Ok... so I don't know if I'll actually hit "101 Tips" but I've decided right now I need a place to extend some of my #DearBands into mini rants.
... yes mini rants... rants under 10,000 words.
So the last week I've been going through a digital stack of demos submitted, and my ever growing list of bands to check out online. It's hard stomach at times, but when I have a spare hour or two, and I don't feel like doing something WAY better with that spare hour or two, I go through a 15-20 bands on the list, and email the ones I like.
I typically get a response 24-48 hrs after emailing... but some of the responses really show the person on the other end really didn't do their homework... at all.
#DearBands, do your goddamn homework!
Seriously... anybody emails you, check their signature, and be a dick. Put on your dick coat, dick glasses, and dick hat... and play detective! That's what Google is for... and Facebook... and ReverbNation, and BandCamp, and iTunes, and SoundCloud, etc.
I'm not saying I'm going to change your life, but it should take 90 seconds to do your homework on me, or anybody else that emails you, and have an idea of what they can bring to the table.
Some of you make such asses of yourselves in emails it's insane... insane and entertaining... meanwhile your band might be really good! Imagine it was a label, management, or another award winning producer (cough)... I'm pretty patient with people but time is always valuable... and after 3-4 messages back and forth... and it seems like whoever is on the other end is writing you back on their iPhone while sitting on the toilet... c'mon. I quickly forget about them and move on to bands that are ACTUALLY somewhat serious... or at least seem to be trying a little.
Most of you complain nobody out there is helping you and you're trying to get by on shoestring budgets. Do your homework, network, make the most of meeting anybody at any opportunity.
Do your homework.
As a friend.
"10... 9... 8... 7... 6... I think he wet himself..."
The holiday season is over... and I'm officially back to work without interruption... finally.
Christmas and New Year's Eve... they're kind of a big deal. There's a lot of anticipation, excitement, and hype around the holiday season that just passed... but what if you had to choose one over the other?
Christmas Vs. New Year's.
While I do love Christmas and all the fun it has to offer... mainly eating chocolate and guessing gifts, I'd choose New Year's... hands down. It's probably one of the most important days of the year... socially speaking.
For most, Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) is about taking a few days off work, spending time with family and friends, good food, and sharing gifts. It's a time to get people together and... you know... remember what's important in life.
If you really think about it though, it's forced... and it's selfish. Pretty much everything around you during this time of year (the deadline that is December 25th) is pushing you to do these things because it's the norm... it's expected. Come up short... you'll know it.
... but what if we made the effort to get together more often throughout the year? What if we simply gave gifts throughout the year out of pure generosity and thoughtfulness? What if we picked up the phone, texted, emailed, skyped, whatever, to let those we haven't heard from in a while know we were thinking about them?
The Christmas most people, willingly or not, participate in is based around stores clearing out their inventory and prepping for the next year... but with Black Friday and Boxing Week sales, do we really need to play pretend anymore? Maybe keep the December 25th event for the kids... for fun... similar to how we keep October 31st going... but we really wouldn't need to put nearly as much hype into Christmas if we kept the true spirit of Christmas alive and well throughout the year.
New Year's/New Year's Eve on the other hand is a time to get together with friends and family, perhaps exchange a few gifts and party... wait... that sounds a lot like Christmas... oh yeah, and ring in the new year!
So... how is New Year's really that different than Christmas? What gives it the edge?
New Year's to me is about one thing... resolutions... a fresh start... time for change! Many of us aren't self motivated. We can't just think of a new plan today and start tomorrow. Most of us need a nudge to get going and that's why we see so many people signing up for gym memberships, looking for new jobs, going back to school, starting diets, etc, the week of January 1st.
Unlike our Christmas lists, which are wants, our New Year's resolutions are needs! Those lifestyle changes and improvements we've been thinking about for who knows how long, January 1st is that hard date where socially everyone is on the same page. Everybody wants to get a good start to a better year. It's the one free pass where anybody can make an abrupt lifestyle change and nobody will be surprised because it's a New Year's resolution! It's the day to stop thinking about it and start doing it!
