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Brandon Rice's "Choo Choo"--reviewed by Ken Capobianco, music critic Boston Globe/Cape Cod Times - April 9, 2013

Brandon Rice's "Choo-Choo Song" is a spirited, briskly executed and well sung track, which should be a fun centerpiece to his live show. Rice shows a fine sense of narrative and a playful sensibility as the song builds a full head of steam. It's smartly produced with inventive touches and subtle harmonies. It adds up to a breezy and energetic companion for all wandering spirits.
--Ken Capobianco, music critic Boston Globe/Cape Cod Times
Listen here:

Choo Choo by Brandon Rice - March 29, 2013

Choo Choo scheduled for iTunes release on April 2nd 2013. It will also be available on Amazon and Spotify plus many other digital download and streaming services.

Artists Find Backers as Labels Wane - August 1, 2009

Published: July 21, 2009
There was a time when most aspiring musicians had the same dream: to sign a deal with a major record label.

Now, with the structure of the music business shifting radically, some industry iconoclasts are sidestepping the music giants and inventing new ways for artists to make and market their music — without ever signing a traditional recording contract.

The latest effort comes from Brian Message, manager of the alternative band Radiohead, which gave away its last album, “In Rainbows,” on the Internet. His venture, called Polyphonic, which was announced this month, will look to invest a few hundred thousand dollars in new and rising artists who are not signed to record deals and then help them create their own direct links to audiences over the Internet.

“Artists are at the point where they realize going back to the old model doesn’t make any sense,” Mr. Message said. “There is a hunger for a new way of doing things.”

Polyphonic and similar new ventures are symptomatic of deep shifts in the music business. The major labels — Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI and Universal Music — no longer have such a firm grip on creating and selling professional music and minting hits with prime placement on the radio.

Much of that has to do with the rise of the Internet as a means of promoting and distributing music. Physical album sales fell 20 percent, to 362.6 million last year, according to Nielsen, while sales of individual digital tracks rose 27 percent, to 1.07 billion, failing to compensate for the drop. Mindful of these changes, in the last few years marquee musicians like Trent Reznor, the Beastie Boys and Barenaked Ladies have created their own artist-run labels and reaped significant rewards by keeping a larger share of their revenue.

Under the Polyphonic model, bands that receive investments from the firm will operate like start-up companies, recording their own music and choosing outside contractors to handle their publicity, merchandise and touring.

Instead of receiving an advance and then possibly reaping royalties later if they have a hit, musicians will share in all the profits from their music and touring. In another departure from tradition in the music business, they will also maintain ownership of their own copyrights and master recordings — meaning they and their heirs can keep earning money from their music.

“We are all witnessing major labels starting to shed artists that are hitting only 80,000 or 100,000 unit sales,” said Adam Driscoll, another Polyphonic founder and chief executive of the British media company MAMA Group. “Do a quick calculation on those sales, with an artist who can tour in multiple cities, and that is a good business. You can take that as a foundation and build on it.”

The third Polyphonic principal is Terry McBride, founder of the Vancouver-based management firm Nettwerk Music Group and former manager of Barenaked Ladies.

The Polyphonic founders, who have provided the company with $20 million in seed financing, say they plan to invest around $300,000 in each band. The company will then guide musicians and their business managers — who will function a little like the band’s chief executive — to services like Topspin, which helps manage a band’s online presence, and TuneCore, a company that distributes music to online services like iTunes, Amazon and Napster.

The partners say they have been thinking about such a venture for several years. They recently tried to raise money for the company from venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, but met with initial skepticism.

“Returns on entertainment products when portfolios are small are typically very erratic,” said David Pakman, a partner at venture capital firm Venrock, which passed on the deal. Mr. Pakman doubted that Polyphonic and similar firms could produce the kind of returns on investment that venture firms typically look for.

Polyphonic, which will be based in London and in Nettwerk’s offices in New York and Los Angeles, says it plans to approach private investors again after it has proved its model works.

The new company will have plenty of company in exploring new ways for artists to maintain control over their creations.

Marc Geiger, an agent at William Morris Endeavor, who tried a similar venture in the late 1990s called ArtistDirect, is now developing a program for musicians at his agency that will be called Self Serve. Mr. Geiger said he was not ready to divulge the details yet, but said that Self Serve would provide tools and financing for artists to create businesses independent of major recording labels.

