Digital Audio Insider -- the economics of music and other digital content

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Digital Audio Insider is David Harrell's blog about the economics of music and other digital content. I write from the perspective of a musican who has self-released four albums with the indie rock band the Layaways.

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August 28, 2006

Killer iPod Monday
by David Harrell
Killer iPod Monday
Are iPods killing the patience of music listeners? From a Studio 360 radio piece on composer Luke DuBois:
"Are we going to get to a point in our culture where people have a hard time listening to a two-and-a-half minute pop song without channel surfing? I see people do this on their iPods all the time -- they'll listen to songs only through the first chorus and then they'll switch to another song, they'll jump around. And I wonder if we're going to get to the point where it's unreasonable to ask [for] somebody's attention for three minutes..."
For the truly impatient, DuBois condenses every Billboard number one song into an instrumental snippets based on an algorithm that averages the pitch and other sonic content from the song. The result is a haunting sustained tone in the key of the original track. He then assembles a longer piece by letting each segment play for one second for each week the song was at number one. Here's an mp3 sample of 1958 to 1970 (from the Timelapse CD, which is an eMusic bargain at just six total tracks) and here's the Studio 360 segment (Real audio).

And from last Thursday's Wall Street Journal -- iPods are killing business for some wedding DJs:
Mark McAfee, owner of Barr Mansion, a reception hall in Austin, Texas, says about 20 weddings have used iPods at his venue in the past few years. Mr. McAfee says he's not surprised by the iPod wedding trend. Before the digital music player, couples burned their own CDs and played them on speakers, he says. "They don't talk to us about music selection so much," he says. "They just ask us if it can be hooked in or not."

Some wedding professionals think iPods are in poor taste. Claudia Hanlin, a partner at the Wedding Library, a wedding planning firm in New York, says couples should restrict iPods to rehearsal dinners or after-parties. iPod music at receptions may be off-putting. "The whole feeling is much less professional," she says.

Allison Emmerson, a 24-year-old graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, got married in July 2005 to Nate Emmerson, a 23-year-old paralegal. The couple's friends tried to talk them out of going the iPod route because they felt it would ruin the reception.

It didn't. Ms. Emmerson says guests hit the dance floor to the tunes that emanated from the iPod -- which included David Bowie and the White Stripes. "Playing music is not brain surgery," she says. "If you have good music and you have a fun atmosphere, you're going to have people dancing."
Nothing against DJs in general, but I've been to a ton of wedding receptions over the past few years and I can't think of any of them where a well-stocked iPod wouldn't have been an improvement over the wedding DJ. One can only take so much of "We Are Family," "Celebrate," and "Wonderful Tonight." (I know the idea is play music that the majority of the crowd will enjoy, but surely it's possible to avoid this triumvirate of overplayed wedding-reception staples...)


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