Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, MP3s, streaming… and back to vinyl!


Music is changing. I don’t often buy albums anymore. When I do it’s a special treat. It’s become like a visit to the cinema – overpriced and you only expect to enjoy half the experience. And if you can stream music, why buy it?

I just read that digital music sales dropped for the first time since iTunes was born. But vinyl is coming back! (Slowly!)

Streaming cannibalising sales is, apparently, not such bad news for musicians. Execs say the growth in streaming revenue has been offsetting the decline in digital sales revenue.

Some stats:
• In 2013, digital track sales fell 5.7%.
• Album sales suffered an 8.4% decline.
• The CD declined 14.5%.
• Vinyl continued its ascension and is now 2% of album sales in the U.S; digital albums comprise 40.6% and the CD is 57.2% and cassettes and DVDs 0.2%.

In 2013, only one album sold more than one million units, Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, with 2.4 million units. By comparison, ten songs hit the million mark in 2012.

I’ll be sorry to see CDs disappear, if they eventually do. But if vinyl can survive, I will keep buying LPs, keep replacing those pesky needles and wiping the dust out of the grooves even if it has no effect.

Read more on the stats at Billboard.

And here is evidence DVDs are also in decline. Better buy that Blu-Ray player quick smart.

Photo from

If music is social, why can I only hear noise?

When U2 met with Steve Jobs in 2004, they came away with a deal for a rather baffling piece of cross-promotion. Apple would produce a piece of hardware designed to reflect the band’s latest album at the time, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. With 30 GB and the signatures of all four members of U2, the special edition iPod was priced at US$349. Source: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t just the kit that fans could love – if they bought the U2 iPod, they would also get a different version of the album to anyone buying it the old way, in the shops.

U2 iPods gave the owner special privileges, such as downloading songs for free, they also scored a US$50 coupon for a US$149 collection of U2’s entire back catalog.

Together, the band and the brand appeared were redefining the music industry. But if they did, where are all the follow-up music/hardware integrations? Why can’t I buy a Foo Fighters album pre-loaded on an iPhone or even a Ben Folds LP on a USB stick? The whole plan stalled at the starting line, leaving us buying CDs and downloading MP3s, occasionally with bonus videos or imagery in a ‘digital booklet’. This is not awe-inspiring stuff.

The biggest movements since then have seen Radiohead offering their song in your choice of format and at the price you think its worth. Beck offered his album in sheet music only in 2012 (hoping for a mash-up that never came), while last week, David Bowie was lauded as an innovator for streaming his album for free. Oh please.

While streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora may already have rendered the purchase of an album irrelevant for the next generation, I still like to have a physical object to show for my money. I make exceptions to this rule when the digital offering is far better than what I would get from a CD with its inserts. But this remains rare, and so, record stores still have kilometers of shelving dedicated to popular bands and their back catalogs. I am certain the CD wil not phase out until a new replacement comes.

Here’s one way things might play out, according to Bono…

Music apps – sounds good right?

The App as Music

I decide to buy an album … I download an app to my smartphone or tablet … I get a preview of songs and a teaser video of what else is on offer … I can then opt-in for the album (together with bonus extras, just like a DVD) or just select some singles to download and be done with it.

Sounds good so far.

But what if the app took me even further? Perhaps it could unlock a back-catalog of videos, or a list of demos and b-sides that took me into the studio like a producer, watching as the band developed each track and sifted through snippets, hooks and riffs to find the gold?

Here’s how Bono describes it, speaking, as he does every few years, of the band’s need to reinvent themselves.

He shrugs off the fact that the band have just recorded the biggest-grossing live tour in the history of popular music and wonders whether U2 can still be relevant. “We can play the big music in big places. But whether we can play the small music, meaning for the small speakers of the radio or clubs, where people are living, remains to be seen,” he says. “I think we have to go to that place again if we’re to survive.

“There are so many U2 albums out there. We need a reason for another one. The whole point of being in U2 is that we’re not here to be an art-house band. Our job, as we see it, is to bring the art house to the mainstream; our job is to puncture the mainstream.”

Earlier, he was using an iPad with the Achtung Baby songs and videos on it. “That’s probably what our new album will look like,” he says. “I’ve been talking about this for the past four years.

“Our last album was the first album to be made available as an app with BlackBerry devices, but it didn’t work: the functionality was not what it could have been. New formats are going to happen. I’m always banging on about this. The app format brings you back to that world of gatefold sleeves, of being able to read lyrics – and [now of] being able to play the album at home on your plasma TV.”
(c) Irish Times, 2011.

Socially, an app as an album could lift the experience to another level again. Imagine if, while listening, I can read other my friends’ comments on the songs, just as I should be able drop comments into the stream for others to see, if they so choose.