Even the major labels themselves are demonstrating new flexibility for musicians who do not want to sign the immersive partnerships known as 360 deals, in which the label manages and profits from every part of the artist’s business.

In late November, for example, EMI took the unusual step of creating a music services division to provide an array of services — like touring and merchandise support — to musicians who were not signed to the label.

“We all know the role that the record label has traditionally played needs to change,” said Ronn Werre, president of EMI’s new division. “There are artists that want to have more creative control and long-term ownership of their masters, and they may want to take on more of the financial risk. To be successful we need to have a great deal of flexibility in how we work with artists.”

Artists who have produced their own music and contracted with EMI to run parts of their business include the R&B singer Bobby Valentino and Raekwon, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Mr. Message said that “there are many artists who still want to go with labels, which do still have abilities to really ram home hit singles.”

Bands who take the Polyphonic route, he said, will need to have considerable entrepreneurial energy. For example, they might stay after concerts to “go to the merchandise store and sign their shirts and talk to fans, because they know they are right at the heart of their own business,” he said.

Bands that have taken this approach say it can be arduous. In 2007, after releasing three records with independent labels, Metric, an alternative band from Toronto, finally got several offers from the big record companies. But the band declined to sign after concluding that the labels were asking for too many rights and not offering enough in return.

With help from a grant from the Canadian government, the band cut its own album in April, “Fantasies,” and started selling it directly to fans on services like iTunes, where it has scaled the popularity charts.

“It certainly has not been easy,” said Matt Drouin, Metric’s manager. “When I get up at 6 a.m. the British are e-mailing me. When I go to bed at 2 in the morning the Australians are e-mailing me. It’s an extremely empowering position, but one hell of an undertaking.”

Woody Guthrie - July 21, 2009

Did you know, Woody Guthrie wrote the song "This Land Is Your Land" as a rebuttal to "God Bless America"? He didn't feel like god should just bless America. I like Woody Guthrie.

Copyright Office Bogged Down by New System - June 13, 2009

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The envelopes fill white plastic tubs, stacked on hundreds of shelves in the basement of the Library of Congress. They're spreading to a ground-floor space that once housed the gift shop and are clogging offices on the fourth floor. And each day, the mail trucks bring about a thousand more.

A serious logjam in the U.S. Copyright Office has created a growing mountain of paper applications, more than the staff can process. Like the marching buckets of water in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the envelopes just keep coming, threatening to flood the operation.

The problem has tripled the processing time for a copyright from six to 18 months, and delays are expected to get worse in coming months. The library's inspector general has warned that the backlog threatens the integrity of the U.S. copyright system.

The irony is that the slowdown stems from a new $52 million electronic process that is supposed to speed the way writers and others register their literary, musical or visual work.

The delays do not appear to be hampering the business of the major publishing houses or those willing to spend $685 for a "special handling fee" that expedites registration. But the slowdown is frustrating hundreds of thousands of little-known people with big dreams. They paid $45 for the right to claim legal ownership of poems, fabric designs, plays, jingles, even computer manuals.

Marissa Ditkowsky, a Long Island teenager, has been checking her mailbox for 15 months for the copyright registration for three songs she wrote, recorded and sent on a compact disc to the federal government.

"We lost a whole year," said her mother, Alita, who wants to launch her guitar-strumming daughter on a music career. At 14, Marissa is too young to appear on "American Idol." Instead, she wants to sing her songs during open-mike nights at local clubs and make a professional demo she can shop to music companies.

But Alita Ditkowsky does not want her daughter to perform without a copyright, because she fears that Marissa's songs are so good, someone else will steal them. She said she learned that lesson years ago while trying to get a job at an advertising agency.

"They asked me to write an ad for the Schick electric shaver," Ditkowsky said. "So one day in my car, I hear this radio spot I had wrote for the Schick electric shaver. It was my commercial, word for word. They used it, didn't pay me for it, didn't even hire me. But legally, I had no recourse."

At first, the Ditkowskys were told it would take three to six months to register Marissa's songs. That grew to nine months, then a year. When she last called for an update, Alita Ditkowsky was told 16 months.

