Music, Labels, The Internet, And Streaming Services

The other day I shared Benn Jordan’s latest video regarding Spotify and mentioned that I’d post some thoughts. When I started to write this, I went back and re-read two pieces that I keep on hand:

Both of those articles opened a can of worms, especially when you think of them as older companion pieces to the video.

While a lot of people thought (and still think) the music industry was/is evil, no one was really prepared for Big Tech.

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Linux Almost Six Months In

Almost half a year into the Great Linux Experiment and I’m still here.

HP Linux Whoo!!

The last time I tired running Linux as a desktop OS was back around 2001. It went so horribly sideways that I lasted maybe two days. Then again this was 2001 and while I could get Linux (Mandrake) installed, couldn’t get the damned thing online. So it was essentially a weekend of yelling and screaming to myself because I had no Internet to yell and scream into.

Now I can scream all I want, anytime I want. Here are a few things I’ve discovered:

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2023 – Here We Go

To start 2023, I decided to move everything back to where it began. I registered nicholastoone.com well over a decade ago, so that’s where everything is going to be. The Low Budget Lifer domain will not be renewed and will fall by they wayside sometime in late April. No more clever URL’s. No more content creating on whatever the big platform of the day is. No more playing with SEO or whatnot. Just me in my little corner of the Internet.

I was going to post a big, blathering piece about 2022 but I couldn’t find the right tone. Everything I wrote sounded overly bitchy, or overly elitist, or overly preachy. In the end, I’ve settled on a short list of what could be called resolutions.

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2022: Books

I read more in 2022 than I have in recent years. I was a voracious reader in my teens and early twenties but tech got its hooks into me over the years and reading books just fell by the wayside. I’ve been working on changing this and for 2023, I plan to read even more.

I’m not what you’d call a fast reader. My rate is a little more than a book a month; a “book” being +/- 400 pages. I have a habit where I will re-read sentences or paragraphs that I find particularly excellent. I also spent too much time on my damn phone and not enough time with my nose buried in books.

So without further ado…

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They Knew You Before You Were Famous – The Just Stop Messing With It Mix

Here is a song I titled: “They Knew You Before You Were Famous”

Click here for Lyrics (Yes! Lyrics!)

They Knew You Before They Were Famous


Song Notes

I’ve been working on this track for far, far too long. My problem is that I just can’t settle. I tweak and tweak and re-do and tweak some more. “If I just add this one more little bit…”

I need to learn to stop fucking with things and just get the songs done. Less is more, as they say.

So here it is. I finally just stopped where I was and decided to put it out there. Maybe there will be another mix at some point but, for now, it’s done.

This one was started on Windows and finished on Linux. I really tried to get the song going in Mixbus, but ended up making a righteous mess of it all. No matter, Reaper was  here to save the day. The final mix was done using Reaper Plugins (mostly ReaComp and ReaEq) and Room Reverb from ElephantDSP.com.

The big thing about this tune is that it has vocals. This is the first time I’ve written lyrics and actually sang anything (other than backing vocals) since early 2013. It took a while for the words to come, but once an idea formed, I put pen to paper and it all came together.

Now that this one is done, I’ll work to complete the next tune, which is only lacking finished lyrics and recorded vocals. I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to keep tweaking and just get it done. Hopefully I’m not lying to myself; especially since there are another thee songs in half finished states that need my attention.

For now, enjoy “They Knew You Before You Were Famous”

They Knew You Before You Were Famous – Lyrics

They Knew You Before They Were Famous

Lyrics and Music by Nicholas Toone. ©2022.

So here they are again
They’re scratching at your door again
I gotta say that they’re surprised you went and showed your face again
They all came and paid the fee
And crowded close reluctantly aware …
( …of the expected beats that never, ever came to be… )

Now they’re not sure this is the place
And they’re not sure yours is the face
It seems to them the entertainment promised somehow was erased
So here they are again
They’re scratching at your door again
‘Cos they’re upset that you’d neglect
To genuflect only to them

— CHORUS —
That’s what was said, yes
That’s exactly what they said
Screaming under the pandemonium of your adulating rank and file

That’s what was said, yes
That’s exactly what was said
“Why did you change your style and leave us exiled in favour of everything we revile?”

(you must … they want you to … you must)

Twist and dance and spin
Exactly like your first time in
The pale light of the barfly stages, part time jobs, minimum wages
Starve so you can feed your muse
Allow the world to turn its screws
Don’t think about what’s captivating; hit repeat they’re right here waiting

From the start they advocated
So long as you were compensated
Less than they would ever see which would serve to guarantee that
They’ll be here again
They’re knocking on your door again
‘Cos they’re surprised that you’d decide to not capitulate to them

— CHORUS —

They’ll commiserate and flagellate
But there’s no chance they’ll abdicate
The righteousness and piousness that they employ to deviate themselves
… from what they view as tainted
Squeaky clean, contaminated with the pleasures of the masses
Just ignore rose coloured glasses

Chop your roots and plant new seeds
Nostalgia’s where they group to feed and
Castigate you if you haven’t spent enough time on your knees
Look, here they are again
They’re kicking in your door again
‘Cos they’re confused that you’d refuse their retrospective schemes again

— CHORUS —

Cheat Sheets

I’ve never really liked the term “cheat” when it comes to learning and doing things. When I was young, the expectation was to memorize everything, be tested on it and the more you remembered, the better grade you received and, I guess, the better person you were.

