Thursday, March 29, 2012

Re-Thinking

A few thoughts from recent conversations:
  • Google is a biometric inventory company with a "search" frontend and a marketing company backend, but the main "product" is YOU.
  • Google cares what you're searching for, but doesn't care about the quality of its search results. There's no penalty for not giving you what you're looking for - quite the opposite: additional queries mean higher resolution biometrics and ad placements. The incentive is to keep asking you to clarify what you're searching for.
  • Google is more interested in being an intermediary for commerce. This is why Android always-on location awareness is here to stay. In the future, if you're looking for a local taco stand, Google will give you the option of placing an order (for a fee!) from your phone. It will cue the restaurant to start prep when you're (X) minutes away from pickup.
  • This means the search market is wide open again. Look for search to fracture to specific portals/aggregators (we already see this). Examples: Wolfram Alpha for science queries, JSTOR for research, etc. Google has already cast its tombstone re: search for Smart People.
  • Google rolled out Plus in a hurry for ONE REASON: Facebook's "Check Ins" *That's* what Google was missing, and they figured a look-alike would get them that data. Instead, people kept right on using FB, and never really started using Plus. (anecdotal from a former Googler: the percentage of FourSquare users who xPost to Plus? .01%. )
  • We need a guild for professional bloggers. Some kind of ongoing certification that gives some indication as to how trustworthy an individual's output is. Even a crest that says "Not Completely Full Of Shit" would be a start. Credibility with your own audience is a starter, but people who don't know you need signs they can trust you. Marketing/PR used to solve this problem, but they can't be trusted either. Who can step up to this role?
  • Racism has moved from the mostly-visible public square to the mostly invisible biases of institutions. How else do you explain the ongoing incarceration rates of black males in a nation where nobody's a racist?
  • Money is divided between the Have's and the Have Nots, but tech is between the Knows and the Know Nots.
  • If you have any sense about you right now, you're learning to build robots. You don't have to be Tony Stark on a solo project - just get good at solving a problem or doing one or two things. Like hydraulics. Or motor controllers.
  • Unless you're already a developer, starting anew in code is probably not the best choice. I can think of all kinds of reasons to learn the concepts, but IMHO, better to start with something physical (robotics), versus say, game programming. (not a judgement of either endeavor, btw, just analyzing the logistics.)
  • Device convergence has reached a plateau. Look for development of connectivity standards. Devices that are most "open" will win. (Example: cell phones with LED projectors. Probably not going to happen widely, instead, a connector standard that opens a 3rd party market of projectors will be the most successful.)
  • 3D photography will be commonplace in mobile devices in less than two years. But not video.
  • There are audiences everywhere now. TV, YouTube, etc. "The Problem" remains the same: people who would be fans don't know/care about you, and you don't know where/how to find them.
  • Globally, the food supply is in dire straits. Global warming, corporate domination of research, etc, are making the production of food dicey. Massive under-education about the complexity of national (US) food supply makes conversations impossible. Same for GM food discussions. Knows vs Know Nots.
  • Your average home-gardener has produced a 1-2 days supply of food.
What are you talking about today?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Honesty and Reality Pt.2

We all get our own opinion.

But we don't get our own facts, and if you can't tell the difference...

I empathize with the struggle: the last 12 years in the US have tested everyone's faith in institutions. Read this passage by Jim Kunstler:
The clowns and villains who run America have accomplished something really epic: they have vanquished meaning. Nobody knows what anything means anymore. Anything goes now. All bets are off. It's not reassuring. It leads to bad things happening like blood in the streets. When nothing means anything anymore, some people will actually strive, make an effort, to reestablish meaning in practical economic and political life, because civilized life is impossible without it. So, in those historic moments when civilization is suspended, people will work like hell to restore meaning. Sometimes though, like Germany in the 1930s, you discover that the suspension of civilization is itself intoxicating, and you ride with that for a while.
We don't know who to trust.

And if you're a product of the US public education system (without a college diploma), you are homogeneously unequipped to make any real sense of the world around you. No wonder voodoo mythology persists- its a substitute for meaning.

This is why stupidity like anti-vaxxers and global warming denial takes hold: it's a reflexive "fuck you" to anyone with perceived authority: scientists, mathematicians, physicists, etc. And any institutions that support them.