"This is just unacceptable," the mother said. "Any company outside of a government agency would have been held accountable for this. They cashed my check, and I got nothing for it. There's something very, very wrong here."

The trouble is twofold. Workers say the electronic system is slow and prone to crashing. Managers say the challenge has been retraining the staff to use the system. Both sides agree the more significant problem is the fact that much of the public is still using paper applications, which must be painstakingly entered by hand into the new electronic database.

About 45 percent of applications are still in paper form. The staff is spending so much time handling the paper claims, it doesn't have enough time to process electronic applications, which has created delays for online claims now, too. It now takes six months to process electronic claims when it should take one month.

Of the 10,000 applications that pour into the Copyright Office each week, the staff can process about 7,000, adding 3,000 untouched applications to a growing pile that currently totals about 523,000. Workers are now handling paper applications received in late 2007.

An artist doesn't need to register a copyright to perform, publish or display an original work. But a claim filed with the government offers legal protection -- it is the only way to stop someone else from copying a work.

Gerald Linder, a 77-year-old retired anesthesiologist from Bel Air, Calif., has been waiting 16 months to register lyrics he wrote to a melody that has haunted him for years.

"Finally, I got this call a couple of days ago that it was done," said Linder, just before crooning his lyrics for "When the White Lilacs Bloom Again" over the phone. "I have some connections where I could get this out in the entertainment field and hopefully popularize it. Look, I get Social Security and consulting fees now and again. But like everyone else, we're all suffering. It would be nice to make a little money."

The problems began last July when the copyright agency implemented the electronic system, which replaced a paper-based process that had been in place for decades. The union that represents the copyright workers, Library of Congress Professional Guild AFSCME Local 2910, faults management for dismantling the paper system while the public is still using paper.

David J. Christopher, associate chief operating officer of the Copyright Office, said the backlog cannot be solved with temporary workers, because it takes a year before a registration specialist is up to speed. He acknowledged that the office had been recently understaffed but has hired 17 new registration specialists to bring the total to 115. And he said the electronic system is getting a major upgrade.

Key to management's strategy is an assumption that most applicants will eventually switch from paper to electronic filing, allowing the staff to gain control over the paper backlog and reduce it. To that end, the office plans to raise the fees for paper applications from $45 to $65 in August while keeping the fee for electronic filing at $35.

But some complain the electronic system has its own problems.

"What the hell is the matter with that [expletive] software of yours?" one author wrote in a March 22 e-mail to the copyright agency. "I've spent more than three hours and a ton of grief trying to register my literary work and upload it. That [expletive] told me at least four times that an error had occurred and then it stopped dead. Why? Who sold you that [expletive] and why did you buy it?"

The author was trying to copyright a children's book.

WalMart wont carry the best record of the year: Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown"! - June 13, 2009

The American record industry allowed itself to be bamboozled into giving WalMart and similar operations a near monopoly over their music. It was a catastrophe for them and their artists, especially emerging artists who now have no place to sell their CDs. But it should be no problem for a superstar act like Green Day, right? Well, no. Green Day won't self-censor their songs, which WalMart demands of artists, even platinum-selling ones. So they're not carrying 21st Century Breakdown, the band's politically charged brand new album. Green Day lead singer Billie Joe isn't budging. "They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried in there. We just said no. We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."

21st Century Breakdown is certainly Green Day's best record ever -- and that's saying a lot. It's also the best record of 2009 so far and perhaps of the almost finished first decade of the new century. Yeah, that good. It's their most mature endeavor, the fulfillment of all the promise they've always had. There are no weak cuts. And, according in yesterday's NY Times the release couldn't have come at a better time for Warner Bros, their label. Reporting on the cascading economics of the music industry, the Times points to CD sales that have been cut in half in the last 10 years. Warner Bros doesn't really stay in business by selling music; they sell bonds to investors who get sold a bill of goods.
U.S. Treasury bonds, for the same time span, are offering a modest 3.4% return while the Warner Music bonds are offering a juicy 9.5% annually. Some people never learn but unless Green Day puts out an album like 21st Century Breakdown every year between now and 2016, my guess is that the suckers who bought the bonds -- or, more likely, the poor saps they get unloaded on -- will wish they had stuck with the Treasuries...or invested their retirement funds in autographed Green Day memorabilia.
WalMart, which the record companies helped turn into their biggest sales outlet (perhaps more detrimental to their own health than downloading and piracy) refuses to carry Green Day because of "dirty words." And iTunes, after non-stop badgering and threats from the label, has allowed the labels to set their own prices. Warners promptly upped the price on Green Day's songs from 99 cents to $1.29. Wall Street, always short term thinkers, loves it but it's likely to lead to even more people choosing option. I called a friend to tell him how the new Green Day record was the best thing I had heard in years and before the phone call was completed he was downloading it -- from some kind of illegal site.

