Updated: August 27th, 2007
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Archives: July-December 2003

As 2003 rolled on, I accepted a role with the new Scene Rep website while grappling with the tracking scene's not-so-positive response to my newly vocal nature. Several personal dramas bloomed into full-on feuds, and I began to grow increasingly frustrated with the direction the tracking scene was moving in.

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2007 -- 2006 -- 2005 -- 2004 -- Jul-Dec 2003 -- Jan-Jun 2003

TiS: Free advice from the peanut gallery - November 28th, 2003

(Originally written for Scene Zine Issue #9, which was published on December 16th, 2003.)

As I'm writing this, it's still late November. Initial word of the upcoming comeback of Trax In Space is still fresh. Christofori has teased everyone behind the scenes at Scene Rep about his interview with Saurin, but he's tight-lipped about what was actually said. So, just like everyone else, I'm counting down the days 'til December 16th.

Trax In Space... back in action again. It was almost unthinkable when it collapsed, and still was just 2 weeks ago. Now, everything has changed. So many unanswered questions, so many different ways to do this... and so many different ways to screw it up royally.

Saurin, forgive me for this, but I can't keep my mouth shut. (I know, I know, that's nothing new.) But the great thing about free advice is that it's free. :) And hey, maybe someone else is planning a scene web site and could benefit from this as well. So, here we go:

Don't focus on the musicians. The tendency in the tracking scene is to bend over backwards to cater to the artists and musicians. But let's be real: as long as you provide a stable web site with a good interface, the artists are going to come. It's one more chance at exposure for their music. They will come, and they will register, and they will list their songs, and they will come even if you make no effort to get them to come. That's not where you should aim your energy.

Do focus on the visitors and downloaders. Having 84,000 songs with nobody there to download them is pointless. So, focus on Joe Listener, who just wants to find a good song or two. Give him the content he wants. Give him something he can't get anywhere else, and he'll keep coming back. That will lead to a healthy and thriving community, and that in turn will bring in more musicians. But it all starts with Joe Listener.

Don't go commercial. Taking TiS commercial last time was perfectly okay in my book. You know me, I'm an out-and-out capitalist. But clearly, it didn't work. It generated a lot of mistrust and suspicion among the oldskool die-hard sceners, feelings that still exist to this day. (More on that later.) And going commercial drove up your expenses, which forced you to go out on a limb financially, and you don't need me to remind you of what a disaster that became. Keep it non-profit this time. The site will be more stable, and your risks will be much lower.

Don't make TiS a reviewing site again. Last time around, you wanted every song to be reviewed because you wanted to help the artists. But TiS was constantly swamped with new songs, and the only way to review them all was to recruit a massive and unwieldy cadre of amateur reviewers. Quality control over the reviews became impossible, which made the reviews useless for artist and listener alike. And even then, you STILL couldn't get every song reviewed. So, don't try it again. Instead, assemble a small, dependable and skilled team of reviewers and pick out the best songs for review. Give the artists good examples to learn from, and give Joe Listener a good song or two to try out.

Don't offer free file hosting. First of all, it's not necessary; The MOD Archive and Scene.org already fill that niche. Second of all, it's a huge expense. I'm sure you remember well how difficult it was to arrange for that much storage space and bandwidth, and it was just one more thing that made TiS so difficult to maintain. Instead, let the artists be responsible for hosting their own files, and just offer them the ability to link to their song from TiS. (On that note, put in a script that disallows URLs from FortuneCity or GeoCities, both of which block third-party server downloads. Other archives right now are cluttered with unusable song links aimed at those servers, and that wastes Joe Listener's time.)

Do offer at-cost file hosting. Sometimes an artist just needs storage space, but doesn't want to go to the trouble of designing their own web site. And it can be difficult finding space to store larger files or MP3s. So if it's feasible, make storage space available to users for a small fee, just enough to cover the expense. Make it clear that it's at-cost, and you'll dodge the complaint that you're trying to make the site commercial again.

Don't pander to your enemies. There are people who will dislike you no matter what you do. You could become a monk who runs a soup kitchen for orphaned kids, and they'd criticize the sodium levels in the soup. Screw 'em. They're small-minded, and they're not worth worrying about. Don't let them get under your skin, and certainly don't let them alter the way you run TiS. If they don't like your web site, let them start their own.

