Archive for July, 2008

Throw Me The Statue Song in Urban Outfitters Commercial

With the way things are going in the music industry, artists – especially indie musicians – must get creative. Bands and brands are partnering up in all sorts of interesting new ways. With money no longer pouring in from the big labels and CD sales, more focus is being put on things like concert tickets, direct support from fans, and partnerships with brands.

Critics might say a band is selling out when they do something like partner with a brand, but I say go for it… As long as the philosophy/feel of the brand is somewhat aligned with the band and its ideals and they are ok with it, I think partnerships can be a great way for a band to gain exposure. And in many cases get paid, which in turn allows them to keep making great music. For example, commercials.

Though not their first commercial, I was pretty floored to hear Throw Me The Statue‘s song, “Lolita”, in an Urban Outfitters commercial. Urban Outfitters is big, whether you like their clothes or not. While some may balk at the band’s association with that store, others will discover TMTS for the first time by hearing their song in the commercial. For the newbies among you, check out Evolving Music’s recent interview with TMTS here.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 4

For last month’s installment of What I’m Hearing, click here.

It’s that time again people…the monthly update coming from the iPod. July’s update carries 102 songs with it, with some great tunes for the middle of Summer. We’ve got some new favorites, some old classics, and a few that fall somewhere in between.

Albert Hammond, Jr, Como Te Llama?: The Strokes’ frontman comes out with his sophomore solo album that explores various rock, ska and reggae themes that might not fit into the groups’ repertoire. The songs on here are heartfelt with glimpses of his proficiency on the guitar. Lighter in fare than the work of the group, Como Te Llama? offers some idyllic music for the Summer cruise. Don’t Sleep On: “Borrowed Time,” “G Up” and “GfC” with the lilting blend of upbeat tempo and slightly melancholy guitar.

Various Artists, Delicious Vinyl, RMXXOLOGY: This album is the epitome of some MixMatchMusic in action. Following Peaches’ remix of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing,” Delicious Vinyl decided to open its vaults to other artists who might want to delve into the iconic catalog for remixes of their own. The result is an album that blends the electronic and the hip-hop, the frenetic and the calm. Fatlip, The Pharcyde, Young MC, Masta Ace and Tone Loc are all featured here with remix work provided by Eminem, Peaches, Hot Chip and the Philippians. The result is an album that successfully takes some of the most recognizable rap songs of the late 80s and early 90s and updates them for today. Don’t Sleep On: “Runnin'” (The Pharcyde remixed by Philippians), “Sittin on Chrome” (Masta Ace remixed by Mr. Flash) and “Wild Thing” (Tone Loc remixed by Peaches).

Earlimart, Hymn and Her: The 6th album from this indie rock band out of LA produces some beautiful pieces that straddle the subdued folk sounds from Fleet Foxes while also incorporating sounds of the California sunshine and hints of Pedro. The result isn’t quite rock, it isn’t quite folk, but it is quite good. Hard to put a label on, Earlimart produces an album that is easy to listen to, yet sometimes becomes painfully sad out of nowhere. All in all, a strong effort from a band that knows what it wants to do and how it wants to do it. Don’t Sleep On: “Song For,” “Time for Yourself,” and “Cigarettes and Kerosene.”

G-Unit, Terminate on Sight: Following a disappointing debut of 50’s Curtis album last year, G-Unit returns minus Young Buck and plus Tony Yayo. While this album has been long in the making after Beg For Mercy, there’s little here that recommends it as a strong follow up to a very solid debut rap album. Production-wise, I don’t find the beats on here nearly as compelling as those on the initial album, and quite frankly, some of the lyricism seems sloppy and thrown together. In terms of a pop rap album, it delivers the necessary raps about sex and the prerequisite club bangers, but it has failed to grab me musically as other releases from the G-Unit camp have. What’s most frightening about this album is that it appears that the G-Unit members have become a bit complacent in their success, tossing out formulaic beats with standard and predictable lyrics, and never really challenging themselves to come up with something outside the cookie cutter. Don’t Sleep On: “I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” “Party Ain’t Over,” and “Chase Da Cat.”

