I am a sucker for a motivational anything. I have books, I have podcasts, I have graphics saved on my phone, I have tweets favorited, I have t-shirts with positive messages written on them. There are a million and one people who will preach at you from their Youtube channels and their blogs and their books, all with the exact right way to do things. All of this is good, though much of it fades, or is a passing phase in my constant need to try and be better than I am at any given moment.

Except…Gary Vaynerchuk (or GaryVee as most of the world calls him) has changed my life more than a little bit. I saw him speak at SXSW a few years ago, and I got his book. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by his message and his absolute no bullshit way of putting things. DO STUFF. STOP COMPLAINING. START NOW. I’ve heard him say more than a few times that people should stop watching his videos and go out and do something, which is the most honest thing I’ve heard anyone say on Youtube…well, ever.

Most recently, Gary put up a video challenging people to start a side hustle — finding things at yard sales and thrift stores and flipping them. This was right up my alley for a multitude of reasons, and I thought the worst that could happen was I ended up with some stuff I had to donate back to the thrift store if I couldn’t flip it. But…turns out, I’m pretty good at flipping, and I love the thrill of the chase. Flipping stuff over the past year or so has supplemented my music/teaching/social media income and funded things like, oh…the Taylor Swift concert I am about to go to in a couple of weeks. Thanks, Gary.

While I can’t say I sat down specifically to write a GaryVee song, I know deep down that listening to his amazing rants and yelling at me through Youtube has a profound impact on my motivations in writing this song. Do The Work. Just start something. Stop thinking you’ll do it tomorrow. Hard work will win the day, even if the results are not immediately evident.

Sometimes I get really discouraged because this indie music folk pop songwriter scene is…well, it is what it is. Sometimes it seems like we’re all floating on our own little islands and I can’t seem to reach anyone else’s. Losing out on opportunities and then gaining others that weren’t even on my radar. Gathering Spotify spins, trying to get people to share the EP if they like it, explaining that yes, onetwothreescream is me and Mark and my songs that I wrote and an unabashed love of pop music and maybe, would you take a listen?

GaryVee is right though…keep at it, put some hustle into it, and realize that we live in a time when opportunity and access are more plentiful than ever.

Make something important, make something permanent. Do the work.

20 Years is a Thing

23 Aug
2018

Warning: navel-gazing ahead. It’s why I have a blog!

I’m in the weirdest summer mood. I have not had an unpleasant summer…it’s been a good one, actually. I took a notion to travel and see friends and music in June, when Texas had just started to assert its place in one of Dante’s rings, as it does every summer. I’ve been teaching. I’ve been writing. I put out an EP! But all the planets (or at least 5 of them) were in retrograde at one point in July and while I am never certain about how much stock I want to put into that sort of thing…the summer sludge is real, planetary or not.

So in between music and work and travel I have impulsively begun gutting my living space. It started with my CD collection. I have been amassing discs since I was a pre-teenager, and I decided it was time to let some of them go. Books, too…which almost kills me. What IF I want to read assigned text from my History of Eastern Europe: WWI class again? WHAT IF? (I will not). The CDs I can digitize. The books…there are Kindles and the Google to handle it. Fine.

I like to tuck things inside of things; I’ve been derailed on memory lane numerous times this past month. Notes passed in class in high school and recipes from my old roommates and dollar bills (yas!) have popped up. So have ticket stubs! I save them, but I never organize them. I bet there’s a scrapbooking aisle at Michael’s just for ticket stub organization. I have not been there.

Today I was digging around in a binder and I found this:

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It is from the very first time I saw Mary Chapin Carpenter play live. June 23, 1998, at the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe. My high school guitar buddies, Laura and Leilani, went with me, and my parents drove us the 45 miles from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. I remember yelling a lot and singing along. I don’t remember much else, I was just so excited to be there. I met John Jennings for the first time. He was the kindest human being on the planet to a 15-year-old kid who was starstruck.

It took a minute to realize that 1998 was…20 years ago. As the typically unused numerological part of my brain kicked into gear, I realized that THIS year, I spent that very same week of June in Colorado and Idaho, seeing the mountains and…seeing Mary Chapin play again. 20 years later, here we both are.

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That kind of floored me. So much has changed, of course. One of my nephews was born that year, and he is in college now. My Dad and all my grandparents have passed on. I’ve lived in Texas for 12 years. The aforementioned Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe is not there anymore. We spin so fast on this blue ball that stuff shifts or flies off it completely with some regularity. A coping skill I have developed is to not think about it too much.

It’s been a weaving and winding couple of decades. I’d like to think I have grown like a messed up weed, shooting up tall and darting off side to side and working my way through my 20’s and (gasp) half my 30’s with some roots established while still waving new sprouts and leaves around awkwardly.

I’m grateful. Grateful for a glance back at the teenager, who I think would probably be ok with the path taken thus far. Thankful for these musical North Stars in my life that consistently give so much joy and meaning in new ways while providing a connection to how it all began. Grateful to MCC for making beautiful records and touring all this time.

