A new NPD group study shows that 48% of teens did not buy a CD in 2007, down further from the 38% that was reported in 2006. This is the same time iTunes is announced as being the #2 music retailer, only behind Wal-Mart (though sales projections show that Wal-Mart is set to be overtaken later this year). Meanwhile, some music service providers raised hackles at the Digital Music Forum by claiming that the only way to serve people’s digital music needs is to operate illegally.

With more and more light being cast on new generations of teens and their propensity toward media convenience and digital downloads, the RIAA has stepped up its legislative agenda, lobbying against net neutrality and has sponsored net filtering mandates as part of state funding for universities. Could libraries be facing similar legislation down the road, which would disallow libraries from letting users download digital content? If the RIAA continues to run amok, we could very well be seeing it introduced soon! Then maybe the next Teen Tech Week could include a contest for teens to name the legislation restricting their access to digital media at their library. My vote is for ODPA (the Online Download Protection Act).

Microsoft’s new music mixing website MyBytes offers teens a way to craft new musical creations. Using a small library of loops, teens can build songs and then share them as full MP3 downloads or ringtones.

It’s hard not to notice an agenda to the MyBytes site, which immerses teens in the concept of IPR, i.e. intellectual property rights. They hear statements from artists about how glad they are for laws which protect them from consumer piracy and plagiarism, canned video clips featuring soundbites from teens on intellectual property rights, and hypothetical stories featuring fake teens writing in the first person about the concept of intellectual property and how it has affected their lives (none of the details of their lives hold up to internet searching).

MyBytes also offers an internal economy for users, designed to demonstrate what it’s like to have somebody downloading your creation without paying. As the site explains:

if you choose to publish your song, you are putting it into the mix of user-created songs for other users to listen to, remix, or download. You set property rights for each song you create, and you can charge other users credits to remix or download your songs. All users have the choice to either pay or not pay credits for songs they take, just like in real life. You’ll get to see if other users like your tracks, and if they’re giving you credit for using your creation.

Microsoft is, for better or worse, a vendor of IPR through the technologies it imposes through Windows Vista. And just like when the dairy industry has a hand in the food pyramid, are these the people from whom teens are going to get a healthy understanding of intellectual property?

Teens are smarter than this. They know who really gets paid when it comes to most albums, and they know who’s getting paid in the name of intellectual property rights. Instead, teens might be more apt to plug into a vibrant community based around creative commons, such as they can find on SpliceMusic or ccMixter. (Jamglue‘s great as well, but it’s not a very copyright-friendly zone.)

Just in time for Teen Tech Week, ESSENCE magazine and the Berklee College of Music are scouting for the next generation of hip-hop. As the contest page from ESSENCE’s Take Back the Music campaign reads:

THINK YOU’VE GOT SKILLS?

The ESSENCE Take Back the Music campaign and the Berklee College of Music are back again with our annual search for hip-hop’s next great voice. Lyricists and songwriters, ages 15 to 19, will compete to win tuition-free summer classes at Berklee’s Boston campus, where students learn fundamentals of performance, composition, production and the music business. Additionally, the top scholarship recipients will perform their winning songs at the 2008 Peace Hip-Hop Festival at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Songs will be judged on clever, conscious, thought-provoking lyrics, composition and performance—so show us what you’ve got!

This is a great opportunity for teens to elevate their rhymes to the next level. And if you want to help produce, check out the TTW Making Music with Teens resource guide, as well as its Supplemental Guide.

Teens hooked on Guitar Hero might want to try their hands on the controller’s stringed counterpart (you know, the actual instrument known as the “guitar”), but not without abandoning the frantic fun that Guitar Hero provides. Thankfully, there are a few solutions on the horizon of 2008 that will get teens shredding in no time.

The folks over at Music Wizard are teaming up with SoundTech to develop Guitar Wizard, a software and hardware package that converts real-life guitar tones into controller messages for live game play. The PC or Mac-compatible system will allow teens to adapt virtually any guitar and import virtually any song.

Meanwhile, the folks at Game Tank are working on software requiring nothing more than a cord and some dexterous fingers to let teens live out their guitar-playing fantasies. For a promo video and news updates, check out the official Guitar Rising website.

Before I go, I would like to warn libraries about the unfortunate phenomenon of Rock Band disc read errors with older PS2s. If your library bought a PS2 used, refurbished, or otherwise not recently, try borrowing the game first and following the tips linked above. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest an additional $45-$65 for Sony to make your PS2 compatible with Rock Band’s dual-layered DVDs.

As Billboard.com reports, Grammy-winning and chart-topping producer Timbaland has struck a deal with Verizon Wireless to produce the first ever straight-to-cell phone album.

The tracks, which will be leaked to V Cast subscribers once a month through 2008, will feature Timbaland collaborate with different artists while touring the country in a mobile recording studio. Each will include a full-length MP3 and ringtone.

Cell phones may represent the new frontier for major record labels, who have been struggling to find a viable medium to sell their wares to new generations. And whereas artists used to brag about having a number one album, now they brag about having the top ringtone. This is in part due to the more stringent locks placed on cell phones, which record companies hope can keep users from redistributing songs.

Perhaps most striking is Timbaland’s statement, “every place don’t get a CD [but] everybody has a mobile phone.” Mobile phones have long overtaken CD players among teens, and as the surging popularity of music and camera-equipped phones are demonstrating a convergence in media and mobile communication that offers exciting possibilities for how media is delivered to teens (which Japan is already seeing with novels).

