iTunes Festival

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iTunes Festival

Once in a while, Apple throws their users a bone, free of charge. This September, Apple is once again hosting the iTunes Festival, offering free live concerts to Apple users. Owners of any computer (Mac or PC), iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs will be able to watch free live concerts from the likes of Usher, Muse, Pink, and a total of 60 artists. I have to admit, it is pretty cool that even Windows users will be able to enjoy the festival with iTunes. That said, my Apple TV choked on the trailer, and my Internet connection is working just fine. I’ll be interested to see how well the actual concerts stream.

iTunes Festival runs for 30 days in September. You can actually attend the live shows in London. Tickets for the live performances are FREE. Anyone interested in attending can simply go to the iTunes Festival site and sign up for the lottery. Once again, Apple could have made a profit selling tickets, but instead give them away. Cool.

Of course, the festival is a giant marketing tool. Teenagers and young adults are going back to school in September. Joe College is going to rock the fest on his iPad, becoming his own Apple commercial. It’s pretty clever. It also builds brand loyalty. I saw the iTunes Festival icon on my Apple TV menu last night, and immediately checked it out. I thought it would be more wallet-draining pay-per-view. I was wrong. It’s all free. That makes me appreciate Apple and want to continue being a customer (albeit a skeptical one). Oh, and by the way, the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini will be announced in September too. It’s a synergy of Apple love.

Personally, I’m not into today’s music. Most of the songwriting is repetitive, simplistic, derivative and the production is constipated with obsessive perfectionism (thanks to ProTools and the Macintosh). The last concert I went to was Yes, a few weeks ago (they were incredible!). I’ll probably check out Muse. iTunes Festival has something for everyone — even people like me who dislike most modern pop music.

I should also mention, if this is your cup of tea, the free NPR Music app has quite a lot of concerts archived. They often broadcast these live. Some are audio only, but there are videos as well, and it supports AirPlay. NPR Music caters both to the hipster and older, sophisticated crowds, and not so much to popular music fans. I wouldn’t say it is obscure music. Much of it is what is called “indie rock”, however, most of the artists are signed to major record labels (or their subsidiaries) and are very much part of the corporate music scene. Indie rock used to refer to artists independent of the corporate music machine. Now it refers to a sound culture. NPR Music hosts acts such as Shins, Bon Iver, Hot Chip, and others. It’s not too far off from what you find on iTunes or SNL musical guests. Indeed, Hot Chip are playing the iTunes Festival. They also have sophisticated music, such as avant-jazz genius, Matthew Shipp, and quite a bit of “world music”. If you browse the artists on NPR music, they seem to have just about everyone. However, not every entry comes with a live show. Many of the artists featured just have an interview.

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UPDATE: The iTunes Festival is once again in session. Performances are being held at the Roundhouse in London. This year’s festival includes artists such as Beck, Pharrell Williams, Robert Plant, and Mary J. Blige. As always, you can view the shows live and on demand on your Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and iTunes on your computer. For more information, visit Apple’s iTunes Festival website.

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