Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Starts MP3 Store: Cheaper than iTunes is the latest challenger to Apple's iTunes store, announcing that it has started its "Amazon MP3" service that sells songs and albums for less than iTunes... and without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.

That means that the songs you download from Amazon can be copied and played on any music player, and copied as many times to as many devices as you want.

Single songs will sell for 89 cents and up; albums range from $5.99 to $8.99. On iTunes songs sell for 99 cents, with albums going for $9.99 and up. You can buy DRM-free songs from iTunes, but it'll cost you $1.29.

Amazon MP3 doesn't have nearly as large a selection as the iTunes store, however. Of the music mega-giants, Sony BMG and Warner Music are not offering any titles on Amazon's store; Universal and EMI are offering only certain titles.

The home page of Amazon MP3 lists the top-selling songs and albums, giving you an idea of the digital downloads that are available.

With its extensive market reach and marketing power, Amazon MP3 may become a true competitor for the iTunes Store.

Monday, September 24, 2007

And the Polaris Prize Goes to...

Patrick Watson! For the second year in a row, the Polaris panel Monday night passed over a number of high-profile, commercially successful critical darlings in favor of a lesser-known figure. Last year's inaugural prize went to young singer and violinist Final Fantasy.

I have to admit, of all of this year's nominees Patrick Watson is the least well-known to me. In fact, I can't recall that I've heard any of his music, though if it's been featured on the CBC Radio 3 podcast, then it probably has crossed my ears, even if it hasn't registered in my brain.

The Polaris Prize was established to recognize what the judges felt was the most talented Canadian independent artists, regardless of commercial success or record sales, so in a way choices like Final Fantasy and Patrick Watson aren't totally unexpected.

Now I'll have to make sure I hear some Patrick Watson and see what the hubbub is all about.

Polaris Music Prize to be Awarded Tonight

The best in Canadian indie music will be recognized tonight when the Polaris Music Prize is awarded tonight in Toronto. CBC Radio host Grant Lawrence, who also hosts the CBC Radio 3 podcast, will be host (wonder if the wacky emcee will play it straight, or if he will have any humorous tricks up his sleeve?)

The Polaris Music Prize is a pretty simple, straightforward affair; there's just one prize, for best album. And the 2007 nominees are:

  • Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
  • The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, The Besnard Lakes
  • Gang of Losers, The Dears
  • Woke Myself Up, Julie Doiron
  • So This Is Goodbye, Junior Boys
  • The Reminder, Feist
  • Five Roses, Miracle Fortress
  • Ashtray Rock, the Joel Plaskett Emergency
  • Skelliconnection, Chad Vangaalen
  • Close to Paradise, Patrick Watson

Lots of good CDs in the list, and I'm a fan of a number of these artists. But having seen Feist live in person and listening to her new CD over and over this year, I'm pulling for The Reminder. (I wrote about Feist in a previous post.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meltdown Podcast Full of Catchy Rock Tunes

For a guy only in his early twenties, Phil Coyne has a lot of experience in music and podcasting. The Meltdown Podcast is his latest effort, and features catchy rock songs from variety of artists, often British (as is Coyne) but also from the U.S. and elsewhere.

I first heard of Coyne through Bitjobs for the Masses, his previous podcast, which concentrated on indie rock, often with a punk element. In the summer of 2007 Coyne changed the name of the show to The Meltdown, and broadened its focus to indie music of all styles. Blog entries state that he originally intended to have three regular Meltdown podcasts per week, each focusing on different types of music: one of his blog posts says he intended to have it feature "punk, funk, ska, blues, pop, metal, dance and everything in between." But it sounds like that plan has been derailed by a number of illnesses in Coyne's family and just the one Meltdown show has been available, with a hiatus in between episodes.

Coyne has been podcasting for more than two years and has also been involved in music booking and computer geekery. Here's hoping that he'll be able to achieve his vision for the Meltdown podcast(s).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

CD Sales Down... How Accurate are Those Numbers?

We've all heard the statistics over over the last few about CD sales plummeting, largely due to music downloading (mostly illegal ones). Everyone seems to assume those stats are accurate and that the sale of recorded music is a business permanently in decline.

But I heard an podcast recently that made me question these stats and some of the assumptions behind them. Namely, who conducted the research, what channels of CD sales did they measure (and which did they not cover), and how much of recorded music sales do they actually cover?

The LiveWire podcast from Portland, Oregon featured an interview with Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, the successful online seller of indie artist CDs. I first heard of CD Baby about eight years ago when I noticed that a number of my favorite folk/Americana artists were selling their albums there.

Sivers said that contrary to the doom and gloom figures about declining CD sales, sales of independent music CD were actually up 60% or so over the last few years, I believe. So are the doom-and-gloom figures reported over the last few years only measuring CDs from major labels and not indie outfits? Do they cover only major bricks-and-mortar outlets and big online sellers like Wal-Mart and

The discrepancy between the much-quoted stats and Sivers's figures make me wonder. After all, music sales charts rely on SoundScan, which is known to count sales from certain outlets and is accepted to exclude other channels.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Podcast News: New iPods, "Quick and Dirty" Podcasts

Apple Refreshes, Revamps iPods:
The big podcasting news this week was Apple Inc.'s announcement of new and rejiggered products in its market-leading iPod media player line. In brief:

* The Nano has been reconfigured into more of a square shape to accommodate the viewing of video, the first time that's been possible with that model.
* The traditional hard-drive iPod is now called iPod Classic, with a larger storage capacity (up to 160GB).
* A totally new iPod, the iPod Touch, combines the features and user interface of the new iPhone with iPod media playing functions. Basically, it's an iPhone without the phone. It's flash-based, which limits storage capacity (going only as high as 16GB).

If you're interested in buying an iPod, which should you get? Fortunately, there's a handy column on iPod Observer that explains the pros and cons of each option.

Publisher Seek Profits on "Quick and Dirty" Podcasts:
Publishers Weekly has noted that publisher Holtzbrinck has launched a network of downloadable audio clips called Quick and Dirty Tips, based on the ever-growing "Quick and Dirty" series of podcasts. (I've reviewed two of the Q&D podcasts here, those by Grammar Girl and Money Girl.)

PW notes that Holtzbrinck's move is the first time a publisher has tried to establish a money making podcast business. It says that the site,, will get revenue from online ads and content licensing agreements. The arrangement arose because of the publisher's relationship with Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl, who has a book coming out with the publisher, "The Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing."

The Quick and Dirty site was launched this week with five other podcasters, PW says.

Monday, September 03, 2007

NoisePop Podcast: 10 Free Indie Songs Each Episode

One of my new favorite music podcasts is the NoisePop New Music Podcast, produced by radio station KQED in San Francisco. Each month is offers a generous assortment of 10 full tracks from independent artists, with a minimum of chatter in between.

The August edition features songs from the popular Welsh indie pop band Los Campesinos, Canadian indie rockers Stars, and more. Previous programs have featured quality acts including Mary Timony, John Vanderslice, DNTEL (featuring Jimmy Tamborello of the Postal Service), the French Kicks, and more. You get the idea.