Friday, December 30, 2011

xkcd: Tradition

xkcd: Tradition

Worth a look, IMHO.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flavorwire � Awesome Infographic: The Geography of the Year in Music

Flavorwire � Awesome Infographic: The Geography of the Year in Music:
What does it all mean? That even in this brave new age of internet self-distribution and SoundCloud and unlimited online streaming, you’re much more likely to get heard if a) you’re American and b) you suck it up and go to scrounge a living in the big city in order to get your music heard.

via Google Reader.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The scale of the pop universe

The scale of the pop universe:
I’m always fascinated to see real concrete sales numbers attached to pop-culture artifacts that you actually pay for—books, movies, video games, music. So I thought the most interesting part of this NYT piece on Cee-Lo Green was this graf:

“Forget You,” released in August 2010, reached No. 2 and has sold 5.3 million downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it the 12th most downloaded track of all time. (By comparison, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” the top song of 2011, has sold 5.7 million.)

If you had asked me to guess how many times the top-selling track of 2011 had been downloaded—bigger than any Lady Gaga song—I would have guessed at least 10 million, maybe 20. Really, 5.7 million downloads for the top song—a song supported by a basically unfathomable media monsoon, by omnipresent playback on the radio, on TV, in real places like coffee shops and car dealerships—that ain’t so many.

So on one hand, it just makes me realize how truly fragmented music is these days.

On the other hand, it makes me realize how many of a pop song’s plays aren’t paid for by listeners like us. Rather, the song gets licensed, soundtracked, muzacked, and just generally rolled out across the walls of the world. That all drives downloads, sure, but I’ll bet it also accounts for a huge fraction of the total lifetime listens. And it distorts our instincts—it makes pop songs seem bigger than they are.

And on the third mutant hand, it makes me hopeful that we might build that bridge between Kickstarter and Louis CK-level success after all. If the absolute top of the scale—the speed of light and commerce—is 5.7 million, then suddenly the number of purchases and plays you might get through a smash-hit Kickstarter campaign (50,000? 0.01 RITDs?) seem pretty meaningful.
(reposted via Snarkmarket.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

your percussion based worries are over

your percussion based worries are over:

via Imminent Discursivity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“Mahna Mahna”: How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune. - Slate Magazine

“Mahna Mahna”: How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune. - Slate Magazine

Music history.

Free Ride: Digital Parasites and the Fight for the Business of Culture | Brain Pickings

Free Ride: Digital Parasites and the Fight for the Business of Culture | Brain Pickings

Worth the time for creative to read, IMHO.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

tumblr_lwhopg6deE1r66jcwo1_400.jpg (JPEG Image, 333x423 pixels)

tumblr_lwhopg6deE1r66jcwo1_400.jpg (JPEG Image, 333x423 pixels)

Walmart, you're doing Christmas right.

Walmart, you're doing Christmas right.: submitted by becuzimbrown to funny
[link] [86 comments]

Production Music Disasters #3: New Age Meat Processing



How does this happen? Does the producer think "Hmm, how do I bring a sanguine equilibrium to industrial meat processing? Oh, synthy 'new age' music - that'll do the trick!"

With its triplet-swing quantize, not quite in-time hand drumming, and meandering melody, this music track seems to have been originally composed for another genre featuring shots of naked meat, but some of you aren't old enough to visit that website yet.....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brain Eno - Composers as Gardeners

Brain Eno - Composers as Gardeners: Brain Eno - Composers as Gardeners "My topic is the shift from 'architect' to 'gardener', where 'architect' stands for 'someone who carries a full picture of the work before it is made', to 'gardener' standing for 'someone who plants seeds and waits to see exactly what will come up'. I will argue that today's composer are more frequently 'gardeners' than 'architects' and, further, that the 'composer as architect' metaphor was a transitory historical blip."



Brian Eno quoted from Edge.org issue 11.10.11

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Google is over.

Google is over. I'm telling you now, but neither you or Google will be willing to deal with this for years.

I should be clear: by "over", I mean the Google that brought us a new internet - a Google that reinvented email, browsing, security, commerce.....

THAT Google is gone. Dead. Never to return.

In its place a pale imitation having taken the form of a marketing company.

Google will continue to make money for those who demand it, but as with all modern corporate parasites, it will be done via bookkeeping shenanigans and public lies. Google has stopped making things - in fact, they're killing things that don't make them enough money.

I still can't figure out why Google thinks there's so much money in Plus - did Facebook really eat their lunch?

Google and Facebook believe in "The Now." But they're going to be surprised at how quickly that evaporates. There's only so much novelty to go around.

The next couple of years are going to see an explosion of mobile apps who's purpose it is to motivate commerce. Google and Facebook want nothing more than to be on the back of every dollar that leaves your wallet. Buying  a coffee? Googlebook wants to be there.

They want to tell Starbucks that you just bought a Peet's, and for a few extra bucks, Googlebook will let Starbucks market to you right on your phone. It's a wet dream for every half-capable sales-douche who continue to fail into higher paying jobs.

But its not long - I'm telling you. Used to be the tech companies led the world - that's inverting. The world is taking the reigns again - only the smartest are going to come out of this unscathed. And Google isn't one of the smart ones, anymore.

Sooner or later, the degree to which Google's technology is being used (and by whom) to shape our day-to-day reality will be revealed. It will make Wall St. fraud look like The Amateur Hour.

But it's still years away. Long enough to forget.

And you will forget. Googlebook will be damned if they'll let you remember. This blog post? Ironically, on a Google service, and there's no way in Hell Google wants you reading my blog. What does Google get from me sitting here typing words that will never be read? Just some geographic biometric data?

----to be continued----

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » These Bands Have No Fans

From Lefsetz a couple weeks ago. Worth a read.
Related: When bands fall of cliffs.

Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive » These Bands Have No Fans:
If you want to last, head straight for the wilderness. Leave the big machine behind. Work neither radio nor television. Concoct a ten year plan instead of a ten minute plan. It’s probably gonna take you that long to get noticed and build. But once you’ve made it, you’ll have a fan base that supports you. You may starve until you’re thirty and not even be comfortable until you’re forty. And it’s not your fault, it’s hard to reach people and they’re conditioned to believe everything is evanescent and close to worthless, why should you be different?

The machine lauds new music and movies, which flow over the audience like a tsunami. You didn’t like last week’s flick? Don’t worry, we’ve got ten more for you this weekend! Many people tune out. They believe there’s nothing good out there. But you know this is not true. But it’s hard to convince those who believe otherwise. That’s your mission, convincing people who think everything’s crap you’re not.

And as soon as they see you dancing, in fashion shoots, hear your song on Top Forty radio, they put you in that category, of here today, gone tomorrow. We used to look up to those trumpeted in the media. Now they’re fodder for ridicule. That’s what TMZ and Radar are all about. Everyone knows your name, but they’re laughing at you.
-----

Stayin' Alive In The Wall (Pink Floyd vs Bee Gees Mashup) by Wax Audio

Stayin' Alive In The Wall (Pink Floyd vs Bee Gees Mashup) by Wax Audio:
I liked a YouTube video: Stayin' Alive In The Wall (Pink Floyd vs Bee Gees Mashup) by Wax Audio
MP3 available at http://www.waxaudio.com.au

The Bee Gees: Stayin' Alive
Pink Floyd: Another Brick In The Wall Pt. II

Mashup & Video by Wax Audio

http://www.waxaudio....

Farewell Google Reader – We’ll Miss You

Farewell Google Reader – We’ll Miss You:


Image representing Google Reader as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase


Word on the street is Google Reader’s social functions, its funky community of shares and comments, and the archives of these interactions, will all be flushed down the memory hole tomorrow.

I check my Reader every day and it’s always a minute or two before I realize that these people I’m following, these comment threads I’ve become accustomed to, these excellent finds – will all be gone.

In Iran this may have real repercussions. “Gooder” as the Iranians call it, has been an under-the-radar social networking tool for young Iranians and activists in that country, and soon it will no longer be available to them:

In a country which all social website like twitter, facebook, friendfeed, and video or image sharing websites like youtube, tumblr, flickr, picassa and many more are banned, Google reader acts like a social websites and in lack of any independent news website (it should be mentioned that all international news channels like BBC, CNN, VOA, and all other non-governmental news website are banned,) Google Reader acts like a news spreading website. Easy access to Google reader made it suitable for Iranian community and through all these years, specially after June 2009 election, developed an strong community for spreading the news.

So that’s a pretty big deal, if you ask me, and Google is scrapping it anyways.

Francis Cleary has one of the best rants out there posted, of all places, on Google Plus. The whole thing is worth a read because it illustrates, at least to me, how so many different people can use Reader and never interact with one another and still have the exact same feelings about its value and its demise.

“Google Reader is was the best asynchronous social network ever made,” writes Francis. “It’s the closest thing to a party that 25 people, all on totally different schedules, can swing.”

Even if every Reader feature made it to Plus — and shit no they haven’t, and it doesn’t look like they will — the entire concept, culture and process is completely different. You can’t remotely replicate the closed, tight, context- and content-first communities of Reader in Plus. You can’t efficiently or effectively share, excerpt, annotate or discuss a 3,500-word longform news article on Plus alone without opening at least two other tabs.

