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...pick yourself up, dust yourself off,
and boogie forward
The id is 1
Apple announced a new lineup of iPods recently. This fact reminded me that the rights to play music during the band's break time is something of which we all need working knowledge.
First of all, the copyright owners of recorded music like to think you should pay them for the privilege of playing their music (whether as cover musicians or via recorded media—especially if you are working at a paying gig). If you create music, you should agree with them.
You might think enforcement of these rights is nearly impossible (so many bands with no money, so little time). How they muddle through is by demanding that venue owners pay into performing rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Venue operators (a fancy name for "the owner of that dive where you lost your microphone last month") are harassed by ASCAP reps (that's their job, baby!) to make sure they are paying into the fund. That's how you, as a musician, are protected from lawsuits for playing someone else's songs. The club owner's misery here is your salvation, and also why he doesn't want to pay you the thousands of dollars you wanted for banging out covers on a Friday night. But not all venues pay into these funds.
Ad hoc venues, like a neighborhood block party, probably won't be aware of these organizations. Likewise, it's doubtful you would know if a permit holder for a festival has purchased festival coverage from ASCAP for bands they host. On the other hand, ASCAP won't bother your backyard, tent-style party—especially if it's for family and friends. These are all things of which someone in your band (especially the one who does booking) should be aware. If you are booked to play a high-visibility gig downtown, and the local AFM reps know about the gig, and if your town has anything to do with the recording industry (like being hometown of Harry Fox Agency), you should probably look into these matters, just to be safe. A typical rule-of-thumb is that any venue with staying power, or any festival that recurs annually, will have been visited by an ASCAP rep. If they manage to stay in business for a few years, they will have purchased a license. ASCAP can be very determined, and clubs have to advertise to attract patrons (so the rep will find them).
Disclaimer: I did write "rule-of-thumb," and also, I'm not a lawyer. So go to ASCAP's site and check out their "FAQ" page, at least.
Most of the time, it just isn't cost effective for ASCAP to hand the tallest guy in your band* a business card and request a look at your bookings. They can't squeeze money from the average band that way. But if your band becomes well known, and plays a lot of higher-capacity venues, it might pay to have a lawyer make sure you are covered, since the law is written to include all "responsible parties."
Rights for recorded break music should be covered the same way, but strictly speaking, it might fall into in a different category. (Since ASCAP, "has over a hundred different licenses and rate schedules," the ASCAP rep would probably try to grant a license that covers performance and other royalties.) This also means that it's possible that a restaurant that plays background music over a PA may not have a license covering the hiring of an occasional band for their "banquet" space. Again, these problems need to be ironed out between the venue operator and an ASCAP rep ahead of time. The rule-of-thumb I mentioned should be applicable here.
Either way, playing music during break time is usually expected by the folks who hire you, so you probably want to comply. Just be aware of these rights issues, and make your choices.
Here's where the iPod announcement comes back to the main topic: an mp3 player is a great way to deal with break music. With mp3 players, you can typically tailor playlists for each venue. You can also store lots of tunes on even the cheapest, smallest mp3 players. Get one for your sound guy, and load it up with the tunes you like to have played during your breaks. No more CD players, no need for a DJ rig. Just a tape-in jack on your mixer, and a short cord to plug in the device, and you're all set.
One quick recommendation is to get a player with explicit play and stop "buttons" that do not require diving through menus to find. You do not want two or three guys fooling with it to try and interrupt play when the person who hired you wants to make an announcement.
Bonus: With mp3 players, sometimes batteries are included.
* Obscure Blues Brothers reference
The ButtKicker system has been around for a while now, and Guitamner has been reaping rewards for it. The concept is simple: Hit me! (with a well-tuned shake) when that kick drum fires.
I'll spare you the discussion of the psychoacoustics of this gizmo. The point is: it makes a lot of sense. In both low-level situations and in loud stage environments, knowing where top-dead-center of each beat goes, makes the difference between amateur and pro performance. Getting a kick in the butt—or for standing musicians, in the feet—is like having a metronome that smacks you in the face. If you can't stay tight with this gizmo, you are in the wrong business.
The fact is, the simple concept of "force feedback" is incredibly useful. What Guitammer has done is package it in ways that work for performers: a low, out-of-the-way profile; a simple hookup to your monitor chain. You should definitely check out David McLain's review of the platform version at ProSoundWeb.
Sure, I have a few criticisms. Fortunately, the drummer's ButtKicker system is out of view of the audience, but the guitarist's platform is a bit dorky-looking, and in full view. It also requires a power amp rated at 1000Watts, where I'd be tempted to use a system where each platform has its own power/servo mechanism. The dork factor is something you can hide from the audience via basic stagecraft. The power-amp–driven concept is something I'd want to research a bit more before getting put off by it. I don't see these criticisms as problematic. Then again, I dont have to lug one around (yet).
