“The Mac is most definitely…back.” That’s what Mick Fleetwood said to the Toyota Center in Houston on Monday. Really, with a history as insane as this band’s, you can argue they went away several times, or they never really did…maybe they just morphed a lot. They have definitely gone through some changes, but this line up of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and YES, Christine McVie…is kind of The One. Some diehards argue for the British blues band version of Fleetwood Mac but whatever. This is the one…Britain meets Southern California to make magical pop rock for forty years. Wow.

I was introduced to Fleetwood Mac in 1997 thanks to PBS (how lame does this make me?). I was 15 years old and taking guitar lessons and they were playing The Dance special on repeat every few weeks, so I happened to catch it. Then I got the CD. Then I could not stop playing all of the songs. This is probably how most Fleetwood Mac fans are made…you play their songs once and you can’t stop.

I had given up ever seeing them live because while you’re not supposed to pick favorites, Christine McVie is totally my favorite and she left the band 16 years ago right after The Dance. It wouldn’t be a true Fleetwood Mac show for me without “Everywhere” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and “Little Lies” and “Don’t Stop” and “Songbird.” When they announced she was back, I knew this was the year. Luckily my friend Kelly was quick on the ticket grab and got seats for me and Susan as well.

It was everything I wanted, really…they started with “The Chain” which is how you have to start. All the Christine songs, Stevie twirling for “Gypsy” and “Dreams” and an acoustic version of “Landslide”. Lindsey KILLING IT on “Second Hand News” and “BIG LOVE” (have you not seen him play guitar on Big Love? Click this) oh my goodness. “Seven Wonders” was something from Tango In the Night I hadn’t totally paid attention to lately but I loved it live. All of them sounded great. Mick Fleetwood is like 70 years old and could out do most people half his age on a marathon, I think. Christine ended the show with Songbird solo on the piano and I was ecstatic.

So there you have it. I highly recommend Ken Callait’s book Making Rumours – it gives you insight into how these folks work, and how many drugs they took, and how it’s amazing they’re all alive, really. A true American (sorta British) rock band that made it through to be legends and can still play their butts off. Props.

Pomplamoose on tour. Taylor Swift and Spotify. Grammy nominations. If you’re a music industry news junkie, you’ve read about all of this in the past couple of weeks. If you’re not, just know that a lot of people have spent a lot of internet time debating music and money and art and commerce…like always.

I wrote this folk rap last year, and I am finding out the topics I wrote about are still looming and perhaps even more in the limelight.

The first part of this song is about playing open mics in college, playing my first real paid gig in front of the check out line of the natural foods store with my friend Ben. We had to play for 4 hours while people bought organic beets. It made us hearty.

The second part launches into those questions most musicians have…how to create a community and network of fans, how to grow that community, whether the very thing we think is the product nowadays is really the product at all. Is it the job of the artist to make the populace respect and pay for art? To cultivate a culture of money in exchange for music, art, prose, whatever?

Or is it the job of the artist to adapt to the overwhelming and all-consuming tide of technology and consumerism that dictates how entertainment is delivered as quickly and as easily as possible? That means accepting that music will never really be purchased as a “thing” again, simply accessed from the cloud. How does that affect value? Does it undermine the work behind it or open up the artist to millions more potential fans? What is the next income-producing mechanism for musicians if it is not music sales or, as Pomplamoose seems to point out, large scale live shows?

I don’t have the answers. I’d like to sit on a soap box and say music is inherently valuable and should be paid for, but I stream Orange Is the New Black without wondering how the producers and actors get paid off each stream from my $8 a month, and I get sucked into internet web series that are sponsored by large corporations with the understanding that I am being sold something as I am being entertained. Does it bug me much? No. Did it bug me that Lady Gaga’s show at SXSW was sponsored by Doritos? Mildly, but I got over it because I had a good time (thanks, chip people). More people will buy nacho flavored chips this year than pay to download a song. It’s real life.

