It is always like McDonald's to do some hardcore experimenting. I recall the excitement when the first ever "McDiner" opened in our small town of Kokomo, Indiana. Everywhere one would go, they would hear immense gossip like, "Are they really going to have diner food at McDonald's?" You bet your silly ass they did. They had some of the best mashed potatoes I had ever tasted. And you haven't lived my friend until you have had a McSteak or a McLobster. Yeah, we were all putting on the ritz and having the time of our lives until the inevitable occurred. The experiment failed, and all stupid ideas must come to an end eventually.
This brings me to McDonald's current experiment in Schaumburg, Illinois, at its Woodfield Mall location where an in-store media concept is being trialed. Thanks to Akoo, the experiment will allow any poor sap to play his/her music of choice in a designated area of the restaurant using a mobile phone, laptop, WiFi-enabled device, or telepathy. Someone who gets paid way too much to come up with these things is dubbing the concept, m-Venue. The catch is that the customer will be lucky enough to skim through a "vast" selection of on-demand music and video content offered from Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and others with the grand opportunity to "pay to play."
Of course, the concept is meant to be like a jukebox of the future. But let's face the fact that some douche will ruin this. And I'm not implying that the concept isn't already a shit-in-the-pants waiting to happen, but maybe it could have been "neato." This further brings me back to my glory hole days — um, glory days — when I went to a little Italian establishment with one lone jukebox. I felt the Holy Ghost spring through my entire body once I noticed the jukebox sign, "$20 for 100 plays." I thought that it had to be some sort of mistake, but it was as if God lowered his hairy right hand from the heavens to hand me a $20 bill and whisper into my ear, Go ahead, Greg. Play "Skat Man" 100 times! And so "Skat Man" became the anthem of the night until the place got robbed later that evening. One lady got shot in the arm. I shit you not. She messed up my order though.
My point, if there is a point to all of this, is that someone will easily play "Sweet Home Alabama" a dozen times and hog the technology just as Fonzie did. John O'Keefe, owner and Mayor McCheese of Shaumburg, claims that since the opening of m-Venue the restaurant's sales have risen 17% compared to sales from last year. So does this mean that e-Venue is a success? With ten multimedia flat-panel screens, one may infer this concept to drive novelty appeal until people stop caring, and then the realization of wasted money occurs. I'm not trying to be biased here. I am just speaking from experience. Another crazy concept would be to have live music at McDonald's. But who would really want to listen to other peoples' crap? I'm just going to stay happy with my Café McDonald's that has a piano that plays by itself. I fucking love that piano.
Are you finding yourself cold and lonely in an empty bed? Have you wondered why it is that you, an attractive individual in his/her mid-'20s with an excellent job and great looks, have not been able to engage in sexual relations?
Well, look no further!
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That's right! You could find yourself in bed with not just one person, but perhaps two, or maybe even three! That's right! You too could be a promiscuous whore! All you need is a little Hip-Hop™, or even our diet product, Dance Music™, which is also said to increase the number of sexual partners an individual has by as much as 29%, with lower fat and less calories!
Act now, and we'll include our newest product, Classical Music™ as an added bonus! This revolutionary product has found an increase in the consumption of cannabis by 25% and an increase in magic mushrooms by 12%! With us, you'll be thinking that violin is making the color purple in no time!
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Side effects of Hip-Hop™ or Dance Music™ may include, but are not limited to, a potential for increased criminal activity by roughly 50%. Classical Music™ should not be used while operating heavy machinery or while attempting to utilize the features of Hip-Hop™ or Dance Music™. Users who have mixed products have experienced side-effects such as loss of sexual attraction and a decrease in social interaction.
Results may vary. To submit your own experience with our products, please visit http://www.musicaltastetest.com.
So, the Album Leaf are apparently a band from whom we can expect pretty much the same thing on every album, right? Well, apparently not. Word has it that their new release, Into the Blue Again — simultaneously a reference to Talking Heads' classic "Once in a Lifetime" and an admission of a failure to innovate — is in fact their most daring piece of work yet.
