JIMMY STURR The Polka King Speaks
Brad Paul Rounder Recordsâ€™ Rare Exception
Plus: Songwriter profile with Shawna Russell How to get the media to work for you! Global Radio Charts Featured Artists & Reviews November 2009
6 Cover Called the “King of Polka,” Jimmy Sturr has won an astounding 18 Grammy Awards. With his own TV show and a PBS special on the way, Sturr is on a mission to bring polka to the masses. In this exclusive interview, he explains why he thinks everyone should check out this little known genre.
10 Behind the Desk Brad Paul has been at Rounder Records for over twenty years... a remarkable achievement for anyone working in the music industry. His fascination with radio, and music in general, is explored in this revealing profile.
24 The Indie Way Media attention is critical for any artist who hopes to have a career. But, it’s often a frustrating challenge to get media to work with you. In this special tips section, you’ll discover what it really takes to get coverage in an easy step-by-step approach.
34 Now Media How much would you pay for music? In this special report, our “Now Media” expert investigates the ins and outs of pricing; and why he believes the ultimate solution is still on the horizon.
4 The Broken Poem
FROM THE PUBLISHER AirPlay Direct is pleased and excited to announce the launch of our new digital / interactive publication, the Direct Buzz. Our mission is to entertain, enlighten and inform. We see the Direct Buzz as a “Destination” for anyone interested in general entertainment. And, although it will be music oriented, we will be bold in our exploration of pop culture, life issues and commonly shared interests. Most of all, we want to help and encourage those creative individuals who are striving to succeed in a changing world. We already have plans to introduce columns that will provide advice for those who may need help with their writing, recording or producing. Other sections will address the various needs of artists, reps and industry professionals, with videos supplying a large part of our message. We will always be a “work in progress,” because that’s life and, most certainly, it’s life in the field of entertainment. It’s a tough gig, but not an impossible one. And we think you’ll enjoy watching us grow. As the Direct Buzz evolves, it will become more interactive with every issue. In fact, we’ll be encouraging our readers to contribute content.
14 Global Radio Charts
For members of AirPlay Direct, the Direct Buzz will not only add value to their membership services, it will also give them the opportunity to let the world know about their art.
22 Featured Artists
We look forward to your comments, suggestions and thoughts. So, feel free to contact us at any time.
---------------------------------------------------------------PUBLISHER & FOUNDER: Robert Weingartz CONTENT DIRECTOR: Bernard Baur CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Clif Doyal, Dr. T. Roberts, Hans Fink, Tom Laurie, Jeanie Cunningham, Mike Hagler, Paula Munoz ART DIRECTION: Aleven Creatives (aleven.com) VIDEOS: The Composers Corner
Robert Weingartz Publisher and Founder, Direct Buzz CEO, AirPlay Direct
The Broken Poem oem
a songwriter profile by Dr. T. Roberts
Shawna Russell “Rumor” Shawna Russell, Tim Russell, Keith Russell © 2009 Blue Buckaroo Music (BMI) http://airplaydirect.com/shawnarussell/
hen I first heard Shawna Russell early in 2008 I was immediately impressed with the power and range of her vocals. This young lady has a tremendous voice that exudes passion and depth. The further I got into her debut album Goddess I began to really appreciate the songwriting and superb production that separates Shawna from so many of today’s new artists. Shawna’s sound is big and warm and creates the perfect landscape for her to creatively explore each song. Recently I received a couple of new songs that had been tracked and I was immediately drawn to the song “Rumor.” It connected with me in a way that allowed me to easily see an emerging artist and songwriter that is destined for the big stage. The “Rumor” takes on a life of its own wreaking havoc on its victims, the local residents and the community at large. Blaming the “Rumor” itself instead of the person that started it takes a very different look at the life we breathe into words, and thereby the pain we bring into existence.
