Monday, January 31, 2011

Digital Music Sales and Piracy

Some in the music industry wonder if digital music sales have reached their apex.

Some old fashioned music promotion tricks that need to end:

1) Releasing songs on different dates in different countries.
2) Making songs unavailable for purchase outside of certain countries.
3) Releasing songs to the radio months before they are available for purchase.
4) Album-only tracks on iTunes--always a guaranteed deal-breaker for me (shades of unscrupulous record label tricks from a decade ago, in this case the "single for which there is not actually a single available, so you have to buy the full-length in order to get the song").

I think the first three all fall into the same general category: each of these practices encourages people who have been "shut out" or who are anxious to acquire a song to go looking for a pirated version online. We live in an age of on-demand gratification; if I know a song is out there, I should be able to buy it. If I can't buy it, I'll steal it, since it's quite possible the song I am enjoying will NEVER be legally released in my country anyway.

Regarding releasing songs to the radio well in advance: this "whetting the appetite" theory seems a bad one. The longer you "whet the appetite" without offering the song for sale, the more likely people will lose patience and steal a good quality digital radio-rip. I imagine radio stations are direct sources of many leaks, also.

It would be interesting to see a study tracking the spread of a particular MP3 around the world. I recall that the Atlantic magazine once did something like this, where they tracked a pirated movie.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Set 33 Update - For DJs Only

This blog entry is on a subject that will be, for most, even duller than my usual topics, so unless you're really interested in how I record a DJ set you should skip this. :-D

The set 33 flyer is finished, a bad comedy promo video has been produced, and so at last I can focus on what matters most: the set itself.

The WAV version of Set 33 is too enormous to be saved as a single file in Sony Sound Forge (this happened with Set 32 also); it hits its limit around the 3 hour mark. So, work must be done on two separate files which, after conversion into smaller file-size 320 kbps mp3s, are then joined as one. Since one wants to make all changes to the superior WAV file versions, the clunky process in the final days is: work in WAV, convert to MP3s, join the MP3s, listen to the whole thing, note problems, go back to the WAVs to fix, and repeat.

The process of sound equalization is a bit like sharpening focus on a particularly blurry image. The first adjustments are the most drastic, and subsequent ones get finer with each go. Volume levels are the toughest part of any DJ set, and are particularly tough with long ones because of the tendency for the volume to creep into distortion territory over the set's course (this is because one prefers to err on the side of having a transition come in slightly loud rather than slightly soft, and those slightly loud entries accumulate as the set progresses, nudging the overall volume up more and more).

Some transitions will have to be re-recorded. Re-records usually go quite smoothly, because I know what I have to, in essence, "beat"; and I've been through the experience once already.

A 3.5 hour set obviously is very time-consuming to review, and listening to the set in its entirety on different types of headphones (ranging from great to crappy) is the only way to gauge whether things are flowing right with the levels. During the work week I have time to listen to the set only once per day, and then make adjustments.

This is the price you pay for making epics; the time is never there to get everything perfect.

But as some French guy once said, Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien, and this set will, in the end, be très bien--maybe even chouette. (@v@)

[UPDATE - Bad comedy video deleted, because 1) it was bad, and 2) the release date for the set has now been pushed back, in part due to issues described above--there is not enough time for me to fix everything that needs fixing by Thursday.]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Industrial Music

Industrial music was the girl I dated before I married techno.

Techno and I have both been through many changes ever since, but our relationship remains strong.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grammar, Language, and Discogs

An old man sort of gripe, but somebody has to do it, or else the Idiocracy would become even more firmly entrenched.

Discogs is awesome; an unsurpassed source of information for music releases. I visit the site multiple times every day.

What is not so awesome are some of the site's editorial policies. I used to enter stuff into the Discogs database, but after an endless fight with one editor over one particular entry, I abandoned that hobby.

The source of our disagreement regarded the capitalization of song titles. The specific entry we fought over was Alizée's "Gourmandises Remixées."

In some languages it is customary for song titles to be written with only the first letter in the title capitalized (proper nouns excepted). To capitalize those uncapitalized letters in, say, French would be as silly as lower-casing their equivalents in English. That's just not the way the French write their song titles.

On the "Gourmandises" single, I insisted that capitalization be followed as it was (correctly) done on the CD itself. Thus: "Loup Y Es-tu?" should be written "Loup y es-tu?"

(Paradoxically, "Les Baisers Dance Remix" is apparently correct. I think the logic was that "Les Baisers" was being used as a proper noun, perhaps as another alias for the remixer, and so it was capitalized. In any event, that's how it was written on the CD, and since the other stuff checks out in the logic department I give the record label the benefit of the doubt.)

But a more senior editor insisted I was wrong. Even after I explained that in French song titles are written differently, he brushed me off saying, "But that is incorrect punctuation," deaf to my point. I finally gave up trying to convince him and never submitted to Discogs again.

So you can see for yourself where things go wrong. Here is the back of the fetching Alizée's second album, with song titles...

...and here is how Discogs writes it out, with rampant capitalization.

This might seem a silly point, but I am tired of seeing the forced Anglicization of other languages. It's strange that Discogs, so (admirably) anal retentive about its listings, would be so very wrong on this point. I hope they soon acknowledge the error of their ways and adjust their editorial policy.

If they do, maybe then I'll go back to submitting information into their database. :-D

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Set 33 Progress

Recording a DJ set is like breaking a stallion. It fights, it kicks, it resists, and then it rides like the wind. By the time you hear Set 33 in its final form it should be a disciplined racehorse (but no doubt some wild spirit will remain).

It will likely be about as epic as Set 32 (I recently posted that one to Soundcloud if you missed it the first time around). However, I am hoping that even tighter transitions and crazier amounts of overlap will make for a shorter set while also showcasing more tunes.

I posted a teaser flyer on this page. Yesterday my laptop crashed while I was working on the design for the final flyer in Photoshop, and then it crashed again an hour later while I was recording. The laptop seems OK now. I have been backing up my work regularly on a terabyte external hard drive, which provides a great deal of comfort in light of such woes.

Anyway, after losing an hour of recording time fussing with the unruly laptop, I got back into things--only to become frustrated that one of the tunes was just not working out. I showed it the door. Unfortunately, losing that song also meant losing some much needed momentum, and it also messed up the flow of the set. This disappointing evening/night of work concluded with me failing (after a very long and arduous hour) to get a particular transition to work.

I woke today at 5:30 AM and began thinking about other transition tunes. My particular trouble spot was a disco strings song, so I thought to myself, "Well, I just need to find a few other disco strings songs that are around 138 BPM." I came up with some good ideas, and these proved so tempting that I climbed out of bed at 6:30 AM and tried them out.

They worked beautifully. The set's momentum was actually improved and the flow was salvaged. We usually say "two steps forward, one step back"; but in the bipolar heat of recording a DJ set it feels more often like ten steps back, twenty steps forward.

So what does it sound like? Well, just as one might be reasonably successful predicting tomorrow's weather by guessing that it will probably be much like today's, yes, Set 33 features more of the same multi-national, multi-era, multi-genre spirit "EorE?" visitors are accustomed to, with the usual emotional gamut running from the deeply dumb to the oddly affecting. This is the first set I have mixed using my Pioneer CDJ turntables (after years of working with Numarks), and these have been wonderful tools (I have gotten over my earlier lament about their inability to work with extremely large thumb drives).

The set begins with some quirky "forgotten" classics from the late 80s, showcases some 90s classics alongside newer tunes, and then gallops full-throttle into the newer trash stuff. Finale is a battlefield of beats, with drum 'n' bass slugging it out with various other genres. Who will be left standing? And what will be left of them? :-D