How iTunes Genius Really Works

Finally we have some light:

Basically, your library of tracks is compared to all the other Genius users’ libraries of tracks. Apple then runs a set of previously secret algorithms, which Goldman described as straightforward recommendation algorithms similar to those used by other services like Netflix when it suggests movies for a user to watch now or add to his quene, to generate statistics for each song. “These statistics are computed globally at regular intervals and stored in a cache,” notes Goldman, because data on the similarity of any two songs changes slowly–it’s assumed the only reason it changes at all is because of the changing tastes of the listening public, and the introduction of new tracks and artists.

Goldman jokes that if he told you how Genius works, he’d have to kill you (or at the least, have a squad of police officers raid your brain to retrieve Apple’s rightful property), but he continues to describe how the program works anyway.

via Technology Review: Blogs: Guest Blog: How iTunes Genius Really Works. (via Glenn Peoples @ Billboard)

Katrina And The Waves: ‘Walkin’ On Sunshine’ With The Winning Lotto Ticket : NPR

” ‘Walking on Sunshine’ was the crown jewel in EMI’s catalog,” says Jarrett Mason, who worked for EMI Publishing from 2004 to 2008. He says that of the roughly 1.3 million songs in EMI’s catalog, “Walking on Sunshine” was one of its biggest earners — and that advertisers would pay $150,000 to $200,000 to use it for one year.

via Katrina And The Waves: ‘Walkin’ On Sunshine’ With The Winning Lotto Ticket : NPR.

NPR has become a major player on the indie rock scene

Through its blogs, news articles, lists, podcasts, videos and album and concert streams (including a number from Washington venues), the site has attracted a steadily growing following, averaging about 1.6 million visitors a month. The site’s nine-member staff also feeds some of its audio features to NPR’s news shows; recent segments of “All Things Considered” have featured NPR Music’s ongoing “50 Great Voices” series and a report on the 25th anniversary of Katrina and the Waves’ megahit “Walking on Sunshine.”

In turn, NPR Music has attracted the attention of the music industry. In its relatively short existence, it has scored some notable coups, thanks to industry cooperation. Radiohead and Tom Waits played exclusive concerts. Bruce Springsteen made his album “Working on a Dream” available for streaming before its release. When Bob Dylan’s “Tell Tale Signs” album went up on the site before its release in late 2008, visitors streamed it 300,000 times in under a week. “They’ve made a really aggressive push to be a go-to place for music,” says Dan Cohen, vice president of marketing for EMI, the giant record label. “They’ve done a great job of becoming that place.”

via NPR has become a major player on the indie rock scene. (original link from All Music Guide)

Why don’t rock stars trash hotel rooms anymore?

In London, the K West has become the 21st-century equivalent of the Columbia – the Hyde Park pit-stop that was so rock’n’roll Oasis wrote a song about it.

The era of stars treating hotels as a combination of drug den, brothel and racecourse (Led Zeppelin‘s John Bonham once rode a motorbike down the corridor of Los Angeles’s notorious Continental Hyatt House – one of the more printable Zep hotel stories) has been superseded by a much more businesslike attitude. These days, Saffer says, what your typical act wants is blackout curtains so they can sleep during the day, a late check-out (ditto) and somewhere safe to park the tour bus.

Polystyrene balls? If Bonham were still here, he would surely tell the artists of today they just aren’t trying. In the hedonistic 60s and 70s, hotels were more than just a home away from home – they were places where musicians did things they wouldn’t dare do at home, and throwing TVs out the window was practically de rigueur. In his 1974 book Billion Dollar Baby, Chicago Sun-Times writer Bob Greene’s account of a month on the road with Alice Cooper, there’s a pungent description of a wrecking spree instigated by drummer Neal Smith at a motel in upstate New York. After trashing several rooms, Smith ended the evening by toppling over a 7ft-high Coke vending machine. The damage came to $5,000 – a hefty whack in the early 70s.

via Why don’t rock stars trash hotel rooms anymore? | Music | The Guardian.

Chris Blackwell, Island Record Founder, remembers signing U2 and Bob Marley

Business Week’ Diane Brady reports (via Lefsetz) Mr. Blackwell recollections:

I didn’t get U2’s music—the sound was too trebly for me—but I signed them because I loved them as people. I talked to Richard Branson at a party and liked him so much that I helped him start Virgin Rec-ords. I met Cat Stevens when he was trying to do a musical on the Russian Revolution, and even though I wasn’t interested in the musical, I loved his passion. I told him to rustle up his hair, look a little crazed, and tell his label that he wanted to do his next record with the London Philharmonic. He was released from his contract and came to work with me.