The Broken Poem – How do you approach the songwriting process? Do you typically start with the music, the lyrics or a melody? Shawna Russell – I write most of my songs with my Dad, Keith Russell, and my Uncle, Tim Russell. Most of the songs start with music from my father and then we collectively work on the lyrics and melody. This song was different. We were on a road trip and I was daydreaming, thinking about and reflecting upon some of the great songs from the past, and then the hook and first lyric just came to me… “Rumor, look what you started.” When you grow up in small town, sooner or later there will be a rumor started about you. The Broken Poem – The music in this track is equally important to the lyric; the soaring and emotional wail of the guitar, the organ, just the overall vibe. You take a lot of inspired chances with your music. What influenced the production and arrangement on this track? Shawna Russell - I want to inspire people to be emotionally moved and involved. I want to create some-
thing positive for the listener. I don’t write songs to be a single… some turn into that, others don’t; and that’s OK. This is what happens when you don’t set boundaries. The guitar and vocal interplay is more of a dance than something planned. You should feel free to explore. Life isn’t perfect and, sometimes, great songs are written about tough subjects. I like to stand where no one else is standing. Keeping my artistic integrity is very important to me. I’m not afraid to be the little guy outside of the box. I can’t imagine living another life. I know that at least I am willing to take the chance… to live my dream, my life, my way. lyrics
“Rumor” It starts with a whisper / Just a breath in a crowd / And it moves with a fever / Now they’re talking out loud / When you start taking chances, I can see in your eyes / The lingering glances reveal all your lies Chorus: Rumor look what you’ve started / It’s all over town how you played your game / Rumor I’m broken hearted the truth’s come around / But you’re left with the shame I’m feeling the distance / In the touch of his hand / There’s so much resistance / Was that part of your plan / And do you ever feel guilty for leading him on / Will desire die slowly now that I’m gone ohh oh Chorus
Jimmy Sturr The Polka King Speaks By: Bernard Baur
olka music, huh? That’s right... You may wonder why we’re covering the wonderful world of polka, a style of music that convention brands as uncool unless, of course, you’re older than the hills and wear lederhosen. Well, the Direct Buzz is not jumping the shark – not yet anyway. We’re just not fans of conventional thinking; and believe that all music is worth a look. We think that’s especially true of genres very few people know about and, therefore, may harbor misconceptions. Actually, quite a few folks love polka, though some prefer to keep it a secret pleasure. Europeans savor it and many Middle Americans as well as East Coasters grew up with it. If you still have doubts, here’s a newsflash: Willie Nelson started his career in a
polka band; and everyone knows Willie is way cool. Today, even punk acts incorporate polka into their angst driven ravings, almost as much as Weird Al Yankovic did with his parodies. Indeed, the polka is considered de rigueur among nonconformists. And, Jimmy Sturr was born to play it… Sturr grew up in Florida, New York, a community populated by immigrant farmers and blue-collar workers from Central and Eastern Europe. There, the polka was considered the music of the people. Sure, Sturr knew that it wasn’t mainstream rock or R&B, but that didn’t stop him from forming his first polka band at eleven years of age. In fact, it was such a popular form of music, when he was growing up, that polka bands played school dances and weddings, while radio stations broad-
cast polka programs every day. But, Sturr didn’t enter the professional world polka until later in life. After military school and a stint in the Army, he worked for 13 years in his father’s bank. Though he was making a good living, he was restless and yearned for more. He felt the pull of polka. “I wanted to see if I could make a living playing it,” he recalls. “I loved the music and couldn’t stop thinking about it.” As a result, he made a major life change and followed his dream. That decision worked out well for him. Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra are the most popular polka band on the planet. They’ve played the most prestigious venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Palace of Culture in Warsaw, Poland. His recordings have won 18 Grammy
“I don’t think music should have limits. It’s a creative process that shouldn’t have restrictions.”
Awards for “Best Polka Album,” putting him in the Top 10 list of “All-time Grammy Winners.” He even has his own TV show on RFD-TV; and, an upcoming PBS special. One of the hardest working musicians on the scene, with a tour itinerary that would kill the less than hardy, Sturr graciously took a moment from his busy schedule to talk with the Direct Buzz. In this exclusive interview, he reveals not only his love of polka, but also why it’s relevant today. the Direct Buzz (tDB): Most people would describe polka fans as old geezers, not long for this world. As such, is polka a dying genre? Jimmy Sturr (JS): That’s a misconception I’ve heard for twenty years. There are lots of young people that come to our shows, and many more that play some form of polka music. There are country acts, punk acts and even rock acts that blend it with their music. In fact, the market has hardly been tapped. tDB: You also blend other styles with polka. Doesn’t that upset the purists? JS: Some folks are very traditional. But, I don’t think music should have limits. It’s a creative process that shouldn’t have restrictions. To say my style is wrong…is just closed-minded. What’s the right style anyway? Music is a living thing – it evolves over time, and I want to grow with it. I’ve put out four polka-rock CDs and, often, combine polka with country. I even tried disco-polka in the ‘70’s. All of them worked well together. I think by pushing the boundaries, we bring in different fans who are curious about what we’re doing. And, once they hear us, they have a new appreciation for the music. tDB: One of those fans is Willie Nelson. In fact, you played Farm Aid with him. How did that come about? JS: I read that Willie played in a polka band years ago and met him at a concert we played. We talked about it,
“If you have a dream, follow it. No matter what anyone says, believe in yourself.” and he invited my band to play Farm Aid. And, man, it was great. We had them dancing in the aisles. Near the end of our set, Willie even came out on stage and sang with us. Later, he ended up recording with us. Let me tell you, that was living your dream There’s one other thing I’ll never forget. When our set was over, a couple of reporters from a major newspaper came up to me and said, “We never missed a Farm-Aid and out of all of acts that played, you guys are one of our favorites.” That was high praise, considering the talent that graced that stage. tDB: You do seem to have an affinity for country music. Quite a few of your polka numbers have a country basis. Why is that? JS: A lot of country songs are easily adapted to the polka. Way before I ever started recording with country artists, I arranged and played country songs as polkas. It just seemed to fit naturally. It’s probably because both styles are a form of folk music that’s been handed down through generations. They’re both the music of the people. tDB: You had a very secure career as a banker. What made you take the
leap and become a musician – who played polka of all things? JS: I worked at my dad’s bank for many years. He was the president of the ninth-largest bank in the country. I was a vice president, but the job was boring. I’d play dance halls and clubs on weekends, come back on Monday and couldn’t wait to go out again. So one day I just told my dad that I wanted to give music a shot. Fortunately, he told me to go ahead. And, you know what? I’ve never looked back, or (he laughs) missed that regular paycheck. tDB: Your live shows are known for their high energy that really gets a crowd jumping. How do you approach a performance? JS: We have played some pretty crazy shows for 10,000 to 20,000 people. The secret to a great performance is reading the crowd. I’ll go in with a planned set in mind, but I’m not afraid to change it if I think another approach will work better. You have to give the audience what they want. And, most of the time, they want to dance. I’m lucky though, because I’m blessed with players who can go with the flow. They’re all very experienced musicians, and we’ve played together so long we see
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“The secret to a great performance is reading the crowd.”
