Reviewed by Heidi Drockelman of Indie-Music.com
"What Bellino has managed to do with this set of songs is to show a versatility, deft vocal touch and an attention to detail that shines through every moment of the record." Artist: Clara Bellino EP: This Is Happiness - Hand in Hand Genre: Jazz Pop Clara Bellino's musical genesis is interesting and memorable, and easily translates into a hybrid of classic American songwriting mixed with the romanticism of French jazz and classical roots. It's an intoxicating and charming mix of old world meets new with a â€“ pardon the pun â€“ French twist. What Bellino has managed to do with this set of songs is to show a versatility, deft vocal touch and an attention to detail that shines through every moment of the record. Bellino's catchy "This Is Happiness" kicks things off with a warm, bright, and sunny disposition; it's pop perfection. What this track does so successfully is grips you in that moment of enlightenment, that moment when you recognize your true and total happiness. It's lovely, in a word. "Driftwood" clocks in at a mere two minutes, but offers yet another glimpse into the versatility and maturity of Bellino's work. This short, but very sweet, instrumental track is such an unexpected moment of musicianship that came at just the right moment. "Hand in Hand" is a Bobby Sharp ballad, and Bellino offers up two very smooth and delightful interpretations on this record. The first is a solo Bellino, with a vocal track that sounds liquid, languid and definitely sets a romantic, old-world tone. The second finds Bellino in a duet with Bobby Sharp himself (who penned the classic "Unchain My Heart"), and the contrast of their voices is such a refreshing blend of experience and tone. There is a vintage quality to the pairing, and sits easily as a modern gem of its own, but stands up to classic duets of the past. Clara Bellino's artistry is what rings loud and clear above all of the individual and collectively interesting and unique moments on this record. She has a clear and intuitive understanding of how to meld her upbringing with her own modern experience in the American music scene. She is a unique voice, but the music itself is universal. Both are widely appealing, and Bellino's infectious personality shines. See the review online here: http://www.indie-music.com/ee/index.php/ blog/comments/review_clara_bellino_this_is_happiness_hand_in_hand This review also appears on Indie-Music.com in partnership with contributing sponsor, the Independent Music ConferenceÂŽ in promotion of their network of independent artists. Clara Bellino's web site: http://www.clarabellino.com
Reviewed by Heidi Drockelman of Indie-Music.com
Formed in LA in 2011, Lunar Rogue is a collection of musicians led by vocalist/songwriter Julia Dettwiler. Julia’s clear tone easily cuts through the catchy guitar and drum driven rock that populates this self-titled debut album. Artist: Lunar Rogue Album: Lunar Rogue Genre: Rock Technically speaking, Lunar Rogue’s material is polished and well-produced, and it’s not a surprise to learn that their songs have been featured heavily in online rock radio; their style and smooth delivery has broad appeal and would fit right in with many mainstream female-driven rock bands. There’s a timeless quality to the writing and arrangement with a direct homage to rock goddesses Pat Benatar and Joan Jett. In fact, over and over again throughout the duration of this album I found myself making multiple comparisons to Benatar in particular; not necessarily a direct comparison of Dettwiler’s vocals, but more about the musicality of each track and the strength in the hooks and guitar lines. That 80s and 90s female-front rock influence is felt on nearly every track, but there are a few standouts that bring a different flavor to find Lunar Rogue changing things up. “Sky’s on Fire” is an easy pick, and quickly stands out for introducing another dynamic into the standard rock arena upon which the rest of the album is based. The vulnerability is refreshing, and the bonus track
version is easily my favorite cut. “In This Wilderness” is another strong contender, again taking a more dynamic approach and focusing on harmonies between Dettwiler and background vocalist Darcie O’Malley reminiscent of Heart. “Afterlife” continues the focus on simple guitar and harmonies that works extremely well in direct contrast to the more aggressive rock that fills the rest of the album. And surprisingly, the tender “Hearth” (another bonus track), provides yet another dimensional shift that shows more depth and influence. There’s a slight predictability to the overall material presented here, but that may be more of a result of consistently balanced production. I craved a bit more rawness at times, with more of that tension you hear in a live performance. That said, Lunar Rogue have found, in a relatively short time, a musical comfort zone that works for them. Are the songs easy on the ears and ready for radio? Absolutely. The instrumentation and talent are clearly there, so it’s just a matter of personal preference that I would love to hear them sound slightly less perfect in spots. I have no doubt that the accomplishments and experience each band member brings to the table will find Lunar Rogue exploring deeper and wider wells of creativity and pushing each other out of their comfort zone on future projects. For now, however, Lunar Rogue has delivered a solid debut album that’s bound to find success and gain new fans as they continue their journey musically. Lunar Rogue website: http://lunarrogueband.com
by Noel Ramos
"Matthew Moran is an author, speaker, consultant, and performer. He blogs about these topics and has other, occasionally, lucid ideas…" So it reads on his web site. It's a succinct, albeit somewhat modest summation of a multi-talented DaVinci, a Renaissance Man with musical, technical and philosophical propensities. As an Information Technologies expert, Matthew has authored two books, "The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit" in 2005 and the expanded 2nd edition, "Building Your I.T. Career." These books form the basis of Matthew's consulting business. He travels the region giving lectures, seminars and instructional workshops, sometimes even finding a way to include some original music performance! It's this constant tendency to think differently that has made Matthew's multiple careers gel together so nicely. Seamlessly integrating the seemingly contradictory disciplines of art and technology into his busy life, this avid workout buff, father of 4 and owner of two dogs and a cat is a juggernaut. He attributes his non-stop regimen to "hyperactivity" and claims to have "self-medicated" with as much as two pots of coffee per day. Recent health concerns have forced him to rethink his "medicine" however, and he's cut back to a mere two cups per day. Despite being a recovering coffee addict, he's otherwise very health conscious, and often hikes with his children and/or pets. He works out 3-4 times per week with a no-nonsense routine of 250-300 pushups and weight-training with various dumbbell exercises. To on
professional accomplishments, Matthew has 20+ years experience as a computer professional with a number of companies both large and small. He's been both an employee (data entry clerk, reporting analyst, business analyst, project manager, IT Manager, CIO) and a consultant. Just some of the noteworthy businesses who have retained him are: Northrop Grumman, HealthNet, Waste Management, Maracay Homes, Power-one, NBC/Universal, Latham & Watkins, Premier Interior Development, Pearson Technology Publishing and Pizzaman Dan’s.
