Links: Records and machinery.

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/26/links-records-and-machinery/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6546

 

  • On-demand streaming has won, apparently. I will go so far as to say Spotify is pretty good in practice. (Use the browser version.) If they can afford the squeeze from rights holders, who look about to deliver the entire record business to Apple again.

  • A haphazard timeline of music technology of the 1970s. I hadn’t realised the Synclavier was ’70s, not ’80s. (And it’s now an application.) Also, just when close-miked dry sound recording started (the moment it was feasible).

  • Japan still has record shops! “Hit” sales are still not huge.

  • Meanwhile, back in the US, Dangerous Minds has an extended rant (hooked to a mention of a documentary on Tower Records) on just how the record companies screwed over the shops in the late 1990s … then blamed Napster. Mind you, they cut artists and catalogue by 25%, losing only 4.1% from sales … then blamed Napster.

Get rich with Bitcoin advertising on Rocknerd! [citation needed]

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/25/get-rich-with-bitcoin-advertising-on-rocknerd-citation-needed/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6519

Today I got an email from a Bitcoiner offering a mutually beneficial business proposition! He wanted me to take this post about why Bitcoin is a terrible idea, and particularly for musicians, and add a “text link” to it (neither text nor link included in proposal) for a whole FORTY DOLLARS. That’s as many as four tens, you know!

These bozos, Arcadegamescorner, run ads all over the most incredibly dubious Bitcoin-related sites. (I haven’t clicked on any, they’re probably infected with malware that would nail Linux as well.) Now we know the going rate, does anyone want to spend $40 to advertise the Buttcoin Foundation everywhere? Thought not.

I could seriously do with the bloody money too. But the loved one concurred “yeah, no, fie upon these reprehensible scoundrels.” A moral turpitude too far.

(I have no plans to offer advertising on Rocknerd unless there’s some method that isn’t a pain in the arse or a malware hazard. Or the site magically becomes REALLY popular. Or both.)

 


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Subject: I pay you $40 for a link here http://rocknerd.co.uk/2015/07/23/putting-the-record-industry-on-bitcoin-why-this-wont-work/
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Hi, i would like to know if is possible to offer you $40 so you can add a link to a bitcoin site at the following article:

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2015/07/23/putting-the-record-industry-on-bitcoin-why-this-wont-work/

I can send sample of the text link that will be added to the article.

Thanks!

Hi,

No.

Thanks!

(The blacked-out bit is their emailer script. It turns out this is world-accessible. It could be someone else spamming through them, but the return address is on their site and they do spam Bitcoin ads everywhere. So I guess they’re just incompetent.)

update, next day: He just sent me another two copies, identical to the two previous.

Witch house: I’d make myself a majickal sandwich.

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/25/witch-house-id-make-myself-a-majickal-sandwich/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6421

Witch House is a made-up genre that became real. It was invented as an in-joke and now goth DJs claim they play “witch house”. Perhaps the secret ingredient is the gr▲†u‡†Øu§ Un‡cØd3.

The closest to a plausibly useful description I’ve heard is “goth with trip hop beats”, but we got that with Switchblade Symphony in the ’90s and it’s mostly not accurate in practice; the normative item tagged “witch house” is minor-key techno at 80bpm. With occasional rapping about witches. There’s not a lot of coherency, though — people even tag Lich “witch house”, to which I can only say “wat.”

(Here’s a random witch house mix off YouTube; I picked this one for the “skip track” function. In goth club terms, I’m finding this worse than first discovering the Slimelight techno floor in 2002. But then, I did declare in 2001 that I could do with never hearing “She Sells Sanctuary” again for the term of my natural life, so I don’t really get to object too strenuously when the kids do come up with something new. The best of it reminds me of obscure early ’80s bedroom industrial, though with a much better drum machine.)

