Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tired of Playing Other People's Music

I'm making my New Year's resolution a little early this year. December 18th to be exact. I've decided to take a year off from gigging to focus on creating my own music (rather than playing other's). And, more importantly, to spend time helping develop my three little musicians.

To be sure I don't get tempted to accept any more gigs, I'm selling my rig. This is insane power, crazy ruggedness, and a money-making machine if ever there was one. Two or three low-paying gigs and this rig will have paid for itself.

Click here for details.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Please Contact Billing/Support"

I was cleaning out my mailbox (only 649 messages not yet sorted into my numerous pack-rat sub-folders) ...and in doing so, I came across an old email from some new and exciting (at the time) web-site that wanted me to join TODAY! and reap the benefits of all they had to offer for FREE!

Here's what they said to me to try to get me to sign up:
"Our site has several interesting features that we offer to artists and musicians all for free. We offer free profile pages of the band(s), Web site hosting, music downloads and music selling, event tickets, blogs, event listings, merchandise sales and a online radio station that plays all Canadian bands for free through our site."
Sound familiar?

Of course it does. But haven't you heard the old adage "Nothing in this world is free"? Even this age-old piece of financial advice itself is no longer free! ($36 and change!?! Yikes!!!)

There are four things that can happen once a call is put out in this fashion:
  1. No one signs up. Result: web-site goes away.
  2. Artists sign up in droves well beyond expectations of site creators; the web-site quickly gets overloaded and with no forward thinking business plan, the creators have no marketing engine in place to feed the hungry servers with storage space and pipes with bandwidth... so... almost exactly three days after you spent months setting up your account, uploading your music, photos, swag, concert/ticket info AND advertised to all your mailing lists, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter you click on the link and you're redirected to some other domain with a link that looks something like "" with the only text on it being: "Please Contact Billing/Support" written in large, friendly letters.
  3. Artists sign up in droves meeting expectations of site creators who then say "Hey, guys, isn't this great? We're all one big happy family and to keep us all together we're going to have to charge you a nominal annual fee for yearly storage bla bla bla" (or insert whatever monetising strategy you want from storage fees to percentages of sales to ad space to ensure your 'free' music page isn't buried deep beneath the bowels of the site's sub-sub-sub-domain etc). Result: A few enterprising dudes are getting rich real quick and a whole bunch of ex-CDBabies are a little too proud to admit they were wrong in jumping ship (hint: they won't fully come to that realisation until they come to year 4 of their stay and someone with a calculator will walk by and say "You know, you've just spent more than the one-time fee over at CDBaby." -- which will earn the hapless calculator-toting dude a nice bloody nose for his trouble I'm sure!)
  4. Artists sign up at a steady rate pleasing the site creators who have a business plan (and financing model) geared to have the business grow at exactly the same rate as the site's popularity never once requiring a set-up fee nor monthly or annual fees. The funding model is purely a fixed (low) percentage cut from sales. If the web-site doesn't do a good job attracting consumers, they get no money and their business fails. They are in it for themselves right alongside the artists. A symbiotic relationship which, in my personal view, is ultimately the business model of the future music industry. No one getting money off the backs of anyone else. Everyone's pay is commensurate with the level of effort and talent they have pumped into it.

CDBaby was never a "free" site and never pretended to be so their model doesn't show in the list above.

I've come across more 1's, 2's and 3's than I'd care to count. In fact, it was upon clicking the link in the eMail I mentioned at the start of this post that I came to the "Please contact Billing/Support" page. Another one bites the dust.

But what of #4? Are there any such sites out there?



'nuff said.

Are the Blods angry with me?

I'll delete this post once I figure out what's going on but for now, this is the only way I know to get word out to "done gone", the moderator over at the CD Baby Relaunch Debate.

I don't know what's going on but I can't post anywhere except here. I've responded to several posts on the CD Baby Relaunch Debate and initially I thought they were moderated but it seems as though my posts just disappear into cyberspace. Maybe it's divine intervention from the Blog Gods (or Blods as I like to call them) heaven knows there's more than one posting I'd like to have back so perhaps it's for the better.

But then, the other day, I decided to post something on the message board and, try as I might, it just wouldn't stick... and I know that board isn't moderated.

Strange indeed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time to Pony up...

Over at the CD Baby Relaunch Debate, Pony (from CDBaby) chimed in and asked "...while I'm here in New Jersey, is there anything you guys want me to ask for?"

Let's see...

While the firing of the entire IT department from bottom to top is certainly called for, we're not investors so it really wouldn't mean much to us. We don't want heads to roll and most of us understand the roll-back is a non-starter.

I've been in computers since before Bill Gates' famous quote on just how much RAM we'd ever need; and, admittedly, this is going to sound ridiculously pretentious and arrogant but CDBaby/Discmakers have proven they need remedial help in this domain so here goes...

