If one can be a "veteran" without the
seeming prerequisites of appearing old and grizzled, then the rugged, chiseled and youthful features of Tracy Walton are clearly appropriate for this skilled, experienced artisan. Having studied the craft of songwriting and created many excellent examples of it, Walton has developed an irresistible sound and style. His deep, booming voice draws you in and the intrigue of his lyrics and arrangements makes you keep listening. The mark of many a great performer has been an absolute willingness to constantly re-invent themselves. In this spirit, Tracy chose 2011 as the year in which to release the aptly titled "Brand New Again." Drawing on his jazz, blues and rock roots, Walton injects them all into a machine called Americana. The resulting country-fied singersongwriter amalgam takes you on the journey he envisioned as he crafted each tune. That powerful voice grabs you and pulls you down the dusty road, as if you're on the running board of an old Model A, bumping along through lonely, broken hearts, and eventually into hopeful, open fields. This isn't the first time Tracy Walton has graced the pages of InterMixx. He started his musical career at quite a young age when he plucked his first guitar at the age of 10. This led to the realization that he loved the low end and he switched to bass, which resulted in his joining a number of punk and hard rock bands once in his teen years. Some of these efforts, such as the band called Iron Horse, brought local glory (and coverage in our mag!), and led to a job teaching at an area music store, but no truly worthwhile journey is without its trials and tribulations. When the only apartment he and his band mates could afford was condemned, it was time to find a more lucrative means of supporting himself. His growing dislike of ramen noodles and homelessness were heavy on his mind when he caught Dave Santoro playing upright bass in a Hartford jazz club. Despite his dire need of a new place to call home, Walton immediately rushed out and bought an old all-plywood upright bass, and began practicing. In order to gain some footing with the new instrument, he started by playing Zeppelin grooves on it. While crashing back at his Mom's until he could find a new place, Tracy was able to find Santoro and begin taking lessons from him. After a summer of instruction on the upright bass, Tracy accepted a scholarship to study jazz at the Hartford Conservatory. Although you may think you missed the original point â&#x20AC;&#x201C; yes Tracy decided that a degree in jazz performance would always lead to gainful employment when times got tough! Perhaps his plan wasn't as crazy as it may have seemed at first... Tracy was soon asked to join the Eric Miller Trio, a successful jazz group that logged close to 200 shows a year in the mid-nineties.
â&#x20AC;˘ InterMixx â&#x20AC;˘ independent music magazine Walton was soon eating right and sleeping in his own apartment again! (OK so the apartment was upstairs from a junkyard office, but it was his own place!) Conditions continued on the upswing for Walton, as the steady jazz gig eventually allowed him to move again, into a nice house. As the members of the trio settled into their friendship and working relationship, a steady pattern of running gags emerged among them. One favorite past-time involved working rock riffs into their jazz solos: the groove from Sunshine Of Your Love over a Coltrane tune during the solo... Zeppelin, Hendrix... any classic rock riff that they could fit in there. It was inevitable that all the rocking out during their jazz shows got them itching to form an actual rock band. Enter Brooke Gengras, or Brooke X as she was
Tracy has authored three bass instructional books through Alfred Publishing and the National Guitar Workshop. friends and co-workers. Along with several other members of the faculty he formed a band called the Black Lab Project (so named when all the members realized their childhood pet was a black lab!). Tracy was the main songwriter, vocalist and bass player in the group. With common musical tastes that included artists like The Band, Neil Young, and Johnny Cash, the band Black Lab Project remained together for four years, playing NYC often, and touring the East Coast. Eventually, the pressures of being on the road so frequently, while trying to fulfill the requirements of adjunct teaching positions, and putting food on the table led Tracy to take a full time teaching position at a prep school in northwestern Connecticut. We now find Tracy approaching 2010, with his professional reputation firmly established, and a comfortable living earned from teaching and other musical endeavors, but ever restless is the soul of the artist... Having finally found that "steady gig to fall back on," Tracy decided that it was time to start "Brand New Again" and focus all of his energy on his solo career. The appropriately titled album hinted at the years of struggle that all musicians go through, as well as the continual rebirthing that is inherent in the creative process. As with all of Tracy's compositions, hope can also be heard calling out from amongst the heartfelt refrains. Fast forward three years and Tracy's solo career is still going strong with the soon to be released "If I Ever Get Away." His second solo album features "Songs for You," and advance copies are already causing the tune to be heralded as Tracy's best work to date and his breakout track. Other successes keep piling up as well, Tracy was chosen by Taylor Guitars as an endorsing artist and will receive a Taylor 314ce-N nylon stringed acoustic guitar. As part of his endorsement deal, Taylor will also be promoting his new album release! Add to this amazing news the addition of Tracy to the bill for Musikfest in Pennsylvania this coming August 6th. The lineup for Musikfest 2013 (http://www.fest.org) also includes Peter Frampton, BB. King, Styx and Carly Rae!
called when onstage. With their new female lead singer, the jazz trio turned their playful joking around into a bona-fide rock quartet, and Missing Slim was born! The newly formed rock group quickly made an impact in the local scene, winning Best New Band in the Hartford Advocate's popular annual reader poll called the "Grand Band Slam." After more than a year of rocking out, Brooke left the group to eventually front Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band. Tracy's meteoric rise as a well-respected music professional continued during this time with Missing Slim, as he joined the faculties of The National Guitar Workshop and Kent School. The teaching positions led to his authoring three books through Alfred Publishing, which are still available through Barnes and Noble to this day! This success in turn, grew into the opportunity to perform in concert with world class players; including David Bromberg, Vernon Reed, and Aaron Scott. As he got to know his fellow teachers, once again Tracy was finding common musical ground amongst
While listening to my own advance copy of Tracy's latest album, hot off the mastering deck, I enjoyed the retro-country vibe with a new millennium sensibility. If Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash were still with us, they might be cranking out tunes like these. Catchy, infectious lyrics and melodies that will tug at the heart of even the most calloused traveler. Be sure to catch the first public performance of these new songs at Tracy Walton's Album Release Party on April 25th at Infinity Hall in Norfolk CT. Tickets are available at the box office or online: http://www.infinityhall.com/events/tracy-waltonwith-special-guest-kerri-powers Band Members: Tracy Walton - Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Rich Hinman - Guitar, Pedal Steel, Mic Nicosia - Drums and piano.
