Showing posts with label Formats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Formats. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

HD Vinyl

They're going to start pressing records onto a ceramic plate? Really?

The first-ever ‘HD vinyl’ could be hitting your turntable in 2019, with an Austrian startup receiving $4.8m of funding to develop the product.

A patent filing in 2016 described how records could be made with a superior quality to standard vinyl. It said that the LPs would boast higher audio fidelity, higher volume and longer playing times.

Now, founder and CEO of Rebeat Innovation, G√ľnter Loibl, has told Pitchfork that the new format could hit record stores as early as 2019.

How does it work? According to the official HD vinyl site, the process converts audio digitally to a 3D conversion. Once optimized, the 3D topographic map will be engraved onto a ceramic plate.

Now, I'm sure they've tested the hell out of this, but, what I really want to know is, why do I have to buy all of my music all over again?

And, you're going to press thin ceramic plates and sell them to people?

I followed the link and read the website. As with anything, it comes down to--how many can you produce and can you convince people to move on from an existing format? I have no idea if they can do it, but I suspect that the first time one of these discs shatters from normal use, people are going to be pissed. I have just enough audio album Blu-ray Discs around to keep me in a foul mood.

This is exactly the sort of thing record companies love. They can make people pay for the same old music all over again and then they can pocket the profits and stiff the older artists they're not paying streaming royalties to. It's evil-genius level brilliant, and they get to sell you a product with better artwork.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Echo and the Bunnymen Never Stop EP

I find it hard to believe that there aren't more (and better) images than this of Echo and the Bunnymen's Never Stop EP. I have cleaned this up and I tried to enhance it a bit. Somewhere, I can probably dig out a better version.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Slow Death of the Compact Disc

What's missing here is a dose of reality:

The once-proud compact disc seems to be experiencing its death throes in 2016, done in by the convenience and affordability of streaming music, and many are celebrating the death of the format, as if it were some deposed tyrant. But notRolling Stone’s David Browne. In an editorial called “In Defense Of The CD,” the writer says that music lovers should consider the many advantages of the format before consigning CDs to the scrapheap. Browne himself was reminded of these advantages while, in the process of mourning David Bowie, he decided to revisitLow and found that the compact disc version of the album gave him a much more satisfying listening experience than a streaming service, which was plagued by slow loading times and glitchy volume control. The Low CD offered “zero issues and lusher sound.” What’s not to like?

Actually, over its three-decade history, the CD has offered plenty to dislike. The writer says he understands people’s frustration with the discs, which he calls “the Jeb Bush of entertainment media.” CDs remain expensive, even after all these years. They take up space, though less so than vinyl records. Their fragile plastic cases leave annoying little “broken plastic tabs” that have to be vacuumed up later. And, especially in its crude early days, the format robbed music of some of its visceral power, leading to criticism from Neil Young. But, Browne argues, CDs are “the last format to truly honor the idea of the album.” The sound quality is generally better than most other formats, and CDs are more durable than records or cassettes. Plus, those troublesome cases still leave room for liner notes.

The compact disc is, for all practical purposes, dead as a format way before it should be. You can see that every time you go into a store where music USED to be sold. Go into Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, or what have you and look for the CDs. Where did they go? They're gone. And, because of that, manufacturers are going to stop making them in large numbers. The equipment will wither away and fall to disrepair and then you'll have only a handful of producers, just like we now have with vinyl. We are a couple of industrial accidents away from having the entire record pressing industry collapse into nothing. If we don't slow down, we'll lose the CD as a music storage and delivery device. That would be a shame because it's economical, flexible, and durable if you know what you're doing.

Have they really figured out the business model for streaming? I don't think they have and I wouldn't rely on it being there in its present format.

I am not a believer in the idea that vinyl is automatically better. It's just a different experience. The human ear can't tell the difference; the compact disc was originally designed to produce music that was deliverable at 44.1kHz, which is ideal. But let's be completely honest--the lifespan of the CD is equal to or greater than that of the vinyl record. If you have a store-bought pre-recorded CD, the lifespan is either five minutes or 200 years, depending on how carefully you handle and store it. 

