solarbird: (Lecturing)

The new year is here, which means it’s time for the annual BIG CLEAN! But – living in earthquake territory and surrounded by active volcanoes – it’s also about emergency prep! Because it’s wise to have right the hell now, one-day, and two-or-three days plans for getting out.

(Some people also talk about having a month’s notice plan? But really, that’s a move, and I think it’s silly to think of that as ’emergency.’ Even one week isn’t a whole lot worse, even if you have a lot of junk – most of what people own that takes more than a week to sort out doesn’t really need to be sorted out.)

So! Let’s say you have one day, or worse, Mt. Rainier has just gone up and the Cascadia fault just tripped and everything is completely pear-shaped but a rescue boat is outside. For someone like me, who creates a lot of content, the key to getting out quickly without massive losses is already be ready.

What’s that mean? Well, you hear a lot about the three-day bag, of course. (At least, you do in Cascadia. It’s not really adequate, you should be prepared for at least a week, but three days is a start. Is this just us?) The three-day bag is one you can grab and take out the door as the building is falling down around you.

You should have data in that too. At very least, a recent backup of key data. For example: we back up our servers to USB flash drives. This sounds hilarious but it’s actually pretty good, because it means we can swap the flash drives monthly, and have a completely offline set of backups as well. And the monthly swap means they never have data-loss issues related to being unpowered for months.

Where do those offline backup flash drives live? The three-day pack.

If you have your creative works scattered across a bunch of formats – by which I mean other-than-digital formats – scan your stuff. And have your digital work collected – at least in backup form – in one place, and let that live in the three-day bag too. (But don’t use flash drives for this, they drop storage over time if left unpowered. They aren’t a good archive format.)

Alternatively, back your data up somewhere off-site. But that’s not always the best idea, for a lot of reasons – bandwidth being one of many, but there are many. If you can do it, great.

So as part of this year’s Big Clean, I’ve been getting my data situation together. I’ve made an image of my recording archives, and I’ve ripped all those old Commodore and Amiga floppies, and right now, and I’m scanning those old fanzines I put out back in the 90s, because why not? All that old stuff’s so small it can live in backed-up archive directories on my laptop, and the laptop is effectively part of the three-day kit anyway.

This is me, following my own advice, and being generally ready, like y’should. I was hoping to be done with all of this by the end of the 2nd, New Year’s Day Observed Bank Holiday Whatever, but I’m not quite done. But I’m close.

Anyway, here’s my RIGHT THE HELL NOW list:

  • three-day pack (yours should have a solid week of meds, if any)
  • laptop
  • instruments (at least the zouk)
  • phone
  • purse (which includes passport)

That gets me almost all of my creative output, food, meds, srs bsns ID, and so on. If you don’t have a passport – or passport card – you should have one if you can afford it. It’s better ID than a driver’s license or ID card, and doesn’t get questioned.

My ONE DAY’S NOTICE list – basically like going on tour with less gear but more paperwork. All of the above plus:

  • one suitcase of clothes
  • all hard drives
  • the One Day Warning box (important legal papers, pretty much)
  • studio tablet and custom studio hardware (one box max)

Anything more starts getting into “well, now, it’s just a move,” but with 2-3 days, I’d start with more general lab and studio gear, and favourite books and art.

For an emergency, doesn’t that sound luxurious? I’d have that luxury – all that time – because my Right the Hell Now and One Day plans are together. If you live anywhere that can get Abruptly Dangerous? Yours should be too.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

It’s Cyber Monday, apparently, which means LET’S PUT EVERYTHING ON SALE. I’m doing my part – I’ve put out four singles this year, so I’m putting all of them on pay-what-you-like.

It’s funny, but the most recent one – We’re Not Friends (The Future Has a Place) – has really changed on me since the election. Particularly with Mr. Pence involved, it’s stopped being a celebration, and has turned into a declaration of defiance.

Fortunately, I’m real good at defiance.

Here’s the 2016 tracks. I think they’re real good. Pay what you like – and thanks.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-excited)

I’ve heard that some people are having trouble with PayPal through Bandcamp? If that describes you, drop a comment and I’ll contact you in email about alternative arrangements. We can do this, I promise.

Anybody else going to PAX today? I’ll be showing up with the shiny new PocketCHIP I supported in Kickstarter! I just got it, barely know how to turn it on, the flail will be hilarious in the handheld gaming area. But I’m bringing it! 😀

NEW SINGLE HERE! Read about and play it!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Over on Tumblr, monsterquill interviewed me for a project, and I figured hey, let’s post it here too. Particularly since yep, still busy! monsterquill is in bold italic; I’m in regular text. Enjoy.

Why do you do fan music, what do you like about it?

Oh, well, mostly, because it’s fun. I mean, sure, I’m not going to lie; it gets attention, because you have a pre-existing audience to leverage, and all that. But I was coming up with fan music when there wasn’t a receptive audience for that kind of thing, I just wasn’t recording it – just because it’s a way to do fandom.

How did you get into it?

Same way as people get into fan fiction or fan art or anything else fannish (to use an older term) – THIS IS AWESOME I’M GONNA DO A THING! And then I did a thing. I also drew some fairly terrible (and some halfway decent) comic art and wrote fanfic. Music is just another aspect of that.

How are you involved in fan music community, & how would you describe it?

