Performing equals advertising

An impromptu concert could be one of your best ways to advertise the band. It’s kind of like a flash mob, only with a bit more set up if you’re hauling a PA.  So make sure the time invested is worth the return.  Here’s what it might look like…

Bring the music to the masses

Remember that you are advertising here. You are going to want to get in front of the largest crowd possible for maximum impact.  You could time your performance around the lunch hour, or in conjunction with a major local event, or even set up shop in a large business district (just remember that noise ordinances might be in effect – even Red Rocks has to shut it done eventually).

Here are a few places that might welcome your music:

  • business courtyards
  • Civic Center Park…at lunch time
  • A university quad
  • outside your local library
  • a First Friday art walk
  • before/during/after a marathon

Back in October, 2010, a California band attempted to block traffic on the 101 Freeway in LA; bad move…they had to plead no contest to felony conspiracy, misdemeanor charges of public nuisance and interfering with law enforcement – so think about the legal and safety implications before improvising. 

ImperialStars101
photo by Irfan Khan for the Los Angeles Times

 

Is it quality?

I’m going to type one sentence here: if you notice that your music tends to send people running, please consider practicing more, working things out at some open mics, etc. before inflicting your product on the general public.

Do you have a marketing plan?

All advertising has a purpose, which is usually to capture attention and then to set the stage for followup sales. What plans do you have in place to make the most of this effort?  For instance, do you have business cards, promo materials on your band, a method for capturing emails?  Those items should be present during these (and all) performances.

Do you have an offer? As in, do you know what you charge for your services?  Can you explain that to a person in the crowd in one sentence, or better yet, does your print collateral communicate that effectively?  And while you are at it, can you communicate what separates you from the competition?  Why hire your band?  What can the buyer expect?  What is your unique selling proposition?  Before you start playing out, take some time to answer those important questions…

7 music marketing ideas for 2016

Happy new year!  And as usual, this is the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished with your music and where you want to go next.  One thing you may have noticed – virtually every successful step you’ve taken was probably accomplished due to more successful marketing efforts.

If the results have felt a little lackluster lately, think about some new steps you can take in 2016 to change course.   One degree of effort can make a huge difference.  One degree of change may give you a brand new perspective on new year’s day, 2017.  Here’s a little list to get you started…

  • Submit your music online, anywhere you can be heard.  Set a goal to submit one song, once a week, to a new source somewhere.  It could be another internet radio station.  Or a terrestrial radio station playing local music in the wee hours.  It could just be a relative in another state – but get it out there!
  • Get your CDs in the local record stores, even if you have to place them on consignment. Hint:  Angelo’s CDs & More has 4 locations in the Denver Metro area…
Angelos
Is your music being sold in a record store?
  • Play a spontaneous event in public. It could be 3 songs, or an entire set.  It could be in support of a nonprofit cause you believe in, or an impromptu show for friends and family.  Or something off the beaten track for the local TV stations to cover.
  • Review your database of fans. What?  You don’t have a database?  Better get busy!  Get that newsletter or mass email going, or better yet, think of a creative new way to reach those fans, like a through a meetup (or impromptu concert).
  • Review your database of press contacts. What?  Are you kidding me?  Start compiling pronto!  It’s not that hard with this thing we call the internet.  Create a list, create a simple press release and get it out there.
  • Talk to 3 people each week and TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR BAND. A little quick math: 4 band mates talking to 3 people each week x 52 weeks in a year = 624 contacts per year.  Ask if you can please put them on your mailing list.  But be prepared to tell them what is unique about your band, your music or your live show.  Give them a reason to be curious.
  • Get off your butt. Take action.  One action a week is 52 a year.  One action a day is 365.2422 per year.  That’s a lot of marketing!

Next up:  some more thoughts on how to pull off an impromptu promo concert.

People hear with their eyes

This past summer, legendary local bassist, Jim Ingman reminded me: “People hear with their eyes.” You may be so engrossed in your sound recordings and web audio players and CD pressings and download cards that you forget this point – but don’t!  People really do hear your music with the visual cortex.

Hopefully if you are playing out live you already know this. Your stage persona, set props, lighting, fog, and hot young girls on stage are all methods for creating the mood of the music and the overall experience for the audience.  Are you paying attention to all of the little details that can make or break your show?

I think it’s about Forgiveness…

One nice thing about stimulating imagery is that it can actually distract an audience from noticing the faux paus – like an out of tune guitar player, an inconsistent drummer, or a keyboard player that fills things up too quickly. Many a female singers flat notes have been overlooked when sporting the right bustier.  Yes, you can get away with murder if you have a compelling stage show going on.

But it’s also about the noggin’…

Have you ever practiced developing better balance? One way to do this is by standing on one leg and seeing how long you can go without falling over.  Then working at standing longer.  But the most powerful way to reach good balance is to close your eyes.  Go ahead – try it.

The reason this will strengthen your balance is that we use visual cues to orient ourselves to the environment. When vision is deprived, we have to rely on the proper amount of fluid in our eustachian tubes.  Same goes for when we “see music.”