Warner is bragging because its quarterly earnings were only down 14% (much less than the industry's as a whole). And Goldman Sachs estimates their income could remain flat for the next three years. Break out the champagne? Probably not -- and the cost of the champagne could go towards buying another company, EMI, which is even worse shape than Warner Bros. If they do it fast enough, maybe both companies could get behind "Last Night On Earth," a song incredibly reminiscent of the Beatles' Revolver era.

I remember once going for a ride with one of my label's classic platinum artists who had invited me to his home to hear his just completed new album. He bragged to me that he wrote the whole thing in a day and recorded it in less than a week. I never knew for sure if he was joking but the record sounded -- and sold -- like he was describing it accurately. I don't know how long Green Day, along with producer Butch Vig, has been working on 21st Century Breakdown, but if they told me it was for the whole five years since the release of American Idiot I wouldn't doubt them. It sounds like there was a great deal of thought, energy, sweat and tears put into this opus dealing -- in a very personal way -- with the horrific mess Bush left behind.

My friend Harry typed out this quote from Billie Joe Armstrong that's in the new issue of Rolling Stone which came to his house... in the mail. Looks like what the band accomplished with this record wasn't like a coincidence or whimsy.

"Maybe that's the reason most people don't go for it," he says. "You can scare yourself with ambition-- having the audacity to want to be as good as John Lennon or Paul McCartney or Joe Strummer. There has been so much great shit before me I feel like a student: Who the fuck do I think I am."
"But you have to battle past that," he insists in his rapid fire punk chirp. "It's the people who are overconfident who are the ones putting out the biggest piles of shit. If you're at that place where you're working hard but don't feel like you know what you're doing anymore,then you're on to something."

And it looks like the young man accomplished what he set out to do.