Haiku D’Etat, Coup de Theatre: This is an older album, the second album, released in 2004 by Aceyalone, Mikah 9 and Abstract Rude. The group setting finds a more balanced tone for Aceyalone, used to far reaching concept albums, and brings Mikah 9 and Abstract into a place of more solid footing in the work with a more experienced and well-known MC. The result is a collection of strong hip-hop tracks that very possibly fell under the radar of listeners when it was released. Even though this is an album that is nearing its 5th birthday, the sounds remain fantastic to listen to, and for people looking for something great they haven’t heard, Haiku D’Etat fits the bill. Laid back beats, plaintive horns and interesting woodwind interpolations mix with the trios vocals and harmonized choruses to provide the backing for head nodding beats. Don’t Sleep On: “Built to Last,” “All Good Things,” and “Stoic Response.”

Jean Grae, Jeanius: Jean Grae, in my opinion, is perhaps the most overlooked and talented MC in the annals of hip-hop history. Originally DJ What What, Grae contributed lyrics to the Herbalizer’s album before eventually changing her name and releasing Attack of the Attacking Things in 2002. Her lyrics are not only finely crafted and full of interesting rhyme juxtapositions, but they are usually deeply personal which gives the listener a more connected feel with her work. Work for Jeanius was started and halted abruptly several years ago when the 9th Wonder backed album was leaked on the internet. Now, they are giving it the proper release, and the album finds Grae in fine form. While her lyrics can be at times touching and at other times eviscerating, her delivery is always mellow, allowing her words to speak for themselves without feeling the need to go overboard and as a result override the beats. While This Week (2004) was a bit uncharacteristic in that the production attempted to drag Grae into a more pop influenced realm of hip-hop, Jeanius finds her back among familiar settings with the decidedly underground sound that 9th brings to his albums. The result is a nicely tuned album that allows Grae to stay at home while also giving both artists the opportunity to come out of their respective boxes and meet somewhere in the middle. Don’t Sleep On: “Desparada,” “2-32’s,” and “Billy Killer.”

Lunch Time Speax, B:Compose: After hearing some of the hip-hop tracks in the update that capitalize on the more moody aspects of the musical background, I realized I had never ripped this album to mp3. This is a group I first heard in Japan in 2003. The trio brings out some excellent flow (despite the fact that I don’t speak a word of Japanese), and they do so using hip-hop music that ranges from Eastern influenced club tracks to underground hip-hop tracks complete with vinyl scratch and pop. At times jazzy and at others straight street, this album is a great foray into international hip-hop for anyone looking for a departure from the standard radio gimmes. Don’t Sleep On: “Man Track,” “Golden Harvest,” and “情景1”

Modill, Midnight Green: Originally released in 2006, Modill’s Midnight Green out of Chicago produces hip-hop that is firmly rooted in the underground sound while relying heavily on jazz influences hinted at in the alteration of Kenny Burrell’s album from 1963, Midnight Blue. The lyrics carry well crafted puns and similes that are buoyed nicely by the beats that utilize spaced out sound effects, lounge piano loops, melodic bass lines and snippets of guitar and synth to augment the straightforward beat constructs. From start to finish, this album does not disappoint, and on an overall level could be the standout of the July update. Don’t Sleep On: “Space,” “It’s Time,” and “Bigger Cents.”

Nas, Untitled: In case you missed the extreme buzz surrounding this album, Nas had originally intended it to be titled, “N*GGER.” But following an uproar from Black community leaders, a backlash from entertainment writers and a general recoil by the population, Nas backed down and left the album untitled. Although, this hasn’t tempered his reasons for the title, nor his knowledge that most people will recognize it and call it by its intended name. The first release since 2006’s Hip Hop is Dead, this album finds Nas waxing more politically than on previous outings, and in some cases sounding like a toned down pop version of Immortal Technique. Unfortunately, having built his reputation and riches on the back of modern hip-hop, some of his attacks on the industry sound hollow and insincere. It’s hard to believe attacks on the music industry and the political infrastructure when other songs have lines about him jumping on yachts and traveling the globe. Still, his penchant for carefully crafted lyricism in poetry form and some very strong beats make this a solid, though not stellar, album. Don’t Sleep On: “N.I.*.*.E.R. (The Slave and the Master),” “Y’all My Ni**as,” and “Hero” feat. Keri Hilson.

