Archive for June, 2011

One Song, One Podcast, One Thought: Tuesday, June 28 2011

June 28, 2011

Wheee!  So, this past weekend I consumed some alcohol, and on Sunday I swore I was fine, but clearly Monday was a haze of hangover and sore back.  The hangover’s gone…but as a roommate so delicately told me last night “You look like you need a walker.”

…I’m old!

Elderliness notwithstanding (two big words…I ‘must’ be old) here is our early week instalment of the ‘easy way out’ blog!

Song: LMFAO – Party Rock Anthem

…I know…I know…since when do I choose a song that’s on the Billboard Hot 100.  But dudes…the video…the song…it’s amazing!  Pop music can have some golden moments and I believe this is one of them.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that music can be fun and still be good.  Just my opinion, but I think I’d like to Party Rock this summer!

Podcast: Soundtrack2

I was once asked “How do I make my song more shoegaze?”  They were trying to figure out how to get that signature, shoegaze sound.  That was the point I realized I had no clue what shoegaze is.  Of course, I’d heard My Bloody Valentine and other bands of the era when I was growing up…but I grew up in Erin, Ontario…in the 80s and 90s…there was no internet…and I didn’t know about music magazines so terminology was alien to me.

If you want a cool intro to shoegaze and it’s orbiting genres (space rock, dream pop, and psych) give Soundtrack2 a listen.  It’s definitely become a favourite of mine!!

Thought:

I’ve erased two thoughts already…one on annoying politics in my city, another a ramble about how I’ve been unproductive but yet unrested the last two months…both VERY boring subjects.

I’ll leave you with this because it’s a much, much cooler thing to think about:

…yup…absorb that!

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I’m Impressed, TV on the Radio!

June 23, 2011

Considering your name is made up of two ‘old fashioned’ media, you’re pretty forward thinking.

Some people are stuck in the old world of ‘make an album, choose a single, get it on the radio, people will buy your album, and then you tour.’

TV on the Radio have a different approach:

Why not release your ENTIRE album, before it’s on the shelves, as a video.

I don’t mean a video for each song…well, I DO mean that, but remember the cool stuff Michael Jackson and his sister Janet would do, where videos were a long format?  Rhythm Nation 1814 was a movie made up of individual songs from her album, and those sequences also acted as videos for the singles when they were released.  That’s kind of what TV on the Radio is doing here…except it’s more like…

…the entire album…is a video!

When it comes to creative ways to get your songs out there, this is by far the most creative I’ve seen in awhile.  Most people consume their music on YouTube now.  This is the first time I’ve heard of an entire album being made into a long form video and put online, for free!

Sparklehorse (my favourite band) made a video for each song from the album ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ including one by my favourite filmmaker Guy Maddin for the title track.  Now…if only he’d released them somewhere other than the Sundance Channel…maybe someone would have seen them.

Kudos go out to TV on the Radio for their unique way to reach the fanbase and hopefully grab some new fans along the way!

Active Fanbases

June 22, 2011

Fans at an Anberlin concert...don't know who Anberlin is? Their fans do!!

As a result of my new job I’ve started thinking a LOT more about a musician’s fans.  The music is easy – I like it, I don’t like it, I’d like it better if…  The whole style, image, shoe-wearing thing isn’t really my bag so I let other, more fashionable people deal with that stuff.  But the fans.  Those pesky fans.  They interest me the most.

I’m by no means an expert (I’d like to be an expert one day!) but I dedicate a lot of processor time (processor being my brain) to chunking through the info I see before me, I hear mentioned by friends and co-workers, and I read about to figure out what is going on in the static between an artist and their fans.  Or prospective fans.

It’s all very complicated.

You see, first there’s the whole business of getting NEW fans.  In the good old days it was easy: labels told media outlets who was the next big thing, radio played them, MTV aired them, papers talked about them, and people liked them.  I’m in no way denouncing this system, because many of these artists were talented and deserved the exposure.  But it was a machine.  Millions went into spreading the word, millions went into sending artists on crazy tours, millions went into people’s pockets (can we say PAYOLA?! Or it’s evil, modern twin, promola?!)  Nowadays…not so easy!