An in-built forum should also capture fans’ debate of the lyrics or the band’s missteps.

I should also be able to share it with a group of friends, having a virtual listening party, helping promote the songs to my friends.

I don’t really see why this is all yet to happen. I guess it could have something to do with the all-powerful triumvirate of record labels.

Right now, Spotify tells me – via Facebook and ad nausea – what some of my friends are listening to. But this form of socialised music listening fails at the first turn.

If I have never heard of the song or artist, there ends my interest… I’m done. I know I said I’d like to find out music recommended by my friends, but it turns out an automated feed of what they are listening to right now does not equal useful recommendations.   (Now, please leave me alone to continue sifting through the already mindless landscape of posts from ‘friends’ I barely know.)

Moreover, Spotify makes me annoyed not just at the technology but even at my real life friends who should know better. This is all little better than Apple’s Ping – an ill-fated foray into social music sharing. Nor is it any more user-friendly than the Washington Post ‘social reader‘ – a Facebook experiment that gained massive notoriety for increasing traffic then even more infamy following the mass exit of millions of users who felt violated by its sharing of all articles they had read.

Turns out we don’t need Bono or Steve Jobs. I am simply longing once more for music parties, where your friends came over, you put on a CD and you just discuss it; You tell why you like it, who it reminds you of, or you tear it apart because it’s rubbish.

If an app or online service can deliver that, sign me up.

TVs are the new old librarians [updated]


My recent experience of buying a new TV should have delivered me immense satisfaction and loads of testosterone as I made the biggest decision a married male can make on his own.

But somehow, my purchase of a Smart TV” left me feeling much dumber for it.

I work in TV but live most of my life online so in my humble opinion, my new “connected TV” should allow me to do both;

I want to tweet while I watch a show. I want to read my Facebook but keep streaming the news. I want also want to be able to browse the web using a keyboard and trackpad and it doesn’t seem ridiculous to me to expect a TV to be easily able to stream videos on my much smaller-screened Macbook.

But no. For the ten years since plasma TVs came out – and I have been biding my time – the best TV makers have developed is a pretty pixelated digital picture that is thinner and uses less energy.

3D-enabled or not? 50hz or 100hz? Internet-ready? Wifi-connected? What? Why??

Why are we way back here, deciding on small variations of nothingness when even the most sophisticated TV will still only deliver me a dodgy web browsing experience.

(Massive icons, a keypad on the remote with arrows to move the cursor around like a first generation Blackberry. And on most, you enter a URL using numbers like your first NOKIA in 1995!)

After visiting two or three stores, it became obvious that the coolest, $5000 LED-LCD TV won’t yet let me flick between websites, track tweets while I watch a show in the other part of the screen, post on Facebook while I continue watching my favourite show… you know, do what my notebook computer does.

When I went to university and completed my Applied Science in Information Studies, I knew the internet was going to change everything. But that’s all I knew. And the lecturers, who were clouded by years of teaching how information sharing worked the old way,had only just begun accepting essays via email.

TVs are now the librarians of old. The rusty Citroens choking up the info highway, delivering info as they always did and resisting new developments that threaten its mainstay.

It’s no wonder nearly 50% of teens now spend more time on their computers than watching TV. [citation coming]

Looks too me like televisions are an overheated area of glitzy marketing with pretty minimal delivery. There’s lots of jargon, stickers and selling points but I am getting a TV which does little more than the mournful, cumbersome CRT I now have sitting on my living room floor like an orphaned elephant. Yes, a white elephant.

Lucky for me, one clever thing my TV can do is turn itself off if it detects no movement in the room for thirty minutes.

And so far, to Sony’s credit, this has only occurred twice during my favourite show.


Now that I have finally received the WIFI dongle (which had to be transferred from another store) I find that the Sony WIDGETS work on my TV model and one is for Twitter!

This means I CAN have a twitter feed in the right of screen as the show – form any source – plays out on the left of screen. Joy of joys. And my apologies to Sony.

The interface is limited but hey, it’s all a step toward real social TV. Using Sony’s rather good iPhone app ‘Media Remote’ you can type and navigate the screen as good as one might hope.

My Top 13 Chrome Extensions for Social Media Managers (and addicts)

Here’s one for the social media professionals, potentially social media addicts and the Google Geeks.

I now cannot work anywhere without my favourite browser Chrome.

Extensions are the little and mostly free add-ons that help streamline repetitive tasks spectacularly as I work daily across social media and web content. For mem they have replaced shortcuts, bookmarks and bookmarklets.

1. Send from Gmail
Awesomeness incorporated. You can select text and mail it. Or just mail the link and a pop-up window does the rest. I use this twenty times a day.

