Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ralph Vaughan Williams - Complete Chronological Catalogue on Spotify

"One of the leading English composers of his generation, Vaughan Williams was a pupil of Parry, Charles Wood and Stanford, and later of Bruch and Ravel. In his work as a composer he went some way towards creating a specifically English musical idiom, influenced by his interest in folksong but coloured by his own personal vision and language.

Stage Works

The stage music of Vaughan Williams includes the Shakespearean opera Sir John in Love (based on The Merry Wives of Windsor), the masque for dancing Job, and The Pilgrim's Progress. Incidental music for the theatre includes music for The Wasps by Aristophanes, from which the overture is often heard. He also wrote a number of film scores.

Orchestral Music


Vaughan Williams wrote nine symphonies, the first A Sea Symphony for solo singers, chorus and orchestra (with words taken from Walt Whitman), the second A London Symphony, and the third Pastoral Symphony. The Sixth Symphony, completed in its first version in 1947, seemed to break new ground and was followed by a seventh, the Sinfonia antartica, that had its origin in a film soundtrack.


Compositions by Vaughan Williams for solo instrument and orchestra include the pastoral romance The Lark Ascending for solo violin and a Concerto accademico for solo violin and string orchestra. There is an attractive Oboe Concerto and two concertos unusual in their solo instrument: one for harmonica and the other for bass tuba. Flos campi uses a viola and is scored also for small choir and chamber orchestra.

Suites etc.

Vaughan Williams made direct use of folksong in, among other works, his three Norfolk Rhapsodies, his Fantasia on Greensleeves for solo flute, harp and strings, and his English Folksong Suite for military band. His Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for two string orchestras returns to the 16th century for its musical inspiration.

Choral and Vocal Music

Vaughan Williams made a substantial contribution to English choral and vocal repertoire in compositions that include the fine Serenade to Music, completed in 1938. Other compositions range from hymn tunes to an oratorio, from folksong arrangements to the evocative On Wenlock Edge, a setting of poems by A.E. Housman.

Instrumental Music

Vaughan Williams wrote relatively little chamber music and even less music for piano. His organ pieces, however, provide a few useful repertoire items.

Theatre and Film Music

The incidental music Vaughan Williams provided for the theatre was principally for a series of Shakespearean productions in 1913, when he was musical director at Stratford-upon-Avon for Sir Frank Benson's company. From 1940 onwards he provided music for a number of films." - Introduction from Naxos

This playlist was compiled after the work list on AllMusic (sorted by year), plus a few works that are not listed there, like the Bucolic Suite, and Dark Pastoral. Different editions and arrangements by the composer are also featured: 1920 version of A London Symphony,  2008 edition of Symphony No.5, original version of Symphony No.6 (premier recording by Stokowski), original version of The Lark Ascending (for violin and piano), the composer's arrangement of his pupil Patrick Hadley's Fen and Flood, and more. The Wasps are presented with the popular suite, and the complete incidental music (about 100 minutes). The lovely Serenade To Music comes in three versions: 16 soloists, 4 soloists, and orchestra alone. At the end of the playlist there are some recordings of the composer's speeches, and a excerpt from his funeral service.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Ralph Vaughan Williams - Complete Chronological Catalogue (755 tracks, 55 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Vaughan Williams arranged many English hymns and carols, you can press Ctrl (CMD) + F and input hymn, or carol, or Christmas, to look for seasonal music in this playlist.

Happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

100 Songs From 100 Outstanding 2012 Albums You Might Have Missed

If you already know your Funs and Frank Oceans, you probably do not need another "Best of 2012" playlist, except for this one.

Amazon editors: "We listen to a lot of music, and there are a lot of amazing, overlooked albums that we feel passionate about that just could't make our year-end list. And while we can't shine a spotlight on all of our favorite hidden gems of 2012, we have managed to put together a list of outstanding 2012 albums you might have missed (CDs | MP3s). To help you explore, we've assembled a playlist featuring a favorite song from each. Hit preview all and dig for more when you've found a new favorite."

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Amazon - Songs from 2012 Albums You Might Have Missed (94 tracks from 94 available albums, total time: 5 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See this Amazon page for album list and reviews. Album No. 36, 65, 69, 74, 83, and 87 not on Spotify yet.

If you prefer to have all the full albums in one place, here's another playlist: Amazon - 100 Outstanding 2012 Albums You Might Have Missed (1159 tracks, 94 albums plus some Spotify exclusive content like track-by-track commentary albums, total time: 68 hours).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Verdi auf Deutsch - Verdi Sung in German

"Historically, in the 1950s and 60s, it was very common on the Opera stages and in recording studios to sing Italian Operas in German. The Verdi: Sung in German recordings produced by EMI Electrola between 1953 and 1973 are still just as legendary today with stars such as Nicolai Gedda, Rudolf Schock, Brigitte Fassbaender, Josef Metternich, and Gottlob Frick. For the first time, these recordings are available in a 10 CD-Box creating a unique chapter of German recording-history. Verdi: Sung in German is a wonderful set of performances featuring Verdi s stellar works. This 10-CD Box shows the true talents of one of the most prolific composers in the history of classical music. Verdi: Sung in German includes many of Verdi s most famous operas as Rigoletto, Ein Maskenball, Aida and Der Troubadour. The 10th disc in this set entitled Single Shots is a collection works from operas like Aroldo, DieMacht des Schicksals, Don Carlos and La Traviata. This set features some of the most talented voices in classical opera such as Erika Köth, Marcel Cordes, Rudolf Schock and Alfred Germont (this blogger: someone mistook Violetta's lover for a singer). These pieces capture the essence of Verdi s amazing talent as a composer." - Amazon

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: EMI - Verdi auf Deutsch (165 tracks, total time: 10 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See my previous 90-hour playlist for the Complete Verdi.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Darius Milhaud - Complete Chronological Collection

"Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six - also known as The Group of Six - and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality." - Wikipedia

"Stage Works

Darius Milhaud wrote a considerable amount of music for the theatre (operas, ballets and incidental music) as well as film and radio scores. Collaboration with Claudel brought the opera Christophe Colombe and incidental music for plays ranging from those of Shakespeare to the work of contemporaries such as Brecht, Supervielle, Giraudoux and Anouilh. With Cocteau he wrote the ballets Le Boeuf sur le Toit ('The Ox on the Roof') and the jazz La Création du Monde ('The Creation of the World'). These represent only a small fraction of his dramatic work.

