Making the Master Disc

I am currently waiting for the master disc to arrive to me in the mail so I can give it a final listen. Note to all of you out there who get to this point in your work. This is the point, after the hours of songwriting, pre-production, recording, dubbing, mixing, listening, and finally mastering to pay close attention to this one final detail. Look at it in this light.
Sending the master off for pressing is like coloring something in with a permanent marker. This is the point where everything is distilled down on two stereo tracks of audio, your baby, and it this will be the way it will sound to everyone who listens to it.
Something to keep in mind before sending it off. This would actually be in the mixing phase: reference the overall sound in different sources. Granted the days, at least for everyone but true audiophiles, of the HI-FI are almost gone and your listener will be hearing your work on some really tinny sounding ear buds or through their car radio it is good to play the thing on as many sources as you can (the old boom box, the house speakers, your own tinny earbuds, a good set of cans) and get the feel of how it is going to sound on these different sources.
Though this may be the new age of the single those of you who are still thinking in album terms need to have the first three songs be the ones that are the strongest. Of course you want all of them to be the strongest but you have to be honest with yourself and not scared to ask others what they think, given that you think their taste is important. Or it might be good to have someone just randomly listen and tell you their first three favorites. Often people’s, and your own, first instinct, the gut one, is usually right so don’t forget this.
Depending on the mood you want the overall thing to have I would even chart it out with a curve representing your strongest material at the front and arching down and then back up at the end if you want to impact the listener. Just remember to put it out their early with the strong stuff, the songs you get the best response from.
Best of luck if you have reached this point. And those of you who dream of putting that first disc or album out: Get with it! The process becomes much better after you get that first one under your belt. Take mental notes and learn how do improve each time there after.
Go practice your guitar!


The Kids are Alright

What does the awesome image above and the title of a Who song have in common?
I am blessed to work with kids and it never fails that if I want to get their attention all I have to do is plug my laptop into a set of speakers and let Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, Fred McDowell, Sonny Boy Williamson, Etta James, The Beatles, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or any other great artist do the talking. Kids respond to music and here is why things are hopeful on the home front.
Musicians are oft to be frustrated with pirating of music and the “free models” that are the norm now. I am one of them to a certain extent but realize I have to embrace that the present and coming musical consumer and lover expects more out of me as an artist. They win and it is no use even trying to fight it. It did not exactly win Metallica any awards.
The sunny side of this whole thing is that I notice something much different with the musical ears of the younger folk: they are broad. Why? They have access to everything ever recorded. Used to be, almost like partisan politics, everyone planted themselves in a camp. “I am this (insert genre here) and all I listen to is (insert genre here).” Sure there were those who shopped around, I was one of them hence my love for obscure blues, but it came at a financial cost. Basically it was more economical to be a shallow music lover back in the day. Not the case now and to my great surprise youngsters are more like hipsters of old in their appreciation of music. It is all just becoming music again, at least to them, where before everything was labeled and exclusive to certain groups. One girl told me that she sometimes has to justify to her friends, who are exclusively hip hop listeners, that she likes country music, and rock, and folk, and just about anything else as long as it makes her feel something. It was as simple as her response when I played some Sam Cooke and she said “see this is the kind of music where you just sit out on your porch on a good warm day, drink some lemonade, and just listen.” It does not get much more appreciative than that.
The kids coming up are ready to appreciate the sonic qualities posed by the painting above. What does that mean to you as an artist?
One thing it means to me: Stop genre hunting and make good music. And another: Seek what the old heads sought and you can’t miss if you are genuine.
The Kids are Alright!
Now go give them something to listen to.

A Possible Analogy for Songwriters

If you are a songwriter you are a Boiling Pot.
A distillery of sorts.
What I am pointing to is this. The more things you throw into the pot, the more you let things simmer, and boil down the more potent they are likely to be.
With that said getting out there in the world, experiencing the world, reading anything you can get your hands on, listening to a varied amount of sounds, and exposing yourself to as much as possible you will fill an arsenal worth of material. These are not just reference points or just things to jot down in your notebook or journal, you do keep one of these right? But they also do something else. Something I think is missing in a great deal of what I hear out there.
A friend told me once, one who I consider a consummate creator, one of the best I can think of, that he did not feel like approaching a certain point in his music until he “had some bark” on him.
Go out and get some bark on you.
People can hear it.

