Why did you start Enjoy the Music.com?
During the early days of the Internet formal, years after text-based BBS systems, we basically had the Mosaic web browser and there was very little information about our hobby online. Was receiving many of the same questions and so felt a web site was a logical and efficient way to help those seeking answers to their questions. Before that, my computer had many documents I could copy and paste answers to common questions.
What was the original URL for the site?
LOL! Do you really want to know? As I recall it was www.compuserve.com/ourworld/homepages/~enjoy_the_music
What do you feel was the earliest success for the site?
Reporting live on Woodstock 1999. Sadly, it wasn't the photos of the bands, various performers or the mud people. It was when the riot broke out. To make a long story short, in my opinion the problem stemmed from the promoters and vendors who were fleecing attendees plus the lack of proper sanitary (bathroom) facilities. During the last night of the event a riot broke out and fires were started. Being an early web reporter with the then rare ability to post information and photos online in a matter of moments, it seemed that no one else attending Woodstock had this ability at the time. So I went into on-location reporter mode and asked questions to the rioters, took photos, etc. Called a few major newspapers to see if they wanted the story and all they cared about was blood and death. Since the rioters were 'only' burning the place to the ground, not a single newspaper was interested in the story. As many of us know, major mainstream media is a farce and thus posted all the information on Enjoy the Music.com. Thus I alerted the world of my Woodstock 1999 riot report within a variety of Internet newsgroups (an early form of discussion boards and social media as we have today). Enjoy the Music.com was mentioned in a variety of print newspapers, media web sites and on the front page of Yahoo. We must remember that back then Yahoo was the big player as Google was still in its early infancy. The web traffic was so immense that Enjoy the Music.com virtually melted down the entire city's network/server system that hosted our site!
Show reports, with over 190 of them online to date, seem to be a specialty. Why?
Back in the days when all we had were dead tree publications we'd all have to wait two to three months to see what was at shows. None of the print 'zines had an active Internet site back then. Aided by the technology provided by Internet, I was the first to report on CES 1996 within CompuServe's CEAudio board. In 1997 I upped the ante and bought one of the early digital cameras for a staggering $700 or thereabouts so photos could be posted online too. I was posting daily show updates and big press events online the very same day. Since then we've 'pioneered' many technologies. To date we were the first to stream a song without the need for any browser plug-ins / programs, WAP site, created a customized web browser for audiophiles (now in Version 12), had a desktop 'channel'... and recently we're the industries only site to live streaming events. To me (as of this writing), live streaming in flat, non-interactive 1080 resolution and is old hat. Why is it that no one else within the industry doing this: Singaporean Photographer Makes 360 Degree Interactive Video Of Tour Of North Korea. Add in head-tracking binaural audio... Sadly, it seems to be taking many years for the 'major' high-end audio media to catch up.
Why do you say sadly?
Because at first there were some misconceptions about the Internet. This was years before the dark days of AOL-type trolls and everyone and their mother having a web site. Print magazines published some very negative remarks about the (early-ish) Internet. Am not sure if they envisioned the Internet's potential or it was the competitive nature of the beast? Never before was there this great ability to inform audiophiles worldwide of all the great gear and information available during high-end audio events. Perhaps it may also had to do with the lack in their ability to monetize their online efforts back then, as virtually no one was making money from their Internet efforts save perhaps adult content sites, who were the very first to find a way to take credit cards/payment over the web (trivia buffs take note here). Today I'm continuing to innovate, yet the targeted high-end audio audience is probably not 'ready' for what is possible, let alone willing to invest on their end to properly experience the content that I'm able to create.
Let's step back to the beginning of the site. Enjoy the Music.com was monetizing the site back then?