Visual and auditory cues feed upon each other to deliver your “viewing” experience. And visual cues absolutely dominate us, drastically influencing our experiences.  Beyond influencing the perception of sounds, visual cues also affect our conscious evaluation of sound.  That is, our brains can interpret sounds better when we utilize our eyes.  For instance, studies have shown that watching a singer’s lips move improves the comprehension of lyrics by 18% (Hildago-Barnes & Massaro, 2007).

Light is faster than sound

Yes, light waves travel faster than sound waves – like when you see a flash of lighting but there’s a delay to hear the thunder. When those visual cues are arriving so much sooner, they have a chance to influence the brain about your overall experience.  The next time you are at a show, watch the drummer – the longer the distance his/her stick travels to hit the drum, the longer the notes will be perceived to carry.  The band Mushroomhead makes excellent use of this device, to say nothing of how their lighted, liquid-covered drum heads and dramatic motions are affecting your impression of the music.

MRHDrummer

Now think about the tension and release in your music – could this experience be heightened by the visual demonstration of tension onstage? Heck yeah!  Other properties, such as timbre, loudness and pitch can also be affected by visual cues.

Vision doesn’t just affect live performance

Don’t forget that people are still hearing your music with their eyes when they see your youtube video, an album cover, a promotional photo, or a web site. And yes, they see the images first and then hear the tunes…or not – if your images are not that compelling, they won’t be selling (your songs).  So take some time to make the audience want to see your music because people hear with their eyes.

And we’re back…

Have you ever clicked the Pause button in life? That might happen when you take on too many endeavors or start a vital project and cast everything else into the wind. You might realize that some pure and desperate focus is required – for a time…and then the pieces all start falling into place again and every life experience, and every chance encounter starts to come full circle. That’s what we’re going to talk about today, only in regards to song writing.

Sometimes you need to step back and let a decade or two of immense imagery wash over you. The melodies of life start peeking out and lyrics might kiss your face like long lost puppies. Songs swoop in from nowhere – an electrical current strongly out of code. Do you know what I mean? That’s OK. I don’t either.

Songs come from the ether
A long time ago, some version of Earth’s scientists believed in a substance known as the Ether. This was an invisible force that flowed all around us. They believed that we moved through it like water or Jello. They didn’t know about electromagnetic waves, micro and gamma waves, or String Theory, implying that there were other dimensions surrounding us, 11 and counting. They just guessed that we are immersed in an invisible force…

Songs come from that zone. Songs are floating in some exosphere, waiting for us to pluck them out of the sky. They are fragments of the Universe humming and you, the songwriter, are the strange conduit with unique experiences that can lasso those tunes. But like it or not, your energy is finite.

The act of incubation
So now you have some vague, trippy notion of where songs come from. But what’s the best way to tap into them? Some folks have pre-determined that they are going to be “songwriters.” They force the Universe into a strangle hold and start churning out a gluttonous resume. But like an elusive erection, the Universe operates on parasympathetic nerve endings – you can’t control this force. So relax and yield.

Incubate: to sit on (eggs) in order to keep them warm and bring them to hatching; to keep (something) in the proper conditions.

As you accumulate life experiences, you may be unaware of the mass imagery that has burned its way across your retina and burrowed deep into your subconscious mind. Some of the most powerful symbols were absorbed from birth through age 10. This was the time before all major prejudices, before puberty, and certainly before you had a career path. This is the gold mine or the treasure buried under the sea. And you are going to need to dive deep to find it.

So the lesson is: don’t force anything and allow your imagination to ferment. If you give it time, stuff is going to start bubbling to the surface like a primordial soup. And then you can start playing the Chef again. Never get frustrated if you need some downtime or find yourself wandering away from the prize. The Universe will call you back when you are ready…

universe

Friends and family do not equal fans

OK – so you’ve got a show on the horizon.  And you’re trying to mobilize every ounce of social capital you’ve got: friends, family, co-workers, clients, neighbors…maybe even your dentist and local congressman.  Just remember: friends and family do not equal fans.

They may be great for your phone plan, and fun to gather with at parties.  But there is a significant difference between someone that feels obligated to come see you play and someone that wants to see you play.

Is every show going to be a family reunion?
Is every show going to be a family reunion?

Do you get it?

Friends and Family (F&F, from here on out) hopefully love you and want to support you.  They will certainly try to make the occasional, desperate show.  Maybe they’ll even be good for the once a month ritual…but more likely once a quarter or even bi-annually.  And can you blame them?  How many live music shows do you go out to support in a year?

If you start to believe that F&F are your true fan base, you will most likely be in for some major disappointment down the line.  Enthusiasm wanes.  People are also just plain busy these days.  And virtually EVERYONE is in a band now – time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Many venue owners don’t get it…

Have you ever heard the question: what’s your draw?  Many venue owners want to know your F&F quotient so they can keep their doors open.  They aren’t terribly concerned about the quality of the music, or the reputation of their club – success to them is “how many butts in seats,” and even more likely “how many drinks poured?”

But just like your band, a venue ought to understand the difference between the token F&F following and the effort to develop a base of true music fans.  It’s the difference between a short term fix and long term success.

When an unimaginative and uninspired owner operates a bar posing as a music venue, it can hurt an entire music scene.

