MGMT’s new album a week early on Rdio

Controversy over how streaming service royalties are divvied up aside, I really enjoy our Rdio subscription. I listen to a lot more music, try a lot of things and find new stuff I really love in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise. Rdio are much more album-oriented than Spotify which I prefer too.

Just got an email from them promoting their exclusive access to the new MGMT album, along with a pretty trippy video experience that ties in with the music, called the OPTIMISER.

The triply crab-head humanoid thingy wants you to dance

Got to say, I’m new to MGMT but I seem to remember someone telling me about them before so I’m giving it a go and so far it seems like a sort of hippy funky electro psychedelic opera kinda vibe. I’m liking it, but I think a lot of that has to do with the dancing crab-head humanoid drawing me through a weird 1990s-era computerised vortex video effects. It’s not subtle, but it’s pretty fun! As you get drawn into the visuals, glance down to see the avatars of other Rdio users float along the timeline as they watch too. Which is nice.

Sign into Rdio now and check it out just for the weirdness. But you know – in a good way.


Michael Degusta questions David Lowery’s Pandora royalty claims, is partly misleading, partly bang-on

Link: Pandora paid over $1,300 for a million plays, not $16.89

Remember that post from David Lowery about Pandora rates?

Here’s a reply from Michael Degusta, doing what everyone that linked to the original story (including me) should have done and double-checking the maths (with an S please, people!).

His calculations and research tells us what Lowery’s song made in total from Pandora, including a performance royalty that Lowery mentioned in passing but said he’d post about later. In doing so, Degusta makes the argument that Lowery’s total take for the song was more like $230 than $16.89:

Conclusion. By this math:

Pandora paid a total of about $1,370.
The band received a total of about $585.
If Lowery received 40% of the performance royalty, “all he got” for the 1 million plays was in fact around $234.
Whatever one thinks of the fairness of those numbers, they’re all clearly far larger than $16.89.

It’s inflammatory stuff but it’s just as misleading as it claims Lowery was – Degusta’s basing his total on figures that include the performer royalty as well, but if you go back and read the original blog that everyone picked up on, Lowery’s complaint focusses on the songwriter’s royalty. Lowery does mention the performance royalty and clearly states he’ll talk about that separately, and if you go through the comments he repeats that this was his angle, how much a songwriter makes from Pandora.

But Degusta also examines Lowery’s Pandora and US FM/AM radio comparisons:

The main issue here is that Lowery cites only dollar amounts for comparison:

• “For frame of reference compare [sic] Sirius XM paid me $181”
• “Terrestrial (FM/AM) radio US paid me $1,522”

This is quite simple: those sources paid him a lot more primarily because a lot more people heard his song via those sources. For example, AM/FM paid him $1,373.78 for 18,797 spins. That’s 7.3 cents per spin. If only 10,000 listeners heard each spin, terrestrial radio is in fact paying just half the songwriter fee Pandora paid him per listener. And of course it’s likely to have been far more than 10,000 – even the intentionally miniscule South Dakota radio station Pandora just bought manages to average 18,000 listeners.

Degusta concludes:

None of this means Pandora ought to pay less in royalties. … But attacking Pandora with intentionally misleading statistics just undermines the credibility of the argument.

It seems to me a little cheeky to end like that when the basis of his own attention-grabbing headline merges performer and songwriting royalties while Lowery sought only to examine the latter.

Finally, Pandora themselves have pitched in.

I can see what Lowery’s point is about songwriting not paying so well, but he made some poor comparisons to other royalties that didn’t help his case. And when Degusta provided those eye-opening (but in my view beside-the-point) performance royalty estimates, along with ably debunking the radio comparison, the combination further distracted everyone from Lowery’s original point.

I think all we can take away from this is that working out balanced royalties in this new digital age is not easy, and making a living in music is a gamble.

(Via Daring Fireball)


UPDATED: David Lowery got $16.89 for a million plays on Pandora

UPDATE: It turns out that Mr Lowery may have got his sums a little wrong, or at least not told quite the whole story. Michael Degusta has posted a reply questioning the maths.


Link: My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times And All I Got Was $16.89!

Performer David Lowery is sharing how much he makes from Pandora, Sirius XM and US radio airtime, to make the point that Pandora already pays appallingly low rates and is petitioning US Congress to get away with paying even less.

Here’s an idea. Why doesn’t Pandora get off the couch and get an actual business model instead of asking for a handout from congress and artists? For instance: Right now Pandora plays one minute of commercials an hour on their free service. Here’s an idea! Play two minutes of commercials and double your revenue! (Sirius XM plays 13 minutes and charges a subscription).

I pay the full subscription for Rdio (I like the focus on albums and prefer the layout to Spotify’s darker look) and while I’m probably not quite using it to the max I feel I get my £9.99’s worth. But I don’t really know where Rdio and Spotify stand in the royalties league table.

If they are as paltry as Pandora, will I reconsider? I’m not sure.

Editorial Other how-tos

The music of Harry Bosch on Rdio and Spotify

Michael Connelly’s series of crime thrillers featuring LA detective Harry Bosch are amongst my favourite reads of all time, rubbing shoulders with the creations of Chuck Palahniuk, Douglas Adams, Douglas Coupland and Jo Nesbo. The books are flavoured with references to the music Harry unwinds to and it was through these references that I was introduced, ashamedly late in life, to the likes of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Art Pepper and more.

There’s a handy page over at Michael Connelly’s site listing the artists, albums and tracks mentioned in all his books (including the non-Bosch books), and a link to a short Spotify playlist but that only has a dozen or so tracks so I thought I’d put together a fuller version using Connelly’s list.

