Music

Aweditorium: Great Music Discovery for iPad

Aweditorium for iPad Screenshot

Devs keep on cranking out top-notch apps for the iPad that simply wouldn’t happen on another platform. This time up, we’ve got Aweditorium, an app that takes great music and supplements it with good (yet minimalistic) visuals to make for a great music discovery experience. Aweditorium supplies music, biographical information and photos on new artists, all streamed from their servers. The app has the ability to share a full stream of a song on Facebook or Twitter, and also encourages users to buy songs they like most straight from the iTunes store. (It should be noted that most indie artists get 70% of all revenue from the iTunes store.)

Aweditorium tickles me in all the right places:

  • An excellent example of iOS apps’ capability to let technology help us experience art in new ways
  • A fun and easy way to find and share great music
  • Yet another channel for independent artists to get serious exposure without an evil music label

Yeah, my Apple Fanboy quotient is off the charts today. Blame Aweditorium, they’ve made a first-rate app.

Guitar Loot

These were the fruits of my Christmas haul:

New Guitars

I got a 1973 Yamaha FG-260 12-string acoustic (same kind recorded on Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”) from my stepdad and a 1986 Washburn G-IV electric from my uncle Dan Sweeney. They’re both great guitars, definitely more than a beginner could hope for. The electric is fresh from a tune-up at the luthier’s, so the action is great all over, and it’s in great shape.

So now comes learning the darned instrument, which is going well so far. It’s definitely intimidating going back to the absolute basics with one instrument after being a drummer for 13 years, but I’m already to the point where I can have fun with stuff instead of wondering how the heck this thing is supposed to make music.

I’ve got the electric set up to interface with my MacBook Pro, so I can mess with all of the amp modeling and effects in Logic and GarageBand. My roommate Eddie let me borrow an old amp of his as well.

So I’m set up pretty well as far as learning guitar goes. In addition to that, my roommate Eddie and I converted our seldom-used dining room into a music room, because we and our other roommate Jeff want to start playing blues together on a regular basis. So we now have one room with V-Drums, a piano, and rigs for both guitar and bass. The room’s nice and spacious, so it’ll be accessible for practice and for parties and such. And having the V-Drums in there will be a total lifesaver for everyone’s ears, just like they were for Deliver Me Seven rehearsals.

Creating Tunelog, a Music Industry Blog

For the last week I’ve been working  a lot on a new project of mine: a blog providing commentary on the changing face of the modern music business. I’m calling it Tunelog, which will be at tunelog.net once I’m ready to launch.

I have a few reasons for doing this right now. I’ve enjoyed keeping this blog, but at the end of the day, the stuff I write on zekeweeks.com is for myself, and it’s a nice bonus if anyone else cares to read it. It’s mostly personal stuff that’s a bit more thought-out than a quick Twitter or Facebook posting. And for every two things I post, I’ve got a mostly-finished rant sitting as an unpublished draft that I ended up rereading and thinking, “well that’s great, I guess I worked that thought out in writing and came to a better understanding of it, but I don’t want that drivel being seen by anyone.” But when I get more focused on writing focused material that would be presentable to others, I remember how much I’ve missed writing for an audience. (It’s one of the things I gave up in going after a Business Administration major.)

So I’m going like crazy after this syndicated blog deal. It’s amazing just how simple it is to produce content online these days, and the social Internet is making it even more effortless to access a loyal and interested audience. I have professional experience with WordPress and have the know-how that unintentionally comes with being a Facebook and Twitter user, so that helps me personally, but I really can’t believe how the barriers to building a brand from scratch have fallen in such a profound way.

I’m learning a lot as I go: unlike this personal blog, I’d actually like to gain some serious readership and make a bit of ad revenue from it. So I’m doing a lot of thinking about the right strategies to employ for such a business venture: search engine optimization (SEO), marketing through social bookmarking sites, and active participation in related online communities. There is something to be said about using these things effectively, but at the end of the day, publishing high-quality content that people actually want to read is what will make or break me.

I’m going in with an extremely minimal investment in the site beyond my own human resources. I’m intentionally telling my web app developer side to take a back seat to my side that likes to actually produce written content. I imagine that I will have spent less than 20 hours on technical site setup before it launches. I figure that even if Tunelog fails to gather an audience, I’ll be spending a good amount of my free time doing professional writing on a topic I enjoy writing about, and I’ll have developed several different kinds of professional skills and a portfolio site in the process.

My to-do list of pre-launch tasks is getting smaller by the day, and I’m looking forward to taking it public. I have two big strategy things left that I still need to think a lot about, even after the initial launch:

  1. I need to properly gauge the target audience’s attention span. I don’t want to be regurgitating other news blogs, but rather offering insightful commentary. The question is about how to effectively do that amidst today’s “too long, didn’t read” mentality. I have to figure how independent artists and other interested parties want to consume content.
  2. I need to polish off my writing skills to present stuff professionally without sacrificing the unique voice that I want to associate with my personal brand. I’ll probably tackle a few of my journalism nerd friends and try to tap their brains for ideas on how to do this.

So that’s it for now… I’m really excited about all the work I’m doing on this site now, and you can be sure to hear more about it as Tunelog comes closer to launching!

Review: “Battle Studies” by John Mayer

Battle Studies

It’s been a while since I posted a music review, but here’s one worth mentioning. Battle Studies is a good new offering from John Mayer – stylistically different from his previous albums, not a pretentious attempt to answer his double-platinum, Grammy-winning release, Continuum.

Musically, Battle Studies strikes me with its layered tones that create a cool, moody backdrop. The tunes have a low to moderate energy level – no hard-hitting songs like “Bold as Love” here. With this album, Mayer mixes his earlier albums’ contemporary pop sound with Continuum‘s predominantly blues theme.

Lyrically, this album is about one thing, and one thing only: a major breakup. The album’s song lineup very closely presents a chronological overview of the his phases in dealing with the end of a relationship. “Heartbreak Warfare” begins the album and sets the stage for what is to come:

“I don’t care if we don’t sleep at all tonight
Let’s just fix this whole thing now
I swear to God we’re gonna get it right
If you lay your weapon down
Red wine and Ambien
You’re talking shit again, it’s heartbreak warfare”

Mayer ponders the depth of his commitment in “Half Of My Heart,” and begins to enjoy the upsides of single life in “Who Says” and “Perfectly Lonely.” Over the next several songs, he begins to feel the true depth of his relationship’s intimacy and the weight of the subsequent falling out, and expresses the full range of his conflicting emotions: “I want you so bad, I’ll go back on the things I believe / There, I just said it, I’m scared you’ll forget about me.” Finally, “Friends, Lovers Or Nothing” is a literal resolution of the whole ordeal, a ballad full of major chords and clear direction forward in the relationship.

This is definitely not my favorite John Mayer album. Each track bleeds of heartbreak, without respite. Also, his cover of “Crossroads” is thoroughly disappointing compared to live performances, and sticks out as a sore thumb from the otherwise cohesive album. To sum it up, Battle Studies is a great piece with some powerful songwriting, but its singular theme is enough to keep me from putting it in frequent rotation in my music library – though I’m sure it’ll be the first album I pull out the next time I’m in a similar situation.