As an author and blogger, Matthew has written countless articles on technology, programming, network scripting & automation, creativity, social media, professional development, parenting, and of course… music. As an Executive Coach he specializes in Career and leadership strategies for CIO’s/CTO’s/IT Management & their teams & I.T. Consultants. He advises his clients in the areas of Technology & Automation, Content Strategies, Online Presence, & Social Media, and Professional Development. He's often tapped as a Keynote & Workshop Presenter, and in fact, has presented at our own Independent Music Conference a number of times. It was at the IMC where we came to know Matthew Moran the musician. When he first performed, it was revelatory for us. Here was this consummate professional, this totally together, uber-motivated and motivational guru, suddenly vulnerable and unsure of himself. However, like so many other artists that have fought through the pre-show jitters, magic happened once he hit his stride on stage. Since then we've enjoyed watching him bite off huge chunks of musical experience, as he does in all aspects of his life. He's improved, grown more at ease on stage, and with his story telling as well. In his last performance for us, Matthew put his signature on a rare cover tune, Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road." He was on fire, his guitar playing and singing drew us into the dangerous world the song describes; of a Vietnam War veteran, scion of a rural moonshine bootlegging clan, who returns home to Johnson County, Tennessee but decides instead to enter the marijuana business. His own songs were also ringing true, such as "Lonely Mile Man," "Where I Belong," "South To Mexico," "Dangerous Girl" and "Sunrise & Sedona," a quiet ballad about ditching the rat race. We look forward to hearing more from Matt the Guru, and also Matt the Musician at IMC2014. You can hear his music on ReverbNation at: h t t p : / / w w w. r e v e r b n a t i o n . c o m / matthewmoranmusic/songs You can visit his web site at: http://www.matthewmoranonline.com
Photo by Mickey Yeh
• InterMixx • independent music magazine
Are You a Singer–Songwriter or a Songer-Singwriter? by Bill Pere
One of the first questions I ask a new coaching client coming to me as a singersongwriter is: "In your heart of hearts and at the core of your being, are you primarily a songwriter who performs or a performer who writes songs?"
average at best in each area, and your true self will feel unfulfilled. Again, it does not mean you can’t ever wear all the different hats – it just means that you recognize one as being your core, and everything else is secondary in service to that core. In a live performance, when people react positively to you, what are they reacting to? Are they touched by your lyrics; Are they moved by your voice; Are they impressed with your guitar playing; Was it your engaging patter between songs (i.e. what they enjoyed most was not the music but your interaction); Are they reacting to your short skirt or tight pants? These are all different ways of reaching an audience, and all are perfectly valid, but it is crucial for your own self fulfillment to have clear eyes as to what your listeners are reacting to. It is a recipe for disappointment when you think that people like your material when in fact they only like the sheer material of your stage outfit.
As you can probably tell, these are two very different species, with very different paths to achieve their hearts' desire. Surprisingly, there is a large percentage of folks who do not have a quick answer for this, because they have not thought about it or have not settled on a true self-identity. This does not mean you have be only a performer OR a songwriter – it simply means that you recognize that you have a PRIMARY identity and preference, and the other is there to serve the needs of the primary self.
Far too many performers mistake positive reaction their great stage presence and high energy performance for a reaction to the quality of the actual songs. This leads to the belief that they should go into a studio and spend a bunch of money to record the songs, only to find that without the energy and visuals of the live performance, the songs do not stand on their own. Maybe that great performing talent should be performing songs from better writers.
There is a big difference in the mindset of the performing songwriter versus the songwriting performer, although sometimes this remains in the subconscious. A performer gets on stage with the goal of getting the audience to love them. The songwriter gets on stage with the goal of getting the audience to love their songs. For the performer, the songs are there to serve a need to perform. For the songwriter, the songs are there to be served, to be nurtured like children and to be given independent lives in the world.
Conversely, there are folks who write amazing songs that really touch their audience, but they themselves are not great performers. One of the nice things about great songs is that they can transcend a less-than-perfect performance and stand on their own, but there does have to be a basic solid level of musicianship and vocal ability. Maybe someone else should be performing the songs.
Bill teaches a songwriting workshop at the Independent Music Conference.
