18 September 2010

SoundCloud Players Now Across Site

Posted by Alex at 4:23 pm

The SoundCloud player is now across the site. If you click on Listen you will be presented by this rather lovely window – button subject to colour change.

Although ultimately I will program a customised SoundCloud Javascript player I decided to deploy the player across the site as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this was to simply replace out existing Flash based music player with a SoundCloud player. But how would I be able to pass on the URL of the set to the Player so it knew which album to play?

Well, each of our sets is uploaded with a title like “Les Étoiles – Never To Alight”, which translates to a permalink like http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/les-etoiles-never-to-alight/ on SoundCloud. All I would have to do is transform “Artist Name – Release Title” into a slug like “artist-name-release-title” name, make this into a URL like http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/artist-name-release-title and send this to the SoundCloud Flash player ‘url=’ parameter. This was achieved pretty simply, as Ribcage can work out the name and the title of a release from a given slug.

# We are passed $release_slug from the URL structure - http://recordsonribs/player/$release_slug

$release = get_release_by_slug ($release_slug, FALSE, FALSE);
	if (is_wp_error($release)){
$artist['artist_name'] = get_artistname_by_id($release['release_artist']);
    if (is_wp_error($artist)){
# Setup how this set would be named at SoundCloud
$url = $artist['artist_name']." ".$release['release_title'];
$table = array(
    'Š'=>'S', 'š'=>'s', '?'=>'Dj', '?'=>'dj', 'Ž'=>'Z', 'ž'=>'z', '?'=>'C', '?'=>'c', '?'=>'C', '?'=>'c',
    'À'=>'A', 'Á'=>'A', 'Â'=>'A', 'Ã'=>'A', 'Ä'=>'A', 'Å'=>'A', 'Æ'=>'A', 'Ç'=>'C', 'È'=>'E', 'É'=>'E',
    'Ê'=>'E', 'Ë'=>'E', 'Ì'=>'I', 'Í'=>'I', 'Î'=>'I', 'Ï'=>'I', 'Ñ'=>'N', 'Ò'=>'O', 'Ó'=>'O', 'Ô'=>'O',
    'Õ'=>'O', 'Ö'=>'O', 'Ø'=>'O', 'Ù'=>'U', 'Ú'=>'U', 'Û'=>'U', 'Ü'=>'U', 'Ý'=>'Y', 'Þ'=>'B', 'ß'=>'Ss',
    'à'=>'a', 'á'=>'a', 'â'=>'a', 'ã'=>'a', 'ä'=>'a', 'å'=>'a', 'æ'=>'a', 'ç'=>'c', 'è'=>'e', 'é'=>'e',
    'ê'=>'e', 'ë'=>'e', 'ì'=>'i', 'í'=>'i', 'î'=>'i', 'ï'=>'i', 'ð'=>'o', 'ñ'=>'n', 'ò'=>'o', 'ó'=>'o',
    'ô'=>'o', 'õ'=>'o', 'ö'=>'o', 'ø'=>'o', 'ù'=>'u', 'ú'=>'u', 'û'=>'u', 'ý'=>'y', 'ý'=>'y', 'þ'=>'b',
    'ÿ'=>'y', '?'=>'R', '?'=>'r', '’'=&gt''
$url = preg_replace('/ /', '-', $url);
$url = strtr($url, $table);
$url = strtolower($url);
$url = preg_replace('/\p{P}(?
$url = urlencode("http://soundcloud.com/records-on-ribs/sets/".$url);

There are obviously ways to refactor this, but this is how we did it. We replaced all the foreign characters, lower-cased the string, replaced spaces with hyphens and removed all the punctuation. We then make a URL we can pass onto the SoundCloud player and put this into the standard Flash player after ‘url=’, adding a few additional strings to it to customise. With a quick edit to our Javascript which pops up the player window, to change it to the correct dimensions and we are done. Easy.

12 September 2010

Records On Ribs at SoundCloud

Posted by Alex at 9:03 pm

After many hours of uploading the whole Records On Ribs back catalogue is now available on SoundCloud. Slowly but surely, we will be replacing the old Flash player with a SoundCloud player.

Not only does this provide yet another way to enjoy the music we put out, but it makes it far easier for you to share our music with others. By clicking on the share link over at SoundCloud you can easily add whole albums to your WordPress.com or Blogger site, find the HTML to paste, or share it on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere.

Results in (we’ve even tweaked this one a bit more):

The same goes for individual tracks.

Sharing A Track

Results in:

Soon hopefully these by track and by album embedding features will be available throughout the site. We’d love to see people just plain taking our music and putting it on their sites.

