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Enough people have asked how I became Ryuichi Sakamoto’s guitarist, so I thought I should write down the story, in case it’s useful to anyone.
In 1991 I was 22 years old, and had moved to New York City to be a professional musician. I had a little home studio, and was doing some random gigs around town.
Hoover said, “My roommate is a great guitarist.”
[This article was initially posted on Tight Mix]
In addition to music, I also like to read up on technology (the two have always been closely related), so I subscribe to several tech-related RSS feeds. I have been loosely following the feud between Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs and Adobe, the creator of the popular “Flash” web plug-in. Steve’s passionate hatred of Flash kind of intrigued me. Apparently, there is a new version of HTML (the main language used to code the Internet) that may rid Internet of those web plug-ins (like Flash) that you are annoyingly forced to download (and that public computers never seem to have) in order to view certain websites. There is currently a working subset of the code that is already in use, most notably by popular video sites YouTube and Vimeo. Should companies in the music industry that use Flash to create their websites and widgets be concerned?
Every musician is looking for that perfect gig- the gig at a dream venue with a huge payoff both in terms of money and exposure. Unfortunately these are typically unattainable without already having a fan base to work with. Bars and clubs can be great, but it is becoming more and more of a reality that venues in major cities expect the artist to bring in a crowd, not to find one there. If you expect to book a gig in New York City, you better bring the crowd with you. For the most part, clubs like CBGB, which had a its own established crowd, are all but gone. It is now up to you to find other ways to build up your fan base and create the kind of demand that will grab the attention of those who do the booking at the most desirable venues.
Recording guitars, although easy at first can be a challenge when you really want to achieve a great sound. Here are some helpful tips to improve your guitar recording chops.
1. Set Up Your Guitar
Amazing guitar tones start with the player. Recording a great song with a good player is always key. Beyond the player, the instrument must be in top shape as well. Sending your guitar to be professionally set up is a great way to ensure your guitar tracks are properly in tune and there are no buzzes, squeaks or hums coming from the instrument. A professional set up will also allow the guitar to play easier and feel better, which will help to create a better performance.
Musicians have a lot to deal with while on the road. One of those things is the organization and sale of CDs, T-Shirts, and other merch. These days, it’s the ticket and merch sales that pay for the gas, the new drumsticks and guitar strings, the food and drinks, and every other expense on tour. So musicians have to be smart about making as much money on the road as possible.
Today, an exciting startup exited private beta that I believe every musician who tours should sign up for immediately. It’s called Square, and I’ve been publicly excited about it for a while now. At the helm is the guy who invented Twitter, which turned out to be a pretty good idea. The goal of the company is to make accepting credit cards dead simple.
Let me break it down. Download the app, create an account, order a free card reader, start accepting payments. Yep. That simple. And the rates are incredibly fair with no contract or monthly fee. That means if you don’t like it, you can just stop using it. There’s no reason not to try it.
So back to the musicians: By allowing your fans to pay with credit cards, you’ll sell more merch. Yes, you’ll have to pay a fee that isn’t present when only accepting cash, but you’ll sell more merch. So let’s update the process I posted before. Download the app, create an account, order a free card reader, start accepting payments, sell more merch than before.
The YouTube video is below. Watch it and then go download the app. Seriously.
Unfortunately, Square is only currently available in the US.
Anybody who wants to do anything in the world of art or music that affirms life and living is fine by me. Where our paths diverge however, is when that one begins to propagate the idea that the only requirement to fall under the definition of music is for there to be a sound or a collection of sounds.
Definitions are important; without the boundaries necessary for something to be defined, anything could be called anything and nonsense would result. So it is important to require some exclusivity in the definition of music. To be so inclusive as to merely require the presence of sound is to redefine music and consequently collapse it’s meaning. There is obviously nothing wrong with sound for the sake of sound, but for the love of art –please don’t put it in the same category as Beethoven’s 9th or the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
In Defense of 1,000 True Fans - Jerry Joseph: How Does The Theory Work When You Already HAVE 1,000 True Fans? - Part VIII
I was having coffee and catch-up with manager and publicist extraordinaire Patrice Fehlen a few months ago and we started talking about my “In Defense of 1,000 True Fans” series on MusicThinkTank. She mentioned something that I think makes an interesting angle:
Jerry Joseph (who she manages) already has a fanbase of 1,000 true fans who sustain and support him. So his challenge is not to “get” to 1,000 fans but to keep them actively engaged and inspired to stay in his fan family as he continues to release albums and tour. I asked him how he does that and he generously dished the details.
Before we dive in: Jerry Joseph is an artist who in my humble opinion needs no introduction. In case you don’t know who he is (and you should, he is fantastic) here’s a brief overview:
Last month, I recorded a video of PRS Chief Economist Will Page delivering his State of the Music Industry address at a Born to Be Wide event in Edinburgh. This is a video that has done the rounds, and Will has been somewhat floored by the response it has received.
The measurable music world peaked a long time ago. The immeasurable music world has a long way to go.
Since the year 2000, the WORLD has gained almost a billion people, 100 million blogs and websites, 100 million films and short videos, millions of hours of television programming, millions of square feet of public performance space, hundreds of thousands of artists, millions of songs - and it all comes on top of what already existed. Expansion is cumulative.
I’m a sucker for infographics. Yesterday during my morning ritual of combing through RSS feeds, I stumbled across this little ditty which detailed the 5 steps a consumer brand should take in order to gain “social currency” – which is essentially convoluted marketing speak for “online fans”.
I thought I’d take a moment to make a cross-post that explains how what artists and aspiring rock stars can take away from these steps. So here we go – five round-about suggestions for creating a rabid online fan base:
Since I am pressed for time these days, here’s a financial incentive to do my work for me: The first person to definitively prove, with a verifiable fact, the statement I make in the next paragraph, I will PayPal you $100. This offer will never expire.
Globally, over the last 365 days, for all genres combined, for all artists that started performing live in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90, and 00s, cumulatively, there is more revenue being generated from live performances, combined with selling stuff (merch, music, apps, advertising slots, streams, licensing, publishing, etc.), than any other year in the history of the world. Moreover the graph of this number is sloping up and not down.
Some music for free, certainly; all music for free, no. The time has come to put an end to the persistent illusion that recorded music in the 21st century “must” be free.
This is a post I wrote for a non-music related site. Since so many people are contributing value to artists these days, I thought I would post it here. Additional suggestions are welcome.
Unless your PR / marketing person thoroughly (underlined ten times) understands your products and customers, don’t turn over the task of delivering remarkable value to him or her.
To inexpensively win the search engine game (to rank near the top on the left side of Google), you have to be capable of creating something that is uncommon, remarkable and extraordinary. You have to try to create something that the community wants to share and promote for you…
A gentle warning: If you expend too much energy promoting your company and brand, your effort to deliver remarkable value will come across as a disguised advertisement. Be subtle when promoting your brand, services and products.
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(Updated Sept 29, 2014)