Neither of these paths are right or wrong, nor is one any "better" than the other. They are just different, and success in either requires a clear sense of this difference in the eyes of the one who is pursuing the path. If you write and perform, what fulfills you the most after a show? Is it when people say "You were great, you have a great voice"; or "I really liked your songs, especially the one about _____?" From the time I was a young teen first starting on my musical journey, I knew I was primarily a songwriter. I loved the process of writing songs, and I wanted to be great at it. I never felt a strong need to perform. When I do perform, I am there just as a vehicle for the songs, and the most meaningful measure of success for me is when people react to the song, not to me. I often get comments on my clarity of enunciation, which may seem like an odd compliment, but it is very meaningful to me because it means people are listening to the lyrics. One of the most important parts of feeling successful in your career is having a clear sense of what you bring to the table, without illusion, embellishment, or self-deception. Once you are clear about who and what you are, you'll want to focus on developing the set of skills that goes with that identity. If you have the soul of songwriter, work to become a great songwriter – not just average or adequate – great! If you have the soul of a singer, work to become a great singer – or guitarist, or producer, or entertainer. Each of those things takes singular focus and dedication to master the skill set. If you try to do too many different things, you'll dilute your limited time and energy, and end up being just
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Mention the name Jimmy Webb and there is almost universal agreement that he is a great songwriter. No one says he is a great singer. He does put on an entertaining live show, but it is the songs and his stories that engage, not his singing. It works because he knows this – now. In the 60's after his many successes and the releases of the Richard Harris performances of his songs, Webb wanted to sing his own material. Despite advice to the contrary, he did so, and the result was three albums of great songs with terrible vocals, which did not have the success of his songs in the hands of other artists, leaving Webb very disappointed. Jimmy Webb is a great songwriter, but not a vocalist. It took time and experience to become comfortable with that. The great success of Harry Chapin was in knowing exactly who he was. He was by no means a great singer, or even a very good singer. He was an average guitar player. He was however an incredible songwriter and entertainer. He surrounded himself with top-notch musical talent both in-studio and on stage, and was able to perform his own songs because he never really tried to "sing" them, so much as "unfold" them as one spins a tale. Pete Seeger is beloved around the world as the father of modern folk music. He knew exactly who he was and was not. He was not a great singer, and was only a basic folk-guitar/banjo player. He was not a songwriting craftsman so much as an assembler of utilitarian songs meant to be sung by ordinary people, rather than by great voices with great production. So what was his primary identity? In an NPR interview, Pete characterized himself as a talented song leader. And that is indeed what he was, first and foremost. Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and other great vocalists who knew they were vocalists first and foremost, did not try to fill their albums and concerts with their own material. They sought out good songs from real songwriters, and applied their specific talents to it. They never tried to make songs serve their voices – they used their voices in service of the songs. And they, as well as so many other great singers, are legends. The question of primary identity is not limited to just singer or songwriter. In today's music scene, many producers/arrangers, who have great skill and artistry at what they do, are trying to brand themselves as 'songwriters' by producing tracks and then inventing some basic words and getting a good vocalist to sing over the tracks. This actually results in many hits but it is not songwriting, nor are the hits good songs. They are great recordings, or releases that become popular because of the artist, not the song. As an example, Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" contains basically two lines and a total of about eight words. Much of the song is sampled from other sources. Looking at the words on paper, one would think it could easily be the product of a 3rd grade school assignment. Looking at the song credits, there are six writers credited. Now it's obvious that it did not take six talented minds to come up with this lyric. Clearly, the intent is not good songwriting. It is a production vehicle (and money-maker) for producers, and a marketing product for a big-name artist ("Best Choreography", 2011 MTV Awards, and much more). It is a great example of why being a "hit" is not necessarily related to the quality of songwriting. A song's popularity is a separate parameter from the level of songcraft that the song embodies (See full discussion of this key concept in Chapters 2-4, "Songcrafters' Coloring Book - http://www.songcrafterscoloringbook.com) As long as you remain cleareyed that this type of hit is a manufactured product using the talents of producers and is not an example of good songwriting, you won't be led down the wrong path on your own songwriting journey. A recent article "Analyzing the Hits" by producer Bobby Owsinski in Music Connection Magazine (Feb 2014) says that there are four components that make a hit song: production, arrangement, structure, and the mix. Owsinski is a talented producer and much of what he says in the article is true, except that it does not make the necessary distinction between manufacturing a "hit" via production, and writing a well-crafted song i.e. that a hit recording is not the same as a hit song.
InterMixx • independent music magazine •
The article essentially says that the melody does not really matter, and it does not even mention the word "lyrics." Given that a "song" is clearly defined as melody and lyrics, it is obvious from this production perspective that creating a "hit" is separate from writing a great song. It gives the impression that making great productions is good songwriting, and thus blurs the distinction of identities that it is so important to keep clear. The best of all worlds is a great production of a great song, but if your self-identity is that of a songwriter, don't confuse production values with the quality of the song itself. If it's a great song, it's going to be a great song no matter how it is produced (which is different from whether or not it might be a 'hit'). Kelly Clarkson is a great singer. After the huge success of her first two albums, she fought with the record company to do something "more personal" on her third album. Nothing wring with that, as she clearly had earned the right to more creative freedom. However, instead of working with the professional writers whom she had been aligned with, she wrote or co-wrote every one of the songs herself. Kelly Clarkson is a great vocalist – she is not however, a great songwriter. Before the album was released, she was offered ten million dollars by Sony BMG record executive Clive Davis to replace five of the tracks with songs that he'd select for her. Clarkson refused. She gets credit for doing what she believed in (Just as Jimmy Webb above insisted on doing his own vocals), but when released, the album "My December" came nowhere near the success of her previous releases, and damaged her standing with fans, although she did subsequently recover from that stumble. (Note: It eventually did become a platinum album, due to Clarkson's popularity as a likeable artist). A successful artist like Clarkson has enough pull with a record company to do things like that, and there is certainly nothing wrong for fighting for creative freedom. But she could perhaps have avoided lots of disappointment and angst by acknowledging to herself that it might have been prudent to work with better songwriters to help her develop her own skill, rather than assuming that being a great singer means you can be a great writer. If you are clear in your own mind that you are primarily a songwriter rather than a performer, there is one more question to answer: Are you primarily a musician or a lyricist? Does your passion, your joy, your fulfillment lie in finding a great melody or chord progression, or is it in finding exactly the right words and metaphors to communicate what you want to say? Again, it is important to know your strength and true self, and let that be the beacon and light that guides your path. You can do any of the other things yourself (sing, produce, perform, etc), but do so knowing that perhaps someone could help you do that better. Music is one of the most collaborative of human endeavors, and the reasons for that are clear – no one is exceptional at all the skills needed to create well-crafted songs, and produce them and perform them and market them in the best possible way. Songwriting is also very much about putting inner parts of yourself "out there" for others to accept or reject. You do yourself and your career the best service when you look long into that musical mirror and know which of the many hats you wear is the one that fits best, and let that be what guides you. Celebrate your strengths, and never be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses, while resolving to improve where you can, and seek assistance when you need to. In the long run, you'll feel much more fulfillment and enrichment as you travel your path with clear eyes. ---------------------
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 Bill Pere is a Grammy-Winning songwriter, 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, 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 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, 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 http://www.lunchensemble.com © Copyright 2014 Bill Pere. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any way without permission of the author.
