They are such progressive, forward thinking fellows. We can’t wait to see what they do now that they are one of the biggest independent bands in the world.

Pearl Jam official site – http://www.pearljam.com

We love Stereogum, and they broke the story – http://stereogum.com/archives/pearl-jams-fixer-to-debut-in-target-ad_071831.html

Record Store Day 2009 – 18th April

April 18th. Go support!

April 18th. Go support!

Tomorrow, April 18th, is Record Store Day, a celebration of ma & pa stores around the world. Started in 2007 in the US, it gets bigger every year. It’s really starting to make an impact outside of America as well. Along with live performances in many stores, there is a stack of RSD retail exclusives.

What’s interesting is how much vinyl is on offer. Of the 86 retail exclusives, a whopping 69 are vinyl – 48 are 7″. If the RSD organisers feel like putting all 48 7″ into a nice RSD09 box, they can put me down for one.

It’s definitely the 7″ that have coolest songs as well. Two unreleased Flight Of the Conchords tracks (from Season 1). First, unreleased singles from forthcoming albums by Akron/Family, Camera Obscura and Modest Mouse. Classic new pressing of tracks by Elvis Costello, The Smiths, The Stooges and Whiskeytown (who I think broke up ten years ago now).

Finally – the return of the split single. Flaming Lips/Black Keys. Dr Dog/Floating Action. Cursive/Ladyfinger. Lonely Dear/Andrew Bird. And Sonic Youth has two – one sharing with Beck, the other with Jay Reatard.

It’s not all indie schmindie either. Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Radiohead and Bob Dylan are all offering exclusives. We here at WFTGLF, it’s all about the Wilco DVd and Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vinyl.

Complete list of Exclusives right here at the RSD site.

This is of course, mainly in America. Hopefully, as the years go on, and the stores don’t die off too quickly, the fun will really be worldwide.

Final though – my home country of Australia has managed to go against everything RSD stands for by inviting JB Hi Fi, Virgin Megastore and Sanity chain stores. These publicly traded, huge chain stores are everything RSD is trying to fight.

Gavin Ward – treasurer of AMRA and runs Leading Edge Music, said “As far as we’re concerned it’s all about getting people into the stores and enjoying being in a store and having fun”. Obviously the man’s job is not in trouble. He’s not fighting to make a living for something he believes. The man is a disgrace.

Hope to see you out at a Record Store tomorrow!