Well, I'll be: Microsoft seems to have hit on an actual decent idea for their Zune system:
Microsoft's Zune team, of all people, are allowing subscription music buyers to keep 10 songs a month from their subscription downloads. Their whole collection. And 90% of the songs you keep will be DRM free, with the other 10% (wimps) coming along shortly I SHOULD HOPE. The cost is $15 a month, so $5 more than the cost of buying the tracks individually. It's worth the cost of being able to really explore the musical landscape again while keeping the prospect of fully owning my music at the end of a day. All in all, though, it's much like when we were kids and the radio was the focus of my musical world.
When I was younger, I listened to Z100 as we drove from Jersey to Queens and would later pick up cassette singles at the local mall. Maybe I'm just old and crotchety now, but to me modern radio is a corrupt clusterfuck owned by the RIAA and Washington DC lobbyists, attacking helpful companies like Pandora that try to recommend new music based on our existing tastes. Industry power struggles aside, satellite radio has the same problem. It doesn't know that I hate the song it's about to play three times in two hours on a roadtrip. I enjoy the control of digital downloads, but miss the constant exposure to radio coupled with the conversations I could have at the record store: Fresh, timely exposure plus the occasional music purchase.
Of course, the subscription model isn't new. Subscription services combined with recommendation engines were a great idea, but ultimately not one that had many takers, because many people, including me, saw no reason to shell out money for music that would eventually and inevitably evaporate when the subscription ended. With this hybridized service, the new Zune Pass changes that. At the end of the day, you've got the structured presentation of iTunes/Zune software combined with the Mix recommendation engine with full access to an almost endless set of tracks that you can explore. And for the really special songs you want to play for your future kids, you can keep them forever and ever and play on any device you want, Zune or iPod.
There's all kinds of different people with different approaches to buying music out there. For me, the a la carte buy-to-download model of iTunes is pretty ideal, because I simply don't look to buy music often enough to involve myself in an involved browsing procedure. I'm seized maybe once a month with an unaccountable desire to go look into some weird genre and poke around through a few 30-second clips and maybe download a few tracks, but in between I'm perfectly happy just letting the iPod in my car (which is the only place I listen to music these days anyway, which I'm sure also makes me unusual) skip merrily through its random-shuffled library.
But others, like this guy, are all about finding new stuff, preferably as unbidden as possible. If his preferred model is the radio, where all you have to do is listen to a stream of (preferably personalized) music, some new and some old, and press a button to buy the ones you like, well, it's the Pandora model—which, as he says, is hobbled by regulation. It's even more straightforward than that, in fact, since the tracks stay on your computer and you don't have to go sleuthing through third-party apps to get a downloadable copy.
I've always liked Pandora, though I've seldom had the free time to sit down and really use it (I simply can't listen to music when I'm working—too distracting—and it's not something I can do anywhere but in front of my computer). This could potentially go somewhere.
The only problem I can think of is that 10 songs usually don't equal an album, and some might prefer to get $9.99 worth of credit to use on 10 tracks or an album. And for some of you, this being on PC only and Zune only will be a dealbreaker. Which is why I'm hoping this hybrid music sub/buy model spreads like wildfire.
I'd love to know what pressures even remain to produce music in "album" form—from the artists wishing to submit work in big monolithic chunks, or from consumers still wanting to buy them on CD. Wouldn't both sides of the equation be just as happy producing and consuming music on a track-by-track basis? Who cares about the artificial construct of "album" in a model like this one? Trying to arrange ten songs from a subscription service such that it fits an "album" model is completely arbitrary and exists only because of legacy expectations. Kudos to Microsoft if they're consciously encouraging the extinction of that mindset.
I do think it's funny, though, that because the tracks are (mostly) DRM-free, this model is not exclusive to the Zune, as in the player; it makes the Zune store into just another service whose products can play on whatever devices people actually have. Now that the death of DRM is making the choice of player less relevant, the forces in play are causing the stores to have to relinquish their designs on locked-in store-player ecosystems—which might have been the only thing that could have saved the Zune players. Talk about damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't: the Zune was doomed in a DRM-exclusive world, and it's even more doomed in a DRM-free world.
It would be interesting to see if this idea gets more currency than the plain-jane subscription services that have been floundering along for the last five years. If it does, Apple might have to rethink it's long-standing and adamant position that rental might be a fine model for movies, but people just don't want to rent their music. I've happened to agree with that position, myself. But who'd have thought it would be Microsoft who'd say, "Well, what about rent-to-own?"
As part of the blogosphere for several years, we at The Chapeau Blog Awards notice ourselves constantly inventing words when we talk about the world of blogging.
For instance, “flogging”? That’s a phrase we coined that defines the action of flaming someone on your blog. “Noggers”? That’s the rare, suspicious and silly breed known as non-bloggers.
Because "blogging" is an act that separates us from the rest of humanity, whom we need to label as "Muggles" or something. And on top of that, we need a registry to keep track of who came up with what terms, so we can all give ourselves little merit badges for our creativity and flame each other—'scuse me, flog each other—over the inevitable absurdly petty disagreements:
Hello Brian, Who created the terms "blogroll" or "blogosphere"?
If you've been blogging for years, you could probably lay just as much claim to these words as anyone else.
