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Entries in Music (48)


Music & Social Shifts (a personal account)

I remember as a kid in the late 1970s that where I lived there were three television stations & no cable or VCRs or home video games.  My oldest brother is seven years older than me & the big thing with him & his friends was coming over to the house & playing whatever new vinyl record loud enough to rattle the paneling on the wall.  It was a social event.  New albums & a decent stereo were the center of the social world & what made you the coolest kid in school & my family’s house was a center for cool.  Every new Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, or Kiss release meant a week of non-stop rocking.

A couple of years later my other brother hit high school, the center of things in teenage social events had shifted from music to a couple of things; the Atari gaming system & the VCR.  This time around our family wasn’t at the center of a social circle & my brother spent most afternoons at some other family’s house. Until my dad broke down & got us the Atari & VCR so that thirty years later I can still close my eyes & pretend I’m playing Yars’ Revenge & still have dreams inspired by watching Dawn of the Dead when I was eight.

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A Fragmented Music Community: The Sum of the Parts Equals Less than the Whole

Music is so spread out online these days. Why? And why do artists not get paid for all the free plays they give away on these websites? These are two huge questions that I’ve been studying, and the answers are well worth addressing.

Part of music being so spread out has to do with the fact that the internet is still fragmented itself. The web is still set up like our real world - you have “sites” with their own “addresses” and you have to physically go to them. This is part of the problem for sure, and it turns out that it is actually easily solvable. With the software, you can pretty much make up your own rules, which means you could make everything just come to the user instead, almost like the iphone model, where every app is in one spot waiting for you at all times. That’s another topic though.

The rest of the problem really seems to be about preference. There are hundreds of music sites out there, and certain fans, or fan-bases, like to stick to certain ones for certain reasons. It could be the difference in interfaces or the difference in people in the network, but it usually has to do with simple preference.

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Music Think Tank Brings On New Intern

Good afternoon all, I wanted to take a moment and announce that we have a new intern that’s helping around Music Think Tank. Her name is Natalie Cheng (@ncswim881).

She is from Sugar Land, TX. She is twenty-two and is very interested in music marketing and branding, new trends in the music and record industries, and distribution. She wants to learn more about the changes affecting the music industry and how artists are changing the way they interact with fans.  Her career goals include working in a marketing position at a music company or label and working as a session musician for major artists. Currently, she is seeking a job/internship at music labels and companies in the Texas area or to continue her education, possibly pursuing a master’s degree in music or marketing. 

Here at Music Think Tank, she’ll be focusing on tagging posts, writing post summaries, approving comments, and getting involved in a myriad of other ways with Hypebot too.

Take a moment to welcome her to the community.

Learning When To Listen

As a musician–a creator of sounds–it can be difficult to understand the concept that music is mostly about listening, not creating.

It’s about listening for just the right amount of silence between notes. Listening for the sounds that give you cues how to act next, and how to hone your performance.

The skill of listening is what separates the great musicians from the mediocre ones.

Becoming known as a listener will help you score gigs as a session musician and will greatly enhance your own musical mastery. 

Here are four scenarios where listening can greatly affect your performance.

Listening To Other Musicians

The greatest factor to playing well with other musicians is each musician’s inherent ability to listen to each other.

Listening is an amazing tool. It will let you know when a drummer wants to end a song, or when a guitar player is stepping down to finish a solo. Listening gives you the foresight to step in and play when another musician needs help.

Listening To Your Audience

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My Interview with SXSW Magazine on Online Strategy for Musicians

At last count, if I’m correct, I’ve attended the SXSW Conference at least seventeen times, and on many of those visits I have been very grateful for the opportunity to speak on a panel. When Brian Zisk, a co-founder of the SanFran MusicTech conference, invited me to speak again on a panel in December, and also to join him on his panel at this year’s SXSW, I gave pause.

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Honeyboy’s Grammy: A Moment for a Great American Voice

The legendary bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards received a lifetime achievement award at last night’s Grammy Awards ceremonies. One of the last of the first generation bluesmen, Honeyboy was a close pal of Robert Johnson and a contemporary of Charley Patton and other blues pioneers.

The 94-year-old Honeyboy was instrumental in establishing a unique American voice, one that was born of slavery and struggle, spirit and magic. It’s a rich history that begat rock and roll and even rap. Artists from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to Jay Z emanate from those underpinnings, and many more contemporary artists have paid homage to this field of music from which they came.