Then there’s the business of keeping them.  In the two years between albums (which, in modern terms, equates to the two months between singles…two months is a LONG TIME!) how do you make sure people don’t forget about you, that fans remain fanatic!

The modern music world is weird.  There are no rules!  I’ve heard ‘Wild West’ thrown around a lot, and it’s true.  Anything goes.  I don’t think I heard any songs from the last U2 album, mainly because I didn’t seek it out.  I have, however, heard ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black dozens of times.  I’ve actually grown to love the song!

Please…keep reading…

How do you get your music TO the fans?  How do you keep them active?  What does ‘active’ mean??

Active, to me, means a fan base that stays connected.  It can also refer to fans who are excitable and passionate (like Bieber fans.)  However, I’ve seen fans  who sit, listen, and quietly enjoy who are as passionate as Beliebers.  So, for the purposes of the blog…active just means ‘A fan that follows what an artist is doing, listens to their new music, and tells their friends about it.

If you’re indie, how do you find an active fan?  This is a tough question.  Some might think that you build a database of Twitter and Facebook followers, and release the songs through those mediums, but I find that’s not for everyone.  To use me as an example (YOU SUCK, ROO) – I have 800 folks on my Facebook, and 800 folks on my Twitter, and after recently sending out a link to a YouTube vid of a performance I have, in two days, netted 50 views.  I should have at least 800, right?!  No, I should have more, because they showed all of their friends, right?!

WRONG!  My Twitter and FB friends are mostly friends, or people I know for one reason or another, NOT fans.  There’s a distinction.  As an other example, an artist I work with has almost 4000 Facebook followers, yet only encouraged 300 to join his new artist Fan Page.  That’s because the 4000 are a mix of friends, fans, and…let’s face it…people who use Facebook once every few months rather than a few times every day.

So, what’s my answer?  You’re gonna hate me…

CREATIVITY!

Come on!  You’re a musician, or an artist, or an actor, or whatever you do!  That’s creative, right?  Use that creativity and think beyond the art you’re creating…think creatively on how to get that art to the fans who may be your devotees!  How can you reach people with your music?  The internet’s reach means that you could build a fanbase in your hometown AND Alice Springs, Australia…so why hasn’t it happened yet?

And if you’re a fan…an ACTIVE fan, a listener who loves finding new music, or movies, or art, or whatever it is you like…look out for the creative approaches artists use to find you!  If someone’s on the radio or in the paper it’s because they have money.  If they aren’t on radio or in the paper, yet they somehow found your ear, they probably did something creative to get there.

I’ll touch back on the subject as I see how the creative approach to finding active fans works.  If it’s a dud…I’ll go back to the drawing board and let you know!

Do you have a creative way you’ve reached a fanbase, or otherwise have you observed a creative approach from a favourite artist?  Let me know!

Enjoy What You Do!

June 21, 2011

When I was acting…back in the day…I loved it!  I still do though I’m rusty now: I can’t remember my Postal Code, so I’m not sure how well I’d do with an hour of dialogue.  I played everything from racist cops to pedophiles to abusive husbands to…hey, waitasec!! Yah, they gave me tough roles because people knew I could handle it, knew I would put a lot of passion into being a bad person without playing a villain, AND knew I was a sweetie off-stage so it wouldn’t hurt my reputation.  And that is as far as I’ll go giving myself praise in this blog!

Looking back, that work was HARD!  Sure, it can be boiled down to “Remember your lines and don’t bump into furniture” but have you ever seen people who can’t act try?  It’s always obvious.  It’s stiff.  Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it and then POOF there it is, something is off, unnatural.  Acting is hard to do!  Think about it:

In theatre, you have to pretend to be someone else and say someone else’s words…you have to react to a situation as though it’s actually happening.  Often you have to do it in strange clothes.  You have to be in the moment despite having a hundred people staring at you and coughing every five minutes, under the hot lights, and all the while keeping in mind that you have a quick change in twenty minutes and have to cross to the left side of the stage through a crawl space under the audience in ten seconds or you’ll miss your cue.  Then…you do it again night after night until the run is over!

