Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tales From East End Blvd: The Dive Bars We All Love

The new defunct Doozer's Pub in Jacksonville, FL

Most people who love a good dive bar have their own personal favorite, usually in their neighborhood or close-by. The stinky walls, the sticky floors, your kind of music on the jukebox and your kind of beer on tap. The live music - it’s so up-close and personal in these tiny places. Music is a huge factor here at these bars and sometimes it’s ALL about the music. Music is universal. Everyone likes some form of it. The ones that live for it, though, can usually be found in dive bars.

I’ve been playing music to pay the bills for quite a while now. I go in, I “work”, I get paid. It’s just like any other job (I refuse to call it a job though). Nonetheless, I don’t always get paid what I should if I’m playing a dive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played them and at the end of the night I got paid almost NOTHING after a 2-4 hour drive. Funny thing is, my band and I had the best time of our freaking lives on stage those nights and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Why is that? What is it that’s so appealing about a dive bar to patrons and musicians? Maybe it’s the fact that nobody is trying to impress anyone. Maybe it’s the companionship and the comfort. Maybe it’s the fact that, usually, everyone in a dive bar is a music lover so there’s always something to talk about (my personal favorite reason). Maybe it’s all of the above. All signs point back to music in one way or another but, whatever the reason, I love them and tons of people all over the world agree. 

JJ's Bohemia in Chattanooga, TN and its locals
Here in my hometown of Chattanooga, TN, thee rock and roll dive bar in town is JJ’s Bohemia. I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve seen in that narrow, shotgun-shaped, alcoholic-hallway of a bar. Beer only at the bar, “recreations” out back on the deck, a live band playing original tunes 7 nights a week and the stench of PBR on the stage, floor and everyone’s breath. I’ve been turned on to so many new bands/artists in that bar. I’ve seen bands there that I never thought I’d see up-close and personal. A few memorable ones being a BUZZOV*EN reunion / K-Lloyd show (both now Rusty Knuckles bands!), a crazy intense Valiant Thorr show, opening for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers / Danny Barnes show and a ton of others. 

My favorite is the first time I saw the late, great T-Model Ford. When I won the Best Blues Band award for TN / GA in 2009, the JJ’s Bohemia owner, John Shoemaker, said he had something for me and asked me to open for the T-Model Ford / Black Diamond Heavies / Mark “Porkchop” Holder bill the following month. I replied with something similar to “You damn right I will!!”. I got to jam with T-Model in the middle of the bar before they opened the doors. T was playing my guitar, I was playing his, and my drummer at the time, Burma Shave, was behind the kit. I also got to sit in on lead guitar during T’s song “Chickenhead Man” with him later that night and every other night he played JJ’s before he passed! 

Husky and T-Model Ford hanging out pre-show at JJ's Bohemia
Needless to say, it’s something that changed my life a bit and that I’ll never forget. There’s been many a night that I couldn’t help but go crazy with energy while playing on their stage cause the patrons were literally making the floor in front of the stage shake and rumble. You feel it in your bones and can’t help but turn it up and go nuts even though the stage and floor feel like they could collapse at any minute!
Another great dive that comes to mind is Doozers in Jacksonville, FL. Don’t go looking for it, it’s gone. Doozers was simply amazing. A tiny little building on the edge of town. It was a punk rock dive, nothing more. Inside it’s walls were people that loved music...period. I made good friends and no money there. Did I care about the paycheck part? Hell no!! It was the best damn show of the FL run every year! Sweaty, shirtless kids jumping around like wild, banshee monkeys. Who would’ve thought that my music would even remotely entertain them? Boy, did it ever! They were flinging themselves in circles of rage, kicking mic stands over and going crazy for 3 - 4 minutes at a time. I really miss that place. The owner, TJ Doozer, had something special there but, eventually, she had to let it go like many other dive owners have to.

It’s memories and first-times like these that you just won’t get anywhere else. Even though some of the dives that I really loved to play are gone, there are new ones that come along that somewhat replace the emptiness and bring on a new life of it’s own. One of them is Shore Road Tavern in northeast Philadelphia, PA. Wow, what a bunch of awesome, friendly folks. Mike Fiedler and his wife Kathy have really got a good thing going. Why? It’s because of those same ol’ reasons I mentioned at the beginning: everyone is a music lover, your kind of music on the jukebox, your kind of beer on tap, your kind of folks. 

