Last week was a moody one for the music world: ex-Wilco member Jay Bennett passed away at the age of 45; eleven attendees of a concert in the capital of Morocco were killed by a fallen fence, bringing the week-long Mawazine music festival to sad close; and though he is expected to be fully recovered in time to start performing again on June 8, Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan underwent a relatively serious surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his bladder. There were some less solemn news stories to be had – Eminem hit the top of the charts, Kanye West authored a book, Lady Gaga graced the cover of Rolling Stone – but nobody seemed to be in a particularly chipper mood. Some major artists staged a rally against the British National Party, Lady Sovereign stormed off the stage in San Fran, and Wavves pretty near did the same in Barcelona.
So, here you go, a little pick-me-up after a less than stellar week.
by Elana Jacobs
iTunes may be a trailblazer by eliminating Digital Rights Management (DRM) from its music. A recently published study by a Cambridge law professor provides evidence in support of what copyright activists have claimed for years: DRM hinders communication and sometimes violates consumer’s rights, pushing people into piracy.
Over the past few years, Patrícia Akester’s empirical study led her to interviewing and surveying hundreds of lecturers, librarians, students and consumer groups about DRM policy. In particular, Akester concentrated on studying areas where DRM laws disrupt learning, like a video lecture, and harm certain consumer segments, like blind people.
In the end, Akester found that DRM laws often prevent consumers from using media in legal manners.
Take the case of Lynn Holdsworth for example. In the UK, blind people are legally permitted to transform digital books into a format that allows for screen reading software, which can read the text aloud. Holdsworth ordered a digital copy of the Bible from Amazon. DRM coding restricted Holdsworth from using a screen reader on the book, and both Amazon and the publisher refused to offer her a refund. Eventually, Holdsworth pirated an electronic copy, only because it was the easiest method manner to obtain the Bible.
Other examples include video lecturers who have legal rights to transform video for educational purposes. Lecturers and professors with the knowledge to circumvent DRM software do so, usually illegally. Those who do not possess the technical skills stick to creating lectures and presentations from VHS videotapes.
Akester’s also interviewed consumer rights advocates like National Consumer Council’s Director of Policy Jill Johnston. Johnston claims that DRM laws put more pressure and constraints on consumers. She said that “technical restrictions prevent all activities that companies wish to prevent, even when these are activities that previously courts have accepted as legitimate under ‘fair dealing’ exceptions to copyright law.” In other words, DRM infringes with established laws that gives rights to consumers.
Akester points out that DRM restrictions harm consumers across all media formats, including text, video and music. Hopefully, with time, Akester’s findings will help convince other companies and media services to ditch DRM restrictions, giving the power back to the consumer in a digital world.
by Ben Benson
This week, I want to take a moment to rant about what doesn’t rock. In fact, it sucks. The Gathering of the Vibes has always featured super talent, all in the same spirit of a genuine love for music. In the past, I’ve given many kudos to the Vibes for its line up. But this year I’ve got a huge bone to pick – not about who is on deck, but who’s not. Why isn’t the Dead headlining? It just doesn’t make any sense.
When Jerry Garcia died, a huge loss was felt nationally; thousands upon thousands mourned. For over 30 years, fans followed the Dead not just because they couldn’t get enough of the climactic jams or intense heartfelt lyrics, but because a Dead show was a community of friends. In 1996, a year after Garcia’s death and their last show, the good people at Terrapin Tapes, a media distribution company for concert tapers, decided to throw a memorial party at SUNY Purchase. Their goal was to perpetuate kinship and fill a void. As such, they named it the Deadhead Heaven: A Gathering of the Tribe. In ‘97 the festival relocated and became known as The Gathering of the Vibes.
More on Vibing Without the Dead
May 30, 2009
You are 29, live in Stockholm, Sweden, spend time giving mini-interviews to eager indie-bloggers, tour with The Juan Maclean, enjoy lighthouses, have made punk music in your teens. But now, in your later twenties, you produce Scandinavian electronica. You are Axel Willner, and your current act is called The Field.
This week, The Field put out its second major LP, Yesterday and Today. Battles’ John Stanier plays real drums on the album, but beyond that it is mostly computer composed. The six songs on the disc are nearly unchanging in tempo and beat, but a satisfying glacial rhythm results. A majority of the samples used are looped quickly, without attack or release, and this contributes to the it’s-so-generic-it’s-unique sonic quality of the piece.
Yesterday and Today could sell anything – toothbrushes, liquor, linens, Keds, or meatballs. Its genius lies in its adaptability. And it would probably be fun to dance to live in a medium-sized venue, but probably not Webster Hall (mark June 20th on your iCal). Maybe a major US auto manufacturer will stumble across Yesterday and Today and use it to rescue the auto industry. Pure Swedish market-tronica.
by Thomas Wilk
HATE TO ADMIT IT, BUT…
1993 | Island Records
I have long suspected that every one of U2’s moves has been calculated. Think about it: can you remember any point in your life where the band’s members were not either has-beens or at the top of their game? If you came of age in the 80s, like me, then no, you can’t. If you’re any younger than I am, you haven’t even been alive for long enough to have seen a time when U2 wasn’t in the public eye.
But here’s a weird time in the long, expansive career of U2: 1993. Still flying high off the success of 1987’s The Joshua Tree, but at risk of becoming old 80s rock news in a post-grunge market, Bono, The Edge and Co. had to come up with a new sound that embraced the current trend without sounding like copyists. In other words, U2 had to keep abreast of the competition. So the boys made an expensive gamble with possibly their most underrated album (and their only truly great one, in my opinion), 1993’s Zooropa.
More on U2 | “Numb”
Wavves Show Disaster at Primavera Sound Festival [Pitchfork]
See NYTimes Talk to Iggy Pop [Brooklyn Vegan]
Hear the Whole of Dark Was the Night Show from Radio City Music Hall [NPR]
Because Anything that Lady GaGa Does is Amusing [Prefix]
Dr. Dre/Pepper [Tiny Mix Tapes]
Artists Protest British National Party [NME]
Major Music Labels Make Nice to Small Companies [NYTimes]
Rock Out This Summer at The Whitney [Brooklyn Vegan]
compiled by Elana Jacobs
Apart from boasting his non-reading skills while promoting his new book, Kanye West recently spoke with MTV about the new Jay-Z album, Blueprint 3, he’s been producing. He had some high praise for the material (not surprising, since he’s involved with it), and gave some details that yielded both good and bad news. The bad news is that the duo made some songs using auto-tune. The good news is all such songs have been stripped from the album. Thank god.
“…this is an anti-Auto-Tune album,” explains Kanye, “even though I released an album that has all Auto-Tune!” Given Kanye’s obvious affection for the audio processor, Blueprint 3’s move away from auto-tune is most likely by Jay’s design, thankfully staying true to the hip hop purists that support him the most. Also, with his business savvy, Jay must know a fad when he sees one.
More on Jay Z and Kanye West: I’ve Got 99 Problems, Auto-Tune Ain’t One
ART OF SONG
“You’re Humbuggin’ Me”
Look What Thoughts Will Do
1997 | Sony
From its starting bell of a sax intro as anxious-sounding as the bracing snort of a racehorse, Lefty Frizzell’s (1928-1975) rendition of “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” breaks to run roughshod over an undutiful, deceptive wife with a weather radar for a heart (“Last week you wrote me a letter, ‘I’ll see ya if it don’t rain”) and a sadistic approach to home-cooking (“You promised me chicken and pork roast/You give me sour milk and burnt toast”).
More on Lefty Frizzell | “You’re Humbuggin’ Me”