Monthly Archives: January 2006

Save Steve!

Steve screwed up. We all screw up. The difference is the RIAA decided to make an example out of him. Hopefully Steve, and the rest of us, will ignore anything to do with RIAA from now on.

[link disabled because it led to bogus ads]

Peter Gabriel, Gilberto Gil and Ella Baker’s Van Jones Come Together on Rose

For my American readers, make sure to watch Charlie Rose tonight: Ella Baker Center‘s Van Jones and Witness‘ biggest musician activist, Peter Gabriel will be on together.

[UPDATE] In a weird no-so-coincidence sitting at the same table with be Gilberto Gil, who in his capacity of the Minister of Culture of Brazil brought Creative Commons into the heart of South American music industry.

FL Studio 6, Worth Every Penny

Made w/FL 6

[ listen ]
[ download ]

Musicians invest a lot in their music host software. Hours, dollars, patience and emotions all get stretched to their limits. Learning the software, using the software, cursing the software. The solitude leads to back aches, blurry eyes, divorce and a visit from Child Services. After a while the musician will get dependent on and defensive about the host they use, sometimes to point of fanaticism. The name for this is “software Stockholm syndrome.”

An “upgrade” is typically where the musician gets to pay for the privilege of having bugs fixed in the last version at same time as paying for the introduction of a few features they were hoping for, several they can’t fathom and of course, all new bugs in the latest version of the software that, without fail, forces a hardware upgrade simply to open the default demo project.

FL Studio, with it’s upgrade to version 6, remains the bargain of the century, remains one the best sounding hosts out there, remains stable as ever and it remains one of the hardest and most obtuse applications to learn and master.

But as always, the new features are very cool. The best way to describe the latest upgrade to FL Studio is “two steps forward, a bunch of steps of not taken.”

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Hey, I’m a Ranter, Sue Me

It’s funny, the moment I saw that Brad found writing about Big Music Industry “exhausting” and reading about it “depressing,” I knew, knew it would be a “thing” as they said in my generation and “meme” as they call it now. And now comes my other online buddy Scott saying the same and more.

The only problem with these guys is that they are well adjusted and reasonable. I still like them personally and love their music despite their reasonableness. Meanwhile, I read Scott’s list of attributes for the screaming, ranting idiot he no longer wants to deal with and, well, let’s just say I related. I mean to the idiot guy.

I’ve always assumed that Brad is assuming he’ll be signed to a “real” record company. He’s been giving his music away because that’s what a well adjusted, practical person with no fans would do. Once he’s built up an audience and has proven to be marketable in “real” record company terms oh they’ll be calling all right. There’s a bidding war in his future, that’s for sure. Same is probably true for Scott. Record companies love it when the audience comes with the artist because they don’t know how to break an artist and get it wrong over 95% of the time when they have to trust their own ears. (wups, is that a rant?) Anyway, they love nothing more than the kind of pre-career, audience building ramp up Brad and Scott are going through.

I could be 1000% wrong in these assumptions and I have no implicit or explicit indication from Brad one way or the other, but I suspect he’s doing the well adjusted, practical thing: keeping his options open. I suspect once faced with a real opportunity to sign with a big label, applying the same reasonable practicality that informs Brad’s decision to give his music away to the public, if it makes sense at the moment for his career, he would sign his future masters away to the Man to get the deal. It’s his art to give away to the public or a corporation. As Scott points out, guys like me are never, ever going to get that call so it’s silly for me to pass judgement. I’ve already had the discussions (rants?) with Brad about my experiences and observations working at big labels. Once I impart the information, there ain’t much left for me to do. Certainly not second guess him.

To get some slightly defensive perspective, I’ve said, many times that of all the things that count in this world, battling RIAA lawsuits and other anti-label activities are actually not very high priorities and should not be the first place you put your tithe. I’ve often been tempted to write on this site about issues I follow closely, like the teenagers who are killed and tortured in the California Youth Authority but I just found it out of place on a web site about music.

But still, I can’t bring myself to buy the latest Kate Bush album on Sony. In fact, last week I had my year end discussion with the person I use to help with financial stuff and she showed me how one mutual fund in particular made me and my family quite a lot of money last year returning a crazy 40% profit. Then I asked for the list of companies that fund was invested in. Near the top was Sony. Now, I’m not giving that 40% back, per se. But I sold 100% of my holding in the fund that afternoon. Purely emotional reaction. Totally impractical especially considering there are four of us relying on that money. Oh, and god-fucking-knows it will have less than zero affect on Sony, their root-kit policy or their evil-esque record contracts. Jesus, I don’t have to be told that. I’m emotional, sentimental and a dreamer but not stupid (or not, er, all the time).

I just don’t want anything to do with Sony. I don’t want to support them by buying their products and I don’t want to profit from them screwing everybody in sight in the name of the stock holder — that is: me. They do what they do to sleep at night, I do what I do.

If Scott and Brad are talking about people who actually want to “bring down” the big record companies then I agree: those folks are lame, exhausting, depressing and too out of it for me. But if Sony infects my laptop with a rootkit as a reward for buying their product legitimately, or bullies my ISP for my browsing data or sues a poor single defenseless mom just to make an example of her then I’m pretty fucking grateful for downhillbattle and after I give to Books Not Bars, downhill gets their cut of the 40% profit. (Ironically I first became aware of downhill by reading Scott’s blog.)

But yea, depressing for sure.

Two Prozac later: I think it crazy cool that after a year we’ve got 2,500 pieces of music in the Commons at ccMixter that wasn’t there a year ago, including 165 a cappellas (thanks Brad!! Scott… we’re waiting…). Not to mention a couple guys who signed to “real” record contracts and a TV production deal after being found giving away their music on Mixter. Plus net labels, podcasters discovered on and using Mixter. Over 15 artists signed with Magnatune for a remix compilation, and some of those signed individual deals for full ‘solo’ albums.

And it’s not just Mixter, I’ve noticed that just about every music hosting service, from Soundclick, Garageband, ourmedia.org via archive.org of course and new start-ups like Artists Server all give CC as an option when uploading. Whether these people know what they’re doing when they assign a license is another discussion but the fact that “all rights reserved” is not a given is well, the opposite of depressing and a forward looking sign of an alternative (as in universe, not genre) to big labels.

Hey guys, just don’t forget your old hippie, dreamer buddies when you get there.

OK, back to the exciting world of boomer icon obits, software reviews and instantly out dated tutorials…

Another Boomer Icon Falls

I’m not that great at eulogizing but news of Wilson Pickett’s death pulled on my heart just a little.

To be totally totally cynical about it, I didn’t know the man so I’m not going to miss him any more today than I did two days ago. But what I do mourn, and have for decades, is the sound of his voice and records from the 60′s. It’s easy to look back on his career as some kind of prototype for what happens when a voice was born to be recorded on analog tape and heard over transistor radios suffers and takes a dive as recording and broadcast equipment improved during the 70′s. But if that sound is gone and passe then how do you explain that Pickett has been sampled 1000′s of times in the last 30 years? Clearly people still connect to the pure energy of a real drummer and a certain kind of soul singer recorded with “outdated” mixing boards on tape. What his career does exemplify is when something that isn’t broken is fixed.

ACID, FL, Live Falling Over Each Other

Man, there’s a lot going on in software hosts.

Sony announced Acid 6 (kvr press release) which I’ve been beta testing, Image-Line has released FL Studio 6 which I downloaded, used for my latest ccMixter upload and I’ll be reviewing here soon and now comes word that Ableton will be releasing an Intel-Mac version of 5.2 “immediately” (I think Steinberg and NI have announced the same but I can’t find those releases.)