The New Shiny and a Little Temprament…

(Image from wallpaper cave.com)

Hi everyone!

Sorry it’s been a bit since some rambling on here – Summertime is always the busiest around APITEland and EduCorp®. Things should get even busier as the Holidaze® get closer… 🙂

So The Mothership® showed off a bunch of new Shiny Shiny this past week as they do every September. Hope all your Credit Cards (or that Shiny Shiny new AppleCard) are paid down and ready for the onslaught. Still not sure what I’m going to get (do I *really* need anything new?) but that’s not what I want to talk about this go ‘round anyway.

We need to talk Computer Updates and the next big one from the Kids in Cupertino.

Back in the days when an Operating System update was way more than a year between changes and came on something called a CD-ROM or (heaven forbid) a Floppy Disc, the Technorati (and anyone else who actually liked to get work done on their machine) had a simple plan – never upgrade a ‘Mission Critical’ computer.

You might have a ‘secondary’ machine that you would test a new update on (Operating System or even Application!) and if it passed muster, didn’t crash, and added something that you didn’t already have (or really wanted) then you would take the plunge and install it on your main system(s). If you weren’t blessed with a ‘Testbed’ Computer, then you scoured the Trade Mags for info and talked with other users about their experience to see if it was worth installing or not. But sometimes you just had to take the plunge because you really, really wanted some new feature that was available.

And every time I did the last thing I always got bitten where the sun doesn’t shine…

I’m telling you this as a bit of a warning, since I’ve been testing the latest MacOS (10.15, a.k.a ‘Catalina’).

If you’re doing Music Creation or Production you seriously need to wait a bit before upgrading your main machine.

Let me say that one more time: Don’t upgrade to Catalina when it’s first released in October!

But why?

The 64-bit requirement is probably the biggest issue.

“A-ha!” You might say. “All of my software has been 64-bit compatible for years! I’m taking the plunge…”

I thought that too – and then I did a bit of digging…

You see, even though the software might be 64-bit compatible some of the embedded libraries it relies on are still 32-bit.

I’ve seen this in nearly every DAW I’ve checked and many other music/media Apps too. The culprits are usually Propellerheads’ ReWire or QuickTime-related, but there are others too…

And until they are updated or worked around, NONE of them will function properly in 10.15.

Some examples: As of this writing ProTools won’t even launch on any of my machines running Catalina. Ableton dropped a note saying that Live 9 is not and will never be 10.15 compatible (meaning you’ll have to upgrade to 10 when they get the fix done for it). Reaper seems stable but I’ve had issues I’ve never seen before. I’ve read blurbs from many other Music Software companies with similar problems running 10.15.

Some further lurking revealed that Apple’s own Final Cut Pro, Motion, Numbers, Pages, and Keynote are still showing incompatibility with Catalina! These will be fixed before launch certainly, but talk about waiting until the last minute…

What about Plugins?

Again, most are 64-bit ready, but several on my system are not. I’m not a Code Junkie, so all I can really assess are the ones that have companion Standalone apps. All are 10.15-incompatible on my setups. I will say that most without Standalone Apps seems to work as normal though.

But that leads us to Installer Apps. None of them are 64-bit ready on any of my systems (this goes for the Uninstallers too). Izotope shows Dialog Box after Dialog Box of warnings when you try to install a plugin, ultimately leading to Catalina saying is wasn’t installed properly. I tried Eventide, Korg, and Valhalla as well – only Valhalla would actually install without issue. Go Sean! 🙂

So will Plugins already installed on a pre-Catalina System update just fine? I’m running a clean installation of 10.15 in a Container so I can’t say at this point. I will be upgrading one of my ‘less critical’ machines from Mojave to Catalina, so I’ll update you with what happens when the official release comes out.

But as Han Solo would say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

It’s been about a decade since I’ve warned people about updating a Mac OS, and since those issues were resolved a few months later I’ve never hesitated in telling anyone to go ahead and install the latest version. This will happen again very soon, so don’t worry about sitting on the sidelines for a bit.

Until next time…

Just as a disclaimer: my intention is NOT to panic anyone out there with this post – it’s merely my own observations with some age-old wisdom attached. I’m certain MacOS 10.15 is going to be a powerhouse when it’s ready for Prime Time – the functions and security are setting the pace for OS’es to come in the next decade.

