Subsquare. I make sounds that sometimes turn into music.

Free track out today – “The Reign”

1st of August, 2013

It’s a dark yet melodic, hard yet soft, strangely driving dubstep affair. Grab it from my BandCamp page:

My second single is finally released!

23rd of April, 2013

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My second single, entitled “Broken”, featuring Jane Dawn on vocals, is finally out. It’s a three-track single with remixes by Irvin and lug00ber which I really dig. Please give it a listen, and share it with others if you like it – you can find links to buy or listen to it here:

If you want to support me by buying it, please consider getting it from Bandcamp or iTunes, since plays on Spotify or Rdio really pays nothing at all to small indie artists such as myself, but I do need to be on those platforms for exposure.

Thanks for the support since “Catzilla” came out late last year – it’s been amazing – I hope you like this track too. I’m really proud of it.

The difficult second track

9th of April, 2013

Okay, so I’m wrapping up the second release (out on April the 24th) and I’m sort of wondering how people will like it. “Catzilla” was on the darker and more aggressive side of things, and this new track has more melodic content. I like it, and I hope everyone else will too, but I’m semi-worried that people expect “more of the same”. Time will tell. :)

Update: it’s out now!

If you want to support me by buying it, please consider getting it from Bandcamp or iTunes, since plays on Spotify or Rdio really pays nothing at all to small indie artists such as myself, but I do need to be on those platforms for exposure.

Thanks for the support since “Catzilla” came out late last year – it’s been amazing – I hope you like this track too. I’m really proud of it.

Kit-list (and why it doesn’t really matter)

2nd of April, 2013

Once in a while I’m asked what gear I use. Though these days it’s usually more along the lines of “You use Massive, right?” – now I don’t blame people for asking that, given that if you ask any aspiring EDM-musician, Massive is probably the soft-synth they can all name instantly.

To answer that question: I do _have_ Massive, but it’s not my go-to soft synth at all. Yeah, I’ve used it here and there, but it’s not even on every track or remix I do. So, I thought I’d write a short post about what software and hardware I use, just to try to draw a picture of how I work when creating music. Not that the list is particulary interesting or even valuable in any way, but just because as I write this I’m stuck on a 11-hour flight to San Francisco and I don’t really have anything better to do.

Software

  • Reaper (DAW) – should come as no surprise really. I have used everything from Sony ACID up to Digidesign Protools and pretty much anything in between. In the late 90s I used Cakewalk (now Sonar) and Logic, but I never really felt comfortable with those DAWs. Same goes for Protools: it’s just so slow and cranky (drivers, OS updates, breaking files) and really not that intuitive. I have touched Ableton Live a few times but I didn’t like it much. Too flat, and the “stacked loop”-approach feels unorganic to me. That said: which DAW you use is honestly completely irrelevant. If anyone ever tells you that you need to use this-and-that DAW to be able to make so-and-so music, you should probably stop listening to that person immediately since they are full of shit. Your DAW is your hammer – you pick your nails and what to build yourself.
  • Tone2 Gladiator 2 (Synth) – this is my go-to synth. It’s usually the first one I try when I want to get to a particular sound. It can create some really gritty stuff and still be silky smooth for pads and strings.
  • NI Reaktor (Synth) – I don’t really use Reaktor itself that much, but rather synths based on it. My favourite Reaktor synth is Razor, which works very well for FM-like insanity leads.
  • NI Massive (Synth) – yeah, it’s on the list, but I don’t use it much.
  • KiloHearts Faturator (FX, distortion) – go-to plugin for subtle saturation as well as nice crunch and overdrive.
  • Fabfilter Pro-Q/Pro-C/Pro-L (EQ, compressor, limiter) – Insanely usable plugins that I use all the time.
  • Brainworx bx_XL V2 (M/S mastering limiter) – Limiting on the mastering stage. Gets things loud without crushing them. Love it.
  • Brainworx bx_digital V2 (M/S digital mastering processor) – EQ and M/S processing for mastering. Mono-control for bass and suchlike.
  • ValhallaRoom (Reverb) – it’s easy to control and sounds awesome. Nobrainer.
  • D16 Decimort (Bitcrusher) – cheap, extensive bitcrusher. Very versatile.
  • D16 Syntorus (Chorus) – for life to multi-band distorted leads, as well as just simple and good chorus.