things the same way. tDB: What makes a song a polka? JS: Basically, it’s a specific time signature. It’s also an attitude – a fun one. For musicians, it’s playing the beat at 2/4. You can play it fast, slow or mid-tempo, as long as you keep that 2/4 beat. I’ve done that with Cajun, Tex-Mex, Tejano, you name it. It all works, and it’s all polka. tDB: You seem to be on a mission to bring polka to the world. How’s that going? JS: Well, I believe in the music. I do want to make it more popular. But, it has to get more exposure to accomplish that goal. We have to find a way to reach a broader audience. Right now, not many radio stations play the genre. I even tried contacting satellite radio to pitch a one-hour polka program. They have hundreds of channels, but none of them play polka. I discovered it’s a tough sell. However, television seems to embrace it, and I’ve had pretty good luck there. TDB: Indeed, you have your own television program, The Jimmy Sturr Show on RFD/Direct TV. How did that happen? JS: They came to me. They flew us to Nashville to do the show, and we did it without any rehearsal. We just tuned up during sound check. I ended up writing every show, since the bud-
get was so small, and we just played one show after the other. It’s been getting great ratings, and has lasted quite a while. It just goes to show that if you give this music a chance, people will respond to it tDB: You used to play with the band, as horn player. Now you’re a bandleader out in front of it. What made you change the configuration? JS: I was doing the Nashville Network, TNN, and a producer came up to me and said, “You guys are a great band, but you’re never going to be more than that unless you get out front.” I thought about it, and decided he was right. So, I hired a player to take my place and I’ve been out in front of the band ever since. tDB: You’ve won an amazing number of Grammys. But this year, the Recording Academy dropped the polka category – some say because you always win it. How do you feel about that? JS: I think that’s giving me more credit than I deserve. There are plenty of polka bands that are very good. I didn’t win every year. But, you can’t control everything in life, and the Academy has a lot of smart people. I have to go with what they decide. This year, I’m nominated in the folk category, and I have no idea how that’s going to play out. But, I’m happy with the honors I’ve received. It’s great to be acknowledged by your peers. And even if I never win another Grammy again, I’ll still be happy and play the music I love. tDB: Do you think polka is relevant today? And, if not, how can you make it more so? JS: I do think it’s relevant. However, it needs to be heard by more people. We just have to bring the non-believers
to it – just once, to give them a taste. I believe that once you’re exposed to this music, it will change any preconceived notions. People will discover a fun form of music, the kind that you just have to get up and dance to. I was hoping that radio would be helpful, but TV seems to be the most likely medium at this time. Other than that, I’m dong everything I can to bring polka to the public. tDB: You have a pretty large footprint on the Internet. Do you think the World Wide Web will help bring polka to more people? JS: Yes. The Internet is a great tool. And, more polka sites are being launched every year. The fan base is increasing. In fact, I’m getting more and more involved with digital distribution and online sales. AirPlay Direct has been extremely helpful that way – getting my music out to radio stations all over the world. But, it’s also important to bring the music to the people. There’s nothing like hearing it live and experiencing a live show. That’s why we play almost 200 dates a year. tDB: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians, especially those who may play a less than popular form of music? JS: If you have a dream, follow it. No matter what anyone says, believe in yourself. It’s not easy, but you have to keep the faith and be persistent. I’ve found that if you work hard enough, you’ll increase your chances. When I was a kid, I used to watch other bands play and dream about doing the same thing. I just kept going for it and never let anything stand in my way. And, you know what? It’s turned out pretty good. I mean, who would have ever thought a polka band would play Farm-Aid? C’mon, that’s just incredible.
Brad Paul Rounder Records’ Rare Exception By: Clif Doyal
rad Paul is a rare exception to the norm generally found in the music business. Instead of moving from post to post and label to label, Paul has spent his entire professional career at Rounder Records, trying - as he puts it, “…to make the world safe for cool music.” Today, he is the Senior Vice President of National Promotion for that venerable indie label.
