Back in March I wrote about my trip to Portland for the mastering session for Steve Robinson's album, which is being released on my Midnight Gypsy record label. It's the first time I ever sat in a mastering session and found the process fascinating. Mastering doesn't make bad recordings sound good, but it certainly puts a nice polish on good tracks. Mastering was done with ProTools on a Mac rig, but the original recordings were all done with Cakewalk SONAR.
Before the public preview of the album could go live, I had to get a few things in order. Top on my list was getting a great looking design for the site. On most of the label sites I visit regularly, the designs are painful to navigate and you can't ever find what you want to know about the artists. After looking around for designs I liked, I realized that many of the sites with a style similar to what I wanted were all done by Julie at Bonafide Style. The whole team there does great work, but I particularly like Julie's designs and consequently hired her to do the work. She took my vague idea of what I wanted and turned it into what I consider to be an awesome design. Julie will definitely be my first choice for future Web design needs.
The second and infinitely more frustrating part of what I needed was a way to effectively stream the album without a crippling playback experience. I hate the way the embedded Windows Media Player and QuickTime options deal with buffering, so they were out. I tried several other options, including an open source app that looks quite similar to Wimpy, but none of them worked quite the way I expected. I think I found what I needed in the Wimpy Website MP3 player. It's basically just a Flash player with some sort of code mojo that makes it skinnable and seriously cool looking. Using a combination of PHP GetInfo to pull file information and the skin to make the player look like something people recognize as a media player, Wimpy is almost perfect. It's got track skipping and track shuffle built in, which is totally cool. The real test will be to see how it holds up to everyone who reads this taking the songs for a spin.
Of course all of this leads me to the real excitement. The album is now available for online preview. You can listen to every track on the album from the site. CD copies of the release are available for pre-order if you like it, with instant gratification from a lossless FLAC version of the album available immediately on purchase of the CD or as a separate download. And while I'd love to have everyone who reads this buy a copy, I'll be happy if you just drop me a line and tell me what you like (or dislike) about the online listening experience.