• InterMixx • independent music magazine
Your Music Career is a Pentathlon: The 5 Currencies of Success by Bill Pere
The concepts discussed in this article are a part of the comprehensive analysis of songwriting presented in the complete book "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting," by Bill Pere. For additional information or to order a copy, visit http://www.songcrafterscoloringbook.com
(a) The popularity of the artist -- If a popular artist puts out a mediocre song, it is still going to chart because the artist's fans will still support it. This perpetuates an illusion that what is popular is also of good quality. The separation of popularity from quality and craft is discussed thoroughly in the "http://www.billpere. com/PDF/FourFaders_Article.pdf" Four-Fader Model in the Songcrafters' Coloring Book.
In the music business there are five primary currencies. "Currency" here does not mean money. It is anything that you can trade in specific amounts to obtain certain things or objectives. If you go to Europe, you use Euros, and in Japan, you use Yen. On e-Bay, the preferred form of payment is electronic transfer via PayPal. Frequent Flyer miles are valuable when booking a flight, but not when buying a car. In a poor rural village, your basket of produce or bundle of firewood would be worth more than a non-edible gold coin. In a survivalist camp, a roll of toilet paper or tube of toothpaste would be valued over paper dollars. Clearly, different things have value in different situations, and it is an essential business skill to know which currency to use, when to use it, and what it will buy you.
(b) Great Production -- Production/Arranging is certainly a creative art form requiring a special skill set, but it is NOT songwriting. Great production is the essence of most pop songs, not actual skill at songwriting. Visual glitz and sonic sparkle are substituted for lyric and melody. This is not a matter of good/bad or right/wrong, but it simply requires an eyes-wide-open awareness that this is not the craft of songwriting. It is good studiocraft and stagecraft, as opposed to good songcraft. (c) Big $$$ Promotion – If a big record label wants a song to be a hit, then regardless of its quality, it is going to be a hit. Relentless promotion, manufactured 'buzz', and public saturation fueled by corporate dollars will usually get a song on the charts.
Having worked with more than 10,000 artists over more than three decades, it is clear that one of the main things impeding the forward progress of a career is not knowing what the five currencies are, when to use them, or even how much of each you have. Many aspiring artists simply don't know what or where their five "bank accounts" are, what their balance is, or when and how to draw on them. The craft and business sides of music require many roles (a set of tasks) to get songs and artists from obscurity to a place of recognition, respect, and reward. Each role requires specific skills and currencies. (A complete discussion of the roles is presented in the Songcrafters Coloring Book." See here for condensed "http:// www.billpere.com/SCB/SCB_PDF/RoleCallDiag.pdf" diagram and "http://www.billpere.com/PDF/Role_Call.pdf" article )
(d) People Connections -- The old adage of "It's who you know" is never more true than in the music business. Networking and making contacts greases many paths forward and creates opportunities that otherwise would never be offered. Many hits exist solely because of personal contacts.
Bill teaches a songwriting workshop at the Independent Music Conference.
The five currencies for the purposes of this discussion are:
(a) Money -- cash or barterable goods
(b) Well-crafted songs -- lyric/melody crafting ability -- Your body of work -- The copyrights you control
(c) People Skills -- temperament -- communication (written/verbal) -- social interaction -- schmoozing -- negotiation/persuasion/mediation -- lifestyle -- management/coaching
(d) Performance Talent -- vocalist (live and studio) -- musicianship (live and studio) -- stage presence -- creativity/vision -- arranging/production
(e) Riding the wave of a trend or news event – If a song is written relating to some other event or trend that is getting a lot of media attention (9/11, fashion trend, politics, news event, etc), it too can get a lot of attention, but it will likely be of a limited duration.
(f) Creative Marketing/Novelty – An otherwise average song that is creatively marketed via YouTube or other social media can, through the (http://www.billpere.com/PDF/ASCH-VONRESTORFF.pdf) Asch and Von Restorff effects, become widely known and inject itself into pop culture. The important thing to understand about all of the above is that the currencies at work in each instance are ones OTHER than the currency of having good songs. We'll come back to this key point later in more detail. But for now, consider – in each of the above instances, how much MORE successful would a song be if, in addition to any of the factors listed, it was ALSO a really wellcrafted song. Now let's look at some of the ways in which the five currencies function, and how they differ between the mainstream big-label world, and the Indie music world. 1 – Money: This is somewhat obvious. To get forward movement at any point along a career path, money is required. Buying a new instrument, transportation, hiring an arranger, maintaining a website, assembling a wardrobe, paying a sound engineer, renting a venue, etc. Spending money is straightforward and easy to do. In the mainstream big-label world, money is the primary currency – after all, the big labels are corporations with a prime directive to make money, more so than to make music. Their supply of funds is virtually unlimited and thus all the other currencies take a secondary, though not invisible, role.
(e) Visual presentation -- physical appearance -- stage presence -- fashion/style -- logo/image branding -- web presence
The thing that trips up lots of Indie artists is trying to apply that mainstream corporate model of being "under contract" to their own Indie career. In this day and age, if you are an Independent Artist, there is very little reason to want to be "under contract" unless you really find a deal that fits you perfectly. When you are under contract, even to an artist-friendly Indie label, it may seem that you no longer have to draw on your own money to get things done because the label is doing it for you – However, no matter what label and what deal, what they are really doing is spending YOUR money – it just happens to be your future money. So you have to expect not to see any of it since a majority of acts never recoup the investment put into them. And in some really bad deals, you can end up owing the label money. Also, there is no readily available way for an artist to know what they are owed, so the label can essentially dress up their own expenses and income and tell the tell the artist anything they want.
The relative importance of these depends on one's specific goals and situations, but ultimately, some amount of ALL FIVE is required for a career that provides ongoing recognition, respect and reward. Each currency opens a different door, and you have to know which keys fit which locks, and how much a given key will cost.
