Archive for April, 2011

My Morning

April 30, 2011

20110430-090027.jpg

That’s me…looking out on the day with pinkish wonder! Also…publishing from my phone!!

Woke up early, listened to the Pixies, learning about Icelandic history, in downtown Toronto for a vocal lesson.

Ah yea, that was the point: history.

Oh, and vocal lessons. But also history!

Betcha didn’t know I have a history degree as well as a theatre degree! Yup yup, and I’m starting to think putting it to use here might be a good idea.

Not rehashing old news history (Yahyah, Tin Pan Alley, Elvis, the Beatles, blah blah blah) but band history, artist history, regional music history. There’s always a great story behind every song, bar or band. I ‘have’ the technology. Why not use it?!

And the vocal lessons…there’s a plan in the works to create some simple vocal tips, tricks and exercise vlogs with the fellah who’s giving me lessons so I’ll keep you updated!

Is there anything relating to music history you’d like to see a blog or series of blogs covering?

Want to learn some vocal tricks?

Interested in the long and (meticulously) recorded history of Iceland?

…maybe not that last one, but let me know about the other two!!!

Awesome Album Cover Friday: Potpourri

April 29, 2011

Yes, Alex…I’ll take ‘Awesome Album Covers: Potpourri’ for $1000.

...before you get pissed off, yes I realize these ladies are blind. The album cover is still awesome.

...easily my favourite album cover of the batch...probably in the top 10 ever for me, actually! Norma Jean, in case you were wondering.

I believe this guy is for real...if not...still amazing!

I know, I know, it's not a real album cover. It's a mashup of Sigur Ros...and Adventure Time!

...every Placebo album is art, I've discovered...this is one of the most emotional and jarring album covers I've ever seen.

Love the hair, Rivers! Awesome from the start!

An example where the album cover and band name drew me to the music...downloading from Bandcamp right now...review to come fo' sho'!

And now, two of my other faves!

I love you Mr. Black/Mr. Francis!! (ps. listening to this album RIGHT NOW!)

That’s it for this week!  I’m going to try to get reviews up this weekend as happy bonuses!  Tell your friends I exist if you like me, SUBSCRIBE if you want to keep up to date (let me tell you when blogs are up!)

FINALLY, I’m doing the TECHNORATI thing now!  If you wish, please go the the Under the Pink page and do whatever it is you do to make me look nice and important! Love love for you!

Music for Moving

April 28, 2011

Don't ask me...I don't know why I chose this picture...

I’m moving!  Not out of the T. Dot, just…elsewhere in the beast.  Which means there will be music in my future: packing, unpacking, painting, rearranging.  These all requires a steady stream of music pumping from speakers at all times.

FACT: last night we were painting one of the rooms and realized an hour in that we hadn’t played music.  It felt off, weird…but ALAS we had no boombox, high-fidelity cassette machine or gramophone! In the end, we filled the silence with an iPhone.  It was enough.  We listened to La Roux.

Music permeates our lives now.  For those (like me) who understand what permeate ‘means’ but may not know the literal definition, here it is: to flow throughout.  And that’s apt.  Music flows throughout our lives now.  It’s everywhere!

Example: not long ago, I walked into my favourite coffee shop (PLUG: Sense Appeal at 96 Spadina in Toronto, I get the press but try the Americano! Plus the website rocks) and it felt really really weird.  I got my coffee…the same staffers were there…what gives?

…oh…no music.

I used to work at a diner…no music meant everything felt off, askew…alien!

It’s not instantly apparent.  It’s not like when you walk into a room and the lights aren’t on.  You don’t think “Now…what’s all this then?” as you walk into a chair.  You turn on the light!  But when you walk into a store and there’s no music, it can be jarring.  It’s like a disorder.  A ‘Music-Silence Disorder!’

Sidenote: with all this music playing everywhere at all times you’d think that more talented and unique musicians would be getting exposure…but I digress.

So an iPod speaker system and a dozen other sound-makers will be coming with us for the next round of house work…I will not paint in silence again!

