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Friday, July 31, 2009

What's Altrok Radio Playing Friday? Here's What...

Here's who we're playing Friday (not counting the Daily Retro at 11:30am Eastern - we'll keep that a surprise)...

7 Seconds of Love, 999

The Alarm, Ambulance Ltd., The Answering Machine, Art Brut

Backlash, Barnacle Bill, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Bloc Party, Phillip Boa And The Voodooclub, The Bravery, Buzzcocks

Cazals, Chairlift, Jarvis Cocker, The Colorblind James Experience, Elvis Costello, The Cramps, The Creatures, Crystal Skulls

Darker My Love, Del Fuegos, Depeche Mode, Dirty Pretty Things, Disasteradio, Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden, Peter Doherty, Ian Dury And The Blockheads

Eagles Of Death Metal, Echo And The Bunnymen

Factory Floor, Faith No More, The Flaming Lips, Flashguns, Florence & The Machine, Foreign Cinema, Franz Ferdinand, Freeland, Frightened Rabbit, Future Of The Left, The Futureheads

God Help The Girl (Stuart Murdoch), Golden Silvers, The Gossip

Calvin Harris, Hot Chip, Husker Du

Icehouse, The Invisible Kid, It's Immaterial

The Jam, James, Japanese Motors, Johnny Foreigner, Junkie XL

Kasabian, The Killers, Killing Joke, The King Blues, Kono Michi & The Stone Ghost Collective

Le Tigre, Left Right + Centre, Les Rita Mitsouko, Lohio, The Longcut

The Maccabees, Mahjongg, Anya Marina, Shannon McNally, Metric, Micachu & The Shapes, Mt. Sims

New Musik, New Young Pony Club, Noisettes

Oasis, Okkervil River

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Paperroute, Parlotones, Passion Pit, Jack Penate, Pete And The Pirates, Phoenix, Placebo, Polecats, The Presets, Prodigy, Psychic TV

The Race UK, The Royal Chains

Santogold, The Shortwave Set, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Sky Larkin, The Sounds, Sparks, St. Vincent, The Stranglers, Anton Sword & The We Ours

TV On The Radio, The Thermals, They Might Be Giants, The Thrills, The Ting Tings, Titus Andronicus, Tokyo Police Club, Tones On Tail

U2, Underworld

VHS Or Beta, The Veils, Violent Femmes, Visage, The Voyage

White Lies


Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Young Knives

Wanna hear it? Check out one of the Altrok Radio links at the top of the page...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Done With Muse

K-Rock2's playing Muse's "United States Of Eurasia". Again.

Know who did Queen well? Queen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Like Altrok Radio On Your Computer? You'll Love It In Your Car...

This entry started out as a criticism of New York's K-Rock, on the air at WXRK-92.3 HD2, which you can get using an HD radio (there's one for $50 at Best Buy) but which, after a few days of pretty intense listening, is already starting to get a bit old. There's only so many times I can hear Silversun Pickups' "Panic Switch", and while Green Day are certainly a worthy band that's currently on a winning streak, they're pretty much played every hour.

But since that's about all I can say about that, the question becomes, well, what can you do to keep yourself entertained during, say, a long day at the office? My own preference would be to listen to Altrok Radio, but the workplace has a bit of a problem with streaming radio over the network. It tends to limit the bandwidth available for people to do things that are actually work-related. Those bloated Powerpoint presentations simply must get to their intended recipients!

So what to do? If your response is "listen to my iPod", well, we can work with that. The trick is to make it all automatic...and if there's one thing computers are good at, it's making things automatic.

So what has to happen?
  • Get the station playing on your computer. You can use one of the links on this page to make that happen.
  • Get something that'll record what your computer's playing. My choice for this in Windows is MP3DirectCut; it's actually meant for cutting MP3s apart and gluing them back together, but it can also be used to record whatever's playing on your computer to an MP3 file.
  • Once you've saved an MP3 or two, get something that'll tag your MP3s so that your player will show you what you're listening to. Here's one, simply called "Tag", that works from the Windows command line. (Since MP3DirectCut has command-line interfaces, too, you can use Windows Task Scheduler to set your computer up to do things automatically.)
  • Then drag your newly created and tagged MP3s into iTunes - or whatever you use to maintain your MP3 player's library - to listen to them.
So go get those two programs - the savvy among you will figure out how to use them with Wondows Task Scheduler and start recording Altrok Radio almost immediately. If that's not you, then sometime in the very near future we'll talk about how you can use them...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stiffy's Big Night Out At The Art Center

A couple of weeks ago I went to see a show at the PNC Art Center in Holmdel. I hadn't been to the Art Center since 2000, when I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers with the Foo Fighters.

