Music Online

Music Online

Posted on Dec 18th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
I’ve been checking out sites where you can play music and create channels.  I’ve so far only played around Last FM to any great extent, but plan on checking out the others.  Here is a good recent review of the top four by Nathan Chase:

Slacker,, Pandora, & LaunchCast – A Personalized Radio Roundup

Here is an article by Matt Rosoff at Digital Noise:

CBS adds Launchcast to its online radio arsenal

Launchcast was owned by Yahoo and was the original online music service, but I don’t get the sense that its as popular as some of the others.  CBS already owns Last FFM and plans on changing Launchcast to fit a different niche.  Last FM and Launchast combined will create quite a competition to the other offerings.

Edit: I want to add a couple of links and comments.

The first comparison I came across was this one by Steve Krause.  Its a good analysis of the differences between the two biggest players that have free services.

Pandora and Nature vs. Nurture in Music Recommenders

Here is a review by Gary Savelson that gives a quick synopsis of many different services.

Discovering Music: Jango, Finetune, Meemix, Slacker, Deezer, MOG,, Pandora, Haystack

This one that is very detailed.

Rocketsurgeon Blog

This is interesting… a couple of sites that allow you to use your Last FM account to discover videos on Youtube. mashup

I Love Music Video

The comment I wanted to make is that there is some nice software that helps connect between these services.  There is one that sends what you listen to on Pandora to your Last FM account and one that does the same sending your Rhapsody music to Last FM. 

Last FM seems to be the most popular and sounds like its probably more useful for most people.  It has a simpler model and the community aspect creates a strong loyalty base.  I’ve found it easy to use and it gives me solid recommendations for similar music.  I’ll explore Pandora some and I might even choose to pay for Rhapsody, but whatever the case I’ll probably still visit Last FM.

Its hard to tell which services might survive in the long run as the music industry is always looking to increase their profits which might force under some of these free services.  I don’t know about Pandora because it was having some trouble recently, but I’m willing to bet Last FM lasts as it has a large company backing it.  Pandora could easily lose out as soon as other companies start trying the same thing they do.

I’m not sure what is going on with Yahoo.  There changing everything around and I don’t know what they’ll be offering in the future.  They shifted some of their services off onto Rhapsody.  I have no idea how Yahoo compares, but it doesn’t seem to be in the same league with Pandora and Last FM.

Access_public Access: Public 8 Comments Print Post this!views (164)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 16 hours later

Nicole said

For me, the biggest problem with Pandora is that it only works in the US. I found it quite promising before it became unavailable to us, now it’s only frustrating to think about. I don’t know why I stopped using Last FM, guess I just got too busy and forgot to come back to it. One thing was that I found it quite limited in terms of classical music. I would love a good site like this that really has the breadth and depth of classical to explore and link. But that’s probably unlikely.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

Ahhh, yes, I’d heard that Canadians can’t get some of the services. Sorry to hear that. Its easy to forget about national bordres when online… or maybe its easy for an American.

I’m also sorry that Last FM is limited in terms of classical music. I wonder that is. I suppose Last FM focuses on more popular music, but you’d think that classical would have a large audience… maybe the typical person interested in classical doesn’t tend to look online for music. I wonder if there are any other free services that offer classical music.

I suppose you might have to go to a pay site to get classical. Have you ever tried any of the download or subscription services? I’m really curious about them.

There are two reasons I got out of the habit of listening to music on a regular basis. For one, I didn’t like spending money on cds. The second is that the musical offering on local radio stations is worse than it used to be.

I’m thinking a subscription service could make me more interested in music again. I’m really enjoying gathering my favorites on Last FM, but it doesn’t offer subscription to unlimited listening to all songs available. Last FM hasa severe limitation to what you can playwithout buying and there aren’t too many songs I would want to permanently own.

I came across Rhapsody via Yahoo. I’m checking them out right now and did some searches for reviews. Looking at comparisons with other services (Napster, Zune), Rhapsody seems maybe the best fit for me. Supposedly, they have around 4 million songs available which might be the biggest collection available online. The price seems reasonable. The only downside is that if you stop subscription, you lose your library of favorites.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 24 hours later

Nicole said

i’ve been quite happy with emusic as a paid site from which one can get a large variety of really good music, including classical. I don’t spend as much time there as I could though.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 24 hours later

Marmalade said

I’d heard people give great praise to emusic. From what I understand, its a good place to find more altenative music which I guess in this case includes classical. I wonder if it has anything Rhapsody wouldn’t. I keep seeing new numbers on Rhapsody. The last one I noticed said there was something like6 or7 million songs on Rhapsody and that they add new songs as they’re released on a weekly basis.