Why Susan Boyle Matters-written by Peter Bolland - May 22, 2009

Why Susan Boyle Matters
Written by Peter Bolland
By now 50 million of us have seen the viral YouTube video of Susan Boyle's remarkable performance on the BBC TV show "Britain's Got Talent." It's the most widely seen video clip in world history, surpassing previous skyrockets, such as "Bush vs. Shoes" and "Tina Fey as Sarah Palin." The footage is absolutely gripping on many levels because it holds a mirror to contemporary culture, revealing what is best and worst in us. But mainly I'm writing about this because every time I watch it I cry and I'm trying to figure out why.
Susan Boyle is an invisible 47-year-old woman from a tiny cluster of villages in Scotland. She's the kind of woman you look right past - frumpy, unkempt, one of the many, not one of the few. In the years since her father died, Susan shared a tiny apartment with her ailing mother. Then her mother died. "I live alone with my cat Pebbles," she told the show's hosts. "I've never been married, never been kissed."
"How old are you Susan?" Simon Cowell asked as she stepped on stage.
"Forty-seven," she said. Cowell rolled his eyes.
"Okay," he said, barely containing his boredom, "what's the dream?"
"I'm trying to be a professional singer," she answered. Cut to a tight shot of a young woman in the audience shaking her head disdainfully and turning to her friend in commiseration.
Then Susan Boyle began to sing. The song was "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. It is the heartbreaking lament of a wounded-in-love woman whose youth, innocence, and trust were repaid with disrespect, disregard and pain. And yet there is a note of defiance, of transcendence, of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. It's not in the words - which are unremittingly dour - it is in the proud clarity and upturned eyes of Susan Boyle's magnificence. Looking at her face you can easily imagine - whether it's autobiographical or not is irrelevant - that the song is about her, so perfectly does she channel its wrenching truth, which the world often mistakes and abuses beauty in its blind pursuit of vanity and insignificance.
Three seconds into her performance the mood in the room powerfully shifts. In one of the most spontaneous and explosive moments I've ever seen on television, the audience is swept away by wave after wave of shock and awe. People leap to their feet, their chairs no long able to hold them.
When the song ends, Piers Morgan is the first judge to speak. "Without a doubt, that was the biggest surprise I have had in three years of this show. When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said ‘I want to be like Elaine Page,' everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now. That was stunning, an incredible performance. Amazing. I'm reeling from shock…"
Then it was Amanda Holden's turn. "I'm so thrilled, because I know that everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical, and I think that's the biggest wake up call ever. And I just want to say, that it was a complete privilege listening to that. It was brilliant."
Simon Cowell rounded out the panel with his usual panache, ending his remarks by saying, "Susan, you can return to the village with your head held high. That's three yeses."
Susan Boyle matters. She is a walking rebuttal to all the bullies who ever walked the earth, preying on the weak, demeaning the different, imposing their arbitrary definition of "cool" on the rest of us. The only people who are really cool, the people who define cool, are the people who are absolutely oblivious to the very concept of "cool" itself. They are so cool they don't even know what cool is. Even the bullies in the audience were wiping their eyes and rising to their feet in thunderous applause.
The entertainment industry needs Susan Boyle. As record executives scramble to foist upon us the next cookie-cutter Barbie doll pop star, we the people have spoken through the pure democracy of the New Media. And here is what we said: all we really want is the Real. We don't care what package it shows up in. We just want Truth and Beauty, you know, all that stuff Plato wrote about 25 centuries ago, "even if in the form of an unlovely husk."
Susan Boyle empowers and encourages us with her unapologetic presence. She exhibits the perfect combination of fearlessness and humility. She demonstrates that courage and arrogance are wholly unrelated. In fact, arrogance and machismo are usually sure signs of the utter absence of confidence and mastery. Real greatness is humble. She reminds us that it is enough to show up and simply do our best.
Most important, Susan's unintended beauty reminds us in no uncertain terms of our own unrealized beauty. Through her we realize our own magnificence. I'm convinced that's the real reason her performance breaks us open. Look at the faces of the people in the audience. Look at the lump in Piers's throat. Look at the wonder in Amanda's eyes. Look at the warmth, even the love on Simon's face. We've never seen that face on "American Idol," never, not even once. Susan's bold presence triggers something deep inside us, something we have kept well-hidden; a profound and abiding self-acceptance, even self-love. It is a love we have been withholding. Her beauty breaks the anchor chain and we drift into the light of the knowledge that we are beings of infinite value. After all the years of drought, suddenly we are awash in love. This is what Susan has given us. That's why there are tears. And that's why Susan Boyle matters. Editorial note: The best version of the segment is here: Peter Bolland is a professor of philosophy and humanities at Southwestern College and singer-songwriter-guitarist of the Coyote Problem. You can complain to him about what you read here at is the ethereal home of the Coyote Problem.

House Committee OKs radio payments to music labels - May 22, 2009

Reuters, May 13, 2009 5:00 pm PDT
Broadcast radio stations may finally be forced to pay music labels for playing their songs, as proposed U.S. legislation moved a step closer toward approval on Wednesday.
While newer media such as satellite, cable and Internet stations pay music companies to broadcast their music, terrestrial U.S. radio stations have resisted for decades.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 21 to 9 on Wednesday to send the Performance Royalties Act to the full House for a vote.

Music companies, struggling with rapidly declining CD sales and online piracy, said the proposed law supported artists and rights holders in their fight for fair compensation when music is broadcast on AM and FM radio stations.

"Corporate radio's days of hiding behind a loophole in the copyright law are over," said Jennifer Bendall, executive director of industry lobbyist musicFIRST Coalition, calling for similar pay-to-play contracts for all radio stations.

But the National Association of Broadcasters said, if enacted, 50 percent of the new fee would go directly into the coffers of the major labels.

"Record label abuse of artists from Count Basie to Prince is well documented, as evidenced by scores of lawsuits filed by musicians cheated out of royalties," NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton said in a statement.

"Moving forward, the fundamental question is this: If the debate is about 'fairness to artists,' why should the record labels get one penny from a performance tax on radio stations?"

