Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.
 

Tags: Argh


March 18, 2016

Upcoming Events And Stuff...

by Chris Randall
 
 



Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lax at blogging. Sue me. I'm busy.

Speaking to that, if you're in the PHX area on Saturday, March 26th, we have a synth meet at Phoenix College you should probably attend. I'll be there with the latest and greatest from AD, and Blue Lantern and Synthesis Technology will also be in attendance. It's free to one and all, and runs from 2PM to 6PM, as the picture above implies. Plenty of room, tables, etc. Bring your interesting shit. Nobody cares about your D50, so leave that at home.

Immediately after that, I'll be on the way to Berlin for Superbooth 16. I'll be there from the 29th to the following Monday, April 4th. I'll be at Superbooth with the Audio Damage Road Show all three days of that event, but otherwise, my time is my own, so if you're in that fair city and want to get together for whatever it is they do in Berlin, I'm down. Hit me up on Twitter or email or whatever. (With the following caveat: I plan on spending zero time in nightclubs listening to loud music. If that's your bag, enjoy, but it's not for me.)

In hardware news, DubJr Mk2 is released and shipping. Most of our retailers have it in stock. It is a heavily updated iteration of our first module, DubJr. (Naming conventions: we has them.) Product page is here. Basically, the original shrunk to 6HP, and we added tap tempo, a clock input, a feedback loop, and a switch to defeat the internal filters. All in all a pretty slick little module, and the most live-performance-friendly delay you're gonna find. US$289, but we're totally sold out here at the office, so you'll have to hit up Control or Analogue Haven or one of our other dealers.

In software news, we've updated Sequencer 1's firmware to 1.3.4. A couple of bug fixes, plus "Note" and "Gate" modes for the CV outputs, essentially turning it in to a four-voice sequencer (well, that's a bit of a fib. Three voices is easy. Four is hard, but possible if you're clever.) We also added Actions, which are basically per-pattern directives to control various functions of the transport on a probability basis. (Think: Follow Actions in Live clips. Like that.) This has really extended the reach of Sequencer 1. You can get the new firmware on the Sequencer 1 product page.

I've made a short video to demonstrate both the multi-mode features and the Actions, in the form of a cover of Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th."


 
January 26, 2015

NAMM Wrap-Up...

by Chris Randall
 



Okay, I know long-time readers are used to a daily NAMM round-up, wherein I make biting comments about the latest and greatest from our fine business. Long-time readers also know that I'm not, as a habit, an exhibitor at NAMM. That all changed this year.

I'm not going to apologize for not walking the floor and trying out every new thing under the sun. While I would have greatly enjoyed doing exactly that, the simple fact of the matter is that it was virtually impossible to make the time. Not only was I generally tied to the Audio Damage booth, but this NAMM was unusually crowded, at least relative to the last few I've been to. And the Eurorack format is really exploding. At this rate, we'll have an entire hall in two years.

So, as I say, I was unable to either poke or prod any new things. The only instrument I did spend a total of about 45 seconds with was the Sequential Prophet 6. That was long enough to decide it was the modern analog synth of my dreams. Keybed: great. Control surface: great. Sound: great. I saw almost nothing else during the show, I'm sorry to report.

We did get a lot of good business done, which is, I guess, the point of the operation. We discovered that both Adam and I are really shitty at giving demos and doing sales pitches. Adam gets in to the minutia of the device so quickly that the potential customer's eyes glaze over, while I take a more patronizing "well, it's shit-hot, and you should buy it, unless you're stupid or something" meta-approach. We will, in the future, be paying Jeremy Highhouse to do our pitching for us, because we suck at it, plain and simple.

I had big plans to film the 10 Questions answers on the show floor, but a raging bout of insomnia that waylaid me for virtually the entire trip kept me in this sort of strange FML zone that prevented me from being extemporaneous, at least in any intelligible fashion. I'll do the answers in the next couple days.

Anyhow, if I was able to meet you during the week, rest assured that I think you are both handsome and charming, and I'll tell anyone who asks. Don't bother posting anything like "hey, did you check out the new DeeJay EZ-Tron 5000 XS?" because I didn't.

A very special thanks to WMD for organizing the group booth, and to Stan Cotey and Fender for saving our bacon in at least two ways. When the largest American music equipment company takes time out of their ludicrously busy show schedule to help out one of the smallest, it makes you feel good about the future in general, and this business in particular.

(Side note: those in the general know of things might view the previous paragraph as an attempt to lay the blame for the noise warnings WMD received at Fender's feet. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!!!)

 
November 19, 2014

Dear Cory Doctorow: Please Shut The Fuck Up About Music...

by Chris Randall
 



Cory Doctorow portrait by Jonathan Worth, altered by me for comedic effect.

Cory Doctorow did a Q&A on iO9 today, wherein he provided everything you need to know about making a living in the arts in the Internet Age. Naturally, he was talking out his ass, like he does. The problem is he was talking mostly about the music industry, a subject of which he demonstrably knows very little, despite his protestations. Since his comments are so brazenly misinformed, I thought a line-by-line breakdown was in order, in the hopes that people will understand how little this dude knows about our business.

