October 11, 07
New Amie Street Player/Store Widget
i've just added a neat new sidebar widget
that plays previews of my track offerings on AmieStreet.com
- tracks can be purchased directly from the widget and then heard in their entirety. Setup was a little tricksy tricksy - it involved extracting a bit of code from AmieStreet's own artist promo flash player code that looks like this:
For the "playlist URL" in the widget settings, you want to extract the following code portion (look for "playlist_url=") -
"artistId__9685" refers to my Chopin album ID number.
I've set the player to start automatically when my blog page is opened. If this gets too annoying, please let me know and i'll turn the "auto-play" off. I'll try to get more selections uploaded soon so that regular readers aren't bored to tears. Please support classical music on music distro sites like AmieStreet.com and purchase a few tracks! (As of this writing, they're still really cheap - $0.13 per track - so let's see if we can't get the stock price inched up a bit, eh? Many thanks!!)
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October 10, 07
More Portals for Podcasts
Earlier today i received happy news that InstantEncore.com
has just added my blog's RSS feed to their News section. Pickings are a little slim at the moment, but hey! this site's just a few weeks old! Already it's easy to see how nicely their strategy to be a comprehensive Classical Music portal for news, podcasts, concerts, recordings and streaming media is coming together. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, and promises a wealth of consumer-friendly access to the rich world of Classical Music activities.
" section is still blank, and i've put in a request to have my video podcasts from Blip.tv
added to their "Podcast
" page. Hopefully we'll see some more legs for some of my video and audio material.
Special thanks to Evan, Margo and the entire InstantEncore.com team! Keep up the great work!
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May 28, 07
Spring Cleaning the Website
While i've generally enjoyed working with the open source Nucleus CMS
(content management system) as my freebie blog template, one design problem has been the bane of this site since i switched over to this particular skin design ("slick
"): it's incompatibility with the Internet Explorer
(Note: With most CMS programs, you can switch between various skin templates on the fly)
I've been a Firefox
browser fan and didn't notice the design snafus until i started viewing my site via my office computer (stuck with IE 6). Not being all that comfortable with CSS (cascading style sheets, the design template file that dictates a website's general layout), i had no way of knowing how to correct the problem. A code hack posted on Nucleus' support forum
helped minimize the damage, but my right menu bar was left hopelessly floundering within IE.
The recent upgrade to IE 7 seemed to solve the right menu bar issue, but i was still left with a weird collision from the bottom footer bar through the middle of my top blog posts. Much sighing and shrugging ensued, and i just tried to pretend IE 7 readers didn't exist...
Fortunately, a good friend came to the rescue and helped me identify the offending </div> tags within the skin template - removing the "footbar" and "footer" tags gets rid of the annoying bar cutting across the middle of the blog post, thereby solving that nasty design flaw within the slick skin design (well, at least with IE 7 - please upgrade if you're still using IE 6!)
Big hurrah! That was a design thorn-in-my-side for the longest time - nice to have that finally solved!
Another bit of upgrade was the addition of a colorful row of bookmark links which you should now see lining the bottom of each blog post - i've been wanting to add an easy way for readers to tag posts to the likes of digg.com
(tagging is a neat way of "bookmarking" web pages or blog posts of interest where you add keywords describing the page/article and in the process share your discovery with other subscribers to the bookmarking service). I tried using a Nucleus plugin called "AddThis
", but once again the code did strange things to the website design within IE 7 (my Firefox browser is rolling its eyes...) A resourceful coder from Croatia on the support forum came up with a simple html solution
to add basic post links to a number of social bookmarking sites, and voila! (in case i need to retrieve this bit of code in the future, i'm posting it as blogbookmarks.txt
on my site...having your own website can be a terrific repository for stuff you don't want to forget!)
Hope you enjoy the slightly cleaner interface and the new bookmarks!
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May 15, 07
New Link: California Music Academy
I just received an email from California Music Academy
, a music school billing itself as "one of Southern California's largest music schools", requesting a link exchange. According to their website, they offer piano, guitar, and vocal lessons in private settings, and for very reasonable tuition rates (their family discounts seem particularly attractive). It appears that introductory lessons are free - a terrific idea for folks who are new to music lessons and want to get their feet wet. Their website also has a really nice list of links to terrific music education (and general education) resources, everything from musical organizations to theory instruction sites, educational games and homework help - the links list alone is a tremendous resource!