This also means that you’ll be able to listen to any of our tracks through the SoundCloud iPhone app if you so desire.

This isn’t the extent of Records On Ribs on SoundCloud. Les Étoiles has uploaded some of his pre-ROR releases onto there, including offcuts and alternative versions from Never To Alight, entitled Left Luggage and some cuts from his 2004 records From A Closed Room, that I’ve embedded below.

Seasoned Dave watchers might be aware of his previous outing with the band Roquentin. Their existentialist pop record Portraits of Homes and Pictures of Ghosts can be listened to on the site.

EL Heath is also a fairly prolific SoundCloud user, rattling out tracks, some of which might come from future releases over here at a rate of knots. Check this out – hauntological.

Many thanks to the SoundCloud team who have been really supportive of Records On Ribs and provided a whole load of help, in particular Dave Haynes. This included kicking off a command-line uploader for SoundCloud for us to enable the shifting of all our releases onto the site with ease. They wrote the basis of it, we added to it and the program will soon be publicly released. It works as a Ruby script through their excellent API. SoundCloud just makes moving huge volumes of music effortless, a really cool site.

16 December 2009

Ribcage Progress

Posted by Alex at 6:55 pm


We occasionally get e-mails asking as to the progress of Ribcage, the WordPress plugin that runs the back end elements of this site. Progress has been slow, as we have been satisfied using raw MySQL backends to add releases. Yet I can finally show you some screenshots of the beta version of the software I am currently running on my home machine. Hopefully it will show you how easy this software is to use, as well getting some interest from other people who may want to use it in the future. It will, of course, be released under the GPL, open sourced. The intention is that using WordPress, which takes five minutes to install, then grabbing the plugin from the WordPress plugin repository (which anyone can now do within WordPress itself), you could have a working Creative Commons record label up within half an hour. This, we hope, will increase the ease to set up and therefore the numbers of Creative Commons labels across the internet.

Ribcage should be out in the new year to coincide with our two year anniversary, an event that will also be celebrated in a number of other interesting ways! We have a whole load of treats up our sleeves for you.

Photo courtesy of Feathered Tar at flickr.

Read the rest of this entry »

6 November 2009

Music for Free

Posted by Dave at 1:55 pm

With straw-men, insults and shoddy evidence flying around on either side, the recent debates on filesharing and free music (sparked by Lily Allen’s now infamous blog post) exlempify our inability to approach an issue with an open mind and a positive argument.

Free Music Can Be Good For Musicians

Our artists evidently think so, or they wouldn’t have allowed us to distribute it.

I still believe that the primary reason most artists choose to make music is to get their music heard. Buying a guitar, amplifier and a few pedals will cost about £1000.  Practice rooms are about a tenner an hour. Transport to and from practice and gigs is expensive.

It takes time, too.  Months writing music; weeks practicing it; days playing it live and recording it. Hours of burning CD-Rs, printing labels, folding, stapling and assembling. For what? 100 CD-Rs sold (eventually) at £5 a pop? A profit of £300-£400, split between the band. There are easier ways to make money. Lily Allen says free music damages these ‘up and coming artists’. How? They each lose £80 after spending £2000-£3000?

Against that, you can distribute your music for free. EL Heath would not have sold almost 5,000 CD-Rs; but he’s had that number of downloads from RoR and our uploads on Legal Torrents. Indeed, he probably wouldn’t sell that many CDs/LPs if he had a deal with a reasonably sized indie label and some nice reviews in  The Wire. The musician has lost their £80, but they have gained 4,900 listeners.

Releasing music for free can be good for musicians.

Free Music Can Be Bad For Musicians

There are limits on what you can do if you release your music for free.

You can never quit your job to become a full-time musician. You cannot use expensive studios unless you are already rich. You will not even make back the money you spend making your music. It is financially exclusive. Whilst new technology means anyone can make a decent sounding album for not a lot of cash, it’s always going to be beyond the financial means of some people. Yet given that any cash injection from sales or a label would only come after some initial recording, it is difficult to see how people financially excluded from making music are included in the present system.

Furthermore, we don’t believe it is the fault of free music that some people cannot afford to make music. It is a fault of the system. Our economics dictate that people are excluded from a number of activities. Free downloads can only be blamed for damaging DIY musicians from within the capitalist system.

Nevertheless, it is in a capitalist system that we find ourselves and this makes it difficult. Many of our dearest friends struggle to make music within that system and are finding it an ever greater struggle as people stop paying for their records because they believe music should be free.