You can’t sit back with a drink and catch up on discussions that don’t have to be carried on right fucking now or they’re gone forever in Plus. […]

Somebody else can swing in here and grab this niche now that Google’s flushed it. Not rolled it into Plus, but flushed it gone.

But can they? Can some bright young entrepreneur rush in to create a new Gooder for the Iranians? Can they draw us all back like moths to flame or will the Reader Diaspora simply melt into the great wide empty of the internet proper?

Somehow I don’t think so. This is the end, beautiful friend. Too bad Google couldn’t just ignore you forever. Your neglect, it turns out, was the very thing that preserved you.

Oh, and one more thing: I had never heard the term ‘sharebros’ until now. I assume that each various niche within the Reader community had its own self-identification. Hivemind or Horde or what-have-you.

Sign the petition to save Google Reader.

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.


Tutorial: How to make Hip Hop Hits

Tutorial: How to make Hip Hop Hits:
I liked a YouTube video: http://twitter.com/DavePBrown
http://www.boyinaband.com/tutorials/tutorial-how-to-make-hip-hop-hits/ - head over to my website to see the lyrics... uh... I mean the text version of the tutorial, grab some samples and check out my other blogs and t...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Casting Call for 'Sound Vs. Sound' Reality TV Series

Casting Call for 'Sound Vs. Sound' Reality TV Series: Sound Vs. Sound, a new reality competition TV series that follows musicians, composers, arrangers and producers as they face musical challenges across different genres, announces an electronic casting call for producer/musicians who would like to participate in the show as contestants. The Sound Vs. Sound series will be filmed on February 5-18, 2012, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Deadline for submissions is December 1, 2011.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Protesting Reality

"Schwetz stood Thursday in front of the Federal Reserve building on San Francisco’s Market Street, holding a plain white piece of cardboard with a handwritten plea: ‘Return our homes.’ A few months after Schwetz purchased a home in Petaluma in 2004, his subprime mortgage payments doubled. For five years, he poured almost all of his earning as a FedEx driver into his house payments, until he couldn’t afford it any longer. He rented rooms to friends, but ‘it didn’t help much,’ he said.”

Schwetz’s lender refused to renegotiate the borrowing terms. Two years ago, he sold his house, which had lost about half its original value of $400,000, for less than he owed on the mortgage - a practice known as a short sale. ‘I’m angry and I’m frustrated, and it’s really unfair what’s been done,’ said Schwetz,”"

Let's examine a few things - he took out a subprime loan to buy a $400k house, and a few *months* later, he's dedicating almost "all his earnings as a FedEx driver."
http://www.simplyhired.com/a/salary/search/q-fedex+driver

Assuming he's making $46k a year, and assuming a non-zombie underwriter informed him as a matter of practice no more than 1/3 of one's income should be dedicated to housing, he's deep on the wrong end of that ratio. So, either he lied on his loan apps (probable), or got suckered into a loan that he "qualified" for due to someone else massaging the numbers elsewhere in the process (highly probable.) So a guy with a $46k-ish income is servicing a mortgage payment up in the $30k/yr range ($3k/mo??) - so his principle is up around $500k??

*THIS* is a person who thinks The Fed is responsible for his financial problems??

$46k gross means he's taking home $38-ish, which means his monthly rent/mortgage is going to be in the $900-$1400 range, $1500 tops (per the rent calculator recommendations). There's a name for this in realtor parlance: renter.

I know he's eating it on the equity side - upside down on a liar-loan and no way out that doesn't involve a decade of damage. Welcome to the downside of gambling.

There's no doubt the system is rigged against him/us - it's like trying to negotiate with an avalanche. I understand the psychic pain created when the absurdity of one's expectations comes into sharp relief, and I especially empathize with the need to identify a source - a singularity - who's destruction needs to serve both a re-stabilized future and a sense of justice/vengeance.

This is something bigger than a colorful social anachronism and convenient news fodder. There are deeper assumptions being challenged by physical reality. At best, this is a lurch towards establishing a new language in which to discuss a transition to new expectations. And that's giving this OWS movement waaay more credit than I usually do.

On the death of Google Reader

The joke was on me.

I made the upfront investment.... on faith alone... in countless hours scouring and curating the web. My last stats were something along the lines of reading 10k+ articles monthly, sharing almost 1k/week. How many people can keep up with that?

Before Google killed their Reader yesterday, I'd amassed a pile of curated and - most importantly - searchable links. The "Shared Items" search was massively utilitarian (in one instance, shaving thousands of dollars off an auto-repair bill due to my searching having eliminated a previous information-asymmetry between myself and a retailer), making it easy to search a body of stuff I'd already qualified. Spammers can't game that.

But more importantly, apparently Google can't monetize it. So it's history.

Familiar story - a few smart heads wrap around a problem, solve it, and change the world. Then "The Money" moves in.....

Right now, money rules. We're in a new gilded age - a resurgence of social bivalence: you're either in, or out. No more middle ground.

And "The Money" thinks the future is all about "right here, right now." Google grew up as a "search" company, but now, it's looking more like they're a biometric inventory company - vacuuming up enormous amounts of identifiable behavioral data and selling it.

The most valuable data is, of course, timely. "What can we sell you RIGHT NOW!?" is all Google wants to know anymore, because that's what "The Money" wants to know. That's why the new GUI looks the way it does - everything is coming back to WAVE, except with more ads, and more people employed in real-time to sell you stuff. Got a pretty face? You've got a future on Google +....

But Reader users don't want to buy anything - that's why we enable AdBlock. RSS (mostly) doesn't carry ads. Reader was the anti-web for the internet. Reader WAS the internet - just not the abstraction most people think of.

Most people visit "websites" - not Sharebr@s. We'd click through once in a while, but we wanted the content - and only the content.

It was the future of everything but that future couldn't be monetized: so it had to die.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple Grew On Me

Christmas, 1984.

Rubber moon boots, Pee Chee folders, schoolbooks covered with repurposed grocery bags. Metal lunch pails adorned with The Hardy Boys and rock bands. That summer, the film "Beat Street" had introduced our small town to "parachute pants", popped collars, and breakdancing.

It was also the year the first Apple II's showed at my elementary school - weird beige boxes with brown keys that seemed completely foreign. They didn't have much software, and at first glance, a word processor looked like the computer had stopped working correctly. In 6th grade, I didn't have much to say yet, anyway.

A couple years later, the Apple IIc showed up in my 8th grade science class. This time it was bundled with some more software - Oregon Trail, some pinball game, a programming language called "LOGO", and  Br0derbund's "Print Shop."

Talk about a disruptive technology....

Print Shop allowed us (students) to co-opt the forms of the common daily newspaper and press our own views. (The only person who ever really mentioned the idea of being truthful and checking facts was our science teacher.) We'd write hilarious (to us) accounts of the school's principle abusing students, blissfully unaware of the potency of both the claims and the form they took - before "The Onion", there was my 8th grade school newsletter.

Got distracted... back to Christmas 1984.

I come home to see some large boxes gift-wrapped on our table (yes, we had one.) We tear open the gift wrap to reveal an Apple IIe computer. Zero day.

The next year is a blur - I can't imagine how many hours I sat in front of that thing, transcribing BASIC code from issues of Family Computing Magazine to figure out how to make basic games and graphics. I remember one record-breaking 14 hours playing "Akalabeth", (the precursor game to "ULTIMA") because there was no way to save your game. And those damn gelatinous cubes....

Somewhere along the line, an IBM XT clone shows up in the house, running the GEM operating system. I use this ugly thing begrudgingly. I'm sent to computer camp to learn to do 'computer stuff.' I learn the basics of AutoCAD, Pascal, and DBase. I learn basic animation techniques on the Apple II's using Dazzle Draw, and get exposed to Mac's HyperCard.

Then one day a computer store needs help assembling computers. I went to 'computer camp.' My god, I'm practically OVER-qualified for this job, sing my parents. This is how I escape food-service, the go-to path for high-school students in my district. Then it's how I pay for my AA degree. Then...

To this day, I've never owned another Apple product. Not that I didn't want to; circumstance made other choices for me.

But those formative years when by some miracle those weird beige boxes with the brown keys found their way to my 6th grade classroom - and eventually to the spare desk in our kitchen - those years changed every probability in my life.

Thank you, Dad.

Godspeed, Steve.

A Silent Solidarity

Fellow musicians, I have some bad news for you: We're complicit. We're on the wrong side right now.

I thought we were getting a free pass for a while because so much had changed in our world - our footing had been lost and everyone was trying to figure out how to sustain.

Sustainable -that's what everyone wants to know. "How long will this really last?"

Seen car sales lately? A few trucks, a few utility, and then an alluvial fan of 'smart' low-mileage compacts with excellent quality ratings. Don't believe me? Try and get a deal on a Honda right now. Dealers are holding out - they know they've got the best and they're demanding top dollar. And they're getting it.