Another interesting aspect of this process is Music ‘from’ Moving…and I don’t mean old fashioned work songs, but discoveries.  I’ve unearthed the old ‘Turntable/Cassette/CD’ I bought from Zellers back in like…1995!  I’ve also found some cassettes, some CDs that were purchased and misplaced, even vinyl that’s been out in the open for years yet not…visible!

The ‘music’ and ‘moving’ phenomenon (do dooo do-do-do) is somewhat unique, I believe.  You can’t read a book while painting (…you can listen to one, I suppose.)  Watching a movie while unpacking is possible but distracting.  I suppose you can admire a painting, but that draws attention away from the process.

Music can be present while you work, while you socialize, shop, think…pretty much anytime.  And there’s a crazy amount of time available to listen…your commute, walking (thank you, Walkman), office, garage, party…office garage party (awesome!)

Where was I?

Moving!  I’m moving!  With lots of time to listen to music and contemplate the lack thereof.  Gah, I feel a crapload of bloggity blogs coming on! ;)

Do you have any stories of ‘Music-Silence Disorder.’  Any examples of where music isn’t a good thing?  Lemme know!

Coming up…Awesome Album Cover Friday…and also, some CD reviews including my quite tardy review of REM’s new album, and an indie: Donna Fullman’s ‘happiness + victory’

Reading vs. Podcasts

April 27, 2011

A bit of a break from the music thing…

I became a podcast whoooore when I returned to school in early 2009.  I started listening obsessively to This American Life, to Hometown Tales, and to odds and ends here and there.  They entertained me while travelling to and from class.

I wanted to read during the long commutes but for some reason my brain was completely uninterested.  I would yawn uncontrollably, very little kept my attention (I’ve done a weird switch from Fiction to Non-Fiction, but even the most interesting books tired me out), and I read page after page without absorbing anything.

Recently, I found a way to increase brain-interest.  It’s called Kobo.

My roomie recently has found himself working with the fine folks at Kobo, and procured a first generation e-reader from them (I currently could not afford any kind of gadget…I was lucky enough to use one for free)

I was skeptical: the screen does weird things when you change pages, and I’m so used to the feel of paper and the weight of a book I thought it would be weird to read off of a little plastic slab.

So far…it’s enjoyable!  I’m not struggling to keep the pages open, or a book on my lap…people bump into me but it’s not a big deal…I can travel from streetcar to bus to subway and back and not have to force my book into a backpack, or fear of losing my place.  Also…if the book gets boring for one reason or another, I have dozens other waiting to ‘pick up.’

I’m reading ‘Musicophilia‘ by Oliver Sacks for now.  I’m tempted to check a few other music books once this one is done.  Feed my brain, perhaps?

I can’t figure out which I prefer.  Podcasts are great…but they’re almost a lazy form of entertainment.  Someone else did the work for me, so I sit and stare and listen.  I feel when I go too long without listening, Ira Glass, Gene and Bryan get lonely!  Books are more likely to help me expand my brain but sometimes are a pain in the butt to read while surrounded by noisy kids and angry old ladies.

Do you have a preference?  Do you use an e-reader and do you like it?  Are there any podcasts that catch your attention?

Anatomy of the Industry: Networking!

April 26, 2011

I love meeting new people.  I love hearing about what people do, what their interests are.  I love socializing.

I hate networking.  Networking is shaking hands, trading business cards, and schmoozing.  It feels scuzzy, even if it’s the environment for it, even if it’s expected.  So far, I’ve done pretty much the first things I mentioned – meeting, hearing, socializing.  But networking, sadly, is how the business works.

How do you work with people on a project if you don’t meet them first?  How do they know to get in touch with you if they don’t know you exist.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to be a part of an industry (I think this applies to all industries…especially entertainment) you do not exist unless you tell people you’re there.

I learned this the hard way.  In my past life, I graduated with a theatre degree and figured that my contacts from school would get me a few gigs, eventually landing me a dream role at Factory or Tarragon or Buddies.  Ten years later, my last theatre gig…was in University.  I thought things would show up, that a minimal amount of work would somehow get my name out.

It didn’t.

