Archive for February, 2015

do you have an "in" at a radio station?

I printed up a short run of special Bone Walker editions which include a “radio edit” version of “Anarchy Now!” It’s FCC-safe (via dropping out lyrics), for places where that matters. Otherwise there’s no difference.

All of those are going out today. Mostly they’re going to Cascadian stations; however, I only made one package type, and there are a few stations in the US and one in Canada getting it, so everybody gets the radio edit. Hey, why not? Dick Tracy Must Die got some airplay in London and Auckland, maybe Bone Walker could too.

But! I have a couple left over. So if you have a personal in of some sort at a local, actually independent radio station that you think might play something from Bone Walker – a college station, something noncommercial, things like that – throw me some mail with details. We’ll co-ordinate, and I’ll get them a copy of the one-sheet and the CD.

i wonder if anyone has noticed

Given all the things we know about Google Play’s new YouTube/streaming terms, I’m not going to be participating. The reasons, as I posted last week, should be pretty obvious.

Still, I need videos up there just so people who go looking for them can find them. I can do that with an ordinary personal account, which keeps me out of their trap service, which costs me a lot but gets me at least a chunk of the YouTube potential audience. It sucks, but those are the realities of going as an indie.

So I’ve decided that like everything else, I’m going to turn this into an art project.

There are a zillion videos of songs up on YouTube, mostly from the vinyl era, set to videos of those songs being played on turntables. Typically, but not always, on 45 RPM singles. Here’s one. Here’s another. SOmetimes you get really weird things, like Herb Albert on 16 2/3rds RPM. They have a pretty standard style to them; it’s become kind of a genre of its own.

So I figured hey, why not beat them to it?

Except… I’m screwin’ around with the format. Not in huge, obvious ways, particularly not at first. This one looks almost normal. The CD that’s sitting on top of the 1948 vinyl 10″ masquerading as as single actually looks a little too much like a label, and that makes the whole thing look like a proper vinyl disc.

Spoiler alert: I have no vinyl pressing. And so far, no one has noticed that the album is rotating backwards.

I intended it to be subtle, particularly in the first one, because there’s a series, and I plan to make them goofier as they go. But maybe this is too subtle. That’s okay. I’ll just ramp it up more quickly than I planned.

does your microwave screw with your wifi?

Does your microwave screw with your LAN’s wifi signal? It might well. Depending upon your microwave and wifi, it could be pretty severe. In our case, the microwave would stop wifi in the whole west end of the lair.

This happens because microwave ovens can throw out a lot of radio interferences in the 2.4Ghz range, and that’s where 802.11b, g, and n all operate. Now, sure, you can upgrade your equipment to dual-band 5.0Ghz/2.4Ghz gear, but that’s annoying, and costs money, and a lot of your devices won’t upgrade anyway.

So I started thinking about how this could happen, because I know the requirements for microwave oven shielding. Microwaves ovens are basically grounded metal boxes – I saw someone jokingly suggest putting your microwave into a Faraday cage, but these ovens basically are Faraday cages, so that won’t help. Okay, yes, the glass front isn’t a solid sheet of metal, but that grating that makes it hard to see through the glass is there for a reason, and it’s reasonably effective as shielding.

Then I realised one part of the oven isn’t shielded. Typically, it’s not shielded at all. It’s the power cord. Which makes the power cord a transmission antenna for microwave oven RF noise.

Now, thanks to all the RF issues we were having with the studio wiring last year, I’d stocked up on things called RF chokes. They’re used to filter out radio noise. This is all very high frequency noise, so you need ferrite chokes, specifically.

Clamp-on ferrite RF choke

They cost less than two dollars. Basically, they convert the RF field coming off the cable into self-cancelling magnetic fields, which – pleasantly – don’t interfere with your wifi. You want a tight fit, because physics reasons.

So I clamped two tight-fighting large ferrites onto the power cable, one on each end, because for all I know the RF issues with our building wiring were making things worse. Also, we seemed to be having a lot of RF coming off that power cord. And we gave it a go.

The wifi hasn’t fallen over while using the microwave once since attaching those chokes. Not even once. We’re still seeing interference – and the resulting slowdown in net performance which results from that interference – but it’s dramatically reduced, and we no longer lose connections and even audio and video streaming keeps going. It’s still an impact, we absolutely see it in performance testing. But it’s no longer an impact that matters.

So, yeah. If you’re seeing this, give it a try. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than replacing all your networking kit.