We're all aware of the sit-in's near Wall St, and the smattering of supportive cities that are hosting their own #Occupy events. As this movement coheses into something more focused, artists are on the sidelines. We're not the main attraction right now - we're not changing the world.

Lefsetz thinks we should all pick up our instruments and rush to #OWS for all the "free ink." Wow, talk about missing the point entirely.

Want to show solidarity? Show up and STFU. Don't sing.

In fact, here's my challenge: put down our instruments. Stop playing and recording music until a load of banksters are frog-marched into a parade of paddywagons.

How many of us are using YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, etc to get our music out? We're part of the problem - these are the same major corporations that are in bed with the very banks robbing us blind, and we've been giving them our music for free.... in hopes that doing so would make us stars.

Who was smarter here?

If we musicians were remotely serious about showing solidarity with #OWS, then we should remove/disable all our material on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, etc. Don't let these companies profit one more dime. Take ourselves out of the equation.

You want to be a star at #OWS? Then you have entirely missed what #OWS is about - it's about solidarity, not asserting yourself for promotion.

---------

Just a thought - what if the #OWS protestors did the same? Instead of chanting/screaming, etc, just dead quiet while they march? A Silent Solidarity?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Great Winehouse in the Sky

I never "got" Winehouse.

To me, her act seemed like a thin imitation of a 60's US festival soul act. While her voice was fantastic, her music sounded like a karaoke knockoff of "The Detroit Sound." It felt imitative rather than a tribute - like she saw herself as a reincarnated Aretha.

I wasn't a fan, but there were plenty of people who were, and that's all that matters, really.

Godspeed, Amy.

---------------

PS - The business doesn't have to be this hard on people. It really doesn't.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Predictions: The next WAVE's

Google:
I "get" Google+ now. It took me a minute because I forgot how Google thinks - they're in this for the long haul now, and that requires longer horizons. That stream interface that looks kinda like Facebook? That's just the transition - something familiar to make you comfortable. Underneath, it's WAVE.

"Hangouts" are the future here - it's what WAVE was before everyone signed up. WAVE is silly and useless without *everybody* there at the same time. Google knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it. We rejected WAVE for many reasons, and I blame Google for not managing that very well - it could have been much more successful, IMHO. But Hangouts are here now, and they'll only get bigger and more capable. uStream and its ilk had better see the writing on the wall.

Mobile & Apps:
The future of almost everything. ("Website designers" take note - your days are numbered. Start retraining *now*.) Facebook is eating the lunch of traditional .com sites, especially if you used to build brochure sites for small businesses. Those days are GONE, replaced by the now-ubiquitous Facebook pages. And even Facebook is morphing into an infrastructure and advertising/market research company - that's why they'll continue to build high-quality mobile apps.

We're in uncharted cultural territory here. Some of the biggest brands in traditional media have been reduced to tiny icons that we scroll past on our way to Angry Birds. Those icons are the same size as Facebook *and* Yelp and Realtor.com, etc... y'know, the things that help your life by saving TIME and giving you tons of good information. Or entertainment.

Musicians future is not on Bandcamp or Soundcloud or any of those 'free' music community clones - it's apps. The tools to build your own mobile app are mere months away. You won't need to be a programmer - but you will need some basic sense of flow, and having a competent graphics guru around will help immensely. You're a musician, you have a community of these people around you already, yes??

Subscriptions via those apps are your income future. $1/mo will be the magic price, although it will take months/years for everyone to figure it out. Can we find 100 people to pay us $1 month? A thousand people? Can we produce something worth that every month? I know *I'm* motivated to...

Film and "television"
Apps are their future, too. HBO has an app for subscribers that allows you to download content directly to your phone. My mobile happens to have an HDMI port, which means I can download my HBO shows and watch them on-demand. What's that - HBO basically gave me a DVR on my mobile that's connected to their (growing) library of amazing stuff?? Where do I sign up for this??

Oh, I have to buy a cable subscription? Fuck that - I want it ala carte. I just want to pay my $5 or $10/mo and be able to LEGALLY watch episodes of HBO shows. And I'm going to get it, too. Because that's the future, and whoever brings that to the table first WINS!

It won't be Netflix- their tombstone is already cast. They're just a licensing company now, anyway - one with a great DVD logistics system, but mailing shiny discs can't have that much longer of a life. And 'streaming?' The rights holders are going to want that money, and it won't cost them much to get their own subscriptions running. Sure, there's room for a couple clearinghouses - HULU and Netflix could fill that role as licensing intermediary, but that just makes them kind of a Harry Fox for moving picture.

HBO and Showtime had it right all along: get people on board to keep paying for excellent/astonishing work, and you can have longevity. Subscriptions were always their model, and now they're everyone's model.

Go find your flock.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Musicians: Apps are your future

Google+ is rolling out a bazillion invites to people who want to be part of the next "thing." What made Google+ appealing in the first place? NOBODY WAS THERE!

But now EVERYBODY is on G+, and like me, a lot of "Huh?" going around. It's just like Facebook, but with circles! Great, one more thing I have to teach my parents to use...badly.

If Google, the biggest tech company on Earth, can't figure this out....

As a musician, Facebook's fan pages are a great service - providing your fans use Facebook regularly enough to see your updates/invites. And this is really the problem - managing subscriptions to people's lives. Some people are more important than others, and some status updates are more important than others. Facebook doesn't know which is which, so after you cross that 200+ friend threshold, it's unmanageable.

Politicians and idiots are all over Twitter. That thing is downright useless.

MySpace? Bandcamp? Soundcloud? iTunes? YouTube? Amazon? CD Baby? Where should you be? Where is your future??


Not anywhere near those services, I promise you. Apps are your future. Back in January, I wrote:
We used to call them "patrons." Now we call them "subscribers" or "users." Same concept. Someone likes your work, and wants to support it directly. But more importantly, a patron wants to connect with you.
...
Lucky for us, these days app developers are a bit like weed dealers: even if you think you don't know somebody directly, you've got a friend that "knows a guy!" Ask around - you'll be surprised.
Musicians: THIS IS YOUR FUTURE. Not Facebook, not your website, G+ or any of the other 'services' that make money by making YOU the product. You're ALREADY a product - your own.

What you need more than anything is steady income, and this is where subscriptions come in: you only need a few hundred people at $1/mo to get rolling. And that $1 (or whatever amount) needs to get them EVERYTHING. Don't scale your offerings - you're not that smart. One price gets everyone in the door. All the music, all the pictures, tour dates, and opportunities to meet you directly - these are the trappings of distinction. You'll need them.

And you'll be motivated to produce for those patrons, too. Because if you stop long enough to rest on any perceived laurels, your fans will move on. This is your new reality, musicians.

You need to find app devs and ingratiate yourself. They are the key to your next kingdom.

I write this because I've seen a platform in development specifically for musicians that can't write code. This service will allow you to create your own basic Android/iPhone app (and publish it!) that your fans can use to connect with you.

Android is the #1 selling mobile right now, and they're continuing to fly off shelves in record #'s (during an economic depression, too!) in addition to steady iPhone sales. People buy apps all the time for their phones, and the $1 price point is just right to get people on board with little risk. Mobile phone use is only going to grow, and with cloud services looking to be ubiquitous in a couple years, there's no need to maintain 'fat' computers (laptops, desktops, etc) and their attendant media libraries.

Besides, it's all about the live show anyway: recorded music is your bait.

Next year, there will be a mobile app for the music of Jeremiah Jacobs. Fans will get the app for free, and there is a $1/mo buy-in for the premium stuff, like pre-release demos, all songs for free, lyrics, artwork, chat, concert dates, freebies, etc. I'll be glad to pry myself from Facebook and it's time-sink nature. Ditto for Twitter. I'll have my own 'world' and I don't have to sell my fan's user data to get it.

The Thrill is Gone

Google, while publicly traded, is a private company. They have no obligations to you or I as users - they only answer to shareholders. Google has no obligation to recognize the 1st Amendment, nor any obligation to allow you to engage in "free speech" on their products and networks. Google actually retains the legal authority to alter any data in their properties in addition to republishing it.

Google has become the perfect embodiment of America right now - a pretty, smiling, duplicitous witch who's shaking your one hand and stealing your lunch with the other. Remember, you're not a Google user - you're the product being sold.

And don't kid yourselves - Google is one of the US Intelligence Community's primary assets. The company regularly hands over data about anyone they're asked to. And the US pays for it, too, so even that activity has been monetized.

Google's ruthless when it comes to monetizing its apps. With the exception of products still under the "Labs" moniker, everything Google produces must make money from their search products. This is one of the reasons I fear Reader, IMHO their product with the best chance of affecting social change, will be retired soon. It can't be monetized.

I'll own up to my own mistakes here: i trusted Google for far too long. I opened a GMail account the week the beta went live (2004?), and continued to be amazed as they released incredibly functional apps. I've lazily depended on Reader as an extended memory, only to have Google carve out chunks that aren't profitable to maintain (like my pre-2008 links).

It bears repeating that ALL of Google's products are built on the back of your user data - what you searched for, what you clicked, what you eventually bought, and if Google can capture it, everything about your computer's browser, etc. Is there a behavior Google wants to analyze and market? They'll write an 'app' that gets it, and sell the data. Apps that don't/can't collect lots of sellable data won't stick around.