With instrumental duties on the album turned over almost exclusively to the band's only real member, James Lavelle, the sounds found on their new slice of shellac are unlike anything we've come to expect. Gone are the soft keyboard tones and rock-solid drum loops found on the Sigur Ros-aided In a Safe Place. In come collaborations with Richard Ashcroft, Mike D, Badly Drawn Boy, and Thom Yorke, amongst others. The album flits from song-to-song, in a schizophrenic but increasingly measured way, culminating in the moody "Bunny in Your Flashers," featuring one of Yorke's most affecting vocals. It certainly puts The Eraser in its place.
The Album Leaf will be falling all over the place this autumn:
10.05.06 – San Diego, CA – Museum of Contemporary Art
10.08.06 – Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
10.18.06 – Phoenix, AZ – Rhythm Room
10.20.06 – Austin, TX – Parish
10.21.06 – Houston, TX – Proletariat
10.22.06 – Denton, TX – Hailey’s
10.23.06 – Baton Rouge, LA – Chelsea’s
10.24.06 – Birmingham, AL – BottleTree
10.25.06 – Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder (FSU)
10.26.06 – W. Palm Beach, FL – Respectable Street
10.27.06 – Orlando, FL – Social
10.28.06 – Tampa, FL – Orpheum
10.29.06 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
10.30.06 – Charlotte, NC – The Neighborhood Theater
11.01.06 – Philadelphia, PA – Jonny Brenda’s
11.02.06 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom (CMJ)
11.03.06 – Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
11.06.06 – Brooklyn, NY – North Six
11.07.06 – Cambridge, MA – Middle East Downstairs
11.08.06 – Montreal, PQ – Main Hall
11.09.06 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
11.10.06 – Buffalo, NY – Big Orbit’s Soundlab
11.11.06 – Ann Arbor, MI – Blind Pig
11.12.06 – Chicago, IL – Lakeshore Theater
11.13.06 – Minneapolis, MN – 400 Bar
11.16.06 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
11.17.06 – Vancouver, BC – Plaza Club
11.18.06 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
11.19.06 – Euguene, OR – W.O.W. Hall
11.21.06 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent
Seriously, you guys in the USA have it easy. Your disco artists know how to look the part. Check out James Murphy. Motherfucker's like 60 or something, but he still manages to rock the blazer and t-shirt look like it's 2003. You'd see him from across a bar, and you'd think, Hey, check out grandaddy over there, but then you'd realize how perfectly his hair is tousled... how he's not shaved for exactly the right number of days... and just how deep his eyes go... and how you totally didn't expect his thighs to be that smooth, and how it all feels so wrong but it's just so right, and, and...
Damn, I'm sure I had a point somewhere.
Oh, shit, yeah! Hot Chip! Tour! Series of tired jokes about how their nerdy appearance compares to James Murphy! Here's the dates!
11.01.06 - Baltimore, MD - Sonar ! %
11.02.06 - New York, NY - Webster Hall $ !
11.03.06 - Philadelphia, PA - Webster Hall ^
11.04.06 - Boston MA - Paradise % !
11.05.06 - Montreal, PQ - La Sala Rossa %
11.06.06 - Toronto, ON - The Mod Club % !
11.07.06 - Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop ! %
11.08.06 - Columbus, OH - Wexler Center @
11.10.06 - Chicago, IL - Metro % !
11.10.06 - Chicago, IL - Smart Bar (DJ set)
11.11.06 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue * %
11.14.06 - Seattle, WA - Neumos % !
11.15.06 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge ! %
11.17.06 - San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine % !
11.18.06 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theater % !
11.19.06 - San Diego, CA - Casbah ! %
! w/ Shy Child
$ w/ Gang Gang Dance
% w/ Born Ruffians
^ w/ Justice
@ w/ Mouse on Mars, Birdy Nam Nam
* w/ Jamie Lidell
You know those puzzles where you turn one word into another? Y'know, cat to dog is cat, cot, cog, dog? Watch Matt turn to Pond:
That's not the only solution! This works as well:
If you're supersmart, you can do it in only one move:
There's a new album too called Several Hours Later, but there's nothing fun to do with that. Onto the tour!
