Get your rock tune featured in the next version of the Guitar Hero game!
Get your rock tune featured in the next version of the Guitar Hero game!
We get so caught up in the exotic sound of electronic music, it’s easy to forget that visuals are important to a performance as well. At the Maker Faire last weekend, I quickly tired of watching a knob-twisting groovebox duo and even a VJ competition. But it was fun to see Rick Walker (a.k.a. Loop.pooL) snatch an endless stream of wacky objects from the stage and run their noises through his digital looping setup. Here are a few photos I took, as well as a movie clip.
Walker’s looping gear included an Electrix Repeater and Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro (in rack), plus what looked like an Alesis inEko and pair of Line 6 DL4s on the floor. See the Looper’s Delight Tools page for background on this and much more looping gear.
The discussion surrounding the connection between earphones and hearing loss has prompted me to revisit using speakers for some of my iPod listening. If I cut my earphone time in half, coupled with keeping the volume at a reasonable level when I do use them, it’s got to be a step in the right direction.
The problem for me has been that micro speakers just don’t sound as good as earphones, and of course, they’re bulkier. I recently tested the XtremeMac MicroBlast speakers for the iPod nano, and found them to be the best all-around solution to date. They are very compact, well-designed, and sound better than most of the other systems I’ve tested.
I’m now using them for times when I would often use earphones: washing the car, working out, yard chores, and hanging around the house. They’re worth a listen.
Oh. I guess I didn’t understand the meaning of the word “wireless.” It’s a trademark. Got it. Sorry, my bad.
Many interesting experiments are going on in the realm of extending the live concert experience to forge a stronger bond between artists and fans, and of course to reap incremental revenues for artists who can now monetize their content in more ways — capitalizing on the excitement and momentum that exists before, during, and right after the concert itself. And as well, artists, promoters, venue owners, and sponsors all stand to capture the all-important e-mail address of the consumer to extend the relationship even further. As usual, technology is at the heart of these new business models.
A couple of years ago, Clear Channel launched a program called Instant Live (which now resides with Live Nation after the spin-out from Clear Channel). This program allows the fan to get a DVD of the concert right after the show. The key is to capitalize on the afterglow of the live experience.
Prince dabbled with this on his tour in 2005 when he gave subscribers to his online fan club early access to tickets & preferred seating, and then gave away a copy of his new CD to anyone who purchased a ticket to the concert.
More recently, 7 Digital has paired with Live Here Now to deliver a collection of physical and digital releases for the upcoming Depeche Mode tour. Live Here Now will focus on the recording of the gigs, and each performance recording will be delivered as a two-disc package or download. The download comes with a printable cover & interactive booklet. 7 Digital, a London-based digital music store backend provider, will offer a unique voucher system to concert attendees. Once purchased, the voucher can be redeemed on the band’s site for a physical or digital version of the event.
Network Live is a dynamic new company to watch in this space; it launched on the heels of Live 8 last Summer (led by founder & CEO Kevin Wall, the Executive Producer of both Live 8 & Live Aid). Network Live focuses on delivering a multi-platform distribution opportunity behind each live concert — including broadband, TV, DVD, mobile, and satellite radio, among others.
PassAlong Networks has launched “Concert of the Future” which will also focus on multi-platform distribution — pulling together relationships and technologies which will allow for capturing the fan & the bond with the artist (along with otherwise lost revenues) before, during & after the show. Dave Jaworski, PassAlong’s CEO, has written about their recent launch with Brad Paisley and the MTS Center in Winnipeg, Canada in his blog .
To round this all out, in the analog world you can still buy concert DVDs; as it happens, live music concert DVDs are among the top sellers for all DVDs — it’s a category that is strong and growing. Turns out it’s also one of the hottest categories in the emerging video-on-demand space as well.
Bottom line: the concert experience will never be the same — and that’s a good thing. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this topic!
My Coder friend Thom sent me this link to a heart-warming feel-good pop tune about The Code Monkey Within. Says it’s by Jonathan Coulton, released under the Creative Commons license.
Sometimes it feels good to see little monuments built to the culture we help create. Thanks, Thom!
Here’s a little link to Thom’s website of equally heartwarming feel-good games. “Code and/or Die!”
