Photo by Dusdin Condren.
We’re back in the studio this week to record the second project of the 2010 Project Series. This time we’ve taken a softer turn—towards the sounds of Brooklyn neofolk songwriter Sharon Van Etten.
Sharon and her band drove down from New York last night, and, after some showers and coffee to wake them up, they’re up and ready, getting set to record. They ran through the song a few minutes ago and I can’t quite explain just how beautiful it is. For me, smooth honest folk has always been at the heart of what makes music so powerful. Its earnest intimacy embodies the relationship music creates between performer and listener, that perfect moment when the distance between the two disappears. It’s natural, bare, and real. This song is all of those things, rich with deep sounds and shapes. I can tell already, and we’ve barely started the day.
- Katonah4 years ago
If you spent any time reveling in the glory of the 90s’ post-punk, lo-fi sounds, you’ll certainly remember Philadelphia’s Strapping Fieldhands. As AMG puts it, the then-quintet was one of the most charming of the scene’s ramshackle-style bands, and made waves touring with contemporaries like Pavement and Guided By Voices before their late 90s hiatus. A decade later they’re here with us at Miner Street Studios, recording the first project of Weathervane’s 2010 Project Series.
I’m hanging out in the control room all day, tweetin’ & bloggin’ about the recording process from behind the scenes, as it happens. The band is the first selection from our winter season curator, Daniel Smith (aka Danielson, whose "Moment Soakers" closed out the 2009 Series), who’s in here today to produce the song.
We’ve also got Devin Greenwood in here engineering, Phil Bradshaw, Bryan Baker, and Andy Williams documenting everything for the HD profiles, and BJ Downs shooting extra behind-the-scenes footage.
The guys are still working on getting the levels for all the instruments set, but soon we’ll be underway recording. Follow us over on Twitter to watch things as they happen! I’ll be posting some crappy blurry pics (to Twitpic) from my Android phone for now, but we’ll have some much nicer stills from BJ posted to our Flickr soon. And I’ll make sure to post all the great little moments along the way.
And let us know what you think! There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening this month for us, and we can’t wait to show you.
- Katonah4 years ago
I appreciate this article on many points (See the BrokenBottleBoy article down below my comments).
I know very few musicians who set out to be one in order to have a life of free booze. If anything, young kids entering the life romanticize the starving artist lifestyle (an equally unhealthy lifestyle, in the long run…especially when alcohol and drugs are part of the image).
There is a great deal of disdain for musicians bubbling up around discussions of how they will eek out a living. The conversation usually starts: “How can musicians make a living in this ‘brave new world?’” Inevitably, when non-musicians enter the conversation (even ones who are big fans of music, surprisingly), the point starts to hint at “they don’t deserve to make the types of livings they once did”.
Now, by far and away MOST musicians never did make such livings. We should all make that perfectly clear. Most aspiring musicians have failed or will fail to make music a full time living, only after trying to with severely compromised, even DANGEROUSLY low standards of living.
On the other hand, the moguls of the industry (ie. major artists and labels) took their audiences for granted for decades. I personally feel that rather than lump 99.99% of artists in with these moguls, and engaging in condescending finger wagging, we should simply agree that if we love music, if it makes our lives better, then we should support the people responsible for it, not only as a matter of gratitude, but as a means to perpetuating its positive effects in our lives. While many think they support music already, we also need to step back and assess what “supporting” really means. It’s a lot of simple actions but far too few people participate in any of them.
4 years ago
No industry should believe it has the right to exist. Changes in technology and human behaviour have erased whole swathes of jobs throughout human history. The coal industry in the UK has shrunk to almost nothing, nobody weeps for the decline of the chimney sweeps.
But somehow, the music industry believes that it has some kind of divine right to exist as it has done since the early 20th century – creating recordings of songs and selling them for a premium. But the music hasn’t always existed and it will not exist in its current form for much longer.
Edison tested his first phonograph recordings in 1877. Since then formats have come and gone until the invention of the MP3, tied with the growth of the Internet as a broadcast medium began to eat viciously into the vast profits the music industry made from CDs in the 1990s.
The arguments about how the music industry could and should have addressed the challenge of the Internet have been discussed constantly and at length of years now. The simple fact is that it failed to, believing instead that it could pull its legal muscle together to slap down illegal file-sharing like a giant and interminable game of whack-a-mole.
Streaming services like Spotify and Sky Songs (which is arguably a stronger proposition with its bundle of one free album to download a month) are potentially the future for the music industry. But they simply do not make very much money for artists of labels (with royalty rates often as low as £0.007 a play). Compared to radio play, streaming services are simply not lucrative for artists.
