edited by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & THE RECORD INDUSTRY IS DEAD. The giant isn't dying. It's dead. & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here's no saving it. What we see now -- the increasingly anemic record sales; the increasingly sporadic, increasingly absurd lawsuits; the increasingly comprehensive record deals, sucking ever bigger percentages out of ever less-established artists -- is the death rattle.
It's OK if you didn't realize this. The industry seems to have more life than it does because the media, for years, has been chronicling the giant's every twitch, every spasm, looking for signs of recovery. You can scarcely blame journalists. They're only human. The record industry -- especially its four heads: Sony, EMI, Warner, Universal -- is immense. Way too big to ignore. So big that, for decades, it nearly blocked the sun. Eclipsing it until we forgot there was an immense ball of flame behind it.
THE ART ITSELF.
We forgot too the source of the heat: the artists who make it. We forgot the intensity of their fire.
Now, though, as the giant topples, the sun is revealed. Millions of artists making incalculable amounts of art. We can see them. Any time we want, we can feel the broil of their craft. For everyone still focused on the giant, the world's a dark, uncertain place, full of scavengers picking at scraps. For those focused on the art, though, the world is bathed in light.
For the artists, their light touches or has the capacity to touch more people than it ever has. There's the trick, though, of how to do the touching. How, in the face of so much radiance -- such blinding light -- do individual rays get noticed?
That's been the goal of this issue for two years. In addition to chronicling the area's brightest beams, we've offered ways to make everyone shine a little brighter. Best practices for touring in 2006, for promotion in 2007. This year we discuss how, why and when to record in order to reach as many people as possible. In short, how best to let your light shine.
& lt;li & & lt;a href="#joel" & Joel Smith & lt;/a & & lt;/li &
YOU DON'T NEED A RECORD LABEL. YOU DON'T NEED A STUDIO. YOU NEED A GAME PLAN.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here are a million ways to make a record. We can't cover all of them here. We can, though, give you your choices, and offer advice and options to help avoid certain sticking points.
Nothing will be easy or cheap. It almost definitely won't be smooth, either, but if you see it through to the end, it'll be immensely satisfying. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure. Without the pirates.
- IF YOU GET MAJOR LABEL HEAT, & lt;a href="#pg33" & CLICK HERE & lt;/a & .
- IF YOU DECIDE TO WAIT FOR MAJOR LABEL HEAT, & lt;a href="#pg35" & CLICK HERE & lt;/a & .
WRITE 12 WORLD-CHANGING SONGS*
(* We're going to assume you've already done this.)
& lt;ul &
& lt;li & RECORD IN A STUDIO, & lt;a href="#pg22" & CLICK HERE & lt;/a & . & lt;/li &
& lt;li & PAY A MOBILE TECHNICIAN TO RECORD YOU, & lt;a href="#pg30" & CLICK HERE & lt;/a & . & lt;/li &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's the stuff of artfully constructed photographs and small-budget movie sets, but there is nothing contrived about it. You couldn't paint a lovelier picture than the scene at Empyrean during a recent weekday evening, as Kaylee Cole sat at the upright piano, performing a Tom Waits song impromptu. Against the rattling of trains and illuminated by the diffuse light of overcast skies, she sang, "Lay your head where my heart used to be...." Recognizing friends in the caf & eacute; as they move closer in to listen, she delightedly calls out their names mid-song, practically in rhythm.
Her style is so natural, you'd think she'd been doing this her whole life, but it was just over a year ago, on that stage, when Cole performed her very first show. Now, at 21, she's an act not to be missed in Spokane -- or the Northwest, for that matter. During recent tours, she easily unhands a couple of hundred CDs over the course of a few days. After a show at the Cha Cha Lounge in Seattle this past fall, she got signed to Aviation Records and expects to have her first full album out this September.
"I feel blessed," she says. "I don't know of any other place where I could wake up one day and decide to start making music and playing shows."
