Archive for May, 2011

Anatomy of the Industry: Photo Shoots!

May 31, 2011

Ah yes, the immortal "Bad 4 Good," known for taking pictures in Sears Portrait Studios

…weird, I know.  I could be writing about songwriting, or production, or live performance, or guitar tuning, or ANYTHING other than photography, but think about it.  When do you usually first see an artist you like?  The album art?  The MySpace photo?  Maybe a magazine, or a newspaper, or even a poster glued to a telephone pole?

I argue that the vast majority of the first ‘sightings’ we make as fans of an artist or musician are still photos, whether digital or physical, and that we can’t help but make a first impression based off of these pictures.

A photograph tells you so much: genre, style, unique qualities, the qualities they are copying from other similar musicians (before the hipsters go off on goths or some such, I have one word: beards) and something else…how seriously they’re taking their art.

Perhaps they don’t want to take things seriously, and perhaps that’s what you like.  I personally love when a musician doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but if I see a picture of a guitarist holding an iPhone up to a bathroom mirror and smiling off into the distance…this is what they want you to see!  What else are they half assing?

Should an artist spend thousands on photography?  God, I hope not.  Should they hire a photographer even if they charge more than your buddy who has an Olympus they bought at Best Buy last month?  If you can afford a professional photographer, sure, why not?  You wouldn’t hire a dentist to be your sound engineer…why would you pay your buddy to take pictures?

Anyone can take pictures.  If you snap off five hundred shots you’re bound to find three or four amazing pics to use.  The reason you hire a photographer is because they can take a hundred shots and give you dozens and dozens of awesome snaps.  Because they know what they’re doing.  That’s why you pay them.

ARE YOU INDEPENDENT?  Get your friends to shoot a hundred shots.  (See below for some rules about what NOT to do)  Maybe find a friend who has photoshop and fiddle with the nicer pics until they look nice.  By fiddle, I mean play with contrast, with saturation, until you get a good look.  Or have an artist friend correct any problems the picture might have.  Easy!

ARE YOU WANTING TO BE THE NEXT GAGA?  Well, you’re gonna have to spend money.  A photo shoot requires more than a camera and a cameraman:

  • A Stylist: they bring makeup to make you pretty (or hide your blemishes), clothes to try on, accessories to wear, and know how to make you look good in everything.
  • Hair: You may need someone to do hair for you…I know if I ever do a shoot, I’m getting a hair person…because my hair is like troll hair, those things you get from vending machines…it’s bright pink, and goes wherever you pull it, so it always looks weird.
  • Lighting: The photographer will likely bring lighting, because…yah…you can’t just turn on a lamp.

Is this photo for an album cover or insert, or otherwise for imagery associated with a single or a song that you’re putting online digitally?  Then you may want a little help from a graphic designer as well.  They’ll be able to coordinate everyone so that the overall look, the overal feel of your photos suit the design of your posters, album art, website, etc.

Everything in the industry…hell, in LIFE…can be done the easy way, the hard way, or one of many right ways.  Snapping personal pics and knowing a graphic designer to colour correct and use them is a right way if you can get a professional result.  Paying a designer $10,000 to coordinate a shoot with a stylist and then spend half a month designing an insert is probably a right way too…with a good designer…it could also be the wrong way if they do a crappy job.

The main thing to remember is that the photograph is probably a fan’s first impression, and it should tell a lot about you and your music.  Don’t half-ass it, and don’t pay someone if they’re going to tell the wrong story.  You should be consistent, you should be interesting, and you should have fun with the process.

…one more thing…for the love of GOD do not take pictures like these:

Against Brick Wall

Country Artist on Fence or in Field

Band on Railroad Tracks

((apologies for using these bands as examples…please don’t hate!))


One Song, One Podcast, One Thought: Monday, May 30th 2011

May 30, 2011

The last few days have been crazy!  On Thursday, I was in Hamilton to shoot the Micah Barnes show at the Artword Theatre (piano pop cabaret!)  On Friday, I was in Liberty Village shooting video at Saukrates‘ photo shoot (Canadian hip hop legend.)  On Saturday, I was in Algonquin Park shooting footage for my geeky summer camp’s promo this year (…nerdy nerd nerds.)  On Sunday…erm…I drank beer in tall cans and watched a storm roll into town.

