June 15, 2014

I Downloaded This Amazing Free Plug-in, And You Won't Believe What Happens Next...

by Chris Randall

I'm experimenting with clickbait-style post titles. Other audio blogs appear to be testing the waters with this information abortion, so I figure "hey, why not join the crowd?" How am I doing?

Anyhow, this is just a general info-dump of goings-on in my little corner of the world.

1. Unless you live under a rock, you know about the Eventide freebie, UltraChannel. I actually wouldn't normally bring it up here at all, as even though the Eventide guys are BFFs of ours and make stupifyingly good plug-ins (and even better hardware), their plugs are iLok only. However, as a result of a UI contract I'm currently doing, I had to install and tame an iLok. (And, god forbid, PT11.) Since I have one now, I was all "fuck it" and furthermore "whatevs." And got myself an UltraChannel. (And all the other Eventide native plugs while I was at it.) I'll say this much: UltraChannel is almost worth sucking it up for iLok. A fantastic, creative channel plug that is light on the CPU, yet extremely capable. If you have an iLok, or are thinking about buying one of those little buttplugs, here's where you get the Ultrachannel; use coupon code 0F736710. It'll be like $249 or something in a month or two, so if you're gonna do it, do it now.

2. Just in case you think I might have changed my mind or am in any way endorsing it, fuck PACE and fuck iLok.

3. I'm pleased to report that my schedule, which was a bit hairy there for a while, is returning, slowly and surely, to its normal lazy, meandering ways, which means I'll be able to finish off the Audio Damage DRM Removal Event, and also bring the next Audio Damage plug-in to the finish line while Adam flails about in his Code Hole whipping Sequencer 1 in to shape. It was a little ridiculous there for a while, but I've cleared a majority of the nonsense now, and am back to being my usual self.

4. And finally, a question: what constitutes an "album" these days? Throughout my (first) career, I was all 10 SONGS OR BUST but the idea of a complete record seems to be slipping through the cracks in favor of a burst mode kind of release system. I tried this out a couple years ago, by pooping out 4 of what our oldsters call "EPs" in a row, and it was somehow... uh... unsatisfying? Even without physical media, there's just something about a cohesive chunk of music that is more visceral, at least to the maker. So my general takeaway: it is far easier to come up with 5 cohesive songs than 10, and the consumer seems to be indifferent. My forthcoming release that I'm just finishing up now is 10 tracks, but I'm left with the lingering impression that I should strip it to a pair of 5-track releases. Thoughts?


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Jun.16.2014 @ 8:42 PM
Album. LONG album. I am far more interested in a project with some meat on it than the current trend of EP's.

I can't be the only one who has had the experience of the obvious "single"/most accessible song on the album becoming a distant enjoyment - ousted by the track I liked the least initially.

But I'm an aging weirdo that actually likes to get to know an artist. The first listen-through of a full album still excites.

Jun.17.2014 @ 12:24 AM
I haven't tried the new Eventide plugin yet, although I downloaded and authorized it. It looks cool. And free is great. So thanks to Eventide for this!

I am not really a fan of Pace. They haven't been helpful with the whole AAX ordeal, at least from my perspective. I'm starting to get the impression that the people that use binary signing only are a much lower priority at Pace than the Pace Fusion folks (i.e. full-on iLok2 protection).

That being said, the interaction of iLok with the free Eventide plugin has resulted in some ugly forum conversations. Not here (of course), but other places. It seems that some folks take any discussion of an iLok protected plugin to get on their soapbox and speak out against iLok. So the discussion that should be about the Eventide plugin, and about how grateful people are for the freebie, ends up being 20+ pages of anti-iLok diatribes.

It reminds me of having finicky hippies over for dinner, and having every dish you offer rejected, as they don't eat meat or butter and the peanut butter might have refined sugar and they can't eat that sort of margarine (I wish I was making these examples up). If you don't want to use the plugin, fine, but have some fucking manners when someone gives you something for free.

Jun.17.2014 @ 1:11 AM
I'd REALLY like to use Blackhole and Space Station. I play in a band with a pro engineer. He's freelance and has had no end of problems with iLok. But he jumps around in a lot of different studios.

I'm also just making music as a semi-serious hobby... so I can just steer clear of that kind of copy protection.

Then again Eventide and SoundToys are for pros. So guess I'm just not in the target market.

My bandmate uses Echoboy on nearly every song we write though. Crazy great saturation on the input. DubMachines pack for Ableton does a similar sort of thing though.

Jun.17.2014 @ 7:42 AM
I have a strong preference for albums, assuming of course they're somewhat coherent as an album.

Bonus points for themed/concept albums.

I generally don't touch EPs unless they are by an artist that I already like who'se released a couple of albums that I already have. And singles are right out.

While I'm at it: fuck streaming. I buy my albums on physical media or I download them and put them on my hard drive and my iPod. The only time I stream tracks is to preview them to decide whether to buy the album.

