Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CONTENT MUTED DUE TO POSSIBLE COPYRIGHT


Today I want to talk about Twitch.tv and a recent decision they made that could have been executed better. If you're not familiar, Twitch is an amazing platform designed for gamers to broadcast themselves playing games out to a pretty avid audience. The tools are extremely mature, the community growing, and Twitch was recently bought by Amazon for 970 million dollars.

Twitch - Making it possible to live in your mom's basement WHILE following your dreams. Kappa

And it deserves every penny. Twitch created a way to make professional gaming financially feasible. There are gamers out there making around a million dollars in annual salary. If you're good enough, and entertaining enough, it's feasible that you can bring in ~$8k per month just from streaming yourself playing games (Like Aphromoo in the video below).


Remember how I was complaining about certain players being ranked higher than me in League of Legends? A couple months ago, I finally hit my goal of reaching the top 1% of the 67 Million+ playerbase (old data, probably bigger now). That's kind of a big deal. I used to be ranked 27th in the world at Dr. Mario for the Wii, but that game probably had less than 10k players, and being a top player was like being an honors student in special ed. With League, being better (or at least ranked higher) than MILLIONS of other hyper-competitive players is a pretty solid accomplishment. My team recently won the League of Legends tournament at Youmacon against top Michigan players too. Long story short, I'm pretty confident that I'm good enough at this game to stream on Twitch and actually have at least a handful of people pay attention to me.



So I started streaming this week. I built a gaming computer from scratch, configured my stream via Xsplit, and cleaned up my channel so it's all pretty and welcoming. Even messed around with some Twitch Bots to answer questions in my stream automatically. I still have no idea what I'm doing, but so far it's been a lot of fun!

http://twitch.tv/gundaymonday

After two nights of streaming, I used the Twitch "Highlights" feature to make some video clips of me and my team making the top 1% of the player base look silly. I main the pig-rider champion (naturally), which makes this even more fun since the vast majority of the playerbase thinks that she isn't very good (I think they play her wrong). Anyway, Twitch has a nifty feature which lets you export these clips directly to youtube so you can make things like this:


So I was surprised this morning when I went into my broadcast file from the night before and noticed that ~half of it had been muted by Twitch. Apparently they have a new service which scans stream videos for copyrighted music, and then mutes a 30 minute block of audio around whatever track they've found.


Even worse, this service is terrible with false positives. It gets confused and will mute music from the game being streamed. It mutes music made by the artist in their own streams! It even (incorrectly) muted a few official twitch videos! There isn't any feedback mechanism explaining why your audio got muted either. So I have no clue what songs to remove from my playlist to fix the problem! People aren't happy.

http://blog.twitch.tv/2014/08/3136/

As a n00bie streamer and amateur musician, this decision makes zero sense from either perspective. As a streamer, this is going to make me hate and stop using any music that mutes my audio. As an artist, I would never want my music to be blocked for any reason. Streamers listening to my tracks are supplying free advertising for me, similar to how League of Legends became the most popular game in the world driven largely by free streamer word of mouth (or broadcast) hype. Sure the music industry folks won't like that, but there are MUCH smarter ways to solve the problem of getting paid.

It's not the easiest task to make money online as an artist.

This is especially true since most stream viewers aren't tuning in to listen to background music. They are there to watch the player pull off some highly skilled gameplay, or hear the player's thought process, or interact with a community of like minded peers. The background music is just there to set the stage, and it makes no sense to censor the entire production if the music sounds similar enough for a faulty algorithm to flag it as copyrighted content.


"BUT WHAT ABOUT FIGHTING PIRACY??!??" the music industry cries!

No, stop right there. I'm one of the few people who still buys music. I think pirates are f*cking scumbags and am not shy about sharing this opinion openly. Every song I played on my stream is from a CD that I purchased directly from the artist at one of their shows or from their official online store. So it's comical to me that my videos (which less than 50 people have actually watched) are being censored due to background music that I already paid for.

You can always build a better system.

So what's a better way to do this?

Making the censoring process Opt IN instead of Opt OUT would be a great start. Currently artists (who do not want their music censored) cannot turn the censoring off because their music is automatically included in the list to block. Sure you'll have a handful of Nicklebacks that will want their money, but I would want that crap censored anyway. Creating transparency over what can and can't be played would be amazing too. If a Spotify or iTunes or Pandora were to make a filter for Twitch approved music, they would gain A LOT of business. Another thing Twitch could do is simply pay out a fraction of any revenue to artists as royalties. You'd want to make it proportional to their time on the stream, and this would likely be far less $ than the artist would get for being included in the soundtrack of a movie or tv show since it's only background music. This again would only be for the Opt IN scumbags.

