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Archive for January, 2005


Sunday, January 16th, 2005

Does anyone know what’s going on with Radiohead and their current / former / expired record deal? Are they going to be putting anything out soon? On what label? We’re very curious… (npr|at|downhillbattle.org)

Public Service Announcements Online

Saturday, January 15th, 2005

We’ve finally put up audio files of all the new Downhill Battle PSAs (thanks jeremy). We’ve sent CDs of these out to hundreds of indy radio stations and we’re still trying to raise some money to cover our costs and send more. Most importantly, if you work at a radio station– play em! Thanks to everyone that already has been. Have you heard the PSAs on the air? Leave a comment shouting out the city, station, and frequency.

mfeeds.com – making podcasts easy

Friday, January 14th, 2005

If any of you are into the whole podcasting thing, you should check out mfeeds.com made by our ultra-effective friend Thomas Sibley.

Seriously, Try it out and pass it around

If you know what podcasting is, then the idea is to make it easier to create a podcast by turning any RSS feed, or any webpage with mp3s or other media files into an RSS feed with enclosures. There are other services that do it, but this one is easier.

For example. Pitchfork has a free mp3 page, right? Okay, so here’s the podcast courtesy of mfeeds. Now it’s pitchfork radio. Obviously, if you want to figure out how to turn your mp3 blog into a podcast this makes it way easier too.

Someday this might make people use crazy amounts of bandwidth. But that’s okay, since a hi-tech bandwidth-saving p2p approach is totally in the works.

And for people who aren’t steeped in internet media revolution esoterica, here’s the ultra-simple(istic) explanation of what podcasting is: You put mp3s on a website and people can get software like iPodder that downloads these mp3s whenever there’s a new one. It’s like web radio except you get to keep the songs and take them wherever. And it has nothing to do with iPods, but putting ‘pod’ in the name makes for a hell of a catchphrase. For a bit more depth, see Wikipedia.

Nice coincidence: today me and Tim Jones recorded a conversation about copyright for an upcoming podcast on EchoRadio.

Mac Blog Torrent Preview

Friday, January 14th, 2005

I managed to hack together very basic upload functionality for a forthcoming version of Blog Torrent for Mac. But we need some developer help to work out the kinks and bugs. Download it here. Both the new .app file and the modified source files are included. You’ll need to use our demo server to test it out.

We’re still looking for a developer to take over work on the Mac client. If you have Mac programming experience and you’re interested, let us know.

Jailed for a Song

Tuesday, January 11th, 2005

This just in from our buddies at IPac, the political action committee for rational intellectual property laws: Jailed for a Song is a quick breakdown of why it’s so crazy to consider jailing people for filesharing, which is what Hollywood is trying to do. While you’re there, sign up for the IPac mailing list– big things are going to be coming from that direction over the next couple years.

As you may recall, IPac is one of the groups that we urged people to support over the Holidays, and we’re getting ready to send the coal that the RIAA and MPAA so richly deserve.

Payola is Dying

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

If you’ve ready any of the articles / information on this site, you know that we’ve always seen payola as a lynchpin of major label dominance. The 4 major labels have, for decades, been paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to “independent promoters” who in turn pay radio stations to play certain songs. It’s a system that virtually guarantees that musicians who don’t have serious money behind their music will never get onto commercial radio.

Now– almost magically– NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has come along and saved the day. As we mentioned in the fall, he’s launched an investigation into the practice of payola. And people know that when he goes after something, he’s serious. Salon now has a must-read article which reports that the major labels are cutting off the payola spigot in an attempt to avoid a scandal as Spitzer starts digging in. That’s right, for now at least, payola is stopping. It’s incredible news and a huge victory for the public interest and for music. Thank you, Mr. Spitzer.

Salon has this great quote from an anonymous record exec: “Spitzer says I’m going to look into this and everybody’s folding like a house of cards… We needed an outsider to come in and say this is bullshit and this is illegal.” Pretty amazing.

But there are many caveats here. The most astute insight in the Salon piece is that many of the more adventurous music fans are already ditching mainstream radio: they’re moving to satellite, web radio, and ipods. This brain drain gives stations even less incentive to offer diverse musical options. So even without payola, the argument goes, radio will continue it’s monotonous course. Probably true for the most part.