Well, I started nwcMUSIC, a geekmusic festival held as part of Norwescon, and ran that for six years – this immediate past year was the first one they ran after I handed it off, and I think they learned some things, and will continue to improve next year.

Describe it? Jeez, that’s a bit of a question. There are so many different such communities – the chiptunes crowd and the nerdcore crowd definitely overlap, and they talk to each other a lot across geographic regions. There’s an older folk tradition called “filk music” which was the first really organised geek or (”fannish,” in the old language) music community, and they started releasing audiocassettes in the 1980s. (Look up Off Centaur Publications and go from there if you want to dig into that part of the history.)

There are a fair number of differences in specifics, but it’s funny how the patterns repeat. Like, nerdcore people get together in the hiphop tradition and do improvised/freestyle rapping over beats, which tend to come from chiptunes, and it’s at homes and sometimes at events and everybody’s just getting together to do stuff, right? These are called cyphers. But filk started doing almost exactly the same thing a few decades before, but folk-music-y, and called them “housefilks.” Chiptunes people have a name for their improv/workshop/fun playing get togethers too, but I don’t remember what they’re called at the moment.

How do consuming a fannish thing and producing your own work relate for you?

Well… in both cases, I guess, I’m playing to the same audience, which is to say, me. And also people who like the same things as me, at least, within a certain range.

What genres of music do you tend toward, & what subjects, & do those affect each other, & do you use different ones?

There is very little geek metal out there, and while I’m playing acoustic instruments most of the time, what I’m really writing a lot of the time is metal. Early metal, rather than more modern metal, but still – that’s why the most common comparison by far that I hear is to Led Zeppelin. (Occasionally I’m thrown in as folkpunk, and get comparisons to The Pogues. But most of the time, it’s Led Zeppelin.)

My personal background is a mash of Newfoundland folk, metal, and electronica. In released material, I mostly hang out in the folk/metal arena, but I’ll drop a rock track once in a while. Pretty much always, I just go where the song says I need to go.

Like, when I did my first released fannish track – which was really an exercise in how to use a digital audio workstation – it was straight-up rock and roll, because the song required it. There’s a cult classic film called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, and it’s an odd, odd film, and I really like it. Part of the shtick is that Buckaroo Banzai is a brain surgeon, physicist, and! leader of a rock band called The Hong Kong Cavaliers, and successful at all three at the same time. (And also, he’s a pulp adventurer, but I digress.)

Given all that, it bugged me that they never got to do a whole song in the film. They start a couple, but plot happens, and they’re interrupted. Soooooo… a bunch of new lyrics, some additional instruments, and a zillion edits later, I’d scraped off every note out of the film and finished that song.

And it’s called The Diesel-Driven Eight Dimensional Jet Car Blues, and it’s on my fan-music page, http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/free to this day. 😀

What’s your songwriting process like? What inspires you to do a song?

The problem with a day job is that you have a day job. The advantage of a day job – at least, one that doesn’t eat your life, and I note that I didn’t do any music while I was a software developer in the industry – is that you can really pick and choose.

But even without that option – everybody writes for the same reasons, be it writing fiction or drawing artwork or making music. It’s all the same answer. I guess for musicians, it’s “I want to say a thing about a thing, but with a good beat.”

I heard a good analogy the other day – artwork is how we decorate our space, but music is how we decorate our time. I really like that. I also think – while not at all asserting there’s no overlap, because of course there is – that art is how we write down what we see, writing is how we write down what we think, and music is how we write down what we feel. Music is transcription of emotions, and lyrics add thoughts to give specific context.

Or that’s how I look at it, anyway.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)

There’s an “Apple is stealing your music” blog post going around on Facebook today, and people are freaking out in that “we’re freaking out about this” way that they do, and as someone who talked about this when Apple Music rolled out, I have to step in and say some things.

First: This is Apple Music, which is to say, Apple’s stream-everywhere service. Think of Pandora, but also streaming your ripped CDs and so on. This is not core iTunes functionality (tho’ it is delivered from within iTunes if you enable it), this is not your iPhone, or iPod, or whatever. You have to sign up for this and pay for it. It’s $10/month.

Second: Here’s the thing. I don’t like Apple Music and don’t use it, for several reasons, one of which being this one. I am not an Apple Music fangirl defending my platform here, I don’t like it or use it.

But.

The whole pitch of Apple Music, the whole point of it, is to make “your” music available to you everywhere, as well as give you access to Apple’s very large streaming library service.

I use quotes around “your” up there, for very good reason. You don’t own most of your music. You just don’t. See this four year old but still relevant commentary on so-called ownership of music for details. What you own are limited rights to music.

This means that Apple cannot legally upload your specific copies of licensed songs to their servers without paying the RIAA buttloads of money – far, far more than your monthly Apple Music membership fee. Cannot, as in, it’s illegal. The only way they can offer this service is to have a licensing scheme set up, which pretty much means the reference-library approach they’re taking.

Now, they can upload stuff that is actually yours, with your permission. And they’re doing that, according to this article. (And other sources, for that matter.) They have to do that, in order to share it around; that’s kind of implicit with the service.

But they’re probably not going to store uncompressed WAVs. They’re huge. Your phone’s data plan will be hammered if they stream WAV files. Everybody and their mother would rage about that, and for good reason, and the mobile market is most of the reason to have this at all. So, for these very good reasons, they’re going to compress.

