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Best Service releases “Organum Venezia” – Virtual Church Organ

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Best Service has released Organum Venezia. Organum Venezia is a virtual church organ, recorded near Venice, Italy which reflects the characteristics and sound of a typical French romantic organ [Read More]
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Air Launches “Best of Air Synths”

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Air has launched a new Plugin Boutique exclusive product bundle: “Best of AIR Synths”. For the first time you can get Loom, Hybrid 3 and Vacuum Pro synths together with a saving of over 55%. [Read More]
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Eternify is the Best Response Yet to Streaming Conundrum

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

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What initially seemed to be a conversation about streaming revenues for artists more or less this week became a conversation … about Taylor Swift.

But it’s the debate behind Apple Music that is somewhat puzzling. Taylor Swift wasn’t the only one focusing concerns on Apple Music’s quarterly free trial. Labels were fixated on the same worry.

The reason this is odd is that it ignores the fact that even when users pay for a subscription, rates are woefully inadequate. Music Business Worldwide reported a study from France that confirms what many had suspected. Majors get a whole lot of the cash from a subscription fee. Most of the money stays in the hands of the labels; artists see as little as 11% of that ten dollar monthly fee. (The one bright spot: they’ll get a bit more if they’re registered as the writer, too — separate fee.) These numbers seem to be typical not only of France and something like Spotify, but other countries and Apple Music, too. (One difference: Europe takes an astonishing bite in the form of tax, which is a bit frustrating in a business that already has razor-thin revenue.)

The most telling stat to me is the one that was least reported from that study. Net income is an stunningly low 5% for the labels. The MBW article is suspicious of that figure, but I could believe it isn’t far off the mark. Essentially, marketing costs are such that labels are very nearly paying to have their music played. And that seems feasible given that a lot of people play music after searching for it — without the marketing budget, that music might not get played at all.

So kudos this round not to Taylor Swift, but to Ohm & Sport, who this week built a tool called Eternify. The Web app finds 30 seconds of your favorite artist and plays it over and over again — running up play counts and revenues. Leave Eternify running, and you can at least get beer money. But the app — whose 30-second loops prove oddly hypnotic if you actually leave your speaker on — just shows the absurdity of the streaming business model.

Eternify figures revenues of half a cent per play. Spotify has estimated fees as high as $ 0.08, but you still get the idea. And even if Apple Music sets a higher rate, you can do the math. Streaming earns a fraction of what downloads did.

Early analysis says Apple’s payments to indies are an even worse deal. A paltry $ 0.002 per stream make the whole thing virtually worthless. Europe takes tax out of that, too. And for an insight in why the free trial was so controversial, estimates pegged the per-stream fee there at as little as $ 0.00047.

This should lead to some other questions, like:
1. If streaming is earning next to nothing, why not simply have your music streaming for free, where you can more easily promote it?
2. If you’re not getting paid by streams, isn’t it more valuable to have a lot of data about listeners? Everything from planning tours to releases can benefit from that information. Will Apple provide that to artists?
3. Why can’t Apple make it easier for apps like Bandcamp to let you purchase your music? Surely this would do more to benefit independent artists than any of the lip service paid the topic in the Apple Music launch.
4. If most of the overhead in digital music is marketing, what can be done to make discovery and sharing easier and lavish marketing budgets less necessary? And, presuming artists made sure they got a share of the expanded proceeds, wouldn’t that do more for expanding revenue than worrying about a free trial?
5. Will Apple, given their control of the store, also encourage people to buy downloads of what they’re streaming?

We’re lucky DJs currently prefer downloads, and we’re lucky for the vinyl resurgence. But this still places recording artists in enormous trouble. Maybe streaming is an inevitable progression; maybe there’s no way to coax bigger subscription rates from listeners. But that means at the very least artists will need to look for other revenue sources to make recording music worthwhile.

Try Eternify for yourself below. I earned about 15 cents for myself in the time it took me to write this, then turned it off. Services like this can get music removed from Spotify rather than genuinely earning money. But as performance art, I think it works.
http://eternify.it/

Just don’t actually expect this to work as a solution, I should clarify — it’s more conceptual protest than actual tool. (As noted in comments, it could get your account shut down as it violates terms of service.)

And for a very different take on digital downloads, don’t miss The Verge covering Vimeo. Sure, this is video and not music, but some of the implications are clear.

