I was going to do a Top 10 list but honestly even after two weeks of thinking about it, these CD’s are the only ones that stick with me. I feel these are the best rock releases in 2013 and what great releases they are! This won’t be a surprise to some of you as I have been posting about some of these since the day they came out. Yes, they are that good!
I am not going to gush over these as some of them I have done reviews for already and I want you to make your own judgements. Give them a listen and if you like, buy the music and spread the word. They all need your support.
The debut CD from Maragold is perhaps the freshest most original sound I have heard from a rock band and years if not the last decade. The band featuring world renown guitarist Greg Howe and company could be the scariest set of musicians this side of Dream Theater on one CD this year. Relative unknown singer Mehgan Krauss is the real deal and sings circles around just about everyone out there right now. She should be a household name and God willing, will be. Part of the reason this took the top spot is the absolute surprise at how good this CD was as a whole. Everything from songwriting, hooks, playing and production were top notch. I was not expecting this from a guitar hero as so many have not come out with strong band CD’s in their career with the exception of the gentleman in the number 2 spot.
The Winery Dogs CD is a masterpiece of blues rock featuring guitar virtuoso and underrated singer Richie Kotzen, former Mr. Big band mate and bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan and of course Mike Portnoy widely regarded as one the best drummers alive today. They only reason this wasn’t #1 on my list is because it is basically a Richie Kotzen solo album. It wasn’t different enough from I hear from his usual work. Not that that is a bad thing, it just wasn’t as suprising as our #1 placement. I won’t bore you with my thoughts twice as you can read them in this CD Review I did here: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/the-winery-dogs-cd-review-by-david-lowry/
Legendary studio guitarist and founding member of the band Toto, Steve Lukather released his 6th solo CD Transition in 2013 and it is brilliant. Well pretty much everything Steve touches is but this CD really hit home with solid songwriting, relevant topics and a more natural guitar sound. As always Steve’s playing was melodic and amazing and his ability to evoke many different moods with music is a rare thing from most bands these days. Here is my CD review for Transition: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/cd-review-transitions-by-steve-lukather/
After all the drama settled and the band Queensryche was able to get their music out, it was a treat to the ears and it felt like coming home! This is the Queensryche CD we have been waiting for since “Empire.” The band has returned with a strong singer, strong songs and a revived sound that takes us back to classic Queensryche and puts a smile on all our faces.
Prog rock legends return in 2013 with the self-title “Dream Theater” and a return to a more melodic feel with less heaviness which isn’t a bad thing. Dream Theater broke through with 1992’s “Images and Words” one of my Top 3 CD’s of all time and this new CD has a bit of that in it. Dream Theater has come full circle with this project and the addition of Mike Mangini has fueled the creativity machine to bring forth the best Dream Theater effort in years. Don’t get me wrong, they have never put out a bad CD. This is just a touch above the more recent efforts.
Stryper returns in full force on this CD! Their strongest effort since “To Hell With The Devil,” this is the CD we have been waiting for since the return of the band. Michael Sweet is in fine form vocally and the songs are hook laden and in your face at the same time. Stryper has always been a talented band and underrated musicians as well as excellent live performers. This CD just gives us reason to make sure and not the miss the tour!
This is the biggest surprise on this list as DeLana Stevens & The Beggar Saints are a local Nashville band that is trudging through this morass of a music business trying to make it. When they sent me this CD to listen to, I was blown away by how great the songs were. DeLana and her band learned what many do not, how to write a really, really good hook and rock song. It was so good, I did a review immediately. You can read that here: https://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/delana-stevens-and-the-beggar-saints-cd-review/. DeLana Stevens & company bring back a classic rock sound very much like Heart and Delana is one of the most powerful and accurate singers I have ever heard. Watch this band as I am hoping for big things to come for them.
I can’t tell you how many bands I have been a part of or worked where people would show up for rehearsal and someone (usually more than one) hadn’t practiced the material to be gone over in our rehearsal time. This is extremely bad when it is music that has been played for years within the band and the members can’t remember their parts or are just involved in to many other projects to take one seriously enough for it to be viable. In my experience it tends to be the same people over and over again. Always with some excuse whether it be work, family etc… but mostly it’s just people who don’t have the drive and discipline to take it serious. They would rather watch their favorite shows on T.V. or go out partying with their friends. This is a major problem within a band and needs to be dealt with immediately.
