Local Rhythms – ITMS Drops DRM? BFD

no_drm_apple_sqLast week, Apple behaved more like Detroit of years past , with new fins, bells and whistles adorning their computers and software. But there was no iPhone-level breakthrough at the annual Macworld Expo.

The biggest news proved just how underwhelming the whole show was.

In April, the iTunes Music Store will go DRM-free, stripping file locking from the millions of songs it sells.

But, as they say in the news business, the company buried the lede.

Sure, the remaining record companies followed EMI, which decrypted some of their music in 2007.  But in exchange, they got variable pricing, topping out at $1.29 per song.

It’s a move that Apple’s resisted for years.

There’s no official word yet, but I’m betting it’s the most popular music that goes beyond the once-standard 99 cents per track. That’s just how this business does things.

Utter idiocy.

To paraphrase industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz, who weighed in immediately after the announcement – only gas stations are raising prices.

The bestselling books are always discounted, and CDs with one or two hits on them are loss leaders from Best Buy to Wal-Mart.  Yet these moguls think digital music, which requires no assembly line, warehouse or shipping channel, ought to cost more,

Is it any wonder they’re bleeding red ink?

Anyway, I find the whole no-DRM discussion beside the point.  e-Music, with perhaps the best legal indie music catalog anywhere, has been doing it forever, and they don’t rule the world.

Music from iTunes is easily bought, and (up to now, anyway) simply understood.

But without the computer/iPod synergy with iTunes, it’s nothing.  Besides, 90 percent of music stored on portable devices is already DRM-free, because it was ripped from CD or stolen online.

Now, if an all-you-can-eat rental service went DRM-free, that would be newsworthy.  I swear by Rhapsody.  For 15 bucks a month, I get all the music I want when I want it.

My biggest problem with this unlimited library is that I can’t play it on an iPod.

Fix that little difficulty, and the iTunes Music Store will lose its cool factor in a Cupertino minute.

Which is why this big move is such small beer.  Anyone with an iPod gets music from Apple already.  I’d love to hear how many people even care that their songs are handcuffed.

However, if the next Justin Timberlake single costs 30 cents more, they may start paying attention.

When that happens, I’m guessing it won’t be a good thing – for Apple or the music business.

Now, on to the local scene:

Thursday: Johnny Winter & James Montgomery, Latchis Theatre – At 17, I snuck into a bar to see the lightning-fingered Winter play blues guitar.  It was mesmerizing.  Though he’s frail these days (like B.B. King, he performs sitting down), the flame still burns.  With harmonica genius Montgomery at his side, it should be a great evening. The event benefits the Brattleboro High School Marching Band’s trip to next Tuesday’s Presidential inauguration.  They’re the only Vermont band to receive the honor.

Friday: Elsa Cross, Salt hill Pub – The flood of Seacoast bands to Salt hill continues with this Americana singer-songwriter who claims Loretta Lynn’s music gave her an out of body experience, and whose own songs have been compared to a female Johnny Cash.  Accompanied by Steve Roy on upright bass, and PJ Donahue of the Amorphous Band, her debut Lebanon performance should be a barn burner.

Saturday: Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca, Hopkins Center – Spanish guitar and staccato heels feature in this centuries-old tradition, along with clapping, singing and incessant rhythm.  Dancer Soledad Barrio “dances as if possessed by the spirit of a Gypsy encampment…She breathes the essence of flamenco,” according to the New York Times.  After the show (which also plays Friday), there will be a question and answer session with Barrio and her husband Martin Santangelo, who directs the Madrid-based troupe.

Sunday: Johnny B and the Goodes with Ted Mortimer, Plainfield Town Hall – Johnny Bishop’s harp playing is a throwback to the masters of old – I loved his recent album.  Ted’s an ace guitarist with a delicate touch.  With a famous Maxfield Parrish mural as a backdrop, these guys will play the blues while celebrating next week’s inauguration. This event is BYOB, and I suspect they’ll be a lot of champagne corks popping, PBR music notwithstanding

Tuesday: Inauguration Party with Dr. Burma, Whaleback Ski Area – Our new president is at the center of several events tonight, including a Skunk Hollow open mike. The Whaleback party is dubbed “Brick by Brick: A Community Building Party.” It both celebrates the events in D.C. and shines a light on work done by non-profit organizations in the community. The Upper Valley Land Trust, the Upper Valley Haven, Vital Communities, and the Upper Valley United Way are represented so far – suggested donation is five dollars.

