Life Slips By (and I Want You)

(Image Credit)

Hi everyone – still here, still extraordinarily busy with EduCorp®, and still (mostly) doing well with the M1 Macs. Waiting on Monterey to drop before the next TNSS post so I can give you an idea of how everything is jacked up yet again. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I wanted to drop a few things from the past week I found significant.

The passing of Richard H. Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire/Sandoz/too many other Projects to list here was the kicker for me last week. Kirk has been a long-time influence on art, music, and music technology for me since I started dabbling with it in the early 80’s. So although I’ve spent the last few days reminiscing by listening to a bunch of his tracks, about all I can say is thanks for the influence Sir and you’ll be very much missed in my little world.

High point for the week: I have no idea how I’ve missed this for so long, but I just discovered it Friday and now you should too.

For the uninitiated, Martyn was the founder of The Human League back in the late 70’s before being tossed out. He and HL bandmate Ian Craig Marsh went on to form the British Electric Foundation and eventually to notoriety with Heaven 17

I’ve been pouring through the interviews, and they are just addicting. Yes, there’s a lot of music geekery in there (tech heads rejoice!) but there’s also a lot of history about the early electronic music scene and behind-the-scenes of who did what and how and where and when. Hearing Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson (both original CabVolt founders) wax on about early days and current affairs riveting listening, and although Martyn says he wanted to but never got to interview Richard Kirk, I have a feeling that Kirk’s penchant for solitude would have amounted to nothing ever being recorded anyway. 🙂

This is one of those ‘must listen’ audiocasts, even if you were just a fan of the music and care nothing for the business or tech behind it. He’s up to 57 episodes as of this writing, so get cracking… 

Until next time…

TNSS: Dance of the Dead

The Banner Pic for this Episode comes from Remko van Dokkum under the CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Clara Jane has been sent off to pasture. Okay, she’s actually been sent off to a new owner who will certainly appreciate her more than I. As the M1’s are performing so well here at APITE Headquarters, it was either move it along or let it languish in a box in the closet. I’m tempted to say good riddance to the Intel-based Macs, but I still have my old 2012 Mac mini hiding in said closet in case of dire emergency. That old adage of ‘If you have one, you have none’ I just can’t shake. 

I’ve also debated on whether to replace my Synology home server with the old Mini – both have their strengths and weaknesses, but it really boils down to usability and interface (I use about a hundredth of what the Synology can do, and the Mini can also work as a functioning computer) and that the Mac uses about 6 times the energy. For something that mostly streams videos to an Apple TV for the youngest I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle of setting up, migrating the data, and replacing one thing in said closet for another. We shall see.

So the big news is I got my Universal Audio Apollo Twin working on Edsel. I was a bit hesitant about booting into Reduced Security mode but after keeping an eye on their forums of people who have done this already with minimal issues, I decided it was time. The process was smooth and painless – essentially what installing UA software is like anyway, which is a bit more convoluted that just running a typical Installer. If you want to try it, the directions are here. My Apollo is an older Thunderbolt 2 model, but works perfectly with Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor. I bought one of these for about $50 to use the UA hardware and software on Clara Jane.

The Audient EVO I talked about in the last installment is working well enough, but I did have to fiddle about with DAW/Mic balance during student project grading. It’s simple enough to do either on the interface itself or with their App, and it works as you’d expect it to. However, UA’s Console makes this automatic every time the Apollo is connected and a DAW is launched making it easier for my ‘set it up so you can forget it’ work style. I also like the added headphone gain that the UA’s have that others can’t do Bus-powered. So the EVO is now working as my iPad Pro audio interface and as a traveller for Josephine when needed. I’ll wait for the ‘official’ Installer from UA that does not require any fudging about in Recovery Mode before I install it on the Air.

I’ll pass along a neat trick from the UA installation directions – if Logic Pro has trouble Validating Plugins you can force Logic into using Rosetta in its Get Info window (go to the Applications Folder, select Logic Pro, and choose ‘Get Info’ from the File header in the Menu Bar. Click the box in the picture below to enable it). Then close the Get Info window and launch Logic. Once Logic is running under translation, you can launch Logic’s Plug-in Manager (in the Menu Bar go to Logic Pro > Preferences > Plug-in Manager…) and select one of the errant Plugins (look under the ‘Compatibility’ column for anything not ’Successfully Validated’) and click the ‘Reset & Rescan Selection’ button at the bottom left of the window. Repeat this procedure for any remaining Plugins.

