Archive for November, 2011

I Share Because I Care!

November 30, 2011

Thanks to a song randomly overheard between acts at a show, a five second skim of a ‘Top 50’ list, and an email shot to my boss from a colleague, I found three cool new artists this week.  Now, thanks to a random desire to check out my blog…you get to see them too!

NQ Arbuckle – Mixkin Dancehall Blues: Simple, sweet, and three of my favourite instruments: acoustic guitar, accordion and voice!  Throw in some glock for fun!  By far my favourite ‘Where did he come from??’ discovery last week!

Azealia Banks – 212 feat. Lazy Jay: NME’s coolest person of the year…holy crap, fun and awesome!  The beat is sick, the rapping tight, the singing amazing…a complete package.  I want to dance…DANCE!  Warning…she says the C word…because she can. I hope that white guy is Lazy Jay…I like him!

Cairo Knife Fight – The Origin of Slaves: A two piece that sounds like a five piece, rockin’ out from the land of Kiwi’s!  Very cool rock and roll…I swear someone told me about them before…if you did, beat me, I should’ve paid attention!!

Got any good tracks to share with me???  Love to hear ’em!

Music is Hard!

November 28, 2011

...and also, apparently, an album title!

It would be wonderful if music was logical: talented artists were famous and had enough support to make a living, they could release their songs and their audience could easily find them, booking shows was just a matter of calling up and setting a date.

Unfortunately, the whole process is whack.  The internet has made it so that a talented artist can independently record, release, and market their music for absolutely no money (assuming they borrow microphones and steal software) but there’s a piece missing: how does the audience find you?

Fans used to find music through radio, or through variety television.  It was centralized…and although regions might vary on who or what they play it was pretty likely that if you had a hit in Austin, Texas on a major network you’d find your way onto the sets of people around the world.

Just to get on that major network you’d probably need to be signed to a label, or have a close contact who could sell you to the music directors…but once you were there the competition was limited…the world is your limit…sky your oyster!

Now where does a musician go to reach fans?  Some people go to YouTube, but how do you sift through the junk to find the gold?  Some browse music sites like last.fm or artist pages on MySpace, but again…are you willing to sit through 10,000 artists to find one that suits your tastes?

There are blogs…there is satellite radio…

In the end, the best promotion is word of mouth, a friend passing a link through Twitter after they find an amazing artist they never heard of.

An artist they stumbled over.

Sometimes, I wonder how many thousands of dollars are spent on various promotional tools, but in the end a band reached its audience because someone accidentally found the song.

What’s the solution?  There isn’t one…yet.  Finding fans with connections, fans that fell in love with your art, is the best bet.  It’s something that money can’t buy (though you may have to subsidize their services after they’ve fallen in love with you.)  There is something I can say from experience though:

If you have to pay someone to love your music then they aren’t going to put very much effort into spreading the word.  In the end, they’ll provide the service you’ve paid but not the passion you need.  Some companies take as many cheques as they can, to the point that they have five or six artists in each genre competing against each other for attention.  That isn’t the way to reach your fans (much like buying Facebook ‘Likes’ or YouTube views)

What you should be looking for is a dedicated fan base, and have ‘them’ spread the word.  If that fan base includes one or two professionals with contacts in the industry, BONUS!  If they truly love your music, they’ll find a way to tell their friends.

Music is hard!  In the good ol’ days you impress two or three people (a producer, a manager, a label exec) then you’re in!  Today…you need to impress two or three hundred people…and even then, it may not be a guarantee.

Conclusion: music is about love, and you have to love what you’re doing.  If you do, then someone else out there will love what you’re doing as well…and slowly but surely, over time, you might build up a base that can support you through your career.

Nothing comes easy for a few bucks…you get what you pay for, and a passionate fan…they’re priceless.

