I’m ready… musings on time, rM, and recording again

If there’s one thing there never seems to be enough of, it’s time.  So I try and focus on what matters to me.   Launching Relaxed Machinery is something that matters to me.  Recording again is also something matters.  Obviously, my wife, family, and work come first – so prioritizing and picking what musical projects I tackle is a key.   I don’t think this philosophy is very different from the majority of label owners and artists out there.   You squeak in time when you can and don’t fret too much when not everything goes perfectly!

I still have a ton to do on this central Relaxed Machinery website – as well as getting the Reverb Nation page configured and running before Steve Brand’s debut release on 1/11/2009.  What’s definitely missing on relaxedmachinery.com is the logo.  I ran into a technical quirk with Internet Explorer where the logo from the WordPress template (WordPress is the software running this site…) – the logo simply wouldn’t appear.   Works 100% fine in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.   Go figure!  The solution Steve and I came up with is to change the horizontal photos that randomly appear at the top – and append the logo directly into that image.  I just need some time to do that – and over Christmas break I will likely get that done. 

I also need to tweak the left side to be more useful.   As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts – this website isn’t about being perfect – it’s about showing the evolution of the label and letting you see what I’m doing.  Snapshots into how a label is created and how it evolves over time. 

I’m very excited just how much has been done so far… I love the logo that Steve created.  I love the imagery that his designs have inspired in my head.   I love the whole organic ambient techno concept.  I love the idea that this label is both a label and an artist collective.  So much to love for me in this.

As far as my studio goes… it’s been in various stages of torn apart for years.  I stopped recording in 2004 for various reasons – tried to jump back in only to have my trusty old 1999 era pc crash on me.  Got that mostly fixed, but not quite fixed.  Bought a new pc – couldn’t quite get that running and partially that was because I wasn’t ready to dedicate the time needed to get it running.  

Dial the clock forward to last year – I jumped in with both feet into AtmoWorks and for the majority of my time there – loved it, especially connecting with the artists and the fans.  This year I decided it was time to get going again on my own music – replaced my pc with a mac – bought Logic Studio.  Only thing left is to reset up my studio (and learn Logic) which I’m hoping to have done in January.   I have a ton of ideas floating in my head.  Last month I realized another long time dream and bought a fretless bass – wow is it fantastic.

I’ve set a goal for myself to have a full album ready to go by my 40th birthday in August.   I’m thrilled with the label and the prospect of jumping into recording now with both feet.  I’m ready.

John

Promotional Copies of rM Albums

I posted a “promo requests” page last week to the site (it’s in the menu at the top) which essentially says if you review, blog, create podcasts, or any other form of writing/recording about ambient music – let me know.   It’s interesting how much has changed in the last decade plus that I’ve been following ambient music on the internet.   There used to be a lot of webzines and review sites (Ambientrance, Ambient Visions, EER, Ampersandetc), and quite a few radio stations (normally college or public stations) that played ambient music.   Some of those still exist, but by and large, most that were doing webzines or shows have shut down for various reasons.  Now there are a few blogs and podcasts – generally individuals that love music and let their friends know what they’re listening to and liking.  Some of the podcasts are great mixes – put together with care for how the music flows in and out.  

Do you write about your favorite ambient and/or minimal techno music?   Do you create mixes, podcasts, or have internet radio shows?   Let me know and we’ll talk about promo download copies of Relaxed Machinery albums.   Read a bit more on the “promo requests” page and email me at [ jkn at johei dot com ]

Interestingly, Mike Griffin at Hypnos just posted recently about promotional copies of releases:  http://www.hypnos.com/smf/index.php?topic=2590.0

“We at Hypnos are constantly evaluating the way we mail out promotional copies of our CDs, traditionally to music reviewers and DJs who focus on ambient & experimental music. One thing I’d like to do a bit more of is share a few promo copies to people such as podcasters, bloggers, or others who aren’t exactly traditional print/webzine reviewers, or radio DJs, but who may nonetheless have an interest in helping to spread the word about Hypnos music.

If you’re such a person or group, post here (other label owners and self-releasing ambient artists will see, too) or contact me by PM if you wish.  It’s increasingly obvious that the old ways by which people discovered their music are being replaced by new ways, and I’d rather spread a few CDs around to enthusiastic people who may write about them or include them in mixes or podcasts for others to discover, then send out copies to some of the magazines or radio stations that really don’t support this kind of music anyway.”

organic .: ambient :. techno

I’ve chosen “organic .: ambient :. techno” as a short concise description (or tagline) for Relaxed Machinery.  What does that mean to me?

“organic” – This brings a feeling of being made from scratch and isn’t full of extraneous elements that don’t need to be there.  The artist sat down and composed the music with their heart.  There’s a certain “hands on” approach to writing, recording, playing.   Organic to me is a feeling that describes the music… textural, earthy, healthy, natural, rich in depth.  