Maybe the kids in black just wanted a new euphemism to embrace. “We are totally not a bunch of goths or anything like that despite the glaringly obvious nature of our musical style, influences and appearance. How dare you sir.” (See also “darkwave” and “coldwave”.) The imagery is Tumblr restarting the concept of “spooky” from first principles. To be fair, we did play it out pretty thoroughly.

Not that “goth music” has ever been coherent, it’s embraced full-on trance bloomin’ techno in living memory. Never trust a subculture, because culture is not about aesthetics. Someone did helpfully add witch house to the Wikipedia “goth” template, so I guess it’s official.

But! I have been pointed (HT Benton Smith) to THE COMPLETE AND HELPFUL ANSWER to WHAT WITCH HOUSE IS AND MEANS! And how to make it yourself!

Same dude has a whole series on the various hairsplitting techno subgenres. I particularly liked the vaporwave one, which is like someone transposed Tumblr to YouTube:

(Nine hundred frickin’ bucks for a copy of FL Studio? Try LMMS for free first, good Lord. Copied from Inspired by FL Studio when it was still called FruityLoops, before it got airs.)

Genres are made-up rubbish, fostered by a shadowy cabal of record company marketers and rock journalists desperate for something to say, but I repeat myself.

(and TISM made the “Shit House” joke in 1988.)

Reviews: Massenhysterie (2015), The Big Sun, Dyan (2016).

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/24/reviews-massenhysterie-2015-the-big-sun-dyan-2016/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6385

 

massenhysterie epMASSENHYSTERIE: Massenhysterie EP — “kinky electro punk”, or Neue Deutsche Welle revival from Austria: authentic “we just bought our first MS-20” sound, shouting in German and unfortunate tendency to resort to the quirky. But is fundamentally worthwhile and won’t leave you feeling shortchanged. This EP is from last year (video for title track above), but they just did a video for “Weiber regieren die Welt” (below) in preparation for a forthcoming album.

 

the big sun lonely girlTHE BIG SUN: Lonely Girl — very obvious and straightforward mainstream-indie pop with very good singer-songwriter Berry (this post’s cover pic) and apparently a couple of former members of Ride in. Took some convincing; the title song was too cheesy for me on first listen (though better on second), but “Bruiser” caught my ear and “Red Box Line” kept hold of it. A definite grower on top of its upfront. Below: “Time I Bought A Boat”. (warning: heavy on the strobe.)

 

dyan looking for knivesDYAN: Looking For Knives Folky pop songs done in full cinematic with atmospheric electronics and soaring female vocals. (You can tell they’re film composers.) This is a seriously good one. See also Billboard interview, no less.

 

More digital archaeology: recovered articles from Rocknerd v1.

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/23/more-digital-archaeology-recovered-articles-from-rocknerd-v1/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6272

Well, this is a useful thing. Somewhat useful, anyway — the original site database is long lost, so porting the articles to WordPress involves cut’n’paste’n’fix the dates by hand. Yes, including the comments. So don’t expect anything like the lot. Any particular favourites you think should be ported, let me know.

Recovered today:

(Apologies for spamming email subscribers with the first few — I’ve since put this into place.)

Reviews: Kromak, Arsenio Archer, Mirreya (2016).

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/22/reviews-kromak-arsenio-archer-mirreya-2016/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6236

Industrial-tangential trance, cinematic pop and vocal synthpop from Russian label SkyQode.

 

kromak in the voice of othersKROMAK: In The Voice Of Others (SkyQode) — not so much futurepop as straight-up trance techno, though they bring the decent songs. Side project of industrial EBM noisemaker Markko B of Circuito Cerrado, with assorted guest vocalists. I like this way more than that. If your patience with straight-up trance is limited (though others feeling the same have been pleasantly surprised by Kromak), start at the second track, “Dying 4 U”. If you like this, you’ll like the first one, Trance It.

