Who’s Making Sounds in the Cloud?

There are multiple types of people who use Soundcloud use it to post their own music and or in some cases news. The vast majority of individuals produce electronic music such as Dubstep, House, Hiphop, and Trance – but other genres exist, such as Indie Rock, Funk, and Folk although their presence is minimal. This was the reason for the formation of my group Sad Bastard Music two months ago. It has seen steady growth and within those two months its numbers have climbed up to close to eighty members. There are others who use the site, specifically groups of people or organizations who have long been establish such as NPR and Music Labels that have their own pages. Large and small existing bands that were in the business before Soundcloud ever existed have a strong presence on the platform as well.

In my explorations of the Cloud, I stumbled upon a type of genre of music called “IDM” which is an acronym for “Intelligent Dance Music.” This seemed to resonant with me a bit more than any of the other types of groups of musicians I stumbled upon. With my engagement with people who frequent these types of groups, they mostly use a program called Abelton Live, which allows for basically live performance composition with the ability to record what you adjust in real-time and then go back and edit that recorded composition. Most favor a sound I would call post rock minimalist electronica.


A Cloud Somewhere in Great Britain

The media platform Soundcloud is based around the concept of cloud computing, or as currently defined by Wikipedia as “the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).” In essence, the separation of computers and their applications from the inferstructure and servers that run, store, and manage the information at a separate location. Soundcloud’s server is located north of Leeds in the UK and host all the information that user’s upload to the site, although the headquarters of the company were located in Berlin.

The layers of Cloud Computing are as follows…

User’s Computing Device <–> Application <–> Platform <–> Infrastructure <–> Server

By decoupling the user from the capital cost of infrastructure and servers allows for operational structure costs to rein supreme, allowing The User’s device to be smaller and cheaper. This frees the user’s device from the constraints of location with access to the data, making smart phones access to information much easier. Because I have uploaded songs onto Soundcloud, they exist on a server somewhere in the UK as well as on my own computer at home. By hosting the media on their servers, I do not need to keep my computer on and constantly connected to the net in order for others to listen to or download the media, seeing as Soundcloud’s taking care of the data at it’s remote server. I can in fact access that data myself from a location away from my home computer, possibly on a mobile device such as a smart phone.

By hosting all this information and data in one place, it makes the management of it easier – allowing for greater efficiency and capacity. By centralizing all the information in one place, some problems with privacy arrise. When large amounts of information are stored in one place far away from , they are much easier to be monitored without your knowledge. (I.E. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A)

Soundcloud’s Investors and its “Freemium” Model

The social audio platform Soundcloud has used multiple ways to encourage its own growth and sustain itself as a viable business. First of all is Soundcloud’s reliance on initial capital investment inorder to afford server space for its cloud format. The German based social media startup’s major investments helped lead to an exponential growth in the number of registered users in the past four years. The first major investment was a 2.5 million euro deal raised by Doughty Hanson Ventures in early 2009, followed then by a huge 10 million dollar deal through a joint effort between Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures recently this January (of 2011.)

Something must be working for the company, because Soundcloud now boasts that it gets 20,000 new sound creators worldwide every single day and has reached the milestone of five million registered members, all accomplished in little under five years of doing business.

As well as initial investment, Soundcloud also uses the concept of a “Freemium” model, in which the basic capabilities of the site, such as registering an account for the use of media sharing, are given to the public for free, but also offers a tiered “premium” subscription model, starting at 29 Euro a month for the “Lite” premium services going up to “Pro Plus” premium for 59 Euro per month that offers even more expanded services. Services and features that are reserved for paying members include: more minutes of data allowed on the cloud, extra stats on who’s listening to your tracks and how, the ability to create more groups, more personalized players, and (frustrating as I’ve found it seeing as I’m only using the free model) the ability to edit tracks after you’ve posted them.

Sounds On A Cloud

Soundcloud is a media sharing platform used to share mostly music, much like Flicker is used for photos and Vimeo is used for videos. It was founded in Germany in 2008 as an answer to Myspace’s dominance of the music sharing online. Unlike Myspace, Soundcloud allowed music to be imbeded anywhere, with each song being allowed it’s own URL.

When first visiting the site, one set’s up an a personal profile to which one uploads what ever noises they wish. One then can then set out to follow other users and other users can follow them. New noises will appear in a feed, or you “Dashboard” of the users you have followed. One can make comments on the sounds of your choosing. What’s interesting and different about the comments on Soundcloud is that users can comment on specific parts of songs.

Another aspect of Soundcloud is the formation of groups of likeminded musicians and share more specifically with those of similar interests. In this manner I formed the group Sad Bastard Music with the following information:

“Taken from a phrase in reference to the film “High Fidelity,” Sad Bastard Music can be described as slow, morose songs with unabashed tenderness in the lyrics or vocal style. Sad Bastard Music belongs to a breed musicians who dare to care in the face of apathy and ignore the childish belittlement of the term “emo” that could easily apply to anyone who has shown emotion in their music, from Beethoven to Otis Redding. Passion and compassion only thrives in a soul who can carry the weight of feeling pain. If you’ve been abused by sappy and happy songs lacking in substance and if you love to listen to an eclectic mix of new and old Indie-Rawk, New-Wave, Alt-Country, Post-Punk, and Soul, you’ve found a home.