You need to do the following WITHOUT fail:

a) Stop developing in Prod and establish what's there right now as CDBaby 2.0.

b) Divide your development team up as follows:

- 80% on CDBaby 2.1 which will be dedicated to critical fixes only (i.e. what's broke)
- 10% on CDBaby 2.2 which will be made up largely of Must-Haves (i.e. what was, but should not have been dropped from CDBaby 1.0)
- and the last 10% on tweaks, troubleshooting and prod support.

c) pick a firm date by which CDBaby 2.1 will be delivered and publish it far and wide *including* on your forward facing page to let paying customers know of the change that's coming and whatever scheduled downtime is associated with it.

d) pick a target date for CDBaby 2.2 and be clear to all when you state this date that it is only a target (it has to be in order to allow time to pick up whatever drops out of 2.1 in order to meet the firm date stated in "c" above).

e) establish and develop a back-out plan in the event 2.1 fails miserably, the worst that will happen is a quick reversion back to 2.0.

f) establish parameters to help the decision-makers know when to "pull the plug" if needed.

g) lather, rinse, repeat.

After you've gone through a few cycles of this, you'll get the hang of it and your community of artists will begin to breathe a little easier. It's the uncertainty that's been killing us.

Then, finally, you can repent by doing a huge world-wide multimedia "we're sorry" ad campaign (Superbowl commercial anyone?) and by taking a one-time hit in the pocketbook and crediting all artists *that stuck through it all* with one (1) free album set-up to be used at their discretion, is fully transferable, with no expiration date.

...or... save us all a huge amount of time and just let the baby die.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What will happen if CDBaby does die...?

I'm finally getting some traction on this blog and, to fully leverage the traffic, I wanted to post the most pressing (unanswered) question in my mind:

What will happen to my relationship with iTunes and Napster et al if CDBaby goes down the tubes?
1) Will iTunes simply drop my catalogue?
2) Will Napster not know where to funnel my payments to?
3) Will any attempts to re-establish existing catalogues get turned down as "double submissions"?

I usually try to present what I think is most likely, but in this case, I'll be honest... I haven't a clue. More than likely, the answer to the above will vary from one carrier to the next. Considering CDBaby distributed to dozens of places... untangling our next steps will be tedious to say the least.

Okay, and, well maybe I have another pressing question that is pertinent as all CDBaby Artists fire off in all directions signing up with every web gadget in the webosphere:

How much harm are we doing to the slight chance we have at someday getting that "magical break" that "one chance" at the big time? If an interested label suddenly realises that our song rights are tied up in dozens of various Terms of Service agreements in dozens of jurisdictions globally, might they just walk away?

The term "Look before you leap" comes to mind but in this case, "Look before you hopscotch" might be more à-propos.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who in God's name is this Moses fellah?

Moses Avalon is a former New York record producer and recording engineer. Today he is an artist’s rights activist, author and a court-recognized music business expert in New York, California, Florida and Porto Rico and has also acted in an advisory capacity to multiple State Attorney General Offices and the Senate Judiciary Committee in Sacramento in their campaign to help legitimize areas of the music business. His blog, MOSES SUPPOSES, reaches over 13,000 direct subscribers and approximately 100,000 readers though syndication. He has appeared on Court TV, MSNBC, CNN Money Line, Bill O’Reilly and other national TV shows.

Moses' latest post is an update on an older post which was an excerpt from one of his music industry books. I read the older articles several times and had been left feeling a little less than convinced of what he was assuming was a "fait accompli". When I saw this latest edition appear I thought, "Good! Maybe this time he'll convince me!"

As I read, however, I found myself keeping a mental score of sorts; keeping track of the points he made and those he failed to bring home. A few, I'll admit, infuriated me to the point of wanting to create this post in response. And so...

I decided to “score” each claim or supposition with a single point either in favour of the Music or Tech industries. Perhaps this is just one artists' insignificant underbelly viewpoint of the industry or, more likely, just simply that I don't know much about the business of music. Nevertheless, I hope this little experiment will in some small way help Moses further bolster his next update of this article...

You should really take the time to read the full article first then come back to read my comments after...

Go ahead... I'll wait.

Done? Good... here we go...

"The media induced conception is that labels sat on their laurels during the advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, thus creating their own hell with illegal downloading." (read more...)

I'm with Moses on this one. There is not one business, anywhere in the western world, large or small, that didn’t seriously consider the internet or its impact on their business model. Score one for the labels.

Music Biz: 1
Tech Biz: 0

"...It was the “success” of Napster that paved the way for other P2P based companies like Kazaa and LimeWire, both of which, unlike Napster, are still operating in illegal formats." (read more...)

To all downloaders and file-sharers (i.e. those who go miles beyond the "sharing amongst friends"): I don’t care what your reasoning, stealing is stealing. Just for that, score another one for the Music Biz:

Music Biz: 2
Tech Biz: 0

"...Napster claim they approached majors (...) as early as January of 1999. (...) Napster wanted to make sure that artists were paid..." (read more...)

Score a huge point for the Tecchies.

Music Biz: 2
Tech Biz: 1

"...important factors (...) were obviously lost on the aggressive and naive Team Napster, whose average executive was barely 25 years old..." (read more...)

I’d love to score one for the Tecchies here just to punish the labels for being utterly blind to the fact that these “aggressive and naive” Napster executives were actually in the coveted demographic that made up the bulk of their clientele.

I may have missed something so I won't score a point but it leaves me wondering "Who’s naive?"

"A fact ignored over by the media when criticizing record companies was that in 1999, (...) there was barely a single major label recording contract that granted the artists’ specific rights for Internet distribution (...) This was something labels probably did not tell the tech companies (...) for fear they would be usurped..." (read more...)