Ratatat, LP3: Ratatat’s ascension in the ranks of the music industry has been both profitable and fast. In the four years since their eponymous debut, they’ve released two remix albums, a second full studio album and now the latest, LP3. Where their debut was rock heavy, Classics delved a bit more into the reflective side of the group with a few songs featuring slower rifts and more soft spoken melodies. On their remix albums, the use of their style to back hip-hop lyrics has resulted in mash-ups somewhere between The Grey Album and Jay-Z’s work with Linkin Park. On LP3, Stroud and Mast find themselves experimenting by taking their signature sound into the realm of world music and specifically Latin influenced tunes. While the more subdued angle might make it hard for fans of the original work to be enthusiastic, the craftsmanship on these tracks is more in depth and the effort to grow and diversify their style through experimentation is clearly a sign of artists engaged in their development and understanding. Don’t Sleep On: “Mi Viejo,” “Shempi,” and “Falcon Jab.”

Kick Ass Music Apps for the iPhone

Ah, mobile music. How sad would our lives be without it?

First came the iPod that we all know and love, which made its predecessors (the Boombox, the Walkman, the MiniDisc, the MP3 player) look just…silly. Its many subsequent iterations became sleeker and cooler each time. Then the iPhone came along and more and more of us drank the Apple flavored Kool-Aid. With 3G and the rapidly expanding App Store, the iPhone has become a veritable phenomenon.

Despite ongoing issues with MobileMe, email, low battery life and more, the little phone machine is charging down its steep rocky path alone, leaving its competitors in the dust and getting better every day.

Random sidenote: Someone actually told me they were torn between the new iPhone and the new Blackberry. I told him that’s like saying you’re torn between Prime Rib and a Big Mac. (He bought the iPhone the next day.)

Combining your phone and your music player into one device was certainly a convenient first step. But now, with the App Store going nuts, more and more innovative music apps for the iPhone are popping up. Here are my favorites so far:

Yes, I know. We rave about Pandora ad nauseum. But, quite frankly, they deserve it. What was already a killer service is now one of the leading iPhone apps. Sick of your own music? Hate the radio? Then open up Pandora at home, in your car, or in your earphones while you’re on the go and have your customized radio station at your finger tips. Remember, the more you use it the better it gets. In this case I say go ahead Captain Curious! Open up Pandora’s box and watch the magic unfold.

How often do you find yourself saying “Wait, who sings this song?” You make a mental note to find out later and never actually do? Here is the answer to your dilemma. Open Shazam, let your iPhone “listen” to the song in question and it will tell you the artist and track name. Freaking great. I’ve also been using it as a way to effortlessly tag songs that I want to possibly download later, as I hear them.

On the flip side of Shazam’s service, you have SeeqPod. You know the artist or track name but don’t have the song when you want it. Type it into SeeqPod and, boom, their crawler finds songs and videos for you. (We’ve mentioned them before too, as pioneers of a growing digital music trend – “playable search”.) So now, with SeeqPod on your iPhone, whenever a song pops into your head that you want to hear it’s there for you.

Midomi is like Shazam, but with with more flavors to choose from. In addition to letting your phone “listen” to the song à la Shazam (Midomi calls it “grab” not “listen”), you can also sing/hum the tune, or say/type the song name. Very handy. Naturally, once you find the song you can buy it on iTunes, bookmark and share, watch YouTube videos etc. Watch the overview video here.

All of the above are easy to use, insanely practical, and really fun to have. But, for the more musically inclined among you, here are a few others worth checking out:

For musicians, there is Stay in Tune, TyroRuner (guitars only), and OmniTuner to tune your instrument on the go. If you want a mobile click track check out Orfeo or iMetronome. For DJ types, MixMeister scratch (cool concept, reviews not great though) and BeatMaker (see a review and video here).

And these are just the early apps. Imagine how prehistoric they will seem in a year or two…

Survey: How Do You Collaborate With Other Musicians, Engage With Fans, and Profit From Your Art?

Musicians, we need you!

We have teamed up with our friends Hypebot and Indie Music Tech to find out how musicians collaborate on music with other musicians, how they engage fans, and how they profit from their work. We hope to find out how musicians are doing these things online, and if they are, whether they’re satisfied with the tools currently offered.

If you’re a musician, please take a minute to take the survey. The results should be very interesting and we’ll be sure to share them with you! The first 100 people to complete the survey will get a sweet ass MixMatchMusic t-shirt!

You can take the survey here.

