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Open thread 4.

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January 10, 2004

What “real people” do and don’t do. Mike Kozlowski of Unmistakable Marks is exercised about Apple Computer’s decision to —
[…] enhance their newly-dubbed iLife suite with things like iMovie (a consumer-level film-editing program), iDVD (a consumer-level DVD-mastering tool), and now GarageBand (a consumer-level multi-track mixer and MIDI sequencer, apparently).
A strange thing to get bent out of shape over? But Mike explains:
Real people never create anything; they take advantage of specialization of labor to let the really good creators—the Peter Jacksons, the Steven Spielbergs, the Beatleses, the Vanilla Ices—make all the movies and music necessary, which they then purchase/steal and need help organizing and using.

I’ve never edited a movie in my life, never mastered a video DVD, and never even considered making a multi-track music recording. Neither have you, if I might be permitted to play the odds here. By aiming its media tools at creators instead of consumers, Apple is either confusing Jobs’ Pixar coworkers and celebrity friends for normal people, or deciding that its long-time 5% market-share is too big.

Well now. I’m not a wild-eyed Mac loyalist—I muck around semi-competently in several computing environments, and in fact this post is being drafted on my well-loved handbuilt Windows PC. And while I don’t think Apple is really pegging their future quite so much on little products like GarageBand as Mike seems to think, I acknowledge that I’m not really a knowledgeable analyst of computer companies, or of the consumer electronics business. (Besides, GarageBand’s system requirements are beyond any Mac currently in the house, so to heck with Apple.) But it’s interesting to hear that because I’ve helped make a multi-track music recording, I’m not “real people.”

One of Kozlowski’s commenters asks “If people don’t like to create, why didn’t camcorders fail in the marketplace a decade ago?” Kozlowski’s response is that “Camcorders still get sold for the same reason as Soloflexes: The triumph of imagination over reality.” This is of course silly. Exercise machines entail a great deal of pain and effort for a payoff in the distant future; camcorders entail a very small amount of effort for a big payoff that shows up almost immediately. As a further proof of this distinction, I can assure Mike Kozlowski that I rarely see camcorders being left out on the curb by people moving out of apartments in New York.

What I really don’t understand is why. Kozlowski is a good egg; I’ve been acquainted with him through Usenet and the blog world for a long time. So whence all this emphatic nastiness about how “real people” never create anything, and the gratuitous implication that those who do have something to do with celebrity elites? Millions of people play a musical instrument or knit or take pictures or do something else mildly creative. You don’t have to believe that everyone on the planet is potentially an artistic genius, or that Apple Computer is infallible, to think that maybe this kind of widespread creative amateurism constitutes a market worth catering to. Meanwhile, the sheer strenuousness of Kozlowski’s categorical claims about “real people” makes me suspect that anything I say will be dismissed by Mike because I’m one of those a priori not-real creative people whose views don’t matter. [07:24 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on What "real people" do and don't do.:

Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 07:49 PM:

Whether these people create anything substantial is moot; what is important is that they want to. All of the iLife tools let them create something: photos that are cropped correctly and are not sideways, movies with titles that have actual scenes and transitions, and DVDs that they can hand around to goggle-eyed friends and relatives who say "you really did this on that computer of yours?!?". It ain't much, but it's enough to make the user feel happy.

GarageBand will be like this. I saw part of the demo at Macworld Expo this week, and my first reaction was "this is like iPhoto for music novices". Mike dismisses these people, but I'm one of them and I'm quite happy with iPhoto. It has made my digital photography go from bad to passable. I really appreciate that.

After the GarageBand demo, the fellow standing next to me said to his friend "Oh, man, that's sweet. I guess I'll have to spring the $50 for the iLife upgrade." The rest of their conversation made it clear that he's a music novice and wants to play with it to see what comes out.

I expect that GarageBand will help Apple sell a million Macs that it would not have. Those million folks own PCs that are about three or four years old, they need a new computer, and they saw one of the Mac-head friends showing off GarageBand. Those friends will not have created anything wonderful, and the switchers won't either. Doesn't matter: Apple will get a bunch of new users and make money.

Let us not forget 20 years ago. MacPaint sold many of the first Macs. The graphics that those of use created with it were often barely passible, but they were much better than what we were creating with our PCs.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 07:54 PM:

What?

I remember the articles about how all these newfangled little computers were no doubt attractive and ingenious, but the average household had no real need for one. What were people going to do -- organize their recipe files?

I'm typing this on a household computer, and playing music on it while I do so, and in a little while we'll be using it to watch a DVD. In our household, computers have superseded or supplanted the typewriter, mimeograph, VCR, Yellow Pages, photo album, and art and graphics supplies, and have taken over many of the functions of my reference shelves.

I also remember a lot of commentary about how the typesetting and image rendering made possible by the newfangled Macintoshes and laser printers was no doubt very amusing and ingenious, but it wasn't professional-quality work, and anyway how many people need to set their own type? Then, over the next five or ten years, I watched most of the typesetting companies go under. Some projects still need proper typesetting, but all the little bread-and-butter jobs can be done passably well on a desktop machine.

In the process, the way people relate to printed material was profoundly changed. It might be something they'd done badly, but by god it was something they'd done themselves. I consider Commodore's almost criminally negligent mishandling of the Amiga a great tragedy, because we might have done the same thing with video processing that we've done with desktop document production.

When you give people technical capacity, it's remarkable how readily they think up things to do with it.

Nick Caldwell ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 07:56 PM:

I was pretty amazed by the assertion that GarageBand is the musical equivalent of Photoshop. Has he used Photoshop? My impression of GarageBand is that it's a upmarket band in a box sequencer. The musical equivalent of Photoshop is Cubase, or Logic, or ProTools.

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:21 PM:

I'm looking forward to seeing you and your not-real-people band with my not-real-people husband (who used to do a lot of studio engineering but now only dabbles--on his Mac) in a couple of months, Patrick.

One of my pet peeves about modern American culture is that on many levels it seems designed to induce people to be passive: not to do, but to consume what others do. I *love* that Apple is helping people who want to do--make music, take pictures, narrate home movies, whatever--do their thing. I love that it helps me to do *my* thing.

Theresa's remark about people and technical capacity is dead on.

Based on his comments when I posted about this, the guy's just annoyed that Apple did what it's always done--favored end-users over developers (Java) and creators over consumers (iApps over TV in a box). The TV thing particularly boggles me, since everybody knows that TiVo already owns that market. Why would Apple bother to reinvent that wheel? Wouldn't they just buy TiVo instead?

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:32 PM:

Patrick:

So whence all this emphatic nastiness about how "real people" never create anything, and the gratuitous implication that those who do have something to do with celebrity elites?

I'm pretty sure that I've read more of his writing recently than you have (because his LiveJournal is semi-anonymous and generally friends-locked). When I read that post, I rolled my eyes at his attempt to be sarcastic or self-mocking or controversial or whatever--but I didn't take it as meant to be nasty.

I am well aware that authorial intent and reader interaction with the text is currently a matter of much debate on a related forum. So take this for what it's worth, which may not be much.

(Me, I just really want an iPod and can't justify spending the money for one. But I really really want one.)

Jazz ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:47 PM:

You know, I think I'm insulted by the concept that either people create monumental, hugely-subsidized works of art, or nothing. Probably what most people will create with GarageBand is a soundtrack for the slideshow of their holiday pictures, but would someone mind explaining to me what the hell is wrong with that?

It raises the hackles on the back of my neck, the idea that if you have a creative impulse towards video, or photography, or music, that you'd better be the next Mozart, because only hugely successful people are really creative.

Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:27 PM:

Steven Spielberg and Vanilla Ice? I hope these were his clues that he was attempting sarcasm.

I want Garageband for Emma. And all the peripherals, too.

I remember all the complaints about desktop publishing when it came out. Yep, there was a lot of bad work. But the worst of it was better than the bad work that had been done on earlier technology.

Missy ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:59 PM:

Hrm. I read that post, too, and just shrugged. I'm acquainted with Koz offline, and just attributed it to Koz being...well...Koz. Not nasty, just Koz.