“I want to make the world safe for cool music.” His first realization that this might be his calling in life came at the age of six, when he convinced his grandmother, a classical pianist, to listen to the Dave Clark Five. She scowled and exclaimed, “That is nothing but loud noise!” Paul took that as a personal challenge, and has not stopped trying to convince people to embrace new music ever since. “Music was always important in my life,” Paul states emphatically. “My mother was a piano teacher. Her parents were basically ‘classical music snobs,’ who wouldn’t even allow her to have a Frank Sinatra record in the house. As a result, she encouraged me to go out and listen
to all kinds of music.” From then on, Paul armed himself with a transistor radio and soaked up everything that played on the Top-40 radio stations during his youth. “I was really inspired by the music of the early ‘60s: Smokey Robinson, the Beatles, Stones, the Supremes and all the great Motown sounds. I couldn’t get enough.” Paul’s fascination with radio grew and, while still in high school, an opportunity came his way when he scored an internship at the National Public Radio flagship affiliate, WGBH, in his hometown of Boston. “I worked in the Public Affairs/Programming Department for two years
during my junior and senior years,” he recalls. After high school, Paul found work on a horse farm, but still had a burning desire to continue working in radio - while also attending college. Putting his plan into action, he went to a local station, WSLE, and offered to do a show about horses for them. “They told me ‘Go get the sponsors and put it together.’” Being an enterprising young man, he not only secured sponsorships, he cut his own spots and used them as a demo reel to gain acceptance at Emerson College. There, he dove headlong into his passion for radio at the school’s
non-commercial FM outlet, WERS. “I was on the air as a freshman from day one,” Paul proudly states. He co-founded a program called “The Coffee House,” with the focus on folk artists, including the likes of Jerry Douglas, Bela Bleck, and singer/songwriters Nancy Griffith, Suzanne Vega, Bill Morrissey, and John Gorka. Paul went on to become Program Director at that influential college station for an unprecedented two-year term before graduating. And, the show that he created was so popular; it remained on the air for 25 years. As a direct result of his work at WERS, Rounder recruited Paul in 1983. “I thought that I would be here for a couple of years and then move back into radio. But, it became an exciting job, while radio became less and less interesting. With tighter formats, consultants, and consolidation, radio was becoming less about music and more about market share. So, 26 years later, here I am still promoting music for Rounder.” During his tenure, Paul has had the great fortune to work with a long list of incredible artists in a wide variety of styles and genres. “It’s the musical diversity, and Rounder’s commitment to quality that keeps me inspired every day,” he says. Rounder’s illustrious roster presently includes Allison Krauss, Daily and Vincent, Steve Martin, Rhonda Vincent, Nancy Griffith, Son Volt, and Sondre Lerche, among others. In addition to his promotional work on behalf of Rounder’s family of artists, Paul also focuses on video development and television production for the label, including their forthcoming PBS special, “Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert.” The star-studded show was recently filmed at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN, and includes performances by Minnie Driver, Alison Krauss & Union Sta-
tion featuring Jerry Douglas, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bela Fleck, Irma Thomas and Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas. It is slated to begin airing in March 2010. There is also a new Mary Chapin Carpenter video bio and a one-hour radio special in the works. A man of multiple talents, Paul has also produced concerts and festivals in the Boston area for many years; and, is a founding board member of the Americana Music Association. He has served as President of the AMA for two terms and was an active board member from 1999 to 2009. Always connected to his first muse, Paul has continued to remain active in radio, producing and hosting eclectic folk-based radio shows for WUMB-Boston, WEVO-Concord, New Hampshire and, most recently, back where it all began at WGBH in Boston. There, he currently co-hosts the Saturday afternoon show “Folk on WGBH.” Always looking forward, Paul is excited about the future at Rounder. In early 2010, the label will roll out a new website that will enable customers to download music from Rounder’s roster. Paul exclaims, “Over the next two years I see our entire catalog becoming available like this. We have also partnered with Amazon.com so that we can continue to make physical CDs available for those fans who still want to hold the product in their hands. And, as we continue to transition from the physical to the digital world, we are very excited about our association with AirPlay Direct. Their platform offers us the ability to reach radio in a way that we might not otherwise be able to afford.” Clif Doyal is a Nashville-based artist manager, publicist, independent record label manager and contributing writer to the “Direct Buzz.”
GLOBAL RADIO CHARTS FOR OCTOBER 2009
TOP 20 RELEASES/ALBUMS
TOP 20 RELEASES/ALBUMS FOR OCTOBER 2009
VIEW MORE CHARTS AT: www.AirPlayDirect.com/charts The AirPlay Direct Global Radio Charts display the top tracks downloaded for airplay by radio programmers internationally. The charts are accurate as of the date published. You can view “real-time” charts at AirPlayDirect.com/charts. We take pride in having built a transparent charting system that accurately reports the hot artists and tracks available within the AirPlay Direct community.
GLOBAL RADIO CHARTS FOR OCTOBER 2009
TOP 20 TRACKS
TOP 20 TRACKS FOR OCTOBER 2009
VIEW MORE CHARTS AT: www.AirPlayDirect.com/charts The AirPlay Direct Global Radio Charts display the top tracks downloaded for airplay by radio programmers internationally. The charts are accurate as of the date published. You can view “real-time” charts at AirPlayDirect.com/charts. We take pride in having built a transparent charting system that accurately reports the hot artists and tracks available within the AirPlay Direct community.