Honesty should have been the first policy. By not coming clean, the labels not only ensured the end-run but also negated any chance at negotiation that the artists might have had. They had a role... no... a duty... to act as facilitators, go-betweens, to BROKER a deal that would have been exciting, all-inclusive and favourable to all.

Another HUGE point for the tecchies.

Music Biz: 2
Tech Biz: 2

"The crux of this problem was that some key artists were not willing to give up Internet rights so easily. They were still feeling the sting from years back when labels asked for the rights to re-release their masters on the Compact Disc (CD) format. (...) They were told instead that they would get higher royalties because the CD would sell for about $12, instead of the usual $7.99 (...) But after getting these rights virtually for free, labels applied a “new technology deduction,” to the royalty formula, lowering payments by 25% and thus equaling the same royalty artists already received for LPs..." (read more...)

So..., what? Lay blame on the Tecchies for having duped artists in the 80’s? The hypocrisy is simply staggering.

I know people in the Music Industry hate this term, but really, in this case... Labels have to lay in the bed they made. If not, then they have to concede that Napster was merely applying a “new technology deduction” to the labels.

Tech Biz: 3
Music Biz: 2

"...for labels to give net-based entities complete catalog download rights in 1999, they would have to renegotiate with their 1000s of artists. That would take years. (...) Tired of all this spit-balling about rights n’ stuff, Napster forged ahead (...) sans authorization. It was war." (read more...)

Impatience never pays. Bad form on the Tech side.

Tech Biz: 3
Music Biz: 3

"Napster was a singles-driven format, something the industry had evolved away from over the past 20 years. But, misinformation has led consumers to believe that labels loved the Album format because it allowed them to package filler with the hits and charge more. This was never the case." (read more...)

This was never the case.”? Suffice to say that laying claim to this level of integrity would mean that labels would have prevented hundreds, if not thousands of artists from issuing albums and that describing a song as being “B-side” would be synonymous with calling it a “pleasant surprise”. In reality, it means garbage.

Tech Biz: 4
Music Biz: 3

Footnote: There’s a bit of “waxing nostalgic” going on in the comments (on Moses' site) about B-sides. The ones mentioned truly are classics, but let's be honest... they are the exception to the rule. Industry insiders may have their own view (and I can appreciate how difficult it is to deal with people who think their drivel is hit material), but no consumer on the planet will argue the fact that a majority of B-sides were, in fact, filler.

"...songwriters and artists didn’t want a “singles driven market” either, because, if album sales are no longer the means by which you quantify success, how are you going to determine the size of an advance..." (read more...)

I don't understand. Seriously. How can anyone who claims to have “started looking into the Internet as an opportunity in the late 1990s” not know as irrefutable fact that it would immediately cause a paradigm shift in the way the industry did business?

As with all other industries in the world, shouldn't the Music Biz have known some shift to a new model was imminent?

I really do want to understand, but if they want to cling to the claim that the industry never used “fillers” then they can’t also claim as immutable fact that labels and artists would rather sell their 14 song album for $9.99 rather than 14 singles at $0.99 each...The math just doesn't add up and... we all know everybody’s in it for the buck!

Tech Biz: 5
Music Biz: 3

"So, why [don't the Tech media] criticize artists? Because to imply that a songwriter deserves to have his songs “shared” because he’s clinging to a “dying business model,” doesn’t generate the same public sympathy for the tech industry. Instead, it makes them look like thugs. Better target: heartless record companies; a beard to hide the fact that stealing from majors was the same as stealing from the little songwriter too..." (read more...)

God, this one hurts. Moses goes on further in his post and, really, it's painfully apparent there's only one loser here...

Tech Biz: 5
Music Biz: 3
Artists: -1

"Due to antitrust concerns there were limits to the conversations that major labels could have with each other or a tech company regarding a standard for digital transmissions." (read more...)

This is a very valid point. Sticking to this kind of tangible real-world logic would gain the Music Industry many more PR points.

Tech Biz: 5
Music Biz: 4

"...the MP3 format, which at the time was thought sonically inferior by majors and did not include coppy protection, like DRM." (read more...)

Sonically inferior to what? Seriously... inferior by what standard? If you raise that as an argument, how come music was (and still is) allowed to be played on AM radio? A horrible transmission format if ever there was one.

And, while we’re on the subject... answer me this: Exactly what DRM is there on AM or FM radio? What DRM exists today? On the one hand you're claiming the Labels had an established business model that shouldn't be changed while on the other you ask for measures to be put in place that never existed. I appreciate the fervour. The "standing up" for your rights. But at some point, certain concessions need to be made.

It's called negotiating in good faith.

Tech Biz: 6
Music Biz: 4

"In order for copacetic progress to happen, tech companies would need to work within the labels’ existing standards." (read more...)

That’s dangerously close to dinosaur speak. Just because you were here first doesn’t mean you were doing it right or that everyone had to curtail to your standards.

By the same token, just because the internet was new didn’t mean they could arbitrarily throw out every existing business model either.

Once again, we know who really lost out...

Tech Biz: 6
Music Biz: 4
Artists: -2

"They were interested in building a business on the back of ours without compensating us. [Universal]..." (read more...)

Without compensating whom? Earlier the article claimed that Napster was “ironically” interested in paying the artist. Anyone who refused to negotiate in the new world order would have had to expect to see it all come tumbling down!

