Sunday, 21 June 2009

At Conference "Mathematics and Computation in Music"

Since Thursday evening I am in the US, attending the MCM 2009 conference (Mathematics and Gomputation in Music) in New Haven, at Yale University. Travel details are described in my personal blog. A very interesting conference, with about 60 participants from mathematical and/or musical background. My own expertise in either of these areas is quite limited, but I was glad to understand at least around 50% of each talk.

Was very glad to meet Donya Quick, whom I knew from about 8 years ago through sharing and composing MIDI files at Lavio Pareschi's web site. I also knew Elaine Chew from the MusicNetwork Conference in 2005 in Vienna - and I was glad to explain to her my work on determining Tonnetz parameters, which is closely related to her spiral array. Also made new friends in this community, went out yesterday evening into the rain-soaked town. The conference is half-way through, Sunday and Monday are still presentation of papers. Yesterday, Saturday afternoon was the poster session, where I explained over and over my approach of determining the distance of the lines-of-Fifth in the Tonnetz. I was able to quickly hack together an MScape applications for the Yale Uni Campus, allowing a walk-through of the Tonnetz and experiencing the creation of consonant tri-chords. Unfortunately, it began to rain around 18:00, and since my mobile phone is not waterproof, I could not demonstrate the application to anyone.

Now this morning will be tutorials - I will attend the one for OpenMusic - maybe there is some support on getting this running on Windows.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

My Music on iTunes - thanks to WaTunes!

Just got an email from WaTunes, informing me that my two albums which I had recently uploaded to WaTunes, are now on iTunes. This is FANTASTIC! Just took about one week, not as expected until mid August. The music I have on TuneCore and had uploaded a few days earlier is still not on iTunes... which gives WaTunes clearly an edge. These two albums which are now in iTunes are: "Digital Mahler" with recordings of my three pieces from Gustav Mahler's Symphonies, and the "Romantic Suite". I will soon upload more music through WaTunes, since this appears to work great.

This afternoon, the CEO of WaTunes, Kevin Rivers, called me on my mobile phone and guided me for about 30 minutes through a pre-release of their new interface software, which allows artists to customise their music into releasing it onto different online music stores. It is a software that the user downloads and runs on their own computer, offline. It basically creates the meta data for each store, allowing the user to control all aspects which go into the store. There is even a version tag, so that different versions of the release can be managed. The principle is that the artists manage their uploads offline and create the proper set of files. These files are then uploaded to WaTunes. This upload will be integrated into the final version of this management software; right now the user would upload the files through ftp.

I will try this out for my next albums.

Way to go, Watunes!

Installing OpenMusic...first try

I read a lot about Open Music (OM) as a tool for creating music composition with algorithmic procedures, and I was curious on trying it out. However, there are quite a few hurdles:

Open Music has been developed for the Mac. Which means that the latest version, 6.x, is only available for Macs. Since I am a Windows guy (no, I am not a PC), this puts me immediately in a disadvantaged position. But I am not going to buy a Mac just for trying out some cool software, so I have to find a way to make Open Music work on my Windows laptop.

There are a few versions of the earlier OM releases available as downloads for Windows, for example a 4.7.2 and a 5.2.1. However, these appear to be source code files, for somewhat obscure compilers, and I figured I should just to get the very latest version 6.0.6 to work on my system.

There is a scary statement on the portal for the OpenMusic software:

The current OM sources allow to compile and run OM on MacOS X PPC/Intel with LispWorks 5.1 compiler.

Nevertheless, there is Windows support available, when following the instructions for setting up OM 6.

First one needs to install MidiShare. I get the zipped version with the executables and dump all ini, exe, dll files in /Windows/System32.

Next is the LibAudioStream: I also dump these two dlls from there into /Windows/System32.