The Salon article also points out that there are a few bigger indy labels that could afford to pay independent promoters under the current system and it helped them break new acts. If that system disappears, radio stations might become even more conservative about picking established hits. This is definitely a real possibility. But given the virtual absence of independent music on commercial radio to begin with, it’s a relatively small loss that accompanies the potential for enormous gains.

And the opportunity is huge: There’s the obvious positive that independent music won’t be at a direct financial disadvantage trying to get on the air– if station programmers think a song could be a hit, they’ll try it. But this leads back to the caveat above, that without guidance from payola, stations might become even more risk averse and stick with major label fare. But even if that happens in some cases, I expect that the results will be much more varied and exciting. Because with payola gone, radio stations will have lost one of the big signaling mechanisms they use to decide how big a hit the major labels expect an album to be– that means a lot of stations will have to start thinking for themselves. They’ll have to do more research and reading and thinking to try to find new hits, instead of just letting the money write the playlist for them. They’ll be more responsive to requests, more interested in reviews, and they’ll pay a lot more attention to independent music that’s getting online buzz. That’s a very good thing for everyone.

Ultimately, regular (terrestrial) commercial radio seems to be in inevitable decline, as we’ve discussed before (again, it’s ipods, satellite, web radio). But for the time being, it’s still the crucial marketing mechanism for the major labels. And anything that weakens their grip on radio weakens their business and lowers their chances of being able to maintain their monopoly during the leap to digital music that’s happening right now. The end of payola is awesome (let’s hope it lasts…).

We Need a Graphic Designer

Tuesday, January 4th, 2005

One of the ironies of blogging is that when you’re busy doing the most interesting stuff, you have the least time to blog about it. We’ve been feeling very overwhelmed recently and we owe everyone some updates on various projects. And I swear we’ll do that soon. But first, we’re trying to address one of the big problems that’s been keeping us overwhelmed and out of our element at times– lack of a designer on our core team.

Downhill Battle outgrew it’s homegrown design abilities long ago, and yet we’ve still struggled along ourselves because we haven’t had any money to pay a serious designer (also, we’re very picky). This has been incredibly stressful for all of us as we stretch way beyond our natural design abilities, which pulls us away from the things that we’re good at.

But now we’re finally getting a little bit more established and we have a little bit of money to try to bring a graphic designer onto the team in a semi-permanent role (this would also include work for participatorypolitics.org). When I say a little bit of money, I mean it– we have roughly $500 – $1000 to spend on design per month, and we’re hoping for someone who can do a decent amount of work. That’s actually a lot of money by standards around here, we’ve been living very cheaply and we’re in this for the love. We can also pay project by project if that works better for you, but we need a reliable go-to person that can do a series of things in a row.

We’d love to have someone who can work half-time, but this can vary depending on how fast you are and how much stuff we have to do at the moment. Most important to us is finding someone who does creative work that we like, who believes in the cause, and who can be consistent and reliable.

Skill-wise, we want someone who has a good, independent (not trendy), design sense, and is very flexible and professional (in the good sense of the word). We need to be able to make clear and usable sites like mozilla and basecamp as well as more interesting, artsy sites. Experience making XHTML / CSS table-less designs is very important, though we can handle some of the coding side ourselves, if necessary.

And here’s my heartfelt pitch to all those talented designers out there that could be making a lot more money doing commercial work: There’s a real chance right now to swing culture in an independent, grassroots, ground-up direction. That chance might not last long, and we don’t want to miss it. Downhill Battle is in a pretty unique position to have an impact on what happens. Having a really solid designer on the team would help us take it to the next level. We have some very cool projects coming up, it’s really exciting for all of us to be a part of it, and I think it will be for you too, whoever you are… plus, I think we’re pretty fun to telecommute with.

So if you’re interested, please send a resume or portfolio or a list of links to: npr|at|downhillbattle.org. And if you have questions about money, time, or anything else, don’t hesitate to send them along.

UPDATE: We’re not accepting any more portfolios. Thanks and more info soon.