How We Got To Creekside Tap

Here’s a quick story on the gig I’m playing on 1/17/14 at Creekside Tap in Algonquin, IL.

A few years back, we bought some flooring from a store here in West Dundee and dealt with a very nice salesperson named Val. We are very happy with the flooring and have seen Val around town for many years.  Turns out she left the flooring store and bought a little pub in Algonquin and re-named it Creekside Tap.

Chris Walke and I have been playing together in Lincoln Don’t Lie since November 2012.  Chris is a consummate musician and can play anything with strings.  Turns out that we have both done quite a bit of acoustic solo work and have a similar setlist of roots/Americana rock. We’ve been kicking around a duo show for a while.

Meanwhile, my wife and I decide to visit Creekside Tap on a random Saturday to visit Val and see the pub.  Val was very kind and bought us a beer. She wanted us to try this new brew they are carrying (from the Blue Moon family).  As we were chatting, I asked if she had live music on the weekends.  She didn’t bring in much live music, but knew that I’ve played acoustic shows in the area for some time and was excited about the idea.  The atmosphere felt perfect for an acoustic/duo and simply put two and two together. I talked to Chris and set the date.

This will be the first time Chris and I play a full gig.  We’ve done a few songs at the beginning of a LDL show, but that’s it.

Looking forward to a new venue and playing songs with a very talented dude.

 

The Future Of Pop Music

Steven Hyden just wrote an excellent article on the state (and potential future state) of pop music.

He contends that pop music and thus pop stars are becoming an accessory to selling technology. Can’t argue with that at all. However, I believe the bigger issue is “pop music” as a category.

Ever since mass media became mass, anything “pop” has been made popular by a very narrow set of tastemakers. We have been spoon-fed singles for the past 50 years. This is how the music industry had so much success. The majority of music listeners had to live with the Top 40 as a primary means of new music discovery.

It’s well-known that bands like Journey ad REO Speedwagon were huge radio stars because their fans matched the target demographic of the radio advertisers. It was a symbiotic relationship.

In 2014, this has all changed. The Internet has democratized attention for the same masses as in 1982. “Pop” is no longer Popular. Let me say that again – “Pop Music” is no longer popular music as defined for the past 50 years.

Hit singles are no longer spoon-fed by a narrow set of tastemakers. Hit singles are determined by how much its shared. I can guarantee that whatever my 13 year-old just downloaded is being listened to by hundreds of millions people (not just kids) all around the world. She was listening “Cups” by Anna Kendrick six months before it went to radio. Radio and mass media are becoming a reflection of what is organically becoming popular online.

Even the morning news is reporting the latest viral video and stories that I’ve already skimmed on Twitter. Frankly, I don’t even see the value in 95% of news programs. (But that’s a different post….)

The meaning behind popular music is a song that resonates.  Today, it really doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as it resonates. If it’s a mash-up of bluegrass and house music written by a producer who doesn’t perform as a musician, the song can still resonate.

So, what is the future of pop music?  I think it has little to do with the medium on which it travels. A songs popularity will be based on its own merit and craftsmanship. The notion of “Pop” stars will be nothing more than a traveling circus. Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, etc will be the golden era of megapop stardom. If we’re still talking about music, it will always come back to the song – the emotion and the experience. I hope that lives forever.

One

One simple piece of truth

Can change your whole perspective

One simple dose of honesty

Can start to cure the troubled mind

One simple piece of fiction

Can obscure a belief for a lifetime

One simple lie can alter

The course of history

Which way should you travel at the crossroads?

Some roads are one-way and you didn’t know

Until you look back

After one hundred years

Why Radio Is Still Relevant (Part I)

…And it will be for a long time to come.

Three reasons: 1)Free 2)Curated 3)Simple

I just read Macklemore’s post on his meteoritic rise to international superstar.  One year ago, he and his team were an underground rapper/band playing any venue possible to an audience of 10-100 people. After his first single, “Thrift Shop” going #1 on iTunes for 3 weeks, he received a few phone calls – to say the least.

