We have entered a new period in communications and it is unlike any other before it. We have come a long way since the days of smoke signals. Behold, the age of instant communication. Actually, instant communication has been around a very long time. The teletype was the first form of instant communication, provided that there was someone else to receive the message sent. That person had to be able to write in Morse code and de-cypher it at the same time. Not certain that your iPhone can do that! Speaking of the telephone, it was the next instant communicator and still remains one today, but what a noticeable difference. Instead of calling just one person at a time, you can now conference call or send a text out to a pre-determined group of friends, family and fans. That brings us to the computer and the internet. The internet is going to be one of your band’s best friends. Cyperspace is filled with websites that are designed specifically for you to 1). Get your music out there and 2). Get your fan base organized and keep them informed. Only a few short years ago, myspace.com was the only way to reach out by posting a few songs and telling where you and your band would be playing next. Now, there are more sites to post on than you can name. Chances are, you have already visited one today. We all know that Facebook is a great site to get your name or your band’s name out there. Every singer or band should have one, but posting music on it is tough and not many choose to go that route. Sites like Ampslam.com and ReverbNation are geared more towards the musician. Free to sign up and maintain, these are the very staples of today’s current scene. iLike.com, MP3.com and garageband.com all offer a free avenue for you to keep your fans current and indulge them with your music. Even myspace.com got deeper into the mix by offering myspacemusic.com. All of these sites are successful because they work! Posting and interacting with your audience are the essentials for getting people to your show this weekend. Uh-oh! Last minute change on the schedule and you are going on 2nd instead of 4th? A simple message on Twitter, a group email or a quick posting on your Facebook page, insures that your audience gets the new set time and won’t miss all of your hard work. Interacting with your audience is a great idea, and they are right at your fingertips. Not sure which image to use for your CD cover? Why not run a few on your page and have your fans vote for the one that they like best. The same idea works for trying to pick a single or determining which t-shirt design to go with. Talk to them and they will talk back. Most of all, don’t be afraid to post your work, even if it is in a raw demo form or just acoustic. Labels peruse these sites on a daily basis and you never know who may hear what you are doing, and like it. It also gives the fan/listener a chance to access the music. This will help build a fan base for you. It may cause them to think, “I wonder what this song would sound like live?” Viola! Guess who is at your next gig? None other than that new fan of yours, and they brought friends along. This is how it happens. This is how it begins. So don’t shy away from social media, embrace it. It beats doing your set via teletype, one click at a time. It also beats having to do your set by smoke signals…and you know that the Fire Marshall hates that!
Rock vs. Pop. It’s been going on since DJ Alan Freed originally coined the phrase ‘Rock and Roll’. So what’s the big deal? Would you call Taylor Swift a rock star? No. Would you call Alice Cooper a pop star? No. Two distinctively different camps, yet the lines seem to be blurred in some cases. Let’s start with The Beatles. When they first hit the scene in the very early 60’s, there was no such thing as a rock star. Artists like Perry Como, Paul Anka and Liberace were popular performers and chart toppers, but far from rockers. One could argue that since the term ‘pop’ is short for ‘popular’, they actually were pop stars, but you would be splitting hairs. Early on, The Beatles made ‘pop’ records and were by today’s standards, a pop band. That all changed with the first hit of LSD taken by the Fab Four, instantly transforming them into a serious rock band that has taught generations ‘the code’ ever since. Very few artists besides The Beatles have ever made the switch. Elvis was huge in his prime and still is an iconic figure long past his death, but do people ever refer to him as a ‘rock star’? No, he is simply ‘The King’. Michael Jackson is ‘The King of Pop’, not a rock star. However, take an artist like Prince, who can unleash a fury of rock and roll inside of a pop song. He made the transition when “Purple Rain” was released and an audience got to see for the first time what the purple one could do to a guitar and the sounds that he could make with it. The way that you write your music has a lot to do with the difference between the two worlds. Compare Willow Smith’s “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth” to Bob Dylan’s classic tale of the boxer Ruben Carter, known as “Hurricane”. One tells a story and the other relies on repetitive beats to get its point across, ad nauseum. Take the time to do a little personal story telling, just don’t tell it through an autotune. Timeless classics tend to spare us the autotune feature. When it comes to your persona as an artist, make certain that you and your manager are on the same page. In the 1970’s, singer/actor Leif Garrett had it all, fame, girls and a boat load of cash to help him live the California lifestyle. His manager was very happy and very rich, thanks to his client. However, the client was not happy. Garrett wanted to be taken seriously as a rock star, not a pop star. He envisioned himself as a one man Led Zeppelin, complete with the long, flowing lion mane of hair, just like lead singer Robert Plant. It was not to be. Due to contractual obligations, Leif Garrett was forced to release the unforgettably forgettable “I Was Made for Dancin’ (All Night Long)”. It was kind of hard to recover from that and be taken seriously as a rock and roll star. Today, in this DIY world of entertainment, youtube.com is one of the hot spots for discovering new talent. From Carly Rae Jepsen to Justin Beiber, today’s newest and biggest pop talents are just a click away from stardom. Youtube.com has also been the main factor in finding replacement singers for long established bands like Journey and Styx. The source of these replacements ? Tribute bands that get posted and then viewed by the actual original band. Literally, plucked from obscurity. Pop music and rock music, there is plenty of both to go around. Be true to your heart, you already know who you are, so the rest will come naturally. No matter which camp you wind up in, do it to the best of your ability and your audience will find you.