Throw Me the Statue Interview



It’s always nice to see the story of a local person doing good, and in the case of Evolving Music and MixMatchMusic, two entities growing into the music industry out of the Peninsula Bay Area, seeing our long time friend, Scott Reitherman, grow in success with his new group Throw Me the Statue out of Seattle has been an excellent journey. From the first show we saw as an opening act for Jens Lekman at Bimbo’s 365 club, the inclusion in the Take Away show phenomenon, to his Rhapsody commercial and now a music video for their song “Lolita” on MTV2, the growth of the band and the potential for them to turn into actual stars has reached a high pitch. Following positive reviews of their debut album Moonbeams on Stereogum and Pitchfork Media, Scott sat down with me to talk about the transition from a self-started label to an Indie label, the process of making music and the new and changing landscape of the current music industry. Enjoy!

AC: The music on Moonbeams has a wide variety of instrumentation and genre influences in there. Talk for a minute about your musical influences and what you listened to growing up that still speaks to your music writing today.

SR: With Moonbeams I was in a spot where I was trying to make a debut record that would show that I do listen to a variety of music. I didn’t want to make a record that was going to be easily typecast, I guess not typecast, but I mean to say I didn’t want to make something that would fit in a box easily. I also wanted to make a record that various people might be able to hear because they might like a song here or a song there, and sort of give something for everybody, if that wasn’t too lofty of a starting point to attack it from. So that’s what I did, and I tried to make it a collage of aesthetics because I do listen to a variety of stuff.

When I was first starting out buying CDs in the 3rd or 4th grade, I definitely had a strong pop mentality. At first it was a serious obsession with New Kids on the Block, which transitioned into Beastie Boys, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown… Bobby Brown being a part of the record collection.

AC: Some of our readers are rolling their eyes right now.

SR: Yeah. When you’re a kid, that stuff just hits on an instinctual level. You don’t realize how overprocessed it is, but it was a while before I finally started listening to what people think of as Indie music or stuff that falls underneath that umbrella. More in college I guess I started finally getting turned on to the bigger Indie bands of the day and doing some homework and going back in time, catching up on stuff I needed to know about or needed to understand the history of Indie. I think looking back on high school, I wish I had listened to a wider variety of stuff, but I think that’s a product of coming from the California peninsula and having a slightly homogeneous cultural background with that.

AC: Talk a bit about your musical development in terms of your instrumentation. Did you start classically with a piano or guitar, and how have you gone about learning new instruments and incorporating them into your style?

SR: I learned how to play guitar at summer camp when I was in the 6th grade. Basically I stuck with that for probably 6 or 7 years. Along the way, my brother started taking drum lessons and for a couple years, my brother, who’s younger than me, had a drum kit in his bedroom and I immediately took to that and started playing his drums a lot more than he would play them. When he stopped taking lessons, the drums went away and I didn’t pick back up with drums or any other instrument until college when I started fooling around and teaching myself piano through my knowledge of guitar.

From there, learning and playing other instruments just became a necessity to make your own recordings and be able to have different instrumentation on there if you didn’t have a band with a bunch of multi-instrumentalists behind you. So drum machines were also a product of that, because when I write songs, I usually do it with a drum beat off of an old keyboard just as a backbone to help facilitate the whole creative process of trying to write a song. You put something like that down and then you just sort of play and riff on whatever it is you’ve come up with that afternoon. So leaving the drum machines in the recording was something I had grown accustomed to and really liked, but was also a way to reveal the process. Did I miss anything there?

AC: Well you covered the drums, the piano and guitar. You’ve got some really interesting instruments on Moonbeams. How did you pick some of those up.

SR: Well some of those like glockenspiel are just based off of piano key configuration, so piano to glockenspiel is a pretty short jump. Some of the other stuff I had friends help with. Like horns, we hired some horn players…I can’t play anything on the horn. Melodica is on there a lot, melodica is also based on the key configuration of the piano, so blowing through that and playing the keys was a short jump from piano. I don’t know if this is how most people go about it, but having a foundation in guitar and piano leaves you with a pretty good skill set to pick up other things and have it sound acceptable.

AC: What people that have picked up TMTS in the last couple months as you guys have grown in popularity probably don’t know about is your previous work in bands. Talk a little bit about your history when it comes to the groups you’ve played with and how have those experiences helped shaped your direction with TMTS.

SR: I guess it started out, aside from a short stint in a band that wasn’t really a band in middle school that probably sounded a lot like Bush, in high school we got more into eclectic instrumentation, playing with guys that played the horns and doing music like ska and funk and more straightforward rock laid the foundation for really appreciating various instrumentation and how you go about orchestrating a handful of sounds on one song. But I would say that the stuff that I did in high school with bands was really influential in certain realms like how do you exist in a band, how do you navigate that familial relationship with other people and group creative process. All of that is something that definitely takes practice in figuring out the harmony and the balance. So that was really good in the sense that it prepared me to play in bands later. But musically, there was a big shift in my taste once I got to college. TMTS has made me acceptable to some peoples’ ears because it sort of pulls from both of those periods from me. One would be the rooted in pop accessible kind of mainstream stuff, and the other would be the recent shift in the last 5 years or so of listening to avant garde and more Indie music.