LA Reid came out to see one of his shows in Minnesota and offered him a deal.  He politely refused, however, Macklemore’s manager got an idea. The idea was to approach their distributor (subsidiary of Warner Bros) to shop their single(s) to radio and pay a commission back to the distributor.  This is a story unto itself – possibly changing the music business forever. At first the distributor refused, but after some negotiation they struck a deal.  Thrift Shop was a monster hit on radio, which blew up worldwide.  Macklemore followed up with two more singles that were just as big, “Same Love” even bigger.

The internet provides access to billions of people, but there’s very little curation and focused attention. It’s an extremely long tail with millions of curators. There’s no such thing as passive listening – even Pandora requires self-curation.

Radio provides focused exposure that the Internet can’t.  The reason is the car radio.  It takes no effort to listen to the radio in the car. Even Pandora and Sirius have limited listenership due to the (underrated) digital divide. You need to pay a subscription and/or have high-speed Internet in your car. I’m all about innovation, but radio still provides higher quality sound (look it up).

Macklemore’s songs went to #1 on iTunes, but that was only 78,000 albums sold after a month.  iTunes was the ultimate test market for Macklemore and radio provided the multiplier. Sales went into the millions after radio.

Think about it, as big as Macklemore is now, why couldn’t he breakthrough his modest underground following?  I think it’s because his network of influencers can only reach so far. Having your (great) songs blasted on thousands of radio stations, tens of thousands of times per day is going to gain new influencers – thus dumping gas on the forest fire.  Everyone in Macklemore’s camp knew – there was a ceiling in the underground world.

YouTube probably has the same impact as radio, however it still requires someone to 1) find the video, 2) press play and 3) watch something on a device.  All of which is not free, curated or simple.

The Master Of Vocal Therapy

Mark BaxterMark Baxter is a hero.  He has been working with vocalists for 25 years and helping them create great performances and more importantly, saving their voices.

Mark has worked with thousands of singers at all levels.  He’s worked with Johnny Resnick (Goo Goo Dolls) Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) Gary Cherone (Extreme) Scott Weiland (Velvet Revolver) and many more.

I had some vocal issues pop up when singing with the Van Dammes and I contacted Mark to find out what was going on.  We went through a few sessions and figured out what was happening.  After a few sessions, he gave me some exercises to workout the vocal cords prior to singing and they have worked like a charm.  I even did a few gigs with inflamed vocal cords due to allergies and survived!

Kudos to Mark and his commitment to singers everywhere.  Check out his YouTube channel for a ton of helpful exercises and vocal therapy information.

New Music – She’s Got Something – Greg Holden

I found this guy when looking for the songwriter of the song “Home” made famous by Philip Phillips. Greg Holden is a singer/songwriter from England who had a #1 song in the Netherlands before moving to New York.

This song is called “She’s Got Something” and it’s a great tune recorded with only a few instruments and vocal. Killers hooks everywhere.  Enjoy.

Download MP3

Thank you CDBaby

About 10 years ago while I was working for MusicNow, Stephen Collins (workmate) told me about CDBaby and their web store services for independent musicians.  Since then, I’ve released three albums through CDBaby and have digital distribution all around the world on just about every major digital music store/subscription service, including iTunes.

I’ve had the privilege to talk to Derek Sivers (founder of CDBaby) a handful of times about a few projects and was just amazed at his generosity and helpfulness.  He went on to sell CDBaby and donate most of the proceeds, but his legacy lives on at CDBaby.

Over the past year, CDBaby has added many services for independent artists and labels, including YouTube and sync licensing. They also have an excellent DIY blog with extremely helpful articles for songwriters/musicians such as myself.

I was struck by the power they are putting in the indie’s hands.  When you consider what is possible with just the YouTube licensing alone, it is quite amazing.  Basically, the way it works is that as an artist with songs registered with CDBaby, you opt-in to various licensing arrangements.  This gives the artist the power to enable millions of people to use their songs as synced music in a video – thereby earning a royalty from YouTube.

Along with streaming royalties from Spotify, Rhapsody and sales through iTunes among others, this could add up to some meaningful royalties. It’s all in the artists hands.

And as of last week, they have launched CDBaby Pro for artists who need to collect performance royalties from worldwide entities.

As an artist who embraces the DIY/indie paradigm, I say ‘thank you’ CDBaby.