To be clear, there are no actual controversies or "other sides" to issues such as global warming, evolution, and public vaccination campaigns. Nada. None. Zipola. Doubt is not a substitute for knowledge.

But if you're someone that's still out to pasture on these issues, there's just no reasoning with you anymore, because you have chosen to be defined by your rejection of authority rather than the harder work of having to maintain potentially disparate or competing realities in your life. Or worse, being definitively proven wrong.

So you'll flounder night after night wondering why you can't "find your audience." You'll never bother looking at demographic research, though, because you'd have to learn to establish faith in datasets and applied psychology. You won't apply for public benefits because you think that makes you a slave to the State, or worse, it means you're "one of THOSE people." You know, the ones that need help.

ALL OF US need to change the way we're living. Our music careers, simply stated, are just not big enough problems anymore. A career in music will be the result of tandem efforts: activism, teaching, community participation, and yes, music performance. But here's the trick: you can't play to the audience anymore. There's already enough jesters doing that job - this culture needs to figure out: WHO CAN WE TRUST?

Trust means you have to be right! That means you have to do your homework! Most important: you need a thick skin, because when you're right (a lot), people are gonna think you're an asshole and try to tear you down. You'll be lonely. You'll be pissed. You'll lash out. But then...

...you'll find your flock. You'll win.

To do this, you'll have to be honest (brutally, at times), researched (change your mind when you're wrong), persistent (thick skinned), trust in experience (even when it disagrees with you), brave (when you get noticed, the fire will come).

Remember, we're part of a larger reality. That means we're not entitled to our own.

Farther Forward

Just some quick thoughts this morning.

Broadcast TV is due for a renaissance. There are several things broadcast can deliver that broadband can't: picture/audio quality in realtime to all devices (nothing matches the install base of television.) The problem broadcast has is saturation - it tried to go Long Tail and YouTube cleaned up that entire game.

YouTube *cannot*, however, broadcast in HD, uninterrupted. The net don't really allow for it. Cloud is best for archiving.

So two infrastructures have emerged with clear implications: both are broad and immediate, but TV is one-way. Not a bad characteristic, per se. Properly understood, its still a powerful medium. People still view it as the ultimate validation.

Broadcast requires a massive upfront investment (for an artist) relative to broadband - that's the barrier of entry in a way. Right now it seems you grow up on YouTube, but crossover to broadcast (or live shows) later.

Whats missing is a bridge of small-to-medium venues that are all-ages accessible. This is why house concerts are becoming so popular?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon

I can't stop thinking about Trayvon Martin. Specifically, I can't stop thinking about his little brother. I keep imagining that kid, sitting in front of his XBOX, getting more and more impatient... wondering "Where the F*CK is Trayvon with my Skittles!"

I can't stop thinking about the last five minutes of his life as a younger brother. The last five minutes he knows he still has an older brother. The last five minutes where the biggest problem in his life was whether or not to drink one of Trayvon's Coke's *before* he got home with candy, or after. The last five minutes of his mother's voice with tones of happiness.

The last five minutes where he's just a kid, and not "The Guy Who's Older Brother Was Killed By A Racist." For the rest of his life.

The last five minutes when whatever was on television was important.

The last five minutes of feeling safe in his own world.

The last five minutes of any semblance of trust in public institutions.

I could probably pick any one of a hundred cases a month where somebody kills a young black kid and nobody cares. I can only begin to imagine what it is about this particular one that's got my attention - or anyone else. I'm saddened the Martin family's experience is not really that uncommon.

And maybe that's what bothers me most: that we think this is somehow a unique event. We're rationalizing that because this thing is such a big deal, it must somehow be different. But it isn't. Instead, it is depressingly common.

I have no answers either. In fact, I'm still searching for the right questions.

