Tag Archives: music

An Ode to My (former) Abode

There’s only one door left which closes properly.

The weather boards on one of the outside walls have become so warped that they are beginning to resemble a Salvador Dali painting.

A friend of mine dubbed it the Slanty Shanty. An apt name given the massive crack which existed on the front porch.  A crack which the landlord recently paid someone to cover up – not repair. The uneven angle is still obvious for anyone who cares to pay enough attention.

I’ve lived here for seven years, one month and one day. The longest I’ve ever live in a single place.

There have been two seven inch records, one EP, and an unreleased album recorded here. Not to mention the countless rehearsals from numerous bands. Or the various photo shoots which have used the house or yard as a backdrop.

More musicians have seen the inside than I can possible count. Some only briefly – maybe 30 minutes – after which I went onto auditioning the next person. But others stuck around for many years and became as much a part of the house’s character as any of its housemates did.

There were slightly less housemates – eight including myself – more than one for every year. Each one of them a good person in their own right, but I still find it difficult to imagine them all at the same dinner party or attending the same function.

However, this is a small number in the house’s history. At one point I was writing down the name for every piece of mail I received for someone whom I did not know. I no longer have the list but I seem to remember this number as being over 20. In my early days of living here dropping the ‘return to sender’ mail into the postbox was a weekly chore.

It was a house that operated 24 hours a day. It wasn’t unusual for someone to be getting home from work at the same time of the morning as someone else was leaving. And if you wanted to play some loud music, you may have been less likely to disturb someone’s sleep at 3am than at 3pm.

In winter housemates would often congregate in the tiny, dank living room drawn to the house’s only heater. As a consequence some of the best times were had during winter. Red wine would flow freely and offer the perfect environment for getting to know your housemates and their friends, family or partners.

But during winter the rest of the house’s temperature can only be considered as oppressive. The ancient gas radiator is unable to fill its large rooms and high ceilings with much warmth.

And now has come the time for me to leave number 403. Just down to road, but to an entirely new postcode and demographic.

It’s smallish place, but a newish kitchen and bathroom and heater which is appropriate for its size.

But oh how I’ll miss Albion Street. The constant flow of people and cars makes any time the perfect time for sitting on the porch and observing.

It’s a street which offers the perfect sample of what Brunswick West is now. From the conservatives to the crazies; the students to the retirees; the artists to the accountants.

And although I’m choosing to move on into a place which is a little less rugged, I will miss every crack in the wall and every wonky floor board.

It’s with sadness that I leave this place. And a reflection of the good and bad times that I’ve had. And a hope that its next residents, whoever they may be, will become part of the house in a similar way that it became part of me.

Me at Albion St


Where’s the Racial Equality in the Music Industry?

The majority of us listen to music that has its roots some way or another entrenched in African American culture. And whilst we see racial diversity within the ranks of performers, it seems the higher up the corporate ladder you head, the less likely you are to come across someone other than a white male.

This was highlighted to me by a post in Digital Music News showing this exact problem.

Top Executives at Pandora

Top Executives at Live Nation Entertainment

Top Executives at Spotify

Top Executives at Universal Music Group

Some further research revealed to me that whilst this is a problem which is largely ignored, it hasn’t gone undiscussed.

Dennis McDougal noted that almost every person holding a position of power within the recording industry is white. This is despite over a quarter sales coming from black artists.

This is further pointed out by Vick Bain who wrote an essay on this issue in the United Kingdom. She highlights that in May 2011 77% of artists in the UK top 40 charts where from non-white backgrounds, whilst 92% of the “behind the scenes workforce” are white (p.9).

Johnny Roberts notes that historically, even when what was known as “race music” became popular in the 60’s and  70’s, the styles “quickly came under the control of the white-led majors”. Black executives were then shuffled across to “in-house black music departments.”

Furthermore, Every Person is a Philosopher noted how whites have managed to break into black dominated genres such as hip-hip, blues and RnB.  But at the same time, blacks are basically non-existent in white dominated genres such as country, rock and electronica.

This last point is part the frustration felt by Q-Tip and Azealia Banks when they attacked Iggy Azalea over her silence on Ferguson. Whilst whites do have a history of breaking into black genres, there seems to be an ignorance over the origins of these genres – hip-hop originated in the civil rights movement, the blues’ history is firmly entrenched in slavery. And whilst Iggy Azalea reacted wrong, she is potentially bearing criticism which should be directly universally to the white musicians. After all, how many white musicians came out in support of Ferguson protesters?

Music has many inclusive elements. Most musicians just like playing with good players – they care little for age, race or background (although gender has been highlighted as a problem). So isn’t it time we see true equality is all areas of the music industry? Perhaps the solution to the business model problems the music industry is facing is within the mind of a non-white male.

So How Much Power Does Taylor Swift Have?