I used to be OK with this tradeoff, but now I don't feel it's fair anymore. Google says I can export all my data from their coffers, but I'm sure this is a soft-lie. They won't release but a fraction of what they 'know' about you - and even then, it's really not that data I care about - it's the implications of the larger personal profile. Do American citizens have the right to verify data about them? (Hint: No.)

I made a comment earlier about social change - this is critical to understand. Google is one of the biggest power players in the world right now. That's right - the scrappy NorCal startup is now firmly an establishment player. Look at the executive teams - all Ivy-League thieves. So do you think these people are going to give us tools that uproot their dominance? FUCK! NO!

So we'll get a free word processor, but some gov't plebe will be monitoring what you write with it. Ditto for spreadsheets, social networks, etc. All of these things will be used against us - no doubt in my mind, but none of them will be allowed to be used to instigate any real upset of the US social order.

And that's really the Grand Bargain that Google struck, isn't it? That they can wrestle whatever advantages from the system provided they leave the system perfectly intact?

I've relied on Google as an extended memory for too long. I'm paying the real price now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Google Plus

I got my invite the day they went live, but was too late in clicking it. So I got shuttered out for several days. Yesterday, my Plus went live, and I've had about 24 hours with it so far.

My initial impression is this is Google WAVE, simply renamed with a different GUI. WAVE was so far ahead of its time most people didn't understand what it was for, and they certainly didn't know how badly they wanted it. I'm pretty confident Plus will morph into the WAVE GUI (or at least provide it as an option.)

I'm also confused by it's layout and relationship to other Google stuff - do my Blogger posts automatically post in my stream? What about my Buzz? What's the difference? If someone comments on a post in the stream, does it show up in Buzz? What about all the smart, interesting random people I'm following on GReader? I don't really care about their personal lives - in fact, that gets in the way sometimes. I don't care about their photos, etc - I'm just interested in their GReader shares and comments.

Circles are confusing, too. Facebook does the same thing with lists, but the issue is the onus is on an individual user to maintain those circles. Are circles also opt in/out? Can I bridge circles on relevant topics, or do I have to xpost and then maintain multiple streams of comments, etc?

It's worth remembering that Plus, like a lot of Google products, is in beta, so it's probably a safe bet a lot of things will get worked out soon.

But I'm worried about Reader. Reader is, IMHO, the app with the most transformative potential. It has been my experience that Reader usage correlates (and may I say, predicts) with an overall ability to construct an lucid argument. Acquaintances that don't use or know of Reader are *weeks* behind news cycles, and consistently lack insight or the depth of available knowledge/opinion on most topics.

Which is precisely why it's not a very popular product. Eventually, another Reader user will creep into your shares and start schooling you. The majority of us do not react well to this, and even few actively seek out that kind of interaction. Additionally, RSS, the technology that Reader is dependent on, is facing its own hurdles as competing standards and frameworks emerge in the mobile world.

It seems Google is moving from being a knowledge-services (read: search) organization to an social/advertising org, and I hope I'm wrong about that. Google's brand was built on providing tools to make better assessments from even better data. Social networks don't do that - they're reinforcing by nature, so not very ideal for a rodeo of ideas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Final Cut

Apple released the latest incarnation of their vaunted Final Cut Pro software. The professional community has been most vocal about the huge changes in the basic assumptions in the software. Gone are dozens of features common to video editors of days yore, and in their place, heavily streamlined (dare I say 'dumbed down?') interface and features more tuned to the modern 10th grader.

Video pro's don't like this: it's their domain, after all. What's this, a new set of tools that makes their existing skillset obsolete? Hello music business in 1993?? This is the video editing world's ADAT.

Apple has realized the future isn't with the professional class: it's with the amateurs right now. Here Comes Everybody, as Godin famously quipped. Attendance to movies continues to fall - people just don't have the time anymore, and don't care. So who needs a product to make movies? Very few, that's who.

FCPX is made for people that don't have backgrounds in editing, and don't care to, either, They just have something they need to show/say RIGHT NOW and getting it on YT/iCNN with all due haste is the primary objective.

I'd like to say I didn't see it coming, but I did. I've been saying for years the film business only started its technologically induced transformation - the distro and exhibition side got hit first, but the real revolution in production is just getting started.

If you cling to the old shit, you're going to be eclipsed by people more passionate than you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Your Own Road



This has been making the rounds. The YouTube comments alone tell the story - people really hate this 'tribute' by Miley Cyrus.

I remember the first time I heard Nirvana and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Summer, 1991. A high-school friend had come home from his freshman year at WSU, and he'd brought a cassette - some compilation he'd made up north. We played it in my car on the way to his house one afternoon. I couldn't stand it. I preferred the 'cleaner' aesthetic of producers like David Foster and Walter Afanasieff - the cerebral instead of the bloody.

It wasn't until about 1994 - right about the time I started interning in recording studios, and coincidentally recording a lot of Nirvana-esque bands - that I began to change my relationship with that "Seattle Sound."

But none of that is of particular relevance - only that I remember the first time I heard Nirvana, and it made an lifelong impression on me. I can very much understand what it is to have an historic attachment to certain songs/artists. I can also understand why people feel offended, or violated, or simply outraged when someone else plays the song that maybe doesn't have the same relationship with it.

I feel the haters on this one.

But then I read a great comment on MeFi:
Here's the thing, though: she really thinks she's owning it. Look at her: totally confident that she is doing it justice, delivering a balls-out blistering slab of rock n' roll to her tweentastic fans. She believes.

That’s' what freaks me out. About her. About Nickelback, or Train, or I dunno, Michael Bolton. They honestly think they're up there kicking ass and taking names, just rocking out as only they can.
Here's the conundrum for artists: conviction is what makes you real, but if you've got it at the wrong time, you only look more foolish. It's a helluva balancing act.
Sometimes I think I write pretty good stuff. But then things like Miley Cyrus performing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" pop up in the back of my brain, a niggling nasty little worm of a thought that burrows down right in there.

And that thought says "hey, remember how Miley Cyrus just massacred that great song; turned an anthem of rebellion and undirected anger into simpering kidpop, and still thought she was delivering straight-to-the-vein hardcore awesomeness? Remember that?"

"Listen, champ: what if you're doing that right now?"

And then whatever I'm working on turns to shit right in front of me.
These words...they are SO true. That worm - burrowing in the rich loam of self-doubt, and incredibly necessary for true introspection and humility. Yet Miley.. does she have that yet? Does she have demons to wrestle with? This is a young woman born into a gilded life who has co-opted not just a song, but an anthem, and by performing it, perhaps made it cheaper.

But how do we know we're not doing the same thing? Our fans tell us.
So for me to keep working, and stay sane, sometimes I have to tell myself that these delusions are actually okay. If I believe in it, and I think it's good work, that has to on some level be good enough to keep me hammering away.

And if I'm allowed my delusion, how can I begrudge Miley hers?

So I'm left not knowing if I should be upset by this sort of thing -- the wanton violation of what was a great song -- or just let her rock out in her own way, hoping that people will be just as kind when I choose to rock out in mine.
The only people who's opinions Miley should care about are her fans, especially the ones that come to her shows and appearances. If her fans love her, then what does she care? Any artist that builds any following will attract haters - it's almost one of the most dependable signs you're doing something worthwhile, but a real artist won't care. Real fans will still come out.

You really can build your own road these days. If you love a song - if it makes you feel good to sing it, then DO THAT SONG. Don't worry about people like me who heard it when it first came out and think we get to 'own' it culturally. Sing it with all the delusional conviction you need to bridge the canyon between the real and ethereal, and not collapse into a quivering pile of terror and self-doubt.

"Here we are now, entertain us!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Time It Takes



In this rather unassuming interview, Mad Men co-producer Maria Jacquemetton spills out the fact that it took seven years from the time Matthew Wiener had written the pilot as a SPEC until it was picked up and produced. Even after that, it took FOUR seasons for the show to gain its core fanbase, who in turn talked up the show to their friends on Facebook and Twitter, and now, we're all running to Goodwill stores searching out ironic 60's cabana shirts. (I picked up a NICE one!)

And then, at 5:02:
"..probably the most important thing i learned at film school was that the connections you make early on in your career are the ones that really can pay off later on in your career."
Somewhere early in her career she meets Matt W at a writer's group. He/they write a pilot on spec, and then its seven years before the thing gets picked up. First season is anyone's guess: "Will this thing even survive?"

Not knowing was their freedom.... to tell stories they wanted to tell. Stories drawn from sitting around a table and baring their souls to their associates.

Wow. No wonder it's a hit.

Let's ponder the implications of the timeframe and associated circumstances: seven years from concept to execution, and four more before it's a powerhouse...eleven years. If you've been in this business for 10-15 years, you already know the people who are going to be with you in the long run, because they're the only ones left. Remember, staying in the game IS the game! You've got to be in play long enough for you or someone you know to catch fire.

Then, you've got to be ready, too. What's the famous quip about luck: it's when opportunity AND preparedness meet? All those years you still need to be putting in the time so when the fire lights, so to speak, you're ready to deal with it.

