Prepping: Music at the End of the World (Electronic)

Today we launch into a two-part discussion about how to keep ourselves entertained during those few hours at the End of the World when we’re not fighting-off teaming hordes of zombies, gang leaders, meth-heads, and oh yeah, government agencies which will appoint themselves “takers of what they want” under the color of law.

Not kidding about this latter point, though most people don’t like to think about it:

“The deprivation of rights under color of law is a federal criminal offense which occurs when any person, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person on any U.S. territory or possession to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens (18 U.S.C. § 242).”

Of course, in a prepping situation – all stops out – if a local government takes it upon itself to seize what’s yours, good luck trying to find help defending.  There won’t be any.

We choose to remain optimistic in our outlook and hope that the kind of National Emergency that comes along with TSHTF will leave us with enough power to keep our music editing suite running…

In the event local officialdom shows up to check out our (legally acquired) MP3 library, we don’t plan to let anyone in.  Instead, we would direct them back to their vehicles and give them instructions for where tor tune on the FM dial.

Pirate Radio Contingency Plan?

Sure…why not?

Let’s roll through the transmitting side first.

Here’s the thing:  Electronic music eats up a fair bit of power so one of the most effective ways to distribute your custom tune collection will be to pick up a relatively low power FM transmitter on eBay.  Cheapo FM radios and some long-life batteries for neighbors?

This way, you can become  not only a source for the local community of things like weather and news (you’ll make notes on the shortwave broadcasts you pick up), but you can also become a local “thought leader.”

During times of continuing government there are strict regulations about what kind of transmitter range is allowable.  The agency”mit de clout” is the Federal Communications Commission:

“Unlicensed operation on the AM and FM radio broadcast bands is permitted for some extremely low powered devices covered under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules.  On FM frequencies, these devices are limited to an effective service range of approximately 200 feet (61 meters).  See 47 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Section 15.239, and the July 24, 1991 Public Notice Opens a New Window. (still in effect).  On the AM broadcast band, these devices are limited to an effective service range of approximately 200 feet (61 meters).  See 47 CFR Sections 15.207, 15.209, 15.219, and 15.221.  These devices must accept any interference caused by any other operation, which may further limit the effective service range.

For more information on Part 15 devices, please see OET Bulletin No. 63 (“Understanding the FCC Regulations for Low-Power, Non-Licensed Transmitters”) Opens a New Window. . .”

Therefore, in “normal times” you will want to comply because a fine if $10,000 per day is nothing to be trifled with unless your last name happens to be Gates or Bezos.  On the other hand, if you live in an apartment or condo complex, 200 feet is a fair distance.

There are, FCC rules and risks of jail and agents busting down doors aside, still people selling units like this one we picked up as “research” for this article.  You’ll notice on the back of this unit – where the antenna plugs-in – that there is a standard BNC type connector.

Tisk-tisk.  The FCC doesn’t like this kind of antenna connector on a small FM stereo transmitter than can put out 5-7 watts because now you’re talking about a radio whose range will be much greater than 200 feet.  Try a couple of miles.  Just plug an optimized ground plane antenna in with coax and….

Naturally, we never use this transmitter – just its “legal” little brother, although that’s a PITA because our property is more than 1,500 feet on a side…and we would like to be able to hear our tunes on all of it….

Still, the laws the law…until there is no law.

Oh,l one other pirate radio note: Don’t forget that music licensing outfits lurk (BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC come to mind).  They collect dough for songwriters.  BMI has a lot of information about the process on their site.  No, we have no idea what their plans are for after TSHTF…

Even with our “little brother” transmitter, we can get part of the lawn mowed and still be rockin’ out.

Being terribly dissatisfied with the music players on the web, we downloaded a marvelous radio station automation package called ZaraStudio.  Seriously slick.

In addition to your MP3’s, you can find jingle packages on Youtube (here’s an example) and then, using your music editing tools, bust it up into discrete transition jingles.  All kinds of jingles and transitions are available…radio jingles galore ready to be “borrowed.”  Listen, for example to the opening cut of the Drake-Chenault jingles from a bygone era…dandy “staging” track…

OK, no pirate station would be worth a damn if you had to be there all the time.  So, when you have your MP3’s sorted into various playlists, you’ve lined up some  jingles, and maybe a few “station announcements” (got a work party planned?) then it’s time to open up the ZaraStudio interface:

(BTW, those two copies of Wichita Lineman are different artists (Glen Campbell of course and then the Sergio Mendes version…)

If you’ve got your EMP garbage can, you could prepare a “radio station to go” with lots of tunes (16 gb of flash would give you 4,000’ish songs).  Toss in the small FM or AM transmitter and there you have it:  You’re now the perfect target for radio-direction finding equipment!  We’ll have to see what teeming hordes of zombies carry.