The post Eternify is the Best Response Yet to Streaming Conundrum appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Doing your best to promote your products: Interview with Enrico Iori

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Enrico Iori with drummer Omar Hakim I remember watching the the World Series on TV a few years ago and low and behold there was IK Multimedia’s Amplitube app on an Apple iPad ad. Prime time [Read More]
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8-bit Remake of Hasselhoff’s True Survivor is the Best Thing We’ve Watched This Week

Friday, June 19th, 2015

hoff

Okay, we hit some sort of nerd singularity just now. Start with David Hasselhoff’s cheeky, cheesy “True Survivor.” Remake it on the 8-bit SidTracker 64 app. You’ll swear all of this actually happened in the 80s, even if it didn’t. Retrorgasm.

And yes, this gem is included in the app.

Musical arrangement: Fredrik Segerfalk
Graphics by Vanja Utne: http://twitter.com/CheesePirateEq2
Video and extra GFX by Moppe
SidTracker programming by Daniel Larsson

Please roll down your windows and ghetto-blast this one this weekend.

The post 8-bit Remake of Hasselhoff’s True Survivor is the Best Thing We’ve Watched This Week appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Best Service releases Emotional Cello for Kontakt

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Best Service has released Emotional Cello. Emotional Cello is a new kind of virtual instrument to be used with Native Instrument’s Kontakt 5 Player. Its sound is intended to be powerful and exceptionally [Read More]
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The Best Little MIDI Fader and Knob Box Just Got Better

Monday, June 1st, 2015

uc4

I just can’t hide my affection for the Faderfox line, and one unit in particular: the UC3 was pretty close to perfect. While there are other MIDI controllers with faders, the UC3 stands out by combining a healthy assortment of encoders and faders (plus one crossfader) in an ultra-compact, lightweight package. Nothing comes close to saving space either in your bag or in cramped performance setup situations. Every component feels smooth, solid, and premium, in contrast to rivals that have generally favored low price over quality. And it’s USB class compliant, so drivers aren’t issue.

Well, the UC3 was nearly perfect. While it supports USB, it doesn’t have MIDI in and out capability, so you can’t use it standalone or to connect hardware. And while the encoders are push-buttons, you can’t transmit MIDI control messages using that functionality (they’re only pre-mapped to internal function, selecting groups).

Enter the UC4, the UC3′s successor. It adds MIDI support and push-button control as I’d asked for, plus a bunch of other nice things that I didn’t.

MIDI in and out, works standalone. USB is still there, but — as on the excellent SC4, you can use the UC3 standalone and as a MIDI interface with external hardware. (My SC4 turned out to be invaluable just Saturday evening when I realized I’d forgotten a MIDI connection.) MIDI is provided via minijack ports, and MIDI DIN breakouts are in the box, though… boy, I’d like to see stereo minijack just turn into the new MIDI standard. There are already a few devices that work.

Encoder push buttons are programmable. This is the other big one for me. The encoders on the UC3 were already push-buttons, which made me immediately want to be able to assign them to control software. Done.

Trigger buttons. These are new on the UC4, and each has a corresponding LED. They’re pre-mapped and silkscreened for launching and transport features, and work out of the box accordingly with Ableton Live 8-9, but you could map them to anything you like.

This looks useful, but it comes with one downside — the faders have a shorter throw.

Editable group names.. Now this is a clever idea, and one that oddly I can’t think of on any hardware I’ve used. Too bad I’ve already learned how to memorize group numbers on my UC3!

More precise encoder control. The encoders themselves are the same on the UC4 as the UC3, Faderfox tells CDM, but the controller chip is faster, resulting in more precision.

Remember that the UC4 (like the UC3 before it) also features 14-bit MIDI messages, so you can have more precision than 0-127. This is especially appealing to me when controlling visual software or more complex granular patches, for instance.

Fader snap mode.

Min/max values. More precise than doing this on the software mapping side.

Biopolare display option. Instead of 0 — 127, you can now display -64 / 64 as the range. That seems especially useful given that you might assign to something like pitch, or another parameter with positive and negative values.

Send Program Change commands by key.

Send aftertouch as channel pressure.

In Ableton Live, those triggers become rather useful via mappings. Put together, you have easy control of parameters like track volumes and panning, rack macros, sends, and, via the buttons and LEDs, switches like clip launch/stop, mute, solo, record arm, monitor, and track select. You could also combine two UC4s (or UC3 and UC4, or some other faderbox like the LaunchControl XL from Novation) via scripts.

uc4top

All in all, this is the controller I think the UC3 should have been. Then again, I would miss those longer fader throws — and now might be a good time to get a UC3 on discount (though not from Faderfox, as he’s sold out). I will certainly immediately start saving up for a UC4 to match my UC3 and SC4. “Controllers” and “fanboy”/”fangirl” don’t usually go together, but with Faderfox, I’ll make an exception.