Pennsylvania State Rep Michael Tomlinson hanging out at Shore Road post-show

There are no show-offs here, no uppity attitudes, just good folks who are looking to wind down and have a damn good time. One night I was playing an official state representative was even in there hanging out. Real people, real things (I may sound like Russell Hammond, guitarist for Stillwater in the film Almost Famous but, it’s the truth. It’s all about the real). Mike has become a brother of mine these days. Him and his crew of misfits are some of the most real people I’ve ever hung out with and because of that, I call Philly and Shore Road my second home now. I try to pass through every chance I get, whether I’m on tour or not. Mike and Kathy are truly down for the cause and Shore Road is making history, like every other good dive bar that does it for the right reasons. They are a rare breed for sure and we love them for it.

Husky, Loki, Bill Dorsey and Mike Fiedler outside the Shore Road Tavern
These dive owners and employees will never be forgotten. They mean so much to us traveling musicians. I can’t find the words to express how I feel about them. It’s not just us musicians that appreciate them this much. The patrons love them just as much for bringing in the music they love. A true dive bar can make you feel warm and fuzzy like that, without the beer / liquor buzz. Inside those beaten-up walls people find themselves, they get educated, they learn about music, they make friends, they get hammered in good fun and they gain a second home. Do yourself a favor and support your locals: go spend your money at your local dive instead of some franchise bar or restaurant. It’ll do your soul some good and you just might learn a thing or two.

- Husky Burnette 

Branded Leather Business Cards

Rusty Knuckles leather business cards
The hell with printing at Kinkos, needed some new business cards for a meeting, so out comes the torch and the hefty chunk of custom brass to burn our name into some raw leather.

Need A Belt To Avoid Scratching Paint?

Heavy duty work belt made for the working man with a hidden buckle
Have a job where ya can't scratch the paint, such as on a custom build or a sexy Gretsch? Check out a new belt we are about to offer for the working man or lady. A hidden buckle and a great product that is Made In America. Stay tuned for what we are about to start offering with all of our custom leather goods, hint hint, something to do with music... 

Detail photo of one of our new belts for the working man

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

J.B. Beverley Feature Review On American Roots UK

 Link to review on American Roots UK

Order your copy of the album

"Having previously made four albums that include one live limited edition and one demo recording, as well as touring relentlessly with his band ‘The Wayward Drifters’ it was perhaps inevitable that a change was due in the shape of a ‘solo’ album for the copiously talented J.B. Beverley. How often do we see the frontman of many a great band doing this only to find the finished product a disappointment. Not so in the case of JB! This album is a real triumph for an incredibly busy singer/songwriter who also runs his own recording studio, produces and engineers other peoples recordings, as well as being an author and screenwriter. Because ‘Drifters’ Johnny Lawless retired from the road and Dan Mazer moved out to the west coast, JB was forced into rethinking his musical career and fans old and new are fortunate that this new album not only matches the high quality of previous recordings but as a bonus offers more diversity whilst still firmly within the ‘roots music’ genre.     

His roots, as with friends James Hunnicutt and Hank Williams III, are in ‘punk’ music but that particular roots strain has gradually evolved into an edgy form of music that veers between a form of gothic country to southern rock to classic country, even a little blues and just about all points in between, all played and sung as if each of those strains was the only thing JB has ever played. He is a hugely talented singer songwriter who would probably have more success sticking to plain ‘commercial country,’ (as a vocalist he is more than capable of such a swing) but then we wouldn’t get treats such as this tremendous album! He really is a musician that ploughs his own furrow and one that is deep, diverse, heartfelt and full of commitment.

The fact that he can sing straight country in many ways proves his talent for diversity because that is only a small part of what this album contains, with him being equally at home on a ‘heavy’ rocker or front porch instrumental. I would have said it was virtually impossible for anyone to make an album such as this but JB, with the help of a few hugely talented friends, pulls it off. His extraordinarily gifted friend James Hunnicutt joins him on many of the songs sometimes adding vocals but always with his excellent guitar playing and the talented Buck Thrailkill plays banjo.  

