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What initially seemed to be a conversation about streaming revenues for artists more or less this week became a conversation … about Taylor Swift.

But it’s the debate behind Apple Music that is somewhat puzzling. Taylor Swift wasn’t the only one focusing concerns on Apple Music’s quarterly free trial. Labels were fixated on the same worry.

The reason this is odd is that it ignores the fact that even when users pay for a subscription, rates are woefully inadequate. Music Business Worldwide reported a study from France that confirms what many had suspected. Majors get a whole lot of the cash from a subscription fee. Most of the money stays in the hands of the labels; artists see as little as 11% of that ten dollar monthly fee. (The one bright spot: they’ll get a bit more if they’re registered as the writer, too – separate fee.) These numbers seem to be typical not only of France and something like Spotify, but other countries and Apple Music, too. (One difference: Europe takes an astonishing bite in the form of tax, which is a bit frustrating in a business that already has razor-thin revenue.)

The most telling stat to me is the one that was least reported from that study. Net income is an stunningly low 5% for the labels. The MBW article is suspicious of that figure, but I could believe it isn’t far off the mark. Essentially, marketing costs are such that labels are very nearly paying to have their music played. And that seems feasible given that a lot of people play music after searching for it – without the marketing budget, that music might not get played at all.

So kudos this round not to Taylor Swift, but to Ohm & Sport, who this week built a tool called Eternify. The Web app finds 30 seconds of your favorite artist and plays it over and over again – running up play counts and revenues. Leave Eternify running, and you can at least get beer money. But the app – whose 30-second loops prove oddly hypnotic if you actually leave your speaker on – just shows the absurdity of the streaming business model.

Eternify figures revenues of half a cent per play. Spotify has estimated fees as high as $0.08, but you still get the idea. And even if Apple Music sets a higher rate, you can do the math. Streaming earns a fraction of what downloads did. Continue reading »

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This is the way DP – Digital Performer – looks in version 9. The tried-and-true Mac DAW now has Retina Display support on that platform, and looks like a viable option on Windows, too.

DP9 may not get the amount of attention on the forums and such as some rival DAWs (Logic, Cubase, Ableton), but it has a hugely loyal user base and dominates in film and TV production. The DP9 release seems mainly about giving that loyal user base the stuff they want.

The big features: Retina UI on the Mac, lots of workflow improvements (including score export), and new bundled MX4 synth and effects, including one effect that turns your guitar into a synth.

First, the internal features:

  • Separate automation lanes when editing sequencing (for audio, MIDI automation, plug-in settings, etc.), as seen in some other DAW arrangement views. That same view also gets a Spectrogram.
  • Retina themes – Retina resolution for existing themes and that purty new DP9 theme. Unfortunately, this is Mac only, so doesn’t help you if you’re running a PC at higher resolution (though I suppose that’s more rare).
  • Add tracks quickly with the ability to have at all the track types you need in one go.
  • Keep plug-in windows floating.
  • MIDI learn with plug-ins, including Custom Consoles.
  • Mute MIDI notes
  • Project notes
  • Search by Markers, Chunks, and plug-in preferences.

Continue reading »

On a very personal note, I’m saddened this week to learn of the news of the death of the great film composer James Horner.

See him talk about his approach to scoring Field of Dreams at top for some of his approach. Best of all, you get to see him at the piano.

When I was a kid, Horner was one of the people who inspired me to investigate composition. I was entranced with the sweeping romanticism of the Star Trek II score that was his big break – an aching, yearning, but dreamy vision of the future, filled with tension in the right moments and fine details of inventive timbres, a panoramic view of space. (I expect I wore out my cassette tape of that soundtrack, and the almost unimaginably long litany of films that were the accompaniment to growing up as an orchestral music lover and young cinemagoer in the 80s.)

This interview regarding Aliens is perhaps the best fit for the case. He talks about the struggles of working with James Cameron up against the clock, and even the woeful inability of the vaunted Abbey Road studio to handle more complex ideas (or patching synths).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzati0Am5GE

But most poignant is Maestro Horner talking about the collisions of passion and perfectionism with time and reality.