Hey New Artists: Don’t ever, never, ever do this

Noticed this on FB. A person posts on a known music reviewer’s wall “Hey go over to my site and take a listen to my tunes and review them.”
OK here is where this falls apart for you, budding, talented,musician type artist person. Once a person makes themselves known as a reviewer and is published in some way (press, internet, radio, TV, or all of them) they are inundated with mailings and packages. I know many reviewers well enough they have let me in their house and it is like the back room of the post office with CD’s and press kits stacked all over the place. I often wonder if this is the real scam on their part to get all the free music they could ever hope to listen too. This is of course is a joke and anyone who has ever reviewed my stuff: know that I am only joking and my new album will be in that stack soon so give it a chance ok, ok, please.
But seriously they are busy people with a great deal of music to listen to and then not only just listen but professionally respond to. Also they are what is referred to as a filter. Does being reviewed by someone help sales? Maybe, maybe not. Does it add legitimacy to your efforts? It don’t hurt.
By them being a filter I mean to say that they have been noted for their opinion on music and their dedication to it. So here is the quick and the dirty: If you want to be reviewed or someone to listen to your music, don’t ever, never, ever send them a post on their FB wall, an email, or some other form of electronic means instructing them to “hey go over to my site and check out my tunes.” People in the music world want to see that you at least took the time to apply some sort of effort to not only your sound but that you care enough to send it in correctly.
Some might prefer it in a digital format so it might be appropriate to send an email stating “hey I can send you a CD but if you want to download it you can (insert whatever means here).”
Most, I have found, still want the disc and the press kit. I long for the days when I can just post it somewhere and everyone just go get it but they are not here yet for all reviews and radio.
So remember this when you decide you want to start trying to get reviews for the album you worked so hard making. Or you can forget I even mentioned it and keep sending those annoying messages to people who are not going to take you seriously while I go make my trip to the post office and try to get my music out there. It is your call.
Best of luck to you!

All You Need is Songs

Still reading All You Need is Ears by Sir George Martin. If you do not know who he is I am sorry…
Just kidding
He produced much of the Beatles work and is considered the “5th Beatle.”
Great book by the way.
What keeps popping up is the material.
In today’s world the Beatles would never have happened. This of course does not diminish the greatness of their work, but arguably, they were a phenomenon we will never see or hear again. Many complex systems came into play in making them become “the monolithic rock group” all others will be balanced against.
In today’s clutter they would most likely be diminished in comparison to
the clamor they caused in their own time. Again this does not diminish the Beatles talent at all.
That is what keeps popping up.
Are they the greatest group ever? The answer to that involves subjectivity.
Are they greatness personified in their musical work? Heck yes.
George Martin notes, in the flurry of activity that began surrounding him and the Beatles that with their success, that he thought “this cannot possibly continue.” He alludes to him first questioning the group’s ability to keep the great materially coming with the pace of their success. They never failed to produce. He noticed that they only got better, more focused, more creative, and more developed as songwriters and craftsmen. Had they not been up to this task we would be talking about the Beatles in the same breath as the Dave Clark Five.
(Side note I love the Dave Clark Five)
Here is the lesson. While focusing on your youtube video,facebook, twitter, and all the other accounts and apps you are using remember that they are merely functions to spread the message. They are the messenger.
The vinyl album was the messenger in its day and if, within its tooled grooves, it did not contain something worth listening to it was discarded or traded in today for value points at the hipster indie stores.
By all means do not kill the messenger. Just remember to give it something good to carry and deliver.

Moving on, and on, and on ad infinitum

Bob Lefsetz says it much better, as usual here
But here are my thoughts
We are moving forward and faster and faster. No one knows where it is all going but it is going and fast.
As an Independent artist you need to get your music out there, do a video, push, push, push. The old models stopped working years ago and people only clung to them because they were all they knew. Probably much like the yeoman farmer clung to his way of life until the dust bowl blew him away and onto the highways and by ways of America to learn a new way during the depression. The old music industry, whatever that means these days or whatever it was supposed to mean, is dead or pointless.
People cling to old ways or what they think the status quo is because it gives them comfort. We have to let go. Or more importantly you have to let go in order to fall into the unknown.
Remember, if you are old enough, when you watched something on television and the background music or arrangement was god awful and you thought “yikes that is terrible” and wondered how this or that got placed. That was the old way of doing and chances are the producer owed someone a favor or it was a relative or any of the old rules that applied to the old ways of doing. There is not room for that anymore or better yet there is “too much” room for that to work anymore. There is no television, the rabbit is out of the box, and instead of being fast he is a hybrid alien rabbit with alien engineered superior DNA and will never be caught. The trick my friend is not to be in the past but the now and be the rabbit.

“You don’t want to die? Don’t be born.”

L.A. Times article about one of the most real human beings that I have ever known, Mr. Red Paden.

