I’ve always hesitated to call myself a musician, composer, or even music producer. I can find the keys on a keyboard the match the melody in my head, but mostly I make beats, basslines, and sculpt sound with digital waveform transformations and effects. Sometimes I work alone, sometimes with a friend next to me. I like working both ways, the former to dig in and get work done, the latter to get out of my own head and expand the canvas–two minds are usually better than one.
Category: Music Business (Page 1 of 2)
As I’m trying to launch a new career (fiction writing), I’m also taking stock of an old one (producing electronic music). I signed my first track in 1992, at the age of 23, to Mega-Tech records (an offshoot of the famous San Francisco disco label Megatone). I released my latest record, a reggae/breaks hybrid track, a week ago.
Breaking in wasn’t easy. I remember vividly sending out cassette tape demos in padded mailers to record labels in New York City and Los Angeles, following up via phone, and getting shot down by arrogant label runners (I’ve made a point to never be mean, running my own record label, even though our signing bar is very high).
Writers: This post is about music self-publishing, but also I get into the implications for writing self-publishing towards the end of the article.
I recently put together my Discography page, which gave me an opportunity to reflect on my music career to date. I’ve released original music on almost every kind of label, including a major (SONY/BMG), a barely-organized collective (Trip ‘n Spin Recordings), small imprints (SOG, NuRepublic, Kubist, Spundae, Dorigen, POD, Mechanism), my own label (Loöq Records), “big independents” in dance music culture (Global Underground, Armada, Bedrock, Renaissance), and distribution/A&R deals (3 Beat, Silent Records).
My most active period of writing and releasing music was in my late twenties/early thirties. Creating dance music (house, techno, breaks) was my singular, obsessive focus. That period was also the heyday of Qoöl, the weekly event I threw with DJ Spesh at 111 Minna for over a decade (hugely popular, with a packed dance floor and lines around the block), so I also had a deep sense of musical community, and also a great testing audience for new tracks.
At some point, around 2005, we (myself and my primary music collaborators, Spesh and Mark Musselman, the other halves of Jondi & Spesh, and Momu, respectively) stopped sending out demos to other labels, and started releasing music almost exclusively on Loöq Records. This wasn’t a conscious strategic career decision — it was just easier. I was co-running a respected, profitable label, so why not release my music on it? Benefits of self-publishing (or at least “own label” publishing) include:
I met Michel Bauwens over at Marvin Brown‘s place when Michel was in town giving a talk on The Future of Peer Production. Talking with Michel (and reading some of his work) was part of the inspiration for my recent post “Watching Open Source Destroy Capitalism.” I forwarded the post to Marvin, who sent it on to Michel, which eventually resulted in the following interview with Michel and shareable.net co-founder Neal Gorenflo. The original can be found here.
Civilized comments from any point of view are welcome as always.
Michel Bauwens: You are a music entrepreneur, and reportedly doing quite well. Can you explain the basis of your success and whether you use music that can be shared, for example based on Creative Commons Licensing?
About twenty years ago one of my college housemates, Jerry, had an idea.
“What if you could send music over the internet?”
This was the age of 2400 baud modems that made crazy high pitched noised while they tried to connect to the internet. My 20 megabyte external hard drive for my MacPlus computer had set my parents back about five hundred bucks. High quality digital audio files were about the same size as they are now (about ten megabytes per minute of audio). In other words, I couldn’t even fit a single digital audio track on my expensive hard drive — I worked exclusively in MIDI.
So I forgive myself for my lack of vision at the time. I thought Jerry’s idea was ridiculous, and I let him know. Digital audio files were way too big, bandwidth was way too narrow. It would never happen.
Jerry persisted. What if a music file could be compressed? What if bandwidth increased? He pointed out that it would change everything about the way music was distributed, maybe even the way it was made.