Acts of Volition Radio: Session 24

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Twenty Four

It’s been a few months since my last session of Acts of Volition Radio was recorded. I’m back with six fantastic songs.

Back with six great songs. Recorded Sunday, April 2, 2006 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 34min.

Session Twenty Four Playlist:

  1. My Morning Jacket – Wordless Chorus
  2. The Doughboys – Shine
  3. Idlewild – Love Steals Us from Loneliness
  4. Wintersleep – Jaws of Life
  5. Snow Patrol with Martha Wainwright – Set the Fire to the Third Bar
  6. Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions or subscribe to the Acts of Volition Radio RSS feed.


Acts of Volition Radio: Session 23

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Twenty Three

My last session of Acts of Volition Radio was recorded in the waning days of my bachelorhood. Though this session now features a married host, the music continues to rock (though sometimes gently). I’m as excited about sharing these great songs as I was when recording the first session. This session is the first available in Ogg Vorbis format (info and rational, though the MP3 version is still available if you prefer.

Songs that rock, gently. Recorded Sunday, November 6, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 47min.

Session Twenty Three Playlist:

  1. Fountains of Wayne – Mexican Wine
  2. The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show
  3. Denison Witmer – Little Flowers
  4. Starflyer 59 – Good Sons
  5. Sum 41 – Pieces
  6. Nada Surf – Always Love
  7. Without Gravity – Beautiful Son
  8. Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Follow You Into The Dark

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions or subscribe to the Acts of Volition Radio RSS feed.


Acts of Volition Radio in the News

I had a request from a journalist to give some thoughts on “podcasting”. As I mention below, I’m still a bit lamed-out by the actual term “podcasting”, but if it helps people learn about cool audio online, then I can live with it. It’s no worse than “blog” anyhow.

I figured my email response to the journalist might be of some interest to others (and I can show what I actually wrote in case I’m misrepresented – though I’m sure it will be fine). Here, then, is what I wrote:

Question: What in your opinion makes a successful podcast?

Before you can determine what makes a successful podcast, I think you have to define what success is to you, the producer. For some, success may be measure by the most obvious and straightforward means: number of listeners. For others, though, success may come in reaching a small group effectively. For a few, success may even be defined by simply producing something that you are happy with – talking can be quite therapeutic.

For myself, I feel satisfied when I hear from a few people that have truly enjoyed a piece of music I’ve played. Even if I were only to hear back from a couple of people, knowing that someone has found some new music that they love is what motivates me to produce the show.

Question: Which are your favorites?

I actually only listen to a few “podcasts”:


There’s a really geeky show produced by four guys from Wolverhampton in the U.K. called LugRadio ( It’s a panel talk show about Linux and the surrounding technology and culture. The guys that do the show are huge geeks, are quite funny, and actually do a better job of discussion Linux and open-source technology-related issues that most in the mainstream press. Their British accents make everything they say sound just a little bit smarter and funnier too.

IT Conversations

While not limited to one specific host or topic, the IT Conversations site hosts conference keynotes and interviews with people from around the technology industry. The original host (he has since branched out and there are shows by many hosts on the site), Doug Kaye, does a great interview and they have some strong keynote presentations by important thinkers in the IT world.


Hosted by the maintainers of the technology/culture news site,, this is a short weekly podcast that covers some of the most popular tech news stories of the week. That said, I listen mostly because the hosts are fun and entertaining.

MathCaddy Radio

A dude named Adam, who follows much the same format as my own Acts of Volition Radio – he plays music he loves and tells us about it. Like my own stuff, it’s rough and unscripted. Every once and a while, he tells a story about a song that makes you hear it in a new light and it’s totally worth the listen.

I would love to hear more people produce shows like Acts of Volition Radio and MathCaddy Radio, where they play the music they really love. That is the best way to find new music. It’s not coming from marketing firms, radio stations, or record companies. Instead, it’s music that someone loved enough to want to tell us about it.

Question: When do you listen, and with what technology?

I mostly listen when I’m at home on my old 1970s tube-powered Pioneer stereo, hooked up to my laptop. I don’t actually have an iPod or other portable music player. I also don’t use any of the podcast-downloading applications. Instead, I mostly just download the shows I want to hear at listening-time directly from the websites. With high-speed internet, it only takes a few minutes to download most shows.

The subscription and automatic download model that defines “podcasting” is intriguing, and I can see it being powerful if you have a commute or walk everyday that you want new material automatically on your player for. So far, at least, I don’t listen to shows that are produced daily and don’t have a portable player – so just downloading the shows manually and listening to them from my laptop is easy enough.