So, emusic has everything you want? Have you ever looked for something there and not been able to find it?

Rhapsody and emusic seem to have different purposes. Rhapsody ismore massiveand more expensive. Rhapsody is probably trying to be everything to everyone, but I don’t know how successful they are at doing that. Another thing is that someone said that emusic isn’t a subscription service in the way Rhapsody is. I’m not quite sure what the specific differences are though.

What attracted you to emusic? I suppose it being available in Canada was a point in its favor. 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

One thing I coudn’t find on Rhapody was the soundtrack to the movie Billy Elliot. I was surprised because it was a major movie. I did a search around. It didn’t seem to be available on other music sites which is strange because the music on the soundtrack can be found through the albums of the musicians themselves.

There is one reallynice thing about Rhapsody and Last FM. I’ve set it up so what I play on Rhapsody gets show on my profile on Last FM. They balance eachother out well. There is more music available on Rhapsody of course, but Last FM lets you see what others with similar tastes are listening to.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

I’ve made another happy discovery.

Both Last FM and Rhapody have some spoken word… specifically William S. Burroughs, but not as muh as I’d like. I even befriended a fellow Burroughs fan and joinedthe Burroughs group this person started. I already own practically all of the available cds of Burroughs, but its still nice to find Burroughs on the main music sites.

I’d like to find other spoken word authors. I’ll probably have to check elsewhere for a more full selection. That is my only major disappointment so far with Rhapsody. Still, they do have a fair amount of spoken word considering its not their focus.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

That’s really cool!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

Ya know, I have to give props to Last FM. They have a very simple and intuitive system. And its quite amazing how much you can find on it considering its basic services are free.

On another note, soundtracks seem hard to find on the music sites. Along with Billy Eliot, I couldn’t find the soundtracks to either Dancer in the Dark or Songcatcher. All three of those movies were very musically-oriented to say the least. I would imagine that the music sites would like to offer these soundtracks, but apparently they have a hard time making deals with the movie industry.

Going back to my previous comment, I did look around for sites that offered spoken word. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be anything similar to these music sites. The spoken audio sites seem to be where the music sites were years ago… maybe there just isn’t enough money in that industry to bring about innovation.

Air America: Challenges of Liberal Media

I noticed the news about Air America.

Air America Dies, Failing to Make Transition to Web
By Kate Kaye

In a memo sent to staff today and repeated on the company’s homepage, Air America Media Chair Charlie Kireker wrote, “though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, our expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies.”

The company aired its last live program this afternoon, and plans to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy soon, according to the memo. It blamed a “very difficult economic environment,” along with drastically dropping national and local ad revenues.

I wasn’t a fan of Air America and don’t know much about its history, but I was just now doing a bit of research about it. It seems that it never had much financial backing which is a problem for liberal media. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh became successful because they had massive financial backing to begin with. Both lost money for a long time before making money. Conservative ideology is more welcoming to the interests of big business.  
Some think of NPR as being liberal in the way Fox News is conservative, but that isn’t true. NPR is rather moderate and doesn’t have any extremely opinionated talk show hosts. There is no equivalent of Fox News on the left (and certainly no equivalent of talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh). Fox News is successful because it aligns itself both with big business and with the Republican party. Fox News is backed by the largest transnational media corporation in the world and has hired many major Republicans such as Roger Ailes.  
I don’t think any liberal equivalent is possible. By definition liberalism isn’t as welcoming of the interests of big business. Also, it goes against liberal ideology to create a network that is the propaganda wing of the Democratic party. Liberals genuinely idealize the notion of media neutrality. You can argue whether they live up to that ideal, but at least they believe in it. Sadly, media neutrality doesn’t make money.

The conservatives are all excited about the demise of Air America. One example is the blog post Air America files for bankruptcy which I responded to.

The failure of Air America isn’t necessarily surprising. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh had major financial backing from the beginning, but Air America didn’t. Fox News was aligned with big business interests as it was created by a big business. Fox News had the financial backing to lose money for years and had the political backing to hire people who worked for the Republican party such as Roger Ailes. As for Limbaugh, his show became popular because it originally was given away for free.

