The FezGuys
First Anniversary Column or
How Many Are You In Internet Years?
[ No. 12 - October 1997 ]

Things That Are New

LiquidAudio successfully launched the 2.0 version of their electronic distribution technology which is now being used by a small number of companies securely selling music in digital form. Yes, Virginia, it *is* possible, and the music you pay for isn't all plastic and cardboard! <>

Sure, it's not purely an audio company, but we thought Microsoft's outright purchase of VXtreme, a streaming audio and video technology company, certainly warrants mention as it further shows the claim that the "big kids" are staking in this emerging space. <>

Progressive Networks announced a partnership with MCI to form RealNetwork, to remove some of the limitations on how large an audience can be reached with live broadcasts. This issue is critical to netcasting taking a step into the big media leagues. Guaranteeing access to large audiences will assure corporate sponsorship of events and the money will roll right in. This doesn't have to overshadow the efforts and impact of the home studio person, it merely creates another mainstream validation for our "industry". <>

Rumors abound of a new version of VDO Live incorporating improved audio quality with their existing video streaming technology. We'll keep you informed, of course! <>

Since the beginning of time (which for our purposes here is measured from our first column), we FezGuys have strived to bring you, to the best of our passionate musical appreciation, simple truths, forthright common sense, and an understanding of The Internet Way. Luckily, this "Way" has no "right way." Benevolent anarchy (doesn't) rules! We're all FezGuys, OK? We've all made it through the last twelve months and here we are at our Big Bang Anniversary Column! Woo! Congratulations to you for sticking with us, and to misquote Bill Cosby in "Fat Albert", "you might have even learned something along the way!" We know we have.

Over the past year we've covered a sometimes bewildering array of subjects hovering around the central theme of Audio on the Internet. Some of the topics we've looked at include: the history of audio on the Internet; how to configure RealAudio; how to encode and place your music online; optimizing tips to improve the quality of your soundfiles; connectivity and codec resources; an online distribution critique, brief explanations of current publishing and copyright issues; financial transfer using the Internet; netcasting; a short description of the cast of characters and the too-often underestimated importance of your involvement in the medium. All of the past years' columns are available for reading and downloading at <>.

Last year we perceived a general unawareness of what the Internet meant to the project recording studio. Perhaps some of you hadn't realised the possibility of being able to sidestep the existing oligarchy of the music business. Most of the organizations involved in this medium at the start were not necessarily money-makers, and the big companies hadn't made common use of the Web a priority. There were some standard codecs (MPEG, to name one) but no standard technological protocols. With the exception of a few online CD stores, the major labels tended to treat the Internet as a promotional and marketing tool.

The FezGuys felt it would be useful to those using the Internet as a distribution and sales tool to provide educational resources and production tips. We have attempted to provide some clarity in what is often a confusing mishmash of technologies, protocols and jargon. We encourage you to contact us, to interact with us and each other. We're starting to get a lot of email concentrating on the technical "how-to" side of audio on the Internet. Please continue to let us know if this is useful to you. The sharing of ideas and techniques easily and simply is what sets our community apart. We cover a lot of evolutionary ground by sharing. Another lesson from the school playground proves its lifelong usefulness.

So where are we (and audio on the Internet) going? Some observable indications can provide intelligent conclusions. As usual, new questions get raised as soon as those conclusions get reached.

Giants like Microsoft are now staking their claims in streaming media (buying into Progressive Networks, VDO and the now-confirmed reports of relocation packages to Redmond, WA, delivered to people at VXtreme). The music business is preparing to acknowledge that digital distribution is "coming" (a cautious acceptance if there ever was one). The self-described "collection societies" (BMI, ASCAP, etc.) and industry trade groups have begun to agressively litigate their positions (the last resort of the fearful and often the moment of profound change) and technology continues to do its exponential dance of advancement. At this point it's safe to say more musicians then ever are creating their own music at home and putting it online. Many established artists are using the Internet to sidestep the existing physical distribution infrastructure by promoting mail-order CDs from websites. Very few organizations or individuals currently use streaming technology to digitally distribute their music. The industry is watching closely.

Over the next year we plan to devote space to the following topics: more about legal issues and your rights as an independent artist or producer to buy, sell and publish on the Internet (who's suing who and how it affects your online presence); audio technology comparisons (recommendations to be based on ease-of-use, overall aesthetic, underlying code, inter-operability and audio quality); online record company and electronic distribution system profiles; online broadcasting (netcasting); more useful techniques for optimizing your soundfiles; some geeking out (perceptual coding, psychoacoustics, compression); the evolving state of the Internet audio community (examples of artist/listener relations); the universal question "Can you make a living making music and promoting yourself on the Internet?" (with some examples of how musicians are making money now); "fulfillment" (read: encryption methods that really, securely, work); and "electronic distribution", removing the need to ship versions of music in the physical domain.

The FezGuys hope that we continue to be useful. The accepted reader feedback equation seems to be that one letter equals a thousand people. We do some math and come out with a possible figure of over a hundred thousand humans that we may have bent the ear of.

The FezGuys pledge to keep you informed about Audio on the Internet using these priorities: Does it sound good? Is it easy to use? Is it equitably priced? Does it benefit the main links in the chain (the artist and the listener)? And, after these questions are answered, the most important question: does it make sense?

Upon this course of common-sensical real-world usefulness we will not sway!

Thank you for your continued feedback. Everybody is invited to contact us with suggestions, complaints, comments, and photographs of yourself wearing a fez. The relevance of this medium is defined by our participation in it. Make history!

Letters To The FezGuys

hello, im bix bix lives oh yes, he does. really i appreciate yor columns, and net stuff. the candor with which you speak is music to me ears and the article with thomas d. was essential. ima wannabe recording engineer sans education under belt in no mans business land hawaii. thankyou and also for representing if i dare say us in the orgs for the fcc, saw that sight very educational. reading between lines id say the fcc is still a little naive about how people want the air waves, but as i usually say i could be wrong. thanks again. bbarker

Dear bbarker, thanks for your thoughtful stream of consciousness on our columns and Thomas Dolby cover story (EQ June '97)-- you let us know we're making a difference. Though you may be geographically removed in Hawaii, it can't keep you from getting set up with a home studio and taking it online! If you find the FCC (and many other established organizations) a bit naive (who'd think it!), realize that now is the opportunity to act and set intelligent precendences. Educate them before they issue any more silly edicts.

May the Fez be with you!

The FezGuys encourage participation in the Internet audio community. Please stop by: <>



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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