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Food For Thought - 2 Warner Music Execs Share $14 Million


No One Has the Answer, But Sivers Told Us That

If there’s any doubt about the disarray and desperation afoot in the music business, just check out the Internet’s affect on the media business – music, print and broadcast – overall over the past decade. A recent article in the New York Times covers the waterfront on this issue quite well.

While the devastation of digital democracy vis-à-vis the Web made its first blitz through the belly of the music biz, the print media was next in line, and the battlefield there rivals Antietam.

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Breakthroughs, Bitterness and Biopics

Music biographies mesmerized me when I was a kid. Whether it was Glenn Miller or Elvis Presley, it was always the same fascinating formula: talent and tenacity leading to the precipice of success, with the artist always searching for that one elusive element to define his signature sound, to breakthrough. With Miller it was the addition of trombones. The proceedings always put me on the edge of my seat and the breakthroughs set me reeling. I guess it was in my blood.

It persists. The other night I watched two great documentary-style biopics on TV, one on Johnny Cash, another on Willie Nelson. Willie, as many of his fans may not realize, was actually a Nashville songwriter penning such classics as “Crazy,” which Patsy Cline etched into the music lexicon. Despite his preeminent status as a writer, Willie couldn’t get arrested as an artist in Music City. His quirky phrasing was way too off-beat for the 60s sound, which was infused with sweet strings and pop arrangements.

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Dear Musicians - Please Be Brilliant or Get Out of The Way

Towards a New Music Business Model And The New Thinking That Is Required.

The future does not fit in the containers of the past.” – Rishad Tobaccowala

“..we are now in an era where spectatorial culture is giving way to participatory culture”. Henry Jenkins director, Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.

I give thanks once again to Brian Zisk and his incredibly motivated crew for inviting me to speak at the upcoming SanFranMusicTech event on December 7th in San Francisco, and later at the SXSW Conference in Austin in March 2010. Brian is one of the organizers of SanFranMusicTech and is moderating the panel that I will be on at SXSW. [If you’ve never attended SanFranMusicTech I would encourage you to do so. It’s a wonderful, energetic mix of entrepreneurs, tech experts, musicians and thought leaders in the digital space. In other words it’s not just for musicians or techies…] The panel discussions will revolve around the premise of how, or if, musicians are using the tools available to them on the Social Web.

I have written this essay as a prelude to the upcoming panels, both to outline my views on the subject in advance, and also as a way to organize my thoughts and past essays into one place. The debate surrounding online music distribution still evokes passion from critics and supporters alike, the most vocal being musicians who believe that I am working to make music free online and therefore deny them income from CD sales. Nothing could be further from the truth, I simply argue that musicians need to monetize everything around their musical output and stop dreaming that CD sales will one day return to previous levels; where the 2009 equation means 100k is the new 1mm, 10k is the new 100k etc. I should point out for the record that I am focusing almost exclusively on non-mainstream, independent musicians. [Although there is no reason at all that mainstream, commercial artists shouldn’t be doing the same thing.]

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‘It’s tough to beat up a guy that never quits’

Babe Ruth mouthed that ungrammatical gem, and a slumping Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees just invoked it at a critical moment in his career.

Hang with me a moment, and you’ll see what this has to do with us music artists. Swisher made the last out in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series the other night. It was a frustrating moment, since a hit in that spot could’ve finished off the Angels and put the Bombers in the World Series.

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Dog Guru

My wife, Roxanne and I saw Jamey Johnson last weekend in an awful club in Clifton Park, N.Y. Johnson’s a country songwriter cum recording artist who’s anything but awful. He’s one of those rare artists who come along once in a generation in a genre, in this case country.

He’s so raw and real it hurts. He’s of the outlaw breed, and his songs — even some of his hits – hold a bare light bulb to reality.

He’s a Montgomery boy, an ex-marine, ex-family man, and ex-rebel rouser, and his voice is as perfectly imperfect as his life. I’m not writing this to pitch Johnson, but country fan or not, this plainspoken poet is worth a listen.

I’m reminded of Steve Earle, who blew me away with his 1986 debut album “Guitar Town.” One literate bad boy with a voice to match. The first time I heard him I wanted to burn my guitar and typewriter (remember those), but eventually returned to my auteur senses.

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