Finally trying the same procedure withSDIF: however, this is only available as source... Fortunately there is a .dsw file for Visual Studio 6, so the compilation should be no problem... Well, several of the included .dsp files appear to be corrupt - at least this is what my Visual Studio 8 converter tells me. And when trying to compile the other intact projects within this solution, then I get the following error: "Command line error D8038 : invalid argument '_SdifTypesFileName %SDIFTYPES%'"... what the hell is that?

I see that this installation of Open Music on Windows would be quite a hazzle... why is that? Windows has 88 - 93 % market share, so why is this large community being excluded by an elitist approach which only takes Mac and Linux seriously?

I will have to dig deeper in this... this quest will be continued.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Online Music Distribution Experience

Here I want to share some of my first experiences with online music distribution services. So far I have uploaded through TuneCore and WaTunes. For checking if my music is online available, I did a search for "reinhold behringer" on each of the sites.

As a summary, from TuneCore the music seems to be fastest uploaded to Amazon. iTunes and AmieStreet seem to be the slowest - they did not yet have any music available after 6 days.

Here is my experience with TuneCore:

DateServiceIssues and Comments
Day 1Uploading Music to TuneCoreFiles had to be in wave or MP3 > 300 bps - I uploaded wave.
8 hoursFirst of the uploaded music is on Amazon.Because TuneCore does have no classical category, I put my music in "Electronic" and "Inspirational". That translated on Amazon to "Dance/Electronic" and "Christian/Gospel".
Day 3Music is on Lala.Listen only possible in US.
Provides number of listens.
Fortunately category stays as "Electronic" instead of something weird.
Day 5Music is on ShockHound.Uses "Piggy Bank" for payment.
Puts my music into genre: Spiritual
Day 6Music is on Rhapsody.Cateogory: Electronica/Dance.
Artwork is only partially there (is missing for Tristan, is not showing in enlarged icon view).
Listen is only available in US.
Day 6Music is on Napster (UK, cannot access US).But need to be a member of Napster to see the tracks.
Emusic:No way of checking, because even the search requires a registration.


And here is my experience with WaTunes:

DateServiceIssues and Comments
Day 1Creating Album on WaTunes.In its current form the GUI and upload interface are not very intuitive to use. One has only one attempt in setting up the album, later changes are through (the very responsive) tech support.
Day 2Uploaded music content to WaTunes.Track files are packed into one zip file which is then uploaded via web interface. I wondered how the track order in the album would be determined. WaTunes responded that one adds a number as the first characters in the track file name. Also when creating the album one should add the track titles in the form - I had forgotten to do that.
Day 3Music is "In Review".


In summary:

TuneCore has a professional service, at a price of $9.99 per single. The uploaded music was fast online on Amazon. But the limited genre classifications that are offered by TuneCore, are a real bummmer. After uploading 5 singles, I have halted all further uploads indefinitely, until they fix their genre classification and add at least a "classical" category.

WaTunes offers free upload to iTunes, eMusic, and ShockHound. Their service is good value, but it appears not yet mature and really functioning. But they do have a large variety of genres. However, my music uploaded through them is not yet online anywhere, I got told it would be online by mid August. There are several issues with the web interface, which currently only allows a very limited management by the artist. One has to wait until the "New Experience" is implemented on their site, and until the VIP service is activated (expected by mid July, with large number of additional stores).

A note regarding iTunes: they really appear not to be artist-friendly at all. They are not interested in independent artist signing on, but recommend that they go through one of those intermediaries like TuneCore or WaTunes. And even through those, they take a long time until the music appears there in their store.

Amazon appears to be the winner - with the most rapid online publication of the music and with a well established and accessible brand. I have not yet found out if artists can sign on directly to Amazon...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Virtual Philharmonic Orchestra online again

After having neglected my Virtual Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) for a few years and having lapsed the original domain name registration, I have now resumed the online presence of this music entity. I had founded the VPO back in 1998, when I was looking for a way of putting my MIDI music online. In 1999, the MP3.COM community gave this venture a boost, and I began posting my recordings.

I have now reinstated the old VPO site, now here at www.virtualphilharmonic.co.uk. Aliases for this site are virtualphilharmonic.net and www.virtualphilharmonicorchestra.com.