Danny O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:20 PM:

It's worth stating that Jobs introduced GarageBand by quoting a poll that stated that 40% of households have two or more people in them that play a musical instrument. Not sure what the poll is: it may have been this Gallup poll. At least that one confirms that statistic with similar figures.

According to it, Mike may be excluding the 42% of people (real and unreal, 35-50) who regularly play a musical instrument. Sure all that noodling may be what Mike sees as "consuming" tunes other people have devised, but that doesn't mean that you don't want to record and remix your noodling.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm completely confused by Mike's differentiation between "organising and using" and "creating". My Dad just sent me a CD of photos he took. According to Mike, that's "organising and using". If he stuck one of the nice templates that kind Mr Jobs gives you to master a DVD of said albums with a menu, and burnt that, why is he suddenly "creating"?

A sizeable chunk of my friends at school (not me, I'm tone deaf) were in bands. When they record themselves on tape, presumably that's "using". When they mix themselves, that's "creating"?

I think it's one of those "technology is stuff that wasn't around when you were born" divisions. "Recording/photographing/CD burning is passive, easy stuff. Multitrack/video/DVD mastering: that takes professional skillz."

This division isn't about creativity: it's whether cut-down versions for amateurs have created a new undermarket mirroring the professionals. The passive skills Mike describes are just passive because the tools we use have passed into common usage, usually in a cheap, easy-to-use form.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:28 PM:

What I'm really pissed off with is this *incredibly fucking stupid* five percent meme.

What percent of the auto market does BMW command?

What percent of the home appliance market does Kitchen-Aid command?

How many computers are we talking about when we say "five percent of the market." Hint. It ain't thirty thousands. Apple has sold well over thirty *million* Macs. Many are still in use today.

Why? And why is Apple obviously doomed to fail?

(Hint. Everyone desperately tried to make something even close to the iPod and iTunes. HINT. FUCKING HINT HERE. HELLO?)

Why do I use Macs? Because, as desktops and notebooks, they suck less. Period. Am I willing to pay a premium for less suck? You bet. So are people who drive Volvo, Audi, and BMW cars. Who, *together*, don't even make up three percent of the car market. Much less five.

They're all going out of business any day now, I'm certain.

In some cases, I don't have to pay more, which is why I use FreeBSD as my server O/S of choice. But the Windows UI sucks, the Unix UIs are even worse. I don't use Operating Systems. I use computers to get work done.

When you see people using the iSuite, you realize that the world isn't one big collection of computer geeks who think that...

kill -15 `ps ax | grep mozilla | cut -c 1-5`
is the correct way to kill a badly behaved browser, and that major changes of the interface should happen on every minor revison.

There's a reason the Mac faithful are faithful -- and why they flamed OS X 10.0 mercilessly. There's a reason they still sell five percent.

Blatant hint. At this point, bleating about how Apple doesn't know computer consumers just shows me *you* don't know computer consumers. After all, if you had been right ten percent of the time, Apple would have died back when you predicted Apple's imminent demise for the tenth time.

Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:58 PM:

Teresa,

There was indeed a video equivalent of Pagemaker for the Amiga. It was called the Toaster and was built by a company called NewTek. It enabled people to do video work for less than $5,000 that had previously required a 100k+ investment.

Now you can buy a copy of FinalCut Pro and a G5 and do professional level work on a desktop. If you want to spend more money you can move up with software and hardware from Avid or Media 100. Read the final credits of any CGI intensive movie (LOTR for instance) and you will see credit given to the Avid team.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:21 PM:

Actually, Erik, I use OSX, and Safari froze up on my twice just the other day, and I had to do that ps-grep-kill trick to get out of it. (Force Quit through the Dock wasn92t up to the task.)

Still wouldn92t trade it for Windows, Unix/Linux, or old-skool MacOS.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:12 AM:

Another way to do process kills is to use:

kill `ps -xo pid,ucomm | awk '/pattern/ {print $1}'`

This avoids killing your own grep process in certain situations, because the -o pid,ucomm prints only the process id and the command itself without the arguments; avoiding the -a flag also avoids confusion with other users' processes (not a problem on many OS X boxes, but good practice anyway).

Though Cmd-Opt-Escape's force quit usually works, it's good to know how to do it if you really need to.

Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:41 AM:

Patrick:

I've expanded and clarified my comments.

Nastiness was not intended, and is explicitly disavowed; that was attempted humor via rhetorical excess.

Will Shetterly:

I continue to maintain, in the face of all sensible opinion, that Vanilla Ice and the Spice Girls are two of the pillars of modern pop music. I think someone once agreed with me, causing me to collapse in shock.

Erik:

I'm not saying Apple is doomed. I'm saying Apple missed a chance to be really big, the way they are with the iPod, but across the board and more-so. I could be wrong -- as I pointed out in Ginger's comments, my annual take for giving strategic direction to tech companies is $0 -- but that's my take.

(And while I have no desire to have a Windows vs. Mac debate, I'll say that I think XP's interface is the most user-friendly, get-stuff-done-oriented, and polished of any OS I've used.)

Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:55 AM:

The mini-iPod's price will drop. Almost definitely by $50 in a few months and maybe more.

Jazz ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:59 AM:

Avram and Christopher: There's a nifty command called "killall" that does the job of the trick you just described.

"killall Safari" should kill Safari from the command-line. Also "killall mail" or "killall finder" etc.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:48 AM:

Ah, yes, killall; I avoid killall, for a very very simple reason.

Different Unix and Unix-alikes have different behavior for the killall command. On Linux or *BSD systems, it does what you describe.

On Solaris, or Tru64 Unix, and probably on some other commercial versions...it kills everything.

As a system administrator who often has to use root, I have a strong aversion to typing anything that when run in the wrong window will bring down a production server instantly.

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:40 AM:

For myself, I don't need to worry about forming bad habits, and I hadn't known about "killall". Cmd-Option-Esc has yet to fail me, but it's always nice to have options. So thanks, Jazz.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 03:34 AM:

If command-option-escape brings up the blank box, you could always try g finder. Sometimes (not often enough) it takes you past the crashed application to the finder, although after you save everything else you'd want to restart because it leaves the finder incredibly unstable.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 06:06 AM:

I'm just sitting here having a fantasy about being able to have what amounts to a studio in a box back in the days when I made music.

RIAA is really gonna hate this.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:40 AM:

Mike: it would be interesting to see how many of the audience you ]approve of[ found this funny vs how many found it excessive. If it was actually intended as the inverse of what it says -- well, everybody lays an egg occasionally. If not, it was ... unperceptive.

Specific instance: there are two videotapes of Noreascon 3 events: banquet and masquerade. The masquerade tape visibly involves a lot more work, but is cheaper -- because it was edited after computerized video editing became available, instead of at a slow and expensive traditional video facility. (There are probably parts that could have been done better, but this was the first serious video editing the producer had done.) This was not a commercial market, but there were enough interested people that some hundreds of copies of each have sold (at prices around $20 each.)

Closer to these participants, I wonder what Jordin would have made of the Mac package if he'd had it >20 years ago when filk publishing was getting started; that's so small a market that the expenses of traditional equipment squeeze it badly. (Further back -- somewhere there are still two (just two) 37-year-old copies of some oboe-and-guitar arrangements performed by a couple of first-year students with summer time on their hands and a bit of parental noodzhing.)

On a broader note: some cultures have a tradition that \everybody/ contributes to entertainment. (This shows up in a variety of cases, e.g the not-too-recent movie about Michael Collins (the Irish rebel, not the astronaut) and Ecotopia both have scenes in which everybody does their bit, not as staging but as "we're all friends and it's past supper and too early for bed.") I won't argue the worth of the contributions -- obviously they'll vary -- but some of that worth is the personal connection between performer and audience. If Apple is making it possible for more people to cut through the barrier between performers and audiences-at-one-remove, to save the bits that someone values enough to do the work of recording, more power to them; the performances that aren't worth preserving (by entirely individual and subjective judgement) will gather dust in a closet (or simply be erased -- there's no need for the originator to distribute on permanent media) while the rest will be kept by the people who value them.