Local Rhythms – Turntable Turn-on

s_turntableEverything old is new again.

For example, the downward trend of the music business’s general state remains unchanged, but one rare bright spot is a throwback – turntables.

Digital track sales are up, while CD sales are down – no surprise there.  But the biggest industry growth area is a bit shocking.  Vinyl album sales have nearly doubled in the last year.

That’s only a million or so LPs, and with disc sales plummeting exponentially more, not enough to save the day.  But it’s good to know warm, honest sound is back in vogue.

I have a record player and I’m not afraid to use it, but I’ll need something better than my 1989 Technics model to enjoy the current generation of long players (top seller: Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” followed by the Beatles’ “Abbey Road”).

The vinyl’s heavier, which makes for better sound, but the price tag is also weighty – over 20 bucks each for most platters.

So I prowl the swap meets and EBay auctions for out of print gems like the Fools’ “Sold Out” or the first (and only) Cowboy Jazz album.  I also try not to wonder why the LP is suddenly such an expensive format.

Didn’t’ CDs double the price of music when they replaced vinyl 25 years ago?  Maybe those in the business expect folks who held album-dumping garage sales in the 80s to once again pay through the nose to replace their entire collections.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Leaving the circular firing squad to its own devices (hey, we have a newly successful sales formula – let’s price it out of everyone’s reach!), I’m heartened by another trend.  Digital album sales increased in 2008, which is good news for anyone who believes it takes more than one good song to make a great musician.

If folks are going to iTunes for more than the odd Katy Perry single, things could be improving.  But I’m not holding my breath.

This week, I’m at the annual MacWorld conference in San Francisco, where video and iPhone apps come up in conversation more than music does. Rumors swirl about Steve Jobs’ absence (is he sick? No, just protein deficient.), Apple’s decision to withdraw after 2009 (are they smug?), but I doubt even an iTunes Vinyl Store would shake things up.

DRM is gone, but it’s too late.

After years of industry dithering, coupled with ever-widening entertainment options, everyone’s moved on.  Even Apple can’t save them.

Here’s the area live music slate:

Thursday: Wise Rockobili, Firestones – This is creative self-expression night, I guess.  Salt hill, Casa del Sol and Clear River Tavern host open mike nights, while 7 Barrel Brewery recently launched Karaoke Thursdays.   This Quechee restaurant features a revolving ringmaster – next week is Tad Davis, followed on January 22 by Guy Burlage.  Bring your axe and your courage.

Friday: Jimmy Dunn’s Comedy All-Stars, Claremont Opera House – The host of NESN’s “Fan Attic” is the ringleader for an evening of stand-up comedy that includes Paul D’Angelo, Rich Ceisler and Tony Moschetto.  There’s nothing like a lot of hearty laughter to shake away the winter blues.   Expect a lot of Boston-centric humor, although Moschetto has worked everywhere, including Beijing, so who knows?  Anything can happen, all of it funny.

Saturday: Dr. Burma, Salt hill Pub – One of my favorite albums of 2008 came from this Upper Valley R&B outfit, which has a reputation for packing the dance floor at Salt Hill with some inspired, high energy sounds.   I particularly like their version John Hiatt’s smoldering song, “The Crush,” but the original material contained on “One Bite Won’t Kill You” is also first rate.  DB’s always a great party, tonight at a music-loving venue.

Sunday: Richard “Dobbs” Hartshorne, St. Thomas Episcopal Church – Everyone calls this upright bassist and storyteller by one name – Dobbs.  Today’s show is a benefit for the Upper Valley Music Center.  It includes a lecture called “Hope Through Music” that recounts his work with children, refugees, and prisoners in Afghanistan, Palestine, and the U.S, as well as a performance of Dobbs’ own unique musical work.

Tuesday: Singer & Jordan, Tip Top Café – Phil Singer and Lucianne Jordan play authentic folk music, show tune and fun stuff from every era..  For an example of what they do, check out Phil’s recently launched web site, dogandponymusic.com, with free downloads of his many songs (he’s been making music since the mid-60s), as well as lyrics and a growing section for tunes from his many musical friends.

Wednesday: The Wood Brothers, Higher Ground – Both Oliver and Chris Wood spent time in other bands – Oliver in King Johnson, Chris in jazz genre-benders Medeski, Martin & Wood – before forming a duo and releasing “Ways Not to Lose” in 2006.  They’ve played their brand of stripped down blues-rock for audiences at Bonnaroo and Carnegie Hall.  Tonight, it’s Northern Vermont.

