[2013 NOTE... all the stuff below about "Weedshare.com" and "Weedfiles" is now of historical interest only!]
(A long one... bear with me.)
Greetings to my ever-patient subscribers. Last time was, er... December I think. So much has happened that I was going to do a 2-part newsletter, but threw up my hands and put Part 1 on the News part of endino.com. I mention some records I did, bands I worked with, records I liked that I think you might like, stuff that's been happening around here, etc. The usual. Read at your leisure.
On to more important stuff.
LIKELY EMAIL CHANGE
First of all, expect my email address to change soon. I'll need another national ISP, one with lots of nationwide dialup numbers so I can get my email with a laptop in a hotel room. I'm open to non-AOL suggestions. There's Earthlink, AT+T, and who else? I finally got broadband cable at home, but it does me no good elsewhere. I need dialup for traveling. I need to know about mac-OS9 compatibility, easy webmail, and quality of service. Any ATT/Earthlink/Juno subscribers want to weigh in?
NWLink's email servers are so iffy by now that I don't even know if you'll get this newsletter, and if you reply you might get a bounce. If you do, just send again. At least my website, endino.com, is rock-solid, so if there are changes I will always put contact info there with the latest email address.
I finished compiling the Skin Yard LIVE CD I've been threatening for the last decade, the companion piece to "Start at the Top" (which I still have a couple boxes of, if anyone wants it, they are $10 if you mention this newsletter). The heart of it was 8 songs recorded to analog 8-track on New Year's Eve 1990, a show of somewhat inebriated madness. I was able to salvage 5 of the tunes, and made killer mixes. They sound huge, loud, raw and crazy. There are also two songs from a Europe board tape that was amazing-sounding (one was a B-side on a Cruz 10-inch... ten of you bought it) plus some songs recorded to 2-track at KDVS in 1989 and 1991, also very good-sounding. That makes 10 studio-quality live tunes, mostly with Barrett Martin on drums. There's some other odd board tapes, a room recording of two songs from Boston in '89 that is brutal, a few tunes with Matt Cameron on drums, etc etc for 16 tunes total. I burned about 20 CDRs with a nice printed cover I made at Kinkos, and you can buy 'em from me for $10 each. Postage is included if it's in the US. Details and track list are at (http://www.endino.com/skinyard/). Oh, and I have a paypal account now, also.
OK, LISTEN UP: IT'S WEED TIME
I've had something up my sleeve for a few months, hidden on my website as I tested it. But first, let's consider the RIAA, who are on the rampage right now, suing grannies and teenagers. For one view, take a look at http://www.downhillbattle.org, a brilliant website which deconstructs the mainstream record industry. They point out that all the digital download sites currently being set up (iTunes, Musicmatch, etc) are still structured along the same old lines as far as how little of the money gets to artists. Meet the new boss, same as the old.
I know downloading is a huge problem, but I don't buy that it's the whole problem. Sure CD sales are down. But did anyone notice that even McDonalds had their first money-losing quarter in history? What, are people downloading Big Macs? I think not... we're in a real major economic recession right now, and everyone will admit it except Shrub and his henchmen. Don't even get me started on the fact that the record industry spent the last decade chasing all their "music" people out and replacing them with bean counters and lawyers; that's well-documented elsewhere. File sharing is part of the problem but not the full scapegoat. CDs are a luxury to someone who doesn't have a job.
But... Good news. There may be a solution, and that solution is called WEED. Maybe you already saw something in EQ or TapeOp. If not, here goes. You know the problem with file sharing: the artists don't get paid, in fact nobody does. Sure, the music gets out. But it's free, forever, end of story. Without some way to make money from file sharing, the artists will have to go back to work at Burger King. You wouldn't want that, would you?
I've been working with a company here in Seattle who have solved the problem, and a brilliant solution it is, as it not only permits unlimited file sharing, it actually ENCOURAGES it, and everyone gets paid... even the people sharing the files! They call 'em WEED Files. As in, "spreads like a". A Weed file is a WMA (Win Media 9) file that has been encoded with a proprietary Digital-Rights-Management scheme (we say the files are "weedified"). Before you ridicule this, let me tell you that as of Win Encoder v.8, WMA files sound way better than MP3s. I was a skeptic but my ears sold me.
