Tuesday, March 24, 2009

JamBase Show Alerts Rock!

Wow... short on blog posts, eh? Blame Twitter! I went from one service Ev Williams created (Blogger) to the other (Twitter)...

I just wanted to take a moment for shameless plug here. Really, I am so happy and impressed with JamBase show alerts. All I need to do is tell JamBase.com who my favorite artists are and where my local area is, and I get regular updates on my tracked artists in my area. You'll never miss another show again (unless you've chosen to, of course).

Take a look at how impressive this list of new shows is... in just one day - these shows were added to JamBase.com .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Introducing TrainText.com!

The past several months, I have had a fun little pet project going on. It's called TrainText. On-Demand information for BART riders. Train times, service alerts, contact info and much more.  It works using the Twitter API and takes advantage of Twitter's SMS notification system.

Using Twitter's direct messaging and mobile device updates, now you can send a request from your mobile phone for any BART station and receive real-time estimated train arrivals for that station... in less than one minute! Get additional information about service interruptions and delays, by sending an "alert" command. Get information on Elevator service outages by sending "elevator" or "elev". Get a few key phone numbers for the BART system, by sending the "contact" request.

Though primarily designed for daily commuters, it is proven to be a useful tool for any rider on the go! TrainText especially comes in handy when you're wondering if you can still catch that last train back home across the bay. Should you get a cab or is there time to walk there? Find out now with TrainText! Send a direct message request to traintext on Twitter and know when the next trains are arriving at your station.

What we've got here is just some preliminary preview technology for a much grander vision, with a fully customizable account to track commute times and automatic alerts. I look forward to your enjoyment of TrainText.com as well as your comments. Let me know what you think!

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Year In Review (from DMN)

An excellent recap from Digital Music News.

Survived 2008 okay?  The year proved difficult for an already-disrupted industry, though "accelerated transition" could be the best description of current forces at work.  As in previous years, consumers continued their shift towards digital formats, and free continued to beat paid.  But a widespread economic downturn appears to be intensifying a long-running disruption.

Labels - both major and indie - once again found themselves weathering the brunt of a plunging CD.  But the trend is worsening.  By the fourth quarter, pre-recorded CD sales were slipping approximately 20 percent year-over-year, and Christmas shopping volumes appeared weak.  Indie distributors started feeling the pressure, and many entered bankruptcy.  The dire backdrop raises the question of whether 2009 will be a make-or-break year for labels, and the broader recording industry.

Still, an elite class of superstars managed to thrive - AC/DC quickly scored double-platinum sales, and Usher grabbed a Diamond accolade on a 2004 album.  But the broader softening still means lower revenues, and most artists are swimming in shallower waters.

Superstars also found themselves battling pre-release leaks, almost an automatic occurrence in 2008.  The list of top-level artists dealing with high-profile leaks included Usher, Metallica, Coldplay, Nas, and Lil Wayne, among many others, though the impact on sales - positive or negative - remains unclear.

The list also included Axl Rose-led Guns N' Roses.  The group opted to prosecute a fan behind a pre-release leak, a process that remains ongoing.  The album, Chinese Democracy, largely flopped. 

That was just one of many stressful moments for the big four.  At the onset of 2008, the freshly-acquired EMI Music started a serious round of layoffs.  The multi-month process ultimately pushed past 1,500, and the cast of top-level executives shifted throughout. 

Other labels, including Sony BMG, also experienced serious changes.  The troubled joint venture decoupled, and the legendary Clive Davis was demoted

Quarterly reports were mostly disappointing at major label groups, even Universal Music Group.  But some executives kept collecting handsome payouts, including the top brass at Warner Music Group.  In August, Lyor Cohen cashed out $6.8 million in shares, just one example of an executive compensation structure at Warner that kept investors wondering.

Still, majors are making changes, and one of the biggest announcements came at the end of the year.  Just ahead of Christmas, the RIAA announced that lawsuits against individual file-swappers would be discontinued, in favor of broad-based ISP enforcement measures.  The RIAA decision comes several months after a major, multi-industry agreement in the United Kingdom, one that includes mass-mailings of warning letters by ISPs to suspected infringers.  But as 2009 begins, serious questions surround the nature of the RIAA agreements, and the willingness of US-based ISPs to cooperate.

Conversely, another major shift happened at the beginning of 2008.  A DRM-free leap started by EMI in 2007 spread to the other majors, and by January, AmazonMP3 was offering MP3s from all four majors.  That set the stage for a massive, Pepsi-powered Super Bowl promotion, though the broader impact appeared modest.  A raft of other music stores were soon granted DRM-free access.