But I have decided I’m not going to upgrade any of my Macs that I actually need to do work on, and I’m recommending that you don’t either if you’re in the Music and/or Media Production Industries. I’m lucky enough to have a Testbed Machine that I will keep checking upoming updates (both OS and Apps) on, but until everything I need is ready and working as it should I’m happy to stay put on 10.14. Apple doesn’t force anyone to upgrade, and going Bleeding Edge just because it’s the new Shiny Shiny is not worth losing work (and money) over! These issues will get resolved, and for all I know everything might be perfect by the time I hit ‘Publish’… If that does magically happen, I’ll provide an update to this post. 🙂

Amazon Music Loudness Normalization Arrives

From Saint Ian’s website – caught this on the Tweet Machine this morning:

Amazon Music Loudness Normalization Arrives – Production Advice

In related news I was dropped this the other day. The takeaway quote:

The least predictable (but not entirely surprising) resistance to externally mandated loudness controls seems to come from new, emerging “producers” and “mastering engineers.” In this new production paradigm/workflow—one mostly lacking a traditional professional infrastructure of managers or “gatekeepers”—these new “mastering” practitioners interact only with their respective artists. Many decisions in these relationships are invariably one-sided.

And that’s the disconnect: It’s not an overreach to say that artists are preternaturally insecure. After all, their job, if you will, is to absorb the heartbeat of the current culture … to translate this matrix of influences, not limited to affairs of the heart and politics, and blend in ideas, often abstract and ephemeral, then render it all musically. Does “accountability” have a place in the artistic zeitgeist? Does actual technical competence? What about an artist doing technical advocacy?

Loudness Normalization is the new Normal, so not making your mixes conform will only work against you and your art in the long run.

Learn, practice, and understand your craft if you want to have lasting appeal and longevity in the game.

Or just go for the Brass Ring, turn everything up to 11, diversify into anything and everything, and bitch about why you’re broke and unsuccessful after a year or so. The choice is yours.

Just a Thought…

I’ve been watching a lot of the YT’ers I follow waking up to the fact that The Sky is Falling (see last post) and setting up (or heavily promoting) Patreon accounts to avert the ‘crisis’…

So how long before Patreon becomes the latest problem and not the solution?

Just something to think about.

Keep YouTube Weird

My dear friend and former studio/label partner Michael Donaldson has a better (and much shorter) version of this tirade over at his 8-Sided Blog. You can find it here.

I have two Tube of Yous accounts. One I created to put up odd Logic Pro tricks and tips as I found them. Since I’ve pretty much switched to Reaper on my desk- and laptops and moved to all flavors of audio and sequencing madness on iOS I don’t put much there anymore. (Although I really should upload what I’m doing now…) My second account is for what I watch and subscribe to. I watch a lot of YouTube. I absolutely love it.

Yeah, there’s a whole lotta hot garbage to be found there, and YouTube’s algorithm does everything it can to point you to it to make $$$$. But even having to dodge that insanity I’m convinced that for the masses it’s the best way to find new things and to learn things too. It’s even become one of the places everyone goes for music and music videos.

And about every few months I hear someone complaining about YouTube on YouTube. I usually unsubscribe or stop watching them after that…

But before I get deeper into why, let’s refresh ourselves about what YouTube is first.

YT is owned by Google. It’s one of its subsidiaries.

Google amasses a lot of information, and makes applications, software, and even hardware to leverage that info. But at its heart it’s in the business of selling ads and providing said information to advertisers so they can better target you for what they want to sell to you.

Always remember this. You can’t make billions of dollars a Quarter and employ thousands of people by giving everything away for free.

So how does YouTube make the money it needs to spend on infrastructure, storage (videos eat up a lot of drive space), and paying its contributors? By constantly going to Mom (Google) and asking for an allowance? Well, sometimes. But the goal is to teach independence. And much like children, you hope they’ll not only be able to snag on their own, but can also contribute to the family coffers in the future as well.

So Mother Google has them deliver ads. Lots and lots of ads. Or if you prefer, you can pony up for YouTube Red (or Premium, or whatever they’re calling it this week) and give them $120 a year or so to get rid of said advertisements for you.