We were taught that using any kind of aid was cheating, and cheating was wrong. It was an automatic fail if you got caught finding a way to complete the questions you couldn’t remember the answer for.

At my first “real job”, I remember frantically trying to remember some piece of SQL code I had learned when a Dev said to me:  “Jesus, dude, just look it up”. I seemed to have forgotten that when I was building websites on my own, I constantly referred to my HTML and CCS books. By myself, this was ok. Being an actual employee made me believe I had to know everything. They hired me because I was smart or something so how dare I cheat?

Turns out that in the real world it’s called using a reference. It took me a long, long time to shake the mindset that not using reference material was the only way to go. There is simply too much to know at any given moment to be expected.

This is true with anything, including music. Whether you’re just starting out, or have been at it for most of your life, there is so much to know and remember.

Those people out there who seem to know their craft by heart? They’ve been doing it for a long, long time and they will always refer to resource materials as there is always more to learn.

It’s not cheating. It’s experience.

The Experts Guitar and Bass Cheat Sheet. This is a good one. It gives you the basics on what to cut, boost, or roll off for guitar and bass while also giving the simple reasons why. For example, on guitar cut a little  around 250 Hz to reduce overlap with the bass.

No-Name Music EQ Cheat Sheet. Graphical page showing the main frequencies between 50 Hz to 15 kHz and what a cut or boost on each will do for guitar, bass, and drums.

Drum EQ Cheat Sheet. I love this one. It’s a perfect starting point for mixing drums. I’ve used this cheat sheet to setup personal presets in my EQ plugins and always start with them tweaking (usually a lot) as I go.

EQ Cheat Sheet for Over 20+ Instruments. Need something a little more comprehensive? This one is for you. It covers general EQing as well as all manner of instruments; not just guitar/bass/drums.

The Frequency Spectrum… I use this one when I have keys of any kind in the mix. A good, quick glance cheat sheet.

As with anything, these are not magic and will not turn you into a professional mixer overnight. What they will do is help you get started and are great as a resource while you work. Bookmark them. Print them. Make use of them.

Remember to listen as you make changes to EQ. Don’t just boost and cut exactly where the cheat sheets tell you to and call it a day. Pay attention to what is happening to the sound as you work.

The Second Linux Recording

This one is all Linux. No WINE, no recording on Windows or Mac and bouncing over to this computer.

It’s Reaper and Linux native plugins running on Fedora

This few seconds is raw and not anywhere near a final mix. The drums are completely dry. The guitars are run through ToneLib. There are no plugins loaded on the tracks, buses, or master channel. I just “threw up the faders” and hit render.

All mics and DI were plugged into my beloved US-16×08.

Drums were miced as follows:

Still a work in progress, but it turned out much, much better than I anticipated when I started this whole experiment.

Working Around Issues

A few weeks ago I posted a small bit on Low End Tricks. One of those suggestions was to “Freeze/print tracks that are plugin heavy. In fact, freeze/print any track that has a set and forget plugin.”

This works fantastically. Here is a screenshot of the Reaper Performance Meter playing back 18 tracks and 2 groups/buses of a new tune I’m finishing up:

While there is not a ton of effects being used, each of those guitar tracks is being run through ToneLib GFX which I know from Mixbus can start using a good amount of CPU. So freezing (or printing or whatever you want to call it) helps out.

That being said, this can also come in handy for working around certain sticky situations.

While I love (love, love!!) ToneLib GFX, for some damn reason Reaper only seems to want to allow it on a single track. If I dare add GFX to a second track, Reaper crashes.  I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on – the best I got was this long thread on the Reaper forums that didn’t amount to much, and that’s it (for now).

In the meantime I can use it on a single track without causing issues so I’ve been freezing tracks as a workaround. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t add any frustratingly unnecessary time to what I’m doing.

Here’s a look at some guitar tracks:

You can see that the FX toggle on the G-Clean01 track is enabled I have ToneLib loaded on that track and am actively working on the sound. The other tracks have greyed out media, lock icons, and say “freeze” on them. Those locked tracks are, for the most part, completed and I can’t do anything with them in this state past volume, pan, and playback unless I unfreeze them.

In its current state, if I unfreeze one of those tracks, it will bring back the ToneLib plugin and Reaper will crash. So if I do need to change something on, say, G-Heavy02 (tweak a sound, make a cut, etc), I have to freeze G-Clean01 and unfreeze G-Heavy 02. And so on and so forth.

Ideal? Not at all. This shit should just work. However nothing ever works 100% of the time, especially software. So instead of stamping my feet and whinging about it, I’ll just make do 1.

At some point a fix will appear. Or maybe not. Whichever happens, at least I can still work on my little projects relatively unhindered.


1: No, this is NOT because I’m using Linux. I’ve had just as much weird shit happen on Windows and Mac.