I've given a lot of "don't"s, so I'll end with a "do." Do have fun with this. If you like what you're doing, it's going to be reflected positively in the quality of the site. You have a golden opportunity to rejoin the scene and to do some positive things. So, have fun. Your visitors will thank you.

Good luck, man. Here's hoping you get it right this time. :)

I think I spoke too soon. - November 25th, 2003

I'm sorry, did I say "a warmer reception?" I guess that's still true, even if it involves splashed gasoline and a lit match.

"Reception scene-wide to The Manifesto Revisited has been a bit warmer than last time," Novus wrote, unaware that Vizion was seconds away from smacking the business end of an axe into the back of his thick skull.

So, yeah. That declaration was, to put it kindly, premature. Ah well. I'm always up to the challenge of defending my opinions. And the fact that the written fireworks are adding some spice to the new forums over at Scene Rep is a bonus in my book. Come, join the dogpile! You'll have to register before you can post anything, but hey, Patrick Groove's a nice guy. He won't spam you, I promise. And bouns points if you recognize PG's avatar.

The long-and-short of it seems to be people telling me that my crackpot idea will never work. Which is funny, considering that it already worked with Nectarine earlier this year. Financial trouble. Many sceners. Small donations. Nectarine saved. Much jubilation. Simple concept, folks... There's no fundamental reason why donations won't help other scene sites stay open, and there's certainly no reason to wait for the next near-collapse before we start donating again. More on that coming soon.

Also, I know a teensy bit more about TiS now, but I can't say much. Just watch out for the next issue of Scene Rep's Scene-Zine, which should hit on December 16th. It's gonna be a must-read. An' thayat's ahl ah hafta say abaut thayat.

And finally, in case you haven't noticed, it's almost the end of the month. So if you haven't done your patriotic duty and voted in November's round of The Complete MOD Compo yet, git yer keister over there and do it! Anything less would be un-American.

[walks away humming "The Star-Spangled Banner" under his breath, set in a 4/4 time signature with a kickin' breakbeat underneath the melody]

(EDIT: SceneRep links removed since the site no longer exists.)

Warmer reception. - November 23rd, 2003

Hey, it's August 2004 already, right? You might say it's not, but I guarantee that somewhere in this infinite universe there's a planet that's in the 8th fraction of its orbital year, and in the 2004th year of its calendar system. So there, it's August 2004, and here's my next website update.

The Music Vault has expanded again, with 3 new A+ songs and 14 new A songs, all niftily marked for your downloading convenience. Camoflauge is great in warfare, but it's lousy in web design, so there ya go.

Also, reception scene-wide to The Manifesto Revisited has been a bit warmer than last time: no 8-page scathing rebuttals, no posts with nothing but 12 rows of middle-finger icons, and even a few people saying that I might be right. Of course, I'd rather they say that I am right, but hey, it's progress. I'll take it. (CTG forum. Dead forum links for MODPlug Central, The MOD Archive and Scene Rep removed.)

I plan on further expansions to the Music Vault in the near future, possibly as early as tomorrow, but that all depends on how ambitious I'll feel tonight.

Oh, and how 'bout the three most controversial words in tracking scene history... Trax. In. Space. Just click it, and be intrigued, angered, panicked, enraptured, whatever.

The Novus Reloaded - November 14th, 2003

Okay, think of this as The Novus Reloaded, except there's no thrilling freeway chase. And there's no orgy/rave scene either, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you see it. There is, however, plenty of pontification. Whether or not it makes more sense than the script-based musings of the Brothers Wachowski is up to you.

Anywho, I've once again decided to play Neo to your 14,926 Agent Smiths by revisiting my old Manifesto in an essay entitled, appropriately, The Manifesto Revisited. You might've already read it, but in case you missed it, just scroll down. Oh, and I was right and you were wrong. Neeners!

