Monthly Archives: June 2008

last.fm: The API

I’ve just been sitting here the last 3 days tightening up the ccHost Query API 2.0, getting it ready for wide public release. As of this writing about 85% of ccMixter is driven by the API and I figure if we’re going to integrate into social sites to spread the good word I need to make it “real” – that is, robust, by actually checking parameters and returning meaningful error messages and other boring and friendly geeky things.

What a coincidence, here comes the last.fm API.

There’s no point in comparing the two, the ccH QAPI is a really basic affair with simply a view on looking at the data. To be honest, it’s mainly about making my life easier by having a uniform programming model to add features into ccMixter.

The last.fm API is really about Big Game.

A quick jargon lesson: When a programmer writes the code that makes up a software application it is not done in a vacuum. They are instructing some piece(s) of hardware to act a certain way. The problem is, there are thousands of different pieces of hardware and their instruction sets are all randomly different. So along comes a guy or company or a group of gun-toting Libertarians open-source movement, somebody to relieve that pain who says “I’ll make it so you don’t have to worry about the hardware. I’ll do this by writing a piece of software that goes between your application and the hardware. You just (re)write your application to a new instruction set that I give you and I’ll take care of the rest.” So you forget about the hardware’s instruction set and invest time, energy and money in learning this other guy’s instructions that he calls an “operating system.” Things are going OK except that all your friends are driving faster cars and even faster women and seem flush with the green. You figure out they’re having the bling life because all their applications are on this whole other operating system. Now along comes another set of bozos that say “Forget about all those operating systems. We’ll make it so you don’t you don’t have to worry about that stuff. You just (re)write your application to a new instruction we give you and we’ll take make sure it runs on all those operating systems.” So now you embark on re-investing your time, energy and money in learning this whole other thing and now you’re good to go with what these guys call an “application stack” – yes, as in stack of trays like in a cafeteria. You only worry about your “food” (aka script) on the top tray and the forget about the rest of the trays.

No matter whether the instruction set you use is meant to obscure hardware differences or operating differences or networking protocol differences the concept is called a “platform.”

Targeting a specific platform can be tricky because when you commit to one of these you become dependent on it until it is more cost efficient to rewrite the thing yet again. So at some point you are make the critical decision to pick which platform you are going to take to the dance. If enough application developers pick the same platform then the folks that provided that platform are the Big Winners.

The Web changed the game a bunch but there’ll always be a group of folks who want to be the Grand Gate Keepers and Key Masters. They stock their cubicles with developers who love to invent APIs and platforms because it’s just plain fun. When facebook invented their own platform and the site exploded because of all the cool platform widgets that developers wrote (typical facebook widget guy can pull down $2k per widget which is about a two day job) and birds were singing again. Except at Google which is so big they share mini-APIs out of strategic good will more than anything else. They don’t need to share their actual platform so much, just the applications.

I’ve forgotten where I’m going with this other than to say I hope it’s somebody else who goes and builds the last.fm/ccMixer widget and it isn’t left to me.

CC is Good, ccMixter to Rescue and Who Knew?

Some days you eat the bear…

Kristin says: “CC is good because…” someone used her song to a cool video. Once you get that first taste of auto-collab….

ficbot at “The Best Media in Life is Free” says: “ccMixter to the rescue…” because he gets to use open music in a slide presentation. …you keep coming back for more.

LA Times says: “Intellectual property law is supposed to balance public and private interests — a feature that Congress often forgets when responding to copyright holders.” Who knew anyone left in Hollywood actually feels this way?

Magnatune Adds Playlists

Magnatune turned on playlists (A.K.A. “favorites”) today. Long on my wishlist. It’s at the album level (not per song) but this a big step toward the ‘music anywhere’ features that modern labels should all have as part of their services.

Boomer Icon #5

George Carlin’s ranking in the VT Boomer Icon all-time list is high. Just behind Elvis and the Beatles.

Most boomer icons faded from my eye-line several decades ago so their death is just the physical manifestation of a loss from long ago. But Carlin is someone I’ve been following and enjoying for nearly 40 years. This is one I will actually miss. I’ve seen everything he’s done in TV and films and the peak of his performance chops is, without a doubt “Jammin in New York” from ’92. I can not imagine a better 60 minutes of entertainment in my lifetime.

The last few years (since the death of his wife 10 years ago and after several heart attacks) has seen him trip up on stage a few times. In the middle of a rant you could catch him miss a beat and catch his breath before continuing. But the writing, oh, the writing had never, ever been better than right up to his death this afternoon. Nobody dug into the soul of the boomer with a sharper razor than George Carlin. I can’t think of an artist whose words I wanted to inhabit more than him because he explained the world to me like nobody else. Fuck him for dying.

fourstones: 2 Bombs in a Row

I’m not sure why (and I’m hard pressed to think about it too much) but my last two Magnatune project, “Riding the Faders 2″ and “Chronic Dreams 2″ have flatlined in sales – and at a very low place at that. Chronic 1 and La Vie Chill still pop a sale occasionally and along with RTF 1 I can’t complain, which is to say I’m really grateful that plenty of people think they are worth paying for.

I seriously doubt this is a reflection on Magnatune or even tip-jar-fatigue because the music on the follow-ups is different than the first editions and it might just be that the newer ones don’t connect with people like the first ones did. There is the possibility that Magnatune’s new subscription mode which debuted a week after CD 2 went on sale has absorbed my album sales. (Album sales are posted nightly to Magnatune artists, but the accumulation of royalties from subscription streaming is only calculated a few times a year so it’s possible I’ll see big numbers for my music then – but I’m assuming not.)

Whatever the reason, I’m using the dead sales figures as a rationale for seriously focusing my music on a relatively narrow target. I recently compiled a playlist on ccMixter of the “Undiscovered fourstones” and especially when held up against artists who have actually mastered many genres (I’m thinking now of Loveshadow) I couldn’t help noticing that my attempts at the various styles seem less convincing than ever, even to me. I can only imagine what potential customers might be hearing. I’m definitely over that.

So while it may all sound very contrived from an artistic perspective, the fact is I’ve been leaning toward this kind of thing anyway (note the drastic and consistent increase in ccMixter uploads using my Cry Baby wha-wha pedal).

For better or worse, this is all you’re going to get out of me a while. Maybe, you know, forever.

DJ Cary Podcasts

As fabulous as my life is, I’m surprised I’m not invited to more big fancy silicon valley broohahas. When I am, I spruce myself up and get on down there like last night’s CC reception for Prof. Larry Lessig at Stanford. The best part of the evening was going off into a corner and monopolizing DJ Cary‘s ear. She puts together all those chill Magnatune compilations and by far, one of the coolest podcasts out there. I’ve been listening all morning and there isn’t a clinker in the whole catalog. Really good. Really.

Tips for Posting to BM

I’ve now sent out well over 200 books on BookMooch and I can share some tips for would be moochers. (I’d include this on their wiki but, well, read on and see if you can spot why that might not be a great idea…)

1. Do you have any Harry Potter books that you’d like to give away? Here’s my advice about that: duct tape the book to your forehead (I suggest about 4 windings), find a local industrial incinerator in your area (in the East Bay there’s one right off Gillman) and stick your head with the book firmly attached directly into the oven and hold it there for no less than 4 minutes because that will be more enjoyable than dealing with the fucking lunatics out there looking for Potter books.

2. BM has a very handy utility for stating the condition of the book that you are posting. If your child or horse has pee’d on a book I suggest you mention that in the ‘condition notes’ for the book you’re posting. I have been duly flogged for skipping that kind of thing.

3. It turns out it’s a bad idea to randomly label packages when shipping to various moochers. It seems they are particularly picky about getting the exact book they requested and not a totally different one that weighs 5 times the one they wanted which they now have to re-package and send on to someone else at their expense.