I applaud California Music Academy's work in providing what appears to be a terrific curriculum of music pedagogy! They seem to have a really impressive roster of teachers and a well-rounded approach to classical, jazz and popular music lessons - my only pet peeve is that their website design leaves something to be desired, especially when it comes to the auto-play YouTube videos (um...is a Billy Joel video of him singing "Piano Man"
in a smoky booze-filled bar really appropriate for a site that's supposed to be a resource to parents and kids?) Hopefully they'll take my advice and at least have the videos set to "mute" on first load (i made that same mistake myself with my first embedded videos, which prompted some immediate responses from readers begging me to shut the volume off!)
If you run a music program, i'd love to hear from you and set up a link exchange! I'm a firm believer in the fact that there can't be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to music education! Just be sure to set your videos on mute, please...
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May 02, 07
February 16, 07
January 23, 07
Creating a Flash Banner for the Visual Recital
Check this out - i'm playing around with Flash to create a new animated banner for the Visual Recital site. Let me know what you think -
I'll try to design a variety of these banners in different sizes, but i think this is a pretty good first run! BTW, it took me a while to figure out, but i managed to make the entire movie hyperlinked - click on the flash movie to jump to VisualRecital.com!
A great little tutorial on this technique can be found at Kirupa.com
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January 22, 07
Preview of the VisualRecital.com Subsite
Still lots of work left to be done, but i thought it would be fun to share a little preview of the new Visual Recital subsite
. www.VisualRecital.com previously just redirected to HughSung.com, but now that i've been able to develop a library of promotional materials (video clips, photographs, posters, etc. - oh, and a nice logo to boot!) it makes sense to set up a dedicated site to promote the concept.
Sticking with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, you'll notice that i'm using the same blog template for the Visual Recital site. The trickiest part was getting the subsite to render its own color scheme independent of the "father site" - if anyone is really
interested, let me know and i'll post the technical specs of how i managed to work it around. I have absolutely loved the dynamic content and the design flexibility of the blog format, so i wanted to translate that into creating a resource for presenters (and fans!) to not only pull up the standard retinue of publicity materials like bios and pictures, but also to have a reason to return to the site as new content gets developed (and blogged about), more composers get featured and involved, and other musicians can get a backstage look at my internet marketing adventures.
Here's my laundry list of things to be done to the new subsite:
Simplify the sidebar menus - most of the sundry lists and sidebar widgets will be removed and replaced with basic links to promo materials and media files. I may develop a dedicated list linking other musicians and visual artists who are doing similar work to mine
Post and Link Promo materials - didn't i just say that? Well, forgive me for thinking aloud - i'll dedicate a few posts to stuff for presenters, like videos in various formats, the newly developed poster (samples and blank templates), and (hopefully soon) some nice animated GIF banners if anyone is interested in putting some eye candy on their own sites! Just for fun, i may even look into developing AIM chat buddy icons...
Technical Specs - these will be diagrams for stage presenters who need to see how the equipment is set up, everything from the dual Tablet PC's on the piano to the digital projector and screen setups. As i get around to visiting different venues, i hope to post pictures to illustrate how each stage works. I'm also thinking seriously about developing my own rear-projection screen - most likely to be built with a pvc pipe frame and Tyvek home wrap with a black rear drop cloth to cut ambient light and focus the projection...sketches and development pictures to be posted as this new project comes together...
Dedicated Podcast Series - i'm just putting this idea up for mulling...might be too redundant to do, but i might set up a small series of podcasts (video and audio) as subscribe-able promo for new and upcoming shows. Interviews with featured composers, backstage tech setup videos, how-to's, screencast tutorials...that sort of stuff...maybe...
