5 Online Tools to Help Indie Musicians

Here’s a quick review of 5 online services and tools I’ve made use of and felt most helpful to me as an independent online musician, during the past year or so:

1. WordPress

As if you hadn’t already noticed, my site’s based on the excellent open source blog/CMS platform, WordPress, which continues to impress me with every update. It runs on PHP with a MySQL database, which allows me, as a non-programmer, to get a fairly complex site up and running without having to know much about the actual programming-side of things. Yet, it’s flexible enough that if you want to change the look of your site, you can do so without much more than a rudimentary knowledge of CSS---simply tweak your theme however you see fit, blissfully ignorant of the more complex inner workings going on behind the curtain. Even if you can’t be fussed editing your own theme, there are plenty of ready-made themes available to download and activate, from within the WP admin area itself.

Another great aspect to WordPress is its extensibility---there exists a veritable plethora of handy plugins written by charitable geeks, provided for free, affording your site some very handy bolt-on features. As with the themes, you can browse and install plugins from within the admin area---no tedious download/install needed.
Read on…

3D Laser-Engraved Ochre Skateboard Deck

A beautifully engraved Ochre deckThis will be old news to those following me on twitter, but it's so cool that I'm compelled to write a little blog post about it too.

Designer Nate Reeves has knocked up a very cool intricate and flowing Ochre logo, which he then sent to a bespoke engraving outfit to produce a very tasty 3D laser-engraved skateboard deck, with the detailed Ochre logo embossed across it. How cool is that? Talk about a unique artefact. Along with the Ochre logo, he sent a couple of other designs along with it for the same treatment, such as his artwork for Narita's final Terminal compilation, and a third design of his own.

Check out more superb pics of the decks in all their glory here.

Last Orders for Mastering, CDs/12”s from the Shop

Just a final reminder that I'll be closing the mastering service and shop before the end of the week, until August, as I'll be off to concentrate on my thesis work over the summer. I've got 7 Midsummer Nice Dream CDs left in stock, which would be nice to clear; considerably more vinyl is available, so don't worry about that -- plenty left. If you need any odd tracks mastered, please arrange to get them to me by Wednesday at the latest, just so I've got a couple of days to work on them and get them back to you.

I'll still be online around here though and obviously contactable via email---not going to leave the face of the planet while I've got an impending album release.

‘Like Dust of the Balance’ Pre-orders Available

Click to pre-order!

01. Circadies 06. Hang Garden
02. Whispers 07. Pteron
03. Dustlands 08. Lunar Suburbia
04. Raido 09. A Great Wave
05. Napolese 10. The Balance

Yep, my next album 'Like Dust of the Balance', is now available to pre-order directly from Benbecula, to ship on the 20th of July. It's quite far off, I'll admit, but then if you order early enough you'll have long forgotten by the time its release rolls around, and you can surprise your future self with a gift.

Mastering Update

Just a quick note -- my mastering service will be put on hold from the end of the month until the beginning of August, as I'll be away from the studio for a while. So, if you envisage needing my services over the next few weeks, then please get in touch ASAP to see if I can fit you in before the summer break. Once I return, the service will be back with a vengeance, hopefully with some exciting new toys to play with.

Dead Music, Live

As I’m sure we’re all aware, playing electronic music live is often fraught with difficulties and conundrums: how do I recreate studio tracks, yet remain spontaneous? Should I even bother recreating studio tracks? How can I balance the familiar with the improvised? How can I be more interesting, visually? And that’s just the choices that will be reflected on stage. Never mind the logistical nightmares of hauling half your studio, fragile laptops, hardware synths, keyboards, and equipment stands around a foreign city without injuring yourself or your gear, getting lost, or getting stuff stolen. Read on…

AMND Download Codes for Vinyl Shoppers

AMND Download Codes

I've decided to take advantage of one of Bandcamp's latest feature additions, and have generated a few download codes for A Midsummer Nice Dream.

Anyone who buys a copy of the album on vinyl will receive a download code along with the album, so they may download a high-quality digital version of the release for their iPod, car, PC etc., at no extra cost. The codes are, as far as I can tell, good for one single download only, so choose your format wisely! mp3, flac, aac and ogg are all present and accounted for.

I haven't yet decided how to present the codes -- I could use stickers on the shrink-wrap, but risk buyers throwing this away with the packaging, or I could put paper slips in with the vinyl, and risk them being ignored at the bottom of the envelope. Could email them, but that's more work for me and could still be ignored. Hmm. Any preferences?

New track demo… a bit different from the usual

EDIT: Limited-time demo removed.

I've just uploaded a new track demo, following a tentative test-airing on the kind and gentle folks at em411. It's a little different to my usual output, actually containing intelligible vocals, and due to my vocal delivery probably has a slight eighties tinge to it. (That makes it hip, right? Or am I 18 months late to that luminous yellow and pink party?) So far I've been called a Bowie-esque crooner with hint of David Sylvian, Gary Numan '09, and somewhat damningly, Flock of Seagulls.

Dissenters rest assured, I don't plan to abandon instrumental electronica any time soon, but I will say that this was a lot of fun to record. I kind of want to put out a 7" with a couple of synthpoppier tracks on it.

Jay Bharadia remix up on SoundCloud

If you haven't seen/heard my remix of Jay Bharadia, you can listen to/download it from SoundCloud, as well as the other remixes from Lone, Airliner '67 and Implosion Quintet.

I'm actually on SoundCloud, and although currently mainly using it as a means of receiving mastering files, I'll be uploading demos and sketches now and then, so if you'd like to 'follow' me to be notified of track uploads, please visit my page. SoundCloud is a very nifty service, totally optimised for listening and commenting to music---you can comment on particular sections of tracks using the natty timeline while listening. As far as I know there are also the obligatory widgets for posting/sharing tunes too.

The server can occasionally strain under the weight of users, as it's getting rather popular, but it seems pretty responsive these days, ironing out its initial teething problems.

Meanwhile, back at Ochre HQ, the new album is back from mastering, coutesy of panicStudios. Sounding warm and punchy after being fed through some ridiculously expensive analogue gear, waiting patiently for a release schedule to slot into. I'll be able to spill some more beans once I've got a definite plan to unveil.

Midsummer Nice Dream CDs and vinyl continue to shift nicely, but there are still a few copies left if you fancy one. If you'd rather have a download version, it's slowly making its way through the usual download stores like iTunes and Napster etc. At the moment it's currently selling for a ridiculously cheap $1.69 at Amie Street (for 320kbps mp3, no less), though given the dynamic pricing used there it'll probably creep up slowly as people grab it. Also on Bandcamp for a flat $6, in just about every digital format available ever.

I think that's the current news round-up sorted.

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Header image: National Ignition cover art, by nkurence.