Support your local anything-but-a-record-label

I think Kickstarter is one of the best things that has happened to music in a long time, since it does away with pretty much the only remaining useful, nontrivial thing that record labels offered to bands or to fans: paying for the up-front production costs. Kickstarter lets bands get that money from true fans who are willing to pre-pay for a not-yet-recorded album, instead of basically entering into a loan-shark relationship with a label.

I recently contributed to a kickstarter for The Dollyrots. I got an early digital copy of the new album -- which is great and you should buy it! -- and also got the little care package they sent out including a signed poster of all of the contributors and a few similar things. This extra stuff is adorable, and made the whole process feel very personal.

Apparently they only had around 500 contributors, but that was enough to pay for the album, which is awesome, and kind of surprising -- that's not exactly a large number of people! Even for a small band, that's only the attendance of two or three shows. It looks like about half of their total came from small-ticket items rather than things like "buy my old guitar".

The Limousines, who are also awesome, just put up a kickstarter for their new album too, and it contains this sad anecdote:

When it came time to make our first music video, Internet Killed The Video Star we aimed high. We wrote the story out ourselves and found a great director... The video included nearly 50 crazy looking zombies, tons of special effects and multiple shooting locations. We even hand-made an arsenal of cardboard weapons - The best part was, we managed to do it all for less than most bands spend on catering at their video shoots.

The zombie video has over a million views on YouTube now, but back when it only had a few thousand, MTV came calling! They said they loved what we had done and asked if our label had submitted it to them. When we told them we weren't signed, they were amazed and probably even more excited to help out. They played the video in its entirety a number of times and featured us for a whole week [...]

By the time we were ready to make the video for The Future, we were signed to the label and assumed we'd get a healthy production budget so we decided to go even bigger than we had for Internet Killed The Video Star... We wrote a script calling for even more elaborate special effects, crashing a time traveling Delorean into a Porsche, tons of costumes and actors, plus massive explosions. We had our sights set for an epic video and when we submitted it to the label, they said, "No... It's too dark and violent and besides, it'll be way too expensive..."

We were shocked, but, defiant and determined, we decided to make the video anyway, on our own dime.

Of course the next step was a conversation between the two of us that started with "if we're a signed band, why are we having to choose between paying our rent or making a music video?" and ended with "the breakup call" with the label...

As far as I can tell, record labels are useless at this point. They loan money, write a press release or two, and handle the mechanics of getting the MP3s into Amazon and Apple. There are cheaper ways to get those services than giving someone else so much control.

Smaller labels used to provide an editorial role, in that you could sort of expect that if someone was released on a particular label, it would have a particular sound, but even that is pretty rare these days. For example: last year, Niki and the Dove were scheduled to play a date in San Francisco that was cancelled, but I managed to see them at SXSW at around the same time. I asked them after that show why the SF date had been cancelled, since obviously they were already in the country, and they told me that halfway through their (short) tour their label -- Sub-Pop -- had told them, basically, "You guys are too small and not popular enough so we're pulling the plug in the middle of your tour and canceling the remaining dates."

So my first reaction was, "Wow, that's pretty fucked up" and my second reaction was, "Wait, what the hell is a band who sounds like this doing on Sub-Pop?? (And my third reaction was, "Wow, Sub-Pop still exists?" Turns out they're now just an imprint of Warner.)

There certainly still exist small labels that have this kind of editorial theme -- Kitsuné comes to mind -- but there really aren't very many, and I strongly suspect that most of them aren't actually functional businesses, but are more along the lines of, a one-person operation that is more like a very expensive labor-of-love that is funded by savings and/or a day-job. (I have a certain amount of experience with this dynamic.)

At this point, I think what label a band is on is usually about as interesting as which plant pressed their CDs, or which ISP hosts their web site.

Back when I still used CDs I used to try to support bands by buying their CDs at the show, because often they get a bigger cut of that sale that way (though sometimes not, as the label basically makes them buy their own CDs at so close to face value that it makes no difference). Even when they get a good margin on the CDs, they almost certainly still make more profit on t-shirts.

