Re: Spotify, Part II

December 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Spotify announced today that they’ll be launching a free playlist-based product for mobile devices, with an eye towards increasing user trial and adoption.

For smartphones, you can access all of your precompiled playlists, as well as use the Shuffle product. However, you can not perform unlimited search and listen queries.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about Spotify Mobile Playlists which called for very nearly the same thing:

Can Spotify have its advertisers curate (and pay for) playlists, which I can listen to or even temporarily download for free for a period of time?

Let’s say Pitchfork, or heck, even Harley Davidson, now let me download a playlist which I could listen to for a week. Instead of ads after every other song, build in liner notes. … Bits are catered so that they’re both relevant to the sponsor and to the music, so that all of a sudden the ads aren’t an apologetic interruption to the listening experience.

Chalk another one up to the “I love it when I’m right” column.

 

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Fall Mixtape

September 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

See Below, or see sidebar.

Daft Punk

May 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

An email sent to Nish, regarding the latest Daft Punk album.

Josh Petersel <peterselj@gmail.com> Wed, May 15, 2013 at 6:54 PM
Reply-To: peterselj@gmail.com
To: Nishant Lalwani <[redacted]@gmail.com>

I have more thoughts than I could properly articulate via cell phone email. But here’s the core:
1) victim of impossible hype.
2) the album doesn’t even have to be great. All DP (and perhaps just as importantly, the infinity of beat makers
and DJs) really needed was a base of fresh material to mix in to other work. As underwhelmed as the album
proper was, just wait until you hear transcendent mashups across other work. I think from that perspective, a
modest modern success.
That all said….god how i wish they would’ve been able to recapture the magic of Digital Love.

A week later: Daft Punk — themselves — plan to remix Random Access Memories.

I hate it when my cell phone’s autocorrect makes it look like I can’t grammar. But I love it when I’m right.

Lollapalooza Brazil

May 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

The coverage Fritz and I created for Lollapalooza Brazil went up this weekend, courtesy of The Inertia.

http://www.theinertia.com/music-art/11-radical-observations-from-lollapalooza-brazil/

Copy/pasta’d below.  (In case you weren’t paying close attention, of course we work in increments of eleven.)

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Lollapalooza has gone global. For the past few years, we thought of the festival as an epic long weekend in Chicago. But as of 2012, Lollapalooza founder and Janes’ Addiction weirdo Perry Farrell has ported his vision to South America (Brazil and Chile, to be exact). From March 29-31st, the festival returned to the infield of the Jockey Club of Sao Paulo with headliners The Killers, The Black Keys, Pearl Jam, and a host of other great bands and DJs. Can Lollapalooza thrive in the Southern Hemisphere? We had to find out. Here, we bring you our Top 11 most interesting vignettes from the weekend:

11. [Roaming keg man.]

Fatal last words: “I’ll be right back.” For a simple snack or drink from the concession stand, you usually have to fight your way through gyrating hordes of crowds to reach your destination and find the way back. Without any clear sense of reference points (we found that even “right side of the stage” gets muddled when you wonder whether the intent was from the audience’s or the band’s perspective), a quick detour can lead to hours languished in trying to reconnect with lost members of your party. Hiring a mobile team of concessions vendors just made an impossible amount of sense. All hail the festival planners who thought of this, and all hail the roaming keg men whose glorious oversized Camelbaks supplied endless adult sodas (read: Heineken) for the thirsty masses.

10. [The post-festival Sao Paulo club scene.]

As we all poured out from the Jockey Club festival grounds at 11pm each night, the never-ending nightlife of Sao Paulo was waiting there, ready to take us in. Unlike in the city hosting your favorite American music festival, clubs and bars just don’t close here. On Saturday night, Diplo crushed his set at the Clash Club, dropping a 4:30am “Harlem Shake” which almost (harlem-)shook the walls of the venue to the ground. Our Friday night escapade to Funhouse found us boxing out locals from the jukebox so we could put Toto’s “Africa” on repeat in the queue as the sun slowly rose overhead (we thought it was funny – no other real reason!). Thank goodness for Red Bull!

9. [Evil Wayne Coyne.]