 

arsenio archer cinematicARSENIO ARCHER: Cinematic (SkyQode) — singer-songwriter on an industrial label, though not really that sort of thing at all. The aim is cinematic pop songs. With some triphop figures leaking in. He’s going for a big sound. Video is for the single, “Just A Little Time”. You should also check the previous record from his main band, Cold in May.

 

mirreya greyMIRREYA: “Grey” (SkyQode) — EBMish industrial from an excellent female singer-songwriter with a great voice. Intensity in a well-structured song. The single version is actually not the best on offer here — the remixes bring it to life. Teaser for a forthcoming album, which on this evidence will be worth looking out for. If this is a bit much, the previous single “Angel of Vengeance” is somewhat gentler and shows her voice off even better. Mirreya is the find of the day.

 

Audiophile buys his own utility transformer for cleaner electricity. Queen never sounded clearer.

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/21/audiophile-buys-his-own-utility-transformer-for-cleaner-electricity-queen-never-sounded-clearer/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6212

82-year-old retired lawyer Takeo Morita buys his own utility pole, with transformer, for cleaner electricity and perfect sound forever.

“Now, it feels like Queen is in this room, just for me,” he says, playing vinyl, a medium that literally decays every play. I wonder what his ears’ 82-year-old frequency-response curve would measure as.

This is actually not a new form of audiophile woo. Apart from other people doing this in Japan (where there’s literally a magazine, Power Sources & Accessories, devoted to the field), the Hacker News discussion lists other examples, e.g. a separate transformer to feed a system costing four times as much as the Dallas house it lives in. Sounded amazing, but.

Noisy power is a thing in the real world. In the world of proper professional audio, there is a setup where, instead of live and neutral, you have balanced power. “Technical power” is hideously illegal to wire up a house with, but is good for its use cases. There’s detail to think about.

“It’s completely beyond my understanding,” says his wife, Reiko, 57. “But if I take it away from him, he will lose the motivation to live.” This is how my spouse and I deal with each other’s obesssions.

Dark wave: Voight, LisaWars, Dear Deer (2016).

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/20/dark-wave-voight-lisawars-dear-deer-2016/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6163

 

voight malwareVOIGHT: Malware — some bands played Movement by New Order and heard a manifesto for action. This record suggests to me potential for a short rambling thesis on Movement as a template for non-goth (-as-such) darkwave. (Voight call themselves just “post-punk”.) If you played Movement and heard an album of potentially good ideas rendered badly, this might be the fix-it for you. Apparently they have past form in this area. The other Voight records are also worth your time if this sounds like your bag.

 

lisawars schlafenLISAWARS: “Schlafen” — authentically recreated early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle with Korg, down to sounding like it was recorded in a cardboard box. Catchy as hell, I played it twice again immediately after hearing it once. I’d never heard of the band before, but they’ve been going for years and have a pile of stuff up. This single is free or you can buy their complete works for €6.

 

dear deer oh myDEAR DEER: Oh My (Swiss Dark Nights) — Shouty French post-punks. Gentle at first, and then the shouting starts. The vocal style of the more obscure early non-machine goth rock, but with more to the instrumentation. And decent songs that fit the style. Below is the band being indie in a basement last year with their theme, “Dear Deer”. There’s also a Soundcloud of demos.

SingularDTV: a “blockchain entertainment studio” using Ethereum for DRM on their totally boss sci-fi

http://rocknerd.co.uk/2016/08/19/singulardtv-a-blockchain-entertainment-studio-using-ethereum-for-drm-on-their-totally-boss-sci-fi-tv-show-about-the-singularity/

http://rocknerd.co.uk/?p=6031

SingularDTV is an exciting new blockchain-based entertainment industry boondoggle. It’s part DRM snake oil marketing, part pseudo-Bitcoin scam and part sincere Singularitarian weirdness. You should not fall for it.

 

The company claims a Digital Rights Management platform, offering the usual hypothetical promises, using smart contracts, on their own proprietary blockchain.