Cyriak and Music

November 16, 2011

Cyriak is the most terrifying man on earth…like Freddy Krueger and RL Stein, he creates nightmares.  I should note right now…these are AMAZING nightmares, based in sound and music and the most unlikely subjects.  Often cute animals.  Cute nightmare animals.  Here is his most recent torment:

Trust me…don’t watch Baaa

I think he’s a genius.  Patterns are something that I obsess over – in music, in film, in life – and he pops the reality bubble with surreal music and visuals that…well, are patterened.

And he doesn’t just create his own beasts.  I keep forgetting that often the best places to look for a music video producer is the internet, or to unlikely creative sources.  Just look at Eric Wareheim and his videos!  Don’t look too long.  And if an Wareheim video looks like it’s taking a term for the horrific, you and you alone can choose to continue to watch.  I take no blame.

One of my favourite songs of 2011 is Hooray For Earth’s ‘True Loves,’ a video I featured earlier in this blog.  Well…Cyriak did a video for a remix of True Loves.  And if you’d like to see how the man who brews nightmare fuel tackles beauty…well…watch…

…I KNOW, RIGHT?  Easily one of the best videos I’ve ever seen.  And then I dug deeper…he’s won an award for his videos!  Not just any award…a UK Music Video Award.  And once again he’s taken his clever (…maybe deranged?) brain, the patterns of life, and blended them perfectly with music to create a kaleidoscopic alternate universe that is (like so many of his other videos) very very familiar:

MIND…BLOWN!

What have I learned?  Traditional music video producers probably earn too much money.  I’m not dissing them, they totally have their place since the mainstream industry will always need mainstream videos.  I’ve been happy with the slow move to traditional filmmakers and art school videos in the mainstream – Gaga, Brandon Flowers, even Aimee Mann’s ‘Save Me’ video was by PT Anderson – but overall videos are formulaic, and creativity (in the broadcast world) doesn’t mean all that much.

But many of us have known for ages that the true creative force in the world right now is the person with great talent (probably through great practice and great trial and error) who is creating online, producing free content, hopefully getting as much money as humanly possible in this industry…but creating for the LOVE of it.

Cyriak…yes, I’m going to say it…I can TOTALLY feel the love and passion in his videos.  For an artist who wants a clever and engaging music video…he makes a perfect choice.

What I’d love to see…Cyriak tackle something organic…like a Mumford, or a folk act, or a non-synth indie band.  I KNOW that the end product would be something we’ve never seen before.  And I know I’d be rewatching the video over…and over…and over…

In an endless loop…

Goth Music

November 11, 2011

Just what I needed! Instructions!!!

Currently at work, watching The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with the audio down (it’s a silent movie, I’m pretty sure this is fine) and listening to some Goth Pop music.

…Goth Pop…is that a genre?

By Goth Pop I mean the kind of music you’d expect to hear in an 80s movie about vampires, or playing in an Emo Kid’s room with the lights down and the sound of scribbling pen on paper.  You know…poetry…or something.

When I was in high school I listened to EVERYTHING.  But after getting a collection called ‘Undead: A Gothic Masterpiece‘ I became fascinated with the wide scope of goth.  I mean, vampires weren’t that popular…but The Crow was…and really, is The Crow goth?

The central themes of goth…in my opinion, I’m not doing research, I’m just ‘assuming’…are romance and death.  If you think about it, that kinda makes sense.  At some point, vampires stopped being hideous beasts and became romance-machines.  In the end, their goal is killing you and drinking your blood…but they dress nice while doing it.

But it’s so much more than that.  There’s the anarchistic, wild and free, ‘punk’ side to goth.  Think of a vampire or other dark creature who’s essentially a trickster, doesn’t really give a crap, does what they want.  Sometimes violently.  That shows in the music too.

There’s melancholy…boredom…lack of hope for the future.  That plays well with the goth sensibility.

What this gets me thinking about (I’m not trying to write a treatise on gothic music through the ages) is how each genre is incredibly diverse.  Goth seems like something that would be pretty straight forward.  But it’s not.