LOL! You must be joking as I nearly went bankrupt! A choice had to be made, either close down Enjoy the Music.com due to the immense time consuming nature of it all plus all the expenditures for plane tickets, hotel rooms, computer equipment, etc. or, well, start liquidating anything that wasn't nailed down and carry on. Of course one of the sad things is that the Kondo-made Audio Note Ongaku found a new home. As a point of interest, an HP flatbed scanner was $600 back then and you needed a $180 PCMCIA SCSI card too. If you think about it, all the technology inside today's cell phone, with its digital camera, photo editing, ability to access the Internet wirelessly, text input, etc would have cost many thousands of dollars back then. As some within the industry might recall, back in the day I dragged along thousands of dollars in equipment within the typical carry on suitcase with wheels to get daily show reports completed. Here's a photo from my CES 2002 show report.
How has the site evolved over the years?
Fortunately web browsers, the ability to visually/audibly capture on digital media, and computer/operating systems evolved. Eventually Netscape came out of Beta and so for only $50 or so you could buy Netscape Gold edition, which also included an e-mail client. Before then, well actually even before that, we were stuck with Pine electronic mailboxes. Before that it was BBS. And before that... At around the year 2001 was still investing in some of the latest digital gear, and now on my third 'modern' laptop (we're not counting the Osborne), this provided the ability to wheel around at shows your typical carry-on bag so I could tote along around 25 pounds of equipment to bring show report updates in a more timely manner. In 2002 a Windows CE-based HP Jornada greatly helped reduce the size and weight of my text data entry system (before that it was a Sharp grayscale touchscreen). Digital cameras also got better and think I was using an Olympus digital camera at that time with a 'massive' 8MB ($80) memory card. For those of you who may be curious, to date have been through approximately twelve keyboards, eight laptop computers and nine camera setups. During RMAF 2015 will once again have a new 'state-of-the-art' photo and 4K video recording system and debating if i want to go even further with...
So, you're a computer and gadget geek who loves music?
Well duh, yes, no... maybe. I love music. As for computers, perhaps we should step back a few decades as they were one of my oldest brother Max's love. He truly was a computer genius in every sense of the word and his thought process was extremely different than anyone else (according to his friends who were master programmers at the time in San Francisco, Apple, Digital, Ashton-Tate, etc). Stepping back to 1972 or thereabouts he took me with him to the Atlanta computer lab because he was stuck with babysitting this curly-haired seven year old (me). Fortunately, there was a computer station open for him and one for me. The rest, as they say, is HIStory as I was hooked.
As for music, my grandfather was a drummer, my brother is a drummer as am i. Some of my relatives are either semi-famous conductors or math wizards. Dad loves music of course and for as long as I can remember we've always had a great stereo system (and cameras) plus dad took our family to many live performances all around the world. Whilst I could go on, it seems one can't 'fight' their inherent genetic makeup. Simply stated, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
What was your first 'ah ha' moment with live music?
Dad took us during the 4th of July to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra play live at Stone Mountain. Ok, at 5 or 6 years old I was a bit bored yet eventually the climax within Tchaikovsky's 1812 came to fruition. They used live blasting caps instead of cannons. So let this be a lesson to all you parents out there. If you want to gets your kid's attention, live music combined with very powerful explosives may be a way to go about it LOL!
So, what was your first 'ah ha' moment for reproduced music?
At around the age of five dad already had the wonderful 1969 Tannoy 12" Gold monitors, yet surprisingly that wasn't it. We always had a nice stereo; though of course I never realized that at the time. We were visiting some friends who also had a nice stereo system and they recently got some headphones. Koss something-or-others (1971) as I don't recall the model number. So we were hanging out as a family and I tried their new headphones. To this day I still remember that feeling. It was as if something inside of me 'turned on' a bright light within a darkened room. Perhaps more like being struck by lightning, yet in a pleasant way. Needless to say, I sat there enjoying music until it was time to leave our friend's home.
The very first high-end audio system, what did you have?
This was during high school and was dad's vintage Dynakit tubed preamplifier, a Sanyo boombox and a pair of 10" Stentorians. It was like magic with Pink Floyd DSOTM, Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver", Yes "Roundabout"... plus my faves Rush, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin. If you have headphones or in-ear monitors then you should listen to the beginning of Aldo Nova "Fantasy" right now :)
What other special early memories do you have about audio?