You can only make money if you have money. And you can only get money if you promote the interests of those with the money.

The problem with mainstream media right now is that it’s dominated by corporations, and most of these corporations are transnationals that have no allegiance to any given country. They’re only interest is to make money and not to offer quality news reporting. It’s actually against their interests to offer quality news reporting because that might rock the boat.

I noticed the article Franken’s Time: Why Liberal Talk Radio Fails by Andrew Sullivan. The author starts out with what an appearance of fair analysis but quickly shows he doesn’t have much insight.

“Conservatives, in general, are happy to confess their biases. Liberals like to think their biases are actually reality.”

Close but not quite right. Some liberals may mistake their biases for reality, but there is a strong faction of conservatives that wants to create their own reality. The best evidence of the relationship to reality can be demonstrated by science. Most scientists are liberals and few scientists are conservatives (6% are Republican). Science is the ultimate ideal of factual reality, and it’s a worldview that appeals to liberals more than conservatives.

“So liberal radio – in its purest form – already exists.”

So-called liberal radio is rather moderate in comparison to Fox News. Conservative radio gives voice to ideological extremists with opinions that often aren’t even held by a majority of Americans. The far left progressives don’t have much voice in mainstream media. Mainstream media is mostly pro-war and rarely does investigative journalism about big business. Mainstream media is conservative in supporting the status quo. Read some Chomsky if you want to understand why this is the case.

“And taxpayers subsidize it.”

Public radio actually doesn’t get much public money. It’s mostly funded by donations which is as grassroots as you can get. Fox News, on the other hand, was financed at a loss for years by a transnational corporation. As for NPR, wealthy capitalists have gotten more money from bailouts, tax cuts and government contracts than NPR has ever received from the government.  Heck, even corn farmers probably have been more heavily subsidized than NPR.

“The reason Fox News works is that its anchors and journalists are still obviously angry at being outsiders to the mainstream media culture. So they have an edge. They’re still fighting. They’re still angry.”

Outsiders? That is obviously a joke. Fox News was financed at a loss for years by the largest transnational media corporation in the world. Roger Ailes was hired and he was one of the main spin-meisters for the Republican party. Ailes was known for using race and fake townhall meetings as political tactics in winning presidential campaigns. Besides Ailes, other Republican lackeys were hired.

“And here, of course, is where left-wing populist radio does have a chance. At some point, the media culture may tip in enough of a rightward direction (thanks to Fox, Drudge, talk-radio, etc etc) that the establishment may eventually become conservative.”

The mainstream media has been pro-war and pro-big business for decades. How more conservative can they get? What demographics shows is that the country is finally moving in a liberal direction. The creation of Fox News doesn’t prove that the mainstream media was liberal. What it proves is that moderate conservatism had become so mainstream that extreme conservatism could present itself as something new and different. The only thing that actually changed is that conservatism stopped hiding it’s agenda and became overt in it’s message.

“Al Franken has only really come alive when bashing O’Reilly or Limbaugh. And the reason we listeners or readers or viewers are on his side is because he’s a bit of an underdog up against these multi-millionaire conservative populists.”

If you really want to listen to the underdogs, then pay attention to the socialist libertarians such as Chomsky and Zinn. Even the libertarian movement has been mostly taken over by big business think tanks.

“Alas, the other missing ingredient for liberal media is intellectual firepower. On this, the left has actually gone soft. In academia, left-liberalism is so entrenched its advocates’ debating skills have gone rusty. When you’ve been talking to yourself for decades and imposing speech codes on everyone else, your ability to argue coherently – let alone entertainingly – inevitably wanes. And when you look at the political parties today, it’s only the Republicans who are really still fighting over ideas.”

Well, in academia, most everyone is liberal (except maybe in business management and engineering)… and almost all scientists are liberal. A conservative intellectual is a rare thing. The Republican fight over ideas is in reality a fight over ideology. Republicans deny science when ever they get the chance. What are ideas without facts? The intellectuals who are analyzing our political system are mostly far left liberals who are not included in mainstream media and politics. So, it’s true that the Democratic party isn’t as welcoming to intellectual dissent as it could be… which isn’t to say that the Republican party is welcoming either.

In conclusion, it would be false to call Air America a failure.  Al Franken became more respectable in politics because of his time spent there.  Other people who hosted there such as Rachel Maddow went on to host elsewhere.  Air America had a powerful impact.