Broadcast radio stations have long argued that they serve as an important free-to-air promotion outlet for music fans to discover new songs and albums to buy. In other words, they say they have provided free advertising for the record labels.

But as music sales have plummeted, the recorded music industry has become louder in their calls for changes to a system which could provide an important new revenue stream.

Warner Music Group Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman told Wall Street analysts last week that if the Performance Rights Act is passed "it would result in a meaningful improvement" to his company's results.

The labels say the United States is at odds with many major music markets in Europe and other countries, where radio stations usually pay some sort of licensing fee to play songs.

Broadcast radio stations are not likely to give up easily on the passing of a law, which could significantly raise their costs.

Radio advertising, the main revenue source of most stations, is one of the worst hit sectors of the ad business in the ongoing recession. It is also facing a secular decline as advertisers move some of their radio spending to new areas like the Web.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Richard Chang)

Check out these video interviews about promoting and marketing your music. - March 28, 2009

video interviews about promoting and marketing your music:

Great interview about the music business with Seth Godin - March 20, 2009

GREAT interview with Seth Godin about the music business: Thanks Derek Sivers

He played real good for free. By Peter Bolland - March 19, 2009

Written by Peter Bolland
He Played Real Good for Free
He opened his case and took out his violin. He sat on a stool in the metro station and began to play. It was a cold January morning. The good people of Washington D.C. hurried by on their way to catch a train or make an important appointment. Rush hour.
A few people glanced over at the musician. One middle-aged man slowed down, pausing for a few seconds before moving on. A minute later a woman dropped a dollar bill into his open violin case without missing a step. Soon another man stopped to lean against a wall. Then he looked at his watch and walked on, late for work.
Children seemed to be the most interested - especially one three-year-old boy who was being pulled along by his mother. He stopped to listen. His mother yanked him away without even looking. The boy never once took his eyes off the violinist as his mother pulled him on through the crowded train station. This happened again and again. All the parents, without exception, dragged their children away from the music.
The violinist played for 45 minutes. He collected $32.17 from 32 people. Everyone who gave him money continued walking - they never even slowed down. Out of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven people stopped to listen. When the music stopped, no one applauded or even noticed. He packed his violin and left.
It had all been an experiment initiated by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten in January 2007. The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played six of the most challenging and beautiful pieces Bach had ever written for the violin. The violin itself was a 1713 Stradivarius worth 3.5 million dollars. A few nights earlier Bell had performed to a sold-out crowd in Boston where the average ticket price was $100. Bell plays over 200 sold-out shows a year.
Weingarten's and Bell's experiment shows us many things. Marketing experts have long claimed that packaging is everything, and research bears them out. When you take two identical products and place them side by side, people invariably prefer (and will pay more for) the product in the fancier package. It's not that people are stupid - it's just that we're particularly vulnerable to illusion. We don't see the "real" world. We see the world our pre-conceived notions show us. Perception is never an objective event - it is profoundly colored by our emotional conditioning. To our enduring embarrassment, we are easily and willingly played, despite all our proud protests to the contrary.
On a deeper level, another truth is revealed. If we don't stop to hear a free Bach performance by Joshua Bell on a Stradivarius (because the context is wrong), what else are we missing? How much beauty are we walking right on by?
Musicians often talk about these problems because we've all had the same experience over and over again. When we charge $5 for a show, seven people show up, and when we charge $15, a hundred people show up. On the surface none of it makes any sense. Obviously there is a dynamic of perceived value at work here. Economists call it the "price point," that magic number at which you create the heightened allure, the maximum perception of "hey, this costs a lot so it must be good" without tipping over into "hey, I ain't paying that much for that!" If you charge $5 for CDs you will not sell twice as many as when you charge $10. In fact, you'll sell fewer. But $20 is just too high these days when people can download your entire album off iTunes for $9.99.
Nevertheless, any artist struggling to reach a wider audience ought to pay close attention to the Joshua Bell experiment. Ask yourself several important questions. How do I present myself, on and off stage? What kind of rooms do I play? What do my photos look like? What am I doing to create a milieu, an environment in which my art can really be seen and appreciated? As artists we need to gently wean ourselves from the unexamined assumption that quality and beauty will be instantly recognized and rewarded by a discerning public and that we needn't give any thought to packaging or context. You have to do more than write great songs, play brilliantly and sing with power and grace. You have to mount those jewels in the right setting. It's one thing to be good. But what are you doing to create the perception of quality? The Bell experiment shows us that even the greatest music in the world gets overlooked in the wrong context.
We all know artists who, after years of struggle, slip deeper and deeper into contempt for the very audience they purport to seduce. Perhaps all this pain can be avoided by gaining appreciation of the subtle and insidious psychological dynamics at play. Artists must be willing to expand their sphere of creativity to include the entire environment in which they ply their art. You're not just making music. You're creating a multi-dimensional reality.
And for those of us in the audience, the Joshua Bell experiment raises some equally challenging questions. Perhaps we need to gently wean ourselves from the unexamined assumption that pretty packaging signifies quality content. Let's meet artists half way. Be willing to do the foot work. Maybe the best songs aren't on the radio or at the giant amphitheater. Grow better ears.
Thirty-nine years ago in 1970, Joni Mitchell addressed this issue powerfully in her song "For Free" from Ladies of the Canyon. In it she portrays a successful, wealthy musician (a not so subtle self-portrait) who wistfully laments her own apathy as she passes by a brilliant street musician. "Nobody stopped to hear him, though he played so sweet and high. They knew he had never been on their TV so they passed his music by.he played real good for free."
It's the catch 22 of the fame game. No one comes to see you unless you're famous. And you can't get famous until people come to see you. New artists are forced, initially anyway, to create the illusion of popularity. But these are the very dynamics of celebrity culture so many of us lament - the ubiquitous and dehumanizing blare of tabloid journalism and the subsequent erosion of kindness and depth. Manufactured "stars" who haven't (yet anyway) created one damn thing of value clog the airwaves and prevent real quality from breaking through. (I won't name names - a whole list of celebrities is springing to your mind without my help). Yet it is the very world our collective psyche has created. We have each laid a brick of this edifice with our own hands. Our habitual inattention and unexamined consumerism had a baby - and it's called pop culture.
On that cold January morning in the Washington D.C. metro, only 32 of the 1,097 people who walked past Joshua Bell put money in his case. Only seven people stopped to listen. Only one person recognized him. And he played real good for free.
Peter Bolland is a professor of philosophy and humanities at Southwestern College and singer-songwriter-guitarist of the Coyote Problem. You can complain to him about what you read here at is the ethereal home of the Coyote Problem.

