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
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
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
labels...you're on equal footing."
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
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!
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!
May the Fez be with you!
The FezGuys encourage participation in the Internet audio community.
Please stop by: