Tag Archives: Forbes

Interview with MelodySheep and Symphony of Science Mastermind John Boswell

MelodySheep autotune creator John Boswell’s musical magic: Bruce Lee, Bob Ross, Mr. Rogers & More

John Boswell

John Boswell, aka MelodySheep, aka Symphony of Science

To say John Boswell grows ideas in the garden of his mind is at once an understatement and yet highly appropriate. As you may have seen on CNN, Forbes, NPR, or especially YouTube, Boswell creates infectiously catchy pop songs from such unlikely sources as Julia Child, Billy Mays and  Yoda – all through the magic of autotune technology and his incredible talent for musical montage.

The results are simultaneously hilarious, touching and highly enjoyable, as evidenced by the millions of views his videos have been racking up lately. I recently asked Boswell a few questions about his process, and his responses follow. Do yourself a favor and check out his full catalog, available for download at MelodySheep.BandCamp.com.

rsmithing: How did you get started in music, and what instruments do you play?
John Boswell: I started off as a keyboardist and turntablist for a metal band in high school – definitely an unorthodox way to begin, but I learned basic music theory and how to combine different elements of music, both of which paved the way for the work I do today. I play mostly piano and guitar but dabble in a handful of other instruments, like mandolin and accordion.

rs: Have any of the subjects of your videos seen them, and what have their reactions been?
jb: A few of the figures I have used in my videos have been in touch with me, and their reactions have been entirely positive. I think what I am doing can be considered a mostly positive endeavor to begin with, and it’s always fun to see yourself given the remix treatment.

rs: What’s been your favorite composition so far?
jb: It’s hard to pick a favorite piece of my own, but the Ode to the Brain video is definitely near the top. It was a blast to make and I learned so many things in the process, which is always a plus. The music came together really well too, which gave it all the right ingredients for a solid video.

rs: Happy Little Clouds got a million views in one weekend. What’s it like to get so much attention so fast?
jb: It’s always great to get the sort of recognition that the Bob Ross video got, and I always appreciate the comments coming in and love hearing people’s reactions. Attention spans on the Internet are very short though, so once one big thing is happening it’s crucial to think about what is going to be next and how it can be different and better.

rs: Which composition has been the most challenging?
jb: The most challenging video thus far was most likely the Bob Ross remix. His quiet voice and tendency to mumble, combined with the constant sound of his brush on the canvas, made it hard to isolate good vocal samples. Luckily he was philosophical enough to provide enough clean quotes to use in the song.

rs: Why did you go with a pay-what-you-like model, and how’s that going for you?
jb: I believe music should be available free to those who want to listen but cannot afford. There is still enough generosity in this world to make pay-what-you-want worth it to artists, although there has to be a critical mass. Anybody who works hard enough can reach that point, as I have demonstrated.

A big thank you to John Boswell for answering my questions. Check out his stuff here:

What’s your favorite autotune mix? Who would you suggest for John’s next project? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Best Buy Going Bye-Bye?

Best Buy Distressed

Best Buy Distressed: illustrating a less rosy, more hazy future. Created with Hipstamatic. Free for your use with attribution. Click to Download Hi-res at Flickr.

At Forbes.com this week, Larry Downes expands thoughtfully on “Why Best Buy is Going out of Business…Gradually.” Among other salient points, Downes slices and dices the following corporatespeak issued to some about-to-be-very-disappointed customers (you know, those who keep the company in business):

“Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on BestBuy.com during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers’ online orders.”

And then Downes totally pwns them:

Let’s parse that sentence for a moment.  The company “encountered a situation”—that is, it was a passive victim of an external problem it couldn’t control, in this case, customers daring to order products it acknowledges were “hot” buys.  This happened, inconveniently for Best Buy, during “the November and December period,” that is, the only months that matter to a retailer. For obvious reasons, the statement ties itself in knots trying to avoid mentioning that the “situation” occurred during the holidays.

Ugh. I can see Best Buy’s directors from marketing, legal and fulfilment all in a conference room drafting that missive, the poor souls. I don’t envy them, and I will not get on some high horse about how this kind of bad news could be better delivered — because it’s so obvious, as Downes rightfully notes. He continues:

The situation that Best Buy “encountered” has “affected redemption” of some orders.  Best Buy doesn’t fill online orders, it seems. Rather, customers “redeem” them. So it’s the customers, not Best Buy, who have the problem. And those customers haven’t been left hanging; they’ve only been “affected” in efforts to “redeem” their orders. It’s not as if the company did anything wrong, or, indeed, anything at all. — Larry Downes, for Forbes

YIKES. So does Best Buy Even Apologize?

To Best Buy’s credit, they did apologize later in the same communication. Yet I can’t help but slap my forehead and wonder what could have happened If only they were more direct, maybe even going out of their way to make things right (free $20 gift cards, store credit, etc.) — they could even have turned this into a PR win… instead of something bloggers are writing about weeks later as a burgeoning harbinger of disaster.

Though I’m not sure I agree with Downes on Best Buy going the way of Circuit City in the immediate future, it certainly does not look rosy for them at present. And I’m not even talking about their finances. I’ve had great service and lousy service there, but the culture hinted at by this kind of language does not sound like that of an organization built to last.

At least, if it doesn’t want things like this written about it in Forbes.

And in blogs.

What’s your Best Buy experience been? Have you ever had an online order cancelled on you, and if so, what happened? Do you think the company is spiraling toward the drainhole? Let us hear from you in the comments.