Tuesday, June 6, 2006

APIG Finally Says What It Thinks Of DRM

We're not talking about a barnyard animal, here, we're talking about the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group in the UK. Beatnik Turtle is a US band, but the internet is international. On top of that, according to our sales figures, we sell a fair number of songs in iTunes-UK. So if the question is why a Chicago indie band cares what happens in another country, the answer is that we have the financial interest to prove it. We're not just covering things like this to rant.

Their recommendations are surprisingly cogent and show a deep understanding of the issues. Evidently, this committe has people with a clear conception of the subtle interaction between technology and law. Many committees like these are overrun with monied interests. Instead, we are impressed by the scope of what they recommend. You can find their report on their website.

Perhaps the most important recommendation that they make is that the government should NOT legislate to make DRM systems mandatory.

Increasingly, we are seeing signs of legislation in the US to do that very thing. It seems that the UK is similarly affected. These efforts are misguided, and usually end up hurting technology. It also especially hurts indie bands, because it raises the costs that we have to pay to get our music to people. All of the popular DRM schemes in the world are proprietary, and thus gives a middleman a potential cut of sales depending on how much they charge.

Even worse, many indie bands like ourselves don't like DRM and don't want to restrict what our fans want to do with our own music. Making legislation to force us to punish our paying fans while leaving the ones that pirate with the freedom to do what they wish is especially egregious.

If you have an interest in what is going on in the US along these lines, we recommend keeping up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation at eff.org, especially at their DRM page. There are glimmerings of this legislation on the horizon in the US, and we will cover them here in the blog because we find that it directly affects us.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Lots of News!

The band has been incredibly busy in the last weeks, and we have to apologize for the delay in the blog entires. Part of it is that we're trying to get used to making bite-sized updates rather than writing a longer work.

We're going to do our best to write more, and smaller, updates to this blog as we do things. As it is, we need to catch everyone up. To say that it's been exciting is really highly understating the impact of the last few weeks.

Billboard Article
Todd Martens of Billboard gave us a call about the Survival Guide about 5 or 6 weeks ago and asked us to do an interview about it. The interview was a pleasure, and he wrote a tremendous article that appeared in Billboard in the May 20, 2006 edition.

Todd Martens got it right, and represented us quite well. Thanks Todd! It was an unexpected pleasure.

Todd did great, but as far as our other experiences with the media in the past...I don't know how to say this nicely, so I won't try: Some of the journalists that we've dealt with have been a bit lazy. They tend to get facts wrong, or misspell names, etc. We had a hilariously wrong mention in the Chicago Tribune just recently where they said that we were in the recent Sketchfest. We were in it two years ago, it's true, and a comedy group did use a recording of BT as their theme music this year, and we were in the audience...but we didn't play. That particular mistake was a happy one for us because they did give us a nice mention, after all. Other articles, we weren't so lucky, and the mistakes were to our detriment. But Todd is a profesional and it shows. We loved it.

Now, for the backstage part of this: We didn't send a press release to Billboard, or plan this in any way. In fact, we were never going to try for that particular pulication in our PR plan because we thought that they were out of reach. It shows that you can limit your thinking sometimes, and that could hold you back.

Todd found out about The Survival Guide and Beatnik Turtle from the Lawrence Lessig Blog. We sent another thank you to Professor Lessig for mentioning us, as it seems that he is quite well read by a lot of folks. We're very happy for him, because he's having an influence on people as it relates to copyright. We're also glad that we could include his ideas, and his ideals, in our own work, and help spread the word.

For those bands that read this blog, we have learned something out of this episode that we will add to a future edition to the guide: Blog mentions and internet postings DO have an effect on your publicity, and can be effective ways to spread your message. It does have to be a unique message, but from there, you can't be sure where it goes. I believe the group Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had similar experiences, where they were quite surprised to be taken up by certain corners of the internet, and they had a lot of great attention afterwards.

Website Redesign
Beatnik Turtle takes care of our own website, in most every way. We are the web designers, graphic artists, tech guys, and content writers. We consider the website our most important ambassidor to the world, so we spend a lot of time on it, and keep it in our own control.