I read a couple things where people said that Moonbeams sounds like it could be a ’90s rock band, I think that’s kinda funny because I didn’t really anticipate that, but maybe it is sort of accurate because that was the period of rock music that I was listening to a ton that was my first roadmap to figuring out what I wanted to do musically.

AC: What would you say stylistically the change was for you between Moonbeams and Liberty Market Summer.

SR: Wow.

AC: Come on, you gotta bring up Elephant Blend here.

SR: Yeah, you brought it up! That album had a more homogeneous sound from song to song, and it was rooted in a feel good California setting. Both the lyrics and the tone of a lot of those songs was a little bit sunnier and maybe a little bit more naïve. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because young people are usually a little bit more naïve than they turn out to be later. Not to say that Moonbeams is a cynical version of that record, but I would say that Moonbeams felt more mature, and lyrically I would hope it is much more mature because Liberty Market Summer was the first record that I ever sang on. I was always timid of being the singer.

When you start bands in high school, it was like a revolving cast of people who were the singers and I always played guitar. At some point I finally made the shift in courage to sing the songs that I was writing already. I think that settling into that and figuring out how as a singer I was going to establish my voice in a way that felt authentic and earnest and accurate was the biggest challenge in doing Moonbeams. For me, if I were to, and I haven’t in a while, listen to Liberty Market Summer, I would probably at first cringe to hear myself sing because it would sound like a very different version of my self. Not because that was disingenuous or inaccurate, but it wasn’t as thought out.

Scott Reitherman

Scott Reitherman

AC: You guys came out on Baskerville Hill and obviously that was a pretty big step for you because you had to basically launch the label yourselves and not only record, but promote and put out these albums. What was the process of getting signed to Secretly Canadian like, and how did the preparation for getting signed differ from putting out the album and doing the work yourself on Baskerville Hill.

SR: In terms of the preparation for getting signed, there wasn’t really much preparation at all. We were in the midst of releasing Moonbeams on Baskerville Hill in the first couple months and were fully intending to put it out ourselves just like we had done with our other releases before it when Secretly came out of the woodwork and approached us about it. So we were hiring a publicist for the first time to work with Baskerville Hill and help spread Moonbeams further and in the process of doing that, I think it was two months after we had put it out on Baskerville that we got an email from Secretly.

I don’t mean to gloss over the fact that I had given a friend of mine who plays in a band on Secretly Canadian a handful of copies and said, “give these to whoever you want,” and one of the ones he gave out was to those guys. So we knew that it had at least landed on their incoming mail desk, but having not heard anything for two or three months after that, we weren’t thinking much of it at that point.

AC: A lot of people who are musicians and getting into it, hoping to make some sort of career and life out of their music, they probably think that once you get picked up by a label, everything changes. How has your day-to-day life actually changed from releasing it on Baskerville Hill to now being a part of Secretly.

SR: Well, I do less mailing at the post office everyday. That was probably the biggest shift. Everyday at about 4:45 I would rush off to my local post office and get in line before 5pm when they closed the door and mail out the orders for Moonbeams. And that went on for what seemed like a very long time. I was always doing the mailing of our orders up until then, but with Moonbeams the packaging upped a little bit. We started including posters with it, and we were getting a fair amount of orders at the beginning. So a chunk of my afternoon was devoted everyday to wrapping up the orders and shipping them out.

That was fun, I liked writing messages on each one to the people that would order them, and the amount of personal connection I felt with these envelopes going out into the world was special. But it’s also nice to not have to deal with that end of the process of releasing records anymore, at least for now, it’s nice to just concentrate on the music itself and steering the band in a direction that’s going to be happy and good for us. So now I do more emailing. I get a fair amount of email from the label each day regarding various things that we can say yes or say no to. Like, “Do you want this BMX video to get your song in it? It won’t pay you anything, but it’s kinda a cool thing to do.” So we’ll say, “yea, that sounds cool, I used to watch videos like that as a kid, I think it’d be totally hilarious if one of them used one of our songs, I think that’s cool.”