…OK…Sunday wasn’t so crazy.

Let’s get this simplified “Monday is too early in the week to think” blog rolling!


Hooray For Earth – True Loves from Young Replicant on Vimeo.

What a cool song and cool video 🙂  Give it a listen and tell me what you think.  I get this weird…organic collaboration feel from this band.  Definitely one to watch!

BLOG: Stereogum

An indie music blog that doesn’t make me feel like everything sucks *coughcoughPITCHFORKcough*

Honestly, if you wanna be kept up to date, even hear about projects that are heavily in the mainstream, on a stylish and well thought-out site…hit up Stereogum.


Ideas are awesome…but they’re MUCH better if they actually move forward and become a reality.  Personally, I need to put as much effort into following through with ideas as coming up with them.  My concept album (2006), my web comic (2002-2005) and my various video projects (20xx) all seem to get started but never go anywhere.  They’re great ideas…but an idea is only as good as how it’s used.

I’d elaborate, but I’m more interested in your thoughts…

What are your ways of following through with an awesome idea?  Do you just move naturally or try to come up with a plan?  Specifically with music…when you have a song, or an album concept, how do you move forward with it?


Sadly, one of the cooler music blogs is no more.  Moon Vs. The World’s writer Jay Moon is taking a break from the blog world.  He’s let me know that another site may pop up in the future, but until then it looks like we’re short one more planetary battle in the universe.

Triple J for Canada!

May 26, 2011 that Dallas Green on Triple J!? We can go there, why can't they come to us?!?

Why can’t there be a Triple J for Canada?

Quick explanation for those not in the know: Triple J is an Australian radio station (and, apparently, magazine) that focuses on what can only be described as ‘good’ music as well as being very dedicated to the Australian music scene.  Sorry, dedicated isn’t a good enough word…DEVOTED more like it.

Since 2007 I’ve been enamoured by their Triple J Hottest 100 list, an annual list of the 100 best songs the station has played in the year as voted on by fans.  Before the US found Kings of Leon, they were topping the list.  Before Mumford and Sons ever blipped on Canadian radio, they topped the list.  My favourite discoveries come from the list.

They also run a series of events showcasing international and local artists, touring not just to major cities but to smaller venues as well.

They have a site called Unearthed…it’s exactly what you think it is: indie bands upload their songs, and the show and podcast plays the best of the songs.  The ULTIMATE in independent exposure for young, unique, and unsigned artists.

Triple J has contests to find new artists.  They reward great music.  They aren’t afraid to push the limits of their listeners.

…so, what’s up with Canada?

The closest thing we have is CBC Radio 2.  In discussion with folks in the business, Radio 2 has a very clear ‘sonic’ idea of what they will play.  They have darlings.  It’s like a ‘hipster star system’ that allows certain kinds of inventiveness but…generally only after an artist is established.  When I listen to them I like what I hear but…I don’t get the same newness I feel when I hear Triple J.

Maybe it’s because CBC is the national broadcaster. They are spending Canadian taxpayer dollars.  Maybe that’s why they’re so limited.

…oh, wait, Triple J runs under ABC, the Australian CBC counterpart…they spend taxpayer dollars too…

…and they do it better.  They even have a contest to reward HIGH SCHOOL BANDS!!!

Guys.  We gotta get it together.  Sure, radio may be ‘dying’ but Canada has crap loads of musical talent and talent that we don’t have the opportunity to hear.  It’s like we’re pretending to be the US, and as a result only US bands eek through and make their way to the airwaves.  Trust me, I hear it every day at work and every time I go to a show of independent music.  CBC Radio 2…we aren’t all Sarah Harmer and Caribou and Timber Timbre…those are the tip of the iceberg!!

In my opinion, either CBC Radio 2 needs to shift it’s gears (though…they probably feel just fine where they are) or we need to fly Richard Kingsmill and his crew up to give an impassioned speech to some patrons of the arts or some investors.  Get a Triple J – Canada in the works!

Wanna know my opinion on why the Canadian music industry is in trouble?   It’s because there’s no central way to get music…at least, there’s nothing that isn’t so out of date that I’m shocked we don’t hear more Backstreet Boys or Menudo!

