Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Scream

I spend time on Facebook. Not by any stretch do I have a ton of friends, less than 800 at this point. What I do have is a ton of bands constantly screaming at me. I think I get at least 20 event invites to see bands every single week. I think it's great that you are sending them out. What I don't think is great is that most bands seem to only contact me or post anything unless they are asking me or other fans for something. What is the rub you ask? Jeff, you tell us to get out there and promote ourselves. I do want to know when you are playing and when you have new material that you are releasing. What you have to realize is that most people who are active on social media are probably following a ton of bands. What are you doing to not be one of those bands that is constantly asking people for something? What barriers are you trying to break down between you and your fans. Where is the heart? If I am a fan of the band I want more than that. I want to be included in your process. I want to be included in your thoughts. What other bands are you listening to? What other shows are you going to? How do I know if you really give a shit about anything except the number of people you have on your list to blast your events to? All of you know what I mean. For the bands you love the most, you look and yearn for meaningful substance beyond the music. Give me any reason you can to make me connect and really care about what you are doing. Do you listen to your fans? Do you reply to tweets? Actually connecting to a fan is the real goal in all of this. Sure, there are bands that I am really into that I have never had any dialogue with. Innerparty System is one of those bands for me. Kurt (my drummer and vibe guru) turned me on to them after he saw them play at SXSW in March. You have your own bands that love and don't pay attention to other than enjoying their music. What if you had those fans but could somehow engage them on a level where they would follow you off the cliff? Could you actually be provocative? Believe me, I don't engage fans merely for the sake of being provocative. I am curious. I actually want to listen. If someone has taken the time to find your band on Facebook or any place else for that matter, you have their attention. There is really no need to scream. Think of it this way...When you are simply screaming to get someone's attention, you really aren't communicating with them. You are yelling. You are jumping up and down. Have conversation with those who will have it with you. Those are the ones that might scream and yell your name to others. Don't be the band that your social media friends cringe when they see another invite or post asking them to give you something. Do you have those friends that only call you when they need something from you? Don't be that band. Make a call when you don't want to scream at them and you simply want to talk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Better to Have Loved and Lost...

I was just reading a Facebook message from a friend. We were lamenting over the demise of Q101 in Chicago and how it was affecting each of us. We were talking about the business and how so many we know have been chewed up and spit out by it. Last year I posted about why I was a musician. Many of you that read my blog responded with your own stories. Music touches you in a way that nothing else can. With all of this said I am writing to musicians tonight. I am writing to radio DJ's tonight. I am writing to the many that I know that are programmers, record label personnel, indie promoters, music writers, music attorneys, managers, agents, road crew, sound guys, light guys, tour managers and all of us, fans of music. We all started out by listening. Music spoke to us a bit more that the next person. For many including myself, music spoke to me and motivated me in ways that my parents and family could never understand. We were the black sheep. "Why can't you be more like (insert the name of your "responsible" sibling or academically prodigious friend here)." We became seduced. We all bought in. We chose the path less traveled. We chose a rockier road. At some point we decided to roll the dice and jump into the business that surrounded us with music. Maybe we never thought the end would come. We made our deal with the devil to forego a normal life and in most cases, have far less monetary gain to be with the one we loved, music.

In a time where the formal and traditional side of the music business is in constant upheaval and disruption, let's remember that at the end of the day that music is the most important part of the equation. It is the embryo of every reason we got into the business. It is the reason we picked up an instrument or made every effort to be involved in getting music to others. Music is a calling, not a vocation. Music is who we are. Could I have done something else with my life given the 20/20 vision of hindsight? NO FUCKING WAY! That is why I am currently making new Gravity Kills music.

To you musicians reading this, the business side of music can be seductive. Don't let opportunity ever steer you away from creating and know that what you do in the studio and on stage are really what count for you. Most of all, never take for granted that you will get to play another show or record another song.