Beyond Air America, I was wondering why talk radio is dominated by conservatives. The population in general isn’t dominated by conservatives. And media in general isn’t dominated by the far right that is common on talk radio. So, what is the major malfunction?

One answer given by Nathan Harden (The Death of Air America: Why Liberals Fail at Talk Radio) is the different demographic of radio listeners:

“Conservative talk radio listeners have an average age of 67. Meanwhile, the 65 and over bracket is the Republican party’s strongest demographic. Younger (and typically more liberal) individuals are not as likely to listen to talk radio. […] To find a young audience, you have to turn to television, which offers the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.”

As such, maybe radio is a losing battle for liberals. Then again, maybe traditional talk radio is dying out anyways as it’s audience ages and so maybe it just doesn’t matter in the long run. There is one theory that young liberals become more conservative as they age, but I doubt that is the case. Demographics prove that the young now are more progressive than past generations of youth. The strong opinions of old people aren’t even shared by most middle-aged people. Old people come from a different time in US history and it’s a time that isn’t likely to ever return.

Another answer is that conservative talk radio is just one format. Even though the terrestrial radio waves are dominated by conservatives, satellite radio has many popular liberal talk radio hosts.  Also, liberals in general are doing well on the internet.  One contributing factor to Air America’s failure was because it couldn’t transition to the internet as the internet was already fully of the likes of The Huffington Post and Daily Kos. Newer technologies such as satellite radio and the internet have more future than terrestrial radio. I’ve read that where both conservative and liberal talk show is available, liberal talk shows compete just fine.

Also, the apparent dominance of Fox News is also skewed.  Liberals prefer many sources because liberals prefer multiple perspectives (a liberal would be ashamed to be called a dittohead). If you add all of the liberal audience from all liberal media, there is no reason to think it would be smaller than the conservative audience.

Despite all of that, the conservative slant of traditional radio isn’t to be dismissed.

The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio
By John Halpin, James Heidbreder, Mark Lloyd, Paul Woodhull, Ben Scott, Josh Silver, S. Derek Turner

Despite the dramatic expansion of viewing and listening options for consumers today, traditional radio remains one of the most widely used media formats in America. Arbitron, the national radio ratings company, reports that more than 90 percent of Americans ages 12 or older listen to radio each week, “a higher penetration than television, magazines, newspapers, or the Internet.” Although listening hours have declined slightly in recent years, Americans listened on average to 19 hours of radio per week in 2006.

Among radio formats, the combined news/talk format (which includes news/talk/information and talk/personality) leads all others in terms of the total number of stations per format and trails only country music in terms of national audience share. Through more than 1,700 stations across the nation, the combined news/talk format is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.

As this report will document in detail, conservative talk radio undeniably dominates the format:

  • Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
  • Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
  • A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

Those aren’t small numbers. The demographics and the technological landscape is changing, but for now conservative talk radio is still kicking ass and taking numbers.

There are many potential explanations for why this gap exists. The two most frequently cited reasons are the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and simple consumer demand. As this report will detail, neither of these reasons adequately explains why conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves.

Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management.

Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data. Quantitative analysis conducted by Free Press of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.

In contrast, stations controlled by group owners—those with stations in multiple markets or more than three stations in a single market—were statistically more likely to air conservative talk. Furthermore, markets that aired both conservative and progressive programming were statistically less concentrated than the markets that aired only one type of programming and were more likely to be the markets that had female- and minority-owned stations.

Basically, what this means is that deregulation contributed to big business dominating the public airwaves with their conservative ideology. It’s actually more of an issue of diversity, but without regulation there is nothing to ensure diversity.  America is demographically diverse and would choose diverse radio talk shows if they were offered, but it isn’t in the interest of big business to offer diverse programming.

I came across this issue before and wrote about it in an earlier post: Ralph Brauer: Revolutions & Liberal America.

The Strange Death of Liberal America
By Ralph Brauer
pp 32-36

A second decision that became equally important for the Counterrevolution was the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.  First enacted in 1949, the FCC ruling looked into the future and decided that because they operated in the public interest, the mass media should present all sides of controversial questions.  The Supreme Court upheld the Fairness Doctrine in the 1969 Red Lion case, still generally considered as one of the Court’s landmark decisions.

