Raymund Media

Media in the Modern World

Proprietary Digital Media Distribution - Good or Bad?

The modern media world has encountered many new obstacles in smoothing the way towards an easy content distribution system. As it stands, much of today’s music has shifted from physical media to digital media. True, there are the retro bugs hoarding vinyl; however, it wouldn’t be outlandish to say the vast majority of media is consumed via digital distribution. Along with this shift come a few questions worth posing: How do people consume digital goods? How do they pay for them? How does one advertise digital goods? Is there an effective crossover between the physical media consumer and the digital distributor? Some, but not all, of these questions have been answered, though not always in the best way.

Consuming, paying for, and advertising digital goods has proven quite easy with the advent of portable media players, web payment portals, and online adverts. Purchasing a smartphone or tablet device solves the question of consuming digital goods. Movies, music, and books all remain easily accessible through an intuitive interface. Within these devices, other applications exist to aid in the perusal and purchasing of digital goods. Finally, there exist applications to connect the outside world with digital media, through services like QR code scanning and Shazam. All of these are great solutions that provide an easy-to-use solution to the artists or companies looking to distribute their wares. My question is whether it is in the best interest of both the content originator and the consumer to use these fast-becoming-standard ways of doing business.

Artists rarely see a large portion of CD sales, especially if they’re working with a label (aptly described to me by a nationally touring musician as “A bank that sells music”). On top of that, retailers like iTunes take a healthy percentage of CD sales originated through their stores. Finally, if a consumer decides they’d like to use one smartphone brand, then decides they’d like to switch to another brand, they have to jump through quite a few hoops to transfer their library to a different device - not just because of the technical learning curve, but also because of the content protection that exists when purchasing from one online outlet or another.
Certain solutions already exist to this problem; however, smartphone and tablet makers are loath to give up their stranglehold on their distribution income, requiring users to jump through additional hoops to add non-proprietary content to their devices. Any business-savvy entrepreneur can clearly see why they’d operate this way; however, I’m not sure it’s the right move in the long run. Alternate payment systems exist - Paypal, Dwolla, among others - though these payment systems require additional signing up as well as credit card information and validation.

An elegant solution lies in Bitcoin, an easily transferable, decentralized currency requiring only a digital wallet, an address to send to, and an amount to send. Devices which allow direct downloading and organization of media - Android OS phones/tablets come to mind - are a perfect environment within which to kick off a micro-payment platform for content originator use. It’s as simple as Copy/Paste (which is quickly turning into a single button push), and requires no lengthy sign-up process, simply a cash-like transaction - hand me money, and I hand you goods. Open-source payment protocols would allow a per-view fee at a reasonable rate as a result of the lack of transaction fees with Bitcoin. Currently, payment portal transaction fee minimums make such a system unfeasible. Hopefully we’ll see a change in the coming months towards breaking free of proprietary distribution channels in favor of an artist-directed distribution model, allowing artists to reap the rewards of their hard work without needing to hand a percentage over for the sake of having their goods listed.

Booking Church, Touring with Ra Ra Riot, and Doing Lights with Twin Shadow!

It’s been a busy time since I last posted; four months and twenty-two days, by my count. In the meantime, I’ve had several new adventures, most notably taking on the mantle of Booking Manager at Church Nightclub near Fenway Park. Exciting? You don’t know the half of it!

Since jumping on board at Church, I’ve learned quite a bit - everything from the various standardized artist contracts and deals, to promotional tools, to the various moving parts of a venue and the divisions of labour necessary to operate a venue efficiently. Alas, it is not to last. While I sincerely enjoyed my time at Church, life continues onwards - in this case, to a six-week tour as Light Designer for Ra Ra Riot!

I have to admit, I nearly fainted when I got the call, and have been furiously preparing ever since. The best part? This ain’t no traditional lighting rig!

While traditional rigs use DMX protocol along with lights built to said specification, the geniuses at Adafruit Industries (anyone familiar with the the Raspberry Pi/Arduino should check them out!) teamed up with Ra Ra Riot to build a home-made lighting rig using custom code and controller software - in this case, TouchOSC, a nifty app used to communicate via the open-source OSC protocol, an excellent solution for tying multiple multimedia protocols together in a unified way - think music, lights, and video, all controlled by the same interface, whether it’s a high-end multimedia control interface or someone dancing in front of a camera!