After the interview for the article, but before the release, we finally took on what we had been putting off in terms of a redesign. Our acquaintence with a fantastic web designer, Matt Scholtka, cemeted it for us, because he gave us a lot of very practical, and well considered advice. He was instrumental to the affair. And helped us do web design and graphic arts where our own meager skills fell short.

We use a content management system called Typo3 which has a great deal of flexibility, and allows us to handle the well-over one hundred pages on the Beatnik Turtle website. We have a lot of content, and managing it can only be done with an engine as powerful as Typo3. Typo3 allows us to make design changes in just one of a few templates, and have it take effect across the entire guide, for instance. But it takes a bit longer to do work with Typo3 than it does with standard HTML. That price is well worth paying when your changes are automatically applied across everything you have, and even to new pages as they are created. And we're been creating a lot of new pages lately.

We hope you like the new design. It's that redesign, more than anything else, that kept us from posting to the blog. Two people spent at least 100 hours each on it. Usually coming straight home from work, doing the website until 1 AM, and waking up to do the whole thing again.

One of our favorite activities to do is songwriting. In spite of everything going on, we still have been getting together and writing new music. Sometimes, as much as 5 or 6 songs a session. Much of this is for a project that we will be announcing in 6 months or so. Although we can't talk about the project yet, you can be sure that there will be a lot of new music involved!

When you have your own studio, and love writing music, there is something magical that happens when you do it. You go in to a session with perhaps some ideas, or perhaps a clear head. You walk out with a short CD of songs that never existed before you got there. Listening to something like that in your car on the way back from a session is really exciting.

BT Video
BT is playing with video, and flash projects. There may be some video up on the Beatnik Turtle website in the next few months.

In fact, tonight, one of the band members is going to their local cable access facility to get certified on their equipment for some other projects.

Guide Sendup
Thanks to all of you who have sent in "Thank you" messages to us based on the guide. Yes, we do read them. In fact, we try to answer ALL of the messages that come in. (Well, except for the spam.)

Since we're not doing the Survival Guide guide for money, the Thank You messages are how we get paid. They are quite welcome. Suggestions, ideas, and critiques are no less welcome.

Also, there is more guide material coming soon. First of all, there are new articles and material planned. Second, we're doing interviews of interesting people, and will be adding it to the site. Also, we're going to be writing reviews of the many books that we used to research the guide to give other bands an idea of what these books are like, from an indie band's perspective.

As a result, the Survival Guide section will likely have two parts: A permanent part that has the Survival Guide itself which will be updated as we add material to it. There will also be a webzine part that is intended for monthly updates as we put up the interviews, book reviews, and articles.

Live Album Mixdown
The mixdown of the live album continues during this process, in the able hands of our sound guru paired up with a few other band members. We don't yet have a release plan for it just yet. We hope to finish work on this by the end of summer, however.

We have a sneaking suspicion that we're missing something in this large entry. But it's been a while since we've updated, and we're dashing this one out as it is. We'll be making more, and smaller, entries coming soon to keep people up to date with the Backstage of an Indie Band.

One other thing: You may wonder how we're doing all of this, considering that we're all working full time profesionally as well. We sometimes wonder that too. But the answer is simple: we got more people involved with these projects. People who know video, people who know flash, others that do web design, and yet others that just love writing and recording music. We're at the center of the whirlwind, and certainly busy, but it's because we've grown our conception of what we are to include more people and more projects than just music. We want to thank all of the new folks who are working with us.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Lawrence Lessig Blog Mention

There's a famous question that asks: "If you could choose just three famous people to have dinner with, who would they be?" At the top of my list would be Lawrence Lessig. His biggest influence is on the balance between copyright ownership and culture's requirement for freedom of information. From his writings, he truly seeks a balance, not abolition of ownership. His understanding of musicians like us who depend on copyright, but also require some measure of freedom in order to be able to be creative is very insightful.

Unfortunately, the scales have tipped too far in the ownership side, rather than of a free culture, and the arguments that Lessig makes to restore the balance is truly absorbing. This is best explained in his book, Free Culture. Beatnik Turtle HIGHLY recommends this book, which is available free from his website.

A dinner conversation with someone like Professor Lessig would be fascinating. Certainly, Beatnik Turtle found his ideas to be compelling. We quote him actually multiple times in our Indie Guide. And, in some ways, the File Sharing section was inspired by Lessig's Free Culture book (and OSCon Presenation).

