Monday, July 05, 2010

The Music Revolution - Pandora & Glee

I recently began listening to Pandora, a website that is able to take your musical tastes and create customized (and free) streaming radio channels with other music that you might be interested in. As it plays music, you indicate whether you like or dislike songs, and the future selections (as well as the ads, no doubt) continue to become more refined and personalized based on these interests. I won't go into detail on the website, as it's better explained by its creator, Tim Westergren, in this Colbert Report interview:

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But, as many know, the internet lays all our secrets bare. It took virtually no time for Pandora to deduce my secret love of 80's rock ballads. Given my range of musical interests (some of which is visible on my Pandora profile), this is hardly surprising, but still, I would like to think that I'm a bit more complex than that. Sadly, it took the algorithm only a few hours of playing to bring up old middle school favorites like Firehouse, Trixter, and White Lion with their rockin' power cords.

In addition, I've always been a fan of showtunes. Sure enough, Pandora regularly brings up songs from the FOX television series Glee, of which I am a big fan. While I enjoy the music on the show, and it has propelled the popularity of the series, the fact is that I'm drawn even more to the great storytelling in the show, including one of the best television scenes ever.

Pandora is intriguing not only because it helps bring me music I enjoy, but because it has the potential to provide yet another means for the recording industry to make money in the digital age. I'm still waiting to see clear signs of better ways for the publishing industry to adapt to the digital age, and in fact science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer recently mused, in a keynote speech at the Canadian Book Summit, "Are the days of the full-time novelist numbered?" And this is certainly not because Sawyer is a Luddite! He is savvy in his use of technology for promotional purposes, having run his author website for 15 years (longer than!) which includes free give-aways of his short fiction as promotional material. But the question is whether publishing, as a whole, will find a way to flourish.

These issues of copyright, propriety, and popular culture are complex and difficult, and Glee really lies at their intersection, as adeptly described by technology commentator, free speech advocate, and also science fiction author Cory Doctorow. The fact is that the current copyright laws related to music mean that the sorts of mash-ups regularly shown on Glee are, in fact, illegal were they performed without permission of the original creators (or whoever owns the rights to the music).

For now, of course, you can choose to listen to Glee songs on Pandora, or you can buy the MP3 files, or still the old fashion CDs (still my personal preference, since I like to hold things in my hands). For my part, though, I can't wait for season one to come out on DVD, so I can see the storyline and characters develop from beginning to end.

Glee Music CDs:

Glee DVD (coming Sept. 14, 2010):

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