Sometimes it's who, not what you do

I know I'm meant to be constantly blogging about my preparations for SXSW, but it turns out that much of my time has been taken up by preparations for SXSW. Oh, the irony!

There are day parties, there are evening showcases, there are free shows and house parties and they all want you to RSVP. If you have cruise director tendencies like I do, it can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, I'll be heading to Austin a mere two weeks from tomorrow so the planning has to end sometime.

As I finish my planning, I'm trying to keep a few pointers in mind:

  • Have a lot of options - With dozens of bands playing shows at any one moment, you shouldn't waste your time waiting in line for a show. Bands often play more than one showcase so unless you just absolutely have to see them, move along and catch something else. Who know, maybe you'll find something new.
  • SXSW is for new bands - It's tempting for me to want to see The Strokes or Bright Eyes who are both playing shows this year. I've seen both of them in concert before so I'll try to use that time to see a new band instead. It'll be hard to pass on Bright Eyes, though, so that might be a game-day decision.
  • Wear comfortable shoes - I've been told there is a lot of walking. A lot.
  • There is never free food - Most of the parties advertise free food, but like the mysterious sasquatch, no one has ever seen it. Food goes early and I'm pretty sure it's just one guy with a burrito. Go find a food cart and keep your blood sugar up. This is a marathon not a sprint.
I'll have a list of the top 10 bands I hope to see at this year's SXSW later this week. That is unless I'm busy RSVPing for stuff.


It's well advised that you follow your own bag in the year of the chewable Ambien tab

For almost three years I paid $15 a month for a subscription to the music download site, emusic.com, but last month I put my account on hold with the intention of quitting them for good. They went from being one of my favorite web services to my online nemesis through a path that is not unfamiliar to people who are early adopters of cool web services only to watch them crumble under a series of compromises (I'm looking at you lala.com.) but this one angers me the most.

The interwebs tell me that emusic was founded in 1998, but didn't really take off until the early 2000s. It was different from other music sites because a set amount of money got you credits for mp3 downloads each month. When I first signed up, my $15 got me 50 songs from a large library that consisted mostly of indie labels and old jazz and blues. It wasn't for everybody, but if emusic's selection matched up with your musical tastes it was an amazing bargain.

Things were going great until the summer of 2009. That's when emusic signed a deal with one of the "big four" labels (Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI and Warner Music Group). Emusic would carry music from Sony artists that was two years old or older. So you couldn't get the new Kings of Leon, but you could download the Bruce Springsteen back catalog. In return, customers found out their $15 suddenly didn't buy as many credits. Sony wanted more money for their songs so now I was getting 37 songs a month for my money. It was annoying, but I was willing to take the hit for a larger selection of music. Besides, Michael Jackson had just died and now I could download all of his songs that I thought I already owned with minimal effort.

For me, November of 2010 was the beginning of the end. Emusic signed a deal with Universal to offer their entire catalog on the site, but along with the new music came some major changes. Suddenly my $15 didn't buy credits, it got me $15 worth of music with different songs being offered at different prices. Some songs were $.69 and others were $.99 album prices were all over the place but seemed to run $5 to $8. It was still cheaper than iTunes, but other things were lost along the way, too.

Several indie labels left the site shortly after the Universal deal was announced. Also emusic's customer service seemed defensive when customers voiced their concerns. They didn't seem to understand that I was more interested in the new Arcade Fire album than having access to hundreds of thousands of Justin Bieber and Black Eyed Peas tracks. After years of cultivating an indie audience, emusic seemed happy to let them fall by the wayside.

And I'm happy to oblige. Bieber fans don't pay for music anyway, and I hope emusic will discover that one day and change their tune. They're not the first web site to alienate their original customers in an effort to expand their audience, but few have done it quite as callously as emusic. I've decided to take my money and spend it on a Netflix subscription instead. So far, it's been worth it.