Hard News by Russell Brown


That's Entertainment

In my column in the latest Idealog magazine, I lamented (a) the fact that none of the Flying Nun Record catalogue was available to New Zealanders for digital download, and (b) that F Nun's owner Warner Music was so fixated on DRM that it was ignoring the perfect vehicle for harnessing the sprawling Nun back catalogue: emusic.com.

I'm happy to report progress on both fronts. The Flying Nun box set is now available in its entirety on both the New Zealand iTunes Store and Digirama. Well, almost: one act, NRA, declined to go online, which delayed the release. The box set is due for Australian release next month, at which point it will also be launched on iTunes Australia, with an accompanying feature profile. Charlotte Ryan at Warners is aiming for a digital release in Europe of the year.

More remarkably, the most prominent current Flying Nun act, the Mint Chicks, are about to go pants-down DRM-free on emusic in advance of their US tour. They're also on iTunes US, and will be featured on the weekly radio show of iTunes programming director Alex Luke, and have a MySpace artist profile lined up in the next few days.

Given the trenchant opposition to unencumbered music expressed by Warner chief Edgar Bronfman, the Mint Chicks' debut on emusic - which sells music as high-bitrate MP3s - is quite a striking development. It's also pretty smart. While most of the major download services are necessarily chart-oriented, emusic is a place where music finds music fans.

I hope Warners doesn't stop here. One of the main arguments of my column was that the best way to bring life to the Nun back catalogue was to put a lot of it on non-DRM services like emusic. Most of it isn't going to ever see re-release in physical form, but I can imagine something like the Bird Nest Roys recordings being a cult hit with that kind of audience. It doesn't solve the problem of the unseemly chunk of digital download receipts that the major labels take from artists, but it would still be a good thing.

Staying with entertainment, a Throng reader guessed a URL and got a pre-release look at TVNZ ondemand, which launches later this month. He managed to register and has a very professional report on Throng, with screenshots and all. TVNZ has now password-protected the site, but shouldn't be too unhappy about the sneak peek. Of course, it's possible that they set it up and it's a clever bit of advance marketing. But they couldn't be that hip. Could they?

My Listener column this week looks at the "loudness wars" - the race to compress the buggery out of music CD audio at the mastering stage, making CDs sound louder and more urgent, but taking out the dynamic range. It kind of sucks. There's a useful and informative YouTube clip demonstrating exactly what that means here.

Speaking of the Bird Nest Roys, Jimi Kumara has posted. He took the family for a bit of whakapapa tourism to Taupo, and discovered, among other things, that the victory of the panini is nearly complete.

PS: If anyone feels moved to sign up to emusic, gimme a shout. If I recommend you through the "tell a friend" feature, I get 50 free downloads and you get 25. Everyone's a winner.

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