This Meme popped on my Facebook stream yesterday and it is of course an ageless problem within the entertainment community especially music. I consider it one of the major roadblocks for entertainers to overcome in order to have a decent shot at making it in the business. It is extremely important to deal with this sort of behavior immediately. How can a band or entertainer make it if the people involved are dead set on making it happen. That means putting forth every effort to be prepared. I for the life of me can’t figure out why so many musicians struggle with being professional or understand how completely critical it is for them to be prepared at all times for anything that might pop up. I quit trying to help bands get booked because they were never ready for a last minute gig. Their set lists weren’t done because they only knew so many songs and what was usually the reason? Someone in the band wasn’t learning the material or just didn’t think it was necessary to have a nice set list to draw from.
This eats away at the core of a band. People start to get irritated with each other and stop trusting each other. People will start to develop a “why should I bother” attitude because they get tired of working harder than everyone else but the people who keep letting the band down, expect to be equal partners and get paid the same while doing almost none of the work or having the work ethic it takes to succeed. This is about the most disrespectful behavior you can have in a band. Many of the other members are sacrificing time with family, friends or other things they love to have a real shot at it, but there is always some asshat that just doesn’t get it.
This isn’t a business that pays you for showing up. This is a business that pays you for hard work, work ethic, being prepared and having the ability to act at a moments notice if you are needed to fulfill a last minute opening. This also plays into people working with you. I make it abundantly clear from the get go before working withy any artist that we won’t work bust our ass for an artist that isn’t busting theirs. If this is a problem, they get cut. How can you expect anyone to bust their ass and do all the grunt work you don’t want to do, when you can’t even do the one thing you are brought into do. Learn your songs and put on the best show possible. You can’t do that if you spend all your rehearsal time learning songs that should have already been learned before the rehearsal at home. Rehearsals are for working on song structure, correcting small mistakes, developing set lists and most importantly performance. NOT LEARNING SONGS!
This of course is not a new revelation by any stretch of the imagination but yet things never change. The business is constantly changing, but musicians don’t. Same old story, same old song and dance. It’s a new business kids, gone are the deals, the money and now the people willing to working for nothing to bust their ass for a bunch of lazy musicians. Get with the program or get out.
To all bands and entertainers out there. Deal with this now or you will get absolutely nowhere. If it is a repetitive problem, fire them. Find band members that are willing to give 100% to make it happen or prepare to sit in anonymity for a very long time if not forever.
There has been such shock and outrage over Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMA’s that is beyond extreme. Why? What did she do that hasn’t been done a million times before? This isn’t because of what she did, it’s because she is Hannah Montana and people just can’t let go of that even years after she quit being that character. She has a responsibility to her audience! Uhm…. no she doesn’t. It’s a character. It’s not who SHE is. Miley is an artist and whether you like it or not, she is going to change, push boundaries and do things people don’t like. That is what being an artist is all about.
How many times have we seen this? Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, now we laugh and think that was nothing. But when it happened it was just like this outrage. Now Elvis is the King of Rock N’ Roll and the greatest American music icon ever. Jim Morrison pulled his junk out on stage, was constantly a raging drug and alcohol abuser and now he is a rock legend. Often you hear things like what a great artist he was and how he pushed boundaries. He was revolutionary. BS. He was just a druggie wanna be poet who happened to be a rock star in a free love movement and drug induced coma America was going through. Madonna? Holy crap remember all the controversy she caused do to her nude photos, sexuality and religious statements? Now a musical icon with a ton of respect from woman about how she furthered women’s rights and helped made women stronger and able to stand up for themselves. The list goes on and on about people who shocked and pushed boundaries musically. Lady Gaga? Alice Cooper? Kiss? Nothing but controversy when they came out. Now they are revered musical artists that people look up to and respect.
Miley? Not so much. Look, Miley did exactly what rock n’ roll is all about. Pushing boundaries, disregarding the establishment, chaos and controversy. That is what makes rock n’ roll great. That is what most people love rock n’ roll for. Did she picked an audience with kids in it? Yes she did. Was that wrong most likely depending on your moral character. However, most kids were in bed when it aired and she followed in the footsteps of those before her by picking a time and place to create the most shock value. That was extremely rock n’ roll. She is a rock star, that is what she does.
This will all blow ever one day and 15 years or so down the road most will probably talk about this in a completely different light, just like Elvis, Morrison, Madonna and all the others that achieved this level of outrage in the past for their artistic expression.
Whether or not we/you liked the performance is irrelevant. The backlash against Miley is a complete double standard as a woman performer as most men would totally get away with this behavior with out a second thought, can anyone say Axel Rose, Sebastian Back, Gene Simmons? What about when Slayer first came out with all the Devil worshipping stuff? Now they are a legend in Death Metal.
Furthermore each time we talk about this, it keeps it viral and all the shocked parents are just putting it out there more for the kids to see and making it more cool.
