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Mico–Tomonori Kagaya (Part 1)

How many times have we wished that we could just read someone else’s mind, to understand what they cannot, or will not, verbally express to us? Human beings are curious creatures, eager to know and discover that which is currently—and maybe will always be—out of reach. Unfortunately, no innovator has stumbled upon a practical solution to human mindreading. But what if the clothing we wore could read our minds?

kagaya ears

Thanks to Japanese visionary Tomonori Kagaya, this is now an actual possibility. Neurowear, Kagaya’s Tokyo-based company, offers a line of innovative products designed to respond to the wearer’s emotions and thoughts. For example, one of Neurowear’s first innovations was a pair of novelty cat ears that would twitch according to the wearer’s mood.

Kagaya’s most recent and brilliant innovation is Mico, a pair of headphones that play music based on the wearer’s thoughts and emotions—an accessory that reads and responds to mental processes even before the wearer can express it himself. This introduces an entirely new level to musical discovery. How many times have we wished for just the right mix of melody, mood, and lyrical composition to match our current disposition? While we cannot always find that tune even in our perusal of the extensive musical collections that we have at our fingertips (e.g. Pandora, Spotify, Itunes, etc.), Mico is designed to find and introduce the perfect song to us, eliminating the need for painstaking search.


“If we don’t know the title, artist name, genre, then how can we find the song? We need another approach. Don’t go searching for music, let music find you – that must be a new experience. So we made Mico.” –Tomonori Kagaya

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Did the Internet Kill the Artist? Part Five

To finish out this blog series, I want to focus on how some people in the music industry have adapted to technology and changing consumer preferences. I was able to work with two of them last summer and saw firsthand the determination they have to remain profitable no matter how much change it requires. got off the ground in 2006 with Derek Webb’sMockingbird” full-length release. By offering the entire album for free digital download, over 80,000 copies were distributed over three months’ availability. These numbers are very high for an independent singer-songwriter, even one as influential as Derek Webb, and this relatively new take on sharing music helped propel him into the industry spotlight for some time. His music continues to sell well.

The idea behind NoiseTrade, in Derek Webb’s own words, is “Who needs peer-to-peer when you can have artist-to-fan?” By offering a platform for artists to give music to their fans, a relationship is built. In exchange for the download of a full album or just a song, fans are asked for their email address and zip code so that they can be added to a database, helping create touring success. A tweet, Facebook post or email is also requested from the fan to help boost online word-of-mouth about the download, creating a viral effect. Finally, an option to tip the artist provides a means for the fan to feel like they are more directly supporting the musician than going into Best Buy and paying at a cash register.

A number of successful artists in different genres are using NoiseTrade and having great success with it. I strongly recommend checking out their current offers and building a new playlist!



Thanks for following these blog posts…I hope that they’ve been informative and though-provoking. The challenge of any business is understanding how to remain competitive as technology and consumer preferences change over time, and the music industry is no different. I often tweet and RT articles and blogs on this subject, so follow me on Twitter @DanVanMatre.

Go support independent music!

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Did the Internet Kill the Artist? Part Three

Before getting into how the music industry should be responding to the technological changes in music distribution, particularly piracy, I want to discuss how consumers should be responding.

I think it’s fair to state that most people have either illegally shared music or obtained such music at least once. While this isn’t based on any research, I talk to a lot of people with different backgrounds, belief systems and bank accounts and nearly all of them have at least implied they’re okay with piracy in some or all situations. Piracy has become a common way of obtaining music without much discussion of ethics besides the fact that in most contexts, it is both illegal and undesirable by the creator. Here are some popular excuses for downloading illegally that I hear, and in some cases have used myself.

1.       “It’s just $12, and most of it doesn’t go to the artist.” While this is basically true, there is a danger to this approach. The problem with piracy isn’t just stealing a few dollars from an artist, it’s respecting the law regardless of whether we agree with it or not. Another $12 isn’t going to hurt most Americans, so why not just take the legal route?

2.       “The artist makes enough money.” This might be true if we’re talking about 50 Cent or Lady Gaga (although why would you want their music?), but to go back to my last point, it’s still illegal. Besides, a lot of people are also “stealing” songs from independent artists who are living paycheck to paycheck. Don’t do that.

3.       “I only download music from major label artists.” Insert any qualifier. It may also be bands that you don’t actually care much about, but would like to have in your library, just in case. While supporting independent and local musicians is a great practice, be careful not to fall down a slippery slope.

4.       “I can’t afford to buy the CD.” If you can’t afford to buy a car, should you steal one? Yeah, I know, it’s different. But what about the principle of it…should this ever be an excuse for illegally obtaining something?

Is piracy okay? Is it really stealing? Why and who from? These are questions we have to answer for ourselves, but hopefully these points will get you thinking. I’m not going to pretend that I know the answers to these or that I’ve never engaged in piracy, but nobody should ever engage in a behavior without understanding its implications, which is one of the goals of this blog series. Ask yourself what you believe about general moral and ethical principles such as the Ten Commandments, what you believe about respecting federal laws and copyright protections and what it means to support a person’s creative property. I believe that one should be consistent in their beliefs and actions, not just because people are looking or one can be arrested, but because it’s what one believes.

Tough stuff! Next week I’ve got some great input from people with different perspectives in the music industry on how they should respond to these issues.

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YouTube: The utilmate coffeehouse

The internet is all about creating niche markets, and the music industry  is no exception.  Before the popularity of YouTube and MySpace it was extremely difficult for bands to get discovered.  They would have to travel the country playing at coffee houses and opening for more well-known bands.  Now with the click of a button musicians can be discovered and rise to stardom.  Musician can record songs and post them on YouTube if the public like what they hear they will quickly become well known which helps record companies discover them.

Musician like Justin Bieber and Sandi Thom have been discovered on YouTube.  YouTube allowed these musicians to go right to their customers.  They can go around the record companies and give their music right to the people. Anyone with a good voice and camcorder has a shot to win.  YouTube has leveled the playing field.

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I'll Scratch your back if you Scratch mine.

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The first time I heard of Pandora, it sounded like a really cool idea for musicians, listeners, and Pandora.  I figured that since you can’t request a specific song to be played the artists on the site would have to pay a small fee because Pandora would drive more listeners to buy their CDs.  One day I left my dorm room and the music had stopped, and to my surprise, Pandora had asked if I was still listening.  The message said that they had to pay for every song they played, so it asked if I would turn off the music if I left the room.

At first I thought that this seemed a little backwards since Pandora would increase the sales of these artists.  But then this message reminded me of copyright laws, which I believe are very important.  As a web-based radio station, Pandora’s royalties are pretty high and may drive Pandora out of business, and thus record companies might lose sales. 

What makes the most sense to me is for the music labels to allow Pandora to play their music for free.  This would allow Pandora to make money off of advertising, and record companies to make more money by directing more people to buy their CD’s.

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