Professor Lessig was good enough to mention us in a blog entry, and for that, we want to tell him, "Thanks!" And also for all of the hard work that he is putting in to restore balance.

For those of you who have wandered over to our website from Mr. Lessig's, welcome! We realize that not all of you are musicians, so the part that you most likely to find interesting is the chapter on File Sharing for Independent Bands, where we assert that File sharing is good for indies and put together a very careful argument about it, starting with how File sharing works in the first place, and moving on to the economics of file sharing for indies (rather than the same, tired economic arguments that are from the point of view of the large labels, who have never been a friend to indie bands, or, arguably, musicians in general.) The file sharing section was inspired by Lessig, but also Eben Moglen of the FSF, Professor Ed Felten, and others that discuss file sharing and DRM in a more balanced manner.

The Survival Guide is--of course!--released under a Creative Commons license, so feel free to share it with anyone you wish!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wronged by Digital Rights

Waves Ltd. considers Beatnik Turtle to be a criminal.

Beatnik Prisoner

We'd like to feel special on this one, but actually we're not alone. It's more fair to say this:


Which would make sense if they sold, say, lockpicks. But instead, Waves makes plugins for recording tools. Including, quite unfortunately, a very decent one for vocal equalization and sound processing, called "Renaissance."

This is another story about Digital Rights Management (DRM), but instead of being about DRM being imposed against our customers against our will, this is one where Beatnik Turtle is on the other side of the story. We are subject to it in order to use the Renaissance plugin.

We are not merely complaining about the fact that they have DRM. This particular form of DRM is extremely intrusive, cost us money to implement, required us to give up our privacy, and is so flawed that it hard-crashed our studio computer repeatedly many times during the installation without warning or explanation.

We want to be clear about this. It is the DRM driver that crashed our computer, caused the headaches told below, and wasted a lot of time and energy. Time and energy we should have spent recording and creating, not on the phone with Waves. If there had been no DRM, there would have been no problems...and no blog entry.

Unlike a Quentin Tarantino film, this story is best told from the beginning.

When it comes to recording questions, Beatnik Turtle relies on the sound and recording expertise of John Lisiecki, a professional recording engineer, Sound Guru, and all-around great person. John helped us work out how to redesign our studio when we decided to go for a computer based recording solution. One of his pieces of advice was to look into the Renaissance plugin, although he did warn us about some new Digital Right Management they were enacting that was pissing off the professional music community.

For those of you who are not familiar with what a plugin is with regard to recording, it is an separate mini-program that is incorporated into your recording software to add new capabilities. Plugins run the gamut as to what they can do. Some typical plugins are compressors or equalizers. Others are specialized effects processors that may add flange, reverb, or even make the sound have higher pitch. There are literally thousands of these plugins available that allow you to have millions of different effects. What Waves' Renaissance does is compress vocals and add EQ to help punch up and sharpen the sound. When we first tried the product out (while it was still in demo mode before we authorized it but after we paid for it) we were amazed at what it did. We were informed by John that most studios just use this on all vocals, and we could see why.

We purchased Waves' "Musicians Bundle II" via an on-line store and installed it while we were setting up and relaunching the new and improved studio. To our surprise, during the installation, it crashed our computer--hard. Locked it up. Went to "blue." Hosed it completely.

All we could do was reboot the machine.

At first we blamed Jason and his horrible computer-karma. But then only when he complained enough that "it wasn't his fault" and "seriously, he had no idea what was going on" did we realize there had to be a reason beyond him as to why the computer kept crashing.

Obviously, few activities depend on the flawless functioning of a computer like studio recording. It is time-based. A lockup at the wrong time could miss a performance or worse, damage an entire song and all time and progress on it. (Okay, we realize that it's here where you Mac folks point, click, and laugh, but that's a discussion for another day. Just be assured that we are well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each, and believe us that Windows makes the most sense for our purposes.)

We tried the installation sequence a few more times "just in case," with a crash being the inevitable result. Eventually, we removed the device driver that Waves installed, and got on the phone with their tech support.