So…what do you do?  Here are some tips, based off my experiences.  Again, I’m not an expert…these are just things to think about:

ACCEPT INVITES TO MEET PEOPLE:  Even if it seems like there’s no reason, never turn down the chance to meet people.  I used to skip events because I felt like they were discomforting and awkward.  Also…I have a pink mohawk and wear t-shirts and jeans so I figured I’d be out of place.  It’s like ‘breaking the ice’ in camp…just get out there, do it.  If I did it looking like me, you can do it looking like you!

DIVERSITY IS AWESOME: Say you’re a songwriter…and there’s a post-award show event you’ve been invited to that will be populated

Great Business Card! :D

mainly by folks who work at labels and various non-profit organizations.  Personally, as a songwriter, I always hated the idea of struggling to chat with ‘suits.’  Firstly…there are usually very few suits.  Secondly…diversity is great!  You may meet someone who works for a government grant organization, or a promoter, or even other songwriters who are in the same boat as you.  The goal here is experience.

I’ll stop here and note…I’m not suggesting you start off with a goal in mind and try to build some kind of reputation…I suggest you be yourself and go in with the objective of meeting lots of interesting people.  The benefits come afterwards!

BE POSITIVE!: I was shy the first real ‘networking’ event I experienced.  But I stayed positive…I was happy to meet people though I didn’t feel I had much to offer them.  Like I was absorbing their help but offering none of myself.  By the end of the night I had met loads of people, they remembered my name, and they thought I was fun.  I have since bumped into some of the people I met…they remember me…as the upbeat guy…which I guess also means…

BE MEMORABLE: Don’t spill wine on your hero (a friend from University once spilled wine on Don McKellar’s white suit, and followed it with the word ‘Awesome’…story to come later I’m sure). Don’t be loud and obnoxious (if you’re a loud drunk, don’t drink too much)  You’re being a ‘good’ you…the best you!  Imagine how you’d feel if someone trying to make an impression blathered in your face.  Which reminds me, the most important thing I’ve learned…

TAKE A SECOND TO IMAGINE THE SITUATION FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE: One of the best approaches you can take to life and career is to give yourself time to picture a situation from someone else’s shoes.  Everyone: the guy you just met who might pass a project to you, your competition, the artist, the promoter.  It doesn’t matter, just give yourself a chance to think “If I was them…”

Yes, you should have business card: they’re little square information packets people can take with them…they’re a standard…even if they go straight into a smartphone and are tossed at least they made it to the smartphone.

Yes, you should follow up…especially with people who you really connected with.

Yes, it’s OK to go out to coffee or dinner and talk more.  Yes…they can buy (if you’re like me, it’s awesome to have someone else buy for you!)

Yes…you should always remember the people who remembered you.

And that’s the main thing…be humble.  None of us really has anything to brag about, even if you DID discover Drizzy Drake or were the first person to book Mumford in Canada.  Bragging and name dropping takes the attention off you and onto someone else…the act you worked with, the person you know.

After all, the only two people in a conversation are you and the person you’re talking to.  The connection is somewhere in between.  Sappy I know, but if you keep that in mind, you may find yourself getting somewhere.

…and when you get there…gimme a call please!  I’d love to chill over coffee!

Is this right?  Am I way off the mark?  Do you have experience and feel there’s more to be said?  Comment please!  I’d love to hear.

One Song, One Blog, One Thought: Monday, April 25th 2011

April 25, 2011

SONG: Bliss N Eso – Eye of the Storm

I love Aussie hip hop.  This is one of my faves…especially since the beat is taken from another awesome act from down under, Angus and Julia Stone.  The whole feel of the track, the flow, the lyrics…it’s smooth, folk-rap!

BLOG: NPR’s Planet Money

Yah I know…Music Blog, not Money Blog…but I believe that everything we can learn interacts with everything else.  Planet Money is a blog and podcast that opens my eyes to concepts that alter my life and are all around but that I’ve never understood.  The concept: a podcast and blog that explains the complex financial world – especially in a time when we need to understand it – in a way that’s not insulting but not over our heads.  Give it a shot!

THOUGHT:

Do I love my iMac because of it’s post-it note friendly design?  I swear it was made for me to use this way, which is how I organize my life.  Moving my computer is a BIZZITCH because it means trying to move the post-its as well without them falling off.

Sure, there are digital stickies and to-do and organization programs I could use…but none of that has ever been as productive as a row of haphazard sticky coloured papers.