This came in silly handy not just for the Universal Audio stragglers, but also for a few IK Multimedia refusals and even a Waldorf Edition 2 update that just wouldn’t pass AU Validation. Once you get them all up and running, quit Logic and then uncheck the ‘Open using Rosetta’ box in its Get Info window. The next time you launch any AU-capable DAW the Plugins will work as they should. Nice.

LPX Rosetta

Another bonkers thing that popped up was iLok License Manager missing something that disables it (did not get a screenshot of this, but you’ll get a Dialog Box about some Extension or whatever missing that causes it not to be recognized.) This happened after both the 11.3 and 11.3.1 updates. A quick reinstallation of the iLok License Manager software solved the issue each time, and I’m not sure if this is The Mothership’s fault or iLok’s. This also puts that nagging particle in the back of your brain of ‘what else got broken that I haven’t discovered yet?’ So far I haven’t encountered anything else weird, so fingers crossed it’s just an iLok software bug.

Don’t let this hold you back from installing the latest updates – 11.3 and 11.3.1 fix some serious Security Issues, so even if you’re running the Intel version of Big Sur just follow the System Update recommendations. There are even fixes up for Catalina and Mojave, so that should let you know how important these are.

That’s about it for this edition of TNSS. In somewhat-related news, I did get a 4-pack of Airtags even though I rarely lose my keys or other items. They are impressive technology if you have an iDevice with one of the U-series chips (iPhone 11 and above I believe) for really accurate location fixing. AppleInsider’s William Gallagher has been doing great reporting on them if you want more info. Now I’m just waiting on delivery of some cheap silicone cases that don’t cost as much (or more!) as one of the Airtags…

Until next time!

What I Did Over My ‘Summer Vacation’

(This Episode’s Banner Photo “Thinker thinks about how to take sun burst shot” by davidyuweb is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, and can he found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/55514420@N00/4446734924)

So it’s not really Summer yet, but in The Sunburn State® it certainly feels like it. Hopefully your corner of the world is a tad cooler.

I decided to put a ‘Secret Experiment’ into effect over my April Break. 

This idea has been in the back of my head for a while – get some ideas out of my head, record them, and then post them online to a public-facing music site with no publicity, fanfare, or anyone else knowing about this. The plan is to see whether or not any of these can find some kind of audience and if they can, how long it might take – if ever.

My aim here is to fill up the ‘free’ amount of space allotted with the ’non-paying’ tier and then stop. After that I might do this again with another musical iteration if I feel it’s gaining any traction (or if I’m still full of weirdness I need to get out….) The idea is to see if they can get some kind of attention naturally – by pure discovery – so when I decide to ‘spill the beans’ on all of it is unknown as of this point. I will do on update on this in the future though just to let you know how things are progressing, if at all.

Yes, I understand that I have ‘beans all over the floor’ at this point by putting this here, but you don’t know all of the details – and I’m not divulging anything that will help you out just yet. There’s an ocean of music out there, so finding my droplets is going to be very difficult and incredibly time-consuming. I used the ‘Login with Apple’ service to keep things more anonymous, and although there are tiny giveaways planted here and there on the actual page, it should not trackback to me directly. Good luck if you feel like pursuing this, and with that said remember that I’m not asking anyone even try. This is an experiment in listenership, not in hacking. 🙂

These ideas are far, far off the beaten track. I like a good melody, so there is always going to be that element in whatever I do, but all of these tracks are pure childish playtime – tinkering with toys I haven’t played with (or played with enough) mixed with the usual oddities and sounds I have always loved. I don’t even know if anyone would consider this listenable except myself, so let’s find out. 🙂

In the meantime, some of the takeaways on the sorry state of affairs of Online Music Self-Publishing as I see it, with a actual high spot or two as the capper:

Within 30 seconds of creating my account (with nothing actually uploaded yet) I had my first follower – pr0n spam. Five minutes later I had my first offer for guaranteed followers (for a price, obvs.) Both were expedited to the Trash Bin and reported as Spam. I would like to again point out that nothing had actually been uploaded to the site at this point – just the account created. Insanity.

I checked the next day to see if magically anyone had found it. I actually got a like from someone who also wanted me to know they could guarantee followers in exchange for my cash. Several more of these popped up about every other day for the first week, so the Bots are omnipresent to fulfill their creators need of being a Middleman in return for doing absolutely nothing. Ignore them all, even if you are being serious about doing this.