(Now, they might upload a WAV and then stream you down AACs – disk space is cheap – and I don’t know what they do internally. But let’s assume they’re not. Given it’s Apple, I don’t know what format they’d use on their servers, but it’d probably be some very-low-loss AAC variant, which is very good. But that’s kind of a side question that I bring up only because the “Apple is stealing your music” post author brought it up, as well.)

Now, once they’ve set up the service, with your library’s use rights transferred to the cloud, they will treat all devices as peers, and make them all into echos of the central cloud copy. That’s the clean way to do it; it’s the elegant, least-hacky way. Their architecture is based around the idea that the “primary” machine is their set of servers, and all other devices are thin / empty / stream-on-demand clients. This lets them do really good backups, and provide all the similar cloud-centric services which really are the point of that whole system.

But that means setting all the client environments to be the same and reflect the server, and that’s why it’s set up as it is. (There also may be multiple-copy licensing issues? The RIAA would certainly insist that there are, and this avoids that fight.) All the (thin) clients are in the same state, so all the information is common across all of them, status is always synced, etc. Which means that the local library echos have to match what the server thinks they should be, and there’s no room for exceptions.

It doesn’t have to be that way. They could have – and, to my mind, should have set up exemption rules to avoid exactly this problem. (eta: and at some point after version one in fact did – see below!) And they chose not to (at initial release), because it makes the implementation a lot less elegant if you do that, and/or because the cases where that’s actually an issue are a tiny slice on the edge of their market, and/or because the support costs would’ve been higher, and that’s both inevitable and expensive.

Which of those factors was more important, I can’t begin to guess. I’ve known a lot of managers from Microsoft who would’ve made the same call, and I’d’ve been screaming at them, and probably would’ve lost that fight. Or who knows, maybe I wouldn’t’ve. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the edge-case argument is demonstrably valid. Apple Music has been around nine months. A bunch of us complained about the architecture when it came out; now silence, until this. That’s one new high-visibility blog post about it in three-quarters of a year, which averages out to 1.33 persons angry enough to get it attention about it again, per year.

That’s a pretty small number, particularly given it’s out of 13 million subscribers or so. I may be part of that edge case, but that doesn’t stop it from being an edge case.

Still, ignoring that edge case – and completely blowing up the “least surprise” principle of user experience management – that’s where this was a terrible, nearly Microsoftian design decision. Giving each device the possibility of having a list of first-copy/exempted/whatever songs is, as above, a real technical and support problem. But they could’ve solved it, should’ve solved it, and decided not to.

And that was terrible and leads directly here, and is why I don’t use Apple Music.

But they aren’t “stealing your music.” For the overwhelming majority of users, you already don’t “own” it, you just have transferrable rights. And if Apple wants to offer the service they’re offering, they’re kind of stuck under current copyright law. They just are.

(They could also just back up your old library. But since edge-case people in particular will still add new non-library songs to their personal library while subscribed that means you have to sync the backup as well – yay, more code to maintain! More support to do! – or otherwise, when they quit Apple Music, HEY SOME OF MY SONGS ARE GONE APPLE DESTROYED MY MUSIC!! and we’re right back here.)

The only place I see an even remotely-possible legal issue is that I think they should auto-download all your licensed and owned music without having to go through by hand (as the guy describes in his article as something he doesn’t want to do) when you drop Apple Music. That’s arduous enough that I think you can make a restraint case out of it – particularly for the non-library/actually-owned-by-the-user parts of the library, that edge case that he has and I have and so on.

But the rest of it – the licensed material, meaning all the ‘purchased’ music, none of which you are ever actually purchasing, even if you buy it in physical form – that’s most likely legally solid, and the ground rules are dictated pretty heavily by the RIAA.

Who are monsters. But that’s a whole ‘nother series of articles.
 
eta: Hey, turns out, Apple Music even tries to tell you what it’s about to do and lets you opt out will still using the service for the rest of your library, which means I’m wrong, they do in fact build the exemption list I described above now, which they didn’t in version one. Maybe that was in response to our round of complaints last year! But the wording – while correct – is confusing to many people, like this guy. (And to be fair, it really kinda is.)
 
eta2: From another source, the uploads of your local files are made as 256Kbps AAC.
 


This is a related entry in the Music in the Post Scarcity Environment series of articles about the music industry, and trying to make it as an indie musician in the modern environment.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (pony-dj-pon-3)

Big shout-out to Montco Radio and Amazing Obscura for the airplay today! Maybe it’s a little oldschool of us, but hearing your band named and played on the radio is still 100% totally awesome. \n/

And talking of, the Save KPLU campaign is about halfway through by both calendar and fundraising, and they’re a bit ahead of plan, which is excellent. They have another matching gift campaign going right now – half a million in matching funds, through April 15th.

Indie radio still matters – particularly journalism-heavy stations like KPLU. So if you haven’t jumped in yet to help save KPLU, go on over and do that now. Get that matching grant nailed down!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-wha)

It’s tax prep weekend! Well, for us at the Lair, anyway. So that’s where I’ll be for the next few days.