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10 • InterMixx • independent music magazine
Reviewed by Heidi Drockelman of Indie-Music.com
“Ultimately, what Steven Sean Cohen has put forth with Summer Jams is a track-list that represents who he truly is as an artist. There’s a lot of passion and a very honest approach to the songwriting and performance on this record.”
Artist: Steven Sean Cohen + Elton Costello Band Album: Summer Jams Genre: Pop I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I read the preview for Steven Sean Cohen’s bio; while he’s definitely characterized by the classic definition of the Philly pop sound, Cohen’s distinct vocal style makes Summer Jams a more complicated listen than a simple pop offering. With a repertoire that includes nine originals that skew something like a cross between Warren Zevon by way of Bruce Springsteen, what’s also surprising is the inclusion of two covers by The Jackson Five and Adele. Steven’s songs show. The includes a piano and from the of tone
feel like they’re ready-made for what would be an entertaining and crowd-pleasing live songwriting leans towards what I described above as the Philly pop sound, which touch of R&B and classic soul that’s embedded in the local scene, with the addition of keys helping to propel the melodies forward. Cohen’s raspy tone, at times, distracts classic feel of that piano-driven pop sound, but this also offers an interesting dichotomy and feel for the listener.
“ W e and one Joelaren’t track. with a
Ain’t Waiting” finds Cohen losing some of the raspiness in favor of a clearer tone, that definitely suits the song style, taking on a more classic Springsteen or Billy esque tone. “Lick My Plate” also stands out; the suggestive overtones certainly subtle, but what’s most interesting is the arrangement and rhythmic quality of the “Don’t Say Goodbye” is also a standout, one of those songs that’s easily relatable toe-tapping groove and winning vocal work.
I’d be classic it-or-leaverisk that’s exceedingly well which is definitely
remiss not to mention the vastly different take that Cohen presents of modern “Rolling in the Deep.” This seems like the type of cover that will either elicit a loveit reaction in listeners; but the unique interpretation Cohen presents is a creative to be applauded. “I Want You Back” is a little more straightforward, and works with Cohen’s own songwriting style. There’s a comfort level to the performance, more rock-tinged than the original, that breathes life into a song everyone knows.
Ultimately, what represents who he approach to That comes himself
Steven Sean Cohen has put forth with Summer Jams is a track-list that truly is as an artist. There’s a lot of passion and a very honest the songwriting and performance on this record. through very clearly; Cohen writes his music for and from a place that gives him personal satisfaction expressing himself creatively. This is a labor of love, and it shows. See the review online here: http://www.indie-music.com/ee/index. php/blog/comments/review_steven_ sean_cohen_summer_jams Steven Sean Cohen website: http://www.reverbnation.com/ StevenSeanCohen This review also appears on Indie-Music. com in partnership with contributing sponsor, Independent Music Conference® in promotion of their network of independent artists.
InterMixx • independent music magazine • 11
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12 • InterMixx • independent music magazine
OPINION: In a fascinating thread from Facebook, we discuss "The New Boss." by Noël Ramos
A link to an interesting article by the well-respected musician, David Lowery, (entitled: Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss?) kicked off an even more interesting FB discussion, in which I defend you, the enterprising indie musicians of the new market, and also detail my long-held opinions about the industry, middlemen, and the majors... I'll include a link to David's article at the end of this, because it was a pretty good read, but I found the resultant conversation .. that it sparked to be much more telling. Specifically, it demonstrated the schism that still exists – and which rears its head quite often – between some old-school major label people, and those who are creating the new music paradigm of the independent market. Now to be fair, there were a number of industry folks expressing a variety of well-thought-out opinions that ranged from futuristic thinking, to lamenting their market's heyday of the 60s-90s, but I'll just be including comments from a few key participants. I'll change their names to protect the innocent. ;) The first comment that I felt compelled to respond to, came from a recording studio owner who has apparently worked on some very high profile, major label projects over the years. He also revealed himself as a musician, which shouldn't be surprising I guess... until I read some of his opinions... Studio Dude wrote: There's so much wrong in that it's ridiculous. The article claims: "The fact that artists are spending much less TIME recording can only mean they have less money or expect to make less money" No, it means computers have become the main musical instrument. The writing process, which is normally done outside of a studio, is now also the recording process. Other than vocals, modern records are made without air in the signal path. The part about bands touring and playing for smaller audiences? That means their audience is smaller, of course they're going to sell fewer records. To understand the way it actually works, you need to have two not-obvious ideas clear. First, the music business is not the record business. They are two different things. Second, an album has always been "merch". Music has always been used as a sales tool, it's not the goods that are being sold. The model has always been: build a brand sell stuff with the brand name on it. You can build the artist brand, someone else's brand or both. Here's a question, is it possible to have 1 million fans, sell no records, sell
no concert tickets, get no airplay on radio or the internet and make a living? The answer is yes and there are a lot of people doing it. They're called bloggers. Before you assume that I'm saying bands should become bloggers, I'm not, though it's not a bad idea. The point is this - when you have a large fan base, you will make money one way or another. Worry more about making music that attracts fans than what percentage iTunes takes. It's a distraction. Plus Apple has earned that money. Tracks on iTunes don't sell because of the artists, they sell because of iTunes. If iTunes didn't exist, there would be nearly no sales other than what sells at Walmart and Kmart. Most artists make music for the wrong reasons and that's why they don't sell. On your next commute, look around you and ask yourself "Do I want to hear these people's self-expression?" I can tell you that I sure don't. Music is for the listener, not the artist. What the artist needs to express is the listener's feelings. That's when there's a connection. Can you do both? Why not write songs where the artist can express themselves and that the audience will like? The answer is who cares? No one cares. The audience is just as narcissistic as the artist. Why should they pay you for your self-indulgence? They want to pay for theirs. They key is really looking at how things work accurately, and that article has all sorts of cause and effect wrong. Studio Dude's comment prompted a response from me... Noël wrote: "Here's a question, is it possible to have 1 million fans, sell no records, sell no concert tickets, get no airplay on radio or the internet and make a living?" With 1,000,000 fans it should be easy for ANYONE to make a living without selling records, tix, or having airplay! All you'd need is for each one to spend a minuscule TEN CENTS PER YEAR on you and you're at $100,000 annual income. Not too shabby. You could charge them a buck for a "membership" to your web site and be wealthy within a week. Who actually has that many true fans though? Certainly not your typical indie musician. Amanda Palmer, who even with her major label past and famous husband – and who broke records by raising a whopping 1.2 million dollars on Kickstarter, did it with the support of only 24,883 backers! Imagine if she had a million fans?