Orchestral Music

Milhaud was equally prolific as a composer of orchestral music of all kinds, including 12 symphonies and a variety of concertos, some of which reflect the influence of his native Provence.

Vocal and Choral Music

Milhaud also contributed widely to the repertoire of French song. His settings (both choral and solo voice with piano) are of texts from a great variety of sources, including Rabindranath Tagore, André Gide, and the words of Pope John XXIII (the last in a choral symphony Pacem in terris). He contributed to Cocteau's Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel and, as a gesture, set to music an agricultural appliance catalogue. Other works reflect his Jewish background.

Chamber Music

Milhaud wrote 18 string quartets and provided useful additions to duo sonata repertoire, not least for the viola. His Quatre Visages of 1943 for viola and piano comprises musical representations of four different kinds of girls. For wind quintet he composed the charming suite La Cheminée du Roi René, and for oboe, clarinet and bassoon he wrote the attractive Pastorale. The works show his characteristically French adroitness in writing for woodwind instruments.

Piano Music

Two works in particular have proved attractive additions to repertoire. The first, Saudades do Brasil, a suite for piano, is based on music heard in Brazil during the composer’s stay there between 1916 and 1918. Scaramouche, arranged for two pianos from incidental music for Molière's Le Médécin volant, is a lively jeu d'esprit, in the spirit of the commedia dell'arte character of the title. La Muse ménagère ('The Domestic Muse') reflects the necessary wartime attempts at house-keeping by his actress wife." - Naxos

Get all available works in one Spotify playlist: Darius Milhaud - Complete Chronological Collection (664 tracks, total time: 37 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Difference arrangements, like four version of Scaramouche, are also included. For a complete list of works see this Wikipedia page.

Milhaud's notable students include: Ben Johnston, Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, and Dave Brubeck.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Notable Spotify Playlists of 2012

1. Radio Rambler and Radio Rambler - previously played

Contemporary classical gems, handpicked by Tim Rutherford-Johnson. Regularly updated. Originally published on his blog.


Curated by Seth Colter Walls, a great mix of multiple genres. Originally published on The Awl.

3. The "complete" John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins

Chronological collection of the jazz greats, sorted by recording sessions. Originally published by Fernando Ortiz de Urbina on his blog.

4. Indie Classical

Originally published on Pitchfork.

5. NPR - Top 50 Albums of 2012

Selected by NPR, playlist compiled by Marty Gregwah.

6. Radiohead Office Charts

Fan-made playlist, after the Office Chart posted by the band on Dead Air Space. From John Luther Adams to J Dilla. Regularly updated.

7. Delos 2012 New Releases and The Delos Catalog

Curated by Delos, "The Great American Label". Their releases cover the easy-to-access classics, core repertoire and edgy new music almost equally well, and their official site is truly impressive and useful.

8. Do I have to make it 10? I must confess that I spent much more time compiling playlists other than looking for them. If you like, please select three more from my over 300 playlists!

Happy listening. Suggestions would be much appreciated.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2013 Grammy Classical Nominees on Spotify

