Monthly Archives: July 2008

Giga is Dead, Love Live Giga

TASCAM, a division of TEAC and the makers of GigaStudio has announced they are killing the product Giga product line. I can’t find any official word of this but it seems TASCAM has notified their vendors. GigaStudio is a high-end sampling suite of tools and virtual instruments as well as a file format for those instruments. I always thought it was popular amongst soundtrack scorers but to be honest, I’m having a hard time confirming any hard numbers of their users through Google searches. (It seems only one producer on ccMixter claims to use it.)

According to the forum post I linked to above there are five developers out of work and product line has been eschewed to the TASCAM product dead zone (aka “legacy“) area of the site.

I’ll admit that I’m having a hard time following all details of the these developments as my personal life is in a bit of turmoil right now (the good kind) but almost everywhere I go there is tons of speculation and hard-to-pin-down facts because TASCAM isn’t actually saying anything publicly to, you know, their customers.

Piling speculation on top of speculation I guess they were losing a lot of money on the products, they shopped it around and couldn’t get any takers and they have chosen to bury the software into some propriety vault.

The answer seems obvious to me that they should open the damn thing up. Peter at CDM makes a good case why this is unlikely but you know, if they had just an iota of imagination they could make it work. It doesn’t have to be as tortured as the ccMixter RFP but it could be done if there was a will to do so.

Of course there’s already a “petition web site” called OpenGigaStudio already out there.

The bottom line, this just sucks.

Total Cost of Album: $9.99

As I write this the #1 Amazon download is by a brooding, enigmatic rock star named Paul Westerberg who used to be the lead singer/songwriter for the not-so-brooding, enigmatic rock band The Replacements. (You know he’s brooding and enigmatic now because he never takes his shades off, especially when he sings songs with names like “Unsatisfied” whereas all the band photos from the 80′s have him bare-eyed.)

TuneCore is a digital distribution service that will, for a small fee, post your music to all the big “retail” music sites like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic. etc. For example, for a flat fee of $9.99 per year they will post a single song to all those stores.

Being a broody, enigmatic shmarty pants, 48 year old Westerberg smashed together more than 22 songs he one-man-band recorded in his basement into one honking 70 MB MP3 that careens from song to song, some overlapping, some cut off after six seconds and posted it using this special deal. Not that TuneCore is upset or anything, they devoted a special section of the site just for the Westerberg release called “49“. The name “49″ btw comes from the sale price of the album which is $0.49 USD, supposedly 1 cent per minute. Unfortunately at 43 minutes 55 seconds it actually comes out to way more, more like 1.1157495256166982922201138519924 cents per minute. Bummer.

Yesterday, Westerberg’s manager earned his cut by calling Billboard magazine (who can’t afford to test their website on Firefox) to let them know that the album was out and that the only online retail music store that would “play along” with the $0.49 price is Amazon. Now that the song is the #1 paid download at Amazon, I’m sure iTunes and eMusic are more than relieved they took a pass on it.

Westerberg is not any Townes Van Zandt (he’s not god either so I guess that may be unfair) but on first listen the album is a great piece of music. I’m going to have to listen more to dig out what he was trying for lyrically and there could be a boatload of references to things like The Replacements that I’m missing. But musically it’s obvious that there’s decades of gigging at work here. He pulls off a lot of stuff that shows off that experience. The sound and fury of last few minutes is, I think, supposed to be ironic with it’s snippets of him covering the Beatles, Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf and the Partridge family. But fans of Strictly Kev and Plunderphonics will be less impressed by that particular passage because the bar is set so high by folks that have been doing cut-ups for decades. The whole thing works best for me when he isn’t trying to be “indie” and “edgy” and just sings his songs, which again, will take me a few listens before I’m ready to pass judgment.

If only he would have taken that $100,000 record company advance to record some real music and released with some real label and some real publicity firm and some real money. As it is, how will he ever, god help him, make his $9.99 back???