Teresa: right on; the truly valuable tool is known by the number of uses developed by workers rather than foreseen by the creater.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:49 AM:

As Mr. Davis notes, "killall" is a bad habit -- there are too many enviroments where it is a tactical nuke.

I will test Mr. Davis's version here on FreeBSD in a moment. I dislike using cut -c here -- but the format of the output is padded such that cut -f will fail. awk may be a better tool, though I suspect cut/grep is less of a load than awk, though that hardly matters in this day and age. Emacs is still Eight Megs, but it certainly isn't constantly swapping, and it's tiny compared to the WM, never mind the browser.

As to the XP interface. Once I spend a few hours stripping out the gratutitous cruft, it's sort of workable. But Windows keeps missing one of the fundamental rules of graphical interfaces -- people expect things to stay put and be there when they go looking for that. The hiding of infrequently used itemes in the program bar is a bad way of coping with the start menu (which is overloaded anyway.) Now, XP hides bar icons as well (which is a bad way of handling too many programs wanting to be in the tray.)

Indeed, the Windows Way seems to be "I must put myself in as many places as possible." and the Microsoft answer is "So, we'll try to hide it from you."

This is boggling. How wrong can they get this?

(MS isn't the only one. See "The GIMP, and "context" menus. You right click on the image, and you get almost every menu item. This is easier, how?)

And who designed the default theme. Why does it look so much like the Teletubbies?

Never mind the security problems (Still getting over 2000 windows worms hitting my home network a day.)

I keep getting told (and it is correct) that Windows has at least a useable interface, and Word is a wonderful word processor, if you take a few hours and strip out all the annoying features.

We shouldn't be rewarding Microsoft for this behavior. The only reason I tolerate this from open source gang is the fact that I don't have to pay for it -- and what I'm willing to put up with on a desktop (says the guy who's currently typing this on KDE3 on FreeBSD 5.1) is by no means a reasonable standard.

I'm a huge Unix partisan, but I refuse to buy into this idea that Unix/Linux is read for the desktop. KDE3 is, in many way, worse than XP about configuration and defaults. Gnome is hideous. CDE, not going there.

So far, the iSuite has required a bunch of effort from Apple, and has reaped huge rewards. Yes, 90% of the stuff that comes out of iMovie is crap. Remember Pagemaker 1.0, the LaserJet/LaserWriter, and The Years Of Bad Typography that ensued?

If Joe Garage uses this new tool to cut a few tracks, it'll probably suck. But, hey, *he did it*. He may practice. He may get good. He may finally outgrow GarageBand, and need more professional tools. Or he may not.

Only way to find out is to hack. iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand mean people can play without dropping large sums on Final Cut, Photoshop, and Pro Tools. If a few of them get good, they'll go buy the bigger packages. If they don't get to play, they never will. This means iSuite has the potential to increase sales of the big applications, by leading new users into the market.

Even better if they remember the computer that let them play.


Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 11:58 AM:

On a broader note: some cultures have a tradition that \everybody/ contributes to entertainment. (This shows up in a variety of cases, e.g the not-too-recent movie about Michael Collins (the Irish rebel, not the astronaut) and Ecotopia both have scenes in which everybody does their bit, not as staging but as "we're all friends and it's past supper and too early for bed.") I won't argue the worth of the contributions -- obviously they'll vary -- but some of that worth is the personal connection between performer and audience.

It was recording technology combined with radio that killed that culture in the first place, or at least rendered it moribund: When you can play a recording of the original artist performing the latest hit, or tune in to a radio show of the same thing, who's going to settle for somebody's-sister-who-took-piano-lessons doing her damnedest with the help of sheet music and the family upright? Art, especially musical art, became something that even ordinary people paid professionals to do for them, instead of doing it for themselves, and "musical amateur" became an insult rather than simply a description.

If relatively cheap and easy-to-use recording and vidding technology -- Apple's or anybody's -- turns out to contribute to the reversal of this state of affairs . . . well, I think it's only fair, and a good thing to boot.

Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:16 PM:

My friend Roy Anthony--who some of you might remember as the production designer for Fanthology '87--was, like me, once an employee of a television news operation. Now that he's back to teaching, he runs a small video production business on the side. I imagine he would find all these tools quite useful.

I know Roy Anthony. I worked with Roy Anthony. Roy Anthony is a friend of mine. And Roy, sir, is no Peter Jackson.

Appearances aside.

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:22 PM:

It was recording technology combined with radio that killed that culture in the first place, or at least rendered it moribund: When you can play a recording of the original artist performing the latest hit, or tune in to a radio show of the same thing, who's going to settle for somebody's-sister-who-took-piano-lessons doing her damnedest with the help of sheet music and the family upright? Art, especially musical art, became something that even ordinary people paid professionals to do for them, instead of doing it for themselves, and "musical amateur" became an insult rather than simply a description.

Funny, I look at it as those who first took advantage of the new technology and learned how to use it best, the pioneers in the field, were the ones who hit it big:

The few vaudevillians who understood how to make their acts work on radio.

The stage actors who figured out how to make their performances work on the screen without sound, and the directors who stopped filming what was on the stage and started filming movies. And then later, the ones who stopped filming movies for TV and started making television.

The singers who learned how a microphone worked best with their voice, and made their singing style subtle and intimate, rather than loud enough to fill a theater. (Frank Sinatra vs. Ethel Merman.)

Often, nothing sparks. Occasionally, you get flameouts. But sometimes-- you make magic.

And if the tech is simplified enough that anybody can do it, then it's no longer in the hands of those folks who alone can master the tech.

For a great example, look at http://www.bushin30seconds.org -- 1500 30 second spots, with average quality quite good, if not professional, and a significant percentage being brilliant. And few of them being the common, expected and predictable stuff.

Jim Carruthers ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:30 PM:

The Globe and Mail ran a couple of features on significant events of 1904. This one is about Alice Seeley Harris.


Alice Seeley Harris walked into the fetid jungle in 1898, a mild-mannered young Englishwoman in the wide-brimmed hat and layers of ankle-length skirts of a young missionary. She emerged five years later, thinner and aged by what she had seen -- and carrying a box of photographs. By 1904, Ms. Seeley Harris's pictures of tortured Congolese slave labourers had sparked the first international movement for human rights. For the first time, Europeans and North Americans had seen proof of the ugly reality of African colonialism, and the outcry prompted a pioneering inquiry, where those photos were used as evidence. The probe brought about the end of slavery in the Congo, and served as a model for investigations throughout the coming century.

She used a Kodak Brownie which allowed ordinary people to take photographs. "You push the button, we do the rest".


In 1905, Mark Twain published King Leopold's Soliloquy, an imagined set of musings by the king on those troublesome human-rights campaigners; in it he cited the particularly irksome camera. "The Kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy that has confronted us. . . . The only witness I have encountered in my long career that I couldn't bribe." (The Kodak Brownie, introduced in 1900, cost just $1, and caused a huge popularization of photography.) In 1908, Leopold was finally forced to turn his colony over to the government of Belgium, which served to end the worst of the forced-labour practices.

As far as the music thing goes, the guitar market is largely focused on middle-aged guys who spend money on Gibsons, Fenders and so on. This Wired article about Gibson is enlightening.


The desperation isn't driven by sales. In the US alone nearly a million electric guitars were purchased in 2002 - three times as many as a decade ago - to the tune of $477 million. Most of the guitars - roughly 85 percent - were knockoffs of the Les Paul and its only real competition, Fender's Stratocaster. And since Juszkiewicz took control of Gibson, in 1986, revenue has soared. The Music Trades, an industry journal, estimates Gibson's annual revenue increased from $12 million to $130 million in 2002. (Gibson, a private company, will not reveal figures.)

Hint, it's real folks, not "professionals" who are buying all that gear. And of course, Garageband is supposed to work easily with an electric guitar, providing easy bed tracks to play along with. Sounds like a market to me.

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:51 PM:

Almost anyone I know who's ever switched from a film to a digital camera ends up taking more pictures. I'm willing to postulate there's a trend. Data collection is beyond me, though.