Choose people. Either you want your rock stars or you don’t. It is amazing how many other artists can justify their actions to artist expression but Miley can’t. Serious, serious double standard.
We all know sex sells, we all saw the women in the video of the song that was sung who were topless, where was the outrage there? A married man performed this with Miley and no one is saying a thing about that. Where is the outrage there? Double standard.
Time to grow up America. Whether we like it or not, Miley did exactly what rock n’ roll is all about. That is what makes it great and controversial at the same time. However, holding her to a different standard is not fair to her. It is her life, her choice to perform how she wants. If you don’t like it, turn it off and don’t talk about it. Otherwise you are just helping to make it go viral and do exactly what she planned. Making her a rock star and giving her all the press and attention she wanted. Her impact is now much, much bigger.
Miley Cyrus has as much right to perform and express her art just as much as Elvis, Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Alice Cooper or any other shock artist. If you disagree then maybe you just don’t understand rock n’ roll.
DeLana Stevens has been a Nashville staple for years now and unfortunately Nashville isn’t really a rock town because they are sitting on one of the best voices I have heard in this town easily. I wrote an article on her live performance for Metalholic Magazine a year ago here: http://metalholic.com/delana-stevens-and-the-beggar-saints-tune-up-nashville/. Miss Stevens is simply one of the most underrated performers in Nashville period. Not only can she sing with the best of them but she is a better performer than almost all of them when it comes to actually emoting and connecting with the audience. When DeLana Stevens sings you feel it. Everywhere. This is the kind of vocalist that shakes your soul and brings feelings up out of you that make you want to blush at the minimum.
Her new CD “DeLana Stevens and The Beggar Saints” is a tour de force of smokey, sexy vocals on a bed of rock guitar and hook laden songs that most bands wish they could write and pull off. A song by DeLana Stevens and The Beggar Saints means a song that is for the song only. Nothing out of place. Nothing distracting. Just pure solid rock and roll with tinge of souther rock or country hear and there. There isn’t a week on track on this CD and makes you scratch your head in wonder WTF is going on with people to let this artist sit here while others with questionable ability become millionaires.
I don’t know DeLana’s story or how her career has gone, but I know this. She deserves a lot more than what she is getting press and attention wise. This is an artist with serious vocal chops and ability with a smart band behind her that support her musically like they should. If you are looking for an artist to get behind with drive, actual talent and great hit potential songs than this is the one. To say otherwise is completely foolish.
To write a proper review for this CD is almost impossible and would be incredibly long as I truly love every song and it is hit after hit. Let me just say, if you don’t buy this, you are missing something big.
Track 1 – Drown: A mid tempo rocker opened with a finger picked distorted guitar and and from the first line you already know this song is going to be good. A nice pre-chorus build that draws you straight into a great chorus. A very strong opening track that lays down the law and announces DeLana is here to rock you out of your boots.
Track 2 – Forbidden: The new single track opens with a slinky little guitar line with arpeggiated chords setting a nice tone from the start. The layers are nicely done here with plenty of space for the song to breathe. Another incredibly strong track that pulls you in a different direction but still rocks and has your ears orgasming at DeLana’s seductive voice. It’s almost like she is right there singing in your ear. Chills…….
Track 3 – Leave on the Lights: This track starts slower but yet somehow the intensity from DeLana’s vocals are always there. It’s like she is singing into your soul. Another strong effort and deeply engaging song.
Track 4 – Sidewalk Prophet: Big power chord opening with a shift to another slinky guitar line. A sexy, fun song that I am sure will lead to lots of dirty dancing on the floor.
Track 5 – Fantasy: a slow burner that opens with DeLana harmonizing with herself. A powerful song with a huge chorus and shows DeLana’s ability to keep that intensity in her vocals no matter where the song takes her.
Track 6 – Bohemian Grove: Another mid to slow tempo burn. A nice use of rhythm in both the music and vocal lines.
Track 7 – Damaged: Slow, a bit sad and real. DeLana brings out the things we want to say but never want to be vulnerable enough to do so.
Track 8 – I Got Even: A completely different feel for the intro. Slow, chordal as well as ringing open strings with DeLana’s vocals echoed. Jumps right into a up tempo, in your face chorus.
Track 9 – Nobody: A up beat song, one of my favorites actually. Great hook with a fun groove and breakdown section that sets up the return of the big chorus.
Track 10 – Give a Little: This is a raucous raise your beer party party song. A decent hook and an upbeat end to the CD with a “play” on words to be heard not told.