Question: Will podcasting last?

I’m still a bit weirded-out by the term “podcasting”. I just sounds kinda dumb to me. When the weblog/blogging phenomenon started to take off, I left the same way about the word “blog”. I still say “weblog” when I can (it sounds a bit less goofy), but I’ve pretty much given up on that since the term “blog” has become so ubiquitous. I think I’ll have to give in and start saying “podcasting” eventually too – but for now, I still find the term too goofy to say with a straight face.

I’m not sure if the term “podcasting” will last, or if the current technology of RSS enclosures to distribute audio files will last. It seems to be doing well, but could always be supplanted by some newer and better technology.

I do think that individuals producing audio and publishing it online will last. It was thought that television would kill radio but radio still plays an important role. I think this stems from some inherent strengths of the audio-only medium. Producing audio-only (as opposed to audio and video) significantly lowers the barrier to entry. You can make a great radio show with a decent mic and a laptop. While video is getting cheaper and easier (and will be an important medium online), it is still much easier to sound cool than it is to look cool.

I suspect that like the original hype around weblogs, the initial media interest might wear off, and many who got involved to see what the buzz was about might lose interested. However, like with weblogs, great writers will keep writing and people will continue to produce great interview, shows, and music.

I was actually producing and publishing Acts of Volition Radio before the term/technology “podcasting” came along – so if the term and technology turn out to be a passing fad, I’ll likely still be sharing music I love with whomever will listen.

A few general notes:

Licensing is a problem. I wrote SOCAN, the organization that manages music licensing in Canada for radio and television when I first began my show. I would be willing to pay a reasonable licensing fee. However, at the time, I was told that this new medium hadn’t quite been figured out. They suggested I save up some of my “revenue” (or “operating expenses” in the case of non-commercial radio) for whenever they actually do figure out what to change. I don’t have any revenue, and my “operating expenses” as trivial.

Rather than wait for the music industry to figure out how to make money off this new format, I’ve decided to go ahead and sell music for them. I’ve gotten dozens of email from people who have told me that after hearing an artist on Acts of Volition Radio, then purchased the CD. If anything, I consider what I’m doing to be to the benefit of the artists. I’m doing their advertising for them!

I suppose if I were to be asked (or threatened) by record companies or music industry organizations, I would comply with their request. However, rather than just stop, I think I would seek out musicians and record companies that understand the value of this new medium and promote their music instead.

Before I started producing Acts of Volition Radio, like most people, I would share great songs, albums, and artists with friends. With the show, I have effectively opened-up that sharing process to anyone who cares to listen.

The bottom line for me is that I love music. When you hear a song that really connects with you, it is a powerful feeling. When you know someone else has had a similar connection with that same song, it becomes a connection between people. I think this is part of what can make live music such a powerful experience. I want other people to feel what I feel when I listen to great music – this is why I produce the show.

When I hear from a listener that they have found some great new music through my show, I know that we have shared a common experience. It’s really about using music to connect with people.

I’ post an update if any of my stuff is used in the piece when it gets published.


Acts of Volition Radio: Session 22

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Twenty Two

This, the 22nd session of Acts of Volition Radio, was recorded the the safe-harbour of my office on a Saturday night. Meanwhile, back at my house (from which I was temporarily banished), my bride-to-be and her friends celebrated the waning days of her life as a single woman. The songs don’t really have anything to do that, but I thought I’d give you some context.

Songs from last stand of the bachlor. Recorded Saturday, July 16, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 53min.

Session Twenty Two Playlist:

  1. Mew – Am I Wry? No
  2. MxPx – Heard That Sound
  3. Coldplay – Fix You
  4. Pearl Jam – Baba O’Riley
  5. Catherine Wheel – Broken Nose
  6. Self – Sophomore Jinx
  7. Doves – There Goes The Fear
  8. U2 – Van Diemen’s Land

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions or subscribe to the Acts of Volition Radio RSS feed.


The Catch-22 of Open Format Adoption, Part 1: Music

We’re all familiar with the MP3 file format. As far as most people are concerned, the format implies free music. The software required to play MP3 files is usually free as well. That said, neither of these things necessarily follow from use of the MP3 format.

What most people don’t realize is that the MP3 format itself is not free. If you want to create a device or a piece of software that plays back or creates MP3 files, you have to pay Thomson Consumer Electronics for a license to do so.

Companies that sell products that support MP3 are paying Thomson for each sale. That means Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Mac OS X and iPod. This even applies to software that is free for the end-user to download, such as Apple’s iTunes or Winamp. That’s right – Winamp had to pay for a license for every copy of the player that all of us got to download for free.