I just looked in my trash can and noticed this: (Don’t be alarmed–your screen is not on fire.)
I had bought the “ULTRA X-Finity Flex-Force”–yes, _the_ “ULTRA X-Finity Flex-Force”–in a box covered about 75% in flames and about 5% in chrome…
..And I had not noticed the name of the product until now. I simply shopped for a power supply of at least 600 watts, picked this very box off the shelf, and got it home, never realizing what a spectacular, or should I say ultimate, Xtreme, infinite, flexible, and forceful product I had purchased. The package had _no_ impact on me. In other words, I can officially declare that, at least in the realm of hi-tech sales, the following things have entirely lost their effectiveness in the area of grabbing my attention:
“Ultra,” “Ultimate,” and all related words.
“X,” “X-treme,” and all derivatives.
“Infinity,” “Infinite,” etc.
“Flexible,” “Forceful,” and all other such tasteful innuendo.
Pictures of flames, heat, race cars, airplanes or anything else powerful.
I think that, were I to give advice to a the marketing division of this company, I would advise that they consider covering their next product’s package in images of bunnies and kitties.
I’m sure my ideas aren’t as good as yours. And that is why I am now accepting online entries for the first and only Six Hundred Watt Power Supply Box Cover competition.
Post your mock-up packages as replies to this blog. The winner gets…oh, I know! The original BOX!!!! I think that’s the best thing I can give, because it’s so Xtreme and Forceful and what-not.
Lemmie dig it out of the trash, there.
Good Luck, everybody!!!!!!
More good news for the record industry - this via Marketwatch:
Europe’s two largest music recording companies, EMI Group and Universal Music Group, reported increasing revenue on Thursday, underscoring the growing importance for both firms of selling music over the Internet.
Label revenues have been falling for years now, suffering from the impacts of file sharing, the use of music as a loss leader by big box stores, competing entertainment choices and, many feel, uninspired, marketing-saturated music. So recent reports of rising incomes (as in my last post) look very significant.
EMI says it expects first quarter revenue to be up 4%, with digital sales up 150% and accounting now for 5.5% of revenue overall. Universal says it took in 8.25% more than in the same quarter last year, and says digital sales now account for 10% of revenues.
Meanwhile UK group Gnarls Barkley recently became the first act to hit the top of that country’s pop charts with a digital-only release.
Over at the MacDevCenter, I just bellyached about some mysterious iMovie and QuickTime errors.
Perhaps more frustrating than those temporary setbacks is figuring out what to do when computers spit up error messages such as this:
Naturally, my project disk did have enough room and the proper permissions. So what’s the next step?
Kelli Richards’s straightforward suggestion for ending the fighting between Apple and Apple Corps got me thinking about software enhancements for the iPod ecosystem. Specifically, I envisioned a tool that would create iPod Packs—enhanced enhanced podcasts—without all the overhead of GarageBand.
I’m imagining something like MixMeister, a Windows program that detects the tempo of each song in a playlist and then creates a smooth, crossfaded mix. The twist would be that the PodPack program would run inside iTunes and operate on the 30-second previews from the iTunes Music Store.
MixMeister is an app I’d love to see on the Mac. The top-left pane is the playlist, with autodetected tempo for each song. The top-right pane shows the transitions between songs, and the waveform view at bottom lets you adjust the transitions for smooth beatmatching.
The more I think about this, the more ideas I get. For example, people who downloaded the resulting micro-mashups could click a button during playback to mark the song for future investigation or purchase. Another enhancement would be to let the tastemaker embed videos or visualizer presets with the files, creating a complete package.
So often, working with limited resources leads to creative breakthroughs. I think these micro-mashups, PodPacks, or whatever they’re eventually called could be a fascinating way to explore music.
What if producers and DJs designed your next iPod?
Although Kelli didn’t list a Beatles iPod in her plan, I’ve long wondered why Apple stopped with the U2 model. I’d like to see iPods based on producers rather than artists. Imagine the Jimmy Jam iPod, or models populated by Don Was, Phil Ramone, Nathaniel Kunkel, Tony Visconti, LTJ Bukem, John Digweed…the list is endless. I know that licensing all the music would be a chore, but think of the additional sales as fans discovered new artists.