Traits of a true music fan

TrueMusicFansA true music fan will follow quality music.  Most are, after all, quite capable of discerning this.  Some are drawn by the “live entertainment factor,” such as the light show and costumes and stage presence, but many more simply want to hear great music.  Ever see James Taylor or Barbara Streisand take a stage dive or jump through a hoop of fire to gain audience share?  Nah…Quality music matters.

A true music fan will buy your album (or CD…or download).  They’ll probably buy the T-shirt too, and maybe even a trinket to hang from the rear view mirror or a bumper sticker.  They will want to support the music and be identified with the band.

A true music fan is loyal, because your music has been able to touch them in some intangible way, and in a way that is far more complicated to measure than in beers consumed.  Maybe your music evokes a feeling of empowerment, or relaxes them, or takes them to a happy place.  Maybe it reinforces their purpose in life or reminds them of their first tryst – stuff of dreams.

Do F&F become fans?

Sure, friends and family might just become some of your most hard core music fans.  They can also be your “sponge” or starter crowd that helps build the momentum towards developing a true fan base.  Since some of them have a very inside track, they might even go on to create your official Fan Club or start booking your shows for you.

But don’t underestimate the power of quality music to draw true music fans.  A lot of venues may start to make you feel like it’s not important.  But these are simply short-sighted business owners, where new shingles may hang in a few short years.  In the meantime, you may be on your way to producing music that is timeless…

Yes, good music is timeless.
Yes, good music is timeless.

Got some new goals for your band in 2015? Considering adding a PIN…

A new year – new goals for your band, right? Maybe you’ve created SMART goals in the past? You know, those “simply written and clearly defined goals.” As originally spelled out (by George T. Doran), the SMART goal acronym is…

Specific goals: how much you will practice each week; how many shows you will play in a month; how many venues you will woo; ideally the more specific, the better, but target one specific area that could be improved.

Measurable goals: again, how much, within what time period, what degree, yada, yada. As the saying goes, “you can manage what you can measure.”

Give a little thought to what you are measuring.  (More insights at WebDonuts.com).
Give a little thought to what you are measuring. (More insights at WebDonuts.com).

Assignable goals: who will do what to make the goal happen? This is a pretty important one because delegation is a major key to attaining a goal. In the music world, it means…find a competent band manager, business manager, lawyer, road manager – assemble your team. If it’s a team of one, you are in for a long, tough road.

Realistic goals: maybe you won’t go on a national tour this year, but you’ll start touring the mountain towns, or adjacent states; maybe you won’t record an album, but you’ll at least knock out a demo CD this year; this one is about setting the bar high enough to make a difference, but not so high that the band implodes.

Time-related goals: state when the goal will be achieved. Create a deadline, or better still, create some mile markers along the way – signs that tell you the band is heading in the right direction.

SMART goals bring an air of scientific validity to the process. But they are also pretty sterile and un-artistic, yes? If SMART isn’t quite doing it for you, consider creating a PIN instead.

So what’s a PIN?
Kind of like a Personal Identification Number, a PIN is your unique code or road map to creating viable, artistic goals…

P is for Passion and Purpose: think about it – any goal you solidly accomplished in life was because it meant something to you on a very deep level; it drove you; you lost track of time whenever you did that activity. Think about the first time you picked up your instrument. The first time you performed live. Set goals that get your heart racing and add meaning to your life.

There's a pretty good chance this musician's goals started with Passion...
There’s a pretty good chance this musician’s goals started with Passion…

I is for Involvement and Integrity: OK, this one is a little bit of a cheat from the A in SMART goals above. Get your band mates involved in the goals and delegate early and often. You will achieve more, and more dramatic goals when more people are involved. Get your fans involved. Get a venue involved – they will help you promote a show if you ask, and ask with passion. But as Stephen Covey used to say, “no involvement, no commitment.”

Part two is integrity. Back up any goal with complete follow through. Do what you say you are going to do. Show up. Let your band mates know that you would never ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.

N is for Now or Never: Do it now. Period. The clock doesn’t run in reverse. Like it or not, your body and brain will start to atrophy. Goodbye, dexterity. Hello, arthritis. Virtually any goal that you can pursue right now will probably not become easier to pursue 10 years from now. And so, begin…

Pageantry returns to Colorado…

The indie trio, Pageantry.  Photo by Jimmy Alford.
The indie trio, Pageantry. Photo by Jimmy Alford.
At SXSW 2014, an indie rock trio named Pageantry grabbed their share of the limelight. Huffington Post named them on their “Best of the Fest” list and they are keeping the momentum going. With an eclectic blend of odd-metered shoe-gaze and avant-garde dream pop, you can hear Pageantry this Sunday (11/30/14) at Lost Lake Lounge, a Denver venue on their Winter West Coast tour.

Pageantry is composed of Roy Robertson (vocals and guitar), Ramon Muzquiz (drums) and Pablo Burrull (bass). These boys first assembled in the college town of Denton, TX in 2012 and cut their debut EP “Friends of the Year” in 2013. And now they are touring nationally and playing major festivals along the way.

Roy took a few questions recently, in anticipation of their Denver stop…

Q: How did you guys first start working out your unique sound?

Roy: When we started we didn’t have a desire to sound specifically like anything. It was and still is whatever hits us the right way when we hear it that makes it into our set or recordings.