In 1972, I got a lot of criticism for giving Bob Marley money—without a contract—to record an album. Everyone said I was crazy. Marley was known as a rebel; he had a reputation for being difficult, and when I met him, he was totally broke. I fronted him some 4,000 pounds—a fair bit then—which effectively said, “If you want to screw me, screw me.” There was something about him, though, and I think he did trust me. But it helped that I trusted him first.

Quick Twitter Note

Follow me on twitter.com/musicfacts2

Quick comments, aleatory posts, miscellaneous links will be more at home there than here. (I don’t want this site to look cluttered and randomic.)

In other words, when I want to tell how great a song is and how you really must listen it, I wil do it only on twitter)

Quick Blogroll note

Do people still use blogrolls? Or are they so 2002? Anyway, I am starting one. Only two links for now, both for the same guy, as it happens. Bob Lefsetz is a L.A.-based attorney who was been writing about the music industry for some 25 years.

He has a very “stream of consciousness” way of writing and sometimes is really going for the controversy, but he knows this stuff and can be oftenly very insightful.

And so I have a blogroll. I will try to make it more substantial in the future.

‘Music Facts’ old URL

For the record, Music Facts was previousy located at http://musicfacts2.blogspot.com/

There are 13 posts there which will not be migrated to here. The relevant data some of them contain will eventually reappear here in some form.

For your curiosity, I highligth two of its entries with some nice facts:

(“QVC may conjure visions of late-night, drug-fueled purchases of vacuum cleaners, but Wolfson cautions people not to mock. “The boxed set sold 5,000 copies the first hour,” he says.)

Synth Brittania

Description from official site:

Documentary following a generation of post-punk musicians who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.

In the late 1970s, small pockets of electronic artists including the Human League, Daniel Miller and Cabaret Volatire were inspired by Kraftwerk and JG Ballard and dreamt of the sound of the future against the backdrop of bleak, high-rise Britain.

The crossover moment came in 1979 when Gary Numan’s appearance on Top of the Pops with Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric heralded the arrival of synthpop. Four lads from Basildon known as Depeche Mode would come to own the new sound whilst post-punk bands like Ultravox, Soft Cell, OMD and Yazoo took the synth out of the pages of the NME and onto the front page of Smash Hits.

By 1983, acts like Pet Shop Boys and New Order were showing that the future of electronic music would lie in dance music.

Contributors include Philip Oakey, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore, Bernard Sumner, Gary Numan and Neil Tennant.

First broadcast on BBC in 2009. 87 minutes long. A full version is available on vimeo.

If you are not willing to sit through the entire film, here is my brief bullet-point summary for quick digestion:

Influences and factors:

  • Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange (and Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack)
  • Kraftwerk
  • ELP (E
  • J.G. Ballard’ Crash book (the David Cronenberg movie would appear 20 years later)
  • Roxy Music & David Bowie
  • Giorgio Moroder
  • High-rises (ask the writers)
  • Industrial landscape and noises
  • Punk rocks DIY attitude
  • Synthesizers got cheap (could cost as much as a “small house” in the Prog Rock era)
  • Synthetizers are easier to play than other instruments
  • Indie record labels: Factory, MUTE
  • Thatcher era (new themes of prosperity, success wealth, “greed” etc.)
  • [No one bothers to mention the economical/political mood prior to that, but we can add Late 70’s “British malaise” theme to this list
  • Mainstream press absolutely hated the genre

Major events/acts:

  • Human League (name taken from Starforce: Alpha Centauri board game)
  • Cabaret Voltaire – Shetfield industrial landscape
  • OMD
  • Joy Division
  • John Foxx
  • Ultravox – Vienna
  • Throbbing Gristle
  • Silicon Teens (appears on John Peel)
  • Gary Numam – 1st hit
  • Visage
  • Depeche Mode (Vince Clark quits because is a control freak and star Yax. Erasure does not get mentioned)
  • Heaven 17 (named from Clockwork Orange, members from Human League. Some really cool videos you should google)
  • Yaz (mentioned as template of the synthpop duo – fire & ice)
  • New Order releases Blue Monday and dance music is born
  • Eurythmics
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • By 1983 there is an overdose of diluters. Instead of experimental, genre becomes overly commercial

Comments:

  • Some artists that are not mentioned: Duran Duran and rest of New Romantics. Tears for Fears. Gary Wright (as an U.S. early pioneer?)
  • Music writer Simon Reynolds comments a lot

That’s it, basically. I highly enjoyed it. Thank you, BBC (and British tax payers.)