Welcome to the World of Tomorrow with Nicole Dieker (Episode 85)

Nicole Dieker wears a lot of hats, as well as a brown coat. She's a freelance copywriter and ghostwriter, pens fiction, and writes essays. She's also a musician who bootstrapped herself out of a convention to which she returns every year, a rock climber, a Firefly fan, a whiskey drinker, and much more. Nicole wears her earnings on her sleeve, too: she discloses in regular posts precisely how much she's made in her freelance career.

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Show notes

Live in Portland: Book Reading and The Doubleclicks (Episode 75)

Listen in as The Doubleclicks, a geeky two-sister band, perform four songs, and four authors read parts of their reported features from The Magazine: The Book at our last live book event in Portland, Oregon. The event was held at Reading Frenzy, and features John Patrick Pullen, Alison Hallett, Chris Higgins, and Elly Blue.

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This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons.

We're sponsored this week by Cards Against Humanity, which just launched a site where you can buy directly from them, including their Bigger Blacker Box and their 2012 and 2013 holiday packs, the profits from which are donated to charity.


Thanks to patrons George O'Toole, Jonathan Mann, and Sean Wickett for supporting us directly through Patreon! You can back this podcast for as little as $1 per month. At higher levels, we'll thank you on the air and send you mugs and T-shirts!

Show notes

Chloe Eudaly owns the bookstore Reading Frenzy. It raised over $50,000 via Kickstarter to move its store after losing its downtown lease and then having a space fall though. If you visit Portland, you have to stop by.

Andy Baio is one of the fellows behind the XOXO festival, and is in the middle of fundraising the return of Upcoming, a site he co-developed, sold to Yahoo, and recently bought back.

John Patrick Pullen read from "Beacon of Hope." Alison Hallett read from "What Lies Beneath." Elly Blue read from "Hub and Spoke." And Chris Higgins read (the footnotes) from "Playing to Lose."

The Doubleclicks performed four songs for us: "Worst Superpower Ever," "Oh, Mr. Darcy," "Impostor," and "Velociraptor." They were guests on this podcast in February 2014.

Sailing in Brackish Waters with Maggie Vail and Jesse von Doom (Episode 73)

Maggie Vail and Jesse von Doom are the co-executive directors of CASH Music (Coalition of Artists and Stakeholders) a non-profit organization that brings an open-source approach to music distribution and production. CASH focuses on educating around those ideas through online resources, stakeholder events, and face-to-face workshops, as well as offering a software platform.

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Thanks to patrons George O'Toole, Jonathan Mann, and Sean Wickett for supporting us directly through Patreon! You can back this podcast for as little as $1 per month. At higher levels, we'll thank you on the air and send you mugs and T-shirts.

Show notes

Maggie mentioned two early groups that helped independent artists and labels handle digital distribution: the for-profit Merlin and the trade group A2im. Maggie worked with bands at Kill Rock Stars for 17 years before becoming the co-head of CASH.

Jonathan Coulton is on CASH's board, and I spoke to him about his career in "Baby Got Back Catalog," March 2013. Back in 2000, Courtney Love explained how the sausage of music-industry accounting in big labels is designed to rip off artists.

I visited the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in 2012, and wrote "The Sound of Silence" for The Magazine about the issues of preservation and rights. Pandora has a good explanation of how music rights have to be licensed in America.

Jesse received a fellowship from the Shuttleworth Foundation, which has freed them a bit from the endlessly cycle of fundraising to move forward and grow the staff. Dan Sinker is in charge of the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project for the Mozilla Foundation, and the founder of Punk Planet, an underground culture magazine.

Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves with The Doubleclicks (Episode 64)

Photo by Jesse Kirk

Photo by Jesse Kirk

Angela and Aubrey Webber are the musical group The Doubleclicks, bringing geeky music to nerdy folk. The sisters never intended to form a band, but when Aubrey joined her sister Angela in Portland a few years ago, her cello coupled with Angela's singing caused enough of a stir for them to join forces and write songs about Dungeons & Dungeons, the Curiosity rover, and not dissing the geek girl. We talk about all this and their absurdly successful Kickstarter campaign that just closed.

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Show Notes

As with so many Internet-friendly musicians, Jonathan Coulton was a big influence. Musician Marian Call is a buddy of theirs. Aubrey attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where their father teaches. Angela has an inordinate number of cat keyboards. Ben Folds Five recorded Whatever and Ever Amen in a house, not a studio, which mildly discomfited the Klezmatics, according to Folds. Steve Martin's autobiography of his stand-up career, Born Standing Up, explains his long journey to be an overnight success. Portland has a unicyclist who plays "The Imperial March" on a set of flaming bagpipes while wearing a Darth Vader mask.

