Thursday, June 23, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #6

Weezer: Weezer

Hands-down the most influential album of my high school years. I can put more experiences to music from this album than any other. And the stories are almost all too personal to share in a blog post.

View my whole list here:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Classical or Folk: Which is Better?

Last night, in a late-night discussion about the impact of music on body, mind, and soul, my brother and I argued the pros and cons of "classical" and "folk" music. Let me start with definitions:

"Classical" - instrumental music that utilizes stringed instruments or brass and sounds like it could have been written in the late 1700's. (Bear with me. This is really quite a terrible definition. But it probably works just fine for the average person.)

"Fok" - any music written "of the people" or sounds like it was written by them or sounds like you can have a gay ole time partying to it.

So who won? It's not that simple. At the end of the day, we both felt that lyrics are often integral to the communication of music. But nearly every great lyrical song also has some sort of a musical "set-up" section, where the song wouldn't be the same without the bed of music upon which these words sit.

Conclusion: it might be worth one's effort to try to write lyrics and a melody for Copland's Appalachian Spring.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CAU Performance Rescheduled

Hey, folks.

I spoke to Michael Teach of Chicago Acoustic Underground last night, and we were *finally* able to reschedule my live performance taping for the CAU podcast. I'm not sure yet when the show will air, but the recording will be on Monday, July 11th, at 2 PM, at the CAU studio on Armitage Ave.


Details forthcoming.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Strange Tendency of History to Repeat

@jaymathesmusic: Reading "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh" right now. Why can't we prevent history from repeating itself? Oh yeah, now I remember: politics.

Clarification: I'm reading a translation, in English...  The picture to the left is a copy of the first edition.

I'm only one hundred pages in to the book right now, but a lot of what I've read so far sounds vaguely familiar: Nazi Germany, Sudan, and the Trail of Tears all come to mind.

I do have one, big clarification, though, on my tweet: I think there are occasions where the main reason countries do no intervene in preventing genocide is because they do not have the resources - financial or otherwise - to stop it. For all practical purposes, this was probably a big factor in WW2. Not most of Europe together could stop Nazi Germany, even though they wanted to.

I think at the heart of this global problem is the fact that people inherently react to events with self preservation as the highest priority. I can bring this theory in to the practical: I love my son. Very much. But when he runs at me when I'm lying on the floor, full-speed, and I don't see him until the last instant, my only reaction is to lift my arm, shielding my body from the blow, regardless of the consequences to him. Thank God I haven't hurt him yet this way, but he has definitely lost his breath on a number of occasions.

I'd just like to humbly conclude by saying that this is an area of great interest to me, and one that I know almost nothing about. I tend* to be a serious cynic when in comes politics, and the American political system, in particular, and this obviously affects my views here. I'm open to discovering the truth behind what I'm talking about - even if it means revising my entire view of the matter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Song is Not a Cookie

I distinctly remember reading a book for a marketing class in college that referenced the start-up of some, well-known cookie manufacturer of today. That cookie company was started by one dude giving away cookies on public transit buses in whichever city he lived at that time. I could have sworn he did it in the city of Chicago. I've searched, but alas, cannot identify the company. Maybe it was all a dream... I'll try to remember to dig out a couple of books and search for the company the old-fashioned way - by browsing my book collection.

But here's the deal: a song is not a cookie.

When a dude wants to start a cookie company, he just might become successful by giving away his cookies for a month straight, and, assuming his cookies are fantastic, he might gather a long line of customers who seek to eat another one of those fantastic cookies - and pay for it - after that time.

With artists, songwriters, record labels, and anybody else who relies on *recordings* for their income, you can't, ultimately, just give them away for free. Why? Because once someone "tastes" (IE: downloads) your sound recording, the person never has to come back to you to get that same flavor - he already has it in his iTunes library. You've just given away your number one commodity, and users can re-create that listening experience without you now.

I haven't decided exactly what this epiphany means for me, my music, and the music Swiftly Running Records represents, but you bet I'm thinking about it - alot.