The cost of these things is not in the exotic range, either. I found a complete platform version, including the amp and cables, available, used, online (via Google Shopping search) for US$338.38 (I don't know what the 38 cents are for).
Bottom line: I want one. I think bass players and drummers should have one. (As a keyboard player, I believe Bass players need a lot more stuff to carry to a gig, and this is exactly the kind of stuff that qualifies!)
In a totally unrelated search for public domain images (you need to know how to find them—good idea for an upcoming article), I found this link to a site called “123people” in my Google results. I believe that I am the owner of my personal information. So I should be able to charge usage fees for anyone publishing what I own. Sadly, this is not how either Copyright law nor so-called “intellectual property law” work.
The 123people site says it's “powered by USSEARCH,” which must be making its database available as a web service. This means you will find many sites like 123people using the APIs of USSEARCH (and other data mining companies); digging away to expose everything about you that can be found. Until the law is changed to reflect personal ownership of of personal data, we are stuck in this situation where any aspect of your life can be taken out of context and possibly used against you. Don't get caught on film making pavement pizzas in college if you want to work when you graduate.
My advice is to choose your lifestyle early. As a long-time rock musician, no one expects me to be a saint. Except my parents.
Before we dive in to Joelie as a web application, some basic groundwork may prove useful. The most fundamental concept we can cover is the notion of making the Internet as simple as possible; specifically with regard to you getting a website up and “running.”
Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with a history of the web or start explaining what a browser is. You already know that stuff well enough to get by. What I want to do is ask and answer a few basic questions, so we can begin to focus on how Joelie works. I'm not even going to begin with the standard, “What Is Joelie?” question. (That's a topic for another article.)
Hey, that's some serious generalization, there! But such crude simplicity has its uses. If you wander into a bookstore or poke around the web for “help building a website”, you are hit with a mind crushing jumble of applications, documentation, acronyms, jargon, videos, podcasts, tips, and much more. All clamoring to help you stash your digital stuff and make it available on the web. Most of it advising you really need to do it their way, and almost none of it necessary for operating the average website. So let's be crude and get it done with the minimum required expertise. Thanks to some amazing advancements in web technology, you don't need to know it all to get professional-looking results.
Who does need to know all that stuff, then? The person you might hire to build your website, that's who. But typically, musicians can't afford to hire someone to put up a website for them until they are making some serious cash. Here at the Boogie, we assume you want to know how to get your site up without resorting to pure cookie-cutter solutions, or simply piling on to an overcrowded social network.
Don't worry, I'm not slamming social networks; I'm assuming you know they are important, but still want a website that you control. You can leverage social networks to gain traffic to your site, so we'll cover that topic another time. Also, some cookie-cutter approaches are surprisingly useful.
This article will cover a lot of subjects, some of them too basic for most tech-oriented readers. Once we get past the earlier stuff, though, things will be more germaine to using Joelie. The major focus here is on that first part of the process: putting your digital stuff on some server so you can, well, … serve it to your intended audience via the Internet.
If you already know some HTML and understand the connection between websites and databases, skip on down to “Which database then?”, or the section following.
I could change the title of this article to just that question, since that's what I'm writing about today. But I chose a more… irritating title. Why? Because your digital stuff—all of it—is data. You can think of it as other things in other contexts, but to accomplish the two crudely expressed processes above, let's just call all of your stuff data, and put them on a server connected to the web (I'm just gonna use the term “web” instead of Internet).
Digital stuff is easy to catalogue, list, enumerate, sort, whatever. It doesn't matter whether it's music, video, email, text, or pictures; those operations are all quite simple to perform. The best way for most of us to do all of those operations is with a database. Other than the word server, with which you need only basic familiarity, database is the technical term you need to understand in order to stash your digital stuff in a way that gives you the most flexibility in making it available to people. (I suppose non-people need access, too; Google, for instance.)
Not here. You have better places to learn about such technical details. Wikipedia is a reasonably good place for that kind of knowledge. (I also recommend W3Schools.) But you do need to know what those two things are: servers and databases.
To get at some particular reasons you need them, and to cover certain critical concepts.
You can make a “static” website without using database tools, but it can be difficult to provide a lot of digital stuff to your intended audience from static pages. If you know this already, skip to the next paragraph.