10.07.06 - Fredericksburg, VA - Mary Washington University
10.08.06 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of the Living Arts
10.10.06 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall
10.11.06 - Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Theater
10.12.06 - Louisville, KY - Headliners Music Hall
10.13.06 - Covington, KY - Mad Hatter
10.14.06 - St. Louis, MO - Mississippi Nights
10.15.06 - Madison, WI - The Annex
10.16.06 - Minneapolis, MN - Fine Line Music Café
10.19.06 - Calgary, AB - MacEwan Ballroom
10.21.06 - Vancouver, BC - The Center in Vancouver for the Arts
10.22.06 - Seattle, WA - Moore Theatre
10.23.06 - Portland - Wonder Ballroom
10.24.06 - Sacramento, CA - Harlows
10.25.06 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
10.26.06 - Los Angeles - Spaceland
10.27.06 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theatre
House Democrats Demand Investigation Of Buried FCC Reports; House Republicans Surprisingly Less Interested
Earlier this month, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made everyone feel real awkward when she busted the door down at FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's re-nomination hearing. After snapping the elastic bands on several prominent senators' party hats, Boxer whipped out a 2004 FCC study on localism in the media that she believes was purposely buried. Unfortunately, the Senator delivered her speech next to a stack of amps and could not be heard above the pounding trance music.
Boxer remained unfazed and returned a week later, clutching another unreleased report on media ownership from 2003. The study found that "between March 1996 and March 2003, there was a 35% decrease in the number of radio owners," and that the largest owner, Clear Channel, "went from owning 62 stations in 1996, to 1,233 in 2003." Chairman Martin noted that he was not in charge at the time of the reports and tried to turn the stereo back on, but Senator Boxer slapped his hand away.
Since the discovery of the missing reports, a group of 34 House Democrats joined Boxer in requesting an all-out cavity search of the possible motivations behind the documents' concealment. In a joint letter to FCC Inspector General Kent Nilsson, the Democrats wrote: "If one or both of these reports were suppressed because they did not support official FCC policy, such actions could not only constitute fraud, but could also run counter to the FCC's stated goals of transparency and public involvement in its media ownership proceedings."
Representative David Price (D-NC) felt like adding a slam dunk of his own, and whispered, "Good public policy is supposed to reflect what is best for the American people. If the FCC can't be trusted to present the results of its own studies to the public, how can it be trusted to act in the public's interest when it comes to the ownership of our airwaves?" Price then winked at everyone and did a moonwalk out of the building.
Chairman Martin has now expressed equal concern over these issues and promises to release an updated report on media ownership before the end of the legal proceedings. If anyone needs to reach him before then, he will be sitting in his bedroom with the blinds drawn.
Just so you don't have to feel like you missed out on the news last week about the upcoming release of a new album from the Apples In Stereo, TMT is providing you with a Talking Points memo. Yup, it's just like the ones used by the Bush Administration that make them all seem like robots from planet "We Never Mess Up and Terrorists Could Kill Your Little Baby At Any Moment Unless We Get What We Want." Now you can make it seem like you read every article written about this topic. You can even write your own, it's not so hard. They let me do it, don't they? Enjoy!
Robert Schneider, Eric Allen, John Hill (ex drummer Hilarie Sidney left the band in August 2006, no replacement has been announced)
New Magnetic Wonder
Simian, a joint venture with Yep Roc/Red Eye, helmed by Elijah Wood (the actor better known as Frodo from The Lord of the Rings films). Robert met him at SXSW in 2003. Definitely work that into the story... a very interesting angle. Let those Hobbit jokes fly!
February 7. (Try not to mention the fact that many people will download this album "illegally" well before this date. Get them excited about owning a shiny disc with stuff on both sides!)
There are many, so check the press release for the full list. Includes JEFF MANGUM, members of Olivia Tremor Control and engineer Bryce Goggin. (Hint: make special note of JEFF, almost to the point of overshadowing the band and the record. God knows everyone loves Neutral Milk Hotel, so this will increase exposure and interest!)
-Details (add these to the mix once everything above is covered):
Group's first new album in five years, a dual-sided enhanced-CD.
53 minutes long, 14 proper songs, and 12 segue songs, (Schneider calls them "link tracks"), recorded in five cities (Brooklyn, NY; Lexington, KY; Benton, KY; Denver, CO; and Athens, GA) over 12 months.