Please give me the opportunity to promote and pay my favorite artists instead of censoring them.

Or even better, set it up so streamers can choose to donate a fraction of their ad earnings to the artists they listen to. I would do this. I would love for the Tally Halls and the Aquabats and the Mustard Plugs of the world to make some extra cash so they can make more music for me to enjoy every day. By opting in (as a streamer) to this system, you unlock the ability to have those artists' songs unmuted from your stream.

BOOM everyone's happy.

This wouldn't be a lot of money either. Probably ~$10 out of a $10k monthly paycheck judging from Spotify artist revenue. Personally, I would love the option to give more to my favorite artists out of my streaming revenue (maybe a flat % of whatever I make?). That would create a feedback loop where the music industry would want to support streamers and streamers would want to support the music industry. I'm inclined to believe that most people will opt into a system like this, given the chance.

So that's my two cents on how to fix a system to make all parties happy, instead of most parties miserable and angry. What do you think? Is there an even BETTER way to do this? Let me know in the comments below. Honestly curious what others think!

Give me a follow on Twitch if you want to watch me ride a pig and throw ice bolas in a virtual world against other really good players. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments below if you'd like to try Twitch for yourself and want some help setting up. Took me about a month to figure out and I'm more than happy to spare you from a couple setup headaches!



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How To Piss Off Your Clients And Ruin Your Business

Today I am being extorted by a psychic for ~$30. It's been a weird week.

Bridal Party became zombies after the ceremony.

Let me back up. I got married last month. We did a fun Halloween wedding where everyone dressed up, drank a ton, and danced the night away. We had a lot of Halloween themed things to do ranging from trick or treat stations to a psychic who would read your palm to see into your future.

Obligatory Zombie Thriller Dance

Everyone had a great time. The DJ had the dance floor moving all night, the food was fantastic, and everything looked amazing. Wedding was perfect and my wife and I were super happy. We tipped everyone involved handsomely and went into our post-wedding lives. About a month later, I get a string of poorly written text messages sent to my private cell phone number from our wedding psychic saying that I owed her an additional $100 for her staying until 1am. Which was interesting to me, since our wedding ended at midnight and my new wife and I were in our hotel shortly after.

"Wait, you want money you didn't earn?"

She was adamant about me owing her $100 in addition to the $400 we had paid her for doing psychic readings from 8pm-midnight since an un-named guest had asked her to stay until 1am, and threatened legal action if I did not mail her a check. To put this in perspective, we also tipped this lady $50 (I thought she did a great job). She gave a few guests that missed the last shuttle a ride back to the hotel ~12:15. This was a ~10 minute trip, and one of the guests gave her $20 to cover her gas. So total, she got ~$470 for maybe 4.5 hours of work. I bring this up to show that she wasn't paid poorly, and that we even gave her extra cash on top of what our contract agreed to. What's the world coming to when you can't trust a psychic?

I see... A lot of misspelled text messages from me in your phone until you pay me more money!

I've explained to her that she will not be getting any extra money since I (the person who signed her contract) did not ask her to stay an extra hour after the party ended for no reason. I also expressed that I hoped there were no hard feelings since we tipped her an extra $70.

Stephen King taught me that it's generally not a good call to piss off psychics.

I did this politely in case she was a psychopath who might stalk me outside of my house over an imagined $30.

My lawyer uncle said that her claim was laughable. He mentioned (sarcastically) that I had grounds to sue her for being a fraud, since she didn't see into the future that I wasn't going to pay her for no reason.

But how freaking stupid could you be! She keeps texting and calling and leaving voicemails and threatening to see me in court. All over $30 that she didn't earn (I'm calling it $30 since she got $70 in tips).

We had multiple friends that were excited about going to her for readings. They had appointments and would have paid $100 each. Not any more! Made sure very quickly to let them know what was happening with her harassment. By rudely demanding an unearned $100, she lost herself at least $500 in business, and pissed off our event planner, potentially blacklisting her from future events in Michigan. Not the smartest way to grow your business.


And this is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Lie to your clients. We do not owe her a dime, and she has completely undermined every good thing she ever did by lying and saying we do. Until the day I die, I will associate her with supreme scumbaggery and vociferate her flaws to anyone mentioning her name. All this over $30.

So next time you're thinking about harassing a client for extra unearned cash, don't. No reason to extort money via harassment, and turn your biggest fans into extremely vocal die-hard enemies.

Okay, rant over. Usually don't get angry about anything, but this psychotic psychic rubbed me the wrong way so thoroughly that I needed to vent my frustration out into the interwebs. Thanks for reading my therapy session and don't go to Laura if you need psychic stuff done!