Every artist brings their own taste and style to their music…genre seems to come out of a strange blend of inspiration (the music the artist listened to and likes) and creativity.  Genre is a helpful way to identify the general mood or sound, but each artist (should) bring a unique approach.

Which is why giving genres you may not like…or even think of…a chance.  If you love music, you’ll be certain to find something you like under the label.

…even if that label is covered in white face paint and fake blood.

((this blog is what happens when I random thought comes to mind and I just roll with it 😉  Sorry if it’s kinda…disconnected!))

My Battle for an iPhone 4S

November 7, 2011

Before I start…I’m well aware that this entire thing is the textbook definition of a ‘first world problem.’ There are FAR worse things going on in the world, but ‘my’ world consists of the day to day business that I interact with, and I have been interacting with this business for weeks now…and it’s getting very annoying.  Also, this is about me bitching about a phone…if you came for a music blog, please come back tomorrow!

Flashback, just around three weeks ago: I find out that there is a grace period on my phone contract, meaning I can finally move on from my old iPhone 3G (which a Fido representative perfectly described as ‘tired.’) to a new iPhone 4S!  New…that means it probably won’t crash when I try to look up a map, or take five minutes loading up the text message a notification told me had just arrived.

I went straight to a Fido store (Fido is my phone carrier) and talked to the sales dude, who told me that I should go home and order the phone online myself.  I didn’t think anything of that…just assumed that’s the procedure these days.

So, I go home, order online, and discover that I’m 2400th in line!  That’s fine, the phone will be released very soon, so I should move up that line lickety split!  A week goes by, and my patience is sound…a week seems fair to wait for the list to shrink.  AND IT DOES!  Woot!  A message comes to tell me that my new phone is being shipped!  I have to pick it up at the Fido store.  Only I can pick it up.

…except as I watch the tracking it goes from Ontario…to Manitoba…to British Columbia.

And then…it’s delivered to it’s final destination.

Confused, I call Fido…they have no clue what’s going on.  Literally, they say they’re blind to the situation.  So I call UPS…they say they shipped to the destination that Fido supplied.  So I call Fido again…they say to wait for two days and call back.

I call back in two days…and I’m told there’s nothing they can do…but I should wait for two days and call back.

…I do…I get in touch with a third person…they say there’s nothing they can do.  The phone is gone.  I have two options:

1) Get back in the line and wait again.

2) Wait until late November, and then ‘maybe’ they can ship me a phone directly…if they get one.

That was the customer service I received.  “OH…we don’t know what happened, but we can’t do anything, get in line.”

I eventually found out I could order a phone directly in the Apple site.  I started this process four days ago.  But, you see…I’m battling EVERYONE who wants a phone…and their website seems to go down a lot.  Twice now I’ve had the phone selected, I’ve logged in, and I’ve confirmed a time only to be told the phone isn’t available anymore.  One I selected, logged in, and was told the store had no times available to order.

I repeat…this is a first world problem …but it started when a company screwed up, continued when that company told me there was nothing I could do, and is continuing with me trying to virtually wrestle a phone from the hands of another person.

My thoughts: the automated systems suck.  Sure, human error is craptastic, but I had human error anyways.  A LABEL was printed up with my name and a phone was shipped across the country despite being automated.  At least with a person, you can explain your situation.

Second, the reservation system sucks.  I could’ve ordered a phone a week ago, and had it shipped in that time, but instead it’s a nightly race to the Apple Store online at 9:00 pm, and a window of about 15 seconds to succeed…assuming the site doesn’t crash.

Thirdly…customer service is becoming too segmented.  I get that there’s a flood of calls each day, but I’m shocked that each time I call I go through the same story, the same actions, and am given the same advice (call back, we can’t do anything.)  When I ask to talk to a Supervisor, I’m literally told ‘No’ sometimes, or told “Well, they can’t do anything differently than I can.”