FEATURED ARTISTS ARE PAID ADVERTISERS FROM THE AIRPLAY DIRECT COMMUNITY
Pete Anderson Long associated with the world’s best-of-the best Tele-twangers, Grammy Award-winning producer/guitarist Pete Anderson is really a blues guitarist at heart. For his fourth solo record, EVEN THINGS UP, Anderson goes back to his roots in blues music to prove that you can take the boy out of the city but… While many modern blues records focus entirely on the soloist, with “Even Things Up”, Anderson gives us what could easily have been a collection of standards. “That’s How Trouble Starts”, “One and Only Lonely Fool”, and “Still in Love” all betray serious storytelling and lyrical chops, while instrumentals like “Booker Twine” and “Wes’ Side Blues”, are all deeply evocative, focused, and well organized musical pieces. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/PeteAnderson -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cagle and Nash
Persuasions fans & music lovers everywhere have reason to be ecstatic. Jerry Lawson, lead singer of the legendary Persuasions is back. After leaving the Persuasions in 2003, Jazz combos, orchestras and big bands beckoned. But on his way to Russia to record a solo album with the Moscow Philharmonic, fate revealed other plans. Along came Talk of the Town and Jerry has just finished what he regards as the masterpiece of his lifecreating harmonies he long dreamed of, but could never realize. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/JerryLawsonTalkOfTheTown --------------------------------------------
Lareau, the band that has gained international attention due to its honest coolmountain-stream aesthetic combining an Eagles/ Byrds roots-reverence with a Fray/ Maroon 5 modernity, has just released their latest single “Don’t Let Me Go.”
This album is about as soulful as they come and will show you influences as varied as Donald Fagen (and Steely Dan), Michael McDonald, Marvin Gaye, John Legend, Michael Buble. And with guest appearances by Robyn Springer and Di Yonna Mitchell, you are going to hear some Mysa, Dion Warwick and Roberta Flack influences. Bottom line is this could be one of the most talked about new releases in the Soul genre. It is classic soul without being dated. Fresh and exciting yet soulful and singable. And most definitely danceable... -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/cagleandnash --------------------------------------------
Lareau is the five-piece band from Western New York and Pennsylvania whose music is a refreshing and uplifting acoustic/electric trip that has had record buyers swooning to its intricate musical interplay. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/lareau --------------------------------------------
NOVEMBER 2009 FEATURED ARTISTS
Sonic Adventure Project
Something Sally’s first single from the album is “Tip of My Tongue” featuring soul star Joss Stone. It was Miss Stone herself who suggested the collaboration, after seeing the band charm Europe night after night with their catchy, melodic happy-pop. The song was written by the band and recorded in Oslo and London. During the songwriting process band songwriter Thomas Kongshavn also got some unexpected help and advise on the song from Sir Paul McCartney. This made the song even better. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/something --------------------------------------------
The Sonic Adventure Project has been introduced to the Ambient and Downtempo scene through their appearance on numerous compilations like the popular “Cafe del Mar” series. Their tracks have been played worldwide on select radio stations and have been used for TV, film and commercials. Their music was placed in the motion picture “White Noise - The Light”, the ABC series “Kyle XY”, a Weitz & Luxenberg commercial featuring Erin Brockovich and many other TV and DVD productions. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/SAP --------------------------------------------
Mark Wills, the multi-platinum selling country star, is living the newest chapter in his career with newfound passion, energy, joy, and abandon. “When performing in concert, music doesn’t always need to be perfect and sterilized. It’s that natural energy and emotion during a show that an audience connects with that makes live shows so exciting. That’s the philosophy I took into the recording studio. We brought some of the country’s most talented and aggressive players into the studio to create a ‘live’ sound.” -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/markwills --------------------------------------------
Legendary Blue Hat recording artist Charlie Daniels will release a special holiday CD/DVD package through E1 Entertainment on Oct. 13 called Joy to the World: A Bluegrass Christmas. The deluxe, two-disc set includes a CD and a bonus DVD A Twin Pines Christmas Both discs feature collaborations between Daniels and guests Kathy Mattea, Dan Tyminski, Jewel, Suzanne and Evelyn Cox of the Cox Family, Aaron Tippin and The Grascals. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/charliedanielsandfriends --------------------------------------------
This collection is by one of America’s greatest musical talents, Merle Haggard. As popular music and culture become more synthesized and bland, this pop icon and his music still stands as a symbol for great music created in America. Featuring many of Merle’s great hits, sit back, listen and enjoy a true American music legend. Click below to listen. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/merlehaggardmusic --------------------------------------------
Phil Leadbetter, Steve Gulley, and Alan Bibey began their musical careers in different touring bands, but fate brought them together to form the unique venture known as Grasstowne. Grasstowne is meant to infer the roost of their beginnings and their future, in one shot. “Bluegrass music with a 21st century edge,” sums up the essence of the band according to Phil Leadbetter. With the addition of Jason Davis on Banjo, and Dale Perry on upright bass, the band was formed. -------------------------------------------Listen here: AirPlayDirect.com/grasstowne --------------------------------------------
Quick Tips M
any artists and labels have asked for a “Step by Step Guide” to success. Unfortunately, there is no map that suits everyone. What works for one artist or label may not work for another. But, there are some things that generally translate to positive results --- for everyone. THE INDIE WAY - QUICK TIPS will explore those tricks of the trade and give our readers “easy to follow” tips regarding a variety of areas in the music business.