When you download a Weed music file, it will play three times on your PC, and then you will get a message saying, gee, you seem to like it, well how about buying it? Then the file is "locked" on that computer, and won't play until you buy it, at a list price that is set by the artist.
When you buy it, 50% of the money goes to the artist; 15% goes to Weed. The other 35% is the kicker... it's called a "distributor incentive". Here's why: 20% goes to the person you got the file from... 10% goes to the person that person got it from... and 5% goes to the person THAT person got it from. Think about that for a minute.
Now you "own" the file... you can play it as much as you want, burn an audio CD, whatever. Why wouldn't you just make MP3s of it and give it away? Here's why: now that you bought the file, if you decide to share it... YOU become the 20% recipient if anyone buys the file after getting it from you. And the guy YOU bought it from will still get 10%... with the artist still getting 50% every time, forever! And if one of your buyers starts selling the file on HIS site, HE gets 20% of each sale, but you still get 10%. And so on!
In this way, people are motivated to share the files as widely as possible... and it is all 100% legal. Weed takes the position that no file sharing method will ever be any more secure than "traditional" media (i.e. CDs). Once it's going on a wire out to your speakers, it's hijackable. Weed relies on the profit incentive to keep people in the game, and to encourage respect for artist rights.
Or as Craig Anderton put it in his article in EQ, it's "Amway meets Napster".
To buy OR sell Weed files, you have to download a tiny (less than 500K) app called the Weed Media Activator. There's no advertising, no popups, no spyware, no sponsors. The app has one purpose: it connects to the weed database and allows you to buy and sell weed files. The first time you use it, you create a Weed account with a username and password you choose, and Weed gives you 5 bucks starter cash in your weed account, so you can try out the system. When you buy a file, the money is debited from your weed account. When someone buys a file from you, a 20% share is automatically credited to your weed account. The Weed app also allows you to check your account balance, account history, files you've bought, etc. To add money or withdraw money from your weed account, you will need a PayPal account; Weed will not send you a check.
Catch: It's Windows only, until Microsoft extends their digital-rights-management technology to the Mac WinPlayer. Don't hold your breath on this, it won't be soon. So you're limited to... only 96% of computers out there. Boo hoo.
HOW DOES STUFF GET WEEDIFIED?
Weed itself is not a download site: it's more of an infrastructure company. Like EBay, but completely decentralized. The company requires signed paperwork from any artist who wants to get songs "weedified". Every song requires a paper trail. This keeps bootleg/unauthorized stuff off the system. Weed also requires certain data be gathered about each song: album source if any, writers, copyright holder and date, web URL of the artist, contact info, paypal account for payout, etc. Weed, however, never directly interacts with artists itself... instead it chooses certain technically-savvy people as "WEED ICPs", which stands for Independent Content Producers. The ICPs are the ones who get stuff weedified and verify copyrights and identities, get the papers signed, and interact directly with the Weed database using a secure web-based administration portal. ICPs are also expected to help the artists distribute their files, which means Weed likes ICPs to have high-traffic websites and lots of artist and listener contacts. They also have to know when something sounds good or bad, know the ins and outs of WMA encoding, file metadata schemes, HTML, etc. ICPs, who do all the work, are not paid anything by Weed. Instead, the system is set up so that ICPs get an extra cut of the INITIAL sales of files they have weedified. More built-in motivation.
And yes, I'm now a weed ICP, as well as being a longtime "record producer" in the traditional sense. They grabbed me early on. Once I saw the implications of this technology, I was hooked. This will compete with the whole top-down music-distribution model, with all it's monopolism, corruption and middlemen. Now, the listeners themselves are the middlemen, and any kid who buys a bunch of weed files can stick up a website and sell files, legally, and make 20% commission from each sale. Anyone can be a virtual online record label. Are you getting the picture here?
ANNOUNCING: JACK'S WEED CAFE
For years I have wanted to have music files on my website (other than a few feeble RealAudios), because I am helping people make new music every day of my life! But all I could do was WRITE about it. Screw that! Finally you can HEAR some!