It's always been all but impossible for individuals to earn a living from the arts!

No. It hasn't. Hundreds of thousands of people do it every day, and have for centuries.

Nearly everyone who ever set out to earn a living from the arts lost money in the bargain. Of those who made money, almost all made very little. Of those who made a lot of money, most stopped making money quickly.

Where's your proof of this? Did you just make these "facts" up? My own experience in the arts, going on 30 years now, is that it's actually fairly easy to make a living, as long as you are better-than-mediocre at your job of choice (and even that isn't a deal-breaker. For instance, you have a career writing science fiction.) Aiming to be the next Mick Jagger is most likely going to lead to disappointment, sure.

Success in the arts has always been a six-sigma event, a huge rarity. It's only because we apply survivor-bias to our perception of the arts (only considering the successes, because by definition we never even hear about the failures) that we think of the arts as a business, instead of lotto.

Hardly. Success is a largely a function of perseverance, practice, and ability. Pick two.

And survivor bias? Well, every single comment you've made here is a result of your own survivor bias. You're overlooking the hundreds of thousands of working musicians that do totally fine, everywhere. All the members of every orchestra in the world (and any city of a reasonable size has at least two) and their understudies all make fine livings. Every pit player in every live musical or stage production can make their mortgage every year. Every employee of every record label in this country, and the employees of all the music publishing houses, library companies, game music studios, TV and film scoring shops, commercial/industrial music companies... they all do just fine. Every venue that plays live music has bouncers, bartenders, managers, DJs, and never mind the bands. All these people are making a living in the arts. And that's just music.

Survivor bias, my hairy white nuts.

Every single person who's ever pursued a career in the arts without a plan B was doing something insanely risky, and most of them had a diastrous [sic] outcome as a result.

Do you have numbers to back this statement up? In my experience, anyone who's pursued a career in anything without a plan B was doing something risky. But insanely risky? How do you figure? What's insane about risk?

"He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch
To gain or lose it all."
-James Graham

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, buster. And define "diastrous" [sic]. Did they die? Lose a limb? Grow a third nipple? Or did they only find out that perhaps their talents didn't run to the arts? I don't think that qualifies as "diastrous."[sic]

When we try to defend certain kinds of professional artists, we always end up doing so at the cost of other artists. For example, before the advent of the record and the radio, it was inconceivable to ponder a musical performer who loved to perform, whose performances would please millions, but who didn't want to perform in front of an audience. This was as weird an idea as a notional champion swimmer who just didn't like water.

Is Frederic Chopin inconceivable? How about Beethoven? Barbara Streisand has a notorious case of stage fright. Is her career somehow inconceivable to you? Ditto Andy Partridge of XTC. If you have ever had to get up on stage and sing, which you obviously haven't, you'd know that it's difficult. This is why success is largely a function of skill, not magic internet dust.

The live performers hated and feared the radio/record performers. ASCAP boycotted radio for years (opening the way for "hillbilly" and "race" music to rise to prominence in America).

Hated? Feared? How so? Where's your proof? Did you just make that up? Aside from that, your premise is wrong. Radio stations boycotted ASCAP from 1931 to 1939. Not the other way around. How the ever-loving fuck would ASCAP boycott radio? I've seen you mention ASCAP many times over the years, and it's pretty obvious that you don't really have a clear understanding of what they do. And you never mention BMI or SESAC. Why is that? ASCAP is a fucking non-profit, for all love, and its sole purpose is to make sure musicians get paid for their work. Unlike the other two. Seriously, dude.

Today, the people who succeeded at recording careers rebel at the idea of being live performers.

Really? Where did you find this out? Proof? Or is this another fact you just pulled out of your ass? Also, you're mixing verb tenses. You're a professional writer, for the love of Christ.

But the technical reality that changed how the tiny minority of successful artists got their income has a much wider effect than artists' income -- radio didn't mostly affect music, it changed every fact about the world. The Internet, too.

I don't think you fully understand what the phrase "successful artists" means. Or "fact," for that matter. But that aside, this doesn't make any sense whatsoever, so I have nothing to rebut.

The biggest challenge to the incomes of the tiny minority of artists who do succeed today is the fact that there is a highly concentrated entertainment industry (five publishers, four labels, five studios) and they have incrediby abusive, one-sided standard contracts.

Again, define "success" before you build an argument based upon it. There isn't some "success" benchmark, below which is non-success, and above which is Easy Street™. Do you mean "I can pay my rent"? Because that's not that difficult. Or do you mean "I have a house in the Hills / Overlookin' the sea / It's worth eight but I only paid five point three." Because those are two very different things. Even your precious Amanda Palmer, who is successful by any reasonable benchmark, can't roll with Dre. In my opinion, I'm quite successful. I have an income that is twice the median, own a house, have a two-car garage and a swimming pool, but compared to Ms. Palmer or Dre, I've barely moved the needle in my career. Back to your lottery analogy, you imply that Dre's success is the result, for all intents and purposes, of hitting five digits plus the Powerball. News flash: Dre didn't win the lottery. He made the fucking Chronic.

