The FezGuys
Running Around At The Top Of Our Lungs
[ No. 56 - June 2001 ]

The hubbub about MP3 as a "platform" is a distant memory. Gone are Michael Robertson's ubiquitous rants, replaced by layoffs, bankruptcies and a questionable future for Internet audio's poster child, Napster. In the U.S., is gone, is dumping staff, Sonicnet is buried, is keeping its head down and is being picked up by Universal Music Group. Liquid Audio, for all intents and purposes, is an arm of the RIAA and RealNetworks' ongoing fight with Microsoft over ownership of the streaming audio standard has become a bore even to the press. As usual, the casual user's preferences remain ignored.

Across the ocean (Germany) and (Italy) are proving the old adage "slow cooking makes a creamy pudding." Both sites continue to gain ground, quietly collecting users and branching out beyond borders.'s home page continues to refer people to Besonic. Vitaminic rescued IUMA from EMusic, resuscitating the gasping Godfather of Music Upload Web Sites. The signs are all there for a Next Phase. Internet audio is dead. Long live music on the web.


Disgusted with what passes for music programming on terrestrial corporate broadcasting, <> is charting the inspired course hashed out by FM rock radio in the late sixties and early seventies (when DJs loved music). We spoke to Rusty Hodge who, with his partner Zach Hoon (aka DJ Sordid), are the primary perpetrators of an intelligent, independent and very musical streaming site.

Started in early 2000, Somafm was first streamed from a Windows/NT computer running Winamp with a Shoutcast plugin, and served off a Linux box. Using bandwidth at Rusty's workplace and running a single 56kbps stream, the site (through word of mouth) grew in popularity. "We filled up two T1 lines with 40 or 50 simultaneous streams," he says. Not willing to clog his employer's connections, Rusty bartered for bandwidth within his circle, upgraded encoding/streaming to a "homebrew rack mount 600mHz PIII Linux box" and moved the serving portion to a server co-location facility. With real-world common sense typically lacking in larger companies, he and his partner added streams and began offering them at multiple bitrates to facilitate both modem and broadband users. In the January of 2001, Shoutcast set up a repeater service for the little streaming station, allowing 500 additional simultaneous listeners. Word was getting around about a cool streaming site with no advertising, high quality audio and good music.

Other Independent Radio Sites To Check Out

<> - Check out "Cryosleep - Zero Beats Guaranteed"

<> - "Abstrakt Beats"

<> - "Wolf FM"

<> - "Dance fundamentals"

Streaming Audio Tutorial - a full FezGuys tutorial on how do set up a streaming site for yourself.

Rusty is no stranger to DIY startups. In college he "took the lead" in re-animating the campus radio station, dead for 20 years. "My Dad was a computer mainframe guy," he admits. Though assisted by other students in obtaining funding and permits, he resurrected the technical side alone, handling the soldering and rewiring as well as organizing the programming when the station came on the air. After college Rusty (now 38) worked as a software developer creating electronic mail and bulletin board applications for Apple II computers hooked up to 1200-baud modems. He worked at KPIX-TV and, in the early Internet era, ZDNET/ZDTV. He found the tech side interesting but quickly grew tired of the "uncompelling content." Radio provided no relief either. "I couldn't find anything I wanted to listen to," he remembers. After operating pirate radio stations at the annual Burning Man festival in northern Nevada he turned to creating his own programming on the web. Growing steadily, Somafm currently has ten channels. It's free for now but "the trick is to make it pay its own bills." One idea is offering streams for free with "some" advertising and providing the same streams without advertising, as a subscription service. The ads could be "inoffensive and completely in tune with the programming," he offers. Another idea is a link to If users clicked to the retail site from Somafm and actually made a purchase, a percentage of the price would feed back to Somafm. It arguably wouldn't be much but every little bit helps. A good citizen, Somafm complies with BMI and ASCAP music use strictures. Quarterly reports are filed and fees get paid.

