It’s Hard to be Surprised on the Internet Now

I wrote this in a recent Metal Bandcamp Gift Club newsletter:

I don’t know when I’ll be able to thumb through any used CD bins, or be surprised by an opening band on a Tuesday night. At the moment everything is laid out in front of our face. There’s no surprises.

That’s why each birthday wishlist is hidden, a mystery! No mention in the subject of the email of whose birthday it is, and you can’t mouse-over to find out who it is, either. Do you dare click?!

When can we dig through a friend’s record collection again? Well, not today, probably. But today you can scroll through someone’s Bandcamp wishlist (today’s has over 800 releases), or their collection, and probably find something new, or a release you forgot about. 

It’s not the same, but it’s the best we can do for now, I guess. Thank you for clicking.

In those newsletters, the link to someone’s wishlist doesn’t mention their name, and mousing over the link only reveals a Mailchimp-created tracking link (at least in your inbox, on your desktop), so you still don’t know who it is. You have to click.

In this world of click bait headlines, it’s hard to trust any link. Thankfully the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club newsletter has a click-per-unique open of like 60%.

Build trust by giving, serving, filling.

Metal Bandcamp Gift Club exists to funnel traffic direct to people’s Bandcamp wishlists, where people buy albums as gifts for their birthday. In 2020. This is driving album sales, and putting money into the pockets of artists. It’s a wonderful thing.

Fresh, brand new, just for us

Okay, two weeks in a row of this stuff?

Another Bandcamp Roulette, and I’m so made this one today because I found this album from Brendan Byrnes – and it came out yesterday.

I’m as shocked as anyone that I go from geeking out on that sort of music to making another Goodnight, Metal Friend mix, with some of the darkest, grimmest, foreboding tunes on Bandcamp. But I tell you what – they put me right to sleep, and that’s the point.

And I don’t know… these two things aren’t for everyone, and that’s by design. Think ‘1,000 True Fans,’ or “minimum viable audience,” as Seth Godin says:

Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.

In search of the minimum viable audience

Will either of these things get a million subscribers anytime soon? Probably not, and that’s okay, because I know if I had “just” 1,000 people who were really into either of them, it’d be cool.

And the best part is this; I’m doing it anyways. I’m making sleep mixes for me first, to fall asleep to. Sourcing the music, arranging the mix, making the mix, crafting the artwork – it’s all meditative to me which helps me (wait for it)… sleep.

And the Bandcamp Roulette? I legit do this several times a day when I work, now I just take some extra steps and make them into videos.

I dunno… I just geek out to this stuff, and I’m stoked I finally slowed down enough to realize it.

Making Some Content During the Pandemic

Haven’t really made much “content” since shutting down Skull Toaster back in 2018. Got nearly 40 episodes into making a thing called “Later” in 2019 (archive of the audio available on SoundCloud), but that fizzled.

Now, though, I feel some good momentum.

Got a jolt to get working on Metal Bandcamp Gift Club again late last year. Moved the whole thing to an email list, redid the website as a hand-coded HTML site. The subscriber count is going up! Yay!

Started watching DJ sets on YouTube, you know, to sort of stay sane and experience people doing things besides just my cat yelling at birds. That inspired me to try my hand at the process, which led to making my own metal-leaning sleep mix called Goodnight, Metal Friend.

And now “Bandcamp Roulette” (at the top of this post) is a thing now, maybe?! I just really enjoy digging for and finding music, and it’s not that hard to set up. Two video shots:

  1. The initial Selling Right Now scroll, and the actual clicking around to listen to the individual band pages are captured with ScreenFlow.
  2. iPhone Xr on a tripod, which I then sync with the video captured using ScreenFlow.

I don’t have to prepare or research anything, as I’m picking stuff on the fly. I guess I might recognize some of the releases from time to time, but I’ve been writing about music since 2001, so I’ll be able to draw from that experience, and I love the free wheeling, spontaneous nature of this format. I guess it could even be live-streamed, maybe too? HMMMM.

These three things – running Metal Bandcamp Gift Club, making sleepy time metal mixes, and Bandcamp roulette have just been something nice to rattle my brain, and keep things fresh, and keep the curiosity stoked.

