Why Did You Even Bother: 2014 in Review

It’s been a tradition I write a long, rambling and ultimately useless post about how things here in the lair went for the past year, so here’s 2014.

Let’s get the microcontroller stuff out of the way first. Most viewed posts from this blog:

Title views
A Minimal Arduino Library for Processing Serial Commands (2011) 10,165
Modify an Arduino for DebugWIRE (2010) 8,716
Hardware Debugging the Arduino using Eclipse and the AVR Dragon (2012) 6,799
A Too-Simple Arduino Library for Handling the Seeeduino Relay Shield (and Generic Relays) (2011) 2,333
Changing the Pickups in an Ibanez S420 Guitar (2014) 1,754

It is not really surprising that all the previously-poopular posts are still poopular. Overall views are slightly up (#1 was 8,904 in 2013, 10,165 in 2014). Most readers are the USA (11,640), Germany (4,002), UK (2,481), and Canada (2,034). Way down at the bottom is one reader from the Vatican City. If the Pope is reading this, hello to The Pope.

As always, my most popular single thing is that schematic to remove a capacitor by about a 4-to-1 ratio, for some reason.

I still get email telling me to make my arduino libraries do things they actually already do. Also people who don’t understand the git fork concept.

I didn’t make many new posts this year, with the S420 pickups article being the only thing of substance. If you’re a long-time reader you will notice lots of posts are missing now. In particular all the “individual music posts” I wrote every time I released a new music track are gone. At one point during the year I attempted to transition this website over to squarespace, and I dumped all them as part of the cleanup. I ended up not using squarespace, for reasons I’ll get into later in this article. It’s nicer that all those little posts are deleted anyway.

Let’s move on to the part everybody nobody wants to know about, the music.

Last year I dumped Soundcloud, and they didn’t want me back, so I don’t have to worry about summarizing any Soundcloud stats. All my music has been available on Bandcamp for a couple of years now. In late 2013 I started using Distrokid to put my music for sale on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, and a whole host of services I can’t even access because I live in Canada. Spotify at least came to Canada this year, so I could see if that was working. 2013’s Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf and 2014’s Crap Chute’s Box of Devils got to those services via Distrokid. Albums from previous years (2009-2012) albums are exclusive to Bandcamp, mostly because I’m lazy. Bandcamp remains the best/cheapest way to get all the material anyway.

So yeah, new album, how about that. After the experience with the release of Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf I really was not intending to do more material. June had rolled around and I hadn’t even picked up any instruments to work on stuff as I wasn’t motivated. I ended up buying Rocksmith 2014 on a Steam sale and tried working through that. I will say that I’m hugely disappointed with Rocksmith as a product, but because I had the guitar out to play it, I would noodle and end up recording little snips I called “LOL WUTs” that I would save for later. At one point I had enough snips that I figured I could write some more material around them and make a new album and put that out anyway. That’s why Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is more guitar-oriented than previous years.

I had been making little snips and ideas from June to October 2014, and didn’t start trying to finalize writing and recording until October 2014. In previous years I was making and releasing tracks in a stream throughout the year, and then assembling them into an album at the year end. This time, however, I finalized everything and put the album out all at once.

Since I had finished up and put all the tracks together over about a three week period, I didn’t have titles for any of them other than a placeholder usually named “LOL WUT” and the date. I also didn’t have an album title picked since I had not planned to put out an album. In previous years I was doing releases of tracks chronologically as I finished them, and that was the order they appeared on the album. This time I had to pick an album title, set titles for tracks, and pick an order to appear on the album.

I will not lie, I had all the tracks done and finalized and hadn’t named any of them. I sat and brainstormed about forty titles in about fifteen minutes, picked 36 to use for track titles. Then I rearranged the LOL WUT’s to be in not-chronological order and space out the styles, picked a couple of aggressive tracks to start the album, and Pachelbel canon / O Canada to finish the album, and just started tacking titles onto tracks. Consequently even I don’t know the titles of my own music when I hear them.

The only track with a modicum of thinking behind the title was Bushel of Oats, and that’s only because I was specifically doing yet-another-version of the Pachelbel’s Canon piece. Quaker Oats used to advertise their puffed products were “shot from a cannon”, and the obvious confusion is that people mistake “canon” for “cannon” and yes, it’s really a stupid joke isn’t it. All my titles are usually stupid jokes. At least this year I didn’t get stuck on that sequential-numbering kick.

I did mildly consider keeping the “LOL WUT” names and having everything be “LOL WUT 1”, “LOL WUT 2” but that would have been too extreme, even for me.