Oh yeah, and if I ever start getting gigs and big festivals, then I’m totally getting a Versus. Or maybe a Peterfox (Faderkirn?) custom controller. I better get my EDM act together and closely study that Zac . I’ve got the laptop and, uh, some talent, though I will need that one track.

A controller will come in handy, too. Have at it.

http://www.faderfox.de/

The post The Best Little MIDI Fader and Knob Box Just Got Better appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Best Service announces Drumasonic Bundle for Kontakt

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Best Service has announced that they are distributing the new Drumasonic Bundle for Kontakt. The Drumasonic Bundle is designed to be a comprehensive virtual drum sound library with top of the [Read More]
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These are the Best Things at Musikmesse: CDM Best of Show Awards

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

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What a week it’s been. Musikmesse in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest gatherings of the music instruments industry, was host to a range of new gear, new technologies, and new revelations.

I decided it’s finally time to crown my own picks as the most significant appearances at the show. Not because I have any particular right to do so, but I felt strongly enough about who was deserving.

First, some honorable mentions:

TC Electronic (and The Guitar.) Musikmesse’s guitar presence may not be at its peak in terms of floor space. But the standouts of guitar technology are looking brilliant. TC Electronic has a big range of new products, including a very clever looper — I think they lead this category. Roland’s BOSS division has a great new guitar synth called the SY-300 (which garnered nearly as much attention from guitarists as Roland’s AIRA did for synth lovers). Orange had an overflowing range of products. Gibson is coupling their guitar stuff with production from Cakewalk, Tascam, and others (making use of those recent acquisitions, in stark contrast to 1990s Gibson). There are even beautiful new Marshall amps.

Roland, for AIRA Modular. This hardly needs an introduction at this point. Roland’s all-in strategy will give us a new SYSTEM-1 with loads of patch points and rack-mount-ability, a bunch of new effects that work standalone or together on a tabletop or in a Eurorack modular, and a 500 series analog series made in collaboration with Malekko. The digital stuff sounds great — wild and unruly, not tame and boring, whatever word association you may have with “digital.” And the analog line with Malekko is also excellent. It’s too soon to judge the finished product; these were prototypes. Several people noted concerns about power draw from the digital units, and I wasn’t very happy with the feel of the controls on the units on the floor. But I’m glad to see Roland be this agile and ambitious, and I look forward to doing a thorough review of the finished models to give them a proper test.

Elektron. Also worth a call-out are Elektron for their approach to Overbridge integration of their analog gear and computers. Yes, it’s over a year since they first promised Overbridge at the last Musikmesse. But I’d rather wait for something done right than used something rushed, and the first look at what’s coming in the summer is promising. Overbridge really makes the line between hardware and software all-but-invisible. The Elektron standalone is as good as ever, but now you can route audio in and out as easily as if it were an extension of your DAW, and dive into deep editing options that are more intuitive and visible onscreen. What wasn’t yet available to demo was the sample loading interface, which on the current Analog line is fairly clumsy. But there’s clearly appetite for this.

Erica Synths. I thought maybe the modular scene had made its big product announcements in January at NAMM. But then makers like 4ms managed to finish still more modules in time to demo prototypes or make announcements this week. The biggest news, though, came from Latvia’s Erica Synths. Even more than Roland, Erica had a complete picture of how their synth line fits together, from DIY kits and weird sounds made from resurrected Soviet-era Polivoks tech to a fashionable “black” line of modules, graphical units, and a case. We’ll have a video walk-through of everything with Erica captain Girts.
oSo, those are the honorable mentions. But who was surprised to win the Golden Nerd Princess, the hitherto-unknown but soon-to-be-coveted prize awarded to the best of the show? (And yes, that trophy is full of bubbles. Seriously.)

Without further adieu, the winners.

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CDM BEST OF SHOW: MIDI Polyphonic Expression — Bitwig, ROLI, Roger Linn, et al.

For all the wonderful things happening with modular, it’d be a sad world if our only interface idea were 1960s telephone patch cords. And that’s why MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) matters. It’s not a new spec, per se — everything it does it does with the existing MIDI protocol. And it still leaves room for HD MIDI and OpenSoundControl.

