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Chips

I’m not all dead, just mostly dead. My classes are just wrapping up, so I am up to my ears in final projects and reports. Nonetheless, I am still working on various bits of music, one of which is actually tied to a school project. Here’s a snapshot from it:

Yes, those are two stick figures. And they’re fighting. To the death. It’s totally epic and stuff. And it’s got everything to do with the new music project, because I managed to overlap my time enough to get a few things done. Killing birds with rocks and all that good stuff, right?

I’m sorry I’m being vague right now, it’s just that I’m not sure what form this is going to take yet and I don’t want to talk about it too much until it’s totally in the bag. So, more on that in a few weeks when I’ve handed in my final project.

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Magnatune

Like I mentioned in the last post, a little while ago I signed up for a deal with Magnatune, an outfit I’d heard little about until a few months ago. I’d seen the logo inside of Amarok’s Internet Music tab, but I never used it and never really knew what its deal was. Since the site’s motto is the odd phrase “we are not evil,” I knew something was up. When I looked into it, I found out there were a lot of pretty cool things about it.

Magnatune is, on the surface, a subscription-based streaming music service. You pay a monthly fee and can listen ad-free to as much music as you want from their thousands of songs available across a bunch of different genres. But perhaps the coolest part of that is the unlimited download that comes along with it. These downloads are DRM-free, so you can copy them to whatever device you want to.

And their audience seems to really like that system. Much to my amazement, The Mathemagician’s Riddle (so far the only Psycliq album released with them) is sitting at the #1 spot on their electronica charts and has been for about a week, also floating around the #3 album on the overall popularity chart for at least the past few days. I’m sure it’ll float down once more new albums release (they do about 7 or 8 a week, it seems), but I’ll happily revel in being #1 at something while it holds.

Plus, everything they have is released under the Create Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, not a traditional all-rights-reserved copyright. This might seem like an arbitrary bit of legalese, but it actually means quite a lot to artistic society as a whole. When you get something under a CC license, you have the right to make copies of it, to share it with other people  and even to make derivative works from it with only a few stipulations. In this case, so long as you’re not making money off of it, you also put your work under a CC style license, and you attribute the artist somewhere, you’re free to use it all in podcasts, video soundtracks, and a bunch of other things like that. The CC license has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for artistic expression in the digital age, and it’s got the traditional media companies running scared to the point of them spreading fear campaigns against it.

Magnatune is far from the only place that is doing Creative Commons for music. In fact, that’s the license that you’ll get if you download Psycliq music from Bandcamp or The Sixtyone as well, since they both gave me the option and I really believe in the CC license for creative works. The difference is that Magnatune insisted on the CC license. It was in fact the only option available on the contract with them.

Speaking of contracts, that’s another funny thing about Magnatune. It’s not just a self-distribution site like The Sixtyone or MySpace, where the artist can upload any and all of their music. Instead, they run Magnatune like a record label, only signing on stuff that their founder likes. Since they only accept a small percentage of submitted artists, it’s an honor to have Psycliq signed up with them. But it’s a nonexclusive contract, which is wonderful for starving indie artists like me. (I really am starving right now, I should probably go eat breakfast.)

With this exclusivity filter comes a weird quirk. When I say it’s all music that the founder likes, it’s not just artists that he likes, it’s actual songs that he likes. In particular, their version of The Mathemagician’s Riddle is what I would consider incomplete, since they did not want to distribute “Your Eyes Look Like Starlight” with the rest of the tracks. The same will actually be true when Results Not Typical makes it on through there in a few months, since they didn’t like “By Pint and Pound” either. And it really is a matter of liking or not: I was told these songs “weren’t as strong,” something I’d expect to hear from a record label producer. I’ll admit, as an artist, and an opinionated one at that, this does kinda sting. But at least they’re upfront about it, and I’m still free as an artist to release whatever I want to elsewhere. Thus it’s my hope that folks will wander over from Magnatune and find out what they’re missing. Maybe I should offer a Magnatune Amnesty Program to people to get the rest of their music. 🙂

Along with this, the version of Burn Bright that’s up there is also a bit incomplete. Since Magnatune has a strict no-samples policy (it makes their licensing structure simpler), I had to cut the clip of Klaatu from The Day The Earth Stood Still from the end of the track, giving birth to the confusingly-named “Impatience Mix”.

All said, I’m so far really happy to be up on their service, since if nothing else it’s exposing lots of new listeners to the music of Psycliq who would have probably never heard of it otherwise. And that’s a good thing. So to any new listeners, welcome to the show, we’re glad you came. We hope you stick around, as there’s quite a bit to see.