For album titles, my working title during assembly was “Crap Chute’s Half-Hearted Attempt” which I would have stuck with had I not picked “Box of Devils” after naming one of the tracks Beat the Devil in a Box. Other titles I considered were “Crap Chute’s Irreproducible Results” (too much Ig Nobel) and “Crap Chute’s Chiral Nature” (Nobody can pronounce chiral correctly).

I ended up doing the album art myself.

Comparing Crap Chute’s Box of Devils to previous albums:

Tracks 2014 Compared

Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is the shortest album I’ve put out so far, with “only” 37 tracks, and 187 minutes of music. I will say that in retrospect, I did not like trying to make 37 incoherent snips into actual finished tracks all in a three week period. I did have some more snips and works-in-progress that I didn’t finish for Crap Chute’s Box of Devils, and that was really because I was getting fed up writing and recording and just wanted to put the album out and be done with it. The actual release was November 15th 2014 on Bandcamp, with a couple of days following for the Distrokid services like iTunes and Amazon to catch up.

I had some good luck getting both Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf (some months after release) and Crap Chute’s Box of Devils (shortly after release) featured on the Night Attack show with Brian Brushwood and Justin Robert Young. Disclosure: I support them on Patreon. Can’t complain about the coverage. I wrote articles on those at the time (loaf, devils) so I won’t repeat that here. You can buy the new Night Attack comedy album Too Old to Talk which I think is pretty great.

So here’s only part you’re interested in: what about all the moneyyyyyyy.

Let’s start off with Bandcamp sales and downloads. On Bandcamp I had all the albums free-but-pay-what-you-want. When Box of Devils came out I was intending to start off with a pittance price and see where that went. The release didn’t go as I’d planned, so I just said screw it and made it also free-but-pay-what-you-want. I let that go for a couple of weeks until I figured everyone who would be mad I was charging for it would piss off wanted it would get it, then I moved the price up to a base of five dollars. Turns out none of that mattered anyway, as I kind of expected.

Here are the album sales data (for all time since I started using Bandcamp in 2012). “Downloads” includes both the free downloads and the download from a sale.

Album (Release Year) Sales Downloads
Box of Devils (2014) 4 12
Pinched Loaf (2013) 3 8
Lagrange Point (2012) 3 5
Something or Other (2011) 1 5
Sluice Juice (2010) 2 6
Blast from the Ass (2009) 1 7

crap chute transparency

Three of the four sales for Box of Devils happened in the first week, with the fourth happening by the end of the first month. So yeah, not a lot of sales, but completely in line with my other albums from years past. Total revenue in 2014 for Bandcamp sales was $77.00.

Yes, Crap Chute’s Box of Devils is actually now my best-selling bandcamp album to date, with four sales. All four sales were to nice folks who previously bought my albums, so no new fans. The pricing scheme of actually charging five bucks minimum hasn’t had a noticeable effect, because there haven’t been any sales since then.

Technically Crap Chute’s Pinched Loaf is the best selling across all platforms, counting the iTunes sales gives a total of six.

Downloads are a little bit higher this time because after my mention on Night Attack I gave out some free download codes to the Diamond Club community, who wouldn’t download it when it was free, but would download it if it cost money and they got a free code. Go figure. Some people used the free codes but didn’t actually download anything (why would you do that?), so the total number of downloads is actually less than the free downloads + sales + codes numbers.

Here’s the sales breakdown from all the Distrokid-supported services, technically from all time (which means October 2013, when I signed up with Distrokid):

Service Sales Revenue
iTunes $21.75 (three album sales)
iTunes Match $0.33
Spotify $0.12
Google Play All Access $0.10
Rdio $0.00
Google Play $0.00
Amazon $0.00

So the total I earned on the Distrokid services system was $22.33 for the past year. That’s good because it covers the $19.99 I pay Distrokid for distribution. iTunes was the only place anyone bought something from, no sales from Amazon or Google Play. The three iTunes sales were for Pinched Loaf, and no sales for Box of Devils. I don’t get any choice in the pricing set by the Distrokid-distributed stuff, the iTunes/Google Play/Amazon stores make that determination.

Spotify’s revenue is from 48 total plays of tracks. iTunes Match is from 125 plays-or-whatever iTunes match counts. Whatever it is, all of them are probably me, since I pay for iTunes Match and use it to download my own stuff.

So overall for six years of albums, 311 tracks, and 28 hours of material available, I made $99.23 in revenue in 2014. Bandcamp for the year cost me $120, another $19.99 for Distrokid, so my net income using that accounting style is -$22.66 for the year. Better than being thousands of dollars in the hole, admittedly. Despite what you might think, I’m not bitter as I do the music for myself anyway, Also, rationalisation. I am interested in the statistics, however.

