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I’m in North Dakota for the Holiday weekend doing the opening shows for The Blenders annual Christmas Tour. We’re at the Historic Fargo Theater in downtown Fargo, and we’ve done two shows with three to go. Be sure and note the gong behind my kit to the left, which I hit a total of 4 times during each performance.
Other than playing the gigs, I’m spending a good amount of time reading and editing through all the video footage on my Flip camcorder.
There’s… not a lot to do in Fargo.
At my house we use the Macbook to do “silly pictures” all the time. Here’s the latest from my girls.
Today is a day when our culture brings makes specific mention of what we’re thankful for. 8 years ago there were no girls with the last name Goold. Now there are THREE. Let it be known that I am so thankful for them.
Stevie Wonder has of course always been a bomb performer, but he’s also not a bad drummer. He allegedly played the drums tracks on a few of his big singles (the famous Superstition groove, for instance). This is some really rare footage of his early years as a band leader, sitting in on the drums. You’ll notice that he’s a little bit of a hack, but his feel is great.
The super cool thing in this footage is the killer fill back into the full band section after his solo (1:14), and he counts off the band at the same time!
My wife and I went with some friends to the Michael Jackson documentary the other night. Wow. It’s great. Go see it.
I enjoyed the film on a few different levels. For starters, all the footage was from the prep and production rehearsals for Jackson’s This Is It Tour, which would have been quite a spectacle. As a professional musician, most of my work takes place in this prep/rehearsal environment. Any given 90-min gig of mine will often require at least 4-5 hours of personal prep and rehearsal time, and it’s almost impossible to measure how much overhead work goes into a complex show like Jackson’s. It was really cool to get a first-hand look at everything that goes into staging a show in the big leagues.
Which, leads me to the thing I really took away from the film. No one made ANY mistakes. In all the footage of instrumental rehearsals and technical run-throughs, I never heard or saw anyone in the band play anything incorrectly. Everything sounded as great as I imagine the actual performances would have sounded. Of course, the band often stopped to get instructions from MJ or the producer, but it was always timing and cue issues that needed discussing… never playing issues. Never.
Everytime MJ would stop the band during a tune to give them directions, he would say “see, this is why we rehearse.” The thing to notice here is his definition of “rehearsal.” The musicians in the film are obviously not learning how to play their parts during the rehearsals, as was apparent in their mistake-free playing. Instead, the band is spending the rehearsal time learning how to perform the show. There’s a huge difference in those two things. Learning how to play your part is something you do on your own, with your own time. That way, when everyone gathers together to work through the songs, you can give your attention and focus to timing issues and the nuances of the performance’s flow. The details of how the show progresses from song to song are often even more complex than the way you will play your instrument within a song.
A good show hinges on both correct playing and smooth transitions. The playing part can and should be handled on your own – but the transition part has to be worked out with everyone together. Therefore, in order to maximize rehearsal time in a group setting, the individual musicians need to be as prepared and precise as possible. The group rehearsal is simply time when you prove to everyone that you did your homework.
This Is It reminded me again of the importance of adequately prepping for gigs, so that I ALWAYS bring my A-game.
Apparently John Mayer played a full hour-long set at the Ed Sullivan Theater last Thursday, during the taping of the Letterman Show, but the performance was only broadcast in it’s entirety on the CBS website. So, check out CBS.com to watch it.
I have to say, Mayer himself doesn’t sound very good, but the band is killing it, and Steve Jordan especially (of course).
Just saw this quote from the great American conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, who wrote West Side Story, among other famous works.
“The most rational minds in history have always yielded to a slight mystic haze when the subject of music has been broached, recognising the beautiful and utterly satisfying combination of mathematics and magic that music is.”
Stuff like this always reminds me how thankful I am to be able to do what I do for a living.
The “drum culture” (and especially the online presence of the drum culture) gets real excited about stuff that I typically don’t get excited about. And yet, I found both of the following things interesting and worth posting about. Mock me if you must.
Everybody loves a little kid who can play an instrument. This kid is very little, and plays very well. The embedding is disabled from all his youtube videos, but you can check them out at his website.
I guess this dude has been a Youtube star for a while, but I just learned of him today from one of my Bethel students. I’m not sure what to think about this video, but it’s cool in the interesting sense if nothing else.
I just got done giving our newborn daughter Suzy a bottle for tonight’s first feeding. She’s two and half weeks old now, and the whole having-a-newborn-around-the-house-again situation is really going great.