Music on Rhapsody

There are now a few of my recordings on Rhapsody: "Elegia", "Tristan...", and "Arie des Tenor". Unfortunately they are in the wrong category, but since TuneCore still has no classical category, there is nothing I can do about it.

The files also do not have any artwork: the graphics which I also uploaded on TuneCore do not appear on Rhapsody...

I think I will create a separate post here, with a table about all these little quirks.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Tristan, Siegfried, and Isolde: Rank 6 (of 9) on Amazon

Trying out the search "tristan siegfried isolde", between 9 and 11 items come up on Amazon. When sorting them by "Bestselling", my "Tristan and Siegfried meet Isolde" appears on rank 6 - one above the Vienna Philharmonic (who have a compilation of the Siegfried Idyll and the Tristan and Isolde overture). But they are also on rank 5, one above me: with their Tannhaeuser Ouverture from the same album.

Now that I look a bit closer, in that list, I realise that it is sorted by alphabet of the title... which means all MP3 files in this list have probably the same statistics (my guess: 0).

Moldau on Amazon: Rank 209 out of 251

Just checked on Amazon: my recording of Smetana's Moldau is on rank 209, when searching for the term "Moldau" and sorting by "Bestselling". Nice - means I might have made one sale! :)

When searching Amazon for "Vltava", my recording comes even up on rank 60, out of 75. This is even better then Celibidache's version (rank 70)! Good that I put both name versions in the title.

For information: "Vltava" top-selling is the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and "Moldau" top-selling is Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Music in More Online Stores

The music which I had uploaded to TuneCore is now available in two more stores:
Lala and Shockhound.

I have now also uploaded an album to WaTunes: My "Romantic Suite" (2000) with the three files "Mirage", "Daring", and "Never Ending". Am in the process of uploading "Digital Mahler": "Adagietto" (Symphony #5,3rd mvmnt, Symphony #1, 3rd movement, and Symphony #4, 3rd movement (all recorded in 1999 and 2000).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

iTunes does prefer Digital Service Providers over Independent Artists

After a few weeks of trying to sign up on iTunes (which was my first attempt at reviving my online distribution of music), I got today an email from them:


Thank you for your interest in iTunes.

After careful consideration of your application, we believe that the most efficient way to get your content up on iTunes in a timely fashion would be for you to deliver the content through one of the several digital service providers with whom we currently work.

For your information, below is a list of several companies that can encode and deliver your music content to iTunes. Should you be interested, please determine which digital service provider is appropriate for your particular content.


This is a clear indication that iTunes prefers to deal with established artists / labels and with those online music distributors like WaTunes. They appended a list of those providers which does not appear to be complete - the latest additions of online music distributors are not included. I am still posting their list here, for reference (just Google the names):


Based in North America

Avatar*
Catapult*
CD Baby*
IDEA
Ingrooves
IODA
IRIS Distribution
Redeye Distribution
The Orchard*
Tunecore*
Virtual Label
* known to accept independent artists


Based in Europe (and where located)

AWAL (UK)
Artspages (NO)
Basepoint Media (DK)
Believe (FR)
Broad Street Digital (UK)
DiGiDi (DK)
IC records (IS & UK)
Kiver (IT)
Kontor New Media (DE, IT, PT)
Kudos (UK)
La C├║pula [House of Music] (ES)
N.E.W.S (BE)
Portal Latino (ES)
Ordis (AT)
State 51 (UK)
The Music Business Organisation AS (DK)
Uploader/IODA (UK)
Zebralution (DE)


Based in Australia & New Zealand

AmpHead Entertainment (The Orchard AU)
Musicadium
Show Off Recordings
Digital Rights Management NZ/Amplifiger Digital


Based in Japan

Rightsscale
BounDEE

Spotify

In my quest to find the best online music distributor, I tried now also to sign onto spotify. But these guys put the bar high: the site only gives the possibility to enter the artist email address, then one has to wait until someone reads it and establishes the contact individually... no automatic web form etc... So I will have to wait. Spotify appears to be more for listeners than for artists. So I might pass on that one.