Better, instead of creating a dedicated piece of hardware, why not sell iTunes download packs containing songs and playlists from top producers and DJs, along with custom artwork (or videos) to “skin” the player? Or make it simple for fans to create and distribute their own iPod Packs, much as Propellerhead Software did with Reason ReFills.
These iPod Packs would be like an enhanced podcast, but much easier to create. And to get around copyright restrictions, tastemakers could base them on 30-second previews from the iTunes Music Store—micro mashups!
Of course, the main update I’d like to see on the iPod would be crossfading (or at least gapless playback) between songs. Can’t have much of a DJ experience without that.
Currently Apple Records and Apple Computer are back in court — for the
third time. The dispute centers around Apple Computer not using the Apple
name in conjunction with music-related endeavors. I was in the middle of
the fray during the second court case during my tenure at Apple Computer; we
lost that one. This time I suspect a settlement will be in the offing.
It’s so obvious. If I were still at Apple Computer and in the middle of
things this time around, I’d offer Apple Records a very hefty sum to settle
in exchange for getting a two-year exclusive on offering The Beatles music
digitally for the first time anywhere via iTunes. Additionally, I’d invest
a large chunk for advertising that fact with a multi-faceted campaign worthy
of the opportunity. Seems a fairly straightforward solution to me.
What do you think? Is this too simplistic a solution? How do you anticipate
things playing out? I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Drums are a very important component of today’s sound, and since they are also famously very difficult to record for the average home studio guy, many musicians prefer to use a drum machine, or drum samples within their audio/MIDI sequencers.
Dedicated hardware drum machines are still being produced by several manufacturers, and the same goes for software: examples include ReDrum (part of Reason) and ReBirth from Propellerhead, Battery from Native Instruments, and even M-Audio’s iDrum, a plug-in for Apple’s GarageBand.
But there is a little free software drum machine that’s been a favorite of mine for several years: HammerHead is freeware and readily downloadable from threechords.com/hammerhead/.
Like the shark it takes the name from, HammerHead is not a clean, pop-oriented drum machine such as - say- the Alesis SR-16, but an aggressive beast aimed at techno, jungle/d ‘n’ b, trance and other modern dance styles. Bram Bos, the creator of this program, intended it to be “a simple TR-909-like drum computer program aiming at the dance-scene. You can use it to create perfect Techno loops, Jungle patterns or House beats, but it’s also suitable for Hip Hop, Triphop, Rap, Industrial and almost any other music you can think of.”
This is serendipitous: While searching for information on the history of GarageBand, I entered Acid/GarageBand programmer Chris Moulios’ name and found this intriguing patent application. Called “Method and Apparatus for Expanding Audio Data,” it offers a peek inside the conceptual process of warping audio:
One method relies on crossfading pairs of segments of audio data while running one segment backward every other repetition. The second time stretching method detects inaudible segments and inserts longer periods of audible data within those segments. The third method utilizes a reverb to create a reverb segment that is played after the original segment.
Another Moulios patent deals with changing the tempo of audio during playback. Browsing patent applications in the same category—Electrical audio signal processing systems and devices—gives other glimpses into where digital audio is heading, whereas browsing applications by the Hecker Law Group, which presumably represents Apple, suggests what new audio breakthroughs might be coming out of Infinite Loop. How about:
Hooray for the public domain!
In my initial MythTV article about hardware, I wrote that I had selected the Silverstone LC-03V because of the vacuum-fluorescent display (VFD). Although Silverstone boasted about the ready availability of Windows drivers, I had to do some digging. I discovered that the VFD used the NEC D16314AGJ-011 controller chip, which was described as being compatible with the well-known HD44780 chipset supported by LCDproc.
I didn’t have any problems with the chip until I upgraded to MythTV 0.19…
Microsoft is still pushing full-steam-ahead with a music-making program, code-named “Monaco,” according to Microsoft partners who requested anonymity. Monaco would be very similar to Apple’s GarageBand application, but would be optimized to take advantage of Windows Vista and the Aero user interface.
The article doesn’t explain how Areo would benefit music; I’m guessing musicians will actually get better performance by turning off the glassy animations. But speculating about “VistaBand” features (both serious and humorous) would be fun. Here are a few ideas I came up with….