Here's the Dungeons & Dragons song that started this whole chain of events off. Paton Oswalt declared the end of geek culture in 2010 because it had been co-opted: "The problem with the Internet, however, is that it lets anyone become otaku about anything instantly." MetaFilter are the most "delightful and most pedantic" commenters on the Internet; it's run by the Webbers' fellow Portlandian Matt Haughey.

Principal Skinner says, "We need a name that's witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it." That name was the Be Sharps.

The Doubleclicks performed their Curiosity song, "Imposter," at XOXO. The sweetest thing is that Angela forgets the words at some point, and the audience buoys her along. Song Fu is a kind of writing prompt for songwriters. Ken Plume ran the contest.


I Am Super Mann, and I Can Sing Anything with Jonathan Mann (Episode 51)


Since January 2009, Jonathan Mann has posted a song every day. Not five days a week: seven days a week. There is no rest for the wickedly productive. While he makes his living by writing and performing bespoke songs for organizations, Jonathan never stops creating for himself — and his fans.


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This podcast is made possible through the support of sponsors and patrons. This week's episode is sponsored by, well, us! The Magazine, which runs The New Disruptors, has a crowdfunding campaign underway to fund a beautifully designed hardcover print edition drawn from work published in its first year. (There's an ebook version, too.) You can download a PDF sample of what the book will look like.

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Show Notes

"You've Got to Have a Gimmick." Jonathan's "The iPhone Antenna Song" was played by Steve Jobs at the "Antennagate" press conference.

Jonathan made a living for a while entering video contests. A friend of Jonathan's runs Online Video Contests, a site devoted to tracking and listing, uh, online video contests. (Lex Friedman, my buddy and the guy whose employer sells ads for this podcast, won the Ask Me Another quiz show "contest," and Paul and Storm recorded the results.)

Microsoft had a Bing jingle contest, which Jonathan won. M.G. Siegler of TechCrunch was not amused. Jonathan responded with a song.

Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn didn't create Pomplamoose on purpose, but it was a blazing success in views — not revenue. Jack explained the challenge of being ridiculously popular, not making much money, and trying to be true to one's own vision in an XOXO talk this year; you can watch the video. I interviewed Jack for the New Disruptors as well.

Jonathan and his then-girlfriend recorded the song, "We've Got To Break Up." It went viral. Jonathan Coulton launched his career with a Thing a Week, which, for him, was a song. Mr. Mann's friend, Chris Piascik, draws something every day — but only Monday to Friday! For which Jonathan pokes fun at him. You can have the Pike Place fish-throwing gang come and do a corporate team-building event for you.

Steve Wozniak's wife, Janet, commissioned a Mann song: "That's Just the Woz." Jonathan made an astonishingly strange video for Movado.

Call of the Wild with Marian Call (Episode 47)

Photo by  Brian Adams

Photo by Brian Adams

Marian Call is an Alaskan chanteuse who found an audience after winning a Firefly-related song contest in 2007. She has run her music career as an independent grassroots effort ever since. She connects with her fans constantly and directly, both through social media and crowdfunding, and sleeping on their floors during tours and house concerts. She spends a lot of time on the road, and we talked in person (appropriately enough, in my living room) right after GeekGirlCon 2013 in Seattle in October. She lives on Twitter @mariancall and is currently on tour in Europe.

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Show Notes

Marian didn't watch Firefly when it first aired, but she came to the show and loved it later. Her winning song was about the character Saffron, played by Christina Hendricks, and was called, "It Was Good for You Too." It became part of the album Got to Fly, which was commissioned by Quantum Mechanix, and contains songs inspired by both Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.

Marian cites the influence of They Might Be Giants (listen to a great interview on Unprofessional of one of the two leadmen, John Flansburgh) and Jonathan Coulton, who I interviewed about his life's work and his collaboration with Greg Pak on a comic-book series derived from his songs. We mentioned my recent interview with Devin Lucas, the director of the upcoming film about Dr. Demento.

Napoleon Dynamite also affected her profoundly. Spoiler horn! Some secrets are given away. (Thanks to Jason Snell for loaning me the spoiler horn from The Incomparable.)

Buffy or Willow? The eternal question, but Marian hasn't watched Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. However, Joni Mitchell and Weird Al Yankovic get shout-outs.

She's a big fan radio stations, public and otherwise, and notes that KidStar (KKDZ-AM) was part of her childhood, but it didn't survive for long, sadly. KSKA in Alaska is where she learned to edit audio.

