Archive for April, 2013

Lana Del Rey - "Summer Wine" Video

Lana Del Rey has never downplayed her affection for Nancy Sinatra — you might remember she called herself a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” back in the “Video Games” days. Now, out of nowhere, she’s covering a song Nancy made famous with Lee Hazelwood in 1967. LDR’s “Summer Wine” clip comes only weeks after her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” and like that cover, this one is pretty damn faithful to the original. Also like that song, this one has no compelling reason to exist, but doesn’t make the world a more horrible place, either. The vid itself is filmed on a Super 8 (or some equivalent vintage equipment), and like everything else in the visual world today, looks like an Instagram product. Check it out.

MOJO magazine, delve into the prehistory of electronic music’s greatest group, to deliver the story of Kraftwerk that the curator of their official legend, the genius that is Ralf Hütter, would rather you didn’t read. With input from early collaborators, including Eberhard Krahnemann and Michael Rother, it starts in the ruins of post-war Germany, takes in “the best Beatles covers band in the whole of Westphalia” and ends with the revelation of Autobahn. The following video playlist tracks their rise – with five tracks representing their kosmische-krautrock infancy – and beyond, to their early-’80s pop regency and enduring status as icons of aheadness.

1. Ruckzuck, 1970

Live on German TV, with Kraftwerk modelling their groovy, pre-canonical sound – as hymned in the latest MOJO – as Ralf rocks a less-pervy-Irmin-Schmidt “look”. Some of Der Kinder look pretty spooked, while others appear to suspect some kind of art-scam is being perpetrated. Great free jazz apocalypse ending.

2. Truckstop Gondolero, 1971

With Neu!‘s Michael Rother (guitar) and Klaus Dinger (drums) providing motorik undercarriage and Florian looking a bit Village People in a pair of dungarees. And Ralf on sabbatical.

3. Koln II, 1971

As above, but more cosmic. An idea of what a free-er, more Krautrocky Kraftwerk might have sounded like.

4. Kakteen, Wüste, Sonne, 1971

As above, but lumpier – in a good way. Dinger has the dungarees this time, and he’s going bananas.

5. French documentary, 1973

A special on Kosmische Music featuring Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, bizarrely introduced from a building site soundtracked by Little Walter. Nice footage between 1.50 and 6.00.

6. Tanzmusic, 1973

Dig the Werk’s Open University lecturer chic, Wolfgang’s moustache and the earliest evidence we can find of the neon signs.

7. Autobahn, 1975

Tomorrow’s World’s Raymond Baxter introduces the future of music. Kraftwerk promise jackets with electronic lapels that can be played by touch. But here’s another, excellent live version of Autobahn, with a starring role for the home-made drums.

8. Radioactivity

Kraftwerk’s techno chic grows in sophistication, although the silver-gloved robot hands are a tad more Cyberman than Deep Blue. Still, what a heartbreaking tune.

9. The Robots


Delightfully camp promo, which sparked LED tie envy in my Middle School. Karl Bartos says he never really loved this look, the madman.

10. Neon Lights, 1978

A song of such melodic perfection that covers by Simple Minds, U2 and, er… Love Tractor cannot besmirch it.

11. Showroom Dummies

Hilariously literal promo for the Trans Europe Express tune. Best bit: “We look around… and change our pose”, but is that Florian flicking us the vees?

12. Pocket Calculator, Live in Utrecht 1981

Groinal thrusting from the quartet, mocking the edge-of-stage posturing of guitar rock groups.

13. And lest we forget, from the movie, Breakin’

“Turbo” does his broom dance to Francois Kevorkian‘s mix of Tour De France. Launched a thousand provincial shopping centre breaking “crews” of dubious skill.

14. The Telephone Call

See, Electric Café wasn’t so bad at all. Although some kind of post-apocalyptic techno-meltdown had clearly occurred since Computer Love. Bakelite phones? Circular dialing? Manual typewriters?

15. Kraftwerk documentary, 2001

Flür, Bartos and Stockhausen expound on the weird world of ‘Werk. No Ralf or Florian, obviously.

16. Duran Duran – Showroom Dummies, 2007

Possibly the worst thing you’ve ever, EVER seen.

17. Numbers/Computer World, 2012

And here they are, bang up to date at their MOMO, New York residency in June this year, with the song that predicted everything. Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht!


Selected and annotated by Danny Eccleston

Twitter's new music app / Twitpic
Twitter‘s new music app / Twitpic

The micro-news behemoth has jumped into the music game. So, what’s in it for you?