Maybe I need to cut the cord…though, if my computer explodes, I’m better off than someone who’s living entirely through their iCal.  Until this ‘Cloud‘ thing is working perfectly I’m stickin’ with post-its!

…great thought, Roo…very inspiring…can’t wait till next week…

Awesome Album Cover Friday: DISCO!

April 22, 2011

In honour of Easter weekend and Good Friday…here are some Disco Album covers!  You’re welcome!

Thank GOD this exists!

"There's no business like stayin' alive, stayin' alive...hah hah hah hah like no business I know!"

In case you can't read it...it says 'Let's boogie!'

Yes...Disco Evergreen...Disco Fiddler on the Roof. Let's hope they have Disco Danny Boy too!

Shine that mother fuggin' light...make his face fuschia, bitch!

As if those guys weren’t enough…here is the must have album of 2011.  If you can find it, on vinyl, grab it.  If you can listen to it…do it.  This is the most important album of the 20th century:

You’re welcome!

A nice quicky for the holidays!  Cya on the flipside, sweeties!

Mindblowy!

April 21, 2011

Courtesy of themetapicture.com

Intelligence is relative, right?  Have you ever been intelligently-mindblown?  Like, something you never really understood, or paid attention to, suddenly with a sentence or a quick discussion or a blog or something..it all .becomes clear! *BOOSH*

Creativity is the same…like, why didn’t anyone ever tell me that Beck’s ‘The Information’ is such a great album?!

I was listening to a podcast, Planet Money by NPR, discussing the collapse of Icelandic banks in 2009.  (Thanks, Roo! fascinating stuff for a music blog.)  But it blew my mind…in describing how Iceland ran out of dollar bills, and how that made it hard to pay off foreign debts.

…I never really understand how the global financial system works, how dollars and kronas and rupees and euros and all that crap bounced off each other resulting in change: one is stronger than the other or one is rising while the other falls.  But two minutes of that 20 minute podcast cleared the whole thing up…not in a way I could explain to you – I’m still financially stupid – but…it felt like my mind actually OPENED…

I hope this is a shared sensation…it’s nearly physical, as though the back of your head expands as you come to the realization that you just figured something out, that you understand something that previously seemed un-understandable. MINDBLOWY!

(please…if it’s not a shared sensation, let me know…I should see McDreamy and get meself fixed)

Yup...this is McDreamy in the 80s! *BOOSH*

I believe that’s why some people get addicted to school (professional students) or why someone becomes a PhD.  They’re addicted to mindblowy, and they love to deal it to others. That’s the intelligence side.

Musicians…they like the creative mindblowyness…again, addicted to musical discovery, to performance and sharing with the crowd, to the audience appreciation.  A ‘true’ artist loves the audience because the audience loves the music, and the artist who created the music gets residual love.

Thinking about musical creativity the same way we think about intelligence and understanding offers another perspective for the music lover to appreciate the music.  If it can make the Icelandic Monetary System far more fascinating, it’s gotta be good for music, right??

Watcha think?  You been mindblowy’d intelligently or creatively in the last week or so, or is there a mindblowy experience you’d like to share?  Then…please do!

List of Goals

April 20, 2011

I made a list of goals yesterday.  I won’t list them all here…I might as well tell you what I wished the last time I blew out birthday cake candles (…so…much fire…)  But I did include a very simple goal:

Record Five New Songs

Not record an album…not ‘record music.’  Something I know I can do in 2011.  Write and record five…new…songs.

My goals as a songwriter in the last few years have been too lofty.  I’ll look at a three month period and expect I’ll have a five-song EP by Day 90…and am confused that there’s nothing down even by Day 91!  Or I’ll say “Write some stuff.”  Too much…or too vague…

When I was in University I managed to have a brief e-mail conversation with the Chin…Bruce Campbell.  I was going into acting and asked him what he thought, and he came back to me with this:

Take five years.  Work your ass off during those five years, do everything you can to be an actor.  If at the end of five years you’re nowhere closer than you were at the start…move on.

As an actor I moved on…probably because the passion dissipated once I moved to Toronto.  As a musician, I think the interest will always be there, but the drive to be ‘super successful’ is being replaced with ‘write good stuff.’