Anyway, it's just a product of digital delivery advances. Once everyone agrees on a new format, the need to replace everything comes into play. I have far too many albums that I once owned on vinyl, cassette and CD to worry about replacing, and I'm sure you do, too.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Another sad commentary on the state of the music business, emphasis on business:

The strange thing about Neil Young's decision is that the audio quality on streaming services really isn't that bad. And in many cases, it's pretty good: If you're a premium subscriber to Spotify, for example, you're streaming music in 320 kbps in a format called Ogg Vorbis, which roughly translates to the quality of a CD.

Streaming services know that they have to provide quality if they want to properly steal the work of artists. You'd think that Young would have some answers, but he has his own hardware to sell instead of a better idea.

Anyway, we are well and truly fucked:

Young might argue that listeners are merely in the dark, and that they have no idea what they're missing. But if that were the case, wouldn't at least one of the dozens of high-quality audio services, formats or startups have taken off by now? TIDAL -- which Jay-Z recently launched in March -- features extremely high-definition audio quality for $19.99 a month, but very few have even noticed. And high-fidelity digital music stores such as HDtracks have existed for more than a decade, yet consumer interest has been tepid at best.

The same is true for high-end stereo systems, which appeal to a narrow, usually older niche of audiophiles. And painfully-engineered, high-end earphones are mostly for the demanding music connoisseur -- which translates to probably something like 0.01% of the population. Even earlier, high-fidelity physical formats such as Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio have floppedamidst nonexistent demand.

There just aren't enough audiophiles with endless budgets to fuel these ongoing market attempts. Even vinyl -- a warm, inviting alternative to digitized formats -- remains a relatively narrow market, despite overwhelming uptake in places such as Brooklyn and Echo Park, Los Angeles.

So what is taking off? Well, the most popular portable music device is the phone, typically connected to either white earbuds or Beats headphones, neither of which are renowned for their high-fidelity sound. Even FM radio remains a surprisingly massive format, simply because it's extremely cheap and extremely easy to use. And for those who dislike traditional radio, there's Pandora, Spotify and other free or low-cost music streaming services -- favorites for on-the-go listeners.

None of these formats are pitching users on super hi-fidelity experiences. Instead, they excel in areas such as convenience, portability, price and selection -- all things that fit active, on-the-go lifestyles in ways that higher-fidelity experiences typically can't.

How many Pono players have you bought this week? How many streaming services do you subscribe to? Good luck getting a nickel out of them when everything ever recorded becomes something you have to stream in order to hear.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Magic Whip

So, while no one was watching, Blur threw an album out there for the people:

Damon Albarn said that because he likes to work in shorter, more concentrated periods of time he feared that he would never return to the tracks the band made while in Asia.

Speaking about what happened between making the album in 2013 and today, Albarn explained that while he was touring and promoting his solo album 'Everyday Robots' last year, he was approached by Graham Coxon with a view to going over the recordings and seeing if anything could be salvaged. 

"It was something we did off our own backs," Coxon explained. "It was quite an overwhelming project. There was jamming and sonic landscaping. I said, 'Damon, can I have a little chat? I said, 'Do you mind if I have a look at this music and see if there's anything worth pursuing. Id compare it to someone's notes, scrawling all over the page. We slung it over to Stephen [Street] and he looked through bits of it." 

More of this, please. I do enjoy finding unexpected albums wherever they may appear. This kind of marketing works--it eliminates the overly long wait for a release (Noel Gallagher's album comes out sometime in the next month or so, and it has sat there for months) and it allows people to be surprised, which is a genuinely rare thing in the Internet age.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Nostalgia Sells

I think this trend has more to do with the fact that nobody has figured out what to do with their music so they're staying home and playing a few records instead of trying to arrange a collection and manage it through a computer.

