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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


On Tuesday I saw a post by a DJ friend of mine about the new Foo Fighters. Did he post a track? No! He posted the video from youtube. I thought that was interesting given the source of dissemination. DJ's listen to music, right? Surely they don't sit around watching youtube videos for the source of their music. Some of you out there probably use Pandora, Slacker, Last FM or some other source for streaming music from the cloud. I use Slacker at home and in the studio when I want to be a passive listener. When I want to go truly on demand, I go straight to youtube. Not that any of this is new information but youtube seems to be hands down the best source of on demand music. A couple of weeks ago I was turning a friend on to a band and when he told me he would check it out he said, "Cool, I will check it out on youtube." I didn't tell him to go there, that was simply his response. I have spent countless hours there, watching and listening to just about anything I want to hear. Granted, you have some of the asshole major labels taking down "their content" but you can usually still find the track, even if it is not accompanied by the actual video. Once again, where the fuck am I going with this?

I believe in 2008, youtube leapfrogged Yahoo as the second largest search engine in the world. As reported in an article posted in 2010 on , youtube exceeds over two billion views a day, and the average person spends 15 minutes per day there.  About 20 percent of all the content on youtube is music so do the math. With over 24 hours of video uploaded to youtube every minute of every day, that is about 3500 hours of music video uploaded every day. Staggering to think about. I know what some of you are thinking now. If there is so much music on youtube, why should I be there if I will simply be a needle in the stack of needles? Because all of your fans and your potential fans are already living there. Now, since I have thrown a few obligatory factoids out there, as Snoop would say, "Back to the lecture at hand."

Since I posted the Foo Fighter's video at the top of this blog, did you watch it? I am sure this video cost them next to nothing aside from the alleged meth and Jack Daniels for our beloved Lemme. Doing videos now is just part of the gig. Resign yourself to the fact that video has become king again. Include video in your release strategy even if it is simply a slideshow of band photos. Remember that on the internet, content is king. Shoot video of your band in the studio. Shoot video of your day on the road shopping for unicorn snow globes at the truck stop on your way to the gig. Fans want to be let into your world. Fans want to see what you are doing when you aren't jumping around on stage acting like a maniac. When Gravity Kills broke in the mid-nineties, we had the benefit of a video friendly MTV. Tons of people watched and tons of bands were discovered by music fans on 120 minutes, Alternative Nation as well as Head Banger's Ball. In turn what happened to MTV was they found out that their video programming did not keep their viewer's attention and their ratings went up when they played the reality shows like The Real World and Jersey Shore that have become our guilty pleasures. Why the fuck would I want to sit through a bunch of shit I don't want to see with the hope of catching a video from a band that I gave a shit about? The internet and youtube give me the option of watching what I want to watch, when I want to watch it. Now don't give me excuses that shooting video is expensive or a pain in the ass. HD cameras are cheap now and when you think about it, a video camera should be looked at as an essential piece of band gear or equipment necessary to complete a home studio. Make yourself get in the habit of shooting video and give your fans more to capture their attention and hopefully keep them paying attention.

Friday, February 4, 2011


If you had your choice, would you want to make a ton of money as a musician and be forgotten or thought of as a joke OR would you rather not make a ton of money and have your music live on and your band and music be remembered by those who listened as something that was, and may always be a part of their lives? I recently read an article on the subject of legacy versus money and here is my take.

I know that I have the luxury of hindsight that many of you don't regarding this subject. My band mates and I were far luckier than most.I will tell you that when I left Gravity Kills in 2002, I swore I would never step foot on stage with those guys again and in fact, it took me about 8 months before I picked up a guitar and played a chord. I had zero perspective. I had been in the fire for so long that the heat had taken it all out of me. With the lack of perspective also came the lack of understanding for what my band mates and I had actually accomplished. To be honest, my take on the experience was pathetic. Sure the band made some money, but not enough for me to retire to the islands on. I was in a state of mind that made me feel like somehow it was all a waste. WHAT THE FUCK WAS WRONG WITH ME? As I look back now, my view is far more romantic. What an incredible experience! Who would have thought that the toeheaded kid from a trailer park in a small midwestern town would have gotten to take the ride that I did. What does this have to do with your band and your legacy? Think about the work, the experience, the lives you touch and not about making money. Sure, you have to treat what you do like a business at the end of the day, but don't let money or the monetization of your craft affect how you approach your creativity. I believe there is something much larger at stake. Music touches people in ways that other art forms simply can't. For the listener, music has the power to evoke very powerful emotions. Music can mark specific time periods in the listeners lives as well as the lives of those that created it. That is the real currency here. At the risk of fueling my haters, I can remember exactly where I was when I heard NIN Down In It for the first time. I remember where I was when I heard Big Audio Dynamite for the first time. There are records that completely signify time periods in my life. With every Gravity Kills record that we made, powerful memories are attached that will forever be with me, and from some of the feedback I get from you, Gravity Kills somehow touched your life indelibly as well. Make what you do count. Think about the possible legacy that your music will have on you and those that choose to listen and connect to it. Nothing lasts forever...or does it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Go Green