I don’t have the details of the CD as to who wrote the songs or who produced it but it is all top notch. Whom ever wrote the songs are very talented and the production is great. The band is I am sure much more capable than they show because they play only what is necessary for the song. There are bright spots for them but it’s all only to enhance the song and never a showmanship this. Complete musical maturity in the songwriting and playing. You never feel like you are listening to the same song on this CD like with so many artists. The writing is so well done and the hooks so completely their own and different, each song is it’s own experience and always for the better.
This is rock and roll at it’s best. Stripped down, sexy as hell and leaving space for the music and vocals to tug at your soul. I don’t like to compare one artist to another or say they are like so and so because it’s an injustice the artist I am reviewing. DeLana Stevens is the simply the best rock artist in Nashville. Her vocals can stand with anybody you can think of and her presence is big enough to tower above everything going on around her. It is her show and she owns it. More artists should learn this ability.
There is nothing packaged, corporate about this band. What you see is what you get and it’s everything we loved about the huge acts of the 70’s with today’s twist and possibly a better singer. Certainly one better than we are used to hearing today.
To call The Winery Dogs a supergroup would be a injustice in my mind. Sometimes supergroups are set up to sell CD’s not that is a bad thing and certainly not all did that with that intention in mind, but sometimes it just seems like a ploy and most don’t last very long. Even though The Winery Dogs consist of three of the most world renowned musicians especially in the rock world, this doesn’t feel anything like a super group. The three piece power trio of bass legend Billy Sheehan, world renown drummer Mike Portnoy, and guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen who is also the ridiculously talented singer brings us the biggest wall of sound sings King’s X burst on the scene back in the 1980’s. If for some reason you are not familiar with these musicians, just click on their names to view their website and history. You won’t find a more accomplished 3 piece on the planet.
Anyone who knows me knows that these three musicians are probably my top three favorite in the world so when I heard they were coming together to put out a CD I was excited beyond belief to say the least. Anyone who knows me also knows that my favorite musician in the world is Richie Kotzen and it is about time the world finally hear him on a platform that show cases more than just his guitar playing which is what he has long been considered one of the best players in the world. Richie Kotzen’s vocalizations are reminiscent of the Philadelphia soul last really heard by Daryl Hall. If you ever go back through Richie’s solo catalog and listen, you will be amazed at how this guy has remained under the radar for so long. Having interviewed Richie twice on my radio show “Live From Music City,” I can tell you this guy is as humble as they come and more talented than just about everyone who thinks they are God’s gift to music. Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy are no stranger to the musical limelight as they are widely interviewed for their well known virtuosity and have transcended their instruments in the mainstream to become household names in the music world.
The Winery Dogs are a classic rock trio that brings back the art of songwriting, melodies and bursts of virtuosity at just the right moments in songs which of course is a sign of musical maturity in their songwriting. Musicians like this could easily blow are minds with their virtuosity as it is specifically what all three are know for, but The Winery Dogs aren’t about that. This is rock at it finest level and one of the most poignant examples of how to be incredibly creative, have a completely unique sound, using virtuoso talent and musical knowledge to showcase all of it and put out one of the best rock CD’s in years let alone 2013.
The first single and track “Elevate” is an up tempo rocker with an incredibly hooky chorus that captures you right away with it’s charm and attitude. Richie and Billy have doubled instrumental lines that add something that in today’s rock that you don’t really hear anymore as well a very cool break down section again another lost art in todays rock songwriting. The versus are a nice contrast to the chorus as they have a slow, bluesy, slightly darker feel before bursting into the chorus which brings the song up to another level. Great rock song and great feel with of course amazing playing and a smoking melodic guitar solo by Richie.
The second single and also track “Desire” is another smoking rocker that opens with Richie vamping chords and then settles into a sexy groove pushed by just the bass and drums. The chorus drives the song into a new gear and rings with a simple catchiness that keeps you singing the song all day long in your head. The bridge really separates the rest of the song like a bridge should followed by a break down that showcases Billy and Richie again and keeps the song very fresh. The solo is a simple statement by Richie that is melodic with a slow build to a frenzy finish.
The CD’s fourth track “I’m No Angel” is my personal favorite on the CD and starts with a very sexy bluesy guitar line and by Richie that sets a mood that really allows the lyrics to stand out. The broody feel of the verse is highlighted by an up lifting pre-chorus and chorus. The way that the band highlights the parts of their songs with their melodic lines and creativity really shine in this song. Richie’s voice brings a haunted quality to the lyrics that make this song so relatable to many of us I am sure. Richie’s solo’s are melodic, phrased beautifully and as always tell a story within the story itself.