Today, Twitter finally rolled out its new music app, which is called Twitter #music. The company’s ambitions are predictably grand, calling the app “a new service that will change the way people find music, based on Twitter.” As a streaming songs and discovery service, they are entering a crowded and growing field, one that leaves users with various similar options. Let’s try and figure out how Twitter #music differentiates itself.

How does Twitter #music work?

Twitter #music has five tabs for exploration: “Popular,” which collects music that is trending on Twitter; “Emerging,” which promises “hidden talent found in the tweets”; “Suggested,” which uses an algorithm to offer music it thinks you might be into; “#NowPlaying,” which displays music currently tweeted by people you follow, using that hashtag; and “Me,” which simply displays music by artists you follow. Clicking on a tile will play an artist’s song, and offer you more music to listen to, either by that specific artist or other similar artists.

Where can I get Twitter #music?

Twitter music is currently available on iPhones via the App Store, and mobile is where Twitter is really hoping their music service explodes. But there is also a web-based app, available Twitter says that an Android app will be rolled out soon.

How is Twitter #music different than something like Spotify?

Twitter is smartly trying to put the information it collects from its massive database of 200 million users to work, and for that reason Twitter #music is more discovery-based than Spotify or Rdio. Twitter wants you to click around its app and discover new artists and songs — be it a song so popular you feel stupid for not knowing it, or an artist you’ve never heard of — which will allow it to hone its suggestions to you and users like you. It wants you to get lost in the app even if you weren’t searching for anything specific.

Is Twitter #music in competition with other services?

Listen to new song from Black Sabbath here:

Not yet, at least. Twitter #music plays previews of songs via iTunes as its default setting, but Spotify or Rdio users can link with Twitter #music to hear full tracks through those services in the Twitter #music app.

Will Twitter #music actually help me discover new music?

That depends. It’s a service that is primarily geared to the casual listener, so music nerds may find less worth in it. It suggests artists like Fabolous, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill — major rap stars who have likely been heard by anyone with an interest in rap music — but also artists like Kilo Kish, Kano, and Little Dragon, who are not exactly underground, but at least a bit more unknown. Absolutely voracious music fans will probably still find themselves plumbing the depths of something like Spotify.

Which of Twitter #music’s features holds the most potential?

Either the “Suggested” or “Emerging” tabs, which do the most to expose users to artists or songs they may not have heard. Both have their biases — “Suggested” could go much deeper than it does, while “Emerging” currently offers mostly white people with guitars, even ones like the Appleseed Cast and the Pastels, who have long since “emerged” from wherever they came.

What’s wrong with the other features?

Well, the “Popular” tab barely varies from something like the popular charts on iTunes or Spotify, though acts such as Azealia Banks, Robin Thicke, and Little Mix manage to slip in amongst the usual suspects Pitbull and Taylor Swift. Otherwise, Twitter #music is highly dependent on active engagement with musicians on Twitter by you and the people you follow. If you only follow 20 musicians on Twitter or don’t have friends that actively tweet about what they’re listening to, the “#NowPlaying” and “Me” tabs will be very limited.

If I follow a musician on Twitter, why do I need an app to discover their music?

This is probably the most obvious piece of evidence that reveals Twitter #music as an app for Twitter users that aren’t voracious music listeners. If you follow a musician on Twitter and keep up with their work, or are aware of artists similar to those you follow on Twitter, than the app will hold less appeal to you than to others.

Does Twitter #music have potential?

Sure. If musicians begin to release music consistently via tweets, the “Me” tab could become a useful clearinghouse for new music you want to check for. The “Popular” tab also does attempt to quantify exactly which artists are the most popular on Twitter, which beforehand was a process that was decidedly more arduous. Also, as more people use Twitter #music, the app’s algorithms will improve.

written by Jordan Sargent. 


Kraftwerk’s fusion of art, beats and electronics has become a template copied by musicians everywhere. Now they plan to take London’s Tate Modern by storm

Kraftwerk 1981 tour

Kraftwerk on their 1981 UK tour. Photograph: Fraser Gray/Rex Features

Back in September 1975, a band played in Britain for the very first time. On stages from Croydon to Bath, from Southport to Yeovil, they wore smart suits and ties and played peculiar instruments. There was no clamour for tickets, no feverish press. This review of a half-full show in Newcastle was par for the course: “Spineless, emotionless sound with no variety, less taste… [and] damn little attempt to pull off anything experimental, artistically satisfying or new,” wrote Keith Ging in theMelody Maker. “For God’s sake,” he railed, “keep the robots out of music.”