Neither of us could remember the group that was very early in asking for Internet-based patronage of its music. It wasn't Trent Reznor, and we know Radiohead came later with a pay-as-you-want approach. Marian recalls one reward was signed drum skins. Does anyone remember who we're thinking of?

Marian's Donors' Circle was a self-created patronage system she posted in 2009, and it let her pick up pieces of her life (almost literally), return to Alaska, and get back to writing music in earnest. (Please note her correct use of the apostrophe.) Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy explains the everyday nature of contracts with patrons that described requirements as specific as the type and quantity of blue paint.

Bach composed the Goldberg Variations for Count Kaiserling, an insomniac, who hired Johann Gottlieb Goldberg to perform for him during sleepless nights. Bach was paid "with a golden goblet filled with 100 louis-d'or." Or it's possibly a made-up story.

Indie Alaska creates small documentaries, and shot this 5-minute profile of Marian. A female troubadour was called a trobairitz. Steve Martin's early-life autobiography, Born Standing Up, explains how he spent years touring constantly before becoming an overnight success — and then so popular he quit stand up entirely. Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged in Douglas Adams' Life, the Universe and Everything is bored of his immortality.

Marian funded her European trip and resulting live album with a series of quests! R. Steven coped with the heartbreak of USB duplication for his Kickstarter. Radiolab had an episode on the problem with generosity that comes in the wrong direction: blood donated after crises in which donated blood wasn't needed.

I Want to Teach the World Wide Web to Sing with Jon Mitchell (Episode 45)

Photo by   Tina McConnell.  

Photo by Tina McConnell. 

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Jon Mitchell was a mild-mannered reporter at a major metro-webbian publication, Read Write. He left to pursue new ideas about how musicians could find new audiences. He wrote an extraordinary essay about the future of musician-led podcasts recently, and we discuss him, mindfulness, the importance of collaboration, and music. He co-hosts The Portal with fellow musicians and friends Kirk Benttinen and Rebecca Marcyes.

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Show Notes

The book Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains how to create a state of harmony in life. "Chemo brain" is a term for the lack of mental clarity that chemotherapy can, often just temporarily, introduce in the mind of a patient.

Jon writes has attended Burning Man for several years and writes for their official blog. Brian Lam has calmed down. His The Wirecutter and related best-in-category product sites have carefully selected and exceedingly deeply researched recommendations.

Please read Jon's "Love Can Save the Media" essay. Jon cites Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin's Back to Work podcast as a significant influence. Live painting for events and concerts is a thing you can hire in. Jon's co-host on The Portal, Kirk, also helps produce "LIVE in the living room," which Jon calls "a party, but it's professional."

He Likes Big Bots with Sir Mix-A-Lot a.k.a. Anthony Ray (Episode 41)

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Sir Mix-A-Lot, a.k.a. Anthony Ray, may have become best known for "Baby Got Back" over 20 years ago, but his career spans nearly 30 years, and he's never stopped trying to create a genuine connection with his fans. He's a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, technologist, and car aficionado. He runs the independent label Rhyme Cartel. Find him on Twitter @therealmix.


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Show Notes

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is one of the biggest acts out of Seattle in the last 30 years. Mix had something cooking with Lewis when we spoke, which was an appearance in the video for White Walls in early September.

A couple of years ago, Anthony's "Carz" video topped 1.2 million views on YouTube. Anthony drops in with his wheels to Exotics at Redmond Town Center every week.

I spoke with Jack Conte of Pomplamoose (with Nataly Dawn) and Patreon in "Pompla Up the Volume" (Episode 39). The original Dragnet movie, before the series, was so incredibly square that it was hip.

"Baby Got Back" was pulled from MTV for its sexual content, which turned it into a hit. I wrote about Jonathan Coulton's version of "Baby" being copied by the TV show Glee for the Economist, and he and I talked about that and a lot more in "Baby Got Back Catalog" (Episode 16, March 2013). Mix made a sort of self-parody response to "Baby" about men called "Big Johnson."

Patty and Mildred Hill were pioneers in early childhood development in the late 1800s, and wrote the music (but not lyrics) for what became "Happy Birthday to You." Mildred is believed to have written an essay (PDF link) under the name Johann Tonsor that in 1893 predicted that African-American music as it had developed would form the basis of "a distinctively American music." (Warning to readers: the essay is a product of its time in terms of its racial descriptions.)

Dust to Digital recovers music from 78 rpm records and produces glorious curated collections. Its Opika Pende was nominated for a Grammy, and collects music from Africa from 1909 to the 1960s.