Vote!: What Are Your Favorite Music Websites?

Celebrate Five Years Of Great Music Blogging With Muzzle of Bees

There are few things we love more than music, but quality writing is a close contender.  Combine the two, and it’s a total braingasm.  If you share our passions, you’ll be delighted to know that they will indeed be thrust together in a very exciting upcoming event.

It’s hard to believe that Muzzle Of Bees, one of our favorite sources for intelligent music commentary, news, mp3s, etc, has been around for five years already, but it’s true.  The much-adored Wisconsin-based blog will be hosting a party/concert in Madison to mark the occasion at the High Noon Saloon on February 19th, featuring performances by Juniper Tar, Common Loon, Strand of Oaks, and White Pines.

Get the details here.

Congratulations Muzzle of Bees!  Here’s to many more years of great blogging!

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Best Music Hang-outs Online: Social Networks Part 1

With the overwhelming array of choices and services for the ordinary music fan or band I decided to take some time to look over online music spots. I quickly realized that no list could ever be complete (without you crying for me to stop at least).

I’ll start with some music-centered social networking site picks for this week, and then continue on with others in a future post. Here is my own compilation of the best, weirdest, or at least most unique sites..

what are your faves?

LAST FM

This site refers to itself as the “social music revolution”. LastFM is one of those smart sites that reads the contents of your personal music catalog (upon registration) and makes recommendations as to other music you might like. It offers up a personal profile, radio players, artist pages, concert updates, music videos, free song downloads (thought you might want to go straight to that one), and more. Bands can create their own pages as well and anybody can upload music.

Here’s how they put it: Last.fm taps the wisdom of the crowds, leveraging each user’s musical profile to make personalised recommendations, connect users who share similar tastes, provide custom radio streams, and much more..we are a London-based company with a music-obsessed team of developers and creative professionals from around the world.

So there you go.

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MYSPACE:

I know that everyone and their grandmother knows about the MySpace empire, but I can’t really write this without including them. Although it is not just a music site Myspace is used by just about every band in existence. It is an easy access tool to the latest updates, tour stops, blogs, music, downloads, photos, etc from bands and is totally free for any band to use.

Organized and easy use, you don’t have to be web savvy at all to have a really cool personal or band site, or to find out more about your friends new favorite band. I am often surprised at how many bands also offer free downloads from their sites. Probably more used as a social networking tool by bands than any other site in existence, it is definitely the most direct way to hear from and hear literally what bands are up to.

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ALL AT ONCE:

This site is different than the others in two main ways: 1.) It is based entirely on the music of Jack Johnson, and 2.) The primary focus is purportedly to be a new social action network where you can discuss issues and events, explore non-profit groups, and take action to make positive change in your local and world community.

I am unsure if there exist other “social action network” sites that center around music but it is an obvious collaboration. If you sign up you are the lucky recipient of a free download, access to the community discussion forums, upload videos of your own community projects, and can give money to select organizations. Mostly however this site appears to be an online Jack Johnson alter. Anybody have experiences here or know of other music & social action sites?

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MOG:

Another smart music site (and one of my faves) is MOG. This site also reads your music files and makes personalized recommendations. MOG is essentially a blogging site for serious music fans. The personal pages offer many options and it is likely you will find complete strangers offering up earnest and intelligent comments in response to your posts. There are also artist pages where anyone can add info about specific bands and musicians. The user generated writing is high content and high quality- many “Moggers” are clearly in the music industry.

From the horses mouth: Imagine if Rolling Stone or MTV had thousands of writers and producers contributing news, reviews, songs, and videos that were filtered based on what you were listening to, so you could always find the good stuff. That’s exactly what MOG is doing..One of the first online communities built exclusively for music lovers, MOG was founded in June 2005 by CEO David Hyman. MOG has been funded to date by Angel investors and is headquartered in Berkeley, CA.
The MOG Gazette

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ILIKE:

Ilike is probably most well known by it’s Facebook application. This smart player (through the website) also reads your music collection, and gives you personalized recommendations. It is very friend centered; you receive more recommendations with additional friends, it displays what your friends are listening to, and it will give you a detailed breakdown of how your tastes are similar or different than theirs. Additionally you can program it to give you recommendations through your ITunes account as well as other channels. Artists may also create their own profiles.

The same company runs the “artist community” Garage Band and a “broadcaster community” called G Cast. They say: We invite every music lover to participate in a more democratic music industry. By rating, recommending, or simply by listening to music, you’ll impact what gets recommended to others.