GETTING MEDIA TO WORK FOR YOU Publicity is vital for anyone who wants a career in the music industry. Without exposure, very few people would even know that you exist, no matter how talented you may be. In fact, the most successful artists deal with the media on a regular basis, because they know media coverage is essential at every single stage of a career. But, how do you get media attention? What do you have to do to get coverage? The Indie Way contacted experts to answer those questions. YOUR ATTITUDE Your attitude towards media should be positive. National broadcast correspondent, Gayl Murphy notes, “Artists should realize that media is not the ‘Evil Empire.’ If you’re smart, you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with a variety of media.” GETTING MEDIA ATTENTIONMedia outlets receive packages and pitches on a daily basis. So, how do you get heard through all that noise? 1. It all starts and ends with your artistry. If you don’t have great
songs, it doesn’t matter how cool the rest of your package is. Do NOT contact media before you’re ready. Make sure you have the goods. Initially, contact media without pitching anything. Just let them know you exist and ask them to keep an eye on you. Then when momentum picks up, they’ll be more receptive to a pitch. Media pros are attracted to “hooks and angles” - something unique about you or your art that fits their outlet’s standard for newsworthiness. You must define your own hook. You have to point out what makes you special. Remember… Your music does NOT speak for itself. You have to speak for your music before people will listen to it.
PICTURE PERFECT A photo is often the FIRST thing people see – even before they listen to your music. Picture this: you open a press kit, take out the CD and look at the promo shot… and, the picture is
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hideous or generic and boring. How do you think it’s going to affect the way you perceive the artist and listen to the music? Most media (and industry) will tell you that a bad photo will negatively affect their feelings. So… 1. Think about your photo shoot. What do you want it to project? 2. Try to capture the attitude and essence of your music. 3. Do NOT just do the standard (boring) point and shoot. 4. The BEST promo shots give viewers a clue about the music. 5. Ask strangers to guess your style of music by looking at your photo. PITCH LIKE A PRO To get the attention you want, you have to consider what media wants… 1. Know Whom You’re Pitching: Make sure your music FITS the media outlet. 2. Practice Your Pitch: Practice on
a couple of friends. Then write it down. Be Aware: Know an outlet’s deadlines and turn-around time. Be Prepared: Prepare for follow up questions. Know Your Story: You need a clear message and compelling story. Be Relevant: Connect your project/story with a relevant current event. Keep Records: Note what projects and stories you pitch and to whom. Re-Pitch: It’s a good idea to consider different angles that might strike different interests if one approach is not working. If you come up with a new angle or development, feel free to pitch again. But, do NOT harass editors and journalists. That will close doors fast.
10 WAYS TO SCHMOOZE JOURNALISTS Journalists are people too, and they’re creative just like you. 1. Be familiar with their writing, and subject matter, so you can discuss it. 2. Talk about new trends you see in the industry and/or your art. 3. Offer yourself as a resource for topics in which you are an expert. 4. Ask about other subjects they cover or stories they are working on. 5. Don’t talk off the record. 6. Suggest story ideas. But DON’T ask them to write a story about you.
7. Offer your home telephone number, cell number and email. 8. Pass along names of other people who would make good contacts. 9. If they write about you, send a thank you note. 10. Keep in touch regularly. POLITE PERSISTENCE If you’re not an established name yet, or have a relationship with anyone in media, you may encounter a frustrating phenomenon. Silence. In the real world, that doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you or your music sucks. It may simply mean, they’re busy and don’t know you. It’s going to take perseverance unless you have a relationship already. In fact, those in the media (and the industry) call it “polite persistence.” 1. You should never expect a reply the first time you contact media. 2. Contact different media every day until you get a response. 3. Relationships count…You have to establish and nurture them. 4. Remain calm, polite and positive – no matter how frustrating it gets.
COMING UP: INTERVIEWS, PROMO KITS & PRESS RELEASES In the next issue The Indie Way will explain “How to Make Your Promo Kits & Press Releases Effective” and “How to Approach an Interview.”
he Direct Buzz offers reviews by a team of professional music critics. Any AirPlay Direct artist or label interested in being considered for a review, should contact us. Choose three songs from your DPK, and we’ll give you our opinion of them. We can’t guarantee a rave review, but we can assure you that it will be honest and constructive. We will try to honor all requests, but it might take a while. As such, your patience is appreciated.