Again, Christmas is fun but I feel like it's a pacifier for our wants and a band-aid for, most honestly, our ego. It feels good to give and receive gifts. It feels good to see the smiles on our loved ones faces when we come through the door... but often it's an attempt to make up for a years worth of being too busy to make the time or give the thought... kinda like that guy who only buys a girl (or guy, this is 2013) flowers on their birthday. It's the thought that counts, but it's kinda cheapened once you factor in the circumstances.
New Year's resolutions are personal. They're a chance to take a step back, look at how your last 12 months went and what kinda changes you think will make the next 12 better... and in response, you make a commitment to self improvement. Work toward your goals and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. Improve your quality of life and you will improve the quality of life of those around you as a result... think about it.
It always comes down to the individual... and I'm the type to make tweaks throughout the year... but I love hearing and seeing the changes in people's lives this time of year. While new socks and boxes of chocolates make people happy... it's the commitment and hard work... the progress and payoff... that's what gets the serotonin going... and that's a gift that keeps on giving... because it's like chemicals in your brain.
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."
- Grace Hopper
Last night I received a message on Facebook from a friend inviting me to use a new twitter account "group". They provided the account info/password, a few quick and simple guidelines, and suggested I allow other individuals to have access to the account information as I saw fit, in order to tweet from it.
I was horrified.
Luckily, there was a window of opportunity to park the account in an attempt clear up some major (and obvious) concerns I had with this.
Upfront, I don't think anybody can claim ownership on a hashtag… but #DearBands is something I came up with and have been using for almost a full year now on Twitter. Since the beginning, the tweets have been well received and I've been encouraged to tweet more often. While a few think it's a platform to poke fun at bands, there's actually a bigger picture in mind and I believe in order for an idea to grow, some care should be taken while planting the seeds.
#DearBands is an anonymous association of music industry professionals ranting and blowing off steam about bands today.
This is false.
#DearBands is a hashtag created by @HeyLangford to give gentle reminders to bands and artists to be aware of how they conduct, promote, and represent themselves online and in person, with a goal of encouraging amateurs and professionals to engage in conversation through various forms of social networks, in order to share ideas, opinions, and work towards a greater good for the music industry of tomorrow.
This is true.
In response to parking the account, which you can imagine didn't make me the most popular person in the room, I wanted it to be known I felt like my brand (and idea) was being compromised and the "new" description wasn't even close to what my original intentions are… and where admittedly the idea to form the group had come from. Being friends, I'm disappointed with how this has played out the past 24 hours but here are my concerns/issues:
I don't believe in anonymity, especially online.
If you have something to say, stand behind your words. Praise or criticism, it's not what you say, it's who says it... that's why the pen can be mightier than the sword. The weight of the words are lost if it's said without a face or personality to accompany it. Chances are the account/hashtag would simply become intermittent bite size chunks of comic relief… in my opinion, the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder on something like Twitter.
I've encouraged others to tweet using the #DearBands hashtag through their personal Twitter accounts, and slowly, they have been. This enables us to create a sort of searchable database of information, and that's a great bi-product Twitter. Good advice doesn't provide "one size fits all" solutions so allowing others to attach the tag to their tweets has a lot of value to the reader. Again, while there has been humour sprinkled in at times, the goal is to offer advice and guidance, and encourage discussion. Only fools, especially in present day, would take anonymous advice.
I don't believe ranting and venting about bands/artists is constructive to helping bands/artists.
Sure, we all have times we need to (there are things you tell your best friend, things you tell your mom, and things you'd only tell your dog), but I feel that, and I have 50+ #DearBands sitting my drafts folder, what we put out in the world comes back three fold. We should have positive or at least neutral intent with our words and actions as often as possible. On the top layer, there's humour and/or sarcasm to many of my tweets, but that's part of my personality. At the heart of it though, I believe the intentions should be positive. Say things that provoke thought, a response, and encourage others to pass it on. Considering the amount of bullying awareness going on these days, I'd rather not be part of that problem, and embarrass and/or discourage people from doing what they love. I believe the solution is simply not being part of the problem.
That being said, during a somewhat, one-sided heated conversation on Facebook last night, I provided several solutions. The main one being, if you want a place to rant and blow off steam anonymously, fine… but why attempt to hijack a hashtag I've been using almost exclusively the past year, attempt to redefine it, and pass it off as your own? Why can't it be called something else? I can accept certain places need anonymity (... elections anyone?), so a simple solution for both parties would be to create something new… perhaps along the lines of "Clients From Hell".