What the heck is Ogg Vorbis?

There is an alternative format that is a technical match to MP3 that is not encumbered with patent or licensing issues. The Ogg Vorbis format is as good or better than MP3 and is completely free (both in terms of price and licensing).

Why, then, hasn’t Ogg Vorbis taken off? I see a few reasons for this. The first is that the term “MP3” became a brand name associated with free music. Companies involved in music-related products and services wanted to be able to say “MP3”.

Apple had the opportunity to make the move when they introduced iTunes and the iPod. Both are compatible with MP3, but the default format is AAC, something Apple presumably used for the ability to control playback (“digital rights management”).

So What?

The most significant reason that Ogg Vorbis didn’t overtake MP3 is that MP3 did what people wanted. End users weren’t paying the license fee. Winamp was free, iTunes was free. Why change?

We see the real problem with a non-free file format when free/open-source software starts to become more prevalent on the rest of the desktop. Completely free/open-source desktop Linux distributions cannot include support for MP3 playback, because they would have to track (and pay for) each download. As a result, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, and other popular Linux distributions can’t play a simple MP3 file out of the box. This is because the file is simple, but the lisencing is not.

Why Not Just Use Ogg Vorbis, Then?

What then, is a music publisher who cares about free and open software to do? I produce an amateur radio show made available for download in MP3 format. I would like to publish in Ogg Vorbis format, but a lot of my potential listeners would have to jump through hoops to be able to play the show.

Consider John Q. Listener. He’d like to listen to my radio show on his new iBook. However, iTunes doesn’t support Ogg Vorbis playback by default. A plug-in is available, but is he really going to go install it just to listen to my dorky little show? Even if John does find a way to play the Ogg Vorbis files on his laptop, he won’t be able to play them on his iPod. The same goes for overwhelming majority of computer users who are running Windows.

I want to support the open file format, but I also want people to listen to my show. I want people walking around with my favourite songs on their iPod. What am I to do? I have three options:

  1. Publish only in MP3 – This works for everyone but a small number of Linux users (most of whom know how to get MP3 playback for their Linux computers anyhow). Free file format be damned, John Q. Listener is walking around with my show on his iPod.
  2. Publish only in Ogg Vorbis – People learn about the format. Some may even find the software required to play it on the Mac or Windows PC. However, many (most?) people won’t bother listening since they don’t have support for the file format already installed. No one with an iPod can listen to it (unless they convert it to MP3, and it’s not that good of a show to be worth that kind of time and effort). The world is a better place, but I’ll never get famous this way…
  3. Publish two versions, one in MP3 and one in Ogg Vorbis – many online media outlets go this route with streaming formats (publishing simultaneously in Real, Windows Media, Quicktime formats) to ensure the widest possible reach. However, this adds a new layer of complexity for my John Q. Listener. Now, instead of just downloading and listening, he has to choose between two formats. He doesn’t care, he just wants to rawk. Also, much of the benefit of publishing in Ogg Vorbis is now lost, since only those who are already familiar with it and using it will bother choosing it as a format.

I went with option #1. I’m still not entirely comfortable with this, but I want as many people as possible to hear by show. Obviously, I’m not writing here with a clear recommendation. Rather, I hope to highlight the benefits and issues surrounding the move to free/open formats.

I’ll be writing more about the catch-22 of open formats, and with a bit more optimism, in the coming days.

The Catch-22 of Open Formats mini-series
  1. The Catch-22 of Open Format Adoption, Part 1: Music (you are here)
  2. The Catch-22 of Open Format Adoption, Part 2: Instant Messaging
  3. Part 3: Coming soon

Acts of Volition Radio: Session 21

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Twenty One

Many of you have likely seen the many weblog posts entitled “A Musical Baton” over the last few weeks. The chain-letter-like post asks the author to share a bit about the music they are enjoying, and pass the duty on to five more people. Having been passed the “baton” myself (thanks Garrett), I’ll let this, the 21st session of Acts of Volition Radio be my reply.

A Musical Baton. Recorded Saturday, May 29, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 55min.

Session Twenty One Playlist:

  1. Matt Mays & El Torpedo – Cocaine Cowgirl
  2. Stars – Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
  3. Nada Surf – Treading Water
  4. Simon & Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy In New York
  5. MxPx – Kings of Holleywood
  6. Mystery Machine – What I Want
  7. Pilate – Melt Into The Walls
  8. Extreme – Tragic Comic
  9. Ben Folds – Late

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions.


