Friday, February 15, 2013

A Quick Little Copyright Rant

A DJ I know had her latest mix pulled from her Soundcloud account because of copyright issues. Soundcloud uses a robot to analyze the music people post and flags things that match well-knows copyrighted material. Unfortunately, this means pretty much every DJ mix ever recorded is a candidate for rejection.

Now, I'm no attorney, but as I understand US copyright law, DJ mixes fall within the realm of "fair use" law because the very act of mixing records is transformative. Legally speaking, she is completely in the right. The problem is that this is a case of 'might' winning out over 'right.'

The RIAA's army of expensive lawyers will threaten, harass, intimidate and bully DJs who post mixes on places like Soundcloud because they can. They're fully aware of Fair Use, they simply don't care because they know that 99.9% of the time they'll get their way through threats alone. Even if you know what you're doing is absolutely legal, who has the money to fight back? I don't know any artist who would take on the challenge, and even companies like Soundcloud wouldn't touch copyright litigation with a ten foot pole.

The Soundcloud copyright robot is a little overzealous in this artist's opinion; false positives aren't uncommon. It's flagged my original compositions in the past — songs that were absolutely, positively not someone else's work (one song didn't have a single sample in it; even the drums were synthesized). I get it. Soundcloud needs to protect themselves from the RIAA's wrath, too.

So who has the DJ's back? Can anyone step up, represent artists (and the common good of humanity) and go toe-to-toe with the RIAA until they back down? In a pay-to-play legal system, I wonder how we can get to a place where 'right' will trump 'might,' where the regular everyday musician doesn't have to worry about a faceless, amoral organization trying to bankrupt them for sharing the music they love with the world.

Sorry. Just had to vent.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting Down To Business

Okay, I've been concentrating a lot on getting all the interwebz working right – this blog, the main siteTwitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, and YouTube, not to mention all the other sites and tools used to administer all that.

So far (as in, over the last three weeks) it's been going well according to Klout, a service that measures whether or not anyone on the intertubes is listening. I'm trying to establish a baseline now, so when I release new original material (soon!), I'll be able to see if people dig it.

A friend turned me on to this site and I've been treating it like a game ever since. According to Klout, 40 is an "average" score, so I've just barely gotten to average with all the internetery. Plenty of room to go up!

Anyway, with all this online activity, I haven't been working on music. Specifically, I haven't been working on preparing for my show in three days and I still have A LOT of tunes to prep.

So, I'm gonna go dark for a bit, get this ten or so hours of prep work out of the way, retain a normal sleep cycle, and be back afterward. See you soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

First-Person Perspective

I'm the second room DJ at the event I'm playing for New Year's Eve so I don't get a lot of guest list spots. While the general admission tickets are quite reasonable for a major NYE event in Hollywood, I'm playing in the VIP room, and the price tag for those tickets is a three-digit number and it doesn't start with "1"... or a "2"... (edit: I was wrong about the ticket price – see the update below).

So, thinking I probably won't be able to have a lot of my friends there, I ordered a ContourROAM 2 wearable camera and a hat mount, just like in the picture here, so I can share the show afterward. Is that geeky? Whatever. I'm geeky and I love it.

This is an "action sports camera" – the sort that people mount to helmets, BMX bikes or skateboards, so I figure DJing involves a lot of action, right? Anyone who's seen my DJ dance can attest to that (thankfully, the camera will be pointed at the audience). So, in addition to the live recording, expect some video from the show too!

UPDATE: So, the tickets aren't as expensive as I had heard (I probably should have actually looked at the ticket prices. d'oh!). There are still $125 VIP tickets available for another couple days. Get a VIP ticket, free booze all night, dancefloor bass music, and the chance to appear on Codec-Camera!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Obligatory Gear Post

Merry Christmas! Since I got a piece of music gear for Christmas (a totally awesome, and completely unexpected surprise, too), I thought it'd be a good excuse for a gear post.

I bring a variety of pieces of kit onstage, depending on the show, the venue, what sort of music I'm planning to play, how much room there is in the DJ booth... so at some point during the show, while I'm frantically jumping around, pushing buttons, someone will inevitably come up and ask "is that Ableton?" or "what are you using?" or something like that. So, to all those questions, this is the answer (at least right now, until I change my setup again, which happens spontaneously).