Surprisingly after a few days I got an actual play by someone halfway across the globe, so there is life out there and a brave few are still actively searching for something new. This is welcoming news, but the big questions are will they come back? Will they spread the word? All delicious unknowns…

Over the next few weeks I uploaded a few more tracks (five total as of this writing) and three have received four total ‘likes’ (one of them has even gotten two!) but other than the one lone seeker, the rest are Repost Accounts and Botniks. 

So I’m in early days here (letting this run through at least the remainder of the year), but in the flooded backyard of ‘DIY Publicity’ it feels like some pushing of the brand is still a necessity for engagement, although I’m not sure what I would do that isn’t already being beaten to death out there already. I would be interested to hear Michael’s thoughts about this, although I’m sure there’s a bunch already on his Blog I’ve forgotten about. 

There is just so much available out there with everyone scrambling for the brass ring of notoriety that it almost seems futile to try anything – hence this experiment. Yeah, maybe with ‘poppier’ tracks I might have more success, but there’s a lot of that out there too waiting to be unearthed – and it’s really tough to find the rubies in the dust.

Again, I’ll do an update at some point on this. In the meantime, keep doing what you do best and just get it out there for others to find. That might be the best solution to an overcrowded market.

Until next time…

TNSS: Many Happy Returns

(This Episode’s Banner Image “Lemons” by Tim-Hoggarth can be found here and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Holy Cats, it’s April already.

I’m sure everyone feels like it’s been a decade or so since we’ve been enduring the COVIDocracy, but at least there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t look like an approaching train coming at us. In the meantime, continue to stay safe out there – mask up, keep your distance, and stay home if you can.

So over the last few weeks I’ve officially made the move to using Edsel as my permanent computing machine. Pretty much everything is up and running for my needs with the exception of just a few bits and pieces – more on this shortly and the workarounds I’ve had to put in place. 

I’ve grown to really like Big Sur (MacOS 11). The last few iterations are beautifully stable, and has tied in a lot of the janky things that iOS seemed to do better like Messages, Notes, Calendars and Reminders – those little things that are really useful when everything seems to cooperate together in the Apple Ecosystem. I’m hoping The Mothership® doesn’t break it all when they show off the OS updates likely due around June.

My love affair for the M1 Macs has also grown as I’ve been using them more and more. In fact, I have a confession to make – I bought another one to replace the MacBook Pro.

There were two main things that pushed me to send Clara Jane packing off to retirement: first, the fact that everything is speedier, snappier, and just more transparent (work-wise) on the M1 Macs. These machines are noting short of stellar and I’ll give you the main example of this later (at least with what I do at EduCorp®), but the real kicker was the damned fans on the 16” MacBook Pro . 

I’ve been using Macs since around 1985 or so, and computers in general since the very early 80’s. I’m betting that in that time I’ve owned at least fifty of them – and likely I’m undercounting by a dozen or so. I’ve bought them new, refurbished, and used, and in one way, shape, or form I’ve gotten years of use out of all of them. Sometimes they had to be replaced because of hardware or software deficiencies. Others could be upgraded with more memory or hard drive upgrades to keep them going, but I really can’t think of one that I would call a lemon – they just worked. Even with the ones that sounded like decrepit vacuum cleaners when they were put under a heavy workload earned their keep. But I’ve honestly never had any one of them annoy me as much as Clara Jane’s incessant noise. 

Of course, this could just be because I’m old and I’ve learned my lesson from years of hearing abuse. Or that I’ve been working in much more quiet environments since moving to the education realm. Or it could just be that every single simple task turns an 8-core Intel-blessed i9 wunderkind into a screaming jet engine in a matter of nanoseconds. Editing an Excel sheet? Whooooosh….. Have too many Safari tabs open? Whirrrrrrrr…. Wanna play a video? Break out the headphones…

Sure, I could have a dud – they do happen. But a bit of web research tells me I’m not alone in my feelings here. There are plenty of complaints about the heat and the fans on the 16” Macs. There are also many about the (near daily) dropouts of Bluetooth or WiFi like I get on Clara Jane. And again there are just as many gripes about the extremely slow Touch ID sensor. Yeah, It might be a clinker, but like the Butterfly keyboards a generation or so back there are lots of people affected by them even if collectively they are just a few drops in the ocean of products shipped and in use – and when you have one of them it just makes every single chore with it unbearable. By the way, if you take this paragraph in for a second you too will experience the incredible karmic irony at play here. It was in January that I decided I needed to move forward to find a replacement.