But they also gather a lot of information about what you watch, how long you watch it for, what you comment, your scrolling through lists, and even where your cursor is hovering. All of this info is sucked into Mommy Dearest’s machinery for analytics and the advertisers who pay the bills. (that’s part of that contribution thing mentioned above…)

Got it? Excellent. 🙂

So all of this BS about ‘Oh noes! YouTube is manipulating their algorithm again and we’re all in big trouble!’ Is missing the point. If a socially unacceptable video goes viral and the public at large reacts negatively (advertisers can do this too), YT in a panic of losing revenue (and favorability with Mom) also reacts (or overreacts) and fiddles with their settings to ‘fix’ the problem because no feasible quantity of man and/or machine can realistically check hundreds of hours of video uploaded every single minute to their platform. YouTube is not alone here – this happens in every other industry when something goes wrong in the age of Social Media. How many times have you seen Twiddler® or Farcebook® explode because of an advertisement or a CEO’s political ramblings and now everyone is asked to boycott said product or service? Money talks and the big kids on the playground don’t want to lose their speech.

Makes sense, yes? 

So what is this (latest) ‘Creator Adpocalypse’ all about?

Simply put, Putting all of your eggs in one basket. And let’s be honest here – it actually putting your eggs in someone else’s basket hoping that they will pay you forever and in ever-increasing amounts as long as you continue to provide eggs into said basket.

In other words, the people complaining the most are the ones who’ve boldly decided to make YouTube videos their career.

Everything has a lifespan. People are born, do stuff, and slip off the mortal coil. Everything created has a finite amount of time as well.

Not everyone who writes a hit song can expect their career to last forever. Nor can anyone making television shows, movies, hairstyles, furniture, wallpaper, or fidget spinners. Tastes change, times change, and the public is almost always chasing the new and shiny.  

Enjoy the run while it lasts, but you’d better have (or find) a contingency plan in case it’s shorter that you think. Brian May of Queen got his freakin’ PhD in Astrophysics for cryin’ out loud…

I’m not trying to be flippant here, nor am I trying to say you can’t be a success at what you want to do. But if you want to play in someone else’s Egg Basket, you’re going to have to play by their rules. If this is your choice you can’t suddenly cry that the sky is falling (see what I did there?) when those rules change.

YouTube is a Private service. They make the rules for their service. They can change these rules any time they want to. You don’t have to use their service if you don’t like their rules.

And that is what is happening here with this latest ‘Apocalypse’. YT moved the cheese again, and those who have made it their sole (or major) source of income now have to make changes or perish. You’ll hear about it when it happens again in the future too. In fact, you’ll hear about this many times until the shouts finally fall upon deaf ears…

Why? Let’s think about this:

So you had an idea for a YT Channel and due to your content, delivery, or even dumb luck it’s become a booming success and you’re suddenly making money. A pretty surprising amount of money… Fabulous! You’ve beaten the system!

For now.

But what are you going to have to do to keep both your fans and the parent company (um, that would be YouTube and its Advertising Patrons) happy?

Do you continue to make great content like what your current following enjoys and consider the windfalls a bonus for doing something you love?

Or do you get stars in your eyes, think you can do no wrong, and start playing to the machine to get more subscribers, more likes, more notification and ultimately capitulate to the powers that be and test and modify and change Thumbnails and Titles and Descriptions and Zinger Comments and Polls and…oh just stop already!

You know the right answer here.

And trust me that we, your viewers can see right through it. This is why I personally unsub after hearing a ‘Creator’ complain about this, because I know they’ve lost the plot.

I’m betting I’m not alone here either.

If we want content created by committee and filtered through focus groups and sanitized for our protection then there are still lots and lots of networks that produce them and run them (with commercial sponsorship as well) on a nightly or weekly basis. Maybe you should take your ideas there if this is really want you want to do. You could also make your own Network using the power of The Interwebz® and keep all that control to yourself if it’s good enough.

The Tube of Yous is television by and for weirdos like you and me. If you want to learn Underwater Basket Weaving, there is someone who will teach you how to do it. If you want to find funny videos of cats or pranks or cats doing pranks or pranks on cats there are bajillions. If you want to see what life is like outside of your little bubble of the planet or how to learn the language of those people you just found outside your bubble there’s that too. Yes, you’ll have to sort through some dumpster fires to find the good stuff you want to watch, but you’ll be amazed at what’s there if you take some time to look. 

And they’re doing it because they love to. Not because they want to be an ‘Influencer’ or ‘YT Superstar’ or a Network Executive – they just want to share. They don’t care about revenue or rankings or optimization. This is not a job for them, this is a hobby with a community of like-minded weirdos. This is fun

So Keep YouTube Weird please. If you outgrow it there are better places to put your wares. We’ll still come watch if your content speaks to us…

-Until next time…

Welcome to the Crossroads

Woke up this morning, ordered the last bit for the Modular system because of a nice sale over at Perfect Circuit Audio, made some coffee, and found this waiting in my Tube of Yous feed…

And it makes for a perfect addendum to Dynamic Range Day yesterday. 🙂

Rick Beato is another Saint here in the APITE Pavilion of Greatness. My Saints are those who give up a lot of their time and experience for free to pass on the baton of enlightenment to those that want to stop by and listen. He’s worth watching and following if you’ve even remotely interested in making or listening to music.

