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Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome

Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome published on 5 Comments on Learning to Crawl, or The High School Yearbook Syndrome

Last night I started doing something that a number of people have been recommending I do for quite a long time: seriously pare down the number of free downloads on my site, and start shifting the focus more towards the music I have commercially available.

A very large chunk of the music I’ve had for free on my site has been based on the Echoplex solos I’ve been doing since very late in 2001. Listening back to the earliest, super-glitchy solos, about two years after the fact, feels a lot like going back to the titular yearbook and grimacing at the hideous haircuts, acne-ridden complexion, and general awkwardness of the whole thing.

This sort of syndrome is fairly typical amongst musicians, of course, but in the case of those early 2000’s Echoplex solos, I was truly (re) learning how to crawl – I knew I didn’t want to play ambient music, but I didn’t know exactly what I DID want to do. Hearing that stuff now, with the relative objectivity that the passage of time can offer, I can see where people who were familiar with Disruption Theory would have been profoundly freaked out by the uber-glitchy Echoplex stuff – some of that stuff is a pretty tough listen.

It’s all been very worthwhile, of course – when I finally found a new voice with the EDP, it allowed me to tap in to a lot of my musical influences in a completely new way. It was, not coincidentally, at precisely that point that I knew it was time to make a new CD, which was a good call – Normalized has helped generate a level and intensity of interest that I’ve never experienced in any other manner. That, as much as anything else, is reason enough to put the emphasis away from downloads and onto CDs – it’s not just a question of making some money from the dissemination of my music, it’s the fact that the most musically successful stuff I’ve done is on the CD’s.

And working with the EDP again finally got me out of self-imposed studio hermit purgatory and back on stage in front of living, breathing people, playing the guitar. The live performances I’ve done since I finally got my proverbial s*** together with the Echoplex have been some of the most gratifying shows I’ve done in any phase of my life. After having spent some years utterly absent from gigging, trying to piece together music on hard disks, it’s a relief to know I can walk on stage with a guitar, an amp, and one EDP, and hold my own on bills with full electric bands.

Certainly, the entirety of the last two years of my professional life (and a substantial amount of my life in general) would be utterly unrecognizable without the role of the Echoplex in my work. Perhaps someday a tell-all, behind-the-scenes account of the early 2000’s looping scene will be made. I simultaneously smile and shudder at the thought.


Glad I downloaded it all then. You know, Beethoven probably cringed at his first and second symphonies later in life. But to my ears they’re still a good listen. I don’t know what stuff I DL’d from your site is which (early 2000 vs. otherwise), but I do know that some of that solo Echoplex stuff is some of my favorite stuff I’ve heard from you. I don’t fully understand it, but it holds up well for repeated listenings. A grouping of loops that is built up at one point appears out of the blue at another point, giving the spontaneous composition a feeling of form, whether extemporarious or not.

I have to admit that I haven’t bought either of your albums yet. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of discretionary income. But your two albums are high, high up on the list. At least your discography is somewhat more manageable than that of Buckethead, whom, like you, I discovered courtesy of Noneradio.


Decisions, decisions…

Hi Jeremy,

I remember reading a posting on the Keneally newsgroup from a Noneradio listener – I think his email handle was “yirm” – who had downloaded everything from my site, and was meaning to pick up Disruption Theory some day… that particular post was actually a fairly strong factor in my current site change-over, so if that “yirm” was/is you, it’s very interesting to have you post here.

First off, (whether that guy was you or not), there’s no spite and no bad vibes towards you – I certainly appreciate your downloading my stuff to listen to (you must have a fast connection speed, and/or an awful lot of free time!), I sympathize all too well with the issue of a lack of disposable income, and I don’t have any requirements for people purchasing CDs in order to hear the free downloads.

That said, I don’t know of a single online musician who claims to have the free downloads/paid purchase equation completely solved. What I do know is that my website has generated nearly 20,000 individual downloads of full-length tracks over the last two years, while my CD sales are nowhere near that number. Quite a few people (including a number of musicians whose opinions I take very seriously, and who sell substantially more CDs than I do, with far fewer free downloads than I’ve been offering) have recommended scaling down the free downloads, and I have to admit that I saw a spike in sales immediately after debuting the new site layout and content last week.

And, as I said in the original blog post, a lot of the free stuff just doesn’t feel particularly relevant to me in a musical sense. (I do appreciate your enjoying it; I sympathize with your point, and I’ll grant that some of it does make a cool or intriguing listen.) Feeling disconnected to previous work is a common thing – I have a certain lack of identification with Disruption Theory, as well, and that album’s about five years old at this point.

