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Archive for "Music"

June 20, 2012

Stealing Music, Again

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s tangentially related to the music industry is contractually obligated to weigh in on the Great NPR Stealing Music Fiasco of Ought-Twelve. 

So here are my thoughts, in response to Jonathan Coulton’s very interesting ruminations. This was originally left as a comment on his post, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to be buried, so…

Thought experiment for the Free-Culture and anti-copyright folks out here: Let’s say you make something. You distribute it digitally. And because you believe in Free Culture, you insist that it be distributed for free.

Then someone starts charging for it.

How does that make you feel? Do you feel that you, as the creator, have the right to determine how your creation is distributed?

I think even more than a practical issue — which, let me be clear, is certainly a big issue — this is an issue of principle. How would you feel if the foo was on the other shoot? Not great, I suspect.


But there’s also a practical element that doesn’t seem to be talked much about. There are a lot of Free-As-In-Beer flag-wavers outraged that the gub’mint might step in and knock out file-sharing centers. “What right,” they demand, “does the government have to determine how culture should be shared?”

But here’s what confuses me: What right do the flag-wavers have to determine how an artist’s work should be shared? Do you presume to know better than the creators of the works how their work benefits them, or benefits society?

We talk about “the music industry” as though it’s this faceless monolith. But the facts are (as usual) a lot messier. Yes, some artists can make a living on the road, and giving away their music (or allowing it to be given away) benefits them. But there are musicians for whom this is exactly reversed: Live performance earns nothing; music sales and licensing are everything. Most are probably in the middle. But are we going to insist that all musicians take it on the road, or give it up? Seems kind of counter-productive to the goal of diversifying art and encouraging experimentation. Do we really want a world where only the one percent (if you’ll pardon the allusion) of musicians can make a decent living?

People, think this through to its logical conclusion. We live in a world where money is necessary. The less money that can be made by making music, the fewer musicians we’ll have. Yes, there will be the super-successful, there will be the ones who do it for love alone, and there will be those — like our esteemed host — who find their own niche and make it work. But I don’t see how it can be denied that fewer rewards for making music will ultimately result in fewer musicians. Is that really what we want? Is that the price we’re willing to pay for “free” music?

Personally, I’d rather pay Mr. Coulton than get Rebecca Black for free.

Am I alone in thinking this way?

For more of my thoughts on the matter, you may be interested in this post from a few years back.

April 6, 2011

New Music

You know, this is the problem with never updating my blog. I completely forget to mention significant things, and then forget that I’ve forgotten.

Case in point: Did you know I’ve put up four new songs for your listening pleasure since last we spoke of it here? It’s true! You can get all the dirty details at

And don’t tell anyone, but I’m currently working on a new tune that will be very, very different. That’s all I’ll say. FOR NOW.

November 22, 2010

How to Make a Playlist of Dead iTunes Tracks

After an epic virus infestation on my work PC, I’m in the process of moving all my work and work processes over to my Mac. Because, really, fuck that shit. But the transfer has not been without some hurdles: Tracking down equivalent software, moving my iTunes folder, so on and so forth. So I figured I’d share some of my experiences here in order to help anyone else making similar moves.

This one goes in the “so simple I’m annoyed I didn’t think of it” file. When I moved and consolidated my iTunes library, there were some tracks that iTunes just absolutely refused to locate on its own — even though it moved everything itself. Yeah, awesome, right? So I’d been manually scanning my library to see what tracks weren’t linking properly to the source files. But I had a couple hundred files that I just could not track down. I looked for scripts to do it (Doug’s AppleScripts was a great source), but the best I could find was one that made a text file of the missing tracks; helpful, but not as efficient as it could be for actually fixing the problem.

I finally stumbled on this post at iLounge which made the whole thing almost stupidly easy. Here’s the gist: You make a regular playlist and put all your music in it (you’ll want to right-click and select Add to Playlist rather than trying to drag or you’ll be there all day). If iTunes can’t find the source file, it won’t put the song in the playlist. So then you just make a smart playlist with the criteria Playlist > Is Not > [the playlist you just made]

Voila, all yer dead tracks in one place, ripe for the locatin’. Simple, eh?

October 4, 2010

Back on the Wagon

Johnny High GroundOh, hello there.  If you’re reading this, chances are you know that I’m not just a writer, but also a musician. I used to play bass and sing for a punk band here in Cleveland called whatever… (I know, shut up), and after leaving the band I embarked on my own musical odyssey under the name Johnny High Ground.

In the mid-’00s I sort of fell off that wagon, though, due to work schedule and time constraints and not knowing anybody in San Francisco I could play with.

But now, dammit, I’m getting back on.

