Beck's Sheet-Music Gambit And Six Other Alternatives To Just Putting Out A Boring Old Record

This week neo-pop superstar Beck announced the release of Song Reader, a new "album" in the form of sheet music. The finished product offers nothing to listen to; just 20 sheets of notation collected in a "lavishly produced hardcover carrying case," according to the publishing outfit McSweeney's, which is working with Mr. Hansen to release this artful experiment.

People praised the project; others derided it—although not surprisingly, many musicians leaned toward the former. As the Beauty Pill's Chad Clark put it: "There is zero incentive to release music conventionally right now. It just feels dumb/masochistic. Might as well try shit. Why not?"

A solid point, and one that many of Clark's musical brethren have taken well to heart. Here are some of the more innovative ways that artists are trying to get people to pony up for music these days.

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Six Reasons Why Your Phone Is Probably Ruining Your Concert Experience (And Everyone Else's)

A middle-school orchestra takes a stand.
Two nights this week I trucked out to the Bell House to attend the Chickfactor 20th-anniversary shows, which honored the two-decade-old indiepop fanzine with performances by the likes of Versus, the Softies, and Small Factory. Pinned to some of the Bell House's walls was a sign asking the people in attendance to party like it was 1992—specifically, to cease using their cell phones in the concert hall.

I definitely violated this rule, because old habits die hard, especially when the enablers of those old habits are made of cool metal and in an easily accessible space. But I tried to at least abide by it 80% of the time, and I found myself enjoying the sets by the rip-roaring Versus, the pop maestro and Unrest/Cotton Candy/Teen-Beat leader Mark Robinson (who popped in for a two-song double-A-sided set of his band's classics), and the delicately gorgeous duo the Softies—all of whom are in the upper echelon of my personal musical pantheon—in a way that felt substantially different, and not just from the nostalgia pangs.

Perhaps it was the brainspace cleared out by not checking for text messages and at-replies regularly, but I had a lot of thoughts on why cell phones have pretty much ruined my show-going experience, and why they have probably ruined yours, too.

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Check out this hot new band! From 20 years ago!
Now that clones of the social-DJing service have started popping up around the Internet, and the service has started getting amounts of money that the musicians featured on it could only dream of for the most part, it's time to maybe take a slightly longer view at the service, or at least for its potential to have people discover new music.

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Google Music Beta-Testing Proceeding Just Fine, As Long As Users Aren't Interested In Actually Hearing Music

"Technologically speaking, then, Google Music--a streaming service users would access from Web-connected devices--appears close to being ready. However, the sources said the actual launch is being held up by the lack of one vital component. Music."
--Everybody's talking about the news that in-house testing of Google Music, the search-engine giant's attempt to enter the streaming-music space and allow users the always-sexy, if sorta amorphous, "cloud storage" option, has begun. But as Greg Sandoval of CNet notes, Google's still negotiating with all the major labels and big publishers to get the rights (read: pay money) so it can actually have music (like, say, the Pulsars' "Technology," as embedded above) stream through its service--a hitch that so many of these tech companies who are so enamored by their ability to create fancy doodads seem to forget about as they whip themselves into a "WE'RE GONNA CHANGE THE WORRRRLD!" frenzy. (Billboard notes that Sony and Universal are the alleged bottlenecks here.) This will all work out faster than you can say "Spotify launching in the U.S.," right? Oh, wait.

UPDATE: Beta invites are open now. A cute video about how all this will theoretically work--basically you upload things to Google's servers, then listen to music via the web and your Android-powered devices--is after the jump. "More time listening to music, and less time managing it," it claims. Huh! We'll see.

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