David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:07
As noted above, I have released three projects online via Festivalink <http://www.festivalink.net> since the first of the year. One is a solo performance, which is what "flink" usually offers (they record Merlefest et al. and make deals with the performers to market their sets). The other two are studio recordings, for which I paid flink's partner, Dave Glasser <http://www.airshowmastering.com> to master in HDCD and in 96/24 (for marketing via HDTracks <http://www.hdtracks.com> to the audiophile market. Festivalink offers good-quality MP3s, FLACS (CD quality in a lossless compressed format), and CD on demand. This scheme saves me the costs of package design and pressing, but of course also sacrifices the pleasures and marketing benefits of cool packaging. The vast majority of my music sales happens at gigs. So I need to either pay for CDs from Festivalink or go ahead and do a run of pressed CDs. I am probably going to press discs for the Sycamore Slough String Band but not for the Gans-Rawlins project, because SSSB is planning to gig a lot and Eric and I haven't done a public performance in years. Another advantage of Festivalink for me is that they handle the licensing of the songs.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:11
Now, I have to say I *love* recording music in a studio. I keep some cash in a cookie jar, and whenever I have a few hundred bucks saved up I'll go into my faorite studio with some of my favorite musicians and record a song or two. I have about 50 minutes' worth of material accumulated and plans to record a few more songs in the nearish future. Once I have a CD's worth of material in the can, I will start saving up again to have it mastered, design a package, and get it pressed. It's great to have music on the market digi- tally, but there is great satisfaction in have a good old-fashioned ALBUM, too. The SSSB CDs will serve as a calling card for booking and a minor source of revenue at gigs. I already spent the money to record it, so any proceeds frmo sales will go into that cookie jar for more recording projects.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:11
Oh, and I will also send SSSB discs to radio stations.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:17
What I don't do that I should be doing: MERCH. I don't have t-shirts and beer cozies and all that shit, because I haven't got the resources (nor the capital) to manufacture, schlep, and sell that stuff. Being a one=-man operation has its downside. I have been thinking about a novel merchandising idea: I am a big fan of Barlovento Chocolates <http://www.barloventochocolates.com>, a vendor at the Grand Lake Farmers' Market. He sells these great little "logo bars" of 64% dark Venezuelan chocolate dusted with sea salt. I'm hoping I can persuade the chocolatier to make a mold with my band name and URL so I can sell his bars at my gigs for our mutual benefit.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:21
Before you move on to discussing distribution, I'd like to return to the nexus of what is art and what is commercial product. Seabrook's article shows that there is a formula at work in which content is taken through a production process. Same process that has always been used as <rik> mentioned, the difference is the technology. Now from the perspective of the critics and the audience who consume these products, some are ephemeral like discarding chewing gum wrappers; others are evocative of their time and place and feed nostalgia(they wind up on compilation albums); while some few are considered to be "classics" that transcend the process and are then treated more like "art." This last possibility is what I find to be most interesting. It is like the performers are doing it and creating something of value despite the restrictions of the formula and process. Let me give you 2 sets of examples from pop music. In the early 60s there was one dance craze after another with the record companies trying to capitalize on the phenomenon, guaranteeing that all the records within each craze would sound alike. Example 1: The Boogaloo Somehow the Flamingos got roped into cutting "Boogaloo Party" <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeCRGcPq3YE> The tune reeks of formula. Then Fantastic Johnny C tried his hand at it in Memphis and listen to the difference: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48FY89F4i6g> Example 2: Hang on Sloopy If illegal aliens from outer space stopped me on the street and asked me to play the worst rock n' roll record ever, I'd play them the McCoys version of this tune: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGuPc01Dn7c> Then by an accident of history, Arsenio Rodriguez at the end of his career had a record date produced by Bert Berns. Bert wanted a latin version of his tune and we got this version: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azMcL3L5QcY> In both instances, the tracks that I'm elevating were produced according to the formula. The artists just couldn't help themselves in delivering a superior version. Looking at them now, they are something more than an ephemeral thing.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:26
I have to disagree about The McCoys' "Hang on Sloopy." It ain't deep, but it has staying power. I could list thousands of records that are much worse!
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:29
Just my opinion. But I presented it to make the larger point.
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:30
The mere fact that I can instantly summon it to my mind says something -- it was released nearly 50 years ago and before I was born!