Jerry Kaufman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:46 PM:

To head off in another direction, I figure that if I had a camcorder or even a digital camera, I'd be excited about for a week or two, a month or three - then it would park itself in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere around here.

At least the Nordictrack can be used to drape clothing on.

But I have a notoriously short attention span and a low boredom threshold.

Jerry Kaufman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:46 PM:

To head off in another direction, I figure that if I had a camcorder or even a digital camera, I'd be excited about for a week or two, a month or three - then it would park itself in a drawer or on a shelf somewhere around here.

At least the Nordictrack can be used to drape clothing on.

But I have a notoriously short attention span and a low boredom threshold.

Jerry K ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:47 PM:

Pardon the double posting - my thumb twitched.

clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:14 PM:

there was a lot of [desktop publishing] bad work. But the worst of it was better than the bad work that had been done on earlier technology.

Well, not always; Mac font foofoo nearly killed a living tradition of good daily calligraphy at my college. But I'd agree that within a few years it was pulling the average up.

The more people noodle with any art, the better audiences we should be for the few genius masters.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:53 PM:

I've been interested in photography since high school, but since I'm largely housebound and on a tight budget, getting film developed has always been a hassle. Since I got a digital camera, I've taken a lot more pictures, and I'm actually improving a bit. I have dreams of someday being more than mediocre. As it is, I'm at least having fun.

There are of course apps for various OSes that can handle digital imagery. What iPhoto does for me is make it very easy to handle my images and put up a gallery that looks good. One of my .mac galleries fairly regularly gets e-mail from folks who like the subject (a shipwreck on the Oregon coast) and are glad to know it's still there, however many years after they last saw it, and I get to share happy moments with friends. And it's easy to do it right, and fairly hard to do it wrong - the software protects me from many stupid mistakes.

The same was true the one time I worked with iMovie, I found. It was more work than assembling a photo gallery, of course, but it drew on the same principles and a lot of the same interface, so that I could pick up the rest with little hassle, and I created two short movies that were well-received by their intended recipients. I call that a success.

A couple of my friends use iDVD to preserve family movies for relatives. As members of the older generation die and the younger ones move around, being able to turn out DVDs for everyone means that everyone has easier access to scenes they're glad to recall.

I really want to check out Garage Band. It might well be the thing that pushes me over the edge to resume my long-disrupted practice of music-making.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:21 PM:

Stuart,
Now you can buy a copy of FinalCut Pro and a G5 and do professional level work on a desktop. If you want to spend more money you can move up with software and hardware from Avid or Media 100. Read the final credits of any CGI intensive movie (LOTR for instance) and you will see credit given to the Avid team.

Yup. BTW, Cold Mountain is the first Hollywood feature done entirely on G4s/G5s with Final Cut Pro. My tool of choice--and it continues to improve.

Last year, one of Sundance's more popular selections was a half hour video done on iMovie by a social work about some children's reaction to one of their uncles having a sex change operation.

My offbeat version of Richard the Second, entirely done on FCP, was just picked up by a small DVD distributor.

Erik,
Why do I use Macs? Because, as desktops and notebooks, they suck less. Period. Am I willing to pay a premium for less suck? You bet. So are people who drive Volvo, Audi, and BMW cars. Who, *together*, don't even make up three percent of the car market. Much less five.

You rock.

Steven Kaye ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:49 PM:

I note the burgeoning 'digital storytelling' movement, which includes this group helping people to learn basic multimedia skills. Besides the personal uses noted, if a portion of these people go on to use Creative Common licenses it could be a means of restocking the public domain. Something to think about.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:19 AM:

Ginger writes: " the guy's just annoyed that Apple did what it's always done--favored end-users over developers (Java) "

Well, yes and no. Apple now gives away a development environment, an ancestor of which was sold by NeXT for $4995 per user.

So from that perspective, developers are getting a pretty sweet deal.

Frankly, I think Kos overestimates how much people want to use computers to watch things on their TVs. When you can get cheap, reliable, quiet appliances like TiVO and a DVD player, it makes no sense to buy some rapidly obsolescent, special-purpose media-system computer, with a fragile, rapidly obsolescent operating system, to sit next to your TV, cluttering up the room.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:26 AM:

Jon H: agreed. I remember the MacTV, and the Performa 638CD (came with a TV tuner card). Neither of them was exactly a great seller.

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:56 AM:

CHip writes:

On a broader note: some cultures have a tradition that \everybody/ contributes to entertainment. (This shows up in a variety of cases, e.g the not-too-recent movie about Michael Collins (the Irish rebel, not the astronaut) and Ecotopia both have scenes in which everybody does their bit, not as staging but as "we're all friends and it's past supper and too early for bed.")

Another example: The foremast jacks singing and dancing on the Surprise.

There are other amateur musicians who play in the captain's cabin.

(One nice thing about having an O'Brian movie is that I could hear some of the music, instead of just reading about it. )

I loved coffeehouse music in high school and college, and at parties would hang around the kids playing guitar. Having been born with the ham-nature, I was eventually motivated to learn to play an instrument. I loved performing.

Only gradually did I learn that there are other rewards, and that playing all by myself, for nobody in particular, can be very satisfying.

Playing with other musicians, just being able to add to the joyful noise, is also a thrill.

Occasionally I have played on a stage, on a tape, or on a CD. Those were great moments, too, with the aura of showbiz to enjoy.

But in the end I'll remember more fondly the nights singing and playing in a hotel room, someone's home, or odder places, As CHip suggests, music has been a way to share myself, and has helped build many friendships for me.

(Not least of which was the one with an Ozark banjo player, whom I married.)

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:03 AM:

Another thing that occurred to me is that TV integration is kind of a dead-end. What else do you do once you've provided the core TVR functionality?

Bandwidth and the market aren't to the point where there's going to be a iTunes music store for downloadable movies.

Really, you want the computer to *go away* for an hour or two (or more) while you're watching your programs of interest. That kind of makes it hard to make the TiVO functionality the core of a product line.

In contrast, they extended iTunes with the iPod and the music store. Apple can sell addon instrument packs for Garage Band, as well as musical peripherals by 3rd parties, and maybe integrate it with iMovie for making videos of your tunes. I wouldn't be surprised if they wind up offering some GarageBand-user compositions on the iTunes Music Store.

I dunno. I'm having a hard time thinking of how TVR functionality isn't something of a dead end, product-wise.

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:40 AM:

Jon: You're dead right about the development environment. I didn't even think about that.

The funny thing is some of what Koslowski seems to want is available in the Mac market, just from third-party vendors. Now, I personally don't give a hoot about TV integration, since I've had my TV on to watch broadcast exactly once in the four-plus years I've owned my house and don't have (or have interest in) cable. I didn't assume my feelings that TV integration is a dead end were universal. I'm interested to see that I'm not alone in that.

I had friends who were working for Enron's broadband division when Enron made that deal with Blockbuster to pipe moves over DSL. I laughed then, and I'd still be laughing if they made that deal today. The cable market has a lock on downloading movies. If a technology company wants to get in on that market, they'd better buy Time Warner. Oh, wait ....

Now the part where I can play my iTunes music through my stereo--*that* I'm interested in. Big time.

Howard Weaver ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:50 PM:

Dan Gilmour's column in the San Jose9 Mercury News and siliconvalley.com speaks to exactly these issues at http://weblog.siliconvalley.com/column/dangillmor/archives/001654.shtml


Here are the money graphs:

The broadcast culture assumes that most of us are "consumers" of mass media. We are merely receptacles for what Hollywood, the music industry and even our local daily newspaper decide we should view, hear or read.

The post-broadcast culture is a democratization of media, and it comes at things from the opposite stance. It says that anyone also can be a creator, not just a consumer. There's a world of difference.

Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:49 PM:

I'm not talking about Performas with tuner cards, here -- I'm talking about the real convergence that becomes possible with ubiquitous digital media and networks. As an example, look at Microsoft's CES-announced Windows Media Center Extender, which is a somewhat primitive stab at the goal. The idea is, you've got all sorts of digital media, and you want to be able to use it from everywhere, and you don't necessarily want computers everywhere. So, you set up your media server (with the big drives), put all your music, photos, videos, and what-not on there, and then you litter your house with specialized devices that use it.