But what MPE does finally do is standardize on a way of adding expression to polyphonic controllers. It works with creative new hardware — initially, the LinnStrument, Haken Continuum, ROLI Seaboard, Eigenharp, and SoundPlane. It works with software, like ROLI’s new Equator soft synth.

And I was impressed that MPE has a lot of backing, including the likes of Apple (Gerhard Lengeling) and Moog (Amos Gaynes) — not just the usual alternative controller scene.

I eventually took the trophy over to Bitwig for the simple reason that there, you could see the technology in action even outside something like the ROLI booth. A Roger Linn Linnstrument was connected to a Bitwig Studio beta, where it was able to easily control a built-in instrument. Bitwig can record and edit the controller data seamlessly.

And being able to play this sort of data — not just draw it with a mouse — to me really humanizes the performance possibilities. It was also nice to see Bitwig showing a product that was not their own, demonstrating the sort of historical connectivity that marked the first connection of MIDI between Dave Smith’s Sequential Circuits and Roland back in the 80s.

So, to all the folks behind MPE — and particularly Bitwig, ROLI, and Roger Linn for making it visible at Messe as a possible future for music making — I’m pleased to award a Best of Show.

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CDM BEST OF SHOW: SCHNEIDERSBÜRO.

Roland may have made a big leap into modular and Eurorack. But the company did so right next to the Schneidersbüro “superbooth,” home to Andreas Schneider and his long-running Berlin synth boutique and more recent ALEX4 distributor. There, all manner of synth wildness spilled over table after table of wacky gear. Roland themselves almost seemed like they wanted to crowd in on the action; they were spitting distance from Eurorack originator Dieter Doepfer himself. It seems some Roland product rep even appropriated a large number of colored knob caps out of Dieter’s gumball machine to liven up one of the AIRA demo units.

And at the center of all of this is the legendary Herr Schneider and his team. They have been boldly championing the work of brave independent synth builders on both sides of the sea to anyone who will listen — perhaps over one of their infamous glasses of absinth-plus-bubbly that start to get poured more briskly toward the end of each trade show day. And it seems that even industry heavyweights are now considering the impossible, embracing ideas that were once far too niche, too difficult, and too weird.

The AIRA modular was undoubtedly the most talked-about product of the show. But then it has to be observed that even the AIRA was in orbit around the Schneiders’ booth — and that, invariably, it was that booth that attracted the greatest wide-eyed crowds. There, they got to see devices that would never make it to mass-production, down to even breathalyzer-to-CV inputs or KOMA’s “quad” hat, a construction helmet with portruding speakers.

Full disclosure: CDM’s own MeeBlip is distributed by ALEX4; I’m fortunate to play a duo with Andreas this Thursday in Berlin at the unofficial post-Messe get-together, one spotlighting a lot of the American builders visiting for the show. But then, what I’m describing — this ability to draw people in — is something I’ve experienced first-hand. Andreas is one of the loudest voices (literally) for the industry, to buy stuff that’s lovingly made, that’s weird and wild and not boring.

If you see the trend as Eurorack, you’re missing the point. Schneiders proves again and again that music gear that’s fun and weird and cool can win out in the end. And for creating what was unquestionably the center of gravity in all of Hall 5.1, Andreas and company fully deserve a Best of Show.

And congratulations to Malekko, Endorphin.es, Analogue Systems, Sound Machines, Fraptools, Make Noise, Soulsby, Vermona, E-RM, Tiptop, Verbos, Doepfer, 4MS, Abstract Data, Kenton, Polytec, Pittsburgh, Koma, Haken, Macbeth, Abstract Data, I’m forgetting some and the orchestra is about to play me off — all of the folks who make being in this booth so interesting. (Plus a shout out to our neighbors at Moog, as we’re all continuing a very long legacy.)

http://www.schneidersbuero.de/

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CDM BEST OF SHOW: Bastl Instruments.

I don’t know how to put this: Bastl deserve a Best of Best of Show.

Let’s keep this simple:

The Czech-based Bastl Instruments had the single best booth I’ve ever seen at a music trade fair — complete with mechanical, robotically-driven percussion.

They’ve built an entire line of modules in no time flat.

With wood panels and meticulously handmade metal knobs and even a modular wooden booth assembly that would make IKEA jealous, they’ve returned the notion of hand crafting to the world.

Their stuff fits together, works together, and anyone can understand why it exists in the world because — well, it’s fun.

And isn’t that was musical “play” is all about?

bastl-instruments.com

And they were apparently glad to win, as this is what happened moments after the awarding of the trophy:

We’ve still got more to share from Messe, but thanks to all of you for giving us a great reason to be there. And of course, stick around CDM to celebrate invention all year round.

