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This site is really about my take on a number of media, technology and music business issues as I smack into them in my life and my business. Among them are: The challenges of running a small record label in the Music 2.0 (sorry) world, audio and music technology and business, learning and instructional technology and media, and just being a 40 something desk jockey with (now - gulp) 10 year old twins. (Sheesh - kids just keep growing and getting older no matter what you do!)

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Coffee Cup

IMG_0881.JPGI hear that coffee is the new wine - whatever that means. I will say that I have really gotten into coffee this past year. I am no barista and I probably don't even qualify as a coffee geek, but I have put some time into pouring a good cup of joe while supporting fair trade distributors. Currently I am brewing/drinking what so far has to be my favorite source of coffee; Counter Culture coffee. Very fresh, Fair Trade and Organic offerings - check out some of their micro lots. Mmm-Good.

Other good ones: Global Libations in Kutztown Pa, I like their Costa Rican La Amistad, and Alterra Coffee in Milwaukee Wi, thier Dark Sumatra - strong stuff but mmmm good.

Don't forget Joe's Coffee Bar in Philidelphia. Excellent fresh roasted beans and fair trade too!


20 Years Ago Today... remember?

Great Sadness.

20 years ago I was a graduate student studying music composition at BGSU in NW Ohio. During the months of April and May, I got very caught up in the events that were then transpiring in Beijing, in particular, Tiananmen Square. How exciting and engaging it was to watch the brightest and bravest of a nation, the majority of whom were young college and graduate students like myself, staging such an incredible, peaceful demonstration for change in their country's government.

Remember, George HW was still president, and that was after 8 years of Reagan. Here in the US, it appeared to me at the time anyhow, that people of my age were only passionate about MBAs – Self- fulfillment, attaining things. And in full disclosure self- fulfillment and attaining things (but not MBAs) were things I sought and still sort of seek, but not something I was/am passionate about.

Every day I tuned-in to watch the demonstrations. It was gripping. A million people! The best and brightest of a generation - and they were going to do it! They were going to bring down the repressive Chinese government. I was excited. I was proud of them. How it impacted my mood – "look at these folks" I thought,  "Look at this movement – growing and evolving on the spot - no central leadership – an organic energy growing and spreading."

T-shirt produced by U-Chicago Chinese Student Union

June 4 through June 8 – what a crushing few days. Literally of course, as the Chinese government chose to wipe out the best and brightest of a generation. “Tank man” – such an inspiring figure – most likely executed with the other what - 3000 killed?

Needless to say I was devastated. That seems like a selfish statement when I look at it typed out on the page - it is.

But I was.

I can go on - I can ask, as many do; what was the ultimate impact those million demonstrators had in their country? Was it worth it? In China it has been written out of their history. The current generation of similar age really knows nothing about it, unless they sneak out on the internets outside of their own country. – sigh.


Back of the same shirt. Thanks to my bro Dave for the shirtAnyhow.

I was at the time writing a piece in support of the demonstrators in China. It was being written for my then girl friend (and now wife) to perform as a solo bassoon piece. Of course as an electronic music geek, I was looking to make it an ‘electronic’ bassoon piece. I was working with IVL pitch rider at the time, and the piece ultimately was developed for the bassoon with IVL pitch rider and digital sampler (quite the piece of gear at the time) with custom sound design and samples. It eventually became a lament. Here is a live recording of the piece perfromed at a festival in 1990. It seems horribly dated when I listen to it now - doesn’t really hold up.

But at the time it was a true expression of my feelings- my grief.

Grief I find I still have today.



"Quintets: Albright - Bolcom" and the Long Tail

AMP Recordings new release "Quintets: Albright - Bolcom

OK. so it is all the rage these days to debunk the Long Tail. But for a record (yes, they are still records, even if it is a digital only release!) like the one my label AMP Recordings has just released, the Long Tail is crucial.

No one really gets rich in the classical recording field, and this is modern chamber music to boot - so the idea of a "hit" was never really viable. (Although I must say there are exceptions, like the almost fairy tale story of the Grand Valley State recording of Steve Riech's Music for 18 Musicians - but I dare say no one got rich). So what the Long Tail does for a micro label like ours - who has partnered with artists to create a product, is that it makes it available to people all around the world.

When we released our first recording (Scarlatti Harpsichord Works) in 1996, it was quite a struggle to make it available to people. See, classical chamber music is in of itself a niche - and there are a ton of niches with the chamber music niche. There are number of people in the world who would love to get there hands on what was an obscure recording of Scarlatti Harpsichord works. The trick was (and is) letting that niche know that the recording exists and making it somewhat easy to find and buy.

Chamber Music - Lots of niches within niches

There are infinitely more tools (at very low cost) for accomplishing this than there was 10 - 12 years ago - social networking, search engines, blogs etc, and of course for music, digital aggregators like CD Baby et al, but clearing through the clutter to get your niche's attention can still be a challenge. (We are going to re-release that recording digitally because we know someone in Hungary or Japan or Indiana is working up a Scarlatti Harpsichord piece and would love to hear what is on this record)

Often the scenario for chamber music releases on small labels was to hope to sell some, and then either store or give away the rest. I will get some push back on that, but it is essentially true.