I won't name names (they asked for anonymity after all), and I'm sure their intentions are good, but this really caught me off guard yesterday… especially coming from a friend. I'm not the aggressive type, but I'll stand up for who and what I believe is right, and do what's necessary to defend my ideas and opinions… and in cases like this, be open to work together for a compromise. Hopefully this is all resolved soon but I felt the need to say something sooner than later.
The internet is a big place and there's lots of room for everyone, good or bad, to do as they wish. It's unfortunate sometimes others attempt to claim ownership on someone else's idea… considering it's that way of thinking which prevents others from sharing their ideas in the first place.
"I have a lot of friends on here that are producers and Engineers. Most of them work 12 hour days, 6 days a week making music. They are dedicated and passionate. Their main goal is to make people happy and make their lives richer with great music. This is a shout out to all you guys burning the midnight oil!"
- David Bendeth
If you don't know who he is… Google him. He's produced some pretty serious records the last decade and had his hand in shaping the sound of modern rock. I, like most people, scan through my Facebook news feed each morning and he posted that a couple days ago (yeah we're Facebook friends *cough*). I think it was quite late at night but it put a smile on my face... and that's always a great way to start the day.
We ARE dedicated and passionate.
Our goal IS to make people happy and make lives richer with great music.
Music professionals love what they do to a point they probably can't do much of anything else… we're distracted by our passion, be it recording, playing, mixing, performing, composing, or often all of the above… until one day it consumes us and shows us we can make a living doing it.
Also, it's safe to say just because we aren't in the studio or holding an instrument mean the working process stops… we go through our day to day life thinking about it more or less 24/7. To some we're "workaholics". To some we're obsessed. To us, I say we're simply in love.
There's a relationship between anyone and their craft. You decide how much time you make for it and you decide how it's nurtured. We all have relationships in our lives outside the conventional ones that aren't easy to identify and explain to others… everything from sports to fashion to books to food to partying. What do you care about? What do you make time for? What's on your mind?
It's not about how we spend our money… it's about how we spend our time. I know how I spend my time… and I laugh and smile about 400 times a day because of it… and yes that was a Krispy Kreme reference.
P.S. I actually have more I'd like to say on the topic but it can wait for another time… it's more venting... and I like to be in the mood to go off on certain things. It's more along the lines of dealing with people who think it's ok to abuse our time, ignore our value, and downplay our experience... mainly because they feel music, or whatever it is you do, is a hobby... since it often is for them at least... therefore we should be on an even playing field right?
(... this is how we do it.)
The 2012 London Olympics are underway, the Parabelle album is done, and I'll say it… I'm already looking forward to the outdoor rinks opening here, downtown Toronto. I like the warm weather too, but downtown it's not a nice heat in my books… it's muggy… I've been very grateful to have a shower at the studio lately… and some AC. It looks so nice outside… until I open the window... and it's like opening the oven... and that oven is cookin' up somethin' fierce on public transit.
So July… I spent the first week and a half out west playing drums with Age Of Days. They gave me the heads up they had some shows opening for James Durban, and Buckcherry. Sounds good to me. I kept a daily journal which I'll post at some point (yes... along with my Juno journal I've yet to finish posting), but in short, I've never had so much fun on tour in my life.
For the most part, when you really break it down, being in a band isn't a lot of fun... unless you strictly do it for fun.
(Turds Of Misery... doin' it for fun, seriously, circa forever.)
It's long hours, tons of costs, little respect, shitty pay, drama, egos, no sleep, bad food, lost/stolen stuff, general "surprises", you name it... and most of what being out on the road really is can test you mentally and physically. The biggest part of how well things go, are the people around you.
Want to know the type of people you're with? See how they (naturally) act and react when they're tired, hungry, late for something, hilariously early for something, have something stolen/go missing, someone intentionally offends and/or disrespects them, or some unforeseeable hiccup happens and you're seemly up the creek. Really quick, you'll know who's a team player.
(There's 5 of us and you only got one hotel room?!)
Ten days isn't long, but going out long enough you feel the need to do laundry is often long enough to know what kind of people you're with. Up there with getting a quality recording, doing a quick tour sooner than later is important for long term goals and can save some serious time and headaches down the road.