Before she woke up to music, she seriously considered the life of an advertising executive until she realized her creativity was not particularly suited for marketing Gap backpacks. "I needed to find a medium that was my own," says Cole. "I gave up on piano, voice, photography... I never cared enough about anything long enough to get good at it."
New York was an option at one point, in order to pursue an acting career. But as it was, she was still living in Spokane in a house with the musically inclined last year, one of whom was Seaweed Jack band member Brian White. He had the piano, she sat down and played a little, and the rest is history.
Cole says that being in Spokane has allowed her to gain creative footing, and develop a sizeable base of enthusiastic listeners. "I don't feel like I'm always playing the same show with the same audience," she says. "It seems like there's always a section of the audience that's completely new." But it's easy to understand why she's gaining new fans with each show: Her voice is strong, even in her softer moments, and the simple backing of her piano and Kim Wescott's viola allows her captivating melodies to lilt across the room.
Cole sets her scenes perfectly. Whether you're in a room with just a handful of other people or in a larger crowd, when she performs you feel shrouded in her lyrics and moved by her crescendos and decrescendos. What you feel is that you're part of her overall design.
-- ELIZABETH STRAUCH
& lt;a name="pg24" & There are a million ways to record music. & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & E & lt;/span & veryone who's ever done it has their favorite steps, gear and methods. Here are a few general approaches to get what's in your brain on tape.
The cheapest option yields that scratchy garage sound that was so damn hot a minute ago. You'll need a four-track recorder (roughly $200) and a cheap microphone like the ubiquitous Shure SM58 ($100). Once you've gotten the sound, you'll need to dump it to digital for reproduction. All that requires is a computer with a soundcard that has a stereo line-in. Most computers have that, leaving you to buy a $10 cable. More convenient but with less lo-fi cred, digital multi-trackers have their place ($300 and up).
If you're a 20-something and are at all concerned with what your creative peers think of you (admit it, it's OK), you probably already have what you need to do rudimentary digital recording. The built-in microphone on the hip-to-the-point-of-absurdity Apple MacBook ($1,099) is serviceable for your first recording attempts and the Garage Band recording software that comes bundled isn't bad at all.
For total beginners who want to tiptoe into the world of multi-track recording, take your laptop, add a cheap interface -- the M-Audio Firewire Solo ($200) works, but anything that's designed to work with M-Powered Pro Tools recording software (the cheapest version, $200) is fine. Bring along the mic you play shows with.
This is where we separate the amateurs from the slightly less-amateur amateurs. Your compositions are complex enough that you need disk space, memory and processing power, so you buy a dual core MacBook or comparably equipped PC ($600-$2,000) with a decent (2GB+) amount of memory and an external hard drive. You buy a decent interface (MBox or similar, $450), Pro Tools (bundled with MBox), a decent condenser microphone (look in $200-$300 range, brands like AKG, Audio Technica, Shure, etc.), cheap pre-amp ($150-$250), cheap compressor ($100-$200), moderately priced studio headphones ($100).
With all that, you'll probably want help from others (studio for drums possibly, borrowing equipment from friends as available).
Value is obviously key for artists on a budget. Everyone we hear from, though, says it's important to buy good stuff. So, if you're going to go above and beyond the setups we've outlined, there's a balance to be struck. Drop cash on a better mic and pre-amp if you want really clean tones. At some point, though, between buying four more mics to get every shimmer of cymbal out of your drum kit and buying a $1,200 pre-amp, effects processors and soundproofing your spare bedroom, you gotta ask yourself if it's worth it.
If you're thinking about buying the kind of high-quality gear that you could conceivably get paid to record other people with, you should seriously consider doing that. Turn it into a cottage industry. Make some of that money back. That's the only way you'll get your money's worth. We aren't saying you should always pay to have your drums done in a proper studio ( & lt;a href= & quot;#pg22 & quot; & link & lt;/a & ) or one of our area's mobile and house-based services ( & lt;a href= & quot;#pg30 & quot; & link & lt;/a & ). We're simply urging temperance.