You can TiVo all your TV on the server, and stream it (or a DVD) out to set-top boxes on any of your TVs (or to the TV itself, once the media streaming technology is standard and mature enough to be built-in); you can have all your music archived, and play it on any stereo system in the house; you can view your photos via a wireless electronic picture frame if you want, on the TV, or whatever. (And, of course, any computer can get in on the viewing action.)

And, once things are networked so thoroughly, it's a pretty quick hop to realize that the Internet is on that same network -- sitting at a friends' house, you don't need to say, "Remind me to bring you that CD next time I see you," you can quickly grab it right from your media server; ditto with showing off your vacation photos, or that great episode of the Simpsons they missed. And once your phone becomes a proper broadband Internet device, you'll be able to grab/stream a playlist to your phone/music player, too.

There are challenging issues to overcome here (not the least of which is how they're going to fit DRM-mania into it), but they're all overcomeable. And once they are overcome, the idea of not having a CD with you will seem very quaint and twencen.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Ginger: check out http://www.slimdevices.com/ for boxes that will let you stream your iTunes library to your stereo, complete with remote control, etc.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:49 AM:

It seems like GarageBand--specifically what might be considered the "paint-by-numbers" functions--could be great for kids. I certainly wish I'd had it--despite being a music fanatic, I was too undisciplined and too self-critlcal to learn an instrument until I was an adult. But I think playing with GarageBand would have been right up my alley. I suppose the downside is that it might distract some kids who would otherwise learn to play a traditional instrument, but I ended up specializing in computer music anyway.

I work for one of the professional digital audio workstation manufacturers (along with Danny Caccavo, which I think gives me a Nielsen-Hayden number of 2), and occasionally the idea has been floated (not too seriously) of doing a children's version. Apple seems to have come pretty close. More future customers for us, say I.

King Strut was just a baby back in 1951,

Tim

Faisal ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:01 AM:

The opinion that "real people don't create anything" is imaginary. Here, I will prove it:

1. Real people don't create anything.
2. Writing is a creative act.
3. Therefore, real people do not write.
4. Therefore, a real person could not have written such a rant.
5. Therefore, the rant is not real.
6. Q.E.D.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:10 AM:

Tim Walters! You could call it KidTools. Meanwhile, you could say hi to Danny Caccavo, who's very clean.

"Who was that masked man? Why was he in disguise?"

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:42 AM:

"Who was that masked man? Why was he in disguise?"

I found your blog by following the recent BoingBoing link. As soon as I saw the Blegvad tag I bookmarked it.

I think Tor should reprint Headcheese. I'm sure you'd move at least a hundred copies!

I'm very glad to see that King Strut is back in print.

Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:20 PM:

In 1436 the Mike Kowzlowski of the day was saying, "Cheap books? What's the point in cheap books? *Real* people don't even read; they don't know how. I've never read a book, and you haven't either."

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:49 PM:

Christopher: Thanks! That's right up my alley.

I don't think the sort of thing Kozolowski is talking about in his last comment is ever going to happen under the Microsoft regime. And I can give you three reasons why: D. R. And M.

Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:00 PM:

DRM will either be invisible and mostly unbothersome for legitimate use, or it'll be gone. There might be a few years of awkwardness and confusion before that becomes clear, but it will. And note that Microsoft is in business for itself, not as part of some Hollywood consortium; if they think that they could make a few billion more if DRM weren't an issue, DRM won't be an issue.

(And I'll generously assume that people are misspelling my name out of inattention, rather than the misguided belief that long names are funny, and direct them toward the correct spelling in Patrick's entry.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:10 PM:

Tut tut. I'm sure no such misguided belief is in operation. We are Long-Name Positive here at nielsenhayden.com.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 04:36 PM:

I remember sitting in a Minicon music party, and thinking, "This is the best music I have ever heard in my life." There were 8 or 10 musicians jamming, and the music had taken on a color and space unlike anything I'd ever seen. I was overwhelmed by the epiphany that great music was not always professionally produced. In retrospect, I'm appalled at my attitude prior to that, my need for the Gods of Commerce to bless a piece of art before I was willing to consider it to be "good."

We "real people" are always saying to each other, "I know I'm not professional or anything..." before we let someone hear us try anything creative or see anything original that we've done. Friends whose passion is playing the guitar won't play for anyone because they are afraid of being judged as not being very good. A lot of them are right, too. However, some of the high points of my life have been in spaces where some tolerable though by no means professional musicians were handling competently music that I thought was fun. Some of the time, I actually sang along, though my voice isn't suitable for anything but chorus work, and not a small chorus at that. (See, I'm doing it, too.)

I think that it's a wonderful think for good amateurs to be able to lay their hands on tools which can give them almost professional results for less than professional prices. It's like doing home repair. The average home owner really can't afford the industrial tools, but he doesn't usually need the absolute top-quality tools, either. He can get very good results with high-end consumer grade tools, and working more slowly than a professional can afford. iSuite, the Craftsman of the multi-media world. Or not.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:25 PM:

I forgot to mention the one thing I don't like about the new iLife: the slogan. "Microsoft Office for the rest of your life" sounds like a curse from the Elder Gods. I know what they mean, but I can't help hearing it in the "until death" sense. And mentioning Microsoft in an Apple slogan is just plain weird.

If GarageBand has a dancing paper clip, I withdraw my compliments.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:32 PM:

I appreciated the slogan as a nice piece of corporate judo, but I know what you mean. "It's like watching the Lifetime Channel until you die writhing in agony!"

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:41 PM:

Five whole minutes?

(Just kidding. There are actually some programs on Lifetime that I watch. Not that I would ever admit it.)

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:14 PM:

RIAA is really gonna hate this.

Yeah, well, RIAA and the rest of the monolithic Music Industry is going to have to change or die, and this kind of technology is one of the reasons.

Four years ago, I was sitting in my brother's bedroom, spending our first of many afternoons recording music, the most difficult part of which was keeping still so the bedsprings didn't creak while I played. This was back when the first Napster hooha was reaching a peak, and at one point while we were between takes he turned to me and said, "You know, this is what the record companies are really afraid of - the fact that you and I can sit right here in my bedroom and make an album."

I hope they are, too. And anything that makes that robber-baron industry even more obsolete gets my unconditional approval.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:51 PM:

Yeah, well, RIAA and the rest of the monolithic Music Industry is going to have to change or die...

I vote for 'die'.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:47 PM:

"You know, this is what the record companies are really afraid of - the fact that you and I can sit right here in my bedroom and make an album."

I wish I believed this more than I do. My experience, though, is that making the album is the easiest part. Without access to radio or big-magazine promotion, it's very hard to make the kind of sales that would even be noticed by the majors. (It is possible to make a living, though, if you tour your butt off.)

The Internet, and word-of-blog, is often touted as a cure for that, but I'm not yet convinced. It seems to me that if a musical phenom of major-label-frightening dimensions were going to bubble up from the net, it would have happened by now. Instead, unless there's something I haven't heard about, there have just been a few hyped signings that went nowhere, and a few guys profiting from mp3.com's old Ponzi scheme. My recollection is that studies show that people are mostly downloading the usual major-label stuff.

I have a guess as to why this might be. If I may present myself as a case study: my site, which has been up for a couple of years, gets very modest traffic. There are occasional spikes, but a typical song gets downloaded ten or twenty times a month. The esoteric material seems to do about as well as the straightforward material.

Last month, though, a new song got 1500 downloads. The difference? It was a Christmas parody of a well-known classic rock tune. This means that it grabbed people's attention more easily than any completely new song, and being (presumably) funny, was exactly the sort of thing that people e-mail their friends about and put links to in their blogs.

Obviously, someone with better music or self-promotion skills could rack up much higher totals for both types of song, but I think the ratios would be the same. Stuff that needs to be listened to twice or more to get excited about isn't going to do as well in this short-attention-span medium. Singing hamsters and Led Zeppelin kitties get passed around so much that you end up getting the links from several different sources; but the next John Lennon is going to have to win ears the old-fashioned way.

And then there's the whole matter of turning attention into cash, a non-trivial operation for a small operator.