Anyway, I always quietly play music on Suzy’s nursery stereo, and just now we were listening to a Radiohead-tribute record by a classical pianist named Christopher O’Riley. True Love Waits is 15 tracks of Radiohead songs, all arranged and performed by O’Riley on solo grand piano.
Listening to this album reminded me again why I love Radiohead so much: the music is simply some of the most gorgeous music I have ever heard. It’s sometimes easy to miss this because their more recent work is so heavily produced and saturated with the influence of electronic instruments. When all that is stripped away and the tunes are just played on piano, the beauty and complexity of the COMPOSITIONS becomes so apparent. The very existence of a record like True Love Waits is a testament to the brilliance of Radiohead’s writing, being that classical musicians are typically quite snobbish about the works they choose to record.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t like Radiohead’s drummer at all. In fact, Phil Selway is probably the most uninspiring player I can think of… and yet, I still love Radiohead’s music.
I mentioned Andrew Dubber the other day, who constantly impresses me with his deft analysis of the music business. I just read an article he posted on a great music industry blog called Music Think Tank. The article is super interesting, but the real bomb is in a comment he posted in the midst of the blog dialogue on the article. He sums up very well some of my thoughts about piracy, record labels, and art as a business.
Here’s what he said…
Musicians deserve more money than they get. Most train harder and for longer than brain surgeons in order to do what they do, and then they earn less than checkout operators for what they do. I strongly believe that more money should go to more musicians more often than it does.
Musicians are some of my favourite people on the planet, and I want nothing but good things for them. Really. My heart breaks for all of my musician friends who find this a tough world, and just want to make great music that connects with people, and to be allowed to do that in a way that helps them support their family and put food on the table.
Making music is not (usually) a job of work. It is a creative act. You don’t have the RIGHT to make money from your music. You only have the opportunity.
If you make music speculatively – that is, you create it in the hopes of making money from it, then you are a music entrepreneur. As such, entrepreneurship rules apply.
You may invest a good deal of energy, effort and expense in your creative ideas. You may make a lot of money. You will probably make none. But nobody OWES you money just because you put the work in.
If your business model is to grow and sell oranges, then it’s no good picking the oranges, then leaving them on the footpath outside your house with a price tag on each one. It doesn’t matter how great your oranges are, or how hard you’ve toiled in your garden. Someone WILL take your oranges. Some will get kicked to the side of the road. Some will get stepped on. But it’s not because people are immoral and don’t understand or appreciate fruit properly.
If you wish to be reliably rewarded for your music, then get employed to make music as your job.
If you want to make the music that moves you, that will hopefully create meaning for people, and that will perhaps earn you a sustainable living, then you have chosen risk, and you will have to be as smart with the entrepreneurship as you are with the music if you want to survive and thrive.
The odds are stacked against you. History is littered with musicians who are disillusioned, embittered and broke. This was true before the internet just as it’s true now. The internet is neither your saviour, nor your enemy.
Let me make that bit clear: prior to the internet, most people spent NO money on music. If they bought a record in a year, it was a gift for a nephew (and it was usually rubbish). Some people spent a lot of money on music, because it was tied up with cultural things like identity that they were really invested in.
Back when you needed a record label to just be heard, it was a lottery. The odds were bad, the lottery tickets were expensive, and most of the prizes – if you did happen to win – were just awful. Now you don’t need to play that game – but you need to be smart and you need to understand what the rules of the new game are.
You CAN, of course, get signed to a record label (and that lottery is still in play) but you can also be an enterpreneur. I recommend the latter – but not because it guarantees you money.
But the simple fact is that you don’t become a successful entrepreneur by making things that people will not pay for, insisting that they should, and then complaining that their morals are to blame. They may not share your morals, but that’s not even the point.
It’s not their job to understand your needs. It’s your job to understand theirs.
You become a successful entrepreneur by meeting people’s needs and wants, solving a problem for them and doing it in a way that allows you to make money.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Even if it was true that all the people you wish to target with your art are immoral thieves who you would never invite into your home – why would you insist on trying to change their behaviour as part of your business strategy?
You may make great and interesting music, and put on an amazing show with amazing costumes. But decrying a sense of entitlement among those who won’t pay you for what you insist on doing is back to front.
The people with the weird sense of entitlement are the ones who stamp their feet and say ‘look at all this hard work I put in – where’s my money?’