Meet Canadian Import, Donnie Gossett…

Songwriter, musician and recording technician, Donnie Gossett has played over 900 shows in 15+ countries and also founded Canada’s first Christian rock and roll band, Salvation Air Force when he was 16 years old (although he is no longer religious today).  He moved to Colorado five years ago and says he is happy to report that the overall music scene in Denver is “much better and broader than Vancouver.”

Donnie has produced over two dozen albums of his own material and 50+ albums for other artists over the years.  Here’s a little more about Donnie and a few of his lessons learned…

Q:  When did you first pick up an instrument?

I began piano lessons as a child and then received a bass guitar for my 13th birthday and played bass in church the very next day and played in bands steadily till I was 30 (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals).

After about 15 years away from playing music professionally I began again from 2008 – 2014 averaging 50 live performances per year while I lived in Vancouver. I very much enjoyed that experience but all 3 of my sons moved to Denver along with my grandchildren so I decided that family is very important.  Right now I am a member of 2 different cover bands: one in which I play guitar and the other in which I play keyboards and sing backup in both bands.

Donnie performing in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Q:  And when did you first start recording?

My dad was a radio broadcaster so I had access to pro recording gear as a child. I recorded my first album in a 16-track studio when I was 15 and then went into the recording business with my own studio as a producer, arranger, studio musician and background singer when I was 20 which I did full-time for 8 years plus working at other studios such as Little Mountain Sound in their heyday as a top 5 studio worldwide.

I dropped out for a few years and then reformed my own home studio in 2000 and have been busily recording ever since. I recorded a new solo album every year from 1998 till 2008.  I have produced 50+ albums for other artists and over 2 dozen of my own either as solo projects or in bands that I led.

Plus I believe strongly in having support music videos to go with one’s own songs so I have created 100+ music videos. I have also extended my music and audio talents into the video game industry including 4 AAA titles one of which sold 2 million copies and was published by Electronic Arts and Fox called Simpsons Road Rage and garnering me credit on IMDB.

 

Q:  What are you recording right now?

In 2018 I completed and released 2 all-original solo albums where I played everything except for drums on 2 songs, shared the lead guitar with a friend on one song and had a sax player on another. The albums are titled Crazy But True and Snapshot.  My albums are pushing 80 minutes — with 33 original songs so by 1970s standards they are closer to double albums.

Q:  Is there an album you are particularly proud of and why?

I recorded a prog-rock concept solo album in 2011 called brain cell which explores mental illness and then my latest solo album called Snapshot. I am always pushing to make things a little better — for everything from the songwriting to the arranging to the vocals to the instruments to the mixes.

Q:  And a favorite song?

I think if I had to pick just one then I would choose the song Tell Me Why which I wrote and recorded in 1981 for my solo album of the same name and I played all the instruments and sang all the vocals and provided all the production and engineering.  I did it very fast but it was just one of those songs where everything came together.

Q:  What’s the most challenging thing about recording for you?

I think it is to maintain objectivity about the album, the song, the performances, the arrangements, the microphone choice and placement, etc.

Q:  Have you sold any of your music?

In the 1970s I signed with the leading record label of its genre and had albums released internationally but as it turns out, it really didn’t open the doors that I was hoping for.  Then in the 1980s I signed with a music publishing company who shopped my songs around to various artists.

I had interest from the country band Alabama and others — but ultimately it did not score me any hits.  

“I have made much more money in recording other artists or playing in cover bands than I ever made from my own music.  At this point I really don’t do it for the money or for commercial potential but as a means of expressing who I am and what is important to me.”

Q:  Is there a project you are still anxious to record?

Since I have written and recorded so much new material in 2018, I am taking a bit of breather. I do have a new concept album project in the works — based on the cities I have lived in called “The Colour Of Home” — with “Colour” spelled the British/Canadian way — to reflect my Canadian heritage as I lived most of my life in Vancouver. So far I have completed writing 6 new songs for the album.

I have invested much energy and resources to learn to play and perform the entire rock rhythm section by myself for both live performance and in the studio — and so I have recorded lots of material where I played and sang everything.  I certainly have enjoyed that experience but I would like to record with some other musicians primarily to enjoy an experience that is different than what I am used to as I still expect to record entirely solo projects as well.

Q:  What would you like your music legacy to be?