Corporate Runs

Between the time Microsoft published 500,000 pages of developer documentation on CD but before there were 30 posts an hour over at blogs.msdn there was a moment in time when the documentation was online but articles were all vetted through editors and posted once or twice a month. In those days editors were constantly looking for top-level Microsoft developers to help them write articles and columns. When they couldn’t get top-level guys they came to me since my name was already on a few magazine articles. The problem was I hated those articles. They were terrible reads filled with useless information about technology no sane person would (or has) used to build software. I told them I would write a column but only if was about the culture of software development.

Half of the columns I submitted used recurring characters and I strung them together to form the series “The Corporate Runs” after I left the company and took the column with me to start this site over 7 years ago. Mine was the only non-technical content on the entire site for many years but I guess now with the advent of the programming staff blogging their brains out and as a result of one reorg-the-site-meeting too many my columns have finally been removed from the MSDN.

All this to say that I am republishing the series part of the columns here at fs, so enjoy “The Corporate Runs.”

“Cool Music” ccMixter Radio

I just want to say a huge thanks to MC Jack in the Box for taking the initiative to put together a weekly playlist of the best of ccMixter. We’ve now made the “Cool Music” series of feature of the site.

I did this not simply because he puts together the list – but because the “shows” themselves are so over-to-top great. That it spreads good word about the site is fine, but the music he picks and the flow of the thing is just freaking superb. I really do just love it.

A Last Look Back: Pre-fourstones

I’m in the middle of yet another move. (Five cities, eight major moves in 20 years.) My desktop DAW is packed away in storage until we sell this house and buy a new one which could be months. I don’t feel too put out by that considering that leaves with me a laptop, M-Audio FW interface, two external disks and a pair of studio headphones. Yea, times are tough ;)

At every move I get very cruel about throwing away personal junk that’s accumulated over the years. The last time I did a preening of 100s of cassette tapes. Some of these tapes were random records I recorded to play in my car 25 years ago, some were ‘rare’ recordings taped of the radio and TV (John Lennon presenting at the Grammies, Allman Bros. bootlegs). A huge amount of them were recordings made in my garage with friends and solo. They were pretty crappy, really, so cutting back to a few dozen “essential” four-track cassettes and my orchestral projects from school seemed like a reasonable place to draw the line.

That was the last move.

This time I got seriously vicious. All cassettes are gone. They’re at the Berkeley Muni Dump for anybody that cares. No? That’s my point exactly.

What that leaves me with is my digital catalog which starts sometime in the early 90′s. The earliest are Cakewalk projects of original guitar instrumentals. While I doubt I well ever open an instance of Cakewalk/Sonar ever again (and it would be a biblical size miracle if my Cakewalk 2 projects open in a version of the software since revised 18 times!) I do have the projects and audio versions backed up and packed away in a few hundred CDs.

One of the first of these was a compilation (“album” if you will) that I dubbed “Trouble With Friends.” The title is a reference to the Berenstein Bears children’s books that were permeating my life at the time. I took a break from packing last night when I ran across that disc and couldn’t resist popping it into the PC. It’s not genius but it does represent the best “touch” I’ve had for the guitar before or since.

At once I noticed that these were done long before I had the WAVES mastering tools and I figured one last project before I pack the DAW would be to ‘remaster’ the final WAVs and post a few. Here they are with one of the new snazzy Y! players:

I Got Your Long Tail Swinging!

A few years ago a guy from WIRED named Chris Anderson wrote a thesis and basically bet his life (or blog anyway) on something called “The Long Tail.” Given the distribution model of the Internet, compared to real world stores, the theory is that more people will be buying niche items because those items will be available in ways never seen before in mankind. A breakthrough worthy of Magellan sharing noodles and ice cream and Toyota Hybrids from halfway across the world (or something like that). Anderson, I’m assuming, makes a handsome supplement touring the world as the darling of the Kool-Aid swilling Wide Eyed Web crowd with his fancy talk about the how this “revolutionizes” everything.

A few weeks ago a friend of Chris’ from Harvard Business School named Anita Elberse wrote a paper called “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?” in which she used sales data she got from some online music and video retailers which proves, without a shadow of doubt, that the whole long tail theory is dead. Deader than dead.