“We both felt life is too short … I only wanted the best score … It was very difficult, again because of the time, and because we’re both perfectionists.”

Indeed, at so many moments like this, we’re reminded that life is too short.

My condolences to Mr. Horner’s family, friends, and the many people with whom he’s worked.

With this sort of inspiration, if only we all had more time.

Fan site: http://jameshorner-filmmusic.com/

“When you grow up, you can be whatever you want. you don’t have to be a dj.”

“This is lit.”

“It’s just really fun dancing and stuff.”

I’ve spent some time at Cielo and – all due respect to the residents – these kids.

It’s funny, my Dad and I were on the phone yesterday and somehow wound up in a conversation about SFX Entertainment, and he asked me about their confusing use of the acronym “EDC” for electronic dance culture. It’s this. Then everything else will work out. There’s hope for all the rest of us yet. And, uh, thank you Vfiles, whoever you are.

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Making a futuristic new music instrument requires more than just the spark of a clever idea. It needs resources, funding, input from musicians, and other ingredients, in perfect balance. Those dimensions can offer cold, hard reality, but met properly, they can also offer opportunity. And that’s part of what made Barcelona’s SONAR+D such a compelling place to be last week. Tucked into the packed SONAR festival was a convergence of the engineering, musical inspiration, and business knowhow required to make musical inventions.

The Oval, superstar of a pavilion hosted by Kickstarter, was the highlight for me. We saw it in the run-up to SONAR, as its crowd funding campaign was just taking off:
Hand Pan Percussion, Reimagined as Futuristic Musical Instrument

A hang drum or hand pan, reconceived as a digital instrument, it could prove a breakthrough in new instrument controller design as product. Meeting its creators in Barcelona, I got to try the first prototype and see how the version that will eventually ship to backers will be even better. And I have to say, I’m impressed.

First, let’s compare Oval, a digital controller, to the acoustic Hang that inspired it. The makers have made a video that makes that clear:
Continue reading »

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Gustavo Bravetti is indeed a man of mystery. The Uruguay-born artist is a live virtuoso of dance music, pulling out all the stops. And in his latest feat, he tackles a trio of Elektron black boxes.

Fortunately, it’s not all mysterious. The Ableton Push-controlled, Max for Live-based tool that gives him these octopus-like powers over the gear will soon be coming to you.

First, let’s watch. Even if this isn’t your own musical idiom, you have to concede it’s a nice rig, nicely played. And it’s a pleasure to premiere here on CDM:

The secret sauce is something called Performer. Built in Max for Live, it gives you snapshot controls over Elektron’s Octatrack, Analog Rytm, Analog Four, and Analog Keys. Continue reading »

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It seems synth guru Richard Devine couldn’t resist revealing something about upcoming Yamaha technology. In an interview earlier this month, he let slip that the instrument includes “alien” new tech:

Usually when I work with a company – for instance I’m working with Yamaha on a project right now; I can’t say what it is, but it’s pretty crazy. This synthesizer has new technology that’s never been implemented before, so it’s totally alien to anything I’ve ever used. I’ve had to spend a few weeks just understanding the architecture of it.

This tells us two things. One, whatever Richard is working on is now almost certainly digital at least in large part; there’s a whole lot more you can do in the digital realm than the analog realm, at least as far as “new.” (It could be he’s talking about something to do with the form factor, but since he mentioned architecture here and he’s presumably doing sound content for them, that’s unlikely.)

Two, we’re now officially 1000% more interested than we were before, because Richard Devine – for those of you who don’t know him – has used a lot. The man is an obsessive-compulsive sound designer on the Rain Man order of productivity.

The whole interview is worth a read, whether you’re into what Yamaha is teasing or not:

RICHARD DEVINE: RETAINING MASTERY OF MACHINES IN THE FACE OF THE SINGULARITY

And, uh, Yamaha, please don’t hurt Rich over this story. All PR is good PR.

Thanks to Joey Blush, another great modular synth instrumentalist, for the catch. He’s at:
http://soundcloud.com/blush-response

Updated: a source (not Richard) tells CDM that the project he’s describing isn’t Reface. Wait, now that’s very interesting, indeed.