Here in the 21st century, Kraftwerk‘s forthcoming gigs at Tate Modernare the hottest tickets around. Back in December, demand for themcrashed the gallery’s website; angry fans who missed out stormed the venue, while thousands raged online. For eight nights in February, Ralf Hütter, Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz and Falk Grieffenhagen will play each Kraftwerk album since 1974 in turn – from their fourth, Autobahn, to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks – with 3D film versions of their iconic visuals. They will wear neoprene neon suits and stand behind expensive technology. They did the same to rapturous reception in 2012 at New York’s Moma and at the Kunstammlung in their hometown, Düsseldorf, last month.

These are art-event spectaculars to which everyone wants entry because no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture. Kraftwerk’s beats laid the foundations for club music: for hip-hop, synth-pop, techno and house. The sounds they invented have beensampled by hundreds of artists, from Madonna to R.E.M, from Missy Elliott to Fergie. Coldplay and Jay-Z have had hits with their elegant melodies and their image has influenced David Bowie, Daft Punk and Kanye West. We also now live in the kind of world their future-obsessed lyrics predicted: we find Computer Love online, models smile from time to time and Europe Endless exists.

For hardcore followers, the fact that this band named after a power station are playing in one is also irresistible. The band that remaining founder member Hütter always called musikarbeiter – musical workers – will be creating energy themselves, in their own Turbine Hall.

Kraftwerk’s story begins in 1968, in Düsseldorf, a city closer to Belgium, Holland and France than the Iron Curtain. Two young men born just after the end of the second world war meet on a music improvisation course. Ralf Hütter plays keyboards, Florian Schneider the flute; they perform their first gig at the city’s Cream Cheese Club. Playing in Organisation, a progressive, free-form group, they become obsessed with synthesisers, which are newly invented. In 1970, the wealthy Schneider buys one. The same year, they see Gilbert and George in the city’s Kunsthalle: two men wearing suits and ties, claiming to bring art into everyday life. The same year, Hütter and Schneider start bringing everyday life into art and form Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk’s first three albums do not feature in the Tate gigs, but they hold clues to the aesthetic roots of the band. The cover art for Kraftwerk(1970) and Kraftwerk 2 (1972) have pop art traffic cones on their sleeves, suggesting a more industrial take on Warhol’s Velvet Underground banana. Tracks have mechanical titles, such as Spule 4 (Inductor 4) and Wellelange (Wavelength), and then come the songs about Germany. Some, such as Heimatklänge (The Bells of Home), are gentler, but Von Himmel Hoch (From Heaven Above) is provocative. Named after a carol by Bach, it features synthesisers replicating the sounds of warplanes and bombs. It also reveals Kraftwerk trying to make a new national music, rooted in everyday sounds, made by machines that offered a new future.

Next came Autobahn, named after another German invention. In spring 1975, a radio edit of its 22-minute title track became an international hit. Its synthesisers mimicked fast traffic and car horns; its celebration of driving clicked with western audiences. Soon after, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos joined the band on electronic percussion, as did the new smart aesthetic on stage. Electronic music suddenly had its John, Paul, George and Ringo, although they looked and sounded very different to the rock bands of the time.

It’s hard to appreciate how alien Kraftwerk appeared back then. The first advert for Autobahn in the black-and-white NME looks particularly shocking: a bright blue sign from the future, under a feature on country music divorcees. At the time, the song was dismissed as a gimmick by the press – but not by fans who made it a No 11 hit.

Then came the xenophobia. The war was still a recent, scorching cultural memory, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that a Barry Miles live review was headlined “This is what your fathers fought to save you from”. The NMEreprinted a feature by US critic Lester Bangs, in which Hütter was asked if Kraftwerk was “the final solution” for music. The image with the piece was even more tasteless: a press shot superimposed on to a Nuremberg rally.

It’s not that Kraftwerk didn’t flirt with sinister ideas. Radio-Activity (1975) began with the sound of a geiger counter, evoking nuclear dread. But their music also played with double meanings and humour. Ohm Sweet Ohm (say it out loud) took central European pop into the realm of technology, while Radio-Activity‘s title track hinted at the utopian possibilities of the wireless. (It also says much that the 1991 remix of this song mentioned power stations Sellafield and Chernobyl in negative terms.) Throughout the melodies and methods, their vocal lines and lyrics, there is a touching innocence and simplicity.