There are fifteen tracks on the album, two of which are instrumentals, twelve were written by J.B and the three covers are Motorhead’s I Ain’t No Nice Guy, a duet with his equally talented old friend James Hunnicutt that veers between mellow folksiness and a raw powerful rocked up Motorhead feel and back again, putting the original in the shade! The traditional Hang Me, Oh Hang Me is an incredible live recording of the song with just JB's tremendous vocal and acoustic guitar propelling this classic song. The other cover is the late Gene Lee Wilcox  penned Time Will Tell, a simply stunning version of the darkest of all love songs that for good measure incorporates a murder ballad!

Thematically there is a dark atmosphere to many of the songs, hardly surprising considering several personal tragedies that were occurring in JB's life at the time of writing these songs. There is a deeply reflective thread that seems to bind many of the tales together despite the individual songs coming from musically diverse directions. The album opens with Appalachian Swamp Stomp an excellent instrumental that was recorded on JB's porch with him on cigar box guitar and Big Geo Ballentine on slide guitar. It has a deep dark atmosphere that could easily lure the casual listener into thinking this is going to be a ‘hillbilly’ album, but what follows certainly gives the lie to that premise! It is followed by Get The Wheels A Rollin’ a tremendously fiery hard driving ‘southern’ rocker that veers well away from any sort of country music. I described the album as diverse and so it is proven by the next song All The Little Devils, a terrific, quite dark, slow moody ballad with just acoustic guitar plus nice harmony vocals from Hunnicutt and co author Ronnie Hymes. Three entirely different strains of roots music but can he keep up the diversity? You bet he can, as proven on the next track. It is another instrumental but one entirely different to the album opener. This is called Bit Of Pickin’ a tune that is a tremendous jaunty banjo and acoustic guitar ‘old timey’ instrumental with Buck Thrailkill on banjo and Hunnicutt and Beverley on acoustic guitars. It would be easy to imagine this one being played on a front porch of the high Appalachians or conversely on a Mississippi river boat and has the quality that the late great John Hartford would have been proud of had he written it! An excellent co write by the three players. Disappear On Down The Line is an intensely dark, sad tale with a classic country vocal on what can almost be described as a classic country song, with excellent harmonies from Hunnicutt, acoustic guitars and cello and Beverley’s peerless heartfelt lead vocal on a gorgeous slow moody ballad. The title track Stripped To The Root is an incredible song and one that emphasises JB's raw evocative vocal with just sparse acoustic guitar for company. The song has an atmosphere that says the teller has lived this life and is now reflecting on the consequences as they leave him with no way to turn but knowing that somehow he must try to find a way back up. A story of such exceptional quality and raw heartrending emotion that had Guy Clark, Townes or Prine written it, the song would be hailed as one of the great pieces of generic writing!

As a measure of the man’s talent this open hearted album could not really have been surpassed. His writing is exceptional, the arrangements never overdone, there is huge diversity, he possesses vocals that can cope with most genres within roots music and there is a natural edginess that never gets in the way of the songs. Great album! "

J.B. Beverley feature write up on American Roots UK


Monday, January 27, 2014

Antiseen Hires New Drummer

Antiseen brings in some fresh blood to the team
Please welcome the newest member of ANTiSEEN. Taking over on the drums, direct from Daytona Beach, Florida, Antiseen proudly presents to you, the one, the only,......THE GOOCH!!!!

The Antiseen lineup for 2014 and beyond

The Gooch gets in touch with his inner ape

Bringin' the heat to the inaugural rehearsal

Rory Kelly - Lay To Waste - Video Teaser

Rory Kelly is making damn sure the world knows him about and his upcoming album due out this spring
Earlier this month we jetted out to the mountains to shoot a new video with Rory Kelly as he is preparing to drop a stellar new album and will be touring far and wide this spring. In late May, he will then fly over to Europe and do a three week hot lap conquering more territory and laying to waste all stages in his path. 

Check out a sneak peak of the new video and some still shots, stay thirsty my friends...