The construction and implementation was overseen by Anamanaguchi's own James DeVito, along with Ra Ra Riot Light Designer Marcus DePaula. The formidable pair dreamed up, refined, and executed the light display used for their 2013 Tour. It’s going to be a large pair of boots to fill; however, I’m excited for the challenge! 

Along with Ra Ra Riot, I’ll be doing lights for Twin Shadow's August 17th performance at the Central Park Summerstage. I’m looking forward to working with such excellent artists - it’s genuinely a pleasure being a part of something so amazing!

LA Confidential

This city…oh, this city. I’m officially in love with Los Angeles. Oh, and I also officially want nothing to do with the majority of the people here. 

My first interaction involved grabbing a snack in the airport after getting off the plane. I’ve never had anyone, let alone a Burger King employee look down their nose at me quite like this. It felt like a surreal parody of a Parisian bistro. After muttering sarcastic comments under his breath, serving the two good-looking women at the end of the line first, then taking care of everyone else, he swiped a pile of discarded receipts off of the counter. I held mine out to him. He grilled me from head to toe, eyes radiating disbelief. 

"Really?" he drawled. 

"Yup, really."

Sighing, I gulped my burger and fries, continuing towards the rental car service.

Cue the next night. I’m meeting a friend at a local pub. Waiting at a table, glass of water in front of me, I feel a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I see a gorgeous woman smiling at me.

"Hey! Don’t you remember me? I’m Tony’s friend! I think I lived under you for a year!"

"Um. I think you have the wrong person, sorry."

"Oh, my fault. So what do you do? Are you in the industry? I’m an actress! Have you produced anything?"

"Sorry, no, I’m not from around here."

"Oh."

With that, the smile disappeared from her face as quickly as it had arrived, leaving only a slightly annoyed frown, as if somehow I had intruded into her life, wasting her time by not being her ticket to fame. Without another word, she spun on her heel and walked away, leaving me wishing I was surprised. Thankfully, my friend arrived then, allowing for a couple hours’ reprieve from the assessing, then dismissive expressions people don’t seem to realize they have. You’d think actors would have better poker faces.

Thankfully, not everyone in LA is like that. I met several very warm people, including a wonderful waitress at a local diner, as well as a random pedestrian who offered me several great places to try around town; unfortunately, I was leaving too soon to get to any of them. It seems that as long as they’re not trying to “make it,” people are very easygoing. As well, the more relaxed mentality is apparent in the driving styles on the LA highway — no more bumper-to-bumper, snarling visages behind the wheel of every car. People actually let space open up between vehicles! It was nerve-wracking at first: I didn’t quite know how to assess the traffic patterns. On the east coast, I expect everyone to be driving aggressively, missing bumpers by inches. Here, everyone seems to have a symbiotic relationship of generally getting where they need to go without hassle. Granted, this is after two days’ worth of driving, avoiding rush hour; I have yet to see a horrible gridlock - and I don’t plan to.

Finally, there’s the undeniable fact that, after leaving Boston’s freezing atmosphere, LA simply has better weather. Not too hot during the day, not too cold at night - living here, I could get away with having only one sweater for the rest of my life. My jaw was perpetually on the floor, my mind turning over the possibilities of securing a long, comfortable life in a bungalow by the beach. Even my toes tanned - and I wore shoes the whole time.

Alas, it’s not to be. I prefer the east coast, at least for now; people talk straighter, are more honest with their attitudes. The buildings are bigger, brighter, closer together. The music - oh, the music! Sure, I know LA has plenty of amazing music, but the West Village will never have an equal in this city. Chicago? maybe. New Orleans? possibly. But LA? There’s too much shine. I need sadness, grit, dirt, shitty weather, angry people, and bad attitudes in my life. I’ll take a real tragedy over a hollywood fantasy any day.

Lights, Linux and Macbooks

As of late, I’ve been learning/running lights at a local venue. Exciting stuff for a technophile like myself! New Found Glory, Sum 41, Soulive, Caspa, Badfish, Motion City Soundtrack - all in a period of around four months. It’s an interesting world, as well as a refreshing perspective shift from the Aural to the Visual.