Of course this does not mean that all labels are "bad" – many are out there trying to do right by the artist, but just be aware that they are not really giving you anything. You're still paying for it, just in a different way. Most labels, whether mainstream or Indie, focus on cash as the primary currency, and thus you don’t get to fully leverage the other four "accounts" that you have.
What about that all-important factor of "reputation"? The track record that one builds in using each of the currencies is essentially your "credit score," and THAT is what we know as "reputation."
As an alternative to traditional labels, there are artist "development" or artist "incubator" companies which, if they are doing their job, would be optimizing the flow of all five of your currency accounts. This assumes they are aware that all these accounts exist, and that they have the knowledge and resources to maximize them.
One of the sad realities is that the music business is not a meritocracy, i.e. those with the most talent are not the most valued, recognized, or rewarded. Talent is indeed a currency, but unfortunately, not the most valuable one. Many of the artists I've worked with have the idealistic belief that because one has some talent, advancement should be automatic. They believe that if you go to the mall with enough money, there is no obstacle to getting the things you want. What they miss is that the stores at the "Music Biz Mall" require different kinds of currency, so no matter how fat your wallet is, there are some stores where all the merchandise remains out of your reach.
If you want to be affiliated with a label or artist development firm, it's up to you to understand the deal you're getting into (i.e. know how to understand a contract, or have one of the reputable songwriter associations review it for you – often at no cost) and to decide if that deal is right for you. There are many flavors to choose from. Ask them how they plan to use all of the currencies and how they will directly benefit you.
The fact that talent is not the primary currency is made evident by two simple observations: (1) - I, and probably you as well, know hundreds if not thousands of very talented performers, songwriters, or producers who are every bit as good (or better) than many of the biggest names out there, but they flail in obscurity for lack of the other currencies. (2) A good portion of stuff that is "out there" getting airplay and selling downloads is of average (or less) quality, when objectively measured "http://www.billpere.com/PDF/Song Parameters.pdf" parametrically.
As a DIY (do-it-yourself) Indie Artist, who is not under contract, i.e. proudly "unsigned by choice," you retain control of all cash flow, and you issue the contracts to have work done for you, when you want, how you want, by whom, and for how much.
The same can be said about the quality of a song (another of the five currencies). In a meritocracy, well-crafted songs would be successful and the songs with no evidence of writing skill or craft would fall to the bottom. But this is not the case. There are huge numbers of truly great songs just sitting on dusty shelves or buried on bargain-bin self-produced CDs that are never heard, while "songs" that could easily have been written by your neighbor's 10-year kid (in collaboration with the family dog) are selling millions and getting all kinds of accolades and awards. Many well-known songs that receive all kinds of attention are really quite lacking in songwriting craft. There are obviously other currencies at work.
If your focus is entirely on the currency of cash, it's easy to fall onto the treadmill of having to do endless dead-end gigs to generate enough money to keep on doing endless dead-end gigs. Even if you can successfully generate surplus cash to move forward, your speed of advancement and choice of paths expands greatly when the other currencies are also in play.
Popularity and quality of a song do not correlate, as there are many reasons that a song becomes a big hit other than the quality of the song itself. These include:
This approach keeps you in control, but it requires positive currency flow. Notice I say CURRENCY FLOW not cash flow. As an Indie, you do not have the big-label luxury of dealing in unlimited cash. You have to draw on multiple currencies to move ahead.
2 – Visual Presentation/Appearance: This is a deceptive currency. People rich in physical appearance often try to use this as a primary currency and end up being disappointed. Appearance can open a door but if there is no talent, no people skills and no quality material to back it up, the door leads only to a small, unfurnished room (and beware if there is a couch…). Appearance is best used with the understanding that it is not enough by itself to propel one to the top of the career ladder. I meet many artists who are certainly pleasing to look at and who use that well on stage, but their material
InterMixx • independent music magazine •
is devoid of substance, their talent is average, and/or their people skills may be lacking. Any of those deficits will impede or kill a career. Too often, an aspiring artist will expend a great deal of their limited time, energy, focus, and cash to try to increase the balance in their appearance account. Sometimes it is worthwhile, but just as often it is not the best investment of limited resources. It is converting a stronger currency into a weaker one. I typically turn down opportunities to help develop artists who rely too heavily on appearance at the expense of other currencies. In stage performance, there are often great amounts of resource expended on lights and glitz and pyro and costumes and effects, all to present a stunning display of totally average (or less) material and/or talent. Not a good investment -- and as the years creep by, artists wonder why they are not "getting anywhere." What if one has an abundance of talent but is short-changed in their appearance? If your primary goal is to be songwriter rather than a performer, then as long as you are writing top quality songs, and have reasonable people-skills, you are dealing in the right currencies. Although appearance is a big help in negotiation and persuasion, top-quality songs will be the most valued means of exchange for you and can carry you far. You'll see a more successful career when you are wanted for your body of work, rather than for your body. Looks decline – great songs age like wine. As a performer, if you have great talent, but are not Aphrodite or Adonis, you can still have many opportunities, but they may be in more bounded regions of the music landscape. Consider the cases of the very talented but not glamorous Paul Potts or Susan Boyle, both winners on "Britain's Got Talent." The realms of classical, opera, or easy listening adult music are welcoming environments. For styles like folk, jazz, or hard rock, talent and substance tempered with people skills trumps appearance. Pop, country, hip-hop, Vegas, and glam-rock place more value on appearance. It’s up to you to know the realistic value of the currency you have in that account, and how to spend it wisely. As one of the most poignant examples of how talent and people-skills trump appearance outside of the music realm, consider the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the baseball major leagues. His incredible talent silenced the critics, and his even-temperament in dealing with the harsh social environment he faced made him a revered legend and an inspiration to this day. Aside from physical appearance, there are all the other visual elements that go into presenting yourself. It's amazing how many people want to be taken seriously as artists, writers, or producers, yet have no credible website, no logo, no brand identity. They have CD's with unreadable fonts and no clear communication about the name of the band/artist. These things are key conveyors of credibility. They give you gravitas and speak volumes about whether others should invest their time, attention, and money in you. And finally, though ephemeral and superficial like physical appearance, an artist can generate great buzz through their fashion choices (Lady Gaga's meat dress? Michael Jackson's white glove? KISS's makeup?) This should not be relied upon as a primary currency, but can serve as a "value–added" supplement to your other currency accounts. Do not use fashion to try to make up for deficits in the other currencies. It is an add-on, not a substitute. 3 – People Skills: In my various conversations with top industry folks, I usually ask them "What are the top ten characteristics needed for success in music?" At the top of that list by a wide margin is people-skills. The music business is first and foremost a people-driven industry. There are egos, sensitivities, feelings, insecurities, and quirks that cover a vast spectrum. A detailed discussion of how people skills work in various parts of the music business is presented in great depth across several chapters of the Songcrafters' Coloring Book. Suffice it to say here, it is among the most valued of the five currencies. It opens many doors and keeps them open, allowing opportunities to come to you, rather than you always having to seek them out. It is a slower-acting, more subtle currency, but it has greater reach and staying power than appearance, money, or talent. If a producer, publisher, manager, or any decision-maker has a choice between several people to whom they could offer an opportunity, they are not necessarily going to choose the most talented person. It will be the one they "like" best, they one they feel most comfortable working with, the one whom they know they can trust. Understanding people and knowing how to spend your currency gives you an incredible edge in negotiations, presentations, collaborations, and getting people to say "yes!" to you.