None of which is to say that people making music at home isn't a wonderful thing. It is. I'm thrilled that I can make music and have people all over the world checking it out within hours, and I'm thrilled to hear the music of e-mail acquaintances (which is often excellent). It beats the heck out of sending cassettes in the mail back in my home-taping days in the Eighties. But I'm not yet convinced that it's going to blow the Man down.

Somebody prove me wrong, please!

Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:57 PM:

Mike has pretty well got the outlines of the future right. I've spent the last half dozen years of my life working for companies that are trying to bring this about. The devil is truly in the details.

A year ago at Comdex there was a panel with Gates, Jobs, and the president of chip maker Zoran. Gates and Jobs both predicted the computercentric version of the future with the expected difference about which brand. The president of Zoran, which makes chips for most of the big consumer electronics companies, predicted systems wrapped around some sort of media server.

The big issue is ease of use. People don't want a more complicated way to do things, they want a simple way to do more complicated things.

The main technical problem boils down to allowing the user to plug devices from different manufacturers into their system without any specific device being needed as a central point of intelligence. This means programming distributed intelligence across a heterogenous system.

The secondary technical problem is a network that can handle all kinds of media across the scale of a large house and at the same time is simple to set up and configure. Anything more complicated than just plugging it together is too much and for a lot users even that is too much. Wireless would be wonderful. Turn things on and they talk to each other, but the various varieties of 802.11 have too little power and bandwidth to handle high definition video.

The problem with Microsoft and DRM may solve itself. Gates and company visited Disney and another one of the studios and gave a presentation on the wonderful world of WMA. When they told the movie people about the price break they would receive for being early adopters the response was along the lines of: "You don't understand. You are going to pay us for the privilege of using our content."

The consumer electronics companies are selling a pleasant and easy consumer experience and they will not allow DRM to destroy that.


Tim,

Who do you work for? The odds are good that I know some of the people there. I strongly agree with you about the marketing problem for any kind of new music. I've slogged through this from the days of the early Moog and Buchla synthesizers and computer music on a PDP-10. Wendy Carlos regularly gets emails asking her how to become a rich and famous electonic music composer. She answers: "When I figure out how, I'll tell you."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Tim Walters writes: "My experience, though, is that making the album is the easiest part. Without access to radio or big-magazine promotion, it's very hard to make the kind of sales that would even be noticed by the majors."

This sounds right to me. Likewise, people gripped with visions of overturning the evil that is book publishing often seem to me excessively impressed with mere printing, as if the spread of laser printers, cheap-but-good photocopying, and decent inexpensive small-run binding were in and of itself a blow to big publishers' core competency. Far from it, printing and binding is the least of what publishers do.

Like anyone with a soul, I relish the idea of the music industry bigs getting their comeuppance. If book publishing ran its shop the way they do, we'd demand authors pay in advance for the paper we print their books on, and put it in their contracts that publicity expenses and bookstore co-op fees were charged up to their personal Visa. Still, your observation that "making the album is the easiest part" has the ring of truth.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Tim, in one sense you're right - you're (probably) not going to become the next Spice Girls by recording music at home and publicizing it online.

But the vast majority of working musicians aren't pop superstars and don't want to be. One of the lies that the veil is being pulled from by all this is the notion that you either have to "make it big" or live in a box. And what this means, at least potentially if it hasn't started happening already, is a lot less people going to Nashville with stars in their eyes, being easy targets for producers from the Biz.

And, yeah, being a "success" even on this scale still requires attention and a bit of luck, not to mention having something worth listening to; accessible recording software + the Internet isn't a recipe for instantly Making It Big, it just removes a lot of the barriers between you and an audience. If you want to make an album, the record companies are no longer holding all the keys - and if you bomb, you're only out your time and the cost of your toys, as opposed to, say, your very soul.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:00 AM:

Who do you work for?

Digidesign. I'm in the software testing department, so if you find a bug in Pro Tools it's my fault.

strongly agree with you about the marketing problem for any kind of new music. I've slogged through this from the days of the early Moog and Buchla synthesizers and computer music on a PDP-10.

We should trade CDs! I never expected my Stockhausen-influenced electroacoustic music to set the world on fire, but what really woke me up was having my band's fairly bitchin' folk-rock album--which got reviews like "Fairport Convention for the new millenium" and had a song claim "#1 Female Vocal" on garageband.com for a month or two--sell fifty copies, virtually all to people who were at least e-mail acquaintances.

But the vast majority of working musicians aren't pop superstars and don't want to be. One of the lies that the veil is being pulled from by all this is the notion that you either have to "make it big" or live in a box. And what this means, at least potentially if it hasn't started happening already, is a lot less people going to Nashville with stars in their eyes, being easy targets for producers from the Biz.

This gives musicians a lot of credit for emotional maturity... but you might be right anyway! I certainly hope so. Please don't get the idea that I think home computer recording isn't a wonderful, radical change. You'll get my Pro Tools system when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers, and being able to realize complex electronic music live on my laptop that used to take a roomful of gear to do less well is insanely cool. I just think it's more likely to make the underground a much nicer place to be than to overthrow the system. That's good enough for me, though, because in this sense at least I live underground.

My (probably paranoid and unjustfied) fear is that Big Media isn't actually scared of anything--they're just adding a stick to their campaign-finance carrot to get more DMCA-style goodies out of Congress. But that's too cynical to be true... right?

Likewise, people gripped with visions of overturning the evil that is book publishing often seem to me excessively impressed with mere printing, as if the spread of laser printers, cheap-but-good photocopying, and decent inexpensive small-run binding were in and of itself a blow to big publishers' core competency.

Agreed--but a quick comparison of a current Small Beer book with a Starblaze edition from the Eighties will demonstrate that here, too, the technology is making the underground a much nicer place to be.

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 09:46 AM:

Patrick: Likewise, people gripped with visions of overturning the evil that is book publishing often seem to me excessively impressed with mere printing, as if the spread of laser printers, cheap-but-good photocopying, and decent inexpensive small-run binding were in and of itself a blow to big publishers' core competency. Far from it, printing and binding is the least of what publishers do.

I think that the real parallel between advances in the technology of printing and music-making is that both have the potential to shorten the journey from inspiration to finished product. I have a lot of sympathy for this. It's nice to think of living in a world where you can cut a CD or create a book in the comfort of your living room.

Now, anyone who chooses to do this had better understand that it's a sacrifice; if you create and publish on your own, you're not going to get the publicity, the signing tour, or the monetary reward for your efforts. It may be that those things aren't important to you, in which case just being able to see your work made into something tangible is a big deal. In fact, being able to turn your efforts into art without having to make a business transaction out of it as well has the potential to be its own reward.

I don't have any illusions that I'm going to be the next Neil Gaiman or the next Morrissey, or even the next Bill Morrissey. I'm a decent writer and a decent musician, but I'm lousy at self-promotion and I have no motivation for marketing; the idea of competing for the attention of agents or publishers (in any medium) sounds simply awful. Creation is a joy; rejection letters and returned demo tapes are not.

So between reality and my own temperament, being an ah-tist is not going to make me rich and famous. Oh, well - if I did it with any expectation of payment, I think it would be the wrong reason (for me, anyway). But being able to get to the end of it and say "Wow, I made a CD" or "Wow, I wrote a book" and have it be physically present might be very satisfying.

Like anyone with a soul, I relish the idea of the music industry bigs getting their comeuppance. If book publishing ran its shop the way they do, we'd demand authors pay in advance for the paper we print their books on, and put it in their contracts that publicity expenses and bookstore co-op fees were charged up to their personal Visa.

Well, then you'd be a vanity press, wouldn't you? :) That's the real parallel - predators who find poor schlubs like me when they've still got stars in their eyes, eager to see their name on the byline at any cost.

Please don't take my remarks above to be antagonistic in any way towards the publishing business, which after all has given this bibliophile great and lasting joy. I'm especially not disparaging the folks who work hard making a career of writing - I admire them for doing something I don't think I have in me to do. And I'm just grateful for the possibility of alternatives.