Pageantry2

Q: Were there any specific influences?

Roy: Like most bands now, our influences are so all over the place that it’s hard to call them influences. We’re influenced by the means and ways that artists we admire present their ideas.

Q: How much material do you have right now? And what’s your favorite tune?

Roy: We have over 20 songs that we’ve played at some point in time, we rotate sometimes but have a couple mainstays that don’t get old. I think everyone enjoys playing “Influence.” It’s so close to what we’re trying to do a lot of the time, something simple and meaningful.

Q: How does the band do while touring? Any advice for keeping sane on the road?

Roy: We really thrive on tour. We’ve been doing it regularly for more than a year and I’m sure we’d all agree it’s become the best part of being in the band.

For advice I’d say try to find a place to sleep at night that’s not your car, make a lot of friends and make having fun a top-priority.

Q: What have been the best tour spots for you so far?

Roy: Denver has been great to us every time. We’ve played there more than our hometown this year actually. San Francisco, Portland, New York City, Austin and Oklahoma City have also been really good to us.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Q: What will be the highlights for Pageantry in 2015?

Roy: Finishing our new album, hopefully doing what we did this year in terms of festivals and touring but on a “bigger” level.

Q: What does the name Pageantry mean for you?

Roy: I wanted something that was celebratory and cynical to match an attitude towards making and performing music in the way we do. It’s something you can see as a display of beauty, of creating something extraordinary and intentional or a cartoon of destructive aesthetic ideals or something just plain stupid. I see that spectrum on people’s faces when we play, when they speak about music and art in general. It’s about feeling comfortable being appreciated/admired or pitied and laughed at.

Welcome back to Denver, Pageantry!

Image by Zac Travis.
Image by Zac Travis.

The seven most common causes of band implosion

It’s a near-scientific fact: 80% of bands implode within a year. Of those that stay the course, 50% will have turnover of personnel within the next two years. Here are the 7 most common pitfalls for band implosion, along with some preventative measures you can take…

1) The Perfectionist’s Trap – all musicians are perfectionists in one form or another. Sometimes they will disqualify themselves from the band out of a lack of confidence, or a sense of overconfidence. Constant insecurity is an undying trait here. The annoying, persistent desire to please is also a symptom of the Perfectionist’s MO.

Prevention tip: reassure your band mates that they are doing a great job. Let them know that you too are a perfectionist and just trying to do the best you can. Try to communicate unconditional love and appreciation for their contribution to the band.

2) The Flakiness Factor – most musicians are struggling in one way or another, and thus have flakey dispositions. Sometimes the cause is clear-cut, like drug or alcohol abuse, un or under-employment, or even homelessness. Other times, it’s a result of their upbringing and poor sense of responsibility.

Prevention tip: the best prevention here is to avoid taking on flakey personnel from the start. Prequalify them carefully. But if one slips into your band…

Let them know that you won’t be tolerating irresponsible behavior. Get them help if it’s one of the first three causes above. And finally, decide how many acts of forgiveness you can take – three strikes are more than enough.

3) Drama Kings & Queens – OK…everyone has life issues that crop up from time to time. The economy can be a bitch. Illness, divorce, death and the occasional unforeseen turn of events can hit you from behind. But when drama is creeping in week after week, sometimes it’s a little more than bad luck.

Drama can come in all shapes and sizes...
Drama can come in all shapes and sizes…

Prevention tip: a band rehearsal room should be a sanctuary. It’s the place where you leave the drama at the door; might as well leave politics and religion there too. After all, why did you join a band in the first place? To argue about abortion and gun control?

4) Ego Antics – these are often related to the Perfectionist’s Trap and sometimes alcohol abuse will also play a role. A player may be so good (or think they are) that they become difficult to deal with or incredibly moody. They may start to make demands, act unreasonable, or even threaten to quit each week.

Prevention tip: this is a tough one to spot ahead of time because chances are you are trying to find the best talent possible for your band. But once in the door, you’ll have to decide how tolerant you can be of their games.

You might try to remind them that they are part of the whole and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You might try to appease them until your hair falls out. But sometimes it’s just best to show them the exit.

A studio can sometimes induce sweaty palms.  (Thor Shredsteen shown here).
A studio can sometimes induce sweaty palms. (Thor Shredsteen shown here).
5) Recording (aka the Day of Reckoning) – there will come a time when the group wants to record. This is your most objective feedback for the quality of the band and for what needs to be tweaked. This is also a time when band members freak out. It’s amazing how little band mates listen to each other while playing their parts.

Prevention tip: start recording early and often. Take time to listen to recordings and talk about things (like dynamics, tempo, volume, tone, etc). Just make sure that everyone’s defenses are down and they realize that all criticism is intended to be constructive, clearly for the good of the band.

6) A Leaderless Venture – no band can afford to have ineffective leadership. There needs to be a clear vision for where you are heading. Without this, the band will most likely run in fits and starts. But if you look back on the earlier reasons for implosion, you will also notice that most of these types get out of hand when there is no clear leadership.

