Archive for the ‘business of indie music’ Category

i have no idea what i’m doing there

A few people had been asking if I had a Patreon, and I haven’t. But since yesterday was the last day to set an account up there under the old, better-for-creators terms, I did, so now I do.

I have no idea what I’m doing, really. It’s mostly about the fic I’ve been writing, I guess? Na, that’s not a guess, it just is. But I’ll probably put music stuff on it too.

I did set a goal, at least: “stop feeling embarrassed about having a patreon.” I do not expect to hit it. (⌒▽⌒)

show this thursday!

I’m playing with Leannan Sidhe and we’re doing some of my material this Thursday at Shoreline Community College. We’re the 1pm band at SunFest 2017, at the Rock River outdoor theatre, on campus, near Building 1600.

While this is largely a campus event, there is bus service (331 from North King County, the 5 from the south, also… something like the 342 from Northgate?), and also visitor parking on the south side of campus, which it’s not expensive, and some street parking, which is free if you can get it.

Hope to see some of you there!

so let’s say there’s an emergency

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.

cyberrrrrrrr mondaaaaaaaay

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.

if you’re having trouble with paypal today

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!

interviewed on tumblr

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, 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.

that “apple is stealing your music” blog post

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.


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.

aw yeah radio

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!

it’s tax prep weekend and how can this be true?

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!

one of my most important plugins is going away

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.

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