The Flaming Lips’ new live set is horrifying, but probably not the sort of horrifying that the band might hope to leverage in promoting its latest album, The Terror. Void of all of the color, confetti, costumes, and general fanfare of the band’s fabled shows of yore, frontman Wayne Coyne was left immobile on a pedestal, nurturing and kissing a wiry-haired toy baby. He describes, on multiple occasions, a wish for a plane descending towards a nearby airport to crash, cause a large fire, and invariably kill or injure hundreds of people. The confusion and tension in the crowd was palpable. A jarring and puzzling experience, at best.

8. [Brazilian bands standing their ground.]

Even though most of the prime festival timeslots were given to foreign bands, homegrown Brazilian talent refused to be sidelined. Playing with the fervor and charisma of late-night headliners, groups like Tokyo Savannah, Vivendo Do Ocio, and Wannabe Jalva showed us that Brazilian rockers can hold their own. Our personal favorite was dance-punkers Copacabana Club, who laid down bass grooves like they were LCD Soundsystem at a favela party.

7. [The Hives’ unlikely performance.]

Remember The Hives? They sang “Hate To Say I Told You So,” which was all over the airwaves just over a decade ago. Apparently, they have still been producing albums since then, and they captured an evening spot on the final day of the festival. But as the North American public eye has shifted from these Swedish garage rockers, fans in Brazil have fallen in love with them. And after their set, we rekindled our admiration too. The Hives managed to rock the entire distance from the main Cicade Jardim stage to the crew setting up Hot Chip’s synthesizers on the Alternativo Stage. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, the band’s spastic frontman, lived up to his moniker, leading the band with an eccentric, punk rock energy.

6. [Pearl Jam’s Sunday night headlining set.]

“Oi, São Paulo,” bellowed Eddie Vedder as he entered under the lights of the festival’s main stage. In just three words—the band hadn’t even started its Sunday night headlining set—it was already apparent that we would be in for something truly special. The band spiced up favorites “Even Flow” and “Alive” with improvisational interludes and extended solos, while also surprising the crowd with tremendous covers of The Ramones’ “I Believe in Miracles” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”

If that wasn’t enough, Vedder—in crisp Portuguese—paused partway through the show to congratulate São Paulo for respecting and supporting gay marriage. The effort to speak in the country’s native language was met with fervent cheer, swoon, and admiration from the crowd, which lit up at the opportunity to welcome Vedder as one of their own. – written by Roberta, our Brazilian correspondent.

5. [American bands showing their hometown pride.]

Norman, Oklahoma. Akron, Ohio. Athens, Alabama. Queensbridge. North Carolina. The list goes on, but the audience response never rose above a murmer. Most people didn’t know where these places were, and why would they? Except for us – and we cheered obnoxiously loud and proudly American.

4. [Muddy festival grounds.]

Rain is about the last thing you want on the first day of a jam-packed music festival, turning the infield of the Jockey Club into a festival mud pit. At sunset, perhaps, when it’s no longer bright enough to discern between wet and dry paths forward, we all gave up any hope of salvaging the cleanliness of our footwear and gave in. Leading the charge was Passion Pit’s high-energy 8:00PM set. With the beckon of choruses from “Carried Away,” “Take a Walk,” and set closer “Little Secrets,” any lingering inhibitions among the crowd were joyously cast aside as we tore into the Alternativo Stage’s muddy dance scene.

3. [Brazilians loving blues rock.]

One would think that Brazilian rhythmic taste edges towards samba and bossa nova instead of the howling guitar and bluesy vocals of the Mississippi Delta. For the crowd at Lollapalooza, this couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Good ‘ol American rock ‘n’ roll reigned supreme, with the likes of the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, and Gary Clark Jr. bringing a soulful edge to a musically diverse line-up. The energy in the Shakes’ “Heavy Chevy” and the Keys’ “Lonely Boy” had us reeling and rocking as if we were all transported to a 50’s Memphis blues joint. The language of rock is universal, and nothing goes down better than a classic sound.

2. [Hot Chip’s Official Aftershow.]

“Let Me Be Him” is the 10th track on Hot Chip’s latest album, In Our Heads, and the 13th most popular track based on the artist’s Last.fm profile. It’s not the song anyone would expect to close a set after an encore—intuition might more generally suggest a band closing on a high note with its most popular track (in Hot Chip’s case, “Over and Over”). Intuition might also suggest that an aftershow in a forgotten cinema—once popular among Japanese filmmakers—wouldn’t house the best performance of the entire weekend. But through their last song, armed with Cine Joia’s intimate setting, crisp and bulbous sound, and a high stage with clear sight lines, Hot Chip rocked the hips and melted the hearts of anyone within earshot. Sometimes intuition gets turned on its head.