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So indie it hurts

The internet is positively exploding with ways to get to new music. Seems that everyone’s trying to build the next hot spot for discovering new bands that nobody’s heard of yet. While I think that most of them won’t catch on, I think it’s great that people are trying so many different approaches to this whole thing, and I’m doing my best to try and get Psycliq music up into all of them.

The Sixty One is a very slick music-player-community site that I’ve just run across. I’ve started to put Psycliq songs up there, but they’ve got a one-song daily upload limit so this could take a while. Ironically, somebody already bought a copy of Results Not Typical from there, even though only ten out of the seventeen tracks have been uploaded. I kinda feel bad for that person. So, person who bought that album, if you’re reading this, just drop me a line and I’ll make sure you get the rest of your music!

Noisetrade is an interesting experiment in letting people download free music but setting out a tip jar. They limit what you can put in there, so there’s not much to speak of and most folks seem to just come for the free downloads of the latest updates.

Grooveshark is a neat little indie radio station thing, similar in concept to Last.FM. I have no idea how to extract stats from that sucker though so I have no idea if anybody’s listening. If you are listening, thank you!

I’ve got a deal in the works with Magnatune to get onto their distribution service, which will make it so that movie studios and game companies can license Psycliq tracks for their stuff. That’d be kind of awesome. They even publish under Creative Commons, which is really cool. In a bit of an odd move, they didn’t want to carry a couple of tracks, but hey. More on that whole thing once it actually goes live, and I have no idea when that’d be. Update: The Mathemagician’s Riddle is up on Magnatune right now. Other albums will be up in the next few weeks sometime.

Then there are the few distribution places that I know of but haven’t managed to break into yet, including Pandora and FiXT Music. Those would be awesome channels and would open up a whole new world of listeners, but it seems that they’re pretty picky about what gets in the door. I’m sure there are many other places out there, too, so let me know if there’s anyplace that Psycliq ought to be and isn’t.

The main music site on Bandcamp remains the official home for Psycliq music and will be the first and sometimes only place to get certain songs, like the remixes and christmas albums. And CDBaby is still one of the best places to buy physical CDs, if you’re a curmudgeon like me and still like to own atoms.

Now is a really good time to be an independent musician. There’s so much you can accomplish without the structure of the record industry. There are listeners out there that small timers could have never reached before. Unfortunately, that means that everybody else is trying to do the same thing, leading to a world of noise like none other. At least a lot of this new noise is actually pretty good in its own right.

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Psycliq you can wear

As those who have followed this blog for the past year know, I am very much a fan of print-on-demand services. They’re a fantastic lifeline for independent artists such as myself, since they don’t usually require up-front costs and they take away the need to manage inventory or reach a certain sales throughput to be useful to all involved. Late last year, I switched CD production of Results Not Typical over to CreateSpace who manufactures the CDs to order and makes them available directly through Amazon.com, where many of you like to buy your CDs. The print-on-demand model fits so well that I’m probably going to be going with them for future Psycliq albums as well.

Then a couple days ago, I ran across a site called SpreadShirt. These fine folks do on-demand manufacturing of t-shirts, bags, blankets, and other cloth-like objects. I had used CafePress in the past, and while interesting, I was never very impressed with their quality, since they use inkjet transfers to print everything. SpreadShirt, however, does both direct printing of raster graphics onto the fabric as well as vinyl printing of vector graphics. The latter category is particularly exciting as it results in a quality not unlike that which professionally screen-printed shirts would have.

As of today, I’ve got one direct-printed design available in the shiny new Psycliq SpreadShirt Store, “sound advice”, and you can see the image for it up at the top of this post. I couldn’t decide which font to use for the design, so I decided to just use all of them at once. I really like the results, but I’m even more excited about the upcoming vector-art “finest in electronics”, which you can see the proof image of here as well. One of the coolest things about the vector design is that you can completely customize it, from the color choice to the size and placement of the image. You can even add your own text to the shirt if you like!

As a bonus, you can also buy a shirt with the word “SHIRT” on it in unambiguous capital letters. That way, nobody gets confused.

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The Road Ahead

It’s the end of the first week in January, and the year 2011 is upon us in full force. Looking back, 2010 was a heck of a year for this little band. For one thing, this website didn’t exist at all this time last year. Heck, I didn’t even own the domain. But just one year later and now we’ve got the main site, a facebook page, a twitter account, a Bandcamp-powered music site, a behind-the-scenes mailing list, an Amazon artist page, an iTunes storefront, and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve probably lost track of. When I look back at it, Psycliq really exploded in 2010, digitally speaking.