Cosmic Lips by Momocurly

Found via Bandcamp’s scrolling “purchased music” feed on their front page – that album art caught my eye! The music is stunning – so clean and minimal, filled with good vibes and lush dreamscapes.

Goodnight, Metal Friend

I love falling asleep to music, and for the past year or so I’ve been using the Headspace app for that very purpose.

When listening to radio (like NTS), I never know what might come on at 3am. And with playlists, songs stop and start, so there’s never a consistent volume.

And while I love the Headspace offerings, they’re very robotic. As someone who works in music, I really like to know who’s making the music. I feel like music needs some humanity to it.

My initial thoguth was to create my own music. I have Abelton Live, a bass, and a MIDI keyboard – how hard can it be? Well, it’s hard. And I want some music to fall asleep to sooner rather than later.

That meant finding music made by humans, and arranged as a “mix.” I’ve been watching a bunch of DJ sets on YouTube recently, and I’m sort of intrigued.

So, I knew I was going to need some DJ software for this project. The first program I downloaded is the one I’ve been using; Serato DJ Lite. It’s free, and does the big important thing I need: fade into and out of separate tracks in real time.

So then I hit Bandcamp for some suitable tracks. I searched by tags and mostly dug through ambient drone, sorted by recent arrivals. I found about 6-10 tracks, paid for and downloaded each one, and threw them into Serato.

Learning how and when to fade out of tracks, and into others – IN REAL TIME – is exciting. Even though the music is quiet and peaceful, the process keeps me on my toes. By the time I settled on my playlist, and practiced a few times, I had a 25-ish minute “set” ready to go.

To record my mix, I used Rouge Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, capturing the audio from Serato, and recording it as an MP3 file in real time.

Again, you have to pay attention during this entire process, because if you mess up the transition between songs five and six, you gotta scrap it and do it again.

I uploaded to Mixcloud, because they’re artist friendly; “We also make sure that the artists, songwriters and rightsholders played in the shows receive their fair royalties.” I have a three month trial, and after that’s up it’s $15/mo, which seems fair.

I did my final mix after a day of work. Being that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic right now, this was the mental break I needed on a Monday night.

It’s not perfect, but it’s done. Hopefully I make nine more of these, and the tenth will be better than my first. Hope you like it.

Abelton Live is Now 30% Off

Abelton Live 10 is 30% off until May, and…

The Live 10 trial period has been temporarily increased to 90 days, giving you more time to play with all the features of Ableton Live Suite. Active trials will automatically be extended. And anyone who has used the trial before can now use it again.

I’ve been playing with Abelton Live since December 2017 or so. It’s a challenge getting away from the GarageBand way of recording, but it’s been rewarding. Started off with the trial version (version nine!), and upgraded to Lite, which was about $80. I’m not recording an album or anything, but it’s been fun to mess around and make some music again.

Check it out.

Marc Rebillet is a new Fave

One of the best things about keeping a blog is coming back to shit you wrote five years ago, or five days ago. Reading posts from a few weeks ago, at the start of the Corona virus outbreak, has already been eye opening, so I want to keep this going, and that of course needs to include music and videos like this. Each is a capsule into my mindset and vibe from that moment.

A few months ago I saw a weird video of a guy in a hotel room yelling about fashion (below), and didn’t think much of it.

Then my friend Natalie posted a video or two on Instagram and then it was like, woah, okay, I get it now. This one (below) really hit home with me, and I’ve since started streaming his super long live-streams and getting stoked not just on his humor, but his good vibes and out of this world musical skills.

It’s spontaneous, and energetic, and you know what? Sometimes some of his stuff doesn’t work for me, but that’s 1000% okay because Marc Ribellet is a new favorite of mine in 2020.

Very Noise

What? How? Is this even real?

Really enjoyed IGORRR’s 2017 album ‘Savage Sinusoid,’ but haven’t been keeping up, but really stoked I stumbled upon this clip. This song is from a new album, ‘Spirituality and Distortion,’ due out in March.

It’s video likes this that push me forward. With all the ills of this world, the strife and turmoil and impending supernova of Betelgeuse (maybe?), music is as important as ever. Getting a bunch of people into a practice space, or sending MP3 files back and forth over the internet to make music like… this?

Yes, why not?