I consider my greatest musical strength is songwriting. I have written over 500 songs and recorded over 400 of them, some of them several times.  Recently a friend of mine named Ben Karlstrom who is a fine artist in his own right decided to record one of the songs from the Snapshot album called One Last Try and he did a very fine job.  It was interesting to hear how different his take was on the same song.

Thanks for the interview, Donnie!

Thank you!

Who is spending your social capital?

When it comes to playing out, every band has a finite amount of social capital to spend.  Do you take this into consideration when booking a show? Or does someone else have their hand in your pocket?

What is Social Capital?

Social Capital = Support Network

Social capital is also known as your “following.”  It’s the people you mobilize to attend your live shows.  It’s the “butts in seats” that you might be able to muster if you make a little effort at promoting your shows.

Sure, they are often friends and family.  Those folks are kind of a “starter sponge” to help build a bigger crowd.  But if the starter crowd is all that you have, playing out is going to get old sooner than later.  For a music event to have some traction, there needs to be a little more effort on every front.

Boosting Social Capital

The most common ways to increase your social capital don’t necessary revolve around you and your music – they revolve around your fans and what makes them feel special or included.  That old adage is true: “People don’t care what you know (or what music you play) until they know that you care (about them).”

One way is to throw a private party for them.  Yes, milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, obtaining AA recovery chips (maybe just don’t host it at a bar) – you get the idea.  The more thoughtful the party, the more clever the invitations, the more substance at the party…the more likely you’ll have good attendance.

Sure, maybe a tea party?  But maybe think a little bigger?

Another way to boost your following – get some radio air time.  The more the better. It can be hard to cut through all of the things that compete for people’s attention these days, but you need to keep on trying.  Submit your music virtually everywhere that they are willing to play it. And pass out freebie demos as much as you can.

Ordain a few advocates.  Identify those fans that keep showing up to your shows and turn them into VIP’s.  Give them backstage access. Buy ‘em some pizza before the show. Arm them with CDs, download cards and all the merch you have.  Ask them if they’d like to lead your fan club (or manage your band).

Energies and economics

Yes, all of those boosting ideas require you to spend a lot of energy, and sometimes a bit of money too.  And wouldn’t it be nice to just develop your performance skills and not worry about all of that other stress?  In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to rely on your social capital at all when playing out.

That’s where touring comes in.  When your band travels, it’s less about producing social capital and far more about producing quality music, an entertaining performance…a special brand.  Then it starts to become more about the venue’s social capital. How many butts can they put in seats?

Isn’t it silly that just because you are local you are expected to spend the capital?  After all, if you have a significant following, you can create a venue just about anywhere, can’t you?  If a venue is trying to qualify your social capital, ask yourself if this is the right venue for you. “Supporting local music” should mean more than just exploiting the bands…

And the winner is…Redline Alchemy!

Congratulations to Joseph Ausmus with Redline Alchemy – winner of the DOM Recording Contest!  Joseph won 15 hours of free recording time with local studio CTK Audio Productions.

Redline Alchemy is a funk rock group founded by the brothers Ausmus: Joe, Dan and Nick.  This band had been around since 2010 and itching to get back into the studio to record more of their original tunes.  Other members include local musicians (both songwriters and music educators) Corey Goldman and Nate Wilson.

Please stay tuned and we’ll follow along with their progress in the studio.

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The DOM recording contest entry window is closing

Have you registered for our free recording contest yet?  The window is closing soon.  Final entries must be submitted no later than midnight on Sunday, March 24th, 2019.  Here’s a reminder of contest details…

The winner of the DOM recording contest will receive 15 hours of free recording time at CTK Audio Productions LLC in Lakewood.  It’s up to you what you’d like to do with that time, as long as it’s original music!

CTKAudioLogo

In order to be eligible, you need to be local (live in Colorado), have original material to record, and register by midnight, March 24th, 2019.  How easy is that? And after you register once, you will be eligible for all other opportunities for the rest of 2019.

Register by emailing Marc at DenverOriginalMusic.com (with “Recording Contest” in the subject line) and include the following:

  • Your name
  • Best phone number and email to reach you
  • Band name and/or a little detail about your project
  • Only one entry per person
  • If you feel inclined, please go “like” Denver Original Music on Facebook

The winner will be drawn at random on 3/27/19 by CTK Audio productions LLC owner Chris Kellogg and the winner will be announced by the end of March.  Also please note:  your personal information is never shared!  

Good luck and thank you, CTK Audio Productions, for supporting original music!

