BeginnerDJ Interviews Basilisk

Basilisk @ All Stars 2010

Recently I was interviewed for BeginnerDJ, a great resource for aspiring DJs and newcomers to electronic music. Most of the focus is on DJing but I also share a few words about my work with Ektoplazm.

What made you become a DJ?
It all started by accident. Back in my teenage years most of my friends were swept up in the burgeoning rave moment in Toronto. Buying turntables and learning how to DJ was a participatory aspect of this subculture. I had no real interest in it at first but my friends coaxed me into messing around with the decks at various house parties. Soon I was accompanying them on record buying missions downtown and, once I landed my first real job, I began to amass my own record collection.

Free Music Toolkit 2010

I rely on many different applications and utilities to keep my web sites running and the free music flowing. Here I have compiled a list of some of the more important software that I use to publish music and maintain Ektoplazm. This list is for my reference as much as yours; I might need to refer back to this post whenever I am travelling and wish to update the site remotely. Everything listed here should be compatible with Windows XP, which I’m still using as of 2010.

Auxiliary Magazine Interview

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Auxiliary Magazine is an alternative fashion, music, and lifestyle publication based in the United States. Back in March both Ekoplex and I were interviewed by Digitalgeist (Alex Kourelis) for an article entitled “My Label is the Internet,” a feature on netlabels. You can find the finished article on page 27 of the April 2009 issue. Additionally, Auxiliary has been publishing the original interviews on their web site.

Free by Itself Is Not Enough

In a recent article entitled Too Much Free, marketing guru Seth Godin suggests that “free by itself is no longer enough to guarantee much of anything”. Godin distinguishes between “breakthrough free”, which is interesting precisely because it hasn’t been done before, and “sample-this free”, which leads to diminishing returns for content providers as people are increasingly inundated with free stuff.

In Defense of the Free Music Model

The future of the music industry is a hotly debated subject, as just about anyone knows. Fingertips weighs in with a critical commentary of some of the more popular alternatives regularly lauded in the blogosphere, taking the time to skewer the “free music” model (not having to pay for recorded music), the “access” model (free or paid access to music in the cloud; Spotify or perhaps last.fm exemplify this approach), and the “music like water” model (which, in its simplest form, involves paying something like a flat rate utility bill for unlimited access to music). I won’t comment at length on the critiques of the latter two since neither interest me all that much.

Rethinking Conventional Promo Strategies

Andrew Dubber has an interesting new post on who to send promos to, an issue that many labels and artists struggle with these days. Dubber likens the traditional model to a lottery, whereby promos are sent out to prominent gatekeepers of taste (reviewers, radio hosts, and so on) in the hopes that someone will actually crack the cellophane and give the release a spin. It is very goal-oriented; there is a desire to see a tangible return on the investment, which is often difficult to achieve. Sending promos is wasteful—many are simply discarded. There will always be far more people interested in having their music heard than there are “tastemakers” with enough free time and curiosity to take a chance on something new. Speaking from experience, this is largely because a lot of music isn’t very good—and sorting through the crap to find that future gem (or even something worth writing about) is an arduous and uninspiring task. Labels and artists play this lottery to win the attention of the gatekeepers and, ideally, increase sales and exposure of their product.

Memories of a Dying Medium

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Recently I retrieved the metal stamper plates used to press the first and likely the only vinyl record I will ever have a hand in making: the Liquid Neon Sky EP. Until recently, these stamper plates were stored in a warehouse somewhere in Toronto, set aside after the production run in November of 2002. For whatever reason the plant held on to them and—six years later—emailed me to ask if I would like to pick them up. The company was shutting down their vinyl manufacturing division, apparently due to lack of demand.

In Focus: Planet B.E.N. – Ant Invasion

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Planet B.E.N. (Ben Wierzoch) composed Ant Invasion in 1993, years before the widespread popularization of Goa trance. This enduring masterpiece of psychedelic electronics predates the vast majority of classics we commonly associate with the genre. Unfortunately, its place in history is often overlooked as it wasn’t formally released until 1996, when the movement was already in full swing. With a bit of research, it is now possible to reassemble the lost history of this infamous tune.

Reconsidering DJ Charts and Top Tens

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DJ charts have long been a fixture of the electronic music movement. Charts serve a simple purpose: to recommend music. I haven’t seen it mentioned before, but I suspect that the widespread popularity of top tens is at least partially rooted in the fact that they transcend language. Absolutely anyone can figure out what a top ten is all about with very little explanation required. As it translates well across national boundaries, the top ten can be considered basic currency in a global economy of taste and preference.

Unfortunately, the top ten format has earned a terrible reputation in recent years, particularly in the psytrance scene. I blame this on the ludicrous way in which music traders used the format to boast about what “unreleased killers” they had access to, many of which were probably fabricated. Print publications were relatively unaffected by this trend but the open and unregulated community spaces of the Internet gave rise to a virtual arms race of avarice and stupidity. As a result, many psytrance forums expunged top tens entirely in 2003 and 2004—and the focus shifted to in-depth and authoritative reviews for a while.

The Future of Copyright

Cato Unbound published an interesting issue entitled The Future of Copyright back in June of 2008. The lead essay, written by Piratbyrån co-founder Rasmus Fleischer, offers insight into the consequences of increasingly severe copyright legislation:

Every broken regulation brings a cry for at least one new regulation even more sweepingly worded than the last. Copyright law in the 21st century tends to be less concerned about concrete cases of infringement, and more about criminalizing entire technologies because of their potential uses. This development undermines the freedom of choice that Creative Commons licenses are meant to realize. It will also have seriously chilling effects on innovation, as the legal status of new technologies will always be uncertain under ever more invasive rules.