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Rick Millward / Blog

RIP CD?

If you ask me the CD is pretty much obsolete. Like vinyl and cassettes it's been replaced by online delivery and so the physical object we've long associated with our music consumption is no more. The ramifications of this are profound. First of all it changes how we store and transport our entertainment as it now resides in virtual space, or in an iPod where the idea of "albums" gets a little fragmented as "playlists" take over how we sequence what we hear. It used to be radio who put together songs for us, now we can do it for ourselves. It's changed also how the songs are "consumed". I had a record collection with about 50 albums or 500 tracks, pretty typical, while now an iPod will often have a couple of thousand tracks, or looked at another way...around a week of 24/7 listening. None of this is news, and I initially resisted having CDs made of "Limited Edition"-it just felt old fashioned. But as I thought about it more I came up with the idea, that "Limited Edition" can be seen in another way; in the traditional sense of a short run of a creative piece, that by it's scarcity creates value as well. It's been used in the fine art world and also in luxury objects. The idea of "one of a kind" still holds a particular mystique, so I started working up ideas about how a CD could fit that model for me. So here's what I came up with:

I'm only going to make 200 copies of "Limited Edition", with unique packaging and contents and auction them one at a time on ebay. Each copy will be personalized for the buyer. Copies can be purchased online from the regular outlets and downloaded, but if someone wants the physical copy the starting bid is $100.

Music and Politics

I was sent this movie and was very impressed with how the author presented some disturbing facts about income inequality in the US. Here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QPKKQnijnsM#!

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from this information and foremost to me is that this situation is the result of politics. This comes to me at a time when politics has been on my mind a lot, and playing a greater role in my song writing. My attitude toward politics was shaped a long time ago, not so much as being on one side or another, but in my understanding that politics is a fundamental part of civilization. It's directly connected to every thing we do as a society, from macroeconomics to our personal relationships. When I was younger I mostly tried to ignore it; politics was something that was mostly just complained about as I was growing up, something "out there" and out of our control. But over time I came to see that we ignore politics to our peril, because there are interests that are working overtime to shape policys that may not be to our benefit. It's a very complicated subject, so I won't go into a lot of explanations here (don't get me started!). In my current EP "Limited Edition" the song "Long Way To Heaven", has a political theme, with moral and spiritual overtones, and I've gotten some great comments about it. Music doesn't have to be political to be good, but I do believe that art is essentially political in the sense that it illuminates the world we live in and helps us to make sense of it.

Cottage Industry

If you've read some of my other blogs you'll know I've been exploring some ideas about how music has exploded and what it's place is in the culture. Technology has a lot to do with the explosion of people making music and I've come to see it in the context of the industrial revolution. Back before there were factories making everything, if you needed a pair of shoes or a loaf of bread, you went to the village baker or shoemaker and purchased directly from them. Now that we have the internet and home recording it's kind of the same thing. Itunes is the best example of this trend, and has pretty much monopolized the music purchasing on the internet. It would be nice if sites like Reverbnation could capture some of that market, but so far they don't seem all that focused on being a commerce site, other than collecting various "rents" from members for various promotion services. I've just finished an EP. called "Limited Edition" and it's posted on this site, but I don't expect much traffic, because there's a barrier for consumers to purchase downloads here in that every interaction is a separate transaction rather than the iTunes model where one has an account and can easily make multiple purchases. I'll get my work on iTunes eventually, and I'm pretty sure that will be where I will get most of my sales. Anyway, I see all the indie artists much in the same way as the village craftsmen, with the one exception that this village has the equivalent of a million shoemakers!

New Tracks

Now that "Limited Edition" is completed and on it's way to Americana radio, I've found that I'm inspired to write some new material. This is after a pretty long dry spell that was broken by the song "When", which is a track I've demoed and have been playing in my shows and getting a great response. The new material will be put out a track at a time starting in a month or so and it is looking like these will be tracks I will promote as singles. Even so the economics of doing releases still favor doing "albums" so they will join the current release probably in the Fall. I'm thinking it might be fun to have a contest to come up with a title.