Prevention tip: if there is no clear leader, elect (or hire) one, give them your full support, and move directly on to creating the business plan…

7) No Business Plan – a band is a business, regardless of whether you are aware of this. It may not be a very good business. It may seem like a hobby band or a nonprofit. But make no mistake, a band is a business and the business will fail without a solid plan.

Prevention tip: create a plan…now! The moment you start treating your band like a business, you will realize your obligations to yourself and your band mates. The plan will inform everyone of your strategy for being successful. The plan will explain your brand, exploit your talents, clarify your target audience, identify your competition (and advocates), express how income will be distributed, and include various exit strategies. It’s never too late to create a plan…

Do you have a strong leader and a clear plan?
Do you have a strong leader and a clear plan?

Meet John Macy of Macy Sound Studios…

John Macy of Macy Sound Studios is providing 15 hours of quality studio recording time for the DOM’s recent 3Q winner. He has worked on several high profile projects in the past, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Los Lobos. John is also an accomplished musician with a deep history in our local music scene.

I recently asked him for a little background and reflection on his musical career…

Q: John, how did you get your start in the world of recording?
John: It was kind of a sideways entrance into the business. My family moved from Texas to Boston just before my senior year of high school. I had graduated from high school and was killing time before heading to U Mass Amherst for an English Lit major when a friend invited me to visit a session at Intermedia Studios in downtown Boston. Great studio—the early Aerosmith stuff was done there. Anyway, it took about thirty seconds for a career change…never made it to school and have been in the business ever since. I have been very fortunate to live in a state I love, and still manage to have worked on gold, platinum and Grammy winning records.

Recordsplus Records

Q: Who were some of your mentors?
John: One of my earliest was a guy named Rick McCollister who worked out of Applewood Studios in Golden when I first moved out here. He taught me a lot about microphone selection and placement, stuff I use everyday…the other was a guy named Paul DeVillers, who did a lot of great records like Yes’ Big Generator and Mister Mister…he camped out in the Iliff street studio during the 90’s with us, and is a master of layering tracks in the studio—you could be working on a mix and having trouble getting something to poke through the mix, and he would move down the console and eq something totally unrelated and your part would just pop right out…a true master…

Q: How about your background as a musician?

John Macy
John Macy
John: I started playing steel guitar right as I started in the studio, and it is a major part of my life. Actually, playing steel is what brought me to Colorado. I took a job playing with Michael Martin Murphey in 1976 and moved to Colorado for it. I pretty much quit the road in the early eighties, but carried on a lot of session work all along. I play a lot these days, primarily with Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels, and do plenty of session work for clients all over the country.

Q: Your new studio was built in the back of the Park House on Colfax – why did you decide to leave your old set up [22 years on Iliff]?
John: Well, being in one facility for over 20 years is a part of it — sometimes you just need a change and reinvention to keep yourself inspired and moving forward. I am so excited to be a part of East Colfax and the Bluebird District. I felt right at home the first time I walked into the Park House, and Drew and Evan, the owners, are true music fans and very into helping the scene grow out there. Plus it is so great to be surrounded with music venues, great restaurants, a brand new Sprouts Market, and a daily cast of colorful characters that make East Colfax what it is.

MacyStudio

Interestingly enough, we are adding a second location that is just across the street from the old facility on Iliff, geared up more for tracking. It is in the site of a previous studio, and it is fun to breathe new life into an existing facility. This studio should be online in the next month or so. And Silo [Studio] is continuing on in our old facility—it’s nice to see rooms continue on and so sad to see so many studios in other cities being torn down for new development.

Q: How does the new studio compare to the old place?
John: This studio is smaller and more intimate. It is primarily geared for mixing and overdubs, though it is an excellent fit for tracking the right project. Comparison wise, it has all the same great gear, mics and piano etc. that I had at the old space, so nothing has changed in that manner. I like the sound of the new control room better, and the place has a vibe I really like.

One unique aspect is we are adding tie lines to the stage of the Park House to facilitate live recording and future webcasting with high quality audio. Part of our uniqueness is our ability to merge classic analog technology with modern digital techniques to have the best of both worlds. We have a lot of classic gear you can’t find at many studios. Not to mention you can stroll down the hall, grab dinner and a cocktail and hear some music…
Our second location, Studio B, has a completely different vibe, tied together with certain elements that will let you know you are still at Macy Sound Studios.

We also have the capacity to take a recording rig anywhere you might want to record. I have been doing this for years, from live records recorded at the BlueBird, Boulder and Fox Theaters, to location recordings for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in an Aspen house to Casey Prestwood’s new record done in a country house outside Nashville.

I think inspired performances in inspiring places are way more important than studios and gear for the right artist. I also have a place right on the bay in Rockport, Texas that can be the ultimate getaway for recording vocals. If you have ever sung at sea level, with all the extra oxygen and humidity, you know what I am talking about. There are guest accommodations for six, amazing kitchen and awesome views for inspiration.

One last thing is we have been able to build relationships over the years with other engineers and studios in places like Nashville, Texas, Los Angeles and Atlanta, so it is very easy to access musicians that were previously unattainable with local budgets. I just did a Skype session a few days ago with Sam Bush on mandolin in Nashville and one with Hank Singer on fiddle from Dallas the same week—makes the world a lot smaller!