When it’s going well, it’s going really well.  When it’s going badly…like when I forgot my next line playing Alsemero in the Changeling in the late 90s…yah…it sucks!

In film and television, you do the same thing only instead of an audience you have cameras, men with long sticks and fuzzy mics dangling over your head, sometimes with microphones clipped into your hair or clothes, and you have to remember an imaginary line you cannot cross…where the frame begins and ends.  Instead of repeating the action in it’s entirety night after night, you repeat a segment of the action over and over again until you’re covered, and then move onto the next segment.  Oh…and makeup…makeup…

You have to love the art.  It’s not very glamorous.  I’ve spent a LOT of time in my underwear…on camera and off…oh lord, I’m sorry I told you that.

Music can be the same.  You play the same songs…often for unresponsive crowds…over and over again, night after night.  It’s like acting for film or theatre: in the studio you have no audience and do take after take until you get it right, and on stage you have an audience and need to “Remember your lines and not bump into the furniture.”

If you enjoy what you do, it comes across.  I’ve seen new bands go on stage as a bundle of nerves but do an amazing job because they love performing.  Everyone from the small to the big.  For work, I’ve seen Take Me To The Pilot three times, and I enjoyed each one (…to be fair…I only really ‘had’ to do one, but I ‘chose’ to do the other two!)  They love what they’re doing and it shows.

My favourite live act right now is Hollerado.  They LOVE what they’re doing, and it’s always a treat.  The last show I saw had confetti-pyrotechnics, beer fountains (ie. lean back and fire a mist of air from your mouth…actually kind of spectacular when three guys do it in sync!).  Menno, the lead singer, is hilarious to watch and listen to.

There’s another reason why I think they’re amazing.  They do something that RUINS a show for me, that traditionally makes me tune out and start loud conversations until the band finishes.  They jam on stage.

…they jam from song to song.  They jam within songs.  They jam!

Jamming on stage to me is the equivalent of pulling out your wang and telling everyone you’re great.  Or, otherwise (as Archers of Loaf prooved the one time I saw them live) jamming is a big fuck you.  Maybe I’ll tell that story someday.

Jamming is what you do when you practise, or are working through songs, or are bored.  It’s taking a chord and repeating it for ten minutes while other band members diddle over it.  No offense to Jam Bands, it’s a skill, but it bores me.

Unless it’s Hollerado.  They’ve taken jamming and made it fun!  I look forward to their jams, to the antics, and most importantly…to the songs!

They enjoy what they do, and it comes across on stage.  They know their lines, they don’t bump into furniture, and they make each time seem like the first, like it’s happening on stage for the first time.

You can’t ask for anything more from an artist!

One Song, One Podcast, One Thought: Monday June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011

Another week, another…wollar!  Tonight I plan on putting up my ‘Tree Song’ (ie. covering a song while in a tree) so keep an eye out for that…though if it goes anything like the last week, I will forget…and will sleep instead.  I’m tired a lot these days, are you?  Here…wake up!

SONG: RIVAL SONS – PRESSURE AND TIME

I had the privilege of seeing these guys perform at Cherry Cola for a special showcasey thing last Friday afternoon.  They were introduced as being the band to save rock and roll.  As it pertains to this genre of rock and roll I agree…they rock the fu** out!  As the guitarist said just before the set began, “It’s gonna get loud in here.”

PODCAST: WNYC’s ON THE MEDIA

I still firmly believe that to be a music lover one need not only listen to music podcasts…I listen to economics podcasts, podcasts about strange goings on in small towns, and even podcasts that are kind of hoity toity and discuss the media.  WNYC’s On The Media gives an awesome overview of the previous week’s news every Friday and tries to get beyond the headlines…this past week was about the recent string of hack attacks (which isn’t really so much a string, nor recent) and even about how the media changes terminology to redefine something as it’s going on (for instance, how in the Middle East protests can become unrest, then rebellion, then civil war).  Open yer mind!  Understanding everything is the way you can understand anything.