2013 Grammy Classical Nominees:

Best Orchestral Performance
  • Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine - Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Iván Fischer, Conductor (Budapest Festival Orchestra)
  • Music For A Time Of War - Carlos Kalmar, Conductor (Oregon Symphony)
  • Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances - Valery Gergiev, Conductor (London Symphony Orchestra) 
  • Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 - Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)
Best Opera Recording
  • Berg: Lulu - Michael Boder, Conductor; Paul Groves, Ashley Holland, Julia Juon & Patricia Petibon; Johannes Müller, Producer (Symphony Orchestra Of The Gran Teatre Del Liceu)
  • Handel: Agrippina - René Jacobs, Conductor; Marcos Fink, Sunhae Im, Bejun Mehta, Alexandrina Pendatchanska & Jennifer Rivera (Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin)
  • Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress - Vladimir Jurowski, Conductor; Topi Lehtipuu, Miah Persson & Matthew Rose; Johannes Müller, Producer (London Philharmonic Orchestra; Glyndebourne Chorus)
  • Vivaldi: Teuzzone - Jordi Savall, Conductor; Delphine Galou, Paolo Lopez, Roberta Mameli, Raffaella Milanesi & Furio Zanasi (Le Concert Des Nations)
  • Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen - James Levine & Fabio Luisi, Conductors; Hans-peter König, Jay Hunter Morris, Bryn Terfel & Deborah Voigt; Jay David Saks, Producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Best Choral Performance
  • Handel: Israel In Egypt - Julian Wachner, Conductor (Trinity Baroque Orchestra; Trinity Choir Wall Street)
  • Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen - Charles Bruffy, Conductor (Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill & Pamela Williamson; Kansas City Chorale)
  • Ligeti: Requiem; Apparitions; San Francisco Polyphony - Peter Eötvös, Conductor (Barbara Hannigan & Susan Parry; Wdr Sinfonieorchester Köln; Swr Vokalensemble Stuttgart & Wdr Rundfunkchor Köln)
  • The Nightingale - Stephen Layton, Conductor (Michala Petri; Danish National Vocal Ensemble)
  • Striggio: Mass For 40 & 60 Voices - Hervé Niquet, Conductor (Le Concert Spirituel)
Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
  • Americana - Modern Mandolin Quartet
  • Meanwhile - Eighth Blackbird
  • Mind Meld - Zofo Duet
  • Profanes Et Sacrées - Boston Symphony Chamber Players
  • Rupa-khandha - Los Angeles Percussion Quartet
Classical Instrumental Solo
  • Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier - András Schiff
  • The Complete Harpsichord Works Of Rameau - Jory Vinikour
  • Gál & Elgar: Cello Concertos - Claudio Cruz, Conductor; Antonio Meneses (Northern Sinfonia)
  • Holst: The Planets - Hansjörg Albrecht
  • Kurtág & Ligeti: Music For Viola - Kim Kashkashian
Classical Vocal Solo
  • Debussy: Clair De Lune - Natalie Dessay (Henri Chalet; Philippe Cassard, Karine Deshayes & Catherine Michel; Le Jeune Coeur De Paris)
  • Homecoming: Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce Didonato - Joyce Didonato (Michael Stern; Kansas City Symphony)
    Paris Days, Berlin Nights - Ute Lemper (Stefan Malzew & Vogler Quartet)
    Poémes - Renée Fleming (Alan Gilbert & Seiji Ozawa; Orchestre National De France & Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France)
    Sogno Barocco - Anne Sofie Von Otter (Leonardo García Alarcón; Sandrine Piau & Susanna Sundberg; Ensemble Cappella Mediterranea)
Classical Compendium
  • Partch: Bitter Music - Partch, Ensemble; John Schneider, Producer
  • Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis - Antoni Wit, Conductor; Aleksandra Nagórko & Andrzej Sasin, Producers
  • Une Fête Baroque - Emmanuelle Haïm, Conductor; Daniel Zalay, Producer
Contemporary Classical Composition
  • Hartke, Stephen: Meanwhile - Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays Stephen Hartke, Composer (eighth blackbird)
  • León, Tania: Inura For Voices, Strings & Percussion - Tania León, Composer (Tania León, Son Sonora Voices, Dancebrazil Percussion & Son Sonora Ensemble)
  • Praulins, Ugis: The Nightingale - Ugis Praulins, Composer (Stephen Layton, Michala Petri & Danish National Vocal Ensemble)
  • Rautavaara, Einojuhani: Cello Concerto No. 2 'towards The Horizon' - Einojuhani Rautavaara, Composer (Truls ørk, John Storgárds & Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra)
  • Stucky, Steven: August 4, 1964 - Steven Stucky, Composer; Gene Scheer, Librettist (Jaap Van Zweden, Dallas Symphony Chorus & Orchestra) 
Best Engineered Album, Classical
  • Americana - Daniel Shores, Engineer; Daniel Shores, Mastering Engineer (Modern Mandolin Quartet)
  • Beethoven: The Late String Quartets, Op. 127 & 131 - Bruce Egre, Engineer (Brentano String Quartet)
  • Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen - Tom Caulfield & John Newton, Engineers; Mark Donahue, Mastering Engineer (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale)
  • Music For A Time Of War - Jesse Lewis & John Newton, Engineers; Jesse Brayman, Mastering Engineer (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony)
  • Souvenir - Morten Lindberg, Engineer; Morten Lindberg, Mastering Engineer (trondheimsolistene)
Producer Of The Year, Classical
  • Blanton Alspaugh
  • Tim Handley
  • Marina Ledin, Victor Ledin
  • James Mallinson
  • Dan Merceruio 
Get all available recordings on Spotify in one Spotify playlist: 2013 Grammy Classical Nominees (491 tracks, total time: 37 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Classical Music for Children: Delos Young People’s Series on Spotify

The beautifully produced Young People's Series from Delos Music is designed to introduce the very young to the sounds of great classical music. Unlike most other "classical for babies" products, it was brought together with great care, and style. Praises for this series include:

"One of the highest quality 'children's' series I have seen in a long time. A wonderful way to introduce children to classical music."  - The Family Times

"The perfect gift among recordings for introducing a child to the intimacies and universality of music… My eight-year-old daughter Rachel recommends it, and I concur." - Fanfare

"Your children will love this very witty and engaging disc… Fast-paced and clever, these stories are the ideal meeting of words and music - not only the zippy and appropriate scores, but also the sly insinuations and the vocal metamorphoses of the narrators…This is one Christmas present you won't find broken underneath the tree by Dec. 26." - The Seattle Times

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Delos - Young People's Series (Great Classical Music for Children) (475 tracks, total time: 32 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See this page for an overview of the albums, and here for more info.

Monday, November 26, 2012

To Damon Krukowski & Everyone Who Is Concerned About Spotify's Impact On Music

Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi, recently published an article on Pitchfork, titled Making Cents. He reported his experiences as an artist with Pandora and Spotify, in a straightforward fashion, and came to the conclusion that "As businesses, Pandora and Spotify are divorced from music."

I think Damon's experiences, feelings, and most importantly, his way of thinking is typical among some indie artists. As a music fan I would like to see good music heard by more people, and musicians getting paid fairly so they can keep on making music; as an observer of the music industry I believe Spotify is bringing a positive change to the ecosystem that will eventually benefit both the musicians and music fans. So I would like to elaborate my view.