the other currencies. Sadly, the bottom line is that talent, though one of the more difficult currencies to amass and greatly valued by those providing it, is in the eyes of the buyers, the least critical of all the currencies. Yes, you need to be competent or at least adequate, but not great, in order to get ahead. And that finally brings us back around to that key point mentioned earlier: 5 – Well-Crafted Songs: Why is anything valuable? It must be wanted by many, critical to meeting needs or goals, and in short supply. In the music world, there is no shortage of songs. Not even a shortage of average or reasonably good songs. But GREAT songs? Those that hit with the impact of a laser and etch themselves into the collective conscious of millions of people? Those that last across decades, being recorded by hundreds of artists in a wide spectrum of styles? Those are as rare as the Hope diamond. So if you have one – just one -- think of what you can do. And if you have a portfolio of them, few doors will remain in your way. As an Indie artist, you probably do not have access to great sums of money. You do not have teams of people to support and promote you. You do not have wide vistas of opportunity to choose from. You may not have world-class talent or heart-throb looks, but if you have great songs, you have a path to the top of the value-pyramid. Of all the currencies in the music world, songs are by far the most critical and valuable currency – after all there would not be a music business without songs. Like any other business, e.g., cars, computers, fast-food, there are well-made products and there are lower-grade products. The stock of companies that produce quality goods rises, and the stock of those that produce inferior goods languishes. If you are a songwriter, don't just write songs; Craft great songs! Understand what it means for a song to be well-crafted so that it takes people's breath away. Understand that it is an extremely difficult task to score that "Perfect 10," but you can only achieve it if you try every time, and most times you will fall way short. But if you amass a portfolio of songs that are 7's or 8's or 9's in a world where most of what is "out there" is just 5's and 6's filling chart spaces while waiting for the occasional great one to come along, you have highly valued currency. If you are an artist with great talent and a drop-dead looks, and you can whip audiences into a frenzy singing mindless pop lyrics, think of what you can ascend to when you augment your assets with the sparkle and gravitas of top quality songs that linger long after the final chord fades. When you're seeking songs to record and perform, don’t settle for average. Find great songs from talented writers if you can't write them yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of taking songs from your friends or colleagues just because they are the folks you "know." That is simply substituting people-currency for quality-song currency, and it's not a good use of your "funds." Train yourself to recognize a truly well crafted song. If you are a producer with great talent for arrangements and beats, don't let that be all you offer. Apply that talent to great songs, so that a great production of a great song can elevate you to a new place., and you develop a reputation as a true artisan and not a mass-producer producer. If you are an artist development coach, don’t groom a talented, good-looking, people-savvy performer only to leave them with a repertoire of ordinary cookie-cutter songs that don’t add significantly more value to what you have worked to develop. Use your currencies wisely. Independent artists have only one way to really compete with all the big money, big talent, big schmoozing, big glamour competition – and that is through well crafted songs that are clearly a cut above the cluttered baseline of 'average' that is popular for all of the reasons having nothing to do with the quality of the song. No matter what your role or aspiration, this is what you need to know: Big money is something you can’t hope to compete with. Great vocalists and musicians and producers are out there in abundance. Great looks are out there in abundance. Great schmoozers are out there in abundance. Abundance reduces value. The ONE thing you can do to have rare and highly valued currency is
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Tapping this account is one of the ways you can help generate positive currency flow when your actual cash reserves are limited. When a business owner (which you are as an Indie artist) asks for credit, or a loan, or sponsorship, or a favor, or an opportunity, the transaction does not hinge on cash currency – it is people-skill currency as you are asking someone to trust you and to believe in you, while you are offering your temperament, your communication skills, and your lifestyle as collateral. When you have a skill to trade or goods to barter, you are relying on your people-skills to make that happen. Crowd-funding ventures (Kickstarter, Rocket Hub, etc) have less to do with cash and everything to do with generating faith in YOU and the way you communicate your ideas. The successful writer/artist/producer understands this most fundamental people-based concept: The songs, the music, the performance, and the experience you offer succeed when they are first and foremost about the listener, not about you. Writers, performers or producers who make their work center on their own self-expression rather than on communication and connection with listeners are misdirecting valuable currency. The good steward of people-skill currency clearly grasps the difference between "http://www.billpere.com/PDF/Express_Communicate.pdf" expression and communication. 4 – Performance Talent: Talent is a bittersweet currency. It "should" be highly valued and propel you far, but alas, its luster is dimmed by the allure of the other aforementioned currencies. If you have talent in conjunction with one or more of the other currencies, it will serve you well. But remember this simple reality: In order to show people the talent you have, you must first get the opportunity to do so. That's where the other currencies are most helpful. They enable you to get people's attention, and then it is your talent that holds people's attention and makes them "believers." There are two caveats here: (a) that you actually have sufficient talent to make people say "Wow!" and (b) that however much talent you do have, you have an accurate assessment of it. The "Wow" level of talent comes from a combination of natural ability, honed by around of 10,000 hours of practice. The 10,000 hours theory was originally formulated by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, looking at case studies in many different fields – sports, chess, music, business etc. This is discussed in detail in Malcolm Gladwell's excellent book "Outliers." The point is this: don't expect people to be in awe of your talent if you have not put in a heck of a lot of work to develop and refine it -- and even after you have, make sure you have an accurate picture as to whether you are just average, competent, highly skilled, or world-class. And if you truly have top-notch talent, it's going to take the other currencies to get you the opportunities you need to cash in on that talent. On the other hand, suppose you have only average talent and you know that, but you have an abundance in the other currencies, particularly people-skills. If you look at the music landscape across the mainstream and Indie worlds, the top spots are filled with competent or average artists, who have no more talent than many unknown folks that you or I know. There are some "Wow" folks to be sure, but not the majority. Most of those average folks got where they are though the use of
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• InterMixx • independent music magazine