There is a good part: you stumble across fun reminders, like receipts for cosplay supplies, mixed in with all the boring things. They’re little happy moments. ^_^

(What, you don’t think supervillains pay taxes? Damn right we do. We’re not stupid. That’s how they got Capone, and unlike some people I could mention, some of us can learn from history.)

A disturbing related stat I read last night: 75% of the iTunes music library has never been downloaded. Not ever, not even once. I’m… kind of disturbed by that. Whenever I get discouraged, I should remember this number, because hey, apparently I’m at least ahead of 75% of bands who have managed to get albums recorded and online.

And I don’t even put my free tracks on iTunes, because y’can’t! iTunes is pay only! (But you can get the new free/tip jar single, “Thirteen,” off Bandcamp just fine right now. ^_^) So I guess that’s something.

Anyway, back to sorting zillions of little pieces of paper, all alike. See you next week!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (pingsearch)

Social, which echoes posts between the band blog and several social media sites, and – even more importantly really – consolidates comments back so people can actually find them all, is losing support in I think three more days.

That wouldn’t be so bad because I’m happy maintaining my own code bases, but it relies on some sort of back-end intermediary, and they’ve been ignoring my requests to release that code so we can try to run it ourselves. They haven’t said no, they’ve just said nothing.

I’ve been trolling through the plugins site looking for a replacement, and I’m not seeing anything. This is kind of terrible, to be honest – my readership isn’t bad but most people who comment comment on Facebook and Twitter rather than using the comment system, here, which makes the blog look dead without that comment consolidation.

So… have I missed something? Do solutions exist? It’d be nice if solutions existed. Particularly for the comment consolidation. I don’t mind reposting manually if that’s what needs to happen, but wow I will miss that comment collection. I’ll miss it a lot.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Seanan McGuire posted an article today on why you need to leave reviewers alone. Authors Behaving Badly is kind of a perennial lol-topic in reader circles, and a stunning percentage of those stem from authors reacting – badly – to negative reviews.

She has a bunch of good reasons why you don’t engage such reviews, even if they’re just being mean. And all that’s fine. But a couple of people have posted about how hard that is, and I realised there’s something Seanan didn’t say, to wit:

If you’re staring at a negative review and itching to say something, don’t, not just because of all the obvious reasons, but because being reviewed at all – no matter how negatively – is a kind of compliment in and of itself.

Remember that. Even vendetta reviews are compliments, really, because they mean the reviewer thought you were important enough to talk about, even if just to try to take you down.

And leaving aside vendetta reviews – like the Rabids attempt to game Goodreads – a sincere but negative review also means they thought you were worth the actual time they spent. Even if they don’t admit it, the facts on the ground are that you were worth the time they spent actually reading or listening to or watching your thing, and the time they spent writing a review about it.

Remember: no matter how much they may’ve hated whatever they’re hating – and let’s say they hated it a lot – they still cared enough to take the time to write and post a thing about your work. In a world flooded with opportunities to read/watch/listen to/react to material, they listened to yours, and wrote about yours, which means that you’re worth that much to them, at very least.

And it’s not symmetrical. They’ve handed you the big advantage. After all – you’re not writing about them, now, are you? No.

Good. Keep it that way.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: from display at PAX 2011 (ook)

Today and tomorrow are the last days that the “cyber2015” code will work at checkout. It’s for 20% off everything on our Bandcamp site – not just Bone Walker, the long-list Grammy Award nominated album, but everything, including the Free Court of Seattle books, Faerie Blood and Bone Walker. Plus everything else on the merch page.


plus other stuff too

Also, I’ve just handed off the single to Conflikt. I wish I could just throw this out at you now, but I can’t, it’s a 2016 release and I did it for them, so I have to be good and have to wait. Which is really hard, because I’m not good at that. I MADE SHINY, LOOK AT IT!!!1! is just too much of my nature, I admit it.

ngngngngngngngh oh well. I guess I’ll just go bury myself in some other project. (but shiny!)

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (assassin)

Cyber Monday always makes me think it’s basically HELLO CYLONS time, but hey, who am I to stand in the way of a good robot uprising? I mean, let’s face it, nothing says “discounts now!” like an old-fashioned cybernetic apocalypse.

So in that spirit, here, have a discount code for anything – including physical goods – on the Bandcamp site. Bandcamp is the best because they let you download lossless files, and also because you can actually get physical media if you want, and get them signed and such. (Just be sure to tell me you want that!)

Enter this code at checkout:

cyber2015

…and it’s 20% off everything.

Now if you’ll excuse me, having played Christmas Capitalist, I must now go conduct some experiments on brains. Possibly my own, possibly using bleach. You know – the usual Monday.


Looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominee post? Thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (derpyhooves! <3)

What with the power outages and then going out of town and and and things, I totally forgot the raffle! OK! So! Um, entry is extended to Wednesday! Either Like THIS POST on Facebook OR Click HERE and leave a comment to enter – make sure you have a valid contact email in your comment – and I’ll draw a winner on Wednesday morning.


Looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominee post? Thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (fascist sons o bitches)

I want to talk a little bit about Facebook. Facebook, the all-encompassing. Facebook, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, the ever-more-integrated. Facebook, the would-be identity validator for the Internet.

Facebook, the Destroyer of Worlds.

I have problems with Facebook. Not just its censorious ways (which aren’t new), tho’ I’m obviously more than unfond. What I have issues with is how it more and more completely replicates the old Real World from which the net used to be an escape.