Psycliq was very busy musically as well. First, there was the introduction of Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc., a remixes and covers collection that is available for free download right now. And this isn’t a regular album, either. Thanks to the wonders of digital distribution, I’ve been able to update it over time. In fact, if you downloaded it early in the summer, there are two new songs on it that weren’t there before. In the future, there will be more songs that aren’t on there now. I find this prospect awesome. Along the same lines, the special Christmas album Light the Tree for Some Holiday Cheer got updated this year with another new song. It’s my plan to add a new song to this every year so long as I can. It’s also available for free, but only during the holiday season, so you’ll have to wait until December again if you want a copy of it.

And of course, there was the production and release of Results Not Typical, an ambitious 17-track album of jazz, blues, rock, and other stuff. A definite departure from the norm, it was a lot of fun to make, and I’ve gotten back some great comments on it. As with every project so far, I’ve learned much about production and recording that I can’t wait to apply to the next effort.

Speaking of which, what’s in store for Psycliq in 2011? As the members of the Electric Goodies Newsletter already know, I’m already working on new music. I picked up a new synthesizer this summer, and the sonic palette available from it has been inspiring. I also recently got a MIDI controller from a friend, which along with the NanoKontrol I got for Christmas makes software synthesis much more feasible. I’ve been trying out these new tools and getting used to what I can make them do by sketching out new ideas. All said, I’ve got a handful of songs sketched out at different levels of completion that will probably make it into the next album. I’ve even probably got a name and art direction picked out for it, but I’m not ready to reveal those yet. I will say that the Electric Goodies members have access to the three-part “title track”, and that the first person to email me with a correct guess before I announce the title gets a free copy when it comes out.

So when is it coming out? I have no idea at this point. I’d definitely be working on it throughout the year wherever I can, but life has a way of getting in the way. For instance, I’m finishing my master’s degree this coming semester, which is going to be more work and insanity than I’ve ever dealt with at once. This is especially true since I’m not quite a rich rockstar yet and still have a full-time day job. This means that Psycliq will probably get a little quiet for the next few months, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve disappeared. For even with all this, I love to make music and couldn’t imagine not doing it. And digital distribution makes it easy to just put out things without there being a traditional “album” to put it on. And I’ll almost certainly have something up in Mergers & Acquisitions, and I’ll of course be doing another Christmas song at the end of the year.

All of this to say that there’s a lot in store for Psycliq in 2011 and beyond. Thanks to all of you for

Production, Uncategorized

I Have Kontrol

Update: For those wandering in looking how to use a nanoKontrol with ProTools 8, I’ve since updated to a nanoKontrol2 and ProTools 9, and the two work seamlessly out of the box with each other.  On the chance that you’re still shopping around for stuff, I highly recommend going with the nanoKontrol2. Original post below...

I hope that everyone had and/or is having a wonderful holiday season! Have you downloaded Light The Tree yet? It’s only going to be up for another week, and it’s completely free! My holiday has been filled with a lot of driving around to family events, but now I think we’re finally settled into the house for a bit.

Exhausting, yes, but lots of fun, with a brand new year that’s almost begun. And what did I find under the tree this year? Why, nothing short of a new piece of gear! OK, this rhyming has to stop. (Anybody got a mop?) Seriously.

What you’re looking at in the product shot (courtesy of a fine review from SKRATCHWORX) is a Korg NanoKontrol. This lovely (and tiny) piece of hardware is really just a USB MIDI controller with a bunch of sliders and knobs and buttons on it. Nothing fancy on its own, but when you pair it with the right software you’ve got a pretty powerful setup on your hands. The obvious use case for me is for a mixing board, controlling track volumes and plugin controls in ProTools. With nine independent sliders, each with a knob and pair of buttons, you’ve got some really nice physical control over the mixing process. Since ProTools is notoriously picky about non-Avid-owned hardware, it sadly didn’t work out of the box. However, there is hope! You see, with its included editor software, this little guy can spit out pretty much whatever MIDI control codes you want it to, thereby pretending to be basically any kind of control surface out there. I used a great little tutorial to wire it up into ProTools, and I was very quickly in business. The first eight sliders map to the volume control on the first eight channels, and the last slider maps to the volume control of the last master fader. In other words, it does exactly what you’d expect it to do. In fact, I was a bit amazed at how smoothly everything worked. I will likely be tweaking the control mappings going forward, but this is a fantastic starting point, and I’d like to thank the folks at Trikome for their setup.