Yet it is precisely because we are in a capitalist system that we will fight for something else. A system where people are not excluded from making music because they have no money. A system where people are not excluded from buying enough music to satisfy their desires because they have no money. Free music is a utopia, in the present; on behalf of the future…

Free Music can be Good for the World

We believe in things for themselves, not as market commodities. Hakim Bey laments the fact that the internet did not bring about the revolution it promised: he cannot find free carrots online. No, but he can now find free music. Perhaps our example will inspire others to think that they would like to share what they have produced with passion and love for others, for free. Perhaps if enough people did that money would be less important. A gift economy: from each according to their ability to each according to their interests. The prize carrot grower wants all to share her produce, and offers her carrots for free. Furthermore, she takes great pride in sharing her knowledge of how to grow such carrots.

In our utopia, all will be the property of all. The power of the commons will be restored to the people, and from the commons there will be land to farm, carrots to grow and music to listen to.

Free music is good for the world.

30 March 2008

Compulsary Upgrade Post

Posted by Alex at 1:44 pm

I’ve just upgraded the site to WordPress 2.5. Everything should function as expected, but if you have any problems don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

In other news, we have three definite and important releases in the coming months, with a number more in the pipes waiting completion. The first is an EL Heath Remix record. The second Elapse-O’s debut EP for us, released both as download and as a physical CD. Thirdly, there is The Butterfly’s final release, the epic Time Spent In Reconnaissance Is Never Time Wasted, which is a frankly stunning record that has been very much part of my listening habits in the past weeks.

Expect more details in the coming weeks.

24 January 2008

How We Release A Record Digitally

Posted by Alex at 7:40 pm

Some Records...I am proud to announce that we have almost, but not quite, reached the 300 downloads of our releases that I asked you to help with last week. One more push and we should be over that cliff!

In our manifesto we say that “Anyone could do what we are doing”. This is almost certainly the case, and like many labels before us, we are going to let you know, in the DIY spirit, precisely how we do what we do in a series of posts focused on technology and otherwise.

So how do we do it? First off, how do we get a record ready for digital release?

  1. We either receive CDs through the post from our artists, or our artists upload their albums as lossless FLAC files to their FTP accounts on our server. FLACs are, as you might be aware, the same as CD quality, but somewhat compressed. With a CD I carefully rip it to FLAC using Max. Max is a free and open source Mac OS X program that rips CD and converts audio files from format to format with the absolute minimum of fuss. The well regarded Windows equivalent is Exact Audio Copy. I use it instead of using iTunes as a ripper even for importing CDs normally to add to my library. But more of that in a second.With FTP I just grab ’em from the server. I use Cyberduck for FTP, which while not perfect, is very good, and quite acceptable in comparison to similar (but sexier) commercial applications like Transmit.
  2. I tag the FLAC files with a program called Tag! It’s also open source and free and from the same programmer as Max. I ensure the files are tagged correctly with track names and other details and then use Max to automatically convert them to the four different types of music file we use on this site and do neat filenames and tagging. On Records On Ribs we have high quality variable bit rate MP3 (-v 0 --vbr-new LAME for you MP3 snobs out there), FLAC and Ogg Vobris for downloading, 128 kbps constant bit rate MP3 for streaming. To set Max to produce very good quality and potentially transparent MP3s at -v 0 --vbr-new follow these instructions. Originally the plan was to do all this in Ribcage on the server-side using command-line tools (the *nix versions of FLAC, LAME and Ogg), which we did with a couple of records. But our artist’s often odd song titles prevented the script from working properly without an extensive re-write and debug, so I opted for this method.
  3. These files then wing their back over the internet via FTP to the site. To avoid too much carting huge files around around, I create the zip files in a SSH shell logged into our site rather than upload them. I just type in the command and bish bash bosh they are done.
  4. All the details of the release gets added into Musicbrainz and then into our own Ribcage database with relevant copy. Within the next few days I’ll update Ribcage so I’ll only have to enter it on Musicbrainz and it will be slurped into our database with a single click. Artwork is scaled to different sizes and FTPed to the site. Once we click go, it appears live on the site.

Potentially the time between receiving the files over FTP from the artist and having the release live on the site is under two hours, dependent only on internet connection speed. The thing which takes the longest is writing copy about the record, which can sometimes take days if one if having a spot of writers block.

For example, I am assured that a certain artist will be sending a record over to me, possibly even tonight. I’ve got to cook dinner and watch Torchwood, but if he does it should be probably around and about, ready for me to write some copy and post it tomorrow morning, all going well.

Photography by Dan Machold.