Cruising the back roads to pick up his band mates
A rare break while shooting or just a 6 am shoot time?
Remember that band Crank County Daredevils?
1971 Dodge Duster doing what she was meant to do

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Zen And The Art Of Carving An Old Nickel Into A Portrait Of J.D. Wilkes Of The Dirt Daubers

Birth - Life - Death
Hand carved hobo style nickel for JD Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers

Life is all about what you put into it. That's it, plain and simple. If you slouch around and think the world is against you, well, chances are things might not go according to plan. If your wandering thoughts drift towards the abstract and your mind ventures into areas of science and meditative thought, maybe the rationalization of raw energy in its purest form, will light your candle. Within this latent power source of zero point energy, all the potential kinetic energy exists in the ether and it fascinates me to no end.

Is this chatter, just a brain spewing diatribe of random thoughts? Not in the least. What it is and what it boils down to is the realization that doing cool things and having a positive outlook will attract a similar mindset within the latent energy of others. Call it a zen philosophy or maybe just a positive outlook, either or, both are on the money.

From the many posts within this blog there are write ups on all things motors and music, along wtih a hodge podge of information focused on the DIY mindset and work ethic. Rusty Knuckles is not an individual or a singular concept, but rather a collective mindset of the do it yourselfer's who choose to dictate their place in the world, rather than be given directives about how to live.

In this capacity creating anything from scratches on paper in a notebook or a pure thought to pop into your mind is possible. For the photo above, I have been tinkering around with ideas for etching some coins and luckily enough J.D. Wilkes had noticed them and inquired about getting one. All the past coins I have created have just been skulls, but that would be too easy to do again as a gift. I knew for a dude as creative as him, I wanted to try a bit harder and produce something that would challenge my skills. So what the hell, why not go for a portrait and throw the lack of experience to the wind, along with any real engraving tools.

So here are these rambling thoughts in a nutshell. Create work that you enjoy and be humbled by life itself. By having a great attitude, ya never know who might show up knocking on your door to say hello. Life is too damn short for negative or jealous folks, as they are the inverse of zero point energy and create a true black hole. 

Rise above and conquer my friends as there is no second place.

An old Indian head nickel carved into a skull. Sense any sort of irony?
Large batch of Indian nickels scored from ebay ready for carving into new style coins

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires Are Pure Rock N' Roll

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires at Slim's in Raleigh on January 24, 2014

Pure Rock N Roll never sounded so good as to what Alabama's finest, in Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires showcased in downtown Raleigh tonite! Congrats fellas on signing with Subpop!!!

Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires sign with Sub Pop music

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sturgill Simpson Tours The UK And Gives A Dose Of Real Country Music

Country legend in the making, Sturgill Simpson

"Country music is not for everyone. As a European, usually, you love or you hate it. Unless you’re into the history of the south of the United States, or unless you’re into the genre tout court, you won’t find hipsters listening to it. It may be the last genre that is still pure and not contaminated by modes and cheap fashion trends. Many don’t know how important and influential country music has been for folk and rock music. That’s why, yesterday in Portobello at Rough Trade West, the average age of the audience attending the show was more then 45, but the quality of the gig was ageless.

Sturgill Simpson is from Kentucky and has spent his last week in the UK, traveling to present his new record High Top Mountain, a compendium of how country music should sound and should be written. Classic references, classic instrumentation (mostly a steel guitar) and a classic topoi in the lyrics of the songs (love, hate, betrayal and that leitmotif of a man belonging to a territory, typical of country music). “My Great Grandfather spent his days in a coal mine and his nights on the porch in a chair. Now he’s in heaven and down here in hell the rivers run muddy and the mountains are bare”, he sang in the superb Old King Coal. With a guitar and with a powerful, deep voice, Simpson played just six songs from his last record, but the intensity of the execution and the undeniable talent of this man made the experience very touching indeed.

“I’m trying to pay homage to my family and where I’m from”, said Simpson in a recent interview, and considering the remarkable songs played at the venue, we trust him. Songs full of stories and traditions – both in the ballads (Water In a WellHero) and in the richer songs (Railway of Sin, Poor Rambler) – engaged the audience in a religious-like and respectful silence. High Top Mountain is a record about defeated people and injustice (“Born on a summer day in some dark holler, way back in the hills of Perry County. Well he grew up poor and he never saw a dollar, but a dollar ain’t no good in a coal camp anyway”) but thank goodness, as he very well proved, Simpson is not defeated."