Most shows I've seen have been in small clubs with an intimate atmosphere, where you could get close to the stage and really feel the band, not to mention actually seen them. I don't get how people can pay huge amounts of money to go to a huge stadium only to watch the band on the big TV because they can't actually see the band on the stage. It's not how it's supposed to be.

Now I've never been a big fan of the Art Center, with it's inadequate parking, over priced tickets and young crowds. Yet every couple of years or so I give in to the temptation when someone I really want to see is playing there. But it's almost never worth the hassle. This time was no exception.

The show was No Doubt with Paramore. I really like Paramore and of course No Doubt rocks, so how could I resist such a solid double bill? I convinced my wife to go with me, as she likes both bands too, and since we hadn't been out on a proper date in a very long time, we figured this was the perfect chance to get away from the boys for an evening and have some fun.

Getting tickets wasn't too difficult, it was just a matter of whether any decent seats were still available. Fortunately a pair dead center in the third section were open and I snapped them up. I laughed at myself as I paid over 100 bucks apiece, plus the fees and charges. A hundred dollars would have gotten me into ten shows back in the day. But if I wanted to see the show, then that was the price. Even though I could afford it with my grown up salary, there was something wrong about paying 100 dollars for a seat that wasn't actually on the stage.

On the night of the show we dropped the boys at the neighbors at 6:30 and told them we'd be back by 11:30 or so. I figured it would take about an hour to get there even with some traffic and that we'd still have plenty of time to see Paramore. Art Center delusions had set in early.

Just as we pulled away, the sky to the northwest began to turn black and we knew we'd be getting a monster thunderstorm. We managed to get to Rt. 1 before the sky opened up. Traffic ground to a slow crawl as the sheets of rain made visibility next to nothing. It ultimately took us an hour just to get to the Parkway, where we ran into rain/shore/show/late commuter traffic. I realized then it would likely take ANOTHER hour to get to the Art Center and God only knows how much longer to park and get to our seats. Oh well, at least we had the Green Day CD with us to play in the car. You've all purchased your own copies by now, right?

The final mile sitting in the Art Center entrance lane took a solid 30 minutes. As we came up the hill on the southbound side, a couple of guys began to direct us towards an overflow parking field. At this point I made the smartest decision of the evening. As we were pulling into the field, which by the way was very wet and soon to be very muddy from the recent downpour, I realized that if I followed the line of cars I was in, we'd be trapped in a mud pit and unable to leave until all the cars parked around us had left. And as I observed several cars ahead of us slip and slide and get stuck after moving only a few yards into the field, I concluded there was no way I was going to do that. I quickly moved out of line and parked right next to the access road and just before the guard rail that would have pinned us in till mid summer. Since the parking at this point was a random free for all, no one really noticed or cared. The car that ultimately took our spot in line became immediately stuck, and then completely blocked in by the following cars. It would likely be a very long evening for them.

Assured that our future had been saved from a muddy hell, we exited the car and began the mile long hike under the Parkway to the Art Center on the northbound side. At this point it was about 8:30 and it was likely we were going to miss most of Paramore. But I was cool with everything, since there was nothing I could do about any of it and there was no reason not to have as good a time as possible. After all, I was alone with my wife, and we were at least going to see No Doubt.

After wandering through the parking lot we finally arrived at the single entrance way to the arena. We were groped by security and herded through the gate and marched up the hill. It had been a long time since I had been here and I forgot how many of the winding pathways towards the back of the arena end at nowhere. So after a few false starts, we drifted all the way to the left and found the way to the seated area. By now Paramore had been on awhile and were due to quit at any moment. I was bummed, but the little I did witness was impressive. They finished their set with Decode and the place went absolutely bonkers. Wow, can she sing.

