Showing posts with label music business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music business. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion

Let me start off by saying Steve Jordan hates being referred to as “the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion.” It is apt though because he has done the same for the accordion as Jimi Hendrix did for rock guitar;  take it places it never imagined. A reference he likes a lot better though is “World’s Best Accordionist.”

Steve Jordan was a child musical prodigy, has played every instrument there is and has made a living playing music since age 7. He has electrified the accordion and even uses effects pedals. He has even done the traditional rock and roll thing with drugs and alcohol but his career is in a new phase; attempting to make money on his talent.

Seems another rock and roll thing Steve Jordan has done is getting cheated out of his royalties. He is fixing that by distributing 9 albums worth of unreleased material through his own label at later this summer.

This is some amazing music and worth checking out. Not every day you can hear the World’s Best Accordionist.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lynyrd Skynyrd Trail

We recently started a new ‘Historic Trail’ road trip tradition. Rather than following the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail or the Historic Oregon Trail we decided to create our own tradition based on place names in rock songs. Muscle shoals Alabama qualified as our first based on two criteria; Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” of course - “Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers/and they’ve been known to pick a song or two”, and it was relatively close. I expected a wide place in the road to explore for a couple hours but discovered the legendary “Muscle Shoals Sound” instead.

The journey began with a drink in the hotel bar on arrival and gazing at their wall of fame depicting artists such as Wilson Pickett, Paul Simon, Little Richard, Bobbie Gentry, Rod Stewart, and Bob Dylan. Since I knew Bob Dylan was not from Alabama I figured it wasn’t about locals making it big. A brief read of town history on the back of the bar menu clued me in that Muscle Shoals was churning out a bunch of hits in the 60s and 70s. The “Swampers” is actually Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), and David Hood (bass); founders of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969 and also called the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. If you do not recognize them just think of songs like “Mustang Sally”, “Kodachrome”, and “When a Man Loves a Woman”. They played on them all and hundreds more. Apparently many people hearing their music were surprised they were white and I guess I’m one more.

Armed with newfound knowledge, we headed off to find FAME Studios, one of the prominent studios of the eight running at the peak. Turns out it is an unassuming 50s looking building and I walked into the front office asking about tours. “Nope, this is a working studio, man, and there is a session going now.” They are still turning out hits; how cool is that? They let us look in one of the open recording rooms and we then headed off to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame for more music appreciation and education (including being about the billionth people to record Sweet Home Alabama in the museum's sound studio just behind a group of Germans). 

Overall we ended up spending two days exploring. One lesson learned in all of this is do not take what you hear for granted as it is easy to imagine music is pumped out of generic factories. There’s a story behind everything; "wide spots in the road" rarely turn out to be so.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Power Tab Editor - Why Not?

I purchased Blues-Rock Evolution by Jeff McErlain and it featured the Power Tab Editor "... free shareware thanks to Brad Larsen, who wrote it and shares it with players the world over." Trying to get older software (year 2000 release date) running on Vista is like dancing with a chicken, but I was anxious to see the tabs so took the plunge.

After a surprisingly trouble free install (a tribute to backward compatibility) I opened the first tab file and wow! Dynamic tab! Power Tab plays the tab and notation using midi on your machine. I was impressed enough that I jumped on to the Internet to search for the current release, which is where things came down to earth.

As a child I dreamt one night I had a wonderful toy car carrier. It was a big Mack truck carrying Corvettes and Thunderbirds and I had it parked under my bed for safe keeping. Next morning I leapt out of bed to retrieve my rig and found nothing but cobwebs and dust mites. I had somewhat the same feeling when I got to and saw the caption “Power Tab Archives Closed” followed by article links with “Music Publishers’ Association” MPA in them. Dang! No wonder there are no new releases; seems Power Tab Editor is another victim of Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Now I’m all for people making money off what they create, I just wish publishers could bow to the inevitability of DRM free distribution. After all, legal downloads of DRM free music such as Amazon and iTunes Plus is ubiquitous now. Still, some content such as electronic books and apparently Power Tab format still have not arrived at their ultimate DRM free end state. Late breaking news of a PTA Relaunch though indicates a resolution is at hand. As of April 3, 2009, release of Power Tabs via the Internet has a new lease on life with royalties being paid through advertising. You can go to Power Tabs Discussion Forum to track the progress.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Must Listen To For Anyone Interested in Music

I was flipping through stations one evening and heard discussion around home and studio recording techniques, which immediately caught my interest. Turns out it was an episode of Music Business Radio, a talk show you should check out.

Nashville’s own WRLT 100.1 FM is the flagship station for this program and it is great listening for anyone interested in music. The latest episode features Ken Mansfield, former US Manager for Apple Records and US/UK liaison for the Beatles and he recounts his experiences working with them as well as the Beach Boys, the Band, and many more.

So, visit their site to find a broadcast radio station in your area or simply subscribe and listen to episodes through streaming audio or podcast free of charge.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Take a Look at Project Song from All Songs Considered

On my way home from the office today I heard a story on National Public Radio® regarding Project Song, an NPR Music feature on that illustrates the entire music creation process from writing through recording and post production. The entire process is done over two ten hour days.

Whether this paricular example is your style of music or not this really highlights that there is a process for how music is made rather than a bolt of lightening coming out of the sky.