This can be a confusing time for a band or musician. Everyone is saying ‘go green’ and ‘be as efficient as possible’. With all of the digital technology now available at our fingertips (literally), should you still go the traditional route and compile and send out press kits to potential labels, managers, radio and other media outlets? The answer is a resounding YES! Trust me when I say that it is hard enough to get someone’s attention and even more difficult to hold it for more than 30 seconds. It’s kind of like you with the television remote. You don’t like this show? Move on to the next one. Radio programmers are bombarded with new product on a daily basis. It’s comprised of local, national and international fare. Where do they listen to most of those releases? They tend to listen in their cars, on the way to and from work. You need a physical disc of music to supply to them. No one wants you to walk into a meeting with an interested party and say something like “Hey, bring up my ReverbNation page”! You’ll be back on the bus in seconds flat. So how do you get your material noticed? You can achieve this by taking all of the right steps to success, and follow the three easy ones below. First, remember, peoples time is limited and so is their shelf space. Yes, you are trying to get a record deal, but don’t send out a full CD of music. Pick your best three or four songs and provide those in demo form on a disc. Do not over think it, do not overdo it. If you have been doing some shows around town and have seen familiar faces at your gigs, talk to them. Ask them what songs they like and why. Any idea how many great songs that you know and love have almost been left off the album until someone spoke up? Ask the artist Gotye. He just won a Grammy for Song of the Year with a song that almost did not make the cut! Use the tools that you have around you. Fans know you better than you may think. Don’t worry about some fancy insert or sleeve just yet. A well-marked, plain disc in a plain, white sleeve will do the trick. Make certain to list the track names and composers and time length. Add the studio and engineer if applicable. Second, get a couple of professional pictures of you that really reflect who and what you or your band actually are. Oh, you have a cousin that once did some dark room work back in college and he’ll do the pictures for you because he owes you beer money? No. Run. Figure out how many beer can deposits it will take to get a professional to do the pictures and start cashing them in. If it is a solo shot, don’t wear something that is distracting (like your own band t-shirt….tacky). Try not to pose, but don’t look uninterested either. Work with the photographer to find that happy medium so you look good and intelligent and most of all, viable. Be sure to include at least one ‘live shot’ from a show, if possible. Last, but not least, is the biography that you must assemble. It does not have to be your life story. A couple of well thought out paragraphs will do. Talk about your influences and where you see yourself on the musical tree (what ‘branch’ are you? Blues, rock, pop, electronica?). Mention all of the band member’s names, what they do in the band and make certain that everything is spelled correctly. Mention if you have played any really big shows, events or festivals. Have you appeared on any television shows, local or not? Have you done any videos? If you have opened for anyone of notoriety, talk about it, but keep it short and sweet. Remember, you are trying to connect with people, not lull them to sleep. If you follow these three steps, you will get a foot in the door. Be serious and you will be taken seriously. Maybe next time you will be famous enough to forego the paper route and you can send your new EPK (Electronic Press Kit) out with your major label debut. Here’s hoping. Until then, keep practicing.