Tech Biz: 7
Music Biz: 4

"The rest is well documented elsewhere. Massive litigation (...) closed down the free version of Napster. (...) By December of 1999, one month before the new Millennium, a decision was made by the cabal of Silicon Valley companies: music would be the free toy at the bottom of their cereal box." (read more...)

Once again, regarding the file-sharing and over-the-top downloading (that goes beyond the perfectly acceptable sharing of a song or two amongst friends) ...there's no justifying stealing. I don’t care how unreasonable I am as a neighbour, it still doesn’t give you the right to pick and eat the carrots from my garden. Period.

Tech Biz: 7
Music Biz: 5

"Their PR machine in full swing, tech companies set about to make record companies the bad guy in an elaborate hearts & minds campaign." (read more...)

Yes, but deep inside, every single downloader knows they are doing wrong. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t see a need to so vehemently defend their “right to steal” all over the webosphere. Score a massive point for the Music Biz in that entire (tired) argument.

Tech Biz: 7
Music Biz: 6

"The music industry missed a chance (if they ever really had one) to partner up with tech-companies. Will this ever change? I think so."

Moses: +1

"Instead of “net neutrality” [ISPs] now want to charge different rates for different types of content. And why not? The 21st Century commodity is not Soy Beans, it’s Bandwidth. But, this requires them to make friends with their former enemies– movie and music providers. The “free toy” has become the new potential client. Time to kiss some ass." (read more...)

This is short-sighted, bordering on myopic (and I was so optimistic just a second ago...).

Time to kiss whose ass? I certainly don't see the Tech companies being compelled to kiss any industry ass. The changing tide is the real indie (shlocks like me who have no affiliation, no label, no nothing... what I call the "True Indie"). In the True Indie world, as yet undiscovered talent has been duped into accepting Terms of Service Agreements that essentially grant full, perpetual, exclusive rights to the next Tech company that comes up with the next fancy internet gadget. You think downloading is evil? This is eRaping and ePillaging of mammoth proportions going on right before our eyes. The only artists the "industry" will defend are those whose works they have designs on. Everyone else can rot in Indie Hell.

The True Indies may not be the Rolling Stones... but one thing’s for certain: Since all this mess started, I’ve learned that there’s far, far more talent out there than even the censored and scripted American Idol type franchises would lead you to believe.

Could it be that it's not "the song" but actually the Artists themselves that have become the free toy? And that not in spite of the label’s efforts, but because of the label’s efforts at stifling the future?

Tech Biz: 8
Music Biz: 6

"Last year I (...) predicted that within five years you’ll see a high-profile arrest for file-sharing." (read more...)

Like I said, stealing is stealing. And it should be treated the very same as any other theft. Period.

Tech Biz: 8
Music Biz: 7

"Since then, the Supreme Court of the US has upheld stiff fines from RIAA lawsuits." (read more...)

A victory in the courts for the RIAA is hardly a vote of confidence in the Music Biz. It’s merely recognition that stealing in cyberspace is the same as stealing in the real world. Period.

Tech Biz: 8
Music Biz: 7
Artists: -1

"Even beleaguered Warner Records reported that their Q4 2009 numbers showed only a 2% drop in revenue from last year (...) Could this be a sign?" (read more...)

A sign of what? Seems to me, the only sign I see is that the majors have learned nothing. Rather than trumpeting victory at every court decision in the RIAA’s favour, the Majors should be feverishly working out sweeping changes to both the Music and Tech industries that would benefit the most PEOPLE (read: not just owners of catalogs)...

As it stands, and this is admittedly a sinister view, but I harken back to the tactics such as those from the 80's at the advent of the CD... the Tech companies have found a way to tap the greed and lust for fame of every up-and-coming artist in the world to their distinct advantage. I cannot help but think that this has frustrated the labels and made them either lust for a piece of the pie or, more obviously, cry foul over the loss of the pie they'd already ripped out from existing artists' souls.

Based on the final score (which is too close to call), and as an artist myself, I’m not holding my breath for any kind of artist-friendly change to happen anytime soon...

Final score:

Tech Biz: 8
Music Biz: 7
Artist: -1

Oh yeah... I almost forgot... Because entrepreneurs such as yourself see an opportunity to make money off explaining the mass confusion that emanates from this whole mess, you too come out better off than the artists. Who was it that mentioned irony?

Moses: +2

The preceding text in quotation was reprinted from for the sake of presenting an opinion. I STRONGLY recommend you read Mr. Avalon's blog postings and articles and come to your own conclusions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Holy Moses!

A great, and might I say fresh look at the music industry. Here is part 1. I can hardly wait to read his next post...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The True Indie business model...

...and by "True Indie business model" I mean the business model for "true" indies... in other words the Indies that DON'T "just happen to have indie contracts from indie labels that are 'indie bed' with the majors" if you know what I mean.

So here's the True Indie business model... the absolute cheapest way to go about the business of being a small-fry singer/songwriter or whatever you might prefer to call yourself:

A) MAKE MUSIC: See the other posts on this blog for help doing that as well as all the places that'll help you on the sidebar "Top Ten or so...".

B) UPLOAD IT TO AUDIOLIFE FOR FREE! These crazy monkeys will provide true on-demand one-off manufacturing of 4-panel shrink-wrapped CDs in standard jewel cases (or whatever you want):

Audiolife wins the race to truly providing 'the new music business'. This is the real deal.