Those were big steps, though external winds proved powerful.  By September, a serious economic crisis started rippling through nearly every business sector and nation.  Stocks like Warner Music Group (WMG) and Live Nation (LYV) brushed all-time lows, and even Apple (AAPL) now trades at a seriously-depressed valuation.  The Wall Street malaise was complemented by widespread layoffs across a number of music-related companies.

Others managed to grow, market issues notwithstanding.  YouTube continued to amass users and views, and despite ongoing issues, players like Pandora continued to expand.  On the gaming front, Rock Band turned into Rock Band 2, and Guitar Hero expanded into a World Tour

Other areas simply started to plateau in 2008.  That includes paid downloads, which appear to be leveling at roughly two billion annually, at least according to iTunes Store figures.  Apple is also losing steam on its darling iPod, though the iPhone was all the rage in '08 - both for Apple and an army of application developers.  The latter class now includes music-related companies like Pandora, Sonos, and Shazam, as well as labels like Sony Music Entertainment.

On the M&A front, Buzznet acquired Stereogum and Idolator, part of a music blog roll-up.  Imeem scooped the distressed Snocap, Sony Corporation of America purchased Gracenote for $260 million, and Disc Makers purchased CD Baby for $22 million.  Best Buy purchased Napster for $121 million, though other takeover attempts were dropped, including a bid for SanDisk by Samsung.

And what about mobile music?  The once-heady area was surprisingly cool this year, at least in the West.  Ringtones are now past their prime, and hopeful formats like OTA downloads have failed to break through.  On the hardware side, Sony Ericsson experienced softer demand for music-specific devices, and downer financial results.  On the broader mobile stage, the bigger breakthrough is coming from a more complicated class of smartphone, a group that includes the iPhone.

The year also witnessed the heavily-hyped rebirth of MySpace Music, thanks to the blessing of major labels.  But independent playlisting startups Muxtape and Mixwit exited, while Project Playlist and Seeqpod continued to tussle with the majors.

At Yahoo Music, it was the year of the outsource.  By February, the company offloaded its subscription service to Rhapsody America.  By December, the company outsourced its streaming radio offering to CBS Radio.  CBS also started powering AOL Radio in March.

Perhaps the biggest flop of the year goes to Qtrax.  In January, the company staged a massive coming-out at Midem in France, though major labels quickly pointed to nonexistent licensing deals.

Starbucks had a tough year, and music-related initiatives were largely shuttered.  The shift followed a scathing review of the initiative by the New York Times in March. 

On the performance side, Live Nation continued to make serious moves.  The company announced plans to create a homegrown ticketing solution, a move away from Ticketmaster.  The mega-deal spree also continued, specifically with Jay-Z, U2, Shakira, and Nickelback.  But internal discord soon followed, and a late-year options cash-out by U2 raised questions on whether the aggressive Live Nation strategy makes sense in the current economy.

Meanwhile, Ticketmaster acquired a controlling interest in Front Line Management, and appointed Irving Azoff as the CEO of its newly-minted Ticketmaster Entertainment unit.

In satellite radio, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio finally got their merger approved by both the US Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.  But massive debt and an overbearing overhead are threatening to overwhelm the combined company in 2009. 

Elsewhere, artists continued to exercise their independence in 2008.  Radiohead may have been the story of 2007, though Trent Reznor helped to carry the mantle into 2008.  The NIN frontman rustled a quick, one-week purse of $1.6 million, based on direct-to-fan sales of Ghosts I-IV.   On a broader scale, artists large and small continue to question the merits of the major label arrangement.

Review by publisher Paul Resnikoff.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best of 2008

It's that time of year again! JamBase always graciously publishes a best of 2008 which includes all employees, but it always leaves me wanting to list more than the 5 top albums and 3 best shows. So I've decided to post them here.

Best Albums of 2008

  1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
  2. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
  3. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
  4. Charlie Hunter - Baboon Strength
  5. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
  6. She & Him - Volume 1
  7. Dr. Dog - Fate
  8. The Whigs - Mission Control
  9. Ryan Adams - Cardinology
  10. Radiohead - In Rainbows
  11. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night
  12. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
  13. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
  14. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
  15. Okkervil River - Stand Ins
  16. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
  17. Akron/Familiy - Love Is Simple
  18. Johnny Flynn - A Larum
  19. Brett Dennen - Hope for the Hopeless