About 'Limited Edition"

My EP "Limited Edition" will be released on Jan 1. These six tracks come from recordings done over the last few years that I've re-mastered and reworked some. They all have one thing in common in that all these songs came about somewhat unconsciously and spontaneously while practicing. Sometimes you will hear a songwriter say a song "wrote itself" as if he or she had nothing to do with it. I don't buy that. What I think is that the creative process is always working behind the scenes trying to make connections with the all the information we get from all our experiences and every once in a while something clicks in there and an idea hooks up with a sound and you become aware of it and go from there. It is a mysterious and magical thing to be sure, but very much a part of being a creative person, and a gift I always am surprised and delighted to receive. You'll notice that these songs are not love songs, with the exception of "See You Tonite", because the theme of the collection is personal, and I hope universal in expressing the inner life we all have; our pain, our joy, our secrets and our fears. We are all limited editions - unique and priceless in this vast and unknowable universe.

Internet Collaboration

As a producer I have worked with a number of acts over the years, mostly back when I worked full time as a recording engineer. It's only natural for me as I build my profile here on RN that I would look to my fellow 'verbers for an opportunity to work together on a project. Specifically, I'm looking for an artist that doesn't have the budget or resources to record a full band track of their music or someone who would like to entrust their music to someone who'd bring another vision to their tracks. With so much music being created it's even more imperative that artists focus on producing tracks that compete technically and also in terms of engaging production value. The first part has become a lot easier with the equipment available today, but it's also made a very crowded environment where one only has a few seconds to impress a listener. In this environment the single has come back as the way someone can get attention, and ultimately sales from downloads. This is what I'd like to do going forward and I'm excited about the possibilities...here's some more info; http://rmillward.com/studio.html

Awed

I'm quite frankly in awe of the talent and creativity that I've found here on RN. There are many many artists on this site that I think hold up with anything the major labels put out and I can't help but feel that we're on the verge of a whole new way to enjoy music and it seems to me all it's going to take is for the general public...non musicians...to transition to the internet to seek out the tracks that they want to purchase. One of the trends I see is that many of the reporting "stations" for Americana are online streaming sites, and they have much more freedom to play independent artists than traditional radio...it's like the 70's when FM was a more open format...and that's going to help artists without the six-figure promotion budgets get the attention they deserve.

The Next Thing

I've had a great time refining my recording technique to get the most out of my simple home studio and what I'd like to do now is work with some other musicians and see what I can do for them. The idea is to collaborate and make singles, that showcase the song and the artist and hopefully takes the song to the next level. Many of the artists that I hear on RN already have amazingly polished tracks, so I'll be looking for writers and singers that I think might be a good fit for my style and approach.

Reverbn'

I'm lovin' this site. However, I've gotten to a point now where I simply can't listen to every new fan. When I started building my profile I resolved to try to listen to everyone, and so far I've kept up, but there's only so much time in a day, and frankly, only so much music, aside from my own, that I can absorb in a day. I'm inspired by everything I hear and I continue to be amazed at the number of creative people finding a voice on Reverbnation; each new fan is the promise of some wonderful new music. One thing I have yet to do is build my list of recommendations, something I've held off on because I want it to be well considered. So far it's been acts I either know personally, or have just focused on for one reason or another. I've responded to many, sometimes just a track or sometimes there's an original spark that just hits me and I know I want to hear more. I need a strategy though, so here's my plan: I'm going to focus on those who comment on my page first, and see how that goes. My reasoning is that if someone likes my tracks enough to make a comment, that there's a strong chance I'll like them as well. More to come...

Feelin' Moody

This comes under the heading "What is Americana?". I've been listening to a lot of artists, and also those that are getting attention in the larger arena of radio and it seems to me that one thing that might be said about this genre is that it tends to favor songs that are, shall we say, less than upbeat. This comes from the folk and blues tradition that's the foundation of the genre. These days I really see how these styles and "alt rock" have merged to create the Americana sound, and though I identify with and embrace it, I can't fully get behind everything being so gloomy. Sure, I recognize that there's injustice and suffering but life can be sweet, too. There's another narrative that follows and it's more carefree and joyful. "See You Tonight", from my record "homemade", follows that tradition. I like to think it could have been written 150 years ago, and it's just about how being in love "makes all my woes fly away" - not a bad place to be...I'd like to see more upbeat songs accepted as Americana. One example is Band of Joy's "Little Angel Dance". It definitely sounds like Americana to me, but it's a happy little song and I like to hear those once in a while, too.