Bio of eMusic CEO Danny Stein

•June 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This is just FYI.  (Note to everyone: the next expansive download service for smaller labels needs to be run by a manager with a background in promoting independent music rather than the president of an investment firm.)

From his corporate bio:

A serial entrepreneur, Daniel Stein is president of JDS Capital Management, Inc., an investment firm based in New York that invests in private, public and distressed debt and equity. He is CEO of Dimensional Associates, the operating company that manages the private equity investments made by JDS. Dimensional owns a variety of digital media assets, including eMusic, The Orchard and Qwikker Technology, LLC. Stein is also currently Chairman and CEO of eMusic, a role he resumed in 2008 after having held it from 2003 to 2005 when Dimensional Associates acquired eMusic from Vivendi Universal’s VUNet USA.

In 2002, Stein was CEO of TTR Technologies, a copy protection technology company, whose assets were sold to Macrovision (NASDAQ:MVSN). Stein was president of Javu Technologies from 2000-2001. Javu licenses software and services to corporations that store, manage, deliver or repurpose video assets. Prior to joining Javu, Stein was president, chief operating officer and director of the Wedding List Company from 1999-2000, an Internet company with retail outlets specializing in the wedding gift and registry business. The Wedding List was sold to Martha Stewart/Omnimedia in 2001.

In 1994, Stein founded Burly Bear Network, a company providing cable programming and online services to college students. From inception to 1999, Burly Bear became the largest college cable television network and online service, servicing eight million households throughout the country. Burly Bear was sold in 1997 to Lorne Michaels, owner of Broadway Video and creator and producer of Saturday Night Live. From 1992-1993 Stein worked in the executive-training program at retailer Lechters Housewares. Stein graduated from Cornell University in 1992.

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eMusic Sells Out in July

•June 5, 2009 • 7 Comments

eMusic, the premeire download site for small-label music, has decided to self-destruct next month.

I first became aware of the site’s policy change in a banner announcement on my eMusic homepage yesterday.  First of all, to me, a loyal customer for years, the change means that my $240/ year now only gets about half the downloads/month that it used to (my tracks go from 90 to 50).  And that’s pretty annoying, given that they’ve promised in writing that they wouldn’t change terms for older customers who have been with the company since its beginnings.

What’s a lot worse is the reason that this price-change is taking place:  an expansion of the eMusic catalog to include music from labels like SONY.  Had this price adjustment been made to expand the indie-label catalog, I really wouldn’t be complaining.  This is a business after all, and the numbers have to work out.  But it is truly insulting to have the CEO write an open letter that pretends this move a win-win for everyone when, in actuality, they are doubly screwing-over their long-time customers who already own Springsteen albums in other formats (and who therefore don’t care about this expansion).

Why would this site, which for years has relied on loyal long-time customers such as myself, make a move like this?  I seriously have no idea.  This has got to be one of the dumbest business decisions I’ve ever witnessed.  There is an all-out revolt going on at the blog site with the open letter (you really should check it out).  Please add your comments to the open letter blog if this means anything to you … I’m sure the agreements with these labels have already been completed, but our words are still the best chance we have at a reversal.

If things move forward, I’ll leave eMusic and take my money with me.  For the same price, I’ll be able to buy two more shiny new vinyl albums directly from the labels every month, and many will come with free digital downloads.

Harvey Milk, Mt. St. Mtn.

•May 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

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After an irresponsibly long hiatus, its time to get back on track with a quick review of last night’s Bottle Tree show.  We arrived late due to an impromptu Assault on Precinct 13 viewing party, so I didn’t catch the first band of the evening.

Second up, Mt. St. Mtn. from Birmingham, AL.  It’s kind of hard to describe the sound, except that its highly techical rock– borderline metal(?).  All members are clearly very talented musicians, but I’m not sure I “got it” as much as I would’ve liked.  I had trouble finding a focus.  That being said, I really enjoyed the experience of watching them play and I’m looking forward to checking them out again.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the onslaught of complexity.  Whatever, they’re great.  Check them out as soon as you can.

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Harvey Milk was the much-anticipated headliner for the night.  For anyone who hasn’t heard this band, they’re basically the heaviest thing you can imagine.  They’re best known for sludgey, low-end rumbling sounds … droney guitar and bass, wailing vocals, sparse percussion.  And that’s how they started off the night.  Kyle thinks they were playing their already slow music at about 70% speed of the recordings and I don’t think that’s far-off.  Unfortunately, some folks at the show didn’t have the patience for this sort of artsy doom and cut out early. Well, those people really missed out because Harvey Milk played like a freight train leaving a loading depot–they started off at slow and methodical, but accellerated into what would eventually become a Zepplin/ZZ Top-inspired rock show that was loud, fast-paced and unstoppable.  They were literally stretching during the early part of the evening (see pic) … playing their more deliberate numbers early before letting it loose.  So, so good.  And I’ll be honest, it took me many listens of this band to really get into the sound; it was kind of a challenge.  But since it clicked, I’ve really gotten into it.  And their live show is NOT to be missed.  Lucky for you, they’re coming back through Birmingham in July with Torch.  Don’t miss it!

Noteworthy Listens

•February 5, 2009 • 4 Comments

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I need to to this more often, psoas not to accidentally leave anything out.

First off, best downloading service I’ve run into yet:  eMusic.  I don’t know what their pricing scheme is these days, but I got grandfathered in on a great deal early on.  Basically the way it works is you get a certain number of “downloads” (e.g. songs) each month.  They don’t carry over so you have to keep up.  The selection is not going to be as broad as iTunes, especially with the major label stuff.  But in terms of selection of smaller label music from the past 20 years of so, Emusic can’t be beaten.  Plus, it’s all DRM-free mp3 format, so you don’t have to bother with all of Apple’s AAC copyright racket.  I recommend it.