The experience of listening to a vinyl record requires a level of attention that you can't get with a computer. Years ago, I bought a computer that came with RCA jacks, figuring that I would hook it directly to my stereo equipment and bridge the technology gap. After a few frustrating days of trying to get that to work, I gave up. I kept ripping CDs and I kept all my vinyl, adding a few titles here and there. But the ability to take music and play it and enjoy it remains as elusive as it was when vinyl went away.

Someone out there is going to figure out how to make, distribute, and survive by giving people an experience with music that won't be corrupted by format changes and business interests looking to cheapen things for the masses. I don't know what we'll see this year, but I doubt it will be cheap or worthwhile.

The saddest thing is, everyone bought that Pink Floyd record thinking they were going to get something. It was the cynical repackaging of twenty year-old material deemed not worth putting on an album, reworked and recycled so that the name could hit the shelves and trick everyone into a moment of nostalgia. It didn't consist of anything more than a few new vocal takes or overdubs and it sold like crazy because we don't have anything new happening in music that's worth anything at all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stealing Music is Not a Free Speech Issue

You couldn't find a straight answer here if you tried:

I don’t regret my time in the “Free Culture” movement, and I still broadly believe in its tenets—that stringent enforcement of intellectual property law does more harm than good, that the freedom to “remix” has created many great works of art and commentary, etc. But, like Jaron Lanier, I’ve come to have a mixed view of the results of treating “Free Culture” as a black-and-white good-vs-evil battle.

Much like how I, like pretty much every other dude on the Internet, once unquestioningly championed “freedom of speech” as the highest of all human values and “censorship” as the ultimate evil, only to eventually find out that “freedom of speech” without limitation has turned much of the Internet into anunredeemable cesspool of lies, abuse, and outright crime.

Same with the idea of truly “free” cultural creativity. Yes, philosophically speaking, ideas shouldn’t belong to anyone, they should belong to everyone who passionately cares about them. Yes, it’s infuriating when someone makes something beautiful, or hilarious, or just plain cool and it gets shut down because of “the lawyers.” Yes, part of me would love it if the world looked like a giant free-for-all forum where anyone could fearlessly remix anything they liked.

Arthur Chu is one of those Napster kids who refuses to learn anything from the last decade and a half of utter chaos in the music industry. You'd think that a gamer would get it, but Chu doesn't even pretend to care about the destruction of the business model that used to support musicians.

I've never heard any of these clowns admit that the free music era killed the music industry and enriched the companies that sold Internet bandwidth, computers, MP3 players and the software that allowed people to rip and "remix" songs. Of course, you had to buy all of that stuff--none of that was free. The only thing that was free was the thing that made everything else so desirable. No one would have bought all of those MP3 players if the songs that went on them had to be paid for. No one would have remixed anything if the licensing fee for doing so was a dollar. Come on.

Apologists like this were wrong then (and Lars Ulrich remains one of the few people in the last half of a century who can rightfully claim that they were right and all of his nasty, bought-and-paid-for critics were wrong) and they're squirming now because the data proves they were wrong.

Here's the kicker, though:

Because yes, as a fan, and as an Internet-addicted device-addicted 21st century digital boy particularly, 1989 not being on Spotify is annoying. It’s annoying to not be able to seamlessly “pull up” any Taylor Swift song I want to listen to at a whim. It’s annoying to hit that speedbump of having to stop and think about whether I want to listen to this particular song right now and realize that if I do, I have to dig into my pocket and give her a whole $1.29.

What a fucking lame ass. Chu wants everything that sucks ass to be free so he can find something else to whine about. What a pathetic loser.

Taylor Swift is what you get when everything turns to shit.

I mean, holy goddamned hell. We used to revere Gods. Do you like the guitar? There are a hundred people who can play that instrument at the level of a grand master. Same for everything else--but that is dying off. There is no need to learn how to play because you can't make a living in music anymore.