Please allow me to state that this article is not a rebuttal to Damon but a personal viewpoint on Spotify and streaming in general. I just hope that he, and people who care about the issues that concern musicians are able to see another picture from the viewpoint of the average listener and also my views on the impact of Spotify for the longer term benefit of musicians.

Damon: Leaving aside why these companies are bothering to chisel hundredths of a cent from already ridiculously low "royalties" ($0.004611 rate)...

Me: I do not have insider info from Spoify regarding payments, though I work with an aggregator who is Spotify's content provider, and I have read intensively on this subject, so I might be able to explain this.

Spotify does not pay at a fixed rate. As far as I understand, the pay per stream rate varies because Spotify has different types of services. When a paid user streams a track, it generates more royalties than from a free user. Mobile streaming requires different licensing from the desktop version and it pays differently.  And, Spotify also offers Pandora-like mobile radio service to free users in the US; those non-on-demand streams pay at the same rate as Pandora. So, each quarter, your music is streamed by a different mix of users, and the rate varies.

Damon: "Well, that's still not bad," you might say. (I'm not sure who would really say that, but let's presume someone might.)

Me: Yes that's not bad.

1. A stream is not a download. $0.004611 is indeed far less than $0.70 (royalty from one $0.99 iTunes download), but it does not mean Spotify will definitely make the artists worse off. Because:

a. Every stream pays. People who like your music stream many times; people who stream your music once and lost interest would/should never buy your music anyway.

b. The potential audience for your music on streaming services is much wider than CD/Downloads buyers. See the picture below:

The quantity differences between every group might be much bigger than the picture shows. And if all those people stream from services which pay at Spotify's current rate, how much could a band like Galaxie 500 make?

Galaxie 500's tracks were scrobbled 4,361,876 times by 215,191 users on, since the service's founding in 2002.

As of 2012, claims more than 40 million active users. Roughly 3% of the total population of US, Europe and Japan (I saw two Japanese users on their recent top listeners page). I did not use global population because about 90% of the music industry's revenues come from these three regions. It is very likely that on average users listen to more music than the general public, but please also note that not all (monthly) active users scrobble all their plays. Let's just say, between age 12 and 70 there might be 800 million music listeners of all kinds in the aforementioned regions, and 40 million users covers 5% of them.

Galaxie 500 was active between 1987 and 1991, which means their music probably was played many more times between 1987 and 2002 (when came into existance), than the past 10 years. But let's just assume the annual play numbers are the same, then the total plays from 1987 to 2012 is about 2.5 times the plays of 2002-2012 (as counted by

OK, here is the revelation...

4,361,876 plays * 2.5 / 5% = 218,093,800 plays

218,093,800 plays * $0.004611/play = $1,005,630.51

That is the revenue from "selling" recorded music alone, for Galaxie 500, in a "all streaming, no content ownership" world. This band only existed for four years. And this $40,000/year revenue stream will continue coming at no cost of the band.

That figure is, most likely, a huge understatement. As I said their music might be played many more times during the 90s. did not become a huge service years after 2002. Even active users left many plays unscrobbled (like, when they play CDs in their cars). And for people outside US, Europe or Japan, their little spending on music does not mean they do no listen to music (welcome to one of your Chinese fan pages, Damon). Their presence will be felt once the freemium services launch in the rest of the world. Lastly, many more people would listen to your music if they can stream it "for free" (a better expression would be: at no extra marginal cost) instead of having to buy a copy. Since Damon is also a Spotify Premium user, he must can understand this as I do. Personally I have listened to hundreds of artists which I would not have known if not for streaming.

So it is a safe assumption that, a band at Galaxie 500's level of popularity could make millions from streaming alone. And I guess the artists can also sell more tickets or raise more money on KickStarter, after their music was heard by many more people outside their current core fan base.

If this calculation involves too many uncertainties, let us look at it in a straighter way:

The track "Tugboat" made the band $29.80, in a quarter, on Spotify.

Spotify has about 20 million monthly active users.

If the worst happens and Spotify dominates, and has 1 billion users.

"Tugboat" would make the band, which ceased to exist since 1991, at least $1,490 every quarter, or $119,200 in 20 years. I would say it looks nice for a single that was released more than 20 years ago.

So, should Damon avoid Spotify until it has a billion users? I do not think so. Most manufacturers want their products available on Walmart and your neighborhood grocery store at the same time, as long as "the payment model" is fair. I will explain more about the model later.

Example: Jonathan Johansson made more than $20,000 from streaming services alone in the first month of his music being available.

Damon: Growth of the music business? I think not. Daniel Ek means growth of his company, i.e., its capitalization.

Damon also said this on Twitter:

Me: I am not sure about Pandora, but Spotify pays 70% of their total revenue (from subscription and advertisement) to the rights owners as royalties, the same as iTunes does. Major labels and indies (like Damon's self-owned label) are treated the same. This is confirmed by Spotify staff, and various online sources.

Daniel Ek should have no guilt for being a multimillionaire under 30, just like Steve Jobs was. He is rich not because he is ripping off the artists. His personal wealth is from his shares in Spotify, the company he co-founded and runs, not because he writes a big pay check for himself every year. And his company is valued at $3 Billion is because the investors believe the company would be valued even higher, or become profitable one day, and they are going to make money from their investments.

A profitable Spotify that pays 70% total revenues to rights owners is a good thing to the whole music ecosystem. And Daniel Ek has every right to enjoy his success, because his company created huge value for the music industry, just like Steve Jobs had done with iPod/iTunes Store.

On Spotify's prospect of being profitable, please read Andy Doe's post.