Hütter often namechecked the Bauhaus movement, and liked its internationalism. The band’s songs started to feature words in different languages; they got inspired by James Brown’s funk, and even punk (years later, Hütter admitted that the start of 1977’s Showroom Dummies – “eins-zwei-drei-vier” – came from The Ramones’ “one-two-three-four”). Autobahn’s chorus The (“wi’r fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n”) echoed The Beach Boys’ Fun, Fun, Fun. But a statement of Hütter’s from 1979, pinned to a noticeboard in Chris Petit’s cult film Radio On, reveals how Kraftwerk linked the past and the present. “We are the children of Fritz Lang and Werner von Braun,” it began, naming the film director who fled the Nazis, and the scientist who made the V-2 bomb and the Apollo mission rocket, Saturn V. “We are the link between the 20s and 80s. All change in society passes through a sympathetic collaboration with tape recorders, synthesisers and telephones. Our reality is an electronic reality.”

This forward-thinking spirit had already started to infect pop. David Bowie adored Kraftwerk, writing the track V-2 Schneider for his 1977 albumHeroes (the band would namecheck him back on Trans-Europe Express). African American DJs also found an odd kinship with the Germans. Keen to find a new musical language, they were familiar with the urban sounds Kraftwerk were using; 1978’s The Robots became particularly influential on the dancefloor, and in the burgeoning B-Boy and breakdancing scenes. Afrika Bambaataa fused the melody of Trans-Europe Express and the rhythm of 1981’s Numbers to create Planet Rock, one of hip-hop’s pioneering tracks. Trailblazing electro group Cybotron used a loop from 1977’s Hall of Mirrors; its founder, Juan Atkins, would create techno, and from there came modern dance culture.

Back in Britain, New Order would sample Uranium on Blue Monday, while synth-pop inspired by albums such as 1978’s The Man-Machine would set the decade’s pop mood. Kraftwerk would even get a No 1 single, The Model, in February 1982, four years after its first release. It was if the world was finally catching up with them.

Ever since, using a Kraftwerk sample has been shorthand for credibility. Jay-Z’s 1997 Sunshine sampled The Man-Machine, while Coldplay’s Talk made a melody from Computer World into a stadium-rock riff. Music producer DJ Food, a collector of Kraftwerk cover versions, says the band’s influence can be heard today among the micro-genres that have evolved from dance and R&B. “Hear dubstep producer 6Blocc’s cheeky reinterpretation of Numbers/Computer World 2 disguised under the title,Digits. Or across the pond, juke and footstep producers such as Traxman have shoe-horned Kraftwerk samples into songs such as The Robot. Kraftwerk have been part of the lineage of dance culture since the late 70s – approaching it without them is impossible.”

Once the world started to catch up, Kraftwerk started to slow down. They have only released four studio records since 1983: 1986’s disappointingElectric Cafe, 1991 remix album The Mix, Expo 2000, a single for a German world trade fair, and 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks. The line-up has also changed radically. Flür and Bartos both left in the late 1980s, Schneider in 2009. Hütter has said little about his co-founder’s departure, except that Schneider hadn’t really been involved for years. The mystery continues.

What Kraftwerk are about now is the souped-up live experience. Playing in galleries, they align themselves with art over pop. Catherine Wood, curator of contemporary art and performance at Tate Modern, has had several meetings with Hütter. He approached her about his idea for the shows in 2010, through German gallery owner Monika Sprüth. Wood was then flown out to Düsseldorf, where she visited Kraftwerk’s Kling Klang studios. This notoriously mysterious space, where outside contact has always been forbidden, even by telephone, was moved 10 miles outside the city four years ago. Inside, Wood found an impeccable, minimalist office and a huge studio, with four robots against a wall, lit in glowing green lights.

“I was struck by how clever Hütter was,” says Wood. “He talked about the seductive nature of music and how it does something to people that art doesn’t do. He also talked about how music creates gods, but art doesn’t.” He seemed in awe of that process, she says, but not affected by it. He then showed her some 3D films for the show, developed by Emil Schult, who has worked on their cover art since the 70s.

The odd thing, Wood continues, is that Tate Modern is not really connected to the music world. In a very practical way, Kraftwerk aren’t either – they rarely do interviews, don’t do TV and never hang out at parties. “But so much modern art is about the machine replacing the human,” she says, such as the work of Gerhard Richter, who recently had a retrospective there. Interestingly, Richter taught in Düsseldorf in the late 60s and early 70s: one of his pupils was Emil Schult.