So let’s talk about something new I attempted this year, which was ad sales and marketing and that bullshit that people don’t like to talk about.

First things first: I really like the Night Attack show, and the hosts are great people, but having two albums featured on the show accounted for zero sales. It’s easy to calculate that too because I’ve had zero actual sales/downloads since the show aired – even when it was free. I only got downloads for Box of Devils from Night Attack’s viewers once I jacked the price up and gave out free codes.

I should say, I gave away lots of free codes, and not just to Diamond Club. Bandcamp makes me generate them in blocks of one hundred, so I couldn’t just make five or six, I had to have a hundred. So I posted them in a few places. There’s no need for a table of results: Not a single code I posted to any social media (Facebook, Google Minus Plus, or that Ello thing) was redeemed. Not a one. The only codes that got used were ten that I gave to the Night Attack/Diamond Club audience.

That segues nicely into Facebook. At one point I tried the Facebook advertising system. I made a Facebook page for my music, and bought Facebook ads (ads that run on Facebook, not on other sites). A flat out disaster, that was. I spent a total of $70 on Facebook ads (Facebook wanted me to “start” with $350 budget, what the hell) and literally got nothing but spammers liking the page. In fact, I had the exact scenario detailed in this youtube video.

According to the Facebook ads manager I got about 22,000 “impressions” (the ad being shown to someone), but all I got was a lot of “likes” originating from non-english speaking countries by people that liked literally thousands of things, yet engaged with nothing, and consumed my entire ad budget. I didn’t have any sales or downloads that came in from Facebook, and at one point Facebook started sending me suggestions that I should pay more money in order to promote my posts so more people would see them, because of 75+ “likers” only three or four people (or bots, I suspect) were getting to see each new music post – Facebook’s own analytics tells you this. At that point I shut down the entire Facebook page and ad system. I dumped all that and chalked it up as life experience.

I then tried using Google Adwords, which is Google’s advertising product. You pay money for little text ads that show up in search results and on certain ad boxes on websites. I used Adwords in “pay per click” and not “pay by impression” mode, so the actual cost per “click” is pretty high. Some of those “clicks” cost me nearly $4. Here’s what those ads looked like:

adwords 1

adwords ad

So how did those ads do? Let’s hit the executive summary first: I spent a total of $151 over a few months in a few batches. Zero sales, zero free downloads.

For the $151 I got a total of 326,705 “impressions” (how many times the ad was presented to people), of those 1,304 people actually clicked on the ad and went to the bandcamp website (“click through rate” of 0.39%), and zero people bought or downloaded anything for free. Technically I had one sale of Pinched Loaf and a couple of free downloads but those were unrelated to the google adwords. For a two week sample period during the adwords campaign I got 505 plays (53 full plays of a track, 118 partial plays, and 334 skips). When I don’t run advertising, I get about sixteen plays over two weeks.

Look at that again. Three hundred thousand people were supposedly shown my ad, and if you take out all the clickfarm countries the people who click are about 0.19%. Netcraft confirms it: Nobody looks at ads on the internet.

Interestingly in the first batch of Adwords ads I ran, I set it up for worldwide without country restrictions and initially started getting a lot of partial plays on the Bandcamp site (but no downloads or sales, remember everything was available free at this point). I highly suspect that was flat-out click fraud. I ended up having to remove countries like India and the Philippines from the regions because otherwise they would eat the entire adwords budget with their clicks. I suspect that the partial plays all come from the bots/farms going to the page, and clicking a couple of links on that page so that the google analytics doesn’t trigger that the person spent zero seconds on the page. When I kept the ads to USA/Canada/UK/Germany/Netherlands I got about 21 plays in a week, compared to about 250 plays using worldwide.

In the last run of ads for Box of Devils I limited it to USA/Canada/UK and I only got a staggering 78 clicks for 32,909 impressions (0.24% rate, with zero downloads, zero sales).

Maybe if I had a huge budget I could make ads like this work, but I don’t have a huge budget, and no revenue coming in so I’m reluctant to take big risks. At least with Night Attack/Facebook/Adwords I spend money and at least could see where it was going, as opposed to other sources I gave money to for promotion and got nothing.

If I wanted to generate a lot of fake plays (which doesn’t benefit me), I suppose I could just hire someone through Fiverr to do it a lot cheaper than google adwords.

So if you want to include my advertising budget into the costs above, my net for the year is -$243.66. If you want to play Hollywood-style accounting that means each track on Box of Devils cost me $6.58 to make.