Local Rhythms – Greening the New Year

new_years_toastIt’s time again for New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve decided to make 2009 my year of being green.

I’m newly militant about separating trash and not buying anything that comes in a wax-coated carton.

No more bottled water, when a reusable carafe and a Brita filter does the trick and doesn’t add to landfills.

And when it comes to music, the smaller the carbon footprint, the bigger the chance I’ll hear it.

To put a finer point on it, the compact disc must die.

Two examples, one right, the other very wrong, illustrate my point.

Earlier this month a Boston band called the Macrotones emailed to offer me their latest album, “Wayne Manor.”

The all-instrumental record is full of lively jazz excursions infused with a Latin backbeat.  The unique sound recalls a funky version of Sun Ra’s Arkestra (there are 10 musicians credited, and they all seem to be working on every track), as well as Frank Zappa in his “Grand Wazoo” days.

The Macrotones also remind me of newer groups like Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, and the album’s best track, “Book It,” pulls all the elements together, featuring sizzling trombone work from Nate Leskovic, with hypnotic percussion and twin saxophones making a tasty musical stew.

Notice how I haven’t referred to “Wayne Manor” as a CD?

The band’s email pointed me to a web site where the album and all the artwork could be found.  You’d think this would be an everyday occurrence, but strangely it was the first time a band offered to provide a review copy in this way.

Compare this to the new Lindsey Buckingham record, which I loved by the way.  “Gift Of Screws” first arrived via express mail, an advance copy registered in my name, replete with threatening language about the consequences if I shared it.

Which was beside the point, as the disc was so gummed up with DRM that only one player (thankfully, in my car) didn’t spit it out when I tried to play it.

Later a brown truck delivered yet another disk, containing artwork and credits.

That’s a lot of gas, cardboard and plastic for something I could have had in seconds via a much more environmentally friendly means of transport.

It’s wasteful and stupid, so in 2009, I’m giving priority to the Macrotones of the world.

Don’t tax the planet – It sure as heck doesn’t improve the music.

By the way, local music requires less gas:

Thursday: Guy Davis, Plainfield Grange – He’s said that growing up the only cotton he picked was his underwear off the floor, and recently Guy Davis told a journalist that the first time he heard the blues was in college, played by lily-white Vermont boys.  Still, Davis embodies the blues, channeling masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie McTell, though he possesses his own unique style.  This intimate local performance should be a treat.

Friday: Pete Merrigan, Salt hill – A Pete show in January kind of boggles the mind, but think of it this way: it will be summer all over again, The good-natured purveyor of “life, love and laughter – one song at a time” got his start playing in the Shanty, a pub run by Josh Tuohy’s mom and dad in Sunapee.  Now Josh has his own tavern, so this show is a homecoming of sorts.

Saturday: Erica Wheeler, Boccelli’s – The first of several upcoming shows features a fine singer-songwriter whose music evokes a sense of place.  One critic likened her last record, “Good Summer Rain,” to “flipping through a photo album of an Ansel Adams road trip.” Next month, Boccelli’s welcomes Mark Erelli, who made my favorite album of 2008 (Feb 6) and a great Chris O’Brien/Jenee Halstead double bill on February 28.  BOCS is a happening place.

Sunday: Wu-Tang Clan, Higher Ground – WTC is less a band than a conglomerate with a musical division. These so-called hardcore rappers also dabble in film, television and fashion.  In addition, they’ve launched a lot of other hip-hop careers, which why explain why it took them six years to make their 2007 album “8 Diagrams.”  The original collective, with the exception of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who died in 2004, is still performing, though Method Man won’t be at this show.

Tuesday: Billy Rosen & Emily Lanier, Tip Top Café – There’s still jazz in White River Junction, Tonight, two of my favorites perform. Guitarist Rosen has an ever so soft touch.  After a long run with New Kind of Blue, vocalist Lanier can be heard in several different configurations, most prominently with the Emily Lanier Jazz Ensemble. With dishes like pork & ginger meatloaf with red wine demiglace, the Tip-Top’s menu is as inventive as the music.

Local Rhythms – RIAA Gives With One Hand, Takes With Other

lipstickpigMy first thought when I heard the news was, Panera Bread is sure gonna be crowded.