The last part of the song is about how “artists gonna art”, basically. Some will always be after the dollar. Some earn it, some think they SHOULD be earning it. Some will make and create and not ever worry about it. Each of these groups will have people who are successes and non-starters. The world will keep spinning and there will always be new art and entertainment to consume.

Is there money where there’s heart? I can see it…my answer is yes. Maybe just not how we all think it should happen.

Fort Worth Bound

1 Dec
2014

I LOVE ELIZABETH WILLS AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT. I mean, everyone should know it and love her too. We’re sharing a show in Fort Worth this weekend and I can’t wait. I’ll even practice.

I MEAN WATCH THIS:

Happy Thanksgiving

30 Nov
2014

I spent the holiday in Albuquerque, watching pseudo-science shows on The History Channel, eating food, and hanging out with my mom and niece. It was great and now it’s time to conquer December!

Speaking of December, there is indeed an influx of Christmas music happening. This is one of my favorite Christmas albums and no one has heard of this duo…Fisher. Check them out, it’s hauntingly good.

Birthday Shenanigans

22 Nov
2014

Well, I don’t know about “shenanigans” per se..no trouble was made nor had while I turned another year older. We did have a great time, though. Since I work with Susan Gibson and work with The Bugle Boy, I managed to finagle a Susan Gibson show AT The Bugle Boy on my birthday. It was awesome. Susan put on a great show and our friend and ama-za-zing singer-songwriter Elizabeth Wills surprised us and came down to celebrate, too. She and Susan duetted and it was perfection. Our friend Spring made…THE BEST CUPCAKES EVER. I didn’t even take a picture, I just wanted to brag about those cupcakes.


The love was evident.

I went a little viral on the below T-Swift post. Hypebot re-posted it and it’s been shared a lot. Thanks everyone for checking out the blog and sharing. The key to a good blog post people want to share:

1) Make a list.

2) Insert celebrity name in title.

3) Add the word “factor.”

There you go. Next up, “The Jennifer Lawrence Factor.” Just kidding, maybe.

You will not be surprised to know that 1989, Taylor Swift‘s new album, is my jam this month. I am a little surprised at how invested I am in her career lately, though. Her music has definitely grown on me over the years and I got really interested when she announced a full on split with country music for this record. Studying The Swift is like a study in everything a musician can do right on a grassroots level. The weird part? She’s arguably the biggest pop star in the world at the moment, and she just sold 1.2 million albums this week…in a year when (for the first time in decades) NO ONE ELSE has gone platinum. In fact, her first week sales numbers have consistently gone UP when it’s trending downward for everyone else. It’s not a coincidence. Let’s examine this, shall we?

Swift Factor No. 1:
Be a social media phenom (and go where your fans are)

Taylor has openly admitted to stalking her fans online, and they know she’s lurking. Her Tumblr (the blogging service for people under 30, really) is hilarious and a peek into her sense of humor, which I love. She reblogs fan posts, artwork people have made, and posts the occasional embarrassing middle school photo (because we all have them). She’s just like us, trolling the internet late at night when we can’t sleep.

On Twitter, she’s been re-blogging photos of her fans with their 1989 albums in hand and selfies she’s taken with them. Most pop stars try to seem a little bit untouchable, which is a tactic that actually works sometimes (hey, Rihanna). Taylor’s approach of accessibility has made for a very loyal crowd in her demographic, though. The selfie is the new autograph and the re-tweet is the new high five.

Swift Factor No. 2
Connect with fans on a personal level

Her PR game started way before release week, obviously. One ingenious idea was to host “Secret Sessions” where fans got to listen to the album before it came out. This has been done before because fan clubs have existed for a long time. What made this interesting is that the fans were selected through social media (hence the lurking) by Taylor and her team, and they were invited to Taylor’s own house where they listened to 1989, took photos (Polaroids, which jive with the album artwork!), and ate cookies…baked by Taylor. Again, back to that point…the biggest pop star in the world right now is baking cookies for her fans. I’m sure it made the life highlight list for all the participants, but the ensuing news stories also made casual fans wish they had the opportunity to go, and non-fans admit that hey…that’s pretty cool.