to have great songs. They are NOT out there in abundance, and they cannot be created by money. They can only be created by you. Look at singer-songwriter icons like Harry Chapin, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Carole King, Janis Ian, Susanne Vega, Jim Croce, Don McLean, Jimmy Webb, and so many more like them -- No glamorous looks, no great voices, no glitzy stage performance and no silver spoons – just well-written songs that have lasted for decades, crossing styles, artists, and generations. And that portfolio of wellwritten songs attracted great talent and big money to support and propel them farther and faster. One final point: You, like everyone, has these five currency accounts. What you might not have is a realistic idea of how much currency is in them. Toward that end, never be afraid to seek out qualified, objective feedback on your songs, your people skills, your image, or your level of talent. Don't be afraid to hear a constructive critique. Objective feedback will enrich you and keep you from overdrafting a big check on a low balance. Some artists seek out critique not to improve themselves, but to get affirmation and pats on the back. That is a formula for disappointment. Some artists mistake a positive audience response to the energy of their performance as a positive response to the quality of their material. The result – a wrong notion about how much is in which account. Rather than great songwriting buying you a fan, it was your great voice singing meaningless lyrics. Some artists mistake a positive audience reaction to their appearance as an affirmation of their talent. The result – a wrong notion about how much is in which account. Rather than your talent buying you a fan, it was your short skirt.
be moving forward along the path that you have laid out for yourself. Spend wisely, invest wisely, and you will find that place of recognition, respect, and reward that awaits you. --Bill Pere was named one of the "Top 50 Innovators, Groundbreakers and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry" by Music Connection Magazine. With more than 30 years in the music business, as a recording artist, award winning songwriter, performer, and educator Bill is well known for his superbly crafted lyrics, with lasting impact. Bill has songs on more than 26 CD's including a Grammy, and has received many awards for his philanthropy through music. He is President of the Connecticut Songwriters Association, an Official Connecticut State Troubadour, and is the Founder and Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble. Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year, Bill is a qualified MBTI practitioner, trained by the Association for Psychological Type. As Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy, he helps develop young talent in songwriting, performing, and learning about the music business. Bill's song analyses and critiques are among the best in the industry. Bill has a graduate degree in Molecular Biology, an ARC Science teaching certification, and he has received two awards for Outstanding contribution to Music Education. The New York Times calls Bill "the link between science and music." For workshops, consultation, performances, or other songwriter services, contact Bill via his web sites, at http://www.billpere.com, http://www.ctsongwriting.com, and http://www.lunchensemble.com. © Copyright 2013 Bill Pere. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any way with out permission of the author.
Not having the proper awareness of what currency you have, and when and how it is being used can take you down unintended paths that lead you farther from where you want to be. Keep a keen awareness and accounting of the five currencies and what they are buying you, and you will always
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ZIVA IS A FOUR LETTER WORD She may go by only a short, single name, but singer/songwriter Ziva packs a lot of wallop into four letters. Though she was born and raised in Kibbutz Mizra, Israel and still has very strong roots there, Ziva has been calling San Francisco home for almost six years. Writing songs, performing around the Bay Area and up the California coast, she has fronted her own band, but now prefers to go mostly solo, or sometimes duet with bassist/guitarist/vocalist, Kipp Glass. She's graced the stages of notable Bay Area venues such as Slim's, The Independent (WomenROCK's 5th Anniversary, which sold out), Yoshi's, Cafe Du Nord, Cafe' Cocomo (Bay Vibes Summer MusicFest #3), Red Devil Lounge, and 111 Minna Gallery. We have been very fortunate to hear her perform for us at the Independent Music Conference®, and her masterful stage presentation is merely the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface of her impressive onstage persona, lies an even more amazing foundation: businesswoman, activist, expert networker and powerfully motivated entrepreneur. She's impressed numerous industry members at each IMC and continues to network with them and many others through social media and other avenues. She exemplifies the term; independent music entrepreneur. To further illustrate the true depth of this versatile Renaissance Woman, consider these facts: Ziva joined the Israel Defense Forces, serving as musical director of the Naval Training Base Entertainment Group. She studied vocal jazz at The Jerusalem Music & Dance Academy & Rimon School of Contemporary Music. She's a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, cello, sax, piano and most recently, ukulele. She created a crowdfunding campaign using Kickstarter.com to help fund her demo CD and it was successfully funded at 168% with 70 backers! Ziva also works with a variety of philanthropic organizations that promote music, such as Bay Vibes (http://www.bayvibessf.com) and WomenROCK (http://womenrocksf.wordpress.com) and she also produces an annual fundraiser to support the American Diabetes Association, called Sugar Rush (http://zivamusic.com/sugarrush). She has also performed in several rallies supporting social justice, representing NOW (National Organization for Women). Her powerful music emanates from her depth of character, demonstrating her soaring vocals and lofty themes. Alternating between keyboards and guitar, she projects her music into the very souls of those in her audience. Ziva's self produced debut release, Just Another Night (Winter 2012), is a collection of 5 compelling and powerful rock ballads, reminiscent of artists such as Fiona Apple, Evanescence and 30 Seconds to Mars. The EP, which was recorded in a rehearsal space in Bay View, San Francisco by Andrew U'Ren (Pebble Theory), was intended at first to serve as a new demo recording. Ziva's legion of fans wouldn't allow that however. After receiving so many enthusiastic responses to the recordings in progress, Ziva teamed up with producer Joe Kay to mix and master her songs at Faultline Studios in San Francisco, and with the help of her many supporters and a successful Kickstarter campaign, the new demo instead became Ziva's debut EP. Just Another Night features Ziva on lead vocals, piano & guitar, Kipp Glass on bass & backing vocals, Jon Jimmerson on lead guitar, Julia Jurkiewicz on cello and Chad Sylva on drums. All five tracks posses strong melodies, relatable lyrics, engaging vocal harmonies, dynamic and heartfelt accompaniment, and an impressive rhythm section. Ziva's passionate, powerful and versatile vocals make each song a moving and memorable experience. Be sure to support Ziva's latest fundraising event, taking place in just a few days on Sunday, April 14, 2013. Please attend:
Sugar Rush A benefit concert for diabetes featuring Bay Area Songwriters Community Music Center 544 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA 415.676.7737 Featuring: Tom Rhodes, Lily Holbrook, Lou Evans, Katie Colpitts, Ziva Hadar, Matt Lucas, Robin Yukiko, Jeff Desira, Alex Jimenez, Lindy LaFontaine, Brian Bergeron, Jefferson Bergey, Stina da Silva, Aaron Blyth Doors: 7:30pm • Show: 8pm • All Ages - $15 All proceeds benefit The American Diabetes Association.