That lets us bridge over into play counts. We already showed sales and downloads and some hints about play counts, but here’s the detail.

plays 2014

In Bandcamp’s own words: A “complete” play means the track was played past the 90% mark. A “partial” play means the track was played past the 10% mark, but stopped before the 90% mark. A “skip” means the track was stopped before the 10% mark

It’s not surprising that once again my most poopular thing (based on complete plays) is Arduweeny, because that’s the single piece of music I have embedded on the debugwire microontroller article, and my experience is that people who read that page click every single link on it. Arduweeny is short (16 seconds) and so it’s not hard to get a “complete” play out of it.

Next is Eighteen Lashes Should Do it, which was the featured track from Pinched Loaf while most of the ads were running. Followed by Perchloric and The Factor, both of which were also featured tracks from Pinched Loaf. “Featured Track” means it’s the one I set as the default start when someone clicks “play” on the album listing. Inject (first, and featured track) was the most played from Crap Chute’s Box of Devils, but only 7 complete plays, 19 partials and 22 skips.

This year I got 1781 plays in total, all types combined. Last year I got 834 over roughly the same period. I didn’t keep an exact count but about 1100 plays came in during the advertising periods, and I don’t know if I can trust those to be true. Then again, I can’t trust any of the plays from any period to be true. So either the number of plays is actually a little higher or a little under last year.

In terms of Bandcamp money, with $77 in revenue over 1781 plays, that’s about $0.043/play. Counting the $120 charge for Bandcamp and my net of -$43.00 that becomes about -$0.024/play. Last year it was about $0.05/play not counting losses, so the $0.043 is right in line with that. Man, that’s some terrible accounting method.

Like I’ve said in years past, I’m obviously not in this for money. I had a random suggestion from someone that I should be like other internet dbags and setup a Patreon donation page. My standard reply is that I already have a method to give me money: it’s called “buy my album.” This amazing technique works for lots of creative types on the internet. Like their stuff, and want them to make more of it? Support them.

Oh yeah, Radio Reddit. I submitted three tracks to Radio Reddit this year, and I guess they’re in rotation? I can’t tell from the stats anymore. All I can really tell is that nobody listens to Radio Reddit, and nobody submits or votes on my stuff.


As in years past, I still have the open offer to send you all the music on a disc if you figure out how to ask nicely. I didn’t get any requests in 2014. If you feel entitled and five bucks will totally destroy your fedora budget, you could ask nicely and maybe you’d get one of the remaining free codes.

Oh yeah, up there I mentioned that Squarespace thing. This lame-ass blawg is hosted on wordpress.com, as opposed to a self-hosted wordpress.org installation. One day I was looking at this place and noticed that wordpress had started sticking really low quality buzzfeed-style ads on my articles. Honestly, they were really shit. This pissed me off so much I went over and signed up for Squarespace with the intention of moving the lame-ass blawg over there. I’d tried out Squarespace before and although their website thing is okay, the import tool was just dire. That was a couple of years ago and thought maybe I could muddle through importing the site again.

Nope, same stuff different day. Here’s what squarespace won’t tell you: Yes, squarespace imports wordpress sites, but not wordpress.com sites correctly. Specifically the squarespace importer does not bring over the images. Even worse, you think they imported them because the squarespace site has them hotlinked to your original wordpress.com storage. If you imported your site, then deleted your wordpress.com hosting all the images would disappear. My requests to squarespace for clarification were met with “turn off all your plugins.” Unfortunately wordpress.com doesn’t give the users access to adding/removing plugins (that’s the difference between wordpress.com and a self-hosted wordpress.org installation), so it’s not like I could do anything about it.

“As it turns out, you’re correct- the only way to have these images be hosted within Squarespace would be to manually re-upload them. Apologies for the inconvenience here. Please let us know if you have any additional questions. Thanks!” (Response from Friendly squarespace help folks)

My dealings with the squarespace help people was usually fine and friendly. Just in the end not really helpful.

I did end up getting the site imported – the hard way. I started up a self-hosted wordpress.org setup, used that to import all the wordpress.com stuff (which you can do, and will bring the images over), and then used the self-hosted setup to export the XML into squarespace, and then manually uploaded the images from the storage and edited back into the articles. It wasn’t really a problem for me, but I suspect your typical user would find that pretty much impossible to do.

That was why all the music posts disappeared. It was a lot easier to just delete them all, to keep them from being imported to squarespace and then me having to edit all the bandcamp embeds to work.

