Knee Deep in Mail Out

I am knee-deep in an album mail out to DJ’s appropriate to what I am doing. First, to those who will engage in this in the future, be prepared to be able to organize, collate, and keep track of contacts. These are deep waters once this adventure begins so be prepared to swim. A point to those who have taken the time to write music, properly record this music, mix it, master it, and have several hundred copies professionally done: you are only half way home. That’s right. The real fun has just begun and when I say fun it has to be fun in some way or the point of putting out your music, which if you just want a vanity piece to give to all your friends that is fine, having people hear it.
Best of luck to all you folks out there slogging through it, keep it up, it is the way of doing!
More on some new alternatives I have learned later.
Now go practice your guitar and…
lick those envelopes! YUCK!

Traditional Print Media in the Digital Age? To push or not to push

As an independent musician myself I have come to wonder if a person, wanting to promote their music, can ignore traditional media alone. This is more of a question of my own than a blog about what I know or think I do. I did a Google Trend search of artists I knew that were making some type of impact and was surprised at some of the things I noticed. I will not name any of them because this process is easily conducted by anyone to see what results.
What I noticed first is that you need a great deal of volume to generate any results for Google Trends. Artists that I assumed were going to make a mark on Google Trends made not even a blip. Apparently you have to be driving some serious traffic through the information tube to make your mark in this way.
What does this mean to an artist and should they be discouraged?
I think too much discouragement is uncalled for as many I searched are making fine livings making music.
The artists I searched that were slamming activity on Google Trends had an interesting caveat attached to their activity. What was it? Traditional press coverage articles which are marked at where their activity trends and peeks at times. What does this tell me?
First the searches I did trend back to 2004-2005. So that is 6-7 years removed from today, so granted electronic media was just getting rolling and a blogger was still not full-grown then, I estimate probably in its early teen years then.
But the attachment, even now, is still there with traditional media. So what does an up and comer need to do?
I think that to abandon the traditional routes in favor of a total push over the internet might be a good idea but the TM (Traditional Media) still holds the keys to the kingdom for the next level above Indie Artist.
Anyone out there tell me what you think. I would be glad to hear your views.

Juke Joint Festival 2011

Had a great time playing at the Juke Joint Festival. Here is a recap of the great things I got to experience:
* Lunch with one of my favorite people Sunshine Sonny Payne of the King Biscuit Time radio show
* Seeing my friend Terry Buckalew and hearing his great knowledge and humor
* Seeing my old friends Tony and Charlotte Lax
* Talking with Terry Mullins who has a great presence
* Talking with Ted and Matt of the Scissormen
* Talking with KM Williams and Washboard Jackson
* Meeting Gabe Carter and seeing him perform with KM and Washboard
* Playing with the guys: Bob Bogdal, Ringo Juke, Shannon Smith, and my long time buddy Syd Hedrick
* Talking with Cedric Burnside and seeing him perform at Ground Zero
* Talking with Davis Cohen and Ray Cashman
* Seeing David Honeyboy Edwards one of the last real deal Delta Bluesmen
* Seeing David Kimbrough perform
* Seeing Chad Nordhoff perform
* Seeing the wonderful job Robin has done with the New Roxy Theater space which has to be one of the coolest places anyone could ever even think about doing a live show
* Hearing Brad Webb burn up a slide guitar with Miranda Louise
* Watching Watermelon Slim perform
* Talking with John Alex Mason
* Watching T Model Ford
* Getting to talk with RL Boyce
* Witnessing Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band
* Listening to Robert Belfour
* Talking with my good friend John Lowe
It was, and is always, a good thing to make a trip down to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS. If not for the performance then just to meet so many great people and catch up with people you have now known for years. Roger Stolle has done a remarkable job as well as the community of Clarksdale for coming together to put on one heck of a show for anyone in attendance. If you have never made that sojourn down to the holy land of blues then this would be the best excuse in the world to avail yourself of this great place and awesome assemblage of entertainment. You will not leave disappointed as I was simply blown away as I rounded every corner only to be continually impressed by who I would run in to and see. What a great vibe and a festival unlike any other. Not many places you can watch true legends, up and comers, and legends in the making perform and then talk with them after. Great stuff

One of Music’s Best Friends, Dennis Brooks, Still in the Memory and Hearts of Many

