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March 13, 2021

The Mighty Adrian McEwen, Maker Par Excellence, the Co-founder of DoES Liverpool, the author of Designing the Internet of Things, Host of Ignite Liverpool, kindly bought a copy of The Company Freak album, which was quite a shock. That’s the last thing I thought anyone would do. Thanks, Adrian.

I post songs on Bandcamp so I can hear them in context. Though I could use iTunes or even just play them in Finder, I like to hear the songs as if they were a proper album, on a proper streaming service, with all the associated file compression, gaps between playback, accompanying bumf, and rubbing shoulders with other songs for reference. I use the platform to tell me whether any given mix is finished or not.

You mix at micro level but your songs are listened to at macro level. Changes to a mix are made in tiny increments: 0.2 of a decibel on the shaker, a 3 degree turn of extra reverb on the snare, an acoustic guitar panned marginally to the right. But when we listen, we’re not concerned with anything of that nature. The song either appeals or it doesn’t. But it’s impossible to know when you’re mixing how it will sound at that macro level. The analogy I like best is I’m creating pictures on earth that will only be seen from space. Something like that. So using Bandcamp is my way to get away from the mix and view the song from a great height, which is how the casual listen will hear them.

I know the songs aren’t ready for public consumption. Most of them need remixing. They all need mastering. I need to come up with a better cover than the one I bodged one night when I needed to get to bed. But I didn’t think that was a problem because the public didn’t know the songs were online. I hadn’t told anyone about the Company Freak Bandcamp site. And when I discovered the widget for embedding a song in a blogpost, I gave it a whirl, thinking no one would see it anyway, because it’s so long since I blogged, anyone back in the day who was in the slightest bit interested in my blog would have wandered off to websites elsewhere where the owner actually made an effort to post once in a while.

Then Adrian paid for a copy of the album. Adrian is Old Skool. I’m guessing he uses an RSS feed reader to keep track of dozens of his friends’ blogs. (He’s one of the few people who is still following this blog, so I could ask him directly – Adrian, do you use an RRS feed reader to keep track of your friends’s blogs?)

Adrian is a great champion of the work of others. He’s a magnificent collaborator, he runs Ignite events, (where lots of speakers get the chance to make short presentations on the topic of their choice). On Twitter, he said he was happy to buy a copy of the Company Freak album as largesse, as encouragement for me to do more. That says a huge amount about Adrian’s heart: you can tell why he’s good as a tech community leader, why his events have been running for over ten years and are still going strong.

And it has worked. The fact he has given the album a listen, that he’s shelled out for something that’s half-finished, has given me a real boost. It coincided with another friend saying she liked my singing. (Thanks, Jane). These two things have given me a shot in the arm, a little faith in what I’m doing. There’s only so much ticking along in obscurity that a person can do before they need to step out into the open, only so many rejection letters before any sane person questions why they’re doing it.

Suddenly, it’s like I’ve got a target audience, someone to mix for. Kurt Vonnegut said one of the secrets of his writing was to have a target audience in mind. In his case, it was his sister. In my case, I’ve got Adrian and Jane, two good people whose sensibilities and viewpoint I largely share. So instead of mixing for a distant, unknowable wider world, I can focus the mix on what would work for those two people.

Things like that make such a difference.

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