Hütter also took a tour of the Tate last year, Wood adds. It was a busy day and he made no effort to hide. Nobody ran to shake his hand or even noticed his presence, in huge contrast to the Turbine Hall scenes in December. It’s because Kraftwerk is about much more than one man, or four men. The robots have become part of our music and we have, very happily, become part of their machine.


Musician; father of techno
I liked Kraftwerk from the first time I heard them on Showroom Dummies; the first single I bought was The Robots. Their music was totally synthesised, really pure, very melodic and very funky, and that was hard to do with early electronics. They also listened to James Brown a lot, and you can hear that. I was inspired by the precision and the tightness of their sound… they were a cog that changed the direction of things. Without them, electronic music would be totally different. There probably wouldn’t even be dance music. 

Read more about how Kraftwerk legacy remains here:


written by jude rogers for


It’s Tribeca time again as the film fest kicks off tomorrow in typical New York fashion with The National rock-doc Mistaken for Strangers.

Ryland Aldrich, the festival editor, wrote for that at that film, the other galas, and the midnight lineup yesterday — and today we turn our attention to the documentary and narrative competitions. The documentary competition specifically has become a real focus for Tribeca in recent years. Here are a few films in each of those sections that caught our eye. Read more about the festival here:

World Documentary Competition
Prolific behind-the-scenes documentarian Yves Montmayeur takes a look at the man, the myth, the legend, and the twitter account of director Michael Haneke.

Based on a book by Jon Savage and narrated by Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer and Jessie Usher, director Matt Wolf’s documentary examines the very notion of an age existing between childhood and life as an adult.

Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar’s documentary looks at modern day Robin Hoods who put themselves at great risk by robbing electricity from paying customers to provide it to those too poor for power.

Sean Dunne’s feature directorial debut is this look at the OxyContin abuse epidemic gripping the small town of Oceana, West Virginia. The film is scored by indie folk band Deer Tick.

Docu editor Alex Meiller’s (Capitalism: A Love Story) directorial debut is this enthralling-looking docu about Timor-Leste covert documentarian-turned-activist Kirsty Sword Gusmão.

Rachel Boynton (Our Brand is Crisis) takes a look at the huge personal costs of big oil doing business in West Africa in her latest docu, executive produced by Brad Pitt

Veteran docu cinematographer Dan Krauss reports firsthand accounts of battlefield from the US soldiers accused of gratuitous killings of Afghan civilians.

World Narrative Competition

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon star in this Florida-set domestic poverty drama from Laurie Collyer, director of Sundance 2006 awards title Sherrybaby.

Arvin Chen‘s follow-up to Au Revoir Taipei takes another crack at the Taiwanese romantic comedy genre with this multi-threaded Berlin-premiering narrative.

Indie editor Lance Edmands’s (Tiny Furniture, Nobody Walks) feature directorial debut is this small town drama starring Amy Morton, John Slattery, Louisa Krause, Emily Meade, Margo Martindale, and Adam Driver.

This rural Laos-set adventure from Aussie director Kim Mordaunt looks to be all kinds of fun.

There may not be a lot of competition, but it is completely fair to call Hisham Zaman‘s border crossing adventure the most interesting sounding Kurdish language Norwegian-German co-production this year.

My quick pitch for Felix Van Groeningen’s follow-up to Cannes ’09 title The Misfortunates is a Flemish Blue Valentine involving a couple who are obsessed with American country/western living.


Your home’s tunes controlled by a wave of the hand or a voice command? It could happen, and the big-thinking Swede believes his music service could be the soundtrack to that very plugged-in vision.

Spotify’s Daniel Ek

(Credit: Greg Sandoval)

AUSTIN, Texas–Daniel Ek was waving his arms in the air, as if molding invisible clay. He swiped his right hand karate-chop style, made a big loop, and then grabbed an imaginary dial with his left and twisted his fist.

Ek, you see, was talking about the future, Paul Sloan wrote In this not-so-far-off future, maybe a decade from now, we’re all connected, everywhere, all the time — perhaps via Google Glass, perhaps via sensors built into our clothes, or through other wearable computing devices. Our touch-screen life will require no touching whatsoever, as we control what we’re listening to or seeing through hand motions or simply by talking. And we’ll experience it all in 3D.

“Actually, I don’t want the string section,” said Ek, grabbing the invisible song with his left hand. “I’ll just kill that.”