Ziva delivers songs that are tastefully built around passion and melody. Nurtured by various influences, her introspective music widely ranges in style, and carried by her emotional vocal performances, making her a versatile performer and song writer. Trained in classical music and jazz, ever learning and exploring new sounds, Ziva is constantly working to write great songs that will appeal to a wide audience of music lovers. Ziva is working on a new educational program for children. In addition to her music career she has been working in child care for the past 10 years. Combining the two with a program for ages 4mo-5yrs, the exercises will include a lot of percussion, dancing, singing, improvising. It's going to be a fun, interactive learning experience.
Many others have wonderful things to say about Ziva as well... Ziva's enthralling voice soars through a room, captivating her audience with a pop-rock sensibility and soulful depth. - Bernadette Bohan, The Box Factory Ziva is incredibly powerful to observe. She provokes her piano and propels her songs with admirable composure and intention. Her voice is dimensional and sure from its deepest brooding lows to fierce highs. The band behind her serves as an army of confidence and causes her progressions to explode. - Ash Scheiding, The Pavement Sea What separates Ziva from the average piano balladeer is that surprisingly commanding voice. Anyone within earshot has no choice but to shut up, put the drink down, and listen. - Tyler Callister, Facades of Cities
Tragic Loss of Producer Inspires Newly Formed Band Very, very rarely the stars, planets and moons align just right and create a perfect confluence of situations and events. Well, almost perfect, but out of tragedy sometimes a phoenix arises. Such is the story of No Way North, a group that itself is a confluence, of the sublime and the bittersweet... When Brandon Miller, who is the nephew of Rudy Guess, Carole King's guitarist/producer/music director and Lorna Guess, Carole's manager, and has worked with Carole on the road and in the studio, met Emily Dykes, who toured the world as the lead in the musical "Mamma Mia!" it appeared like the cosmos had not only aligned, but were actually sending a clear cut signal. It seemed ordained in the stars that this duo should form a group and perform together. But if the stellar tweet wasn't delivered urgently enough, yet another cosmic alignment sealed the deal. Enter Matthew "P-Touch" Scoggins, a drummer and guitarist, who also happened to be working as Front of House Engineer for James Taylor and Carole King on the Troubadour Reunion tour. This confluence brought Brandon and Matthew together, and soon "P-Touch" was invited to join the growing solar system of No Way North. In 2010 the trio began working with Uncle Rudy, whose considerable talents as a Producer definitely seemed to be continuing the copious flow of stardust for the brand new band. Emily Dykes (lead vocals) is a multitalented actor, vocalist, and pianist. She has starred in many feature films, TV shows, commercials and stage productions throughout Canada, the US and the UK, including a long run in the world tour of the musical "Mamma Mia!" as the lead role of Sophie. Brandon Miller (bass, guitars) and Matthew "P-Touch" Scoggins (guitars, drums) bring a wealth of experience touring the world with many well-known recording artists. Miller is a studio engineer and backline tech who has toured with artists like Carole King and Kenny Loggins. Scoggins is a studio, FOH and monitor engineer who has toured with Roger Waters, Sergio Mendes, Herb Alpert, and Idina Menzel. Together with Guess the album project seemed destined for the stars. The intrepid bunch combined their musical and technical talents and entered the studio to work on The Sum of All You've Seen... It would be an incredibly rewarding process – until the unimaginable. Like so many star-crossed fables of yore, this story would not be all mirth and merriment. Brandon's Uncle Rudy was to the band with his musicality, production unfailingly positive longstanding relationships and so many luminaries
an inspiration consummate expertise, and outlook. His professional with Carole King other musical brought
an unparalleled level of industry cred right out of the gate that very few fledgling bands have ever enjoyed. Tragically, Rudy Guess lost his four-year battle with cancer in late 2010 while still working on the No Way North record. With his illness as an ever-present undercurrent in the band's formative days, the album's opening song, "The One I've Won," was written from the point of view of Rudy's wife, and "Carve it Out" was inspired by his incredible spirit. Guess played guitar on both of those songs, as well as several others. It was to be the last album Rudy would appear on before passing away. When tragedy strikes so close, some find it nearly impossible to continue on with things that were near and dear to the departed. Rooms are sometimes sealed shut, remaining undisturbed as if awaiting the loved one's return. Familiar places where happy memories were made become sources of unbearable pain, and are avoided. Things that acquired deep meaning to that person are stored away, for fear that the sight of them might bring the sorrow flooding back to the surface... Imagine the hearts and minds of Brandon, Emily and Matthew – imagine having to re-enter that studio, pick up the pieces of the project that so clearly carried the mark of Rudy Guess, could you have found the courage to continue? Would you have reached deep down, to find the true meaning, the reason to continue the project in honor of your lost loved one? This time the stars would not align on their own. This time, the cosmos would be bent to the will of those who would not be defeated by tragedy. No Way North would continue, the album must be completed. Certainly Rudy must have muscled the stars and moons into position as he watched from his stellar perch... once again helping his protégés by assisting them with their man-made confluence. No Way North's debut album, The Sum of All You've Seen..., was released in June 2012, with all thirteen songs written, produced, and performed by Dykes, Miller, and Scoggins. The album was engineered and mixed by Scoggins and Miller, and features guest appearances by legends such as organist Teddy "Zig-Zag" Andreadis (Alice Cooper, Guns n' Roses, Billy Bob Thornton, Bo Diddley), drummer Russ Kunkel (Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Crosby, Stills & Nash) and Miller's uncle Rudy Guess (Carole King, El Surfador, The Rudy Guess Orchestra) on guitar. The record also features violinist Michelle Sabourin, Emily's sister Jenna Dykes-Busby on backing vocals, Gordon Bash (Bash and Alice) on cello and stand-up bass, and Tim Conroy (Blvd Park) on trumpet.
