Coverville Countdown

‘Tis the most Coverville time of the year: Countdown time! For those not with this particular program, Coverville is a podcast focusing on cover versions, and the Countdown is a listener poll for favorite covers.

Looking at the list of nominees, I see three that I must vote for, and one that I should have nominated. One of the must-votes is Richard Thompson doing Britney’s “Oops!” This is something of a tactical vote, since I don’t think it’s Richard’s best cover, or even his best from the 1000 Years of Popular Music project. So I include another song from that project in the widget.

[sonific f9cabfa65ce68b101422c6658a8fdf3796c2d028]

The second must-vote is Jonathan Coulton doing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” Although it stands on its own as a music-only cover, I strongly recommend watching the original Mix-a-Lot video synchronized to Jonathan’s version. In order to find it, it’s probably best to go via Jonathan’s post about the video, since comments there have tracked the video past at least one takedown notice.

A third and final must-vote is Porter Waggoner’s moving cover of Johnny Cash’s “Committed to Parkview.” The should-have-nominated track is the Beatnix’ Merseybeat take on “Stairway to Heaven,” captured here in glorious black and white video.

Now, I need to make sure I don’t miss the Countdown voting deadline (which I can’t seem to find now) like I missed the nomination deadline.

When I Get to the Border, 33 Years Later

brightlights.jpgAn album used to be a black circle, a foot across, that gave up its secrets to the right kind of needle while rotating at the right speed: 33 revolutions a minute. My favorite 33, and still my favorite album, is Richard and Linda Thompson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. It was released 33 years ago.

Its opening track, “When I Get to the Border” is perhaps my favorite example of folk-rock, due to the interplay of the (folky) mandolin and (rockin’) electric guitar. One of the delights of this year’s Richard Thompson album, Sweet Warrior, is the similar interplay on the opening track, “Needle and Thread.”

Another musical delight of 2007 is the cover version of “When I Get to the Border” by M Ward, with Zooey Deschanel. I’ve embedded it in this post. I’ve also created a Seeqpod playlist with the original as well as the cover.

This is Radio comScore

So, Radiohead released In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-please download. What percentage of downloaders paid nothing? comScore’s estimate of 62% has been much written about.

So has the response from Radiohead. According to NME, the band has described comScore’s numbers as “purely speculative” and “wholly inaccurate.”

Now there’s a post from Andrew Lipsman of comScore, defending the firm’s Radiohead report.

comScore reports are derived from a representative sample of 2 million Internet users, who opt in to our panel and allow us to observe their actual online behavior, including e-commerce transactions… For the Radiohead study, we observed the activity of nearly one thousand people who visited the “In Rainbows” site, a significant percentage of whom downloaded the album. We ultimately observed several hundred paid transactions.

On yet another hand, Stan Schroeder at Mashable seems impressed with Radiohead’s statement that “it is impossible for outside organisations to have accurate figures on sales.” He goes on to say that: “I have no reason to believe that comScore skewed the results on purpose, but they definitely fumbled the ball on this one.” Some commenters on his post do think that comScore might have been paid off by the music industry.

I’m not so sure that comScore fumbled this one. What concerns I do have arise from the people in the sample. Are the people who opt in to a panel really representative? Do they, knowing that there clicks are being captured, act as they do when they actions are not being recorded and analyzed by comScore? I am more concerned with these questions than with the issue of sample size.

Prefab Sprout

One of my favorite albums is about as old as my (undergraduate senior) students: Steve McQueen was released in 1985. It was by Prefab Sprout, which means mainly by Paddy McAloon, and was produced by Thomas Dolby. A new version was released earlier this year, with the original disc remastered by Dolby, and a second disc of acoustic version of most of the songs by McAloon.

You can find more, including a two-song sample, at my test blog. (That blog doesn’t have the same restriction on including music that apply here at Paddy McAloon was a tremendous songwriter; unfortunately his health has not been good of late.

About That Radiohead Catalog…

Silly me. What I thought was a brilliant move by Radiohead now looks to be a sleazy move by EMI. According to one of Boing Boing‘s many sources:

EMI is putting out all those reissues without the band’s participation, blessing, permission or involvement at all. They are doing it as retribution for the band’s decision not to go with them in releasing the new album.

Radiohead Shines On

It’s about a month since Radiohead released In Rainbows as a pay-what-you-please download. Recently, much has been made of the statistic that 62% of those who downloaded the album chose not to pay for it. For example, Daniel Langendorf quoted Fred Wilson‘s remark: “I am surprised by the number of freeloaders.”

USBearAs an aside at the end of the same post, Daniel remarks that Radiohead will be working with EMI to release its back catalog on USB. Actually, the 7 albums are available in 3 formats: USB, download, and even, for the nostalgic, CD.

Since I never got round to buying Radiohead before In Rainbows, I’ve added the back catalog to one of my wish lists. I doubt that I am alone in this.

So one effect of the In Rainbows download will be to promote the back catalog. Another will be to promote the In Rainbows CD. Yet another will be to promote the international tour starting next spring.

As you can see, I don’t buy the implication that free downloads of In Rainbows represent forgone revenue for Radiohead. First, they serve as promo giveaways for other stuff. Second, they represent many people who wouldn’t have paid money for the music, either because they don’t pay money for any music, or because they wanted to try before buying, or they weren’t big enough fans of the band.

As Glyn Moody remarks, Radiohead really get the hang of this new music stuff.

Mixed Feelings About Mixaloo

I remember the days of analog music: vinyl records and mix tapes. But my music these days is digital, using services like Rhapsody and…

It seems as though a digital counterpart to the mix tape would be a good thing. That’s what Mixaloo sets out to provide. Here’s how TechCrunch described Mixaloo a few weeks ago.

As a Mixaloo user, you can create playlists of music from all the major record labels… You can then share these playlists with friends via email, or you can embed playlist widgets into your website, blog, personalized homepage, or social networking profile…

To make a mix is free, but your friends will need to pay for the whole mix if they want to hear more than 30-second preview clips. The songs are 99 cents each (good) and protected by Windows Media DRM (very bad).

I didn’t realize the very bad part when I signed up for an invite to the private beta. But I did sign up, and I did mix. So there’s a mix of music I miss from my vinyl years over at my WordPress test blog. (I can’t put it here due to restrictions.)

I’m left thinking that the digital mix tape metaphor is appealing, but what it really means is playlist, and there are multiple ways of generating a playlist that I like better than I like Mixaloo’s. I’m thinking mainly of Sonific and Seeqpod. But I’m not writing off Mixaloo, since it’s still in private beta.

My thanks to Mashable, provider of my invite to the beta. (By the way, I have some Mixaloo invites of my own to give away; let me know via comment or email if you want one.) My thanks also to Anita for the rather lovely photo.