Ok, maybe you need a clearer takeaway:
  1. Post all your stuff online, in high quality, for free (or 'spec'). YouTube is currently the best platform. If you must sell shiny CD's or mp3's, YouTube *should* auto-link your iTunes or Amazon sales links. I wouldn't count on it for income right away, but your conversion rate will tell you a lot about how people perceive the value of your work.
  2. Remember it can take years for something to catch on, so don't get discouraged if you've only got 200 views/plays in the first year. It will take years for you to get it right.
  3. Don't get distracted by train wrecks. They're not for you. Study them to learn how to prevent them, and you'll be ten times more valuable.
And don't stop.

Friday, April 1, 2011

AdSense

I'm trying out AdSense. You'll notice some text ads on the panel. If they're too intrusive, I'll take them down, but for now, I'm curious if I get anything out of it.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Share and Like

Are the buttons not obvious enough? "Share" and "Like?" These two features are now *basic* staples of social media sites, from Facebook (who's gone so far as to allow web designers the option of "Like" buttons ANYWHERE on the web...) to YouTube.

So why don't people use them? Isn't a mouseclick the most effortless thing someone can do? I mean, if I can't get you to take five seconds to hover your mouse and clicky the little button, how am I going to get you to come out of your house on a Wednesday night to see my live show?

Part of me wants to draw a line: if you can't bring yourself to click the "Share" or "Like" button, you're not a fan. A lurker, maybe, a hanger-on, for sure. But not a fan.

For musicians (and almost nobody else), fans are the only (external) legitimacy we get. (No, this is not the same as personal validation, which is a different problem. I'm talking about market legitimacy, not one's personal view of oneself. Don't even try it.) The fans have to tell people about us, because we can't be trusted to get the story right on our own.

I know why people aren't clicking the "Like" buttons: Because the music's not good enough yet.

But don't think anybody's going to say that. What was .50 Cent's famous quip - people telling you something loud and clear, you're just not hearing it?

But what if you do have a genuine hit and don't know it? How would it break through, and how long should it take? It's so easy to confuse a hit with a train wreck - which is what most people are on YouTube for anyway; the quick fix. YouTube is all about "the moment"- here's the fall, the crash, the explosion, etc. YouTube is not for context or deeper meaning: the comments alone bear this out.

"Nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could."
- Simply Red

It's so hard to disentagle ourselves from the old world. We've got so much invested in it. How many of us were driven by visions of 80's rock videos and 60-70's concert footage? Be honest... How many of us still judge our material by FM radio standards? Be honest... How many of us felt we deserved the attention granted to a 14 year-old Texan girl? Be honest...

I know artists that are still trying to get FM airplay. In 2011? Really?!? Do you think radio has the power to anoint hits and create stars? That's old-world thinking. American Idol tryouts? You'd have to be insane. Or mediocre and desperate.

It used to be a mediocrity could game the system with the right contacts. Public discourse was limited to the biggest players. Not anymore. Now everyone with a blog wants to tell everyone else. Artists need to decide which conversation that's going to be: the evangelizing of your music or the celebration of your unveiling and demise.

Right now, YouTube is our modern online equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Every viewer's a Caesar. People want a spectacle. To be astonished.

That doesn't have to mean we have to pander to the most vile and basic impulses. We may live in a post- "2 Girls, One Cup" (Google it on your own) ecosystem, but nobody's really clamoring to follow that act. Further, I believe we are culturally ripe for a Renaissance in music, if someone would just display the bravery to take us there.

Those who do will be rewarded.

And like all great movements, it begins with the true fans who "LIKE" and "SHARE".

Get clicking, people.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

YouTube and iTunes: So Happy Together

I was looking at it all wrong.

I thought it was YouTube vs. iTunes for music distribution. Wrong thinking.

Correct thinking: YouTube AND iTunes.

YouTube is your bait. You should be posting all your music there anyway. In high quality, for free. Add links to iTunes/Amazon for people that are converted. Don't rely on it. If you truly bat one out of the park, you'll be amply rewarded.

But don't get focused on stats. Focus on the art.

Yes, we still have to do some basic legwork, and we can't count on 'social media' to do it for us. It certainly helps maintain momentum, but it can't be the genesis of it. Unless you're in the train wreck business.

Stop releasing CD's and 'albums.'[1] It's indulgent, and nobody has time for filler anyway. Let the singles sink or swim on their own. When you've got ten great singles, THEN release an album.

Record a few covers. Licenses are cheap an it greatly increases your chances of new fans finding you.

In order to post your songs to YT, you'll need some basic video editing software that will create a title card for your tracks. Remember, this is the graphic displayed on one's phone while they're listening to your music.

But don't worry about your stats. Remember this: more people DON'T listen to music online than people who do. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is how many people come out to your show.

[1] The only album you should be producing is one that's financed directly by fans/yourself. Kickstarter.com is a great place to get funding for such things.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What The Future Holds

I. Don't. Know.

Neither does anybody else.

Full. Stop.

Things happen so fast right now in the music world. It's the future of all arts. Even painters are getting in on the live act. Have you seen David Garibaldi paint his funky portraits live? Sure, he's using other people's music, but he's paying tribute with it, not exploiting. And it's really about the live act right now, anyway. Recorded music is fine - and necessary, too. It's also a bit like sewing - the only risk is error, which can be quickly corrected. Live shows, by contrast, are all about jumping off a cliff and seeing if you can fly.

Which one is more exhilarating? Sewing or cliff diving?

That's the question in my mind when I'm looking at all these live music apps on the iPad, and a few for Android. They're all geared for realtime interaction, but they've also been programmed to remove almost all the risk of sucking. How do you push boundaries that way? Where's the excitement there? Watching guys fiddle with knobs? Can you even create enduring music with these tools?

Well, I think somebody will. Will it stand the test of time like some of today's legacy catalog? Unknown.

It's such a free-for-all right now: so many listeners, so many creators. Why does anyone need to be "on top?" Can we calibrate our expectations in such a way that the simplest rewards are all the fullfillment we need?

I'll confess: I'm not immune to the onset of depression when confronted with one's YouTube play stats. I want to be noticed, too, just like every one of you. I think I deserve it, too. I work hard at my art. Almost everybody does.

The problem seems to originate in an conviction that the only measure of success is public accolades, a point driven home by decades of television programming. I fight with this, too.

We forget sometimes that public attention and opinion are a bit like the lottery. To "win", a high number of probabilities need to align in one's favor. Eighth-grader Rebecca Black took a spin earlier this year and came out a huge winner... in a way.

We Are All Rebecca Black

(Note: This is the last time I want to write about this.)

I don't know about the rest of you, but I had to take a step back and seriously examine some of my expectations. Yes, I got schooled by an eighth-grader. But I'm ok with that now.

I saw that smiling face and heard that horrible song, glanced at the YouTube play count, and went ballistic. Who was this person with the audacity to share my dreams of receiving effortless and unconditional public affinity? How dare she sit in on MY deservedly-earned place being interviewed by The TODAY Show?

Wait a minute...have the last 20 years of my life in this business been driven by an adolescent need to be loved unconditionally? What am I, a fucking puppy? Deep down, are my career's needs on par with a 13 year-old girl??

Truth is, no. My frustration is not rooted in adolescent emotional needs, even though it's an easy target. The truth is, I'm committed now - I'm all-in. That can be terrifying. Especially in a business where everyone's a player now... even eighth graders.

I don't think there's any real lesson for people in the pro music scene, other than realizing that today's youth are far more connected than we are, and because of this, their culture can seem as if its dominate. It's not. Connect your fans, do your thing, and don't worry about the train wrecks.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It All Went So Wrong

I'm not sure how to tell this story.

IMHO, the key to understanding a train wreck is to understand the power of *inertia*, and how, like an avalanche, once set in motion, there's nothing you can do but hold on for dear life.

"If somethin's gonna go wrong, it's gonna go wrong out there." - Captain Ron

I'm playing keyboards for an Artist (who Shall Not Be Mentioned) who's (ostensibly) got some touring experience and (allegedly) audience demand stateside on a very particular festival circuit. We have roughly 3-5 weeks of rehearsals prior to this particular show.

Let me momentarily digress to remind readers the Cardinal Rules of Festival Shows:
1 - To keep the show on -schedule, your first song *is* your soundcheck, and...
2 - they're *always* behind schedule.

There's an abundant 'green room' area behind the stage, but the trick is, performers only get access for the hour prior and following their set. The festival organizers have provided (nice) trailers for use as changing/rest areas, and a well-stocked food & beverage table (performers eat for free! nice, eh?). All in all, this is a well-run festival.

One last detail I think worthy of mention - the FOH mixer is someone who's name has recently appeared in MIX magazine because they'd recently been doing Sting's FOH on his Soul Cages tour. I'd met her prior to the show - great person.

So that's the general list of cars in this train: nice festival, good perks, top-notch tech crew, a bit of a crunch on the clock. Enter The Artist.