Tim: This gives musicians a lot of credit for emotional maturity... but you might be right anyway! I certainly hope so.

My evidence is anecdotal, I'm afraid, but the handful of professional musicians I know are pretty mature and practical. I know a guy who turned down a second appearance on Mountain Stage because the first one was just a little too rock-star for his comfort - and this is someone who makes a living as a singer-songwriter.

Obviously, there's more than one way to measure success.

I just think it's more likely to make the underground a much nicer place to be than to overthrow the system. That's good enough for me, though, because in this sense at least I live underground.

It's good enough for me, too. I hope I didn't seem to be saying that the record industry ought to be afeared of me - I'm just another pretentious singer-songwriter with four chords and an irrepressible urge to experiment. But I do think that access to the tool sof creation gives artists in the underground one more way to say, Smeagol-like, "We don't need you any more." And that's a very good thing indeed.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 10:44 AM:

Based on what I and people I know do with digital cameras, I'm guessing that the major impact of Garage Band will be increasing the quantity of essentially casual music - something you put together because you felt like it and share it with friends because you want to and aren't embarrassed about it.

I know a lot more about what the world looks like where friends and colleagues live now than I did ten years ago, because it's so much simpler for them to show me. Likewise (thanks largely to eeeevul file sharing, but hey), we all know more about what each other is listening to, and trade recommendations, which is why my music collection now includes bands from Australia and Finland that I wouldn't have heard about otherwise. I suspect that in antoher few years, I'll have the same kind of expanded appreciation with regard to musical creation - "this is something I noodled while blocked on second draft", "I heard an intriguing theme in a commercial and did this with it", and so on.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:00 AM:

All of which is certainly cool with me. I trust that Dan Layman-Kennedy understands that, as a sometime fanzine and small-press publisher and a member of a part-time music group that may well self-publish a CD later this year, I'm entirely sympathetic to the model of fulfilling, self-managed, small-time creative efforts.

I'm just noting that access to better production (desktop publishing, cheap binding -- or GarageBand and cheap CD duplication) isn't quite the blow against the empire that people often seem to think, because production really isn't the core competency of Major Media. Personally, I suspect real cultural change comes when significant numbers of people gradually become so absorbed in their own little projects and the work of their friends that they wind up spending a lot less money and time in the thrall of the great beasts. Arguably this is already happening on some levels of society. It may or may not lead to a new Jerusalem, but it's worthwhile in its own right. Much more interestingly, Mike Kozlowski notwithstanding, the people absorbed in these kinds of efforts are far from entirely members of the bicoastal Creative Classes, or anyone's "celebrity cohort." Why, some of them, I've heard rumors, are even "real people."

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 12:32 PM:

"Real people" aren't professional clothing designers. Yet fabric stores stay in business.

"Real people" aren't professional athletes. Yet sporting goods stores stay in business.

"Real people" don't have their own cooking shows. Yet Williams-Sonoma stays in business.

Why should making records be any different? Sunday painters of the world, unite!

Personally, I suspect real cultural change comes when significant numbers of people gradually become so absorbed in their own little projects and the work of their friends that they wind up spending a lot less money and time in the thrall of the great beasts.

See, for example, the mail art folks and their "no more masterpieces" credo.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 02:15 PM:

Tim - you're a software tester AND an electronic musician...and you TEST MUSIC SOFTWARE??? I drool for a job like that. Or would have, before I discovered that QA was bad for me (I have a tendency to see what's wrong with something before I see what's right with it; being in QA exacerbated that tendency).

Does ProTools work on Windows machines? I mean really work.

Emily B ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:02 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy: One of the lies that the veil is being pulled from by all this is the notion that you either have to "make it big" or live in a box.

I saw an interview once with Penn Jillette (of the magic duo Penn & Teller). Paraphrasing from memory, he said, "We have a nice level of fame. It's the level where you can still go to the store without getting mobbed, but people are just a little bit nicer to you than they might be otherwise."

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Stuart writes: "This means programming distributed intelligence across a heterogenous system."

Sounds like what Rendezvous was created for.

"...but the various varieties of 802.11 have too little power and bandwidth to handle high definition video."

High-def is going to be a good while before becoming mainstream. I'm still not sure what the draw is supposed to be, given that most things on TV won't be improved by higher resolution. It'd be better if it was non-high-def,
but with 16:9 widescreen and digital sound. I think that's
how it is in Europe, and as a result, they've got cheap
widescreen sets and had them for years.

So anyway, I doubt high-def bandwidth is going to be much of a problem.

Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:12 PM:

Tim,

I worked as an applications engineer for Cirrus Logic for 3 and 1/2 years. Dave Clemenson was the person I talked to most often at Digidesign, including one visit to the facility in Palo Alto. Dave told me stories of his going to Xerox PARC when he was young and playing with the Alto computer in Alan Kay's office.

Jon,

I had Rendezvous in mind but also something with more smarts. I was with the Bose Pro Systems division for 2 and 1/2 years. While there I worked on the architecture of a networked pro audio system. The individual nodes were to be much smarter than would be the case with a lot of consumer audio equipment.

In regard to high definition video, any home networking standard is likely to be around for a long time. It doesn't make sense to build it so that it can't handle already foreseeable applications when it is a certainty that in the future we will want even more bandwidth.

Bose is an interesting organization to study in relation to what Patrick has said about the publishing industry. A publisher is a marketer of books. Everything else is secondary. Bose is a marketer of consumer audio equipment. As an engineering organization they rate no better than a B-. They are truly masterful at marketing to their primary market. They know what their customers want to buy and why they want to buy it.

There is an advantage that companies like Bose and Apple have. They sell their name and every marketing dollar contributes to that. Try to pick up a magazine that doesn't have a Bose ad in it. A publisher in comparison sells dozens of different authors. I am jobless now because the marketing people at Bose couldn't solve the problem of selling to the Pro audio market. Pro audio is in fact much more like the book market and it is tough. The new marketing manageer was shocked when he found out that his stock in trade, the Bose name, was actually a handicap in the pro market.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:37 PM:

Tim - you're a software tester AND an electronic musician...and you TEST MUSIC SOFTWARE???

Pretty cool, huh? I've been there for ten years.

Does ProTools work on Windows machines? I mean really work.

Yes! There are a few lingering Mac-isms in the UI, and a few plug-ins that haven't been ported, but if anything it's better for host-based LE systems. You'll get more horsepower.

Dave Clemenson was the person I talked to most often at Digidesign,

He's still with us, or more precisely went away and came back.

The new marketing manager was shocked when he found out that his stock in trade, the Bose name, was actually a handicap in the pro market.

I have to admit that their stuff has always smelt of gimmickry to me. That may not be fair--I haven't heard anything since the 901s, which didn't do too much for me--but that's the image they project. All the ads have gushy prose about the fundamentally new principles that the gear is built from--exactly what a pro audio guy doesn't want to hear.

The new "Personalized Amplification System" would certainly be cool if it works as advertised, though. I wish I could be at NAMM to check it out!

Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 05:28 AM:

DRM Destroys Value. Simple as that. The only thing that may save DRM is that it is always crackable, so people may put up with the irritation in the knowledge that they can undo it later.

As for solving the 'getting artists paid' problem in the digital world, I have an idea over at http://mediagora.com that I think will work.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I think that the DRM peril is overrated in some ways, if the terms end up accommodating most of what people want to do. I can play my music from the Apple music store on every computer I have, and take along my iPod and a plug to play things on friends' stereos, when I get to go out. Sure, I would like to be able to pass stuff to friends, but honestly, it's not a big inconvenience. Anything much tighter would be, but this is not.

(This is not an argument about the morality of DRM. This is a statement of experience with DRM.)

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:19 AM:

How about twenty-five years from now, when you've upgraded your system four times and had a couple of hard drive crashes?

I haven't even been able to bring myself to buy an unrestricted mp3 yet. To me it's strictly a disposable convenience format, like cassettes used to be. It's great for checking out new stuff and internet self-publishing, but if I'm buying I want a permanent, full-quality version.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:20 AM:

Regardingthe iPod, at least part of its "DRM" is mere security-through-obscurity. Copying files from the iPod, which is simply a FireWire hard drive, back onto a computer is prevented by making the music folders invisible, and organizing their contents in a non-intuitive way. This is defeated by any number of freeware and shareware programs out there.