Again, I'll post up the journal at some point but in short, it was such a fun group to hang with… tons of laughs, tons of breakfasts, lots of rock… good times.
Oh… another thing while I'm thinking of it… I'm very grateful I still get the opportunity to play.
There's lots of studio folk who've come from a playing background, but never get back on stage for one reason or another. One of the reasons I was excited to get out and play was to really remember what it's like for when I'm talking to bands. Anybody who knows me, knows I can spew an endless supply of thoughts and opinions, but most of the time (biased opinion here), I know what I'm talking about... and at the very least, and more importantly, I have their best interests in mind and only trying to help.
An easy approach to leading or coaching is to "never shoot the ball". The fear of loosing the ears and eyes of your players from missing the shot, since you know, it's so easy if you just do what I say, outweighs leading by example.
In most cases... I'd say that's a problem.
(... tell tale sign of bad leadership right here.)
I've never (ok, very rarely) been afraid to try and express an idea on an instrument, any instrument, no matter how shitty it may sound. Sometimes it takes a second, but I know I'll get close enough to get my idea across. This is something I encourage EVERY member of the band to get comfortable with. I'm not saying we need to start allowing the bass players to start writing the songs here *cough* but if you're going to talk the talk, it's important to have walked the walk or at least willing to try. I'd never ask a band or artist to play or do something I wouldn't feel comfortable being on stage along side… and that's including 3 children's albums!
The future of professional studio folk are still musicians, writers, and performers at heart… we just happen to have recording and production chops as well.
K… done talking about that now. Tour was awesome… kinda want to get back out again… although there's lots of records to be made and projects on the table these days… we'll see what happens... Age of Days has a new single coming out next month... we'll see... I had fun.
The new Parabelle album is done.
(... I understand that car.)
We finished it up last week and I swear... for a few days after it was "done" done… I still felt like I should be working on it. It's different when the band isn't located here since there's no real, final hurrah or final push to get it done. We listen, make comments, make changes, rinse/repeat a couple times and then it's done. It won't be long until it'll be up on torrents and I'll be using Google translate to read comments on Russian metal forums.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out though… I love the first single (it came together last minute in the control room one evening), and I LOVE the lyric video Kevin did for it. He's so creative and has so tons of ideas… I honestly hope he gets to see all of them through. Time, money and resources are always a factor with any creative, but I think the success of Parabelle's Kickstarter has really hit home that people are listening, wanting, waiting. People will invest in good ideas, and they will invest and support artists. It gets down to vision, momentum and timing… and getting your head out of the sand (or your ass… or other peoples asses) long enough to know when the iron is hot.
(... bang on.)
You can check out the new single here… so far the fan reaction has been great and perhaps leave a comment and let me know what you think. I've been getting some more interest from other bands, labels, and management since it came out as well to mix their stuff or work together down the road. They don't care we're from different cities (or countries for that matter)… just a sign of the times… and it's great to see it's becoming less and less a factor.
I took a quick trip up to the cottage with the lady and the folks mid month… did some fishing, lots of eating… and a fair amount of paddle boating. I love paddle boats… I need that on a shirt.
The rest of the month I did some spec mixes for a couple albums and an EP… got them all, so now it's about trying to make them all fit… thankfully they all have staggered deadlines.
I also started working with an artists named Morgan Sadler over the weekend. She was shopping around for producers (#DearBands, it's called doing your homework) and ended up coming by the studio to meet on a referral from Dell at OfTheBearBooking. The vibe was great and soon after she dumped about 30 demos in my inbox to pick from. Awesome. Pre-production went super smooth and similar to the kids albums, she's trusting me to "be the band", which is something I have a blast doing.
The goal is to finish the 3-4 tunes with Morgan next month (August), get fixing/mixing some other projects, and run up to the cottage once or twice more… if I can edit at the lake, I'm going to.
(July... good times.)
(I'm good... just takin' a quick 5.)
Normally in June, July, or August, I have a good 2-3 week period of downtime… half "way she goes", half "way I like it". My family has a cottage and after years of not going up there (mainly because of my work schedule), I've tried to head up there at least once a month during the summer. I haven't been the type to take vacations in the past, but I eventually saw the value in it. People need to recharge… and the older you get, sometimes you don't get the choice or the chance. Mentally and/or physically, it takes time to recharge… and you have to build it into your routine, weekly, monthly, yearly… whatever works for you.
