From Projekt Records’ Sam Rosenthal. I’m listening to R.E.M. rarities at rdio. Why? I heard “Talk about the passion” at Trader Joes a few days ago, and I’ve had R.E.M. stuck in my head since then…
In response to last week’s post, Andy G wrote (and I summarize):
Hi, Most entertaining reading. Way back, through the seventies and eighties, for me, the thrill was always in finding that new band, new artist; finding something new each time I picked up a magazine. Some people just play safe with one band or genre, others are braver and let their mind take them to new musical dimensions. Cue the new millennium – the internet and mp3s – now, all of a sudden, to the discoverer of new music, there are hundreds of thousands of bands worldwide in every genre known to man, all available to listen on the web – it’s mind-blowing.
The late John Peel was on record as lamenting that he couldn’t listen to all the cassettes and vinyl that was sent to him and he shuddered at the thought that in that box may be the next Fall or Undertones but because he can’t listen to everything, they may go undiscovered.
Here in Scotland I have a weekly radio show for unsigned bands, primarily from Scotland, but worldwide depending on what I find. Now, in Scotland alone, there are new band springing up every week – right now I have a list of about 100 bands from the last 5-6 months who I’ve yet to check out. But, thanks to downloads and mp3’s I am able to get new tracks, EP’s and albums every week; a lot of music, although probably not a great deal more per week than way back.
Through all this, there have been many many tracks that have not hit the spot which have been discarded along the way – but the new technology has allowed me to find a huge wealth of fantastic tracks which I could simply not have found any other way; I am now able to play these on the radio show in the hope that someone without the same time available as me will find that one gem that makes them go weak at the knees; then it’s job well done.
It’s all down to using the technology, not being phased or daunted by it, accepting that you will only ever scratch the surface, but at the same time, still finding that thrill of the next new band or artist.
All the best,
In reply, I wrote:
Hi Andy, You are a braver man that I. I don’t have that thrill, anymore; I gave up on demos ten years ago. For every 200 demos, there was maybe 1 gem worth releasing on Projekt. And the torture of listening to the other 199 made the price-of-the-hunt too impossibly high. We actually ran an “unsigned band” contest in conjunction with Gothic Beauty Magazine, in 2004. Out of the entire box of demo CDs (and there were at least 150), there was only one band that Shea and I thought good enough to sign; and it turned out I had already signed to Projekt a few months earlier (Autumn’s Grey Solace)!
Just this week, somebody I know sent an artist my way. In his cover email, the artist included this line: “His influences range from Iron Maiden, Rush, Zebra and Carol King to name a few.” With influences that horrible, my curiosity got the best of me, I gave it a listen. Pass! It didn’t sound like any of them, it sounded like poppy dark rock. (A friend on Facebook pointed out that he spelled Carole King’s name wrong!)
With that said, I will admit that I lament, “There are no good new bands anymore.” The only new music I hear that I like comes from bands I already know. It is very rare when something unknown to me suddenly shows up on my radar as amazing. So my favorite “new bands” are now bands that are 10 years old.
I guess I need a filter, just like everyone else. Somebody sending new bands my way. Because these days, for every 10 new bands that contact me with Soundcloud pages or Bandcamp pages, I hear 0% that interest me enough to want to listen further.
I find it hard to imagine that you could find 100 new bands that you are excited about. Bravo for you, for having the patience.
So now — a few days later — I am reading back on my response. It’s not that I am phased or daunted by the technology. It’s that I’m not excited by what I find via that technology. Sure, I’ve always been picky. Most of us are. Somewhere out there is the next Lycia or Mira or Android Lust. But I’m resigned that I’m going to miss them. Unlike John Peel, it’s not because I don’t have the time to listen. It’s because I don’t have the stomach to listen to all the bad ones. I know this post is going to get a lot of responses from bands who want me to listen to their demos. That’s fine, post your links below. I’ll try.
How can I get signed to Projekt?
In fact, the #1 question you asked, when I put out a call for my recent Q&A, concerns how I find bands to sign to Projekt. These days, it is via the recommendation of other artists on the label, and occasionally the recommendation of writers. For a while, I discovered new bands when they opened up for Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Back in the early days, it was often from demo cassettes. Nowadays, most of the new acts on Projekt are electronic/ambient artists who collaborate with other artists on the label (ie: Erik Wollo, Byron Metcalf, Loren Nerell, etc).
There are bands out there who believe that all they need to bring to a label is their beautiful raw talent. But more than ever, talent is just a portion of what it takes. Bands need to be able to market themselves. They need to be able to spread the word; this is a talent just as important as making the music. If a band has no fans and no “buzz,” there’s not a lot Projekt can do. I can put out CDs, sure. But I cannot make people care. It’s different from the old days. I think about when I released SoulWhirlingSomewhere’s Eating the Sea debut in 1993. Michael had a few fans in Phoenix and he didn’t play live to spread the word; yet Projekt was able to release the CD and get quite a lot of people to discover the music. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. Or rather, people discover the music, but they don’t necessarily purchase it. There needs to be some additional “connection” that the band makes with the fans. Good music has never been enough. Talent isn’t enough. What is it? I was writing to Jill Tracy a few weeks back, and I was telling her that she has it. That undefinable charisma and star-power, mixed with talent, that an audience loves. Voltaire has it. Nicki Jaine had it. I personally don’t have it; I’m not exciting and ineffable on stage! I make music that people care about, yes. but I don’t have that stage persona that I define as ‘it.” Yup.