No, I don’t mean seeing all those lame old “office humour” graphics start to float down my news stream, tho’ gods know that by itself is enough to burn down the server farm and start over.


I’ll be right back! With a rifle!

I also don’t mean the echo chamber aspects, or the preference for soundbite and short form over longer posts, and I don’t even mean the way that they seem to want to replicate CompuServe of the early 1980s – a closed box that you never leave but that you visit first.1

No. I mean the way Facebook strives diligently to replicate the old corporate-dominant communications structure.

Think about it a bit. Whether you think of it this way or not, Facebook is a fakenet. It claims to be about people being able to communicate with other people in ways they never could before. That’s even in its letter to investors and prospectus; they don’t care about the business model, they claim, they care about the technology and the project.

And yet, it has invented nothing in this regard.

No; that’s unfair. They have. There’s something about it that older, pre-net people understand. They can and do use it, when Livejournal and Tumblr and even Twitter are beyond them. I don’t know how or why, but this is an achievement.


Okay, that part’s pretty cool. HI MOM!2

That’s been a big deal for Facebook, because it lets them reach that older, pre-net market that has a pretty good amount of dosh3. And, more importantly, that pre-net market which is still invested in the old, pre-net world.

And most importantly of all, it brings in those who respond when Facebook actively suppresses content users want in favour of paid content from corporate/moneyed backers.

Why does Facebook have pages? So you can subscribe to them and see what their owners post? No. So you can subscribe to them, they can know what you like for better advertising, and so they can force page owners to pay up in order to let more than 30% or so of those subscribers actually see those page posts.

If you have the dosh, you can do that – and also place ads. Lots of companies do, after all. If you don’t? If you’re small, if you’re indie, if you’re new? Well, screw you, moocher.


Also your eyes

It’s the same old corporatist communications paradigm, now brought online more successfully than anywhere else on the net. Moneyed speech counts more than any other speech, even if you look for one and not the other.

The indie, the new, the not-moneyed, that’s what you want to see? Well, we’ll let you see about 30% of it. That’s the loss-leader. The rest, we’ll substitute in what we want you to see – which is to say, what we’re paid to make sure you see.

Facebook favours the established over the new, the large over the small, the moneyed over the startup, through suppression and replacement. It is, in short, the direct opposite of the free-and-open peer-to-peer ethos of the Internet. It is everything wrong with the old world, wodged into your web browser. It is the old paradigm, reborn.

And the importance of being able to sell you with confidence? Well, that’s why they’re starting to do things like this:


Don’t suspect your neighbour; report them!

So, yeah. Facebook. I have issues with it. Go fig.


1: I know, I know, not all of you do that. But I have stats. A good post will draw 450ish readers. If even one of those reads comes in from Facebook, it’ll be unusual. My blog post read rate is literally <0.1% from there.

2: Actual mom not included.

3: By which I of course mean, sigh, Baby Boomers. And also the lagging edge of Generation X, or some of it.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (Lecturing)

Over on his Tumblr blog, Mike Doughty lead an article on touring with this paragraph:

Radiohead wouldn’t exist without early major-label funding. The future won’t bring new Radioheads. All I want to say here, truly, is: let’s get used to it.

This far, I agree. Hell, I started with something damn near identical in Part I of this series, which came out before his, so I didn’t steal it. XD

He follows with this:

This means that there will be fewer bands.

I strongly disagree, but not in the obvious way.

A bunch of things I was going to talk about today – the way that old-school touring doesn’t work – he covered, just after I’d finished outlining this article. Go read his, if you’re curious. But to summarise: less money, fewer traditional venues (by which I mean live-music bars and clubs), the dissolution of concert-going culture (and it is mostly gone), much higher travel costs, and more. Lodging’s no picnic either.

Take that as read; they are the facts on the ground.


It’s kind of like this

One of Mike’s answers is: don’t have a band. They’re too expensive, it’s too much money, it’s $6000 a week for bare-bones, you can’t do it. Sound amazing as a soloist or duo.

I disagree strongly with that dollar figure, but leave that aside for now.

“Don’t have a band” is a solution, and it does work. And in fact you’ll have to do that to some degree – or most of you will, there are always exceptions. As part of that, you have to find new kinds of places to play and new ways to book and so forth; we’ll get to that, I swear to you.

But he’s absolutely wrong about fewer bands. Fewer bands is not actually the answer. More bands is the answer.

Here’s how it works:

You want to tour. A lot of musicians don’t want to tour, but do want to play. They’ll have day jobs they like, but they’ll want to play out and put serious work into it.

So you tour around as a solo or duo at first. As you’re doing that, you network the living fuck out of all the good local people you can, and build enough contacts to have a band in every town. Or, at least, have one in the central towns within an area that’s a day-trip away from shows.

This has actually been my game plan with CRIME and the Forces of Evil. A lot of people seem to think I want to be a solo act. Were that the case, I wouldn’t have a band-style name.

This isn’t bad planning; it’s a strategy. And that strategy has been: work my act up, play far above where my few years of experience would indicate (which involves a lot of catch-up in skills), write an assload of songs, get attention, get known…

…and start attracting Forces. An ever-shifting cloud of supervillains musicians, non-travelling or even travelling musicians with whom I get to play in different towns and venues. We meet up, we practice a couple of times together, we do a few shows, it’s awesome, we go our separate ways until we come back together again.