You can hear the story and watch a video of the process at NPR Music.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vintage Guitar Market: The Great Rap/R&B;/hip-hop Scare

Gruhn Guitars is one of Nashville’s premier vintage guitar sources and releases an occasional newsletter with market commentary. Think of it as the vintage guitar market equivalent of the Fed Chairman addressing congress. The most recent issue explores potential threats to the vintage guitar market; lure of easy money from booming stock market or high interest rates and waning interest in guitars caused by the rising popularity of the Rap/R&B/hip-hop genre of music. Needless to say, given I am a guitar blog author and guitar fan, that second one caught my attention.

One of my favorite sections of Rolling Stone magazine is the "Charts" area on the last page showing rankings and I do have to admit that I’ve noticed less guitar based music. Newsletter authors George Gruhn and Walter Carter point out that eight of the top ten records as of their writing were rap/R&B/hip-hop styles and had no guitar. According to them, the last time this kind of shift occurred is now referred to in vintage guitar circles as the “Great Synthesizer Scare of the ‘70s.” The scare originated because the development of electric keyboard instruments coupled with the popularity of disco showed that a song could be a hit without guitars as the lead instrument.

While there may be a chance that interest in guitars has peaked the conclusion they draw is that ongoing evolution of public taste will continue to come around to the guitar given its portability and versatility. They are more than comfortable continuing to invest in quality vintage fretted instruments. I ran across a tangible example of what they are talking about just the other night while watching “Crossroads” on the MTV's music television network.

This episode featured Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performing music from “Raising Sand”, currently number one on Americana Radio Top Ten. Throw a range of guitar based musical styles such as blues, bluegrass, country, and rock into a blender and out comes what I saw on that episode; something amazing! They did a rendition of “Black Dog” from Led Zeppelin IV that included tight vocals backed up by banjo (yes, banjo), standup bass, and one of the most amazing rock/bluegrass/blues/country guitar solos I’ve heard with a very cool effect of rattling keys from a keychain against the strings.

Watching that performance left me in no doubt the guitar is here to stay for the foreseeable future!

>>Related Articles
The Vintage Guitar Circuit: Where Guitars Find a New Home
Aging Rockers: Listen to More Than The Old Masters

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Music Promotion by Chocolate

I’ve written a variety of posts about ways to discover new music. It appears buying chocolates for Valentine’s Day is one I missed.

Page One of the Wall Street Journal reports today that a 30 second track of singer songwriter David Martin is featured in Whitman’s chocolates (an embedded chip in the traditional heart shaped box) sold exclusively at Walgreens drugstores. For $9.99 you get a box of 12 chocolates, 30 seconds of David Martin’s song “Something in Your Eyes”, and a free download of the song “the year’s most romantic”.

This is really a twofer for those last minute shoppers as you can buy something for that significant other plus experience a new approach to music marketing. This is actually a clever approach given digital technology has eroded the intrinsic value of the music itself. The music in this case will help sell more chocolates and the added publicity will potentially boost David Martin’s career. Everybody wins except those trying to reduce their use of chocolate!

>>Related Articles
Rockonomics or Why Does it Cost So Much to Go to a Concert?
Recording Industry and the Economics of Scarcity

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sun Studios Tour Proves Less is More

On a recent trip to Memphis Tennessee I took time out for a visit to Sun Studios (Memphis Recording Service). Everyone knows about the legend of Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, and the birth of Rock & Roll. Nothing prepared me though for just how much can be done with so little.

Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service “A Complete Service to Fill Every Recording Need” recorded everything from weddings to artists such as B.B. King, Little Milton, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf. His studio recorded "Rocket 88", which music historians consider the first rock & roll song and made history with his discovery of Elvis Presley. However, on the tour I found out that his “Newest and Best Equipment” was an Ampex single track recorder and his “Sonocoustic Studio” was a simple room with acoustical tile that is still there today (Sun Studios was designated an historical landmark in 2003).

Truth is, a fifth grader with GarageBand on their laptop has vastly more capability than Sam Philips had available at the time. If you want to introduce an effect into a recording today you push a button. Back then, they rearranged the furniture or got out the soldering iron to make some tweaks to the equipment and did another take. Also, there was no post editing where they could use punch-in points to correct mistakes. They just kept doing full takes until they got what they wanted. Yet, these early recordings continue to hold up today.

So, that begs the question, what have we gotten for all this technology? Has it generated any benefit or just created shortcuts to mediocrity? The way I think about it is that Sam Philips and his contemporaries were all about the “Newest and Best Equipment.” When he started out the Ampex one track was the best he could get. If today's technology were available then they would have been all over it! We owe our listening pleasure to innovators then and now who are all about pushing the limits of available technology.

Sun Studios photo licensed through Creative Commons 3.0.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bonnaroo Is More Diverse Than Ever

What do Metallica, Willie Nelson, and B.B. King have in common other than being great artists? You’re right; they are all appearing at this year’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

While many Tennesseans still think “traffic jam” when they hear the word Bonnaroo, this festival is big enough now to draw the rock legends as headliners as well as speculation that Led Zeppelin will play here. While they indicate Led Zeppelin will not appear, the festival organizers have joined in the fun by including Lez Zeppelin, a female Zeppelin cover band in the lineup.

Although Led Zeppelin won’t play Bonnaroo, Robert Plant will appear along with Alison Krauss, his new musical partner. Hmmm, if one fourth of Led Zeppelin (including Jason Bonham) are already there, maybe……

Tickets go on sale starting 11 AM this Saturday the 9th through