The FezGuys
Internet Chivalry Isn't Dead (It Just Smells Funny)
[ No. 26 - December 1998 ]

Things That Are New

The Liquid Music Player 4.0 (download for Mac or Windows <>) is out and it's free. Along with the Dolby AC-3 audio codec, Liquid now supports an early version of the new AAC codec (<>). AAC technology was developed in partnership by Dolby, Sony, AT&T and Fraunhofer-Gessellschaft (the same people who released MP3 on an unsuspecting world). We'll cover AAC in more depth as soon as we distill the dense language of audio physics and compression algorithms. The new Liquid Music Player 4.0 allows you to compile tracklists from a site and download all of them at once (a timesaver). The Player also allows you to create a playlist to purchase or stream audio (similar to <>). You can customize the faceplate of any track and the Player software supports "more" CD writables (burners and their software). The latter if you are planning on purchasing tracks and burning your own CDs.

Liquid Audio is all about providing copyright protection for the online distribution of music files. That means they're interested in playing the Major Label Distribution Game with all of the attendant negotiations and alliances. That tends to leave the independant musician out of the picture. But Liquid never wanted to be a love slave for promoting your name and music on the Web. They're hoping to be THE online music distribution system when it finally achieves consumer and industry acceptance. We're not sure if they're going to survive the big Internet audio distribution war but even potential failure provides useful information. The lessons learned watching Liquid's arc through the Internet Audio heavens will be put to good use by the next generation of audio content delivery systems.

"Wintertime winds blow cold this season, falling in love I'm hopin' to be..." - The Doors

Welcome to the last full winter in the Second Millennia! A magical dragon is slavering somewhere in the Enchanted Forest so us rowdy FezGuy/Minstrels will bounce from hamlet to town within the city-state of Internet Audio, examining legal tussles and Proclamations, Knights Errant (in the form of new online music companies) and those pesky weapons-makers, the technology companies and their rampant alliances. Maybe we can draw some Medieval conclusions. Maybe you can draw them for us by giving us a sound dunking. We need all the help we can get.

First off: what's up in the litigious record business? Unless you've been living under a rock you've heard about the excitable Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA ) having a restraining order struck down by a Federal Court in Washington, DC, last October 26th, 1998, against the sale and distribution of Diamond Multimedia's (<>) RIO PMP300 audio device. RIAA will appeal of course. The PMP300 is a tiny, 2.4 oz. playback device capable of storing 60 minutes of MP3 encoded music files from your computer (via an included cable that plugs into the computer's parallel port) for playback anywhere. It retails for under $200.00, uses one AA battery (not included) for 12 hours of playback and fits in the palm of your hand. The PMP300 also comes with software that converts CD audio (or any .AIFF or .WAV file on your desktop) to MP3 encoded audio before transferring the files to memory on your handheld RIO. The RIAA claims the item is a "digital audio recording device" and will increase music piracy. Diamond Multimedia offers the RIO as merely a "player" and therefore not subject to royalty payment requirements dictated by the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA. See: <> for a brief overview). Naturally we empathize with the financial terror the big labels are feeling but it's helpful to remember some recent history. Big labels cried that cassettes would be the death of the music industry. Big movie studios howled that video would be the end of the cinema. Even the most cursory glance at those two industries shows that the exact opposite happened. Revenues increased and both hegemonies are experiencing their fattest dollar ever. RIAA has said they want to work with companies like Diamond Multimedia to use technology and still protect rights-holders. Perhaps they should approach the situation in an open manner before resorting to strong arm tactics.

The Bottom Line of this tempest in a teapot: if you own the rights to your recordings you can do anything you want with them. If you've got an agent like ASCAP, BMI, Sesac, etc. representing your rights, let them know how you feel about these issues - they work for you! Always keep your publishing. Think of it as a mantra. You can order the RIO online.

In other legal news: On October 28, 1998, our friendly President Clinton signed the Digital Millennum Copyright Act (DMCA) into law. This new and wordy act focuses on Internet broadcasters (or webcasters). The law is the quick and dirty outcome of heavy negotiations between the broadcast industry and the music business. The DMCA (a clear explanation is available at: <>) allows for guidelines and restrictions on: the number of servers and streams allowed, the frequency and length of specific webcasts, non-posting of setlists and the responsibility of the webcaster to make sure software designed to prevent copying data streams is not tampered with at the source. The DMCA also has a little provision requesting webcasters to *not* suggest copying and redistributing content. It's the little things. There is much more on the above-mentioned website. Check it out. It's concisely explained and relevant. The fees and methods by which revenue will be collected and distributed is in negotiation for another six months, and you can bet they'll use all of it. The terms of this contract between the music business and the broadcast industry will be renegotiated every two years.

Meanwhile, in the realm of marketing and sales, music business people are experimenting with any number of wacky, Rube Goldberg ideas to make money out of your music on the Web. Here's a couple of things we've recently come across...

We got some spam the other day from (<>) offering to join their artist area and the Digital Automatic Music (D.A.M.) program. In this program would produce and sell CDs for a 50% cut of the profit. We thought we might consider the idea under its fair cloak and see what they're really offering. First of all, we were spammed, which is not the best beginning.

The site is huge, though. It's got everything; from Dionne Warwick to ultra heavy audio experimental noise corruption. The site gets a lot of attention. It's widely reported that the second most entered word in search engines (after "sex") is "MP3."