4. When a request comes in it is often accompanied with a very stern warning such as “NO SMOKING BOOKS.” At first I thought this means books that have been through a fire so I de-listed about 120 books. Then I realized this was actually about cigar smokers who use their paperback books as a filter when exhaling. So I re-listed my char-fried books and decided the best course of action with the “NO SMOKING BOOKS” requests was to simply lie. Of course, like any sentient being on Earth I’ve used my books as cigar filters but I send the books anyway. I figure if I’m busted I can always promise to forward a point to the moocher. Of course I never follow up on that.

5. I’ve now posted several tech books for programming and software like Photoshop, Reason, etc. When I bought these they came with CDs or DVDs with examples or demonstrations. Who knows where those CDs and DVDs are today, I’ve sent most of them to Netflix instead of returning a movie I really like. If someone asks if the book has a CD with it I just say “Sure!” and stick a copy of “Chronic Dreams 2″ into the little CD jacket attached to the back cover the book. No complaints so far!

6. I like to willy-nilly put “Like new” into the condition notes for books I’m posting. (My dad always told me that it’s every man’s duty to exercise all the power you have in this world to the maximum.) This is especially fun for books that I bought used and there’s a big fat price sticker on the front cover from the used book store. When someone gets one these books and complains about it I reply with a humble, groveling email along the lines of “Oh, jeez, I’m sooooo sorry! I’ve reported myself to the BBB. Make sure to cancel your check and I’ll refund your expenses… oh, wait… that’s right, I forgot, you got the book for FUCKING FREE!”

Emptying My Tech Bookshelf

I’ve been emptying my shelves of books over at bookmooch in anticipation of a major, downsizing move later this year. I’m just now getting to my tech shelf. Some classics (like Knuth) some out of date stuff (like a 19yo Quicktime reference and OLE 2.0 ;)) but also some neat digital arts and music stuff. This is the RSS feed for my inventory.

[UPDATE] (10 min. later) Knuth is gone…

My (Throwing) Muse: Kristin

I’ve lost count of how many singers I’ve remixed from raw a cappellas, the number is probably in the dozens. There are some, like Frank Carter (who I recently interviewed for ccMixter) that are obviously brilliant singers but for some reason I can’t remix. Frank could be particularly frustrating because I claim to have some cred in R&B and funk, yet, I have never remixed him to my (or anyone else’s) satisfaction. I have no idea what’s going on there. If I were touchy it about I’d be freaked that as a musician I should be able do a competent production on any singer, especially as good as Frank, in any genre. In school we used to call that ’8 bars of anything’, as in: “play me 8 bars of anything and I’ll be able to re-create it and make it my own.” But as I get older and (god help me) mellower about these things I’m starting to feel totally comfortable being the loungy-elector-70s-porno-soundtrack-chill guy. So in that sense, I am not flogging myself over a case like Frank because, I guess, there’s just something in the harmonics and timing (for you kids: “flow”) that isn’t lining up to the type of mixes I’m doing nowadays.

On the other hand, it feels like I have an affinity for other singers like c. layne or Colin Mutchler. Those mixes “just work.” I hear the pell, I get it, the options are endless.

But nothing in my music experience can match what I feel when I get my hands on a pell by Kristin Hersh who started uploading pells to ccMixter a few months ago. Basically, if I could sing I would want to sound 100% like her. She cuts me deep.

Kristin is the lead singer of Throwing Muses a band I was aware of as I was bar hopping around Los Angeles in the record biz in the 80′s but never latched on to. In those days I was seeing between 5-10 bands a week so it’s more than possible that I saw them perform but I never owned one of their records.

All I know is that now, with the separated pells I’ve lost my mind with pleasure. Do my mixes of Kristin connect with anybody else? (or even her?) I don’t really know. They tend to be warmly, received by the other mixers at ccM but really, I know what’s there and I’ve said everything I need about it here and in the music. Here’s the latest: