Sunday, May 23, 2010

Recap: Maker Faire 2010

Bottom Line: 60% Awesome.

As usual, the place is chock-full of interesting, terrifying, thoughtful, creative.... things. One standout this year seemed to be a larger corporate presence, and with that, a new degree of proprietary information that seems to be the antithesis of the Maker culture. Chevy and Ford had large advertising exhibitions that were actively collecting marketing data, as well as the next generation of flavored tapwater marketed to youth by major corporations.

Prices on everything were higher this year, but without any commensurate increase in quality or experience. The Saturday morning parking situation was uncontrolled chaos. One of Saturday's major attractions (Adam Savage of Mythbusters) spent the early portion (up until I left) of his presentation with his back to most of the audience and a malfunctioning(?) sound system.

So that's my complaining. Now for the cool stuff:

I met one of my longtime Flickr contacts, Lane Hartwell. She's very pleasant in person, although probably had no idea what to make of me. I've followed her stream for years, so there's this odd familiarity I have, but she's got NO idea who I am. Welcome to stardom, Lane.

I got to see the famed WETA Legs in action. Definitely a top notch invention. You know who'll make good use of these? Farm laborers that harvest or maintain orchards.

I met David, the artist behind the Wondermark comics. I'm desperately trying to figure out how to get someone like him to do graphic design work for my upcoming CD.

The donuts! Oh god, the donuts! Harvey's gourmet donuts! I'm telling you right now, I'm working every angle I can think of to get this guy at my September concert, because those fresh donuts will SEAL YOUR MEMORY of my show like nothing else. Why? Because Harvey friggin GETS IT: His donuts are delicious - the highest standard is his baseline. He watches his cooker like a hawk. The product is CONSISTENTLY GOOD and he never changes the terms on you. And because of that experience, I will seek out Harvey and his delicious donuts. Note to event producers: This guy has a built-in audience.

The donuts. They call to me.

Old EngineThe Bay Area Horseless Carriage Club had an exhibit of restored antique automobiles, all of which (I believe) were more or less functional. (I even got to honk the horn on the Model T). The engine work was really something, especially the copper plated cylinders and leather fanbelt. Yes, leather.

0522001121.jpg These are interior (or maybe even stage) lamps by Jason Dietz. He calls them "UFO Kinetic Sculptures." They are very nicely done. You've probably seen a hundred variations on this kind of lighting (ala Spencer's Gifts) but his are set apart by the UFO's on the top. His materials are maybe obvious in one sense, but his unique assemblage is a step above. They're gorgeous.

A group called Stay Visible had a kit that allows bicyclists to display readable messages on their spinning wheels with coordinated LED's. Great idea for general visibility, if you ask me....

One last notable highlight was the MAKE marketplace (the bazaar bizarre). Here one could find basic home fuel cell kits (experimental/teaching, not functional), hundreds of components from motors to capacitors, all kinds of hands-on experimental things, arcane game programming kits, etc. (Why does all the cool stuff come from Japan?)

I think it's still on the to-do list for next year, but I'd like to see more Makers sharing and fewer major corps promoting their own wares.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


"What's happening is the people that don't have quality product aren't selling it," Blake says. "So they're the ones that are creating this panic. So it really comes back down to that, just like in every other [...] industry. When you get too many [musicians] and too many [labels] out there, then only the good ones make it."

Ok, so the quote is actually related to a crash in the price of marijuana in California, but it's dead-on about the panic: the people who don't have quality products are creating the panic.

I panicked for a long time. I still panic. That's because my music's not good enough yet. But I know the difference now.

There are too many musicians. Too much music to listen to that's already amazing. I know this. My fans know this. One of my best songs sounds suspiciously close to somebody else's song. It doesn't matter. People will tell their friends about a great plate of spaghetti.

Which brings me to Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. You only need to watch one or two episodes to get the gist (the formula doesn't change on the show.) A restaurateur is in deep trouble. Chef Ramsey swoops in. It always comes back to the kitchen. It always comes back to FRESH ingredients, SIMPLE recipes, OUTSTANDING results, and CONSISTENCY.

Restaurants, like musicians, are based on the same basic ingredients. In the way that every restaurant basically mixes vegetables, fruits, meats, grains and spices, every musician uses the same basic 12 notes, the same comes down to HOW you use it. If you can take the simplest things and consistently make something delicious, satisfying, and memorable, people will flock to you. They will evangelize you.

But don't EVER short change them. Don't ever substitute frozen for fresh, microwaved for pan-seared. If you do, they will leave you, and the only way to get them back is hope for a major star to swoop in and give you a second chance.