The sleeper track is “We Are One” a blistering rocker that strikes out on its own and screams single! The CD closes out with two ballads “The Dying” and “Regret.” Both songs are beautiful, haunting and show incredible depth in the songwriting.
Bottom line: This CD is what every musician who is serious about songwriting and learning to play should aspire to. Being able to play your instrument only allows you be more creative, add colors, textures, melodies and lines to enhance each songs “experience” for the listeners. Being able to create soundscapes should be the goal of every musician. The songwriting is top notch and this CD should not only reinforce the musical abilities of these musicians but showcase their songwriting in a new way that garners respect from the public as a whole. The Winery Dogs allow Richie to stand out and radiate his immense talent and this should solidify him as one the best all around musicians in music today as he does all the lead vocals, guitars and keys on this CD. He singing is among the best in rock today and let this be a statement to the world at how incredibly talented this man is. Take note world, this is simply one of the top 3 rock CD’s of 2013 besides Steve Lukather‘s “Transition” and Maragold ‘s (featuring guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and new vocal powerhouse Meghan Krauss) sef-titled CD . No where on the planet will you find a more talented, musical and gifted band than this. Go buy this now or forever miss out on one the best CD to come out in years.
One of the great lies I hear from bands that haven’t made in the music business is that promoters don’t promote enough for their shows. Really? A PROMOTER whom by title and definitions job it is to promote isn’t promoting enough? I call a serious BS to this excuse that musicians use to not be accountable for their poor numbers. I have yet to meet either as a musician or a business person a promoter that didn’t promote. We are talking 30 years of playing or working in the business and I have never seen this. Even the small promoters work their fingers to the bone, pay the bands with what little came in and always go home with nothing while the bands bitch and complain and pretty much did no promotion what so ever.
It is my contention that most musicians don’t know what promotion truly is and wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it and they have no idea what is going on in the background. Is this harsh? Yes, but it is my experience dealing with musicians.
So let’s get this out of the way early. Yes, there are exceptions where maybe a promoter is new or doesn’t know what they are doing or maybe doesn’t have a budget but this is not what you normally deal with. Even still people who are promoting an event are usually very excited about their event and will promote it the hilt to the best of their ability which I can not say about musicians. Yes there are a few musicians out there that get it, but the majority don’t and they make excuses as to why they there are no people at their shows.
First and foremost, promoters are not in the business of losing money. Promoters are in the business of making money. They aren’t into taking chances and throwing away hard earned dollars by throwing an event and not promoting it. That is just plain stupid and not even close to reality. If you as a musician have met a promoter that is into throwing money away and you worked with them, then that is your fault for making a bad business decision. Hopefully you have learned form it and know what questions to ask next time.
As far as promoters taking advantage of local bands again a load of BS. If you are a local band, and you were lucky enough to get a spot on an event that has money behind it, you are already getting more than you are worth in advertising and promotion alone. It builds your brand, your credibility and if you actually drew in the minimum of 30 paid tickets you should be drawing in, then you will be remembered and brought in again and again as long as your work your butt off and keep brining in numbers. This does lead to getting paid and much better opportunities for you. If you are a local band opening for a A level or B level band, you are getting paid by getting in front of the audience that paid to see the headliner not you. This is a crowd that would never normally come see you. Understand the opportunity that it is, the opportunity you couldn’t normally afford to pay for yourself and make the most of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I stood in front of Bridgestone arena during a big concert by myself handing out promo cards while not one of the band members helped or how many times I was out ever day hanging posters and no help from the bands. 3 times I had a tiny bit of help hanging posters from 1 musician who did one small area of town with me and 2 others where a model and a friend helped me to 2 square blocks. Everything else was me every day hanging posters and hitting a previous area again every third day. The bands always had an excuse as to why they couldn’t help.
Promoters have their events listed on all the known event websites. They get their events in all the local entertainment rags. They set up radio interviews and advertising. They do email blasts over and over again. They have social media accounts that they promote on. They hang posters all over town over and over again because posters are always pulled down. This more promotion per event then most bands will do in a year for themselves let alone for just one event. What do musicians do? Maybe a couple Facebook posts or tweets and call that promotion.
In a perfect world, each event will be promoted to the hilt by the promoter, venue and bands. Will this happen? Maybe, maybe not. The reality is this. Each musician or band is responsible for their success and the success of each event no matter what anyone else does. You can never rely on someone else’s promotion for your business. YOU have to kill it each and every time. YOU cannot let excuses creep into your thought process. People pay to see bands that are good, the pay to see an experience. If they aren’t paying to see you, it’s not because of a lack of promotion by the venue or promoter. It’s because you aren’t giving them what they want yet. They don’t see anything worth paying for. YOU as a band have to learn how to separate people from their money. YOU have to learn how the become the EVENT that makes them put other things off and come see you instead of a movie or handing with friends.