Album based around Schneider's own invention, the "Non-Pythagorean Scale" of music, further explained on the enhanced portion of the CD, which contains "digital files for MIDI usage and an in-depth description by Schneider... in both document and video form."
Sidney has left the band, is still on the album, and wrote two songs for it. (Do not mention her divorce from Robert; it would be in bad taste.)
National and regional tourdates for the Apples in Stereo will be announced shortly.
In conclusion, make sure to add references to past pop music masters like Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne, etc. Use fun words, like Pop, Confetti, anthems, jams. The E6 was about fun and love.
New Magnetic Wonder tracklist:
1. Can You Feel It?
3. Mellotron 1
5. Same Old Drag
6. Joanie Don't U Worry
7. Sunndal Song **
9. Play Tough
10. Sun is Out
11. Non-Pythagorean Composition 1
12. Hello Lola
13. 7 Stars
14. Mellotron 2
15. Sunday Sounds **
16. Open Eyes
19. Vocoder Ba Ba
21. Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2
22. Beautiful Machine Parts 3-4
23. My Pretend
24. Non-Pythagorean Composition 3
** Composed by Hilarie Sidney
YouTube. It's home to skateboarding videos, people falling down, music prodigies, and recently major corporate sponsorship. YouTube is more than that though. It's a community, a place to hang your hat. YouTube is a place to go, a destination, an end result of boredom. But my problem with it is that it's just a catch-all for videos. In this day of target audiences and individualism, YouTube is all about everything, from video blogs to soft-core porn.
So I propose spin-offs to appease some of my interests.
Pool CueTube: It's a fact that everyone enjoys billiards, and even more people enjoy instructional videos on how to assemble, hold, and use a pool cue, all of which I produce.
MewTube: Pokemon are an international phenomenon, and Mewtwo is the poor man's Pikachu. Mewtwo is older, uglier, and a d-bag, but what can I say, I gotta catch 'em all.
Seattle SlewTube: I love this 1977 Triple Crown winner. So Slew me!
Big League ChewTube: I have a LOT of videos of me chewing gum.
There you have it: my personalized versions that we all can relate to. It seems YouTube has gotten a big head with all their sponsors and advertisers, so they shot me down. But they liked my idea of individualism, so they created a contest that only deals with music.
According to Digital Trends, the video site is teaming up with Cingular Wireless to make the YouTube Underground. It's a contest — a talent search, if you will — for unsigned bands and musicians. These people will create "original videos from October 2 to October 18, 2006. The YouTube user community will vote to select the finalist, and Chop Shop Music Supervision founder Alexandra Patsavas will select the winners for best song, best music video, best live performance, and best creative work." The four winners will get trips to New York City for a spot on Good Morning America and some guitars from Guitar Center. (Personal note: I expect the contest to fail because the name doesn't rhyme.)
The winners get to use the Gibson Guitar tour bus, which features the Les Paul Combustion Engine. Cool! They also get a "photo shoot for a top music publication." Huh? Who knows! Anyway, that's cool that people will vote on faux musicians and the media will create a faux buzz. Cool! If only they'd take a look at my suggestions, YouTube might be a success.
Composed of the duo of Shane Broderick and Ted Sweeney, Boston grindcore extremists, Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck are going to pillage the West Coast this October and rub another load out onto the face of the East Coast soon after. I've never been good at categorizing music, especially when it goes beyond a seemingly basic level, but I've heard of a genre called "Pornogrind," and this seems to be the closest I can get to describe the devastation that is Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck. They are bringing their split cassette with Texas Hatemongers Intestinal Disgorge along with them in a limited run of 50 copies.
If you like boners, recycled pornography, dicks, being assaulted at concerts, wangs, getting dildos shoved in your face, dongs, or music, you're likely to be at least amused, if not trampled at any of these shows. Known for their extreme shock value, primarily in the area of sex and sexuality, Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck are really just two guys with big hard-ons who want to share their love with the world. They have been nominated for "Best-Worst Band Name" by The Onion's A.V. Club and will most likely win by a fairly large margin. They have also been known to perform miracles at their concerts. Such as, but not limited to: curing insomnia, destroying capitalism, spreading venereal diseases, and even masturbating with no hands. (Try that one at home, kids!) They have a few releases out and most are still available. Don't worry; they come in closed packages, and you'll be billed for "Sloppy Seconds Steamin' Semen" instead.