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"Music is for the listener, not the artist. What the artist needs to express is the listener's feelings. That's when there's a connection." You're bringing up the sore subject of "art vs. commerce." Maybe in Nashville "music is for the listener, not the artist," but the most cherished bit of freedom that the digital revolution brought to the artists, is the ability to MAKE ART, not "product." And now they can even earn a living by doing just that. By aggregating a small niche market from disparate places around the world, an indie artist can find a few thousand superfans who will gladly spend 50 - 100 bucks a year on their art. That's a career, even without reaching a "million fans." "They key is really looking at how things work accurately, and that article has all sorts of cause and effect wrong." I disagree, but I don't necessarily think your views are wrong. I think you and David are both making valid observations. "First, the music business is not the record business. They are two different things. Second, an album has always been "merch". Music has always been used as a sales tool, it's not the goods that are being sold." Couldn't agree with you more, very well said. It's still a sales tool, but now instead of selling plastic discs featuring recorded music and a bundle of limitedusage rights, artists are using their music to sell INTERACTION. Amanda Palmer didn't sell CDs when she made that 1.2 mil, she sold thank you cards, signed art books, exclusive access, "surprise gifts," VIP treatment... She sold interaction with the artist. She parceled out little pieces of her world. Over 130 of her fans each paid more than $1000 for their chunk of it.
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Try selling a CD for a grand.
or 10, I think they actually have more fans than the sell albums.
"They key is really looking at how things work accurately"
I don't think $50 to $100 constitutes a super fan. Let's take U2, when they were a mainstream act. The cost of buying their album and going to a show, plus a few other pretty standard things would probability come to $200 - when you add in parking, food and some form of merch. So 1 million fans is $200 million leaving wallets. If you take out the highest retail value of a CD x 1 million fans, that's $180 million that an artist is causing to leave wallets. Obviously they don't get all of that, but business model needs to be focused on that. I've heard from sources who should be accurate, that there are shows where Dave Matthews is able to get 110% of the door - which is a form of tapping in to that bigger pool of revenue.
I agree again, and the accurate truth is, the RECORDED music business was a small blip on the industry's 50,000 year timeline. It was a bubble, and it has burst. Musicians made a living for thousands of years before Edison invented a new product they could sell. Now that the product is obsolete, (and whether we like it or not) musicians must once again find ways to earn a living other than by selling recordings. My response caused another old-school industry member to enter the discussion. He is an audio engineer, who appears to be in his 60s or 70s. He's written for prestigious magazines on the topics of "Recording The Big Band," audio restoration and "Recording The Swing Band." His substantial experience doesn't excuse his crotchety behavior though, so I'll call him "Grumpy Dude." Grumpy Dude wrote: "the industry's 50,000 year timeline?" You really think capitalism has existed that long? Capitalism has only been around for a few hundred years. Before that, in the beginning, musicians were part of a tribal community which collectively supported all its members, or they were part of the priest-hood class, which supported all its members, or they worked for royal patrons, who supported all the members of their court, etc. Now, we have a corporate-capitalist system, and we are told that artists should be entrepreneurs and support themselves that way. Never mind that being an entrepreneur is a completely different skill from being an artist, and many artists are not very good at it – it requires a rather different mind set. Then there is the main problem that David Lowery was addressing: the system is rigged in such a way that a major part of musical artists efforts – making music recordings – does not make them a living any more. There are two major problems: 1) artists get little or no compensation for the use of recordings by sites like Spotify and Pandora and 2) distribution for pay is controlled by iTunes and a few other sites. In the old record company paradigm, at least it was in the interest of the record company to invest in distribution and advertising of their wares. Now, many artists find that it is all on them to try to get their offerings seen in the middle of a huge, chaotic marketplace. And again, it is a process that has little or nothing to do with making good art. You can make great music, but if you don't have it marketed properly, no one will be aware of it. The bold facing is mine. I wanted to point out the particular comment by Grumpy Dude that launched the bulk of the argument which followed. I certainly won't include all the comments, but you'll get an understanding of why I found his statement so offensive... Noël wrote: Who said anything about "capitalism?" Like any other trade or profession, the music industry surely got its start with the very first practitioners. A flute found in Germany is almost 50,000 years old, proving that music has been an art form for at least that long. Over 4500 years ago, almost all musicians in ancient Egypt were professionals, as it was believed to be pointless to pursue the art unless you were to become professional. "Never mind that being an entrepreneur is a completely different skill from being an artist, and many artists are not very good at it – it requires a rather different mind set." HOGWASH. That totally bogus claim has been made so many times it's become trite. MOST artists are EXCELLENT entrepreneurs, because it's the EXACT SAME skill-set: originality, creativity, inventiveness, dedication, boldness, adventurousness, and a knack for thinking outside the box, that makes for an effective business trailblazer. Who do you think started all the record labels that became the foundation of a multi-billion dollar global oligarchy? MUSICIANS. Stop propagating baseless and hurtful stereotypes. Then the first guy piped up again... Studio Dude wrote: I've said the same thing as Noël Ramos, but phrased differently "Professional musicians have existed for 10,000 years. The ideal of selling recordings has existed for 80-100 and could very easily be an aberration." As far as who has 1 million fans, when artists used to sell 1 million albums or 5