ReverbNation

Found another online distributor: ReverbNation - looks quite good so far. They have the following online stores: iTunes (all countries), Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster, eMusic. These are the standard stores which also TuneCore and WaTunes.
This costs $34.95 per release, which means it is not feasible for singles but only for albums. But their selection of tools for artists is quite amazing: Twitter, MySpace, links to RSS feeds, widgets - everything that the Web2.0-savvy artist would want! Clearly, ReverbNation has very capable and pro-active web developers.

WaTunes vs. TuneCore

While searching for an alternative to TuneCore which would be able to add the "Classical" tag to my music, I came across watunes. Not quite clear how the costing is: on one blog entry a monthly fee of $10 is mentioned, but when I signed on, there was no mention of a fee at all - indeed, their service is FREE!

And WaTunes has the "classical" category - which is absolutely essential for my music. Also, they do have a great array of sub-cagetories, something that TuneCore does not have at all. They require only MP3 files (320 bps), no wave files. And they need the artwork only at resolution 600x600, not like TuneCore which requires 1600x1600.

So I think I will give it a try and upload there. Pity for you, TuneCore, that you guys were not able to fix the genre classification... but if I would publish all my music under those incorrect tags, nobody would ever find the files.

Some of the WaTunes interface is not yet stable. I tried to edit my account information, and while it had accepted everything when I signed on, it complained that my username was too long when I wanted to edit my account info. Also the system had forgotten that I wanted to sign on as artist, not as listener... and after I had created an yet empty album, I should have written down the UPC code - because that one is needed when preparing uploading the content. In order to see the UPC code, one has to go back to the main page and go to "My Discography".

It seems that the web developers for those online music distribution sites are a bit overworked, not being able to address simple issues such as classical music tagging or managing correctly the database access, but I guess this will change in the future.

WaTunes: cover art costs $20. TuneCore: cover art is free.

Stores for WaTunes (free): iTunes (no country specified), eMusic, ShockHound. For an additional $29.99 VIP charge per year, more stores are offered: Napster, Amazon, AmieStreet, zune, masterbeat, beatsdigital, and others, including mobile phone stores.

Stores for TuneCore: iTunes, Napster, Amazon, eMusic, ShockHound, AmieStreet, rhapsody, IMVU, Lala.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

TuneCore Customer Support

Yesterday I had posted my questions to the TuneCore customer support, and today came my reply, answering all my questions. Unfortunately, there will be no Classical category for a while: the meta-tagging for classical is more complicated, as one needs also other sub-tags (arranger etc.). Well, this is annoying - I cannot have my music categorised as Dance/DJ... so I will wait for a while before posting more music.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

All files now online on Amazon

All of the recently uploaded files are now available on Amazon, less then 24 hours after submitting them through TuneCore. This is great!

But as noted in an earlier post: all the categories are wrong... because Tunecore does not have a classical category.

It seems that the discussion forum on Tunecore is a bit sleepy... not much activity, there seems to be one post per day. And nobody has yet answered my posts, in which I pointed out this problem and a few other minor issues...

Possible Problem with Music Preview

As I went to Amazon and did a "preview", the Tristan sounded ok. However, the "Snow is Dancing" was at double the speed, double the pitch. Immediately I checked the original wave file that I had uploaded - that sounded ok. Tried the web preview on another PC, and there it was ok...

Not sure what this is all about. Since the Tristan preview sounds ok and only the Debussy preview had a problem, I thought that this would be an issue with the file on Amazon. But when I checked on another PC, going to the Amazon site (through both MS IE8 and Google Chrome), both file previews sounded right.

Must be something in that file, that makes my other PC replay it incorrectly. This could then happen to other listeners as well - and they may be put off by the robot who races through the notes of that wonderful piano piece and takes out any emotion, just playing it like a machine gun... (there might be a certain aestetics in that too, but that is not what I intended).