THOUGHT:

Honestly…this Monday…I am braindead.  My thought is…get more sleep, dude.

Awesome Album Covers: IRELAND!

June 17, 2011

I have sinned.  In a previous post I listed Cork as being in the UK.  I might as well have said Puerto Rico was in Mexico, or Bobcaygeon was in Texas.  Cork is in the republic of IRELAND!  To atone…Ireland is the subject of this week’s awesome album cover blog!!!  Now, not all of these bands are Irish, but there’s an Irish lilt to each one…and if there isn’t…please inform me again.  Maybe I’ll do Ireland Part 2!

Ahhhh...sweet Eoghan (pronounced Owen)...the Bieber of X-Factor!

BOOYAH!

And my favourite of them all…and the first indie-cassette Irish metal band cover to appear in the blog!

That’s it for this week!  Cya on the flipside…until then, I’m @Potoroo on Twitter! Gimme a hollah!

Roo Disco

June 14, 2011

I made a post little while back about how I like Nu Disco and some of the new producers who are throwing back to the 80s.  At a recent party, I decided to string a bunch of tracks together along with similar but juxtaposing sounds in an effort to make them sound streamlined and ‘of one long track.’  I believe the kids today call this ‘DJing.’

As I have nothing interesting to tell you today, I thought I’d that DJ set for you.  Comments, criticism, and queries are always appreciated…I’m happy to just hear the sound of a human voice!

As an additional sidenote, this particular mix got me a gig at Andy Poolhall in Toronto on June 30th, so if you want to come and see me do this…’DJing’…live, head on down and let’s hang out!

One Song, One Podcast, One Thought: Monday, June 13 2011

June 13, 2011

Welcome back!  Did you enjoy your weekend?  Are you watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs?  I am for the first time since high school.  Nax!

I also hit up a party this weekend and DJ’d me a set of Nu Disco (which I’m affectionately calling ‘Roo Disco’…heh…) and if you’d like to listen to it simply click this oddly coloured sentence!  It’s music for your ears if your ears were gaudily dressed dancers!

Anyways, onto the simple Monday blog which requires little thought on my part and even less on yours!

Song: The Wombats: Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)

Freakin’ awesome song from a freakin’ awesome band!  Their first album was practically perfect in every way, and now their second album has clearly been handcrafted with love and devotion.  Honestly, they had me four years ago with their song ‘Songs of Girls and Boys and Marsupials’…and that was just the intro to their album!  Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves) is a catchy pop tune with thick synth and a singable chorus.  If you like good songs stuck in your head…PRESS PLAY!!!

Podcast: Bands Under The Radar

In the same vein as last week, a great music podcast that gives you a glimpse into music that you may have heard of but haven’t really…heard!  Or maybe you’ve never even heard of them!  The Boxer Rebellion.  Tapes N’ Tapes.  Boy and Bear.  Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them…they’re all pretty damned good, and BUTR can catch you up!  Also, like TripleJ Unearthed, they have an awesome app!  Check it out! 😀

Also, it helps that Kami is awesome.  Awesome hosts are awesome.

Thought:

Honestly…my thoughts are everywhere today.  How come good musicians can get totally ignored by the media, and bad musicians can get all the attention (possible answers: the bad musicians have great producers, and MONEY!)  Why is radio still around when TV should’ve killed it years ago?  I mean, TV stole radio’s stars AND pretty much replaced it in the market, yet people continued to listen to the talking box.  If MySpace lost all it’s importance over five years…will Facebook do the same by 2015?

Mostly, I’m thinking about how I want to record three songs by the end of August.  I have at least one written.  I have an older song I want to give a new shot.  But when do I sit down and record them!?

…yup, you’re getting thoughts but no answers today!  I’m putting the thinking in YOUR hands!!

Soooo…what unanswered thoughts do you have today?

