Digital Distribution

This is a true tale about music distribution, help desks, upload limits, and file quality, with a happy ending.

Last week, in Lisbon, I wanted to upload the next single for digital distribution. The upload was ended by the warning File size limit 100MB. This was odd, I thought, because just last month I had uploaded Saudade, which was a little over 100MB in size. I sent a note to the help desk asking whether the 100MB was a newly imposed limit and wouldn’t 150 or even 200MB be a more reasonable limit in order to encourage high quality files. A couple of days later I received this reply:

We strongly recommend uploading 16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo .wav files, as this is the distribution standard across streaming and download platforms. Please note that if you upload .flac, .mp3, or .m4a files, we will convert them to 16-bit stereo .wav files to meet requirements, which may have an impact on sound quality.

Strange, I was pretty sure Apple Music claimed that “Saudade” was Hi Res… I checked and found this:
Screen 2022 07 29 at 05 44 07
I had uploaded a 24/88.2 FLAC file which Apple Music converted to their proprietary ALAC format. That was to be expected and it was still 24/88.2!!Good.

It occurred to me that United Masters might have, with one fell swoop, not only limited uploads to 100MB but also limited distribution to only 16/44.1. This didn’t sit well with me because Tidal subscribers want to get hi res files… that’s why they pay a higher subscription rate. I would want them to get the highest possible quality.

When I thought about this some more, I decided maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if streaming was limited to 16/44.1 because it meant that in order to play higher quality files one would have to buy the album on Bandcamp. Modern music distribution is complicated, which is why I came up with the crazy idea to make music valuable and somewhat exclusive again by ONLY delivering it to members of my Backstage subscription. (Link to that post)

Meanwhile I received another email in response to my request for clarity:

Please note that we are not delivering your files as described above. Apple Music is working through the content that is available on their platform and converting them to ‘Lossless’.
Our product team is always making updates to better suit the files/content we receive, however, at this time, we advise uploading 16-bit, 44.1kHz stereo .wav files, since it’s the distribution standard. That said if you upload .flac, .mp3, or .m4a files, we will convert them to 16-bit stereo .wav files to meet requirements
Our platform is mostly geared towards Rap/Hip-Hop artists rather then Jazz musicians, therefore, these are the guidelines we are asking artists to follow at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Wow, this was getting even stranger. It sounded as if they had never accepted hi-res files, never distributed them, and that Apple Music hadn’t used them. We are geared towards Rap and Hip Hop rather than Jazz musicians. Well, Hip Hop is a lot more popular than Jazz… but Jazz, or World, or Classical music can have a longer shelf life…

I asked whether these were new requirements that were put in place within the last few weeks. And then I received a reply from another person, who clearly know more:

I checked our delivery platform and, as you say, the audio file that was delivered to music services for your most recent release, “Saudade (Bare Version)”, was 24 bit/88.2 kHz (and it looks like it was a little more than 100 MB in size).

That is correct.

My understanding from our engineering team is that they did impose a 100 MB limit on audio file uploads, but this doesn’t mean that anything was automatically downscaled, just that users who tried to upload a file greater than 100 MB in size got an error message (as you did).
And we asked the engineering team to bump that limit up to 150 MB, so you should no longer be having an issue uploading a file up to that size

Nice. 150MB will work for nearly all individual song files.

Re: the standard recommendation to upload 16 bit/44.1kHz files – that is actually meant for users who are trying to upload files with quality that is too low (which is much, much more common than users uploading files with quality that is too high), so apologies for any confusion there.

Ah, the first help desk person was probably following a script and didn’t actually know much about the workings. That happens.

Today I uploaded the next single and had no problems. Release date is 26 August.

Moka + Saudade

I am sitting at my table, next to a fan because we have a heatwave, and am having my morning coffee. I followed Matt’s suggestion (in the comment section of this post) and boiled the water before adding it to the Moka pot. I think the purpose of this may be to make the extraction happen more quickly. What it made me realize is why the original design has those edges. I believe they make the pot more grippy. What I found was that I could not tighten my round pot enough while holding it with a towel and when pressure started to build up vapor escaped where the top and the bottom are screwed together. It is interesting that the designers of newer and stainless Moka pots didn’t figure this out! The coffee was good though and maybe I’ll try again with a silicon hot pad that affords more grip. For now I will switch back to adding room temp water.

Today the second single from “Bare Wood 2” was released on all streaming services and digital outlets. I use UnitedMasters for the digital distribution of my music. For each album or single UM autogenerate what they call a Master Link, which is supposed to make it easy for people to click on the logo of service they subscribe to and listen to the music right away. I guess it is considered too labor and time intensive to use the search function of any streaming service to find the piece. Okay. This is the master link for the new single “Saudade”. You will notice that there is a pop up that declares “I wanna get to know my fans better. Shoot me your info and I’ll add you to my contacts.”