A Doorway to the Blues and Memphis Man About Town: Dennis Brooks is greatly missed by all that knew him.
There are some people who enter our lives for a brief instance and are gone, rarely if ever, to be thought of again. Then there are those who blow through like a gentle wind, hang around, and bestow their kindness and wisdom for as long as they are here with us and leave a smile when they are gone. Dennis Brooks was a quiet mover and shaker in the blues world and the Memphis musical community but his calm manner and insistence on the music he loved still reverberates to this day, over a year since his passing. Born and raised in Memphis, with its heavy doses of music and culture, Brooks was a true reflection of his environs.
Musicians Elam McKnight and Bob Bogdal wanted to show their respect for the memory of their friend and mentor by dedicating their new album, Zombie+Nation, to Brooks. “Dennis was a one of kind. He was the old school connector and it was out of total love” McKnight says “he just wanted everyone he felt something for to know a bunch of other people he felt something for. It was never about money or advancing an agenda, it was just Dennis. I miss him a whole bunch. When we started doing the liner notes it was a no brainer, it was just one small thing we could do for someone who loomed so large in our lives. We want people to remember the example of a great, decent human being Dennis was to all that knew him.”
These sentiments are felt by many who knew Brooks. “Dennis did more for the promotion of Memphis music and Blues than any other person I knew or have worked with in the professional Memphis Music Scene for almost 25 years. Dennis was a Mensch, a friend and my contemporary in an otherwise often self serving and inexperienced genre and community. I miss him a great deal” remembers Charley Burch, music producer, songwriter and president of Burch Entertainment Group in Memphis.
Brooks was always sharing his love for music, connecting people, making introductions to all that surrounded him, and not just within arm’s reach. Many can remember phone calls from him on his cell with Dennis at some blues or music events which were invariably interrupted with “hey check this out” and Dennis would take the phone and let the receiver hear what he was experiencing. He wanted them to experience what he was experiencing because he cared enough about it to want that person to be there, in some way.
There were few who did not know Dennis Brooks in the Memphis music community or the Blues world at large. Always the friend to the musician Brooks was held in high regard by any artist he worked with, booked, or managed. Dennis is fondly remembered by world renowned harmonica master Blind Mississippi Morris as a person filled with love first, “Dennis was carefree, loved life, music, but most of all people.” Eric Hughes, resident Beale Street bandleader and recording artist, remembers Brooks as a benefactor unlike any else “Making my way into the blues scene years ago, I noticed Dennis again and again at concerts, parties and other blues events… even my own shows. As we became acquainted, Dennis was constantly giving me tips, introductions, names & numbers, and advice. I was new to the business of the Blues, and assumed Dennis ‘wanted something’ for the connections, promo, and references he provided me- but when I offered, he constantly refused. It took some time for me to realize that Dennis was working, as he put it: “for the love of the Blues”. Love is not a noun, it is a verb. Dennis helped me learn that.”

Many have posted on message boards Brooks frequented that they feel a loss when they open their email accounts and no longer get the frequent messages from Dennis, still always pushing his love for music, even in the new age of technology, he was hard at it. They also say they cannot bear to delete his email account from their address book, it just means that much to them.
Heidi Knochenhauer, a close friend of Brooks and an active member of the Blues community, remembers Brooks’ penchant for not only being the consummate listener but an active participant in so many ways “Dennis loved telling me stories about how he’d have to get an artist’s signature on a contract and drive to the middle of nowhere in Mississippi just to find this artist sittin’ on the porch playing or singing. He was the man to get things done for whatever in the blues world. He networked like no-other person I know. He knew everyone around the world and expected me to know them as well. If I didn’t know the person, he’d explain who they were and what they did, etc. He ALWAYS remembered everyone’s name.” Brooks’ respectful demeanor is also remembered in how he carried kindness with him wherever he went “He never had a bad thing to say about anyone” remembers Knochenhauer.
To this day many have their stories, because Dennis was such a constant fixture on the scene, of thinking he is still there, somewhere, cell phone in hand, ready to share his love, his presence still felt as does Melody Henderson Cummings, wife of Blind Mississippi Morris, “Once in a while, I see someone out of the corner of my eye that reminds me of Dennis physically. But then I look closer and realize that it’s not Dennis. Then I am sad. I miss him very much. He was always so kind to Morris and me. I never saw him upset or angry. He was one that could diffuse even the most volatile situation. Too bad there aren’t more people like Dennis Brooks in this world.”
Inside the album (Zombie+Nation) are words which McKnight and Bogdal feel encapsulate Dennis Brooks and his approach to life, they are a quote from the 19th century writer Stephen Grellet “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” McKnight holds these words personally “they were words I used when asked to eulogize my own grandfather and they came back to me when thinking of Dennis. He just lived that way man and talking about it is not doing it. Dennis did it. Dennis lived it.”

The Trachtenburg Family:This is what I am talking about

Pure Genius

This a group that calls themselves “indie vaudeville” and conceptual art. They have harvested slides from yard sales, flea markets, thrift shops, etc. and use them as a backdrop to their musical performances and “turn the lives of annonymous [sic] strangers into pop-rock musical expos[é]s based on the contents of these slide collections”.
Why is this brilliant?
Because it is so darn original. I have heard a little bit of their music and to be honest it is kind of in that quirky “anti folk” mode, to me, of say the Moldy Peaches, which I can take or leave. But what is spectacular is that their approach, artistically, really made me want to know more about this group.
Which leads me to most of my conclusions: You have to have something going for you that draws people into the music. It cannot just be about the music. I wish it was but this is a shining example of something that catches your interest and makes you look deeper into it. The percentages, if you want to break them down like that, can go something like this: get the attention of 1000 people and probably 100 will take the time to listen. If you are putting out really good music then 10 of those, or maybe more but I think 10 is safe, will dig enough to listen more. Sadly it is a numbers game so what does that tell you?
Play it well.