One of the main reasons for loving it so much has got to be the hardware transport controls. The ability to start, stop, rewind, and record from dedicated buttons cannot be beat. This way, I don’t have to fumble over to my computer keyboard to mash the right arcane button combination just to get things to start and stop when I want them to.

Mind you, the NanoKontrol doesn’t do any recording or mixing on its own — it is nothing more than a simple MIDI device. But like all good tools, it’s in exactly the form factor it needs to be in to make it useful. I’m going to need to rearrange my desk a bit to accommodate it, but I really needed to rework the studio space anyway. Maybe that’s something we can look forward to in the new year.

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Happy Holidays

For the past few years, I’ve had a bit of a Christmas tradition: I put together a special Christmas song and release it for free on the net. It’s that time of year, so once again, Light the Tree for Some Holiday Cheer is now available for immediate download!

I try to add a new song to this each year, and for 2010 I’ve recorded a mellow electronic arrangement of “In The Bleak Midwinter”. Sure the song is vastly inaccurate from a historical perspective, but it’s still a great song in my book. My arrangement here is based off of the one by Kevin Max on the fantastic various-artists Christmas album named Noel, which I like much more than the classical arrangement of the song.

And did I mention that it’s free? Think of it as a little Christmas present. And speaking of Christmas presents, don’t forget that you can do all kinds of great holiday shopping right here. Really, I think it’s a safe bet that Psycliq music will be this year’s Snuggie, so get yours now!

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We Are in the Amazon Now

I’m very happy to say that Results Not Typical is finally available from Amazon.com as a physical CD! I didn’t think this was going to happen after CDBaby’s snafu with it. But in the end, this has been a good thing as it’s made me re-evaluate how I handle CD building and distribution entirely.

One of the biggest problems in being a smalltime independent artist is the upfront cost of the production of physical media. This is especially a pain to me because I really like physical media, and I really want to make it available to people who also like it. For both The Mathemagician’s Riddle and halt, I did absolutely everything from my home. I burned the CDs, printed the labels using lightscribe, printed the insert cards, packaged them all up into cases, and sent them off to CDBaby for sale. For Results Not Typical, I tried something a bit different: instead of printing my own cards, I got a small batch printed by a poster/cd printing place. I still printed the CDs on my own and packaged it all up by myself, but I was overall pretty happy with the quality.

CDBaby, it turns out, wasn’t quite so happy. They claimed that their distributor wouldn’t distribute a CDr, which was odd to me since my first two albums were also CDrs and went through fine, but who’s counting. Upon further pushing and digging with the aid of a very cool and friendly customer service rep from them, I found out that if I bought duplicated CDrs from CDBaby’s parent company, they’d be happy to sell them. Handy, that. 🙂

After moping and despairing for a bit, I set out to find a real solution to the problem and came across CreateSpace. These guys are a little print-on-demand service that has the added benefit of being owned by Amazon.com directly, so anything that you produce through them is made available through that storefront without further hassle. I also tried another print-on-demand service, which had decent results as well, but I liked the interface, packaging options, and integration with Amazon available through CreateSpace a bit better.

Roll this all up to say that as of right now, you can buy all three Psycliq albums almost anywhere you’d want to. And you know, it’s never too early to start your Christmas shopping…

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New Results

image

Just got an express package in the mail: a new printing of Results Not Typical. This one comes from createspace. Same music, bit different packaging, and these are print on demand and should be available through Amazon. I think I’ll be using these guys for the forseeable future.

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We’re Not In The Amazon

Turns out that due to an oversight on my part and a bad policy on CDBaby’s distributors part, Results Not Typical will not be finding its way to Amazon.com’s stores in physical CD format. This is due to it being technically a CDR, which is apparently forbidden by CDBaby’s distributor. This surprises me, as Results was printed exactly the same way as both Mathemagician and Halt, and those went through the whole system without a hitch. People even bought them, from Amazon, had them shipped in the little Amazon box, and everything! And nothing fell over the whole time, if you’ll believe that.

This honestly makes me disappointed and sad, as I was hoping to make my music available to as wide an audience as possible. This is not to be, for the system has conspired against us.

Everything is and will remain available digitally for those of you who don’t care for owning a platter of plastic. For those of you that do want the pile of atoms, you can order the discs directly from CDBaby via the “Store” link at the top of our site here.