The Artist has decided that a mere hour to prepare for the set is not enough. Further, The Artist has deemed it unnecessary for The Band to have access to a changing trailer, too. For us, the public bathrooms in another zip code will suffice. Nor will the band require access to the food service area. Milling about in the early-summer sun (in full black attire, no less) is all the luxury we need.

We seek out The Manager who, upon hearing our dire pleas, retrieves passes for both the retreat area and food. And a changing trailer. The Band is happy. While we are eating, I notice The Artist approach the stage manager and audio engineer, then hand him what appears to be a multi-page list of demands.

The Train grinds to life.

What The Artist doesn't know is the audio guy and I are acquaintances. No sooner does The Artist turn away, the audio guy makes a beeline for me. "What is this??" he asks with a tone of disbelief. It's a prep list, all the way down to the number and placement of spare picks, water bottles, wet and dry towels, etc. The Artist appears to be preparing a base camp on stage. Brief discussion ensues. We only get three songs anyway. The food is good, temperature pleasant, the material within our grasp. The Band is happy.

We seek out The Artist to brief on the changes. The Artist, however, is preparing a SEVEN song set, complete with an ENCORE, and has been angered that we've had the audacity to tell The Artist how to perform said show. We are asked to leave The Artist until just prior to showtime.

The Train is gaining momentum.

Setup. We haul ourselves and instruments to the main stage. During this transition, it is important to note there is another group performing in front of the main stage, and they have audio coming out of the FOH. While they literally are not on stage, they certainly HAVE the stage.

While The Band has been able to setup in near silence, The Artist has deemed it neccessary to tune their guitar at TOP VOLUME while the group before us is finishing their own performance. The monitor engineer RUNS onstage to silence the offending amplifier, only to be met with The Artist's utter contempt and disregard.

The Train is nearing a bend...

The dance troupe in front of us has finished their show, and making their exit. The Artist has already stepped to the mic, and is repeating the opening line with all the volume The Artist can muster, but the FOH and monitor engineer have muted her completely. War has broken out among commonly peaceful tribes.

The mic comes to life mid-line, as does the guitar. The audience offers a response that could be kindly described as "tepid." The Band is prepared for the first song. The Artist turns to me, the "music director" and says: "Let's do a warm up jam.... in G." The Artist addresses The Band: "Warm up jam, in G! One, two......."

Bear in mind, up to this point, this band has never "jammed." We've rehearsed a specific set, at The Artist's insistence. But a sudden 'jam in G?' Not something we'd prepped for...but here goes...

So come ONE, I play a G chord. The Artist, having a slightly different relationship with music theory, plays a Gm7. So the very first sound that escapes the speakers is a piano playing a G MAJ and a guitar strumming a Gm7. Puke.

The Band ambles aimlessly for just over a minute. Sheer torture. Nothing sounds rehearsed because NOTHING WE'VE PLAYED YET WAS!

The audience sits through an unplanned ending. The Artist is making gesticulations and calling commands to the band we've not yet witnessed. We are as lost as lost gets. We launch into the 1st official song of the set. It comes across as not bad. During the next song, The Artist, now frustrated that The Band cannot decipher their new utterances, has cut off all contact with us onstage. With the sheer exception of a looping motion with one hand (telling us to keep something going), we get no direction. The second song, timed at 4-ish minutes during rehearsal, takes a full two minutes of repeating the intro before The Artist sings the opening lines. More looping in the 3rd verse. The Artist is buying time.

The song finishes. The Stage Manager gives us the universal "your set is over" sign. The Band begins to set down instruments. The Artist, defiantly oblivious, shouts into the microphone "Ready for some more [Artist name]??"

Audience is tepid.

Before we know it, The Artist turns to us, having started the next song solo, and via emphasized head-nodding, tells us we should start playing. I look at the Stage Manager (who's been very nice to The Band) and shrug my shoulders. There's nothing we can do. We play. Regretfully.

The song ends, but not really. The Artist, determined to get their allotted time in the sun, medleys into yet another song. The Stage Manager is making the cutoff gesture.

The Wheels Come off the Track

The stage audio dies while The Artist flails valiantly into the silence. Doesn't even get a final "thank you" on the mic. The host runs on stage, quickly ushering The Artist offstage. I am not so lucky.

The host is a regionally known celebrity drag queen. Before I can leave the stage, the host accosts me and says "Oh no, honey, you can't leave the stage just yet!" For the next two torturous minutes, I'm subjected to a comedic interview routine in which the host and audience agree the best part of the previous performance was watching me play.

The Artist hears all of this over the PA.

We've not spoken since.

TL;DR: Lots of prep work for a concert, the actual show is a disaster who's highlight is how well my shirt fit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Apology

Ok, I fucked up.

And I am genuinely both ashamed and humbled.

I don't know why I got so angry.

Well, that's a lie, isn't it? We all know why...

I hate everything about this. I hate that it makes me GRRAAAAAGGEEE!! at the world.

But I don't hate Rebecca Black. I don't even know her. I was reacting to what I thought she was.

"The Jew Comment"

...doesn't bear repeating. I'd incorrectly believed she was the daughter of a Goldman-Sachs scion or something, and had made an *intentionally* offensive comment aimed at what I perceived to be an otherwise insulated population and I'm like Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Metaphors.

But it looks like she's just a regular middle-class 8th grader having a bit of fun. Well, shit, she's having a LOT of fun.

And isn't what this whole thing is supposed to be about, anyway? Just fun? What the hell else is an eighth grader going to sing about? And a lousy $2k for a single? Of *course* it sounds like that.

So to you, my remaining faithful readers, and especially to Ms. Black (who I hope never sees this blogpost), I humbly and genuinely apologize for my vitriol and general shittiness.

Mailbag: Rebecca Black

"I didn't want to email you at first because I know how strong you are with your opinions, and I also don't like how you print peoples personal emails to u, but thats your choice. But if your going to print what i say, then print this in your blog:

Go. Fuck. Yourself. You. Bitter. Old. Asshole.

She's an EIGHTH grader for goddam sakes man! Not even in highs school yet, and you're writing about her like she's the worst thing in the world. Did you even think through the possibility she'll read your blog? Aren't 13 year old girls having enough problems in the world without adults THEY MIGHT VERY POSSIBLY BE LOOKING UP TO TELLING THEM THEY"RE BASICLLY PIECES OF SHIT?!?? Fuck dude.

Oh, adn what the fuck is it with the Jew comment? her parents are Veterinarians or something. Where do you get your information? Oh wait, I know...."
#
"J - I've only started following your blog in the last few months, but this like the 2nd or 3rd post from you that sounds a little more than angry, and honestly I makes me wonder about your credibility. I'm a musician myself (and a middle-aged one, to boot!) and I certainly felt that same sting for a moment when I read about how much attention this young girl is getting. Then I think about why she's getting the attention, and I realize none of its really good. And right now you're part of that ugly circus, in my opinion.

And what was the Jew thing about?"
#
"Back up, check your sources, work out a well-worded apology, switch to green tea, and remember how awful *your* songs were at 13.

I know you have strong opinions about things - it's one of the qualities that makes you good at what you do. But the jew comment was **way** out of line."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rebecca Black

The 13 year old 500lb elephant just shit on everything.

I couldn't think of a more appropriate "fuck you" to everything than Rebecca Black. Are you an actually talented musician investing your entire life into your craft? Well, fuck you.

I understand the appeal - there's absolutely no commitment with Black, and in that respect, she's got America perfectly figured out. I have no doubt Ms. Black will go on to attain many further public accolades as her parents continue to finance that charade. [--edit-- sentence removed that was both factually inaccurate and fucked up.]

And that's really what's pissing us off here, isn't it? That she is a clear and present indicator there are absolutely no rules here. That fame can absolutely be bought/sold. Talent's just another gimmick, and a talentless pie-faced hack can buy her way to more YouTube views in a week than you'll see in your lifetime.

Welcome to America. Where privilege rules. And Rebecca Black embodies that perfectly.

Make no mistake - this is the ruling class making fun of us. Reminding us they've got a lock on the system.

And we'll probably continue to defer to them. What was the famous quip - Even poor people think of themselves as millionaires just down on their luck?

The takeaway:

I know the music blogs are abuzz with this stinking excrement (even FuturehitDNA tries to make sense of it...fucking idiot), but they're almost all wrong. There's nothing to learn here. It's a cultural abscess; rich people fucking with us. In that way, Rebecca Black makes an astounding case for raising taxes on the nation's top 10% earners. But I digress.

I'm pissed, though.

EDIT #1: I want to roll out a prediction that in a few weeks we'll learn that Black's 'success' was due to her hiring a hacker's bot-army to game her YouTube stats....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Attention Deficit

I'm supposed to be writing music right now, not my blog. Why are distractions so compellingly more interesting than the thing I'm ostensibly passionate about? Am I burning out from sheer anxiety?

No, probably not. Most probable reality: I hate sucking at something, so I avoid it until "inspiration" (which is usually code for "shedding of artistic inhibitions") strikes and I can once again feel supremely confident in my work.

Anyone else feel this psychotic?

I have something like nine songs in various states of undress, so to speak. And I keep starting new ones. I'm a great starter - terrible on the follow through. "I want my songs to be good!" I'll keep telling myself. "I want to astonish!"