ScienceDirect.com - Information Economics and Policy - Digital copying and the supply of sound recordings

ScienceDirect.com - Information Economics and Policy - Digital copying and the supply of sound recordings
Despite a substantial literature on the effects of piracy on demand for recorded music, information on the supply-effects of digital copying is limited. This paper presents empirical evidence that digital copying has not reduced the supply of new, copyrighted sound recordings in Germany. Even with a strong reduction in sales of sound recordings that coincided with the diffusion of digital copying technology, the annual number of new titles released to the market continued to expand. Results indicate that the number of new titles released has not deviated significantly from a long-term upward trend. The paper also presents evidence that the amount of time listening to sound recordings has not fallen over this period, suggesting no strong decline in the quality of new work.
If you have a ScienceDirect login, you can read the whole study.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FutureHit Falls Down

You have to see this exchange at the FutureHitDNA blog.

Credibility is everything.

If you make a claim about making money in this business, you better be able to back it up - the unwashed masses love nothing more than a good takedown - a disrobing of fake emperors.

It may indeed be that Alex Day is The Next Big Thing (my professional opinion: no). But if he's making money as he claims, then it should be absolutely elementary to shut me down by opening up a spreadsheet and showing us how it's done.

The posts author, JayFrank, when prompted to highlight some details, writes:
Regarding his label meeting, there’s no reason to contact someone because they would deny the conversation. Who wouldn’t? I do know he’s had meetings because charting a record always elicits a phone call.
Regarding releasing spreadsheets, I don’t see the need. One can easily see thru the publicly available. Chart positions and thru the YouTube views that revenue is there. The way it’s done as one can publicly see is put in years of hard work and, yes, partner with the right people. It’s not about traditional or new. It’s that he did it himself and it helps show one doesn’t always need either a label or touring.
Deny the conversation? A charting record always elicits a phone call??? Sorry, what?!?

How does someone who wants to be taken seriously walk away with a non-response such as this??

Why would anyone who takes themselves seriously read/trust this blog when they can't get basic details right?

Because this is all hype.

(PS: Look at the stats on his new video: See that near perf diagonal line? That means it's bullshit - "organic" traffic does not look like that. Logarithmic graphs mean Russian botnets. Sorry, Alex and Jay.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed

24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed

192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They're not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse. The ultrasonics are a liability during playback.
Neither audio transducers nor power amplifiers are free of distortion, and distortion tends to increase rapidly at the lowest and highest frequencies. If the same transducer reproduces ultrasonics along with audible content, any nonlinearity will shift some of the ultrasonic content down into the audible range as an uncontrolled spray of intermodulation distortion products covering the entire audible spectrum. Nonlinearity in a power amplifier will produce the same effect. The effect is very slight, but listening tests have confirmed that both effects can be audible.
 Worth a read if you're a producer, IMHO.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rachele Gilmore’s 100 MPH Fastball – Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)

Rachele Gilmore’s 100 MPH Fastball – Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)

Read this. Watch these.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Honesty and Reality

"Music is a world unto itself,
with a language we all understand."
-Stevie Wonder

I made a handy picture for you:




Yes, music may be a world unto itself, but it is a world completely ensconced in a larger reality. I really need you to take this to heart.

Because right now a lot of you think music has its own set of rules. In a narrow sense, this may be partially true, but its dependent on context.

Every one of us holds in our heads an idealized version of ourselves that's mostly a mashup of already-established artists we aspire to be. I certainly have my own, and I know you have yours.

And while it may be well and good to have something to aspire towards, we have a tendency to ignore the larger cultural context in which said artist thrived.

Let's say you're a rock singer and you're molding yourself in the image of what you believe Steven Tyler to be. You scour the internet for footage of interviews, concerts, etc, and you assemble a trove of reference material about Steven Tyler.

But what you probably didn't do is read up on any actual history - you have no idea WHY Aerosmith mattered in the 70's or 80's. You have no idea why they succeeded and other bands didn't. You just think you have to be like Steven Tyler and the world opens.

This is so ignorant. Yet so common.

Because we're not honest, and we're not real.

Few of us know our actual job: Sales.

That's right, the time-tested, unglorious, oft-hated trade of Sales.

And you thought you were special.

When I hear bands complain about venue owners, I can guarantee the band knows nothing of the venue business. Bands think their very presence is to be rewarded. Bullshit. Your job (in a bar setting, anyway) is TO SELL DRINKS! If you're not selling drinks, you won't be booked back. It's that simple. Why can't you/we accept this?

