Heard Alís online album?

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer December 26, 2012 09:25 am

Al MacLeod started his musical career by playing drums during a Richard Nixon rally when he was 11. MacLeod, who owns Joe Beans Coffee in La Grande, has an album of Christmas music available on the Internet music service Pandora.
Al MacLeod started his musical career by playing drums during a Richard Nixon rally when he was 11. MacLeod, who owns Joe Beans Coffee in La Grande, has an album of Christmas music available on the Internet music service Pandora.

La Grande musician Al MacLeod has a Christmas album available on Pandora Internet radio 

Local people and possibly others around the country and even the world are hearing songs on their stereos from a holiday album by Al MacLeod, and it begs a question: With all the wondrous, newfangled technology available today, who needs an agent?

MacLeod, owner of Joe Beans Coffee in downtown La Grande and a lifetime musician, recently placed the album, “Al MacLeod’s Joy to the World,”  with Pandora, one of the world’s major streaming Internet radio services.

MacLeod’s got no way of knowing how many listeners it is reaching, but he’s heard his own music coming in on the stereo at Joe Beans, and some customers have dropped by to say they’ve heard it at home.

He said that’s a thrill.

“People are hearing it as they’re gathered with their families for a nice time during the holidays, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know that I’m participating in that,” he said.

MacLeod is a Pennsylvania product who played his first musical gig — a drum performance at a Richard Nixon rally — when he was 11. He moved to Union County as a teenager in the late 1960s. 

He and his wife Colleen met in La Grande and and married in 1977. They moved away for awhile, then came back and operated businesses, always playing music in their spare time. Colleen MacLeod is a former Union County commissioner who now works alongside her husband at Joe Beans. The couple remains active on the local music scene.

Al MacLeod cut the Christmas album, mostly instrumental music with a heavy emphasis on acoustic guitar, a couple of years ago. He decided to try Pandora after learning that the streaming music service had a program called “Pandora for Business.” 

Users can design a tailor-made “radio station” that’s played at their business locations. MacLeod included his album on a program he compiled for Joe Beans.

As far as he’s concerned, the real beauty is that Pandora customers searching the archives for a certain artist or title are exposed to the names of other artists and songs that are similar.

MacLeod’s holiday album, for instance, might pop up if people are searching for Christmas music like that of Dean Martin or Bing Crosby. Other music he plays might show on lists compiled for people searching for blues or rock tracks.

“The nice thing about Pandora is, you play what you want,” MacLeod said. “It works on phones and car stereos. It’s a great way of hearing music you’ve never heard before.”

MacLeod said he hasn’t investigated whether he’ll get royalties, and expects that if he ever does, they’ll be small. There is a potential payoff, though, because he also sells his music via Amazon.com.

“It’s possible people will hear tracks on Pandora and the album might catch on and sell real fast at Amazon, even though I know that’s kind of like going fishing and hoping to catch a white whale or a shark,” he said.

In any case, MacLeod is happy to be living in an age of expanded possibilities. There’s always that chance an artist will make it to the top through the Internet, or at least achieve a livable success. 

The technology has lessened the need for connections.

“These days, there are a lot more artists who are 100 percent in control of their careers,” MacLeod said.