Ten Ways to Give Back with Music Charities

It’s the season for giving. And as a music fan, what better way to express your love of music than to ensure music lives on and continues to grow and evolve through future generations? Therefore, Sound Citizen presents to you a list of 10 music charities, both to support existing musicians and to give the chance for aspiring musicians of all ages to share in our love for music. Do your part, be a sound citizen and make a contribution. In no particular order …

  1. vh1savethemusicVH1 Save the Music Foundation: Perhaps the most widely known, this non-for-profit is “dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in American public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education.” Since 1997, VH1 has provided more than $43 million worth of musical instruments to over 1,600 public schools in America. You can contribute through donations, attending fundraiser events and more.
  2. Guitar Center Music Foundation: Tax benefits come with a donation here. You can donate on the website, participate in fundraiser auctions and buy gear from which proceeds benefit the foundation. Guitar Center’s foundation looks to provide opportunities for music education through programs for all ages. They are also partnered with former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center, focused on human rights issues.
  3. Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation: Inspired by the film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, the film’s composer started this foundation to collect and donate new and used instruments to schools. You can donate money through the website and by check, or donate a gently used instrument.
  4. National Endowment for the Arts: The federal government’s arts program collects donations online, but you can also mail a check. In addition, you can specify how your donation is used via a particular discipline (arts education, literature, music, musical theatre, etc.) or by national initiative (Poetry Out Loud, NEA Jazz Masters and more.)
  5. tipitinaTipitina’s Foundation: The goal of Tipitina’s Foundation is to “support Louisiana’s irreplaceable music community and preserve the state’s unique musical cultures.” The birthplace of Jazz, the New Orleans unequaled music scene must be saved. To date, Tipitina’s has donated more than $1.2 million worth of musical instruments to 20 area schools. Sound Citizen is a New Orleans native, and I can tell you there’s nothing more important there than the music. The food is a close second.
  6. The ASCAP foundation: “Children Will Listen” was established “to bring the musical theatre experience to young students nationwide.” It was started in honor of Stephen Sondheim, ASCAP member and the composer behind such greats as West Side Story and Gypsy! In addition to providing funding and equipment for schools, the program runs several summer camps.
  7. Sound Art: This organization provides music instruction and resources to the children of Los Angeles. You can donate on the website through PayPal, and there is a “wish list” where current items in need are listed for hopeful donations.
  8. sphinxSphinx Organization: Sphinx seeks to encourage classical music in underserved communities and among minorities. They also strive to “… promote the creation, performance, and preservation of works by Black & Latino composers.” Sphinx was started by Aaron P. Dworkin, “… to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field.”
  9. MIMA: Modern Improvisonational Music Association. This organization is focused on world-wide music creation. This is truly a global effort and is supported by an array of countries. Visit their website and watch the video – it’s inspiring.
  10. DownloadUplift.com: The brainchild of Music For Charities (MFC), you can listen to, then download music from a varitey of indie artists. Each time you purchase a download, proceeds go to any number of charities of your choosing – everything from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to the Best Friends Animal Society.

UPDATE: I found another very worthy cause. Pandora – teamed with Global Giving, Pandora looks to spread the music love through three projects. Music Transforming Lives for Brazilian Youth aims to keep kids away from dangerous jobs with drug dealers. Little Kids Rock focuses on supplying public school teachers with supplies, curricula and training for music education. Pandora also teams with the aforementioned Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

There you have it, 10 great ways to make the world more musical and to ensure future generations experience the same joys we do every day. Go ahead … make someone’s day.

Find Local Music on your Mobile with go2

Leading mobile entertainment provider go2 has added music offerings, “the industry’s first complete mobile music portal with national coverage and local concert recommendations.” The site is accessible with your mobile at http://m.go2.com (no www.) Start by entering your location by city or ZIP code and you’re ready to find local music events and news. Once there, you can also add an app to your phone. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see the music link. Click and you’re presented with a page of go2 Picks, New Music, Upcoming Concerts and Music News. The Upcoming Concerts category can also be navigated by day of the week – very handy. Towards the bottom of the page, you can enter an artist or venue and get local, upcoming results.

Browse by Genre

Towards the bottom (underneath the search option), you’ll see a link for genre. Just pick among Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, Indie, Country and more. You’ll get listings in order, by date. Click a result and you see the venue and details (phone number, address) a map and driving directions, and what’s nearby – restaurants, bars, theaters, taxi and transportation services, hotels and more.

Browse by Venue

I believe that, often times, the venue can make or break the show. So, I really like this feature. When you click the venue link, you can enter the venue name to search, or pick among theater, bar, amphitheater, nightclub, Stadium and more. When searching, I’ve found that it’s spelling-sensitive. It’s best to either have the exact name, or leave out “the,” “theater” and the like. Once you see your venue, click and you get all the upcoming shows. Click on the concert and get venue details, maps and directions. You also get – and this is huge for me – a list of supporting acts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scrambled to find out who’s playing before the main show.