As a promoter we have to do the same thing however, promoters learn quickly usually and bands seem to languish in poor work ethic and lack of creativity.
Bottom line is this. YOU have to toot your own horn and not expect anyone else to. YOU have to learn the skills to make this happen. YOU have to have a band that is dedicated to putting together a strategy to promote effectively. This means everyone in the band has to participate and quit using the “that just isn’t my thing” excuse. If you are in a band and you find that you don’t have the drive or the time to make this happen, then it is time re-evaluate your business and maybe step aside or just be comfortable with being a local band. There is nothing wrong with that. Getting up and playing music for any number of people is it’s own reward.
The music business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. There is very little money it, especially for bands that haven’t made it. Musicians wanted control of their careers so they could make more money and not get screwed. Well guess what, you got it. Now it is all your responsibility. The real work, the hard work is now up to you and you live and die by the sword.
Now you know why, bands had contracts that paid other people so much. They were the ones making you successful. They did all the hard work, the grunt work. They were the ones taking the risk and fronting the money so you could be a rock star.
Time to make a decision. Either you want it and will do everything as a unit possible to make it or you won’t, but quit blaming others for what you are not willing to do for yourself.
To all the bands that are doing it, keep it up! Never give up! Take the reigns of your business and do your best to dictate your success!
The entertainment business is incredibly tough to be in. We all think we are amazing talents and think we should be paid for all of our hard work and what it takes to put on a show of any kind but that isn’t the reality. The reality is it’s hard to separate people from their hard earned income and with all the entertainment being thrown at them from every angle now days, it’s very hard to capture their attention.
This is why is so incredibly critical that word of mouth spreads about your show the entice people to your future shows. It almost always takes lots and lots of shows before you start to see the crowds you want but there is a strategy to doing it and most importantly, it has to be an experience they will remember and always talk about.
The other day, Dana White of the promotions company UFC came out and said “If you want to get paid, you don’t want people doing the wave during your fight.You want them talking about you on Monday and Tuesday and that isn’t going to happen if they aren’t paying attention to your fight” (paraphrased.) This is completely true of any form of entertainment. If you can’t get people to talk about how completely amazing your show or performance was, you are not giving the audience the experience they are paying for and hence, you don’t deserve to get paid no matter how hard you worked nor should you expect them to. This isn’t an hourly paying gig based on the hours you put in. Lot’s of people work hard (most likely in the wrong areas) but may not be talented enough, visionary enough or a good enough producer to put on the entertainment experience of a life time.
This is the truth. Hard work doesn’t determine getting paid. Buying gear doesn’t determine getting paid. Nothing determines getting paid other than your show putting butts in seats no matter how hard you work or talented you are. This can be a very long and arduous process for any entertainer but it is usually the most common road. Time, effort, talent and an amazing amount of patience are absolutely necessary in the entertainment business. If you aren’t giving the public something that makes them want to part with their money, then you have no one to blame but yourself. You don’t deserve to get paid just for showing up.
Along with talent, planning, intense amounts of practice and the vision to make your dream happen and to also deliver something the public finds value in comes the actual real work that most entertainers don’t want to do and hope others will do for them before they are big enough for anyone to want to. The promotion, booking and business end of things. Somehow the entertainers have to be able to do all of this. It’s obviously very hard and if it was easy, every one would be doing it but they aren’t. However it can be done and there are plenty of examples in the business to prove it. It comes down to will, determination and talent not only to perform but design a show that will provide and experience, not just another so-so show that the public usually gets. They deserve much better than average if they are going to spend money on a ticket plus any other expenses such as drinks, dinner, parking or babysitting etc.
I would estimate that about 95% of what entertainers are putting out there in their performances or shows is completely average or below, yet all I see are entertainers demanding that they should get paid. Paid for what? Mediocrity? I won’t pay you for that. When you send in your material and tell me how amazing you are then that is what I expect. If you aren’t that, if you don’t deliver on your words of your live show, if you don’t put butts in seats or increase your crowd on average over time, then you simply are not as good as you say you are. That is reality. That doesn’t mean give up though. It means you need to re-evaluate your show. Take the time to make adjustments, improve in the areas that need it and learn to put on the show that people wan’t to see. If you don’t, you can’t complain about people not wanting to pay ticket prices. You aren’t providing the value to make it worth the price to them.