But ultimately, there is a disconnect between what mainstream artists think they deserve and what they are likely to achieve. While a few mega-acts will earn millions from massive singles that end up synched on movie soundtracks, TV shows and adverts, most artists will have to live a far more frugal live than the artists that went before them. The ice age is coming for the music industry and the age of the dinosaurs is almost at an end. Bands like U2 and latterly Coldplay are a denying breed of mega-saurus arena dwelling beasts.
Musicians will split even further into two general categories – pop conduits for svengalis like Simon Cowell (a model of pop music that is eerily enduring) and artists whose fan bases will become like an atomised version of old school patrons. Building a following through gigging, an engagement from the social tools available to them, they’ll manage to earn money from touring and from recording records on a reasonable budget, either partnering with indie labels which will become more like collectives or working for themselves.
The traditional idea of the multi-millionaire rockstar will come to an end. The idea that a musician, by dint of their talent, is entitled to unparalled riches and life in a bubble of privilege will become less prevalent. Mega-stars won’t die completely because there is a restless and relentless desire for new fodder in the entertainment media but they’ll be rarer and far less wealthy than the Jaggers and McCartneys that stalked the world before them.
I don’t think that has to be a bad thing. I think artists can learn to be less tied to deals with record labels that leave them out of pocket after advances they can’t ever earn back. They can live within their means and build a business on the back of their talents. If they connect with fans and maintain a careful balance between mystery and engagement it’ll be possible to make a decent living and encourage fans to pay for gigs, merchandise and importantly recordings themselves.
The other great benefit of the music industry as artisan economy is that it will mean a reduction in the number of second albums that are written about “the perils of fame”. In the elevator life of the rock’n’roll band, it is the rare act that can continue to express the universal themes that are often the exact reason they have become successful.
Musicians shouldn’t be trapped in squats or struggling to eat but a life of free booze isn’t always conducive to writing songs that connect with people crammed on rush hour tube trains and staring at bank balances in the hope that the rent will get paid or the mortgage is under control. It’s a lesson most writers should learn actually. Privilege almost always strangles interesting art.
[THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE FUTURE OF MUSIC COALITION’S WEBSITE. THANKS TO KRISTIN THOMSON AND CASEY RAE-HUNTER FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT SUCH IMPORTANT THINGS!]
Today’s post is by Brian McTear, co-founder of Philadelphia’s Weathervane Music Organization– a nonprofit community that works with independent musicians to support and advance their careers. Weathervane’s efforts revolve around a program called the Weathervane Music Project Series: a curated series of audio and video recordings featuring the artists, their music and artfully produced video of the actual recording sessions.
When some people think about the lives of musicians, they may still imagine wild parties and fancy sports cars. There may be a party from time to time, but for most musicians, pursuing their art isn’t exactly the fast track to a life of luxury. With the traditional music industry in a state of what could safely be called disarray, there isn’t a ready-made recipe for sustainable careers. The good news is that people still put their hearts and souls into making music, and there are still plenty of fans out there that want to support creators. But what’s the best way to do so?
With so many things in flux, it’s not always easy to know which method of fan support will have the biggest impact. That’s why we figured it might be useful to take a look at some of the ways you can support your favorite artists and how it can positively impact those musicians’ bottom lines — directly or indirectly.
- Go see your favorite bands play live. In the music industry, an artist is rarely handed money directly. In pretty much every other situation, a band gets its cut of revenues only after everyone else in line is paid. (And that can be a long line!) But when it comes to playing live, most get paid right when the night is over. Because of this I say that if you are friends with a band and they offer to put you on their guest list, you should… Decline! Pay instead! You will show your class in spades.
- When you go see shows, buy hard copies of your favorite bands’ music. Most smaller signed artists get “tour support” from their record label in the form of free records to sell at shows. Buying a CD from the band means they can buy gas to get them to the next gig. Conversely, if they don’t sell them, all they’re really doing is wasting gas driving them around the country. So if you are offered a free CD or vinyl LP (because naturally they want you to hear their music, right?), opt to pay for it. You are doing the right thing, and saving them from themselves.
- Buy your favorite bands’ merchandise. Very often, artists pay for their t-shirts themselves, or even MAKE them with their own hands. This means that they did, in fact, shell out the money for materials, and possibly someone else’s labor if they used a printer. Help them break even, or maybe even turn a profit! This is another rare opportunity in the scheme of things for the musicians to be first in line. Help them out!
- Purchase downloads legitimately. Purchasing digital downloads from services like iTunes, Amazon, eMusic or Rhapsody also puts money in artists’ pockets. When it comes to digital downloads, there’s a wide spectrum of rates, and some artists profit more than others. Although there’s a common assumption that artists only make pennies on their iTunes or Rhapsody sales, this depends entirely on the label/distribution situation. The more independent an artist is — and certainly if the artist is unsigned and they self-released using Tune-Core (a service that doesn’t take a cut of the sales) the greater the percentage they stand to make from the download.