My dad is a music lover and engineer. He designed custom cabinets for his beloved 1969 Tannoy 12" Gold monitors and I remember us building an enclosure to hold a pair of Jensen blue surround 6x9 coaxial speakers for the car. Car audio was still in it's infancy in 1979 and here is my dad creating something that would become very popular many years later. BTW, dad also seemed to create one of the first portable battery powered personal fans and... So when it comes to finding solutions to a problem from initial creation/inventing or experimenting, it is simply something we always did. Just another typical day within the Rochlin home.
You've recently been reviewing portable audio quite a bit. What experience do you have besides those early Koss headphones?
Here's where tears kinda fill my eyes. It was all my own 'fault' really. The math goes like this: I was a musician, in the 1980's, in Miami. The short story of it all is that my parents, rightly, tried their best to help me clean up yet was 'experimenting' in things that were not healthy so they (rightly) kicked me out of their home. Having no money, as it was all tied up within the immense drumset, had to sell the drumset (a very dark day in my life) and lived within a very small efficiency within a 'struggling' neighborhood. It only got worse from there and of course became homeless yet, surprisingly, I still successfully held a job. One job was working for a cutting edge portable audio store within Ft. Lauderdale's then new and thriving Galleria Mall. Since money was going to other habits soon there was no money to pay rent and thus being homeless meant that for musical pleasures, well, I had no sound room, or room for that matter! Thus the continued focus on portable audio as already had the Sony D-5, which was the world's first portable CD player.
Eventually came the Sony D-10, D-25 and of course D-555 portable CD players. For cassette, I was very lucky and had the $200 Aiwa top-line portable cassette player that also recorded in stereo (a very rare feature back then). Since I was in the industry, got to play with all the latest and greatest gear. Before the D-25, as I recall, Panasonic already had the world's first dual-driver in-ear monitor and had a set of those. As a very active surfer / skimboarder, had the yellow Sony waterproof FM radio so could enjoy music while playing on the beach. The yellow Sony FM player is still around here somewhere and is one of the very few things I have from back in the day.
So let us get back to today. Did you ever envision Enjoy the Music.com growing to where it is today?
Never. Look, this whole web site thing was supposed to just be a way to help others. It involved computers, audio, new gadgets... a trifecta of things I love! It grew from years of hard work and continual innovations combined with the help of many others. If there is one thing learned over the years, it is that products and computer programs come and go. What is the most important has been the people within my life. Each person has affected me in some way to help move forward the aggregate. In 1996 there was no way I would have believed anyone if they said the site would be at over 6000 web pages today. What type of &^%$#@ would create 6000(!) web pages, let alone all the organizational skills, programming expertise, photo and video editing...
What is your biggest disappointment?
That as an industry, high-end audio has zero worldwide representation. Please allow me to explain. Most industries have an organization that is made up of leaders who represent and promote their members. They have a successful public relations component that employs a variety of targeted strategies to expand their 'product's' audience and keeps enthusiasts actively involved and interacting. Not just in validating their audience's choice, which is also important, yet an active campaign to continue broadening their audience so the industry continues to grow and flourish. Sure we have audiophile events, a few organizations here and there, yet nothing on a truly global scale with the ability to keep everyone actively engaged whilst also broadening our audience.
What do you see as the future of audio?
Well, odds are it is not going to formally originate from high-end audio. In the near future we're going to have voice-activated music on-demand of course. In fact was already doing that many years ago (1998 with the Clarion AutoPC), yet it never made it to the 'big time'. We already have plenty of streaming media companies yet few are taking it to the next level... and the next. No one is breaking out with anything innovative and game-changing quite frankly. Typical boring and predictable evolution versus something outstanding that is revolutionary. I'd say more, yet am working on things and have to put food on the table too.