2. Awesome Screenshot
Annotate screenshots, select area, visible or full page, add text, circles, lines, arrows in an instant. then save. Shame you can’t email.

3. Session Manager.

Save all current tabs and reopen them later. SImple. Classy. Perfect if you are like ame and regularly open twelve tabs then need to swap computers or just save some RAM.

4. Evernote.
This is essential for any notetaker. Clips pages,pics, selected text,full pages. And keeps them forever, and they are searchable. Handiest for keeping a record of online transactions.

5. One Password

Inserts your password on any given page, saves all of them securely and generates fancy ones you wil never remember – but hackers can’t guess them. Win-Win! (You won’t find this in the store. Must buy the One Password program first. )

6. Google News

Expandable headlines should be the future. It’s the best thing HTML5 ever brought us. You want to read more, just click the headline & there’s the story! Sure, lists are ugly but have you seen most news sites lately? This works great with customisable news searches, syncs with your google account and updates download constantly.

7. Facebook
This needs work. The quick look at messages and updates is not a good enough replacement for the website because it pretty much is the website but with side navigation be fewer features. It’s also buggy and wasn’t activating when I went to get a screenshot. Keep at it Zuck.

8. Chrome It Later

Clips any page or selection to your Read it Later account, which syncs with my iPhone app to give me lunchtime or railtime reading. (Perfect for reading offline on trains when you lose connectivity.) I used to change the settings pane so I could add tags but now I don’t bother as I read most on the same day.

9. AdBlock

The most popular of all Chrome extensions, they claim. I never need to click this unless I notice this effective ad-blocker has removed some other valuable element by accident. Which is rare because ad-blocking works! I own three!

10. link shortener

Every social media manager needs this. I am regularly involved in five twitter accounts – only one of which is personal, so tweaks for quick tweeting are essential. This is like THE swiss army knife extension for twitter. It allows text clipping, multiple accounts, copies the link to your clipboard, and has a genius right-click menu feature that takes any link, shortens it & copies it to your clipboard. Sharing, tweeting & tracking of links was never supposed to be this easy!! Get it. No questions.

11. Mashable

Could be improved but gives you the latest tech and social media stories at a glance. The real estate is used poorly which makes the whole thing a bit of a let down. Alas, there are two mashable extensions – get the one with expandable lists of headlines.

12. Picasa

Don’t use this, why is it there? How often do you want to browse your own galleries on this underpowered version of flickr? It shows up comments. Has anyone ever commented on your Picasa albums. Did you even know they could?

13. Huffington Post

HuffPo is an unstoppable news source and aggregator specialising in viral content and political sex scandals. This extension gives handy, quick navigation of top stories in each category – which sure beats using their convoluted website (although NewsGlide makes it feel like you’re on an iPad. Much cooler).

So there they are. I haven’t spent hours searching out the best but of those I have come across and used, these have stayed undeleted longer than most!
Oh, nearly forgot.
Those indictors in the address bar include two last good extensions.
The first one is an instant Google Reader RSS Subscriber that grabs any RSS and with one click adds it to your Google Reader list. You can even select the folder it should enter.
The light bulb is called Turn Off The LightsClick it while watching video or  slideshow and it cleverly dims the rest of the screen for a sexier viewing experience. Like many of these extensions, it’s great but you need to remember it’s there and to use it.
I am still yet to see a great extension for flickr or Tumblr, but I’m sure one is coming.
Next up…  I must learn how to sync my extensions across multiple computers.
Which extensions do you rely on? Which obvious ones am I missing? Please share, by using your Send from Gmail extension, of course.

‘Nicole Santos’ virus destroys Facebook and news media missed it

What is going on?
I have just switched on after a night of poor baking experiences and a virus going by the name of Nicole Santos is ‘spreading like wildfire‘ across Facebook yet no major news organisations have noticed a thing.

SMH – nothing – nothing – nothing

Facebook itself has nothing to say…

Hell, even has no sign of it.

So what are we to make of a clever scam that purports to be a ‘Verify Your Account’ link but then spreads gunk on all your friends’ walls.

Looks to me like the second bad news story on Facebook security in two days.

The first was uncovered by Symantec – which always has me suspicious, who else stands ot gain from such revelations except a virus solutions company? – But this attacks seems worse for three reasons;

1) It’s out in the open – today’s story was largely undiscovered.
2) It’s spread through the actions of unwitting users, not due to Facebook’s low restrictions on developers
3) It’s simply spam which reduces the value and integrity of Facebook as a service, not just of it’s privacy policy

But still, where are all the newsmedia covering what looks like the biggest virus to spread across the word’s largest social network?