I'd like to tell you that just opening the restaurant, or just completing a CD, was enough. That booking a few shows or selling a few plates was the only requirement, and that you're not in denial. You've got to do it every night for a thousand nights. The highest standard has to become the baseline.

Otherwise, you won't have a quality product, you won't sell, and you'll be in a panic.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where your money goes

The Washington Post has a nice graphic today breaking out ticket fees and where that money goes.

Required reading. From the article:
"I think the fans feel used and abused," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a trade publication for the concert industry. "As an industry, it's extremely disingenuous to do what we do. These fees may exist for reasons that business people understand, but when a fan tries to buy a ticket for $60, and they pull out their wallet and it ends up being 80-something? Just tell them it's an $85 ticket, so they don't feel scammed in the process."
This is why I will never buy a ticket from Ticketmaster, nor will I *ever* ask my fans to, either.

I print my own, anyway.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The New Google Interface: I hate it

UPDATE: A friend sent me this link. Apparently bookmark this to use the "classic" Google. I'll keep an eye out for Firefox updates to the search engine field. Thank you Nate!

There are people who use Google, and there are people who type things into the search engine (like URL's) and think they're "using" it, too.

If you're someone that likes the new Google interface, I know instantly you don't know how to use search in the first place, and that's why you don't understand how bad this new design is.

The old layout provided all the search results aligned to the far left of the page. For native English readers, this is the *most* efficient layout because it allows users to quick-scan the results for relevant returns. Adding this left column, however, makes it difficult to do the same quick-scan because A) there's literally MORE shit on the screen to look at, and B) the new crap is shiny, colorful, etc. It's distracting. (Thankfully, Google Scholar's results are still spartan from a "oooh shiny!" standpoint, but who knows? Maybe they'll skin those results for toddlers, too!)

And there are TOO MANY CHOICES! Remember, every choice presented to a user/consumer represents a NET TIMESINK - the fewer front-end choices, the more economic the overall process will be. (my own pet peeve: "Credit or debit?" This is an *enormous* economic time sink, when scaled over our entire economy. Don't get me started....) Another way to think about this is transactional overhead.

The new layout takes far too long to scan for relevant results. I'd rather have alternate search phrases or Boolean refinements suggested, rather than repeating the same search in alternating catalogs of content.

I completely understand the need for multiple interfaces: power searchers vs. market researchers vs. casual browsers....knowledge vs. thrillseeking.

I don't know if Google is willing to provide that interface, but I'm sure the demand is enough that somebody will quickly figure out how.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Concert TicketDo you know what being a (reasonably good) musician means in 2010? It means you've got a license to print money.

I just printed 40 tickets for a show. At $10/ea, I just printed $400 worth of paper and ink. People are actually trading these for cash. Sure, I've still got to affect the trade, but I'm having an easier time than I thought. I only need to sell one today to pay for my lunch.

The software I used was Sun Micro's OpenOffice. The font (ReservoirGrunge) was free, too. The card stock cost me $13.25 and I can print a thousand tickets. My ink refills are $7 at Costco. A couple other little things and some elbow grease, and I can walk around trading these things for money.

All you have to do is book a venue. Some can be rented for as little as a $100. Print tickets. Trade for money. Play your ass off.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Who: Jeremiah Jacobs and pianist Bill Walker
What: LIVE music show
Where: Geery Theater, 2130 "L" St, Sacramento, CA.
When: Sept 11, 2010, 6:00 PM *SHARP*

Tix are $10. Seating is limited. No VIP comps are avail for this show (sorry).

If you want to attend, please contact myself or Bill directly.

Music Placement: HootSuite

HootSuite, an application for heavy Twitter users, chose my composition "The Nostalgic Buffoon" for their most recent promotional.

It appears I've found at least one evangelist. ;) Hat tip, Dave-O!

Lefsetz on Artist Development

Bob Lefsetz pisses me off more often than not, but that's because he's been telling me things I don't want to hear. I'll get over myself.

But as I've been reading him over the last year or so, it seems we're saying the same thing: it's finally coming back to the music.

Lefsetz writes:
It’s back. And its return has nothing to do with a change in record company strategy, no big time thinking on the part of managers or acts, but a change in the marketplace.

It’s just about impossible to be ubiquitous. And the cost of mainstream acceptance is prohibitive, not only in dollars, but career. If you push an act down people’s throats, some might buy it once, but most will walk away, doing their best to get out of the shitstorm.

You can go read the rest (and if you're in this business, you should have his blog in your RSS reader.)

I've spoken about a plethora of evangelists seeking new music to tell people about. This is the change in the market - this is what we never had before. Now we do, and we can finally break free from all the anxiety surrounding self-promotion and just create amazing music. Nothing else matters.