After about a hour on the phone - and, get this: pushing "1" every two minutes to remain on hold and not get disconnected as you wait - we started the long process of going throughthrough the standard list of possible problems (yes, the computer is receiving AC power; yes, the CD is in the drive). Their final suggestion? Call another tech support phone number: the one in charge of the DRM attached to the software purchase. Their guess was that there was an updated driver for it.

At that time, since we already purchased "Musician's Bundle II" we weren't sure if Waves would let us return it if it was unable to run on our computer. Some terms of the EULA led us to believe that we would have a hard time getting a refund. Our research on Waves on Google found many other blog entires and even webpages like this one where people were quite angry with the company and documented similar problems.

So, we ended up calling the DRM company. And, it turned out that there was a new driver. And, sure enough, it fixed the problem and the DRM software was installed.

And the problem was solved.

Or so we thought. But Waves proved us wrong.

When we finally got the program to install, we were back on the Waves tech support line (pushing "1" again every two minutes to stay "in queue") because it wasn't registering correctly over their complicated and bloated registration system.

That's where we found out the next surprise: we needed to buy a USB device called an iLok key in order to use this. The key cost $40. It did not come included in the software box. In fact, neither the instructions nor the box stated that an iLok key was needed.

Waves' explanation? We "must have old packaging, cuz the new ones tell you you need to purchase a key."

Yeah, but this one didn't and we got it shipped to us - it wasn't sitting on a shelf of a store for us to read.

"That's weird."

Now you're telling us we have to shell out more bucks so we can use your product?

"Yep. You need a key."

That's a hidden cost we never factored in when we originally bought it weeks ago.

"What's a hidden cost?"

This didn't seem fair to us. So, we asked them to send us a key since it was required to make their product work. But they refused. They don't give their customers all the necessary components to make their products work. We guess they just sell boxes at $100 a pop.

Since they wouldn't provide a key, we then asked for a rebate toward the purchase of the key. Or, if that didn't work a Waves-credit toward the purchase of a future Waves product. They refused. The key wasn't their responsibility. It was a separate company. They just make plugins.

Plugins that you can't use.

So, let's sum up. What this means is that Waves wants us - the customer - to pay for proof that we aren't stealing from them.

Actually, we're being unfair again, Waves wants EVERYONE who buys their products to pay for that proof so Waves can sleep easy at night.

It took a few days to calm down. After that, we decided, hell, since we bought the damn thing, we might as well see this thing to completion. The thing is, we wanted the plugin when we bought it, not weeks and headaches later. So, we decided to suck it up and purchase an iLok key. A week later it arrived.

And, it still got worse.

The key was easy to install. It plugs in and takes up one of your USB ports. However, to make the key work, you had to register the key at BOTH the DRM manufaturer of the key's website AND the Waves website! And, you need to provide them with your real contact information.

So, the purchase of the key for the purchase of the Waves' product required giving up our information and privacy to two separate companies just to finally use a $100 plug-in. And, it's not like we wanted to give them this personal information. Based on how we were treated and based on how they treat their customers, we didn't want to give either of them - Waves or the DRM company - any info. They didn't deserve it.

We're sure, given this horrible attitude toward their customers, that Waves probably had a lot of problems with piracy in the past. We're also sure, that this new elaborate, customer-supported anti-piracy and digital rights management surveillance system has solved all their worries. And, we're also sure there's no sarcasm in this blog entry.

The old business axiom that "the customer is always right" seems to be replaced here with the 2.0 version: "the customer is always digitally right when managed." That's certainly how we felt Waves' treated us throughout this unnecessarily hard installation process. A process that should have taken 5 minutes, tops. As a result of this entire month long headache, we have no intentions of purchasing any further plug-ins - or iLok keys - from or due to WAVES.

So, if you're a musician who intends to purchase a WAVES product, be forewarned.

Of course, we have heard that the people who pirate these types of products don't have any such problems. They simply install and go. They don't have to deal with the unstable drivers that crash their computers, give away their privacy, pay hidden costs for iLok keys, and deal with unhelpful and non-empathetic tech support lines all the while pushing "1" repeatedly to stay on hold and not get disconnected. While we don't pirate software nor advocate pirating any software product, the M.B.A.s running Waves should know that it is an attractive alternative for many other people just to avoid the problems they put their customers through.