Most likely, you want to build a website where you sell (or give away *gasp!*) music, or your art, or your writing, or maybe even hard goods like used books, or knitted caps. You can spend a lot of time messing around with any number of tools to help you build static pages using “simple drag and drop features,” or a “simple command line interface.“ Many Hosting companies provide such tools for free with your hosting. Others are freely available and can be downloaded to your server and installed (but you should't need to become a server geek to build a great website, so leave that to the kind of pros you might hire someday).
Some website-building tools can give you marginally useful data-driven widgets; so you can display, say, a bunch of songs from which your visitors may select. But nearly every tool provided by web hosting companies, software houses, or open source providers either helps you make mostly-static pages, or seems to require you to become a web development expert in order to really get the data model working the way you want.
An important exception to these static and semi-static kinds of tools are the “blog” types of software. Blogs are handy ways to get powerfully data-driven websites established fairly quickly. Blogware providers (like Blogger or WordPress) give you a fixed database and some presentation tools.
And those fixed databases for blogging can be used to manage a lot of stuff in a lot of ways. Though you can certainly host a blog using Joelie, I advise checking out comparisons between the various blog solutions out there before jumping right in to building your own website, even if you are already using Joelie. Why? If you just want a blog, then blog software is probably the best way to go. However, many things you can do with a custom website cannot be done with basic blog tools (unless you are very good at programming in PHP or other languages used on the web).
But in all cases, if you want to go from “knowing very little about web development,” to “operating a website that provides data-driven content for your intended audience,” you either have to go with the kind of canned solutions I just mentioned (and stick with their defaults and templates), or learn to code.
Believe me, many programmers spend a lot of time trying to find ways to avoid writing code. I'm guessing most software for sale these days is, in large part, to help you avoid writing code. But think about it this way: the biggest-selling software category of all time is probably the “lowly” spreadsheet program. Beginning with Visicalc, then Lotus123, then Excel, and now various office suites—which people won't buy if no spreadsheet software is included. In a limited way, spreadsheet programs still require a form of coding, where you set up tables of values and formulas, and specify where the totals are placed, and how graphs are drawn from the data. This is what I mean by learning to code. You don't need to become an expert at programming languages to work with basic code. Especially if you are mostly writing HTML.
Here's the thing: If you know you are able work at this level: writing basic HTML, and knowing when to use some basic database concepts in your code, then—at some point—you are going to be rather frustrated with all of the canned, cookie-cutter or blog-type website-building solutions. True, you want to avoid becoming mired in PHP language issues and having to know way too much about servers, but you still want more control. You want to make it do what you want, and not what the average user wants.
Not a question, but yes, I did: you use a database, and that's why we're here, in this section. Most of the last few paragraphs are pointing out that you have an enormous array of choices concerning how to build a website, and that means choices about which database. This is where we begin to dig a little deeper.
I'm not gonna lie. Even if you decide to skip the canned website tools and do some coding and simple database operations, you still have an alarmingly high number of database options from which to choose. With minimal coding, you can use a web service2, like FaceBook or MySpace, both of which provide limited data solutions and an API. If you link those to a static website, you can handle all of the basic chores of a typical small-business or band. Or you can skip making a website altogether and instead establish a “web presence” by using a combination of FaceBook, eBay, Twitter, YouTube, and PhotoBucket—all of which provide single-purpose database services. These solutions are free of charge (currently) and, for the beginner, are quite useful; providing basic, stashing opportunities for your digital stuff. Unfortunately these are very crowded places in which to try and stand out. As such, they are useful, but not a serious solution for your small business or band.
Higher up the chain of power and capability comes the blog software I've already mentioned. If you can code, you can make blogs do tricks that the non-coding users can only dream about. But if you want traffic you can call your own—if you want control over who, what and how people see your stuff—and if you want to decide how your stuff will be stashed inside that database, and if you want control over any and all advertising done on your website, then your choices finally begin to narrow somewhat.
Typically, if you are new to the whole concept of making a website that requires you to do a little coding, you might start by obtaining something that already works, like a blogging platform. Just get it onto a server somewhere, and start picking away at it to make it do what you want. Stay with me here, because this is not as bad as it seems. A fairly normal experience is to find a decent web hosting service that provides a web platform "stack" that gives you what you need so you can "install" the blogging platform, and begin coding. If this seems intimidating, you can also find a hosting service that will provide you with a stack that already includes a current version of the WordPress blogging platform (search for "wordpress hosting" in your favorite search engine). You can also find services that set you up with WordPress on a server, with some features you select, and a theme of your choosing. These last two options cost a bit more money, but provide a very easy way to begin coding a blog-type site. Further, you can find many eager blog platform coders on the web who will share coding techniques and tips.