Gone are many of the clubs on Lansdowne Street. ‘Axis’, formerly known as ‘Spit’, where Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins and even Nine Inch Nails once played, closed its doors after Kenmore Square was neutered. Next door was the larger ‘Citi/Metro’ club where acts like Sinead O’Connor, Pixies, Soundgarden and Sonic Youth entertained their fans throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Even Aerosmith’s Mama Kin club could only last a few years before it fell a victim to the “Lansdowne Triangle” and was lost forever. That very same neutering of Kenmore Square also cost us the quintessential punk club called ‘The Rath Skeller’ aka ‘The Rat’. There never was a greater rock and roll institution in Boston. It was on par with the world famous ‘CBGB’s’ out of the Bowery in New York. The one club that people seem to miss the most in Boston, was down on Necco Street, sitting right next to a channel of water, hence the name, ‘The Channel’. What set it apart from all of the other clubs? The huge, free parking lot didn’t hurt. The fact that it ran the gamut of club goers from frat boys to leather clad rockers to the average office person who just was coming to see their favorite singer or band. It all worked together. Acts that played ‘The Channel’ ranged from the Misfits to Iggy Pop to Alice in Chains. Sadly, it was the very last place that iconic singer Roy Orbison ever played. He performed a Saturday night show and died just two days later. A legendary singer and a legendary club, both gone too soon. Today, Boston still thrives musically, but most of the venues are not clubs. Sure, some still exist from ‘The Paradise Rock Club’ to “Great Scott’, but the numbers are down and getting lower all the time. It’s a big money game these days. Now, you go to see your favorite acts at the Wang Center, Agganis Arena or the new Boston Garden. The prices are higher, as is your blood pressure from the maddening crowd. The ‘search wand’ passed over your body is great at detecting your car keys, lighter and change. Be sure to enjoy your $12.00 beer, your $30 t-shirt and of course, if you can afford it, your upgrade to ‘premium seating’. Suddenly, $4.50 for a night out sounds mighty good! I really need to buckle down in 2013 and finish that time machine.
It’s no secret that the landscape of Boston night life has forever changed. Just like all parts of life, things go away and never come back. We have memories instead, and those past memories are what propel us towards new ones. So let’s take a moment and think about what we once had as a local music community. The first two old school venues that come to mind are the Boston Tea Party on Lansdowne Street and the original Boston Garden. Are you old enough to remember this fact? The Boston Tea Party was originally located on 53 Berkeley Street (later they moved to 15 Lansdowne Street in the former building once occupied by their only competition, The Ark.) Opening just after New Year’s 1967, for the next three years, the Tea Party was the place to see a show in the Hub. Not only American acts, but English groups as well. What was the average ticket price to see an act like The Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin? $3.00 to $3.50. When The Who toured with the ‘Tommy’ release and booked a date at the Tea Party, jaws dropped at the thought of paying $4.50. Those greedy Brits! Today, you can’t even get a Coke for $4.50 at most large venues! Hendrix, Cream, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground all played at the club. However, it was not all about the big acts. Smaller acts also had success at the Tea Party. The Chambers Brothers, Canned Heat, Richie Havens, The MC5 and even the Sun Ra Arkestra all played to amazed crowds, while setting the pace for decades to come and securing Boston’s rock and roll infamy. Here is a link to the roster of bands and the dates played at the Boston Tea Party. www.theamericanrevolution.fm/boston-tea-party-schedule-1967---1970.html
The Tea Party closed its doors just after Christmas 1970. The final act to grace the stage? Sha Na Na. The doo-wop group did several days in a row. While, the previous month, little known Elton John got only one show. Meanwhile, while everyone was ‘digging the show’, someone else with very deep pockets decided that selling 800 tickets per show was OK, but filling something the size of, oh say the Boston Garden with 10,000 seats, would be even more profitable to all involved. And so began Boston’s love affair with the giant concert. Many of the same acts like the Dead and The Who and even little known Elton John all translated well to the change of locations and have thrilled sold out audiences at the Boston Garden. It is actually amazing to think how an act like U2 could start out at the very small Paradise rock club in Boston in 1980 and then become the toast of the town on many a St. Patrick’s day show at the Garden throughout the 90’s, until the original parquet floor was no more. You can take our building, but you can’t take our dignity or memories. When the ‘new’ Garden was finished, one of the first shows booked was the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” tour. It also marked the first time in any city that the face price for a ticket exceeded $100.00.
Here at CD\Works, we do all kinds of jobs for all kinds of clients. We do small duplication runs of 100 or more for local musicians and bands that are just starting out. We do runs of thousands for our corporate clients. So where is the thrill in this job? Last night we had not one, not two, but three of our clients win Grammy awards! The top awards in the music industry. Congrats go to: 1. BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen Tom Caulfield & John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale)
2. PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL Blanton Alspaugh • Chamber Symphonies (Gregory Wolynec & Gateway Chamber Orchestra) • Davis: Río De Sangre (Joseph Rescigno, Vale Rideout, Ava Pine, John Duykers, Kerry Walsh, Guido LeBron, The Florentine Opera Company & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) • Gjeilo: Northern Lights (Charles Bruffy & Phoenix Chorale) • In Paradisum (Brian A. Schmidt & South Dakota Chorale) • Life & Breath - Choral Works By René Clausen (Charles Bruffy & Kansas City Chorale) • Music For A Time Of War (Carlos Kalmar & The Oregon Symphony) • Musto: The Inspector (Glen Cortese & Wolf Trap Opera Company) 3. BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
Congratulations to each one. May your trophies shine for a very long time!