My hope is to make this an online community where us Sad Bastards can share our tunes with each other and hopefully collaborate.

To quote Jack Black as Barry, “Put on some old sad bastard music – see if i care!” This was in reference to Belle & Sebastian, but some other examples of Sad Bastard Music include Low, Roy Orbison, The National, Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Tim Hardin, Smog, Wilco, Bonnie Prince Billy, Otis Redding, Yo La Tengo, Galaxie 500, Talking Heads, Andrew Bird, The Jayhawks, Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, Beck, Nick Drake, M. Ward, & Guided By Voices.

-Your Loving Moderator”

My Evening Hours using Computing Power

On my way home from class I bumped along public transit listening to Ry Cooder on my iPod. Upon my eventual, slightly roundabout way home – apparently Madison Metro has multiple buses with the same number – I got home and had enough time to reheat last night’s strange noodle concoction in a digitally run microwave. After wolfing that down, I watched the Daily Show online using the seemingly ubiquitous Apple MacBook. After that, I packed up and waited for the bus using my iPod to listen to Elvis Costello on my way to work while texting on my cellular communication device (aka a cell phone).

Upon arriving at WSUM, I sat behind a Dell Computer working with Microsoft’s Excel and Word while listening to our live digital signal running from the main studio. I did some work in the Master Studio, editing a previous live session from the Fresh Cut Collective on Adobe Audition. I went back to my Dell in the Lobby and used Wisc Mail Plus and Facebook (Don’t tell my boss about the latter.) After finishing all my work, I went into the Music Library and listened to vinyl of Autolux 0n a digital mixer while sorting CDs.

After work was done at midnight, I walked home listening to Luna on the iPod. I watched part of the movie Super 8 with my roommates on their PS3 before moving on read a (gasp!) book, although I had to Google a couple references on my MacBook. After more Samuel Beckett that any person should subject themselves to, I fell asleep. Upon further reflection, Steve Jobs has got me hook line and sinker, even from beyond the grave.

Most Sincerely,

-Peter Charles

Do You Hulu?

For this blog I chose to compare the exact same music video, first on Hulu, then on Youtube, and then finally on Vevo. The video for this project was LCD Soundsystem’s video for “Someone Great” .

First, I thought Hulu was infuriating due to the excess of commercials. I had to sit through thirty seconds of commercial at the begining and end of a four minute long video. That’s twenty percent of my time learning about some Black Friday bullshit that I couldn’t care less about. On other videos around Hulu, such as the Radiohead documentary “Meeting People Is Easy,” when ever I would move my mouse slightly forward in the video or if I wanted to go back and watch a part I already had, I would get slammed with another commercial. The quality of the video’s picture and sound was very crisp though, which was Hulu’s strongest point.

Secondly I looked at “Someone Great” on Youtube. No commercials past the little one I had to X at the bottom of the video. Nothing popped up when I would move around from part of the video to the other. The quality of sound and image was lower, but not that much lower. Something I personally would sacrifice in order for some peace from the ever present commercial. A bridge between the two was Vevo, which came up as well through my search on YouTube. The quality of image and picture was almost that of Hulu and it contained a commercial which I was allowed to skip after suffering for a couple seconds.

Personally, I’ll sacrifice quality of image in sound and go with as little commercials as I possibly can. What YouTube has going for it as well was the fact that it seemed so much democratic, less plutocratic. Not just anyone is allowed to post on Hulu, only those with some dough – meaning a higher likely hood that physical qualities of the video would be higher due to the fact that it cost some money to do. But what’s great about YouTube is that it allows anyone to post what ever they want, in what ever quality they want. YouTube also contains it’s own answer to “Hulu,” Vevo, which is still open for high quality uploads as well as less commercials, abet some. I think I’m sticking with the ‘Tube.

-Peter Charles Allen

Yarr Maties, I be a Pirate!

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve been a pirate ever since I was a wee babe. It’s not like I dressed up as Jack Sparrow and have bad teeth – but I’ve been breaking Copyright laws since I made my first mix tape in elementary school. I’ve been outright copying both my sister’s and my father’s expansive collections of CDs to tape and to other CDs for a very long time. Since I was old enough to figure it out, I’ve been making mix tapes just like my father did to share music with his radio DJ buds using good old-fashioned analog hi-bias tapes. (I still listen to some of my Dad’s old tapes in the shower every morning before heading to school.)

I think I first became aware that what I was doing was possibly illegal by the time I reached middle school when a teacher brought up the illegalities of Kazaa, a popular downloading web site my fellow students were fond of. But being the little rebel I was, I stuck to making my mix tapes and ripping complete CDs from friends and family. I felt it silly for anyone to complain to me about it, since I was blowing all my allowance at the record store already, so I felt justified. I distinctly remember the night before my sister left for college across the country sitting at the computer all night ripping CD after CD after CD – I was literally ripping CDs up until the moment I had to take her to the airport.

Moving on to high school and college, I eventually got an invite to a torrent website called What.cd, which is invite only and a super high quality site for such matters – none of that virus infested Kazaa crap. I continue to occasionally torrent until this day – feeling justified due to the thousands upon thousands of dollars I’ve spent and keep spending at record stores and inside the music world in general.

Fair winds and godspeed ya scurvy dogs!

-Peter Charles