A note on the cost of these solutions:
Web hosting is fairly cheap, but not free. You can easily find hosting for less than US$5 per month. WordPress hosting services are probably a bit more, and a service that handles setting you up with WordPress on our own server (more web hosting) will probably cost even more. However, both Blogger and WordPress offer “free” hosted blogs, and that gives you a good spot to start out cheaply. You won't have your own domain name there (unless you pay for it). And there's the problem of not controlling all the ads and making sure your “site” ranks highly in Google and Bing search results.
Finally, PHP, WordPress and Drupal and several other solutions are “Open Source”, which means you can download and install them for free. So if you can pay for hosting, and don't mid the hard work of managing your server; and if you don't mind lots of coding in open source environments, you can build some incredible websites for relatively few dollars per month.
With the blog platform approach, you'll have to modify a set of software and data tables focused on blogging, and that might prove difficult if you wanted some custom features. You also have to wade into PHP and SQL fairly deeply.
Another typical solution is to find a more generalized platform and have those same hosting services install such a stack for you. The phrase “more generalized” is usually what Content Management Services (CMS) are designed to be. An example of a commonly used open source CMS is Drupal. With a stack including Drupal, you can do a lot of things bloggers simply cannot do. If you are game for some heavy study for a few months, and can code with some confidence, you will find a large community of people working in the Drupal web development world who can assist you to make some amazing websites.
Of course, this involves working with a database platform (typically MySQL), coding in PHP, and knowing the Drupal modules that drive the CMS. I'm betting this is deeper than you'd hoped to have to go into coding, and I'd have to agree with you. By the time you get this involved, you could consider being both a musician and a web developer 3.
You can search for web programming stacks other than ones involving WordPress and Drupal. Many of them are made for high-level programming, of the sort done in large corporations or for media companies. Most of them involve lots of coding, and require serious, advanced computer and networking knowledge. You should also focus on cost, and try to find stacks that are mostly open source solutions, like the typical LAMP stack running on a huge number of servers.
Yes. I'm afraid it is more than the simple, basic, coding I wanted to introduce you to. But I covered the concepts to provide the general idea of how web pages with common database tools get built.
Fortunately, yes. You still need some basic coding ability, but the Joelie web platform does not require you to become an expert in database development. Joelie's simple, tag-based programming is merely an extension of the HTML type of programming used in static webpages. With Joelie, you start using data, rather than sit back and try to design data models (and then "normalizing" them several times).
Though you use SQL to access and update your data, Joelie does not force you to work with fixed tables as you would in a blog platform.
In Joelie, most of the work involving servers, database administration, and looping through tables of query results is done for you by the platform, freeing you to do the simplified coding and design work you want to do to make your site work the way you want.
You have made it this far because you are not looking to build a large-scale, corporate CMS system with different classes of users and administrators. You are just looking to make a unique site that gives you control over your stuff, your design, and your revenue. Also, you are probably like me: a cheap, gigging musician looking for a better way to stretch your meager dollars so you can stash your digital stuff and build your site without hocking your amplifier. Again.
This is one reason why I recommend signing up at iqtpi, and building your site using Joelie:
With iqtpi, you can get started building a custom website for free.
Image Courtesy Photobucket
These qualify as web services due to the fact that they provide APIs to access the data, but are also just big, honkin' websites you can visit.
The secondary career of web developer is an excellent choice for musicians. Musicians are people with a high aptitude for the coding and data disciplines of web programming, and they tend to have decent design skills. Of course, working musicians rarely have need of extra cash, so put that thought in the back of your mind for now.
Wait, what did he just write?
A brewing “scandal” in the pop music world is this story about Simon Cowell's new X Factor show; apparently having used “Autotune” to dress up the vocal performances in broadcasts to viewers.
The use of pitch-modification tools has been around for many years. From studio tricks with tape speed and analog techniques applied to pitch envelopes—all back in the golden days of tape-only recording—we have come to the days high-end digital signal processing software that performs real-time pitch analysis and automatic correction. Clearly, this is not a new concept.
Antares, the company behind the Auto-Tune© product is a privately-held small business whose products have become an industry standard, primarily due to the ease-of-use factor, and secondarily due to their integration into the Pro Tools digital audio recording systems (used by most major studios). By now you have surely heard the classic autotune effect (prime example, Cher's Belive) in pop music and rendered your own verdict. But what of the use by X Factor? Let's first accept their claims that the judges did not hear the autotuned versions, since we have no reason to assume they are lying. So we are left with the claim the broadcast versions were the ones which were affected (afflicted?). Is this wrong?
