Like the title, the choice of video game sounds conjures the internal world of the computer, a tiny concert down among the microcircuits. At the same time, toying with such kitschy, cartoonish sounds emphasizes the way technology can trivialize just about anything. The cheap game pads -- a junk technology -- underscore that notion. "They break all the time, so they have this association" with things disposable, he said. These temporary elements play into Ostertag's tendency toward improvisation. Like good jazz, in performance, "w00t" is never the same twice. Here's another clip: (If the sound player doesn't appear below, go to this SoundCloud page to listen.)
But I think the normal person would be shocked to find out how big you have to be to make money from selling music." With traditional labels, smaller recording projects often wind up "undercapitalized and undermanaged," he said. Artists can lose the right to release their own work. Music that's precious to a small following can be completely silenced in the tangled maze of business interests.
"The system was structured in the interests of the biggest fish," he said. "So this idea that the world of digital file-sharing has disrupted something that was working very well is not part of my universe. That system wasn't working for me at all." On the other hand, since his music has been free the number of listeners has skyrocketed. "That's a very good thing," he said, "and that comes back to me in terms of more concert offers and so on." Lately, further changes in technology have Ostertag rethinking that approach. Sites like CD Baby can distribute music through popular venues like iTunes, Amazon ( AMZN), Spotify and other outlets. The exposure such venues bring comes with a literal price tag, though, a charge per track and royalties paid for radio play. Standard music business practices apply, including identifying a publisher, applying for standard copyrights and registering with a rights-tracking organization. The notion of retreating, even a little, from his hard-won DIY stance rankles, Ostertag said. But likewise, it's hard to ignore the potential these outlets have to reach many more listeners. Interestingly, any move back into selling recordings won't affect "w00t" one whit. Since the composition uses sound samples from so many popular video games, trying to make money from it opens up an impossible can of copyright worms. "w00t" has to be free. Yet, even there, technology may be answering the challenge: The online service SoundCloud is the YouTube of the audio world, specializing in legal file sharing of free material across social media. Soundcloud is the service I used to embed the clips from "w00t" into this article. Whenever a new technology emerges, artists, audiences and old-fashioned recording industry middle-men exert pressure, pushing the musical experience into a new shape. In that three-way battle, the only certain outcome is change. But at the moment, at least from Ostertag's perspective, the industry voices are winning, slowly reestablishing a paying model they can control. The result? "You can't give it away!" he said. Follow @CarltonTSC -- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park, N.J.