Best Live Shows of 2008

  1. Raconteurs - Bimbo's - 4/23/2008
  2. Radiohead - Outside Lands - 8/22/2008
  3. My Morning Jacket - Greek Theater - 9/19/2008
  4. Surprise Me Mr. Davis - High Sierra late night set - 7/4/2005
  5. The Jammy's - NYC - 5/7/2008
  6. Mother Hips - Starry Plough - 2/15/2008
  7. Ryan Adams - The Fillmore - 8/23/2008
  8. Treasure Island - Raconteurs, Fleet Foxes - 9/20-9/21/2008
  9. Akron/Familiy - Rickshaw Stop - 4/30/2008
  10. Ray LaMontagne - Oakland Paramount - 11/3/2008
  11. Cloud Cult - Bottom of the Hill - 5/13/2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sync Your iPhone with Google Calendar

I've been wanting this since the day I first synced my iPhone with iTunes. I use Google Calendar religiously and to think that I was going to have a different calendar on my iPhone didn't appeal to me. So why did it take me so long to get it setup? I'm not sure... that's besides the point. ;-) There are several options available so far, and I've only setup one, but I'll give you a quick synopsis of my experience.

First of all, if your looking to sync your iPhone calendar with Google Calendar, there are a few options. I'm going to review the one that I've used below, but you can also look at SyncJe from Nexthaus.com, it syncs more than just your calendar, but it's only got a 15 day free trial. The full version is $40.

Also, there is NemusSync, which seems to have gotten pretty good reviews. For this, you'll need to Jailbreak your iPhone and install an app to get it to work. Lifehacker says it's an app worth Jailbreaking for.

If your a Mac user with iCal, you can sync your iPhone and Google Calendar when you plug your phone in and sync the whole thing with iTunes. Check out this Switched post about how to do that.

For me, I found that the best and simplest Google Calendar sync with your iPhone is using NuevaSync.com - a beta service that allows Over The Air synchronizing so you don't have to wait to plug in your phone with your computer. It's very simple, and I followed these steps below to get it to work. It took only about 5 minutes to get it working! Very simple.

IMPORTANT NOTE #1: Syncing your iPhone calendar with Google Calendar using NuevaSync will delete your existing iPhone calendar. It might be safest to make sure that you do not have orphan calendar events on your iPhone that are not in Google Calendar. Another good safety precaution would be to sync your phone and have a latest backup to "restore" if things go wrong. (The service works very well and have not heard of any problems)

IMPORTANT NOTE #2: If you already have a Microsoft Exchange account setup on your iPhone, this will not work. NuevaSync.com uses a Microsoft Exchange server to synchronize your calendars, and the iPhone only allows one Exchange account to be setup on the phone.
  1. Make sure your not going to lose any iPhone calendar events by double checking that your iPhone calendar events are entered into your Google Calendar.
  2. Go here to NuevaSync and sign up for an account. It's a very primitive registration process, and I would imagine it will get a facelift sooner or later. Still, it works well and, from my experience, has no problems.
  3. Once your through registration, you'll have to check your email and verify that you can receive mail at that address. Click on the link in the email NuevaSync just sent you.
  4. After you've verified your account, you should land on a simple dashboard page. Click on change next to the Calendar item (the first row).
  5. Choose Google and click Change
  6. Click the link on the following page that says Click to configure your service...
  7. Enter the Google account where your Google Calendar resides. This process will send you to Google and ask you to confirm that you wish to grant NuevaSync access to your calendar.
    • Select your Google account that you wish to sync
    • Click Continue
    • Click Grant Access
  8. Now you will return to NuevaSync's website and you can click Continue
Now pull out your iPhone and follow these steps:
  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Tap Add Account...
  4. Select Microsoft Exchange
  5. For the settings of this Microsoft Exchange account, enter the following information:
    • Email: the email address you used to register with on NuevaSync
    • Username: the username you chose for NuevaSync
    • Password: the password your chose for NuevaSync
    • Description: any descriptor you'd like to identify the account
  6. Tap Next
  7. It sould work to connect for a few seconds and then appear with a Server field that you need to populate, enter www.nuevasync.com
  8. Tap Next
  9. On the following page, you'll need to make sure that the settings are as follows:
    • Mail: off
    • Contacts: off
    • Calendar: on
  10. Tap Save
And voila! Pretty simple, set it once and forget it. Now if you go into your iPhone calendar application, you should see your Google Calendar events populted! Changes you make to the events on your phone will sync to your Google Calendar and vise-versa.

Enjoy, I hope this helps!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Barack Obama on the Daily Show tonight!

Don't miss it... I will not miss it. Here are some clips from his past appearances.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This is what happens...

THIS is what happens when you date a girl who grew up in the fruit
business and then take her to a local organic produce market!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

1-Year Anniversary

Taking a Champagne Brunch cruise around the San Francisco Bay.

Thursday, September 04, 2008