Sturgill Simpson live review from the United Kingdom

Short Film - The Glint - Featuring Comete Motocycle

"There is a light that never goes out. It dwells deep inside us, giving us motivation and shaping our path.
That light is the flicker of creation.
The spark of an idea.
The outline of a design.
It is the desire that stokes our passions and makes us strive to go further.
This internal fire feeds our dreams and puts a glint in our eye.
It is the energy that ignites our creativity.
It tills the land.
It shapes and gives life to the medium being crafted.
Every creation is imbued with the being that created it, as if the medium is breathing in the spirit of the craftsman.
Isn't that the most beautiful way of leaving a trace of our existence, of our time on this earth?
To create is the only way to traverse time, to wander through the ages.
It is the only way to become immortal, to be infinite.
If this light goes out, we die."

The Glint from Mathieumaury on Vimeo

This is my first short film for Guillaume Drapier, Founder of Comete Motocycles.
Shot in one day, achieved without any budget.
Shot in raw with Magic Lantern on a Canon 5D Mark III
Director / Editor : Mathieu Maury
Cinematographers : Romain Decomble, Eudes Quittelier
Color Grading : Eudes Quittelier
Text : Lise Beuve
Narrator : Paul Bandey
Music : A.Taylor – Nostalgia
Mixing: Jesse James Rosquin – Studio Apollon XIII
Actor : Guillaume Drapier

Big thanks to :
Ores-group, Nicolas Guittard, Julien Boulard, Stanislas Giroux, Nancy El Bahrawi, Julien Scussel, Anaïs Deféver, Jonathan Cj Tassin, Ewald Wilson, and all my friends and my family.

Sono Assetata - Photography Short With Marian San Miguel

Sono Assetata - photography short with Marian San Miguel
The allure of a black and white film, is all about the quality of light and shadow. A sexy scene and a short narrative, never fail to deliver in capturing our attention.

sono assetata from Héctor Barrero on Vimeo.

balboa from Héctor Barrero on Vimeo.

SoundExchange Moves To Monthly Payments

Are you getting paid on streaming royalties? Find out more on SoundExchange

View a pdf on how SoundExchange works

"Let’s face it. No one likes to wait. Recognizing that sooner really is better, SoundExchange is pleased to announce it will begin offering monthly royalty payments to those artist and labels that are signed up to receive electronic payments beginning this month. Currently, the organization distributes royalties quarterly.

Initially, monthly royalty payments will be sent to those that are signed up to receive electronic payments, and have royalties due of at least $250. Artists and labels that do not meet this minimum threshold will continue to be paid on a regular, quarterly schedule under our existing guidelines. After the initial roll out period, SoundExchange will re-evaluate eligibility qualifications for our monthly payment program.

“While SoundExchange was already a market-leader with quarterly distributions, moving to monthly payments takes our service to the next level,” said SoundExchange President and CEO Michael Huppe. “By making performance royalties available sooner, we are making it easier for recording artists and record labels to focus on creating the music we all enjoy.”

SoundExchange is the first sound recording rights organization in the world to offer monthly distributions. Most sound recording performance organizations in other countries pay only annually.

Have questions? We are happy to provide you with any information regarding this new change. Please contact SoundExchange at or speak to a SoundExchange Representative at 1-800-961-2091."

- See more at:

SoundExchange now is offering monthly payouts on digital royalties

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Amon Amarth - Father Of The Wolf - Official Video

Amon Amarth - Father Of The Wolf, screenshot from video

One of the great aspects about viking metal lords Amon Amarth is that they clearly know their sound, direction and storyline. After many albums they never disappoint and are still iron clad and ready for battle with Norse mythology providing the wind in their sails. Death to false metal!

Amon Amarth's video for "Father of the Wolf" from the album "Deceiver of the Gods"

Buy the album from Metal Blade Records

Screenplay By: Daniel J.W. Hughes 
Story By: Ramon Boutviseth 
Starring: Davis Osborne & Ryan Barringer 
Executive Producers: Brian Slagel & Justin Arcangel 
Produced & Directed by Ramon Boutviseth

A Look Into The Shop Of Custom Builder Shinya Kimura

A look into the shop of custom builder Shinya Kimura

"What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.”


 - Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.


Follow Shinya Kimura 

Machinery to create most anything is at his fingertips

A Bridgeport mill is a must have for a true custom shop

Thinking through all the lines and angles

Working on the 4 into 1 exhaust

A Honda CB 750 never looked so good

Husky Burnette And His Electrified Resonator Guitar

AJ of Diamondback Stringworks with Husky Burnette's resonator preparing for surgery

Last year I scored a great endorsement deal with Diamondback Stringworks. They build anything from cigar boxes to mandolins to electric and acoustic guitars... even built a custom banjo/dobro hybrid. First, they built me a custom Telecaster-style guitar equipped with a vintage Epiphone humbucker pickup I gave them to make it right for my guitar tone. After really getting to know A.J. Hancock (owner) I've seen how great and on-point his work is. 

Not only have I made my Diamondback Tele-style my #1 guitar for standard tuning on stage, I've also taken almost every guitar I use on a regular basis to him for repair and/or for him to customize. This kid is 20 years old and one of the best luthiers I've ever ran across. Pretty crazy. If he's this good now, at 20 yrs old, who knows what the future may hold for him. 

He's built guitars for a few Rusty Knuckles artists already: Myself, Peewee Moore (Peewee and I got our endorsements/guitars at the same time) and J.B. Beverley. Other artists he's built for include the great Steve Earle, James Hunnicutt and more.

Two new guitars about to be customized
Here's some pictures I took at the Diamondback Stringworks shop in Tennessee this week. I took my National metal-body resonator guitar to him to electrify the thing. He wound a custom humbucker pickup for it and installed it so now I'm electrified, which opens new doors and possibilities for this guitar. This thing sounds amazing (it's a National, of course it does!) but, he wound the pickup to 1956 Les Paul specs so it's as thick and warm as it can get when plugged in to an amp. Perfection. 
Also, I've included a picture of my next two guitars he's customizing: the electric is a Zim-Gar (mid '60's Jap guitar) given to me by my uncle. My very first guitar. It's the guitar I learned my first chord on so it has some meaning. A.J. is making it playable again with all new electronics, a custom lipstick tube pickup and some cosmetic work; the acoustic is a Johnson and A.J. will be winding a custom pickup and mounting it. 
Don't take it from me, go check out Diamondback Stringworks' builds and quality products for yourself, like them on facebook, etc. They have a new line of acoustic guitar builds in the works right now so be on the lookout for those as well!
-Husky Burnette
Getting the pickup area ready for installation

The resonator with its heart ripped out in mid surgery

Husky Burnette and AJ of Diamondback Stringworks and the reconfigured resonator

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Custom Guitar Straps For The Working Musician

Brand new guitar strap style to add to our growing collection of custom leather options

We firmly believe that great quality products dont have to break the bank. Check out our brand new guitar straps for the working musician that will be available starting this week through our main site along with our etsy store for $35. All details will be posted shortly along with a plethora of color options.

Adding Another level of personal touch to our hand crafted leather goods. A solid brass logo, CNC milled out to burn into the leather by torch.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beats Music Plans To Crush Spotify Through Algorithms

Beats' Music aims to crush all other streaming music providers by using a complex and unique algorithm to find music specifically catered to your listening tastes

Read more on Wired

"Beats Music won’t be joining the most-tracks arms race when it launches Tuesday. Instead, the new subscription service brought to you by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will win converts through a potent mix of smarter algorithms and human curation. From the moment you first open the app, every interaction is recorded and used to determine the next album, playlist, and track to serve up. The result is more like a personalized mixtape than an online jukebox.