Sound Cloud and Media Fire: A place to give your music a distribution point

I have been fretting on how to deliver my songs to bloggers and get it to them in an easy fashion. I have tried two solutions. Both these features allow you to load your tunes up and others can listen to them and, if you chose, download them. This comes in handy for promotion to bloggers and online music writers. The goal should be to push your music out there to as many people who will listen. If it is good, and we shall see with this new effort, it should stick with some people and thus your music gets written about. This is a good way to get it out there to the masses who you want to listen. Below is my critique of two services I have tried. In no way are these even close to comprehensive and of course there are other ways to put the tunes out there but these are two I feel comfortable writing about.
This is free service that you can upload your songs, album art, pictures, etc. and then send a link out to others. They can download them and give them a listen and a look. I would warn about the free service. I did a test group of some of my closest people I trust with my tunes and I got the response back that there were just too many pop-up ads and after a while the password protect I had given each song stopped working. I went back to the site, bought in at the $9 entry-level and all these troubles disappeared for the users I sent to this site and they said the process was then seamless. So if you are going to do this I suggest spending the $9 and going that route.

The next offering I really like. It is free and of course you can add more songs at a price but at the free level you can have over 100 minutes of music for your users to listen to, which should be more than adequate for an album of material. I did not notice if you could load a virtual press kit (i.e. files of the album and bio) but you do load a photo and can paste this info directly to each song and on your general profile so this kind of covers this matter. I like the look of Sound Cloud as looks a bit more generic where Sound Cloud looks more aesthetically pleasing which is a good doorway for you and your tunes as people are leery, sometimes, of something that looks antiquated. Just a thought. I recommend both but if you cannot float the $9 then go with Sound Cloud. One reviewer and I am sure there are more accepts songs right there at the site, which is a no-brainer really.
Sound Cloud
Check them both out as a way to distribute your tunes to people in the know.

Drum Sounds and the key ingredients

There are many ways to make great music. You can be an acoustic artist, solo on your guitar, a duo with any instrumentation, or a full band, the options are limited to only your creativity and imagination, which, for many can be unbounded. Should you decide to include drums in this equation here are some things to remember:
1) Drum Sounds are the key to great music.
2) Great drummers are hard to find
3) Either find a great drummer or be prepared to work with someone until they become great.
4) Always try to capture the best drum sound when recording. It is the literal pulse of your songs.
5) Refer to #1 when all else fails
I have had the privilege to perform and record with some really great drummers. There is no beating it. And when I use the term great drummer I am not talking about someone who is a show off. This does not mean that they could not show off but at their essence, their very fiber, was “the beat.” And to play with these individuals is to have more than half the work done for you. Great drummers drive you.

Submitting music to blogs

Music blogs are an excellent way to get your music out there and here is an excellent blog about submitting your music to a music blog writer. I simply point to it because I think they pretty much cover it. What I want to elaborate on is one of their many great points of advice: be humble.
Common courtesy goes a long way in many things and this is no different. Always be kind and humble while dealing with others, especially if you are asking them to write about your music. It just helps to come across in this way. Send a nice email and make it down to earth. You can still BCc the email and sound genuine just make sure that you are not pushing yourself as the next big thing or that you are doing the blogger any favors, because it is they who are doing you the favor. Also when and if they do publish some links to you please respond with a simple thank you email and follow up it is so professional and most of all courteous.

What in the _____ ?????????

OK I do not like or dislike modern country nor I do particularly like or dislike most of the things thrust before me, provided it sounds like what it is advertised as. I do watch the Academy of Country Music Awards every now and then to see who can put on a show and who really separates themselves as a flame bearer of “country sounding” music and not the “other-be’s”, I would say wanna-bes but now it is just not them it is everyone and their mother trying to cram their way into the country music genre. Ryan Seacrest can call it what he wants as the hit man for the suits but it is no victory for American music. It is not a victory when you shove a bunch of artists onto the same stage and create an excuse for exposure because the other genre’s just aren’t selling.
I will not name names because it was not the artist’s faults they are just meeting the obligations of their contracts and their fan bast that supports them, which really needs to be appreciated here. Country Music is getting this influx of genre mixing monster mash because they are the only genre left with a solidified fanbase, at least for now. But just as the record companies refused to move quickly and stuck to their old system which was not beneficial to the fan they are about to lose this one as well. Mark my words. Country music fans are loyal to country artists and will stop listening to this confusing mess. If I go to a movie expecting to laugh and in the first scene a head explodes without comedic effect I am going to ask for my money back and so will country fans if you keep trying to pass all the other bargain bin artists on to them because the record company destroyed their fan bases.