Tech to rock your New Year’s party

December 29, 2009, 3:42 PM UTC

Too busy (or lame) to channel your inner DJ? Tech support is here to help.

Picking and ordering music has always been an integral part of any good New Year’s party. While it has certainly gotten technically easier to put one song in front of the other – going from mix-tape, to burned CD and now simply a playlist – it still requires that ineffable DJ thing, to make it all work.

It’s that ability to move people effortlessly along from initial introductions as things get underway, to mayhem at the party’s peak just before midnight, and finally to a quiet contemplative groove as the old year ends, and a new one begins. Or it can be mayhem the entire way through, your pick.

And while I and my trusty Sharpie have spent a good deal of pre-party hours in years past laying out the sonic contours of the evening (only to be hijacked by some DJ interloper), this year I am leaving it all to Mog

Started by former Gracenote CEO David Hyman as a network of blogs written by and for hardcore music fans, Mog recently launched a service dubbed “All Access.” For $5 a month you get unlimited streaming of millions of tracks played back via your computer and whatever wall of sound you have it connected to. Yes, it’s another subscription service akin to Rhapsody, Spotify or the new version of Napster.

Beyond subscriptions

As the tortured experience of Rhapsody shows us, subscription music has not been much of a success. As much as every music fan has gushed about Rhapsody not many people were willing to fork over $15 a month for it.  People like to own their music, even better; they like to get it for free. But free isn’t much of a business model, as music sites like imeem have shown, which after raising more than $30 million in venture capital was sold for a pittance to MySpace in November. (Mog has raised $12.5 million in venture capital to date from Menlo Ventures, Simon Equity, Universal Music Group and Sony Music.)

So why might Mog succeed where so many others have failed? For starters Mog has jumped into the subscription music fray at a time when the industry has been beaten down so far the labels are fine with Mog selling access to their catalogs for $5 a month. If the labels let him, Hyman says, he’ll drop the price even further. While it isn’t free, $5 a month is a fancy coffee drink: it’s money but it’s not a stretch for a huge number of people, young and old. And for $5 a month, you get a lot more sustenance than something topped with whipped cream.

Then there is the service. Mog does all the usual stuff. It lets you search by music type, by artist and song. You can buy albums and songs on sites like Amazon. The streams are fast, and high quality. Where it gets really cool is once you land on an artist you like, it shows up in a “radio” station. Take jazz great Art Farmer. On the Art Farmer radio station I can play just his songs, or with a slide of a button, add artists like Art Farmer to the mix including Miles Davies, Clifford Brown and Thad Jones.

Playlists galore

You could spend all your time fiddling around with that one feature alone, but then there are the playlists; Mog’s other advantage.  Remember Mog was a site started to bring together serious music fans to blog about their musical loves and hates. When you search an artist you also get playlists featuring that artist. Returning to the example of Art Farmer, you find a playlist assembled by Mog member “Cody B” that features the trumpet genius.

All I can say to Cody B is thank you. This man knows more about music, and spends more thoughtful hours assembling the right mix of songs than I will ever be able muster. “Deconstructing Wu (RZA’s crates)” is a playlist Cody B pieced together of the songs sampled by Wu Tang Clan’s RZA for the seminal hip-hop band he led in the ‘90s. It would take me years to pull something like that off, but for $5 a month I don’t have to.

Cody B is also why Mog has a shot at succeeding, it adds a distinctive social layer to this massive catalog of tunes that helps fans without a lot of knowledge like myself navigate and discover new music. And come New Year’s Eve, while you struggle with your playlists, I am just leaving the driving to Mog, Cody B and a little playlist he calls “Baaad Jazz.”