Paying for the music ahead of time via something like Kickstarter just seems like a much more sensible way to go about it, especially if you already know that it's a band you love and that you'd have bought the next album sight unseen. It's almost a "subscription" model.

It's also nice to be paying for the thing you actually care about -- "I'm paying for you guys to make a new album" -- instead of the weird proxy situation that other merch puts you in. When you think about it, it's kind of nuts that often the way you can best support a musician is by letting them re-sell to you a piece of clothing that they commissioned and sourced from someone else.

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Make your own lava, then pour it onto ice

Lava Pour No. 5

Details. More videos.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Eyeball Tattoos

The film follows Popek, a successful Polish rapper and mixed martial arts fighter, as he undergoes an obscure and dangerous procedure to get his eyeballs permanently tattooed.

I thought I had posted something similar to this before -- about some guy who had done this to himself in prison -- but I guess I was too busy twitching in the corner.

Good morning!


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TrapWire Kickstarter -- Donate Today!

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It's been a frustrating week. Oh wait, it's Monday.

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Browser cache, do you fucking speak it yet??

Is there still no fix for this yet? Jesus, Mother of Fuck, this is irritating. I'm tired of having a browser that has only one window and no cache.

Maybe I could have JavaScript implement its own god damned browser cache by dumping everything into local storage? Or does the iPad dump that shit willy-nilly too?

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High Weirdness By Mail

I was just discussing HWBM with someone a couple of days ago, for probably the first time in a decade, and along comes this amazing retrospective. Plate. Shrimp. Plate-o-shrimp.

Well, there goes my week.

High Weirdness By Mail (HWBM) is a kind of directory of kooks circa 1988, built up during Stang and friends' hobby of collecting kook literature, a listing of hundreds of addresses that a collector could write to and, either for free for for only a little money, receive some authentic weirdness for their trouble. Some of the addresses are of lone kooks, like Brainbeau (p 160), looking for spread their ideas. Some of the them lead to UFO cults like Unarius (p 50), looking for recruits. Some believe Jesus talks to them personally; whether they're viewed as lone nutters or respected televangelists seems to depend only on resources. Doesn't matter, Ivan Stang includes them both. Some are actual hate groups. Many are independent artists, several of which would subsequently hit it big before a wider audience. There are over 320 pages of addresses in the book, and each of them has a short blurb written about them to warn the reader about what he's in for. Most of the addresses, of course, probably don't work now. Here, in a kind of metapost, I visit some of the entries and find out where they are now, or if they still exist.


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Today's episode of what's on my bloody mary:

The "Sunday Bloody Sunday" Bloody Mary Competition.

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Now my calendar gets complicated.

I need to decide on a stable URL format for the DNA Lounge calendar. The new space makes things more complicated.

This is me thinking out loud about it and wondering if anyone has better suggestions that I haven't thought of.

Sometimes we have two events per day (an early event and a late event) and those are designated by the early event having "a" appended to it, e.g.:

  1. /calendar/2012/09-14a: Mortified, 8pm - 9:30pm;
  2. /calendar/2012/09-14: Hubba Hubba Revue, 9:30pm - 2am.

We never have three events per day in the same room. At least, it hasn't happened in 11 years so I'm not worried about it.

It used to be that I would have labelled those two events as "09-14" and "09-14b", but that was dumb because it meant that if we booked the later event first, and the earlier event second, then the URL for the later event had to change, and all the old links to it broke. So I had a Flag Day and changed that a few years back. Now the "a" designation is applied if a daytime event has an end-time before 10:30pm, meaning it's conceivable that we could end up booking an event after it. This is based on what we've actually seen in the real world, and now our URLs are stable.

Anyway, we're opening a new space, and so now we can permute that to four new kinds of events!

  1. DNA Lounge, Early (09-14a)
  2. DNA Lounge, Late (09-14)
  3. Above DNA, Early
  4. Above DNA, Late
  5. Both venues combined, Early
  6. Both venues combined, Late

(It is not logistically possible to run separate events in the front room and back room of DNA Lounge, or to run separate events in the front room and back room of Above DNA, so there's no need to worry about those cases.)