Taylor Swift was the biggest selling artist of 2014. What’s more, she was the first artist to sell over a million copies for the year, and this didn’t come until November.

Leaving aside your subjective opinions of Taylor Swift’s music, and ignoring conversations surrounding the current state of the music industry, a couple of recent events have lead me to ask the question; just how much power does this give Taylor Swift?

The first event came upon the release of her current album when Swift announced she would no longer be doing business with Spotify. Citing insufficient royalty returns, her entire back catalogue was promptly removed.

But what effect, if any did this have? Well to date, no other artists have announced that they would follow suit. And according to digital music news, Spotify premium subscriptions have actually spiked as a consequence of Swift’s announcement! As Digital Music News note, “a wide-scale boycott from the most powerful, influential artists…would cripple Spotify’s service”. But to Spotify, Swift on her own, was merely an inconvenience who does hold enough sway to truly affect the service.

Spotify Subscriptions Surge after Taylor Swift removes music from the service

The next is a more localised issue. Over the past few weeks there has been a campaign, using the hashtag #tay4Hottest100, in an attempt to get Swift on Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2014. Whilst it bewilders me that her fans would want her on the chart of a radio stations that has never played her music, it has seen Swift move to second favourite in betting.

Whilst Triple J never publically comments on Hottest 100 voting, it has caused some media contention, with Noisy suggesting that it could destroy the Hottest 100, and The Guardian calling Swift’s potential exclusion “cultural elitism”.

However, it is now being reported that Triple J may remove Swift from contention because the rules state that the station “reserves the right to remove artists from the list who have benefited from competitions or commercial campaigns that incentivise fans to vote for them.” KFC recently made this worse by Tweeting their endorsement. Although this Tweet seems to have now been removed.

KCF Tweet

So it seems that Swift herself does not carry much power. But her name is still able to mobilise people. Spotify are laughing at the extra promotion her name gave their service as she wasn’t able to mobilise other artists to follow her lead. But the executives at Triple J would be quite nervous at the results of the current Hottest 100 voting. Does she stay, or do they find a justification to remove her? With a movement of this size and with this much press, I find it unlikely that she won’t get enough votes to poll. So we’ll just have to wait and see how Triple J choose to play this situation. Regardless, it does seem that Taylor Swift is the one artist currently who is able to grab headlines.

Music That Makes You Want To Take Your Clothes Off

Good Music Should Make You Want to Take Your Clothes off

Image Source: (Stijn Bokhove)

Good music makes you want to take your clothes off. I don’t mean this in a sexual way (necessarily), rather good music should remove your inhabitations. It should allow you to take off your social mask and expose the raw emotion of your soul. Perhaps on the outside you’re still the same (so you kept your clothes on), but that song opened up a part of you.

Has a song ever made you cry? I’m going to relinquish the small amount of manliness I have and admit that there are songs that have made me cry. These are never songs that I sit and listen to for the technical ability of the musicians; I don’t believe anyone ever cried when listening to a Victor Wooten tune. Rather, they’re songs that touch you on a level deeper than an intellectual one. They’re the songs which spark that little bit of something inside of you that you’d forgotten existed, or perhaps that you wished didn’t exist.

As a creator of music, my goal is to perform songs that make me feel the way that music has made me feel. This can only be achieved through being a little bit risky with performance and arrangement. If you’re on stage and you’re worried about making a mistake, or that your groove isn’t good enough, or if the two musicians in audience are judging you, you will never let loose. And if you don’t let your inhibitions loose on stage, then how do you ever expect your audience to?

So next time you’re listening to music, think about which tunes in your life have made you want to take your clothes off. Next time you’re writing or arranging a song, ask yourself am I being honest enough to inspire others to take their clothes off? Because, it’s only through honesty that this will ever be achieved.

I’d love to hear what songs makes you want to take your clothes off in the comments section below.

Musicians Who Don’t Listen to Music

Whilst it sounds like an oxymoron, it’s true, and they exist and in large numbers. Whilst at one point in their development they did listen to music, somewhere they stopped. This can be problematic because whilst there can be a degree of technical proficiency from these individuals, they’ve usually lost the ability to feel what makes music feel good.

Playing the blues is a great example of this. In its simplest form it’s a twelve bar progression with a shuffle feel. For many musicians, this is one of the first things you learn because it’s easy to understand and great too jam on. But if you really think that knowing a twelve bar shuffle means that you can play the blues, then you are wrong. The subtleties that exist in blues music are not something that can be taught; it needs to heard. Sure you can talk about things like playing behind the beat and slurring notes, but until a musician is actually hearing it in millions of great blues recordings, then they have no chance of playing a blues that sounds like a real blues.