C) PUBLISH YOUR STORE IN FREE PLACES: Put your store up in free places like a blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Put your store up in free places...

D) AFTER A FEW SALES: Hook up with HostBaby and get yourself one kick-butt web-site or two.

Ever wanted to be treated like a Superstar? These people are my best friends and they don't even know it!

E) GO GLOBAL WITH CDBABY: Hook up with CDBaby (through your already established HostBaby connection) and get yourself a real bonafied CD (complete with Barcode and presence on iTunes, Napster, and a gazillion other places).

The best music distributor on the planet... and quite probably the universe too!

F) UPDATE AUDIOLIFE: Upload the new version of your official CD onto Audiolife.

Audiolife wins the race to truly providing 'the new music business'. This is the real deal.

G) NEED MORE SONGS? I have over 600 songs written. There's no way I'll produce them all. If you need one, let me know. I've got all styles and I'll probably let you record, perform and sell your CDs with my songs on them in exchange for radio play (equate to royalties) and exposure (equate to more business):

Face it... I have over 600 songs written. There's no way I'll produce them all. If you need one, let me know. I've got all styles and I'll probably let you have them for free. So, yeah, that earns me a spot on the Top ...uh... 13 list.

H) GET EVEN BIGGER IN A VERY SMALL WAY: Now that you've got so many great tunes and you're selling even more CDs, you can start entering that other level of indie and that's when you'll want to get connected with the professionals behind the scenes at Audiolife who can and will take your music (and your look) to new heights.

Audiolife wins the race to truly providing 'the new music business'. This is the real deal.

Seriously... Audiolife is where you need to start and if Brandon Hance (CEO) has anything to do with it, this is where you'll stay because, as he puts it:

"...we can do manufacturing for you as well. Whether you need short run orders or a bulk purchase, Audiolife can facilitate the manufacturing process end-to-end. Our aim is to be the one stop shop for artists."

One stop shop. Revolutionary.

That's it. All your bases are covered. Now you've got all the time to work on that mysterious fourth chord you’ve heard about.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

If you broke it when it wasn't broke... you'd best fix it better than it ever was!

"If it ain't broke... break it..."
I have no idea who coined that phrase but I found it refreshing when it first came out only because I was so tired of hearing the original version of it. But, like so many other tried-and-true phrases, the original is... well... tried and true:
"If it ain't broke... don't fix it!"
This is exactly what Discmakers didn't do when they took the reigns from Derek Sivers and began taking CDBaby in a new direction. The mass population of artists and indie music lovers were ready for the change and, particularly from an industry leveraging potential for "the little guy", the possibilities were downright mouth-watering.

Unfortunately, it really hasn't gone the way anyone expected. OUCH!

So now, we have some artists ready to give up on CDBaby, others screaming to go back to the good old days, and potentially new artists and consumers turned off right from the start. The smart thing will be for CDBaby (read: "Discmakers") to earn the loyalty of their artist base once more by coming to the table with offering the likes of which have never been seen.

As I said in my post:
"Perhaps you'll offer true on-demand one-off manufacturing of 4-panel shrink-wrapped CDs in standard jewel cases for US *and* international artists at no more than $5.00 US a unit AND ringtones AND ticket sales AND an ability to upload and sell swag too as a 'thank you' for our saintly patience...?"
...and here's a new one for you (and you can quote me on it cause I made it up):
"If you broke it when it wasn't broke... you'd best fix it better than it ever was!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blogs are good too

First of all, they're free. Second, they drive a tremendous amount of traffic to your site. Your blog need not be a daily posting chore, it just needs all the right buzzwords. For example, my wedding music blog gets picked up by every local search a bride or groom may make in my neck of the woods. I don't get contracts out of every visit, but at least I've given myself that opportunity.

Even my diet blog drives huge numbers. In fact, the wedding blog, this Indie blog and my All-U-Can-8-Diet blog account for about 10-15% of the hits on my site and, of those hits, are responsible for about 50% of the gigs I land.

I post once in a blue moon. If I posted daily, I might increase my traffic, but for now, I'm quite satisfied with the ROI.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finger Tips

Ever had this happen...? You've got one or three gigs coming up and you're looking forward to them and everything's peachy keen but then well, you're maybe not quite thinking straight and you spot this tiny bit of skin on the middle finger of your left hand and before your brain can throw on the brakes, you pull off way more than just a tiny bit of loose skin... in fact... as you pull away... you realise the whole callus came off. Then you get home that night and you start rehearsing and before you get half a bar in your finger is sending searing zingers right up your arms...

Has this ever happened to you? I've done it before but never this close to three gigs in a row...

What's the quick fix? The McGiver trick that'll regrow that most important part of your finger? Clear nailpolish?

I panicked and contacted my old friend Rick Watson (who also happens to be among the best guitar players I've ever had the honour of playing with). Within minutes, he responded with this:
"Go to any Running room store, buy some fake skin (it's used to heal blisters). That or a band-aid is probably your best bet."
So there you have it. Fake skin... whod'a thunk?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Calling All Indies: The Time Has Come

This is it.

I've read countless posts on innumerable indie music navel-gazing blogs all trying to say the past few years had been the turning point for indies and, well, all kinds of other hogwash that applied exclusively to the indies that just happen to have indie contracts from indie labels that are "indie bed" with the majors... Balderdash.