As the Visual Recital
and Hugh Sung
sites are both working within the same blog structure, you'll still see a lot of overlap, particularly with the shared visitor counter and the links to the Upcoming Concert schedule (yes, yes, i'll update that one soon...) Again, VisualRecital.com
will primarily be the promotional media vehicle, but with a blog flavor to keep the material from getting stale (as happens far, far too often with artists' websites). The best thing that could happen would be for other art musicians to pick up the concept and start developing their own
shows! Nothing less than a new revolution in the live art music experience for today's audiences...
I'll post a holler once the site is cleaned up and tidy for a nice lil' housewarming party! (more)
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January 18, 07
An HTML Mailer Primer
At the risk of joining ranks with those email inbox-clogging spammers, i've designed and distributed my first HTML email advertisement for my next upcoming Visual Recital at the Darlington Arts Center
. This turned out to be more difficult than i had imagined - posting web pages on a server is one thing, but finding a friendly way to distribute HTML content is an entirely different matter!
has the best article for creating HTML mailers - very helpful advice on formatting, design, coding and software considerations.
I'm lucky to have a copy of Dreamweaver to make HTML page creation a breeze, but apparently there are other WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) HTML coders out there, most of them free (Anandgraves.com lists several in the article), so it shouldn't be hard to create content. The thing to keep in mind is that HTML mailers are basically an extension of one's website - all the images in the message are actually pulled in from a specific directory you create from your site. Keeping image files small is a crucial design factor to making sure your recipients don't have to watch grass grow while waiting for your message to load (or more likely just delete the message outright).
The tricky thing turns out to be the distribution of said HTML mail. Outlook 2003 doesn't (apparently) have an easy way to directly code HTML into email messages. I tried looking at PHPMailer
, but pardon me - even I
have a limit when it comes to deciphering code, and when the ratio of effort to learn to ease of execution leaves something to be desired, i immediately defect to searching for an easier alternative.
That "easy" alternative (relatively speaking) turns out to be Thunderbird
, the open-source email client made by the same goodwilled folks who gave us Firefox
(my hands down web browser of choice). Setting up Thunderbird to talk nicely to Gmail turned out to be more of a pain than i expected. Fortunately, once the deed was done, the ease of inserting HTML text made all that effort worthwhile.
If you'd like to see the direct HTML mailer file, click here
By all means, if you'd like me to mail you a copy, drop me a line
and i'll send one off to you so that you can forward it to all your friends!
Someone suggested i create a mailing list, i assume with some sort of signup form...yes, yes, that'll get added to my "to do" list...
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January 17, 07
August 12, 06
Faith in the Internet: Website Tech Glitch Finally Solved
After almost four months and virtually all hope having dried up, a generous poster on the support forum of my Nucleus CMS Program
(CMS=content management system, the template blog program that i use to run this website) FINALLY came through with the answer to my questions about fixing the Multiple Categories feature! Basically, my host server switch made the Multiple Categories somehow incompatible with the newer version of MySQL provided by my new host, hampering searches of my blog topics by category. Turns out that the kind poster was able to interpret some of the Japanese of the original source code to get a workable solution out!
For those of you using Nucleus
, the working version of NP_MultipleCategories.php for servers with MySQL 5.0 can be downloaded here
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July 01, 06
Batting 1000 on MySpace
Yes, yes, i'll confess - i've become a bona fide MySpace junkie
! It's all Michelle's fault, of course - Michelle is a co-worker at Curtis who also happens to be the manager of a funk rock band called "Stillicide"
- she was the one who gave me my first peek into the world of MySpace with her band's profile way back near the beginning of the spring semester. Well, this week i celebrated the addition of my 1000th friend gracious enough to add me to their respective lists, as well as the first 1000 plays of what's turning out to be my most popular posted track, my arrangement of "Moon River/Claire de lune" played by Jeff Khaner (flute) and myself - part of the upcoming Jazz CD that will be released someday
(apparently a copyright snafu has turned up at the last minute - yet another bump in the road...sigh...)