Conspiracy theorists: "Only major labels are making money from Spotify", or "Spotify is paying a (much) lower rate to indies."

Me: If every user pays for Premium ($9.99/month) and on average listens to 1,000 tracks a month (at 4 minutes a track, that's just 2.5 hours a day. I listen to much more than that). The royalties rate is:

 ($9.99 / 1000 plays) * 70% = $0.007/play

Right now only approximately 20% users pay. And Spotify is paying at $0.004611 rate for Damon's indie label. I rest my case. Further reading.

Another urban legend: "Spotify is making money for the music industry/labels" but not the artists."

Me: Every signed artist gets their royalties from their labels, and their labels from aggregators (unless they signed deals directly with Spotify). It is the same with CD, and iTunes. People who make a fuss about this simply does not understand how the music industry worked for the past century. If they really want to help the artists, please put the pressure on the labels and ask them to sign better deals with artists, not to spread false alarms about services that has nothing to do with how the royalties are re-distributed. As for the claim that "Spotify should make things easier for indie artists and bypass the in-betweens - yes it is one thing they could do. But labels/aggregators also serve the artists who need them. If you ever tried to upload your album to iTunes and dozens of other top digital platforms, you will know that they all use different formats and it may take days even weeks to do it all by yourself. Also Spotify''s catalog might be as messy as Youtube's, if everyone can upload stuff. I think one day there will be a better solution, but for now, if you want to make a dent in the music universe and you are not Radiohead, you probably still need a label. (Radiohead also have XL for distribution).

Damon: As businesses, Pandora and Spotify are divorced from music.

Me: This is what I fundamentally disagree, and I think what could hurt the artists is this way of thinking, not Spotify. So I have to write this response.

Let us look at the whole picture:

In the US, average spending on recorded music was $26 in 2011. In many other developed countries, like Italy and Spain, the number is much lower.

Spotify Premium is $120/year, and if everyone uses Spotify, even if the current freemium conversion rate (20%) does not go up further (it was 3% in 2009, so most likely it will), and considering the huge ad revenue (think about Facebook, whose sole revenue source is ad) for a service at that scale. The average spending would actually be higher.

Since Spotify is paying out the same percentage of revenues as iTunes, the artists, as a whole, would be better off than 2011.

And since Spotify calculates royalties based on the popularity, I think it is actually more fair than the current model. You might regret buying music you do not like now, but you only stream the music from artists you like, feel curious about, or at least find tolerable. Your payment to the music industry always goes to the artists you want to support at this moment.

This is the foundation of all my macro-assumptions. Streaming is not a race to the bottom for artists royalties.

The Culture Impact: Why New Music Needs Spotify Even More

The culture impact that Spotify could cause is immeasurable. I am not a tech zealot who claims that every new invention must be good. I just want to demonstrate it is a step forward, like gramophone, CD and iPod.

When people complain that less and less people are buying music, they tend to forget about all the music people have already bought. Recorded music ownership is increasing - just more slowly than before. A CD lasts decades, a download lasts until disk failure. Have you every considered the possibility that many people are just content with the dozens/hundreds/thousands of albums they have already bought, and content with the small dose of new music from Youtube/public radio/library. They might want to listen to the new stuff, it is just that everyone has a limitation of spending, and shelf space.

"I think in the long run, streaming will be the way people consume music - classical music and other five years, 50% of our business will be in all kinds of streaming." - Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos

I am a "classical music blogger", and personally I am have lost hope for the traditional distribution method in this genre. There are thousands of new classical releases every year (my 2012 New Classical Releases Index (Collaborative Playlist) counts 1,400 so far, and that is not counting re-issues and re-packages). Total classical album sales in the US was 3.8 million in 2011, including back catalog. Take one look at Amazon's classical chart and you will get an idea of how little of them are new music purchases.

It is good that different people like different things, and every one identify with their own niche. But to really know the niche you feel belong to, you might need to have a basic knowledge of modern music. Let us assume a newly graduated 20-year-old wants to start a music collection now.

Does he need at least 6 Beatles and a couple of Stones? Does he need some Dylan? Some Kinks? Some Hendrix? Some Beach Boys? Some Lou Reed? Some Bowie? Some Clash? Some Prince? Some Motown? Some early blues? Some proto-metal?

For a wanna-be classical fan, the situation is even more helpless.

Do you need at least one Beethoven symphony cycle? And at least half of the quartets and piano sonatas? At least one Mahler cycle? At least a dozen albums for Bach? Mozart's mature operas, piano concertos, symphonies and chamber works? Schubert? Chopin? Brahms? Tchaikovsky and some other Russians? Dvorak and some other Czechs?

We will reach 100 albums very quickly, before even reach 1990s in pop or any living composer in classical. And of course you also need some jazz and world music, even if you are not crazy about it.

In fact, I think if you have not listened to 1,000 albums of various genres, you probably do not really understand your niche either.

Yes the 20-year-old probably have listened to all the classics from his parents' collection. And that is exactly my point: in a streaming world, every play pays.

And there is no use to pretend that people will keep on buying a copy for everything they want to hear, or the artists will go starving if people buy even less CDs.

Nowadays music is bought by people who are really into music, and want to support musicians. That is good, but that is not the only way.

Thousand-dollar headphones are consumed, and talked enthusiastically about, by a small group of people. Because it takes thousands of dollars to manufacture a piece, and only wealthy people can afford.

Recorded music, after it is been recorded, can be digitally replicated and streamed at almost 0 cost. Selling 1,000 copies to your core fan base is great, but what about getting 10,000 people to stream your album 100,000 times? Or even more? It is at least possible, as Galaxie 500's stats shows.