The post These are the Best Things at Musikmesse: CDM Best of Show Awards appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Focusrite iTrack Dock Review: Your iPad’s New Best Friend?

Friday, April 10th, 2015

iTrack_Dock_anr

One of the most ‘rewarding’ musical items I’ve ever bought is probably the 4-tracks tape recorder I got (too) many years ago. That was the beginning of a time of discoveries and excitement.
Well, somehow the Focusrite iTrack Dock I’ve been testing recently made me think of that good old friend. Apples and oranges? Not really. The path to creativity is often less obvious than we would expect, and sometimes a change in our workflow can bring amazing results.

The basics
iTrack Dock is a compact standalone recording solution for iPad that can be used with any Lightning iPad (iPad 4th Generation, iPad Air 1 & 2, iPad mini and iPad mini with retina display).
Here are the main features at a glance:
— 2 microphone preamps
— 2 line inputs and an instrument DI with plenty of extra headroom,
— Stereo monitor outputs with 105dB dynamic range plus independently-controlled headphone outputs
— a USB port for class compliant MIDI instruments and controllers
— Digital conversion up to 24-bit, 96kHz sampling

In use
The first thing to do is to adjust the Lightning connector, so to properly accommodate your iPad. In the box, you’ll also find a red plastic mat and some rubber pads that will help make your iPad comfier.
The iTrack Dock couldn’t be more straightforward. Just plug in your mic and/or instrument, set your favourite app and you’re ready to record on the iPad.
itrack_dock_back

iTrack Dock features a Core Audio driver, so it works with any Core Audio app like GarageBand, Auria, Cubasis, you name it.
If you’d rather start simple, Focusrite throws in a free and easy-to-use 2-track recording app, Tape. The app has also some essential editing and processing features (I wish I had something like this integrated with my old tape recorder!)

The input sound quality is pretty good (the preamps are taken from the Focusrite Scarlett series), and offered enough gain for the Shure SM58 and Neumann TLM49 mics I’ve used for the test (yes, phantom power is included).
The iTrack Dock borrows also a handy feature from the Scarlett series: the so-called “gain halo” technology for visual metering of signal levels. It’s not a meter, but it’s a helpful and well-thought alternative.
Last but not least, iTrack Dock features a direct monitoring button, that can send your input signal straight to the headphone and main monitor outputs for latency-free monitoring.

Design
The unit is lighter than I thought, and Focusrite’s engineers did a great job in terms of design and material. I like the feel of the unit and of its knobs. Needless to say, we’re not talking of a boutique item, so don’t expect fancy metal knobs, etc. That said, it’s a well-built unit and the overall result is definitely pleasing.
My only concern would be the Lightning connector. If you keep plugging and unplugging your iPad all the time, I would try to be as gentle as possible with it, that’s all. Also, you may notice that the iPad gets quite warm when plugged in. Focusrite states in its FAQ that this is normal and it won’t be a problem for the device.

MIDI
I’ve appreciated the fact that iTrack Dock features a USB MIDI input. It’s a class-compliant one, so most modern devices should work. Not all though, so make sure to check Focusrite’s compatibility list.
My IK Multimedia iRig Pro Keys and Akai LPD8 worked fine. Surprisingly, iTrack Dock even recognized my old Oberheim 88 keys controller, using an affordable MIDI to USB adapter I got some time ago.

Studio Pack
If you’re just starting setting up your home studio (or if you’re wondering what to ask Santa for) you may also consider the iTrack Dock Studio Pack. In this bundle, besides the iTrack Dock you’ll also get a large diaphragm CM25 condenser microphone (a perfect match for the Dock’s preamps — and it comes with a handy mic stand adapter), closed-back HP60 headphones and a 3 metre XLR cable — literally all you need to start recording music with your iPad. You can get all this for $ 249.
Buy iTrack Dock Studio Pack from Amazon USBuy from Thomann UK

Conclusion
iTrack Dock is an affordable (only $ 169/€199 — Buy from Amazon US –Buy from Thomann UK) and well-designed all-in-one tool that can help you make the most of the great music apps you have on your iPad. If you make music exclusively on your iPad, iTrack Dock will be your new best friend (and hopefully you’ll experience some magic moments — like the ones I had with that old tape recorder!).
It can also be a refreshing option to take a break from your desktop DAW. A different workflow may have an unexpectedly positive impact on your creative process. Try and let us know.

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