Pause. Well, that’s not something I would ever say, is it. And I can’t figure out whether I can kill the pop-up altogether. It’s the reason I have never used the master link before. I did figure out that I can change the wording of the pop-up – but what should it say? (It’s probably also why I am not good at social media or promotion… most of the tools make me cringe…)

Let me know what you think of the master link. Useful? Bogus? Honestly, I don’t even know where that info goes, should you add your name and email to the pop-up. UnitedMasters database? Go ahead, I dare you! Also cookies… don’t you hate THOSE pop-ups? We don’t use them on this website. However, we will have to use them to make a subscription platform work better… so you don’t have to sign in every time you visit the page.

Monday

The first day of the rest of my life. That’s from a movie, isn’t it?

Yesterday “guitar + pipe” arrived on digital vendors, streaming and otherwise. It’s the first track I distributed through a different company. They were fast, with a turnaround of only 10 days. I made a mistake in the spelling of the title (“guitar +pipe” – without the space before “pipe”) to see how quickly they will be able to correct the mistake. I uploaded a second single, “Dance 4 Me” from “vision 2020 (Lockdown Version)”, which will become available on the 21st.

I worked on a video about incense smoke. The first footage didn’t look spectacular. This morning I woke up wondering whether the light needed to hit the smoke from below in order for the smoke to stand out. I found the tiny LED light that a friend gave me. It’s meant to be glued or taped to a drone. It did the job perfectly. Sadly it doesn’t put out constant light and so there is some slow strobing going on. But the look is great. You can check out the work in progress here. This afternoon I found another LED light that doesn’t flash and tomorrow I will work on a less “flashy” version.

Got my first vaccine jab this afternoon. Feels like a momentous step. I honestly do not understand anti-vaxers. My dad’s uncle co-invented one of the several polio vaccines that became available in the Fifties. A big deal that was. Vaccines have saved so many lives.

Bandcamp Friday

Today Bandcamp does not take a commission. Here is the new salsa version of “Dance 4 Me”:

That’s a photo of Jon’s fabulous German upright bass – over a century old – that is the glue for this version of the song.

vision 2020 released

I was going to release the album on Wednesday. I liked the date 2020-09-23 as the numbers add up to 9, my favorite number. But why not release the album today?!?! It’s the beginning of a new week. It’s rough out there. This music is upbeat and might make some of you smile… I hope.

Perhaps you can help me… I have to select the one song that is featured on Bandcamp. I first picked Dance 4 Me, then settled on Walking Beside U. Which one gets your vote? Bittersweet?

Fete

The new album has gone through a whole bunch of different titles, from the first working title Rumba Pa Ti, which was a reminder to myself that I wanted to create an upbeat album, to Hu, which I’ll write about separately, to Indigo, and now Fete. This last one seems to stick for several reasons. When Jon heard the first track of the album he sent me a message that said “this song is a party”.

In Köln, in the mid-seventies, we always used the word Fete for party, pronounced with two syllables instead of one… Fete or Fête, comes from the French language. A lot of French words are used in Köln. Portemonnaie means wallet, or Pottmonné in Kölsch, the local dialect. The dialect word Trottewar comes from the French Trottoir, or sidewalk.

Although Indigo was my favorite album title for a while, because the song of that name started a new development for me, it became clear that Fete was the right name for the album.

Because the music is upbeat – joyful is the word several people who listened to new songs used – I wanted a strong color for the cover. I really haven’t used color in ages and for a long time my albums tended to use neutral or earthy tones. I opened Lightroom and searched the 16,000 images I have collected there for the word red. I played around with a few of the images – this is a photo I took when we performed at a theater in Ecuador a few years back – and this one stood out for me. I imported the image to an iPad and played with it. I like the hand lettering which gives the cover the feel of a personal postcard.
Fete
Fete is in the final stages and I hope to have the album finished by the end of July. The ListeningLounge is very old and rickety and I have been convinced to replace it by joining Bandcamp. That means that the LL will go away within the next few months, to be replaced by a Bandcamp page on this website. The album will first be released on Bandcamp in multiple downloadable formats – this should happen sometime in August. Next we will have CDs for sale at our concerts, although I don’t have a target window for that yet. I imagine I will also start selling the CD via mail order. The rest of the usual digital distribution, including streaming services, will have to wait a while.

Fete will be the first album, catalog number 001, for my new label HuHeartDrive.