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.