I’ve redesigned and relaunched, and put a hefty chunk of my older material up for sale on iTunes. With the exception of three tunes recorded with a live band in ’01, these are all songs I’ve written, performed, and recorded entirely by myself.

And that’s just the beginning. First off, those same songs should be up for sale at Amazon any day now. Once that happens, I’ll probably put the rest of my current catalog up for sale as well. And then: new tunes! I’ve got a backlog of songs that I’ve been dying to record for years, and I’m trying to trick myself into getting motivated to put them down for posterity at last.

I’m hoping to get some live performances in, too, one of these days. But it’s been years since I took the stage, so I plan to start small.

Anyway, I’d love it if you’d head over to and check out the songs. And it would mean a great deal to me if you’d help spread the word about this musical endeavor. The great thing about having sat on these songs for so long is that the tools for spreading the word about new music have gotten much more widespread and powerful since I’ve been away. And you’ll find lots of those tools at the site.

I look forward to hearing what you think.

September 2, 2010

Early Fragment

In lieu of a more substantive update, here’s a fragment of a song I’m working on:

Second Coming
(with apologies to William Butler Yeats)

The dough-faced anti-Christ
is oozing crocodile tears,
building an army of the lowest of the low.

They wave their grease-stained placards
scrawled with badly misspelt fears,
a new religion with a one-word creed:
just, “No.”

Now the best lack all conviction, while the worst
are shouting fictions on T.V.

And what rough beast slouches across the screen?

August 25, 2009

Now It Can Be Told

guitarsmall-540I’ve been hinting at a big project for months now, and it’s finally done. Well, by “done” I guess I mean “begun” — I’ve just launched a new website: Plastic Axe.

See, I love music games. I mean, I really love them. This is in part because I love music in an embarrassingly wide variety of genres, and in part because I’m a musician myself (I sing and play bass, guitar, and drums, in case you didn’t know). So these games sort of hit me right in the sweet spot.

Anyway, I’ve been spending the last few months putting this site together. This is a solo project; I’m doing all the writing, design, coding, PR, administration… Suddenly I’m very tired. Where was I? Oh yes: This site is all me. But I’m also hoping it’ll be useful to other fans of music games, who can keep up with the latest news and releases, and find lots of new music in The Vault.

So there it is, my Big Secret Project: Plastic Axe — Music games for music fans. Go have yourself a look around, and let me know what you think in the comments (over there rather than here, please).

August 13, 2009

New How-To: Bring GarageBand Tunes to Life

Nope, I’m not ready to talk about my big news yet. At the moment I’m aiming for August 24 as the big reveal, but it could be sooner. It could be later. HEY LOOK, LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE, OK?

Ahem, sorry. Anyway, the reason I called you here today is to let you know that Mac|Life has posted a how-to I put together many months ago, which aims to provide tips for home recording with GarageBand. You Mac owners may enjoy it — and for anyone on Windows machines, I tried to make these tips as general as possible, so many of them can be applied to any recording situation.

So I hope you enjoy them.

May 4, 2009

Personal Recommendations, From Me to You

I’m kind of slow sometimes.

People often ask me for recommendations for things like games and books and music and other things we humans need to survive. So a couple weeks back, I spent an afternoon putting together a huge collection of lists of my favorite games, music, movies, books, and even food…and then promptly forgot to mention it here on the main page.

So, hey, lookie there in the left-hand sidebar! It’s a Favorites page! It has all sorts of recommendations of stuff I happen to enjoy a whole lot. I hope you’ll find them useful. If not, feel free to leave a comment on that page. As long as you’re okay with me telling you how wrong you are.

April 6, 2009

Stealing Music

stealmusicThe other day, awkwardly named technology site TechCrunch ran an editorial by founder Michael Arrington asking, “Stealing Music: Is It Wrong Or Isn’t It?

First, a definition: In the article, Arrington says, “Let’s put the law aside for a moment – this post is about doing the right thing.” OK, so the question Arrington is actually asking is, “Is stealing music ethically wrong?” That’s helpful, because it makes the answer particularly easy:

Of course it’s wrong, you fucking idiot.

Continue reading “Stealing Music” »

March 6, 2009

New-style Music-Games Column

Wanted to note two quick things:

Thing the First: My weekly column about music games is up over at Green Pixels. We did something a little different this time, reorganizing the column as a collection of links to let you dig into the catalogs of the different artists. I think you’ll find it more useful than previous columns.

And Thing the Second: Don’t worry, fans of office-related destruction, I’m still working on the Ziff-trospective, Part III — I had some things that needed tending to over this past week, but I’m planning to have it up over the weekend or early next week. Thanks for your patience.