Search results on Amazon...

There appears to be a discrepancy between browsers when it comes to search results on Amazon. I accidentally found this out when searching what other music from my uploads has made it onto Amazon:
First I had worked in the Google Chrome browser. When searching on Amazon under "All Departments" for "reinhold behringer", then only my music shows up.
When, however, I do the same search on the Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, all my stuff comes up (the AR book which I edited more than 10 years ago, a few of my conference articles, and conference proceedings where I had been in the committee).

To compare, here are the actual URLs sent by each browser:
Chhome: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=reinhold+behringer&x=0&y=0
MS IE8: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=reinhold+behringer
The only difference is that Chrome appends seemingly meaningless coordinates. I added them to the URL in MS IE8 - the same result as before, each browser delivers different results.

This is quite astonishing! Does Amazon somehow discrinate against the Google Chrome browser? Or does Google Chrome send a hidden preference for showing only music results?

I have no idea why this is happening...

Strange Genre Categories...

The fact that TuneCore does not provide a "Classical" genre (yet), has forced me to select as the main category "Electronic". For the 2nd category I chose "Inspirational", because I think that my music has a certain inspirational quality. This categorisation results now on Amazon in a very weird result: My music is labelled Christian&Gospel/General, and Dance & DJ/Electronica.
While under these categories, nobody will ever find my music... I have to ask TuneCore to change this.

Tristan is already online on Amazon!

My music "Tristan and Siegfried meet Isolde" is already online on Amazon! This means it took only a few hours, less than 8 hours to be precise!

The other 3 pieces which I uploaded simultaneously with the Tristan are not there yet. I wonder if someone is actually listening to give the approval for publishing, of if just an automated test checks the integrity of the wave file.

I am tempted to just do a purchase of these files, to see how they are, and to start the run onto my music :)

Debussy also on Lala

Besides on Amazon.com, "The Snow is Dancing" is also online on lala.com. All other online stores, including iTunes, do not yet return any result for the search term "reinhold behringer".

Let's wait and see.

Finalized latest TuneCore uploads

I just finished getting those latest four music recordings up on TuneCore. For the Elegia and the Tristan I selected graphics from the TuneCore cover art collection. For the Smetana Moldau, I dug a picture of a twirling river (is actually not the Vltava/Moldau, but the river Sligachan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland - psst, don't tell anyone). But that was the only twirling river water photo that I had in my possession. I did not want to take someone else's photo from the real Vltava - I could have asked on Flickr, but there was no time. Maybe with the next release - there are quite a few nice pictures from the actual river there. And finally for the Strauss aria, I dug out some of the old "Virtual Opera House" graphics. Need to do something else with them at some point, but for now this is sufficient.

I am curious how fast it takes until these are on Amazon.

Monday, 1 June 2009

More uploads onto TuneCore

This quick success of the TuneCore process has encouraged me to upload more music: I am right now uploading:
  • My own "Elegia" from 2002
  • The Richard Strauss Aria "Arie des Tenor" with singer George Everett
  • My old classic "Smetana: Vltava/Moldau"
  • My very first published composition "Tristan and Siegfried meet Isolde".
This should make a nice initial repertoire.

My first music on AMAZON!


That was fast! I thought I would have to wait until July... but I was just curious and searched on Amazon for "reinhold behringer" - and the Debussy "The Snow is Dancing" came up already! (not sure why it came up twice...).

Of course it has only my plain blue "artwork" which is from the Tunecore template - but I did not have time to create a better one. I will, once I make a new version of it.

But I can also make the best of it - and create later an album called "The Blue Series", which only will have my very first recordings of music on it.

This Debussy is a first for me also in different ways: it is the first piano piece that I uploaded. In the past years I only had worked on those lush orchestral renditions and had never dared to create a plain piano recording...

Well, I believe that I would have to do more work on this one, to make it a bit more "rubato" and human in parts... but for now I am awaiting comments - and of course purchases!