There might be some people out there who think this is old news, but this morning I read about a game called "Cornhole."  As if that isn’t strange enough, there’s two organizations dedicated to furthering the cause of this game:

American Cornhole Association

American Cornhole Organization (I hate it when my cornhole isn’t organized!)

It is an unfortunate name for what seems like a perfectly simple game that is a lot of fun to play while drunk.  Unfortunately, the other meaning of "cornhole" is often done while drunk as well.  At least the first time.

A quick Google search reveals a number of links for the game, including Cornhole Outlet (nothing like a little discount cornholin’!), and a company’s attempt to make it sound less dirty by calling it a "Tailgate Toss."  Is that anything like tossing salad

Let’s hope not.

The sad thing is that I kind of want to play this game now and I want my own cornhole set, but they are expensive.  Further proof that if you want to play with a cornhole, sometimes you’re betting off doing it yourself.

Good to the Fans, Good to the Music

As a big music fan, I look around at the state of the music industry and wonder what will happen.  I’ve been tracking the digital revolution of music since the late 90’s – I did a research paper back in college that looked at what effect the downloading of MP3s had on music purchases.  To get that accomplished, I had to trawl through Usenet groups to get enough people to take the survey. 

At that point, people were using it as a sampling mechanism.  They downloaded the free track(s), and if they liked it, they bought the album.  It seemed like a great opportunity for the music industry, but they were too busy resisting the inevitable change that technology was bringing.

About six month later, Napster came along and all hell broke loose, and all the lawyers and Lars Ulriches in the world couldn’t stop things.

So now that we enjoy music in a world filled with the instant gratification of downloads and access to a lot of free music (a good amount of which isn’t "supposed" to be free), what effect does that have on the art?  There’s been some studies that show that music has become commodified, but for the fans of a particular genre or artist, the value will always be there.  The challenge for the artist however, is to make a living in the new paradigm.

One thought that I’ve had for a while now is that more musicians would have smaller but more loyal followings, allowing them to carve out comfortable livings for themselves while maintaining their artistic integrity.  They may not sell a million albums each year but they will sell enough records and concert tickets be happy and allow them to keep creating the music that they want to make and the fans want to hear.  Ironically, digital technology is what allows an artist to talk with the fans and if they want, distribute the music to them directly.

Someone who embodies this "successful with a relatively small but rabid following while maintaining artistic integrity" ethos is Matt Nathanson.  If you’ve never heard of him, you’re not alone – I hadn’t either until a little over a year ago when my girlfriend asked me to to go one of his concerts with her.  Being the good boyfriend, I listened to some stuff, figured it wouldn’t be too bad, and went along for the ride.

I loved it.  I mean, I really loved the show.  Matt intersperses his heart-wrenching acoustic sing-alongs with some of the funniest* in-between song banter I’ve ever heard. 

Anyway, Matt is a great live performer.  I like him better solo acoustic, as the fans get nearly silent except for singing along to the song choruses and he has the ability to really talk with the audience.  He plays in small enough places where he can actually interact with the people on the other side of the lights. 

The last time we saw him was at a show at Babson College, just outside of Boston.  He was an opener for Third Eye Blind** so he played an abbreviated set and was faced with a less than attentive crowd.  While getting bored by Third Eye Blind and their generic heavy rock that was qualifying as "retro" for the college students and making me feel very old, we decided that we’d wait to try to meet Matt.  I was with Meghan, her sister Kaitlyn, and their cousin, Beth.  Meghan had met Matt, but neither Kaitlyn or Beth hadn’t, nor had I. 

After a good hour and a half of waiting around, we were almost giving up and I was trying to entertain myself by looking through the Babson Athletic Wall of Fame for anyone even remotely famous.   Suddenly, I heard a commotion behind me, and turned around to find Matt and the girls exchanging "Oh my gawds!"  I sauntered over so that I could meet him and tell him that I had become a fan. 

I wound up getting a man-hug (you know, one arm shaking hands, the other patting the back) and he noticed I was wearing an Aerosmith t-shirt.  Next thing I know, we’re in a good 5-minute long conversation about Aerosmith deep tracks and the Joe Perry Project that only the wonkiest of music geeks could even come close to appreciating.  At that point, Matt went from a musician I liked and respected, to someone I really wanted to just sit at a bar with and talk music over a couple of beers with.