Set the bar high enough, and it can be perpetually just out of reach. And I can blame someone/something else. "Sigh, I would have if only I'd had this one more thing...."

The truth might simply be I just haven't put in enough time. Not the right time, anyway. I thought if I could just ponder it enough, from just the right perspective, I could outsmart, short-circuit and capture The System, finally claiming what I knew all along to be rightfully mine: adoration.

Or something like that. Crippling insecurity gets the best of anyone in this business. We might be conduits to another world, but we're firmly rooted here.

Was this supposed to be easy?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bill Murray on Howard Stern

Howard Stern is one of the best interviewers in history. Only a few people know this. I barely remember him being popular on FM, and then he disappeared. Then "Private Parts" came out, and I kind of lost interest. It wasn't until I watched "Private Parts" a second time - after I'd had more experience walking my own road. Suddenly his story made sense.

I wasn't a fan, though. His fans never left him. They went with him to Sirius. I didn't care enough to get past the in-car receiver or subscription. Which is too bad - I'll never even know what I've missed.

The best stuff surfaces on YouTube, though. Why isn't Stern on YouTube already?? Why do I have to sort through gobs of pirated gunk with its questionable quality and insidious video comments?

His interview with Billy Joel is amazing. So is this one with Bill Murray. Listen while its still up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are electronic or digital musicians 'fake?'



Just some random thoughts re: using digital tools as a performing musician.

Monday, February 14, 2011

DROID

I had no idea.

What was Donald Rumsfeld's famous line - "unknown unknowns?"

I mean, I knew about smartphones, but I wasn't a true smartphone owner, having been suckered into two miserable years with the terrible LG EnV Touch. Which itself was an upgrade from the Motorola RAZR. Well, kind of..

The EnVTouch wasn't a smart phone. It took a few months of trying to get the thing to perform before realizing it was less frustrating to simply not use many of the features. The web browser was not really a web browser, but something that acted like it. Every feature on the EnV Touch had these same characteristics: the look and feel of a smartphone app, but really nothing like it.

Everything on the LG was closed in - everything was proprietary. No native access to Facebook or Twitter, because the phone couldn't. It was pretending.

But how could I know until I had the real deal?

Well now I know. Holy shit do I know.

In only a few hours, my world looks different. That realtime stream on Facebook and my Twitter feed are suddenly with me now. I'm holding that future in my hand..the one I kept wanting the LG to give me.

And now I understand why companies are so motivated to go after smartphone users - the world is more interesting with this thing! Why bother printing directions on your computer when you're going to change your mind five times anyway?

Something else that strikes me: this phone is the first technology I've integrated this thoroughly in my life without understanding almost any of its underlying components.

And to think, in many regards, we're years behind in the US with respect to mobile tech, especially the infrastructure.

Anyway...

...I had wanted the iPhone. The DROID X wasn't even on my radar. In retrospect, isn't that odd? I was so enamored with Apple's products I couldn't even consider an alternative.

Until price became the barrier. An iPhone upgrade was $200, plus god-only-knows what they'll talk you into at the Verizon store.

The DROID, by comparison, was at a tiny, nondescript booth nestled in Costco. No frills. Fifty bucks to upgrade. And 100 free photo prints at Costco. Sold!

And now I don't care about the iPhone. I mean, it would be nice to have iTunes on the Android, but its not a dealbreaker. Sure, tell me about resolution differences or camera ephemera. For everyday snaps, it's a huge step above the EnV Touch. I'll never go back.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Survival

First rule of (corporate) survival: don't take risks.

Borders books is filing for bankruptcy protection. Like Powell's in Seattle, they can't figure out how to sell books.

To be fair, they can't figure out how to sell crap books. People would buy XKCD and Penny Arcade, but they don't have to at Borders. Borders probably doesn't even know of those strips. Borders has no A&R - no filters. Nobody at Borders (or B&N, for that matter) reads, so they don't tell anyone "no!"

Both stores have shelf space dedicated to the NY Times Bestsellers. Who cares? How many of the last singles you bought on iTunes are on the Billboard charts? (zero for me). Those bestseller lists are completely gamed - just like Google's search results. They don't reflect anything real - the legions of purchase-bots that buy the latest spew from their ideologues are motivated by fear, not affinity.

Booksellers don't know what's real.

Borders isn't completely down and out, that is if they feel like taking a risk. Current signs point to a company in survival/preservation mode, and that mentality won't let you take risks. So they're putting more cheap plastic on shelves instead of cheap books.

This is the wrong approach. I can buy cheap plastic crap anywhere.

But cool places to hang out (and hook up?) are always in high demand. Look at the goofy teens in B&N on Saturday night. Coffee and "study?" Mating rituals, folks.

Borders may not have any good filters right now, but they do have one thing: real estate. Square footage, and they don't know what to do with it.

But I do.

There is huge demand for (good) live music, and a large supply of artists that can bring in 50-100 people per show, but not 500-1000. And right now, the vast majority of venues that are open to this class of performer are bars/clubs.

And those places SUCK. Management turnover is 99%, you never know who's running sound, if they're even sober, if there's even sound at the venue, is it 18 and up? 21 only? Will they still be open in three months when your appearance is booked? Are they going to stiff you on the door? Is the facility even clean? Are you going to catch a disease from a doorknob?

But Borders doesn't have these problems. The facilities are clean and all-ages accessible. They're almost always an anchor store, so they're close to other services (like food, etc.) The absence of alcohol means parents can send their kids to a show at Borders and feel ok about it.

It also means Borders would have to reinvent itself, and I don't know if that's on the table. It means they'd have to start working with musicians, which brings its own set of logistics and problems, but they're not insurmountable. The new generation of performing musicians need a place to grow, and Borders needs feet in their stores.

It's there, but only if they're willing to risk it.

The Album is Dead - Here's Mine.

Here's a collection of my released songs to date:

Rule The World
Not My Day
Cross My Heart
Mystery In My Mind
This Song is for You
My Heart Belongs To You
To Run Again

Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Powell's Books

The venerable brand Powell's books is laying off staff. 31 today. In the veiled business-speak of the published memo, more are coming.

A bookstore that can't figure out how to sell books.

Just like Borders.

You think the record labels are behind the times? Bookstores think it's the 1400's. And why not? What's changed in their model since the invention of the printing press? They ship UPS now instead of horse and carriage?

That's what I find so ironic about authors and booksellers - they were the first to embrace all kinds of tech - word processing, digital typsetting, blogs - but just couldn't make the connection that blogs were replacing publishers. And authors today still want old deals. They want bookstores to stock their product but don't want to do the work of face-to-face promoting. Sound familiar?

Today's successful writers are having conversations. They spend as much time composing comments as the posts themselves. The inherent quality of their person shines through, and we become fans. We trust Barry Ritholtz and Calculated Risk more than The Fed, JimTheRealtor more than NAR. Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman produce tweets more interesting than most of the books in Powell's.

What do they need a middleman for?

Better question: What can bookstores do to bring nothing but the best?

In a world of rabid readers and an overwhelming volume of product... what a weird problem. Oversupply AND high demand?

But, its an oversupply of crap, and high demand for excellence. And few reliable filters.

Why aren't bookstores renting iPads for a few bucks an hour? I may not be able to afford an iPad, but an iTunes account is free and I can certainly afford a few bucks for Angry Birds and some eBooks. I'd hang out somewhere and buy overpriced coffee to play iPad games and read magazines....

Somebody's going to figure it out, matching outstanding writing with hungry readers.

Prince: Welcome to America!



We've all heard about Christina Aguiluera at the Super Bowl. Everyone's got an opinion. I haven't even watched the whole clip - I can't.

Initially, I'd wanted to hate on Aguiluera. I wanted to hold her up as an example of everything that was wrong with major media (namely, my absence as it's lone dictator) and make comments about how it revealed she was really an undeserving talentless nobody.

But then I got high1.

Lefsetz mentions something about Ms A looking at the Jumbotron screen and being momentarily distracted. I don't know. Things happen in live performances. Bruce Springsteen once forgot the words to "Born to Run." I feel bad for her that it was a Super Bowl, but I don't think her fans care at all.

If anyone at all should apologize publicly, it should be the audio crew that mixed The Black Eyed Peas performance. Fergie's mic was off intermittently and nothing sounded like part of the music.

I'm over it.

I want to talk about Prince. And Kim Kardashian.

Maybe it was scripted. Maybe not. Either way, his comment "Welcome to America" was spot-on.

You're at a Prince show and you don't want to dance? You got in the front row and didn't want him to pick you out? You get onstage with Prince and you're too good to dance with him?

Prince might be clueless when it comes to the internet
, but he's a master of the live show.

What's Kardashian a master of? Why is Kim Kardashian famous?
...Kardashian’s patriarchal bargain. A patriarchal bargain is a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.
Sound familiar?

Play by the rules and you'll be granted legitimacy. But only if you play completely by the rules. And leave the system untouched. That's America.

(And don't confuse rules and "laws." The law may say don't steal, but the rules say winner takes all. Look at our current robber-baron bankster class to see this primalism in action.)