Just as we were getting ready to head to our seats, Paramore finished and a wave of humanity charged out of the arena right towards us. We had to move to the side so as not to get run over by the mobs of folks racing to the bathroom or looking for a spot to light up. At that moment of course my wife had to pee so we moved back to the concession area and stood on line for the bathroom.

Up till this point my sweet wife had been a real trooper. But the strain of the long drive plus the rain and the crazy mob and the long line for the john pushed her over the edge. She started to give me that "I want to go home now" look. But I made it clear that we were going to see No Doubt, especially because we had worked so hard to get to this point. As she moved towards the bathroom I reminded her this wasn't the Ritz Carlton, and that she should just squat and squirt and not think about it. She wasn't amused.

While she was wading through the ladies room, I spent a few moments soaking in the scene. I was amazed at the number of young people smoking. Hadn't they heard? Maybe smoking is even cooler now that we all know how bad it is. Ahhh, rebellion. And sadly, future customers. I wandered over to the beer vendor and noticed that a 16 oz. cup of light beer was 9 bucks. Awesome. I saw a number of middle aged parents with pre teens. Would I take my 10 year old here? Maybe. The funniest sight was the hordes of lawn ticket holders absolutely covered in mud. In fact by now the whole place was a sea of mud and you had to be careful not to slip and get hurt.

The arena was a hoard of teenagers and twenty somethings filled with earnest and energy. Other than the disturbing number of tattoos, it could have easily been mistaken for a crowd from 1990. I was glad to see that not too much had changed other than the crazy prices. I loved the energy buzzing all around me and missed being able to do this more often. Those were the days.

When Mrs. Biceptz emerged from the trauma of the girls bathroom, we were finally ready to get to our seats. By now the crowd had calmed down and we could move to the seated area. It turned out that our seats were easy to get to and most of the folks in our section were well above 30 years old.

Around 9:30 No Doubt finally came on, and they put on a great show. Gwen looked and sounded fantastic and the band was tight and totally into it. Within two songs a big smile had crept onto my wife's face and she had forgotten about all the nonsense she had had to put up with to get here. Now we were finally having some fun. "She's had two kids??" My wife was amazed anyone woman that had given birth could have a flat belly like that.

At 9:45 I made the second best decision of the night. At that point I was happy that we had made it to our seats and had seen a bit of No Doubt, after missing Paramore. But I began to think about how insane it would be trying to get out of here when the show was over. The mad rush of the crowd, the traffic, the muddy field. I figured that if we left when the show actually ended, we most likely wouldn't get home until well after midnight. And the thought of dealing with the traffic just crawling to the Parkway made me ill. I looked over at Jackie who at the moment was enjoying herself and determined that if we waited to the end, it would spoil the fragile success we had achieved so far. She'd be exhausted, our neighbors would be annoyed, and I'd be very unhappy. I turned to Jackie and said, "Let's leave at 10, OK?" She was initially shocked that I would agree to, let alone want to leave a show early, but was thinking exactly along the same lines and was ready to leave whenever I wanted to.

In the good old days I would never have considered leaving any show early, save for some sort of calamity or an opportunity for sex, or if the show really sucked, and the only show I ever walked out on was in 1987 when PIL played in Asbury Park, because they sucked so badly.

With everyone focused on No Doubt it was easy to escape our seats and leave the arena. We walked through the largely empty concession area and into the dark parking lot. We saw only two other people during the long quiet walk back to the car. Were they as wise as we were? No they were just really drunk. We got to our perfectly parked car, got in, and were on the Parkway home in less than a minute. Had we waited, it would have taken at least a half hour.

On the ride home I realized that despite the craziness, the traffic, the weather, the $200 for the tickets, and ultimately seeing only about 30 minutes of the show, I somehow had had a great time. The whole experience had been a big silly adventure, but had been entertaining none the less and we laughed about all the wackiness the whole way home.

One thing I was sure of was I wasn't going to back to the Art Center anytime soon, at least for another decade.

I'd better start saving for tickets now...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HD Radio: Interesting...

Normally, I try not to respond to press releases Pavlov-style, but there was a little blurb that passed through Tuesday about Best Buy putting out a portable HD radio for $50. Like a good little consumer, I got in my car, drove to Best Buy, convinced the sales guy that such a thing existed, helped him hunt through the store to find it, and left the store one HD radio richer.