Ek’s role in this all this? He wants Spotify, the company he co-founded and leads, to provide the soundtrack. It’s tall talk, for sure. Yet it’s hard to dismiss Ek’s optimism. He’s already defied the odds, leading Spotify further than any digital music company with the exception of Pandora. More importantly, with 24 million active users, 6 million of whom pay to subscribe, and a speedy growth rate, Spotify has become the big music label’s second largest digital revenue source behind Apple. The on-demand, streaming model is the fastest-growing part of the beaten-down music industry — creating an entirely new revenue stream to boot — and, for now, Ek is leading the charge.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn)

“He’s one of the few guys that picked up on the vision and ran with it,” said David Kusuk, a digital music consultant who co-wrote the 2005 book “The Future of Music,” predicting the shift to the access anywhere model, or what he calls, “music as water.” “I give Ek credit for having the guts to try it and really to stick his neck out there.”

I met with Ek, who is 30, at last month’s SXSW festival in Austin, where Spotify rented a small house on the east side of town and painted it Spotify green. A parade of musicians — rapperAngel Haze and singer-songwriter Tom Odell among them — played in the back yard. Ek held meetings at a picnic table and soaked in the scene. He wore the same beige Gibson T-shirt two days running, jokingly blamed the music labels negotiations for his baldness, and apologized for his dark sunglasses even though we sat in the shade. (Very sensitive, very blue eyes.)

Angel Haze performing at the Spotify House(Credit: Spotify)

Ek knows, of course, that he has a long way to go, and that it’s still way too early to claim victory. He comes across as modest, yet he’s hardly lacking for confidence. He remains undeterred by the graveyard of digital music startups, and by suggestions that Google or Appleor Amazon, all gunning for his business, could crush him.

Put simply, he said, “I’m more tenacious than most.”

A Commodore, a guitar, and a vision
Fortunately, Ek was also naive when it came to thinking the major music labels would eagerly embrace his plan to make a legal version of Napster.

At 16, he applied for a job at Google, but was turned down because the company required a degree. Eventually, he enrolled at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, but, discovering he didn’t like math, he dropped out after just two months. He landed a contract gig for an ad network called Tradedoubler to build an analytics tool.

Martin Lorentzon, Spotify co-founder and chairman(Credit: Spotify)

That stint paid off: Tradedoubler paid him $1 million for the rights to what he had built, and he made another $1 million selling the patents. It also introduced Ek to his future Spotify co-founder, Martin Lorentzon — who, now 44, serves as Spotify’s chairman and Ek’s key sounding board. (The two take Steve Jobs-like walks daily when the always-traveling Ek is at headquarters in Stockholm.)

Ek was 23, rich, and unhappy. He’d flirted with the fast life — he picked up a Ferrari and a swank apartment in Stockholm — but he was unfulfilled. Ek dumped the car, retreated to a cabin, meditated, and played guitar, even toying with the idea of playing music full time. The result: a determination to combine his passion for music and tech.

Ek teamed up with Lorentzon, who was Tradedoubler’s chairman and far wealthier than Ek due to the company’s 2005 IPO. They holed up in Ek’s apartment, and built the product. It was modeled after iTunes, inspired by Napster, and packed with pirated music that they used as a demonstration to get licensing deals with the labels. That alone took two years — and that was just for European licenses so they could launch in Scandinavia, France, the U.K., and Spain.

The Spotify House at SXSW

(Credit: James Martin)

Just a year and half since the U.S launch, the labels are no longer worried that Spotify will eat into iTunes sales. Instead, label execs privately complain that Spotify isn’t growing fast enough, although it’s on track to pay rights holders $500 million this year alone — the same amount the company paid out in total since launching in 2008. The labels want Spotify to advertise more. The company last month launched its first-ever TV campaign and, just this morning, it rolled out an ad across the top of YouTube, which has become the go-to site for young people to listen to music. Music execs also want the company to strike partnerships with wireless carriers and Internet service providers to bundle the service, a strategy that fueled growth in Europe. The aim: to expand the “funnel,” which refers to the number of free users that Spotify has a chance to convert into paying customers.

“It’s so funny,” said Ek. “When we started off, it was the other way around. ‘We don’t want a big funnel because it might risk cannibalizing other sales.’ And now all they’re talking about is how we can grow faster. At least our goals are 100-percent aligned.”

“That is one of our biggest limiters to growth, the restriction that you can’t share any piece of content anywhere,” he said, talking about the all organizations that make buying music rights so complex. “You need collecting societies in every market and publishing deals in every market.” The result: Spotify now has rights deals with more than 50,000 entities.

