Bluebird Cafe in Nashville
This is from the last time I was there.
I will post an identical photo after the show there Wednesday, I’m sure.
Maybe even the same people will be standing outside.
 

Happy late Thanksgiving, folks. I spent it in Albuquerque, wearing 4 layers of clothing and sandals because I roll like that.

My friend Amy: “You know you’re a hipster, right?”
Me: “I think I’m a hipster because I layer well.”

Anyway, tomorrow morning at 7 AM I’ll be on a plane to Nashville with the inimitable SusanG. She is going there to write and play at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. (Side note: Susan, one of my favorite writers, is actually writing with a couple of my OTHER favorite writers, so my head might explode with their genius words!) It’s her gig, and she gets to pick who else plays. I got picked! I am pretty excited…since everyone who is ANYONE in country music has played this room, it will be fun…in an epic way. But fun.

Other than that I plan to squat at my favorite coffee houses and wander the cool parts of town. I can office from anywhere, thanks to laptops and wifi.  Maybe Martina McBride will walk by and I’ll do absolutely nothing except stare!

This is random but fun. For a few months now I have had the thought of getting an old laptop or something from Craigslist to be a non-internet-connected writing tool. BECAUSE FACEBOOK IS SO DANG DISTRACTING. I know, a little discipline goes a long way.

So does a little whimsy. I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s amazingly written and brilliant history of Jobs and also Apple. I realized while reading it that I grew up with them. As I blogged earlier, my parents bought our first Apple when I was 3 and I have never looked back. Apple product launches were big deals. I was in high school when everyone started using Napster and in college when everyone started carrying their mp3s around on iPods. Then we all started buying from iTunes. Then we started reading magazines on iPads. We’re transitioning to keeping all our files in the iCloud. Big cultural changes from this computer company.

Reading about the design process of these products was fascinating, and I have a lot of respect for Jobs and how he settled for nothing but perfection. He could be a jerk, but he had a vision, and he pushed people to reach it. The design of the first iMac G3, those colorful desktops, was especially fascinating. We had them in my high school computer lab; I always thought they were cool. They were a big deal because they looked like no other computer that had existed up until then, and they were the first Apple desktop priced under $2,000.

I had a wild hair to see what they were going for on Craigslist, and before I know it this little blueberry desktop was in my possession for…$50. Crazy. It has word processing on it and needs nothing else. Runs like a champ, and the OS is surprisingly fast for it being a 15 year old machine.

iMac G3
Old school.

I’m hoping it will lend itself to many an uninterrupted brainstorming/writing session. If I can channel a little Jobs brilliance through it, that wouldn’t hurt either. The only person to have a screaming fit at will be me, though, so I had better be nice to myself.

Jobs Book
New school.

John Garza
 

That sounds cliche, I know. Everyone’s got a “support something” on their car bumper or their Facebook wall or on their bicep in ink. I don’t let a lot of “cause” stuff cross my blog or social media streams because I prefer to keep those discussions amongst friends. However, as someone who keeps a tiny finger on the giant pulse of the music scene in Texas and beyond, “Houston, we might be starting to have a problem.”

I don’t like dealing in problems, I like solutions, but I feel the need to state a trend that is happening far too frequently for me to feel good about lately.

I’m a booking agent. I contact venues to get shows for artists. Sometimes I harass the crap out of them. Sometimes when it’s not as easy as “Here is a date, thanks for asking,” I get an explanation. Lately I’ve been getting this explanation:

“We’re not booking much because we’ve had such a drop in crowd attendance this fall that we’re not sure how long to keep going.”

For real. I’m not exaggerating. This is from folks in several venues around Texas, big and small, and some out of state venues as well. Not just one or two that aren’t managing their promo right…several this week alone have uttered this sentiment. Good places, not dives. Respectable, lovely environments to see music. It makes me worried. I don’t like to worry, I like to fix things. Most of all, I like to eradicate problems so no fixing is needed.

You can bet that this falls on the shoulders of the venues and the artists. Venues need to make it worth coming to their place of business. Artists need to promote and put on a good show that offers value. I know plenty that do that. Plenty that play at the very places that are struggling. Plenty who have meetings for hours about, “How can we get more folks out to shows?”

Today I’m blogging to the 3rd part of the equation – The Music Fan. You’re needed now more than ever. We’ve got weird stuff brewing in this business…there are claims that CDs will stop being sold all together at the end of 2012. Everyone’s downloading singles. All that is fine because it’s still commerce, it’s still something.

An empty room is an empty room, though. We’ve all got choices and too many of them. A lot of them involve consuming media in our homes. It’s a huge effort to leave the house and go to a venue, but if that’s something you enjoy doing occasionally, do it a bit more. Buy a ticket. Bring your friend. If it’s a free show patronize the bar even if it’s just for Diet Coke. Skip the movie night and see some music. The returns are worth it.

Some say we’re reverting to a world where patrons of the arts are what will keep music going. Major labels aren’t funding things like they used to, and business models are changing. I’m not sure where all that will lead, but I think if we all viewed ourselves as “Patrons of the Arts,” that would be a good start. Definitely support your favorite musicians like you probably already do. Then take a chance on someone who isn’t on your Top 5 list yet. Then pick a venue you love and go see whoever is playing just because you want to support the venue. Even if it’s a free show put your butt in a seat because your body counts. Find the music that speaks to you and patronize it.

These are little things. They will go a long way.

Doors will stay open.  Songs will be written.  Keep that circle unbroken.

Feed the Merch Girl

This is one of those potentially cumudgeon-y posts so I will qualify it with this first:

THANK YOU FOR BUYING THE MERCHANDISE. Really. It makes a huge difference in bottom line, sometimes. Gigantic.

That being said, some tips for a successful trip to the merch table:

1. Ask questions. We love questions! I will help you find what album the song you really liked is on because I know them inside and out. This is not always the case of merch table folks (some might just be volunteering and have no idea who the artist is) but then feel free to ask the artist! They know their albums the best, too. And I’ll admit it – the print is tiny, and venues are dark. Don’t be scared to ask what is where.

2. Don’t ask the artist or the merch person which one is their favorite. There are no favorites. If they had a favorite, why would the others be on the table? All the albums are great, so whatever you take home will be great.

3. It is kind of weird if you try on the shirt at the table and then don’t buy it, but I’ve let it happen before.

4. DON’T SET YOUR BEER ON THE CDS! Or the mailing list! Or the shirts! The merch is not a coaster. We don’t sell coasters. Same goes for coffee or whatever beverage is your poison of choice.

5. Be patient if it’s crowded. It is my job to help each customer and then accurately log each transaction so I can report it later. Help the merch person keep their count accurate.

I look forward to merching with you soon.