Triple J is ‘music now’ even though it’s twenty years old.  Someone needs to take a serious look at the station and shift Down Under to the Great White North.  Just my thought.

Do you want to hear more unsigned, or independent, or international talent?  Are you an active music listener who likes multiple genres so long as the music is good or inventive?  Let me know!  Maybe we can start a revolution 😉

One Song, One Blog, One Thought: Tuesday, May 24 2011

May 24, 2011

The May Two-Four weekend is over…ironically before the 24th.  I spent my weekend bouncing from one event to the next loosely, or not so loosely, connected by my best friend’s birthday, which was yesterday!  I’m bumping my normal Monday blog to today…because I am tired and cannot think…and this is my ‘Wham, Bam, Thank you Man’ blog.

(…yes…I know I said ‘Man’ instead of ‘Mam.’  Insert gay comment here)

SONG: Angus and Julia Stone – Wasted

Love this song…it’s my favourite to sing to, it’s sweet and bitter (but not bitter sweet!)…these two are amazing and will hopefully take the world by storm in 2011!


One of my favourite music blogs in the WORLD!  This is the kind of music that FEEDS me.  I’m using CAPS a lot but it’s for a good reason…because I LOVE this blog.

Concept: Obscure, strange, bizarre, out of print…music that you’ve probably never heard, or perhaps you have but never on the radio.  Which is what makes the title so great…if ECR was a radio station, I’d listen daily.

I discovered Vyto B through ECR…I found the complete John Carpenter Soundtrack collection…old synthesized french library music…creepy british guys talking about sex over music…funky tracks.  It’s all strange, but all so fantastic

…and the bonus is you can download it and take it with you!  Give it a listen!  If you’re a music fan and love ALL sorts, it’s a cornucopia!


Taking from Egg City Radio…keep your music collections diverse.  This past weekend I listened to all sorts, sat in on a pop musician’s recording session while at the same time talking to a hip hop artist about his music…I played acoustic guitar and heard about some new unique neo-new wave artists.

If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this blog it’s that music is awesome even if it’s not to your taste.  For instance, “I listen to everything but rap and country” is commonly the response when I ask people what they like…what they really mean is “I listen to Rock” or “I listen to Pop.”  Even if it’s bad…outsider music, over-auto-tuned pop…it’s all good!!

Even the unappreciated can be appreciated if you give it a chance.  If you’re a musician, in the industry, or just a lover of music never let yourself get trapped listening to just one artist, one style, one era.  It’s much more fun to try everything once (ooooh, naughty!)

Are there any surprises you can tell me about?  A genre you hated until you were introduced to a specific artist, or an artist you never listened to until you heard an amazing single?  Tell me about it 🙂

The Music Industry Is(n’t) Dead!

May 18, 2011

A pop-piano artist played Hugh’s Room in Toronto last night…he has a new album out in June, an EP this Fall produced by a popular Canadian songwriter, and will be playing with an orchestra this summer during his cross-Canada tour.

A musician is trying to figure out which album she should release – her second solo album or the first album from her new side project – and has decided to film a video for each just to be sure.

A singer from a popular group in the 80s and 90s has a new album, is touring it through southern Ontario, and has revamped his entire social media world so it’s modern and consistent, along with new YouTube videos upcoming which he hopes will go viral.

A hip hop artist from Montreal is in Cuba shooting his second video, his first will be coming out in June and he hopes his catchy tune will make it to radio.

A new label is slowly germinating, already with over 12 artists signed including three well-known hip hop stars, a band from the 80s, and a prolific metal group.

A YouTube star, with nearly 10 Million views on her various cover songs, is recording a solo album of original work and she hopes she can cross over from cover-song sensation to serious and popular artist.

A pop-punk band just finished their third tour, has a video closing in on 10,000 views on YouTube, has a dedicated fan base, and a local radio station has said they think the song is a hit…they are taking a rest at home before going back on the road.

A musician just moved and has plans to get back into songwriting once his home studio is rebuilt and up and running.

Every day, bands and artists are playing in Toronto to crowds from 10 to 1,000, many of which you’ve never heard of and may never know.

And all this is happening virtually under the radar…and is just a fraction of what’s going on right now around one city in North America.

Hell…all of this is happening within ear shot of one person in one city in North America.

If the music industry is dead…no one got around to telling it.