 

Paying attention to band dynamics

When you hear a song on the radio, you may recognize one thing that is consistently true – the music will have been produced with significant dynamics.  You will be able to hear each instrument and maybe even be able to identify each recorded track. You will hear spaces between parts, degrees of volume, modifications to familiar instruments (also known as effects) and, hopefully, you will be affected emotionally by the performance.

Again, this pretty much holds true for anything that gets on the radio or really any professional form of media.  It should also be a goal to achieve when your band is playing out live. You should be able to reproduce a recording with as much taste and tact as the original.

Less is always more

In the cooking world, chefs know that “you can always add more…but it’s not usually possible to add less”  You can always add more parts, more volume, more effects. But to avoid fatiguing your listener’s ear, it’s best to start simpler and build up from there.

In the graphic design world, it’s known that quality artwork should look good first in black and white.  If it looks strong in B&W, chances are it will still hold its own when you start adding color, gradients and other special effects to the design.

The same goes for band dynamics…and here are a few more simple things that can make a big difference:

  • Quiet on verses; louder on choruses.  Sure, sometimes you might flip it (louder on verses and quieter on choruses) for effect, but loud on everything usually equals listener fatigue.
  • Rests are as important as notes.  Rests can be the quiet before the storm.  Rests make space for intensity. And rests can keep the flute player from passing out.
  • Get a grip on your tempo – playing quieter does not equal playing slower (just as playing louder does not mean playing faster).  Stay in time.
  • Try to avoid the “all or nothing” approach.  Your amp has more than just an on/off button.   Think about a lighter touch, or those volume and tone knobs for your axe’s neck and bridge, pick vs. fingers…explore your pallet.
  • Don’t play!  That’s right – sometimes the best dynamic is to just put your arms behind your back (like you are wearing handcuffs), put your ego on snooze and maybe listen to what else is going on.
EarPlugs
Is this your idea of dynamics?

Personal responsibility

Dynamics are best achieved when you are proactive, self-aware and take personal responsibility for what you are literally bringing to the mix.  If someone else is constantly needing to tell you to turn it down…you probably aren’t there yet.

Also, don’t leave your live sound up to the sound guy.  Chances are that he/she doesn’t know how you intended your songs to heard (although really good techs have the ears to figure this out).  But how about using your own ears and figuring out how to replicate your recordings without the aid of a sound tech? He/she will thank you for making the job that much easier.

Music appreciation

It’s good for an original band to play a few covers now and then.  That will force you to hear songs that did get on the radio…and why.  Have a group listening session and talk with your bandmates about the things that catch their ear.  Chances are it all comes back to dynamics…

11
But this amp goes to 11…

Think Incubation over Hibernation

hibernating
Photo by NY State Parks.

Many local bands opt to hibernate during the winter months – understandable considering how challenging it can be to get music fans out in the snow and cold.  Add traffic to the equation and the infinite menu of other entertainment options and you might almost want to go into sleep mode indefinitely. But don’t do it.

 

 

Incubation > Hibernation

Hibernation, by definition, implies spending time in an inactive or dormant state.  Not a very constructive use of your time. At the very least, hibernation to you should imply “doing things indoors” (like playing indoor gigs, recording, rehearsing, re-inventing).  The last thing you should be doing is sleeping.

Incubation, as an alternative, implies “maintaining something under favorable conditions” for development, improvement, and the inspiration to hit the pavement when springtime comes again.  But don’t sit on a goose or albatross egg – that’ll only bring you down. Instead, sit on your creativity and passion, sit on your talents and skills, maybe dwell on your marketing plan, your personnel, or your next big move.

Here’s what you can do if you incubate:

  • Write more & better tunes.
  • Rehearse your butt off, maybe even get a teacher or mentor again.
  • Record: the tunes, your rehearsals, your lyrics, your stage performance…record it all and try to learn from it.
  • Back to marketing – do you have a marketing plan?  Do you know who wants to hear your music, in what format, where, when, & why?  Take some time to think about this.
  • Promoting your music – when was the last time you submitted your tunes to a web site, radio station, contest, booking agent or festival submission?  Have you revisited your digital music sites lately? Are you on all of the major platforms and what could you do to push more people there?
  • Make a music video – “people hear with their eyes.”  While you’re at, create a youtube channel, promote that channel, create a compelling reason to visit (and revisit).
  • Organize the band better – take stock of personnel and see if some of your bandmates would like to help with the tasks.  Many of them may be far more natural salespeople, designers, accountants, project managers than you…and they are just waiting to be asked.  Use all of their talents and get them involved.
  • Back to the albatross – if your band has laid an egg in the past, if you feel like something or someone is bringing you all down, figure it out and figure out how to move on.  Your music is the vehicle to help you fly so don’t let anything sink it.
spotify
One of the top digital music platforms – are your songs available here?