The issue is for new artists. Regardless of the model, any startup business needs capital. If you're not selling recordings, the VC pretty much needs to come from a publisher or a management company. Making music for the listener is not an art vs commerce idea. I will bias towards pop/mainstream, but it's still the same thing with traditional jazz or any type of music that you consider "art". There is a reason that people listen to music and music that doesn't fit that function will not get listened to. There's no such thing as good or bad music, there's music that's effective and music that's ineffective. You can't make a living off of ineffective music. Music is a service. Would you ever try to make a living telling inside jokes that only you could get? In the most literal sense, people listen to music for brain chemistry changes. If it provokes brain chemistry they want, they will want more of that music and will pay for it. No one will pay for music that changes only the artist's brain chemistry. Do you hire a painter to paint their house or yours? Do you hire a surgeon to operate on themselves or on you? Do you hire a shrink to listen to their problems or yours? Making music is a service. Iconic, genius musicians are not "gifted" they are the gift to everyone else. Why should an artist get paid if all they do is do something for themselves and no one else? Music is an art of service. The service is writing and performing - entertaining, which is really too small a word. Uplifting? Mood enhancing? Brain chemistry changes. Cocaine for your ears rather than your nose. Whether a given piece of music is art or not is fully irrelevant outside of an academic context. The only question is "Do 'I' like it?" If it's "great" but not to anyone's taste besides the artist, how is it not a waste of time, or useful or effective? The question of art vs commerce is a red herring. Artists are not told to be entrepreneurs. They're told that if they want to make a living they have to be. What do you think the person was who started the first record label? Is an artist some kind of mythical elite being that deserves to be supported by the rest of the world regardless of what they do? If there's a way to make that happen, I'm all for it, but why would anyone who's "the rest of the world" want to support them? (Maybe they do when they find an artist who expresses their feelings.) The new system hasn't changed anything for recording artists. They've never made a living by selling records. And going back to the 10,000/50,000 year idea, music has always been about performing. Maybe recordings simply aren't valuable to humans - ever. Maybe the only thing that's valuable is performance. A live recording is not a live performance, even if it's made live and unaltered. Recordings are either a faked reality or an invented reality. I can tell you that listening to a band play live making the recording is always more exciting than the recording, no matter how good it is. It all comes back to the listener caring about what they're getting, not the artist. The biggest thing holding us (musicians and recording artists) is that we are not being honest with ourselves about what the whole process is about and about who deserves what cut of each revenue stream. If a record label invests in a recording artist, 100% of all of a successful artist's record sales income will be only a very small part of their overall income - much smaller than anyone would agree to if they were making any form of an investment. As messed up as it seems, record labels are actually getting too small a cut when you compare it to any other venture capital deal. My response to Studio Dude was brief, unlike his epic post... Noël wrote: Studio Dude, your examples seem to draw on the major-label paradigm, not the
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world of today's independent artists. Not only is the question of "art vs commerce" a valid and relevant topic in this discussion, I stand by my statement that artistic freedom is one of the MAIN reasons (if not #1) that major label artists go indie, and indies STAY indie
good at it – it requires a rather different mind set."
Then Grumpy Dude seized upon one particular line from my comment and decided to start picking nits in a most spectacular way, as if he was writing about Big Bands again...
EVERY TIME, a group of people decide to play music and try to earn money at it, THEY HAVE JUST BECOME ENTREPRENEURS. How many times do you guesstimate that has happened throughout history?
Grumpy Dude wrote: I'll just deal with the beginning of the record industry. First we have Edison. Not a musician. In fact, very hard of hearing. Made the first practical phonograph and eventually figured out how to market cylinder recordings.
Probably MORE ARTISTS BECOME ENTREPRENEURS THAN ANY OTHER PROFESSION.
Next we have Emile Berliner – invented the first practical disk record. Followed by Eldridge Johnson, a gifted mechanic who worked for Berliner, then went out on his own and founded Victor Records. Victor records became the first really big, really successful record label, in part due to their signing on an Italian tenor named Caruso. Over in England, we have the Gramophone and Typewriter company, founded by businessmen (not musicians). Eventually became HMV which we know today as EMI (Beatles, etc.). Also related to Columbia, which started operations here in the U.S. around 1901. In the late 1920's, Victor was bought by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which was run by David Sarnoff (not a musician). Sarnoff at least liked music. He later signed a fellow named Toscanini to the RCA red seal label. To continue our history: Columbia became part of what became the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), founded by William Paley – not a musician. And yes, later on there were some record labels that were founded by people who were musicians--Capitol records which included Johnny Mercer among its founders (though later bought out by EMI) and United Artists, founded by Frank Sinatra and others. But to make the blanket statement that record companies were founded by musicians is to show an ignorance of history. Now I was starting to get a lil bit pissed. I am so sick and tired of this sick and tired old argument from so many old-schoolers who propagate these bullshit stereotypes. This guy had pushed my buttons and I was ready to unload a barrelful on him... Noël wrote: Seriously? The "stereotyper" is accusing me of making a "blanket statement?" How ironic. You say I am "showing an ignorance of history???" Insults are the last bastion of the desperate. So you managed to find a few key people in the multi-THOUSAND year history of the music industry who can reasonably be described as "not a musician." THAT is what you have decided qualifies as PROOF that "being an entrepreneur is a completely different skill from being an artist, and many artists are not very
Your statement is so full of holes and stereotypes that all I need is a bit of LOGIC to destroy it, no need for any knowledge of history.