If you think you've got a few good ideas to explain what I'm talking about, or if you've got other ideas about how to make sound recordings work for artists, please let me know. Or maybe I'm way off base...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finding Significance in Your Work

It might come to a surprise to some of you, but the majority of songwriters and music artists struggle to earn enough money to make ends meet. That means that the majority of songwriters often find themselves employed doing work completely unrelated to their music. And I think that's okay - for a season.

For my own part, I've spent several hours this past week trying to drum up new business, new gigs (music- and non-music related), and I've come to one [I think] very important conclusion: wherever you work, and whatever you do, it has to be "work worth doing":
"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
- Theodore Roosevelt.
If your current job is just a job or just a way to pay the bills, I'd suggest seeking new employment. Why? Because jobs like that burn people out. These are positions that are a part of the modern corporate machine, but don't really add value to our or any other peoples' lives.  Some might say, "Yeah, but these things have to be done by somebody." And to that I say, "You're right." But why should it be done by you? Find something else where you *know* you are adding value to society - not just to your 401k.

Life is too short to be somebody's tool. I want to be a tool for change.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anti-Social-Media Trends

@jaymathesmusic: Is it possible? I think it is: the successful, anti-social-media band. Only time will tell. Consider this a prediction.”

So, I know this is probably going to come as a complete surprise to many of you... I have a very strong feeling about this, though, and because I have been accused at times of saying "I knew that was going to happen" well after the fact, I'll say it here, right now.

A day is coming when the cool thing is nowhere found online. It only exists in a secret, old-fashioned, *actual* word-of-mouth world. I predict that one day in the not-so-distant future bands will "emerge" and become popular, not as a result of social networking websites, but as a result of anti-media. Does any band or artist dare to test the waters? I don't think so. Not yet. But the one who figures out how to do this first will be the one who benefits the most (or at least gets the credit for implementing this "cutting edge" "marketing" strategy.

So how far in the future do I see this happening? We're probably a ways off yet. I'd say you won't hear about the first, best-kept-secret, off-media band/artist until 2024.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Licensing Opportunities

Over the last few weeks, I've been exploring new ways to generate some cash from the music that I write and record. The good news? There are a lot of ways to generate the money, as I have found. The bad news? It seems like every other artist has discovered the same thing that I have. I've found a bunch of websites that claim to "specialize" in what is called song placement or music licensing - places called "pitching houses" (basically just a new name for a music publisher). The problem is that I'm having trouble navigating this over-crowded sea of music speculators.

For lack of a better comparison - actually, no, I think it's a perfect comparison - the digital music licensing world looks *exactly* like the California gold rush days: everybody is vying for the same territory, the "mining" technology (a content delivery system) is readily available to almost all artists, and the value of the commodity (good, quality music) is fluctuating based on its availability.

So what does this mean for my music and the music that Swiftly Running Records represents? It means that now, more than ever before, I have to rely on personal contacts to exploit song placement opportunities. And the best way to continue to establish those relationships is to be where those decision-makers are - to live where the music supervisors live, eat where they eat, attend the events they attend, invite them over for dinner, take them out for coffee. I know a heck of a lot of them live in L.A., a few in Nashville (I think), and maybe some in NYC(?). But I'm not so sure I'm willing to relocate just so that I can pitch my songs. (Maybe I can get somebody else to do it[?].)

I want to play. I want to perform the music I write. I want to be on stage. I'm just looking for a way to make enough money to keep doing what I love.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #5

Death Cab for Cutie: Plans

For starters, they used amazing equipment to record it. A friend of mine, Collin Jordan, a mastering engineer in Chicago, said that the vocal mic Ben Gibbard used on this record was probably worth over $10k.  Nice.

Second, Death Cab has pioneered the pop-electronic fusion that is so common in music today.

Yes, I will follow you into the dark...

View my whole list here:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Pics from Catfish Studio

I recently came across two more pictures - ones I've never seen before! - from my time recording Fundamental, at Catfish Studio. Both were taken by my good friend, Nick Gray (