My quest for perfect B&W prints from digital capture has led me to some very cool tools. The two most important have been a Photoshop plug-in called Alien Skin Exposure and the Epson R2400 printer. Working with this software/hardware tandem has produced satisfying results reminiscent of my darkroom days. Here’s a quick look at how I use this software/hardware combination.
This is so cool. Back in 1995, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for Keyboard magazine’s 20th anniversary issue called “20 Sounds That Must Die!” In it, I listed synthesizer presets that had been way overused in pop music, and added snarky comments.
James Brown vocalizations and synthetic pan flute, two of the Top 20 overused sounds of 1995.
Several readers missed the joke and wrote enraged letters accusing me of snobbery. Satire, I learned, requires a light touch, or at least consistency. (The bulk of the article was an interview with synthesizer programmers Eric Persing and Jack Hotop, who had created several of the sounds on the list—sounds so catchy they were impossible to resist using.)
But one reader, Paolo Di Nicolantonio of Synth Mania, used the list as a starting point, compiling a fantastic table of famous sounds. I came across the page today while searching for something else and had a wonderful time reliving the sounds and instruments that have shaped modern music.
Here’s a tip before you head over to the page:
The last time I started a blog with a quote from music technology guru Jim Aikin, it provoked an erudite uproar, which taught me a lot. So in honor of Jim’s latest feature for O’Reilly Digital Media, I thought I’d whack that beehive once more.
Jim covers the Korg MS2000B and many more voice-twisting technologies in his article “How to Make Your Sound Sing with Vocoders.”
Jim and I had been discussing doing an article on vocoders, those magical devices that impose the sonic signature of one sound (usually a vocal) on another, making the second sound appear to talk or sing. Our discussion flowed on to speech synthesis, another of my favorite music-production techniques.
Jim noted, “I reviewed the Yamaha/Zero-G Vocaloid synth. Basically, it sounds realistic but utterly bland. As I said in the review, it can sing, but it can’t shout, moan, or whisper. It’s utterly devoid of emotion.”
“Good point.” I replied. “Perhaps the best use of robovocals is to serve as a foil to a real vocal—that tasty contrast of the smooth serving platter and the lumpy, sizzling roast.”
That made me think of a song that’s been stuck in my head since I heard it on the Donnie Darko soundtrack: “Mad World,” as performed by Gary Jules. (Click “Mad World” to start playback.) The vocoder comes in at the end of the first chorus (around 1:20), then more strongly at the end. Its otherworldly sound makes Jules’s delicate voice sound even more vulnerable.
When I looked up the original Tears for Fears version (iTunes Music Store link), I was unmoved. In that case, the humanity was buried by the technology rather than enhanced. (Spencer Critchley shares more examples in Strip Away the Production, Reveal the Great Song Within.)
To pound the beehive again, I’ll postulate that emotional music is dramatic, and that drama springs from contrast: light vs. dark, smooth vs. gritty, soft vs. loud, high vs. low, etc. When you think of composing and arranging in those terms, you may find your music speaks more powerfully.
As someone who has been in the digital media space for nearly two decades now (mostly focused on the music side, but really immersed in all facets of it), it’s interesting to observe what goes on at some of the industry conferences — where all of us at the convergence of entertainment and technology gather. One such gathering, Digital Hollywood CLICK HERE, takes place twice a year in Los Angeles; the most recent event was last week. There are sessions on a myriad of topics such as “Embracing the Connected Consumer” and “Digital Music & Its Transformation”, all taking place over a 3 1/2 day period. Representatives are on hand from Sun and Microsoft, from Sony and Disney, and from a growing number of start-ups eager to be a part of this next wave. It’s intriguing that given most of the attendees are peers and colleagues, for the most part we are really just regaling each other with things most of us already know; it’s like a dinner party where we’re just sharing opinions and observations with each other. I’ve rarely seen anyone come away transformed per se. Yet, we all continue to show up each and every time — because it’s the place to be. The real power in these gatherings is in the networking and dealmaking that takes place in the lobby, in the hallways, at the pool, or at the lounge. Power meetings are the name of the game at these events, and plenty of deals get done.