& lt;a href= & quot;#pg26 & quot; & Here & lt;/a & , we've solicited recording advice from professionals. Though it wasn't directed at gear purchases, Joe Varela's first piece of advice is incredibly apt. So: Every time you think about dropping cheddar on another recording component, turn to that page, and read it aloud. "Know when to stop." Say it with us. "Know when to stop."
Here's where you go into business for yourself (see & lt;a href= & quot;#pg30 & quot; & here & lt;/a & for a list of your future competitors): Fast computer, multiple redundant hard drives, Digi 003 interface, Pro Tools LE (bundled with Digi 003), a dope pre-amp, a nice compressor, a host of microphones, good studio monitors, effects processors, and all the attendant stuff: a shitload of cables, a sound-treated room, a sound-treated isolation booth. And of course: good musical equipment, high-quality instruments, expensive amps, etc. Oh, and a house to put it in. Then, expect to take out a second mortgage on said house.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="oil" & OIL OF ANGELS & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & il of Angels is loud. When your band is playing at Caterina and artwork crashes to the floor and wineglasses start to break, it's hard to deny that you're peaking some major decibels.
Or when other, also loud bands say that you're loud. Burns Like Hellfire frontman Jamie Frost, for example, almost voted for Oil of Angels in this year's balloting process. But he just couldn't bring himself to do it. "I saw Oil of Angels and was impressed," he says. "But I really did think it was just a little too loud."
The overall impression you get when talking to Oil of Angels guitarist Adam Breeden and drummer Nick Tibbetts, is, yeah -- music should be turned up. And the noise certainly isn't diminishing their local following. Oil of Angels -- inadequately described as "psychedelic shoegaze" -- is clearly one of the most popular bands in Spokane.
Tibbetts and Breeden, both former members of Teevee (another once-favored local band), are joined in the current trio by Henry Nordstrom on bass. They named themselves after a Cocteau Twins song that admittedly isn't one of the best tracks they've ever heard. But it does add to their greasy halo.
After talking with Breeden and Tibbetts, you start to wonder if they're only making music to get the chance to play with other bands they love, like the White Rabbits. They have good jobs; Tibbetts has a wife and kids. They're not really sure when they're going to put out an album. When asked which bands have influenced them, Breeden looked at Tibbetts, chuckling, knowing he was about to sound clich & eacute; and predictable. (If you're wondering, Spiritualized, Black Angels, My Bloody Valentine and the less-obvious Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Spokane's own Space Age Fur are in their top five.) They've heard themselves described by one wound-up fan as "Tom Petty on acid."
"I feel like we just play music ... we're not really worried about it," says Tibbetts. As self-taught musicians who didn't bother with college, they recognize that their talent is innate -- not to mention that college-degreed kids would die to have their day jobs (in the graphic design and audio engineering fields). Somehow, they just "have it." Breeden has written most of their material and also carries vocals, but Nordstrom has a written a bunch of songs and possesses the kind of vocal talent that the group wants to use. Tibbetts says that Nordstrom is the guy who sits back with his sticks and approves everything, defaulting to the tried-and-true adage, "If you can't play good, just [add] a lot of reverb." It ends up being good. Though they still tend to add the reverb.
-- ELIZABETH STRAUCH
& lt;a name="pg26" & We can't teach you how to use your equipment. & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & his ain't ProTools for Dummies. We can, though, offer recording advice from professionals*.
(*and a couple of novices who worked really hard and acheived good results.)
Wade Thames | College Road Recording | Listening is the number one thing you need to be able to do very well to put out a product. Trust your ears.
David Cebert | 211 Recording | Always cross-reference how you are representing your music with artists and producers that you admire.
Eddie Ramirez | E's Place Studio | Your demos help you hear what you need to work on. Get all the mileage you can out of them.