You want to sell tickets? Provide the experience that people can’t stop talking about. This means the most well rehearsed, professional dedicated performance you can deliver and it must keep getting better. Until then, you will be mired in mediocrity and low ticket sales and letting the business jade you for your perceived slights. No one owes you a living. In this business, talent, hard work, creativity and vision are all you have. Bring it or go home. Don’t complain about people not coming to your shows when you aren’t giving the very best for them to see.
This is the reality that haunts us all. You and me alike.
Sometimes it amazes me some of the stuff I read on social media. Musicians complaining about other musicians “being posers” on Facebook or wherever trying to act bigger than they are or cooler than other bands. Well #1 that is their job and #2 just because someone takes it that way doesn’t mean that is what they are doing. They are simply trying to build excitement with their fans and followers.
Musicians are many times so eager to tear each other down, especially other musicians that seem to be having more success then they are and they don’t understand why or think their band is better and the world just isn’t fair. Of course the music business has very little to do with talent and everything to do with a budget, work ethic and marketability. If talent was the key than most bands have no shot at ever making it and jazz, fusion, classical and opera would reign supreme as that is where most of the worlds best talent truly lies.
What musicians have to learn is the art of promoting themselves and some people really struggle with this. They might feel funny about tooting their own horn but unless you have a major PR budget no one is going to do it with out getting paid. Musicians need to quit expecting someone to just help them out on a spec deal as there is no real money in this business anymore for people to work on the “hopes” of a band making it. Learning the art of self-promotion is extremely vital to making it and developing a new audience, gaining advantageous spots on tours etc. This is where they could learn from the UFC fighters.
Chael Sonnen was a middle of the road UFC fighter. He was always a very good wrestler but he wasn’t winning the big ones and certainly not all his fights. He was a quite, respectful fighter and never caused any controversy then suddenly there was a transformation. Chael came back after some time off and was a completely different media presence. All the sudden he was a smack talker. He learned the art of self-promotion and has talked himself into title fights he didn’t deserve necessarily. Now I am not taking anything away from his talent, but looking at rankings and records, he probably normally wouldn’t have been the one picked for these fights.
However, Chael learned to promote himself in the media to such an extent he became a major Pay-Per-View sell. Chael also never backs down from a fight; he doesn’t care what anyone else says about him, what the other fighter’s think of him or anything except for accomplishing his career goals. Now some people have said that behind the scene Chael is nothing like his smack-talking persona, he is a nice guy and an extremely hard worker, not the hard worker part. Chael has proven himself to be ready to go to his promoter the UFC by always being prepared not only being in shape to fight at a moments notice but that he will kick the shit out of the media schedule. He is a marketing machine and that is exactly what promoters want and look for. Their job is to sell tickets and the talent needs to understand that and me a major presence in making that happen. It keeps Chael employed and bumps up his paycheck quite dramatically.
You see, musicians need to quit worrying about what their local musicians buddies say and think. It’s not their goal or dream, it’s yours. It’s not their image; it’s yours to worry about. Who the hell cares what band ABC says about you online or behind your back. This business is nothing but shit talkers talking behind your back. It is your job to put out the very best show, product every night and to somehow get people to notice you, talk about you and most important bring more people to your next gig.
Whether or not you chose to be as controversial as Chael Sonnen is not my point, my point is Chael learned what he needed to do to separate himself from all the other UFC fighters looking for their shot beyond his fight skill which was already considerable. Chael talked himself into positions he probably shouldn’t have been able to be in because he created those spots by his selfless self-promotion. Chael has now secured himself a very good future outside of fighting as he now also a very popular TV host due to his self-promotion efforts. This is every band or musicians job period, to separate your band from the mass of white noise from the millions of others bands vying for a spot in the limelight.
Let me warn you though, do not do this if you can’t back up your talk. If your band isn’t as good as you say or your live show is just average, don’t even bother. Work your product to be the best, most creative and original thing your fan base will experience and then go out and self-promote the hell out of yourself. Don’t worry about anyone else but you and your goals.
Pull up your bootstraps, dig deep in the trenches and become a self-promotion powerhouse. You owe yourself that much in order to achieve your dream. Anything else is a waste of time.
Earlier I was looking at my numbers for this blog and was completely amazed at how well it was doing the last couple days based on one CD review for the band Maragold. Yesterday when I released it it was already doing double it’s average daily but then around 11:00pm CST the band posted it on Facebook and holy crap did it explode. It his had more views by 10 times the amount of any other CD review or musician spotlight I have written. Here is the key, each one posted it pretty much on their personal and band page on Facebook. Most bands don’t do this. They maybe post it once on their band page and not on their personal pages and they interacted with their fans about it. When I released it in the morning two of the band members and the band twitter account RT’d it once and that was it. For further reference on this please read my blog “Creating The “Buzz,” It’s Your Responsibility.”