Get them before they go mainstream:
10.21.06 – Olympia, WA – Le Voyeur $
10.22.06 – Seattle, WA – Funhouse !
10.23.06 – Portland, OR – Tube $
10.24.06 – Salem, OR – Jasper's @
10.25.06 – Oakland, CA – 21Grand #
10.26.06 – Los Angeles, CA – Il Corral %
10.27.06 – Los Angeles, CA – The Smell ^
10.28.06 – Riverside, CA – Parkview ~
11.12.06 – Allson, MA – Butcher Shop *
11.13.06 – Portsmouth, NH – TBA 
11.14.06 – Providence, RI – Redrum ()
11.15.06 – New Haven, CT – Fort Sunshine *
11.16.06 – Western Mass, MA – TBA 
$ w/ Occasional Detroit and Behalf
! w/ Occasional Detroit, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, Behalf, and Dead Black Wolf
@ w/ Occasional Detroit, Dead Wolf Black, and Behalf
# w/ Occasional Detroit, Dead Wolf Black, and Sexual Tourist
% w/ Occasional Detroit, Gang Wizard, Tik///Tik, Dead Wolf Black, Behalf, and more
^ w/ Captain Ahab, Occasional Detroit, Faux For Real, Behalf, and more
~ w/ Occasional Detroit, Behalf, IveBeenShot, and more
* w/ Cock E.S.P. and Suffering Bastard
 w/ Cock E.S.P.
() w/ Cock E.S.P., Suffering Bastard, and The Fuzz
Reporter is Wined and Dined, Feels Refined; Still, Many Things About that Day Linger in Gumshoe’s Mind, Rendering him Blind: My Experience with Microsoft and Its Zune
As many of you know, we at TMT strive to not only report important happenings in the music world, but to shed additional light on these happenings through alarmist, cheap, crass, and often even flat-out nonsensical humor. Hey, it's a delicate recipe, but if you mix it just right — and hire a fat batch of news writers every so often — you come out the other end with dynamite. It's great! It's... supoib.
Truth be told, I don't really know where this intro is leading; I'm actually avoiding the subject at hand because I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how to present it in the best possible way, with all the supplementary details included. I had quite an experience recently, after all.
You see, a few weeks ago a teeny-tiny-tabletop company called FUCKING MICROSOFT — heard of 'em? — invited your hero/adversary Gumshoe and a group of "music bloggers" to its Seattle think tank to... well, actually we weren't supposed to find out until we got there. However due to instinct, savvy, and big-big-big balls, I instinctively knew the whole thing was centered on the eventual release of the nu-iPod, the Zune. (Actually, to its credit, Microsoft isn't trying to supplant the iPod, but we'll get to that later.) I also knew I was in for a treat or two since my amazingly astute neighbor told me earlier the company furnishing my trip is well-known for treating journalists like the highest line of glitterati. As soon as I was made privy to this little info nugget, I resolved to keep my head on straight no matter how many wraps of blow, sedans of hookers, and copies of Halo II were thrown my way...
So M-to-the-Soft booked me a plane ticket to Seattle and promised meals and drinks and a nice hotel room. I was all like, "YOU THINK A SWANKY HOTEL ROOM WILL BUY MY AFFECTION!? WELL, YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. WHOSE TAINT DO I POLISH FIRST???" But before I checked into the hotel after the flight, I found something, or should I say someone, waiting for me in the baggage claim: a dude in a suit with a sign in his hand. What was on the sign isn't important... oh wait, yes it is! The sign read: Purdum. That's my last name! I'll admit I felt a little flattered and expectant once Mr. Beauregard opened the door for me and guided my Lincoln Towne Car through downtown Seattle like a pro. He was bantering about his time in the Army and driving Mick Jagger about town all the while. I checked in at the Hotel Maxxx — a popular porn-shoot site no doubt — and took a long nappy-nap to freshen my senses. (I had stayed up falling in love the night before. Yeah, I hate people in love, too.)