In my spare time, I’ve been experimenting with the Raspberry Pi (raspberrypi.org) - a $35 ARM processor-powered computer-on-a-chip, whose operating system, an ARM ported version of Linux, is free, stable, and delightfully flexible. If there’s something you want to do on Linux, there’s free software out there which will allow you to do it. If there isn’t, coding your own isn’t out of the question. It really is a great little computer.

Which brings me to the third topic of tonight’s post: Apple notebooks. Apple has created a “walled-garden,” a business model whose philosophy is based on preventing others from competing. This, along with the acclaim that has accompanied their products - phones, servers, data and information management (iTunes, iCal, etc), and of course OS X and iOS - has allowed them to grow into the highest-valued company in the world. Well, I’ve had enough. I’ve owned three MacBook Pros for music production over the last six years. These are $3000+ machines - supposedly stable, portable high-end hardware I obtained specifically for music production. In the arts world, Apple has always held a large portion of the market. Every professional studio I have EVER been in uses Mac towers, along with Mac-compatible (an in many cases specific) hardware and software. Sure, Windows versions of ProTools exist; however, to help put it into perspective, Berklee, my alma mater, REQUIRES students to own a MacBook Pro upon entry.

So why the beef? Every single Apple laptop I have owned has shown dismal quality in its hardware reliability. Three days ago, the last Apple computer I will ever buy kicked the bucket. I didn’t drop it, I didn’t spill anything on it - in fact, I took care to treat it like royalty, after my experience with the last two I owned; all to no avail. Eight months ago, the Bluetooth stopped working. Five months ago, the “SuperDrive” proved not-so-super, and stopped spinning. Finally, I got the nail-in-the-coffin; the battery “needs to be replaced.” My options are as follows: AppleCare, which I paid through the nose for the privilege of having, will charge me almost 25% of the initial cost of the computer to fix it - something I thought I was paying for when I bought the two-year plan. Third-party shops cost less, but void the warranty. Lastly, I could buy the individual components myself, and fix them in my shop. Yes, I could do this; however, if I break it, that’s the end.

Thus, my new goal; to find a rock-solid, stable operating system (Linux), and build the un-crashable music production system. If I can, I want session files to remain compatible with ProTools, for easy portability, even if this means freezing plugin changes permanently. Long story short, I have lost faith in Apple, when it comes to their computer hardware. That they restrict their OS to their hardware is a shame; however, above all, I need reliability. The work I had is gone - I’ll have to recover it by yanking my drive and backing an image of it up. The session files I have, with all their plugin settings, are only compatible on a similar ProTools rig, with the same plugins installed. Thanks, Apple. It really does “just work.” At least, sometimes.

There is good electronic music, and there is bad electronic music. This is good electronic music.

(Source: deadmau5 / fuckmylife)

Setting up lights for Grimes. Did I tell you she’s a sweetheart?

Setting up lights for Grimes. Did I tell you she’s a sweetheart?

Vested Humanity

I’ve been a fan of The Dirty Projectors for years now. David Longstreth manages to capture his own unique rhythms, along  with a driving beat that allows the harmonies of Amber Hoffman and Angel Deradoorian to blow the listener away! Add to that a fantastic arrangement and production style, and I’m sold. 

Their ability to both replicate and surpass their studio work within the live environment has always cast them as a band you do anything to see. Their August 19th show at The Paradise Rock Club drove this point home with an amazing performance of works from their most popular album, Bitte Orca, the followup, Mount Wittenberg Orca, and their newest album, Swing Lo Magellan. 

Their main attraction lies in their ability to capture an essence of well thought out perfection in Longstreth’s production style, while maintaining an organic humanity that shines in a conscious unwillingness to strive for sterile correction of every little mistake. The current high-production tendency to remove all humanity from a performance leaves a listener feeling unconnected to the people behind the music. Longstreth, on the other hand, manages to incorporate a sound that acknowledges the ability and skill behind this, yet prefers to let the enjoyment and excitement of putting a new project together remain, through conversational snippets, laughter, and an attitude of laissez-faire within the recordings.

The Dirty Projectors have created a unique feel in their melding of new- and old-school studio techniques, one which I suspect will be around for quite a while. 

Check out their newest album here!

Find pictures and the WERS write-up Here! 

We’re already suffocated by words, by sounds and images that have no real reason to exist, that emerge from the void and return to the void. Any man worthy to be called an artist should swear one oath: Dedication to silence!

—Federico Fellini, 8 and 1/2