More and more of the people I work with are NOT getting signed by record labels, because the economy is down the tubes, so they're putting their own records out... and they are jumping on this idea. Usually just as they're about to put some FREE MP3s on their website, they hear about Weed and think, wait a minute, this is WAY better! 3 Free Plays, and either people buy the file, or they go buy the CD. (And maybe there is no CD!)
So... the WEED company, who have been holding my hand a while (and I theirs... I've been a beta-tester and professional critic) have empowered me to set up my own WEED distribution site. I will be a virtual online record label, because I will only be hosting stuff I like, and if you are getting this newsletter you already know my music taste. My discography gives it away. Full disclosure: if I host it, I am getting a cut of course... remember, anyone anywhere who sells a Weed file gets a cut... that's the point! (I also get an ICP cut of stuff I have personally gotten into the system.) The people who sell the most files will be the people with high-traffic websites with a built-in audience who know what to expect. Uh, that would be me!
So, the final missing piece of my online presence is in place... Jack's Weed Cafe (.com) (yeah, cute, I know).
There are links to the weed company site (weedshare.com), as well as to a weed site web ring that already exists. There are a growing number of Weed download sites popping up almost daily. And what's on my Weed site right now?
--I have three TOTALLY NEW songs by Gruntruck, their first new releases in almost ten years, recorded by yours truly last winter and mixed last month! Plus, the four songs I recorded for Gruntruck alter-ego Mona Diesel in 1999. ONLY available as Weed files!
--There are seven tracks by myself that have never been released, including two brand new ones with me on all instruments... one is a Hawkwindesque wall-of-guitars rant that is, let's say, "against current events" called "Strangelove" that is one of the top downloads on the Weed system right now. This is NOT the unfinished Earthworm record or Suitcase Nukes stuff... that's next!
--Three tracks from Dirty Power, the best band I have recorded since Bleach... download "Lost Souls Day" and see why it was the #1 Weed download for two weeks running.
--I've got the long-unavailable first Valis EP online... This is the grunge-psych supergroup with members of Screaming Trees, Mudhoney and Tad.
--Kurt Colfelt, ex-guitarist from 80s metal band Holy Terror, checks in with a couple songs from his new death band El Revengo, plus three Shark Chum songs for Zeke fans to savor.
--Stoner rock bands Kung Pao, Lowrider and Blind Dog have some big, big riffs that they want you to have. Lucid Nation weighs in, with Tamra Spivey and Patty Schemel. USER with some 5.1 mixes and videos. All 100% legal! All quality stuff, hand-picked by me. Much of it has this icon: "remastered by jack for weed and the web". I personally remaster some stuff so it will sound best as a WMA file. The Valis stuff sounds better than the (long-gone) CD did, honestly.
Oh yeah... and I just put up 7 Skin Yard tracks. 2 of them are completely, wholly new... Hallowed Ground session songs (1988) that were never finished until last year, too late for the "Start" comp. They would have made a great seven-inch. Another is a live rarity, NOT on the new live CD. A few more are from Start at the Top.
Upcoming: Combover, Upwell, Lawnmowers.... new stuff being added weekly.
Whaddya do? Download songs. Play 'em till they stop. Download the Weed App from weedshare.com. Install it, and tell it what folder you keep your weed files in. Create your account. Buy files. Play files. Burn CDs. Sell files.
Yup... this is serious. Take a look at
Jacksweedcafe.com, my own personal MP3.com. There's a front page which reiterates this newsletter; click on "SHOW ME THE FREE MUSIC" to enter the site. Any of my friends or clients who are reading this, if you want any songs weedified so you can sell on the web, get ahold of me. You can sell 'em on your own website, it doesn't have to be on my site. Other bands, I have to like your music to want to weedify it or host it at Jack's Weed Cafe, cuz there's a lot of busywork involved in getting stuff weedified... a lot, actually. But if you think your music would fit in, hit me. If not, there are other people with other WEED sites with other stylistic foci, and there will be more soon. (They are listed in the WEED app... click "get more".) I will diversify my own site by and by... it may be mostly ROCK right now, but that's not all I like nor all I produce.
Only criterion: absence of sucking, i.e. "sucklessness".
P.S. Reminder - Watch out for my changed email address in the coming months. Happy holidays!