Local Rhythms – Buying Music From A Stolen Car

It’s the ultimate impulse buy, better than candy bars at the supermarket checkout counter.  While barreling down the highway at a healthy clip, I hear a song on the car radio.  It’s so good that I must have it.

With just the push of a button, and a little Internet magic, presto!  The song is mine.

Yep, that’s my dream come true.

One problem though – this indulgence is only available while driving a stolen vehicle.

This is a family newspaper, so I won’t spend too much time discussing the various criminal activities one engages in while playing Grand Theft Auto IV.  Players of this video game score points for hit and run accidents, engage in competitive drunk driving; there’s enough sex and violence to make Quentin Tarantino seem quaint.

It’s also selling faster than the last Harry Potter book, which didn’t require a $500 XBox or PS3 to read.

What this blood-soaked fantasy says about our culture is the subject someone else’s column.  I’m only interested in how GTA IV is being used to sell music.

I wish my FM dial were as cool as GTA IV’s make-believe one.  It features hip DJs like Lazlow Jones of XM Radio’s “Underground Hard Drive,” fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and the ageless Iggy Pop.

There are18 different “Liberty City” stations, playing everything from disco to hardcore punk (L.C.H.C., hosted by Murphy’s Law lead singer Jimmy Gestapo).

Of course, there’s classic rock – some laws can’t be broken.

Players mark songs with a quick call on the in-game cell phone; registered users receive a real world email containing an Amazon Music Store purchase link.

This isn’t the first video game to sell digital music.  The incredibly successful Rock Band sold 2.5 million songs in eight weeks, and just recently began offering entire albums by bands like Pixies and the Cars.  The difference is that Rock Band music is sold only for game use; GTA songs can be played anywhere.

It’s not quite seamless – yet.  But is it fanciful to imagine punching up a GTA song and having it auto-magically appear on a wirelessly equipped iPod Touch?

How about when I hear a great tune in a Liberty Mutual ad, or a Feist remix on “Grey’s Anatomy”?

If the music business would just take a break from lawsuits, the technology exists to make it happen.

Here’s some cool upcoming live music that you don’t have to steal a car to enjoy:

Thursday: Sharen Conner & Mo’Jazz, Elixir – Conner was a founding member of Sensible Shoes, and has performed in the area for 25 years, including the a cappella trio Him and Hers.  Tonight, go-to guitarist Norm Wolfe and bassist Gary Matthews join her.  Norm plays in several area bands when he’s not teaching music in the Dresden School District. Matthews also works with kids, as the Vermont All-State Jazz Band Manager.

Friday: Jay Mankita, Sunapee Coffee House – This singer-songwriter tours the country in a vehicle called the Veggie Van that runs on recycled vegetable oil.  Mankita does musical programs geared to children – his most recent is called “Eat Like A Rainbow” – His original songs caused no less than Pete Seeger to gush, “come hear this guy…I think he’s one of the half dozen best songwriters today!”

Saturday: Drunk Stuntmen, Middle Earth Music Hall – It’s the penultimate weekend for Bradford’s Hobbit Hole.  This Northampton-based jam band gave the club many memorable nights over the years, so their final appearance should be stellar.  Hard to believe the Middle Earth is calling it quits.  There isn’t a venue like it anywhere, with a music-first approach and an amazing ability to attract the best talent.  What, if anything) will take its place?

Sunday: Second Wind, Bistro Nouveau – As summer approaches, things get busy in Grantham.  Friday features P.J. Pacifico, who plays music described as “a jam session between James Taylor, Matthew Sweet and Jason Mraz”.  Second Wind, as the duo of Terry Gould and Suzy Hastings is known, keep the soft rock vibe going with songs from Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan and Carole King providing the background for a Bistro Sunday deck party.

Monday: Elizabeth!, Canoe Club – Here’s a different combination: Elizabeth Dotson Westphalen is a vocalist and trombonist.  Her resume includes late night television appearances, Manhattan jazz club work and a tour with Indie rockers the Arcade Fire.  Tonight’s performance features well-regarded area guitarist David Newsam and upright bassist David Westphalen performing jazz standards, along with originals from the new Elizabeth! recording, “Hot & Silver.”

Tuesday: Pentangle Ice Cream Social, Woodstock Unitarian Church – Scottish traditionalists Atlantic Crossing perform at this event, which rallies the arts group’s volunteers.  It also serves as a welcome for new Director Buzz Boswell, who did an extraordinary job running the Lebanon Opera House for several years.  Woodstock is fortunate to have him.