There are also a couple of guys working out of the studio with me who round everything out. Ken Koroshetz, who worked with us in the original facility on Iliff just happened to move back from LA at the time I was moving and is awesome. He has worked on projects from Fleetwood Mac to Mac 10 during his LA tenure, and it is wonderful to have him back. Clark Hagan is also making the studios his home, and has Grammy and Platinum credits from his time working in Nashville and really rounds out the team. And of course, we welcome outside engineers and producers seeking to work in a killer facility.

Q: You’ve had some pretty significant local clients. What have been some of the highlights for you?
John: My favorite project tends to be the one I am working on at the moment…I love real music played by great musicians, live if possible. I love working on country, blues, bluegrass, jazz, rootsy rock and roll, anything with feel. I’m definitely the wrong guy to call for a hip hop or a metal record…

There are a lot of highlights, and I almost hesitate for leaving someone out. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Richie Furay comes to mind first—I have recorded and produced his entire catalog since his returning to the scene in the mid ‘90’s…Jeff Hanna from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band says the record “Acoustic” that we cut on Iliff a few years back is one of his favorite records they have made…Matt Morris was incredible, and even more so since I got my first gold record playing steel for his father, Gary…John Common, The Congress, Boulder Acoustic Society, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, The Railbenders—the list goes on and on. I am starting a new record for the Congress next week, and I just can’t get enough of those guys—amazingly soulful players and great people!

John with Matt Morris and crew
John with Matt Morris and crew

Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges to date?
John: There are so many challenges these days, sales are in the tank, and so are the budgets that follow, everyone wants the newest gear while asking for lower rates, everyone has a studio at home, and so on…

I think the answer to these challenges is to bring something unique to the table that enhances a project, through experience, gear, whatever. Working to help interface with an artist through all phases of the project, whether it be in our studio or the artist’s…creating a vibe in the studio that brings out the best in the artist…sharing your knowledge—all this adds up to creating the word of mouth that keeps you busy.

Q: What advice would you give to musicians preparing to enter the studio?
John: These words to the wise from Cowboy Jack Clement are posted at Johnny Cash’s cabin and at Jack’s Tracks (where Garth Brooks made history) as well as other discerning recording studios. These are his ten rules for recording…
1. Be alert.
2. Be on time.
3. Don’t bring or invite anyone.
4. Don’t talk about your troubles.
5. Don’t mention the words “earphones”, “headphones”, “cans”, “earmuffs” or the like.
6. Be quiet when the Cowboy is speaking.
7. Don’t be timid or shy with your playing.
8. Have a good day.
9. Listen.
10. Remember that it only takes three minutes to cut a hit record.

‘Nuff said?

Q: Yes, sir! And what are some of the best recording tips you’ve personally gotten over the years?
John: There are so many…

Be ready: The ‘wrong’ gear choice that is ready beats waiting past the ‘best available performance window.’

Change, don’t ‘tweak;’ no one hears ‘tweaks.’

Cowboy Jack Clement is a wealth of tips — some of my faves are his take on Pro Tools editing (“I hate to be fixing the airplane after its taken off”), perfection (“Perfect equates to shit”) and playing it great (“It only takes three minutes to cut a hit song”)…and my favorite “The music business is not so bad if you’re not in it”…

“The producer is always, or at least usually, partially right” John Boylan

Know when to call it a day…

AIR–Always In Record—you never know what might happen…

Great stuff there. John, thanks for your time and thanks again for supporting Denver Original Music!

MacySoundStudios

And the DOM 3Q recording contest winner is…

Congratulations to Corey Kothenbeutel for winning the DOM’s 3Q recording contest! Corey is currently a student at UCDenver, studying, appropriately enough, music recording arts. One project that Corey has been involved with is called Soma Chromatic, electronic/psychedelic/indie music. Here’s a link to one of the tunes called Mirage.

Thanks again to Macy Sound Studios for supporting this contest. We’ll be finding out more about Corey and his ambitions soon. In the meantime, a special shout-out to two bands that mobilized multiple members to enter the 3Q contest: the Matt Nasi Band and Orbit OK. All of those members will automatically be eligible for the DOM’s 4Q contest in December. Please stay tuned…

MacySoundStudios

The DOM’s 3Q recording contest starts now!

It’s time for another chance to win free recording at a local studio! This quarter, John Macy of Macy Sound Studios is bringing the love. His new studio is located in the back of the Park House on Colfax, just east of the Bluebird Theater.

MacySoundStudios

John has recorded many well known and successful local bands: John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, The Swayback, The Congress, and Boulder Acoustic Society, among others. And he is offering 15 hours of quality studio time to some lucky band. The contest starts today and runs through September 30th, 2014 with a randomly drawn winner being announced on October 1st.

If you’ve already registered for one of the DOM’s past recording contests, you don’t need to do a thing – you are automatically eligible to win. If you haven’t gotten in on this yet, here’s what you need to do:

1) Send an email to Marc@DenverOriginalMusic.com with 3Q Contest in the subject line.
2) Include your contact info: name, phone, and email.
3) Include the name of your band (if applicable) and all band mates. Remember, each band mate can enter this contest separately (once) to increase your chances of winning.
4) Describe your music.
5) Deadline is 7PM MST on September 30th, 2014.