I talk with musicians all the time. I work with them and I am friends with musicians of all talent and professional levels.. There are a couple in particular from St. Louis that individually climbed the ladder and made it to what most of us would think was a very respectable level of success. Sometimes I admit that what I type could be construed as not so optimistic. Some have gone as far to call my outlook on this business as bleak. I see that sometimes people take these words and think more about their perceived lack of success versus thinking about what they did accomplish and how special it really was. I know exactly how you feel. When people ask me how I perceived my own career with Gravity Kills, I tell them that "My band was in Rolling Stone Magazine but was never on the cover." I wanted to be on the fucking cover. We all want to be on the cover. We all want more than we have. That is human nature. But really what is the point? Where I'm going with this is... with all the anarchy happening in music now, I think we need to rethink the scale of how we attack the world with our music and the scale by which we measure success. Ultimately, I know we would all love to be making a living by only writing, recording and performing music.  That is the goal and some of us may be lucky enough to do that at some points in our careers but why can't we seem to escape the pre-Napster paradigm model of how we measure the success of an artist? Do we really need to be on MTV Cribs to feel like we have accomplished something (is that show still on?) with our music and our message? I have said this before and will say it in many blog posts to follow this but, as I told one of the aforementioned artists yesterday, THINK GLOBALLY BUT ACT LOCALLY. The seduction of the internet is that you absolutely can have your music heard around the world. Some of you may actually have fans in far away lands and places that you may never ever ever have a chance to play a show. The seduction of mass media is that we are bombarded with celebrity culture and we think that red carpets and acne medication commercials are the real measure of your success. Of course I truly believe that you should make your digital strategy with the world in mind but a more tangible way to feel, touch, taste and smell your band gaining traction may be to also focus your efforts on becoming a real player in your local music scene. Many of you will disagree and talk about how you can't get any love in your home market simply because you are local, but could it be that you really need to be better at what you do? Go Green.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Back To the Future.

I have received some interesting feedback over the last few posts here on The White Light. Some have called me angry and some have gone as far as to question my enthusiasm in the internet and all it's splendor. Let me set the record straight. THE INTERNET AND THE CONNECTION IT GIVES US IS MORE THAN WONDERFUL. When reading my blog posts, you have to remember that I am really writing this stuff for artists and bands that are trying to figure it all out. It does make me angry when bands don't treat what they do the same way they treat their own personal facebook or any other social media that they use. All the tools for the distribution of music exists out there for free or very little money. I know that the paradigm is in this no man's land at the moment. I realize that many of you feel like you are beating your head against the wall simply trying to get anyone to pay attention at all. So, maybe we should all focus on the things we can actually do to affect how many people you can reach with your music and stop focusing on the things we can't control or who we may never reach. I have written about this before but IT MUST START IN YOUR OWN HOMETOWN. In most places, you can find a few good bands that may or may not play the same genre of music. You can find a small number of people that support local music by regularly hanging out where these bands play. Since most pundits have established that being a world wide, ubiquitous rock star is out of reach for most of us, place your focus on the place where you can have the most affect. Again, this is at home. Entrench yourself, your band in the local music scene. If there isn't one (I can already hear the wining) then find some other bands that will help you create one. One band doesn't make a scene. One great band will not draw enough attention to what you are doing to help you sell out local shows. I think the downside of social media is that some of the time it creates more digital walls around it's users than knocks these walls down. Of course the upside is once you grab someone's attention and you become part of THEIR digital world, you just might have a fan. Locally you have the advantage of becoming a part of a fan's physical existence. They can hang out with you. They can see you hanging out at another band's show. You can physically hand them a CD that you burned with your website address and your email address on it. Hell, give someone a CD and beg them to hit you with feedback, good or bad. At least you might create some dialogue. I am intense when it comes to listening to music. There are others out there too. You are probably one of those that can't get enough. What will give you an edge is making the personal and local connection to those in your own communities that are in constant search for something to blow their hair back. How many of you out there are far more engaged in Gravity Kills because we have hung out and become friends? You cannot replace shared experience. I value it more than music sometimes with bands that I personally know. The music that speaks to you does so based on how it fits into your life, your lifestyle, your emotions, not the life of the band. How can you take your own passion for music and use it to the advantage of your fans and your band. I say get off the fucking couch, stop bitching at rehearsal and the studio and get out there and make physical touches. You can control that. If you start there, you might just find that some traction is in your near future

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Did you hear?

Did you hear that we live in a digital world? A world where music is not the king of the hill anymore? Where people are only interested in what is happening in their world? Where those people are far more interested in themselves than you, your music and your band? Where people actually take the time to tweet and facebook what they are eating, drinking, their political views, ailments, likes, dislikes and anything and everything that pops into their ADD heads? This begs the question, how the fuck does music take back some of the space in the worlds of those we need to listen?

I know we all think about this constantly but what do we do to compete? Is your head in the cloud, having masturbatory thoughts of stardom, fame and fortune, or is it in the real "cloud.?" The cloud where your fans live. Where your fans spend an inordinate amount of time. Where they listen to music or watch video on youtube. Where they spend time trading bytes with their friends. Where Snookie is a much bigger star than any of us will probably ever be. Where they want YOU to be a part of their lives and not the other way around. How do you make what you do a part of your fans daily existence? 

I am not saying that fans can never move into the hardcore status and want to follow your every move. I am not saying that there are those out there that you can find that will listen. If you can, think of things this way, SOCIAL MEDIA HAS REPLACED MUSIC AS THE VOICE OF A GENERATION. I know this hurts your fragile ego. You can't believe that I actually said it. Am I wrong? Hell, Steve Jobs is a fucking rock star. When he holds press conferences, Apple junkies all listen. Above that, we believe! Barack Obama could possibly have less impact on our future that Mr. Jobs.  Do you make music that people will believe in? Do you believe in your own music enough to think about more than writing it, recording it and playing it live? That just isn't enough anymore. Do you exist where your fans do?  Get your head out of the clouds and put it in the cloud.