And if we accept this, we can begin to fix it. Because plying our fans in alcohol is FUCKING STUPID! We want our fans to have DUI's? Worse, accidents? Addictions? What the fuck are we thinking?!?

We're not thinking - we're in a collective denial. It's reinforced daily in our media, no matter where you are. What's the saying - tell a lie enough times it becomes true? We're working with a version of history that has no bearing to a larger reality, so we're making terrible decisions. We invoke magical claims about our music history without much understanding as to why those bands even had a chance in the first place. You think anyone was gonna give a shit about what Grace Slick had to say if Tim Leary hadn't brewed up LSD?

Music (and by proxy musicians) exist as a component of a larger reality. The price of gas, for example, effects us in two ways: it makes touring more expensive, and it makes our show a more expensive proposition.

Another example: How many of you have tours this summer that will be interrupted by inclement weather disasters? (hint: more than last year.)

But you're not thinking about this. You still believe that "hard work" is enough. Fans are enough. Perseverance and a little luck and you'll get through.

Well, maybe.

But you'll have to be honest with yourself about reality, just to calibrate your expectations to "reasonable." Problem is, right now, that's harder than ever. It's so hard to discern what's real from bullshit, so we look for affirmation.

How can we be honest if we can't even agree what's real?

Comments are currently open. 

Dangerous Minds | Just how beautiful was Karen Carpenter’s voice? Listen to her isolated vocal tracks and find out

Dangerous Minds | Just how beautiful was Karen Carpenter’s voice? Listen to her isolated vocal tracks and find out

Karen Carpenter's vocals. Love the musicianship.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Don't Do's

You're not [insert historic band here]:

Don't try to live the way you think they lived.
Don't do drugs.
Don't fuck your fans (this is hugely important)
Don't be an asshole.

Stars used to be able to get away with all this, but no more. Sure, you're gonna send me an email with a list of current Important Artists who do all the above, much of it seeming to contribute to their success. But that's the PR machine lying to you.

There's too much at stake now. By the time you start doing something anyone's gonna care about, you've got a hundred people in your camp working for you. That's a hundred people PLUS your fans directly invested in your success.

Fans are fickle. There are too many good places to spend one's time. One misstep, and suddenly Skyrim seems a lot more fun than braving traffic and god knows what else on to get to your show.

Don't do Drugs:

For a long time, there was probably a safe space carved out of the culture for artists to indulge (privately) in recreational substance use. Ample historical documentation suggests this privilege was abused.

For a million small reasons, some of them having to do with mandatory seizure laws, you really don't want to take a drug habit on the road. In fact, you really don't want to take a drug habit anywhere near a career in the music biz. Used to be the drugs killed you before they killed your career. Now, the inverse is true.

I know that marijuana, caffeine, and nicotine are the Golden Trinity of Artisan Equilibrium, but each of these is addictive, and carry new legal and societal penalties that are hobbling your career. Right now.

Add up how much money you spend at Starbucks in a year. You don't think that's a habit??

Don't Fuck Your Fans:

In the 80's (and probably into the 90's to some degree), it was possible (even preferable!) to engage in sex with your fans. Heck, that was the reward!

No more. A band/artist that's fucking their fans is rolling the dice on a sex-offense conviction. In most states, that's a death sentence. I know some of you are going to attempt to defend this as some kind of 'tradition' or even 'rite of passage.' Do so at your own (and your bandmates') peril.

And this goes DOUBLE for the professionals that surround and support us. And because just about everyone around you is invested in you (in some way), you can't fuck anyone.

Welcome to the new music biz.

Don't Be An Asshole:

You haven't earned it, and you're not going to. Not in the cards anymore. Everyone is one paycheck from destitute homelessness right now. Remember that. ONE PAYCHECK.

Our job is to heal souls. That's it. The reward on the table now is that we get to do it at all.

If that's not good enough for you, go do something else.

We've got to be kind to people. Maybe in the past we could earn the privilege of flex, even if it was just a tiny bit.

No more. It can't sustain. (btw, I'm not saying we aren't supposed to draw lines within our own professional purview - all day baby. But when we leave the studio/gig, etc, and go back in the Real World, we're just one more ant trying to get through our day.) We are not special anymore. Even the best of us are terrifyingly normal.