Going where the Cattle Graze: thoughts on YouTube marketing
I've really enjoyed working with Blip.tv, given its multiple distribution capabilities and lack of time limits for video clips. In my heart, Blip.tv clearly wins in the 'technical functionality' category. Nevertheless, it's become pretty clear in the past month or so that the segments i've started to cross-post to YouTube have been attracting a much wider audience - pretty inevitable, i suppose, given that YouTube is the 3rd most visited site on the Internet (behind Yahoo and Google), according to Alexa.com's Global Top 500 list on 11/3/07.
Chris Koenig, a Microsoft developer (or, more correctly, a "Breadth Developer Evangelist in Microsoft's South Central District" according to his site) just came across my first anniversary video demonstrating Tablet PC's and was kind enough to share it on his blog:
This video of my interview with classical accordionist Lidia Kaminska seems to be approaching a "tipping point" of sorts - over 8,000 views as of this writing, and the number of views seems to be growing exponentially:
This isn't to say that simply posting to YouTube will guarantee an audience - the following video seems to be suffering a "middle of the sandwich" syndrome of sorts, being a "part 2 of 3" from my Visual Recital workshop in Boulder, Colorado - it's a really nice montage of performance snippets at the 2007 Mad Cow Festival featuring various musicians and aerial dancers, but it's garnered zero views so far, compared to the higher viewership of part 1 and particularly part 3 (though that might get skewed now with this posting):
Oops - it just jumped to 18 views from the start of my writing this article! LOL - the internet is reading my mind! :D
Then again, some videos seem to garner lots of attention by simple association with a hot topic or product. The word "ipod" has much more to do with this clip garnering over 7,000 views than my ad hoc camera skills, i'm sure:
I guess the lesson i'm coming away with is that while YouTube is a major contender for getting your work out in the public sphere, it still takes good ol' elbow grease to promote your material. I'm still committed to working with Blip.tv, as i really love the functionality of the site, but i'll be sure to continue my cross-posts to YouTube as well.
A new video distribution site called Flix55 is soliciting clips for inclusion for some possible TV airtime, based on the number of votes received. Apparently, there are even cash incentives for folks who manage to get their favorite clips nominated (not quite sure how that works yet, besides the "incentive" part - something to do with adding friends as "cash buddies" who are supposed to help promote your video). Sounds somewhat dubious, but i guess that's one way to quickly market a new video site. In any case, someone from Flix55 recently asked if i would upload my video interview with Classical Accordionist Lidia Kaminska, which has been getting a lot of viewership on YouTube lately.
Here's the video - if you feel moved to (possibly) help promote Classical Musicians on Internet video sites and possibly TV, please cast your votes by pressing the "play" button!
**NOTE: it appears that there's no way to vote or rate the video from the embedded file. To do so, i think you have to view the video directly from the Flix55 website. Again, if you feel so-moved (and i hope you do!), click on this URL to jump to the Flix55 page with my clip and rate accordingly.
Greg Stepanich on Classical Musicians in the Video Blogosphere
Greg Stepanich from PalmBeachPost.com writes in his Oct. 12th post about the innovative ways classical musicians and institutions are marketing themselves, including an increasing wave of internet videos being used to educate and market classical music. Mr. Stepanich very kindly highlights the blog of "yours truly" as being "one of the most consistently interesting blogs out there..." (Why, thank you!) and points out my video interview with soprano Jacquelyn Familant where she talks about the importance of self-marketing. He also mentions my link to Charles Griffin's website and notes that Charlie is making PDF's of his scores directly available for purchase via PayPal. There's also a terrific reference to the Lynn University Conservatory of Music making their master class and rehearsal videos available for viewing thanks to BandDirector.com. We should see more conservatories following this model, a la shades of iTunes University!
Many thanks to Mr. Stepanich for recognizing the efforts of musicians trying to find innovative ways to share their art in a visual society!
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.
The "Video" 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!
Partnering with the Notes at 9,000 Emerging Artist Series, we developed a pilot Visual Recital Workshop for the 2007 Mad Cow Festival, where amateur artists created mixed media visuals for synchronized live performance to the music of Debussy. I collaborated with winners of the Emerging Artist Series competition in a fantastic concert combining dance, music, and visuals in a format that one listener proclaimed as "the future of live classical concerts!" With the Visual Recital Workshop, the audience member is immersed in the performance and plays a vital participatory role as co-creator with the musician. Many thanks to SoYoung Lee, Amy J. Clark, Charmain Schuh, and the creative team at The Dairy for this innovative approach to the live concert experience! Here's the video storyboard:
Last week i had the opportunity to work with Gary Schocker at his Flute Seminar in Poughskeepie, NY. Gary Schocker is one of those fascinating artists that seem to live several lives concurrently. A world-renowned flutist, a remarkable pianist, and a prolific composer, Gary's artistic career is as unique as his mirepoix of talents. Gary is the most published living composer of literature for the flute.
The interview runs about 31:25 in length and is presented as an MP3 file.
Following an early morning worship service participation in St. Mark's Cathedral in the town of George, the CFS Choir Guys and i visit several game parks - Monkeyland and Cango Wildlife Ranch - we then settle down in Addo Elephant Park for a few days of game drives. We witness the lions in their own habitat up close and personal at the Schotia Safaris and live to tell the tale over a roaring Lapa fire and delicious buffet!