Once in a while they’ll say, “Do you want us to try and pursue this advertisement on television for you guys and maybe get you some actual money?” And we’ll say, “Well, depending on what it is, we would love actual money.” You don’t get paid as often as you do when you receive the credit cards over your own record label’s website and mail them out yourself. Now we get paid every 6 months from the label, so we have yet to be paid anything and I think July is our first pay cycle, so hopefully we’ll get some small sliver of a check because it’s the whole thing about how they have to recoup the budget that they put into it first before we get paid anything. So I would say, at least this summer, my day to day life is pretty good. I’m just working on music, trying to get the next batch of songs all sketched out and demoed and then soon we’ll get together as a band and start to move on to track final versions that will end up on the next record before we go out on tour. We’re also working with a new band member right now, so part of our time is spent getting him in the loop.

AC: Talk a bit about touring and what goes into it. What does the average fan not know about a musician’s tour?

SR: What it’s actually like to spend weeks on end in a 15 passenger van with your band mates without showering. What it’s like to get your morning coffee at a gas station more often than not. How hard it is to get up early and get back on the road for another 8 hour drive after you played a show the night before and didn’t get to sleep on time. I would say what people think or what they anticipate that they would like about the touring process are the exciting parts of it, which are playing that many shows and meeting that many new people and engaging with real people through your music is way more amazing than I could have even imagined. But the constant travel and the element of the road trip sometimes being a lot less laid back than you get to make your other road trips in life is the element you don’t quite expect.

AC: You’ve obviously, the past couple months, gotten a good deal more recognition with publications like PitchFork Media and Stereogum, you had “Lolita” in a Rhapsody commercial and now you’ve got a music video for it on MTV2. What has this process been like and has it changed the way you looked at the music industry when you were in high school and college?

SR: I think that even when we were in high school and college, MTV was on its way to phasing out music videos and phasing in reality shows. But I would say that now, when we heard we were going to get our video for “Lolita” on MTV2 it was still a trip, and then they were like, “It will be on once at 1am on Sunday.” And we were like, “Oh… ok.” So it’s pretty fun, and it was fun to make the video. We had a lot less to do with the production of it than the director and the actors that were in it did, but it’s an interesting glimpse into how the Indie music industry still maintains this sliver of MTV’s attention. It’s sort of funny, it seems like too small a niche within MTV’s programming world to even matter at all. But this one Sunday night show where they show Indie music videos is a hanger-on and I hadn’t really paid attention to this show Subterranean before, but they actually have pretty awesome videos each week. It’s kinda sad I guess, but I guess it is what it is.

AC: You were saying earlier that you have yet to see your first check from Secretly. Could you discuss the difference in terms of sales and profits between your self-promoted efforts, Secretly Canadian, and sales on iTunes. Do you have any way of quantifying or describing that right now? I think a lot of people, and specifically the record labels are pushing this point of view that if you’re buying a 99 cent song on iTunes the artist is getting a good portion of that or somehow the artist is not being stolen from when really the reality is the amount that the labels give artists of that is slim. So anything you could talk about the difference in your experience in terms of revenue and sales.

SR: As far as I understand the iTunes business model, when you buy a .99 cent song, the artist, if they’re with a label, hopes to get about a third of it. iTunes takes a third, first and foremost, and of the remaining .66 cents, the label hypothetically takes a third and the artist takes a third, in the case of the kind of label that we’re on which is a pretty artist friendly situation. There’s digital distribution company that may be a middle man there and may be taking a cut.

With us, Secretly has a pretty unique arrangement where they own their own distribution company as well as their own record label and they’ve built that up over the dozen years that they’ve been in business to a pretty good place. So they’re able to maintain some of those percentages that otherwise they might have had to pay out to another distributor. As far as the difference between releasing your own record and having someone else release it and how the shakes down, it’s no surprise that a record label, especially an Indie that doesn’t have huge money bags lying around, they’re going to have to pay you every so often, so for us, it’s on a 6 month pay cycle. If people think that when they buy a song on iTunes that the artist is getting a bunch of those .99 cents, that’s probably not true. It’s hopefully more true if they’re buying from an Indie artist versus a major label artist, but what is that really worth because a major label artist is probably selling more one-off mp3s on iTunes and in the end they’re probably making significantly more money if they’re a good selling major label artist than a medium selling Indie artist.