I spent a couple of weeks setting up the squarespace version of this place, but I ended up giving up when I found out that the import from wordpress.com-via-selfhost did not adjust the urls to be with the domain properly. Like all good users I submitted a support request, had to send tons of screenshots and explanations, and in the end they kind of threw up their hands and said “try deleting your site and starting over and see if it works this time.” So I just deleted the site and abandoned the effort. I ended up paying even more money to wordpress.com to get rid of those stupid ads (yes, they have a paid upgrade to remove ads from your blog) and kept the lame-ass blawg here. I’d paid for squarespace a year in advance so I just ended up attaching a different project and domain to it and using it for something else.

Squarespace looks nice, and the wysiwyg interface is nice, but in using squarespace I had some real issues that concerned me. One is the ability to back up the site or roll it back to a previous instance. You essentially can’t. If you work on a site for a while, and want to revert the design back to a previous checkpoint – you can’t. You can pay more money (double the price actually) and get more “developer control” but I still don’t think you can do backup/restores.

Have you read all the way down here? Good, let’s lighten up. Here’s a little bit about some of the tracks from Crap Chute’s Box of Devils.

Most of my equipment is the same as in years past. Presonus Firestudio Mobile into a 2008-era iMac running Logic Pro X. Guitar effects from NI Guitar Rig and IK Amplitube. Synths and other sounds from NI Komplete 8 and the stuff built into Logic X. I really like the new Logic “Retro Synth” and that midi arpeggiator, as you can tell if you listen to the album. Not much orchestral stuff this time around, since I was concentrating on using the guitar more. My IK Miroslav Philharmonic still doesn’t, and never will, work under Logic X so I resorted back to using the sounds from Logic and Kontact.

Primary guitar used was my Ibanez S420 with the pickups changed to the crunch lab/liquifire set as I described in my article. I did do some initial snippets with my venerable and terrible Ibanez EX350 with the bad intonation. Most of that got re-recorded with the S420, but a couple of harmony parts survived into the final album, in particular some of the guitars on Nice Day. Also when used on Nice Day the EX350 only had five strings at the time.

Undoubtedly the worst money I spent was buying a brass sustain block for the S420 from Killer Guitar Components. It cost a lot ($150) and took a couple of months to be machined and sent to me. That was fine. What wasn’t fine was that it didn’t actually fit my ZR Tremolo, even though I’d specifcally asked that first before I placed the order. Of course, they won’t respond to any contact from me now, so I have a $150 piece of brass junk in my guitar case. I sat with my S420 in pieces for a couple of weeks waiting to hear something about the piece, and that’s why I started using the EX350 again in the meantime. I eventually gave up, put the old block back in, reassembled and continued on. Also I’m never buying a guitar with a floating tremolo system again.

I recorded two tracks using the exact same riff, completely independently and weeks apart, and didn’t realize it until I was putting the album together, so I gave them similar names (Cracks in the Glass and Glass in the Cheese) and put them on the album one right after the other to point this out.

Although almost all the bass guitar is from NI Kontact (Jay Bass, MM Bass, Pre Bass), some tracks have a bass guitar that’s actually a pitch-shifted version of me playing the S420. Beat the Devil in a Box is one of those tracks. I still like the NI Basses better, but if I want to do sliding and bending on the bass it’s a hell of a lot easier to play it on an actual guitar than a keyboard. I don’t own an actual bass anymore, as the one I owned was stolen a long time ago, and realistically I have no desire to spend money on a new one.

Fully Ceramic is a laughable attempt to tune a standard set of 9-gauge guitar strings allllll the way down to “C.” I had done that last year on Xmas at the Chandrasekhar Limit. Way, way too unstable to use for longer than a few minutes, Especially with the S420’s ZR Tremolo system. I was having to stop and retune after every take.

Thugs Beyond the Arctic Circle bounces back and forth terribly between 7/8 and 5/4 time signatures, just to see what I could do with it. When I originally recorded it I used so many crazy chords that I couldn’t remember what they all were, and so I ended up re-recording most of it with chords I could remember.

The Demands of Lies, my annual entry into the “I have murdered jazz” scenario originally was based around a terrible, heinous guitar line. It’s one of the few instances where I threw the entire guitar track out in the final version.

I did a version of O Canada solely to counter the examples where people feel they have to Van Halen the anthem up until it sounds terrible.

The first snippet bit I’d recorded this year that actually made it into a song is in After, but the first track I finished for the album was Secret of Secrets. Some of the solo guitar on Secret of Secrets is done with the old EX350, and might even be with only five strings. The giveway is when I’m using the tremolo arm, as I rarely use it in general on the S420.

The last track finalized for the album was Flood Gates, and by the time I had started working on it I really wanted the whole project over with.

This is the first year I didn’t do any xmas songs. It’s okay, I did two last year. Also nobody likes them.

Yep, that is my voice on Transition Metals. I’ve managed to work something into a track almost every year, I think.