Bandcamp Friday, May 2024 fluffy rambles

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For the next 23.5 hours, Bandcamp is waiving their cut of music purchases made on their platform, which makes it an amazing time to buy independent music there.

As always, I have plenty of stuff you can get there (including a recently-released 80-minute meditation album and an hour-long musical journey inspired by a variety of coffee grinders), and you can get a pretty decent discount on my music if you just buy it all at once as a discography.

I also like to keep a checklist of albums to buy on this day, and this month the two albums I bought are a recent release by my friend Sam and the discography of ratwyfe mostly because I heard someone do a cover of his song cryptid and I knew right away that I’d totally dig all of his music.

Anyway. Support independent musicians, both by buying the music that you like, but also spreading the word of mouth of the music that you like, too. You might not think you have much of a voice but every little bit helps way more than you think; every flood begins with a handful of raindrops.

The Dangers of Context Collapse fluffy rambles

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Context collapse is a favorite tool of Internet trolls and other disruptive influences1, but it has so many other implications. It’s important to avoid it, and to recognize where context collapse is leading to incorrect beliefs or actions.

Context collapse itself is the phenomenon of highly-contextual information being used, purposefully or otherwise, in an ambiguous manner which leads to confusion. A pretty common example of this is the word “theory;” in colloquial speech it means the same thing as “hypothesis” in scientific speech. This leads to a very common chain of reasoning: the theory of evolution (in the scientific sense) becomes “just a theory” (in the colloquial sense), which then is purposefully used to sow seeds of doubt in people using the phrase colloquially, when scientifically-speaking it’s established fact.

This ends up being a huge issue in a lot of unexpected places, which can often result in extremely unfortunate results which can negatively impact peoples' livelihoods, even with the best of intentions.

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Un-sticking from Bandcamp fluffy rambles

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So, within a day of the Bandcamp announcement, several folks had already started building their own tools for escaping from Bandcamp. Of particular note (and brought to my attention many times) is one called blamscamp, which is a web-based GUI that builds a web player bundle for itch.io.

This tool definitely has a lot of merit, but in the near term it only handles one specific use case, namely taking a collection of already-encoded-for-the-web mp3s and turning it into an itch previewer. The player itself is nicely-written, but this isn’t the sort of tool which works well for me.

So, I adapted the player engine into my own version, which is a CLI tool. Feed it a JSON spec, audio files, and ancillary data (album art and lyrics and such), and it automatically encodes and tags the album for MP3 preview, high-quality MP3, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC, and builds a web player (based on the original blamscamp’s although it’s diverged quite a lot now). And, if you install butler, it can also automatically upload these bundles to your itch page!

Here is the first public demo of it.

With all that said, I do still intend to keep using Bandcamp as my primary music distribution platform; it’s been very good to me over the years, and just because they’re being bought out by a questionable company doesn’t mean it’ll actually go downhill. But diversifying my offerings is always a good thing, and by posting my music in both places, I get even more of a potential audience. Plus, the satisfaction of owning (a big part of) my own delivery pipeline.

The pyBlamscamp pipeline can also be adapted to anything that takes a bundle of files; it could also be used, for example, to simplify the process of posting albums on Gumroad.

At present the main difficulties of it are that it’s a Python application and that it relies on external encoders. One of my potential change sin the future is to have it self-host the encoder libraries which would make a lot of things easier, and would also make it more feasible to provide a stand-alone application.

It’d also be really handy to have tools that make it easier to create and edit the .json file. That’s definitely a rough edge that’s not suitable for general end users.

There’s also a heck of a lot of things that still need to be done even for my own uses. But for now, this tool is at least ready to get started with.

On bandcamp, gumroad, and itch.io fluffy rambles

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So, recently there’s been a lot of upset in the world of independent creation, because of some very questionable moves taken by Gumroad and Bandcamp, two of the beloved platforms for sharing download-based content.

I’ve already written some of my thoughts about Gumroad, but the recent Bandcamp announcement is still very much in the gnashing-of-teeth phase.

As is the case for both platforms, the general consensus should be that everyone using those platforms should move to itch.io. While itch is a pretty good platform for a lot of things, it’s not a perfect replacement for Gumroad or Bandcamp, and I don’t think that making it a good replacement for those things would be very well-aligned with what itch excels at.

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