Countdown To The Music Network
Deputy Editor Paul Gilby reveals what this magazine will be doing on The Music Network - Europe’s brand new computer communications system for musicians and the music industry. Read all about it!
What is The Music Network, and how can it benefit you? Paul Gilby reveals what SOS will be doing on the system.
Imagine: You are a musician with a bit of gear, perhaps a computer sequencer, synth expander, drum machine, sampler or whatever. You create your own music either for pleasure or as a job - a songwriter, perhaps. You have friends who are doing similar things with their gear and you need to keep in touch, trade voices etc. You read music magazines to take in the reviews of the latest products and catch up on the music business news. You have become aware of 'electronic communications' - the daily papers carry the odd story about how businesses and, one day the man in the street, will use it to access information and shop for products without leaving the office or home.
Along comes a system for musicians called The Music Network - not in a few years, but now! A system which contains dozens of useful sections: such as an electronic version of Sound On Sound magazine for you to read; clubs dedicated to particular instruments with lots of members all eager to pass on tips; a mail facility that allows you to send letters to people on the system and paper versions to those who are not; a database where you can find sounds for your synths, patterns for your drum machine, and complete songs to load into your sequencer; an electronic shop where you can buy all kinds of products; or vast music-related information libraries for you to roam through. No, this is not science fiction, it's fact - and it becomes reality on March 10th.
Here at Sound On Sound we have been hard at work developing the system along with communication experts CTA and a system provider called GreenNet. Together we have created The Music Network (TMN for short), and Sound On Sound will be just one of many users taking advantage of this valuable communications service for the music industry and musicians alike.
Before explaining more about the SOS section of The Music Network, it is worth outlining the general services offered by modern telecommunications.
As communication technology has advanced, the public telephone system has begun to be used for a variety of additional uses, including what are called 'on-line data services'. Although they still use phone lines, these services require that you have a computer hooked up to your telephone via a box called a modem. With this equipment you can access a remote computer anywhere, be it in the same town or on the other side of the world, and send information from one to the other. This type of direct connection can become expensive when paying for a long distance phone call.
The idea of accessing a central computer via a local phone call is a much more economical alternative. This is exactly what British Telecom have allowed by setting up what is called the Public Data Network. You make a local call and connect with a data 'node' (a sort of telephone exchange), then send your message to your friend via a message system, such as Telecom Gold. This is just a big computer that acts as a central data store and provides various services to its users. When your friend wants to read the message you have sent, he just makes a local call like you did and accesses the same central computer from his end. The beauty of this is that the person at the other end doesn't have to have their computer switched on to receive the message when you are actually sending it! The computer version of this postal facility has become known as electronic mail, or Email for short, and everyone on the system has their own private mailbox.
A number of these Email systems have developed, and Telecom Gold is just one of many. They all use the same Public Data Network to carry their messages. In additional to Email, they offer other traditional services of the telephone company. So, not only do we have Email but telex and now fax (facsimile) as well. Telex and fax services are international, but the way Email is handled varies from system to system and international transmission is not always available. TMN, however, has made Email international from the very start, and therefore offers an immediate advantage over several other systems.
So far, we have only spoken about the message services available. All of the present systems do, in fact, provide a variety of other services - for example, news on specific topics, computer clubs, legal advice, train/air travel info, etc. The people who put this type of data onto the system are known as 'information providers'. On The Music Network they are known as Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and within any group's area there are 'conferences'. These are just like real conferences which you may attend, either just to listen (read) or to take part in. For example, once you have entered the SOS area on TMN, you will be able to attend the Helpline conference. Here you can leave a query about a problem and wait for someone to help you. This could be ourselves or any other person on TMN. The best of these messages will be left in the Helpline conference to build up a large database of tips for everyone to read, covering all manner of topics. To make the conference easy to use, you can search for particular subjects by name or date or use 'key' words to find items of interest, eg. 'MIDI mixers'.
Sound On Sound will have an extended electronic version of the magazine on-line for you to read and use. The word 'use' is important here, because TMN is very much an interactive system. We will 'publish' articles on the system each month, and maintain an up-to-date news and product bulletin section where you can read all about the latest gear and gossip. Via the Mail Order department, it will be possible to order any products or back issues usually shown on our Reader Services page in the magazine and pay with your credit card.
You will be able to order books directly from the SOS Bookshop, as well as additional items not available through the magazine. The SOS Software will also be available directly off the system, as TMN allows you to download your chosen program in just a few minutes straight into your computer at home - no waiting for the post to arrive!
With this idea in mind, SOS will also provide a Sound Library. Many of our readers have asked why we don't include a synth patch section in the magazine. Well, we have never believed it to be a good way to give readers new sounds. Now, with the Sound Library, SOS will have thousands of patch banks available for many different synthesizers, all ready for you to download. In return, you can send us some of your sounds! This is done by uploading sounds from your synth, via your computer and modem, into the Sound Library. Don't worry, it's very easy to do. We even have plans to include celebrity sounds contributed by well-known musicians!
As a totally interactive system, you will also be able to send Free Classifieds to SOS. These will appear both electronically and in conventional paper format within the magazine. In addition, there will be various databases which you can access, eg. an extensive index to all articles that have appeared in the magazine; Product Finder, a database which lets you search for information about hi-tech products, details of Owners' Clubs you can join, etc; a full Studio Guide, and much more.
The features and services mentioned here are only the beginning. We have plans for many other sections within the SOS area, to be incorporated as The Music Network expands.
At Sound On Sound, we find the whole idea of an electronic version of the magazine very exciting. It opens up many new avenues for expanding everyone's knowledge base and, most importantly, it means that you can contribute your ideas instead of just reading ours.
On March 10th TMN goes on-line, and Sound On Sound will report about what's happening on the network each month. We will reprint some of the best hints and tips, readers' ideas and letters, as well as keeping you informed about what other 'special interest groups' on the system are doing. Hopefully, reading these reports will serve to inspire you to become a member of The Music Network, and to join the on-line revolution.
Opinion by Paul Gilby
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