Apple's real DRM isn't inherent to the iPod, it's inherent to tracks you buy from the Apple Music Store, which are encoded in such a way that you can play them only on a maximum of three computers at any given time. You can rearrange which computers are "registered" with Apple. Of course, even this can be defeated by the determined: just use iTunes to burn the tracks to a CD as an "mp3 disk". Voila, mp3s, albeit not perhaps the highest-quality mp3s imaginable.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:26 AM:

OK, Tim, I now officially envy you. My green color is not due to taking colloidal-copper nosedrops...

I realize this is a dumb question, but the phrase "host-based LE system" left me duhh-ing. I'm embarrassingly (and depressingly) ignorant of such things. Could you clarify?

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 01:38 PM:

See e.g. Bricklin on DRM as leading to future loss of the past - I might compare it to something between publishing on flash paper and storing high acid paper pulps behind a picture window under a tropic sun.

AJ Budrys says there was a time anybody at all could filk at even the big name cons - today the folks who actually sing and play guitar may not be pro musicians in the sense of doing it for a living but they sure do practice a lot between performances - even there I'm an audience at a performance not audience participation. Jordin Kare's performance might be sold on CD along side another arrangment at Seattle's Museum of Flight?

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 01:56 PM:

I realize this is a dumb question, but the phrase "host-based LE system" left me duhh-ing.

Not a dumb question at all--I don't see anything embarrassing about not knowing a bit of obscure proprietary jargon.

There are two basic types of Pro Tools systems: TDM and LE. TDM systems do their audio processing on special DSP cards. This has several advantages, the main ones being guaranteed power on demand and very low latency. LE systems do the audio processing on the CPU (hence the term "host-based"), just as any other program would. This is cheaper, but means that your real-time processing power depends on how fast your computer is and how much other stuff you have going on.

To slightly confuse the issue, TDM systems can also do processing on the host (no sense in letting that power go to waste) and both systems have options for non-real-time processing.

In general, professional recording studios and film-sound houses buy TDM systems, and home recordists buy LE systems. The audio interfaces and software features for each system are designed with this in mind.

TDM stands for "time division multiplexing" (the technology used to route audio through the system). LE stands for, I dunno, "light edition" or something. Ask a marketing guy.


Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 02:58 PM:

I don't have any 25-year-old LPs or cassettes. Actually...*pause to check collection* The oldest album now in my collection was something I bought in college, and that was around 1986. Most of my stuff is just a few years old. Nor do I expect to be listening to any of my CDs in 10 years - I expect better media to be along before then.

Last summer, fire destroyed the upper story of my apartment building. Firefighters spread plastic tarps over all the stuff they could shove together on the ground floor, but stuff still had to deal with smoke and water from above and such. I lost two folders full of writing contracts, almost all of them complete, but still a nuisance. I had time to grab my laptop and the external hard drive along with a few other things before evacuating, and my data all came through just fine. I honestly don't expect to deal with a calamity any worse than before I lose interest in the music or wish to buy it in a better format anyhow.

Because I am prone to hoarding behavior, I've been deliberately training myself to avoid risky habits. Things that lie around unused year after year don't stay with me - they get given to friends, sold off, recycled, or just plain discarded. I can and do live comfortablye with the thought of buying music I'm only going to listen to for a few years before tiring of and make it go away, and am teaching myself not to be anxious about the survival beyond, say, five to ten years, of anything in my collection. In this, I suspect that I am by conscous training rather like a lot of the buying public is by natural inclination.

There are precious possessions of mine I hope never to lose, and which I take great care of. No albums are among them.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Tim: thanks. See, I just assume that anything I don't know is something only I don't know...I'd better get over that. It sounds like if I'm going to buy a brand new computer, it should be a Windows box with lots of memory and the fastest CPU I can afford. Also a huge disk. Then Pro Tools (LE).

Sigh. I used to create so much music from total scratch. Unfortunately the software I used to create it is seriously obsolete, to the point where I don't think I could even convert the files any more. And the synth board I had (this is Windows 3.1, OK?) sounds very crappy by today's standards. (My only hope now is to find a percussion ensemble (for most pieces) or an oboist, violist, and harpist (for my best piece) to actually play it...too bad it's relentless process music.)

What I want to be able to do is use conventional music notation (yes, it's not simple, but I already know it) to create music which then goes out to my nice Korg N5, thence either A) to my sound system (never mind) to be heard immediately, or B) back to the computer (digitally) to be turned into CDs or MP3s. In a pinch I'll even reluctantly learn a new notation system.

I could probably afford a system to do this if I could figure out what to buy. It's awfully confusing (I bought one of those magazines and it left my head spinning...a cheap thrill, really, but not productive). What I can't afford is to hire some kind of consultant to figure it all out for me. Result: misery.

Bruce: I, on the other hand, own the very first copy ever sold of Michael Callen's Purple Heart album, with his autograph and a note attesting to that fact (I happened to be in Oscar Wilde when he walked in with the first batch, hot from the (vanity) press, and bought one right away, having heard him sing at the AIDS Walk). I keep this even though I also have it on CD and don't even own a turntable. (When he died I checked to make sure it was still there.)

Everybody's different. Also unlike you, I am not in recovery from my hoarding addiction. Will you be my sponsor in HA? :-)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Xopher, that's the kind of thing I'd keep, too. One of my categories for keeping things is specific artifacts of significance, and that'd count. (I do have some autographed CD liners I keep while discarding most, for instance, and some autographed books, ditto.)

You'll love HA - you get ALL THESE NEAT FORMS...

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 06:04 PM:

...which would (*) sit in my apartment, unfilled out, and I'd feel too guilty to throw them away. Then I'd go get another set, because they'd get trimbled under the accumulated detritus, and THAT set would [goto (*)]

Rather like the comment of the ex of a friend of mine, who, upon hearing of SCA (not the Society for Creative Anachronism this time, but Sexual Compulsives Anonymous), commented "That sounds like a great place to meet guys."

My friend swears he wasn't kidding.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 06:39 PM:

*laugh* A friend of mine used to say that he did his best cruising at AA meetings, on the grounds that folks were desperate to find something to wrap their lips around. I'm pretty sure he was kidding, though one hates to leap to conclusions.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 07:10 PM:

An acquaintance of mine 96 I don't think I'd go so far as to call him a "friend" 96 once claimed that he went to Gamblers Anonymous meetings to recruit for his home poker game. (Poker is predatory; but that's like Dick Cheney shooting pheasants in industrial quanty)

aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 08:53 PM:

Patrick - to a certain extent all digital rights management that i've seen come out of the industry works by making things difficult / confusing enough to deter casual users, not by making it impossible to make copies. In general this a technology limitation; there's no such thing as 'impossible' when it comes to manipulating data with a computer - simply 'expensive' or 'time consuming' or 'undocumented'. The trick is to make it tough enough that Joe Schmoe won't bother, use the lawyers to go after the large-scale duplicators, and hope that techies who can figure it out on their own (for small-scale use) are an insignificant enough fraction of the population to not hurt the company financially.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 09:24 PM:

Re DRM, I should note that it took me very little time to figure out a simple way to break the Apple music store's encryption: burn to CD, rip the CD with a different album name back as AAC. But this is just enough of a nuisance that I'm unmotivated to do it.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:10 AM:

About DRM - Hollywood doesn't care if it creates or destroys value, just what it does to them. And they are probably a more focused interest group on this than anybody else. They seem to be winning most of their battles, even against the electronics industry (the only other focused interest group). And Microsoft is in such a good position to implement DRM, with massive market share, that the only obstacle is MS and Hollywood coming to an agreement.

In terms of transparency and ease of use under DRM, that is secondary. And Microsoft's record doesn't inspire confidence. We'll probably be seeing reviews in 10 year that are like the Windows XP reviews now: 'finally after 10 years, Microsoft has gotten most of the hassle out of the way. I only had (insert number between 2 and 5) problems with my new computer....'.