With the album released, the band welcomed actress and singer Celina Dean (from Edmonton, Canada) on backing vocals, Steve Fisher (recent Musicians Institute GIT graduate) on guitar, and Eyal Dahan (newly relocated session player from Kfar Saba, Israel) on drums in late 2012. As we watched this amazing line-up of talented stars perform for us at IMC2012, we knew the heavens were surely smiling down on us, and somewhere at the edge of the universe, Uncle Rudy is beaming with pride and joy.
Ash Thursday Editorial Commentary by NoĂŤl Ramos
For those of you who are musicians (or investors), especially if you've ever pitched for TV, film or radio, you know it's not so simple to get a song recorded to acceptable industry standards. Gone are the days of presenting a charming demo if it's anything less than perfectly-produced. Unless you are a Pro Tools expert and have an awesome studio, it's easy to spend thousands of dollars and hours of time on that two minute audition; years and fortunes spent trying to find and execute a sound can be thrown right out a conference room window. I drove home feeling sick; feeling like I may have just wasted a huge investment with the EP I haven't even released yet. One guy's opinion had me feeling like everything I know and do is backasswards. I had one of those nights where sleep wasn't likely to come - it was still out with its buddies at the dive across town. I sank into my bed and stared down the ceiling; wishing I had not dreamed from so young to make music my life's work. Why couldn't I have longed to be a doctor or a teacher - something practical and meaningful that didn't depend so much on my imagination?! "Pull it together, Ash," Reason demanded, kicking through a pile of junk in my head. Reason was barely audible, but I honed in and coddled every sound I heard from it. "Okay, Ash. Are you really going to let one opinion make you quit?!" Yes...err...I mean, NO!!! Of course not. I bravely-yet-uncomfortably started recalling some of my favorite musicians. The Beatles. Nirvana. They were told "hell no" many times and yet they just kept doing their own thing and made their own way.
http://ashthursday.com On Saturday, January 26, 2013
a talented and understandably vulnerable artist bared her very soul to the world in a personal post on her blog, that caught the attention of anyone on the internet who still has a heart. In its paragraphs, Ash Scheiding, who uses the stage name, Ash Thursday, had the great courage to put into words what every artist often struggles with. Our inner demons are always there... "Am I good enough? Is my art truly valid? Am I wasting my time trying to create something unique that speaks to the world?" We REALLY don't need petty, short-sighted "industry experts" making all those unspoken fears worse with casual and thoughtless comments. When Ash's blog was linked in our IMC.FB Group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/IMC.FB) and I read how she bravely expressed what few of us are willing to say out loud, it affected me... so much so that I had to respond with an admittedly emotional post of my own. I'll include both the original blog post written by Ash herself, and follow it with the response I posted on Facebook. You may want to loosen your heartstrings... they're in for a tugging...
Getting Run Over by the Trend Train by Ash Thursday
This past Thursday night, I went to a songscreening to pitch a song to a Music Supervisor (they put music on TV and film). I was so stoked to share a song from my upcoming EP; proud of the effort and the production. I was sitting humbly in my squeaky plastic chair, surrounded by other hopeful songwriters. I was spacing out under the florescent lights in the monotone conference room - fantasizing about my song being featured in some dramatic scene in Chicago Fire. The Supervisor would hear my song and beam with joy, ranting about how necessary my sonic story would be to the screen... ...I was snapped back into reality with racing heart and sweaty palms as the my name and song were announced. Here came the gamble... all ears on my naked tune. Two minutes in, my daydream dissolved: Though he said it in a graceful way, I had the Music Supervisor tell me my song sounded like it is was from five years ago; too-guitar and rock heavy (this was the most gentle ballad I have recorded, mind you), and that there isn't a place for what I'm doing in TV or film. "Try again, with a more updated, quirky indie sound." Gut punch. I spent years having more of a quirky, indie sound. A year ago, I was told at a pitch that my sound was too unconventional and I needed to go to Songwriting 101. I left that pitch with tears in my eyes, and then worked hard to temper my quirks; feeling so selfconscious that I hardly knew how to even begin to write a song. This time when I set out to record the new EP, I specifically aimed to demonstrate my most accessible material. "Try again." This suggestion, when you're hammered with rejection, sounds like an insult instead of encouragement. It feels like a big fat mountain someone just plopped on top of your laboriously-leveled road. A lot of time and money was spent on creating my pitchready, produced collection of songs.