What most non-musicians might be led to believe when they see stories like this, is that the music industry is always trying to screw them over with phony artists, phony presentations, phony performances, and bogus products. What they are probably forgetting is that music is not a single art form, like say oil-on-canvas painting. The tradition of plays, with props, makeup, and costume, is ancient, if not venerable. Music performance is closely related. The customers have proven they want to be amazed by a presentation that is not like what they see in their daily life. Why pay the price to see a play when life is full of free stories all around you? Something special must exist to grab the attention of theater audiences, opera fans, concertgoers, and television watchers. For the legions of audiences since the beginning of time, this “something special” has mostly been in the realm of the visual, with a few special effects in the audio realm (explosions! yesss!). As a side note: This factor is the responsibility of the technician and producer. It's a form of artistry that, like Mr. Cowell's new show, involves an “it” or “X” factor. If your techs and producer don't have it, your show will struggle to find success.
The visual aspect of entertainment, combined with audio effects, is exactly what Gene Simmons (of the band Kiss) has said was the guiding principle in the costumes and pyrotechnics of a Kiss concert. As he has often reminded interviewers,
Bands that stand by their microphones and strum their guitars are forgetting one important point - people are bringing their eyes, it's audio and visual. If you're not fulfilling the visual part, it's like watching a movie with your eyes closed.
And now we have the ability to affect the basic audio portion of a production. Following in the tradition of film coloring, video framing, establishing a look and feel of a production, and other tools in the producer's kit, messing around a bit with the audio cannot be much different. The sales figures don't lie. It's expected by the audience.
For some reason, people exist who like to bag on music for using any form of audio recording or enhancement. These same folks seem to have no trouble with added reverb, delay, distortion, or whatever. But tuning the vocals is apparently a bit too far.
Any effect can be overdone. Old news. Big deal. A topic for another time. But if the producer and engineer know what they are doing, tuning the audio is their job. And the people demand it.
You might wonder about the hot pink colors most of you will see at Boogie Forward. One of the reasons is to pay homage to those crazy black light posters we had in the sixties. I guess you can get them still, but printing technology has made it possible to carry far more colors in them now. Those early ones had mostly electric blues, hot pinks, optic yellow, and lime green. The second reason is because the band I play in, Big Pinky, uses hot pink for our logo.
Our band plays festivals and events around the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and we've been together for many years. We've worn out several PA systems, used recording gear from every era since the early four-track Tascams, and have beaten on lots of truck-tested, drunk-rolled musical gear of all types. If I tell you something is too flimsy for stage use, it's because I have a lot of experience in maintaining a rig.
You will also see the content on this site grow more technical fairly soon. I have over thirty years' experience programming, troubleshooting, trouble-causing, and coercing all things computer-ish. That definitely includes music gear. So come back often, and you'll see some wild things, some wonderful things, and fun interest stories as well.
You manage your profile and login using iqtpi.com. iqtpi provides authentication for a variety of websites. For example, when I add commenting to Boogie Forward (so you can all yell at me) I will have you login via iqtpi so we can keep the place tidy and family oriented. I'll be serving the spam, thank you, and comment spam will be flushed. Once iqtpi verifies who you are, you can log into Joelie with a click, and be working on your site, just as I am today. Give iqtpi a visit, and join in. You can leave me messages there, too.
Rane Audio has a neat little collection of references and papers to fill your brain with sound reinforcement coolness. For you bands just moving into your next big rig, I recommend the Rane article: Setting Sound System Level Controls. Everyone in the band should read it. Then argue about it, because we all know you will.
You should also get and read the Sound Reinforcement Handbook put together by Yamaha. Though it's been around awhile, it's still got excellent advice for those who must pump up the volume.
Inaugural post. Please excuse the bit dust and byte debris. I've finished the site layout and I'm adding initial content . By the way, you are at boogieforward.joelie.org.
This site uses Joelie, both for building the website itself, and for storing content. All my digital stuff is on the Joelie database. Currently the articles being published here are not individually stored. I plan to write about the changes I'll make to set them up as retrievable documents with search-friendly urls.
Every grey ribbon shirt you buy contributes to the American Brain Tumor Association, to help fund research, and support the families affected by this disease
WHen the site gets more content in September, this section will become more useful.
News to help you boogie forward
“Break the seal” to power your wheels?
Did someone throw up on the side of the ISS? Ahhh, no, wait. This is even cooler than that. Microbes can survive in the cold, thin stuff.
Spiders are cool.
This first chapter of HTML5 For Web Designers is available onlne.
Over at ProSoundWeb, this video from the folks at Waves Audio (who make a great set of tools).
Maybe a safety line is in order
Proof that the “Colonel” wasn't the only one to profit off The King's death.