And so Ek and his team are constantly trying to change an outdated system, to push the old guard to bend. In their arsenal: a growing mountain of data. That has been Spotify’s leverage along the way, and to hear Ek talk about it, data holds the key to working toward that soundtrack-for-every-moment that he envisions.

When Spotify was first negotiating with Warner Music Group for U.S. licenses, for instance, Warner wanted to restrict the amount of free music that people could access to three months, according to people involved with the negotiations. Spotify came back with data, culled from Scandinavia, that showed a lot of freeloaders become subscribers after four or five months. This was news to Warner, and it worked; they eventually settled on limitless, free access.

Spotify is now nearing a new deal with the labels to let it offer more free music on its mobile app. Why? Its data shows that many people are discovering Spotify on their phones, ignoring the desktop client entirely.

Mining the music
That’s all basic stuff, of course. But Ek said Spotify is collecting and analyzing more data related to music habits than any other company on the planet. Spotify is itself a platform, with companies like Blue NoteBillboard and Pitchfork creating apps that help people discover what they might want to hear, and sending rich streams of data to Spotify along the way. And while listeners can stream privately, Spotify is social by default; to date, its users have created and shared some 1.5 billion playlists, all of which generate even more types of data to parse and, Ek hopes, to lock in customers as more competitors enter the streaming fray.

“Our big problem is how do we make sense of what you want to listen to?” said Ek. “How do we make sense of 20 million songs? How do we make sense of what you want to hear when you wake up in the morning, when you go out on a Friday night? These are distinct moments in your life, and what we’re trying to do is make sense of all that, to make sense of that ocean of data.”

Data man: Spotify economist Will Page(Credit: Spotify)

That’s where Will Page comes in. Page, a London-based economist with long ties to the music industry, joined Spotify last fall. He spends his days deep in Spotify data, exploring all sorts of questions: What leads to hits on Spotify? Can activity on Spotify predict a mainstream hit? How much life do which playlists add to what songs? What exactly leads to virality? Why do older people listen to all 40 tracks of a particular compilation, where younger people listen to half that? And so on.

“When you think about it, we don’t just have unique data on every single stream on the service,” said Page, who stressed the data is based on unique identifiers and don’t reveal the person. “We also know where that stream was from — whether it was driven by Spotify or Facebook — and on top of that, you’ve got age, gender and location, and behavioral traits around playlists you’ve created or consumed. That’s far more unique than somewhere like YouTube.”

The trick is to merge what the data shows with the technology, something that is gradually happening. At last year’s Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, for example, attendees received a wristband with an RFID tag built in. Each time you visited a stage, you could check-in with a simple swipe at a hub. Then, when you fired up your Spotify account, it had new playlists based on the bands you saw at the festival. The whole effort was largely a marketing push, but it gives a glimpse of the tailored musical experience in action, and its something the folks at Spotify are now working on bringing to festivals the world over.

“That was a giant step in terms of connecting Spotify to live music,” said Page. “This can happen at other events, where you wake up and Spotify knows where you were last night.”

The shift to mobile also opens up all sorts of possibilities, particularly because Spotify can know your phone’s every step. One example: Ek said Spotify is working on software that would let you seamlessly switch what’s playing through your phone’s headphones to your home sound system the moment you walk through the front door. The idea is that your smartphone will recognize the home Wi-Fi signal, at which point it will ask you if you want to tap a button to change to the home mode.

Read more about Daniel Ek here:

Making this future possible, too, is what Ek calls the “platformization” of everything. This phenomenon lets Spotify easily build its service into devices. Spotify now comes baked into some Samsung Smart TVsRoku,Tivo, as well as in new Fords and Volvos. And Ek said the company is working on several more such initiatives to roll out this year.

Set-top boxes and smart autos are one thing; touchless screens and wearable computing another. Yet when you look at these steps — on the hardware front, and Spotify’s front — it’s easy to see them merging in ways that might even surprise Ek.

Already, that happened when his contractor was going through refurbishing options for his home in Stockholm. Think picking carpet and paint colors is hard? Try deciding which room needs programmable sensors built into which walls so that the lights and music around the home could be triggered by movement. Think of the applications: Walk into the living room, the music and lights turn on; leave for, say, more than 10 minutes, and they turn off.

Here’s the example presented to Ek. He could put motion sensors in the baby’s room, which would detect when the baby is asleep, at which point, the system would automatically dim the lights and start playing Barry White — the technician’s example, not Ek’s — for you and your wife in the other room. Then, when the baby wakes, the sensors cut the music and turn up the lights.

