Case Studies/Tom Benjamin
My aim is to do the best versions of the most famous songs of all time. — Dr Tom
Dr Tom Benjamin is Senior Researcher, Centre for Learning Innovation, Sydney, Australia. www.radio-tom.com  is his home-spun free mp3 music podcast of his versions of "the most famous songs of all time".
How are songs rated as "famous"? There are countless 'fake books' of 'standards' and anthologies of popular music. The songs that appear consistently in all of these can be regarded as famous. Tunes sung to children that everyone recognises are by definition famous. The greatest of these is no doubt Happy Birthday. The longest-lived well-known songs would include Greensleeves. 'Famous' does not equal 'popular' or even 'good'. The Funeral March is one such example of 'unpopular but famous'.
Other songs have historical significance. Home Sweet Home was the first song of the modern 'pop' variety because it was secular (non-religious), available as sheet music, known on both sides of the Atlantic, and could be sung and played in the home parlour. After the Ball was the next pop milestone as it had over a million sales.
Yet you will find few renditions of these influential songs beyond the occasional scratchy pre-1900 Edison cylinder rendition. Even when clear the versions are often incomplete or flowery. Thus, the claim to "the best versions of the most famous songs of all time" in many cases only requires a decent, clear recording. The 'best' need not equal 'great' or even 'good' - it may only need to be a 'listenable' or even 'bearable' version to qualify as 'best'.
Dr Tom is a researcher and forensic psychologist. The radio-tom and e-chautauqua projects are byproducts of his investigation of educational applications of games, virtual worlds, Web 2.0 and multimedia. They are purely privately-funded out of pocket with no link to government or corporate sponsors.
Originally from Detroit, Dr Tom's music career was as a 'weddings and anything' rock & roll singer playing rough house frat parties. The version of House of the Rising Sun listed in the Music section below is typical of those days, but back then it was real bands with real instruments, not virtual ones.Media:House of the Rising Sun.ogg== Media ==
These songs cost Dr Tom next to nothing (but time) to record and hosting is now free. This lack of costs is passed on to his listeners.
The Creative Commons link boosted search engine placement immediately and dramatically.
The immediate goal is to build a web platform to develop, test, and showcase multimedia and Web 2.0 technologies. To be worth doing, a site needs some link popularity and 'hits'. Music was a logical choice because it is a popular search topic. Public domain music is actually useful to anyone needing royalty-free tunes for podcasts, public occasions and so on. But with hundreds of thousands of musicians online there was a need to highlight the 'famous' aspect of these songs.
The ultimate test will be to see if people like what Dr Tom does with these ancient out-of-copyright tunes. They may well want to hear what he can do with more modern 'famous' songs as well. But the latter cannot be done for free as there are up-front costs of permissions, licenses, and fees. Oh, and did we mention the not-so-minor detail that you can buy recordings of the later songs done by the most famous artists in history? Any claim to the 'best versions' of later songs comes up against much stiffer competition. But then if one has to pay, hence charge, money it might be enough to fund a conventional recording studio deal. In the meantime, there are enough public domain songs to keep Dr Tom busy feeding Radio-Tom.Com.
Media:House of the Rising Sun.ogg== Media ==