Jun.17.2014 @ 7:43 AM
I've been playing around with the Eventide UltraChannel and I really like it. I've only used the iLok 2 on Windows so far and not had a problem and avoided upgrading until they sorted out the problems. I use the Slate and Softube plugins and it's a worry that if something happens to the iLok I'm screwed but they are good plugins I like to use.

My view on the EP verses album is that EP's get forgotten quickly and they are a lot harder to get press coverage for because most blogs and magazines will focus on albums. But saying that I have released 3 EP in the last 18 months because I could not find the time to focus on a whole album. It's worked well but they have not had the coverage that my last album received. I also allowed my play with the released to work out styles that worked and try out songs that would possibly go on the next album.

Jun.17.2014 @ 9:58 AM
Chris Randall
My general feeling on the album v. EP thing is that, from an artist perspective, especially with e-music, you want to explore a theme using a particular workflow, but that workflow might not have enough juice in it for a full album.

This may be particular to my way of working, since I tend to come up with an idea (e.g. "what if I used the CMU-800 as my only sequencer, and recorded everything to 8-track tape?") and then explore it. IN GENERAL, when you narrow your focus to such a specific method of working, it is difficult to squeeze a full album out, considering the pain in the ass each song is.

However, when I work in what I call "hybrid" mode, which is using whatever's to hand and is best at getting the job done, and pillaging existing samples rather than, say, synthesizing and tuning a complete drum kit for each song, I can sort out a full album pretty quickly; I'm currently hung up on the last two tracks for this current one, but I just had a breakthrough and should be finished soon. That was just normal creative blockage and nothing technical.

So, this leads me to the obvious conclusion: when I operate under my normal "limits are good" theology, it is very difficult to even squeeze out five songs. But when I use the huge array of professional tools at my disposal with the goal being to create a 10-song album, it becomes _very_ easy.

(The problem with the latter method is that I run in to writer's block, also known as boredom.)


Jun.17.2014 @ 11:50 AM
Adam Schabtach
CR already knows this, but I'm (still) an album-oriented listener. I'm sure that this is because I'm an old fart with fond memories of buying albums in places that were called "record stores".

However, I did have one flash of insight on this topic: in the old days, EPs were usually some sort of subset of an album. They contained one or two tracks from the album, and then some remixes or material that didn't make it to the album (because it didn't fit, or maybe it just wasn't up to snuff). EPs seemed secondary--something you bought because you were fanatical about the artist, or because you were low on cash and couldn't afford the album. The EP was the annoying younger sibling that tagged along with the album to some of the stores.

So, if pressed, I'd say that I have a preference for albums, and that admittedly antiquated association is why.


Jun.17.2014 @ 11:53 AM
I'm one of those folks who won't knowingly purchase anything with PACE protection, but like many it relates to some ill-remembered tragedy from 1997-1999. (I do recall it involved floppy disks, and was one of the last times I ever stuck a floppy in a computer.)

I do have an iLok because around 2007 - probably the last time I purchased software on a shrink-wrapped CD-ROM from a music store - I unwittingly acquired some iLok protected software. (Nobody mentioned it in a review at the time; I suppose it was considered fairly normal.)

So I have to thank Eventide for not only giving away some excellent software, but inspiring me to update some old software that I hadn't been using. I must admit I've installed PACE/iLok on three or four machines in the last 7 years and haven't had a problem with it, but I still tend to avoid purchasing DRM protected software, preferring vendors like Audio Damage that have light or nonexistent copy protection because I think that demonstrates a better approach (one based on trust) on both the vendor and customer side of the transaction. In all fairness, the DRM protected software I've used in the last decade has worked technically well, but I never trust it partly because of the implication that the vendor doesn't trust me.

--> Re: albums, just never do a 74 minute album (40 songs for a punk band!) like some bands thought they needed to do after the CD format came out. That's too much in a row of anything ...

Jun.17.2014 @ 11:54 AM
When I learned that UltraChannel required sign up to iLok and installation of their software, I bailed. The idea of installing a notoriously flaky licensing service on my smoothly-running audio PC gives me hives, regardless of how awesome the plug-in might be.

Jun.17.2014 @ 12:39 PM
I asked because if iLok is actually a stumbling block that keeps people from using our plug-ins, that's information I'd like to know. As I said, we've had mostly good experiences, but it does sound like a lot of you do feel as though you've been burned, and won't touch it again.

Honestly, we'd like to do the same thing with software that we do with hardware. Spend time to make something really good, then just sell it for years. I don't know if that's even possible in the plug-in industry, but it is something that seems more possible with PACE than with something we've rolled ourselves. Whatever we do ourselves won't be as secure and the problem, from my perspective, is that if you have to worry about cracks, there's really only a small window of time where you can make money from a plug-in, which puts pressure on the development schedule.

I don't really get the trust argument though. I don't get upset at Best Buy for checking my receipt as I leave. If one out of every 10 times the security guard punched me in the face, yeah, I'd get mad; but that's not a trust issue, it's a faulty implementation issue. If our licensing scheme is punching users in the face, we need to fix it. I don't think it punches anyone in the face nowadays, but it sounds like maybe it has in the past, and hasn't done a good job convincing people it's reformed?

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