Wiping the hard crust of sleep from my eyes, I headed downstairs for the big rendezvous. I spotted an indie type in the lobby. Being the assuming sort, I walked right up and said, "HEY, WHEN ARE WE GETTING THIS SHIT STARTED!" to the polite New Yorker, who softly said... well shit, I don't remember. In fact, I'm not sure of what I said. Suffice to say, he was from the blog Music For Robots and was thus definitely a member of our "blog" team. Soon the others joined us: the guy from My Old Kentucky Blog, a dude from 3Hive (a great man), and a girl from some blog I can't remember. Fuck it. Also, the managing editor of Stereogum made an appearance or two. (Admittedly Stereogum was the only blog out of these I'd previously heard of, though I keep up with them all periodically now.)
Although I wasn't able to smuggle any stick-icky on the plane, my memory of the day is still a bit clogged, like that bong in the corner you gave up on because the damn thing, you know, clogs. I think we rode over in an SUV, a big one, but I can't really be sure. Who cares anyway!? The most important thing at that time, for me, was to make sure I would be fed. I was ecstatic when one of the project leaders informed me there were to be... wait for iiiiiiiiit... wraps. Hey, that was all I needed. I began dreaming of wraps... multiple wraps... big, beautiful wraps. I'll always be partial to sandwiches, but wraps are damn acceptable.
Then we were sequestered in another room. There were a few people sitting in the room, which would delay our meeting. Needless to say, this wasn't going to fly. They scuttled out of the room. Perhaps buoyed by my fancy hotel room and a sudden that-guy-has-a-sign-with-my-name-on-it priggishness, I called after them, "Yeah, well, just see it doesn't happen again!" as they walked off. Why do I do these things? Don't know. I guess I felt at home, which is really a bad thing if you're trying to be an objective journalist.
Which brings me to a salient point: at the end of the night, one of the big-wigs at Microsoft told me, "Hey man, if we do good, let us know! If we screw up, call us on it!" I love this man (though I didn't get his name) because I was thinking the same thing in the back of my head the whole day: wow, these people seem to be happy with me right now, but what's going to happen when I lay it on the line?
So we're sitting in this room, waiting. Soon, a top-of-the-hill-aged gentleman walks in and begins exchanging pleasantries with us. He seemed top notch to me, save one thing: his apparel. Now let me remind you that through all of this I was looking for something, ANYTHING to criticize. Why? BECAUSE THEY FLEW ME OUT AND PUT ME UP IN A SWANKY HOTEL, that's why. When's the last time somebody 'flew you out' and put you up in a swanky hotel and didn't try to snow you over in some way? Being sleep-deprived and full of sweets, my mind pored over the man looking for faults. The suspicious part of me – later rebuked by my fellow bloggers as being paranoid – told me that this guy was trying to dress how he thought indie 'slacker types' would dress.
Then he started to talk about music. At this point, I couldn't help but feel him. He seemed excited about the Zune Media Player and its accompanying campaign, passing around the latest version so we could test it for ourselves. And tell you what, it is pretty nifty! You can store photos and video in addition to an arse-load of music, and — best of all — you can send playlists to other friends, so long as they have a ZunePod. That's shitty, but at this point, we all need to accept the fact that everything isn't going to work with everything else. What can you do? As we were dinking around with the sleek and admittedly iPod-esque Zunes, the man continued to talk about his history and background. Hey, he sounded like a very enthusiastic guy where music is concerned, and he definitely believed in "Project: Zune." Of course, he is paid to be enthusiastic, so... we'll call it a draw.
Then he got into promotion strategies for "indie" bands and suspicion crept into my belly once again. He wasn't the only one who made me squirm, either. The entire Zune team made one fatal error: they talked about two "indie" bands and how much they were going to promote them — which was fine — but they also let it become fairly obvious early on that these two, and ONLY these two bands, were on the list. Or at least they were the only two anyone was going to mention. What about other "indie" bands? What about Cyann & Ben? What about fucking Mark Mallman? What about... shit, I dunno, Eric Alexandrakis?