It's our providence as artists to confront this system, demolish it if need be, and create something better in its place.

1Not literally. Colloquialism for "I changed my mind."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Legitimacy

I got called out.

It happened a few weeks ago via email (with no permission to quote/attribute), and it's really been bothering me.

A while back, I'd written a couple of posts about a performer (Greyson Chance) who I felt wasn't being responsibly managed; "..borders on child abuse..." is what I wrote. My blog, my opinion. Leave a comment if it really bugs you.

The callout:
"...and I'd take this chance to remind you how small and connected this business really is, especially as you get close to the top. Everybody knows everybody, and if you think you want a career working with any of these people, it would serve you well to keep that in mind."
...and...
"...you probably should do a reality check on yourself. You pass yourself off as someone who's been around and done all that, but why doesn't anybody hire you? Why don't we see your name in our BMI/ASCAP logs? Oh, that's right....."
...and...
"...maybe you're making tons of money up north and all that, but nobody who counts is going to want to work with you if you keep writing [blogposts] like that. I know for a fact you're on [name removed]'s shitlist."
These are threats.

To be clear, the person writing this is an acquaintance, and is doing this ostensibly to help me. Which is fine, but let's be honest about the subtext here: "If you don't say nice things about me, I'm not going to hire you."

To recap: I wrote a blogpost in which I expressed my opinion, which, apparently, was not the opinion someone wished I'd held. I didn't even know people read this thing, much less cared what I think about topic A or B. Next, it's asserted that because I'm a 'nobody', my opinions don't matter, unless I want to be Somebody, in which case, I'd best show my unrelenting deference to the power structure.

What's going on here?

The Old World was predicated on a business that had monopolized distribution of its product (there was no other way to maintain 'scarcity'), and had grown inordinately powerful as a trafficker of social ephemera. It had a power structure: names that meant something, all backed up by (fake) sales stats. Legitimacy conferred by random anointing and a herd mentality.

But no more. Fans don't care anymore how many sales you have -they care what their friends say about you. Unless they're personally invested in the success of Greyson Chance, they don't give a shit what I write about.

People in the old world, however, care very much because trafficking in legitimacy (and the perception thereof) is a powerful sport to those beholden to it. If, however, you can honestly live without needing that (and some artists can't - I'm not hatin'!), then they've got no leverage.

I don't need legitimacy conferred.
I don't need their fucking money.
I don't need their approval.
I don't need to work with anyone so desperately I can't maintain an air of honesty...what good would I be as a producer?

So here's where we end up, dear reader(s) - if, as an artist you feel you need these things -external validation, someone else's money, etc - then you're beholden to The System. Old, dying and decrepit, that's what you're aligning with. You're up against all its legacy and establishment. If you think you can get into that maelstrom and retain a foothold, by all means. Godspeed to you.

It's not for me, though. I have a different path. My future fundraising is with a large Mason jar and a Kickstarter account. My fans are my PR. The next five hundred shows I perform will be in the living rooms and art-house theaters within a hundred miles. That's who I am. That's the only legitimacy I care about.

I got off track here somewhere...

Not long ago, I cared very much to be seen as affiliated with "the music business" and its associated accoutrement, cared very much what awards or titles were bestowed upon whom, cared very much about various statistics. Most importantly, I cared very much to be recognized by that system because I felt I deserved it (for reasons I still cannot fathom).

Among the many reasons I cared were people I looked up to in the business cared, too. Or seemed to...

I realize now that was a naive perspective, and honestly, it's been quite freeing to be able to write honestly (and clumsily) without the fear of being alienated from that Old World. I sleep better. I love better. I write better.
----------------

Artists: If you feel you need to take on The Big Game, by all means, get into it and ingratiate yourself with the names you see on the music you listen to. Pay attention to who's doing what/where and do your best to work yourself into those situations. Be positive at all times and keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you. If you can do all that *and* write really good songs, then you can absolutely play in that pond. Go for it.

Everyone else, you've got my email address.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Quiet Crier

Shout! Shout!
Let it all out!
These are the things we can do without
Come on,
I'm talking to you.
-Tears for Fears

I released another single yesterday. Nobody cares.

This is the part of the business I least enjoy. Part of me believes there was a golden yesteryear when the listening public wanted to be engaged with musicians and may have actually cared to listen to what was being produced. But now there's just too much. Too much music, too many other details competing for attention.

In some ways, a hundred negative YouTube comments are almost preferable (almost - I still have a functioning cortex...) to the yawning silence.

A lot of my artistic friends are in a similar position - their talents seemingly unrecognized/unrewarded. When did artists clamoring for attention become the equivalent of email SPAM?

But here's the catch....

...if we're honest with ourselves, the feeling that we're being ignored/spammy is rooted in the perceived disparity between what we think we deserve and what we think we're actually getting.

We've got to keep our expectations in check. And that's inordinately tricky when we've got to believe - and I mean believe with conviction! - that our music/art is worthy of public consideration, and still balance the reality that right now, it's all about the users when we want it to be about us.

Releasing a single means more than just publishing it on YouTube. It also means letting go of unreasonable expectations, and relinquishing our solitary grip on our art. Let our fans evangelize if they feel compelled.

Put simply, let somebody else do the talking.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Single: Mystery In My Mind



A new single, Mystery In My Mind.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Apple's Orchard



This video may indeed have "AP" stamped on it, and these guys are officers of Verizon, but this is an Apple iPhone advertisement. Notice Verizon did not say "We welcome the iPhone into our line of products..." or mention any other brand retailed in their stores. Instead they pitch the iPhone as the flagship of the Verizon network.

You may not be able to afford an iPhone, but you sure know what it is, and chances are you want one. Same with the iPad - you may not be able to afford it, but you know what it is and you want one.

What is Apple doing different? I mean sure, their overall design is better, but it's a little more than that. Even though their app store is a 'walled garden', Apple's users are not clamoring for open alternatives. Relatively few people jailbreak their devices - that speaks volumes to the overall experience.

I think Apple's strength lies in its ability to be invisible. The most popular apps are built around communities, not Apple itself.

Maybe this is our new paradigm as musicians and performers - we're really creating tribes out here, and we'd do best to simply be a part of the experience versus demanding our community to worship us alone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Shift

Oh we're never gonna survive unless,
we are a little crazy.
-SEAL

Geologists call it 'plate tectonics.' Change that is invisible, yet alters destinies. One epoch your relatives are all in walking distance. The next, an ocean divides you.

The thing we forget about change in our modern day is that adoption is logarithmic. Put another way, the future comes slow, then faster, then....avalanche. And you can't negotiate with an avalanche.

Haven't you touched an iPad yet? That's why the Apple store is now the #1 draw in malls. Don't believe me? How long was the wait last time you wanted to play Angry Birds while the Cinnabon wears off? It's as if the Apple store is what the arcade used to be, except now you're not ashamed to be there with your parents. That's how cool Apple is right now.

And all indications are it will be that way for some time to come. Even the current crop of iPad wannabes yowling for attention at this year's CES show are forced to compare themselves to the iPad, if not overtly, then certainly by borrowing design cues (shiny bouncing icons!) For musicians, this means two things:
  1. iPads and tablet computers are here to stay, will only get faster/cheaper/cooler.
  2. the Apple model of 'apps' is firmly ingrained in our culture, so 'apps' are the future: Subscribers are our future.
We used to call them "patrons." Now we call them "subscribers" or "users." Same concept. Someone likes your work, and wants to support it directly. But more importantly, a patron wants to connect with you.

Yes, we'll still have obligatory websites, and some of us will still post content on YouTube, but the best of us will be working with geeks to develop mobile apps that engage our fans. Lucky for us, these days app developers are a bit like weed dealers: even if you think you don't know somebody directly, you've got a friend that "knows a guy!" Ask around - you'll be surprised.

What's an app going to look like and actually do, though? In it's simplest, it's just a content bundle. Maybe we've shot some footage in the studio and want to present it in a magazine style format. Or exclusive backstage footage. Or concert. Or our blog. Can we find a hundred people who'll pay $1 a month to get in our world? A thousand? Can we produce good work consistently, every month, like those winning kitchens on "Kitchen Nightmares?"

Are we willing to put in the time? The thousands of hours of sucking at something? The next thousand getting slightly better? And for what? A few hundred bucks a month?

But what happens if we create something as engaging as Angry Birds? What if we manage that terrific feat of being so compelling - so astonishing - that people can't wait to turn on their iPad/Android and join us while their Cinnabon wears off?

For now, I'm just excited this is even possible, much less that it seems our current destiny. But it means we need to change our ways. For instance:
  • The album is dead. It's indulgent. Nobody has time anyway+. People want ala carte singles. (there are exceptions, if you're doing New Age or some kind of ambient where an hour of time is reasonable to ask a listener.)
  • Music is free now, but concert tickets are not. Apps are a vehicle for getting asses in seats.
  • Mashups are sometimes more popular than the songs being repurposed. Participatory culture means our raw tracks are bundled in the app for remixers. This is antithetical to how many of us musicians were trained to relate to our work. It needs to change.
I'm off to play Angry Birds.