Somafm has a log where users can follow the trials and tribulations of day to day operation. A typical entry: "Amazing. We go away for a long weekend and nothing crashes. The vibes are really with us. 17-Apr-01" Feedback is encouraged and there are links to sites for downloading a free MP3 player (appropriate to your operating system) necessary to hear the music.

For now, Rusty remains pleasantly surprised and heartened by the popularity of the site. Sure, it's not the lovely and notorious KPIG with over 50,000 worldwide users on the web and certainly isn't standard terrestrial radio programming with a mind-boggling 95% of the U.S. listening at some time or other. But for an indie site offering coherent musical programming with a marketing department named "word of mouth," it's a Sign.

"We recently switched the source encoder software from Winamp to OtsJuke (an Australian product aimed at mobile DJs and Third World radio) that has a really good playback program," he mentions. "It's very intelligent about crossfades." He still gets excited about strange audio. Listening to one of Somafm's ambient streams at 24kbps sounds "lo-fi, kind of like shortwave." Experimental, inspired and still underground, is another much-needed oasis in the vast corporate-owned radio wasteland.

Top Five Reasons To Not Invest
Time & Money In Your Web Site

Your FezGuys are naturally optimistic. We often get caught up in thoughts of what an efficient tool the Internet is for musicians. But a recent conversation with a well-known (not-to-be-named) musician friend reminded us that sometimes a little reality check is in order. This particular artist has lived through ups and downs of the Internet's effect on his career and with that in mind, we offer some real reasons on why you don't want to go overboard online.

1. Don't Go Hoarse Shouting Into Empty Space
Over the years, we've done our best to point out how operating online is very similar to the old fashioned standards: there's no comparison to playing live, treat your fans with respect, etc. With this in mind, it's a waste of your time to put up a web site if there's no one out there to appreciate it. If you aren't letting fans at your shows know you've got a web site, emailing your friends about it (stick it in your email signature), then you shouldn't bother with anything more than the absolute basics: a bio, song sample, contact info.
2. Return on Investment
Your web site has a monthly cost (whether it's $19.95/mo or $500/mo) and each time you pay that bill you should be thinking "Am I happy with what I'm getting for this?" We don't suggest comparing everything against how many pennies it's costing, but if you're spending a lot of money streaming your favorite ASCAP-protected bands' music to your fans, you might benefit from rethinking things. By the same token, if your web site fees prevent you from pressing more CDs or going on the road, you should reconsider your priorities.
3. Opportunity Costs
Whether you're writing a chorus to a new tune, finishing up an album, or begging the local papers for a table scrap of coverage, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Do yourself a favor and don't spend hours putting updates to your news section when you should be working on new material. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Get yourself a geek. No thanks to the dotcom explosion; a lot are unemployed and may be looking to bolster their resumes.
4. Have a plan?
Like anything, jumping in before you've thought it out can often result in dissatisfaction later. Figure out realistic goals to achieve with your site before getting in too deep. Examples are: trade links with 10 other bands, expand your mailing list by 100 people, sell 50 CDs or provide a comfortable place for your fans to hang out together.
5. Go outside and smell some flowers, dammit!
Letters To The FezGuys

Hi FezGuys, My band is trying to insert MP3s on our web site for the general public to access, but it's not working for us. Here's what we've done: Ripped our WAV files to MP3s (each file less than 500K). Uploaded the MP3s using WS_FTP95 LE. Created a link to the MP3 on our MP3 page. Did we miss something? What else do we have to do? Thank you - The gang of 76-Juliet

Dear Gang - The problem is that your MP3 file is being incorrectly served by your web server. Our lab tests show your MP3 files are being delivered with the MIME type of "application/audio" instead of "audio/mpeg" (or any of various other acceptable variations). You need to have your web administrator update their server configuration accordingly. As a side-note, most Windows users may still be able to listen to it properly since Windows uses the file name to determine that it is in fact an MP3 file. Mac and other operating systems don't use the same method, so you should make that change to make things easy for those users. All the best - The FezGuys

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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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