Anatomy of the Industry: Management

May 17, 2011

Ok, lemme paint you a picture:

You’re an independent artist.  You have been honing your craft over the years – writing songs, recording at home, playing shows at the local club or bar or school – and people seem to like you!  Oh yah…and that YouTube video you made of your most popular song is getting a lot of views.  A friend has set up a show in nearby-big-city and you’re very excited.  You’re going to play it, and intend on playing many more.

Your show goes well.  You go home, put your songs onto a CD you burn yourself, and start selling copies for cheap…or maybe put your music on Bandcamp and give it away there.  A blog (woo hoo!) contacted you to find out more about your music!

So you go on a mini-tour.  You drive yourself.  You handle your finances  Yyou handle selling your merch.  You had to contact the clubs to book yourself.  You have to call in advance to make sure everything is still a go.  You show up and work with the technician, do a sound check, sit back stage until it’s time to play, play, and people like it.

A local band act asks you if you want to go on a bigger tour as their opening act.  You accept.  The next two months…you’re on tour!

At no point in this process should you ever consider needing a manager.  Why would you?  You’re doing everything yourself you get all the money!  What can a manager offer that you can’t do, with their 15% take of everything.


  • A manager can help you focus on your music, your songwriting, and recording so you don’t have to worry about business
  • A manager will do all those phone calls for you, they can book and confirm shows, and might have some knowledge to help negotiate a bit more money for you
  • A manager can…erm…manage your money, your merch sales, your costs
  • …a manager could even drive the car so you can relax!

These are all, of course, dependent on the kind of manager you get.  The main goal of having a manager is to handle the business so you don’t have to.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be aware of the business and learn all you can, but there’s a difference between awareness and the time wasted ‘doing.’  A good manager loves organizing a tour, helping get you a deal with a publishing company to make some dough, writing out grants with you (so long as we still have them here in Canada!) so you can get to a studio and record an album outside of your bedroom.

Do you need a manager?  No, of course not, but the more you get involved the less time you have for the original purpose: writing and performing music.  A manager takes over the crap that takes over!

How do you find a manager?  That’s iffy…anyone can manage you (in Canada…I believe in the US you need a license) so long as they are passionate about your music and are willing to learn something about the business.  They’ll have to make lots of phone calls.  Meet a lot of people.  But it’s worth it!

Try a music industry school – I suggest Harris Institute if you’re local to Toronto, both because I attended it and also because the students have to manage a band for eight months under the watchful eye of an experienced manager.  Any music school will do…but as I said…it could just be your bestie, so long as they’re willing to work!

Managers can also be your cheering section when the crowd isn’t huge, or your mentor when you’re struggling with a song…and in the beginning when you’re only making fifty bucks a show, he or she is doing all that for only eight bucks pay.  That mighty 15%.

If they believe in you a manager believes that one day they’ll be making $150K when you hit it big.  And if they did their job right, they’ll deserve it!

So…that’s what a manager is for.  To deal with the boring stuff so you can deal with the awesome stuff: music!  I think that’s a pretty picture!

One Song, One Blog, One Thought: May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011

Get it?! Sink?? SINK??!?

SONG: Commerce by Broadwing

To listen please click the link above and play it in the player on the right of the page.  You’ll thank me for it.  One of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time, and all from an indie Aussie artist from Alice Springs.  Tender and beautiful keys and voice, very subtle ‘headphones’ trickery you shouldn’t miss.  I’m looking forward to hearing more from him! (ie. my new favourite ‘watch for’ artist!)

BLOG: Triple J Unearthed

Where Broadwing was discovered…new indie music every week, regularly updated blog and podcast. It’s Triple J, the music is always good!  Seriously…70% of my new favourite music comes from Triple J in one way or another!


I espouse the idea that ‘knowing more than just music’ as something every musician – or music industry enthusiast – should keep as a philosophy.  On one level, here’s why:

I’ve always known about crazy technological advances like ‘Syncing Calendars.’  You know…so your Google Calendar and desktop Calendar work together.  Or ‘To Do’ notes…essentially, ensuring that changes you make at home or on your phone also happen everywhere else: work, cottage, lair.  However, I never needed them: Saturday I’m going to a concert…next Thursday friends are coming over…remember to eat.  My life was not complicated.

Now that life is becoming more complicated I’m realizing the benefit of this kind of technological wonder.  Down the road I may get one of them fancy paid-for ‘Dropbox’ accounts that let me hold more than 2 GBs.  Evernote…I love it but don’t need the paid account…yet.

This is all techie but I believe it applies to everything.  Keeping up on potential services that will help you in the long run so you can use them when you NEED them is a good plan.  If you’re like ‘old’ me – serving liver and onions to the elderly five days a week and socializing on weekends – just keep a post-it note pad.  If you are juggling forty projects at once…in multiple fields…while also moving and running a summer camp, it’s good to know there are options out there to help!

…just a thought 🙂

It’s Moving Day!

May 13, 2011

I apologize, no Album Cover Friday today…instead, LOOKIT MY HOUSE!

This is where I record and where I do most of my blogging, affectionately called The Roodio. Used to have egg carton walls. Now...SO WHITE!

My old bedroom...yes...stuffed animals...sue me.

The Room where all random stuff gets's emptying out! Move should be easy!

Needless to say, I’m listening to a lot of music.  I highly suggest you YouTube Futurecop!  Oops, looks like I did it for you!  They’re thrillin’ me to no end! Check out ‘Class of 84’ the Anoraak remix.  I LUV it!

See you next week, luvs! 😀  If you want to follow the move (when I check in) check out @Potoroo.

The Great Podcast Die-Off of 2010

May 12, 2011

Screenshots from some of Canada's Dead Podcasts

Ladies and gentlemen…I firmly believe that some sort of weapon of mass destruction was unleashed on the Internet between September 2009 and December 2010.  It was a smart bomb, that drained the passion and interest out of everyone who was sitting at their computer at the time that it went off.  There may have been multiple bombs, that I do not know, but I know one thing for certain: it knew when they would be sitting there formatting a new blog, or uploading a new podcast…

And as a result, a huge number of music podcasts and blogs just…stopped.

I noticed the phenomenon (do dooo do-do-do) earlier this year while doing research.  I was trying to find blogs who might feature a new artist’s video.  I am not kidding you…and clearly I didn’t do a sample of ALL blogs in the world…but more than half of the blogs I came across STOPPED in 2010, and by stopped I mean just that.

It was the digital equivalent of finding a steaming cup of tea and warm toast in an otherwise abandoned town.


It’s officially creepy how often I come across a music blog and I find a final post with the date 2010.  In some cases they say “This is my last post!” but in others they seem so hopeful: a review is upcoming, a show is next week, they’ll be back after the weekend.

…and now it’s happening to Podcasts too!

This is a working spreadsheet...Red is a Dead Podcast, Yellow is useless or tied to a radio show, Blue is francophone, Green is...potentially useful.

I’m trying to research music podcasts, specifically Canadian ones but I’m not picky.  I need podcasts which= will feature new music from new artists.  See that picture above and you get the point.

Some thoughts:

  • Podcasts are hard!  It takes preparation, time to record, to edit and tweak, and finally upload
  • Podcasts, like blogs, don’t offer instant gratification.  If it’s a passion then the creation is the reward…but sometimes it’s tough trying to gauge if you actually have an ‘audience.’
  • Getting your name out there isn’t as easy as signing up for iTunes.  How do you let people know that you exist? It’s disheartening to think you’re talking into an empty room.
Those three elements alone are enough to discourage anyone who’s put time and effort into a podcast.  Blogs are easier to maintain but even they can be easily cut down by time restraints, loneliness, and the inability to increase your readers.
There’s another thing to note: most existing and successful podcasts and blogs are tied to traditional media…sad to say but true.  The big internet revolution allowed thousands of budding music reporters and lovers to speak their mind, but despite the open concept it’s still radio stations, TV shows, magazines and newspapers who have the audience.
…because they already have the product, plus the equipment and time to do it. They have a trained team to upload and promote it. They have the audience to push it to.
If you think about it…the rest of us…we aren’t pushing…we’re trying desperately to pull and don’t know if the rope is tied to a cow, a dump truck, or a fan.
Some websites have tried to bridge the gap…Podcast Alley, Technorati…by acting as portals.  Though, I’m not sure even THEY have the audience they need.  You can have a nicely organized list, and use the noosphere to weed out crap, but in the end if no one knows you’re there (or what you’re there for) you’re as useful as a jello doorstop. (WTF? Tug of war with a dump truck?  Jello doorstop?  What did you eat last night, Roo?)
What to do?  Good question.  I have some ideas:
  • Blogs and Podcasts need to act like the artists we talk about…treat your creative project like a band…build a fanbase, support them, give them something other than your reviews and opinions, listen to them.  You (the reader) are hopefully a fan of me!!!  Am I doing enough to recognize you?
  • Blogs and Podcasts need to work together.  I occasionally slip (moving, work, excuse, excuse part 2) but I try to keep close ties to the two blogs closest to my type and (luckily) region – Sound In My Memory and Moon Vs. The World.  I should also branch out…cross-promote…which could help get the word out and find new fans
  • If you’re serious about what you do and want to draw people…consider putting some money in outreach.  Connect to a local radio station, even a community station, see if they would like you to do a segment on one of their shows.  Maybe start off with a local paper, or look into a regional and drop some money on a small ad for your podcast or blog.  It seems counterproductive to do a free blog on the free internet and pay a paper for advertising, but you know what they say about ‘free.’
  • Learn a ‘tiny’ bit about marketing.  Don’t take away from your creativity, but take time to educate yourself on techniques and approaches that might help you get the word out.
I love blogs, I love podcasts, and it saddens me to see them in such bad shape!  Let’s see if the next wave of new media (new wave new media?) can be a bit healthier and not all succumb to a smart bomb…or VIRUS!  Damn, I should’ve gone with the virus metaphor!
What do you think?  Am I way off base?  Did I just happen to look in the part of the online world where podcasts and blogs were sick…I mean bombed?  Let me know!!

Musical Notes

May 11, 2011

…hee hee, that means two things!

I’m referring specifically to ‘Taking Notes,’ like you do in school, but…you know…it’s different when it’s not in school.  Not a teacher saying something and you writing it down, but instead…your brain saying something…and you desperately ‘recording’ it somewhere…somehow…

…so you don’t forget it!

I have a hard time with ‘musical notes.’  I’m horrible with lyrics (I have NO skill writing a good lyric) but when one comes to mind that doesn’t make me puke in my mouth a bit, I try to get it down.  On anything.  A scrap, a business card…I once scraped the first word with my nail into my arm so I’d leave a little red reminder.

…I can’t remember what lyric that was.  I guess the system isn’t that great.

Lyrics aren’t a problem to document anymore.  Most people have a cell phone that at the very least lets you text yourself the lyrics so they’re down and safe.  ‘Normal’ people keep a notebook on them at all times.  I like notebooks, though I’m bad at the whole ‘Going back through what I wrote‘ thing.

What about melodies?  The ‘song.’  Any songwriter or musician has experienced the pain of having a song pass through their head and thinking “It’s so good, there’s NO way I’ll forget it!”

…and it’s gone within the hour.

I used to guestimate key, and even draw lines, like a line graph, to represent the flow of the melody.  It actually worked!  When I’d get home I could figure out what I had heard, and record it on tape.

…I mean on my L33T COMPUTOR!  Yes…I’m super young and fresh!  I’ve never recorded on tape!

That’s a painful way to do things though.  I highly suggest the following:

  • Pick up a cheap-ass digital recorder…you can get them for as little as $50 and if it’s only to grab songs snippets then it’s worth it
  • Have a smart phone? Try Evernote!  You can take snapshots, text notes, AND voice notes and accessthem from your phone, a website, or even an app for your computer!  I use it tosing ideas, and also jot lyrics in the same note. And yes, I’m being whorish…this is my favourite app.  Evar.
  • Also for smart phone you can use an internal voice memo, a recording program (I used Voxie before Evernote)
  • No smart phone?  Leave yourself a voice message if it’s really important…call your line, leave a message with the song!
With technology getting smaller, integrated and cheaper think about ways you can use it to help your creative life.  I used to think of technology as something that interferes, is ‘inorganic.’  But really, if it saves a great song from the mental eraser…it’s organic to me!

Do you have any interesting ways you take note of song snippets, riffs, lyrics or melodies?  What are they?

Oh…and for you thinking “Roo, you dog (??), you probably aren’t that bad at writing songs!”
Exhibit A.  I say no more.