Tuesday, December 31, 2002

BLISTER MEDIA: 10.15.98 -12.31.02

We'd worked together since 1991, but didn't begin our formal partnership until the beginning of September 1998. Our venture remained unnamed until mid-October. 'Blister' was not our first choice, but in fact our seventh choice. It seemed that no matter what eclectic name we thought up, someone somewhere already had a music production studio with the same name. Legal fees related to formal trademark searches were draining a tidy hole in our launch budget. Eventually we came to a point of exasperation, where it was like, let's just use the first thing available.

If I had to do it over again, I would have gone into business with our first choice and simply waited for a cease and desist letter to arrive from an offended party. That way, we could have hit the ground running faster and had a little more cash in our pocket when we did –and honestly, I think it would 100% have been cheaper.

We founded our business with a mission to become the Interactive medium's premier audio supplier –delivering not just sound, as was typical for audio shops, but the applicable coding to insure the highest quality integration and playback. In the spirit of the burgeoning dot com age, we added the identifier 'Media'.

Other shops provided 'Recording', 'Mixing', 'Music', 'Music and Sound Design', or simply 'Audio'. I knew we were different because I knew our approach to the process was different. Dramatically so. There wasn't another commercial shop I could think of that considered the issues programmers faced during the construction of these new Interactive experiences.

In fact, the only other venture I could think of that shared any similarities with our business model was Cathryn Ramin's Team Audio project out of San Francisco, and whose roster of talent included Ron Ramin and X-Files composer Mark Snow. That's good company to be in, I think!

At any rate, I'd like to believe that I brought to the table an understanding of market considerations coupled with an ear for maximizing the entertainment value of any given sonic experience, and Michael was simply a master of making things sound great streaming off the web. And to his credit, he never tired of producing hundreds of navigational button sounds.

I wanted to indicate we found beauty in chaos. I wanted to say 'disciplined but experimental'. I wanted to signal to our Madison Alley (Madison Ave + Silicon V/Alley, i.e. the ad tech community)neighbors that we were one of them, and not, you know, a place where bands just hung out and made demos. We eventually settled on the tag 'Music Noise Code'.

I love language as much as I love music –both are different manifestations of communicable sound– that memorable branding and marketing strike my ear as linguistic melodies.

Of course, I was quite pleased that when Mix Magazine's Internet Audio supplement published their April 2001 story about us (Interactive Composition Comes of Age), they even used the tag as section headers to tell three aspects of our story: Music, Noise and Code.

Blister Media – Music ..> Noise ..> Code

I still think it rocks.

Monday, December 30, 2002

The Future of Music Production

In the five years Blister Media was in business, we produced audio for both Time Warner and Viacom, and provided music, sound design and programming for a $900,000 Texaco Foundation sponsored Sesame Workshop on-line music learning area –significant because at the time it represented one of the largest grants in Texaco Foundation history.

We also delivered award winning network packaging to HBO Zone and audio for VH1’s 2001 ‘Surveillance’ branding campaign; as well as worked on early web interstitials, electronic games, and provided onsite location sound installations for the NASDAQ Market Site on Times Square; the Swiss RE Center for Global Dialogue in Geneva; and for the Kids Room Venue @ the Millennium Dome in London.

Additionally, Blister Media was the first audio house to deliver synchronized audio elements for Sync-To-Broadcast technology –notably for MTV’s Web Riot; and for the Weakest Link, TBS, Turner, and several other acclaimed projects.

To my surprise, many of our clients began to consider us not just 'audio guys', but creative consultants and asked us to participate on everything from character development, copy changes, design issues, marketing strategies. I'm especially grateful to Eric Zimmerman and Peter Lee over at GameLab; Vincent Lacava and Mark Smith at Pop; and everyone at Sesame Workshop for inviting us so deeply into their process.