If that's not enough essay excitement, I've also re-claimed and re-printed several of my essays that have appeared in the Static Line and Scene-Zine tracking newsletters, including my ground-breaking interview with Saurin "Mysterium" Shah of Trax In Space infamy and my rants on the sad state of compos and song-reviewing in today's tracking scene. In some cases they fell victim to well-intentioned revisions by the editors, but this here is my website, so here you'll get to read 'em the way I originally wrote 'em. It's all in the Library.

I've also greatly filled out the Music Vault with 4 new pages of songs. Actually, I did that weeks ago, but I forgot to make my customary Big Deal out of it. I'm remedying that now. Check them out; out of 271 songs, there's gotta be 1 that you like.

Okay, if past history holds true, look for my next site update in August 2004. W00t.

(EDIT: Static Line and Scene-Zine links removed since the sites no longer exist.)

The Manifesto Revisited - November 14th, 2003

In February 2003, I stormed the tracking scene with The Novus Manifesto, my declaration that if the tracking scene is to continue, it needs to be carried on more than just the shoulders of a tiny minority of sceners. I cited the financial failure of countless tracking sites in the past, and wrote that the free ride that trackers have come to expect is simply not feasible. I called on sceners the world over to open up their wallets and donate money, even just a single dollar or euro, to their favorite tracking websites, or else run the risk of watching those sites fold.

It didn't take long for me to be proven right.

Within less than three months, the promising new archive HomeMusic.cc shut down unexpectedly, with a message from the site's founder that there were serious problems with the site that would be fixed... as soon as he had the money to do so. Apparently, the money never materialized, and the site has now disappeared entirely. Along with it went all the hours spent by its reviewers, all the thoughts exchanged on its forums, and countless tracked songs that are now lost forever.

Soon thereafter, the revived Hornet Archive had a close call of its own and very nearly shut down due to a combination of financial and logistical issues. Only this time, probably without even realizing it, many members of the scene followed the spirit of The Novus Revolution and stepped forward with offers of support. It worked; thanks to the generosity of the scene, Hornet remains open to this day.

A similar story played out at that time with Nectarine, a streamed radio station for tracker music with a daily audience in the dozens. Again, financial problems threatened to sink the project entirely. And again, sceners responded swiftly with numerous small donations, all of which added up to enough money to save Nectarine. And again, they did it while probably not even realizing that they were following the Novus Manifesto to the letter.

Three similar stories. Two vastly different outcomes. Which outcome was better? The one where the scene displayed its immense potential for generosity.

Nine months ago, my call for sceners to donate to their favorite tracked sites was met with much skepticism from a multitude of angles.

Some told me that I was crying "Wolf!", that the scene was fine financially. That's what Homemusic.cc's admins thought too. 'Nuff said.

Others nit-picked with me over the specific sites that I used as examples in my Manifesto. Look, if you don't particularly want to support, say, The MOD Archive, that's fine. I'm not telling you to support my favorite site; I'm telling you to support your favorite site. It could be an archive, or a news site, or a group site. Whatever. It doesn't matter. Regardless of what type of site it is, regardless of how big or small the site is, that site's owner pays for storage space and bandwidth. Give him a buck and help him pay for it. Geez, what's so horrible about that?

Still others told me that I would be ruining the scene by "getting money involved in it." Money already IS involved in it. Bandwidth and storage space cost money. Period. That money has to come from somewhere. It can come from the webmaster's own pocket, from donations, or from ad banners and commercial products. Sometimes, the webmaster's pockets aren't deep enough. When that happens, which would you prefer: the webmaster "sells out" and litters their site with pop-up ads and banners, or the visitors step up to the plate and donate money to help keep the site open?

Trax In Space tried the commercial route. We all remember how well that worked, don't we?

Tracking websites are very often like charities. They operate for the good of others, with no financial profit or gain, and very often come with a steep financial price for whoever runs them. If I was urging you all to donate to the Red Cross or UNICEF or Habitat For Humanity, would you get mad at me? Well, this is the same thing. All I'm asking you to do is to donate money to your favorite charity. That's it. Is that so horrible?

If you'd rather spend your money on beer and hardware upgrades, fine. It's your money. Just don't act surprised when your favorite scene website or tracking group shuts down due to financial problems.

It's happened before. And it will happen again.

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