Truth is... there's been nothing out there for the true indie... The guy like me who happens to have 600+ songs written and zero intention of becoming a rock star but like every artist, still wants his creations out there.

I've personally grilled Derek Sivers (past owner of CDBaby) as well as Tony van Veen new CEO since Discmakers took over (4th Q 2008). CDBaby is the number 1 place for indie music on the planet and quite likely the universe. Still, when a disc manufacturer buys out an on-line music retailer, it doesn't take rocket science to add 2 + 2 together. Here's what I told Tony:
When I heard the news of the merger, my thoughts went immediately toward the possibility (probability?) that CDs could be burned on-demand. The "never out of stock" idea is sooooo enticing and the respectable stature of DiscMakers would only add to overall buyer confidence.

Certainly this would be a paradigm shift not only in the way you do business but also for the industry. Quite frankly, I dare say this would toss the entire CD manufacturing world on its ear. Not something to take lightly or to just jump headlong into.

But really... What better company to do that than one affiliated with CD Baby?
God bless Tony, he responded, as he does nearly all blog comments, and said he was taking the company in that very direction in the 1st Q 2009.

So, did he?

Well, not by my "true indie" standards. Check it. The only 5 or 10 CD packages available have limited options (2 panel insert in black jewel case only) and are only available within the continental US. Anything else, for example, 10 CDs in clear jewel case with a 4-panel insert and double-sided tray card would be so expensive as to force you to sell your CD at roughly $25 a disc just to stand a chance at breaking even. Sure hope you don't have any studio & mastering debts to pay off...

I'm going to call an all stop here cause if you think I'm dissing CDBaby and Discmakers, I'm not. If you think I'm dissing Derek Sivers or Tony van Veen, I'm not. CDBaby and Discmakers are both fantastically professional companies with clear minded goals and solid mandates to help their segment of the music business. If anything, I'm just frustrated by the lack of that final step that would have truly brought the indie onto the playing field.

Enter Audiolife.

For no cost whatsoever, I put an Audiolife store up on my site and wherever else I want (Facebook, MySpace, various blogs, etc) that sells whatever music and swag I care to create and upload.

If you think that's cool... just wait... it gets better.

For a few bucks more, you can get a full album set-up from CD Baby (about $55 US) which includes a Soundscan recognised barcode (look it up) as well as distribution to every single digital store on the planet (iTunes, Napster, Amazon, MSN Music, Amie Street, to name but a few - actually, right now my OUCH CD is available on 46 stores...) and then you can (and this is the part I absolutely LOVE) you can upload your CD to Audiolife and for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction (that's not a typo) of what it would cost us produce your CD, Audiolife will produce the 5 CDs that CDBaby usually asks for up front and ship them directly there for you at a stupid-low cost of probably about $40 US. Compare that to conventional CD manufacturing costs that get you no barcode and no digital distribution and no swag... well... you get the picture.

Better still, you can upload "preview" versions of your CD onto Audiolife in order to generate funds to pay for your barcode and album set-up and you're on your way.

With Audiolife, if you want some CDs for a show (and I've done this myself with OUCH and the quality is 100%) you can get your CDs and even T-Shirts at cost. Sweet!

But the best part, the cherry on top, if you will, is the fact that once I've finally managed to coax that potential buyer onto my site and I've gotten them interested enough to click on my "store" link, the only thing my potential customer sees is my stuff. Just... my... stuff... No one else's. Not even a "People who bought Luc's music also bought..." Which means there's no chance that my potential sale will be distracted by "This week's new arrival" or any other competition.

I've been waiting for a business model like this for years.
This is, I think an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that truly presents the "new music business" those bloggers had been pontificating about for years...

This is it. It's the Mom & Pop type music ebusiness if you know what I mean.

So here's the True Indie business model... the absolute cheapest way to go about it (that I've found in 30 years+ of searching):

a) Make music (see other posts on this blog for help doing that).
b) Upload it to Audiolife.
c) Put your store up in free places like a blog, Facebook, MySpace, etc.
d) If you're lucky enough to get sales, hook up with HostBaby
and get yourself one kick-butt web-site or two.
e) Hook up with CDBaby (through your already established HostBaby connection) and get yourself a real bonafied CD (complete with Barcode and presence on iTunes, Napster, and a gazillion other places).
f) Upload the new version of your official CD onto Audiolife.
g) If you are lucky enough to make even more sales, then you can start entering that other level of indie and that's when you'll want to get connected with the professionals behind the scenes at
Audiolife or the folks at Discmakers who can and will take your music (and your look) to new heights.

But seriously...
Audiolife is where you need to start and if Brandon Hance (CEO) has anything to do with it, this is where you'll stay because, as he puts it:
"...we can do manufacturing for you as well. Whether you need short run orders or a bulk purchase, Audiolife can facilitate the manufacturing process end-to-end. Our aim is to be the one stop shop for artists."
One stop shop. Revolutionary.

Audiolife Banner V4 Check it out... soon.

See how I integrated it... (still lots more to upload)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The eMail said "Calling all Bands, Artists and Musicians!..."

"...Your time has come. Opportunity is knocking... don't pass it up! Go to ***********.com and sign up for a one-year FREE membership and start building your profile."

Okay. So, obviously being incapable of learning from past mistakes, I took the bait. Here's what followed:

----- Original Message -----
From: Me
To: Them
Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 10:50 PM
Subject: Re: Calling all bands

> I've signed up and went through the motions not once but twice and still
> haven't received my confirmation/activation eMail. Now I'm starting to worry
> this might have been some kind of scam to gather personal information.
> What gives?