I'm thinking of putting together another blog article soon entitled, "Play like an Artisan, Market like a Rock Star" - sounds corny and cheesy, but that article about choral/opera electronica composer Eric Whitacre
(i think it originally appeared in Reuters or the AP back in March 2006, but has since disappeared from public view - fortunately, several blogs still carry 'live' copies of the article) really has me thinking about the feasability of applying some of the pop world's marketing savvy to make inroads as a classical/contemporary art musician with today's generation. I almost typed "younger generation", but i think "today's g." is more appropriate, as the internet's marketing reach really cuts across so many previously defined demographics and age/culture/geographic barriers...
Amazing how 1000 folks can suddenly give you a vista view of a wide, wide world out there...see you on MySpace
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June 29, 06
Death of a Salesman? Today's Composers Podcast on MySpace
I initially felt a bit of what Thomas Hampson must've felt when he entered the room at our first meeting and made a beeline towards my Tablet PC/footswitch page turning system
, exclaiming in that wonderful baritone sonority, "I invented this in my mind!" Nice to see when something you've been dreaming of suddenly makes an appearance straight from your imagination into reality - and that seemed to be the case with a podcast series for Contemporary Composers that i found in MySpace called "Today's Composers"
Well, at least it looked good at first glance...
Now i'm feeling a little bit like i did when my wife and i left the pre-opening screening of "Superman Returns" - great ideas, but something lacking in the execution, somewhat of a letdown. Here's what i mean:
"Today's Composers" is sort of a collective composers' podcast, providing a venue for little-known composers to be heard. For a relatively "small" fee, composers can submit works that are played in their entirety, without introduction, comment, or discussion. And that's precisely where i'm having a problem with the concept - this music can be difficult for the uninitiated to absorb. It's certainly easier to just slap up recordings and collect a little money on the side to help defray the cost of bandwidth, but it's another thing entirely to spend some time with the works submitted, to get to know the composer personally, and to explore and discuss the music in a way that helps folks get the most out of their listening experience. The submissions from the external homepage at http://www.todayscomposers.com/
seem to be stillborn - as of this writing, i count 11 submitted works listed dating from July 2005 sporatically up to January 2006. I also tried adding an iTunes subscription as per the site's instructions
(you need to do this manually by entering the RSS feed xml file into iTunes' "Advanced"..."Subscribe to Podcast" menu options - why doesn't the webmaster put up a one-click subscription button?), but the feed seems to be dead in the water, as no files seem to be accessible anymore (the RSS icon doesn't appear on the site)...
Hm...i sense a well-intentioned effort that seems to have died an early death...
...but perhaps, there is hope. The MySpace profile for Today's Composers seems to have been very recently created (5/22/2006), although it appears that all of the works are just resubmissions from the original homepage (the String Quartet by Yohei Kurihara seems to be a compilation of the separate movements that were previously submitted, for example). But with only 64 friends as of this writing and 338 profile views (3 plays listed today from the MySpace jukebox player - all of them mine, i think...), i'm worried that this concept will continue to die a protracted death...
Don't get me wrong, that's NOT what i want to see happen!
I have a few suggestions for helping this collective composers' site to survive:
1. Get rid of the fee for now. Concentrate on getting composer submissions first, build volume, then perhaps introduce a nominal fee for additional work submissions. This collective needs a library worth listening to before it can become a meaningful tool to promote composers.
2. As of this writing, the Classical Music Group
in MySpace has 3551 members. Even the 20th Century Contemporary Classical Music History/Criticism/Analysis Group
has 151 members. If i were the creator of "Today's Composers", i would be spending as much free time as i could inviting the members of these and other similar groups to join my friends list - you would see an immediate increase in the number of plays and in the overall exposure of the composers featured on the page. This is the fundamental mechanism that makes promotion via MySpace work so effectively, but it won't happen by itself. You need to actively find your fan base and communicate meaningfully to them!
3. Speaking of composers, there needs to be links to each of the featured composers' MySpace profiles and/or personal websites prominantly placed on the page. Music for it's own sake is one thing, but to promote yourself as a vehicle to help composers gain exposure without actively promoting the composers themselves is an example of bad marketing that serves no one. Talk about the composers. Link to them. Discuss their music. Explain what they are contributing, and why it's worth investing time and energy listening to. I get really frustrated when i see good fruit dying on the vine for no other reason than a lack of simple care and attention (metaphorically speaking, of course - don't pay any attention to the dying ficus tree in my office...ahem, ahem...)