They’re marketing this as artist versus company rights concerning who gets the money, rather than consumer “you are not allowed to view this” rights. But it has to be the second version too — they can’t possibly distribute the actual huge video files via the blockchain, just the DRM authorization. Unsurprisingly, doing all this well enough for it to be super-convenient is the hard part of Netflix. (If they don’t DRM the files, they’ll just make the Pirate Bay look easier.)

The first problem is that consumers despise DRM, every DRM anyone ever wanted to break has been broken, smart contracts require perfect programmers, blockchains without central administration to fix disasters are only useful for magical get-rich schemes — and blockchains with central administration are superfluous, corrupt or both.

The second problem is that they’re using The DAO — the blockchain-based get rich scheme that was hacked and drained on its launch last month — as their model for how to do this.

 

The problem the record industry has is: (a) they no longer control the means of production or distribution (b) the marginal cost of distribution approaches zero. The problem artists have is that they’re in direct competition with every good-enough amateur in the world. Blockchains will not solve any of these.

These schemes are only going to keep coming — so I’ll try to explain what’s bad, terrible and a danger to watch out for about SingularDTV, and similar hype, to music people who don’t know or care about any of this ridiculous garbage. But if you hear the word “blockchain”, reach for your revolver. Everyone involved in cryptocurrency makes music industry people look competent and trustworthy.

 

Bitcoin and the blockchain

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency: a thing on the Internet where unique tokens are exchanged. It can be used as “money” because the tokens are impossible to forge. Its transaction ledger, the blockchain, is touted as immutable: nobody can alter it out from under you! No central control! You don’t have to trust anyone else!

The mathematics is sound. The problems are everything else: as a technology it doesn’t scale (they pressed the original cardboard-and-string prototype into service), it was invented to feed impossible right-wing-libertarian Austrian economics fever dreams, “no chargebacks” means errors and thefts cannot be reversed, a “trustless” system attracts the sort of people who just can’t be trusted, the get-rich-quick scheme ran out of tulip bulbs in 2014, and almost every single person still into it in 2016 is either (a) a scammer, (b) a sucker who thinks he’s the scammer or (c) buying or selling drugs. Every hypothetical advantage of bitcoins is outweighed by the realities.

If you’re foolishly curious, read Christian Wagner’s short FAQ, the RationalWiki article (which I wrote most of) or Izabella Kaminska’s excellent Financial Times column.

 

Ethereum

Ethereum is an “altcoin”, a reimplementation of Bitcoin with the idea that you too can get rich from magical Internet money if you start your own. This works by the creators generating lots of coins before release (“pre-mining”), launching the new coin and cashing in.

Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, is a good and convincing talker. Not even Bitcoin programmers respect him. Computer people will appreciate it when I say that he totally thinks he can solve P=NP if people just give him enough funding to build a program to simulate a quantum computer on an ordinary one. So that he can, rather than solve every other problem P=NP would solve, use it to make Bitcoins.

 

Smart contracts

Ethereum has a value-add: smart contracts. These let complicated contractual arrangements be written as computer programs, which are then immune to human intervention.

This is a bad idea in every respect: every consumer or business in real life wants humans to be able to fix problems,  programmers would need to write perfect bug-free code first time every time, and Dr. Strangelove is the best-known story of an unstoppable smart contract going wrong. The only real-world use case is for corporations to force them on people who can’t say no, a bit like mandatory arbitration clauses.

Applied to the entertainment industry: how many musicians have been so pleased with the first contract they signed, and understood it themselves so well, that they’d never want one dot of it altered? Including by, say, later court proceedings.

 

The DAO

Not content with their existing sales of Internet fairy gold, the creators of Ethereum came up with an even more complicated scheme: the DAO (a Decentralized Autonomous Organization). This was a program running on Ethereum which would take people’s money and give it to projects voted on by the contributors as worth funding. The DAO got massive publicity and became the biggest crowdfunding ever, getting over $150 million in Ethereum.