Maybe we'll write a song about it making fun of them. You can bet we'll use their Renaissance to help punch up the vocals so they're loud and clear.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Righting a Digital Rights Wrong

Digital Rights Management (DRM) doesn't only affect major label musicians, it now directly affects independent bands as well. By way of a short introduction here, DRM is a method by which it's possible to use technologies to limit what people can do with music, video, or other works. Often, it affects how they can copy a work. It can also restrict what formats these works can be copied into. Some DRM is embedded into CDs. Others are applied by the digital music services that sell music.

And since most of us indies have music up on those online music stores, it affects us too.

It recently affected Beatnik Turtle very directly, when in July of 2005 a fan of ours posted a blog entry about being dissatisfied with Napster - a digital music service that sells our albums. (Note - this is not the original Napster - this is the new "legitimized" Napster where music is sold with the blessing of music companies and everyone shares in the profits.)

It turns out that our music is available on Napster through our association with CDBaby. Unfortunately, our blogger fan bought one of our albums and, according to his post, could no longer get access to it once he stopped paying the Napster subscription fees. Once we heard about his predicament - which we discovered quite a bit later when his blog came up on a search for our name - we knew we had to do something to help him out.

Now you might be thinking that he only bought a subscription, and just lost access when he stopped the subscription. Not so! He paid for the album, and we got reimbursed for it. Napster's business model (at least at the time of his purchase) revolved around paying subscription fees to get (and maintain) rights to the music on its service. You can just pay a general fee to listen to anything in their library, but you also can pay for a particular album to have it available to you on other devices. For the subscription-only purchases, Beatnik Turtle gets about .01 or .02 a play. For the purchases, it is similar to other systems that go for about .65 to .70 a song. Our fan had paid for the songs, but of course, had some DRM that restricts what you can do with it. Once he stopped his subscription with Napster, he couldn't listen to the songs that he had paid for anymore.

Our remedy? Send him a DRM-free copy of our album, with our apologies.

The last thing that any indie band needs is to make it harder for people to listen to their music. Beatnik Turtle feels especially strongly about this and covers this topic more thoroughly in The Indie Band Survival Guide.

But why do you put your music up on these services then, huh?

Well, although we hate DRM, we also love the distribution the internet and these services provide for our music. At the end of the day, some people just want to purchase music from them (e.g., iTunes). Many fans would be disappointed if our music wasn't on that service. In fact, there isn't a week that goes by where someone doesn't ask me if our band is even up on iTunes. It has become some sort of right of passage - some sort of proof that "you've made it" in some respects.

Which is odd, because it's not hard to get your music up on these services.

So we at Beatnik Turtle, along with many other indie bands, find ourselves in the ironic position of placing those same restrictions on our fans as the major labels, as if we only cared about the money that we got from them and that they don't do anything illicit with the music afterwards. We certainly don't feel that way, and don't mind if people share our music with friends. Or even enemies. Hell, we're not picky.

So, to practice what we preach, we're offerering anyone who, like our blogger fan, has legitimately purchased Beatnik Turtle music only to have access to it stripped away, a DRM-free version, on request. Just contact us at our comments page and tell us the story. We'll figure out a way to get you a DRM-Free copy. We further suggest that future purchases come from a DRM-free site, such as MP3tunes.com, which gives you just plain old MP3's.

As we talk about in the Indie Band Survival Guide, DRM tends to really only affect (and bother) legitimate customers while leaving those who got the music illicitly untouched (and unbothered). DRM is not only completely ineffective, it punishes the very people you should treat best: the fan. The major labels and the large music industry players have it exactly backwards. We don't see how they could get something so wrong.

At least we don't have to act the same way.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Academically My Dear

Based on our research for the Survival Guide, the Sony DRM incident captured our interest, and we've been spening a lot of time working on aspects of this. We also ended up writing about this in the guide, in the DRM section.

Searching on Sony DRM will catch up up on what has ocurred in this arena, at least, on the surface, but if you want to know what really went on behind the scenes we highly recommend reading the paper Lessons from the Sony CD DRM Episode written by J. Alex Halderman and professor Ed Felten. Professor Felten is notable because of his original work on digital watermarks, which almost ended up going head to head with the DMCA. This recent DRM paper is an academic work, which goes into detail about not only what happened during this DRM incident, but exactly how the DRM works from a computer science standpoint. Even if you aren't technically inclined, the paper is quite interesting as it discusses the economic and some legal effects of DRM.