So I need to decide how to label those URLs, and I'd like to get it right the first time so that I don't have to break URLs again later.

So far I'm toward using "c" and "d" for #3 and 4 above, and treating #5 and #6 as synonyms for #1 and #2 (meaning: a four-room event looks, URL-wise, like a DNA Lounge-only event where Above DNA is closed). (The "b" is silent.)

I'm not crazy about the "c/d" thing because it means that URLs for every night-time stand-alone show in the Above DNA space -- which will be by far the most common case up there -- will look like /calendar/2012/11-09d.html, and what's that "d" doing there? It's just kind of a wart.

I do want them to be the same calendar, and not living on two different web sites, because we're branding it as one venue that has two performance spaces, not two separate venues. Also, every Saturday night, Bootie will be in both rooms, so right off the bat we're running "combined" a large chunk of the time.

Any other non-warty suggestions?


The other thing that really bums me out is that I think it means my calendar can no longer be a Cartesian grid. I was really pleased when I figured out how to make the calendar resize when the window is resized and yet cause all the cells to remain square. Because calendar cells should be square, dammit. When there are two events on one day, it splits the cell vertically. But now there are potentially four events on the same day. How the hell do I display that and keep the cells square and the text readable? I think I can't, and I'm going to have to make the "week" lines be two lines high.

I do not like that.

But I also don't like having two grids, one for each room, and that's pretty much the only other option. (A vertical split would not play nicely with text wrapping.)

Any other ideas there?

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DNA Lounge: Wherein the construction chugs along and the deadline looms.

The bar is really looking like a bar! All that remains is to hook up the sinks, put the bar surface on, and stucco the front. Hopefully it will come out looking just like the bars next door.

The new bathrooms are fully functional! I can tell you this from firsthand experience. As you can see, we went with boring porcelain this time instead of the stainless steel prison toilets. They're just too fucking expensive. We'll see how long last and whether that was a false economy.

The new front door is installed. They made us replace the perfectly functional old door because the door has to open out, but it's not allowed to overlap the sidewalk, which means had to build an alcove for it and a new frame farther inside the building. Hooray.

Here's the DNA Lounge Hazmat Team finishing up the soundproofing on the front windows. The space between the exterior wall and the new, angled interior wall is filled with fiberglass insulation above and below the two sets of windows. The apparent "shelf" connecting the two walls is actually cloth, so that there's no physical connection between the two except the ceiling and floor. And the windows in the interior wall were installed today, so now it's all sealed up tight.

When we have bands up there, you're gonna be able to see them from the street. I think that will be pretty awesome.

The big unknown at this point is still the liquor license. It's impossible to ever get a straight answer out of ABC. They almost never return our phone calls and when they do they answer with things like, "Oh, I think there might have been a protest, that we never bothered to tell you about, and if so that would mean we'd need to have a hearing, so that could take four months, but I'll have to check on that the next time I'm in the office. Oh, and I'll be out of town for two weeks starting five minutes from now. By the way, has construction started yet?"

It's awesome. All the time in the world, here, guys. No hurry.

We do actually have a deadline that we've set for ourselves.

(Uh, I mean besides "Let's be done in time for New Year's Eve, 2011.")

We hope to have all of the construction finished by Oct 1, five weeks from now, and that's looking pretty doable at this point. Once that happens, we have our final building inspections and deal with any changes they want us to make, and assuming ABC doesn't fuck us in the ass, that puts us on track for our opening date of Oct 27.

I don't think I've mentioned that here before, but yeah, your first opportunity to party down in the two new rooms will be at Halloween Booootie on the Saturday of Halloween weekend! All four rooms will be open as one giant club.

Then your next opportunity will be on Halloween proper, when we are doing the traditional DNA Lounge All Hallow's Eve party, except that this year it gets to be twice as big!

Dear ABC, please don't fuck us in the ass, love jwz.

And here are some photos of recent events:


(Nobody ever seems to take photos of Trannyshack, but there are a few videos.)

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