Art, Dammit: Neocha’s NEXT

Recently, things have gotten a bit serious here at ChinaGeeks, so in order to combat the crushing depression that comes from constantly writing about depressing things, we’re instituting a new series: Art, Dammit. Art, Dammit will appear unexpectedly from time to time, covering whatever we find that’s worthy of your time (or maybe isn’t). Today’s topic: NEXT.

NEXT Basics

Most of you probably already know about Neocha, China’s indie social networking site for artists and musicians. Many of you may also know about NEXT, their very simple streaming music player. And some of you probably know that now you can download NEXT for both PC and Mac or run it as a pop out in your browser. Obviously, this has been around for a while, so consider this a solid endorsement. If you haven’t downloaded it already, do it now. We’ll wait.

The interface NEXT offers you is almost painfully simple. It streams songs randomly from Neocha artist pages, which you can skip by clicking the NEXT button. You can also rate the songs, pause the stream, or opt to listen to only Rock, Electronic, Folk, or Hip-hop songs. The offerings are, as with all amateur music, varied. Some songs are downright awful, others are sublime, most are decent. The reason to listen is mostly to hear what’s going on in the Chinese indie music scene. It’s definitely interesting, but we’ll leave the rest of the judgments up to you.

Downloading Songs from NEXT

The chief issue with NEXT, and with Neocha as a whole, is that it’s very difficult to actually acquire music you find and like through the service. When you hear a song you like, you can click on something to view the artist’s website or more info on the song, but downloading is not an option. Most artists only have their info in Chinese, and even if you can read it, many of them simply don’t offer any way to listen to their music aside from streaming it through Neocha.

So, what do you do if you find a song you like and you want to add it to your iTunes or listen to it in your car? You have a couple of options. We recommend this step-by-step process:

  1. Snoop around the artist’s Neocha site to see if there is a way to buy the song legally. There probably isn’t, but it’s worth a shot. (Skip this step if you can’t read Chinese)
  2. Search for the song title and artist name on Baidu’s MP3 search. You may find the song there if the band is more well known, however, many groups are still difficult to track down and, unfortunately, you can’t copy-paste from the Neocha player so you’ll need a way to type Chinese to do this properly. (Skip this step if you can’t read Chinese)
  3. Record the song directly from the NEXT stream. For this you’ll need a program that records sound directly from what’s playing on your soundcard, try Wiretap (free 30 day trial) for Mac or Free Sound Recorder (free) for PC. Once you’ve got the program set up properly, just hit record, then press play on the NEXT song you want to record. Since there’s no “back” button in NEXT itself, it’s easier to record songs directly from artist’s Neocha sites, so when you find a song you like click on the song name to visit the artist’s Neocha site, then record from there.

It’s a little complicated, yes, but sometimes worth it.

Bonus Songs

For example, if you’re into folk, check out the fruit of my labors this afternoon: 三十年前 by 山人. A slightly more rockin’ version can be found here, performed by what I presume is the same band (they’re labelled as 山人乐队, ”乐队“ just means “band”.

For those curious, the lyrics go something like this:

Thirty years ago I couldn’t find one, today I did,
Today I found a little girl but she isn’t mine
What a pity, what a pity, she isn’t mine.

The more rockin’ version adds some variations on this general theme, mixing in another new word for little girl and also talking about jobs, for example:

Thirty years ago I couldn’t find a job, today I did,
Today I found a good job, but it isn’t mine,
Found a job, a good job, but it isn’t mine,
Found a job, a good job, but it isn’t mine.

And it ends with a rather sarcastic:

All you need to do is use our company’s products to rid yourself of difficulty and give yourself a new life! Thank you.

The first version of the song was acquired using Step 3 as described above, the second (rockin’) version was acquired using Step 2.

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