A giveaway! But not here! But they've checked with us and it's okay!

Hey look, Dark Side of the Glass is giving away copies of Anna’s books and Bone Walker the album, and entering is really trivial! They’ve checked with me and Anna and we’ve given them the go-ahead and it’s on the up and up, so go for it.

Also share the link around even if you don’t want to enter, because hey, book and CD giveaway, eh?

Also, check out this Waterphone demo. They’re all hand-made and so awfully expensive, but very, very cool:

a very well engineered trap

I’ve been thinking more about Google/YouTube’s new music streaming service terms – the ones that require your whole library, that require 320bps source, that require five year terms, and so on. I wrote about it last week, talking about how Google is letting the old labels dictate away crowdfunding rewards and the like.

But I’ve been doing more thinking since that. It’s been churning in my brain. And I’ve realised the five-year term, the 320bps requirement, and whole library thing have a combined intent.

And that intent is to take away literally every last music sale you might make. As in, every last music sale.

It’s not presented as such, of course. I think they want artists to think of it as radio that pays. But two of the big streaming service problems have been 1. quality (smaller concern) and 2. stability of material (huge concern). All the television streaming services, for example, have been plagued by shows getting yanked on and off and moving around. Customers find that annoying.

Meanwhile, you have the label involvement, discussed before. They were, from all reports, pretty tightly into this new set of terms. And one of the big problems for the labels the last several years has been the rise of indie artists. The crowdfunding/long-tail model has given indie artists something more to live on, ways to make money outside of the label ecosystem.

This solves both sets of “problems.” Think about it:

Google will have everything you do for five years, listen-anytime, at functionally CD quality. They’ll have everything, and they’ll have it first, at optimal quality. What’s that mean?

It means Google/YouTube Music service members will have no reason to buy any goddamn thing from any artist which is on the service. No more early-access advantages to entice crowdfunding backers. No more deep tracks on albums to discover. No more alt-takes, no more remixes, no more mailing-list exclusives – Google will have it all. Not exclusively, of course! But they’ll have it.

If I’m reading this right, then even if you hold out on them – you don’t upload some tracks, in violation of the agreement – if and when somebody else does, and they identify it as yours, they’ll add it to the service automatically. Tell me I’m wrong (even though I’m not) because that’s what this sounds like:

So even if you don’t explicitly deliver us every single song in your catalog if we have assets and they are fingerprinted by content ID to contain that music then it will be included to the subscription service…
        — Zoë Keating’s Google rep., in conversation with Zoë

Which means there’s no more reason to buy anything from you. No reason for anyone to deal with you at all.

Five years is a long time. There will be no long tail – at least, not for you. It’s all going to them. Five years is also plenty long enough to keep you locked in once you figure all this out. And five years is more than long enough to try to make this the new standard.

That’s the point of this whole contract. To take everything else away, and thereby, to reinstate a kind of 1971, one managed by making both unlimited internet distribution and piracy completely irrelevant.

I have to say – it’s brilliant. It end-runs around the post-scarcity environment entirely, by co-opting it. The pirates and illegal uploaders will make sure your entire catalogue is up there, even if you hold out, and it’ll be included whether you like it or not – it’s genius!

Meanwhile, they’re “giving the music away” so you can’t make any money on it, stopping you from being able to reward patrons and backers so you can’t make any money there either, and tossing you a sharecropper’s pittance in ad revenue as a reward. And even that is a pittance you can never hope to make on your own. You don’t – and can’t – have the numbers.

It’s a plan that takes away the entire internet/indie route as they understand it. It’s to make them – both the old labels and Google, in alliance – the only viable path. It’s a plan to make it so that once again, you have to go through them.

And we all know what that has always meant, don’t we?

Run. Run like hell.
Additional Reading:

This is Part Eleven of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of essays about, well, what it says on the tin. In the digital era, duplication is essentially free and there are no natural supply constraints which support scarcity, and therefore, prices. What the hell does a recording musician do then?

take a moment to do us a solid on Amazon?

Hey, you, with the Amazon account! Yeah, you! Take a moment to drop some stars on Bone Walker, would you? It’d be really nice of you. You don’t have to write a review if you don’t want to, just toss us a rating.


oh right, there are books too: bone walker the novel is out!

TODAY IS THE RELEASE DAY FOR BONE WALKER, THE NOVEL! Book Two of The Free Court of Seattle, the thing this album before, is out today. Anna has posted about it in detail here, and here all the places you can buy it – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, Google Play, etc., in eBook form.