Maybe I’m the outlier…maybe everyone else is having a smooth experience.  But so many strings of bad luck (misshipped phone, inability to help, web sites crashing) lead me to believe that I’m not alone.  And as companies get bigger, their customer service…hell, their ‘service’…suffers.

I’ll keep this place updated if anything changes, but for now, I’m not holding my breath.

Saukrates and Redman and @ the Rockpile

November 1, 2011

I went to my first ‘real’ hip hop show this past Sunday night.  Well, that’s not fair…I’ve seen Shad twice, and I saw a guy open for RJD2 in 2006, though I can’t remember his name.  I say this particular show was ‘real’ because it was a set of hip hop legends, a crowd who was actually there to see them, and I felt out of place.

Now, I should be clear, I’ve been listening to hip hop music all my life (well, most of it) but I’ve never been a part of the culture.  Hip hop is more a culture than a music style, and that’s where I felt out of place.  I’m a gay, pink-mohawked geek.  ‘Nuff said!

On that note…the show was amazing!  Mainly due to the EmCee power of Redman.  As he said (paraphrased), “I’m not a rapper, I’m not up here with fifty other guys rapping…I’m an EmCee.”  And it’s true.  Though the ceremony was held in a bar, and the attendees were a collection of mostly guys in baggy clothes…Redman was the master.  He controlled the room.

From the second he took to the stage he was smiling, you could see he was enjoying himself.  It didn’t matter if there were 300 or 3000 people (another quote from the night), Redman brought it.  He was energetic, tight, personable…I’m gonna say it…he was perfect.

And I’d be a dork if I didn’t mention Saukrates, close friend to Redman and Method Man, and Toronto-raised hip hop legend.  Full disclosure: I know Saukrates, or Soxx…he knows me, Roo, or as he calls me, ‘Kanga-ROO.’  That’s how I ended up at the show…I was there to see Soxx.  And Soxx did an amazing job holding his own, because he was on stage in a BIG shadow, and I mean BIG…Redman isn’t a small-man.

Soxx and Red tore it up.  They aggressively reminisced about the old days, the old hip hop, the 90s hip hop.  I say aggressively because I’ve never seen someone walk down memory lane with a brash “Do you remember this OLD SHIT?”  They pulled out House of Pain and rapped along with it…they pulled out other classics and did the same.  They tested us – turning down the volume now and again to make sure we knew the lyrics – and when we did…they praised us for being real.

Although I stood at the back, near the sound board, I felt completely drawn in, like I was a part of the crowd even though I hadn’t earned my place there.

Hip hop shows are more like theatre than, say, a rock performance.  Granted, an arena act may feel like they’re doing theatre with pyro and visualizations…but that’s Broadway…Hip Hop is legitimate theatre.  They drew us through a story we didn’t even know we were watching.

They played on our ADD, with high-energy, trimmed down versions of their songs…they cut out the boring lead in, the long bridges, the tail end…the song started, bashed us in the head, and ended with Redman releasing the rest of his energy in a primal scream on stage.  He knew he wasn’t on a CD, he was on a stage, and he had an audience…it was a performance.

Redman kept it all connected with some cool tricks: call and answer…repetition (“You all know, I love doing the ooooolllld shit”; “Is T.Dot in the house, one time”, etc.)…teasing a song before dropping it and returning to it later in the night…

I feel so…lame analyzing the show like this…but I can’t describe it in any other way.  It was an experience, not a concert.  And the experience was completely in Redman’s control.  Saukrates kept everything going himself playing several roles – hypeman, backup singer, and even solo act for three songs.  And Redman’s love of Saukrates was not lost…he told the crowd to give the local artists their due, and none more than Soxx.

For my first ‘real’ hip hop show I got a real treat…an amazing performance, and a hand shake from the man himself.  I highly recommend catching him when he comes back through town with Method Man in 2012.  Even if you just hang back by the soundboard, don’t worry…Redman’ll make sure you’re included.