Our partnership received mentions in ID magazine, Communications Arts, Creativity, Shoot, Boards; and contributed to a slew of projects that received notice in print, online and around the world. The publishers of Mix Magazine, in their Interactive Audio supplement suggested Blister Media’s synchronistic practices was a portent to ‘The Future of Music Production’

When the bubble burst and our clients disappeared, naturally the business faltered. But what an exciting run for us. Twenty years from now when my kids ask what I was doing during the Internet Revolution, I can not only tell them that I witnessed it, but I was there, and shared good company during our time on the front lines of a new age.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Blister Media: Music..> Noise..> Code..>

Blister Media was founded on October 15, 1998, by myself and interactive composer, Michael Sweet. This is a reprint of the copy I wrote for Blister Media's original home page:

Welcome to Blister, Silicon Alley's music and sound design resource. We create original and innovative audio for interactive media, movies, television, broadcast, advertising, and special venues.

From a singular tone for a global telephone system or web site, to a trans global score for a television commercial or electronic game, to an award winning treatment for an entire network, to wrap around audio branding for a point-of-purchase venue, we have done it. We are the first music production team to deliver audio for sync-to-broadcast technology and have been working on Interactive projects since 1996.

Since our inception, Blister's work has been featured in a variety of media, including The New York Times and Wired magazine. Game Developer called our work addictive. Internet Audio recently called us the "future of music production".

Advertising and broadcast clients already know we are adept at enhancing design and stylized film with unique sonic treatments. In addition to creating music and sound design, we are also unique in our field in that we create and provide audio applicable code for our interactive clients who require it. And we can provide delivery solutions for audio once it goes online. We really can make audio sound better. Your design and technical teams will find us a pleasure to work with.

Awards, we get our share, including a couple of Clios and Best Audio for an electronic game; the broadcast design and marketing communities honored us with Best Music and Sound Design for a television or cable network. We are proud to mention that not a year goes by without our projects receiving top honors from I.D. Magazine.

We'd like to get to know you, and by way of introduction, we hope you'll take some time to get acquainted with the material herein. We're actively seeking new creative collaborators and would welcome the opportunity to participate on one of your projects.

For further information, or to set up a meeting or presentation, contact Terry O'Gara / Executive Producer @ 917.520.1540


Saturday, December 28, 2002

Choosing a Company Name | Tag Line Concepting

In November of 2008 we had chosen a name for our fledgling audio company, settling at last on Blister Media, a nod to the Silicon Alley clients we were hoping to align ourselves with, and as a way of distinguishing ourselves from our competitors who were still modeled on a traditional music house paradigm.

Our first choice, however, was not Blister Media, but all our first picks were already used by other companies in the music and entertainment space.

Among thee our favored choices were:

Gray People
Floating World

As we ticked off ideas and discovered they were taken, it became immediately apparent that we were not always as original as we thought we were. But that fact merely offered a challenge to be increasingly more distinct in our services and identity.

After conducting yet another trademark search (7 in all), our lawyer finally reported back that Blister Media was available in our category, and so we then began concepting a tagline.

Here's a list of selected possibilities:

Blister Tag Line Concepting

Applied Audio
Audio Artisans
Audio Artistry
Audio Branding
Biology. Psychology. Technology.
Broadcast Music Production
Custom Music and Sound design
Hot Music + Cool Sound Design = Blistering Media
Human Audio Stimulus
Interactive Audio + Broadcast Music Production
Music + Brains. A New Approach.
Provoke Your Senses
React to This
Saving the World with Sound
Slammin’ Audio
Smashing Audio
Sonic Arts
Sonic Branding
Sonic Identity
Stimulate your Senses.
Strategic Thinking for Sound
The Science of Sound
Working Towards a Better Sounding Planet
Your ears are hungry. Feed them music.

Yeah, not all of them were great, obviously. In fact, most of them are awful.

'Hot Music + Cool Sound Design'?

Ugh, I'm embarrassed to admit that actually came out of my brain. but that's why you peel off a hundred of these things before choosing one you'll live with, and which perfectly captures the message you want to convey about yourself to your customers.