I've got two versions of the performance setup – one for Ableton Live, one for Native Instruments Traktor. I use each one differently, and if I had a second laptop (and two more hands, or someone to help with the performance) I could use them together. Then I have a different configuration for composing in the studio:

DJ Kit

Macbook Pro
Traktor Pro 2.5
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4
Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol S4 Flight Case
Sennheiser HD-25 II headphones
Midi Fighter 3D

It looks like I'm sponsored by Native Instruments when I play, because until I got the Midi Fighter 3D I used to bring along a Maschine controller, too. Truth is, as much as I love NI's gear, I'm not a platform zealot at all. Mac or PC? Traktor or Serato? Cubase or Logic? No preference. I'll just choose what works better for my needs at the time.

Live PA Kit

Macbook Pro
Ableton Live 8.2
Sennheiser HD-25 II headphones
JazzMutant Lemur
Native Instruments Maschine
Akai APC40
M-Audio Ozone
Midi Fighter 3D
Numark DM 2002x mixer (had it forever, beat up, but gets the job done every time)

I know that's sounds like a lot of gear for one person to run, but each device has it's specific purpose so it doesn't get too out of hand.

Studio Kit
Macbook Pro
Ableton Live 8.2
Native Instruments Maschine
Native Instruments Komplete 8 Ultimate
Sennheiser HD-25 II headphones
Technics SL-1200 MK II ( I only have one for recording from vinyl and scratching. The only time I ever had a complete pair of decks was when  I lived with an ex, and half the setup was hers).
Ortofon Concorde CC-DJS stylus
Numark DM 2002x mixer
JazzMutant Lemur
Akai APC40
M-Audio Ozone
Midi Fighter 3D
Apple iPad
No monitors (yes, I know. I liked Mackie HR-824s but don't know what to get instead now that they're discontiued, so I mix in the Sennheisers and mentally make up for the difference in bass response).

I'm very comfortable with the studio setup the way it is except for the couple holes I noted. However, there are a few pieces of kit that do look interesting enough for me to consider adding to the mix. Ableton Push just looks absolutely off the hook. I can see myself adding that to the mix at some point.

For a software-only solution there sure is a lot of hardware!

Putting it out there

I've been recording music for almost 15 years, written probably 50 songs that are either solid or close to solid enough to release, and yet I've never put anything out other than some very low-key limited edition CD releases, and – just once – a vinyl test pressing of a hundred or so records. A lot of music that nobody has ever heard.

So, as of today, Christmas Day, 2012, I'm doing something different. Instead of agonizing over whether or not something is good enough to share, and never putting anything out, I'm putting it all out. All of it. From all my old singles, released or not, to my work in progress — unfinished ideas that may become finished songs.

The player below is a set of ideas, sketches and work in progress. None of it is finished. None of it is ready to play out yet, but by putting it out into the world, I'm doing something differently than I've always done in the past – perhaps something that will help me get more of my music out into the world.

I'm not what I'd call a prolific artist by any means. I'd like to have more motivation, better focus, fewer creative blocks, and more time to concentrate on my music. What musician wouldn't want those things? But life is what it is, and if I wait until some imaginary future date to publish my art, I never will. So, fuck it. Here you go. See the clockwork in the machine. See the cook in the kitchen. Watch the process unfold, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but always, always, art is a record of life.

New Blog for Christmas

Over the last couple days I've been busy setting up my site, getting a Soundcloud pro account, posting tunes, and linking all my various bits around the interwebs. So, finally, I've actually got a fairly organized internet presence!

So, as I was putting all this together I realized the one missing component was the blogging platform. Yes, I missed the old blog, so I'm taking it out of retirement. Actually, technically, I've migrated it over to this address since I couldn't do much with the old one (it was pre-blogger update so it's missing a lot of cool features). So, here's what I've got now:

Main Site
I finally have a main site on an easy-to-remember domain. It's got all my old original singles for easy streaming or download. There's also a few pics, a video I made for the lols, and a calendar for upcoming shows.

Soundcloud is the main home for the producer side of me. It's got all my singles, remixes, mashups, reedits, work in progress, sketches and ideas. There are a couple DJ mixes there, too, but Soundcloud is mainly for original work.

I host all my DJ mixes here.

Interestingly, this is where I'm most active.

Yep. On the Facebook, too.

I don't have a lot of video content yet, but when I make stuff that's where it goes.

And then there's the blog.

And to celebrate reopening the blog, I posted a DJ mix to Soundcloud and Mixcloud that's been floating around LA on CD over the past few months. The Soundcloud version is downloadable, but I'll probably need to take it down eventually to make space for original material. The Mixcloud will probably be up as long as there's a Mixcloud.