Joe Varela | Black Lab Studios, drummer of wide repute | I have three:
& lt;ol &
& lt;li & Know when to stop. Not saying you should always keep the first take, but you'll waste a lot of energy looking for a take you'll never get. & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Use a click track. It won't be easy to start, but it'll sound drastically more professional in the end. & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Be prepared to change. Often the flaws in a song are only apparent under the scrutiny of recording. Use it as an excuse to get better as a musician. & lt;/li &
& lt;/ol &
Adam David | Basement engineer of wide repute | One of the keys to recording is having it sound good before you record. Make sure it's rehearsed, the tone's perfect -- You can spend weeks on drums. But if your drum set sounds amazing, you can put one mic in front of it and in a day you've got your album. So yeah, get your equipment sounding good ... then use a $2,000 microphone.
Marc Fecter | Perfechter Productions | Know your recording software.
Karli Fairbanks | Singer, songwriter, self-recorder | Try and make it sound like the radio. Other than that, get advice. You get in your zone and you can't see everything. It helps to get people's honest feedback on the process -- and have fun.
-- Compiled by TAMMY MARSHALL and LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="future" & FUTURE RELICS & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & N & lt;/span & early everything David Griffiths and Justin Walter touch turns to buzz. Weight, a band that featured Griffiths, made our Buzzworthy list in its inaugural year. Twelve months later, Walter's Belt of Vapor made the 2006 list. Last year, Griffiths' solo project, Limbs, narrowly missed the cut.
It's barely surprising, then, that Future Relics earned a spot on this year's Buzzworthy roster despite only playing four dates in its first six months of life. (The band formed in December.) The collaboration between Walter and Griffiths, who's known commonly as David G, has gotten a public relations kick-start from the duo's relative celebrity.
By January, after one show, the band was asked to play at Spokane 7's Sommie awards. The paper billed them as secret musical guests, then went to great lengths to generate a thrum of speculation about who those guests might be, giving Griffiths (who plays bass and keys and builds sounds) and Walter (a drummer) an at-capacity room of mostly attentive music types. Just about the best introduction to a scene any band could have.
The buzz that surrounds Future Relics isn't the Britney Spears variety, though -- a feedback loop circling again and again to survey an ever-dimming star. Theirs is more the drone of potential. Weight was short-lived and neither Limbs nor Belt of Vapor plays out much any more. At the time of the Sommies, Limbs hadn't performed live in more than a year. Spokane has loved what Walter and Griffiths have done separately. News of a collaboration sent people clamoring.
There's also the hum of innovation. Belt of Vapor relies on vocals. Walter wanted to go vocal-less. Griffiths' projects have always been instrumental, but his live shows have relied on a lot of pre-recorded rudiments. Future Relics is the duo's attempt to substantiate their theories of music: 1) Rock needn't have lyrics to be engaging, and 2) Two people can make a huge sound without help from computers.
"It was important to us that everything be done in real time," Griffiths says. "If we can't do it organically, we won't do it." Their live shows, in other words, should sound like their recorded work.
The songwriting process is long and iterative: "If we repeat a part 15 times, it's because we tried it 16 times and four times and 30 times."
"It's meticulous," says Walter.
"... like sculpture," Griffiths continues. "You chip away and chip away until it's like... an awesome... bear, or something."
It's painstaking, but overcoming people's desire for words is a task the two don't take lightly. "We won't play a song unless we're sure it doesn't need singing," says Griffiths, "If we do our job right, every note will lead to the next."
"It'll be effortless stimulation," says Walter, "as potent as it can be."
From the reactions they've gotten at their four shows, it's plenty potent.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="pg28" & Albums don't float careers any more. & lt;/a &
They're worth almost nothing. Some artists give them away. Others are getting creative. The new distribution. When to record. How to get it to people.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & uture Relics ( & lt;a href="#future" & click here & lt;/a & ) think live performance is the future of making money at the music game. "There's no money in albums, so you have to tour," says bassist/sound-maker David Griffiths (who goes by David G). He says that means "people who record well but suck live aren't going to make it."
