KCRW- Your one stop shop for finding great music online

I am going to take a break from the usual social media trend analysis to share with you all a fantastic iPhone/iPod Touch app I discovered over the weekend. Don’t have an iPhone/iPod? It’s also a website, so no worries.

Ever since radio officially stopped caring about you and me, finding good music has become a real chore. Like mining for gold, hours spent searching often results in a few nuggets that lose their luster in short order.

Enter KCRW.com and the KCRW iPhone app. For those who do not live in the Los Angeles area, KCRW is the NPR station for Southern California which has become renowned for their excellent music, public affairs and political programming.

The app does so many things perfectly, it ought to be shown to all app developers as the “how-to” use case. Like other radio station apps, you can listen live, or filter by “news” or “music.” The “On demand” feature, however,  is where this app really shines. There you will find 25 different shows/DJs and the option to play back either their latest show or a past one. A playlist pops up in real time that allows you to then take the songs you like and create your own playlist, buy the song in iTunes or share the show you’re listening to with friends. But here’s the real kicker. As we know, Apple does not allow apps to work in the background. This non-feature becomes particularly annoying with a music app such as this one. Well, fear not, music seeker- the “Play in Background” feature is what separates the men from the boys here. AND, the music streams over WiFi or 3G, and I have not had any problems with the hand off. (In other words if you start listening at home over WiFi and then get in your car and switch to 3G. The music keeps right on playing.)

OK, so whatever- all these features are cool. But what about the music? You’ll find KCRW’s signature daily music program “Morning Becomes Eclectic” as well as world music, jazz, indie pop, trance, hip hop, remixes, soul, and on it goes. The DJs themselves are all excellent and, unlike on hit radio, they don’t blather on endlessly. They play the music and stay out of the way. (Special shout out to Tom Schnabel, who was my favorite DJ to listen to when I lived in LA. I probably learned about more music through him than anyone else. Nice to hear you again, Tom.)

So, look, all the time you’ve spent reading this post, you could have spent the .99 cents and downloaded the app already and gotten as much pleasure from it as I have. Ever since I left Los Angeles, I have missed listening to KCRW. Now I don’t have to miss it anymore, and you can have a great LA experience, without all the freeways.

At last, a great way to find great music.

The Best of 2008 in iTunes

The Unofficial Apple Weblog, another favorite of ours, has a link to the iTunes Best of 2008. It includes TV shows, podcasts, music (by genre), iPhone applications, audiobooks and movies.

I know I blew about an hour of my day comparing my tastes to those of the masses of iTunes users out there. I also found a bunch of cool stuff that I had somehow missed over the course of the past year. And, of course, I checked in on the top 100 downloaded songs and realized that I had heard of only one of them. And that’s becuase it was a reissue from the 80s. [Sigh]

Weekend is here, Christmas is here- spend a little time doing some comparing and shopping.

Six Degrees of Music

As we approach the Winter Music Conference in Miami later this month, I am reminded of a radio interview I heard over a year ago with Six Degrees Records co-founder Bob Duskis. What first struck me about the interview was that I heard it on a show ostensibly about cooking and food called The Splendid Table. An inspired booking by the Splendid Table producers since music is such an integral part of socializing, eating and sharing.

Six Degrees is a small, independent label that does an incredible job of leveraging the internet to help promote their artists. They have a weekly internet radio show on Live365, they use YouTube to show off their artists’ videos, they have a Facebook and MySpace page, a blog and a newsletter that consistently offers free downloads and other tour and release information. (I am not going to link to every single thing I mentioned. If you’re interested, it’s all right there on their page.) The point is, they make it easy for you to find them no matter where you might be looking. That is the first rule of internet marketing: make it easy.

Their artists are not household names, but in this age of disposable music, I think we can say goodbye forever to the music icons of yesterday that everyone knew. There ain’t gonna be another Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton anytime soon. Six Degrees focuses on Brazilian and other world music, ambient and what they call “intelligent pop music.”

This is a tough time to be in the record business but Six Degrees does a lot of things right in my opinion. Gone are the days of browsing through the stacks at Tower Records. Digital music online is great and convenient, but the two main drawbacks are 1) a  more impersonal, less tactile experience and, 2) the difficulty in finding what you’re looking for. Especially if you’re like me and you often don’t know what you’re looking for.

I might suggest beginning your search with Six Degrees Records.

New way to find music from NPR

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time looking for good music. No matter where you come down on NPR’s programming, they typically have great music offerings.

This week they launched a terrific, free multimedia music discovery site called NPR Music.  Along with the launch of the site, they also released an elegant player that allows you to create your own playlist of material  dating back to May 2005 to the present, as well as make recommendations for related content depending on the your selections. Pretty cool.

It is very user friendly and visually pleasing website. Definitely worth checking out.