Now along comes folks like Glenn Peoples from coolfer.com — a darling apologist for the Big Media record industry with a reasonable tone (most of the time) — to pile on with a paper called “Rethink the Long Tail” (you know it’s important because he put it into a PDF) in which he offers between zero and no new extrapolation on Elberse’s work, but instead gives us a joyous celebration of it. Long tail isn’t just deader than dead, it’s fucked in the head. “The implications for businesses are profound.” Get it? Elberse’s findings at Soundscan and Rhapsody proves that Magellan was an idiot for thinking that worldwide trade would somehow pan out because, you know, 20 years after his first round trip people were still buying cow’s brains locally culled. Hey, the numbers don’t lie.

Along the way, everybody’s got advice for the record industry. Anderson says lower your costs and get everything out there, let the market decide. Elberse says you post your niche material at your own risk, because it’s guaranteed a waste of money. The numbers, the numbers, oh those wicked numbers.

Peoples has advice too and you know what? I agree 100% with it. Peoples and my advice to the established record industry is this:

KEEP DOING WHAT YOUR DOING! DON’T CHANGE A THING!

If losing ~15-30% each year from the year before is working for you then it’s certainly working for me! Don’t pay any attention to any of the smoke and mirrors wishful thinking about this Internet thing or let it get in the way of business as usual.

Peoples points out that only 2% of the respondents of a supporting Pew poll said they share music online and “[t]he habits of younger music buyers are probably more heavily skewed toward the Internet.” You shouldn’t make too much of a fuss about that. Sure, he said “probably” in there but fuck it. Keep looking at the buying and sharing habits of 43 year olds because after all “this report is not about future trends and the habits of the youth generation.”

Fuckin’ A right. Whatever you do, don’t look to the future. Keep your head out of the clouds and keep your eye firmly on 1982 when mobbed up “radio promoters” fixed what was on the air with cocaine and beatings (Eliot who??? whatever happened to him??). Keep suing everybody, keep DRM‘ing, (btw I miss root-kits, bring those back), keep fleecing your successful artists with opaque accounting and keep all your signed artists un-unionized and below the poverty line. Above all, keep all the rights to your signed artists music. Forever.

Do not, under any circumstances, invest one copper penny in this Jetsonian vision of online taste-makers opening up consumer’s options. It hasn’t happened yet, it’s just not going to. Ever. That’s just freaky hippie talk. Soundscape told you so, so did Pew. Do not, for heaven’s sake, look at fan funded artists like Brad Sucks or Norine Braun or geeky fringe labels, especially if they are profitable like Magnatune for any indicator of an alternative way for artists and consumers to hook up and completely cut your fucking ass out of the picture. Ignore that. Now and forever.

Let the back-peddling begin…

I’m Giving Away Vinyl Records

I have 7 bins of vinyl from the late 60′s through the mid-70′s. Each bin has about 150 records (maybe more, more less, I’m just guessing). Rock, folk, fusion, guitar oriented stuff. I’m in the No. Berkeley hills so if you’re in the bay area in the next four days contact me and it’s yours. This is first come first serve. Everything must go.

Sorry but there’s no picking through the bins – if you come, you get a bin. If you don’t like what’s there, take ‘em to Rasputin and get trade or money.

Open Source MIDI Controller Under CC

A new open source USB-MIDI controller called the aurora mixer looks really nice. The creators are trying to figure out how many to make and how much to sell the assembled version of it so if you think you might be interested definitely give them a ping.

If you think you might have it in you to build your own then you’re in luck because according to CDM the whole project is licensed under Creative Commons — although that isn’t mentioned anywhere on the aurora site and, well, there’s no mention anywhere as to which license we are talking about it. The other weird note is CDM’s comment that GPL is more “liberal” than CC and therefore we are seeing more CC licenses come up in the music industry. My guess is that it will take somewhere between 10 years and never for the public to figure out that CC is a hardly a single license but a family of licenses with a very, very wide range of (un)reserved rights.