We Love the VMAs Because They're Rigged

Categories: Digitalia

Anthony Quintano via Flickr
"If, for any reason, this voting process is interrupted, is found to have been tampered with in any way, or for any other reason that Sponsor believes in its sole discretion to be reasonably necessary, Sponsor reserves the right to select the winners at its discretion."

This is what it says at the bottom of the MTV Video Music Awards voting page, and what it basically means is that MTV can completely disregard the fan voting results and choose the winner they want, for lots of different reasons. Total baloney, right?! Nine year-old me is fuming right now at the thought of all my votes for Kelly Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes" being nothing but a waste of time, a mere speck in my DisneyChannel.com-filled browser history lost to some overarching marketing deal.

The idea of these popular fan-voted music awards shows "rigging the system" has been gossiped about for years now, although a quick skim through the terms and conditions page on many a voting Web site can give some solid proof to speculators out there. But it recently popped up again when a couple of Viners sent out some pretty angry, accusatory tweets after not winning the Teen Choice Awards they were nominated for.

Now, you may be thinking, "Sure the petty TCAs pick the winner that will leave the overall majority of tween girls satisfied, but the VMAs? Who strive on the basis of being 'all about the fans'?"

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Panic! at the Disco at The Woodlands, 8/19/2014

Categories: Digitalia

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Panic! at the Disco
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 19, 2014

Panic! at the Disco in 2014 is definitely not what it was before. The "baroque rock" band that joined the likes of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance in 2006 to capture the souls of teenage girls going through their respective "scene queen" phase now only consists of one original band member, lead singer Brendon Urie. Co-founder Spencer Smith couldn't join Panic! during this summer's "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!" tour because he needed to take some time off to deal with repercussions of alcohol and substance abuse, while other members each left somewhere along the band's eight-year, four-album timeline probably due to creative reasons.

Urie being the only remaining original member seems fitting, though, because he is and always has been the charmingly hyperactive, attention-seeking one in the band -- the type of person every pop rock band wishes to have as their front man. You'd think so many losses would force Panic! to downsize. However, Tuesday night they played the biggest venue they've ever played in the Houston area, and played it well.

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12 Highly Entertaining Indie Artists on Twitter

Categories: Digitalia

Photo by Jim Bricker
Vampire Weekend at FPSF 2014
Way back in 2006, I bet the founders of Twitter had no idea the social-media platform would become the force it is today. Sure, you can interact with your friends and whatnot, but perhaps the coolest, most intriguing part of Twitter is the way it makes us music lovers able to see what our favorite musicians are up to.

Just think about it. Your favorite artist -- whether some nobody musician who makes beats in his or her basement or even a legend like Cher -- is most likely active on Twitter. It allows us to form what often seems like a personal connection with our idols, while we've found that some less-popular acts totally triumph in the tweeting game against those with 40-plus million followers like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber.

We've compiled a list of 16 indie artists who you should probably think about following on Twitter below, so go on a quick unfollowing spree, do what you gotta do to make some room on your timeline for some fresh, new 140-character goodness from artists who are contributing some fresh, new sounds to the music world.

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The Five Best Songs About Donkey Kong

On this day in 1981, the video-game juggernaut that was Donkey Kong first saw release. It was a game that broke new ground and keeps finding an audience today. It was the first game to feature Mario (who, by the by, was cast as an abusive pet owner seeking to re-capture his poor gorilla), the first arcade game to use cut scenes to tell a story, and the title that launched Nintendo as the force that would pull the entire video-game industry back from the brink.

As for me...I will always remember being a kid and a Nintendo Power subscriber who was one of the lucky ones to receive a VHS tape full of footage from Donkey Kong Country addressed to me in the mail. That's what we had before YouTube, kids, and I have never felt more like a VIP before or since. It's still one of my Top 10 games of all time.

Donkey Kong has also made an impact on the world of music, and today we salute that impact with five songs.

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The Five Best Reasons to Use SoundCloud

As streaming services grow to be the norm and more and more people turn to YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud for their music listening experiences, it might seem overwhelming to bands trying to maintain an online presence. Do you have to use them all? Should you focus more attention on one over another? Which one is even best for your particular brand?

We here at Rocks Off don't particularly have a preference; we'll seek out music wherever we can find it. However, we've been thinking lately that for some bands, SoundCloud might be the best service of any for a variety of reasons.

It's not that we're in SoundCloud's pocket for any reason, but that site offers a few key advantages that might make it more ideal for your band, depending on what you do and what you're looking for.

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Amazon's Funniest One-Star Classic Album Reviews

Photo by Nathan Rupert via Flickr
As a music writer, it can be beneficial to seek out other music reviews to see what people are thinking, aficionados and trolls alike. Let's look at Amazon, a popular site where I admit I've spent a bit of money and time. You can find anything here, down to your most basic grocery-shopping needs.

As with all other comment sections, really, Amazon's consumer reviews can be deafening. These critics have opinions that they absolutely have to defend, or else they just want attention. Others just get really excited sharing their naysaying opinions, and sites like Amazon provide a wide audience. Today we thought we'd help widen some of these reviewers' audiences (hopefully alongside our own) with a top-notch, annotated selection of Amazon's one-star album reviewers.

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Visionary Old Man Neil Young's New Trick: Pono

Rolling Stone once described Neil Young in its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" issue as a "restless experimenter... who transform[s] the most obvious music into something revelatory."

Admittedly, I don't know much of Neil Young's musical catalog, and there's something about that high-pitched voice...but wait, before you all start throwing tomatoes, lyrically he transforms obvious ideas into songs that can feel revelatory. I've also noticed that he uses his money and fame beyond the music world as an inventor, often tackling ideas such as electric cars and the battle with music piracy.

He was behind the creation of a luxury-series hybrid electric car powered by biomass, and most recently has been putting his clout behind Pono, the digital-to-analog music service he's set to introduce this week at SXSW in Austin.

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An Indiscriminate List of Top Bandcamp Downloads

Categories: Digitalia

Creative Commons
Anything with a copyright date of 1922 or earlier legally has no owner and is in the public domain. If you're a musician, cover that song. If you're a paid blogger, plaster that picture wherever you'd like in your work. For the most part, that is. This is something we bloggers have to work with here.

That being said, all sound recordings in the United States are said to be under copyright protection until February 15, 2067, small print aside. So, completely royalty-free music does not exist in the United States right now. Songs either have to be attributed and paid for, or just covered and properly distributed, etc.

If a song has a copyright date of before 1922, it can be covered then distributed at your own free will, but other recordings of the song cannot and must be licensed, as they are still under copyright law. This was decided as constitutional in the early 2000s, right as the Internet was being used by more people to share and develop creative works.

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Flux TV Aims to Stream Houston Acts to the World

Last month Studio713 and Regressive Records unveiled their latest project, Flux TV, with a launch party and screening held at River Oaks Theatre. Now the Flux TV iPhone app is set for release on the Apple's iTunes Store tomorrow.

"Since the studio's inception three or four years ago, we've released work for bands like New York City Queens, and we've released about 25 videos into the Houston market," explains NYCQ singer/guitarist John Allen Stephens, who also works as a producer and engineer at Studio713.

"We've come to realize that we're a multimedia studio, and because we're a boutique production company with a small, defined staff, we felt like we were moving in that direction naturally," he says.

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Is the New BeatsMusic Worth It?

Categories: Digitalia

A year ago, Beats by Dre headphone giants Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine announced the next step for their brand was to launch a digital-subscription music service. The news was not met with the greatest approval.

After all, the existing marketplace -- crowded with streaming leaders such as Pandora and Spotify, relative new kids like Rdio and Google Play, and godfather Rhapsody -- had been contributing to many fans' large music libraries for years now. Why did these two guys, who had already pocketed millions and redefined how we hear music, need to jump into this world? But much like their headphones, Beats' pitch has been about quality, more specifically focusing upon what's next.

Tuesday, BeatsMusic debuted as a free download on multiple mobile platforms from Android to Apple's iTunes store. The subscription is $10 a month following a trial period; AT&T users can opt for a $15 family plan to let five family members listen on a total of up to ten devices. The service offers more than 20 million songs on demand, the ability to follow fellow users (much like Spotify) and the ability to download tracks for offline listening.

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