Many more people will listen to your music on streaming, not only because it's cheaper, it is also much more convenient. Music discovery is much easier with instant streaming and social networks, and I hope musicians take advantage of these facts.

An example: I am vaguely interested in indie pop, and I subscribed to this playlist:

@MonaFims #MusicMonday (updated every Monday) ♫

I play it once every week when it's updated with 20 new tracks, as background music. I do not pay attention to the artist names etc., and do not know any information about most of the music. If a track really grabs my attention, I star it and may listen more times. So far I starred 3 out of over 100 tracks.

But all the other artists also get paid, even when I do not know who they are. These things can scale.

What about new music?

The current situation is more or less like this: in a city of 10 million people, a million of them are active music consumers and accounted for most of the music sales, while the rest listen casually on Youtube and others. This 1 million people, or most likely, at most 100,000 true music aficionados of them, supported about 1,000 indie music acts of the city. On average they buy 10 albums from these artist every year, and on average an artist can sell 1,000 albums to this core fan base. Of course few of them live on this alone, and most indie artists never did in any time of history. They tour, sell merchandise, or work a day job.

It is not because 99% of the population definitely do not/will not like indie artists' works. It is because most of them never had the chance to fully explore the "mainstream" catalog and have little budget or aspiration left to adventure further.

If you like New Amsterdam's music not just for novelty value, you probably already own over 1,000 albums. Because their artists must have listened to many more than that.

And streaming helps many more users to finish the "basic education" and be ready for more.   

What I see in a Spotified world is this: 8 million people in this city listen on streaming services. Millions who never explored these indie artists before, now have the chance to hear for themselves. As for the music aficionados, they can now stream 100 or more new indie albums every year if they want. Both groups get to know the music better.

And unlike Justin Bieber and the most popular acts, who probably have already reached all their potential audience. The indie artists now has a chance to reach a much wider audience, and take more market share.

My projection, based on reasons stated above. Sales including streaming revenues. The market size could become much bigger, once Spotify launched successfully in more new markets, which current spending on recoded music is much lower than the US level.

Example: in Sweden, 89% of the digital revenues now comes from streaming, and total music sales up 30% in the first half of 2012.

What worries me is: most articles written on this subject so far are from musicians and critics who already own hundreds if not thousands of albums. The music services is to serve the musicians and their fans, of course the musicians' voice should be heard. But they all seem to lack the perception of common people.

And the seemingly jarring payment rate also stirred lots of armchair-moralists to attack streaming without much real understanding of the subject. I am not talking about Damon, he did a great job based on the information he had (and I do hope Spotify themselves can make the payment process more transparent). I am talking about many hateful/cynical commenters on music industry-related sites and blogs. They are not helping the artists in any way. It is easy to talk, but much harder to design a great app that 4 million people pay for a subscription, or just to comprehensive how does it really work.

What I propose is: even the most edgy artists today do not have to rely solely on the few hundreds/thousands people who buy their stuff. There might be another path. Common people have the power than the elites would care to admit. It should not have to be artists & their hardcore fans against the world. People will listen, if you care to let the most innovative minds in the industry help you.

This is not Ellsworth Toohey talking. On the contrary, I see streaming as a chance to bring more richness and diversity to the music world.

For the sake of simplicity I mostly used "Spotify" even when I should say "on-demand streaming services who adopt the same freemium model". But it is also obvious that, so far Spotify is the one that does on-demand streaming right. It may surprise many people that when the music industry first decided to go digital in late 1990s, they tried to sell subscription services. That was years before iTunes. No one used those services because they sucked. The model remains the same, but it took a decade before Spotify came along, set the standard and made a universally-acclaimed product. As a music fan, I feel excited about the times they are a-changin', just like a gadget maven looking at a first generation iPhone. It is not perfect, but so full of potential.

Music will find a way. And the road always lead to where it can be heard by more people, as it broke through the walls of the churches, palaces, and high society salons before.

Thank you for reading. Now I am going to stream some Galaxie 500.

Click, play.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Paris 1200: Complete Works of Pérotin on Spotify

"Pérotin, French composer of sacred polyphonic music, who is believed to have introduced the composition of polyphony in four parts into Western music. Nothing is known of Pérotins life, and his identity is not clearly established. He worked probably at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, and his compositions are considered to belong to the Notre-Dame, or Parisian, school, of which he and Léonin are the only members known by name.

Pérotin's four-part works were revolutionary, since religious music of the 12th century was almost entirely in the form of two-part organum (polyphony in which a plainchant melody is sung against another line of music). In Pérotin's organa the liturgical chant of the tenor is heard against not one voice but two or three voices that provide highly decorative vocalizations. He is known to have composed two four-part works, “Viderunt” and “Sederunt”; another four-part composition, “Mors,” is believed to be his. He also enlarged upon the Magnus liber organi, a collection of organa by his predecessor, Léonin, and made innovations in the use of rhythm. “Viderunt” and “Sederunt,” musical creations comparable in scope to the cathedrals of Gothic architecture, have both been recorded in modern performance. " - Britannica

 This playlists includes recordings for all known works of Pérotin, from over 20 excellent medieval music albums, featuring great vocal groups such as Anonymous 4, New York Polyphony and The Hilliard Ensemble; as well as arrangements played by Cygnus Ensemble and Kronos Quartet.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Pérotin - Complete Works (22 tracks, 2 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jerry Garcia: Non-Grateful Dead Songs He Played Guitar On

This playlist was inspired by Nick Paumgarte's enthralling New Yorker article, Deadhead, The Afterlife.