Serious security bugs were publicised just before go-live, they decided to proceed anyway … and a hacker immediately used a bug to drain the DAO and crash Ethereum. And they couldn’t stop him, because humans couldn’t interfere with the “smart” contract. The DAO was shut down soon after, and the Ethereum Foundation — whose principals were heavily invested in the DAO — changed their blockchain (the “immutable” ledger) and the actual code Ethereum runs on to take their money back. Ethereum split into two separate currencies, because this was too greedy even for cryptocurrency suckers to put up with. Well done, all.

 

SingularDTV

SingularDTV takes this tottering heap of bad ideas and uses it to implement another tottering heap of bad ideas. This article details the incoherent and technically infeasible promises. (That’s a Bitcoin news site, so is not proper journalism but a blog run by someone hoping his magical Internet money will happen any day now; we can reasonably assume he just ran whatever they told him.) If you’re fully up on cryptocurrency jargon and euphemisms, this is their white paper. Let’s have a look at the article …

the SingularDTV platform enables TV producers, filmmakers, and artists to deploy their content on a distributed network, and receive funding through decentralized crowdfunding campaigns like startups and projects did on the DAO network.

Comparing your enterprise to anything resembling the DAO is a courageous move in August 2016. Saying you’ll run the sort of scheme they did is even better. Perhaps SingularDTV has found the mythical programmer who writes programs with no bugs at all. They plan to start selling shares in CODE, their version of the DAO, this month.

The platform is unique in a way that it runs on a native cryptocurrency called SNGLS, which represent the actual revenue the content on the network drives. SNGLS are also used to fund the projects deployed and sustained on the network.

This is the poison pill in this deal: it runs on their fully pre-mined altcoin, and they control the software that reads it. If they get greedy — and really, when has anyone with power in the entertainment industry ever got greedy? — your “immutable” and “decentralised” ledger will turn out to be neither. There will be heartfelt excuses, of course.

As well as having their own altcoin SNGLS, all this will apparently also run on Ethereum; the white paper does not make it clear how the two interact.

The closest they have to a technologist on the SingularDTV executive is Joseph Lubin of the Ethereum Foundation. Everyone else appears to be a media industry person, which leaves SingularDTV looking like standard DRM snake oil marketing to desperate old media.

Considering Imogen Heap’s successful implementation of the blockchain technology

$121 — not $121,000 but one hundred and twenty-one dollars and fifty-four cents in sales in a year — is “success” in the world of blockchain projects. Though Ujo, which Heap used and SingularDTV is using a variant of, did in fact exist and function, which puts it ahead of almost all touted blockchain projects.

SingularDTV’s stated goal is two million paid viewings per episode, at $2.60 a go — in Ethereum tokens, not actual dollars — of their TV show over the next two to three years. No basis is given for this number, nor where millions of new Ethereum users will come from.

 

Why would someone think such a ridiculously flimsy scheme was a good and workable idea? Their totally boss sci fi TV series, of course! A worldwide economic collapse, as predicted by Austrian economics (predictor of 200 of the last 2 recessions), leads to a fictional Caribbean island being the richest place in the world because it adopted Ethereum first, somehow leading to an artificial intelligence taking over the world. Really. To be produced and distributed worldwide through the S-DTV portal!

They are so keen on their sci-fi TV show idea that they named their blockchain startup after it. It appears, in fact, that they are actually Singularitarians — fans of Ray Kurzweil’s non-musical-instrument ideas — who came up with an idea to propagandise their beliefs in Ethereum and the Singularity through the medium of science fiction television, and then handwaved an excuse to hype and collect money to make the TV show to evangelise their cult. This plan is flawless!

Filming is planned to start in October. Can’t wait.

 

The cover image on this post is from the SingularDTV promotional video collection. All of them look like they thought 1990s Wired was the peak of desirable graphic design. Eyeballs with text, man.

(I must confess that I once used an eyeball-with-text image to illustrate a magazine article on computing. I got better.)