1. [The people.]

There’s something special in the water in Sao Paulo. Not in the bad way where a guidebook might urge you to only drink from bottles and to carry pills to help stave off an upset stomach. Instead, there’s something in the water that makes it perfectly acceptable and miraculously sustainable to stay up and party until 6:30 AM every night of the weekend or rock out in the crowd until you’re hoarse and can’t stand anymore. There’s something in the water that makes it sane to accept nearly complete strangers into your home as guests and dear friends, to offer a guided tour of the city or an invite to a secret VIP party at the fanciest hotel in town, to give a lift to a beach house three hours away—the list of offers of love and generosity goes on, and on, and on. Perhaps it’s got nothing to do with the water. Perhaps there’s just something special in the people.

Thank you to Samuel, Mark, Eduardo, Thiago, Bea, Richelle, Isabella, Augusto, Roberta, Kevin, Nelly, Felipe, and everyone else who made this a trip, a festival, a city, and a country to remember.

Meet the other half, Josh Petersel.

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Fritz co-wrote and co-photographed this piece with friend Josh Petersel. Josh is a full-time MBA student, part-time rock music enthusiast, and no-time world record holder in the mustache speed-shaving division. His current life goals include shooting a flamethrower, getting a million views on YouTube, building a treehouse, and owning a waterbed—though not necessarily in that order.

The Karaoke Playlist

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m not a huge karaoke guy. But when we go, things get serious.

I think there’s some kind of formula for being successful at karaoke. You need to strike the right balance of the following elements, in rough order of importance:

  • Pretty much everyone knows the song. (If it’s current, eh. If it’s nostalgic, a bonus.)
  • …But, not everybody does the song. (You picked Journey? You’re pathetic.)
  • You can actually sing the song. (Which I guess, unless you really know exactly what you’re doing, rules out the heavy majority of rap and stuff with fast lyrics.)
  • It’s upbeat, uplifting to sing.
  • It’s funny to sing.
  • Seriously, don’t pick Journey; your lack of creativity is embarrassing.

For me, this more or less boils down to “90’s pop/R&B tracks with female lead vocalists.”

Here’s a Spotify playlist:

Re: Spotify

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

I wrote last month about making Spotify better. One of the core suggestions I’d laid out was the opportunity for Spotify to integrate better with automobiles and take over the car radio.

As of March 6th, nearly a month after I published my thoughts, Spotify announced that it will be available in Volvo cars through a special, customized interface. Which, naturally, requires the vehicle owner to have a Spotify Premium account.

Being right is awesome.

Make Spotify Better

February 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

I guess alternatively stylized as Sp°tify

Per the Media Summit I checked out at the end of last semester, Spotify is the music listening service that’s going to save the industry and save the world. I definitely dig what they’re doing. Here’s how it could be even better:

Difficulty Level: Easy

I was a Spotify Free user for a while, then clicked an ad that said “Try 30 free days of Spotify Premium.” That was cool for a few months, but then recently I made the switch back to Spotify Free.

I don’t mind that all the ads came back. I do mind that a lot of the ads say “Try 30 free days of Spotify Premium,” only when I click them, I’m taken to a page that explains “Sorry, you’ve already used up your free 30 day trial.”

Why serve broken ads like this to users? Clearly there’s data on me somewhere that says “already used his premium trial.” It’ll also be tough to induce me to another run at Premium via a second 30-day trial (a tactic that Netflix seemed to employ heavily for its ex-users).

Difficulty Level: Medium

Tabbed browsing.

Really, with the ability to look up artists, switch between discographies and bios, flip between apps, and more, the Spotify desktop app is as much an Internet browser as it is a music media browser. If I’m in the middle of reading up on The Flaming Lips’ biography, and want to change tracks, why should I need to hit the back button a half dozen times to get back to what I was doing? Even the much-maligned Internet Explorer 6 has peripherals that allow for tabbed browsing. And according to Wikipedia, that was released in 2001.

Difficulty Level: Medium

Literally the only reason why I ever open iTunes anymore is to download Podcasts. Because for some dopey reason, as far as I can tell, that’s the only way to download anything from the ESPN audio library (you can stream it from their website otherwise).

