January 4, 2008

The Sound Of Inevitability...

by Chris Randall

Or is that "The Inevitability of Sound?" Hard to say. Some of you may have already guessed this from various posts and comments I've made on this site, but we're going to take our label straight digital only now. CDs are basically ridiculous wastes of oil that could be better used in the gas tank of my SUV, so we're just gonna not make them any more.

Of course, it is far more complex than that, and we spent the better part of a year coming to grips with the fact that music no longer strictly requires a media platform to be a commercial product. Audio Damage has always worked that way, and it works quite well. We see no reason whatsoever that Positron can't work the same way.

The store (I would say "the digital half of the store" before today) will give the customer an uncompressed download of their purchase in addition to the alt-preset-standard LAME encoding that we already offer. I'm still trying to settle on a format, but BLEEP does FLAC, and I admire BLEEP, so I'll probably do FLAC too. What a silly format.

In any event, the first order of business is to get all these CDs out of our storage room so we have room for uncompressed audio files. Anything that still remains in hard media is on sale at shopPOSI and will remain so until stock is zero. We're working on the mechanics of the store change (essentially removing the ability to sell CDs at all, and adding a second format to the purchase) and that will take a bit of time.

This marks my complete change to a hard media hater of the first order. I'll now complain incessantly about people who missed the Clue Fairy, and it should be all sorts of hilarity.



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Jan.04.2008 @ 7:33 PM
I'm glad you're allowing users to download 'uncompressed' (well, FLAC is a compression codec, it's just lossless, if we want to be all semantic/a dick about it) versions of the tracks they're buying. That solves the only problem I have with digital music distribution. Besides DRM, I guess.

Jan.04.2008 @ 7:46 PM
Chris Randall
FLAC is compressed the way a ZIPped WAV is compressed. It's semantics, really.



Jan.04.2008 @ 7:49 PM
What are your thoughts on the Apple Lossless format?


Jan.04.2008 @ 8:06 PM
Apples lossless format isn't very well supported. That doesn't mean it is a technically poor codec, it just might be a pain for people to deal with.

FLAC is actually a fair amount better than zipped wav, as far as compression ratios go. It takes advantage of some characteristics of sound files that a generic compress algorithm won't account for. Their website explains it in more detail, but I'm not going to claim to understand it..


Jan.04.2008 @ 8:31 PM
"FLAC is actually a fair amount better than zipped wav, as far as compression ratios go"

Not enough to really matter though. :) The tagging is the big cool thing that any of the lossless formats have over straight uncompressed.


Jan.04.2008 @ 9:33 PM
Chris Randall
My thought on the Apple Lossless format is that it belongs to Apple and is thus suspect. You could find any comments I've made about AU in the last three years and just substitute the appropriate words and you'd have my opinion.

And FLAC is a fair amount better than a zipped WAV if you define "fair amount" as roughly 1 to 2% smaller, according to my experiments. ZIPping the resulting FLAC gives no reduction at all, obviously. This is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of data movement. As the Dark Lord says, it's all about the tag.



Jan.04.2008 @ 9:53 PM
I like using Wavpack as opposed to Flac, for no reason whatsoever but to buck the trend and oppose the tyranny of FLAC or whatever.

One thing I like about my media player of choice (foobar2000) is that it can read compressed zip and rar archives. Theoretically you could keep a whole album as a single file including pdf artwork or whatever and the player transparently reads the songs from the archive. That way you only have to deal with 1000 "album" files rather than 10,000 song files. The only problem is it can't update the play counter inside a zip.

Rather than trying to compress the compressed wavpack or mp3 files, I'll rar up infrequently used audio files using the "store" compression option. It cuts down on disk churn when searching etc.

In much the same way as Apple hides software inside package folders, it would simplify dealing with so many files. Hopefully once everyone dives into the digital world headlong, better formats and packaging will emerge.


Jan.04.2008 @ 11:52 PM
Chris Randall
There's no question of that, but I can only hope that the net result won't be a process as convoluted and, well, demonstrably insane as that.



Jan.05.2008 @ 1:32 AM
Good news, but if you were at all like me in that decision process there was probably a bit of amputation of sentimentality. When I decided to get back into the game of selling music I planned a CD release, lined up a "guest star" vocal and all that. One night it came to me like the sound of distant thunder that for a relative nobody releasing a CD was not only completely futile, it was kind of like giving a lung cancer patient a pack of Camel unfiltereds. Since I was just getting back to this and had not actually released a CD ever (they were too new and expensive when I left the game last) it didnt hurt so much but it was bitter sweet in a way.

I think now I've got a good model for me going with vinyl & digital releases. Do a very limited run of vinyl and then release the digital later so as not to cannibalize the initial vinyl sales. Part of this has to do with my genre and my feeling that the "single" is more the natural format for it and part of it is the equally sentimental need for a physical product to sell.

Be a hater all you want and feel free to make fun of the format just like you do with Audio Units and Mackie gear, but I'll stick with what works for me until I find and can afford something that works better for me.


Jan.05.2008 @ 3:38 AM
Hi Chris.

Best of luck with the new store. I have one question. If you don't press CD's how will you handle promo discs for magazine reviews. All the places I send promos too require a physical disc. Would you just use something like Kunaki.com to burn a limited number of CDr releases just for press purposes or is there another way?



When is Callisto going to be available?


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