8 Years of OM and the Net

8 Years of OM and the Net
Remember when you first signed online? What about the first email you had?

In the mid 90s many of us signed online for the first time and began to invest our time and interest in the internet. The options of what to view and read were very limited. Video online did not yet exist for commoners and audio was bound to cause problems for users as they surfed the net.

With most people accessing via dial-up, the internet was sluggish at best and impossible at worst. When you did get to hear something it was garbled with digital compression and mostly only available via RealAudio. There was no mp3 technology when I first signed on. It would come a few years later and even then it was not a perfect science. The sites that did feature audio were considered very advanced, especially if it was ‘streaming’ audio.

In 1997 I had begun to tinker with building websites for my pleasure and to explore some artistic options I was interested in. I didn’t envision serving anyone with these hobbyist interests but at the same time I had heard that a favorite artist of mine had lost most of his catalogue when the label buckled and took the masters with them. This was the birth of this idea of OM online. I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose a chance to hear this great music and offered the idea of directly communicating with the artists’ audience without record label dependence.

A good friend at the time was involved in website building and after a few attempts at working for his boss I decided I would go gig for a living. But I didn’t stop creating web pages and in 1999 I build a full website for the artist I was so interested in supporting. He had only just hopped online months before and he took a chance at letting me build his site. We didn’t have audio clips at first and video was a long way away.

After we built the first site, another artist called and said he liked the work and wanted a website, then another and then another. This was going to be interesting and suddenly I was in the business of building websites for artists. The first thing I learned was that if I was going to do this work I had to organize my tools and get serious about learning all the facets of building websites. Doing this from the ground was exciting but very challenging.

I remember very well the conversations with artists where I would say, “ok the sound clips are up. Whatcha think?” They would grimace with the transformation of their music from great CD quality sound to this warbled audio technology. As time passed the speed of the internet would improve and the computer hardware people were using advanced. Eventually audio quality became a no brainer and the range of the audience was growing.

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With the addition of Shoutcast technology I began to work with Otis Maclay in my radio work at Pacifica’s local station. We were engineering live broadcasts and recordings and replaying them via Shoutcast. With his experience and technological prowess, we were able to really push the technology until all we had to deal with was content management and scheduling all the events. The live broadcasting would continue during our work with Pacifica and it was very exciting work overall.

One very exciting moment for me was the FCC hearing at Emory University in Atlanta. I went with a simple 8 channel mixer, my laptop, a few audio cables and a 400 ft internet cable. I was 12 feet short of my ideal sweet spot and I wired into the sound board with a 100ft mic cable stretched to its max. With the deadline for airtime on us, I finally got online and hit broadcast on our WinAmp program. I sent the source to our little server and Otis patched it into the Houston radio station’s satellite KU band. We were now broadcasting to hundreds of community stations who were interested in carrying the broadcast.

The old paradigm called for a very expensive remote truck with equipment worth a small house. The new paradigm put these options in the hands of more simple people like our little crew. We were busy doing radio shows on our favorite political issues and at the same time we were looking to shift from our political activism to supporting the many artists I knew and was working for.

Websites like mp3.com emerged, napster came and went, but there was a new day coming where people would start watching video online. While it is true that video was available before sites like Google Video and YouTube, it wasn’t until these two sites were launched that the common user was able to enjoy the wide range of voices out on the net. We have seen a plethora of videos of cats, mentos cola explosions and other zany clips. But our interests in music were also beginning to be met with the ability to see some of the different instruments that, for most, were unknown or never seen before.

These days you can watch a wide range of music from around the world and in time those clips will become more and more accessible to interested audiences. We view these sites as a great way to share music that to some is obscure and hidden. The most exciting part is that we are finally getting to know our audience outside of just web statistics that only told us where they were and maybe what kind of computer they used. Now we can see their profiles and find what common ground we have.

After 8 years online, OMRadio.com has grown to over 100+ websites and we intend to grow the content to please the palette of the interested and curious. We really look forward to seeing the technology expand even more. With increased bandwidth and decreased costs, the web has become a very affordable way to share art and viewpoints with people, real human beings, who want to get more out of life and learn more about their world.

Thank you for your time and share your ideas and experiences with us.

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