So we have a definite Long Tail plan for our newest release. We have a number of things going for us I think. First; the ensemble, Brave New Works Rocks. Second; the pieces are fantastic and are by contemporary composers - and, as far as we know, they have not been commercially recorded before. The works are William Bolcom's Piano Quintet and William Albright's Clarinet Quintet.

We are releasing the record on CD (available now, you should buy it) and as a digital release. We are doing the traditional marketing stuff (albeit on a shoe string), sending it to radio for play (yes, we are still buying into terrestrial radio) and sending it out for review in both print and blogs. We are in the process of creating a dedicated myspace and facebook page for the release. We actually submitted for consideration for a Grammy and it made through the Committee phase. (Any NARAS members out there - give it a listen!). We have realistic expectations, we are excited that a couple thousand Grammy voters will see it on the list.

From the micro lable's point of view, the Long Tail is a real and quantifiable phenomenon. From the retailer and major label POV, maybe not. But is has made it possible for micro lables to sell a 1000 copies of their release, instead of just storing them.

So, I will post as things progress to see how our release does in the Long Tail.


Thanks Mr. Patry

"Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again: multilateral and trade agreements have ensured that, and quite deliberately."
- William Patry. from his final post announcing the end of his personal blog.

I will miss Patry's insight into the ever crumbling world of copyright. I am by no means an expert, but I run into copyright issues on a weekly basis, as does many of us, and have had an "academic" interest in copyright issues since the late 90's.

While Patry's wasn't the only source of opinion out there and I wasn't always 100 percent in agreement (and admittedly a fair number of posts were over my head in terms of the legal speak) I found his blog a great source of info that I checked daily and it lived up to what a great blog should be. Thanks Mr. Patry.

Learning 2.0 (like Music 2.0 and Web 2.0) and the Long Tail

Chris Anderson's The Long Tail is required reading for anyone operating in the "fill-in-the-blank" 2.o world. Incidentally, in case you missed it, Chris has published a preview of his new book in his magazine Wired titled; "Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business". I have read the feature, but really need to read it again before I really can comment on it.

Besides, what about The Long Tail?

The concepts of The Long Tail figure significantly in the operation of our "micro - niche" label. We are taking advantage of the read/write web using blogs, social networks etc. to find our niche, to capture the attention of our potential listeners and to invite their participation in our music product. The Long Tail has allowed our music products to be available at music retailers like Amazon as well as digital retailers such as Itunes and eMusic.

The Long Tail seems to be emerging in the eLearning world as well. John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler tackle the implications of The Long Tail on learning admirably in their article in Educause Review, "Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0" The article is an excellent and informative read. I came to it by way of Tony Karrer's eLearning Technology blog. Tony has has a great article covering his take on the Long Tail in corporate learning "Corporate Learning Long Tail and the Attention Crisis"

All of this is heady stuff, especially when I often  deal with organizations still trying to figure out how use their 5 year old LMS. I  think social learning networks and the rise of niche learning is an inevitability. People who learn socially tend to retain more information and learn - well - better. There is research to back that up, but I know it from my teaching assistant days. A professor of record and 2 teaching assistants taught a freshman level music theory class with an enrollment of 121 students. The class was a lecture class held in a large recital hall. To assist the students in absorbing the material, the other assistant and I (who is now my wife by the way) set up small learning groups of 15 to 20 students. The sessions were very informal, we often had doughnuts, coffee etc and had the students participate in running and even devising exercises and games so we could ensure the students could resolve their augmented sixth chords. The students who took advantage of those small learning groups invariably either had the highest grades or improved their grades.

Today, this can be handled by creating a social learning network online, using maybe a blog or a wiki where the students participate in and even generate the learning content. And with bandwidth, storage etc. costs constantly falling in price, more and more knowledge and learning niches will populate the Long Tail.  Of course, as with most everything along these lines, if you build it, they may not come. A culture needs to be developed to encourage the learners to participate and share.

Anyhow, that long tail is a slappin me around, in music, to some degree in our music instrument and recording gear retail business and in eLearning. 


Entrepreneurship - Guy Kawasaki

I came across this presentation by Guy Kawasaki (by way of Gerd Leonhard's Mediafuturist blog) on entrepreneurship. There are a lot of great info-nuggets here and it is well worth the time to view. The title of his talk is the "Art of the Start" in support of his book by the same name (which I have not read, but have added to my ever growing list).

I have been and am currently involved with a couple of different start-ups and many of his points really ring true for the issues even  "low-dough" or "sweat equity" start-ups face.  Entrepreneurship is a growing buzzword in academia and in the arts; the points made in this presentation apply to entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds, whether it is a new company, a cross curriculum program or a new arts outreach program. Some of these type of programs are not necessarily after the money in people's pockets, but may be after people's attention, which in their case is the "currency" they are after.

Let me know what you think.