And "incrediby [sic] abusive, one-sided standard contracts..." Have you ever even seen a recording contract? Record labels are essentially very specialized banks. If you've ever bought a new car or a house, this is pretty much the same thing. "We'll buy this thing for you, and then you'll owe us all the money we spent, plus some more to pay for our time and expenses and effort." It's really not complicated. You act like a dick and snort your advance off the tits of a Sunset Strip hooker, you're gonna have trouble. You act like a professional and do your fucking job, and happen to make some music that people like, you're in pretty good shape. It's not fucking magic.

The real fix for this is to eliminate the de facto subsidies to giant multinational corporations (lobbying priveleges [sic], legalized tax-cheating, etc). (This would also fix pretty much everything else!).

Really. Will it fix the fact that some people just aren't good at making music people want to hear or pictures people want to look at or books people want to read? Because those are pretty important factors in your mystical "success." Also, there are about 5 logical fallacies in this one single paragraph. That has to be some kind of record.

But in the meantime, we can encourage the 'competitor of last resort' - the Internet and all the services that allow artists to opt out of the big five/four and go on their own. That means not imposing enormous copyright liabilities on them (to found Youtube today, you don't just need a garage full of hard-drives, you also need a $300M Content ID system, which means we aren't going to see a lot of Youtube competitors any time soon).

Ah, here's the source of all magic and unicorns, at last. The Internet. The Great Arbitrator™. Finally, I can leave this life of poverty and hardship. Man, you need to get the fuck out of your house once in a while. I strongly suggest you come down to NAMM, and see what the real music industry looks like. At the risk of going all ad-hominem on your Canadian ass, it's a very different beast than this YouTube-based morass of Ukulele covers by quirky beflanneled Millennials that you've concocted in your head.

And there are like 60 YouTube competitors. At least.

The existence of an alternative to the big companies puts a floor on the worst offer they can make to artists -- it has to be better than the best deal we can get for ourselves, outside of their walls.

There was _always_ an alternative to "the big companies." It was the small companies. Your precious internet made getting a nice deal with a middle-sized indie really fucking hard, though. So thanks for that. I never used to blame you directly, Cory, but I think I'm going to start.

But here's the onion: the ability to put up a YouTube video (or a Bandcamp album page, or populate the upload fields on TuneCore ingestion) doesn't mean an audience will appear out of thin air. And while you've never straight-out defined it, I'm pretty sure your definition of "success" isn't "can pay my bills," but rather "has an audience." Because that's the coin you trade in.

Let me ask you this: if I paid the appropriate amount of money, and sent you some records to listen to, would it ensure a nice above-the-fold article on the front page of Boing Boing? Just curious. Hope my Bandcamp records move enough units this week to cover that.

 
August 3, 2014

News Of The World...

by Chris Randall
 

Pew Pew Pew

That's the next Audio Damage VST/AU plug-in, right there. You'll meet it on Thursday.

In other news, as many of you know, our friend Jeremy Highhouse (man-about-town in PDX, the other half of RT60, and one of the nicest people you'll meet in this business,) lost his rather large video/audio modular due to theft a few weeks back, and as this modular was actually part of his livelihood, he's pretty much fucked.

After much hang-wringing and arm-waving, we decided to do this. Long story short, a $10 ticket gets you a swing at the Audio Damage Omnibus: everything we make, including hardware (a $2600 retail value.) The proceeds will go towards replacing Jeremy's modular so he can get back to work, and the remainder will go to the Children's Music Fund.

And finally, Sequencer 1, our next hardware product, is basically mostly working at this point, and we're about to pull the trigger on the production run. So this will be a busy week for us; expect a couple updates here, the release of Basic, and a whole mess of Sequencer 1 mediablitzen.

 
February 26, 2014

The Usual Wednesday Bullshit...

by Chris Randall
 



Time for an omnibus update. In no particular order:

1. I'm deep in the mixing for my next release, which is, as it happens, a full album, not an EP, and far more "produced" than my last few releases (which are mostly compendiums of improvisational stuff.) This thing is shaping up to be pretty slick, and full of techno. I'm pretty happy with it, overall. Lots of field recordings, lots of tape loops. No idea how long this is going to take, but we're making good headway. I have four songs mixed at this point.

2. The next module from Audio Damage, Æverb, is in production. Couple weeks away. While I deal with that, Adam is building the prototypes for our first "big" module. (And "big" is an understatement. 36HP!) I won't give anything away at this juncture, except to say that it has almost 50 panel controls.

3. TRASH_AUDIO's next synth meet is in PDX, on May 24th. Both Adam and I will be attending. We will unveil the afore-mentioned prototype at that time.

3. Avid got de-listed from the NASDAQ yesterday. Next step: bankruptcy, and they'll start selling off assets. We'll see how this shakes out. Korg might be jealous of Yamaha and Roland, both of whom have professional recording apps, and pick up PT. That's just a guess. I don't have any inside info.

This is an open thread. What do you want to talk about?
 

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