For those friends of mine at Q101 and WXRP in New York City, I don't think you would have chosen a different path if you could go back in time. Maybe I am wrong and I do understand in a different way what you are going through tonight. Just remember that the song remains the same. I wish all of you the best.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I titled this entry "Reconnection" for a couple of reasons. I really need to reconnect to what I started here a year ago. I have spent the last year trying to reconnect to who I am, what I am and where I want to go in life. I am reconnecting with my creativity and making music. The second reason, the reason I decided to write today, is my obsession with the disconnect to a larger human experience I feel is occurring with all of us. I have written before about the "digital space" we all create around us using social media and the internet as a whole. Maybe you think I am full of shit and are thinking "Shut up you fucking whiner, the internet rocks!" I don't disagree with you. I am a whiner and the internet does rock but put in context with the issues that we musicians struggle with in a 2.0 world, how do we expand our realm of existence back into the world of living, breathing human beings? How do we get people out to our shows? How do we create a physical community that transcends our virtual community that resides behind my computer monitor? This may sound ass backwards to you. You may be thinking that I have finally lost it. You are definitely thinking "how can he fucking type that on a blog? This makes no sense." You are correct. It does seem strange to think that as someone that is attempting to communicate in the virtual world with facebook, twitter, this blog and now my tumblr account that I am calling for bands to do everything they can to have real face time with their fans in any way they can. Can you do something as simple as have random mixers at a local coffee shop? Could you offer exclusive material to those who show up? I am not saying that this is going to set your career on a rocketship to the moon but you just might start thinking of creative ways to get yourself out from in front of the computer where you endlessly battle the time constraints of attempting to keep up with your internet marketing and social media and help build your fan base locally in a real face-to-face way.  Any of you that have been to a Gravity Kills show in the last few years know I put my money where my mouth is. If you are one of those friends/fans that comes to those shows...Would you actually come if you weren't going to get the face time? I actually enjoy it more than you do but you get my drift. Don't be afraid to become a physical human being to those who might enjoy listening to your music or coming to your shows. Those people that you connect to outside of the matrix will become your most loyal and hardcore fans.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

By Any Means Neccessary

Like most of you that read this, I am not a full time musician. That wasn't always the case but for today, that is my reality. In the past, I have touched on the challenges you have when you are creating in a part time scenario. Finding the proper amount of "good" time and energy always seems to your holy grail. It seems that everything else in life is screaming for your attention and by the time you actually do have time to be creative, everything else has zapped you of your creative energy. This has lead me to really rethink the way that new Gravity Kills music will get finished. I have resigned myself finally to the fact that I will never have the time to work on music in a perfect scenario (is there ever really a perfect scenario?)

I believe that most artists are control freaks. I recently watched the Foo Fighters documentary and they touched on the second record when Dave decided to re-cut all the drums and inevitably disengaged him from the process and ultimately from the band. I am not eluding to any weirdness in Gravity Kills so don't go there. What I mean is that maybe it is okay to relinquish some control over what you create in order to serve a larger picture. Can you find others that are close to you in some way to help drive your goals? I had a long talk with Matt and Kurt from Gravity a couple of weeks ago. We have become frustrated with the pace by which we are moving things along. What we feel we need to do at this point is reach out to individuals outside of the band to produce. This isn't really an earth shattering event. Bands work with producers all the time but in this case, we might actually be working with a different person on each song. When we restarted this band, my initial thought was that this would be a great opportunity for the band to be completely self contained. Life, and everything else has decided at this point that being self contained is not the solution for Gravity Kills. This could change tomorrow but for now, that is the way it is. Now the flip side. This concept is very exciting for me. How cool to have other interpretations of what Gravity Kills is in a modern context. Others will have the ability to pull me out of the trees and give me a whole new forest to look at. Others won't worry about my or the band's perception of itself but think about what their perception is of the band. At the end of the day, it is not about the music I WANT to make, but about the music that Gravity Kills SHOULD make. Gravity Kills songs are Gravity Kills songs but why not attempt to raise the bar higher than I can imagine with outside production perspectives?