These companies gladly publish banal stories about every Facebook tweak and celebrity post or record-breaking nonsense group (e.g. Fans of Pippa Middleton’s arse).

At this time, the US is just waking up and Australia is going to sleep. Yet judging by my twitter feed, a whole lot of people are still awake.

There’s a growing gulf here that only Twitter seems able to address. God love it.


As a web producer I need to find generic images for about ten different stories every day.

Often those stories relate to the internet, or websites, or online activities like shopping, dating or avoiding viruses. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to find a unique picture for that? No?

Well, don’t bother. It’s no more interesting than it sounds.

But, many people give up too soon and clichés abound – which I must now expose.

The biggest theme among internet image clichés is the photoshopped-keyboard key.

Here’s a range of pics that are either so pitiful I hope they are tongue-in-cheek or they are simply a bad reflection on web producers everywhere.

We know sleep isn't normally there, but why is there nothing on any other keys?

Daft. What would happen when I press 'SHOP' anyway? A BUY button maybe.

I see, it's for Online Dating, or finding love online. And 'desperate' was too long to fit.

Ha! Commit your whole life to someone in one key-stroke. I guess pressing Esc gets you a DIVORCE.


Brand keyboard sends you direct to company websites. But Coke?

This is a funny idea. But it was stolen from Homer Simpson.

FYI - If you're having trouble on the Internet, F1 usually brings up the Help menu.

If there was a HELP key, as big as the spacebar, I think it deserves to be IN CAPS.

This picture is actually instructional. Unless you type PLEH

You will need real help after you start swallowing keys in frustration at the Windows Help menu.


Now we're talking. This kind of keyboard could actually save time - for teens who have already lost touch with gramar anyhow.

Emoticon KeyPad! Who needs an antiquated alphabet to express emotions!


The Escape key is escaping! Is this clever? Not even slightly. Plus, he won't get far when you press him and breaks his little legs.



How to Have a Baby with an iPhone

Having a baby used to be about getting to hospital on time and finding the right pain relief.

Whether you choose that route or to ditch both those options and have a midwife-attended birth at home as we did, the technology in your pocket could deliver a more delightful time for all.

The role of a husband in child birth is always unclear so in the run up, I devoted some time to picking out the best apps for research, managing and capturing the intensity of labour and then tools for broadcasting the good news.

For a variety of reasons we chose to have an midwife-attended homebirth. I consider it to be a brave choice and one that has enhanced my marriage beyond any other single experience.

But enough about love and how great my wife is pushing out a 4.5kg tele-tubby, the whole thing went as smooth ad it did partly due to my iPhone.

Here are the apps I used in order of their appearance;

1. Baby Name apps
2. Stopwatch for contractions
3. Phone/SMS for contacting midwives/family/work
4. Photos for memories
5. Playlists for soothing tunes
6. Videos for shock & awe
7. Twitter for updates
8. Facebook/SMS/email for the announcement
9. Alarms for reminders

Notes on the use if these apps during labour;

1. Baby Name apps — we used four in all. Some were good for checking meanings, origins and others popularity. We developed a rule that anything in the US top 100 was off limits. No Jayden or Jesus for us.

2. Twitter for updates — I sent one for novelty’s sake when my wife woke me at 3.30am. See pic.

3. Stopwatch for contractions — invaluable. The native app has a lap timer enabling me to watch length of the surges and the time between them (see pic)

4. Phone/SMS for contacting midwives/family/work — I had promised my fill in that I would inform her when things got real. I cc’ed the staff set up to do my tweeting and my youtubes too. (no joke!)
5. Photos for memories — From lving room couch to floor to hot shower to soothing bath, the phone’s quick start-up camera meant I could get a few timely shots of different parts of labour without leaving the action.
6. Playlists for soothing tunes — With tracks chosen weeks before (our baby was a fortnight overdue) we hit play on my wife’s birth tunes playlist of mostly gentle female singer-songwriters. I wish we had chosen three times more songs as the long labour meant there was much repetition. See pic.

7. Videos for shock & awe — Yuk. Who videos a birth? Well not me, until one midwife said ‘you can always delete it but you won’t get the chance to film it again!’ I agreed to capture bubba’s first moment on mum’s chest. Very glad I did. It was the biggest sense of relief ever.
8. Facebook/SMS/email for the announcement — See pic.

9. Alarms for reminders — With wifey on some recovery treatments and herbal remedies in the hours and days following the birth, a few clicks and I have alerts set up to keep her popping pills and downing potions on schedule.

Despite the valuable contribution of my iPhone during the birth we chose against naming our child Apple.

Catch a photo of Darcy as he is on my wallpaper below.

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