I've been dreaming about creating some sort of new music podcast series venue, and am in discussions with a number of composers about this. I was really hoping that 'Today's Composers' would be an example to follow for this type of venue, but that doesn't seem to be the case yet. Hopefully, i'll be eating my words in a few months and i'll see this concept explode with wild popularity, but i suspect that if some fundamental marketing principals aren't applied soon, then it'll be a long while before my mouth chews Nike leather...
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June 27, 06
I've had several musicians ask me about building websites to promote themselves. I'll try to get around to the website building tutorials i've been promising various colleagues and friends as an add-on to the "Getting Started"
page (well, after i've finished cramming for my various concerts coming up next month...sigh...sorry it's taking so long, that's what happens when you're running around with full plates!) While i still feel that blogs and personal websites are going to continue to be the backbone of any serious internet-based marketing tool, you should consider adding a profile on MySpace.com. In lieu of my upcoming web-builder tutorial series, i'd like to spend time on today's article talking about my experiences so far in customising a MySpace profile page.
Barely a few months into posting a profile in MySpace.com
, and i'd hardly consider myself an 'expert' on the workings of the site - but i finally managed to get around to getting my page to look a bit more presentable. It's hard to maintain a decent design motif when you're stuck with a single scrolling page and limited HTML capabilities (no image maps allowed, no iframes allowed - sigh...), but hopefully i've struck a reasonable balance between visual appeal and legibility (the latter being sorely lacking in a shocking number of pages, it seems) In fact, i've already received a number of messages from fellow MySpace musicians asking how i customized my profile.
There are a number of sites that offer free graphics and code templates to customize your MySpace profile. Many of them have pre-made designs that you can choose from, but i suspect most creative folks will prefer to be more 'hands on' in creating personalized embellishments. I used a very simplistic code generator site to create a barebones color scheme early on, but found a better template/code site (at http://www.mygen.co.uk
) that does a much nicer job with more options, like transparency of the tables and left/right orientation options.
Rather than use 'stock' background photos, i used my Rock Hall picture as the background wallpaper - to fit the screen, i modified the size and resolution to be both large enough visually (1024 x 768 pixels) and small enough as a file (i kept the pixel resolution to under 75 pixels per inch, i think) for relatively quick loading. Macromedia Fireworks was my image editor for the large background graphic, but i suspect you could use an open source editor like GIMP
just as easily.
I used a Contact Table generator at http://www.123mycodes.com/contact-table-generator.php
to incorporate my studio piano/tablet pc picture, but have since found a better generator at http://www.surfourspace.net/contablegen.php
- the latter site has a better way of showing previews of various text fonts.
I found a really nice Flash MP3 player code at http://www.myspace-code.org/flashmp3player
- the site allows you to generate a code that contains up to 20 mp3 files with custom titles that will play in a self-contained player, separate from the player embedded in the band template of the MySpace profile. Keep in mind, that you will need to have a separate site to actually host the MP3 files (i'm linking to my church's music page
where my psalm
arrangements are stored). Also, if you already have songs loaded up in the MySpace player, you should probably have the flash player set NOT to start when the page is loaded; otherwise, you'll have two players starting different songs simultaneously (well, perhaps Charles Ives would actually prefer that on his
Another nice site for little tweaks and miscellaneous MySpace widgets to cram into your profile is http://www.surfourspace.net/
. This might sound hypocritical, given the busy nature of my blog, but i'd caution against overkill, especially if the visual/design elements detract from making your bio difficult to read (ex: transparency levels below 90% really start fading fast - not a good idea, unless your background image is relatively static and colored on the opposite end of the color wheel...)
Oh, almost forgot to mention - so, where do you put the codes once you've generated them? All page template modifications need to be inserted within the band's 'Bio' or the 'About me' section of your profile settings. Other sections can have HTML codes inserted - this is how other folks add sundry pictures, widgets, video clips, etc. throughout their profile (my MP3 flash player's code is inserted in the "Band Members" section, for example), but the 'Bio' or 'About me' is the only place where you can modify the full page's layout.
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