But! If you want the physical copy, and you don’t know Anna personally, there’s one place: right here, via our page, because reasons. Faerie Blood, the first book, is also available in print format here. You don’t need PayPal, even.

So Shiny

Anna is taking questions for characters and answering them in character, over at her blog. So if you’ve ever wanted to interrogate the world’s only unseelie Elvis impersonator, now is your chance. XD

But seriously, both books are good, go read them, you’ll like it. Maybe listen to the soundtrack while you’re reading, too. It’ll be fun. 😀

gates and orphans

Since it’s been announced, I can confirm: I have accepted an invitation to be Toastmaster at Conflikt 9, January 29-31, 2016. It’s my first GoH position at any convention, and as I’ve been saying, I am confused but honoured to have been selected and I will do my best to be a good one.

Conflikt Chair Jen Kilmer asked me to pick my personal Toast title, as is tradition; previous officeholders have been Toastmistresses, Toastmaster both standard and burnt, and Toastmonsters; I have chosen Toastmuppet. Expect inordinate amounts of Kermitflail, starting right now:

The release concert on Sunday was pretty much amazing, at least from our end. We never did manage to have a rehearsal with everyone at once, but it didn’t seem to hurt us too badly on stage. A lot of people stayed through Sunday afternoon to hear us, and I cannot thank all of you enough for that.

And hoo, I will never complain about setup time for other bands again. Okay, well, I will. But not as much. We took over an hour, and that was as simplified as I could make it, and with all the advance material I could hand over handed over, and nobody screwing around.

And, of course, once again, thanks to everyone: Alexander James Adams (drums, vocals, backing fiddle), Paul Campbell (hammer dulcimer), Jeri Lynn Cornish (cello, bones, chorus), Angela Korra’ti (flute, readings), Leannan Sidhe (vocals), Skellington (lead fiddle), Betsy Tinney (drums), and S.J. Tucker (bass, chorus). It would quite literally have been impossible without you.

Highlights of the convention – hoo, I dunno, it’s hard to pick. Alec’s show was great, and not in that “as always” way, there was something extra in the energy that night. Having the rest of Tricky Pixie on for a few songs probably didn’t hurt anything. The PDX Broadsides won Saturday’s concert set, no doubt – they’re much better live than in their older recordings. (I haven’t heard the new album yet tho’ – I only heard old demos.) I’m so glad I’m having them in for nwcMUSIC this year. Oh wait, that’s still technically embargoed, lol. Regardless, they’re really good live. And Stringapalooza’s set on Sunday was the tightest thing I’ve ever heard at a convention, they were amazing.

I stayed through the near-very-end of the dead dog/smoked salmon; I like leaving while there are one or two holdouts still holding out, so I don’t feel like it’s really over even though it is. And there were two, and a couple of others who were just there to listen, at around 1am Monday morning, so I packed out before they could change their minds. Sunday night is particularly good as far as I’m concerned, because I’ll do any damn thing, and that includes the relevant-for-20-minutes-thanks-a-lot-guys Doctor Who song I wrote in 2013* and have performed live never, a cappella DEVO tracks, and pretty much anything anyone asks me for, rehearsed or not. I will just do the thing. And it’s great.

Also, this happened – thanks Tom!

S00j wrote a really relevant post about Conflikt and Filk in general, particularly as its position in the geek hierarchy, and you should go read it. She touches quite directly on some of the things I’m trying to address indirectly through the way I feature filk as the founding pillar of geekmusic, and the way I talk about the punk nature of their hands-on/DIY aesthetic, and the participatory culture foundation underlying all of that.

Definitely worth reading. Give it a little thought.

*: it was pretty good, too.

Do I know anyone with a working…

Do I know anyone with working (or semi-working – appearing to work is fine) versions of:

  • 8-track cassette player
  • wire recorder (as in, records sound onto metal wires) (oh I would love this)
  • “cart” player (a.k.a. 2-track, used mostly in radio stations, or 4-track, the home version – either will do)
  • Vintage 78-RPM phonograph
  • Edison cylinder player (please please please)
  • Reel-to-reel player (any audio type)
  • Other old hopefully-obscure audio technologies

If this is you, and you can shoot video reasonably stably (horizontal phone video will do), and are interested in a mildly silly project this week, contact me via the contact page.

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