I’m an Rdio subscriber so I’ve done one for both Rdio and Spotify:

The Music of Harry Bosch on Rdio

The Music of Harry Bosch on Spotify

Where only artists are mentioned I’ve left them out for now until I can research the best tracks to add. There’s also some gaps due to unavailability (the elusive Tomasz Stanko, please stand up) and I’ve elected not to include a few things (sorry Rod Stewart, you’re just not my bag, baby), but with around 50 tracks there’s plenty to get your ears around.

Enjoy – and if you’d like to suggest some additions feel free to get in touch in the comments.

iOS & Mac reviews

Radium 3: an excellent radio app for Macs, with a dumb icon

Almost all my music needs at home are satisfied by either my iTunes collection or, increasingly in recent months, my Rdio subscription, but sometimes I want to listen to the radio. TuneIn Radio, the excellent iOS app, runs for free in your desktop browser but you may prefer to use a dedicated app.

For the last few years I’ve been using Radium, by CatPig Studios ($9.99 on the Mac App Store). It’s a lightweight radio app for Macs that lives in your menu bar and with a simple interface lets you search for, play and save internet radio stations. It recently got an update to version 3, which also saw CatPig stop selling it from their site and make it a Mac App Store exclusive.

They put it on sale for the first few weeks to make up for Apple’s lack of support for discounted upgrades so I grabbed it to check out the new features.

What’s new?

The interface has had a makeover from a rather plain blue-and-white to, well, blue-and-black, but the overall feel is much slicker. For most of the time it’s just a search bar and results/favourites list, with everything else hidden behind a gear icon.

There you’ll find options to output to any Airplay receivers in the vicinity, view album art which doubles as a mini-controller, save tracks you like to a wish-list, or pop out a graphic equaliser, plus there’s support for your existing digital radio subscriptions, including K-PIG,, Live 365 and SiriusXM Canada and USA.



Also new is the selection of icons next to stations in the list; once you save a station to your favourites you can change these to whatever you like. And of course you can tweet what you’re listening to, ‘Love’ it on, or visit the station’s own website.


I’ve got two stations in Radium right now – BBC Radio 6 and AM 1710 Antioch – so I really don’t need much in the way of organising or sharing. All I want is a simple, reliable radio streaming app that looks good and stays out of the way until I need it, and Radium really nails that so there’s not much more to say other than to highly recommend it.

Except… there’s this one thing…

Okay, so this really makes barely any difference to the utility of the app but it bugs the heck out of me and that’s the change of icon design. I’m going to talk about this for a fair bit now, better get the popcorn out, or skip to the end

Still here? Okay, here’s the current and old icon side by side:


One of those is a lovingly crafted old radio; its menubar icon is also a radio. The other is a chocolate heart and its menubar icon is also a heart.

Radium 3’s icon is the chocolate heart. Now, it’s a delicious looking chocolate I have to say. I imagine biting slowly into it and discovering a delicious chocolate goo, with perhaps a touch of Cointreau running through it… Anyway, it doesn’t strike me as a music app. I mean, why, right?

I haven’t really followed any of the marketing for Radium 3, I just saw there was an update, was confused by the icon, checked it was the same Radium, shrugged and bought it. Looking through the actual Mac App Store listing in detail, I found this:


So I guess that’s why it’s a chocolate now. Or did the icon come first and the slogan a result of that?

Either way, to me it feels like it’s an attempt to detach from the ‘old school’ definition of radio by making the icon less referential of the technology of yesteryear, where Radium 2’s icon was firmly rooted, and push something more conceptual and abstract.

But chocolate for my ears? Well, that’s just unhygienic, who even puts chocolate in their ears while listening to music? Why would you do that? Or even encourage it? Wouldn’t it have to be melted and therefore hot? It’s very confusing.

I’m being ridiculous to make a point; I’m very curious how they came to this decision as the permanent representation of the app for the future because it’s so far away from anything I’d choose, and I have an annoying need to understand whyyy. I think I know why, I just don’t understand it. Or… agree with it. I talked to CatPig about it over Twitter but they prefer to insult people who don’t “get it”. Rude, unprofessional, immature… yep, they’re all those things, but their app is good and that’s what I’m recommending, not their lack of inter-personal skills.

Heart icon, I heart you not

The new icon design extends to the menubar, where Radium is also a heart. I tuck most of my menubar icons away with Bartender, and when I’m up there I don’t want to have to think about which is which, which is usually fine because they’re all pretty descriptive.


Look, there’s Alfred’s bowler hat and Hazel’s feather duster, both apt for those apps; TextExpander uses its ‘balloon’ icon and also has the decency to offer a choice; Droplr, Airfoil, Fantastical and Dropbox are also pretty self-explanatory. In fact most everything up there is.

It’s really just Skitch and Radium letting the side down, and what do they both have in common?

So does anyone know an easy way to hack the menubar icon out of Radium 2 and apply it to Radium 3? Because until then some irritably logical perfectionist side of me won’t be happy.

In conclusion

Radium 3, the app, is excellent. The icon concept is… different, and the devs really believe in it, but if you’re not as fussed as me about that sort of detail (and I suspect I’m outnumbered 😉 ) and you’re looking for internet radio on your Mac, this is the one to look at first.

mac-app-store-availableVersion 3 of Radium, the most delicious radio-streaming chocolate you’ll ever put in your, um, ears is available on the Mac App Store for $9.99 via that handy button over there.

P.S. – a word about Antioch

Just another quick mention for AM 1710 Antioch again – it’s a fantastic little station run by this one guy who’s got loads of recordings of radio dramas and comedies going way back to the 30s – including Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, Superman, The Whistler, The Lone Ranger and more, and often featuring the actual adverts for cigarettes and Kraft cheese products.

They play on an automated system that tries to match for the date so you’re usually listening to something that originally aired that day many decades ago. I love it and recommend it for a historical and entertaining listen.