The exciting part is that Randall Chertkow (or Randy as he's known to the band) commented on the paper. They made some changes from an early draft based on his comments, and have acknowledged him in the paper on page 26.

If you're interested in DRM, we really think that the paper is a very good read.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Catching Up

In the past few months, we've been very busy releasing and working on a number of projects. We'll have entires about some of them in more detail in the near future, but I just wanted to catch our readers up on what's been going on.

The Indie Band Survival Guide

Beatnik Turtle has been very fortunate to stay together for over 8 years, and in that time, we've learned a thing or two. Mostly by either making mistakes that we said that we wouldn't repeat, or by doing research. About two years ago, we started to reflect on this, and put together a guide aimed at other indie bands, and those folks that were interested in what goes on behind the scenes.

And now, after years of work, we'd like to announce the release of the Indie Band Survival Guide a 100 page book that shares what we've learned in our time as an independent band. The subtitle summarizes it best: "Everything we've learned so far. Research, articles, stories, and practical know-how about the music industry written from an independent band's perspective."

We don't claim to have the answers. But what we do have is over 8 years of experience. And two years of dedicated research and writing. It's also been professionally edited. (Thank you Brad!)

The Guide is free, and under a Creative Commons license that makes it clear that you can share it freely with others without asking our permission. (Just don't try to sell it!)

We've gotten some very kind comments about it, and we're glad that we can share what we've learned. We are going to be improving this over time, especially as we learn from other bands, and as we do more research. We'll have more on this topic in the future.

The DVD Geeks Reprise

Beatnik Turtle worked on a theme song for a TV show pilot, called DVD Geeks. We mentioned this on our front page in the news stories. The update on that is that the show did quite well at the convention, and generated a lot of interest! We wish them luck in their negotiations. If things go the right way, great things might happen!

We Write Songs Good

We've enjoyed writing songs for theater, TV, and movies so much that we've made it part of our band. When the DVD Geeks people went to the NATPE convention, they brought along some postcards and disks from Beatnik Turtle to give away. Those are a launch of our songwriting services, where we will write songs...on demand!

Anyone who wants music for themselves, whether that be a theme song for a TV show, or a song for a website, and everything in between can contact us. We have enough people in the band to cover many different styles of music, and we like the challenge.

The one project that we'd love to tackle is a theme song for another band. (Which we have actually done before without being asked. It was not well received. So we made it our own theme song!)

Order Beatnik Turtle Around

If you've ever wanted to order Beatnik Turtle around, here's your chance. Do you have an idea for a song? Is there a topic that you can't believe that there's no song about it?

Send us a compelling idea, and we may just write a song about it. Thanks to this concept, there is finally a song about going commando (which will be released as part of a future project)! You too may be able to get BT to write a song about neglected topics!


Beatnik Turtle has released our own newsletter. While we had a mailing list before, we built a whole new system, and have named the newsletter to make it easier to keep people informed of our doings. Which, as you can see even by this blog entry, is quite a lot.

Before this newsletter, we hadn't been updating our fans very much at all, in spite of having an email list. Some of our friends were asking if we were even still together, when instead, we're doing more than ever.

For those of you with bands that are curious of how we did it, we've built this newsletter using something called PHPList. It's a very capable program that lets us build templates for the subscription pages, automatically handle subscribes and unsubscribes, automatically handle HTML and plain text versions of the same newsletter, and, most importantly, deals with bounces very well. When you're dealing with hundreds of addresses, these features are critical.

We're giving a away exclusive free songs to all people who subscribe to our newsletters, as well.

The Hunt Continues

We've been auditioning bass players for the past few months to fill in the gap. We've met some great people, and while some of them may have originally auditioned for bass, they instead have been helping out in different projects. Other bassists, we are using on recording projects in the future.

Our concept of the band is somewhat different than it was in the past. It's not us against the world. It's us against all of the projects that we're taking on. And we can find a way to use different people on different projects depending on availability and talents. Therefore the "us" part of it can change depending on who's available, and what we need to do. This has made us quite flexible, and because of the variety of people involved, has really expanded our sound. It means that we can have more than one person filling in on an instrument, from time to time.