Awesome Album Cover Friday: Outside Music

June 10, 2011

I’m a huge fan of Outsider Music.  The best, boiled-down description is music by people who just HAVE to make music, or are driven to write songs, despite their skills or musical talent.  In some cases, they may not realize they sound…off.  In others, they may not care.  Some are so tied to their music that they can repeat the same (what we would call) mistakes over multiple performances, because in their minds they have it right, and who are we to argue!?

The term ‘Outsider Music’ was coined by music writer Irwin Chusid, and you can learn more about the history of Outsider Music in his amazing book ‘Songs in the Key of Z.’  Head to his website to check it out online!

Some Outsider Musicians are just offbeat, but really are geniuses.

Some perform a piece once that is a work of genius, it is caught on tape, and that’s about the end of it.

All of them have a passion that is unmatched among many…erm…non-Outsiders.

Here is a collection of album covers by some of the most well-known (and some of the not so well-known) outsider musicians.


You know, the more I listen to Outsider Music, I wonder if my early music with the Overgrown Spatulas, or more recently my first solo album, rates as Outsider…and whether or not that is a good thing.

It’s…strange to realize that your might be on the other side of the crazy scale…I’ll let you decide.  If you’re bored (or interested…I should stop assuming you have no interest in clicking a link!), click on either of those links above, and tell me what you think: am I an Outsider Musician cleverly disguised as an artist, or just a guy who has temporary musical insanity??

And there we have it for another week!

Record Store, Need I Say More

June 8, 2011

…ok, it’s corny to use a lyric from a song I wrote in high school as a subject line…especially if that lyric is to a song that you could not possibly have heard.  Also…since the line is…badly written…but it suits the blog so I continue!!

I miss record stores.  ‘Record Store’ probably means something different to everyone.  To me, it’s the Used Record Stores of Guelph, Orillia, and the side streets of Toronto that I used to frequent in the early 90s.  I would flip through the vinyl (or cassettes, at the start, and later the CDs) and grab sometimes ten…twenty at a time!

I’d discover new (old) bands based on the album cover, or having heard of them before in passing (Pixies, FM, Hawkwind) or because it was next to an album by a band I liked and was only $3 so who cares!!

It was a very cool experience: flipping through albums and discovering treasures.  I found the Peter Hammill albums that a friend played for me when I was younger…the Jazz Butcher, Nash the Slash…

I found an album from the late 70s of electronic music that sounds like an early version of house, where no instruments were listed…just ‘Computors.’ (sic)

I found full length LPs with singles I heard on the radio, and then had a chance to hear the rest of the album. Sometimes I was lucky…other times…the album sucked.

It was, for lack of a less lame word, an adventure every time I walked into one.  I knew I’d be leaving with something, I just didn’t know what.

That whole experience is kinda gone now.  Ric’s Collectables on Main Street closed down right under my nose…I walked by it a thousand times but only went in twice.  The three stores I used to visit in Guelph are gone.  I’m not sure if Round Again Records in Orillia has survived.

Worse, the last record store I visited in Toronto, just yesterday…it ‘looked‘ like an old dingy used record store, but the prices certainly didn’t match. ($20 for a wrecked copy of XTC that I picked up a decade ago for $4?  Seriously?)

I’d love to find a way to bring that feeling to the modern age but…its hard to see how.  iTunes and online digital music retailers are boring.  Sure, I can flip through at a million miles a minute, find the album I’m curious about with a search, even preview it by pressing play…but the ability to discover the albums ‘around‘ it doesn’t exist anymore.

Google and Facebook don’t even really let me discover anything new anymore.  The algorithms are designed to help me find things based on what I’ve already found.  Over time, a search online will only point you in the directions you’ve taken before, never down a path you didn’t know you wanted to take.

Is that progress?!

I’m not pessimistic, though.  The pendulum always swings back and I’d be surprised if reaction to ‘personalized search’ doesn’t lead to a more randomized option.

And with record stores, they are pretty much fading, but something new and adventurous will be on the way.

When I spot the seeds of that new idea sprouting I’ll be sure to talk about it here!

Or…if you see it…please let me know!  I’d rather find out from a real person about a cool new twist on the record store than try to find it online!