Tag Archives: DJ

What is Music Worth?

…and what am doing with my new EP of downtempo electronica called The Middle Beat EP?

I’m sure many people would agree with me that music is, in fact, priceless. The paradigm shift that has been heralded by the arrival of mp3 file sharing, however, means musicians are faced with quite a conundrum. This is part of what makes it so hard to sell recorded music as a commodity and is why I am no longer focused on doing so.

According to Forbes magazine, the music industry is growing, despite the greatly decreased revenue posted by major record labels since Napster reared its head in 1999. This broad view includes live performance, publishing, radio play, synchronization with moving images, music education, etc.

When I’m not working on being an ethnomusicologist (studying kung fu drumming), I’m primarily a recording artist, so the value of recorded music is still near and dear to my heart. In the last few years, online music distribution has left physical recordings in the dust, which is a boon for independents that no longer need to rely on the physical delivery networks of the majors. This is a blessing and a curse, however, because more recorded music is now being produced and disseminated than ever before; listeners are spoiled for choices.

Big acts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have spearheaded a Pay-What-You-Want approach to downloading their music. This may seem akin to a busker passing the hat, but I tend to think of it more as “crowdsourced” patronage. If someone likes a particular artist, they contribute to supporting him or her. Furthermore, there is also tremendous artistic capital to be found in making music feely available through social networking and file sharing.

If the market is potentially saturated and it’s tough to make a dollar selling recordings, why have I bothered to issue a 4 track, digital-only, release? Because I feel artistically compelled to do so, the means are available, and I think I have something to offer. As a producer, I always prioritize sound quality and production values, while as a DJ, I always dish out the beats; on this release I’ve also brought a renewed focus on instrumental melody to an eclectic blend of acid jazz, dub, and trip hop.

My goal is simple: to get lots of people listening to these tracks.

In order for this happen, I need the people in my network to share them with the people in their networks. It would be nice if people bought them, but I’m actually more interested in promotion and dissemination. Specifically, I would like for my music to reach not only the ears of audiences worldwide, but also music supervisors for film and TV, as well as publishers, DJs, journalists, bloggers, etc.

This release is available as Pay-What-You-Want from Bandcamp; for sale from iTunes, Amazon, etc; for streaming on sites like SoundCloud, LastFM, and Myspace; and posted for P2P sharing on Bittorrent, through The Pirate Bay and Mininova.

middlebeat_ep1400x1400

Developments in Music Technology

When I first entered the world of music technology, it was at the tail end of the analog age and the cusp of the digital era. My initial forays involved cutting/splicing reel-to-reel tape recordings and building synthesizer patches using physical cables, before I ever learned to use a computer-based MIDI sequencer and 14 bit digital sampling software.  The studio where I cut my production teeth took up a whole room for all the wonderful, albeit large, pieces of equipment.

The evolution of microprocessor computers and the development of software alternatives to expensive hardware have had a profound impact on the way I make music. I am not alone in this, and countless others have joined the revolution. The pace of technological advancement has been matched — sometimes driven — by musical creativity, while new means of sound production or manipulation have often led to new music.

The importance of the move from analog to digital could be eclipsed, however, by a change from static to portable. Laptop computers are already de rigueur for DJs and live PAs, but could soon seem unnecessarily bulky compared to the advent of ultra-slim, touch screen, accelerometer equipped devices. Where could this lead us?

Notwithstanding the convenience of working on the go, I doubt that the small screen real estate and earphones of a smartphone or tablet could replace a proper studio. Instead, I think something like an iPhone/iPad could facilitate a type of live electronic music performance that previously would have been prohibitively expensive. There is also the opportunity for immersive and interactive networking with the devices of people in the audience, as has already been taken advantage of by the trail-blazing Plastikman, using Hexler’s SYNK. Furthermore, changes in the physical method of engaging with technology are bound to inspire innovative music, both on stage and in the studio.

There are already some decent apps out there (which I’m only just starting to explore) and I sense that more may be right around the corner. I am always keen to observe new directions in music technology and the concomitant developments in musical sound. Only time will tell, however, whether smartphones and music apps will be just another stepping stone, or a true milestone in the development of electronic music. A key factor will be whether developers and users alike will be willing to treat them as real tools or as simple toys.

Beat Maker 2 music production app

AutoValve analog sound emulator app