We used to have whole genres of music that were incredible. Imagine a world without reggae. We used to have the ability to go to these places called record stores and ask real experts what was new and good and what was old and worthwhile. We used to have to buy Led Zeppelin records on vinyl. There are whole entire Sonic Youth albums no one will ever stop hearing. There was a thing called Nirvana once. You can listen to Iron Maiden and never get bored if that's what you want. There are now 24 albums by The Church and they are all brilliantly executed and full of joy and mastery. There is still a way to buy all of the albums made by the Jam. You can throw in a dozen other great artists and you don't even have to bother arguing that "old" music means anything because music doesn't age because it is art. The Replacements are back together. You can see Ride live if you live in Europe this coming year. You can acquire the entire R.E.M. catalog and enjoy it or ignore it.

Now we have to worship at the altar of a nutbag twenty-something airhead, all so Arthur Chu can wallow in his hard-luck stories about having to pay someone for a product they don't want to give away for free.

I guess I cannot relate to a man in his thirties who complains about having to pay $1.29 to hear a Taylor Swift song. You couldn't give me fifty bucks to willingly sit in a room and listen to a Taylor Swift song. I guess there's something wrong with me and I guess the world prefers shit to everything else.

Obligatory forehead slap.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Robbing Zoe Keating

This is straight up theft:

Only a very few classical artists have been outspoken on the issue so far: San-Francisco-based Zoe Keating — a tech-savvy, DIY, Amanda Palmer of the cello — has blown the whistle on the tiny amounts the streaming services pay musicians. Though she’s exactly the kind of artist who should be cashing in on streaming, since she releases her own music, tours relentlessly, and has developed a strong following since her days with rock band Rasputina, only 8 percent of  her last year’s earnings from recorded music came from streaming. The iTunes store, which pays out in small amounts since most purchases are for 99 cent songs, paid her about six times what she earned from streaming. (More than 400,000 Spotify streams earned her $1,764; almost 2 million YouTube views generated $1,248.)

So, 2,400,000 plays or clicks on Spotify and YouTube in a single year equals $3,012 dollars for an artist like Zoe Keating? 

Come on. That's obscene.

She clearly has listeners. She clearly has an audience. She is not a "fringe" artist in terms of her appeal on just two--two!--of these services. And yet, they're making money. They're making money hand over fist at Spotify and YouTube.

Zoe Keating isn't making anything. Three thousand dollars for that kind of exposure and that many plays is theft of artistic property. If someone came to your house and stole that, it would be a felony. There would be a perp walk out the back door, and a rep from Spotify would be frog-marched to a squad car with no t-shirt and a back full of sweat and weeds, just like on Cops.

Good God. Nobody is going to make music anymore if this keeps up. Why would they?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No One Cares About Adore, Billy

Good God, Billy. They didn't care about Adore when you released it, and they're going to care even less when you put out a bloated 107 track version of it.

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has criticised Amazon for allegedly leaking the tracklisting for the reissue of his band's 1998 album, 'Adore'.

It has been revealed that the reissue, which is set for release on September 23, will comprise of 107 tracks on seven discs, featuring demos with Rick Rubin, home recordings, outtakes and live recordings. Corgan has written online that he wished to inform fans of the tracklisting, but has claimed that Amazon broke an agreement and posted the information on their website.

"Amazon decided to break an agreement and post track listing of ADORE first; despite assurances otherwise that asked us to wait," wrote Corgan on Facebook. "OBVIOUSLY I've had the 'Adore' tracklist for four months, and could have posted anytime." He went on to write a more lengthy piece at the official Smashing Pumpkins website, also laying into the current state of the record industry.

Now, to be fair to Billy--this is for the fans. They're not going to print up 500,000 of these and stack them inside of 2,000 Wal-Marts by the greeter. I get that. I wish there was a 107 track version of a lot of the albums I love. 

But for Adore?

Come on.

This is why I have laughed my ass off at the re-release of The Division Bell by Pink Floyd, and why I had a good laugh at the idea that their "latest album" would feature the discarded remains of the TDB sessions. 

Sometimes, the well runs dry. You can't keep milking mediocrity. Knowing when to go elsewhere for water, that's the trick.

Cast Remastered

Cast have released deluxe editions of their first four albums, and these are must-haves if you care about guitar music.