After getting settled into our hotel and sorting out our bag issues, the CFS Choir and i finally hit the road and start our road trip eastward from Cape Town towards Port Elizabeth. First stop is - to our surprise - a shopping mega mall! Surprising because so many of us in the States have limited, pre-conceived ideas about what life in South Africa is like - seeing something this modern and so similar to something found at home took all of us completely by surprise!
After a delicious lunch at the mall, we then head out to explore Cango Caves, a beautiful rock formation rediscovered by Van Zyl in 1780.
Next, we visit an Ostrich Farm and have the opportunity not only to meet these fascinating birds up close, but also to try our hand at riding them! Yee-haw!!
The CFS Boys' Choir and i arrive in Cape Town and immediately start a downtown tour of the Two Oceans Aquarium, a little rock shop, and a bayside shopping mall. Bag problems continue, and i describe how the South African voltage fries my digital piano plug! Our first concert at a school for the sight impaired couldn't be recorded due to our late arrival, but instead i feature a short clip of the school's own choir performance (that begins with a bang! Luckily, no injuries!)
I just returned from my tour of South Africa with the Church Farm School Boys' Choir! From Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back, we performed under the direction of Gary Gress at schools and churches, taking in the amazing sights, wildlife, and warm hospitality along the way. Part 1 of this special series introduces Gary, the CFS school and choral program, and chronicles our departure from Philadelphia and layover in London en route to Cape Town.
Ok, so i figured out how to get a decent looking video with CD-quality audio converted into FLV flash format, compatible with Blip.tv's video viewer programs by using a terrific freebie program called Super(c). The vids look and sound great...but there was one more bug to fix, namely the fact that the scroll bar wasn't working to enable fast forward or reverse views. Blip.tv's support staff does a terrific job of responding fast to technical questions! Apparently, time coding metadata was missing from my FLV files, so they directed me to http://www.buraks.com/flvmdi/, where you can find a neat little applet that adds the missing metadata time and frame code info back into the FLV file. You can use the main program (FLVMDI 2.94) by itself if you're comfortable with using a text only command line interface (you need this program at least to run the metadata encoder), or you can be a chicken like me and add a windows-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) to run on top of the basic program (FLVMDIGUI 1.05).
Check the 4 boxes beneath the "Options: Extra Data" area and you're FLV video will be good to scroll!
Note: current version 2.94 can only handle FLV files up to 700-750MB. The developers state on their website that version 3 should remove that limitation.
You may have noticed that i've recently signed up with a new video distribution website called Blip.tv - this is a neat freebie service that promotes user uploads as continuous series, with some amazing distribution capabilities (i can automate the cross-posting of my videos in Blip.tv to this blog and my MySpace blog simultaneously, for example). The interface is clean, simple, and really easy to navigate. Setup is a breeze and you can be posting your own channel's worth of content in minutes. A wide variety of video formats is supported, making for super-easy uploads.
Blip.tv automatically converts uploaded video files to FLV formats. FLV is a Flash video format created by Macromedia, and appears to be the default format for a growing number of popular video sharing sites like YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace and the like. FLV excels at delivering nearly instantaneous playback of video files, as opposed to the typical wait or delay for playing back other types of older video file formats like Quicktime's .mov or Window's .wmv. There is a corresponding degradation of video quality that seems inevitable in order to ensure speedy playback, but for most web-embedded presentation purposes the reduced visual quality is minimal.
There is, however, one BIG drawback to Blip.tv's FLV conversion process, particularly if you're trying to post musical or rich audio content: their video file converter automatically changes audio content to mono. I've been banging my head all day trying to find a stereo workaround, and i think i've finally come up with something: a nifty freebie program called Super (c).
Super (c) enables you to convert between a huge number of video file formats, FLV included. The main website is really funky though, and it can be a major headache to try to find where the download links are - the direct download page is here, and you need to scroll to the bottom to find the "Super (c) setup file" download links from 4 different servers. Oh well, i guess you have to pay some sort of a price for free software...
The website's download servers can be excruciatingly slow, so be patient - the alternative is to spend hundreds of dollars for other video conversion programs like Macromedia itself, Flix, or Sorenson Squeeze for Flash (Mediacollege.com has a terrific article comparing the various FLV video converter programs.)
Once you have Super (c) downloaded and installed, you'll see the main interface window:
It took a LOT of experimentation, but i think i found the optimum settings to convert a 320x240 Quicktime .mov file to a decent looking and great sounding (in 48K stereo!) FLV video file:
In the "Video" panel, be sure to set the frame/sec to 29.97 and Bitrate kbps to 3600
Right next to the Bitrate box, click all the available video options ("Hi Quality", "Top Quality", etc.)
In addition, click the "O" Other Opts button and DE-SELECT the "Deinterlace" option - interlaced video looks MUCH better and sharper
Next, in the Audio section, set the Sampling Freq to 44100
Make sure 2 channels are selected
Set Bitrate kbps to 128
Drag and drop the desired video file into the bottom box and hit the "Encode (Active Files)" button, and you should be good to go!
Pianist Hugh Sung explores the expressive and sound customizing capabilites of Pianoteq, as well as the new possibilities this piano simulation software presents to bring Classical Music to broader audiences. This version features stereo audio.
In this episode, I take a look at Pianoteq, a revolutionary new approach to Virtual Piano technology. Instead of relying on static, pre-recorded samples of acoustic pianos, Pianoteq is a VST program that actually simulates the acoustic physics of all the various components of a virtual piano in realtime. Part 1 explores the primary differences between Digital Pianos and Pianoteq.
Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!