Confessions of a Webmaker


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...most of the people I work with are musicians struggling to survive, educational institutions, or people with a dream they're trying to actualize.
Before I utilize this blog entry to vent, a few questions:

  • Did Martha Stewart bring her Sun Ra albums to prison?

  • Why don't Eskimos play Jazz?

  • If Ella Fitzgerald had married Alan Funt, would she have been known as Ella Funt?

  • If he doesn't have a Phd or practice medicine, why does he call himself Dr. Lonnie Smith?

  • Is it true that Mosaic Records is finally going to reissue the Lawrence Welk/Johnny Hodges sessions?

Hey, it's been a tough week.

I'm working on five new websites simultaneously, and regularly updating fifteen others. Yes, that's a lot but is normal in the world of independent webmaking (Bret Primack is Planet Bret, a one-man band based in Tucson). Sometimes I do everything myself, at other times I work with freelance designers and programmers. It's a balancing act, no doubt about that.

When I was a kid, back in the last century, there was an act on the Ed Sullivan show whose name I've long forgotten, but whose specialty foretold future pursuits: the plate spinner. His props consisted of long poles, and a bunch of plates. He'd start one plate on a pole spinning, then another, and within a couple of minutes, he had seven or eight plates spinning at once. Just as once started to wobble, he'd run over and get it spinning again. And on he went, for the duration of his act, which lasted about five minutes.

So I'm a website spinner, only I'm spinning websites incessantly. But I'm not complaining. I'm very lucky, doing something that really challenges me and allows me to utilize my creativity. It wasn't quite what I imagined I'd been doing with my life, even fifteen years ago, but still, it's invigorating.

What's tough is working day and night for months on end. It's not easy being the Jazz-on-the-Web Guru. It's a twenty-four and seven proposition.

When I wake up, after my morning absolutions, the first thing I do is get online. Then the multitasking begins.

The start of a typical day: online answering email, on the phone with a client or two or three, rendering a video clip in Windows Media while uploading another in Real Media to my server in Seattle, drinking water (a real necessity in the desert, which I found out the hard way), and all the while, Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes playing Astral Traveling , on my new Klipsch speakers.

And that's just the first fifteen minutes...

An early riser because of the Arizona sun, and I'm usually online by 7. I stop for lunch, a couple of times (I prefer smaller meals), and also for dinner, but unless I make a real effort to stop, I just keep working until 9 or 10 o'clock at night. So it's always at least a twelve-hour day.

I'm not trying to amass a fortune or build an empire. What drives me is just trying to complete the myriad and multitude of tasks I must execute to produce these websites. It's complicated. And it never ends, unless I'm on vacation and can't get online.

That's one of the bad things about working at home. It's difficult to separate work from non-work. Even when I stop, there's always that little thing that needs fixing, which means I get online for just a few minutes. So I do it. And then, while I should be sleeping, I'm online working again.

This week, I'm working on five websites that are in varying stages of completion. Three musicians sites, for Hendrik Meurkens, David Liebman, and Oscar Lalo, a site for a boat based in Indonesia, and a website for potential healers.

If my clients were Hollywood moguls or oil barons, their remuneration would allow me to shift my focus to just a few select clients. But most of the people I work with are musicians struggling to survive, educational institutions, or people with a dream they're trying to actualize. So I can only charge what the market will bear.

What happens is that I have to work on a number of sites at once, just to survive in this unpredictable economy. I'm juggling, constantly. And believe me, I'm not alone. Anybody who's in the web business is doing the same thing. It just so happens that my niche is Jazz.

Before I got into this web thing, I worked, for many years, as a writer. It was day and night back then, as well, for Jazz writing is one of the least lucrative occupations on Planet Earth. The only way to survive, and prosper, is to write incessantly.

Except for the occasional concert, festival or club date, you lock yourself in a room and rarely come out. Life becomes a series of articles, liner notes, interviews, press releases, and reviews, a non-stop torrent of priceless prose that carries neither a health insurance policy nor the promise that one day, all your hard work will be handsomely rewarded.

Sorry, it just doesn't work that way in the land of freelancia.

In the past decade, I've shifted my focus from writing to webmaking, but I'm still working day and night, and now, doing something much more complicated. I love writing, and I'm rather fond of webmaking as well, but working on a web has turned me into a high tech junkie.

The reason I bought a computer in 1984 was for word processing, yet even today, if my computers ran totally amok, I could still write. There will always be paper and pencil, even if the power grid explodes. But with webmaking, I am at the mercy of these man-made beasts. Will computers someday overtake humanity or we will eventually merge with these machines? I'm not sure which scenario is more plausible, but in my work, I'm sometimes thrust into a zone I call computer hell.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, look out. It's a simultaneous attack of both constipation and diarrhea. (I wonder what Dr. Smith would prescribe for that condition.)

This hell can be a problem with the hardware, the software, the network in my home, the Internet connection, oh, there's a million things that can go wrong. And when they do, I need HELP. Finding helping can be tricky. And in this world of outsourcing, tech support these days is usually a call to India.

It happened today. The wireless network I use to connect all my computers to the Net was fine on three machines, but one, my main computer (code name Murray) was having problems staying connected.

For several days, I tried to work around it but finally, I decided to make the call to Linksys support, in India. I've called Linksys a number of times, and they always solve the problem, but, the calls can sometimes last an hour. So I try and avoid that.

Two minutes into today's call, I actually solved the problem myself. I discovered that my computer wasn't able to connect to the Net because it was linking up to a phantom network. In my house??? When I opened the configuration panel, I realized what was happening and quickly reconfigured my computer. Thankfully it worked and the call lasted but four minutes.

Well, this is why they pay me the big bucks. Not!

I used to make big bucks, back in my dot.com days. These days, I make a decent living, nothing more, nothing else, yet always with the promise that there's something incredible on the horizon.

There is, isn't there?

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