– social music discovery

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JAM NOW:

Unlike the others, this social network is aimed at primarily at musicians. Both musicians and music fans can create their own profiles which include basic descriptions. The very unique feature here however is that musicians can broadcast live over the internet, even jamming with other musicians anywhere in the world through the site. Keep in mind, that such internet use will require a more than decent modem/router set up, personally I have my sights on the ubee modem, their product line is sturdy and without extra bells and whistles. Meanwhile, fans as well as musicians and site members can listen in.

Self description: Unlike sites that allow users to “post and listen” to audio content, our innovative technology platform enables real-time music collaboration and creation, linking musically oriented communities of interest.

Now that’s cool.

JamNow Forum

MOG

Portishead’s new release as a time capsule

As I sat in a crowded coffee shop on the coldest April day in recent memory, thinking about what I’d write for this blog entry while sipping tea, I continually drew a blank. Deciding to take a break, I recalled that yesterday was the release day of Portishead’s Third, the British group’s first studio release in over ten years and went over to pick it up from the nearest record store. As soon as I popped the album into the stereo, I simultaneously had an overwhelming sense of nostalgia (particularly stemming from the raw, desolate quality of Beth Gibbons’ singing) and a feeling that the music I was listening to was of epic quality and represented the future — the kind of album that music fans will be listening to thirty years from now and still appreciating.

In a way, Portishead are the music industry’s time capsule, coming off of such a long, self-imposed hiatus that they have shared their creations with a music industry that barely resembles that of 1997, the year of the band’s last, self-titled studio album. Despite being a group known for their reluctance at being in the public eye — Gibbons refuses all media requests — the band has had some interesting things to say about the changing landscape of music in recent interviews.

When their new album leaked to a number of bit torrent and file-sharing programs in early March, the band was quick to voice their displeasure, and their record label, Island, was quick to shut down the efforts. “We’re definitely pissed about it,” said guitarist Adrian Utley to MTV News. “But I suppose there’s nothing you can do about it. You can only hope that it’s not going to fuck everything up for you, because I think, in this world, there are downloaders and people who buy. I don’t know if you can convince downloaders to buy. If we don’t sell records, we can’t make any more records. We’re just not rich people.”

Though this response to the changing landscape of leaking albums is common among many musicians, it is a stark contrast to less-established acts, many of whom also voice a certain degree of frustration over losing funds, but also appreciate the increase in buzz that it provides by more efficiently meeting customer demands. Frustration with the “old-fashioned, out of date, suffering entity” was emphasized by Nick Thorburn, of Islands, in an interview in the UW student paper, the Badger Herald previewing their show on campus earlier this month. “It’s basically people wanted to hear the record, and we weren’t able to meet the demand (sigh) and get it out to people in time and, you know. The record industry is a little slow to adjust, I think, but… We had a deadline for when the record was gonna be released, and we’re adhering to that deadline. So, the people who wanna listen to it before that, I guess, have that choice now. It’s inevitable.

In addition to the growing proliferation of music piracy post-Napster, Gibbons and company have also entered unfamiliar territory in terms of the blogosphere of amateur and recreational music reviewers — an entirely new force to reckon with, in addition to the already vast array of music journalists in traditional media. Just a quick search of the Google Blogs database for “Portishead Third” wielded over 12,000 results — 12,000 self-anointed music critics and dedicated music fans. Now, thousands of reviews can be written by bloggers on leaked tracks; establishing a reputation for the album before it even hits record stores, a trend which comes with many pros and cons.

Portishead also bring with them an interesting perspective on touring, often the center focus for recording musicians. Recent interviews have hinted at a certain sense of burnout among the band, even after the long hiatus, as the group’s recent blog-approved Coachella performance will reportedly be their only U.S. appearance of the year. “There’s nothing mysterious or sinister about it. We just don’t want to keep touring forever,” said Utley in a recent New York Magazine interview. “The more touring you do, the more it informs your music, but it can also kind of thrash the fuck out of you so you don’t really want to see anybody else in the band ever again.

“To us it seems fucking ridiculous,” continued Geoff Barrow. “We want to do something creative and interesting, but really, when you play live, you actually just end up on the same stage as fucking Limp Bizkit … You just keep thinking, What the fuck are we doing that for? Even more so now that we’re playing Coachella, in the middle of the fucking desert with loads and loads of people, and Prince after us. What the fuck are we doing that for?”

And what could this all mean for the future? How much longer will established musicians find it personally and economically rewarding to extensively tour outside of festivals? With the growing impact of blogs and album leaks, how much longer will albums be released in tangible forms at all? Are Portishead just being pretentious Brits? Comment with your thoughts.

–Joe Erbentraut, True Endeavors Communications and Public Relations Intern