The same goes for the type of music you are listening to. I personally don’t think you should only listen to one type of music; you should in actual fact be listening to every piece of music you love regardless of the style. But if you find that you’re playing in an Afrobeat band but don’t find the time to listen to Afrobeat records, then you should really consider if are able to play the style at all. If you’re not listening to the music that you’re playing, then you’re without a doubt missing the delicacies that make the style of music great.

The most frustrating part about these musicians is that often they try and fake that they do listen to music. They think that just because they can talk about artists like Trombone Shorty or Professor Longhair that then they’re into New Orleans music. But the proof is in the groove. You can feel it, even smell it. They may have the musical theory but they always miss the point.

So if you’re a musician think about the last time you really listened to music. Not because you had to learn or analyse a song but for the simple pleasure of listening to music. If it’s been more than even a couple of days then you really need to have a good think about why that is. Do you even enjoy music anymore? Has it become all about the money? Why are you still playing? Regardless, please for the sake making great music, try and re-find that things in music that makes you feel good.

A Musicians Guide to Attending Sporting Events

There is a general cliché that musicians and sport do not mix. That musicians are somehow against the culture that competitive sport brings to world. I am however not one of these musicians. Likewise, I know dozens of musicians who share my appreciation of a high quality sporting contest.

However, having to associate with the general population of sporting fans is something that I’ve never enjoyed. Whilst the vast majority are lovely and decent people, when you go to a sporting event there is a guaranteed that you’ll be sitting in earshot of at least one loud mouthed individual who hasn’t properly watched a game since 1984. It seems to me that at sports events, the dumbest people are also the loudest.

Some might say ‘just don’t go, just watch the game on TV.’ Well for me this is not an option. My preferred sport is AFL which does not translate well to TV. Secondly, more and more games of all codes of sport are moving to pay TV. For most musicians a game on pay TV means heading on down to the local sports bar and having to put up with the same morons.

So here’s my guide to the techniques I’ve found make my surroundings at a sporting event bearable.

1) Go by yourself
Let’s face it, unless you’re lucky enough to know another musician that supports the same team and wants to go as regular as you, this is the only real option. Sure you could bring your old non-muso buddies up but there’s a very real chance that they’ll be that annoying person you’re actually trying to avoid.

2) Arrive late
This is conditional of, and is actually the main advantage to, following point one. If you’re by yourself, even at the biggest game, even right before the start, you’ll be able to find a decent seat. Arriving late also means that you won’t be sitting by yourself for too long, and it limits the chance of finding yourself in an pre-game unwanted conversation.

3) Listen to music
This is the one that took me the longest to get used to. Have it loud enough that you can’t hear the redneck three rows back, but soft enough to get the general roar of the crowd. Pick music that you appreciate but also fits with the energy of the game you’re watching. My preference is often Budos Band but it changes from game to game. Everyone around you will assume you’re listening to some radio commentary. Now give this some thought; that guy with the headphones on six seats across, why do you think he chooses to block out his surroundings and listen to the commentary instead?

4. Look Neutral
Don’t go in club colours. This says that you’re just there to watch the game. The people sitting around you will soon figure out who you’re supporting, but they’ll be much less likely to be bothered by it.

5. Have a Book Handy
This is mostly for emergency situations. During breaks people around you will be less likely to bother you if you’re neck deep in words. Having headphones on will achieve the same thing, but batteries go flat and headphones break. Having a book on hand is an infallible contingency plan.

Online Music: A Musicians Saving Grace or Simply a Shit Deal?

Real World Vs Digital Sales in terms of US Minimum wage

Real World Vs Digital Sales in terms of US Minimum wage

So is this digital revolution a saving grace for musicians and bands or simply an opportunity for the familiar players in the music business to re-enforce their dominance and market control.

There’s no doubting that opportunities have opened for self releasing bands to expand their reach far beyond the limitations of the pre-digital age. With the availability relatively cheap recording hardware and software bands are able to self-record to an acceptable quality. And with third party distribution sites such as CD baby, bands are able to sell their tunes internationally on sites such as iTunes or Spotify. Couple this with Facebook/Myspace/Reverbnation/Bandcamp and potentially their tracks are not just be available, but they’re able to be promoted to a worldwide audience.

But what of the royalties these sites offer. If this graphic I came across the other day is anything to go by then the deal is becoming systemically worse. I felt that this was a good comparison because it showed how many units/plays were required simply to earn US minimum wage for one person! Keep in mind that if we’re talking about a band with four members, for each of them to earn minimum wage they would have to get 16.1million plays on spotify compared to around 5000 retail albums sold which is the traditional model. Meanwhile Warner music are telling us that streaming is now accounting for 25% of their digital revenue.

So who’s winning out in the move into the digital age? The traditional, old school, poor crying major record labels; or the artist as was suppose to be the case. Unfortunately it would seem that the traditional players had such strength in the pre-digital age that they were able to use this cut themselves an even better deal in the digital age.

Click the image for a full-res version of the image.