Test Results

I couldn’t be more impressed. I’m a heavy mobile user, and a heavy music consumer. The site is clean, easy to use and fast (go to their website to work with a demo “phone,” pictured at right.) It’s stripped down perfectly for my phone (a BlackBerry Pearl) so load time isn’t hindered by too many images. That said, it may be over simplistic for upper end devices like iPhones or G1’s. But for me, when all is said and done, it’s hands down the best mobile music portal out there.

Find Local Shows and Recommendations with Gigfreaks

Let’s say you know a band that you would like to see, but you’re not sure when, or if they are coming to town. Yes, you could check your local music website or even search on Ticketmaster. But there’s a fast, interesting alternative out there. Gigfreaks lets you search by artist and location, then tells you if they are coming in town anytime soon.

This is a new site, just a few weeks old, so there are some issues. My tests showed some positives and negatives. If you search for a relatively well-known band, you will most likely get good results. Even some searches for lesser-known bands turned up accurate results. But there were some misses. The North Mississippi All-Stars are coming to the House of Blues in Chicago (a well-known band at a high-profile venue), and a search turned up nothing.

One of the best potential features of Gigfreaks is “similar gigs.” When you search for a band, you will also get a listing of similar bands and their upcoming gigs. Unfortunately, every search of mine resulted in zero similar gigs in my area. That’s too bad – similar gigs would be a very valuable feature. It’s true that there may not be existing similar gigs, but I tried the search across several different bands and several different cities with no luck. However, it is nice to see some band recommendations and hopefully Gigfreaks will fine-tune things a bit. If they can get everything working nicely, it’s a pretty nice resource. Like I said, it’s early, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for developments and improvements.

FluidTunes: Minority Report for your iTunes

Minority Report always struck me as one of those movies that pegged an accurate depiction of a possible future. And perhaps that future is a little closer than we all thought.

If you have a webcam, check out FluidTunes. This little download lets you control your iTunes library via hand gestures captured through your cam. It’s downright cool, even if it’s not the most practical thing in the world. After clicking to install, you’ll get a zip file. Unzip the file and you’ll see some quick instructions, then you’re pretty much ready to go. I found that I needed to close the application, then open it again to get my iTunes library loaded in.

So, does it work? Well, yes it does. Broad swipes of the hand will move you quickly through your iTunes library, while smaller gestures will cycle your songs slowly. Wiggle your hand at one of the on-screen buttons to activate that button. Now, you’ll need to experiment to get the gestures right, and you’ll find that if you pass through the camera you might accidentally activate one of the buttons. You might also need to adjust your camera to get better results.

Overall, it’s a fun thing to use, but probably not the best way to play your songs. One unfortunate oversight is the lack of a “shuffle” button. That said, it’s worth a try and, if nothing else, makes an impressive little conversation piece for your next party. The video below shows how it all works.


Discover New Music and Videos with Soundflavor

If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know about last.fm and pandora.com. Soundflavor borrows a little from each but adds in some interesting extras, beginning with the home page.

Start browsing by entering an artist or song, or browse by genre, lyrics, decade or free downloads. I started with Rock, narrowed it down to Indie Rock, then set “Flavor Filters” (parameters) of Mellow and Medium Slow. My results included songs by Modest Mouse, Blur, Cake, Beck, Gomez, Belle & Sebastian, Spoon and a host of others, including some I’ve never heard before. If you click “one-click” next to any of the results, you’ll get a new list that closely resembles the sound of that artist/song. If you click on any of the songs, you’ll see a listing of other videos, and some of the “Flavors” associated with that song – useful for future searches. Similarly, click on the artist name and get more videos by them and the “Artist Flavors.” Hit the “Play This Page” button and a small pop-out window appears where videos of the songs play from the generated playlist in a small widget that you can also embed on your blog or website.

The videos are all from YouTube and, as such, you get a mixed bag. You’ll find the real videos from the artists, but you might also find some recordings from Conan O’Brien or other live recordings – not a bad thing, in my opinion. That said, everything I saw (with few exceptions) was of a very high quality, unlike many other sites out there. On the down side, the volume from one video to the next would sometimes change. You can choose to skip the ones you don’t like.

Search by lyrics by choosing from emotions, such as loneliness. My search for Loneliness and a genre of Blues included Clapton, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and … Indigo Girls. Too bad there’s not a sub-genre of “my baby left me and took the dog too,” but hey, nobody’s perfect.

One of my favorite search options is by decade. I chose 1970s with Flavor Filters of “Folk” and “Contemporary” and got a list with James Taylor, Kansas, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

A really cool feature of Soundflavor lets you upload any of your iTunes playlists, then get back a corresponding video playlist.

Finally, like most sites these days, there are social features. You can build a profile (where you can alter and save playlists), search for and make friends and share playlists.

After using Soundflavor, I have to say it’s fun. I think it’s a good tool for music discovery – there’s seemingly no end to the filters and options. But I’m still partial to Pandora, for no other reason than it’s ease-of-use. I can open my browser and start listening without a click. If I get bored, a couple clicks starts a new station and I’m back to doing other things. But if you have the time and feel like exploring, Soundflavor delivers the goods.