Not entirely unlike this

The best part is, everyone get something out of it. Touring musicians who want bands get bands without the travelling expenses. Limited-touring people get a chance to step up, play with more people, build into however much mobility they want. Non-touring musicians get to be a part of it, for reals, without any of the touring stress.

Alternatively, there are still a fair number of cover bands out there. This can and should be a new lease on life for them. They’re already all about covering other bands; now they can do it with the actual act.

And what makes this workable is the same technology that upended the old system: cheap, easy, reproduction. You make a scratch recording of how you want a song to sound live. Channel left is everything from the song except the musicians you’re meeting up with; channel right is the part they need to learn. Play both, you get the whole song.

When you get into town, you rehearse a couple times as a unit, mostly to practice timing, and then you do your shows.

Everybody wins.


so much win

Now, it’s a skillset, as with everything else. But it’s a skillset people can and will learn. I know they will, because I didn’t invent this. It’s already happening. SJ Tucker was my gateway for this, but it’s all over the place in both filk and nerdcore, two of the big forms of geekmusic.

It even has names. Sometimes it’s called the Instaband concept. I think of it as the Hive, but that’s my Teen Titans fandom showing, or rather, the AU fanon where…

Right. Sorry. Topic drift.

Regardless, I saw this happening and thought, I want that. I’m adapting it to my own needs, and I’m trying to build on it and improve it, of course, and I write about things because I’m one of those people who sees a problem and a possible solution and starts waving their hands wildly about going GUYS GUYS GUYS OVER HERE OMG!

Which I like to hope is a contribution as well.

Also, I recognise the connection to pre-recording-industry town bands and orchestras. If you don’t know; every little town, even really little ones, used to have a little band that played all the events – holidays, parades, whatever. It’d be made up of all the local people who had businesses or farms or whatever, but who liked playing music. Touring musicians would utilise them, too.


St. Pepper reporting for duty, ma’am!

But it was much harder in many ways, because while you could have sheet music, you couldn’t know what it should sound like. So quality was lower, and it was supplemented by touring bands as that became more possible. With large touring bands becoming economically unviable, we’re kind of going back to that system, only this time, with far better tools – and better quality.

In short, all of this can happen, because it is and has done before. Given the correct circumstances, it will again.

And we’re over 1000 words already, so that’s all for today. We’ll talk about where to play out in a post-concert culture, and ways to make money at it, next time.
 


This is Part 4 of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, an ongoing series of articles about, well, what’s on the tin.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (Default)

In parts one and two, we’ve described how the music industry has destroyed itself. That’s pretty straightforward; look around and the facts are just sitting there. Acknowledging reality sounds trivial, but we can watch tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars being burned as people try desperately not to, so clearly it’s not as easy as you’d think.

It’s more difficult to build something new than to blow up something old, and those of us on this side of the line have the difficult job. So I really want to hear from you guys. I don’t have all the answers here. I have some ideas, and some experience, but it’s going to take a lot more than just me.

One quick item before I get started, though:


I have a show on Friday! Westercon 65, Seattle Airport Doubletree, Friday, 8pm, Evergreen – the same place as nwcMUSIC’s shows. It’ll also be webcast by @omnisti at http://sjnk.tv/ (note that’s .tv NOT .com!), live! So come in or tune in! But not both please, that would be confusing and feedbacky. 😀

Okay, back to business.

First, you have to know that there’s no one way to approach this. There never has been, really, but for some decades there was a dominant model. People wrote books about it and everything.

Throw that away. If you’re reading this, the commonality you share is that you don’t get to do that.

You instead must turn some of your creativity and inventiveness to the business side of things. Either that, or have someone on your team who can do that for you, because there isn’t really a career path here yet. There’re the makings of several, but it’s all pioneer all the time now.


Try not to go all Donner Party on your friends.

In many ways, the wilderness is quite freeing – particularly if you have a good BBQ sauce if you can shake your fear of failure. You either need to be or get to be a goddamn research scientist of music career, always trying new ideas. I try to look at it as “get to be,” and opportunity, but since I’m kind of terrible at the business part, I don’t generally succeed. But I’m still sluggin’ away! XD

For many, the hardest problem with this will be overcoming the sunk cost fallacy. It’s a real problem. For others, it’ll be coming up with things to try. For still others, it will be the emotional grinder; this really is a game of failing and being rejected, and that’s hard.

Whatever you try needs to be focused on overcoming the triple-threat of problems:

  1. fan alienation from the music industry
  2. a generalised end of perceived value in paying for recordings, and
  3. something we’ve not talked about as much: the death of bar-and-club touring. We’ll get to that next week.


Were it only that easy

The good news it that the first two problems are overcome the same way. The way to have people give you money for music and recording now is to get them to buy in, rather than just buy.

What’s the difference? To buy in, they need to see themselves as partners in the music’s creation. Minor partners maybe, but partners nonetheless. There has to be a personal connection, or at least the perception of one. They have to be interested in your music, but they also have to be interested in you. They need to be invested in you and/or your art.

This is very different to the old-era “buy” model. Once upon a time, you’d hear something you liked on the radio or at a friend’s house, and you’d buy the recording. That no longer has perceived value, as we talked about in Part II.