How many other fields see MILLIONS of folks trying their hand at being selfemployed business owners? And YES most artists understand that SELLING their art makes them a BUSINESS PERSON, no matter what your tired old stereotypes might claim to the contrary. Come back at me with some concrete PROOF of your insulting stereotype: "being an entrepreneur is a completely different skill from being an artist, and many artists are not very good at it." PROVE IT. If you can't, then be a responsible professional and STOP PROPAGATING A HARMFUL MYTH. At this point a third industry dude spoke up and seemed to support my claims about musicians as entrepreneurs... Reasonable Dude wrote: [Grumpy Dude,] with all due respect none of the names you list have much to do with the modern era record business we are talking about now. Lots of labels got founded by musicians most of which were ultimately consolidated into the uber labels of today. Second those labels were responsive to the musical artist even if they weren't technically founded by musicians. Labels like, Sun, Chess, Motown, Atlantic, Stax grew out of local music movements and were deeply rooted in the regional music they recorded, celebrated and loved. They had lots of flaws but they were bound at the hip to the artists whose music they recorded and distributed and their interests and the artists interests to a great extent aligned pretty well. Which is why the music business took off in the 50, 60s and 70's. Great content creators found their audience and they were amply rewarded financially for the effort. Today that symbiotic arrangement is gone. Lots of reasons for it but what I think David Lowery points out brilliantly is that the new digital paradigm is not serving the content creators very well. Not sure how you fix it but the problem and the solution does not have much to do with Edison, Berliner, Sarnoff or Paley. All the best. Noël wrote: Regarding David Lowery's astute observations, I don't think the piracy and rampant theft of IP that has unfortunately come along as the "other edge" of the digital sword, are legitimate parts of the "new digital paradigm." Just as you can say that bootlegging, illegal copying, and imposter products were not a legitimate part of the old school market. The difference is that in the analog days, it was so much harder for the crooks to do those things. Now, a kid with a laptop and a decent internet connection can become a dangerous pirate with the click of his mouse.
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I remember similar fears when the cassette tape came along, but that was still an analog medium, with some loss of copy quality and significant time, money and material constraints functioning as deterrents.
Well, as much as I hate to say it, there may not be a fix. That's why I said; the music recording as a product is obsolete. Musicians will have to monetize other aspects of their art, and they'll have to continue to maximize the considerable benefits they're enjoying due to the "good edge" of the digital sword.
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Hypothesize with me for a moment and imagine the power to easily create an infinite number of perfect copies in the hands of the bootleggers and music fans back in the 60s-90s. Don't you agree we would have seen a similarly disastrous effect on the analog market?
"Not sure how you fix it..."
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These forces, which are bearing down on the legal marketplace with overwhelming pressure, are making it almost impossible for the new digital market to serve the content creators well.
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At this point an artist who happens to be an IMC Group member spoke up... IMC Artist wrote: Great discussion guys. I agree with Noel that being a musician requires the
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same "out of box" thinking that an entrepreneur requires to succeed, but as [Grumpy Dude] pointed out, not all artists are equipped to wear all the hats needed to build a successful career for themselves. Rightfully so. We have to choose our battles. I have many friends who make a living performing music. They also work their asses off. I don' t think that has changed and I don't believe any "system" will guarantee a high happy meter when it comes to gross profit margins. The "Boss" will always exist. Corporate giants aren't going away but we can fight them by building communities like this that share perspective. As we become more "Self-Aware" - the MUSICIANS will find a new model that works, just as they did in the past. Noël wrote: "not all artists are equipped to wear all the hats needed to build a successful career for themselves..." As you may have noticed, I'm not a big fan of lumping people into broad categories and painting them all with the same brush. In regard to attempting a career path as a self-employed entrepreneur, the above quote could be applied to ANY group of people... "not all plumbers are equipped to wear all the hats needed to build a successful career for themselves..." "not all Lawyers are equipped to wear all the hats needed to build a successful career for themselves..." "not all Accountants are equipped to wear all the hats needed to build a successful career for themselves..." I could go on, but I trust I've made my point. It takes a special breed of human to tackle the challenge of self-employment. Artists (musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, graphic designers, architects, etc...) have for centuries been the vanguard. More artists take the plunge and attempt to make a living at their craft as a self-employed entrepreneur than perhaps any other profession. The typical career path of most other professions being: obtaining a job with an established organization upon graduating college or completing their training. "Multi-Media Artists and Animators will be one of the fastest growing occupations. In respect to starting your own business, Multi-Media Artists and Animators are more likely to be operating their own business than working for someone else. Currently, 69.7% of the employment base enjoys the self-employed lifestyle." "Roughly 80% of Musicians and Singers are self-employed. This is considered above average for the industry as a whole." Can other professions boast such a high percentage of self-employed practitioners? "About 21.6% of Lawyers are self-employed." – Source: Department of Labor, 2008 "In respect to starting your own business, Accountants and Auditors are seldom seen going the entrepreneurial route. Currently, 9.5% of the employment base is classified as self-employed." How many Berklee grads say "I plan to get a job playing guitar for IBM?" If a musician becomes a sought after studio player, or touring musician, or orchestral player, or backup singer, or commercial jingle writer, or film/video/ game composer, or voice-over actor, or stage performer, or music instructor, or songwriter, or the member of a very successful band... what "company" do they work for? The number of small businesses founded by artists each year tallies in the