Acts of Volition Radio: Session 20

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Twenty

The 20th session of Acts of Volition Radio is a collection of hard rock and punk songs. This session runs a bit longer and rocks a bit harder than previous sessions. It may rock your ass off.

Music that rocks hard. Recorded Saturday, April 24, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 1hr11min.

Session Twenty Playlist:

  1. The Living End – Prisoner of Society
  2. Billy Talent – River Below
  3. Chevelle – The Red
  4. Deftones – Change (In The House Of Flies)
  5. Poor Old Lu – My World Falls Down
  6. Radiohead – Palo Alto
  7. Catherine Wheel – Lifeline
  8. Jimmy Eat World – A Praise Chorus
  9. Rancid – Ruby Soho
  10. Decendents – Lucky
  11. P.O.D. – Boom
  12. MxPx – The Theme Fiasco
  13. Extreme – Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee
  14. Extreme – When I’m President
  15. Extreme – Play With Me

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions.


Acts of Volition Radio: Session 19

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Nineteen

The nineteenth session of Acts of Volition Radio includes some new songs I’ve discovered recently, and some older material that you might not have heard before. I had a cold when I was recording it, so pardon the nasal tone.

Newly discovered and recently rediscovered songs. Recorded Sunday, March 20, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 40 min.

Session Nineteen Playlist:

  1. Snow Patrol – Run
  2. Bright Eyes – Arc of Time
  3. Mir – So Perfect
  4. Our Lady Peace – Naveed
  5. Copyright – Transfiguration
  6. Mike Knott – Deaf and Dumb

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions.


East Coast Music Award winners on Acts of Volition Radio

As I watched the East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) on CBC Television tonight, it occurred to me that I should put together an ECMA themed session of Acts of Volition Radio. Then it occurred to me that I’ve already played most of the songs that such a session would include.

  • Gordie Sampson won five ECMAs last night. I played his song, Sunburn, which he played last night and for which he won Songwritter of the Year in Session 15.
  • The Trews won Group of the Year and performed with Big Sugar singer/guitarist Gordie Johnson, who produced their record. I played their song Tired of Waiting in Session 13.
  • Joel Plaskett performed and won Rock recording of the Year. I played his song Work Out Fine from the winning record, Truthfully Truthfully in Session 10. I also played a song by Joel Plaskett’s old band, Thrush Hermit in that session. Thrush Hermit were nominated for Alternative Recording of the Year in 1995.
  • I’ve also played quite a few former ECMA winners:
    • I played Sandbox in Session 16 and Session 4. They were nominated in 1996 for Album of the Year (Bionic) and Song of the Year (Curious – played in Session 16).
    • Sloan wasn’t up for anything this year, but Chris Murphy introduced his old friend Joel Plaskett. Since 1993, Sloan has won 5 ECMAs and have had 31 nominations. Sloan are featured in Session 11, Session 3, and Session 2.
    • Matt Mays, who I played in Session 7 was also not up for anything this year, but had 6 nominations and won New Artist of the Year in 2004.
    • The Inbreds, played in Session 10 were nominated for Alternative Recording of the Year in 1998.
    • Buck 65, featured in Session 9, has had four nominations and won Urban Recording of the Year in 2003 and Alternative Recording of the Year in 2004.
    • Eyes for Telescopes were nominated for Alternative Recording of the Year in 2003 and 2004 Session 3. This session also included The Rude Mechanicals, who haven’t had any nominations (yet), but have played at ECMA showcases.

One band I haven’t played yet, but will probably include in my next session is Mir. They have had three ECMA nominations and did a fantastic performance at last night’s ECMAs. Also, Tim Chaisson, who’s track I played in Session 12, hasn’t won any ECMAs yet. I’d be willing to bet that he’ll have a mantle full of them in a few years.


Acts of Volition Radio: Session 18

Acts of Volition Radio: Session Eighteen The eighteenth session of Acts of Volition Radio is a collection of some old songs, some new songs, and an appeal to help me track down the composer of one of the songs.

A collection of songs old and new. Recorded Thursday, January 13, 2005 by Steven Garrity. Run time: 47 min.

Session Eighteen Playlist:

  1. My Morning Jacket – One Big Holiday
  2. Pure – The Hammock
  3. The Innocence Mission – Lakes of Canada
  4. The Dell Griffiths – Annakin
  5. Joy Electric and Starflyer 59 – Blue Collar Love
  6. Joe Christmas – Scrabble Girl

For more, see the previous Acts of Volition Radio sessions.