Vinyl Podcast, R.I.P.

January 4th, 2006

Well, this post is long overdue, but I wanted to make a formal announcement that the Vinyl Podcast is defunct. A number of factors influenced my decision to cease production of the podcast. I began a masters program this summer in addition to working full-time, and the 2-3 hours required to produce each show were harder to come by. Also, this fall I got a packet in the mail from BMI, informing me of the details of their podcast license. It wasn’t threatening, but I interpreted it as a friendly first warning.

As of this moment, it is nearly impossible to legally podcast major-label music. I give ASCAP and BMI some credit for introducing relatively low-cost blanket licenses for podcasting, but these only solve half of the problem. ASCAP and BMI cover rights to the composition, i.e. the part of a song that you could write down on manuscript paper, but they don’t cover the mechanical rights to the recording, the actual sounds produced by the musicians. In order to license a recording, each song has to be cleared individually through the Harry Fox Agency, at a rate which is determined in part by the number of copies you intend to distribute. This scheme is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. For example, at Vinyl Podcast’s peak, I had over 5,000 subscribers. Using an example from harryfox.com, a song 4:07 in length would have cost $455.00 to license for use in my podcast.

I took great pains in the design of the Vinyl Podcast to be respectful of the artists whose music I presented. The music I played was not available commercially except for in the second-hand market or, in some cases, via import. Each Mp3 file I distributed included several minutes of commentary, and my voice overlapped the beginning and end of each song. Each recording was made from 20+-year-old vinyl, and was not cleaned up or enhanced, throwing the DMCA‘s notion of a "perfect digital copy" out the window.

That said, I was well aware that the Vinyl Podcast was operating afoul of current copyright statutes, and it became clear that the wild west that was the early months of podcasting would quickly become less Black Rock City and more Las Vegas, and that the inevitable commercialization of podcasting would bring increased scrutiny to the legality of the show.

So, I hope those of you who listened to the show on a regular basis discovered through it some different music, or rediscovered some old favorites that may have been languishing in the attic. I hope a few people dusted off their old turntables, and discovered that the cheapest source of un-DRM‘ed music is your local second-hand record store.

I’m keeping a couple of my shows online for download here, specifically those containing music that, to my knowledge, is not covered by ASCAP or BMI license. As with most early podcasts, the Vinyl Podcast was a money-losing operation. I spent about $20/month on hosting. I racked up about $50 in Google AdSense revenue, which, should Google ever see fit to cut me a check, will be donated to the EFF. Thanks for listening.

P.S. – I intend to blog sporadically at codyhanson.com. Eventually, this feed will be redirected to the feed from that site.

7.10 vinyl podcast – New Earth Rhythm Band

July 10th, 2005

WKQX Hometown Album

On this show, I play a track called “Pork Butts” recorded by the New Earth Rhythm Band. This is not to be confused with the Whole Earth Rainbow Band, who I’ve played before. The New Earth Rhythm Band were a Chicago group in the mid- to late-70s, that near as I can tell only ever recorded this one song. This track is off of a compilation of Chicago bands called Hometown Album, released by radio station WKQX, 101 FM in 1977.

I picked this album up on a whim the other day for 99 cents, because, well, when you like the kind of music I like, you’ll spend 99 cents on just about anything with a song containing either the word “Pork” or “Butt,” so when I saw “Pork Butts” in the tracklisting, I had to have it. I got lucky. “Pork Butts” is smoking uptempo big-band-style horn funk, which is surprising, since all the rest of the bands on the album sound like like half-hearted Eagles ripoffs.

Even though this track is unmistakeably party music, the musicians are really precise. The horn lines are tight and interesting, and there are times when it sounds like if Kool and the Gang listened to Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia.”

As a saxophone player, I’m a little sensitive about the instrument, which I feel is often really cheesy. I, for one, have my doubts that the soprano sax can ever be reclaimed from easy listening hell. On this track, however, Linda Shew plays a tight and soulful alto line that really drives the song.

