Results tagged “NIN” from kwc blog

DRM (for music) is dead

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Sony is finally dropping DRM from its music. Considering that Sony has been the worst offender for consumer DRM format lock-in -- ATRAC, MagicGATE memory sticks, UMD, Sony Connect music store, and infamous rootkits -- this is truly a historic occasion. It comes on the heels of Warner's announcement of DRM-free music, which means that 2008 may be the year for toppling the iTunes Music Store crown (physical sales plummeted 15% in 2007). The Amazon MP3 store already offers cheaper, DRM-free albums than iTunes: Radiohead's In Rainbows is $7.99 vs. $9.99 on iTunes. Now the selection can truly be competitive.

Even with the rise of the Amazon MP3 store, it doesn't look like the NIN/Saul Williams/Radiohead experiments will move forward. Radiohead has followed their "pay what you want" experiment with a CD release and official release on iTunes + Amazon. I imagine others feel a bit ripped off because I do -- the tracks are much higher higher quality (256KBps MP3) on Amazon than what Radiohead offered in the "pay what you want" model. For bit snobs like me, it means that Radiohead effectively gets to charge double because I went and bought the CD anyways. I guess this counts as a success for Radiohead, but I think people might be more wary in the future.

Meanwhile, Trent Reznor of NIN seems down on the success of Saul Williams' release, citing the fact that only 28,322 out of 154,449 downloaders chose to pay $5 for the album; the rest chose the free download. Only 33,897 people bought Williams' 2004 album, but Reznor is focused on the 71.7% that didn't pay. It seems the natural comparison he's drawing is to someone walking into a CD store and buying/taking your album. The comparison I would make is to the radio -- what percentage of people that hear your music on the radio, for free, actually end up purchasing it? I ended up buying it, partly because I couldn't resist the pirate cat on the cover.

Both Reznor and This American Life cited bandwidth costs -- the latter $152,000 -- as a detractor for the online model. They could have lowered their bandwidth costs by uploading to BitTorrent or asking fans to mirror the content. Instead, even though Reznor used BitTorrent for his free GarageBand tracks, he paid Musicane for 150,000 free downloads of Saul's album. Strangely we'd rather pay money to own the mechanism, even when giving something away. I'm sure this speaks something about human psychology, but I'm not sure what.

Garageband (NIN)

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I was very excited when Trent Reznor first released the master tracks for "The Hand That Feeds" in Garageband format. I imagined bands following Trent's lead and releasing Garageband files on iTunes. I thought about what it would be like to be a kid again learning my guitar songs and being able to lay my guitar solo directly into my favorite song's master mix. But I had to be content with my imagination because I didn't have a Mac.

And then I forgot all about it, even after I got a Mac.

Last night I was reminded as Trent Reznor went ahead and released even more tracks. As far as I can tell, bands haven't followed Trent's lead, but that hasn't stopped him from stepping it up. There are now 3 tracks from Year Zero available for download with the possibility of even more. Its refreshing in a DRM-laden period, where artists and companies alike are so intent on control down to the individual note, and takedown notices are issued even to guitar tablature sites, that a successful musician can completely give up control of his music to his fans. NIN still makes a ton of money; now it might make more.

I played around with all of them until late in the night. I made the songs super fast and super slow. I made Trent sound like a chipmunk and a demon. I stacked vocals on top of each other in a "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" fashion. I ran guitar tracks through the Atari effect to make it sound more 8-bit.

It was fun and also a bit inspiring -- the individual tracks were much more simple than I thought they would be. I won't say that creating music is incredibly easy -- several failed attempts to do so in a band taught me that -- but somehow having a sample to dissect made it seem much more approachable.

Bridge School 2006: Trent Reznor

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NIN at Bridge School

Photo from nin.com

This year's Bridge School was filled with many fun performances: older folks groovin' to Brian Wilson (probably the fan favorite of the night), Dave Matthews Band and Neil Young performing a 13-minute jam of "Cortez the Killer", an all-hands performance of "Rockin' in the Free World". But I think the show was stolen by Trent Reznor. Instead of muzak-ing up his music (e.g. the Foo Fighters performance), he got a special acoustical arrangement with string quartet and piano. It absolutely blows Still (NIN's previous acoustic effort) out of the water. I can't believe they did this just for Bridge School -- if they don't make an album out of that it would be a shame.There was the goose-bump raising "The Fragile", a jazzy "Piggy", a haunting, slightly eastern, "Something I Can Never Have", and beautiful versions of "Right Where It Belongs" and the unreleased "Non Entity". NOTE: I didn't actually know the names of most of these tracks, but I was able to look it up using the video I shot video of every song. I would upload the low-quality video, except I have no desire to lose my Youtube or GV accounts.

As for the rest of the concert:

  • Gillian Welch did a great song together with Neil Young did a great song together that I don't know the name of; David Rawlings did some nice guitar solos but d says he was "off"
  • Death Cab for Cutie was rather boring acoustic. I've seen better from them
  • Foo Fighters was overly muzak-y even if Grohl went through the effort of having songs rearranged for violin, accordian, etc...
  • Pearl Jam gave a good performance but nothing amazing (cover of Tom Wait's "Picture in a Frame", a brief "I Used to Work in Chicago" ditty, an organ-accompanied "Betterman", "Crazy Mary" with piano solo)
  • Brian Wilson had even the security guards dancing. It was amusing to see old and young alike breaking out their best beach dance mooves. Wilson had the crowd esctatic even if he seemed like an unhappy puppet forced to perform his past hits -- he walked off stage even before the last song finished.
  • Dave Matthews Band was good even if Dave Matthews was a bit hoarse and I don't like their music. "Cortez the Killer" with Neil Young was awesome and I'm grumbling at my camera for running out of battery with 30 seconds left to record (still have 12 awesome minutes of it). It was as good as his 2001 All Along the Watchtower jam with Neil.
  • Neil Young was good but isn't the best closer. It is his concert, so it's only fair that he can close out the 20th anniversary concert however he wants.

The goods news is that Bridge School is finally releasing more of their back catalog on iTunes (November 14th). I've long wanted to buy many of the unique Bridge School performances (Billy Idol + Neil Young, Paul McCartney + Tony Bennett), but their previous release of 15 tracks doesn't do justice to Bridge School's 20 years of concerts. I'm hoping that will all the hyping they did for the iTunes release that it will be an extensive catalog of songs (and videos) to spend all my disposable income on.

GarageBand-ready popular music

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It's not quite my feature request, but it's pretty close and cool nevertheless. To recap, being a guitar player, I thought it would be really cool that instead of just selling songs on iTunesMS, it would be really cool if Apple also started offering GarageBand-ready mixes, or at the very least, remixes of songs with the guitar/vocals/(your musical talent here) knocked out so that you could play along.

Trent Reznor of NIN has done just this -- you can download a 70MB GarageBand-formatted version of "The Hand That Feeds."

Yes, this is pretty much what I asked for with one minor caveat -- from what I've heard from the most recent album, there's very little chance that there's a guitar track that I can knock out and play. Oh well, minus my own lack of versatile musical talent, that's pretty cool.