Swift Factor No. 3
Make a physical product people want

People stream and people download. CDs are dinosaurs, especially to anyone under the age of 35…which is Taylor’s main demographic. How the heck did she sell 1.2 million albums to people who don’t buy albums? I saw a couple of factors at play. First, if you bought the physical CD, you got the added bonus of lyric Polaroids. There are 5 sets of of them, and each CD comes with 13 photos. Kind of a throwback to collecting trading cards, but it’s fun to get a bonus for buying the real CD. I’m not sure on what her numbers are from each store, but she partnered with Target to sell the Deluxe version which included (some really great) bonus tracks and voice memos of rough demos. Extra content only available on one format = more sales. There was also the Swiftstakes, where entering a code from the CD puts you in the running to meet Taylor on tour next year. It’s like a lottery ticket with a bonus CD, so you win anyway.


Swift Factor No. 4
Take chances and be vulnerable

Those voice memos on the Target edition struck me as brave (because yeah, I got the Deluxe release). They’re raw beginnings of songs that are super produced and polished on the album. They are hesitant and unsure and sometimes pitchy. That’s how songs get written, and if there was a thought that Taylor wasn’t writing her own stuff, this helps combat it. The other thing I admire about this record is that the last track is a co-write with Imogen Heap, who is a hero of mine as a songwriter and a producer. Apparently, Taylor admires her too, and fortunately when you are Taylor Swift, you get to write with cool people. Imogen blogs about the process here, and they turned out “Clean”, my favorite track on the album. While there are plenty of Max Martin produced songs here, having Imogen end-cap it is a really classy thing to do. It makes me excited for the artistic growth that’s bound to happen if Taylor continues to do her thing.

Swift Factor No. 5
Respect your own work

The other big hullabaloo this week aside from baking cookies with fans and selling a bunch of albums was that 1989 was not on Spotify and in fact, her entire back catalog was removed from the service. I thought it a given that a brand new release would not be on a streaming service immediately, especially since there was such a mad rush to sell physical product, but the removal of older albums was interesting. Granted, rumor has it that her label is up for sale and this was a bargaining chip (remember kids, follow the money), but all the indie artists I know have been aflutter with Swift commentary this week because it’s a big deal when the Big Folk stand up for the Littler Folk (even by proxy of actions with other intentions). Taylor and her label have bargaining power in this art-meets-tech world we live in, and she just pulled out of the game entirely. Whether it’s permanent or temporary (I suspect temporary…streaming is not going anywhere), it is at least causing us to discuss the value of music as a service. We pay $100 for cable TV access every month, and we lay down $8 for Netflix easily. What will make the majority of music listeners pay for access? And in the meantime, how is music even valued these days? Fans aren’t paying $13.99 for the Deluxe Target version of 1989 for the songs. They’re paying for the right to be a fan…to call themselves members of the Taylor Nation and to have a communal experience. And hopefully, whatever comes of this Spotify streaming conversation, artists will be able to stand up for the work they create. As Taylor said, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” Boom.

Swift Factor No. 6
Make your loyal fans have your back

Another interesting point in this whole thing is that no tracks leaked early from those aforementioned “Secret Sessions”. The fans were asked not to record anything and no one did. When the album did leak online a few days early (who does that? Some intern from the label I suppose) and tracks were being posted around Tumblr, fans were refusing to listen to them or share them. They assumed it would hurt Taylor and her sales, and at this point the diehard fans were like a rabid guerrilla marketing team…they had a vested interest in their girl doing well on opening day. This is direct opposition to most album leaks…people generally scoop them up with little thought. Taylor had connected so much with her base that they weren’t about to mess up the album release or spoil the experience of Release Day excitement (which they knew Taylor would be tweeting and blogging about right along with them).

