No news is supposedly good news, and so is very little news. Like most industries, the music industry typically quiets down between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. There’s definitely some news in digital music today, but none of it too shocking.

Digital sales are still in a state of flux without a good pricing strategy, MySpace is dying, Spotify didn’t launch, EMI is crumbling. The “New” music business is playing out amongst the players.

A quiet week in business gave me a much needed chance to sit down with a musician in San Francisco who is using technology in a way that interests me, which I did as quickly as possible.

Doctor Popular makes digital media of every kind, ranging from comics to digital music created entirely with iPod & iPad applications.

Music isn’t his day job, neither is watercoloring, or performing daily app experiments. For his “day job” Doctor Popular designs games. Everything else is just daily life. No amount of seminars or weekend retreats with mentors can teach what one artist in San Francisco does because it’s just who he is.

Of course, referring to Doctor Popular as an artist might annoy him. DocPop is a hobbyist. He buys his paint at Walgreens. He makes music with iPod apps. He busks Mission BART with an iPad. He blogs. Doctor Popular is actually very popular, and this week’s roundup focuses on 3 ways Doctor Popular is making digital music history from deep inside San Francisco’s Mission District.
Instagram, the iPhone-exclusive digital picture filtering and sharing application, passed the 1 million user mark just before Christmas in less than one year of existence. In the wake of popularity, even NPR has announced their new Instagram profile.

Instagram is very popular, despite limitations like rendering small digital files at 72dpi, which cannot be printed to scale. However, Doc figured out a way around the limitation. Beeps And Smudges is Doctor Popular’s latest musical release, and the printed album art was created entirely with instagram photos, albeit very very tiny photos that look very very cool.

“I like restraints,” Doc told me, “So the printing issue, that’s one of the many appeals of Instagram.”

Doc also started a Daily App Experiment using Instagram, in which he “edits and glitches out and do all sorts of neat things to photos and images entirely on my iPhone without using photoshop and doing something different every time.”

The bottom line:
your iPhone and iPad can replace your photoshop software and you don’t have to spend more than $20 to make that happen. Album art, anyone?

Recording Music On The IPhone and iPad
Doctor Popular likes restraints so much that Beeps and Smudges was made entirely with iPod and iPad apps.

I asked Doc why he prefers Apple products, but had already assumed too much. “It’s not an addiction to things iphone related,” he told me, “it’s liking to have limitations.”

Doc uses those limitations to his advantage as an “early adapter” of iPhone and iPad music recording applications. By default, Doc is a beta tester, but also a developer for the applications he is using, because he communicates quickly with the app developers themselves.

“It’s a really exciting time to be working with music apps because everybody is so new and everybody is just trying some of the weirdest shit to see what will work. In two or three years it will be smoother, and also busier, but right now I can write to developers and they will write back,” he says.

And because of exciting times, Doc gets to experience the results of his feedback, sometimes within days. “The fact that I can write to Oliver at nanoloop and he writes me back, that’s the best thing. I’ll write him with an issue in the app and 3 days later there’s an update in the app store, it’s really exciting.”

Doc used about ten iPhone and iPad apps to record Beeps And Smudges, relying mostly, he says, on nanoloop for iPhone, synthPond and ThumbJam.

Doctor Popular’s Beeps And Smudges is available for a minimum cost of one dollar thanks to BandCamp, and he says he says sales are going well.

“I’m so addicted to Bandcamp right now,” he told me. “Bandcamp has everything that’s very important to me. You can embed. And I like doing pay what you want. My minimum payment is $1, my average payment is $5. I feel bad when people pay a lot, but some people are just really nice. Because I’m not trying to do music professionally, everything i do is sort of with a hobbyist approach, so pay what you want.”

me: Why don’t you just give them away for free instead of one dollar?

Doc: “The only reason i don’t give my albums away for totally free is because I believe people value what they pay for. A lot of people, I think, will torrent albums and not even listen to them. It’s been kind of a hardcore approach, but I will always charge something. The next thing is to start figuring out how live shows will fit in my life and how to use these apps live.”

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