Since 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America sued over 35,000 people for illegal downloading of music from the Internet.  Unsurprisingly, this approach failed to make a dent on music piracy or increase legal music sales.

Now, after six years of legal intimidation aimed at college students, grandmothers and at least one dead person, the RIAA announced last Friday an end to lawsuits.

But it’s not an end to their ruthless brand of frontier justice, just a new approach to the same old – really, really old – game.

Henceforth, this hapless industry organization will let Internet service providers do their dirty work, through a policy called “graduated response.”

Here’s how it works.  RIAA learns of an illegal downloader.  How is a mystery, and since they’re a law unto themselves, probably beside the point.

They pass word to the ISP, who in turn emails the evildoer with threats to cut their service.

Miscreants ignore the charges at their peril.  According to news reports, after the third missive, a customer’s broadband connectivity is cut.

This may cause free Wi-Fi hotspots like Panera to grow in popularity.

Remember all the recent talk about lipstick and pigs?

Trading money for bandwidth may be a new tube of lipstick, but trust me – it’s the same old pig.

The ARS Technica blog asked RIAA president Cary Sherman, “is this essentially the system you used for the lawsuit campaign, only now directed at slightly different ends?”

“Yeah,” replied Sherman.

Are these guys ever going to enter the 21st century?

Consumer advocates are pushing for a flat tax solution, with everyone paying a monthly fee to download unlimited music.  The money is paid to copyright holders.

But since that approach won’t bring back the 100 percent margins of 1984, the industry keeps fighting the tide.

They see the Internet as the enemy, not a way to revitalize their business.

There’s more music today than ever before, but that doesn’t seem to count for much.  Maybe it’s because artists are smarter and less inclined to sell out their interests to people who know more about money than music.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The RIAA is fooling no one.  They may deputize new soldiers, but they’re still fighting a misguided war.

Here’s some non-RIAA entertainment for your consideration:

Friday: Last Kid Picked, Electra – Now in their 13th year, LKP plays an energetic mix of rock, soul and pop, covering the likes of everyone from the Commodores to Green Day.  For its part, Electra has been a steady supporter of live music in the area, presenting a range of shows from the hip-hop Rap the Vote gathering to country music from local faves Little Memphis.  Here’s hoping the trend continues in 2009.

Saturday: Rich Thomas, Casa del Sol – Ascutney’s recently opened Mexican eatery expands its musical menu to Friday (with Ted Davis playing) and Saturday nights. Rich fronts the popular About Gladys; tonight, he’s solo, with a funky voice that’s a hybrid of Tom Petty and Wilson Pickett.  Next week, Wise Rokobili settles into a winter-long Saturday residency.   Jason Cann continues to run the Thursday open mike night.

Sunday: Mike Gordon, Portsmouth Music Hall – While rumors swirl about a possible Phish appearance at this year’s Bonnaroo Festival, the band’s bassist Gordon is touring smaller venues in support of his recently released album, “The Green Sparrow.”  The show, which also features local heroes Bow Thayer and the Perfect Trainwreck, stops at Killington’s Pickle Barrel Monday.

Monday: New Riders of the Purple Sage, Iron Horse – Almost 40 years after they began as a vehicle for Jerry Garcia to practice steel guitar, these early progenitors of country rock are still going strong, albeit without founder John Dawson, who retired to Mexico a few years back.  Fitting for a man who wrote songs like “Panama Red” and “Henry,” the tale of a smuggler who headed south with hopes of returning “holding 20 keys of Gold” – and not the kind that open doors.

Tuesday: Ted Mortimer, Canoe Club – This hard working guitarist had a busy year, releasing a great album with his band Dr. Burma, and playing in a variety of configurations all over the area.  Tonight, it’s a quieter affair than the raucous shows Ted plays with Dr. Burma.  Elegant, stylish and evincing a wonderfully soft touch, his music selection will be drawn from standards like “Misty” and “The Way You Look Tonight” – very pleasant indeed.

Wednesday: Revampt, Imperial Lounge – If you like hard rock, you’ll enjoy this Springfield quartet.  There’s plenty happening tonight, though, like Dog Dayz at Salt Hill Newport, About Gladys playing the pub’s main location in Lebanon, First Night fun from Burlington to NoHo.  Check out yellowhousemedia.com or midrivermusic.com for a full breakdown.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Local Rhythms!