When it comes to how I work with hardware synths and FX, I usually go sample crazy. Yeah, I don’t have stuff hooked up to the DAW via MIDI for an entire session, but rather work on independent parts in MIDI and then record them and chop up/loop the samples afterwards. Working with audio-files gives me three important things:

1) iron-tight timing (no “put all your drums on channel 1 to keep them in sync” here),
2) control (cut, fade, EQ, effects – by keeping it inside the DAW, it makes things easier to manage as the project files grow),
3) destructive editing (yeah, I like it actually. I hate “having all the possibilities in the world” because then it’s easy to procrastinate and don’t commit to something).

Hardware

  • RME Fireface 800 (Interface) – industry standard audio interface, FireWire-connected. Low latency, excellent transparent sound and super stable.
  • Roland Juno 106 (Analogue) – a classic. Used with a distortion pedal, the two built-in chorus effects and the Voltage Controlled Filter can produce utter madness.
  • Access Virus C (Digital) – another classic, but a so-called “virtual analogue”.
  • Roland TR-909 (Analogue) – need oompfh in your kick drum or to have the best hi-hats in the world? This is the unit.
  • Roland TB-303 (Analogue) – yeah, I do have one and I love it. Bring the resonance and cutoff down low for some insane bass-action. Switch to square and sample away. Also good for classic acid lines of course.
  • Arturia Minibrute (Analogue) – made in 2012, this new (!) analogue synth from french software makers (!) Arturia is the most fun you can have without breaking any laws.
  • Jomox Xbase 888 (Digital+Analogue) – drum machine for more creative sounds. Uploading short samples and playing around with it can yield interesting results, though I rarely take the time to do so.
  • Jomox T-resonator (Analogue) – time-delayed resonating filter. Feed something into this and it’ll turn into a resonating monster of a sound. Create lifts and fills with random inputs in seconds of tweaking.

It’s important to restate that while I do use some outboard gear and hardware synths, there is little that cannot be replicated with software today*, it’s simply that I work faster by quickly turning knobs to getting the sound I want and then sampling it than by staying totally in the software domain. Therefore, this list should not be seen as any sign for you to give up if all you have is a laptop and some software.

Don’t be fooled by massive (pun intended) hardware rigs or mega-desktop computer-monsters littered with all the latest releases from all your favorite music software vendors: learn a few things and learn them well, then add to that knowledge with more tools as needed.

If I can offer any advice (or you care to take it) it’s this: learn your tools. Read the manuals, then learn your tools again. A sawtooth output of Massive is no more or less basic than a sawtooth output from some random freeware VSTi you find on KVR. Also: another piece if advice – if you just want to get your idea down before its gone, or a sound fits well within your project: there is absolutely nothing wrong with presets.

* except the TB-303. Nothing beats the real thing :)

Blog moved

15th of March, 2013

Hi all – since Posterous decided to call it quits, I had to move my blog elsewhere. It was somewhat cumbersome to first export from Posterous, then import to WordPress.com, then export from WordPress.com and into a self-hosted WordPress install, but hey – it works. :)

The page isn’t 100% up to snuff yet, but I’ll fix it this weekend. The most important part was to get my content out of Posterous before it shut down.

A month of Bandcamp pay-what-you-want

18th of January, 2013

Update: my new EP is out – give it a listen!

As promised, I’ve collected some stats from the first month of traffic on the Catzilla EP on Bandcamp.

It’s been very interesting to track where people are coming from, and not least: how many plays I’ve been getting and how many people decided to pay for the EP.

Since I put it out as pay-what-you-want, there was always an option not to pay anything at all, which I’m totally fine with as this was always going to be a promo effort, and not a money-making venture.