What does this mean? It means that Maragold has found a way to reach it’s audience like no other band I have reviewed for or spotlighted. It means “true” fans not Facebook likes are extremely excited about them. It means they have actually offered up something the public wants. They did this in spite of having never released a CD and the only member of the band with a real name is was co-founder Greg Howe who is a well known guitar instrumentalist. Well known being relative in the world of music. Yes most guitar players know who he is, but the world doesn’t. Please note that Maragold didn’t ask me for a review. I just did it because when I listened to the CD it was so good I really had no choice.
Everyday on Facebook I see bands complaining about how hard it is or how the industry keeps people down etc… That is complete bunk. Is it hard yes but most bands don’t work hard enough, give the public something they want to buy or shoot themselves in the foot with poor promotion and bad social media skills. Is it anyone else’s fault you can’t make it? No. For whatever reason, Maragold has touched an audience with no prior CD, no real history of gigging, nothing but the past success of guitar player Greg Howe and each other individuals past endeavors. They made it happen without anything other than hard work, determination, incredible talent and most importantly at this stage knowing how to build up a release. Now because of this, hopefully with continued hard work, the songs which are amazing, will be the deciding factor in their long term success.
This audience interaction is what every band should be striving for, for without it, you have nothing.
Maragold is a rock band founded by guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and bassist Kevin Vicchione. For those not in the guitar community, Greg is a world renown player and has played with such artist as Justin Timberlake, N’Sync, Christina Aguilara, Michael Jackson, Rihana, Lady Antebellum, P Diddy, T-Pain, Salt and Peppa not to mention jazz fusion legends like Victor Wooton, Dennis Chambers and other world reknown players like Richie Kotzen and Stu Hamm. Actually Greg’s song “Jump Start” is my favorite guitar instrumental of all time. So needless to say I had high expectations when I heard about this project and holy shit does it deliver. Greg has the very rare ability to be a virtuoso and still play for the song. His solo’s are so amazing and vintage Greg but sound completely original in a sea of completely unoriginal players who all sound the same in today’s scene. You will never hear a “typical” lick or sound from Greg but you will be amazed and wonder why more players don’t strive for a unique voice like his.
First let me tell you about the other musicians on the project. Singer and relative newcomer Meghan Krauss is the best female rock singer to come out since Sass Jordan. This lady can sing with the best of them and evokes that excitement from inside you that you so rarely hear from singers anymore, as they are all canned and predictable. Meghan will knock you on your ass and remind you why you listen to rock in the first place.
Bass Player Kevin Vecchione is a SOLID player. Kevin is obviously capable of so much more and that is the beauty of his playing here. He plays exactly what is needed for the song, never anymore and drives the buss with drummer Gianluca Palmieri so that the pocket is strong and every song leads you like it should. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more about Kevin in the years to come as opportunities arise to showcase his immense talent.
Drummer Gianluca Palmieri is the epitome of a “pocket” player on this CD. It’s so great to hear players that know how to play for the song no matter how good a musician they are. It can be very tempting to play too much or show off and while Gianluca plays some incredibly fresh grooves to allow you to see his true talent without showing off, it’s never over stated and is truly a part of the songwriting as opposed to just being a drum track. The rhythm section of Vecchione and Palmieri is as good as it gets and something all players should listen to and learn from.
The single “Evergreen Is Golder” is a straight out knock you on your ass “Hello world I am Meghan Krauss and I am going to kick your ass!” statement. A great rock song with a blistering solo and incredible hook. Written by Greg, Kevin and Greg’s brother Al Howe, this song is a hit single through and through. I hope to God someone gets behind this for radio. Hell I’ll push it myself.
“Saturday Sun” and “Lullaby” are other rockers that shine, no pun intended. Another high point for me was “Paradigm Tsunami.” This CD is not your typical rock record by any means. It has blues, jazz, rhythmic displacement and all kinds of cool elements that really bring out the color and flavor of the songs. Meghan takes advantage of every opportunity is now in the “best singer you have never heard” of category along with Richie Kotzen.
“Maragold” is a must buy CD and one of the top 2 CD releases of 2013 along with Steve Lukather’s new CD “Transition” and the best rock CD since “Forty Deuce” featuring Richie Kotzen. You can no longer say there aren’t any good rock bands anymore. Maragold may be just what the hurting rock genre needed, a good old shot of in your face, kicking your ass rock n’ roll. Thank God for Maragold.