“No one was doing a music service; everyone was building a music server,” Beats Music chief executive Ian Rogers told WIRED. While services like Spotify, Rdio, and Rhapsody have some social discovery tools built in, they all launched similar products in an era when the rule was he with the most tracks wins. As a result, those companies got caught in a race to be the biggest. As they concentrated on the enormity of their music catalogs, their discovery mechanisms lagged. For instance, Rdio’s “Heavy Rotation” discovery option presents you with music your friends currently are enjoying, but it’s not smart enough to tell you to listen to David Bowie’s Hunky Dory because you love Lou Reed’s Transformer.

That’s where Beats Music is different. The service is betting on smarts instead of sheer depth. While it will have enough songs to compete — anybody entering the game at this point has to — with a library millions of tracks deep, it hopes its unique approach to music discovery tools will give it an edge.

As soon as you begin using the streaming service, Beats starts logging your “music DNA.” This serves as a personal profile used to determine which albums and tracks would be most relevant to you. To start generating your DNA, the service asks rudimentary questions, like which bands and genres you love.

But it takes other things into account. Your age is especially important to Beats Music. Tell it when you were born, and it figures out when you were in high school. The music of your youth — the stuff that was popular when you first got a Walkman or an iPod, the band that made it big when you got your driver’s license, the record that was all over MTV just before your freshman year of college — is the music with the strongest memories for you. It’s a fixed point in time that’s the most culturally and musically relevant to you. And it’s being crunched by the company’s algorithm.

Your sex matters, too; women and men usually have different tastes. Also important to Beats: the volume at which you listen to music. Which artists do you crank up? Who do you play quietly? It even tracks the music you send to Airplay speakers. The songs you use to fill your home are given a different mathematical weight than the songs you use to pass time at work.

But the system doesn’t solely rely on algorithms. It’s also backstopped by a small army of curators and behavioral scientists. This human element is there to help present music that doesn’t simply sound like the music you might enjoy, but also feels like it. Just because you listen to Mumford & Sons doesn’t mean you’d want to listen to a bunch of songs featuring banjos, for instance. You’d probably be more at home listening to Arcade Fire than Earl Scruggs. Humans can help make that determination. Algorithms can’t.

At launch, the app takes all this information and presents a personalized “Just for You” list of albums and playlists. The Influencers’ picks are especially fun. My love for Depeche Mode (especially Violator) was picked up by the service without my direct input. The list is filled with David Bowie, T-Rex, Joy Division, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, and others. While listening, the connection is suddenly apparent.

All this personalization and curation is the result of input from music producer Jimmy Iovine, a longtime proponent of subscription services, and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who is the company’s chief creative officer. Reznor was key in fine-tuning the curation and personalization aspects, but both he and Iovine wanted an experience that resonates with listeners and artists. That includes fixing how the artists’ pages are presented.

When you discover a new band, it can be difficult to determine which of their albums you might enjoy. The app solves this by presenting the essential albums for any given artist. Search the Beach Boys, and you’re shown Pet Sounds and The Smile Sessions, not that horrible Still Cruisin’ album from the late-’80s. Plus, actual album release dates are used instead of the date they were added to the streaming service. This is great when you want to hear 1970s Bowie instead of 1980s Bowie. Yes, there is a difference.

Beats Music won’t have a free tier. It’ll cost $10 a month, with a special for AT&T customers of $15 a month that includes five family members and 10 devices. This is an anomaly in a field where almost every service offers a free way in for listeners. But then, Iovine and Dre were instrumental in convincing people we didn’t need the lousy earbuds that ship with smartphones and music players.

“We know people will pay for something where there is value,” said Rogers. “Enough people pay for headphones, it’s an exciting business. We think we can do the same thing here.”"

Friday, January 17, 2014

Could Beats Music Become The Industry Standard For Digital Downloads?

Can Beats Music become the new industry standard subscription model for a music service?

Find out more on Beats Music from Billboard

"Beats Music, the premium streaming service developed by Trent Reznor, Ian Rogers and the creators of Beats By Dre headphones, is launching on Jan. 21, with AT&T as the exclusive carrier partner, the company said. 

Santa Monica-based Beats will join a parade of competitors, including Rhapsody, Slacker, Xbox Music, Rdio and Sony Music Unlimited -- all vying to become the dominant subscription service in the U.S., the world's largest market for music. The stakes are even higher as the market for digital downloads showed signs of waning, declining in 2013 for the first time, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The field is likely to become even more crowded this year, with Google Inc.'s YouTube and France's Deezer expected to launch their U.S. services in the next several months.