Local Rhythms – Whither Record Stores?

recordstoreWhere’s the government bailout for the music industry?  If taxpayers should rescue Ford and GM before they run out of gas, what about Warner Brothers?

Heck, what about Music Matters, the latest local record store to close shop?  For years, the West Lebanon business stood out from the big box operations, hosting live shows from local bands and stocking deep catalog items.

Last week, owner Rob Nahabedian gave up the ghost.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, more than 3,000 record stores have closed since 2002, while more than 5,500 record company employees were laid off between 2000 and the middle of last year.

These days, most CDs are bought on impulse while traversing between the light bulbs and the laundry soap.   Worse than that, these transactions are carried out with a complete disregard for the old way of commerce.

Many artists are making an end run around record companies and dealing directly with the big boxes.   Journey, the Eagles and AC/DC all made exclusive deals with Wal-Mart, while the Beatles, Usher, Elton John and the Police each have Best Buy-only releases.

So what?

Once upon a time I used to seek out ears of authority like Jack Black’s clerk character in the movie “High Fidelity.”  I devoured magazine stories about Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.  Do they matter today?

When Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. recently spoke of his label as an “editorial voice” that molds raw talent into something more refined, I was incredulous.

These days, the big labels buy finished product from successful indie bands, and distribute it.  They are to original music what the Drudge Report is to news.

On the other hand, it’s a fallacy to assume that if all music is free, small bands will thrive without an “editorial voice.”

Earlier this year, the German label Dependent Records went out of business rather than continue trying to fight piracy.

Complained Dependent’s CEO, “People fail to see that music labels are like amplifiers in a stereo system. Without them you cannot hear the music of the bands you would like to hear.”

Fans can steal music as long as labels produce it, he said, but then what?

“Where do you get your music,” he said, “when those labels are going down the drain – MySpace?”

False economies are wrong.  No amount of taxpayer money will make Detroit build better cars, for example. But for music, there must be some middle ground.

Some upcoming shows:

Thursday: Gregory Douglass, Higher Ground – Many of this young singer-songwriter’s tunes fall into the “long dark night of the soul” category.  His upcoming CD “Battler” deals with father/son relationships, life’s day-to-day struggles, love and other murky topics.  Over the course of 8 albums, Douglass has relied on his fan base to finance his work, with innovative offers reminiscent of the Obama campaign fundraising machine.

Friday: Rhonda Vincent & Jerry Douglas, Lebanon Opera House – The first night of this weekend’s bluegrass festival is the best, with Vincent, who sings as well as she fiddles, topping the bill.  But the real draw is Douglas, who owns his instrument in a way that rivals few other players.  For my money, he’s not just the best dobro player in the world, he’s the only one.  Douglas’s work with Alison Krauss is legendary.  His solo stuff is sublime.

Saturday: Belly Dancing Recital, Woodstock Town Hall Theatre – Here’s a fun change of pace – South Royalton dancer Gina Caposella has taught in the area for 18 years; this is the 5th annual public performance by her students, which includes special guest appearances.  The night features classic Egyptian, Hagallah, Khaleegy, Melaya Leff, swords, live drumming, circus performance and more.  It frequently sells out, so call ahead for tickets.

Sunday: Nick Alexander Benefit, Salt hill Pub – If it’s Sunday and there’s music at Salt hill, that usually means another fundraiser.   This time it’s for an area ski jumper with Olympic dreams.  The benefit performance features Wise Rockobili and his bassist from Kaila, the fascinating world music band he’s fronted for some time.  Money raised from the show will help Nick compete in few European events this winter.

Tuesday: Billy Rosen & David Westphalen, Tip Top Café – Though Elixir is closed, weekly jazz in White River Junction continues at this interesting eatery.  Rosen is a terrific improvisational guitarist, while Westphalen can often be seen fronting Swing Machine.  Together, they lay down a wonderful groove. I’m a big fan of the WRJ renaissance, and Tip Top is one big reason why.

Wednesday: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Verizon Wireless Arena – If you’ve never seen this 25-member extravaganza, you owe it to yourself (and your kids if you have them) to check it out.  I’m not a big fan of arena shows, but there’s no place more appropriate for TSO’s combo of lasers, smoke, bombs and majestic orchestral rock. A word of warning – at this point, TicketMaster is only scalping tickets (at more than double face value) for the evening show- ain’t monopoly grand?  There’s a matinee at 4:00 PM, as well as  several other upcoming New England shows, however.