Okay, lets get to it.  Hover over the “sample track” note and you should find a hyperlink to listen to the music (wordpress wants to charge me to upload mp3s … ugh, i refuse to pay for that).  I’m going to keep the descriptions short, since listening is worth way more than my enthusiastic descriptions.  Here’s the best of what I’ve heard lately, in no particular order.

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Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord, 2008 )

sample track: Rise to Glory

Repetitive, slow and sexy.  Earth played Bottletree last year and I somehow missed the show … can’t wait for their return.  Check out this great performance here on APT’s We have Signal.  Incredible.

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Sleep – Jerusalem (Music Cartel, 1999)

sample track:  Jerusalem Pt 4

Sleep made sludgy doom metal through the 90’s.  This is not the kind of music that I ever expected to enjoy, but I really have come to love this album.  “Jerusalem” is actually a slightly modified version of an earlier album “Dopesmoker”, which was rejected by the bands new big-shot label, London Records, in the mid-90’s.  Apparently Sleep took almost all of the six figures that the label fronted them, and spent it on two things:  pot and studio time (mostly the former).  What they produced was a mystical tribute to weed consumption, consisting largely of variants of the same riff for an hour.  The label was not pleased.  Eventually a smaller label released the album, this time called “Jerusalem” and broken in to 6 pieces.  Oh man, this stuff is soo soo good.  It took me a while to get into it, but once I got it, it became so enjoyable.  Slow, distorted guitars and drums.  Highly hipnotic.  Check it out–it might surprise you.  I picked up “Dopesmoker” on vinyl the other day … it was finally released in 2003.  Strangely enough, I prefer the second incarnation to the original.

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Swervedriver – Mezcal Head (A&M, 1993)

sample track:  For Seeking Heat

These guys are considered shoegaze pioneers, although I don’t really hear it in this album.  This is just great rock music.

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Dead Meadow – Feathers (Matador, 2005)

sample track:  At Her Open Door

Layered.  Pychodelic.  Melodic.  Heavy.  On recommendation from my good friend Pat over at the prison ship.  Totally delivers beginning to end.

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The New Year – The New Year (Touch and Go, 2008 )

Sample Track:  Folios

I thought about passing this album on to my grandparents because they love music and although this is “rock” music, it’s gotta be some of the most palatable, well-crafted guitar music I’ve heard in a while.  The Kadane brothers et al have done it again (their two previous albums in this outfit are also outstanding).  If you like this stuff, make sure to check out their previous band, Bedhead.  This was my favorite album of last year.

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Lil Wayne & DJ Drama – Dedication 2 Gangta Grillz

Sample Track:  This is What I Call Her

Wayne claims to be the best rapper alive … he’s definitely way up there.  Can’t say I’m too excited about his new rock album, which is supposed to drop in the next few months … the first release, “prom queen,” is undeniably bad.  But, whatever, I still support the dude.  This mix tape came out in 2006 and really showcases his skill since it lacks the requisite club-hoppers found on his major releases (see Carter III).

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Shellac – At Action Park (Touch and Go, 1994)

Sample Track:  My Black Ass

Simply the best punk-rock band out there.  This was the band’s first album, but they’ve made plenty more great music over the past 15 years.  The latest, Excellent Italian Greyhound, is effin’ brilliant and a little less abrasive than this early stuff.

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That’s all I got for now.  Any music recommendations?  Love to hear ’em…

ABNormal Distribution

•February 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last week’s Economist mag contained a killer special section on the inner-workings, failures, and future of modern finance.  This article on mathematical modeling of risk was particularly rad.  The highlight for me was this graph, which demonstrates a simple and common way that risk is modeled in regards to various investment vehicles …

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The author points out that the normal distribution (dark blue line) has and should continue to be used to model  simple classes of risk, like those associated with a sector of an equities market, a type of bond, etc.  However, more complex types of investment structures (for instance, the nightmarish mortgage-backed securities) cannot be modeled with a normal distribution, and this has now been proven by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

“…if the Dow Jones Industrial Average followed a normal distribution, it should have moved by more than 3.4% on 58 days between 1916 and 2003; in fact it did so 1,001 times. It should have moved by more than 4.5% on six days; it did so on 366. It should have moved by more than 7% only once in every 300,000 years; in the 20th century it did so 48 times.”

Looks like the normal distribution completely failed to reflect reality.  My favorite part is the mention that a former CFO from a major investment bank is on the record in 2007 as saying that they had seen 25 standard deviation movements in some markets for several days in a row!  So much for the “no one could have seen this coming” excuse.  They knew exactly what that meant.  Statistically, a shift that large should be a once in a millennium type of movement.  If each of those days is considered an independent event, then either the probabilistic laws of the universe were imploding or the model was complete garbage.

Mandelbrot basically found that the tails of the distribution need to be raised way above the normal (broken light blue line), suggesting a much higher-than-previously-thought probability of massive gains (see: 2006-7) or catastrophic loss (2008).

If the risk had been properly modeled, then maybe this crisis wouldn’t be quite so severe.  Unfortunately, there was money to be made …

Cyprien Gaillard

•February 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I was trying to find Gaillard’s video work “Desniansky Raion” (2007) on the youtuber … this piece was about the best I could do.  I kind of like the music, but my horror/fascination at this footage of organized fighting in St. Petersburg is the real draw.  Anyone know anything else about this?  Sounds terrifying.

Wrecked.

•January 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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More posts soon, I swear.