In the end, we presented ourselves to the world as:

Blister Media
Music..> Noise..> Code..>

And thereby established ourselves, I'm proud to say, as the first audio production company that offered music, sound design and audio specific programming.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

VN Collation/ Gamelab/ Loop/ Nabakov

The 2000/2001 edition of VNCollation happened to be a collection of Nabokov related items. Happily they published this interview with Eric Zimmerman of gameLab regarding a new game his company had developed for Shockwave, Loop. Gamelab, in turn, had retained Blister Media to produce an interactive audio track for the game.

Briefly, Loop is based upon the character Aida, a little girl obsessed with catching butterflies.

Game players actually catch the butterflies by using their computer mouse to draw a ‘loop’ around several of the same type. The actual cursor had been designed to resemble a pencil. Butterflies once caught, were dramatically mounted and framed to indicate scores.

Eric being a magnanimous director, had graciously invited Michael Sweet and I to participate in discussions regarding character development and marketing concepts for the game. Our official task was to create interactive audio, not provide marketing concepts, so I was rather grateful –and appreciably surprised– when I discovered quite by chance (googling myself, I admit) Eric had so selflessly and publicly given me credit for first submitting the Nabokovian reference, which meeting final approval launched as an integral contextual element for the game–


Q. My 13 year old son discovered "Loop" on shockwave.com and said "Look Mom, a game about Nabokov." Most computer/video games are not so literary. How did you come to create a game based on Nabokovian themes?

ERIC: At gameLab, we usually begin with an idea for a game's interactivity and let the narrative content grow out of our experience of playing the game. In the case of LOOP, we began with the looping interactivity first. We tried a few kinds of objects in the game, including wandering stars and floating abstract shapes, but when we hit on catching butterflies, it made such perfect sense that we stayed with it.

The addition of Nabokov to the game came about halfway through development. We felt that the game was feeling too kidlike and we wanted to make it clear that this was a game for adults as well as children. During a design meeting, Terry O'Gara (who works for Blister Media, the company that created the sound for the game) mentioned using Nabokov to help frame the game. We batted several great Nabokov quotes around over email before settling on the one we have in the game.

Although it was not part of the original game concept, we like the way that the single quote from Nabokov reframes the game. It and calls attention to the intertextual quality of the game as "writing" - since the player is drawing lines to capture the butterflies. And since games are so much about "pleasure," it is a nice way to start the game experience.

Q. Is Terry O'Gara a Nabokov fan? Were any of you Nabokov readers before creating LOOP?

ERIC: It turns out that most of the LOOP team were Nabokov readers. We pride ourselves on being more cultured than the average computer game developers.

Q. How was LOOP received on shockwave.com? How did it compare with other more traditional games?

ERIC: LOOP has done very well on Shockwave.com. It was launched at the end of February and more than 1.1 million games have been played. Shockwave has received a huge amount of fan email about the game.

* * *

In addition to the Nabakovian reference, I submitted several other original tags. Here are a select few that I presented to the electronic game developer:

Scribble This
Match and Catch
Net ‘em & Set ‘em
Backyard String Theory
Get. Net. Set.
No one’s looking. Play the game!
Can a Mouse Catch a Butterfly?
Butterflies are free. –Not!
No Small Thing Shall Go Untouched
A Girl Amok

But in the end, the famous lepidopterist simply had stronger ideas than I regarding butterfly collecting, and the game launched with this rich, memorable quote-

"My pleasures are the most intense known to man; writing and butterfly hunting."

, ,

Sound of the Year: 2002 – Plain Talk

The Critical Noise Sound of the Year for 2002 belongs to PLAIN TALK, encompassing the truth tellers and whistle blowers who graced headlines this year, including both:

1. The sexually abused victims of Catholic priests who finally stepped forward with such mass they created a momentum that the neither the church nor the world could ignore.

2. Those corporate insiders who after witnessing fraud and greed could not be silenced with a pay check but instead stepped up and exposed the truth as they saw it, career and dollars be damned.

Their bravery benefits us all.

+ + +


The Critical Noise Sound of the Year goes to that sound source, event, entity, happening or concept which so effectively produces wide response and reaction, whether intentional or not, such that it stirs collective emotion, inspires discussion, incites action, or otherwise lends itself to cultural analysis and resonates across the globe.