One of the things that baffles me is how mainstream audiophillia is not taking advantage of very powerful DSP to achieve the sound one desires. Recording studios do this all the time. Purists can ramble on about this or that, yet with a few tweaks of modern DSP we can achieve some amazing things! Furthermore, you can enhance the sound of both vintage and new audio recordings and set specific file memory functions so that when playing a certain recording your chosen DSP settings are implemented. Taking this a step further, your DSP settings for each track/album can stay constant no matter what electronic audio system you choose for listening (home, portable, automotive, etc) and the chosen song/album settings have a master DSP so that once you set the home, portable, car, etc master settings at 'neutral', your sub-DSP settings for each audio track/album take over so that everything sounds as you have set per the individual track/album DSP choices. This 'idea' is really nothing new to me, frankly, yet no one is doing it on a commercially-available basis that integrates with a wide variety of consumer electronics gear. Then there another idea to modernize (futurize?) the human's auditory experience where you can...
By the way, you guys who are loving Sonic Studio's Amarra for TIDAL and say the music sounds better, why do you think that is?
Ok, well then, what is the obvious future of audio?
Binaural audio combined with virtual or augmented reality. If you have not yet experienced it, well, it's so cool! When mated with head tracking for both video and audio it really is something fun! This is nothing new as the adult entertainment industry is already clamoring for this and is in its early stages in some respect. If you want to be at the forefront in consumer entertainment, then look towards the adult industry, which has nearly always been at the leading edge of technology and has the opportunity for financial success with a vast wealth in sales. Before anyone writes me an e-mail on how dare I write about adult entertainment, please see the July 20, 2015 article Porn Industry's Billion-Dollar New Frontier by the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch site. So if you want to know what might be the obvious near-term future, there ya go.
Are you planning on retiring from Enjoy the Music.com?
Yes, about once a year for the past five years LOL! Frustration sets in every now and then and like any good quitter, I just want to walk away. It is not easy, nor inexpensive, to be constantly innovating on my own. Some things are fun, such as the live streaming for example, yet it is also an immense amount of work. After attending well over 130 shows I felt I knew what it takes for exhibitors to make their musical magic happen. It was only by having to build, ship, setup, make it all work, tear down and ship back did I truly realize just how intense a workload all those steps take. Plus there is handling all the necessary bandwidth throughout a venue and remote video cams, robotic video systems like the Dub Bot...
Today, exhibitors at shows have at least 10x the respect from me than before live streaming; and they already had an abundance of respect from me before! It is far easier to be the guy who just listens to rooms, takes a few pics and types out something (hopefully) meaningful for our loyal readership. Frankly, I feel every member of the press should try their hand at single-handedly exhibiting a large and intricate home audio system at an event, something with at least 12 pieces weighing around 1000 lbs. they have to pack, ship, setup on their own, tear down and pack to ship back etc, at two events within a year to better appreciate what exhibitors have to deal with.
Any closing words?
There are not enough words, time, or emotions, to fully describe how much appreciation goes out to everyone within the industry. From our readers and writers, partner magazines, show promoters, exhibitors, manufacturers, distributors... There are so many people who can't be thanked enough. Perhaps life is full circle as I said earlier, it is the people who matter most. My mom always says that "If it can be purchased with money, then it is not that important in life". Over the years have watched many within the industry get married, and/or have children, or went from their kitchen table or garage building products to now having a large dedicated workplace. New companies grow, technology pushing us along and of course the ebb and flow of time. The Internet has without a doubt made the world a 'smaller place' as compared to when I was a child. Real-time communication, instant delivery of data, questions and/or desires answered....
Children today have no idea of a world without the Internet. What is the next innovation that will change the world as the Internet has? Or the next grand innovation after that? How will music, and in turn our industry, take part. How will we as a species find a voice and become an inherent benefit to not just our solar system, but the universe that surrounds us? Music is perhaps the Earth's only universal language (with the possible exception of mathematics). Am curious if this extends to other galaxies.
Wait, that was only 19 questions.
The most important question is the one never asked.
As always, in the end what really matters is that you...