millions. Many of them are successful. NO ONE can "wear all the hats." It's a daunting challenge for any entrepreneur, which is why at each IMC, I always preach "Indie does not mean ALONE." We teach artists how and when to assemble a team, seek outside professional help, and manage all those "hats" realistically. Reasonable Dude wrote: Good discussion and as someone who came of age in the era of rock stars and toured with many of them I think they get a bit of a bad rap. Yes there were excesses and some of those excesses got baked into the culture, but most of them worked their ass off and saw the lifestyle of excess as one of the perks for all the hard work. Plus we can't blame the state of the music business on lazy musicians. There will always be lazy participants in any field and the purpose of building a fair distribution system is not to reward the lazy but to compensate the diligent fairly and the current system just simply does not do that. In fact it places the music creator at the bottom of the food chain doing the most work, taking the most risk and reaping the smallest reward. And while it will always require a certain entrepreneurial element to succeed in the content business I would prefer to see a system that rewards the quality of the art more than the quality of the entrepreneurship. I have made this point countless times in a variety of posts but when you cannot make a living by selling your content or copyrights you are not going to see artists like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne etc. People who could write great music make great records own their publishing and make a great living whether they toured or not. What you are going to get are artists who have figured out that I cannot make money on content so I will make money on spectacle because you cannot file share a Lady Gaga Show. So what we get is a lower quality of music and a higher quality of spectacle. If you think that is a good trade knock yourself out but there is a direct correlation between the degradation of content ownership and Miley Cyrus twerking. Enterprising folks are not stupid, if they see you cannot make money writing great songs but you make great money wiggling your butt guess what? I would prefer to see a digital paradigm that adequately rewards music creation and then let the cream rise to the top and the lazy musicians fall to the wayside. Noël wrote: I agree with much of the above, but like another commenter before you, you're still using an outdated major label yardstick to measure a brand new market. "There is a direct correlation between the degradation of content ownership and Miley Cyrus twerking." Independent musicians are not of the "twerking" variety, and as I've said before, the lure of independence for them is the freedom to produce quality art that they can be proud of. These people put themselves out there for their fans, and though it may not be "marketable" in the sense that was referred to upthread, it is genuine creative output. These artists may not be able to sell more than a few thousand "units," (another old school measurement) but that's all they need to sell in order to have success. They don't create a mass-marketable "product" that's designed to appeal to the largest number of consumers. In fact, I'm quite sure that the consumers are the last thing on their minds as they write these songs. They create art, because they are artists, and they MUST create. Then they find fans who appreciate that art. That's when commerce enters the equation, not during the creation. "I don't think $50 to $100 constitutes a super fan. Let's take U2, when they were a mainstream act... " Contrary to the above opinion, someone who spends $50 - $100 per year on
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their fave indie artist is ABSOLUTELY a "superfan." You can't compare the mass-marked superstars of the 60s-90s, like U2, who sold millions of records with today's niche marketing, DIY artists.
the old marketplace. If the new music market is based on monetizing alternative "products," such as INTERACTION and customized "rewards," then distribution becomes a thing of the past.
We're talking about two VERY different worlds.
If you get 25,000 people contributing to your latest project, then you simply mail them whatever their particular reward was. No real need for "distribution."
"Do you hire a painter to paint their house or yours? Do you hire a surgeon to operate on themselves or on you? Do you hire a shrink to listen to their problems or yours?" There is a HUGE and critical difference between HIRING an artist to perform a service (logo design, web site, jingle, soundtrack...) and SUPPORTING an artist whose creative output you love. In a Work-For-Hire situation, the person paying the fees is the boss. It's their project, and the artist agrees to work according to the client's specifications. When an artist is marketing their own creative output, they are their own boss. Their job then becomes, finding that niche of people, no matter how small or widely spread around the globe, who LOVE what they do. It's those fans who will support the artist's career. The other stuff is what I call "bread 'n butter work." It helps to pay the bills. I firmly believe – and the many crowdfunding success stories prove this out – that indie artists can find enough fans to support them if their art is good, quality, earnest and from the heart. It will connect with enough fans who will rise above the pettiness of the "market," and pay $1000 for a CD and an original watercolor painted by the performer, or a similar special experience. Reasonable Dude wrote: I agree totally with Noel's distinction between work for hire and the artist model. The challenge is how do you create a system where that artist has a modest expectation for a return on his creative output when the work begins to find an audience. As for the outdated Major Label model its a fair point there are aspects of that model that are gone forever and will never return however there is one thing that I think is consistent. This basic rule has not changed. Whoever owns distribution owns the market. I do not care if what gets distributed is music on vinyl, on tape or a series of ones and zeros streaming through fiber. Today digital distribution is owned by a group of organizations that invest very little back into the eco system. and until they do we can either learn how to live with less or we can change the distribution model. Noël wrote: "This basic rule has not changed. Whoever owns distribution owns the market." I'm sorry but I disagree. Distro was the FIRST pillar of the old market to be destroyed by the internet and digital delivery. Napster proved that beyond any shadow of doubt. No one has "owned" distro since the pirates took over. Again, and I'm sorry to keep repeating myself, but "distribution" is a component of
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"The challenge is how do you create a system where that artist has a modest expectation for a return on his creative output when the work begins to find an audience." That sounds like a middle-man, trying to insert themselves in between the art and its audience. I mean no disrespect, (because I know a lot of good people in the middle who work hard,) but I think the days of the "record label" business model are severely numbered at this point. With piracy out of control and no means to effectively stop it, and without the artificial lock-down on the means of production, promotion, marketing and distro, there's really no longer a need for a "system." Here's the way I'd have worded that statement: The challenge for the artist is how to create maximum ROI from the creative output when their work begins to find an audience. Many have successfully turned to crowdfunding, monetizing YouTube, and creating alternative products in order to create brand new income streams. Example: The Gregory Brothers and AutoTune The News. Artists must find creative ways to monetize NEW products that are IMMUNE to piracy, either because they mobilize a hyper-loyal fan base, or because they are the sort of product that can't be copied, or both.
This is where that "above average self-employed 80% of Musicians and Singers" are most obviously proving [Grumpy Dude] dead wrong... They are using their CREATIVITY, and outside the box thinking to find fascinating new ways to earn a living from their art. They are being ENTREPRENEURS, and doing a damn good job of it. ---------If you like the way I think, please join us on Facebook, where you can read a lot more of my ideas and opinions about the independent music market, and the Independent Music Conference as well: https://www.facebook.com/groups/IMC.FB
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