AC: Moonbeams just being released, and you being relatively new to the industry, but for a few years now we’ve seen a very vicious downward cycle in terms of actual physical CD sales, and the major record labels have started to freak. Have you, being a part of the music industry, seen this type of erosion, and what’s it doing in your mind to the traditional record industry?

SR: That’s a really good question. I guess I don’t know how much interest I have in the decline of the major label record industry. I think what will be interesting to see is how musicians figure out a compelling way to release their music that will re-engage people who love music. I mean, everyone loves music, but what it’s up to the record labels to do now is to figure out a way to bring that new music to the people. It’s not pirating’s fault, but the information age and the internet have ushered in a huge variety of new variables with how you sell art and obviously it’s turned out that people are de-valuing music left and right.

And again, it’s not pirating’s fault, it’s just one of those things that major labels didn’t react quickly enough to. So if it’s not the CD and it’s not the vinyl record, what is it going to be that will get people to financially support artists again? I think that would be interesting. I would love to see bands start releasing books that come with download links to the mp3s themselves. If people don’t care about these little 3.5″ in diameter floppy plastic discs anymore that we call CDs, and there’s no reason they should because it was a crappy format to begin with, then give them something else, something more, maybe a collection of photographs or writing. Just more content that’s going to re-engage people on a personal level with their favorite artists so that they do feel they want to have a hard copy as opposed to the mp3 download that any person with any amount of sense can figure out how to get without paying for it.

AC: I think that on that same note, a large portion of the problem is that maybe consumers got fed up with the fact that these record labels for so many years, while I wouldn’t want to say overvalued music at $17-$18 dollars a CD when it took a buck and a half, two dollars to make, but they certainly fought pirating and mp3s with this passion that somehow the consumers were stealing from the artists. But when you look at the kind of royalties and shares that the artists actually got off of those sales, the record labels were taking a huge chunk out of that and maybe the consumers got sick of hearing how they were stealing from the artists when really they felt they were only stealing from these multi-billion dollar corporations.

SR: Well I would love to think that that’s true in certain peoples’ cases, but I think that’s a little too generous to attribute to the masses. It’s sort of like if there were a riot and the police were the major labels and everyone else were the people rioting, and some people had the consciousness to go to Best Buy and break in and steal stuff that they wanted to because they saw it as an evil corporation, or better yet they went to KMart and they broke in and looted Kmart because it was political for them to do that. The vast majority of people that would follow suit get wrapped up in the energy of that riot, or the mindset of it, or the carelessness of it, they would loot from whatever was easiest which would be the Mom and Pop stores, or maybe in this case the Indie labels because there are many more Indie labels than there are major labels. So once you set off that kind of chain reaction, it’s hard for people to care whether or not what they’re doing anymore is right or wrong because it’s just so easy and everyone else is doing it.

AC: As the Internet becomes more collaborative with greater access worldwide, not only in terms of more economic classes being able to access it, but also in terms of the speed with which you can do things online, do you see a shift coming where more music will be made online, and how do you envision that happening? Obviously the focus of this question is what the folks over at MixMatchMusic are working on.

SR: Definitely. I think it’s a no-brainer to see that kind of thing on the horizon. There’s been so many successful examples of that type, if not specific collaboration in music these days, at least the mixing of cultural sounds and cross-cultural musical aesthetics. There’s a lot of bands and artists who have a foreign sound mixed with an American pop backbone like MIA or Santogold, who’s American. Postal Service is a great example of a couple of guys who are living states apart mailing each other beats and vocal overdubs and came up with a platinum record. The Internet is going to make things like that so much easier, well it already has, it’s kinda silly to talk about it in the future tense, but for MixMatch and companies that are trying to facilitate that even further, I hope that it’s going to revolutionize the way that strangers are able to make music together, or people who are coming from really various backgrounds collaborate. But I do think that the other element of that is what you’ve seen with Radiohead recently where they commissioned a remix series and offered up the different parts of one song to their fans to fill in a blender and spit out as they wish a new version of the song is a really fascinating example of what the Internet can do these days if they present it to the people in the right way.

AC: Is that a type of remixing project that you could see yourself getting involved in?

SR: Maybe down the line. Right now, I’m too busy and self-absorbed with the next record, not to sound like a jerk, but I’m trying to focus right now on a new batch of work and we just participated in a couple of cover projects already, so we’re kinda coming off of that and refocusing our energies.

AC: To finish up, in terms of refocusing your energies and your efforts, what kind of stuff are you working on now and what is your writing process like in general?