I'm going somewhere with this… I'm used to a heavy workload, but June was f'n busy. Normally during the winter months I'll spend a night or two at the studio… usually due to a snow storm or bad weather in general. The studio is cozy, so I might as well just hang there and work… plus taking public transit home after midnight during a blizzard is about as fun as wearing liner-less swim trunks to a chilli festival.
(I'm good... just takin' a break... face... you start.)
This past month I've managed to rack up 5, 24hr+ work days. I've taken breaks and naps but there's been some long days going on. Why? Commitments and deadlines.
If you been in this line of work long enough, it's rarely wise to turn down (good) work. Combine that with the (let's be honest here) "musician-ness" of musicians... even if you book something 3 months in advance, there's always a chance it may not start on time or start at all. So in my books, if something comes up on short notice, and it's something I'd like to work on, I do my best to shuffle around the schedule and make it work.
... so here's how June went in a nutshell… try and follow along... just a heads up, I'm currently sleep deprived and sitting in the back of a van.
A band called Left Turn City asked if I was interested in doing a couple new songs with them… I've been a fan for a while having seen them around town a few times over the past year.
It's crazy how long it takes sometimes to finally work with a band. I think it took almost 18 months to finally work with Down In Ashes… but once they were ready, it was like we've been friends for years. Same with Left Turn City… I'd reached out to them a few times but until they were ready, that's when the ball actually gets rolling.
... that's another thing I've thought about a lot lately… bands... artists… you should be the biggest bottle neck in your career… as far as the decision making process goes. If you want to do something, start moving your feet.
If you run your band like a business, it's your business, and you have to call the shots. There's still a lot of patience involved, but the amount of times I've seen bands/artists wait around for their management/label/parents/yoko/etc. to declare the perfect timing or God knows what to make choices... that shit drives me insane.
(I'm gonna get so much shit done... tomorrow.)
Here's the deal these days… seeing results takes time. The less you do and the more time you take waiting to do something means the longer it takes to see any real progress or results. It's that simple. The real engine of running a business isn't money or time in my books… running a business is about making decisions, big or small, efficiently. Everything falls under that one simple principle.
K… back to scheduling… so I started with Left Turn City at the beginning of month… 2 songs… a song takes me roughly 30-40 hours from time spent on pre-production right up to the end of mixing/touchups.
I'm in the middle of the Parabelle album… I'd say at that point I was still 200hrs from finishing that album since I spent the rest of May finishing the 20 Amp Soundchild EP.
I'd said yes to doing a 10 day tour with Age of Days at the beginning of July which meant rehearsals this month… 2 evenings a week.
My brain vacation (mens league hockey)… 2 evenings a week gone.
I'd also agreed to do 3 songs with a band called Thirdrite I'd met a couple months prior which had crept up on me. They're a 3 piece rock band with some blues overtones... great guys who hadn't done a pro recording before so I was excited to help get them something solid. Considering the genre, it's a slightly different approach to my usual production, but still time needed… so that's another weekend (plus) taken up.
So basically… Monday work/rehearsal, Tuesday work/hockey, Wednesday work/rehearsal, Thursday work/hockey, Friday-Sunday work or possibly have a band in for the weekend.
(… the things we do to make things work.).
I'm far from complaining about being busy… it's all busy "good". It's crazy how quick the days go by though when you already know what you're doing everyday. I'm very hands on with production work but it's at the point now where I could really use a solid assistant to help with some of the workload. It's not rocket science what needs to be done but its tough to find others who see the big picture, are up and comers, and not "know-it-alls"… or jaded. It's easy to get used and abused in this industry but I've been lucky to have met some great people early on… so it is possible... and I work everyday to be one of them.
So back to Parabelle for a minute. I picked up, almost on autopilot, a new laptop so I could work while on the road with Age of Days. It's just down to odds and ends but its still time needed. I could've just finished up the mixes and been done with it but that's not how I roll... close doesn't mean done... and I'm not about to rush it. I care a lot about what my name is on, what I'm a part of, and who I associate with. Money is one thing but I love being a part of something that means something to everyone involved.