But the personal connection – that has worth. Get them interested, get them emotionally involved, share the experience; that gives value. That lets you start to build a base of fans.

How to do that is worthy of its own post, and you’ll get one! But I promised some talk about making money today, and I’m going to hold to that.

So let’s talk recording, and how to make money from it.

In recording, front-loading the money is key.


no, no, no!

If something doesn’t exist yet, it can’t be downloaded, so raise money to record a project before you even start to record. I don’t mean “advances,” either – I mean payment, at least of costs.

Money can come from all sorts of places; IndieGoGo, Kickstarter are examples of crowdsourcing patronage combined with pre-order and unique gifts. They get something first, or different, something not so easily copied, whether physical or not. That makes it of scarcity value again, and worth paying for.

Traditional patronage also works. It’s been important for me. I’ve a few fans who are particularly interested in what I do with music, and they’re interested enough to say, “here, I will help you do this.”

Plus, there are other venues. In Canada, at least, you can get grants from arts councils; I suspect such things will become more, not less, important as a percentage of money, over time. Soundtracks are an option, particularly book soundtracks; commissions never hurt anything either. Just keep rights to perform and record.

However, none of that will fly until you have credibility. You need a track record of being able to do your art, sure, but even more importantly: you need to show the ability to get other artists interested in making your art with you. You need to demonstrate the ability to draw others in on a project.

This gets back to the whole idea of crowdfunding and making your fans part of the process. Bear with me, I promise you this makes sense.

Once upon a time, you could gain a lot of artistic cred in doing it all the parts of your art by yourself. That used to be showing off your talent; being able to do that credibly impressed people. Prince, the 80s superstar, got a lot of attention from other artists and the like by doing his first two albums entirely solo; the general reaction to that was, “…how? You must be a music god.”

This is where I failed on Dick Tracy Must Die. I treated it too much like an art project, doing everything myself, from note one on track one all the way through to package design. It was very much an art-school approach, which makes sense, given that, well, I went to art school.

But I discovered that no longer impresses. If people actually know you actually played all the instruments, you get multi-instrumentalist cred, and other musicians might care, but in general? Not so much.


Try not to react this way

In the previous era, that kind of complete-skills-package alone would’ve been enough to get people to hit play and give you a listen.

Now, it’s not. Not with Garage Band, not with looped music, not with sampling, not with all kinds of other tools lowering the required skill level to make a song. Even if you do it all the old-school way, playing all the instruments, nobody’s going to know that unless they already care.

You still need a lot of DIY to start to succeed; but it’s necessary, not sufficient.

So what impresses now?

What impresses now, what stands out in an ocean of output enabled by technology, is that ability to draw others to your art. There are no gatekeepers anymore, at least not in an absolute sense; that also means there’s no pre-screening.

The resulting flood of art and music means people get far more discriminating about even being willing to try you out. People are far, far less willing to hit PLAY. There’s simply too much; they need some kind of pre-screening.

Seeing that you’ve drawn others to your art is one form of that pre-screening.

This is especially true in music, where there’s a time commitment and often barriers to play. You can glance at fanart for a quarter or half a second to see whether it might be your kind of thing; music, you may need to get headsets (if you’re at work or school), you may have to fiddle with something you aren’t always using (like the screen), you may need to turn other sounds off – all those are barriers keeping peoples’ fingers off that PLAY button.

And that’s where has to start. That’s why nwcMUSIC, the little geekmusic festival I run at Norwescon, has a tagline and a graphic.


press PLAY

Get past that barrier, and you can build from there.

More to come.
 


This is Part Three of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of articles about, well, what it says on the tin. There are no barriers to availability now, and copying is free. What’s a musician to do now?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (assassin)

While everyone is on SOPA/ProtectIP/PIPA and the just-as-much-fun international-treaty version known as ACTA: when you read this article on how the DMCA is already abusive enough, you might want to also keep this in mind: I’ve had three of my own videos flagged as DMCA violations.

That’s right, my own videos, me, doing my own music, or trad, live, flagged for DMCA, three times. Under SOPA, PIPA, or any variant thereof, I’d’ve had to sue to get back online.

Tell me this won’t be used to smash independent artists. Go ahead, tell me that, while I laugh in your face.

And yes, I had content go offline thanks to the Megauploads takedown, too. Fanac stuff, and of course I have copies, but nonetheless.

There’s talk of Black March: buy no music, books, movies, etc, download no music, books, movies, etc. Guys, I’m not the problem? People like me aren’t the problem? Please try to stay focused. Even with major publishers, I’m divided; I really do see the point, but you’re going to hurt starting authors and midlisters far more than you’re going to hurt any publishing house. At least, in books. (If they’re in music and on a label, they’re already screwed.) I know someone who has a series starting in March. The first book’s March sales will determine whether she gets Book 2.

To with: nngh.

But, of course, I gave my rather extensive opinion about what to do that will work on Wednesday. I know, I know, it’s TL;DR – I wish I’d been able to make it shorter, but I wasn’t.

Show with Leannan Sidhe and Kräken-Röhl next Friday! I’ve been rehearsing my set, looking forward to it. Please grab and print and post posters? Thanks!