So of course I retaliated by buying another MacBook – an Air this time. Say hello to Josephine:

Josephine

(That’s Cherry Audio’s Polymode running on the Reaper ARM Beta)

Again, I’m not going to go into my naming strategy as of late – remember that you and I have access to the same Interwebz® and I discussed this back in Episode 1. The DNA between Edsel and Josephine is near-identical though. Same Processor and Cores, same RAM, same storage. One of them is just more portable.

You may be asking yourself why I chose a smaller ‘entry level’ 13” machine with two less USB-C/Thunderbolt ports after having a Pro model with more connectivity and more screen real estate?

Personal Preference.

Before I got Clara Jane I had a 2015 13” MacBook Pro, and I truly loved the size and portability. Unfortunately, the dual-core i7 was getting really slow for some of the tasks I need on a daily basis. So when I decided to upgrade I figured I would once again take a plunge for that ‘Monster’ computer that would do everything I needed now and for the foreseeable future, and would stay that way for years to come. Although I liked the screen size on the 16″, it was heavier and bulkier to move around after using a smaller model for several years prior. My experiences with the M1 Mac Mini and reading multiple reviews that the latest Air was only slightly slower than its MacBook Pro counterpart I knew I wanted to get back to having something that I could easily move about the house (or out and about when we finally can) for when I don’t feel like standing at my desk where Edsel is anchored.

I’m also aware that new M-Series Macs are due soon and a 14” Pro model might be in the cards. But I don’t want several months for that to become available. Also remember that we’re in a Supply Chain crunch as far as computer chips and other electronics go. Josephine was an affordable, powerful computer that was in stock and ready to ship. What comes in the future might be more difficult to get, more expensive to purchase, and may not even happen at all. The Air just fit the bill for what I needed now – and I’m silly happy (and happily productive) with my decision.

The Reaper ARM port is working well enough in its Beta form that I can use it for my grading purposes. Again, a sizable chunk of my Plugins are working on the M1 as Native or under Rosetta and perform as I expect them to. But there are rubies hidden in the dust too! Render speed (Bouncing audio files out) within Reaper is 30% faster on Edsel and Josephine that is was on Clara Jane. Workflow is smoother and doesn’t get in my way. Again, everything just works… These M1’s just absolutely crush while staying quiet, cool, and focused. I have also had none of the other nonsense with wireless disconnects or TouchID lag. Clara Jane can happily rock away on the porch (well, actually shutdown in a backpack) until it might come of need or get moved along to the next owner.

The two minor problems I had to deal with are Soundtoys (still no love for M1 Macs, but they are Big Sur on Intel approved) and Slo Tools, and I expect these to be fixed very soon – Pro Tools just announced Big Sur capability, but again only for Intel processors as of now.

The real issue is (still) Universal Audio. Although they have a ‘workaround’ for getting their software and hardware drivers to work on M1 Macs, it requires putting the Mac into a Reduced Security mode, which I’m not going to tinker with and would rather wait for an ‘official’ release before I can put it back to use. I swear by my Apollo Twin audio interface for its impeccable sound quality and rich feature set, but I still have stuff to do while they make sure everything works as they want it to. So I need a Plan B.

My venerable Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (I think it’s a second generation) just works with all the Macs around the homestead and it even happily connects to the iPads if required – with no drivers needed. I’ve been enamored with Focusrite’s sound and quality for years, but I’m spoiled by that big beautiful volume control knob that also shows the current level right on top of the Apollo Twin and the dinky knob on the Focusrite just was driving me batty. So I took chance on one of these:

Evo4

(Oooohhh – lens flare…)

I’ve used Audient’s interfaces before and have been impressed, but when you have an Universal Audio one they just seemed a bit similar and yet no comparison when you factor in UA’s impressive software. But Audient’s EVO series seemed to press all the right buttons for what I needed: USB C connectivity, Bus Power, available with 2 or 4 inputs, Hi-Z (guitar) input, intuitive design, and all for just over a hundred bucks for the 2-input model. And it has a big beautiful volume control knob that also shows the current level. 🙂 Every function is easily set from the top panel, the sound quality is superb, and there’s more than enough gain on the headphone volume to drive every set I have in the studio (about at dozen at this point…) The build is solid, but it is plastic (corners have to be cut for this kind of pricetag), so although it’s portable I’d be take some precautions when transporting it – don’t just toss it into a bag or backpack willy-nilly.