Thus, earlier today, I used the radio to hear XTC's "Senses Working Overtime" (which rarely if ever got played on NYC radio) on K-Rock (which isn't on NYC radio anymore - at least, not on your old FM radio) in my office, about 25 miles from the transmitter.

Of course, one can also hear 90.5 The Night, the station you can hear Altrok Radio's FM Showcase on every Friday night at 10pm, in CD-quality HD sound. Not that I'd have any vested interest in you doing that.

But the expansion in available radio programming is promising, and it doesn't require any sort of subscription - just tune in and go.

Some tips if you'd like to get your HD Radio feet wet:

  • Like most portable FM radios, the headphones double as an antenna. If you'd like to use it on your stereo system at home, try getting a headphone jack splitter (the kind you need if you want to plug two headphones into one headphone jack.) Use one of the two lines to supply the sound to your stereo, and plug the headphones they include into the other line, then use those headphones as though they're the antenna.
  • Upstairs is better for listening than downstairs. You're more likely to have a clear shot between you and the antenna.

Okay, that's it for now - K-Rock's playing Husker Du.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Good News, Everybody! Or Not - They Changed Webcasting Royalties Again

[While reading Fark, I stumbled over this piece about a recent webcasting royalty "victory". I'm thinking, well, not so much. Here's the explanation I posted at Fark, and since it was nice and long, I figured I may as well post it here, too.]

Okay, firstly, full disclosure: I run a web radio station at Live365.


I play the kind of music that, back in the 80's, we'd call alternative (as opposed to today's "alternative" which, back in the 80's, we'd have called "rock" or "metal". Nothing against that, mind you, it's just not what I play. Unless it's really good. Which I get to define. Neener. And get off my lawn.)

Anyway, I'm seeing the usual confusion about this stuff here. Let me try to hack through it.

Major point: people whose music I play should be compensated. Period. The question is: how do we do it fairly? Who should be compensating the artists, and why?

Second major point: there's two separate kinds of royalty, and almost everyone on this thread has gotten them confused - which helps the record companies win this argument in the court of public opinion, actually.

First, there's the royalty for the people who actually write the songs. Any time someone uses that bit of intellectual property, whether it's a live performance, a recorded performance, or a public playback of a recorded performance, those folks deserve a cut for their effort, for a reasonable amount of time after they've created it. (In addition to being a DJ, by the way, I'm an inventor with four patents registered and a bunch more pending, and I've got 17 years to exploit my inventions. I think that's reasonable. The same should apply to songwriting rights, but it doesn't, which is strange, but I digress.) The point is, if you're a songwriter and I play your song, you're due that sort of compensation, and because I'm deriving a benefit from your work that you're not otherwise compensated for, it's up to me to pay you for that benefit.

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and other songwriting royalty clearinghouses are responsible for collecting that money and distributing the proceeds, and they only collect it if the songwriter contracts with them to collect it.

And in this article, that's NOT the royalty they're talking about. Put that royalty concept aside; it's as different from the agreement they're talking about as property tax is from income tax.

Here's what they're talking about: a royalty due to the record company for playing the recording itself, on top of the royalty we just discussed. Essentially, from us webcasters' point of view, they'd like us to pay them for the privilege of advertising their products.

The reasonable fee for this royalty was decided a long time ago - the mid-fifties, in fact. Back then, the courts decided that the correct royalty for playback of a recording over the radio was ZERO.

The reason was that it was found to be a quid-pro-quo arrangement; while stations generate ratings (and thus income) by playing interesting recordings, the owners of those recordings also generate income because the more radio plays their recordings, the more people know about and buy those recordings. The promotional value of radio play was considered fair compensation to the recordings' owners for playback of the recording in question; they'd get nothing but sales ... which, actually, is everything.

You'd think the same rules would apply for Satellite and Internet radio, but the record companies saw an opportunity to argue that it was a different situation and that the decision I mentioned above (meaning they would continue to get nothing but promotional value) should be revisited. And their argument was a lie.