A long winter…will the Broncos see their shadow?

The old sports-minded, stock show cowtown image of Denver may give you the impression that you should just go dormant in winter.  And it’s true that if the Broncos make it to a Superbowl, it could put the kibosh on some of your plans (but probably not anytime in the near future).  So make some goals, create a few to-do lists and delegate. Try to identify your biggest weaknesses and maybe turn them into your greatest strengths? For Colorado, spring is always in the air – get ready for the thaw and get  busy!

Perchancetodream
To sleep, perchance to dream…

Always make an agreement

Here’s a solid new year’s resolution for 2019:  create a Performance Agreement every single time you play out.  A performance agreement (PA) describes the logistics of your deal and the responsibilities of all parties involved.  It’s a digital confirmation of your handshake with the venue owner or hiring authority so don’t skip this step, even if it seems like you are playing a “casual gig.”

Here’s what the PA will do:

  • Clarify where and when you will be performing
  • Clarify what you will be paid (and when and how)
  • Clarify the loading, parking and other venue logistics
  • Clarify what happens when things go wrong
  • Clarify other forms of recourse

The key concept here is clarity.  When you take the time to spell everything out and make sure that both parties (the band and the venue) have a written agreement about a performance, you remove lots of gray areas – everyone knows what to expect.  And meeting expectations is the main reason to create an agreement in the first place.

ContractA written agreement is a contract

Sometimes it scares people to think they are entering a contract when they start putting things in writing.  Suddenly, they may be held accountable for details they had never even thought about before. But guess what?  Those details don’t “go away” just because you haven’t taken the time to articulate and document them.

Here are some of the most important details to consider:

  • Liability and accountability – what could go wrong and who is going to cover it when this happens?
  • Payment – don’t you want to know how much you can earn?
  • Logistics – what happens when there’s 2 inches of rainwater puddled up on the outdoor stage, submerging the electrical boxes?  Does the show still go on?

Liability happens

Again, you might not want to think about this, but every time your band plays out in the public domain stuff can happen.  A wobbly PA stand, an uneven drum riser, pyrotechnics gone terribly wrong, an unidentified and slippery substance on the floor, cable tripping hazards, indecent exposure(?), backing in to unload your gear and taking out a street lamp, leaving gear on stage after you’ve departed the venue, falling off a chair while belting out Free Fallin’ – you probably have plenty of your own stories so you get the idea…

DuctTape
Is over-engineered duct tape your best idea of liability insurance?

Some liability may already be covered by stuff like auto, theft and health insurance.  But some would best be addressed by Event or General Liability Insurance.  It might be covered by the people who own the premises, but this is why it’s best to clarify the details in an agreement.  We’ll talk more about Event Insurance in another article.

Paying all the pipers

It’s nice to know how much you are going to get paid, when and in what format.  Sure, Blockchain and Bitcoin will eventually change the game…but for now, don’t you want a little reassurance about these matters?  Your bandmates may too.

Another handy thing about a performance agreement is that you can share it easily with all of your players to temper expectations.  Do a little math, make a little love and hopefully pay everyone fairly. And hopefully too, you fully understand the concept of Independent Contractors and have those agreements in place as well.

TaylorSwift
Do you think Taylor Swift knows in advance (and in writing) what she is going to be paid for a gig? Each and every time…

As a side topic, many small, independent bands aren’t offered guaranteed pay for their performance.  But there are still calculations to be made and negotiated, and often the gray areas become even more nuanced.  Why not put the details in writing so everyone understands?

The bottom line

Have you ever been double-booked or underpaid? That well-worn adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind.  Sure, you can just wing it with venue owners, bandmates and sidemen/women. Blow off a written agreement.

But when you present your client(s) with a proper, well-communicated performance agreement, you are also presenting a sense of reliability and professionalism.  Not only will they know that you are going to show up, they’ll know what time to expect you and what you expect in compensation. You’ll all know what to do in the event of a tornado, rain…or hail.  And they will probably even ask you back.

If  you’ve read this far and you’d like a couple samples of a standard Performance Agreement, please email Marc at DenverOriginalMusic.com