Tony van Veen blog-Owner of CD Baby & Discmakers - March 9, 2009


I posted this story on my blog last night, but thought it might be interesting to post here as well to get feedback from CD Baby artists.

Tony's blog:
I was talking to the CEO of a well-known music distributor the other day, when the topic of the future of independent music distribution came up. He lamented to me that his business was down 25% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and continues to be down this year. He’s not alone.

Most music retail chains are having problems paying their bills – Q4 saw massive returns from retailers to distributors(for credit) so they could afford to take in new titles. Many record store chains have already gone belly up. Circuit City, long one of the country’s leading CD retailers, is out of business. Borders is reducing floor space for music by 70% over the next 90 days. There are a few healthy chains left (Best Buy, Target, Walmart) but they carry very few titles and sell mostly non-music items.

The current retail woes have repercussions up the distribution chain. Distribution giant Alliance announced in January that it was laying off over 400 and shutting down a warehouse. Circuit City owed them some $16 million. Gulp.

In the face of all this bad news, everyone gets more conservative. Less acts signed, less product into distribution, less product at retail; what’s an independent artist to do?

The only record stores that appear to still be doing well fall in one of two categories:

1) The specialty record store. Usually a single store in a niche market, the specialty store caters to a local clientele. There are clerks who know music and can turn you on to cool new stuff. And perhaps most important, they sell other products besides new CDs – used CDs, T-shirts, DVDs, posters, bongs, magazines… They’ve diversified within their very narrow niche. Artists can get into these stores, but usually by going direct, and only in regions where they are local.

2) Online stores. Amazon is the big daddy, and CD Baby is the most prominent one for independent artists. These stores sell physical product online, as well as downloads, and other items. Anyone can join these stores, though Amazon requires a retail ready, barcoded, replicated CD, while CD Baby’s more artist friendly approach accepts any kind of CD.

