Sunday, 23 August 2015

ConBravo: Music & Media

This post is separate from the main ConBravo chronology. It focusses on two panels that occurred in Room 314: Creating music (Saturday), and Crowd funding (Sunday).


Ben Briggs introduced everyone to “FL Studio” from ImageLine. Their free demo lets you work with all the features - you merely have no ability to save the file. He noted that electronic music is mostly copy/paste. 128 beats per minute is a standard beat for “house” music, so start with a drum machine there. You can “paint” the drum tool into the big board (Digital Audio Workstation).

If you select “make unique” you can alter the characteristics of one repetition. “Stretch” will let you increase the time span, but AVOID that, you want to crop and “fit to tempo”. Your most useful tool is Parametric Equilization, changing the level of frequency on a channel. Muddiness in a sound comes from frequencies existing that don’t need to be there.

Golden Rule: Never BOOST a sound, only CUT. If you need something to be louder, cut what’s around it. This is because you have no control over a boost, it simply creates “more sound”. Note that if you can amplify the upper middle frequencies (harmonics), this will boost the fundamental tone, and make your notes more clear. Mastering makes things loud without distortion.

Some other tips: “Change velocity” means change how hard a key is pressed, so volume. For dance music, you want the kick drum to power through. Space between the notes is almost as important as the notes themselves! You need vibrato and things. Don’t set out to copy, but if people get on you about “this sounds like..." remember that there’s only 12 notes, so “there’s gonna be some overlap”.

Amusingly, you can write a lousy melody and then put a chord progression underneath so it makes sense. That trick works the other way too! Ben also noted that he tends to listen to his own music on loop, not out of ego, but because that way he can hear the things that he needs to improve. There was some Q&A at the end, including Grant Kirkhope, but I didn’t write it down.


The “Crowdfunding and Online Patronage” panel featured Lar deSouza and... I think Grant Kirkhope. (Should have written it down.) It was noted how Patreon started as a video sponsoring site, and has now expanded. There is a crowd sourcing problem, in accountability of subscribers, as much as content creators. Such as someone who subscribes, looks at content, then immediately unsubscribes so as to not pay the extra money. (People are entitled assholes. “What’s this money used for?” What do you care??)

On Kickstarters: Make sure to ask for the money you need. There’s a danger in getting LESS, yet still needing to fulfil goals. Yet avoid asking for more than you need too - be honest with yourself. Really think and plan goals properly, don’t propose any stretches that might clutter your creative universe; you may think you won’t get much money, but you might. Note that crowd sources work if you HAVE an audience, it won’t CREATE an audience (there’s so much other noise out there). If you can make it without a Kickstarter, go that route.

Kickstarters will work best if you have the content, and only need to print and ship - kind of like a pre-order. But be clear that’s what you have (or don’t have!). Sobering tale here of “Goblins”, where Tarol had a company run things. Their Kickstarter pitch was that it was done, but then they backed off saying more testing was needed, and then the money and company vanished and Tarol was left on the hook. Effectively people stealing using his name.

IndieGogo is different, in that while Kickstarter is all or nothing, the former can pay out based on partial funds. Either way, be sure you ALWAYS DELIVER. Expect a big spike in donations at the start and end of a Kickstarter. In fact, you can almost predict if it will work when still near the start. If you’re close to your goal near the end, you CAN kick in the rest yourself, but make sure it doesn’t look like you’re doing it to get all the money (and run away).


“You cannot do enough research.” Your homework can include looking at the relative worth of OTHER Kickstarters who are doing a similar thing. There was The Pomplamousse Kickstarter, they did a blog post breakdown showing they took a LOSS in the end, but ate the excess themselves because they were glad to be able to reach their audience. Blind Ferret is another person who did a blog breakdown. Don’t promise “gold coins” by ball-parking, price them out.

Watch for cost changes! On Jan 1st, 2015 the shipping rates in the US increased by about DOUBLE, leading to many sheepish individuals (in part because the change was not well advertised). Some forget to factor in tax and/or shipping entirely - that adds up, easily into the thousands. Even consider factoring in the cost of hiring someone ELSE to do aspects like shipping, which are really time consuming.

You likely don’t want to use a Kickstarter for marketing purposes. THAT SAID, a failed attempt can be a good way to see if your audience is legitimately there. If you don’t reach your limit, see about rearranging costs, cutting corners. “Can we do what we want for half that amount?” There are benefits to failing!! Though if you intend to try again, keep up your promotion, so people don’t forget.

Don’t assume people know you’re raising money. Tweeting twice isn’t enough, you need 15-20 times to get it to all followers... and yes, some who read everything might get annoyed. But you NEED people to see your Kickstarter before it’s gone. (Or you get “What? I didn’t know and I read the comic every day!” “But did you READ THE BLOG??”) Make sure to connect with people on a personal level at the same time - they’re investing in YOU as much as your product.

Don’t assume people even know what a Kickstarter is. (Do you know about BandCamp?) Ask for ReTweets, and for the word to get out, there’s no corporation behind this. You have to prostitute yourself. (But perhaps don’t ask the Pope to ReTweet about your new Metal album.) Also, don’t run a Kickstarter at Christmas, or even in January, as people don’t have as much money to throw around.

IronSpike was mentioned as a “Kickstarter Queen”, who has begun 7 Kickstarters and delivered on the first 5 thus far. There was also mention of a happier story towards the end: Cryptozoic who came in to offer funds, after a Kickstarter which involved someone running off with the money.


I went to the music panel mostly because of my attempts to produce parody math videos. So it wasn’t immediately relevant to me, but there were enough tidbits of interest (and I stayed to the end). I went to the crowd funding panel mostly because literally everything I throw onto the web, from all my fiction writing, to my new web comic, to non-fiction recaps like this, is earning me zilch. So maybe I should have a donate button?

To that end, mostly I learned I need to do loads more research, and that my tiny audience doesn’t merit a Kickstarter at this point. (People have told me to publish personified math. I still doubt there’s a market, and you’ve seen my drawing, right?) Anyway, as a member of said audience, temporarily or not, I’m hoping you found this post useful!

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