Local Rhythms – Internet Radio Update

Even though Congress was mostly busy saving the economy last week, they did find time to pass the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008.

President Bush is expected to sign the bill, which grants a stay of execution to the burgeoning Internet radio business.

Readers of this column know that, a little over a year ago, the government-run Copyright Royalty Board made a decision that threatened to put most webcasters out of business.  The influential Broadcast Law Blog called it “disconnected from the realities of Internet radio.”

The ruling left no wiggle room, and after months of battling for a fairer deal, companies like Pandora were ready to pull the plug.

With the patient so close to flatlining, Congress finally acted.

“There may now be a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight over Internet radio royalties,”
Representative Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, said last Sunday.

The new law didn’t set reasonable rates; it simply makes it easier for the two sides – copyright holders and webcasters – to hammer out legally binding agreements of their own.

Whether things get better is, no pun intended, still up in the air.

Writing for Broadcast Law Blog, attorney David Oxenford said the WSA “makes it easy for settlements to go into effect – now we need to see if the hard part – actually entering into those settlements – will occur.”

Companies like Pandora and Last.fm have until next February 15 to sit down with Sound Exchange. Only a cockeyed optimist would count on smooth sailing when that happens.  The history isn’t good.

Sound Exchange is the RIAA-created performance rights organization in charge of collecting royalties. Over the course of this debate, they’ve dismissed the promotional value of webcasting and unblinkingly demanded payments 7 times those of terrestrial radio.  They seem hell bent on eating their seed corn.

According to Pandora CEO Tim Westergren, 70 percent of people who listen to his service on the hugely popular iPhones are doing so for the first time.

“It’s changed the perception that people can listen to music on the phone,” Westergren said in a conference call Monday.

Greed and ignorance could derail this progress.

These missed opportunities hurt everyone.   The new law only buys time until February.  Two much more substantial (and very different) Congressional bills are currently stalled, as everyone waits for the election on November 4.

But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

What’s ahead in entertainment?

Thursday: Chimu Inka, Gusanoz – These Peruvian cultural ambassadors have performed all over the region recently.  They have just a few more shows before heading home, including a stop at the Warner Fall Festival this weekend, and Woodstock High School on Monday.  Their name comes from performer (and Chimu Inka Musical Director) Guillermo Seminario’s pre-Incan ancestors, who were conquered by the Incas.  Seems appropriate for Columbus Day weekend.

Friday:  Moondance, Downtown Windsor – “A whimsical celebration of the moon and its magic” featuring fire-eaters, jugglers, balloon artists and more, celebrates its ninth year.  Of course, there’s music, with Juke Joynt and Vermont bluesman Chris Kleeman.  The forecast at press time was for a perfect autumn night.  Since much of this event happens outdoors, that’s a very good thing.  Circus Smirkus and a dance troupe will also add to the fun.

Saturday: Springfield Apple Festival, Riverside Middle School – This two-day even marks fall’s arrival in my mind.  I tend to welcome out of town guests a lot this time of year (who doesn’t?), and they’re always asking about apple picking and apple cider.  If I take them to this annual Springfield festival, now in its’ 26th year, they’re sure to get their fill.  Great music too, including singer-songwriter Josh “Cherries Jubilee” Maiocco and Alli Lubin.

Sunday: Lindsey Buckingham, Lebanon Opera House – The brains behind Fleetwod Mac has a fantastic new solo album, “Gift of Screws,” and his live shows are stellar.  Never content to stay in one artistic place for long, Buckingham can be challenging.  But this time around, there’s plenty of Mac elements at play on the new disc, which should translate well to the stage.  It’s quite a “get” for Lebanon, really.

Monday: Bryan Greenberg, Iron Horse – The star of the recently cancelled “October Road” television show hits the road with his guitar and a smile.  I have to say, his music sounds pretty good in a John Mayer kind of way.  I wasn’t crazy about the show.  Greenberg just finished making a movie in Boston, “Bride Wars,” with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway.

Wednesday: Fred Haas & Sabrina Brown, Elixir – A dinner show and jam session with the piano playing, sax blowing Haas and his wife, with an early (6:30) start.  Each week a different artist’s oeuvre is explored – could be Ellington, Porter, Holliday, who knows?  I can tell you that the New York City vibe is spot-on, and their French Fries (secret ingredient: sugar) are my all-time favorite.