This leads to a larger question for you. What do you do in the context of your band that you can relinquish control of? What person or persons that are close to you and your band that would gladly lend a hand for the bigger picture and greater good? With so much going on for indie bands to deal with, is it time to find those that you can trust to help drive the machine? I preach this over and over but NO BAND CAN DO IT ALONE. You can't be the only good band in your market and have a thriving local music scene so why do you think you must go it alone with everything it takes to keep your band and your art moving in the right direction? I am not telling you to use a producer if you want, can and have the time to do it yourself but I am telling you to think about what you need to get done, what you actually get done and what could get done with the help of others. Maybe it is time?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And Where Were You?

A couple weeks ago I was in Tulsa and went to a local music showcase at Cain's Ballroom that was sponsored by KMYZ The Edge. They featured 4 local bands one of which was getting some attention outside of Tulsa. The turnout was a bit less than I had hoped for but the room looked ok. I spent the evening in the VIP section up in the back balcony-like space at Cain's and had a really good view of what was happening on the floor. As the night wore on, I kept looking for people I knew in bands not playing the showcase in hopes of seeing some local unity, solidarity and support for the local scene. How many band members not playing the event do you think I recognized? Sadly, there was only one person that I saw in the crowd from a band not playing that night. I will mention him because he was the one guy that actually "gets it." Paul Cristiano, the bass player from the band Radio Radio, is the winner of the "I GET IT" award for the evening. Where is the sense of community? Where is the drive among the Tulsa band community to unite and help create a real scene? Once again, all you fucking wannabe's that bitch, piss and moan about the lack support for local music in Tulsa decided to sit this one out. Is it that you were pissed that you weren't selected for the show and your absence was a silent protest? Were you pissed that the radio station doesn't play your music? Were you pissed off at one of the other bands on the bill and thought that showing up would make them look better? Well, you fucking missed an opportunity to mingle with 300 people that support local music and the chance to gain a fan or two that obviously does support the local scene. In fact, they support it more than you do. They paid for the ticket, spent gas money to get downtown and at least showed up. Meanwhile, you were sitting on your couch, or on a bar stool, or at a movie, or hanging with your friends consciously or unconsciously excluding yourself from something that you should be a part of. Once again I will say that LOCAL MUSIC SCENES MUST START WITH THE BANDS! Maybe some of you will never understand this. You have been conditioned to be competitive. You have been conditioned to hate on and talk shit about the other band's in town. You have been conditioned by the old paradigm to exclude yourself from the fan experience as a band. If you really want what you say you want then you better own up to the fact that you cannot do this by yourself. You need the other bands in the market to be a part of what you want. They need you as well. If you are in a band and were at the event, I applaud you. If you weren't, you are part of the problem, not the solution. Hope the movie was good.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I remember back in the old days, the really old days before I was in Gravity Kills, it seems that the my bands were always trying to finish projects that seemingly always went unfinished. The other 3 guys in Gravity Kills had bands before Gravity that were in the same boat. Back then, if you wanted to create a recording that was worth a shit, you had to spend what seemed like a ton of money. Studio technology was not affordable at that time and if you recorded at home, it was on some piece of shit cassette four track (I guess I am dating myself now.) Gravity Kills owned our own studio but I actually did demos at home for Perversion on a 4 track mini disk player. In the old days, you would write a bunch of songs with your mates and save up some cash so you could reserve some studio time in hopes of banging out at least an EP in a few days. We all know how the studio goes in relationship with the "best laid plans" concept...It rarely goes perfect in the studio and the band would end up finishing 2 or three songs. At that point everyone would need to start saving again to get back in the studio as soon as possible. I personally have volumes of unfinished recordings from pre-gravity bands. Fast forward to 2011...