Got a “Plan B?”

Oh, uh…sure!  Lot less money, too.

Not nearly as much fun as cobbling up our own pirate FM, though.

This solution takes very little time as all you need to do is copy your tunes from wherever they live now onto a small MP3 player.  Something like the $30 AGPTEK 16GB USB Stick Mp3 Player Supports Replaceable Battery, Recording, FM Radio, Expandable Up to 64GB, Black.  Problem then becomes where to get AAA batteries, but we assume you will have several cargo containers of them around.  Keep all batteries cool until time to use them, of course.

You can get other units, too…some include an FM radio, but doesn’t it always come down to a matter of mission and money?

In the prepping sense, there’s always a use for a little music (though not when on lookout duty!).  And if you’re on limited battery rations, remember ear buds are far more efficient than going to a speaker.  And sure, those over-the-ear sound canceling audiophile headphones are great, but the active noise cancelling comes with a battery consumption footnote.

Some weekend, when you’re ready, try turning off the power for a whole weekend and see how much fun life is.  Take the cold shower, too.

Do it when you don’t have anything in the freezer, or just don’t turn on any appliances – no radios, no TV, no computers – for a whole weekend.

While you may get some dandy spiritual insights, you may also get bored.

In that event, consider collecting a few folk songs.  When the end of the world arrives, there will be plenty of work to do.  And despite a brief resurgence in the 1960’s, folk music – great for repetitive work – has all but fallen from favor in modern times.

Might we suggest a couple to get you started?  Try working to either of these…


(Played back to back with Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and you’ll be thinking revolutionary thoughts in no time!)

The point of this discussion?  When times get hard, people need music.  With a good selection of folks songs at the ready, a person is more included to do a full day’s work.  Music, selected at the right pace (adjusted to suit circumstances) really can “lighten the loads.”

Thing is, sure, I enjoy BTS’s DNA, but except for the catchy whistle riff, the song – without a rack of effects processors – falls flat.  So does most of the unprocessed stuff on radio (and in typical MP3 collections).

If you’re planning music at the end of the world, something a little more useful than processor-dependent music is in order.

Don’t sell country music short, for the occasion.  There’s a bunch of classic country (one of my favorites is here); Country music (was) less processed and more “honest.”  I can work to it…it has lyrics that stand on their own, a workable or dancable beat and simple lyrics.

In a recovery from whatever disaster befalls us in the future, there’s bound to be more than  enough work to go around.  Didn’t someone just say “music lightens the load?”

(Part 2 will get into some basic acoustic instruments to have laying around…)

Write when you get rich,

6 thoughts on “Prepping: Music at the End of the World (Electronic)”

  1. Holy smokes George, way to fire up the “way back” machine this AM! As a young boy growing up in the shadows of Villanova Univ chapel spires, I had the rare opportunity to see the Clancy Bro’s in concert at early 70’s. My parents, and all my aunts and uncles went to see & hear these guys. Maternal side of family is all Mc’s, O’s,Shanons and Clancy’s. I can still remember seeing and hearing one of the uncles who kept standing up and yelling Irish Rebel Chants & Slogans! He has portraits of most famous rebels adorning the walls of finished basement.
    In reflecting back on these experiences, may help explain my life long Rebel attitude..”its not gay if its the TSA !’ B.S.! it is very GAY of the TSA, and my hatred of British Royalty and all things British. Twisted and gay at the top….

    Gonna need more popcorn!

  2. You have to include a wide collection of Polka music on your playlists.These can provide a great energizer for the end of the week celebrations when SHTF. Now talk about a rousing good time!! Ooompah Oooompah.

    Dad was (reportedly) nearly deaf just before he passed and his Saturday evenings were spent enjoying Beer Barrel Polka Party on the RFD network with the volume nearly maxed out. Drove Mom nuts.

    He told me just before he died he could still hear a lot better than we thought!

    • If I wasn’t otherwise preoccupied with research into other areas of physics, it would be instructive to chart a northern and southern hemi global rainfall over the long term…because, at the end of a 10,000 warming period, average global humidity could bring “rivers of rain from sky” when the warming swaps to cooling.

  3. George I play a little guitar. My technique is to remember the patterns of songs, not the chords. For example, Tom Pettys song, “I’m learning to fly” is a; 4, 1, 6m, 5. In the key of C that becomes F, C, Am, G.
    Just my thoughts on how to play songs.
    Red Dog

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