Garcia named his Fender Strat "Alligator", it was was given to him by Graham Nash. In return Garcia contributed some of his best studio works to Nash's songs.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Teach Your Children
  • Crosby / Nash – Southbound Train
  • Graham Nash – I Used To Be A King
  • Brewer & Shipley – Oh Mommy
  • Jefferson Airplane – Today - Stereo Version
  • Jefferson Airplane – The Farm - Remastered 2004
  • It's A Beautiful Day – It Comes Right Down To You
  • Stephen Stills – Change Partners
  • New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Portland Woman
  • Papa John Creach – Soul Fever
  • Jerry Garcia/Howard Wales – South Side Strut
  • David Crosby – Cowboy Movie
  • David Crosby – Tamalpais High - 2006 Remastered LP Version
  • Paul Kantner;Grace Slick – When I Was A Boy I Watched The Wolves
  • New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Duncan And Brady
  • David Bromberg – Demon In Disguise
  • Doug Sahm – From A Jack To A King
  • Bob Weir – Looks Like Rain
  • Stephen Stills – Jesus Gave Love Away For Free
  • David Bromberg – Someone Else's Blues
  • Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Freiberg – Sketches Of China
  • Art Garfunkel – Down In The Willow Garden
  • Merl Saunders – After Midnight
  • New Riders Of The Purple Sage – Mighty Time
  • Mickey Hart – Happiness Is Drumming
  • The Neville Brothers – You're The One
  • Bill Cutler – Ridin' High
  • Ornette Coleman;Jerry Garcia;Prime Time – 3 Wishes
  • Mickey Hart – The Eliminators
  • Country Joe McDonald – Starship Ride
  • David Grisman – Friend Of The Devil
  • David Grisman – The Fields Have Turned Brown
  • Bruce Hornsby – Pastures Of Plenty
  • Bruce Hornsby – Cruise Control
  • Sanjay Mishra – Clouds (To Jerry Garcia)
  • Country Joe McDonald – Lady with the Lamp
  • Edie Brickell – Zillionaire
  • Bruce Hornsby – Across The River
  • David Grisman – I'll Go Crazy
  • David Grisman – Freight Train
  • David Grisman – Off To Sea Once More
  • David Grisman – Milestones - Miles Davis Take 5, 6/2/92
  • Country Joe & The Fish – Donovan's Reef Jam (Live)
  • Old & In The Way – Jerry's Breakdown
  • Old & In The Way – Uncle Pen
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Jerry Garcia outside Grateful Dead (45 tracks handpicked from 45 albums, total time: 4 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See this page for a more comprehensive list.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How the Post-war Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock 'n' Roll: Julian Cope's Japrocksampler Top 50 Albums on Spotify

The music here is insanely great, and utterly unknown. The fact that half of the albums are now available on Spotify is a miracle in itself.

The first generation of post-WWII Japanese youth created something that was so groundbreaking and penetrating, that compares to the "normal music" of western boomers at the same time (Beatles, Beach Boys etc.), it probably can only be described as Dark Matter. Some of them make even the Velvet Underground sounds like The Ventures.

About the author and the book:

"Julian Cope, visionary rock musician and musicologist, hip archaeologist and one-time frontman of The Teardrop Explodes, brings you JAPROCKSAMPLER. Until now, the language barrier has made post-war Japanese music an enigma to the West. Julian felt duty-bound to provide the key to that unfairly locked door.

Far East Family Band
This is the history of Western music's arrival on Japanese shores after WWII, and the delicious mayhem that ensued. From chromatic instrumental pop covers of The Shadows' songs to the resurrection of Dylan-inspired Rokyoku folk storytelling, nowhere has the continual metamorphosis of rock'n'roll been more fascinating or original than in Japan.

Taj Mahal Travellers
JAPROCKSAMPLER is an exploration of the clash between traditional, conservative Japanese values and the wild rock'n'roll renegades of the 1960s and '70s. It tells the tale of key artists in Japanese post-war culture, from itinerant art-house poets to violent refusenik rock groups with a penchant for plane hijacking, and rounds up the seminal japrock albums."

Les Rallizes Denudes
About the Top 50 Albums list:

"The music contained within this Top 50 consists of hard rock, proto-metal, purely psychedelic free-rock, experimental theatre works, choral and orchestral music, experimental percussion works, improvised ambient wipe-outs, progressive rock, and unadulterated guitar mayhem. However, I have chosen to place the albums in order of personal preference because certain readers of my Krautrocksampler pointed out that this would be an easier way into the trip. That said, it's essential to read more than just these reviews so as to gain a genuine perspective. Almost every artist mentioned in these reviews receives attention somewhere in the main text, so this Top 50 is included as an at-a-glance reference section."

Get all available recordings in one Spotify playlist: Julian Cope's Japrocksampler Top 50 (161 tracks, total time: 21 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See the book's official site for more info. For Cope's more famous Krautrocksampler, see this previous playlist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Naxos English Song Series on Spotify

"English composers of the 20th century have made some of finest contributions to the song literature. Our English Song Series is an ongoing survey of the best of these works performed by the leading interpreters of our day." -

"In a bold display of commitment to the purveyance of quality British music, Naxos is releasing the English Song Series, seven CDs of works by British composers sung by leading interpreters of song. Observant music enthusiasts may recognise this particular set of recordings; all seven discs debuted on the now-defunct Collins Classics label in the early 1990s. Unwilling for these excellent performances to go to waste, Naxos is breathing new life into the series in 2003. " -

Composers featured in this series so far:

Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, William Walton, Arthur Somervell, Roger Quilter, Liza Lehmann, William Alwyn, Ian Venables, George Butterworth, John Ireland, Ivor Gurney.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Naxos - English Song Series (22 volumes, 582 tracks, total time: 25 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See liner notes on Naxos and reviews on Presto.