“ambient” – This means so many different things to different people.   I subscribe to “ambient” as music that’s able to be fully listened to and enjoyed – or music to put on the background to subtly fill the mind and help focus on other things.   Ambient can be beatless or have drums to me.   It’s normally instrumental music – and made by acoustic or electronic instruments.  Some people think of ambient music as similar to soundtrack music – the kind that fills the background of a scene and expresses emotion in sound.  

“techno” – This also can mean a bunch of different things to different people.  I do love a good dancy techno tune, but for Relaxed Machinery – I’m focusing more on the ambient side of techno…  the minimal or dubby side.   Minimal repetitive beats.  

My personal music has always tended towards those three descriptions of music.  Whether I’m writing beatless music in a more generative way solely with electronics – or layering trumpet and bass over a minimal techno groove…  I truly like to blend all these styles on the same albums.  If you have a chance to listen to my “Temporal Arc” album rereleased recently on AtmoWorks – you’ll hear all of these elements together.   Strong drum grooves, ambient soundscapes, microsound generative minimalism, beatless drones, field recording, acoustic and electronics…

Steve Brand is the first artist I’m releasing on Relaxed Machinery – and while he so far hasn’t delved into the “techno” side of things – he absolutely fits “organic ambient”.   He writes his music from the heart.   He considers his music “healing”.   His sound is stunning.   He crafts beautiful music with care and understanding – and that’s why I’ve liked everything I’ve listened to from him and am proud to have him be the first release on Relaxed Machinery!

websites: why? what?, how follows when you have a plan

Artists and labels pretty much live on the internet now – especially with ambient and electronic music in general.   Creating a “home base” for Relaxed Machinery has been a key project in getting the label launched.   Even though this website is not done yet, I decided to open it up and let everyone see it develop as we ramp up to the official “launch” in January 2010.   By posting these blogs I hope that my journey to launching a new label helps other artists and label owners along the way.  I also hope the listeners and potential fans get a kick out of it as well.  🙂

First things first… questions I asked myself with input and advice from couple of close friends:

* Why am I building a website?
* What am I trying to accomplish with the website?  A sort of “brochure” site for each artist and release?  A “community” for music fans to congregate?  A blog?
* What information do I want to present?   What do I hope people will enjoy seeing?
* Do I want a “store” on the website?

These are all big key questions – and they also tied in with what was the label as a whole trying to accomplish.  

The “why” was fairly easy to me.  I wanted a central main website for Relaxed Machinery – somewhere to point everything and everyone to for information about the label, the music, the artists, the artwork.   I didn’t want to rely on a social network as a “homebase” – I wanted it to be on my own terms.  Not to say I’m not putting Relaxed Machinery on the social networks (it’s already there on myspace and facebook) – but that’s just one piece of the label. 

I ruled out a “store”.   There are a ton of pros and cons to having a direct store and for this point in the life of the label, it doesn’t make sense.  My big goal with the label is to get this music out in front of a lot of potential listeners which means reaching out into iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc… building a webstore on this site pulled me away from that goal.   Maybe someday, but not now.

Then there’s the “community” aspect.  I do think this is a great thing to build, but there are already other larger communities out there. 

It boils down to the key idea RelaxedMachinery.com is trying to present is information about the artists and releases – and a place to blog about building the label and about what I’m doing in the studio.   I also want to make the blog aspect available to Relaxed Machinery artists.  

So… the end result before ever touching any code… is I wanted a site to present information about the artists and the releases and to allow us to blog about the label and recording and music in general.   Now I could begin to figure out how to build the site.

Which brought me to WordPress – which is what this site is using.  WordPress is designed to be a blog, but has many aspects that allow for the “brochure” aspects like artist bio’s and release information.  Once installed – I searched for a theme that fits my design sense… and Atahualpa fit the bill after trying about 5 others out.

Thanks for reading!

John

“the machines are relaxing”

The factory building stood in stark silhouette against the slowly darkening sky.  Oddly the building seems serene.  There’s no trepidation in your footsteps as you approach the entrance and go in.   You flip the large electric throw switch and hear generators in the distance whir and hum to life.  The lights slowly bring the hallways out of darkness… a pale yellow, faintly flickering light.  

The factory floor is filled with machines of every sort.   What kind of factory was this?   Humming, buzzing, clicking, water dripping, lights slowly blinking from various areas of the factory.   The machines aren’t fully on, but they’re not shut down totally.   It’s as if they’re resting, waiting for when they are needed again.

In one area giant metal tubs are stacked, each labeled with a faded gear wheel.  Forklifts clearly moved these from place to place, holding whatever products were built here.   You continue your journey through the old factory.  But is it old?  It seems in oddly good condition.  A doorway leads to a stairway and several flights down. 