The argument went like this: Internet broadcasting is "digital", and as we all know from the marketing they put out about CDs, "digital" is "perfect". These Internet broadcasters - and anyone else who broadcasts digitally - are distributing perfect copies of their recordings, which listeners could then theoretically capture and keep, effectively losing them sales. Why would anyone buy their CDs if they could get the music for free? (There's another gaping problem with that argument, by the way - by reducing the packaging around their releases to, essentially, disposable plastic and forgettable CD inserts, they themselves reduced the value of their own product...but that's another argument for another time.)

They then convinced Congress that they should be compensated for the loss of sales. *That's* the fee TFA discusses. The record companies have gotten Congress to take it as conventional wisdom that one play of a song on Internet radio is equivalent to giving every listener of the station at that moment a free copy of the song being played.

Never mind that virtually all Internet broadcasting (whether it's MP3, WMA, RM, or what have you) is, by it's very nature, an imperfect reproduction of their product. There's a reason that the data compression necessary to play music over the Internet is called "lossy" - technically and audibly, what comes out of it is not the same as what gets put into it. Clearly, nobody ever treated Congress to a side-by-side comparison of a 64k MP3 versus a CD of the same material (versus an FM broadcast, by the way.)

You've listened to Internet radio. Is this argument anywhere near the truth?

Also, Sound Exchange (the royalty collector for this royalty) collect this fee from broadcasters regardless of who or what they play. You say the band handed you the disc and said "please play this, we don't care about royalties"? Doesn't matter - the broadcaster has to pay. What if the band hasn't contacted Sound Exchange to get their cut? No matter - Sound Exchange will be happy to sit on that money for you, and really can't be bothered making the effort to find you and give you the money.

So, long story short, the right answer for the royalty in question - not the one that compensates songwriters, but rather this bogus one the record companies created that is based on a lie - continues to be a big fat goose egg. But who wants to muster up the political will to drive that point home?

- Record companies? Nah, they're grasping badly enough as it is, having reduced their product to commodity status while wondering why everyone wants to treat their property like a commodity. Plus, having fought for it, they're not likely to say "no, you're right, give us less money."

- Terrestrial radio? Nah, they like the idea that a potential competitor was getting sucker punched...although they narrowly avoided an attempt by the record companies this year to charge them this royalty, which could cause them to change their tune a little.

- Web broadcasters? Not in the disorganized fashion they've been going. It's every broadcaster for themselves, with Pandora hailing this latest decision while whistling past the fact that the minimum fee just went up from $5,000 to $25,000, effectively shutting out smaller players (guess they don't like enabling potential competition either.)

It ain't fair, but it's what we've got. But Good News, Everyone - web radio will soon get a lot less confusing because you'll have fewer web radio stations to pick from! Ain't that grand?
Please Look At Our Advertisers (Or The Website Gets It)
Congratulations, you've found the hidden text.
Welcome to, also available at and Here's where the remaining listeners of several fine radio stations have retreated, regrouped, and built a replacement strong enough to stand on its own. It builds on the independent legacy of New Jersey's FM106.3, New York's WPIX and WLIR, Oklahoma's 105.3 The Spy, the pre-buyout mindset of KROQ, WBCN and WHFS and of every other alternative station that was destroyed at a moment's notice - not because they weren't making money, but because there was bigger money to be found elsewhere.
We've stood by as truly independent alternative rock radio died. Sure, something called "alternative" took its place, but we know for sure that anything that "tests well" with soccer moms just ain't alternative. (Even if some of us happen to be soccer moms.) So we've taken matters into our own hands.
This really is independent alternative rock radio, visible here at and audible at our web radio station. It has the classic music that fired our passions back in the day - or that we maybe only heard about from our elders - but it's mostly made of the new music that does precisely the same for us now. We're paying attention to scenes all over the world, watching the energy build, and waiting to see what it creates. Wherever it happens, we'll make sure you can hear about it here. We've been slowly building all this since 2001, and now that you've noticed us, we're glad you're here.
Of course, it's only here because you want it to be here, and it can only stay if you help it along - especially by checking out our advertisers (they support us) and by listening (the more that listen, the more visible we are.) Please use the "feedback" link above to let us know whether it works for you, and what you want it to be as the future unfolds. (And if you need help hearing it, let us know that, too.)