The offer states it is free to join ("no signup fees, no monthly premiums, no costs!"), provides free promotion to "over 3 Million music lovers per month" (that must be their "hit" statistic), a non-exclusive contract that you can terminate any time (a very good thing), unlimited song posting (individual song files have a 5MB limit) and free links to your site and retailers. mentions "material may not be defamatory, trade libelous, pornographic or obscene."

They seem to be representing themselves as a new-model online music company. While they will host your music and information,'s real hope is that people will use the United States Postal Service to order your CD through them, of which they will retain 50% of the net gain. They do allow you to choose the retail price (within the five to ten dollar range).

So, what's the downside? Well, to "defray their costs" reserves the right to press (and sell) compilation CDs that may include your music and not pay you for the privilege. But consider the benefits of such high Web-visibility. We FezGuys feel the equation comes up in the black.

So what is it, really? It's a mail-order record store, which has been attempted before, but with a difference. Most of the music on this site is not available anywhere else and there's a lot of it. Downloads are not encrypted or watermarked and they're free. There's a lot of participation and, while that's not a reasonable argument for you to join, we think the site is worth the time and effort. Certainly the contract terms are way better for the artist then a standard record company would ever offer.

And another site: The Orchard (<>) spammmed us with a personal touch. They told us that they got our email address after viewing one of our band's websites. Sort of like like an A&R guy giving you call after a show. Similar to, The Orchard (adline: "A Place To Grow") offers to manufacture and sell your CD through mail-order and keep 50% of the net. But, unlike, they charge money up front to host your music, artwork, photos, bios and itinerary. It adds up quickly. We think $7 is too much to ask to add every live show entry. This tells us the site is probably not automated. We also think a $30 fee for placing an individual song file on the site and a $10 fee for each link is silly. Perhaps if they used automating technology they could drop the recurring fees.

The Orchard reassures us they will "make albums available in major online record stores", "make albums available to traditional record stores through the largest One Stop Distributor in the world", and that "we never make judgments" and "give our artists the opportunity to develop and grow." The first two statements are not clear about what "available" means and the last two are fatuous, at best.

In the introductory spam the company founder informed us he wrote some big hits from the Sixties. Unfortunately that doesn't qualify them in the new Internet music model. They seem to be missing the inherent benefits of the Internet, like grass roots marketing and the use of new technologies. The folks seem like nice people but the service is not worth the money. is a better deal.

On to the horrors of marketing technology! Internet audio technology companies know there is strength and longevity in numbers. RealNetworks continues its astonishing series of corporate sleepovers - the tart. The RealNetworks RealPlayer 5.0 (G2 coming "soon") will now be bundled with AOL v4.0 (currently Windows only but Mac is coming) shipping now. That's good for both parties and their users. Tons more people can listen to their (and your) content. In a gutsy vote of confidence the Microsoft-partnered RealNetworks has also joined with Netscape. Now you don't have to download RealNetworks products at the source. It's automatically included when you download the Netcape browser. As if that weren't enough, Intel's Streaming Web Video Technology is now integrated into RealSystems G2 suite of tools. Intel gets to increase the saturation of their new video streaming technology. Intel says their video encoding is 4x faster than the RealNetworks 5.0 video tools, and offers "improved decoding performance." That should translate into a clearer, less jerky, and perhaps faster image for those viewing individual streams using a phone modem.

Think of marketing press releases as a Mad Lib. Just insert your product name between the hyperbolic adjectives and off you go! Just once we'd love to see a company explain their product or technology in plain English. We'd fall on our knees and kiss their feet.

Letters To The FezGuys

Dear Fezguys - Love your column and website. I have to tell you that MP3 does not cut it for modem streaming as far as I'm concerned. RealAudio G2 sounds tons better and really streams. I downloaded the Audioactive MP3 Production Studio DEMO and player and encoded several files. They stream from my hard disk but don't from my site at and won't let me upload mp3 files. I'm trying to find out what to do about this. I thought you might like some real world feedback. If MP3 is the people's encoder and Windows is the people's OS we are in deep doodoo. If you have any ideas on how to make MP3 stream for 28.8 modems I'd love to hear, but I'm going to stick with RealAudio G2 as my primary streaming technology. Thanks for the great site and columns. Sincerely - Rick

Hi Rick,

As we noted last month (column #25), the G2 "Cook" codec does indeed sound better than MP3, but the G2 encoder itself has some *major* user interface problems. It sounds like your main problem is the bitrate you've encoded your files into. In order to stream over 28.8k, your best bet is to choose the 16kbps setting, so you've got plenty of room to account for the slowdown effects of buffering, listener connections of 22kbps or less, or listeners reading their email (or engaged in other desktop activities) while not realizing it affects their connection. The "people's" *anything* often lacks organized resources that big corporations take for granted. We must do our part to enable good open-platform solutions (like using MP3) and also urge large corporations to be relevant and create useful products and technologies. We don't think Windows is the "people's OS," that's for damn sure! Also: remember that if you only provide material in G2 while Players are *only* available for Windows you'll be missing a heap o' people. Why not send email to RealNetworks telling them you really want those Mac/Unix players to be released! Cheers - The FezGuys

We welcome your comments.



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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