So, without further ado, here are some hard facts from 30 days of Bandcamp “pay-what-you-want” data:

  • 4244 hits on the EP page
  • 3886 streaming plays on the same page
  • (+ 2165 plays from the embedded player, mostly from piracy sites, unfortunately) 
  • 211 downloads
  • 29 purchases
  • 86.68 USD in revenue (before 15% in fees to Bandcamp)
  • 220 e-mail addresses collected (from both free and paid downloads)

This means that..

  • Roughly every 7th person who downloaded the EP, also paid something for it
  • The average price they paid was ~2,99 USD 
  • ..or ~0,99 USD per track, if viewed that way (because individual track download was disabled on this EP)

0,99 USD per track is identical to the price iTunes charges customers, which indicates that people have established a certain standard value for downloadable music.

This also means that even with all those unpaid downloads, each EP download on average still generated ~0,41 USD in revenue, because the paid downloads make up for the unpaid ones.

Considering that after the fees on iTunes, each 2,97 USD sale (the full EP price) generates ~2,08 USD in revenue, I’m happy with these figures. Of course, I do wish for more traffic on the site, as increased traffic = increased revenue. Nobody is getting rich off of these numbers, but it’s encouraging to see that things are indeed not as bleak in the digital music download-world as some want to paint it.

When you can give away your music for free and still make an average income of roughly half of what being on iTunes would generate, the pay-what-you-want model has a right to live and prosper.

I am still waiting (and will be waiting for some time) for the iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Rdio numbers, but when I have them I will also share these with you guys.

In addition to numbers above, I also wanted to mention that the highest price someone paid for the EP was 10 USD, and the lowest was 0.5 USD. Clearly, some have more money/appreciation, and some have less. Even with the large gap in what people choose to pay, I am very happy for every single paid download, as it serves as validation for what I do and how people perceive it.

I hope this has been an interesting bit of trivia for you guys, have a nice weekend!

State of the demoscene: 2012

8th of January, 2013

NOTE: this page is outdated. See my updated report here: blog.subsquare.com/state-of-the-demoscene-1991-2014/

This is an update piece for a quite extensive post I wrote more or less exactly one year ago called State of the demoscene: 1991 – 2011 which you should probably check out for the background on this post. To put it in short and simple terms: I looked at the data from Pouet.net, the biggest and most complete database of demoscene productions in existence, and collected the numbers into categories and graphs to more easily spot trends and ongoing changes within the scene.

I have now refreshed the data with info from 2012, and will present a few charts and highlight a few observations on the activity of the previous year.

 

But first, some non-charts

I also looked at a few stats that are not illustrated with graphs:

  • The amount of associated parties with releases (aka “demoparties with releases”) which peaked in 1999 with 113 parties and hit a low in 2010 with 63 parties. It went up a bit in 2011 to 81, and back down again to 71 last year.

    Conclusion:
    fewer parties are being arranged, but thankfully the amount seems to have plateaued at a steady level.
  • The amount of active (aka “logged in”) users on Pouet. This is not as much of a production statistic, but more a reflection of the average activity level of the surrounding community of this particular site. It might be true then to say that the activity of discussing demos have moved to other venues, because it’s been a steady decline in user activity since a the monthly average peaked in 2008 with 633 logged in users, which is now reduced to 524 in 2012 – a 17% reduction in activity over four years.

    Conclusion:
    less people are logging in to Pouet and posting either in the BBS or on prod pages, and this amount also seems to have plateaued. Discovery of new prods as well as the discussion and commenting on them seem to have move to other venues, such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • The amount of groups associated with releases. Again, not much of a prod statistic, but more of a reflection on how demos are being published. From a peak of 1032 registered groups in 1996, we are now down to 575 in 2012a 44% reduction in 16 years.

    Conclusion:
    the old paradigm of getting together in a demo group and then sticking together and only releasing productions under that “label” is indeed going away. The way demos are being made these days are more free-form and less formal. People from different groups band together to release co-ops.

Total demoscene production output, all platforms

I’ll start with perhaps the most important chart, for those interested in knowing the pulse of the current demoscene community: the total amount of productions released in 2012, compared to the past. The total is 859 productions, up from 794 in 2011. Overall, the last four years seem to have declared the current production level, which has indeed plateaued. So, we can say with some certainty that the decline has apparently stopped for now, which is good news.