So…that’s my goal.  Write and record five songs.  I’ll keep ya updated!

Anatomy of the Industry: Publishing

April 19, 2011

Please note…I’m not an expert, but I’m someone who’s semi-immersed in the industry.  This kind of post is meant to get you thinking, but if you are serious about pursuing any of the routes I suggest in Anatomy of the Industry posts I highly recommend you do your own independent research.  It’s to put ideas on your radar!

If you’re a songwriter you don’t really need to read on.  Just know this: publishing is how you’re likely to make all your money.  All of it!  If you want to be in the music industry and are not a songwriter, here’s all you need to know: learn the ins and outs of the publishing business, make some songwriter friends, and you may find yourself making money out the wah-zoo!

PUBLISHING?  THAT’S FOR BOOKS!

Keen eye, my friend!  Who ‘publishes’ songs?!  Well…back in the day they did!  Before ‘spinning music discs’ you purchased a sheet of paper with weird marks on it.  Songwriters realized that if they wrote songs and published them they could get a cut from the company that printed…or published…the ‘sheet music.’  You even had million sellers…this was the FIRST million selling song ever:

Keep in mind…it’s not that ‘recording’ but the song itself.   We’re talking about the other half of the musician money-making machine.  When you record something, that recording is a ‘master’ and that makes you (or more likely…your label) money.  But what about the song itself?  Can’t the song make money separate from the recording?

HOW IT WORKS:

When you write a song you can sign a deal with a publishing company.  You know those horror stories about labels or companies owning a whole song and you don’t make ANY money off it?  That can’t happen, because (at least in the US and Canada) you will always own 50% of the song. Always. You cannot sell that part.  I suppose you can give the money away…but the money will come to you first.

Ole: One of many cool publishing companies in Canada

The ‘other’ half can be divided in many ways depending on your contract with the publishing company…but if you’re smart, you can create your OWN publishing company, sign a deal, and get 50% of the publishing too! (remember…you already get half of the money the song makes…the publishing company, in essence, get’s the other half)  If you get half of the ‘publishing’ that means you’re getting 75% of all the money made on the song!

A publisher has several jobs to do…the biggest of which is to make money of course!  If you make money, they make money, so they are supposed to ‘exploit‘ the song as best they can.  Before you get upset…exploit is a good word.  It means that they’re trying to find other musicians to cover your song (you get paid!), or movies or tv shows to use your song (you get paid!), or even a compilation CD that it might fit in (you get paid!)

WHAT’S THE CATCH?

Other than the fact that they get a cut?  Well…it’s always going to be contract to contract (there’s no standard, ALWAYS read contacts carefully and if you don’t understand them find someone who does!)  You like writing songs, right?  Well…you’ll likely be asked to write a certain number of songs a year, say…ten.  That’s fair.  They need to have something to work with! If you just write ‘one’ song you can’t expect them to do much with it, right?

Also…they might say that they want ten ‘good’ songs.  It won’t be worded that way, but they have to protect themselves as well, and writing five craptastic songs about butterflies to fulfill your contract won’t cut it.  It’s art…but it’s also a job…so you’re expected to not half ass it.

WHY ARE YOU SAYING THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY’S AT?

Think about it…a song is intangible unless it’s recorded.  It’s something that’s essentially floating through the air into people’s ears.  But…you can make money with ‘your’ song even if it’s being recorded by someone else.  Also…the work is done!  The song is written!  So…if a movie uses your song, or a big star covers it, you get cheques…in the mail…while you’re sitting on your butt doing nothing.

Essentially, publishing allows a songwriter to be compensated for their creative work in all it’s uses, and the publishing company, along with some helpers (SOCAN in Canada, ASCAP in the US, and many other performing rights organizations around the world) make sure you get fairly compensated for that work.  It’s a major piece of the puzzle and one that is often overlooked by a songwriter or band. It’s easy to be swept up by the excitement and not to take the time and think through how the business works.

Do you feel you’re someone who could benefit from songwriting?  Are you going to look more into it?  Or are you a publisher or someone who’s dealt with publishers who’d like to shed some light on the conversation here?  Please comment below!


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