Lots of rooms down here.  Offices, desks, lamps, charts, diagrams – all neat and orderly.  A door at the end of the hall seems the most interesting… a sign above it reads:  .: file archives 

Inside is row after row of file cabinets.  Picking one at random you pull out a file – once again seeing the large gear wheel printed on the file folder that you saw in the factory on the tubs.   Opening the folder you find neatly typed – File # rM_00001 .: Steve Brand .: Circular Scriptures … a computer screen at the far end of the room catches your eye… on it is a list of file #’s…   rM_00001, rM_00002, rM_00003.    You select the file for Steve Brand and music begins to play…

Who Am I? Part 2

I just posted a long bio on my page.   Just click on “Artists” in the top menu – and then “Interstitial”.  If you’re at all curious what I’ve done musically before launching this label – from releasing ambient to my wonderful grandma teaching me piano at 5… it’s all there.

Totally off topic, but this blog title reminds me of one of my favorite Jackie Chan movies.

Label Launch / New Release Party on StillStream Jan 16

Relaxed Machinery is proud to partner with StillStream.com and David Herpich to host a label launch party and listening party for our first release:  Steve Brand – Circular Scriptures.

David will be playing the entire Circular Scriptures album – and we’ll also be playing some of Steve’s and my backcatalog releases. 

The party is planned for 9 p.m. CST on http://www.stillstream.com

More details in the coming weeks!

A very big thank you to Darrell Burgan at StillStream and David Herpich, host of the weekly Zen Caffeine program from 9 pm Saturday to 1 am Sunday.

John

Deciding how to release the albums.

A lot of thought has gone into exactly how Relaxed Machinery will release it’s albums.   My personal opinion is most people are interested in downloads now.  I’ve switched over to an iPod and primarily buy downloads myself.  And my time at AtmoWorks showed that the majority of listeners were buying the downloads and not the cdr’s.  Some albums were 5 downloads for every 1 cdr, and some were as high as 10 downloads for every 1 cdr.   

Regardless, I still love physical discs, and I know some listeners are still very keen on getting cdr’s vs. downloads.   So I’ve set up a wonderful arrangement with Hypnos ( http://www.hypnos.com ) to have them manufacture and sell cdr’s for Relaxed Machinery.   Between 10-20% of AtmoWorks customers still buy cdr’s – I don’t want to block those people out from our releases!  And if you’ve bought an AtmoWorks cdr… it was made and shipped by Hypnos.  (And while I’m mentioning them – they’re an extremely high quality label and well worth checking into their catalog…)

So, now that I’d decided that downloads were going to be the primary way of releasing Relaxed Machinery albums… how to do it?   I spent a long time researching the various ways of getting an album into iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc…  (In fact, I’d been researching this topic for a long time prior to leaving AtmoWorks…)  There are many, many ways to get your music out there, but I narrowed it down to three major players that I was comfortable working with and will get our albums into the “major” download stores:  CD Baby, Tunecore, and Reverb Nation.

So after a lot of comparing, I chose CD Baby.   Several key reasons:

+ They allow our artists to maintain their own store on CD Baby’s site – and if you buy directly from that store – the artist makes a little more than off of a sale through iTunes or Amazon.  

+ CD Baby charges a percent of every sale ongoing – but doesn’t have a yearly recurring fee, which both Tunecore and Reverb Nation have yearly fees per album.

+ CD Baby has been a huge help for independent artists and labels for many years.

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions or comment!

John

p.s.  Quick rundown of numbers (rounded) for those interested…  at the time of all my research which was late summer/fall of 2009:

CD Baby – Charges $35 per album to setup and $20 for the barcode = $55.00 total setup.   They take 9% off the top of profits from the major stores.   No yearly recurring fees.

Tunecore – Initial costs vary greatly depending on where you want to put your album out for sale.  But my estimates were putting it close to $40-50 per album initial setup with a $20 yearly recurring fee.   They give 100% of all profits to the artist/label.

Reverb Nation – Also great services – and the only service with a ton of “widgets” (more on that in a future blog) which I’ll be using for Relaxed Machinery.   $35.00 per year per album.

New Release on Relaxed Machinery 1.11.10

As part of the launch of the new Relaxed Machinery label, my upcoming release, “Circular Scriptures“ is currently slated for 1.11.10.

Relaxed Machinery is the brainchild of former AtmoWorks dude, John Koch-Northrup. I’ve been helping John with the graphic look and feel, creating his logo, cover template, press release template and wallpaper design. I think we came up with a unique look for all the pieces that says something distinctive about rM, the music and it’s artists.

To my knowledge, rM is going to be a highly unique paradigm as far as labels go, so naturally I think it’ll be a very exciting adventure to join in on. John has already covered the details of how rM will work in his own posting, so I won’t go into those details here. It is our intention to keep the rM WordPress site a updated with the latest news, thoughts and developments, as well as providing feeds to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., so you can stay connected via your favorite social media. One of the aspects of rM that I think is really fun, is that we intend to augment releases with press releases, additional art, samples, screen savers, interviews, etc. for each release, available only through RelaxedMachinery.com, so make sure to bookmark this site and watch for updates.

“Circular Scriptures” has been in the works now for over a year, so I’m very excited to share it with listeners, and to be able to kick off rM with this release. I’ll post more details and thoughts on “Circular Scriptures” in late December, or early January.