BlogOh!Pedia(TM) is an online encyclopedia where you can: - lay claim to any blog phrase you invent - receive a link back to your blog - save $195 via a free entry to The Chapeau Blog Awards
You will also enjoy a lifetime's supply of creative credit for coining a new blog term!
This "How Obama Got Elected" video is making the rounds:
Apparently it's the basis for a forthcoming documentary. It's getting a lot of sympathy, particularly from those who are weary of Michael Moore movies claiming that the NRA and the KKK are the same thing and so forth. But it's a dangerous trap to fall into.
To be quite honest, I would have a hard time believing that a series of videotaped interviews of McCain supporters would have shown them looking much smarter.
We have to be realistic about what democracy actually means: the voting public is not made up of a bunch of political wonks who spend all their time writing impassioned essays. It’s made up of regular people who only think about politics once every four years, and who chiefly get their voting directions from friends, family, maybe a TV ad or two, and Jon Stewart. And that’s a feature, not a bug. Democracy means trusting even an uninformed populace to make the generally right decision.
Of course, if the argument is that a biased media is sabotaging the concept of an uninformed populace, then there’s a point to be made. But this isn’t a great way to lead into it if they’re trying to score scientific points.
Then again, if who they’re trying to appeal to is the “uninformed general populace” and not a bunch of scientifically-minded political bloggers, well…
Apparently it tells us less than nothing about either car's prowess:
First of all, the stunt was choreographed by Chrysler. ENVI President Lou Rhodes is behind the wheel of the Dodge EV while a weak-ankled Chrysler employee handles a Challenger 6.1 with octegenarian restraint. Clearly this was intended as a PR two-fer. Chrysler gets to show off its Tesla wannabe and its muscle car, while giving the LA Times the opportunity to write about how Chrysler’s EVs and EREVs are the future. And clearly the point was to give the Challenger the fuzzy end of the lollypop in order to show just how advanced the Chrysler EV program is. Maybe next time they could be a little more convincing. The video doesn’t so much make the Dodge EV look like a muscle-car-beating dynamo, as it makes the Challenger look like a secretary special. The LA Times’ Dan Neil admits that the Challenger was launched in second gear in both runs, and that it “seems to let up” on the second run.
Jerry Beck at Cartoon Brew has a theory about how Disney and Pixar are positioning their respective products these days.
I don’t know if this is by design, or is Lasseter’s master plan, or if it’s just my wild fantasy… But I think the two studios could (should?) co-exist as a modern day, feature length equivilent of Disney’s two concurrent shorts series of the 1930s: Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies. At least it seems to be where they are heading.
Back when, the Mickey Mouse cartoons were the soul of studio. Disney’s bread-and-butter pictures; they were what the public expected and demanded from his studio. Big, broad and designed to please. The Silly Symphonies were the heart (or at least where Walt’s heart was, en route to Snow White). Each Silly was completely different, pushing the latest technologies, developing new ideas and pursuing new talent. And won all the Oscars.
Presently, WDAS is in full “Mickey Mouse” mode: reinforcing the brand, producing crowd-pleasing films of highest artistic quality and delivering what audiences of all ages, all over the world have come to expect.
Pixar’s films are already reminiscent of the pioneering ways of Walt’s Silly Symphonies. In fact, the basic situations in Toy Story, A Bugs Life and Cars might’ve been inspired by classic Disney shorts like Broken Toys, Grasshopper and the Ants and Susie, The Blue Coupe. They don’t play it safe, consistently break new ground - and win all the Oscars.
PIxar as Disney's SkunkWorks. I kinda like that. Lord knows you need to be able to see something secretive and envelope-pushing in order to inspire your dreams; I can only imagine what life in the 50s and 60s must have been like for kids who wanted to grow up to be astronauts or test pilots, scouring the newspapers and magazines for glimpses of the newest experimental jets and spacecraft to come out of NASA and its contractors. Must have been pretty damn easy to aspire in such a direction, once upon a time.
I wonder where the direct-to-video movies fall in this hierarchy, though? Lasseter doesn't seem to have killed off the sequel machine after all; but if Beck's theory is right, he's relegating such movies to a different tier altogether, one that is unabashedly dedicated to preserving cash flow while not serving up any surprises. Disney's theatrical brand can continue to be used for the creation of new properties (Bolt, The Princess and the Frog), but not necessarily in any real envelope-pushing way; any properties it creates that turn out to have long-term merchandisability can go to the D2V market, and we'll all just get used to the fact that every marginally successful Disney movie—whether 2D or 3D—will see umpteen indistinct sequels. But meanwhile, Pixar will be the banner-bearer brand, the one that gets 3D animators' hearts pumping and creates a future career draw out of what was once and can again be the best place on Earth to make movies.
In front of Quantum of Solace last night, I saw a trailer for Bedtime Stories, an Adam Sandler movie that—bizarrely—looked like a decently original idea from Disney's live-action wing. Sure, trailers can be misleading; but it might well be the case that the stage has been set properly, across the board, for a real honest-to-God Disney comeback.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Aziz points out just how fast and loose Pixar is able to play it with their continuities and universes—and get away with it. See again this post where I noted the same extra featurette he describes.