I love this stuff, and I'm sad because I missed out when they were just getting big.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Delusions of Hipsters

Vinyl is not going to save the music industry. This chart explains why without even bothering to hide the reality that is apparent in the numbers. If there were 289 million albums sold last year, and if only six million of them were made of vinyl, then there is no "renaissance" at work. That's a blip, not a trend.

There's a major, major gaffe in this article. See if you can spot it:

The problem for the music industry is that the revenue generated by streaming (through royalties) is not making up for the decline in music ownership, at least not yet. However, when you add up all digital purchases of individual tracks and online streams, and combine them with physical sales, the total dollar “equivalent” of albums sold declined by only 3.3% in the first six months of 2014 (assuming 10 digital downloads, or 1,500 streams of a song, equals the dollar value of an album sale). This time last year the fall was 4.6%.

WTF? 1,500 streams of a song equals the dollar value of an album sale? On what fucking planet?

Pandora, which declined a request for an interview, says on its blog and in official statements that it fully supports artists making money through royalties, but that it needs to level the playing field with its competitors.

The response from ASCAP and from some performers has been that Pandora already makes a tidy profit and the time for feeling sorry for a little startup company is long past. Pandora, they say, by choosing to pay on a revenue percentage basis, rather than on a per play basis (which they are legally allowed to do) can pay a songwriter as little as eight cents for 1,000 plays.

Since Pandora pays royalties both to the songwriters and for use of the particular performance (recording), and since the publisher takes a cut and the performing rights organization also pays overhead expenses from royalties, it’s difficult to rationalize the numbers being thrown around in this debate. And because one play on Pandora reaches about one listener, while one play on a satellite radio program might reach millions, it’s even harder to make apples-to-apples comparisons. But here’s a useful one from Claire Suddath’s article “Should Pandora Pay Less in Music Royalties?” from Bloomberg Businessweek: Pandora paid out $258 million in royalties in 2012, streaming to 175 million users. Writes Suddath:

That works out to about $1.48 per user. That’s pretty cheap. (For comparison, Sirius paid $272 million in royalties and has 24 million subscribers, so that’s $11.33 in royalties per subscriber.)

Oh, and here's a specific for you:

In the end, artists, especially songwriters, get squeezed by the system.
“If I’m a young artist/songwriter trying to get into the music industry and I look at somebody with Allen Shamblin’s track record,” said Michael Aczon, an entertainment lawyer and educator:

This is not some guy who just started writing. This is a guy who’s got years and years of recognition and certainly a significant amount of success in the music business. So, if a guy like Allen Shamblin is earning less than $900 from his hit song being played 22,000,000 times on Pandora — if I’m an unknown songwriter, what am I thinking? Am I actually going to be able to make a living at this? That’s what I’m thinking! That’s the only way I can think.”


So, just to recap what should be blazingly obvious--the only way a company like Pandora or Spotify or whoever else can stay in business is to make massive profits, and the only way to do that is to not pay out anything in royalties to the vast majority of artists who have limited appeal. The answer, of course, is to eliminate all of the diversity in music and then leave us with a couple of dozen major artists who make all of our music.

Yeah, I haven't bought any of that stuff ever, either. I do buy vinyl, on occasion, but there's no chance that it will save the music industry because there will never be enough in sales generated from vinyl to compensate for the fact that an artist's livelihood is already being stolen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kristin Hersh A Cleaner Light

This is an excellent example of using abstract images to draw people into a CD cover. Granted, the effectiveness of this strategy is difficult to assess--if the single tanks, do you blame the artwork? If the single sells well, do you put it down to the artist or to the marketing?

In this case, Kristin Hersh was embarking on a solo career in the early 2000s and this single from 4AD used three acoustic b-sides and some fuzzy imagery to move the idea into people's heads that she was on her own and that this was entirely her own affair. I would call that honesty in marketing and even though you probably couldn't find this in your local shop, you can get it online and it's part of the artist's history. That makes it a worthwhile endeavor, no matter what.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Get It While You Can

The world may soon be deprived of Thom Yorke's spasmodic jerking, and it's the fault of the greedheads, man.