Sounds of Blackness
Michael Martin Murphey
The 3rd Gift: Story, Song, and Spirit
Buckaroo Blue Grass
Grammy-winning ensemble Sounds of Blackness hit the charts with their 12th album, The 3rd Gift: Story, Song, and Spirit. Though the group covers many genres from jazz to R&B and hip-hop, this newest offering leans heavily toward gospel. With a new president in Barack Obama and a strong sense of optimism, as reflected in the song “Audacity of Hope (We are One),” Sounds of Blackness proclaims this to be a time for inspiration and spirituality. In doing so, they invite you into their church, for a little soul saving, where the deep, rich voices of the choir carry you above the clouds and into the heavens. The dark, heady version of “God Bless the Child” is worthy of attention, and is in contrast to the group’s classic a cappella take on “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” that has a delicate and sincere delivery which will touch even the hardest of hearts. Oprah Winfrey is a big Winans fan. Well, take note Oprah. You might want to upload The 3rd Gift into your iPod’s “inspirational” playlist. In fact, for anyone who loves gospel, or appreciates its influence in modern music, this album is a strong addition to your collection. Paula Munoz
Michael Martin Murphey reaches deep down in his catalog and pulls out a stellar list of songs for his latest album, Buckaroo Blue Grass. His eloquent, narrative-like lyrics captivate you right from the get-go, beginning with the classic, “Carolina In The Pines.” The album’s beautiful melodies, wrapped in silky smooth guitar, create sensual pleasures much like the smell of a fresh rainstorm and a beautiful vista on the horizon. In fact, mountain views, crystal waters, and the emerald hills of Ireland can all be found in this majestic work of art. “Dancing in the Meadow” is a fun Irish/country jig that is as crisp as the morning dew, while “Healing Spring” offers a great story amid an intricate combination of instruments. “Boy from the Country” and “Lone Cowboy” showcase the extraordinary talents of the top bluegrass and acoustic pickers of today, as they bend sixstrings seemingly at will. Indeed, anyone who has ever thought about country life will find a lot to like here. Whether you’re into bluegrass or not, you’ll find that this music will bring you on an idyllic journey… one that will have you turning up the volume instead of turning it off. Tom Laurie
Blending rock and hip-hop is not exactly a new, or groundbreaking, concept. However, it’s clear that Asphalt Messiah truly wish to make this marriage of genres their own… and, more importantly, they do it on their own terms. This band sets itself apart with heavy guitar sounds that are closer to classic rock riffs than the nu-metal chugging we generally hear. Lead singer/MC, Automatic has an absolutely captivating voice; and executes his melodies with passion and skill. The lyrical content is honest but, at times, can feel slightly forced, as if there was a shortage of words that could rhyme. “Fall Back” and “Buried Alive” suffer from this deficiency to a small degree. Additionally, the riffs in some of the songs make it seem as if the guitarist wrote them in the ‘80s. Nonetheless, these shortcomings occur only occasionally, and are really the only criticisms regarding this otherwise talented band. Of particular note is the song “No Way” which, after a slow start, picks up steam and transitions through unexpected grooves, eventually crescendoing into an epic and emotive piece. Overall, the heavy guitars, backed by a tastefully mixed orchestra, compliment Automatic’s raw vocal energy perfectly. Hans Fink
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GET A BAD REVIEW & GET YOUR FANS INVOLVED A “Tragic Tracks” review is unlike any other review. It’s a bad one --- always, all the time. It’s guaranteed. Why? Because we want to help acts motivate their fan base. We noticed that fans respond nicely to good reviews, but don’t react strongly. However, when a “bad review” is published, they become proactive and rage against the injustice. They send emails, tweet until their thumbs bleed and inundate blogs with mad ravings. All that communication creates a virtual tsunami of publicity. There’s really nothing like it. With “Tragic Tracks,” you can mobilize complacent fans and inject some life into them. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO We’re challenging all artists… and that means YOU. Send us your best song and let us deconstruct it; or, suggest a “hit song” that you’d like to see destroyed. In our first issue we took on “Yesterday” (by Lennon/McCartney), a song that has been covered more times than any tune ever written (according to the Guinness Book of World Records). And, true to form, fans took up arms and wanted to burn us at the stake. Some even got a little nasty. We like that. It means we’ve done our job. GET TRAGIC If you’d like to rile up your fan base, just let us know. “Tragic Tracks” will review one of your songs and use the harshest judgment possible. Imagine how upset your fans will get. We’ll do everything we can to make them outraged. It’s open season… for those brave enough to accept our challenge.
A video-window into gadgets, gear and TheComposersCorner.com the world of music creation.
ONE GUITAR DOES IT ALL The Composers Corner visits NAMM again…and this time checks out a most unusual instrument, one you have to see to believe – a WARR Guitar. It allows you to simultaneously play lead, bass, and rhythm, all on one neck. And, you can play it in an upright or horizontal position.
Click here to view the video.
SEMBELLO & STALLONE TALK GUITARS Michael Sembello, composer of the hit song “Maniac” from the movie Flashdance, and Frank Stallone, who has composed songs for many films, including Rocky and Staying Alive, met up at the Minarik Guitar booth at NAMM; and, The Composers Corner was there to talk to them about their favorite instrument.
Click here to view the video.