I did take notes at the songscreening; despite my disillusionment, I knew that once I calmed down I would certainly reap the benefits of the truth. I could resonate with a lot of the tips and opinions the Music Supervisor was disclosing... the man knows what music he needs and I don't blame him for doing his job. It isn't smart to shut out the wisdom of the industry you're trying to succeed in. It is important to learn and accept criticism as a vital part of growth and success. I was able to identify ways I should start to adapt my sound. However, I can be smart and adaptable without dizzily hopping on every trend train that passes by. There is a foundation to the music I make that is truly personal - it is not going to disappear from my sound - and not everyone is going to like it. I may create elements in my music that sound dated, but those elements may come back around in high demand in another year... who knows. All I know is, I refuse to abandon this ship right now. I'm not going suck all the fun out of this journey. I'm going to write about subjects that matter to me, make music that balances intuition and the demand of the industry, and pursue listeners that want what I have to offer, dammit; perhaps I'll write a few quirky and "pitchable" gems among the rest. --After reading the above, I responded with a Facebook post of my own. Ash appreciated it so much, she has made it part of a follow-up on her blog... Awesome blog, extremely well written. I'll be blunt, and I hope I'm not offending a music supervisor that I know, but I think that person had their head up their @ss. I am listening to Ash Thursday as I type this and I AM LOVING IT. "More updated, quirky indie sound???" What kind of cheezy "advice" is that? If you ask me, it's that comment that is painfully anachronistic, not Ash's music. I think that if a piece of music has the power to evoke a feeling of times gone by, dredging up memories forgotten, bringing to mind the sights, sounds, smells of your past, that is an amazing thing!!! I love it when an artist can draw bits of this and that into their work, hinting at an 80s artist, referencing a 90s guitar riff, cobbling in a smattering of New Wave, a smidge of Rock, a dash of jazz... and blending it all together into an entirely new piece of music. I mean let's be real, the truth is it's all been done before. Any professional should acknowledge that! All we can hope to do as artists is to present what inspiration we have in a fresh new light that is uniquely our own. I think Ash certainly does that. Nobody disses Bobby Flay when he uses the same damn ingredients we've been cooking with for the past few thousand years! And there is also a strong trend towards retro in all forms of media, TV shows reference decades past, fashion draws upon older styles, art builds on the old masters... It's a proud tradition in my opinion. TV shows and movies do not always take place in our "updated" current time frame. Music that harkens back to another time is probably even better suited for certain projects than the stuff that's all trying to be "quirky and indie." In Ash's music I hear Martha Davis, Depeche metal bands and 90s The blender she's spices she adds presentation Flay would
echoes of Aimee Mann, Mode, even some 80s hair grunge for good measure. using is her own, the are to her taste, and the is perfect. Even Bobby have to agree... well done! - NoĂŤl
Photos by Abigail Picache
InterMixx • independent music magazine • 13
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14 • InterMixx • independent music magazine
CrowdWHATting? Let's examine the words that might fill in this blank: "crowd_____ing" by Noël Ramos
The term "crowdsourcing" and is a portmanteau of "crowd" and "outsourcing," coined by Steve Jurvetson in 2006 while trying to describe a collective effort to manage an online discussion forum. The catchy phrase also got a public awareness boost in 2008 when Daren C. Brabham was the first to define the term in a February 1, 2008, article: "Crowdsourcing is an online, distributed problem-solving and production model." Since then, many others have offered their definitions of this increasingly popular phenomenon: "Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers." "Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a nonprofit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task." "Crowdsourcing is channeling the experts' desire to solve a problem
then freely sharing the answer with everyone" While the actual descriptive term may be a new idea, the concepts behind crowdsourcing have been utilized .. for many years. For example, in the late 1870s, The Oxford English Dictionary made an open call to the community for contributions by volunteers to index all words in the English language and example quotations of their usages for each one. They received over 6 million submissions for over 70 years from the initial launch of the project! So what's with all these other "crowd_____" phrases and are they related? Many of them are, and perhaps the most popular is the term "crowdfunding." So let's discuss the similarities and differences between a crowdsourced project and a crowdfunded project, but first, let me quickly list a few more phrases based on the idea of a crowd... Crowdsurfing: also known as body surfing, is the process in which a person is passed overhead from person to person (often during a concert). This may also be an early form of crowdsourcing in some ways, since the surfer is relying on a large crowd for their very safety! Examples include Peter Gabriel, who is said to have crowdsurfed during his performances as early as 1982. This activity could have easily planted the idea of relying on a crowd of strangers for what is essentially a very critical task. Crowdvoting:
community's judgment to organize, filter and stack-rank content such as newspaper articles, music and movies. It is the one of the most popular forms of crowdsourcing, and generates some of the highest levels of participation. Examples in the music space include UK-based Chartburst.com, which is connecting unsigned acts with record label representatives through its crowdsourced charting system. Other sites, such as Reverbnation. com tap the crowd for page views, song and video plays, and number of visitors a day, using those numbers to decide where artists should be placed on their charts. CrowdRise: A for profit e-commerce company website that uses crowdsourcing to raise charitable donations. It's noteworthy because CrowdRise was founded by famous actor, Edward Norton, and has seen many millions of dollars raised for charity since its founding in 2009. Crowdtap: Dubbed a "Brand-To-Fan Connector," Crowdtap hit $1 million in revenue, and 115,000 members as of June, 2011. Companies like these are springing up everywhere now, and their quick successes are demonstrating the power of the concepts behind crowdsourcing. There are many other websites as well, that don't feature the word "crowd" in their name, but still utilize the same techniques to help people raise funds, and complete projects, such as RocketHub.com, Kickstarter.com, IndieGogo.com and so many more.
If you create a project on one of these sites are you "crowdsourcing," or "crowdfunding?" The quick answer is - yes. They are similar in that both processes involve reaching out to a crowd, usually via the internet, to achieve a goal and complete a specific project. Crowdfunding has its origins in the concept of crowdsourcing, which is the broader concept of reaching a goal by receiving and leveraging small contributions from many parties. Crowdfunding is the application of this concept to the collection of funds through small contributions from many parties in order to finance a particular project or venture. It might be said that crowdfunding is an activity that takes place as part of a crowdsourced project. Crowdsourcing however, does not necessarily always include a crowdfunding effort. In may cases it's about the task itself, and the crowd is mainly tapped as a workforce, and perhaps also as a collective think tank. Ideas and labor become the primary objective, rather than contributions of money. No matter how you choose to access the power of the crowd, if you sincerely hope to become a self-sustaining independent music entrepreneur, you should become very familiar with all these concepts and ideas, and maximize their effectiveness for your career goals. --Noel Ramos is the Executive Director of the Independent Music Conference®, the nation's only music conference specifically devoted to independent music entrepreneurs. Join over 3,500 of us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/IMC.FB
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