SR: Well this time will be different from the last time. Last time was a solo effort and took a while to build up the songs and having complete control over how they turned out is something that I don’t want to do this time around. It’s different in that this time around, I’m basically coming up with demos or sketches of the songs that I’ve been kicking around and working on since Moonbeams got completed, and I’m in turn giving burned CDs of those to the guys in the band and seeing which ones they respond to and which ones they want to work with and figuring out how we’re going to whittle it down to a workable track listing to pursue for the initial stages of tracking the record, then go from there. Not write all the parts this time, write the parts that I have been coming up with then leave it there and let them add on to it which will make it more of a group effort. So it’ll be interesting, it will be the first time in a while that I’ve done something like that, and I think it will be better because of it.

AC: Now is that process something that is made even more comfortable by the fact that one of the guys you deal with, Aaron Goldman, is someone you’ve been working with musically for quite some time now?

SR: Definitely. He and I went to high school together, and we connect very easily on a lot of levels, and in regards to the songs this time around it’s going to be really fun to see what he comes up with. I know the rest of the guys are going to be coming up with a lot of brilliant stuff, and I’m really excited to step back from the construction of these songs a little bit and really see which direction they end up finding their way.

AC: When can we expect this album… any sort of time table yet?

SR: I think it’ll be middle of next year.

AC: I’ve had one person close to me suggest that you should title it Sunrays.

SR: {laughter}

AC: {more laughter}

SR: I hope you didn’t land any money on that.

AC: No, absolutely not, I didn’t think it was a winner. Scott, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us over here at Evolving Music. Do you have anything you want to talk about or plug, any upcoming concert appearances or anything you want your fans to know about?

SR: We just did a Huey Lewis cover tune. I recommend people check it out if they want a dose of ’80s nostalgia.

AC: Which one did you cover?

SR: “If This is It.”

AC: Where can they find it?

SR: Ye olde myspace page,

Radiohead’s “House of Cards” Video: A Reflection of Our Digital Lives

Radiohead’s “House of Cards” video was made using Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR…or as James Montgomery from MTV News put it, “it was made entirely with lasers and fractals and math and stuff”.

He also mentioned that an associate producer over at MTV news proposed that “the ‘Cards’ clip could actually be Radiohead’s loving acknowledgement to the Grid, the high-speed super-Internet currently being developed by scientists at CERN, a particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland”. How very Matrix. I like it.

For the techy, nerdy, science-y, and curious among you, go to the Google Code page and eat your heart out. You can learn about, you know, data visualization and stuff. Otherwise just watch the video:

You almost have to know the story behind the video to be impressed by it. The technology used is indeed very interesting. And very Radiohead.

In fact, when the makers of the video came across research being done at UCLA for real time 3D recording and had the idea for a video, they immediately sent a proposal to Radiohead’s management, figuring that they would be the only band willing to take that kind of a risk – making a music video without cameras. After all, Radiohead has quite firmly established itself as a pioneer in today’s music industry, has it not?

But if you blindly watch, without knowing the story behind the video, it can be a tad… simplistic. Or to quote James Montgomery once again, “a total triumph in technology, but a decidedly underwhelming experience for the viewer.” Kinda like Winamp skins a la 1999. Yet, if you put on your artistic appreciation hat and keep in mind the made-using-data aspect, it’s pretty damn cool.

To further your appreciation of the feat, watch the making of video below:

As director James Frost notes towards the end, “in a weird way [the video] is a direct reflection of where we are in society… everything is data-driven in some shape or form… our lives are digital.”

Silly Music Videos That Cheer Me Up

I’m in one of those seriously shitty moods today, but still wanted to write. Did I try to find inspiration and write about something interesting going on in the music industry, an awesome new band, or some useful music 2.0 technology? Not so much. Maybe write a snarky post bitching about something that annoys me just as a way of venting my frustration? I considered making a list of musicians that bug the crap out of me: Mariah Carey, Vanessa Carlton, Sheryl Crow…but, na.

I’m not sufficiently pissed about anything in particular (you know those days where you’re just…blah) so rather than choosing a topic and ranting less-than-passionately, I decided to try and cheer myself up.

One thing that often cheers me up is watching videos on YouTube. You know, like all those funniest cats and laughing baby videos. Not the most prudent use of one’s time to be sure, but rather effective. On that note, here are some silly music videos that always make me smile.

OK Go – “Here It Goes Again”

Liam Sullivan – “Shoes”

Feist – 1 2 3 4

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