To their credit, I got a fairly quick response... from the Memberships Director personally with instructions on what I should try. Upon responding things still didn't work, I got this:

----- Original Message -----
From: JR
To: LN
Sent: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 6:38 PM
Subject: try now...

Hi Luc,

I've reset your account,

Your login username is: **************
password: *************** (case sensitive)

When you log into your account, please update your Profile information. Go ahead and upload photos and images. If you have songs recorded, I encourage you to submit them to our ***** Radio. Don't forget post events, and jobs, etc. But most of all, please stay connected with us.

Because of what happened I've given you 2 years Free membership. I apologize and thank you for registering and for your patience.


Memberships Director

Okay so a free membership's not bad. Trouble is, that's when the real trouble started...

Thanks JR,

There seems to be a problem with your login page. Once the proper username and password are entered it redirects you to a second login page that looks and acts just like a Password Recovery page (see screen print below). Ignoring this and entering the proper username and password a second time does prove successful, if somewhat perplexing.

Travelling further into your site, I am instructed to read through and fill out legal agreements to accompany the music I send you. Understanding that not all musicians hold university degrees I can forgive the odd grammatical error. However, when the legal agreement you expect me to sign looks and reads no better than a loosely and hastily cut & pasted eMail, or the jumbled thoughts on so many blogs, then you have a real problem.

I'm sure your heart is in the right place and I love getting in on the ground floor on these types of things but there is no ground floor. You have a website that was launched before it was tested and legal agreements that frankly don't do much to reassure my music would be in good hands. On the web, one strike and you're out. I gave you three: registration, login & legalese.

My advice, which is literally worth less than the paper it may or may not be printed on:
  1. Stop sending out eMails to musicians.
  2. Retain a lawyer. If you have one, fire him/her and get your money back.
  3. Ask your new lawyer, preferably one well versed in the music industry, to write up new agreements.
  4. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one cannot be appointed to you so get someone who knows spelling and grammar at or above an 8th grade level.
  5. Hire a webmaster. If you have one... threaten to take away their triple mocha latte if they don't get the site working properly.
As for client support, you get full marks for well-written, timely eMails and that personal touch.

I wish you every success with your venture. As of right now, I am in no way compelled to create a profile on your site, let alone upload music.

I will be removing all direct links and names and will blog this on I'd be happy to track the progress you're making in rectifying these issues. Please feel free to write a comment or two. If you comment, you may be letting the reader know who you are and what company you're with.



And that's where we stand today.

Many of these places are well-intentioned. They have as many dreams and aspirations as us musicians do. Many of them are musicians.

We should all just get together and jam. Forget this tangled web.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


It's been a long time since I've posted here and I've fallen far behind the timetable I'd set for myself and the hopes for this humble little self-help page. Funny thing is... I fell prey to the very things I stated I'd debunk here. The very companies that offer zero value for the dollar and serve only to cloud the path to whatever limited success one might garner; those very same companies took something even more valuable from me...

My time.

Every one of them would have you to believe they are THE source for success... they are the ONLY place where ALL the music industry GURUs swing by... the talent agents, record execs, they're all spending their days and nights surfing THIS ONE site and for that magical $39.95 a month, YOU TOO can have it ALL except for the fact that the $39.95 is the most basic entry fee and gets you one crappy non-flash semi-useless web-page and you'll NEVER get featured on their home page where ALL their FRIENDS (a.k.a. those who are stupid enough to pay for the $69.99 monthly upgrade and still sign away 76% of their earnings on downloads) are FEATURED monthly TOTALLY at RANDOM.

Or better still...

That place called BubonicSquids? IconicDibs? Con-Ick-Bids? ...hmmm...

If I was to answer/bite/fall for every one of their "last chance / last minute / last ever extension on this once in a lifetime leads" I'd be dumping roughly $120 to $200 per day on an outside chance that some guy might, just might, stop by and briefly try to mispronounce my name before moving on to book the guy with the payola in his hands.

"Ah Luc!" you'll say "I'm so much better than you!"

No you're not.

And even if your are, you might as well save up all that monthly and daily cash and put it in a savings account. Someday you'll have enough to buy yourself a record exec and you'll be on your way.

You'd do better buying shares in Nortel than wasting your hard earned cash on all these bogus "web portals to the promised land"...

You'd also save something far more precious...

Your time.

Friday, October 5, 2007

DIY Studio:
Part 5 - "There's Pain... and there's Motrin Pain..."

Brace yourself... Mom & Dad (or whomever else shares the household with you) will be pleased as punch but you'll be cussing ten ways to Sunday because all the sound will be staying in and crashing repeatedly into your sensitive young (you're young, right?) eardrums in sickening barf-inducing fashion. If you just plop yourself down in your brand new finished studio thinking you can start playing right away, do they say... "You'se got another thing comin'!"

Now's the time to start surfing and reading up on home studios and the management of acoustics. There's plenty of sites you've already come across before getting to mine that talked about how to manage sound inside your studio. Like I mentioned in Part 4, my studio has enough freaky angles to break up the sound naturally. Therefore, I don't know what's best. Though, if I had had to come up with a cheap solution, I would have learned to make quiche, omlettes, or whatever else takes a lot of eggs and pasted the empty egg cartons throughout the studio. Seriously.

