The FezGuys
Rising Up From The Holiday Bacchanal
[ No. 15 - January 1998 ]

Things That Are New

AT&T's a2b technology was announced in mid-November. The telecommunications octopus (which features a healthy serving of tech gurus in its AT&T Labs division) describes a2b as a: "full system for secure digital distribution." Using their proprietary compression algorithm for watermarking, licensing and encryption, the currently PC-only technology began its official life as a way for a band called The Verve to release a new single on BMG-RCA's website. AT&T claims a2b will provide for faster downloads and more flexible licensing options in the "electronic commerce value chain." To wrap this particular link in the chain around you download their player at: <>. Keep your eyes on these folks in the future, as they seem to combine the technical prowess of AT&T with some real world awareness of the needs of the music industry.

Liquid Audio has joined Audioactive and Real Networks (in addition to other standard codecs like MPEG3, etc...) in working with Microsoft's Netshow. As the Muslim mystic once said: "Ride the camel in the direction it's going."

It's post-holiday torpor. Maybe the answer is to get chocolate cake and a bottle of teenage single-malt scotch and climb into bed. Maybe it'll go away. Maybe not. Maybe the only way out is straight through. And we're through with you! That's right, The FezGuys are packing it in and moving on to other duties... our work is done here. We've told you what to do and how to do it. We've explained how these things can make a difference and now we're taking our message of hope to other civilizations. You guessed right again! We're leaving the planet! By the time you read this we'll be halfway to the Taurus sector of the sky and aiming for the Plieades Cluster. There are Sagans of other planets crying out for this knowledge. Bye!

Ok. That's a lie. We're not really leaving Earth or this magazine and we've only hit the tip of the iceberg of information for you to absorb. So here's another idea:

Whether you're making original music, working up industrial sounds for advertising or providing soundtrack material for a client, you'll be confronted with either the opportunity or the requirement that the sounds you create get placed on the World Wide Web. Be it promotion, distribution or actual sale, most music gets digitized and compressed for transmission over phone lines. Maybe this particular technological playground fascinates you and you have the tools and energy to make it happen. Maybe you recognize that while it's got to be done (one way or another) you don't want the responsibility. Just because it's incredibly cool to be able to manipulate audio files on the Web doesn't mean you have to be the one doing it, right?

So how can you get it done? A marketing diva in Northern California suggests everyone using the Internet should "get their own geek." But if you can't find yours (or it just won't come home) don't give up. Here are some thoughts on delegating the responsibility for getting your sounds online.

Typically, when you hire the services of a recording studio, the engineer hands you the finished product when the session is done. Why not have that studio provide you with Web-ready files as well? When you're shopping for the services of a recording studio, mastering house or manufacturing facility ask them if they can provide this service. Perhaps you could walk away with a Zip disc (or whatever digital media storage unit you require formatted to your specifications) with all your songs on it as well as the DAT, CD-R or other analog audio master. This way you'd have full-length and excerpt-length pieces ready to be uploaded to your site. By who? C'mon, at some point you've got to take some responsibility. Keith Richards, lambasting musicians who claim to be afflicted with "artist's block", said the problem is they "think the music comes from THEM." Your artistic inspiration comes from the Unameable. But your Internet presence (and the world's recognition of your existence) comes from a little study and work. Don't be afraid! Wisdom from the mouths of our FezFathers (which we've recounted before) come to mind: "The way to eat an elephant is in small bites." We wouldn't repeat it if it weren't the truth.

Mastering To The Internet

Remember that music must be manipulated to optimize its transmission over phone lines. It's ugly, yes, but it's necessary. Normalizing (smoothing sharp transients) and mixing up the lower register instruments (drum and bass) while turning down the lowest frequencies of those same instruments (below, say, 80 hertz or so) will allow for better sonic legibility at the other end. You wouldn't ordinarily do this but, since we're trying to shout down a thin and really long cardboard tube, we want the yell to travel as far as possible and still be understood.

Speaking of mastering to the Internet: here's an opportunity for small business owners to expand their services and market. Does that sound like you? Why not expand to providing the ability to encode (in a variety of formats) your client's music. It's a straight-forward process to get started with. Your current tech-savvy intern could do it. (Interns Rule! Treat them like the Gods they are!) In your multimedia production room, in an hour or two, an entire album's worth of material can be encoded in a variety of audio formats. Songfiles and excerpts can be encoded into MP3 (Audioactive/Shockwave), RealAudio, or Liquid Audio and optimized for 28.8 modems and single-channel ISDN lines.

Case History: Mr. Toad's Recording

In the San Francisco warehouse wasteland south of Market Street, upstairs from fabric manufacturing sweatshops, this independently-owned recording and mastering studio is addressing the independent musician's needs of accessing the New Media. Offering a choice of analog or digital recording techniques (and a variety of computers) they provide the resources to sheperd sound from basic tracks to finished encoded files ready for uploading to your server. Recognizing that flexibility is the key to survival in the competition for the songwriter's dollar the studio provides everything from direct-to-DAT to complete 24-track analog with state of the art noise reduction. At the other end of the process they offer CD-Rs burned on-site and/or a Syquest or Zip disc with your material optimised and encoded in a variety of formats. They'll even broker the manufacture of physical product. Tardon Feathered, the studio's founder, says about addressing the realm of New Media: "Everything we do is geared towards the working musician. We actually do this a lot, usually in RealAudio or Shockwave. No one's asked for other encoding methods, but they should. If you carve a slice out of the pie now you'll be in a better position later with the major labels. If you're waiting for them to find you it's not going to happen. That's the beauty of the Internet. It's available to average musician and major're on equal footing." <>.

On Another Note!

We've been receiving heartening letters from various sources about the succesful implementation of techniques described in earlier FezGuy columns. Several people have requested a place to share information about how and what they do to provide for an audio presence on the Internet. We've created a links page on the FezGuys website to describe the tools and techniques used by regular humans making audio sense in a wacky WWWorld. We'll ask you to document who you are and what kind of hardware, software and magical spells you used to make your Internet audio presence a reality. Go to <> and click on the "Audio Resource Gallery Homepage" (ARGH - sorry, we couldn't resist). Fill out our amusing little form and tender comments. We'll link you. ARGH is where the myriad ways we eat that elephant get showcased. We're all sure to learn something from each other. Please contribute your site and your experience!

Letters To The FezGuys

Dear FezGuys: I used your extensive info to help my friend's band along. I am the web master for 'The Aftermath's Official Homepage'. I was only going to put their songs on in MPEG3, but I realized that would be cutting down on the audience. I found your site's address in an Internet magazine and decided to check it out. You info spurred me to create RealAudio versions of their songs. Thanks for the help! P.S. I thought I saw somewhere on your page that if someone finds your page really helpful, you would publish their link. - Ryan

Ryan - Thanks for contacting us. Please refer to the above information concerning publishing your band's link on The FezGuys page. Also: check out the threaded discussion area on the FezGuys site for comments and relevant information the production of audio on the Interent. We're glad to help!
-The FezGuys

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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