Red Lion  not only involves the Religous Right but also foretells exactly what would happen with repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.  The case began when the Reverend Billy James Hargis, the Jerry Falwell of his day, accused the author of a book on Barry Goldwater of being a communist.  The author sued under the Fairness Doctrine and the Court found in his favor.  In its decision the Court said the Fairness Doctrine serves to “enhance rather than abridge the freedoms of speechand press protected by the First Amendment.”  It also noted that “when a personal attack has been made on a figure involved in a public issue” the doctrine requires that “the individual attacked himself be offered an opportunity to respond.”

In 1987, an FCC packed with commissioners appointed by Ronald Reagan voted to repeal the Fairness Doctrine.  When Congress tried to overrule the decision by passing a law extending the doctrine, Reagan vetoed it.  Just as the Buckley decision opened the door to single-issue PACS, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine opened the door wide for ideologues like Robertson.

I don’t know what this means for the future, but it does explain how conservative ideology has became so dominant in recent decades. I hope it changes as the demographics keep shifting towards the liberal. Conservatives have a tight grip, though, and they’re not going to give up their position of power without a fight. The corporations that fund the conservative media have deep pockets and the Republican party has proven itself savvy in astro-turfing social movements. Conservatives have been able to challenge abortion and public option even though the majority of Americans support them. How can liberals successfully fight such media control. If conservative corporations ever find a way to control the internet, the liberal movement is a lost cause.

Coast to Coast AM with George Noory: some recent interesting shows

I listen to Coast to Coast quite often as I have a late night schedule. These two shows intrigued me. One is about the future of where humanity is heading and the other is about the world of humanity’s past. The following are the description of the shows from the Coast to Coast website. If you follow the links you’ll find more info.

Robots & Warfare

An expert in 21st century warfare, P.W. Singer discussed military robots and robotic systems, and the ramifications of their usage. Some examples in the battlefield include unmanned spy planes such as the Predator, which sends video and infrared data to human operators, and Packbots, small mobile robots (made by the company that manufactures the Roomba) that seek out and find IED bombs.

A military experiment demonstrated that when soldiers conducted war games with robots, the teams that had robots designed with personalities did better than the teams whose robots didn’t have personalities. Soldiers are starting to build bonds with their robots, and they’ve even taken risks to save them, Singer reported. Science-fiction has often accurately predicted changes in technology, and has served as a catalyst for robotic designers and the military, he commented.

The use of machinery to conduct our wars marks a big change in the way it’s been done for the last 5,000 years, he noted. Israel’s war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon was the first time that both sides used unmanned drones. Among the ethical questions Singer posed: Does robotic technology make it easier to go to war? Will soldiers controlling robots make decisions they wouldn’t if they were actually at the combat site?

Fossils & Folklore

Science historian Adrienne Mayor shared her research into how pre-scientific cultures understood the fossil record, and how their interpretation formed the basis of many ancient legends. According to Mayor, fossils were easily found in the ancient Greco-Roman world due to the region’s seismic activity, as well as erosion caused by thunderstorms and landslides. Mayor said the simple act of plowing a field could reveal fossilized remains, which would then be collected, measured, and put on display at a local Temple. Isolated bones from mastodons or giant rhinoceroses were often misidentified as monsters or heroes from myth, Mayor explained.

Native Americans had their own stories about creatures of legend. Mayor thinks Paleo-Indians may have encountered giants in certain areas of America. They likely lived alongside very large birds as well. As evidence, Mayor noted that a huge bird with a 15-ft wingspan, known as a Teratorn, co-existed with early humans in Africa. She also pointed to a petroglyph at Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona that depicts a giant bird with a person in its beak.

Mayor spoke about Fifth century Greek historian Herodotus, who claimed to have been shown evidence of winged snakes in Egypt. Roman statesman Cicero also mentioned winged reptiles, she explained, as did a Medicine Man from the Crow Tribe, who told his granddaughter that he had found a flying lizard during a vision quest.

Mayor discussed giant sea creatures mentioned in the Bible and elsewhere in ancient literature (Pliny the Elder), as well as presented stories about UFOs in antiquity. In one such tale, natives in Ecuador and Peru showed Spanish explorers bones belonging to what they described as giant invaders from the sea. Mayor said the natives informed the explorers about a flash of fire from the heavens that destroyed the huge creatures and left only their charred remains behind. In an account from 74 BC, two warring armies witnessed a flaming object crash into their battlefield. The object was described as molten silver in color and shaped like a nose cone, Mayor said.