Ek isn’t going for that option, possibly because he’s both single and without a baby. He doesn’t yet know how he might build music into his house. But he holds this out as an example of where things are going.

“I’m not even suggesting that it’s a great idea,” Ek said. “We’re only in the beginning of figuring out all these kinds of moments.” Moments that, with the music labels and many publishers still in control of most of the world’s music, will rely as much on negotiations and corporate politics as algorithms and data.

national mistaken for strangers

Here’s the trailer for the new documentary about The NationalMistaken For Strangers, which premieres Wednesday, April 17th at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival (via Pitchfork).

The film was directed by Tom Berninger, brother to the band’s frontman Matt, and follows the Brooklyn outfit on their globe-trotting tour behind 2010′s High Violet.

“When my brother asked me along on tour as a roadie, I thought I might as well bring a camera to film the experience,” Tom explains in the film’s press release. “What started as a pretty modest tour documentary has, over the last two and a half years, grown into something much more personal, and hopefully more entertaining.”

The film’s premiere on Wednesday night will be followed by a special performance by the band. For more information, including ticketing, consult the festival’s official site.

Meanwhile, The National’s new album Trouble Will Find Me is due out May 21st via 4AD, and features Sufjan StevensSt. Vincent’s Annie Clark, and Sharon Van Etten, among others. Pre-order now.

Chi Cheng

Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, who has been in a semi-conscious state since a 2008 car accident, died early Saturday morning, his family announced. He was 42. In a statement posted on the fan site, Cheng’s family writes that the musician was taken to the emergency room where he died at 3 a.m.

“He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear,” wrote Jeanne Marie Cheng, or “Mom J” for short.

Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno confirmed Cheng’s passing on his Facebook page. At press time the Grammy-winning band has not made a formal statement.

Cheng suffered major injuries and was left in a coma following a November 2008 car crash in Santa Clara, Calif. The bassist was driving with his sister when they collided with another car, sending his vehicle rolling. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. His sister was wearing hers, and only sustained minor injuries.

“Chi is one of the strongest people I know, and I’m praying that his strength will get him through this,” Moreno said at the time on the Deftones’ blog.

In the years since, Cheng had been making slow but steady progress in his recovery. In 2009 it was reported that he was no longer in a coma but in a semi-conscious state. A year later, doctors said he was “showing signs of improved neuro function.” Recently he regained limited ability to move his legs on command.

Most updates regarding Cheng since his accident have come through the Oneloveforchi site, which was started by fan Gina Blackmore. The site, which is currently down likely due to incresased traffic, has raised money for Cheng’s medical expenses and the bassist’s family regularly posts messages there.

Cheng co-founded Deftones in the late 1980s with fellow Sacramentoans Moreno, Stephen Carpenter and Abe Cunningham. He was an integral part of the nu-metal band’s success, performing on their first five albums, released between 1994 and 2006. Commercially the group peaked in 2000 with the platinum-selling “White Pony,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and contained the hit “Change (In the House of Flies).” A self-titled followup in 2003 debuted at No. 2.

In late 2008, they were putting the finishing touches on the next full-length album, titled “Eros.” Following Cheng’s accident, the band ultimately decided to shelve the project and later recruited Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand, to play bass. They have released two albums since. Read more about Chi Cheng here:

The Cheng family statement is below:

Our dearest Family,

This is the hardest thing to write to you. Your love and heart and devotion to Chi was unconditional and amazing. I know that you will always remember him as a giant of a man on stage with a heart for every one of you. He was taken to the emegency room and at 3 am today his heart just suddenly stopped. He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear.

He fought the good fight.You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone. I will write more later. I will be going through the oneloveforchi and any other information may not be reliable. If you have any stories or messages to share please send them to the onelove site. Please hold Mae and Ming and the siblings and especially Chi’s son, Gabriel in your prayers. It is so hard to let go.

With great love and “Much Respect!” Mom J (and Chi)


Above is the documentation of Charlie Chaplin during his trip to Java & Bali, Indonesia circa 1932


Early in his career, Alfred Hitchcock began making small appearances in his own films. The cameos sometimes lasted just a few brief seconds, and sometimes a little while longer. Either way, they became a signature of Hitchcock’s filmmaking, and fans made a sport of seeing whether they could spot the elusive director. From 1927 to 1976, Hitchcock made 37 appearances in total, and they’re all nicely catalogued by Hitchcock.TVand the clip above. Read more about Hitchcock here:

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