I just got back from an incredible weekend in Washington, D.C. that included MCC’s final summer tour show at Wolf Trap and some historical wandering. I am pretty sure 15-year-old me would be very proud of my decision making skills in the music + travel department…I hope I continue to make that kid light up.

Happy 20 to MCC, thanks for everything. Here’s to many more!

#sippycupofgin #marychapincarpenter #happysummer

From the new onetwothreescream EP, Lit. A project brainstormed by me and Mark Addison. I wrote the song. Mark produced it. There’s an airplane in the track, that’s all Mark.

I got really freaked out over the prospect of nuclear war last summer. It seemed like neither leader was operating with a full deck, and perhaps ego was going to cause a launch of a thing that we couldn’t turn back from…but we’re still here. Lucky us.

Buy and stream it on onetwothreescream.com.

GOOD DAY! THERE’S A NEW EP OUT!

onetwothreescream lit

It’s called Lit. It’s 6 songs of pure weird folk pop. I wrote all the songs. Mark Addison produced it into heights of folk pop perfection. We recorded my folk rap (track 6) last summer and had such a good time we just kept going. This is what happens with you give two nerds of both different and same feathers the freedom to roam about the studio.

We call it onetwothreescream because we’re equal collaborators here and it’s WAY more fun to promote a project called ONETWOTHREESCREAM! The name comes from the thought that sometimes you just need to dance it off. Sometimes you wanna scream into a pillow (have you read the news lately?) This is an EP for all of that.

Susan Gibson sings all over this – that’s her awesome “oooo” chorus on Fault Lines, for one. And she plays banjo and bouzouki on Money & Heart.

Chris Taylor did the amazing artwork. Isn’t that kind how we all feel?

Turn it up. I hope you guys like it. We certainly loved making it. If you like it a lot, please share. This is how we’ll get the word out…we’re no publicists, we’re just folk pop. 

www.onetwothreescream.com (check out the site for all the links to all the stores!)

…as the kids say.

Oddly, I have a record coming out with Mark Addison (kids these days do NOT say “record” but I stubbornly do) in July and it is called Lit. More on that as the days roll on! Check out onetwothreescream.com, though.

I am pretty excited to go see my homie Michael O’Connor in Denver this month, too. We’re going to do a Concert Window on June 20th at 8:30 PM Tejas-Central time / 7:30 PM Mountain time. I always learn a whole bunch when I play with MOC and it’s gonna be a blast.

Check out the tour dates tab…I just added a bunch. Playing some very cool venues with some very cool people…be there.

Cookies in Sugar Land

16 May
2018

Makes sense that there’d be cookies at a house concert in Sugar Land, right? Thanks to Donna and her awesome hostessing at none other than Sugar Land House Concerts…these were the coolest cookies I have ever seen. She asked The Bearded Baker (of Cypress, TX) to make some cookies based on our album art. Check this out:

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I mean…really:

Ummmm....so Sugar Land House Concerts paired up with The Bearded Baker and my album cover is a cookie now! Holy moly. 😍 @sugarlandhouseconcerts @thebeardedbakertx

We were chuffed, as they say across the pond.

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Growing up in New Mexico, every so often the news reports on some miraculous image of Jesus or Mary in an unlikely place, like a tortilla, or a tree trunk. People come from all over to see it. While I’m not Catholic, I think it’s one of the coolest parts of New Mexican culture. This song is a little about that, and moreso about pulling yourself out of a funk. Funks happen.

I have this conversation at least 3 times a week. I lament with fellow musicians about the discouraging trend of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars recording a track or an album only to see…well, not very much back. I listen as frustrated fans try to figure out how to support artists the best way they can with all the changes in music delivery. I read articles on tech blogs about the inevitability of streaming and the death of the download (yes, the CD is already, as a music sharing mechanism…dead. More on that in a minute).

I don’t have all the answers but I have thoughts and I HAVE A BLOG! These things work together!

Some Figures, Presented in Scattershot Fashion:

Apple will stop selling downloads in 2019

Big box retail has no use for selling CDs anymore

Digital stream revenues are increasing yearly

Overall, music revenue is down

Overall music consumption is UP

Some Opinions I Think Are Facts, Presented by Jana:

1) Technology will always steer how people consume music. When the phonograph was invented, people could play music in their homes without having the musicians be there in person. When radios were put in cars, recorded music became mobile. When Sony released the Walkman and Apple released the iPod, music became MORE mobile and more personal. Now, as everything moves to the cloud, downloaded files are being replaced by streams, meaning you are not limited to the songs you yourself have in your personal library. Cool beans.

2) There is inherently nothing wrong with streaming as a music delivery mechanism. In an age when storage space on our personal mobile devices is at a premium (if you want the iPhone X with the most storage, it’ll set you back $1200 bucks) and accessibility to just about everything ever recorded is in the cloud…it makes sense to use it.

3) Since the music industry slept on this whole change for a few years while the tech sector ran with it, the tech folks set the rules, including how artists get paid. A combination of the big labels playing catch up by making back end deals with the streaming companies coupled with antiquated laws for intellectual property compensation basically means…musicians don’t get paid well.

