About this blog
The rise of mass media in the last half of the 20th Century turned us all into "consumers" and took away much of the natural human inclination to be creators, performers, singers, musicians and storytellers.
Today, the rapid proliferation of cheap professional-quality media-making tools, paired with the drastic decrease in the cost of content distribution is leading to a quiet, but quite real revolution in the quantity and quality of "amateur" content. It's the democratization of media, the "Big Flip" as Clay Shirky calls it, and we think it's going to play an increasingly important role in how we make, share and consume media. For more, read my introduction to Amateur Hour.
In the Pipeline:
Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline
April 05, 2006
July 21, 2004
July 02, 2004
Free Comic Book Day is being held in conjunction with opening weekend of Spiderman II (man was there a crowd at the opening the other night at the Buckhead Backlot, first run movies and beer are doing some business in Atlanta). Local participating independent comic store's are giving away free comics on July 3rd. Quite a few comic stores are doing readings, signings and the like with local illustrators.
June 21, 2004
June 15, 2004
Lately I've been spending some time futzing around with AudioMulch, a music creation program that I'm at a loss to describe. So I'll quote from the site:AudioMulch is an interactive musician’s environment for computers running Microsoft Windows. Bringing together the popular with what has up to now been considered experimental, AudioMulch merges the worlds of mainstream electronica and electroacoustic sound composition to create a fluid sonic environment only limited by the artist’s imagination.
AudioMulch is designed around contraptions, signal generators (drum machines, synths, samples), filters and effects (everything you've ever seen as a guitar stompbox, etc), which are hooked together by dragging lines from contraption to contraction like objects in a Visio. Pretty much every imaginable parameter for every contraption can be modified - recorded in the timeline, tweaked via AudioMulch UI in realtime or hooked to a MIDI controller for performance. Realtime parameter changes can be recorded for playback regardless of how they were created.
None of which tells you that by opening a couple example files and copying, pasting and hooking stuff together and grabbing some sample sounds out of music on my laptop I'm ou can bust out electronica like Richard D. James (well except mine is really derivative and crap, but it's my derivitive crap).
AudioMulch is currently in beta and the newest release is free. Registering the product is a whopping $50 which will keep you up-to-date through version 1.0 and subsequent bug releases.
The product also has a substantial mailinglist actively using it and a discography that includes lots of interesting looks into the way the product is being used in professional audio environments.
June 10, 2004
Jeff Jarvis has a long piece on the fast approaching explosion of Amateur Television.
Many people have been predicting this for some time, but Jeff has some good thoughts about why TV will happen first:
- TV is more exciting to consumers.
- TV is more exciting to advertisers (who have been trying to turn the Web into TV ever since it started).
- Thus there's more money in TV.
- There are also far greater savings in TV. Radio's already cheap to produce. TV isn't. But with new cameras and tools and citizen producers, just a few people (or even one person) can turn out decent TV today.
- TV does not bring with it the added expectation and difficulty of portability; we do expect to get radio everywhere but we don't (yet) watch it in our cars (much).
Jeff unloads a mess of links to resources, articles, and prognostications as well.
[thanks to Patrick at Pictureworks]
May 04, 2004
If you were living under a rock and didn't see the Star Wars Kid video, it has now spawned a whole video remix subculture.
The Star Wars Kid is a 15-year-old from Quebec known as Ghyslain Raza.
Back in November 2002, Ghyslain was goofing off at a school video studio and recorded himself fighting a mock battle with a golf ball retriever lightsaber. Over two minutes, the video shows the lone, overweight teenager twirling his mock lightsaber ever faster while making his own accompanying sound effects.
Yes, we've all had our dorky, private moments, but this poor kid is living the nightmare of having his private dorkiness projected across the world to giggling Web users. His friends found the tape, and uploaded it to KaZaA as a joke on April 19. Within two weeks, someone had added full Star Wars special effects and sound effects to the footage. Currently, new clone videos are being created at the rate of 1 per day
The Kill Bill remixed trailerand Undercover Star Wars Kid remixes are almost scary.
April 22, 2004
Photoshop tennis or fightclub has been around for a while as a mechanism for graphic designers to collaborate and riff off each other's idea. Remix fight does the same thing for DJs and remixers. Really, really cool seeing people essentially blogging about their creative process in their notes about how and why they made the changes they made to the original track.
[thanks yet again to BoingBoing]
A nicely researched, long article on Creative Commons and the gift economy from Business 2.0. Ton's of great examples and righteous quotes:
The sharing economy is already worth billions of dollars, but its direct beneficiaries aren't mainstream entertainment companies. Instead, they're the likes of Apple (AAPL), Adobe (ADBE), and EarthLink (ELNK) -- firms that sell the hardware, software, and bandwidth required to produce and distribute, say, a Howard Dean howl remix.
(Lawrence) Lessig [...] draws a timeline on a napkin, labeling one point "1888." "That's when the first Kodak (EK) camera was introduced," he says. "And around this time, a legal question arises: Do I need your permission to capture your image? The courts say no, I can pirate your image in most cases." Lessig then draws a line that spikes upward, representing the boom in photo equipment and processing sales that resulted from the liberalization of image content. "Imagine if the decision went the other way, so that I had to get permission every time I took someone's picture," he says. "The growth of the photography industry would have been very different." And much less lucrative.
Science fiction writer (and Business 2.0 contributor) Cory Doctorow [...] released (his book - Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom as a free download on his website. [...] In the 15 months that the book has been available online, Doctorow has recorded more than 300,000 downloads from his site. It's impossible to measure the effect that had on book sales, but the initial print run of 8,500 copies sold out, and the title is now out in paperback. Doctorow estimates that the speaking fees he received from people who hired him based on the buzz surrounding the giveaway version exceed the advance he received from his publisher.