That’s it. Then your done and if you don’t win this quarter, you will automatically be entered into future quarterly contests. Good luck!

Macy Sound Studios
Macy Sound Studios

A songwriter’s story (and assorted bits of advice)…meet Ed Skibbe

Singer/Songwriter Ed Skibbe’s career illuminates the pre and post internet realities of many professional musicians. From the now almost mythical notion of bands setting up shop for multiple days a week at local venues to burning the midnight oil in Nashville, cranking out songs desperately in search of a hit, to hosting a songwriter’s showcase and embracing the grey in his beefy mutton chops. Highs and lows and probably enough drama along the way to fuel several thousand more songs; please meet Ed Skibbe…

Q: Ed, would you please give me a recap of your musical career? What bands have you been in and what were some of the high points for you?

Ed Skibbe
Ed Skibbe
Ed: I was born in Roswell NM. I began singing professionally as a child. My first “paying gig” was singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” with Bob Wills and several of the Playboys at a private “jamboree” in my grandpa’s garage. Uncle Bob gave my Mom a $50 savings bond for me. My career has been all been downhill since then! LOL

In the early 70’s I did some musical theater and did the college coffee-house and happy-hour thing. I spent one Summer touring in Texas playing 6 or 7 gigs a week from Lubbock to Austin to Dallas as piano player with a couple of different bands. Met some cool, now famous folks.

I sang and played keyboards in about fifty Front Range bands during the late 70s and 80s. Two of them were notable and long-lasting:

Kilgore Trout, a country-rock band. Some highlights include frequent amazing Little Bear shows and the last gasp of bands playing 5- and 6-nighters to packed houses. This band was professional musician “grad school” for me. We only did a couple of originals. We did shows with Delbert McClinton, The Paladins and others. It was a hard-partying roadhouse kind of thing.

Kilgore Trout
Kilgore Trout

Tony Roam, cowpunk, mostly original band. Highlights were a several-year house gig (Monday nights and then Wednesday nights) at the Cricket on the Hill, and shows with The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, Joe Ely and many others. Though I have always written, this band really focused my songwriting, and led me to Nashville, where I got my first real exposure to professional songwriting and signed my first publishing deal.

In the 90’s, I started spending more and more time in Nashville and signed my first staff-songwriting deal. I was a Music Row staff writer for 15 years. I had no hits, but I did fail at a pretty high level! LOL. I had the great good fortune to work with and become friends with many hit songwriters, Grammy winners, and many of the best writers in the world.

I also still spent time in Colorado, mostly playing in a duo, Colfax&Wadsworth, with my oldest musical buddy, Smitty Smith. I’ll tell you, we tore up happy hours and private parties for a while until the rest of life got in the way.

Q: How many songs have you written?

Ed: I’ve written somewhere between 1500 and 2500 songs. Trust me, almost all of them suck in the peculiar Nashville sausage factory sort of way. I now have my own publishing company, Coyote Tongue Music.

Over the past year or so, I’ve embraced the notion of being a “singer-songwriter,” and my trio, Songsmith, and I have begun hosting songwriter showcases [at the Park House] and playing occasional gigs. (I can’t say enough about Spencer Pyne and Mark Allison, my Songsmith mates!) We’re recording like mad or as mad as life lets us get at our age. Our efforts are based on the 200 or so of my songs that I claim as “mine” as a performer.

Q: Singer/songwriters today are encouraged to start their own publishing companies and hang onto their publishing rights as long as possible. What do you think are the advantages of establishing your own publishing company?

Ed: It is one shot in 100 Billion anymore for a song to generate more than beer money, but WHAT IF IT DOES? My god, your song could be so awful that it actually becomes a hit! Just in case, have your publishing in order. Unless you’re one of the 25 people in LA, 50 people in NY or 100 people in Nashville who actually are the last guard of “old-school professional songwriting,” don’t sign with a publisher; just do your own. It’s pretty easy. If you ever plan to buy new guitar strings or maybe a meal at The Blackeyed Pea, you’re gonna need every single- and double-digit performing rights scrap that might trickle down from our capitalist masters, so don’t give any of it away.

Q: How many titles are in the Coyote Tongue Music catalog? And what’s the significance of Coyote Tongue?

Ed: I have about 1000 songs in and for Coyote Tongue. Umm, but I might be, ahem, a little behind in my, uhh, administration “paperwork.”

Coyote is the trickster. And my spirit animal. And my high school’s mascot. And a remarkably adaptable North American vertebrate. And an iconic symbol of the American Southwest, or at least the part of it occupied by Scottsdale strip malls. I’m a singer. I have a tongue. Sometimes I howl. Believe me?

Q: Uh, no – not really. But then again, I’ve seen your shenanigans on The Naked Emperor, ConservaEd. 😉 You’ve also done some other publishing ventures and a nonprofit?

Ed: I published an online email-based “newsletter” for quite awhile, Music News of the Week, highlighting songwriting and acoustic music topics. This was before the Interwebs made blogging a thing.

I founded an online music distribution service for independent musicians. It was sadly a bit ahead of its market window. I also ran a music and arts education seminar series called BEAMS and founded a non-profit, CAMP4Kids, which provided music and arts-based mentoring programs for at-risk children.