This seems like it’d be an easy thing to add, but I get why introducing Podcasts has some kinks. I think there are some premium podcasts which you have to pay for, which wouldn’t really jive with the current Spotify setup. Perhaps more importantly, the podcast might last 30-60 minutes without affording an opportunity for commercial interruption…so maybe it’s something exclusively available to Spotify Premium users? Is it better to pretend that Podcasts don’t exist, or drive customers to get their fix from 3rd parties? Wouldn’t you rather have your users camped on your application for as long as possible?

Difficulty Level: Medium

Spotify touts that it’s a tremendously powerful engine for music discovery. True, no question. But given that this is a focus, it seems a bit strange that you can’t really search for a music genre through Spotify’s search bar. A query of “hip hop” results in a few tracks (“Hip-Hop Saved My Life” by Lupe Fiasco, “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature, etc.), then a few user-created playlists, then a few artists (in this case, I guess, “Hip Hop Beats” and “Top 40 Hip Hop Hits” are listed as artists) and finally a few albums (Classic Hip-Hop, R&B: From Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop, etc.)

I suppose you can kind of do the music genre discovery thing by proxy of an app. The Soundrop app, for example, has a bunch of user-curated radio stations based around different themes like Electronica, Dub Step, Hip Hop, Indie Rock. My guess is that a Spotify Genre result page would look somewhat similar to whatever the top ranking user-created playlist is—a bunch of songs by various artists in the genre, just default sorted by popularity instead of by one individual’s whim. Is there some chance that Spotify doesn’t have genre information coded in? That’d make this harder. But generally, I just don’t see why Spotify should have to or want to depend other parties for this functionality. (H/t Casey.)

Difficulty Level: Hard

An extra $10 a month out of pocket, standing on its own, feels like kind of a big deal.

But bundled in and obscured under some other significantly larger recurring payment?

One of the biggest value-adds of Spotify Premium is that it enables the full-featured mobile application. What if the $10 to Spotify Premium was just baked in to the $100-whatever you’re already paying to AT&T for your phone+data plan? Only 10% more to have access to every song in the Spotify library? Not as daunting.

In addition, you’ve got the fact that cell phones generally lock users in to 2-year contracts, and have notoriously abysmal customer service. Once AT&T is Spotify’s operator, I’d imagine user attrition rates depreciating precipitously.

*UPDATE* I just saw an ad suggesting that I can route the balance of my Spotify Premium subscription to my Sprint bill. Which is neat, and it’s close to what I’m envisioning, but not quite. I was thinking more along the lines of opting for a type of Spotify account the same way you’d opt for a bigger or smaller data plan, or number of anytime minutes, or whatever the options are these days. This would give Spotify more of a consumer-facing presence on the carrier’s store- and web-front, as well as (hopefully) serve to really lock users in long-term.

Difficulty Level: Extreme

Same idea, bigger game.

Spotify could obliterate the car radio. Like SiriusXM, but way better.

Ideally, you’ve got a unit that replaces the radio, has a steady 3G/LTE/whatever connection, and lets you play whatever you want, whenever you want. If that’s too much into the futuristic/unfeasible end of the spectrum, then maybe just a hard drive that can download all the songs you ever want while the car is in the garage and connected to your WiFi at home.

Paying an extra $10 on the $X00 a month for the car, and utterly perfecting the radio? Knockout.

Difficulty Level: Extreme

On a preliminary level, it seems like there’s a pretty strict upward limit to the amount of revenue Spotify can generate on a per user basis: $9.99/mo. No matter how much music I consume, that’s the price of the Premium account.

How might Spotify upsell (price segregate?) its most avid fans?

Perhaps there might be some premium apps in the app store which users pay extra for. For reference, Apple generally takes a 30% cut of all sales made through the iTunes store.

Perhaps there are other goods that Spotify can sell. A custom poster based on my listening history over the past 12 months? Could Spotify traffic users to buy concert tickets and take a small cut of those sales?

Perhaps there are bigger subscription bundles Spotify might be able to offer. Competitor Rdio, for example, has family plans available—you can buy two accounts for $17.99/mo, or three for $22.99/mo. Perhaps this also addresses some market of people who share a single Spotify Premium account. I don’t know many friends who do this with Spotify, but then again, it feels like everyone I know does this with Netflix accounts (sorry I watched House of Cards using your account last week, Kevin).

I consider all of these options extreme, by the way, since they generally fundamentally alter the way users interact with the platform, rather than just offering marginal improvement like the easy and mediums.

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