An Invitation Back to the IPO

David Bash from the International Pop Overthrow has invited Beatnik Turtle back for another year! We're looking forward to performing at it again. The IPO is a pop music festival that plays in a number of cities throughout the world. BT performed in it last year, and got a great reception. BT is also on last year's compilation CD.

This year, Beatnik Turtle is going to be playing on Sunday, April 23, at 4:30 at Schubas. We've wanted to play at that bar for a very long time, so we're looking forward to it.

A question comes up immediately, "Who are we going to use to play bass?" We've got someone lined up to sub on the bass. More on that later.

The Steve Levy Show Theme Song

Steve Levy, from The Steve Levy Show has asked BT to do a theme song for his late night TV show, and we've been working on this in between the other things we have going on. Just last night, on Sunday, we came up with something for it in the studio that we're excited about.

It'll be a few more weeks before we can say that this one is right for him, but, as we've said before, it's fun just working on projects like this.

Beatnik Turtle Sponsors Pubcrawl, and Lends Songs and Studio to the Cause

For many years, friends of Beatnik Turtle, and the band itself has been associated with Pubsprawl, a pubcrawl that is now entering it's 10th year! BT is now an official sponsor, and we have lent our talents to the betterment of all.

We have contributed our computer skills, writing, and humor, and recorded rocking versions of two traditional Irish songs to help them out. Not only that, but we let them use our studio to help produce the "Pubcast." Voice talents from BT also find their way onto the pubcast, including work from Jason, Randy, and especially Chip, who is well on his way to becoming a professional voice talent. (Really and truly. He's already done some commercial spots.)

If you don't have a sensitive nature, we recommend that you listen to the Pubcast, and enjoy yourself. The songs that BT worked on are part of the 'cast.

Also, if you're a BT fan and are available around Chicago on Saturday, March 11, come on out and join us. You'll be able to see some of the band there. Even if you can't make it, we recommend that you check out the website.

Computerizing our Studio

In the last three months, we've taken our studio from an HD24 system with a Masterlink CD-Burner, and a Ramsa DA7 to an entirely computer based system. The capabilities that this has over our old system are tremendous.

  • Sonar Pro

  • Acid

  • 2 PreSonus Firepods

  • Hordes of plugins, including Waves Renaissance.

The ability to use loops in order to kickstart us when we're recording a song is amazing. We can drop them in and "paint" them across the song to give us a guide until we get our real drummer in to record over it. Also, the plugins really enhance our sounds in ways that we never imagined.

Those of you who are experienced with computer-based recording are probably snickering because you've already been familiar with this stuff, but we came from using recording-devices originally, including tape-based multitrack recorders. (We still have a 4, and an 8 track that uses cassette in our closets.)

We will be speaking of Waves in the near future in a blog. Although their Renaissance plugin is a good product, they have really treated their customers poorly. More on this soon!

On top of computerizing our studio, two of the bandmembers purchased Sonar Studio edition, as well as the PreSonus Firebox, which lets them have a studio of their own. These can be paired up with a laptop computer to make a truly portable studio. The output of which can be brought to the main studio to do more advanced work. Really amazing stuff.

BT2 Well Underway

BT2 is the working title of the next BT album. It's called album number 2 because the intervening albums could be called digressions from what we were supposed to release. Just to give you an idea why: BT launched 5 new songs at the release party for our debut album in 2001, and none of those have been recorded in the studio yet. And, of course, in the meantime, we've written quite a few new songs. Most of them are favorites at shows, and they aren't available for people to listen to at all.

As a stopgap measure, we recorded a Live Album in mid 2005, which should be released this year. But that doesn't give us studio versions of the songs.

So we've finally laid down tracks for BT2, which is looking like a double-album, because of the large number of songs that we have slated. A few weeks ago, the band spent a retreat in a cabin up in Lake Geneva Wisconsin, and recorded drum tracks for 26 songs, and a good chunk of those songs will be on BT2 (and some are for other projects!)

We'll be working on bits and pieces of BT2 as we are in the studio, and hopefully, will get it done this calendar year. Which is important, because in 2007, we have quite a few new projects planned.

There's More

If you can believe it, there's even more news, but many of those points deserve their own entries, so they are coming soon!