That big green button on the bottom left is an auto-gain feature for the inputs. I’ll set my own thanks, but it works fine for those who just want to get a good level and start recording. It also has an loopback feature that actually works pretty well. Many interface manufacturers have added this feature for the Audio- and Videocast Set, but the EVO’s have a well-designed software panel that makes this quite usable. Certainly worth a look if you’re in the market.

That’s the state of The New Shiny-Shiny for now. Plenty more to come so pop by every so often to see what the latest hubbub is.

Oh, one more thing (had enough with the Apple cliches yet?) – I put Josephine on to charge last night and have spent today (since around 5 30 am) finishing up a bunch of installs and setting audio program prefs as well as messaging and web browsing and editing pics and writing this in between. At this time (4:30 pm) I have 52% battery left. Welcome to the future – don’t be jealous. 🙂

Be seeing you – until next time…

The New Shiny-Shiny

Well hello there everyone! Yes, I know it’s been a while – what else is new…? 😀

So anyway, I bought one of the new Mac mini’s with (cue Angelic Choir) Apple Silicon. It will look just like the pic I attached to the top of this post and I will etch ‘New guts. More glory.’ into my desktop when it arrives as to have the full Mothership® experience. Delivery App tells me it will arrive very day as I write this. w00t!

So the new adventure here for a bit is to document this machine from setup to (likely painful) transition into a working member of the APITE family. Since most of what I do is the day-to-day rote of EduCorp® as well as a lot of musical work from creating to finished product, I’m hoping to give you a sense of the difficulties of major studio upgrades like this.

I’ve mentioned before that you should never upgrade a workhorse machine to the latest Shiny-Shiny and with that in mind my trusty Intel-based MacBook Pro will still be running Catalina (MacOS 10.5) and my ever-expanding array of plugins and apps alongside this testbed Apple Silicon wonder running Big Sur (MacOS 11). I’ve been here many times before with not only the PowerPC to Intel transition, but a raft of other Operating System upgrades and Software changes.

Based on my experience with those I’m very tempted to name the new Mini ‘Edsel’, but I dare not jinx the Cupertino Gurus at this time. This will likely change.

So there’s the setup – at least for the next several posts here. Since pretty much nothing (at least pro audio-wise) is working on Big Sur at the moment I’ll be running on the Apple Pro Apps with a smattering of Plugins that say they are cleared for duty on OS 11. I will keep you up to date with what is and how it’s going. Shenanigans will ensue.

Stay tuned!

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. 🙂

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.

Permission to Play

I’ve been digging through the gadgets and gizmos show at the Winter NAMM Show (or as I usually call it HotNAMM) trying to show all of you some cool new toys that were announced, and came up with a whole bunch of nothing. 

The was nothing really new. I didn’t find anything moving the needle forward. 

It’s honestly been like this for years.

The MIDI 2 Spec (if it takes hold) might push makers and manufacturers to change things, but that could be many years down the road.

It seems the idea well has run dry, and we might as well just pack it up and become Accountants or something, right?

Wrong.

Nobody knows what’s going on right now.

Styles and Genres are Decadal Influences are being rapidly sucked up in a vain attempt to create something that resonates with listeners. Spotify and Apple Music have opened up the entire catalog of recorded music for the kids to explore and plunder.

Gear I lusted over 35 years ago is being rehashed as the panacea for all our musical woes. Nostalgia is winning over futurism.

To that above statement let’s not forget about the return to vinyl and various tape formats…

And anything popular might as well be created by AI, because certainly sounds like it is.

The great ‘powers that be’ in our Industry have recovered from their digital desert and returned to actually profitability.

Are they investing in new talent?

Hell no.

They have no idea what’s going on right now either.

So we have a couple of ways of looking at this:

1) Everything stinks and we should just become Accountants or something.

2) This is a golden opportunity.

(Spoiler: it’s number two.)

Why?

Because when everything sounds the same, or looks the same, or just seems the same, doing something – anything –  off the beaten track perks up our eyes and ears.

And our imaginations.

Do something bizarre. Make something you know isn’t even close to popular. Run in the other direction.

You have Permission to Play – because nobody really knows what’s going on anyway. 🙂