Local Rhythms – A Genius Move

I have over 17,000 songs in my iTunes library.  Some have been played a lot, others once or twice.  Hitting “shuffle” is a great way to revisit a track that may have slipped by the first time, but it’s not very scientific.

Last week, when Apple announced an upgrade to their popular music software, I immediately latched on to the new “Genius” feature.  Pick a song, click on the Jimmy Neutron button, and presto!  A playlist of like-minded music appears.

Choosing a Genesis tune will spawn tracks by Rush, Yes and ELP; pick the Decembrists, you’ll get Broken Social Scene, Stars and New Pornographers.

When I’m in the mood for Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, a random Stooges track can really bust up the mood. With shuffle, everything gets mixed willy-nilly.  Though I’m pretty sure my iPod play more Beatles songs by design.

Genius lets you put the peanut butter with the jelly, and leave the mayo for bologna.

It also (big surprise) suggests songs for purchase at the iTunes Music Store.

That seems a lot like Pandora, the Internet radio service that’s already installed on many an iPhone and iPod Touch.

But Genius is based on stuff that you, and others like you, already own.

Like Pandora, the information iTunes sends to Apple includes data about what you listen to and how often, as well as the playlists you make.  Both services make recommendations and provide an easy path to purchase digital music.

But there are a lot more iTunes users in the world.   The music store has sold 300 million tracks since its inception.  5 or 10 percent of the tracks on a typical iPod are bought from digital music stores.

So that mean there’s upwards of 3 to 4 billion songs in the iTunes listener “cloud” for Genius to study.  As listener data aggregates, playlist accuracy improves.

Forget the election, this is the kind of polling data I’m interested in.

Genius lets you delete songs from playlists before saving them, but it’s not clear whether information about that behavior is sent to Apple.  More straightforward is Pandora’s ‘thumbs up or down’ method of rejecting recommendations.

But size matters.

Two factors govern the future of music.  First, understand the customer.  Second, and most important, earn the customer’s trust.

As long as iTunes users believe Apple isn’t colluding with the RIAA or selling customer lists, this is a Genius move.

What’s up this weekend?

Thursday: Chris Kleeman Band, Inn at Weathersfield – A nice combination of award-winning food and an ace blues man, who traverses the history of American music and gives each performance a unique stamp.  Kleeman finishes the series he began back in May with selections from Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Blind Willie McTell and B.B. King (who produced Chris’s first album back in 1970. Note the early (6:30 PM) start time.

Friday: Loose Cannons Acoustic, Salt hill II – These guys rock pretty hard for an all acoustic band, covering guys like Clapton and the Beatles, as well as grooves from Bob Marley and Stray Cats rockabilly.  Eclectic is the word that best describes them, with a musical outlook spanning decades and styles.  Of course, the room they’re playing is pretty nice too, with great pints and an excellent pub menu, as well as a fine restaurant downstairs.

Saturday: Humane Society Benefit, Hit or Miss – The hard rock community converges at this Rockingham club for another good cause.  The show includes Stonewall, d’Brotherhood, TranScent, Bow to None, Anger Rising, Mercy Machine and (considering the beneficiary) the most aptly named of the bunch – Mongrel.  Proceeds benefit the Springfield Humane Society.  Seeing all those hard-edged rockers on a poster with cute little kitten eyes – priceless.

Sunday: Sunapee SunFest, Mount Sunapee – New York City based singer-songwriter Shannon Corey, with plenty of Tori/Alanis influences, headlines the music portion of this day long celebration of sustainable living and holistic health. I wonder which friolator oil works better as a bio-diesel fuel – trans-fat or non?  Ponder these questions while enjoying Click Horning, Carey Lee Rush and others.

Tuesday: Jason Cann, Firestones – My favorite unrecorded area singer-songwriter plays while special guest chefs cook (featured every Tuesday in September), though I like the simple pleasures at this Quechee restaurant.  Their burgers and beers are top-notch.  There’s plenty going on every night at Firestones, including a Cann-hosted open mike night each Thursday.

Wednesday: Sonya Kitchell, Higher Ground –
Touring behind the recently released “This Storm,” Kitchell originally got attention for her precocious jazz singing as a 16-year old in Northampton clubs.  She’s 19 now, and rocking harder, though she keeps it jazzy on “From Here to Now,” and “Walk Away” is a gorgeous ballad.  Mostly, though, she’s copping a rocked-up Suzanne Vega pose.  I like it.