I really want to broaden this topic to other tasks that simply go along with having a band in 2011. The other day I went to a band's reverbnation account to check some availability for an upcoming small festival that I am booking. The band hadn't updated the calendar for almost a year and a half! Really!? This is a band that is currently playing shows and has upcoming dates to play but without calling the band personally, how the fuck would I know what they have available? I have talked about this before and you know where I am going...There is so much available to bands now to promote your music and shows but if you don't use it properly, it doesn't mean jack shit. It's great that you are take the time to set up your accounts and start uploading band pics and music. Is it like having a new girl friend that you are totally into it until you find out there is some maintenance involved in the relationship and you lose interests? How long does it really take to update this stuff? Newsflash...If you want to be in a band and get anywhere with it at all, dealing with your web presence on a daily basis is part of the gig. Maybe that's the difference between you and the band that you hate because they have a following and get the gigs you think you should be getting? Maybe they work harder? Maybe they finish projects? Maybe their fans actually know where they are going to play? Maybe they update their website and other accounts on-line frequently while you and your mates sit around and bitch about things not getting done and pointing fingers at everyone but yourself? I have said this before but I have learned that it is far better to have a bad plan and great execution than have a great plan with shitty execution. If you don't finish music and keep your on-line presence frequently updated, do you really think that the stars will magically align for you? You can tell that this frustrates me. Maybe it frustrates you too? I know that most of you reading this can't afford to be in a band full time without having a day job that takes up the better part of your time. Some of you have families that take up more time. In today's climate, there will be fewer and fewer of us that will be able to do it full time. Can you find an extra 30 minutes in your day? You make time to write, record and play shows. Suck it up and figure it out. With everything you don't finish, the chances of you gaining any traction at all diminishes. What would have happened if Gravity Kills would not have finished "Guilty" before the deadline? It would have never fucking happened. Glad I finally got in a band that had resolve.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Path

The ongoing theme for me lately in my discussions with musicians has been about what path, or paths if you will, to take in getting their music out there. Instead of wrapping this up at the end, let me simply go ahead and say it now. THERE IS NO SPECIFIC OR "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" PATH THAT WILL WORK FOR EVERYONE. The major labels, and maybe some of you musicians out there, seem to be looking for ways to take things back to the glory days when music as a product was finite. Major labels, before the mp3 genie was out of the bottle, had a stranglehold on what we heard, how we heard it, when we could hear it, where we could buy it and how much it cost. The rest of us are simply trying to figure out how to get anyone at all to listen. Maybe we should debate the virtues of using Band Camp over Topspin or vice versa? Maybe we should replicate how Amanda Palmer spends countless hours on social media? Do you give your music away for free? Do you let fans pay what they want ala Radiohead? Do you only release singles and forget about making full lengths or split the difference with EP's? Where do you upload your music to? Where do you upload your videos? Should you be on itunes or try keeping all the money by selling you music off of your own website? How do you engage fans and/or crowdsource without looking like everything is one huge bullshit way of getting them to buy something from you? How much time to you devote to social media? Are you just another band screaming for attention with social media or are you genuine and really have something to give or say? Do you dare attempt getting radio airplay and getting mainstream media and press outlets to pay attention? How often do you release new material? What new content are you giving your fans between releases? How often do you play shows? Do you try touring? If so, how large a geographic region do you try to cover? How often will you play markets outside of your hometown? Need I continue? You can see that there might be an infinite amount of questions to ask. The great thing is that there are also infinite answers. You must set your path in motion by asking questions. Ultimately, only you and your band can find what works best for you. Many of you have tried and are still trying several paths and by the way, that's fucking great. I will certainly have very strong opinions on all of the aforementioned questions but at the end of the day, no one can execute these things for you. If you are throwing darts, at least step up to the line and throw the fucking dart. You think the major labels have the answers to all of these questions? When's the last time you read or heard anyone talking about DRM (that's Digital Rights Management for some of you casually playing along)? It's been a while. The fact is that everyone is looking for where this mess will land. Resolve yourself to the fact that it will never land and the path to enlightenment will be forever changing. I know I said never and that may just bite me in the ass someday. It's not someday yet.