ANNIVERSARY FOR UNSIGNED RADIO SHOW Tee-M’s “UNsigned Music Show,” on WPMD Cerritos College Radio, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and the Direct Buzz was there. For the past five years, Tee-M has joined Mike Stark’s “Rock 50” program to present the best of unsigned artists. A performing artist, himself, Tee-M has been a good friend to many an emerging act. On this occasion, he invited ten acts to a wild and crazy party at the college station. Each got to perform on the air before joining a jam for the ages. Seen here, enjoying the festivities, are Roy Harding (L) and Noral Squizz (R) from The Towels (an exceedingly eccentric group) flanking Tee-M. For more info: wpmd.org/unsigned and www.thetowelsband.com
A tour of music, lifestyles and pop culture
By: Bernard Baur
GOING GREEN WITH THE MUSIC SCENE
ack in the day, Cherokee Studios was one of the most popular recording studios in the world. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Dave Matthews, and Public Enemy recorded there. In fact, over 300 gold and platinum records were created in that hallowed space located in West Hollywood, CA. Founded in the early ‘70’s by the Robb Brothers, Dee, Joe and Bruce (who had performed as The Robbs on several major labels), the studio became so famous that almost every rock album from the 70’s and 80’s credited it with some portion of the recording. Even George Martin, the Beatles producer, called it “the best studio in America.” But, like many pro facilities, business began to suffer in the 90’s due to the growth of home studios. And, eventually, that development caused the Robbs to reconsider their purpose. “We wanted to be a studio designed by artists for artists,” Bruce Robb relates. “But, it seemed that a lot of artists wanted to record at home.” Although that realization eventually closed the doors of a revered studio, it also inspired a magnificent brainstorm. Bruce Robb had no desire to fight the new world order in the music industry. Instead, he wanted to be part of it. So, he began thinking about the all those home recordings and knew they could be better. “Isolation
and acoustics are very problematic in a home studio,” he notes. While discussing this with his partner (in Bruce Robb Productions) Tiffany Downey, a grand plan was hatched. Cherokee Studios would become residential lofts; and built in to each unit would be a professional control room with floating floors. Acoustics would be addressed by design, with each room acting as a potential recording space. As good as it was, their idea didn’t stop there. This was also going to be a totally green environment. Contracting with Rethink Development, a pioneer in green building, the pair worked closely on the plans. The new “Lofts @ Cherokee Studios” would not only be home to the music community, they would also honor the history of the studio itself. Gold and platinum
records will adorn communal pathways, with awards of historical significance duly noted. Every element of its construction is green, from the materials used to the drainage systems and solar panels, making its ecological footprint a fraction of the former studio’s. “We could have gone several different ways,” Downey reflects. “At one point, we thought about making it a museum and displaying all of the memorabilia collected over the years. But, this just seemed right.” Bruce agrees. “I believe this is the future of the recording industry. And, I’m thrilled that Cherokee Studios can remain part of the scene.” For more information visit, www.BruceRobbProductions.com www.cherokeestudios.com www.rethinkdev.com
By: Mike Hagler
D sales are down and digital sales are not making up for the loss of income. Sound familiar? This seems to be the general consensus of the music industry right now. Every other chart and graph showing overall sales conveys the same message: music consumers are changing their buying habits. It is because of this that the industry is trying to find new ways to increase revenue. Some are using the “TopSpin” method, while others are using variable pricing. The “TopSpin” method is one of my favorites. TopSpin Media is a company that has popularized the idea of connecting and selling to your core audience through limited packages. In fact, at Dolly Parton’s Management, we independently tested a similar packaging style (not the TopSpin service) with Dolly’s latest project. We sold out of the $250 package in less than an hour and a half. We even were able to trace the ferocity of the sales back to our tweets about the packages being available. That was surprising, especially since I took part in the Leadership Music Digital Summit and felt proud when Ian Rogers, CEO of TopSpin Media, shared my thought that twitter was not a good way to sell merchandise. We both believed that it was a great way to connect with fans, but didn’t really sell merchandise very effectively. As it turns out, I am also proud to admit how wrong I was. Dolly’s pre-order sales had a strong weekend start thanks to Twitter.
iTunes earlier this year tried a different approach. It announced a variable pricing schedule for music purchased through its store. That may sound logical, in a business sense, but it also had a builtin drawback. Now, songs no one wants are 69 cents. Most titles are still 99 cents, and popular or new songs are $1.29. As someone who buys a lot of music, I never thought twice about purchasing a song when it was 99 cents. In fact, recently, I wanted to add Bob Marley to my collection. But, after adding up the songs I wanted, all at $1.29, I left my apartment and went to my local used CD store. Why would I forego the convenience of online shopping? Easy… It was cheaper for me to buy “Legend” used than to purchase the few tracks I wanted online. Sure, I had to drive to the store, but I now own all 16 songs for only about 4 bucks! Also, because of the “First-Sale Doctrine,” neither the artist nor label saw any of my money. Interesting... I obtained music without paying the artist or label, legally. (Ed’s Note: The industry is aware of this loophole, and is doing all it can to change the result.) So, how can the industry resolve its pricing woes? Well, Steve Jobs may have been right. The magic number may really be 99 cents. As Jim Guerinot, Manager for Nine Inch Nails, said: “Wouldn’t it make sense to try to price it cheaper instead of squeezing the handful of people who are still willing to pay for music?”
The Direct Buzz featuring Jimmy Sturr