But there’s a certain definitive aspect to that album, and the way it was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered, that allowed me to “sign off” on it with a certain sense of finality, and I can still stand by it now, half a decade after the fact. I simply don’t feel that way about all of the non-album Echoplex solos that I have (and especially did have) for free download – the period between the first two CDs was one of intense experimenting, and it wasn’t until the fall of 2002 that I really felt strongly that the stuff could sit on its own purely as music. That, after all, was the whole impulse for making Normalized.

So I understand your comments – the fluidity of all of this online music stuff is a tricky one to navigate, both for listeners and for musicians. All I can say right now is that I reached a point where I was pretty strongly dissatisfied with the site activity, both in a purely musical sense and in a sales sense – so I’m trying a different approach. Who knows where it will go from here…

Anyway, thanks for the comments, thanks for listening, and thanks for keeping me in mind when some extra income might be available for my CDs.


Re: Decisions, decisions…

Yes, Yirm is me, and I am Yirm. And I agree that if my post on AMMK influenced you, it is “interesting.” I feel bad, not that I hadn’t purchased Disruption Theory at that time, but that until the time of my posting here last night I still hadn’t. Also that I may have “screwed it up” for other downloaders.

My post here wasn’t intended as advice to you — that you should or shouldn’t remove some of that material. In fact, I think you should remove it for both the reasons you mentioned (freeloaders, and not feeling comfortable with the material at this point), and maybe more. I was just trying to point out that I felt lucky to have downloaded it and to be able to listen to it. Not because it’s a replacement for your albums, but each of those pieces gives me a little better understanding of what you do. I appreciate the Echoplex Analysis Pages on your site, btw. I read a good portion of Glitches and Grooves last night, but I’m now seeing that for those of us who don’t know the intricacies of the Echoplex, it’s good to start from the beginning (Ambient Guitar).



Re: Decisions, decisions…

Hi again Jeremy,

First off, thanks very much for ordering the discs – I sent them off this afternoon, and I certainly hope you enjoy them at least as much as the downloads you’ve already heard.

Secondly, I don’t want this to turn into a guilt-trip, or for you to feel bad, so let me put this into perspective. I average about 3-10 individual emails or messages from site visitors and listeners every month, who want to send comments on my stuff – but I also average at least 60 to 70 individual visitors to my web site every single day. It’s difficult to know exactly how many of those people are repeat visitors, how many of them are downloading tracks, how many of them are buying things, etc. So for every one person I hear from, there are hundreds and hundreds of visitors I don’t hear from – and if I hear about one person downloading tons of stuff without picking up the discs, I have to assume there are other people doing that as well.

Ultimately it’s a question of balance – I don’t mind giving away a fair amount of music if it’ll give people a good sense of what I do, as it’s a sort of surrogate for radio airplay or media exposure. And I don’t expect every person who enjoys my downloads to go on and buy a CD (though it sure would be nice!).

But for many musicians (myself included), the scenario of someone downloading several hours’ worth of material, enjoying it, appreciating the musician behind it, but not spending any money on the commercial releases that are very much available, truly starts to resemble a nightmare scenario. And yet, in a case like this – where the downloads in question are mostly non-album tracks, and are all being freely given away by the artist in question – It’s not ultimately the fault of the downloader, I don’t think. As I’ve said, there’s no obligation to buy stuff based on listening, and if any fault is involved, it’s probably my own, for making it as easy to download multiple albums’ worth of stuff as I have. If anyone’s to blame, it’s probably me.

And I certainly don’t think you’ve “ruined” things for other downloaders – there’s still somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 hours of free music on my site. But the way the site is now structured, visitors will find it by going through either the album pages (which will put the focus on the official releases, where it should be) or the Echoplex pages (which will put the non-album tracks in the proper context for fully understanding where they fall in the overall scope of my work, qualitatively and developmentaly). So a lot of the same content is still there – it’s just been put in a context which emphasizes the downloads as being “secondary” to the CD’s.

Anyway… this is a lot of typing, but then again, it is my blog! 😉

Thanks again for your thoughts, and for picking up the CDs – no harm done, no hard feelings, and I very much appreciate your listening and your opinions.


Re: Decisions, decisions…

I don’t have anything to add because I agree with you, and I did from the start. In fact, I think you should charge for shipping to match the end price on CDBaby, unless you want an incentive to order from your site directly. I definitely am looking forward to listening to your discs — and trying them out on my 4-year old.

It’s fascinating to see kids’ reactions to music since they haven’t been stuffed into the record industry’s mold yet. And they aren’t worried about whether it’s “cool” or anything like that. I’ll never forget the look on his face (I think he was 2) when I played him Peaches En Regalia. It was the face of someone whose brain was being stimulated.


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