Phew. That’s a lot of dissection for a 24-year-old pop star. I just think that Taylor encapsulated everything I try to preach about over at Social Thinkery when I meet with clients…connect with your fan base far beyond that of a “I am an artist buy this music because I made it” mentality. It’s old and uninspiring. Create your army that will go to bat for you, spread the word for you, share in your victories with you…that is a fan base that will keep returning as long as you stay true to your art. Follow the Swift.

My deepest fear is that my fears are not that deep…they are just simple things.


On the wall at Joanne

Of course, since I spent a whole post on dinner in Vegas, I have to offer due diligence to the East Coast trip…and yes, we ate well. You’d think this has turned into a food blog. I don’t know, maybe it has. Food and traveling for music go hand in hand.

My one request tourist and culinary-wise for our NYC stay was Joanne Trattoria…owned by Joe and Cynthia Germanotta, parents of Lady Gaga. I am a fan girl, and I’m proud. Plus, I mean, I’ll eat pasta in the name of almost any musician…this is not a hard task.

Joanne was definitely a treat, though. It’s located around the corner from Lincoln Center, and we went early in the day so there wasn’t a crowd yet.


But strangely I still felt a little crowded on the sidewalk outside.

We all ordered coffee which…a lot of places I go, the coffee is an afterthought. Maybe NYC is different, maybe Italian restaurants are different, maybe Joanne just knows that coffee is pretty much the staff of life and one should not serve a bad cup…but this was amazing. It came with a crema on top, which maybe it was espresso, except it was coffee, and I am not good at this stuff, but it was heaven. THIS IS NOT A FOOD BLOG. I had two cups.

They brought us bread, and we ordered. I went with the signature dish, Joanne’s spaghetti and meatball. I mean, what else can you say about a meatball that looks like this?

Everything tasted great; the meatball had the right ratio of…meat stuff (I’m sure there were several ingredients happening here) to bread crumbs. The sauce had a little zing to it and tasted fresh. I did not have an ArtPop cocktail but maybe next time.

Yep, this is definitely not gonna turn into a foodie blog since the best I can describe is often “foooood gooood want mooooore.” But I mean, I’m totally going back to Joanne when I get a chance. Paws up.

————–

Shout out to Aqua Thai in Philadelphia because my pineapple chicken CAME IN A PINEAPPLE Y’ALL.

Adore You Lyric Video

17 Oct
2014

For the sensitive among you…and we’re all a little sensitive.

West to East

16 Oct
2014

After a road trip through the wildest of the West, it was over to New York and Pennsylvania with Susan for some rare (and hopefully now, less rare) East Coast shows. We know a NYC local, so we got the grand walking tour of the city (thanks, Norma!). I wore inappropriate shoes. I tried really hard to wear appropriate ones, except I really don’t ever wear real shoes, so my normally flip-flopped and free toes were freaking at the walls suddenly encasing them. Lesson learned, next time I think I’ll wear Chacos and avoid puddles.

New York is, of course, exactly what you think it is. All that stuff you see in the movies and photographs – the skyline, the activity, the brownstones, the subway…that’s what it is. Texas is so car-centric that it was awesome to be able to walk or subway everywhere for a change.


What am I looking at? I probably thought I saw Tina Fey.


No lie, anyone can walk across the bridge and see this view.

After a fun show at Hill Country BBQ in Manhattan which is like walking into a Texas BBQ place in, well…Manhattan, we headed down to Bleeker Street where I got to play a tune. Then my friend Stephanie and I talked philosophy and religion on the street outside The Bitter End. It was like the 60’s.

We headed down to Bethlehem and Philadelphia. More historical things. Awesome shows with Susan and Christine Havrila.

And now, back in Texas for a minute. I am getting reacquainted with my apartment…my neighbors don’t think I really live here, but they check on my plants, so it’s cool.

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