I mean, really think about this for a second: you're hard at work putting together a promotion push for "indie" artists with your new Zune that will set it apart from other products made by companies that apparently "don't look out for the little guy." You invite some bloggers that obviously don't give a pineapple frappe about mainstream music. Then you proceed to tell them you're "big into" promoting independent artists, and you mention TWO bands that you're going to work with? Two? Only TWO? And both of them are on Sub Pop? Shit guys, this is like the old Grandpa-all-of-a-sudden-listens-to-Pavement trick. Did they really think we wouldn't notice that they seem to have built their entire "indie" marketing campaign around two Sub Pop bands? They would slip those two — and remember, only those two — bands into their presentations like they were part of a long, long list... but I only heard those two bands the whole trip, which were: CSS and Band of Horses. Hey, don't look at me. I'm just calling them on it.
The next guy that came in was also from the UK and also dressed rather casually. He was more of a smooth talker, which again had my radar scanning the room. But this guy's music background was too pristine to ignore. He used to oversee Ministry of Sound, after all. So he told us more about the product as we continued to diddle. He also mentioned — you guessed it! — CSS. But he was pretty sincere and it was impossible, like the first guy, to renege him the benefit of the doubt. Now, when you think about who he works for, maybe the pendulum swings the other way... and come to think of it, the fact that Microsoft was responsible did slip to the background amid talks of music, independent or otherwise.
The next and last leg of our journey took us to a demo room where we were to experience the Zune ourselves, or at least view its features on a large projector screen. And again, the features of the Zune are quite tantalizing, though I doubt I'll be able to afford one for a few years. When you look through a list of songs on a Zune, you don't just see a bunch of bland track titles, you see the album cover, too. This alone is a huge deal to me because, hey, I likes me a good cover. Don't you wish you could turn on your iPod and see the cover of The Chameleons' Script of the Bridge? Of course you do!
The sharing feature is a little discouraging because once you send a playlist to a friend, they can only play it three times before it's deleted and jettisoned from your plater (but, ahem, hopefully the hacker community is keeping its finger on the pulse here). The fact that you can share at all, though, says a lot about the Zune and about Microsoft. It's a very uncharacteristic move. I'm not an expert when it comes to this sort of thing, but I genuinely appreciate the sharing feature in light of all the "digital rights" hoo-haw floating around (mostly on our TMT site). The ad wizards at M-Soft said, "Fuck that noise, we want them to share," and I respect the shit out of that. Seriously, this is not lame indie sarcasm, I really do think this feature will push things ahead where personal media players are concerned.
One of the other features that caught my eye were these mini-promotional cartoons. I knew right away that these were carefully crafted to appeal — mmmcough-pander-cough-cough — to a new generation of listeners, but it also proved just how far things have come. I mean, who ever thought a huge corporation would depict punk-rock stereotypes in its promo cartoons? Wait, maybe this is a step back; I can't tell anymore. What I can say is that despite these seemingly despicable efforts to bond with the underdog, the whole Zune project as a whole really struck me as an authentic attempt to not just appeal to the little guys, but to show them that Zune has them in mind. They even appealed to our second-place preferences by admitting that Zune isn't designed to supplant the iPod as the dominant media device. Rather, Microsoft intends to rank a sturdy second and, to a point, see where the party takes it.
After rolling this concept around in my mind for a few weeks now, I must say I appreciated that in a weird way. Did these people listen to our complaints? Did they really give a shit about what we had to say? I don't know. But I can say they went a long way to assure that we would be informed of their upcoming plans, to an extent. The rich (ha!) writers from mags like Variety may have scarfed down the wraps before we could get our grubby hands on them, but the enthusiasm intrinsic in the Zune project came through loud and clear. I don't know if that was Microsoft's intent and, in fact, I still don't know exactly what they wanted from me, but I do know that they treated me well and respectfully. I'm not going to pretend that I understand business, so for me to feel these people out is pretty much pointless (though I suppose I've spent this entire bloody article doing just that). It's their job, after all, to talk with strangers and be friendly as Flanders, so how can I fault them for being, or at least appearing, stoked to be doing what they're doing?
The answer is: I can't. But that doesn't mean I can't tell the story of my confusing weekend of previews, expensive suites and rides in Lincoln Towne cars and let you all decipher what you believe for yourself. Hey, I'm just putting the info out there; whether you believe in Zune is your problem, though I personally think it's going to be a worthwhile alternative to the constraints of myPods and Napster knock-offs. Until the next time a large corporation shuttles me in and out of a big city like a part-time Vegas stripper, this is Gumshoe signing off and still feeling weird about this whole article...