In January, Apple released a new music-production program called GarageBand. A few weeks later, a group of college students launched MacBand, a site where people can upload and share their compositions. Hal Bergman, one of MacBand's co-creators, wanted to encourage users to allow others to build on their projects. "A lot of people won't upload or download music on sites where everything's copyrighted," he says.
When composers upload songs on MacBand, they're presented with the option of choosing a Creative Commons license. The result is that nearly every song on MacBand functions as raw material for new songs. The sharing not only spurs activity on MacBand, but also builds demand for Apple software and hardware.
Steve Fabrizio, formerly the Recording Industry Association of America's chief litigator and now a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, it's far-fetched, but not impossible, to envision a top label embracing Creative Commons. "If Creative Commons builds enough brand awareness and respect for what it means, I see no reason why record companies that want to pre-authorize limited use of a work wouldn't think it was a great idea."
Inevitably, as more and more digital content is produced by so-called amateurs, sharing will increase no matter how Lessig's book -- or Creative Commons -- fares. As Allan Vilhan puts it, "I make music, and I want people to hear it." Yet if Creative Commons is successful, sharing will become even more pervasive. And a lot more money will be made along the way.
Oh, just go read
April 21, 2004
On the heels of DJ Dangermouse's Gray Album and Cheap Cologne's "Jay-Z vs. Metallica: The Double Black" reworkings of Jay-Z's Black Album (both of which have some great moments), comes something nearer and dearer to my heart:
London Booted - a mashup of The Clash's seminal London Calling. This thing is all over the place stylistically, but the best tracks (blo_up's Burnin', Instamatic's Spanish Bombs (Over Baghdad), E-Jitz' I'm Not Down (Hold Your Head Up), EzLee's Vain Mistake) blow away the commercial crap that passes for music in US Top 40. (I also have to mention the LazyTramp - Funky Guns of Brixton bonus track. The Clash mashed with Vanilla Ice. It's so wrong it must be right.).
The only thing better than the songs is the commentary from the creators which ranges from a "How I did It" mashed up with Trainspotting to a freaky Sci-Fi mash-up fantasy. Hie thee to a broadband connection, go!
[thanks to BoingBoing]
April 19, 2004
At Game Girl Advance a couple of months back, Sandford parodied the ilife suite by "announcing" the release of "attic author" (thanks to matt jones for the link):
[...]Apple is proud to announce an add-on package to our popular iLife '04 suite of applications -- including the easiest to use music playback and purchasing software available, iTunes, and the new, exciting GarageBand music composition software. Today we bring you AtticAuthor.
No more struggling for the right word, the perfect turn of phrase, the most expedient and direct yet elegant metaphor. AtticAuthor takes care of all that for you. With over 1,000 ApplePhrases, and an additional 2,000 available in the optional PenPack, AtticAuthor will have you immediately writing short stories, plays and even novels. Never has creative writing been so easy. [...]
It's clear from the comments to his post that Sandford has succeeded in his aim to spark debate on the cultural implications of "consumer" level production tools like garageband
, betraying a general anxiety over authority, authenticity and cultural value the like of which we haven't seen since the advent of synthesisers and MIDI sequencers in the early 1980s. Since then, we've seen a proliferation of music creation software (from basic sequencers like Band in a Box and Fruity Loops to loop-based multitrack software like Acid, and full-fledged MIDI/audio studio recording software like Cubase), but none so easy to use with absolutely no prior knowledge as garageband - it comes with heaps of loops that you can drag and drop right out of the box, and it comes bundled.
In all seriousness, as skills and techniques that heretofore have taken months, years or even decades to perfect are readily available through software, will we refocus on and exalt the quality of the underlying content, or will society write off artistic endeavors as mere smoke, mirrors and Macintosh?
There is a focus on the evaluation of content here that I find frustrating, if predictable. Some of the commenters bemoan the impending flood of poor quality content. Now, that's just silly. Let's assume for a minute that aesthetic quality is what matters most here (I'm not at all sure that it is, of course). Let's assume that thousands of people, not skilled enough to create "interesting work", are going to churn out formulaic pseudo-techno music using the loops provided as part of the software package. OK. But how will their music be distributed so widely as to be a bother to the concerned, discerning, music lovers? No, there is something else going on.
Another worry, implied in Sanford's question and also in several of the comments to his post, is that by "allowing" people to make their own music quickly and easily, "we" (that is, we, the guardians of the Great Mystery that is Art) will allow the mystique and aura of the creative process to be diluted, so that people might dare to think that anyone can create good music, and will therefore lose respect for "real artists", and so there will be no market for "real art", and civilization will collapse in a pile of cheesy guitar riffs.
The debates that spring from these aesthetic panics are interesting, but I'm more interested in the extent to which consumer production tools both enable (through ease of use) and constrain (through the same ease of use) the creativity and cultural agency of their users. And the users, by the way, are actively engaged in the debates over all these questions of cultural value, authenticity, and agency - have a look at the garage band discussion forums, for example.
Speaking of which, I'd love to hear from anyone just getting started making their own music using a computer - it doesn't matter what software you are using. What are you doing with it? Has it changed the way you listen? made you more or less appreciative of "professional" artists? And most importantly, are you enjoying it?
April 16, 2004
Don't know your darkstep from your neurofunk? Check out Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music - A sweet Flash application that interactively maps out the various micro-genres and history of ectronica, from Kraftwerk to Kid606 with music samples and screamingly funny descriptions.