Beats Music, which was built partly from technology acquired in 2012 from the former Mog music service, aims to set itself apart with stylish design and human curation. The company a year ago hired Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails, as its chief creative officer to design the service's look and feel of the service, with the goal of making it easy and fun to use. It also recruited Rogers, former Chief Executive of Topspin Media who also once ran Yahoo's music service, as CEO of Beats Music. And last summer, Beats tapped Julie Pilat, former Clear Channel veteran, to head up Beats' efforts to distinguish itself from the pack with a heavy emphasis on curation via radio-style programming. 

Many other companies have tried similar approaches with much success, most notably Sirius XM and Slacker. Sirius, for example, has cultivated dozens of radio personalities with ardent fan followings, the best example of which is Howard Stern. Its curated approach is partly what makes Sirius XM the country's biggest paid music service, with more than 26 million subscribers. Slacker years ago pioneered the practice of having DJ's program its many genre stations. 

"Our curated stations perform incredibly well, even when listeners have the ability to choose on-demand music," said Slacker's CEO Jim Cady. "Our premium subscribers spend more than 80% of their time listening to our curated stations, rather than creating their own playlists or listening to tracks on demand. We’ve also seen that heavily-curated experiences, like deejay hosted countdown stations, keep people listening up to three times longer than genre stations. Even the simple act of adding a deejay to a station can increase average listening time by nearly 20%." 

With all eyes on streaming music services as a source of future growth for the industry, Beats has ambitious plans to pour on the glamour, as it did with great success for the premium headphones market more than six years ago, leveraging deep relationships cultivated over the years by Beats' co-founder, Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M at Universal Music Group. In 2008, Iovine and Dr. Dre launched Beats Electronics. Its instantly recognizeable headphones were soon spotted on dozens of celebrities and rap artists, who extolled the headsets' ability to reproduce the heavy bass sound prevalent in hip hop music. "We built something that works for us, for me, our friends, Dr. Dre," Iovine said in an interview with Billboard. "We enjoy using it. It’s what we would like to have, and we built it to where we felt it could help others."

While Iovine and his executives work to add star power to Beats Music, AT&T Corp. will provide the corporate marketing and distribution muscle. The carrier has agreed to distribute Beats Music, offering AT&T customers a 7-day free trial of the service. Afterwards, the service would cost $9.99 a month. For customers who opt to sign up for AT&T's family bundle, the service would come with a 90-day free trial. Once the trial period runs out, Beats would charge $14.99 a month, but allow up to 5 people and 10 devices full, on-demand access to the service. 

Beats would not disclose the terms of its arrangement with AT&T, including how the cost of licensing music during the free trials would be subsidized. 

For music services, carrier partnerships can be vital. Telecommunications companies such as AT&T have direct billing relationships with millions of subscribers and can tack on the cost of a music service directly on to their customers' cell phone bills. They also have extensive marketing resources that they can use to help push ancillary services, such as music. For AT&T, the benefit is in offering a product that would draw in users who will pay extra for a data plan to accommodate streaming music. 

In addition, Beats has partnered with Target Stores for a promotion that would give away 30-day free trials to customer who buys anything from the store's electronics department. The company has also started tucking vouchers for free trials into Beats Electronics' packaged audio gear. 

What Beats will not be doing anytime soon, however, is offer a free, slimmed-down version of its service -- something that Spotify, Rdio and services have started to do in order to get listeners to try their products in the hopes that they will convert into paying customers. So-called access models, where listeners pay to access large catalogs of music rather than purchase copies of music, is still a small, but growing portion of the industry's revenue. In 2012, it represented 15% of the revenue for music in the U.S., up from 9% in 2011, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, which is set to update this figure in the coming weeks. 

While streaming music is expanding, digital downloads declined on an annual basis for the first time in 2013. Sales of digital tracks fell 5.7% from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units, while digital album sales fell 0.1% to 117.6 million units from 117.7 million a year earlier, according to Nielsen SoundScan."