0710vinylpodcast-NERB.mp3

05.12 vinyl podcast – Lemuria

May 12th, 2005

Lemuria

On this show I’m going to play a track off of one of the more rare albums I own. The song is called “Hunk of Heaven” and it was recorded by a group called Lemuria. I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of background on the group. They were from Hawaii, and the main force behind the group was producer Kirk Thompson. Thompson assembled a great bunch of musicians, including a seven-piece horn section, and put them behind four incredibly powerful women vocalists. The result is a sound that’s akin to Roy Ayers’s later output. It’s deeply rooted in jazz, but sounds more like soul, and it features flourishes of latin flavor and just a hint of good disco.

This track was released on Lemuria’s self-titled album on Heaven records in 1978, and aside from a 45 of this same song, I don’t think the band or the label had any other output.

0512vinylpodcast-Lemuria.mp3

podcastmn.com

May 12th, 2005

I’m proud to announce that my show is available in a feed that brings together all the Podcasters in Minnesota. You can find that combined feed and a list of all the individual shows at Podcastmn.com.

Also, if you’ve been listening to this show via the website, and haven’t been using an iPodder application, there’s now an easy way to begin recieving this show automatically. You can now download an iPodder application for Mac or Windows that comes pre-loaded with the Vinyl Podcast feed along with all the other Minnesota podcasters. I’d like to thank Garrick from the First Crack Podcast and Tim from Winecast for their work putting these things together.

Metametadata Dump

May 6th, 2005

Had the pleasure of meeting Robert Scoble along with some other interesting folks last night at the Minneapolis Geek Bar Crawl. Toward the end of the evening, I took the opportunity to shamelessly bend Robert’s ear about my current pet issue (isn’t that really why we were all there?), attention.xml.

Since reading Steve Gillmor’s piece from the end of March, my head has been spinning with the potential implications for attention.xml. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and have had some conversations with Garrick, and I’ve come to the conclusion that attention.xml has the power to remake the relationship between content creators and consumers in a way that’s mutually beneficial, and which will provide an honest and open profit model for content.

Currently, RSS is all the rage, but on both the content creation and content consumption side implementation is clumsy and random. Steve Gillmor has championed attention.xml as a means by which an RSS consumer can separate the wheat from the chaff in their feed aggregator using a combination of tagging, social networking, and real-time monitoring of feed-reading habits.

Dave Winer is wringing his hands over ads in RSS, which are in their infancy, suffering from shoddy implementation, and which often cause weeks’ worth of old posts to bubble back to the top of my aggregator. Dave argues that RSS should be understood as an ad in and of itself, be it an article snippet that brings you to a conventional site, or simply an advertisement for yourself. I would disagree somewhat, in that I think any time you require an additional click, an additional tab, an additional window from a reader, you’re asking too much, especially when they’re clicking through to see more text.

I think that attention.xml can solve Dave’s problems as well as Steve’s, and frankly, go a step or two beyond.

Steve has hinted at the potential for users to “barter” their attention.xml metadata. I would propose that a new model be created for RSS delivery of content based on this transaction.

Say I had the ability in my aggregator to designate three tags for feeds which would correspond to three levels of attention.xml disclosure. One tag would mark feeds as private, meaning they stayed off my feedroll, and weren’t shared. One tag would mark feeds as shared, meaning they were accessible to members of my social network, or available as a feedroll. The third tag would mark feeds as available in my attention.xml for commercial aggregation.

This tiered system gives the user the power to determine the extent of their relationship with a content provider. On the provider’s side would be two feeds, one which followed Dave’s model and provided snippets or headlines, hoping to draw the reader to the web site, where metrics and eyeballs can be harvested conventionally. The other feed would be accessible only to readers who agreed to include it in, and make available, their commercial attention.xml metadata.

To answer the question Steve Gillmor posted in a later column, if the link remains the coin of the realm in the Syndisphere, then an attention.xml metadata cloud becomes the currency market.

What I’m proposing is a profit model for content creation that is based on market research rather than advertising. Attention.xml can become a universal, anonymous loyalty card system for the web. Rather than trying to profit off of the sucker demographic with traditional ads, and allowing site visitors to be hijacked in the process, content creators are presented with a compelling reason to keep their feeds interesting and useful to their readers. If I unsubscribe, my attention.xml is no longer available to you for your internal use or for resale to market researchers.

I know that some will balk at the idea of giving up so much information. The attention.xml spec at this point allows for no specific user information, and the tag system I’ve described allows users full control over which information they share.

Thoughts?