Other than that, I’ll be one-daying Rustycon as soon as weather permits, which probably means Saturday. Given the TOTALLY AWESOME snowstorms we’ve had this week (photos at link), I admit I kind of do not envy their transportation department. Good luck, guys! And everyone else, too.

Have a good weekend! Say hi if you see me at Rusty. ^_^

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (assassin)

Last Friday I mentioned that I was building a database of publications that review and talk about music, starting with a list of majors. Well, that’s sorted now: 263 magazines, newspapers, and similar, all categorised.

Sadly, few of these are actually interesting! Some are! A few are great! But most are old-school print dailies or the usual alternative-to-what-exactly weekly. And while those are good to have in the database, I’m looking for things a little more atypical.

I mean honestly, if you think the major dailies are out of touch on news, try music. The front page at the Kansas City Star this weekend? Roger Daltry, Paul McCartney, Kenny G., Boz Scaggs, Laurie Anderson, and a Pink Floyd cover band. HI GUYS, 1986 WAS 25 YEARS AGO I KNOW YOU HAVE A HARD TIME COPING WITH THAT BUT PLEASE TRY.

And sure, they aren’t all that bad, but it makes the point. The “alternative” weeklies are better, pretty consistently. But I need different. Those guys aren’t going to care about me, or people like me. I’m not Baby Boomer nostalgia and I’m not going to be selling Jagerbombs to Bros and the party crowd any time soon, if ever. I need something a little more niche, who isn’t trying to follow the usual Bar/Club/Club/Bar Circuit and is not interested in the Major Label Sucker System.

Do you have any pointers here? Any youtube channels, active blogs, websites, tumblrs, podcasts, whatever – someone that someone like me could send a download code or a CD and say, “j0, whadda think?” Because I want to find those people. I need to find people who aren’t sucking the last drips of marrow from the bones of a Rock Industry Culture that isn’t even aware that it’s dead.

Ask your friends. Comment if you or they have anything. I really want to know who you trust.

In other news:

The Sunday market show at Redmond went pretty well, particularly given the rain and muck. I earned professionalism points just for showing up – the main band cancelled! But the wind stayed down and while crowds weren’t heavy, the kids got into it, I had some nice conversations, I handed out a lot of cards, and told a lot of people about the history of the Irish Bouzouki! (Trinity College really needs to be paying me, f’srs. XD )

If you’re stopping by from there, hi! Next show is my very first house concert on November 11th, at Sidhehaven. There’s an evite here, and a Facebook event here. They’ve hosted a bunch of people of more note than me, and I’m really excited to have been picked up by them for my first announced house concert! These are small and cozy shows – I’m hoping for 6-12 people. If you’re in the south Olympia or Yelm area, come, and bring a friend!

Polls are still open on the horror film favourites – last week and the week before. We’ll pit those winners against the Universal classics of the 30s on Wednesday, so get your final votes in!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

solarbird: (music)

I’ve been building out a big publications database. This is important to have and I’ve spent a lot of time not having one, and really, not even trying to have one – I sent review copies of Dick Tracy Must Die a couple of places I knew directly, and talked about it here, but I wasn’t trying to reach larger media on the whole.

But I do need this database, and more importantly, I need to survey all these publications. So when K said he could give me a list of publication titles I could research and fill out, I said sure! And got to work.

So many of these weekly “alternative” publications are so very much the same. It’s really dreary – it’s the same bar/club/club/bar/bar scene/club scene/party scene/bar/club/club/local-music-festival-that-adversises-with-us/club/bar/bar/club over and over and over again. (Thanks for that, Village Voice Media Group and your dozens of cloned “alternative weeklies.”)

Seriously, at this point, if I see this menu on a paper’s website?

…I can tell you with 98% confidence exactly what’s in it.

And every time I see that menu I wonder whether this is another actual indie they took over – several have been – or whether they moved in and drove an indie out of business. But I also suspect they’re some places an indie wouldn’t’ve been, and it’s better than nothing. Even the worst of them cover some local musicians, and that’s good. I just don’t know.

But every so often – once in a while – you still find something unique, and it’s just a joy. Like Cincinnati City Beat, which last weekend was headlining with J-Rock coverage. (To wit: なんだ?) Or the existence of a Montreal anglophone music and arts weekly, Hour Community. Or my favourite one-off so far, Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Xpress, which has coverage of buskers as a continuing feature.

Yeah, buskers. They go out, find a good busker, video them doing some song or other, and put it up on their website with name and location so you can find them yourself.

That’s awesome. And a hell of a lot more “alternative” than anything Voice Media Group might be handing their readers today. We ♥ you, little Mountain Xpress. Stay strong. You are doing it right.

Anyway. I have house concerts coming up! Two I’ve announced! Maybe more I can’t talk about yet ’cause they aren’t confirmed and may not even happen. But I hope they do!

Also, you can still participate in the movie polls if you want. And this weekend, I’ll be doing some instrumental market music Saturday morning in Redmond, at my last market gig of the year. I’ve been warming up the flute again and my embouchure is kinda sad but that may not stop me! I may use it. ph33r me. ph33r my phl4ppy l1p5. XD

So if you’re out there, c’mon by and say hi! And if not, have a good weekend. Got any plans? Share!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
Bandcamp (full album streaming) | Videos | iTunes | Amazon | CD Baby

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