No one can agree on anything these days, especially when it comes to the pithy royalties paid out to musicians. How many thousandths of a penny will you get, peasant?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Embrace You're Not Alone Singles

These are the covers for the Embrace single You're Not Alone. They follow the tradition of a CD single release in two different versions, which is designed to drive sales among diehard fans up a notch or two, delivering a little cash to the label that they can hide from the band.

What happens is, a ravenous Embrace fan will go out and buy four of each of these singles, and keep two of each for emergencies and give out the other two to friends. The label goes back to the band and says that negative three of these were sold, pocketing the money.

The cover concept is great but my versions are lo-fi and crappy. The line drawings and the purple really work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bootleg R.E.M. Covers

These are both exceptionally well-done covers for bootleg concerts. The quality is professional grade, albeit somewhat heavy on blurry graphics.

I used to wonder what would happen to the bootleg industry when Pearl Jam made all of their shows available to fans, effectively killing off any attempt to profit from the sale of their shows. R.E.M. has always been a "bootleg friendly" band. The early ones that I used to buy in Minneapolis were usually of a high audio quality.

That makes me wonder about these shows. Were they shot with cheap equipment? The smartphone didn't really exist in 2005 so you are probably getting a show recorded with a handheld camera using digital tape and not much of a microphone. Awful.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Joy Division Closer Cover

There are a few album covers that create instant recognition and elevate a band to iconic status and Joy Division's Closer album cover does exactly that. It is the perfect example of an album of Gothic music. This is what it looks like when a band is at the top of their form and when the cover they have chosen for their album captures what is inside.

The image of mourning on the cover is from a photograph of the Appiani family tomb in theCimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in the Italian city of Genoa. Released on 18 July, 1980, just after the suicide of Ian Curtis, it was the second and last album of studio recordings; everything released since then is either a compilation or a live album.

As a marketing took, the cover image has enormous command. When applied to this flyer, advertising a live performance by Peter Hook (separate from the rest of New Order), it has an incredible appeal.

Performance poster for The Light, featuring Peter Hook.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Suede The Wild Ones Cover

If you're going to buy a Suede single, just go buy this one. It's fantastic. I love The Wild Ones. I really do.

This is a throwback to the two and three versions of singles that used to be released in the 90s. I don't know if labels and bands still do this, or if they just throw things out there as downloads and hope it all works out in the end, but this was a cool way to distribute music.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

1,300 Samples

Popular music is chiefly about disguising theft. Hiding who you stole what from is how an artist can thrive in the music business.

Sampling used to be a big issue in music but it has all but disappeared because artists developed a great deal of sophistication about how to steal something without being caught or held legally accountable. Lawsuits and negative articles and bad reviews used to accompany the sampling artist on the road to infamy. Now they just tweak it a bit and change the tone and get away with it. Perhaps that's why everything sounds horrible all the time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chasing Relevance

Radiohead are branching out into the world of games and creativity, trying to find a place where they can keep music relevant by existing in the world of apps and personal devices.

Due to the fact that music is almost completely dead and killed off, at least someone is trying to maintain a level of creative interaction with fans. If this keeps Radiohead relevant, all the better. A band cannot just put out music and live in an insular world anymore. There has to be an adaptation to the technology of the day that rivals that of any previous experience.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Police Wrapped Around Your Finger EP

When The Police were wrapping up that monstrosity called Synchronicity, their singles and EPs were forgotten; all anyone remembers is the album. No one remembers the gems that were scattered across multiple releases, like this 12" single, which was designed to keep the momentum going while they toured the world and pushed the biggest album of their career. There are no throwaways here; every track is a classic version.

It's hard for me to think of this as a single; properly, it is more of an album track. But the whole thing was a juggernaut. There could have been seven singles from this album, easily.

The artwork is also worth the price alone. Their covers were handled by the best in the business and the marketing scheme behind Synchronicity was as simple as it was complex; three swishes of paint, primary colors, and only use the best shots from what had to have been a miserable series of photo sessions.

If you can find this, keep it.