It's your choice. You can go to great expenses and buy all kinds of contraptions that'll almost work as good as egg cartons or carpet remnants, so, if it's "the look" you're after, then by all means, invest. Otherwise, go to your nearest carpet manufacturer/installer and buy some trimmings for a few bucks and you will be playing music in your studio by this time tomorrow.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

DIY Studio:
Part 4 - Freaky Angles

If you're working with a perfectly rectangular room, that's actually not so good, but in the event you do have obstacles to drywall around, go wild. Building angles (in corners especially) will deflect sound at the source and encourage it to stay inside the room.

I have a particularly neat contraption I built around the main line in for my water. The mudder I hired (okay... I couldn't do it *all* myself) called it the Voyageur Space Station (from Hell). Whatever... it works great because a peak juts out of the wall right where the bass drum is. This effectively deflects the sound and distributes it nicely throughout the room.

Next up: Insulating Concrete Walls


DIY Studio:
Part 3 - Lighting Fixtures

I opted to install wall sconces - my wife thinks it was because of my sensitive side, but actually, it was for practicality - since you want to minimize the noise going up, try to punch the fewest holes in the ceiling. Thus, opt for wall mounted lighting or, better still, no lighting at all and bring in table lights and such and plug them into the many outlets you'll have installed.

You are pre-wiring tons of plugs, right...?

Now, a word of warning... when I put in my lighting, I thought I'd get fancy and put in a dimmer. "What better way to echo whatever mood of music I was playing" or so I thought. Unfortunately, that blasted dimmer introduces a hiss into my recordings and causes my electric guitar to become something resembling an AM radio transponder. I'm sure encasing the wiring in insulated conduits *before* installing drywall would have done the trick, but in my case, it was too late.

So anytime I record, I turn off the sconces.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

DIY Studio:
Part 2 - Air Vents & Air Returns

Here's a little diagram that shows the type of box I built for both the vent and the air return. The yellow stuff represents old socks (tip: wash first!). I only managed three intersecting angles within my boxes but the more you can get, the better. If you're actually making the vent coming in, you may also be able to recess the entire contraption into the ceiling or preferably high up into the wall (mine is jutting down from the ceiling and had to be drywalled - not easy). Note: Regarding the air flow arrow in the diagram, the air flow for the cold air return would actually be opposite as it would also be trying to leave the room.

Next up... lighting.


Monday, September 24, 2007

DIY Studio:
Part 1 - Studio Walls

***Remember to check your local building codes before doing any of your own renovations; and, get everything inspected by a certified professional before putting the final touches on your project.***

[click on images to enlarge]

Top View

1. Build & install your wall with staggered 2x3 or 2x4 studs on 2x6 headers

2. Weave your Fire&Sound batting insulation
3. Install your Soundproofing Drywall (usually green in colour) ***some people recommend gluing the drywall onto the studs in order to avoid using screws or nails which might conduct sound right into the framework. The green drywall texture is, in my opinion, not really conducive to this approach (it might break apart and fall off before you get to the next step). If you want, just minimize the use of screws by putting in just enough to hold the sheet in place. Seriously though, you'll be screwing the latts through into the studs in the next step anyway so......

4. Install your horizontal 1x3 lattes with screws going into each alternate stud (since every second stud is recessed)

5. Install your drywall using as few screws as possible.

Other Tips:
  • Use screws wherever possible since nails shake loose prematurely particularly considering the nature of the sound vibrations that will be going around.
  • Holes are our enemies!!! A hole the size of a dime can apparently reduce your soundproofing effectiveness by as much as 25%. I'm not sure if that's true, but once you've put this much effort, why take a chance?
  • As I said before, always check your local building codes before doing any of your own renovations; and, get everything inspected by a certified professional before putting the final touches on your project. Always use CSA Approved (or equivalent for your country) materials.
  • When prepping holes for lights, fixtures, or wall outlets, make sure you cut as precisely as possible and backfill with extra sound batting around the junction boxes. Beware of fire codes/fire hazards!!! Consider using CSA Approved expanding foam to fill gaps - I used this in tough spots I couldn't reach to fill by hand.
  • When using screws, some people recommend pre-drilling your holes and filling them with caulking... a nice touch, I'll admit... if you've got a couple years to tack onto the length of your project (I didn't do this).
  • Don't be fooled, this is going to be expensive. Cost out your materials first and then add 25% - that'll be your final cost. For a perfectly rectangular 18x12 room with two windows and one door, I would estimate a base cost of $3000. Add 25% and that gives you $3750 - of course, that includes the cost of industrial carpeting, soundproofing the ceiling as well and all your wiring and lighting and whatever hardware you require. It adds up pretty quick.

In my next post, I'll show you how to build soundproof boxes to fit over your air vents and air returns.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Future posts...

To give you an idea of what I'll be discussing, here is a short list of posts I plan on making:

1) Building your own sound-proof studio (hope there's a Home Depot near your house!)
2) BOSS BR-1180-CD digital recording studio
3) Yamaha and Ibanez Guitars
4) Peavey Amps
5) JVC Recorders and Stereos
6) Compaq Computers
7) Audacity Software
8) HostBaby
9) CD Baby

Well... that oughta keep me busy here for quite a while.

Stay tuned