 

Demosceneproductiontotals2012

Platforms

When we break it down to the various platforms represented in the chart above, things start to get interesting. For the first time since 2005, Windows is showing increased activity. In fact, Windows is the main driver behind the overall production output, since most other platforms are more or less at a stand-still, with only minor changes from previous years.

Prodsbyplatforms2012

If we remove Windows from the chart, it allows us to take a closer look at what’s going on on the other platforms:

Prodsbyplatformsnowindows2012

As you can see, the last two years of somewhat unexpected increase in C64 activity seems to have dropped off quite heavily, going from 161 productions in 2011 to 134 productions in 2012. The Amiga and Web (WebGL+Flash+JavaScript) platforms remain more or less unchanged, while Linux and Mac show a moderate increase.

The big surprise (apart from Windows) is the resurgence of DOS, which keeps the momentum from last year and have doubled in activity since the all-time-low in 2010. One theory is that the tiny intro categories is driving this trend.

 

Categories

So far, we’ve only looked at the platforms that the productions run on, but as with last year’s report, I also looked at what types of productions are being created.

Prodsbycategory2012

Demos, the oldest and most popular form of demoscene productions appear to have fought off the decline, and is now actually showing an increase in activity of 4%. Not a lot, but at this point, any increase is positive. The other two major categories, 4k intro and 64k intro have also plateaued, with 4k intro staying still while 64k intro actually also showing increased activity – 32% more to be exact. Still, 4k intro remain a twice as popular category as 64k intro.

 

Final words

So, there you have it. In short: things appear to have stabilized when we look at the overall output volume, which is a very good thing. It appears that the current demoscene community have reached its comfort level in terms of the amount of demos and intros it creates every year, but we should not overlook the perhaps more important factor, which is the quality of the productions released.

Since this is highly subjective and hard to quantify, I will not go into detail and instead encourage the reader to visit Pouet.net and have a look at the top 100 productions released in the last year.

(note: that link shows you the last 365 days from when you click on it, so it’ll keep sliding into 2013 if you happen to read this post at a later point — just so you know :)

 

 

 

Catzilla the EP is out!

20th of December, 2012
Catzilla_cover_template_600x600

My new EP/single “Catzilla” is released today! I’m really looking forward to hearing what people think of it, since it has taken quite a while to get done. It’s released in advance of the main benchmark tool Catzilla from ALLBenchmark (for which I did all the sound and music) which is scheduled for release in January 2013.

Anyway, enough chit-chat — you would do me a great service if you listen to, share or perhaps even buy the EP. It has two great remixes (and if you buy it on BandCamp you even get some special bonus features!):

BandCamp: Listen and get it!
iTunes (EU): Get it!
iTunes (US): Get it!
Rdio: Listen now!
Amazon MP3:
 Get it!
Spotify: Listen now!
Google Play: Get it!
SoundCloud: Listen now!

 

Since releasing a soundtrack for a benchmark tool is something that I don’t think has been done before, I plan to share some insight into the stats of BandCamp, iTunes, Spotify and digital distribution when I start getting numbers from these sites (which should be around February next year — no, really — old media still dominates the stats :)

Update: here is the video as well:

 


Catzilla from Plastic Demoscene Group on Vimeo.

Catzilla – part 1

17th of October, 2012

For the last months I have been silently (though, not quite that silently, if you ask my wife) working on the music and sound effects for a project called Catzilla. It’s a PC benchmark suite (like 3D Mark, Aquamark etc — a piece of software that tests your computers graphical and computational power and allow you to compare that to the tests done by others).

Catzilla features a very, very nice non-interactive sequence that’s rendered in real-time, and this part is set to music and sound effects, which was my responsibility on the project. I can honestly say that I’m blown away by how it all has come together, and while the final thing isn’t released yet (the beta is going out to early signups so add your e-mail to the list if you want early access!) the teaser trailer is out — check it out:

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP6kByicO80]