The words “probably one of the last” or “real deal” get thrown around a little too much in the world, but this time it is deadly fitting. This is a very great article about one of the most interesting men you will ever have the chance to meet. Get down to Clarksdale, MS sometime and go kick it with Red. He’d be glad to have you.


Flippers and Lost Goose Chases

OK here was the conundrum. I was trolling the internet to see if the press release our publicist had been sending out had made the waves yet and I see an interesting Google add for one of my albums. I click and to my astonishment there is someone selling my album for $47.50, which is about $34 over the price I charge online and $37.50 over what I charge in person from the stage. Here is a text version of how I felt:


I was pissed. I went to the ebay site and checked it out and sure enough there sat my CD (4 copies for sale) at this exorbitant and ridiculous price. Many thoughts rushed through my head. I soon discovered that people who do this are called “flippers” and they basically take an artist’s product/album and re-sale it at a greatly inflated price, kind of like ticket scalpers. What the market will bear right?

This set me to thinking and communicating with the seller who was very polite and said they would remove the listing if I wanted them too. Here was the problem: what they were doing, though bothersome, was not illegal or immoral. What to do?

It then occurred to me that this could be one of those cases of being led on a wild goose chase and by whom: myself of course. I am about to release an new album and have to dedicate my time to the thoughts and preparations for this endeavor. The market has changed, will continue to change, and will do this on a exponential rate right along with our technology. I could chose to dedicate my energies to dealing with this matter, small in comparison to the task at hand, or dive full and headlong into new solutions which address and go to the heart of situations like this.

You see my mother told me a long time ago to pick my battles. We all have to pick our battles or what we chose to contend with. Some things you just have to let go and I am learning as an artist and more importantly, an individual human, to let most things, those which I really have little control over if any, fall to the wayside in favor of things I can at least make a healthy stab at. So what did I do?

I began focusing on trying to push my new album to all the independent record stores left out there, downloaded a new platform for getting the music out there, and stayed in contact with the handful of people who have chosen, thankfully, to help me in my new task(s). The Japanese business culture has a theory that you should do one thing daily, however seemingly small, that advances your cause. I did three today.

Rather than go chasing a goose that I never have a chance of catching I will turn to focus on the things I have in my grasp. Always remember this in any venture. You truly do chose what you attend to and this choosing can be the difference in moving further up the road or floundering in small, meaningless battles that accomplish nothing but frustrating you and holding you back.

Always ask, before doing something, when that little voice is tugging at your shirt sleeve, “what are you hoping to accomplish with this?”

The answers will astound you.

Keep all the Rest: Give me Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor died today. She was 79. When they say “a legend has passed” this is one of those legends. Though this blog is about music and promotion or the lament of trite sounds flooding every place it could possibly come out of this makes a good place to mark something. With the passing of Elizabeth Taylor, as with all the great musicians and artists of the last couple of years we are seeing the departure of individuals who not only set high marked standards but created a standard before there was one. Elizabeth Taylor was unlike any other actress, her beauty all her own and not just her physicality but the way she mixed both, being strong, even in scenes where she was supposed to be vulnerable, tough as a sword blade when just a nail would do, and her eyes, always possessing some secret anyone watching had to know within their violet depths. Was she the greatest actress ever? Probably not. Was she flawed? Most definitely, as are we all. I always wanted my Pygmalion to have a error in her veneer, my Aphrodite blemished.  As an actress she was a complete artist who refined her craft constantly. Yet with greatness it is much more difficult to name the fine points as it is to explain what they are not.

Elizabeth Taylor was not a flash in the pan. She was in it for the long haul. Elizabeth Taylor did not take her beauty and expect it to command talent. She took what talent she had, developed and just so happened to be stunning. Elizbeth Taylor’s tragedies in life (many) were not used to jump back in the game or create a media hype. They really almost destroyed her but she persevered through them. We are missing so much of these characteristics today or those artists are just stepped over in favor of plastic and hand of a surgeon intervention.

Just like you cannot polish a turd you cannot surgically implant grit and talent. So you just go on and take all the others and just leave me Elizabeth Taylor.

Oh also Elizabeth Taylor embraced AIDS patients when a majority of the world would not even touch them.

A Dream Deferred: facebook war of words

I have friends who have become very mindful of what they post on facebook, which is very sad, for fear of getting into an online fight with people. In our country’s current political and social atmosphere there is so much animosity towards one another that people cannot even feel comfortable disagreeing any longer. This saddens me because political, social, and public discourse are some of the bedrocks of our country’s ability to have consensus and move forward. When intelligent people are allowed to disagree, debate, and reach an understanding good things come from this and fairness prevails. With this component absent our country is absent some of the elements which make it great. We are America because of our difference and not in spite of them.