... just to touch on another topic for a minute... there's been tons of talk about how tech is the new rockstar and basically, making money through tech right now is better then wasting your time trying to make a living through the arts.
Originally, my plan after high school was to go through school for computer programming/systems, move to California, work in tech, and let the chips fall from there.
… here's the thing though. Tech is disposable. I don't care how you present it to me… tech is a disposable industry… if you come up with something great in tech, it will be topped one day... or I should say days... and made obsolete. The greatest tech even, has a shelf life. Tech is the medium. Art is the content... and the content is the real attempt at a permanent piece. To create, grow, and maintain are the bare necessities of the soul.
(... I love cheesy poofs... you love cheesy poofs. Art.)
One of the reasons I got into, or should I say "stayed", in music and production in general is… I want to be part of a "Blue Album". It's a classic album in my books. It strikes a chord with so many people from my generation. It's long term vs short term… and I'm always thinking long term.
Don't get me wrong... I do think there are many in tech who are "lifers" and their passion is the marriage of art and science. They do love it… but it's not about the money. I wish more people would ask themselves, and be truly honest with themselves, "what are my motivations?" We can still live in an honest world full of saints and assholes... it'd just be quicker if some people would say up front "me first" instead of "it's just business"... and then we'd have a much more efficient way of weeding out the assholes... since it just wouldn't pay off.
... I'm getting a little sidetracked here… but I know what my motivations are... and I'm writing this in the van heading to Boonstock today… 30,000 tickets sold… Korn headlining tonight… first time ever going to a festival show (of this kind)... no big deal.
I guess this past month has been a reminder in time management and fulfilling commitments. Luckily, I have friends and family who are supportive when I disappear for days or weeks on end. For the others who've lost patience over the years… well sometimes we cross paths, if not, all good, we all should prune things out of our lives at times… all the better when someone else takes the initiative… it saves me time.
There are only so many hours in a day, how you spend them is important. It's not even a matter of time actually now that I think about it... the bigger issue is energy.
(... if I had any friends left, I bet they'd totally freak out once they saw this.)
This Top 10 is an oldie, but a goodie... although I don't agree with #5 making the cut… that's a smart lookin' piece of artwork… and I'd have high expectations of this guy if he was a neighbour.
Band tattoos… a black and white issue for most.
I know a handful of people with their favourite band logo/lyrics and/or their own band immortalized on their birthday suit… it's a major commitment however you look at it.
Personal opinion? I've seen some lyrics/quotes I think look really awesome… they say a picture is worth a 1,000 words but I say tasteful text makes a cleaner statement. I'm big on quotes in general though… don't make it a novel, make it legible... and I vote leave the name off. Why?
#1. It opens up a chance for dialog.
"That's a cool quote… who said it?"
#2. Some names you just… might not want staring your partner in the face during tender moments.
"Oh, those are Art Garfunkel lyrics… you wanna come in for coffee?'"
(... won't you take me to... Funkeltown)
Established band artwork… jury is kinda out on that one. Since bands can suck pretty bad down the road, or at least in the rear-view mirror, perhaps people should include a specific date just to clear up any confusion.
Guns N' Roses
(1972-1985... plus those couple days in 1996)
I think a safe rule of thumb… if you're, or think you ever will be, past the stage in life where you can comfortably hang band posters where you live (man caves excluded), maybe not a good idea.
Personal band logos/lyrics… yes, there are many who say these are lame… but… the truth is, when you're in a serious band… you love your band. You love it like it like a pet, you love it like a best friend, you love it like family.
You'd never tell someone their portrait of Grandma was shitty or stupid, you know it's personal. When you're in a real band (… the sense of real band is a personal connection regardless of how many shows you play, albums you've released, or your level of perceived success), it's one of your favourite things you look forward to in life.
Musicians are known for questionable choices. If it weren't for being drunk on drive and passion, rash decisions and cloudy judgement wouldn't thrive, and creative output suffers.
Tattoos are supposed to be personal, so how is your own band logo any different...? That being said, we all know the risk of getting inked with a lover's name. Live, laugh, and enjoy life... but always proceed with caution... while very few bands stand the test of time, some things do last forever.
(... happy birthday baby.... baby... baby.)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!