Can we all get along?
Two people responded to last week’s post by attacking my friend Case, and being quite rude about it. I messaged them back that they seemed to have missed the part where I said Case was my friend! And that perhaps they could have disagreed in a way that wasn’t insulting. Couching their criticism in insults and attacks really prevents their communication from being heard. I doubt these two would have been as rude in face-to-face meeting; the internet does that, doesn’t it? Have you heard of Non-Violent Communication? I love the concept. It’s about taking the tone, blame, criticism out of difficult conversations, so you can get your message across with as little distortion as possible. It’s a way of communicating your feelings and thoughts in a non-confrontational way, with the hopes of everyone getting something positive out of the solution. Does it work? Well, I think it can come off a bit pedantic. At least that’s how people hear it, when they want to fight with you. But still, it’s worth a shot. Check out Marshall Rosenberg’s book at Amazon.
Is Technology the New Opiate of the Masses?
I’ve been meeting more and more people who admit they have a problem. An article at HufPost said, “A 2010 survey found that 61 percent of Americans (the number is higher among young people) say they are addicted to the Internet.” This percentage can only be more dramatic now.
I’ve mentioned this problem in past lists: I’ll go to Facebook because I am looking for a message from one particular person who insists on messaging me there; then find myself waking up from a daze 30 minutes later, reading an article on BuzzFeed, or watching an animal video. Did you see the squirrel that photobombed Bernie Sanders? Jump in 5-minutes on this John Stewart video.
I’ve been trying some techniques to reduce my wasteful use of technology. The first step is awareness. “I’m going to just answer that one message, and then get the hell out of Facebook.” There’s also e.ggtimer.com where you can set yourself a timer.
The biggest time-suck is our inbox. I just finished reading the book The 4 Hour Workweek which has some useful advice for focusing on priorities (and a lot of talk about adventuring in foreign countries… filler, if you ask me). The part I found very useful is now written on a large note stuck to my computer:
Complete most-important tasks before 11 am. Then check email. Don’t check email again until 4pm.
Ok, it’s hard NOT to check my email more than twice a day. However, getting my most-important tasks done before I start getting distracted by email… wow! This is a great idea. I’ve been doing this for about 10 days, and I feel like I’ve gotten so much more done. This strategy forces me to ignore the less important stuff, because I don’t have time to do busy work. The book is worth reading, just bare in mind that 30% is going to be about Ferriss’ obsession with going to foreign countries and learning kickboxing. : )
“CD-Loving Japan Resists Move to Online Music.” Read the article at The New York Times. “Japan may be a perennial early adopter of technologies, but its attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry.”
A review of Steve Roach’s The Desert Collection from ProgArchives “Gently soothing, hypnotic and endlessly melodic, the disc is a perfect way to relieve tensions, slowly unwind from the busyness of everyday life while still offering fascinating light progressive-electronic soundscapes for fans of the genre. Mr. Roach has successfully chosen a fitting selection of pieces that maintain an evocative mood in line with the title of the disc, always full of direction and variety yet frequently open-ended and unhurried.”
Speaking of wasting your life with your technology, Shea brings to my attention this Goat Simulator app. A customer review says, “Imagine the old Tony Hawk pro-skater games, but you’re a goat and you run around laying waste to the city in ridiculously unimaginable, completely laughable ways. This is the kind of game where you can pick up and play a few minutes just to kill time, or get really into it and waste a few hours.”
This one is NOT a waste of time: Rust Radio streams Neil Young concerts 24/7, with shows dating back to the 60s.
I find it remarkable that this site has been on-line since 2003, yet I just now heard of it!?!? Nice!
A great video introduction to Projekt’s Soriah. Watch at Vimeo.
Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal with Bonus CD | $15
Now shipping; Limited edition of 300. Dirk Serries returns to Projekt Records with The Origin Reversal, a re-boot of his classic vidnaObmana sound. This is ambient music that flows from its discreet origins: sonic purity, washes of harmony, and organic textures which slow time to a phase of transcendence.
Mirabilis: Here and the Hereafter with 2 Bonus CDs | $15
Shipping late September; Limited edition of 300. Submerse yourself in the third ethereal/darkwave foray from Mirabilis featuring Dru Allen and Summer Bowman, two of the genre’s most-celebrated vocalists. As Mirabilis, these women go beyond the rock-hued sounds of their respective bands (This Ascension/Mercury’s Antennae and the Machine in the Garden).
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