Q: Is Camp4Kids still in existence, and what was the motivation for creating this program?

Ed: Whoa. Those are surprisingly tough questions. Alas, I had a deeply “dark period” from about 2005 to about 2008 (a long story involving divorce, death, failure, despair, money, suicide, whiskey, guns, lawyers, and other elements of Warren Zevon songs). I had to pull the plug on CAMP4Kids then. I started doing the mentoring just on a personal level in about 1998. In 2002, we incorporated and became “official.”

About this time my sister adopted a son, and I saw first hand how badly kids need a mentor—someone to look up to, talk to, bounce ideas off… I also saw the grinding, relentless effects of laissez faire “trickle-down” neoliberal economics on the poor and increasingly on the middle class and on communities in our country. Everywhere I looked it seemed I saw kids in distress…gangs, hopelessness, anger, no Dads, often no Moms.

Meanwhile, I was a ridiculously lucky, lucky guy who had dodged a number of bullets in my life and somehow come through more or less intact, largely thanks to the therapeutic benefits of creating and the timely intervention of mentors at various points in my life. I thought it would be great to do the “Big Brothers-Big Sisters” thing, but using music and art to give the kids not just a few hours at a ball game with a friendly adult but a lifelong mechanism for relieving their pain, creating joy, and coping with their emotions and the voids in their lives

At its peak, we had about 20 mentors and about 100 kids. I still miss it just about everyday. I had visions of it becoming a part of every city in America, but I lost the ability to make such a thing happen.

Q: Several other organizations are trying to carry that torch, but no question more mentoring is always needed. Let’s get back to the songwriting – who are some of your favorite songwriters?

Ed: I am notoriously promiscuous in my appreciation of songwriters. Favorites would have to include Bob McDill, Don Schlitz, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Walt Wilkins, John Prine, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb and jeeez. How can anyone answer this question? I’ve left out entire eras and genres! Ask me again next month, and the list will be different.

Q: How often are you writing new material, and can you describe your process?

Ed: I write every day. It is hard to find time, but I leave guitars and keyboards set up everywhere. My process (and I’m not being snarky) is to sit down and write. I’ve never really had writer’s block. One of my college teachers, the famous author Tony Hillerman, instilled in me a daily writing discipline that still works for me.

I obsessively collect little compelling snippets of life (bits of conversation, odd signs, situations I observe, interesting people, political things, the rhythm of two out-of-phase car engines idling, ideas from something I’m reading, something from a movie or a TV show, the sound of a piece of machinery or some natural phenomenon).

I also am cursed with a so-far endless supply of musical or lyrical ideas that just rattle around inside my own messed-up brain. I used to write them down in little notebooks or leave myself voicemail messages, but now I have a smartphone…you should see the “Notes” and “Audio Notes” on my iPhone! Once in a while, one of these notions fuels a song.

In Nashville, I recorded everything on little cassettes and later on digital recorders. I got out of that habit for a few years, and I really regret it. Now I make a quick worktape whenever I can. The last 3 or 4 years, my home studio has been dismantled preparatory to a move into a home we have in Arizona. It was supposed to be a few months, but … here came life again! I can’t wait to move back into the studio.

Q: What advice do you wish someone would have given you 20 or 30 years ago regarding being a songwriter and/or singer/songwriter? And what would you have done differently if you could turn back the clock?

Ed: Well, the obvious is “DON’T DO IT!” (Insert polite chuckle here.) But I really wish someone would have encouraged me to stay in Nashville when I first went there in the late 70s and to have focused on songwriting earlier in my career. I spent WAY too many years playing covers in bars and dicking around in Denver. No insult intended either to bars or to Denver! It was fun, but was kind of like treading water after a point.

It also would have been nice if anyone had ever explained the business of music when I was a kid. Nowadays there are seminars and workshops and songwriting associations and online information everywhere. In my early days? Silence. Aggressive silence. Predatory silence.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever heard from someone in the music industry? And what advice do you frequently like to give to aspiring musicians in general?

Ed: Great things folks told me…

*Write every day.

*Don’t “bore us.” Get to the chorus.

*The first 500 songs you write don’t count.

*If the co-write isn’t working, you can always go to lunch.

*There’s no money above the third fret.

*Record every chance you get. (I didn’t take that one to heart like I should have.)

I tell people who are serious about songwriting:

*Reconsider. There are relatively sane ways to live.

*Write every day.

*Songwriting is 80% craft and 20% inspiration. Those writers who are famously quoted as saying all good songs happen quickly either are liars or are being misquoted. John Lennon is one of them. Yeah, he said “get it all down in 15 minutes or it’s worthless,” but then he took it into the studio with George Martin and the lads and they sliced it and diced it and rewrote it and rearranged it and merged it with little bits of Paul songs over and over and over obsessively for hours and days and weeks. Only then was it a song. Good songs do come quickly sometimes, but vanishingly rarely. Hank Williams was probably the exception.

*When you think you’re done, you’re probably not done. What you have is probably a pretty good first draft.

*There’s more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to write a song.

Ed Skibbe with the cowpunk band, Tony Roam
Ed Skibbe with the cowpunk band, Tony Roam