Is it still possible as a growing independent artist in 2009 to get your product into bricks & mortar distribution? Unfortunately, the answer is probably no, unless you have a track record of 5 to 10 thousand CDs scanned and sold of a previous release. Distributors, with lower sales than ever, are less likely than ever to want to take a chance on a band they don’t know. Rather than think “they might sell,” they think “I’ll get returns.” And can you blame ‘em, really? After all, retailers are reducing floor space so severely, that there is no place on store shelves for up and coming bands.

So here, in my opinion, is how the future of CD distribution looks for independent artists:

- Physical distribution to bricks and mortar goes away. No distributor with nationwide reach will want to take a chance on an unknown act. Artists will realize the futility of physical distribution through traditional channels, and stop aspiring / hoping / dreaming of a distro deal.

- CD sales direct to fans at gigs will continue to be a major revenue generator for independent artists for years to come. Catching a fan when they’ve just experienced a great show is still a strong sales driver, and will always be.

- The main nationwide CD distribution opportunity for independents will be online. A couple of megastores like Amazon will thrive, as will niche players like CD Baby (100% independent), and other stores in certain narrow verticals (specific genres or interests).

Of course, digital is where all the growth is these days, but I can’t help but think that this viscious downward cycle we’re in is creating a rapidly accelerating self-fulfilling prophecy that the CD is dead at retail - and thereby prematurely killing an important revenue stream for artists.

In fact, my distribution scenario above is already playing out across the U.S. and Europe. It’s just that the old dream of nationwide distribution dies hard for musicians.

My question is, how do you see this playing out? Is anyone having success with traditional bricks & mortar distribution anymore? If so, what's your secret? (And how many CDs did you have to sell before a distributor took you in?)

To read more of this blog go to:

Brandon Rice "Walking Through Walls" - February 26, 2009

Brandon Rice: "Quote of the Day - February 26, 2009

"We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong." Bono.

Brandon Rice shares a quote - February 22, 2009

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." Albert Einstein

Brandon Rice shares a quote - February 3, 2009

“If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But... if it's real, you'll feel it”. Kid Rock

Fly Away From Here - January 5, 2009

My Song Fly away From Here is featured on Garage Band on Jan 8th 2009 as Track of The Day. Yay!

Happy New Year - December 31, 2008

Im wishing you all a Happy New Year. This Year should be much better than last!

Love and Peace, Brandon Rice

Tied Up In You is Track of The Day. - November 10, 2008

Tied Up In You by Brandon Rice is featured as Track of the day on November 11th on Garageband. Click the link to see.

The San Diego HAT Awards - October 29, 2008

Still time to vote at (if you've already voted, YOU ARE TOTALLY AWESOME!)
Mahalo, Brandon Rice
nominated "Best New Acoustic Artist"

Vote for Brandon Rice "Best New Acoustic Artist" San Diego Hat Awards - October 10, 2008

Friends, Family & Fans,

Thanks for the nomination for "Best New Acoustic Artist" San Diego Hat Awards. I am thrilled! Now, I need your Vote. Voting takes place NOW and ends Oct 30th at midnight. Vote Brandon Rice "Best New Acoustic Artist". Click this link: or copy and paste it into your browser.

If you don't have an account, make one. These folks wont spam you, but its necessary to conduct a fair vote (Also, Its OK to vote in only 1 category)

You can vote up to 3 times from the same computer, as long as each person uses a different email address.

Peace, Brandon Rice Thanks for your Vote P.S. Its OK to Forward this to your friends (Music Downloads are FREE this month)

Brandon Rice - October 9, 2008

Brandon Rice's song The Middle Man has broke the top 25 on the San Diego Reader website, sitting at #23 Its a free download and the same one I played on the KUSI news last month. Thanks everyone!

Check out these iMix's on iTunes - September 23, 2008

Brandon Rice performs on KUSI News - September 21, 2008

Follow this link Brandon Rice on KUSI News to watch the video on the KUSI Website.

Brandon Rice ringtones - August 8, 2008

Thanks to everyone who downloaded "Tied Up In You". I had over 5000 downloads yesterday, which is totally awesome. Ringtones are still FREE and available at this link:
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