One of these days I’ll do entire post on Saints.

But for now go watch the video. I’ll wait – it’s less than 10 minutes.

Did you catch the ‘Junk Food’ analogy? Kinda fitting, isn’t it?

I tell my students over at EduCorp® that you have two choices in today’s musical landscape: you can play the Pop game by its rules and its changing goalposts and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it up the foodchain to ’stardom’ and ‘fame’. 

Or you can strike out on your own and donor art the way you want to.

Because there’s never been a better time to do just that. From creation to distribution to promotion, you have access to it all for next to nothing thanks to the power of technology and The Interwebz®. Just add your ideas.

But just like the proverbial Crossroads, you better make that choice wisely – AI is already figuring out how to duplicate what the ‘roomful of scientists’ are doing in Popland (and other Genres was well), and soon they’ll be able to flood the airwaves with sugar-coated addictive earworms targeted directly at the psychometrics of any given demographic market. This will be here sooner that you think, so if you want to ride out the rest of this train and try to collect some sweet, sweet cash before it comes to an abrupt stop, then you had better start yesterday. And good luck – you’ll need plenty of it.

Oh, and one more thing: don’t think you can play ‘both sides’ of the game. The chances of putting something out yourself and getting picked up by the machine for big dollas are ancient history. And even if you do manage that one-in-a-billion chance, you’re going to have to play by their rules anyway, so you might as well just play their game from the get-go.

Ian Shepherd started Dynamic Range Day to get the word out that even though digital recording and the the underlying technology behind it is a boon for musicians and engineers (higher quality recording, much less noise and artifacts, and can be easily mass-produced making it more affordable to the masses) it caused us to push the limits to the point where we were sacrificing dynamics for sheer loudness to be heard over the rest of the herd.

As humans, we like dynamics in our audio. And an ever-growing cadre or musicians and engineers is fighting to get that back.

Rick Beato is essentially saying the same thing with this video. It sounds great. It’s been recorded and produced to perfection using the same digital technology stated above. It’s catchy and addictive. It even has dynamics…

But it’s still Junk Food…

And just as the experts are telling us that too much of it is not good for our health, Rick cautiously warns that too much ‘overproduced’ pop can be hazardous to your creativity as well. Like Rick, I admire the production. The perfection. The absolute attention to detail. But ultimately it rings hollow to my ears – I know it’s going to be replaced by something else coming down the production line very soon. 

As humans, we like imperfections in our audio. And there are artists out there fighting to get that back too.

Surprisingly, Mabel McVey has an acoustic version of ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ that features just her voice and acoustic guitar. But unfortunately it’s not a demo or a live version performed in a small venue. It’s a textbook confection of Pro Tools and Melodyne and Autotune – professionally corrected and perfected to the Nth degree.

Same potato chips, slightly different flavor.

I loves me some technology, but I’m also playing for Team Human  and I know good and well that the tech is simply tools for people to use – for good or bad.

So we can either race towards perfection until the machinery does it for us better and cheaper and easier, or we can run in the other direction with all of its uncertainty and messiness and frailties and childishness.

Welcome to the Crossroads.

Happy Dynamic Range Day 2019!

Happy Dynamic Range Day everyone!

Ian Shepherd (forever referred to as Saint Ian on this humble Blog) has been doing this for like a decade now, and I consider it pretty much the only Holiday for those of us trying to make decent sounding audio for the Broadcast, Film, Pro Audio, or even Not-So-Pro Audio industries, like anyone who actually likes listening to music.

So if you fit in to any one of those genres (or just want to pretend like you are) head over to the DRD Website for info, memes, and an announcement of this years winner of the Grand Prize Award.

J Cole’s KOD nabbed it last year, FYI… 🙂

Oh, and there’s a bonus from Saint Ian himself over at The Mastering Show audiocast: his analogy and tips for creating a dynamic mix that competes on the Major Streamers. Great stuff.

Tube of Yous link (audio only)

Podcast link

Enjoy your Holiday fellow Audio Troublemakers!