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:30
I again have to state that I think the world I live in is pretyt much entirely separate from the music business. I play music festivals and clubs and other venues that are known in the Pollstar database, and I am heard on the radio and on Pandora etc., but I will never be a candidate for anything anywhere near the mainstream of music marketing. A couple of years ago, Peter Case posted on Facebook that he was starting a label. I said to him, "Pretty soon it's gonna be one man, one label." His reply: "Yeah, it's like the fall of the Soviet Union: the playing field has been leveled completely." That is both a good thing and a bad thing. The down side is that the ceiling has been lowered considerably. VERY few people are going to get anything like rich from making music these days. On the plus side: I control my own destiny, make the music I want to make, and earn a modest profit from it.
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Thu 29 Mar 12 12:37
OK, let's hang around the creative fulcrum for a moment. Like <tnf>, I LOVE working in a good studio. I think it's totally obvious that this is the best way to make a record. The hourly rate at a good studio, however, can make for the worst conditions under which to make a record. There is no way to explain the feeling of pressure when your producer is staring at you through the control room glass and you hear "let's try that again" from the talk-back mic in your cans. That's why the recent innovations in home studio recording are so huge. I can work without pressure and create something pretty clean right in my home studio, or even in my bedroom these days. If I stick to electronic inputs with no analog points in the signal path, the audio clarity is crystal. And to draw a straight line through this conversation, we can go from the Tascam Portastudio to the Mac of the '90s to <rik>'s MacBook. At the end of that line is tremendous power. But man, do I miss the closets full of vintage microphones and Telefunken tube sweeteners.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 13:01
That's true about the cost of recording. I am (again) very fortunate to have a great studio with an angineer I love, at $50 per hour. AND he's a total gear slut, so I have access to tons of great analog outboard gear and state- of-the-art plug-ins. Most importantly, I am in command of my musical resources to such a degree that I never ever feel the sort of pressure Adam describes. If you have good players and a good engineer and a relaxed and productive atmosphere, the tension never builds. I do feel sorta sheepish about never using the amazing tools I have in this Macbook Pro of mine. When I was 21 I borrowed two stereo open-reel decks and made layered recordings Sgt Pepper style as if my life depended on it, because that's all I ever wanted to do! Then I did the Portastudio thing in the '80s. And then I started playing in bands, and recording was pretty much out of my financial reach for a long time. In the late '80s, I had an Otari half-inch 8 track and a mixing console with which to produce my radio show - and I NEVER ONCE recorded music on it. My energies were directed elsewhere, I guess.
David Gans (tnf) Thu 29 Mar 12 14:09
Then again, the amazing desktop tools are great for all sorts of other related things. I record all my gigs at 96/24 on an Edirol, the size of a pack of cigarettes. After a show I move the bits into my computer so I can listen to the performance on my way to the next one. I can also pull a highlight or two for posting on my blog. The tools to do these things are cheap and powerful. (I highly recommend, for Mac users, an app called Sound Studio <http://www.felttip.com> - cheap and powerful and useful for a great number of things, e.g. splitting a file into tracks, tagging files, converting to MP3, doing a bit of limiting/compression, etc.)
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Thu 29 Mar 12 17:17
It's a wonderful world for gear sluts. Probably like tnf, I like old gear, but there are some terrific new widgets and a lot happening in the Line 6 style tone modeling end as well as iOS and online distro. Rik, you are right there on the front lines. What are the kids buying, what's hot, do guitars still sell, and what does the youth of today want for musical tools?
Rik Elswit (rik) Thu 29 Mar 12 17:59
<scribbled by rik Thu 29 Mar 12 18:00>
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 29 Mar 12 18:15
I'm going to canvas our staff before I answer that one. It's become so complex that our sales staff has to specialize, and I, who used to be a MIDI sequencing fanatic, have slowly slid out of the electronic side to concentrate on the guitar side. I do sell a lot of looping devices to a wide variety of types. What's instructive is how varied the interests of our music students are. Nils Erickson, one of our best guitar teachers achieved a certain amount of indie notoriety in a band called 20-Minute Loop. He's also in, of all things, a Micheal Jackson tribute band called Foreverland, and these guys are all good enough to kill on Quincy Jones charts. The other day I dropped by his cubicle and he had his ear to the boombox,transcribing a burning Vince Gill Telecaster solo for one of his students. The kids we see seem open to everything. Hell, I just finished teaching a local high school girl Joni Mitchell's dulcimer parts on "A Case Of You" for a vocal showcase she was doing at school. And she could nail the vocals, curls and all, without breaking sweat. The question remains, once you learn how to do this stuff, what's the career path?