4) In THEORY (not in practice, yet)…streaming DOES pay more than CD sales or downloads. I am pretty sure I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album once a day for 3 years (on average…don’t judge). Let’s say I paid Taylor/Big Machine $15 for the privilege. (Oh god, I’m going to try to do math here)…with 13 tracks I paid $1.15 per song, and I get to listen to those songs as much as I want forever and ever. 13 tracks times once a day for 3 years is something like 14,000 song plays for Taylor…that’s me paying about $0.001 per play (at $1.15 per song paid from a CD purchase). If I KEEP playing 1989, my per play cost goes down every time on that fixed CD purchase price.

I have also bought CDs for $15 that I have listened to once. That means (assuming the same 13 tracks) I paid $1.15 per song for the privilege of the listen. Oddly we end up paying more per play on something we like less in this scenario.

Now…obviously…artists and writers receive so little off streaming rates now that it’s pathetic. (Sorry, Pharrell). But in THEORY…compensation for streaming music is infinite versus the one-time payment model of a CD or a download. Will intellectual rights laws and the big streaming companies start paying artists and songwriters more per stream? I hope so.

5) This issue of fair streaming compensation SHOULD get fixed. I don’t know if it will. Supporting organizations like NARAS and MusicFIRST are working to change the system from the inside out via legislation. This will take a lot of time, and in the meantime…independent artists and music fans need to figure out other ways to make and support music.

In order to so something positive, we gotta step into the 21st century, put on our yoga pants and breathe deeply, and stop screaming about CDs coming back. It’s also not really useful to deny that technology exists, and is actually quite handy and fun to use. I don’t wanna carry around a Boombox to listen to my jams, yo.

What’s a Music Fan To Do?

Here is, in my opinion, the best way to consume music in a manner that supports your artist on as many levels as possible.

  1. Buy The Thing. CDs might be dead as music delivery device but they’re still kinda cool souvenirs. So is a vinyl. Heck, Apple is still selling downloads so get on it. Bandcamp is great for buying files, too. Soak in the liner notes if they’re there, get it signed, all the things.
  2. Now that you own your own personal right to play the music…don’t pop the CD in every time you want to listen. STREAM IT. Spotify has free and paid accounts, and it’s kinda fun to play around in there. The benefits: the artist will now make MORE money every time you stream it after your initial investment on their physical/digital product and, in the case of Spotify, it’ll start getting to know what you like and send you recommendations on more stuff you might like (this is a neat feature of streaming tech, too…they know things).
  3. SHARE IT. Talk about your favorite artists. Post their links on your social media. Recommend them to friends. Word of mouth is still one of the most trusted, valuable ways to market in our over-saturated, algorithm-based world. YOUR OPINION AS A FAN MATTERS.
  4. Say a friend tells you about something cool, or Spotify gives you a recommendation of an artist you might dig. You stream it. This is called the free sample. If you like it, head to the artist’s store/iTunes/Bandcamp and buy it! If I LOVE it, I tell people. Repeat this process all over again. Somewhere along the line we decided as a culture not to treat intellectual property like other goods and services. If I sample ice cream at the store and I like it, I don’t get to take 3 gallons home and keep eating it for free. I have to buy it. Same with music.
  5. To go the extra fan mile…buy the extras. Get the t-shirt, buy the sticker, buy the concert ticket. Have a little cadre of artists you will support no matter what and buy everything they make. Encourage them to keep making.

So What’s a Musician To Do?

I’m gonna preach to myself here and say all of us music makers are obligated to learn more and become activists in the realm of copyright law and compensation. Join an organization and keep up to date on laws that affect how artists get paid. Contact representatives. All that stuff. It sounds kinda dry but it’s way more fruitful than just griping about how CD sales are down.

Encourage that cycle of buying+streaming above. It’s a pretty negative place to live in all the time to think about how streaming is sucking away your livelihood, or to rail against Spotify on social media. Don’t yell at streamers, educate them! Have your online presence together so it’s easy to support you and buy your music as a physical or digital product.

I won’t lie…this is a hard one. We’re coming off a bubble where CDs were $19.99 and that was how you sold music. Reclaiming music and art as valuable and not just free consumables is our new challenge. The shift begins with people willingly paying for it, and artists educating with good intentions. The good/scary news is we have seen public opinion shift to this “art is free I guess” trend over the course of 10-15 years, so we can shift it toward something positive again if we start now. It’s not a lost cause.

I am leaving out a lot of other nuances of this issue like live performance, hardware issues, promotion costs, patronage, and whatnot (don’t yell at me)…it’s vast and hard to cover, and every level of artist has another point of view on it. As a musician and a nerd, these are simply a few thoughts on how we can continue to progress and embrace both the inevitability of evolving tech and the human need for art and those who make it.

P.S.: I wrote a folk rap about this very thing…

Folk Alliance was a total sleepless blast. So much happened that week…gigs, a long drive, lots of friends, lots of business, lots of late night hallway roaming, Mandy funded her Kickstarter, I wrote a song in a hotel lobby, I saw a bunch of my favorites play…it was rad.

Valerie Fremin took it. She’s amazing.

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