- Use a legitimate streaming service such as Rhapsody, Napster, Pandora or Spotify (not yet available in the US). If you require an unfathomably large collection of music, this is the way to go. Not only are they safe for your computer, but since these services are properly licensed, the songwriter, publisher, performer and copyright owner (usually a record label) get paid for each stream of their song. It’s currently a small amount, but if you play it again and again, it adds up! Beyond payment, there are many valuable statistics and web metrics an artist can access when you use these services. This way, they know where people are digging their stuff and can plan their tours and releases accordingly.
- Contribute to Band Fundraisers – Gone are the days of record advances, at least for new artists. Unfortunately, this is how they paid to record and to go on tour. Now, many artists are using fundraising sites such as Kickstarter.com to raise money in advance of these activities. Enjoy the opportunity to support the music you love before it even gets made! Another huge class act!
- Subscribe to artists’ fan clubs. By doing so, you not only get first access to news and tour dates, you also help to legitimize and support one of the smartest, most industrious things an artist can do for their career.
- Join a band’s email list. By simply becoming a fan on their Facebook Fan Page, or their Myspace Page, the artist doesn’t have your data, Facebook and Myspace do! If for some reason they lose their account with either, they lose you and you lose them. It’s a simple process, and most artists know not to email you constantly!
- Support nonprofits that support musicians. I can truly say that far too few musicians are participating in conversations about where this industry is going. The inevitable result will be that musicians, again, end up at the far end of the line. Organizations such as (..ahem….) Future of Music Coalition, Weathervane Music and others are staffed by people who are dedicated to making sure that artists can achieve sustainable and lucrative careers in music.
- Stop using Torrent sites. Go back and buy the records of the artists you fell in love with by using Torrent sites. The simple act of paying for the music that you love will surely buy back your ticket to heaven. And of course, we don’t even need to go into the dangers of downloading from Torrent sites, anyway.
Brian McTear is a musician, producer, recording engineer and the owner of Miner Street Recordings, the Philadelphia recording studio revered by independent musicians around the country. In the 13 years that McTear has worked in Philadelphia, he has produced over 100 records, has played a large part in the resurgence and success of the independent music community in Philadelphia, and the national and international success of several recording artists. McTear writes songs and sings in the band Bitter bitter weeks, and plays guitar with The Novenas.
4 years ago
Hey everybody! Today, we are very proud (and totally psyched!) to debut the fourth and final installment of 2009’s Project Series: Danielson’s “Moment Soakers.” In the last fifteen years, Danielson has earned a cult-like following for their experimental style and the unabashed celebration of life in their music. Ever evolving as a collaborative project between band leader Daniel Smith, his family, and many friends – including Sufjan Stevens, Deerhoof, and Why? – Danielson creates a kaleidoscope of musical images that shatter notions of traditional song structure and without fear artfully embrace the Christian values that tie the Danielson family together. “Moment Soakers” epitomizes this aesthetic; it’s about enjoying the company of the moment – about enjoying the now – in a contemporary world of hyperactivity. Shot by Tom Quinn (The New Year Parade), video from Danielson’s Weathervane session is now up at WeathervaneMusic.org, where you’ll also be able to stream the song through Apollo Audio. Sounds Familyre Records will digitally release “Moment Soakers” November 17th and shortly after as a 7” vinyl record in early December. And we can’t wait to see Marji Fortin’s music video for the song! In the first week of the month, an animated video for “Moment Soakers” created by the PBS animator (for children’s show Word Girl), will be released throughout the Internet – and we’ll have it for you right here on our blog. See Danielson at November 12th’s Benefit Concert Danielson will join the other 2009 Project Series artists to perform for our Year End Concert-Fundraiser at Johnny Brenda’s - in just two weeks! Sunset, East Hundred, Danielson, and BC Camplight will perform full sets to celebrate the 2009 Series, and to help us raise some much-needed dollars to fund 2010’s! Get your tickets through Johnny Brenda’s, or by donating to our Kickstarter campaign. And don’t forget - there are still 3 days left to get yourself into our VIP Party for a special solo performance from Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken! You can do so by donating to the Kickstarter campaign at the $250 level or higher. For more info, check out our Occasional letter from Monday.4 years ago
If I haven’t said it enough already, Tom Quinn, the Philadelphia Filmmaker who wrote and directed The New Year Parade, is one helluva an awesome dude. Tom volunteered to shoot the Danielson Project Series Session that will release in less than a week (Oct 26, to be precise). And back to that film of his? Well, that film is probably about 75-90% of how we knew of his helluva goodness to start with. [Late edit: Philadelphia band, Eastern Conference Champions’ Greg Lyons plays the lead role!] If you are in Philadelphia, it WILL be playing at the Ritz Bourse Theater, 400 Ranstead Street Philadelphia, October 30 through November 5. Don’t miss your chance to see this limited run of a truly excellent film made in Philadelphia!
4 years ago