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Thu 29 Mar 12 18:20
For my generation, the career path in pop was to learn your craft in the clubs and hope to get noticed by a record company who you hoped would rescue you and give you a shot at stardom, not knowing that what happened to most was something like indentured servitude to a company that was making a profit on you long before you paid them off.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Fri 30 Mar 12 09:44
Hey Ted, this would probabaly be a good time to let the folks at home know how to chime in with advice, questions, or tales of their own.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 30 Mar 12 12:53
Thanks, Rik...and I will. This is a great time for any of you following this conversation from off the WELL to ask any questions or make comments. Please send them to email@example.com and we will make sure they are posted here.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Fri 30 Mar 12 13:08
Horrors storied, too. We love horror stories.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 30 Mar 12 13:21
LOL...could you all talk a bit about performing live in small venues? It's a great interaction when people are into it, but what an awful experience when you are ignored as background music and they just talk through the set...(my experience in Wine bars, which I will never play again!)Convinced me to remain a studio musician.
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Fri 30 Mar 12 13:25
Wine bars ... paging <esau>!
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 30 Mar 12 14:43
David actually has the best stories about some downright hostile environments. Not a wine bar, but my recent gig at a winery was a lot like the times I played on an outdoor stage near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco: we were an unexpected treat playing for three hours to a mostly ambient crowd of tourists. They'd wander through, sit on the benches and have a crepe, sometimes dance or nod their heads, and then walk away. Best weird moment: mid-song, a local character who was -- how shall I describe him? -- a mean-looking little person confined to a motorized wheelchair stole our tip jar, which was in the middle of the front of the stage. One of our friends on the bench calmly walked over (his escape vehicle wasn't very fast) and took it back. I think playing out is pretty fun and I don't demand to be listened to. My favorite part is seeing kids, some of whom are really registering music for the first time -- like, "That's how it's made!"
David Gans (tnf) Fri 30 Mar 12 16:02
That last is one of my favorite things about playing at the farmers' market. I might be the first live musician a toddler has ever seen! I am a total SpongeBob SquarePants about gigging. A wallpaper gig like a farmers' market is great fun because it's zero pressure. No one is there to hear me play, and any attention I get is most welcome. I treat it as an ooportunity to woodshed, improvise, play old James Taylor songs, etc. I've been the opening act at a sold-out show at which it was clear that the jam-packed house only came in early to secure a good spot for the headliners' set. No problem! I step up my game, make as much eye contact as I can, and make it mission to get at least a few people to tune in to what I'm doing. In short: there is something to gain (wisdom, experience, money, email addresses on the mailing list, CD sales, what sort of gig never to do again, etc.) from every single performing opportunity. Any time I've been invited to perform, for money or other compensation or just to do a favor for somebody, is good.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Fri 30 Mar 12 19:42
Your attitude about that has always impressed me. I watched you do a show at Horizons, in Sausalito, and it was obvious to me while watching you set up that nobody was there to be entertained. You were to be the live equivalent of the FM station they might have had on in a lower rent venue. And you set up, cased the house, and began playing seventies covers. You stretched out and jammed over loops, and everything you did fit the occasion. It was pleasant, and the diners could ignore you and let you simply be ambience, but if people focused on you, as I did, they were rewarded. I'm less professional about it. I'm in a band with a bunch of friends, all of whom have other ways of making a living, but who are good players and a pleasure to be with, and whose music I enjoy. We play to amuse ourselves, make enough money to cover expenses, and give us a little pocket cash. But it's really about playing together. However, playing is about communicating something, and an audience puts something at stake. Our singer/songwriter is the little sister I should have had, and she radiates joy. Which is ironic, given all the songs she sings about whiskey and heartbreak. And our pedal steel player and I are constantly surprising each other. We play bars, coffeehouses, restaurants and private parties. We sell CDs at the gigs, but really, the only real money comes from the parties. And we do it for the joy of playing. Ironically, I've made more in less entertaining and less pleasant situations, and I find this more satisfying. So when I join in an inquiry about career paths in music, it's an academic interest. I'm a good teacher.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 30 Mar 12 19:59
Now that I'm in a band, I get to do some of that there enjying-playing- together stuff. I like that, too! I just don't see any point in grumbling or bitching or acting like I'm too good for the gig. Take it on its own terms, and there's something to gain.
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