Now imagine your library sent teens snippets of novels through Twitter to whet their appetite for more, or produced and shared multimedia content with services like Qik, PixPulse, Orb, or MBIT TV. Hopefully, like with lots of other digital content, mobile media won’t leave libraries in the dust. Until then, try sum cell xprments 2 c if u cn get ur word out.

Still looking for programming ideas for Teen Tech Week? Have teens try their hand at the “CD cover meme,” which has been working its way through the web over the last week:

  1. Go to the Wikipedia Random Articles page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random). The title of the article is the name of your band.

  2. Next, check out the random list on the online Quotations Page Quotations page (http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3). The last four words of the very last quotation is the title of your album.

  3. Finally, visit Flickr’s “Interesting Photos From The Last 7 Days” page (http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/). The third image will be your cover art.

Teens can then use Photoshop, open source solutions such as Gimp, or free web apps such as Picnik or Fauxto to put it all together (my results are to the right). This is a great chance for teens to remix a few different corners of the web into inspiration to make music of their own.

Depending on the report, last year saw anywhere from half to three-quarters of teens owning MP3 players. And given that MP3 players remain at the top of teen wish lists, you’re going to see even more teens asking the question:

“How do I download MP3s on these computers?”

Increasingly, the software and security on your library’s computers is going to decide whether you’re poised to meet the information needs of teens. That means allowing teens to use your high-speed connection to download files onto the hard drive, as well as allowing devices to connect through USB or firewire ports. It also means having software installed that can interface with these devices. So in honor of the upcoming Teen Tech Week, here’s a brief guide to making your library’s computers MP3 capable:

Winamp

Behind Windows Media Player, Winamp is the second-most used MP3 player in the world. This lightweight program plays a wide array of formats, gives users an easy way to listen to Shoutcast radio and video stations, and–most importantly–lets users upload files to most commercial MP3 players, iPod included. You can find more information about uploading files through Winamp by following this link. A free download is available for Windows computers only.

iTunes

For those of you using Macs, it’s not easy to avoid iTunes. This is Mac’s ubiquitous all-in-one multimedia player and iPod manager and it’s the first thing a Mac looks for when an iPod is inserted. Unfortunately, using iTunes on a public computer can have potentially disastrous consequences. If teens aren’t careful, the computer will try to “sync” with their iPod, deleting files and replacing them with whatever was previously imported into iTunes. You can disable this behavior in the “Sync” tab of your preferences. Teens can then go to the iPod preferences pane and select “manually manage music and videos” to add songs without wiping out their whole system (however, this option is not available for the iPod Shuffles).

Most other MP3 players will simply show up in Mac OS X as a removable drive within the operating system, allowing teens to drag and drop files as needed. Safer alternatives to iTunes exist (such as YamiPod) for transferring music to an iPod, but they have their own problems. You’ll need to assess the risks and rewards based on your own needs.

amaroK

If you’re running Linux on your library’s computers (yes there may be one or two of you), fear not. amaroK is a terrific open-source solution that combines the flexibility of Winamp with the great user-interface of iTunes. It plays as many file types as your operating system is set-up to handle and works with a number of media devices (check the wiki page for more information).

Freeing your computers shouldn’t just go for MP3s players, but for generations of plug-n-play devices to come. If you’re not already, it’s time to let teens download pictures, videos, books, and more. And it’s time to let teens thrive as content creators by giving them the tools to upload from their cameras or portable audio recorders. Broadband penetration may be high among teens, but it’s not the whole story. By downloading free software and loosening a few restrictions, your library computers can be a destination for years to come.

(It’s worth mentioning that there are a few resources for teens to download free, legal MP3s. MP3.com is still alive and kicking, and c|net offers a music portion on the site http://music.download.com. There’s always the netlabels at archive.org, as well as promotional MP3s featured on blog aggregators like elbo.ws and The Hype Machine. If you want to be really cool, you’ll link to DatPiff, where teens can download the latest hip-hop mixtapes as they hit the street.)

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us MTV is hosting a create your own video contest in their virtual world with video/audio editing software and MTV$ as the prize. What a great program to offer teens! Using collaboration, story/script writing, film techniques, and music interpretation-it’s chock full of a set of literacy skills to give teens the opportunity to communicate in multi-media formats. Official rules are here which is also a good model for being safe on the Internet: No depictions of gratuitous violence, personally identifiable information, hard liquor, illegal drugs or alcohol. There’s a helpful list of tools for shooting machinima. Great preparation for the YALSA Gaming Extravaganza at Midwinter! Check out more links to machinima on YALSA’s del.icio.us page here.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Poet and hip-hopper Saul Williams has also gone the Internet route with The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggytardust!, released on October 29th. This Trent Reznor-produced album makes a few adjustments to the Radiohead formula, namely:

– liner notes available in PDF format

– simpler payment structure (either free or $5)
– higher-quality download (320 kbps MP3 or lossless FLAC files) for those paying
– embedded player to share the album with friends

Reading the site’s more info page made me think about not only how important these sorts of developments are to the economic framework of releasing music, but the social framework. Exploitation of artists isn’t just financial, but oftentimes with regard to creative control over their image (resulting, as it so often does, in labels forcing artists to adopt racial caricatures in the guise of marketability).

Teen Tech Week is coming up soon, and your teens might be interested in a workshop on how they can attain maximum creative control by self-releasing albums using these same methods. Torrentfreak offers a guide on how teens can distribute their album peer-to-peer through torrents. Archive.org will host artists interested in distributing their albums for download via a Creative Commons license. They can also use the XSPF Web Music Player to stream from a website, and provide code to allow others to do the same.