We left the concert after getting autographs and chatting some more.  The walk back to the car was a loud one, as Kaitlyn and Beth called all relevant people in their lives and shared the good news – loudly.  I got some serious props for maintaining a conversation with Matt (we’re all on a first name basis now, of course) for longer than 30 seconds so that they could stare at him and his gorgeous hair or whatever. 

But he’s more than a pretty face – he’s a solid muscian with great songwriting chops and a true ability to entertain his audience at his live shows.  Matt has a new album coming out on August 14, 2007.  It may be a good chance to discover his music and support an artist making music the way he wants to.


*Well, INTENTIONALLY funniest – I’ve been to a fair number of heavy metal concerts where the crazed lead singer attempts to say something meaningful but ruins it by using the f-bomb to the point of hilarity.  Or listening to Ozzy say ANYTHING on stage is sadly funny as well.

**which was strange match indeed, and the whole night was stranger by the big "THIRD EYE BLIND" sign made out of lights that was behind the headlining band, but the letters were a little off, so it looked like it was "THIRDEY EBLIND" playing up there.  I don’t know about you, but I would go see a band called "Thirdey Eblind."

My New Part Time Job: Being a Music Fan

I like music.  I really do.  The music category is easily one of the largest categories of posts on this blog, and this summer I should attend my 150th concert.  I subscribe to several music magazines and have read and wrote about music for years now.

What has frustrated me in the last year however, is the growing complexity and effort needed to be a music fan, especially one who likes live music.  It is bad enough that ticket prices are so expensive, but trying to find out when and where a band is playing and trying to get tickets to that show is tougher than ever. 

Yes, I know I’m older and have more responsibilities than when I was 17 and all I had to worry about was catching my favorite band, but at this point, I have three ways of tracking artists, PLUS the stupid Ticketmaster emails (that come through with the listings for Seattle about once a quarter, which is really helpful when you’re living in Boston).

On top of that, scalpers have screwed up the entire ticket purchasing system so bad that you now have to consider, eBay, fan club pre-sales, and charity auctions.  The good news is that there are more ways to get tickets than ever before.  The bad news is that trying to deal with all the options will turn you into a neurotic nut job.  Which one has the better tickets?  Who has the best price?  How much are you willing to pay?

This all came up recently in my attempt to get tickets to the June 29th Ryan Adams show at the Somerville Theater.  Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. so at 9:50 I logged into Ticketmaster and started checking every minute or so.  At 10:00 a.m. on the dot, they started the sale.  But I wasn’t able to buy two tickets.  So I kept trying, figuring the system was just too busy.  Eventually I tried buying just one ticket.  I got something in the back row of the theater.  I tried for 15 minutes, but the show eventually completely sold out and I couldn’t even get a solo ticket. 

In the middle of my conniption fit during this experience, it was pointed out to me that there was an special pre-sale offer going on through iTunes (I’m not giving you the link.  Go find it yourself).  This REALLY pissed me off, since in addition to all my live music information that I am spoon-fed daily, I also get my weekly iTunes update and hadn’t seen anything about the promotion until that point.  That, even though I have bought Ryan Adams music through iTunes and have all of his CDs ripped to my iTunes library.  My first reaction was an anger usually reserved for someone severely insulting your mother.   Turns out it is for his tour in the FALL, not the spring shows, including the one I was trying to buy that day.  But if you pre-order the CD on iTunes, you get a pre-sale code for tickets and some unreleased tracks.   

So now I’ve pre-ordered a CD that I’m going to buy a hard copy of anyway, just to get the pre-sale offer code so that when the tickets go on sale for the unscheduled show somewhere in the Boston area at some point this fall, I’ll be able to get tickets.

Right now, fighting bad weather while waiting for a random wristband sounds like good idea.  It took grit back then (OK, 10 years ago), but at least everyone had a fair chance.  You went to the Ticketmaster outlet at 10 a.m. on Saturday, you waited in line, they handed out numbered bracelets and you paid your money.  I would have never thought I’d be pining for those days!