Friday, November 9, 2012

e.e. cummings in music | Help New Amsterdam Records Rebuild

in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems - e. e. cummings

"e.e. cummings was a paradoxical poet who combined playfulness with seriousness; close attention to rhythm and rhyme with wild experimentation in grammar, spelling, and punctuation; and complicated ideas and images with simple words. His poetry's vividness and quirkiness have attracted many composers, who usually provide his poems with delicate, subtle settings to showcase their typically whimsical tones." - AllMusic

Inspired by Tin Hat's gorgeous new album on New Amsterdam: the rain is a handsome animal (17 songs from the poetry of e. e. cummings), I compiled this playlist, which includes cummings songs by Aron Copland, Morton Feldman, Pierre Boulez, Eric Whitacre, Luciano Berio, and over a dozen more composers. Also featured are pop music based on cummings's text, from Joan Baez, Ra Ra Riot and others. At the end there's three tracks of cummings reading his poetry from three albums.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: e.e. cummings in music (121 tracks, total time: 6 hours).Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Some song text can be found here.


The New York based New Amsterdam Records is a central force in creating the "indie classical" scene since 2008, and so far has released dozens of compelling (both sonically and visually) albums that otherwise might never be heard. Unfortunately its headquarters in Red Hook, Brooklyn was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. If you would like to donate to their recovery effort (I did), please visit this official page. Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pictures at an Exhibition - Orchestrations & Arrangements for Other Forces

"Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite in ten movements composed for piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874. The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It has become further known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers, with Maurice Ravel's arrangement being the most recorded and performed." - Wikipedia

This playlist consists of over 30 arrangements of Pictures, including over a dozen orchestrations, from Henry Wood, Leo Funtek, Maurice Ravel, Lucien Cailliet, Leopold Stokowski, Sergei Gorchakov (the RCA recording by Rickenbacher comes with colorful narrations), Lawrence Leonard (for piano and orchestra), Vladimir Ashkenazy (sounds much more Russian than Ravel's), Emile Naoumoff (for piano and orchestra), Leonard Slatkin (compendium version), Peter Breiner (for large orchestra). In addition, there's also arrangements for brass ensemble, piano trio, organ, trombone and piano, accordion, two accordions, cello and bass ensemble, wind orchestra, bassoon ensemble, piano and percussion, marimba duo... and yes, rock bands (ELP and metal band Mekong Delta). For solo piano, I included Kissin's performance of the original, plus Horowitz and Moiseiwitsch's own revised versions.

Get this collection in one playlist: Pictures at an Exhibition - Orchestrations & Arrangements for Other Forces (505 track, total time: 20 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. For complete list of arrangements, see Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hans Werner Henze (1926 - 2012): Reverse Chronological Collection on Spotify

"Hans Werner Henze (1 July 1926 – 27 October 2012) was a German composer of prodigious output best known for 'his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life'. His music is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German composition." - Wikipedia

Start with Nachtstücke und Arien if you like Strauss's Four Last Songs or Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. Also recommended: Royal Winter Music, Symphony No. 8 (both based on Shakespeare), Undine, and the Auden Songs sung by Ian Bostridge. Henze's stripped-down chamber arrangement of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder is included at the end of the playlist.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Hans Werner Henze - Reverse Chronological Collection (481 tracks, total time: 36 hours).  Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More links: song texts, work list on Wikipedia, AllMusic and Chester Novello; obituaries from Boulezian, Guardian, and Henze's publisher Schott Music.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conlon Nancarrow at 100: Chronological Collection

"Conlon Nancarrow was an iconoclastic American composer who wrote in an utterly new way using new instrumental resources. While isolated from the main currents of music, he was virtually ignored by the public and his colleagues until the 1970s. In the 1980s composer György Ligeti said Nancarrow was writing 'the best music by any living composer.'

Nancarrow is primarily known for his 50 studies for player piano, which combine a quasi-improvisatory likening to jazz pianists Art Tatum and Earl Hines, with dazzling rhythmic complexity rendered at tempos that exceed the capabilities of human performers. Nancarrow adopted the player piano as his instrument of choice because of its ability to exactingly reproduce his complex rhythmic layers -- sometimes up to 12 layers simultaneously -- and because of his relative isolation from performers while in Mexico. Nancarrow obtained a player piano in the 1940s and began laboriously hand-punching each note onto a piano roll, ultimately producing completed compositions." - AllMusic

This playlist is a collection of all available works of Nancarrow, sorted in chronological order. It also features various arrangements of the Studies for Player Piano, from Alarm Will Sound, Icebreaker, Bang On A Can, Ensemble Modern, Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, Martin Schlumpf, Jason Moran, Absolute Ensemble, and Thomas Adès.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Conlon Nancarrow - Chronological Collection (141 tracks, total time: 8 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More links: work list, official site, Other Minds, and mini site by Kyle Gann.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magnus Lindberg - Reverse Chronological Catalogue

"By the age of forty, Magnus Lindberg was one of the busiest concert composers in the world. His music avails itself of all manner of modern innovations, but there is a Neo-Classical orientation in his harmonies and formal design that makes his works appealing to a wide audience.

Lindberg was appointed composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic, starting in their 2009-2010 season. The orchestra opened its 2009 season with his EXPO, the first world premiere at an opening concert since 1964." - AllMusic

Works in this playlist, with links to introductory articles & program notes:
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Magnus Lindberg - Reverse Chronological Catalogue (98 tracks, total time: 15 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Photo source. Also check out my previous playlist for Lindberg's longtime friend, Esa-Pekka Salonen.