The era of the studio artist is ending. Touring is becoming a bigger slice of even established artists' yearly income. That's leading smart young artists to rethink age-old distribution truths. Rather than albums, Future Relics are thinking about offering a new single for sale at every gig. Wayne Patrick is kicking around the idea of selling his record on bracelets that resemble the iconic LiveStrong trinkets but which conceal a USB drive. Running from the practical to gimmicky, the ideas are endless. The principles underlying them, though, are the same. Below are some things to think about when planning your next big (or small) release.
Forget albums | As the residue of a time when music was confined to spiral grooves on spinning PVC discs, albums are increasingly shunned by fans, and are thus being rethought by artists. If you have a rock opera, cool. If not though, think about chopping your recordings up. Do singles. Release EPs that coincide with specific tours. People like the feeling of exclusivity. Four tracks they can only get at this show during this trip through town is better for them than 10 tracks they can buy on iTunes. Likewise, don't kill yourself writing and recording a magnum opus until you know people will care.
Forget making money | You probably won't. So just forget it. Shoot to break even. It'll save your sanity.
Shun the physical | One reason we didn't write a story about CD reproduction services is that you don't need them. The average consumer (age 27 and younger) doesn't buy CDs anymore. They aren't even that important to the press anymore. In the last year, the number of physical CDs that The Inlander received fell by half. Our desks are less cluttered for it.
Having a physical copy of an album with carefully chosen art and liner notes is important for a lot of artists emotionally, but if your fans don't seem to care one way or another, forgo the sentimentalism of CDs and offer your fans a better value.
Pick Your Price | We aren't saying build a Website like Radiohead did. Unless you have their level of fame and money, it won't work. A donation scheme is a powerful statement of trust that fans will appreciate, though, and you should consider it at the merch table level. It'll create buzz and goodwill. If it's post-performance and you're selling your own merch, you'll probably also benefit from a bit of guilt. No one wants to walk up to an exhausted touring artist and say, "I'll give you a buck for that." If they do, write it off as a marketing expense.
Bundle it with something | As the desirability of physical albums drops, the desirability of other corporeal objects remains steady. People used to grab CDs to remember the amazing show they saw. They still want to remember the show -- they just don't want a clunky jewel case. So bundle your art with something they do want. Raise the price of your band shirt and include a free digital download. Depending on how anal you are about making sure that one person gets only one copy, you'll need to set up a Website with a password system. If you don't really care, it could be something as simple as offering links to a hidden page on your Website.
Give it away | Only people capable of living solely off touring can afford to give everything away. Outside of endlessly touring jam bands and the arena circuit, that's basically no one. You can, though, get rid of back stock. If your old album is selling like crap since your new one dropped, hand it out after shows to the people who don't seem to be buying up your newer work. Give yourself one more chance to grow on them.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="james" & JAMES PANTS & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & ast Friday, MySpace featured James Pants on its main music page, putting him at the center of rhythm and melody in the social networking site's gargantuan multiverse. The piece advertised a "MySpace Exclusive Album Premiere" and sent anyone who clicked on the link to Pants' MySpace page to preview Welcome, the long-finished but long-delayed debut album that drops on Tuesday, May 27.
Was this event bigger than having Lacoste lead designer Christian Lemaire make a T-shirt out of one of Pants' doodles? Was it bigger than Pants' being asked to open for British soul heartthrob-slash-beatbox-spaz Jamie Lidell? Was it bigger than playing to 2,000 sweaty gits in London's fabled super-club Fabric?
Not really. The plane touching down in England this March to begin his first European tour was a huge moment, crystallizing the trajectory Pants' career had taken. "When I landed," Pants recalls, "I thought, 'Oh, my God, what am I doing here?'" Nothing has yet compared, though, to the moment that started the upward arc, the day he learned he'd gotten his deal with Stones Throw Records.
He realizes that buzz like the MySpace placement (wrangled by a marketing firm that Stones Throw contracts with) is important. It's a big part of what has allowed him to quit his day job. (Yesterday was his last day.) It's also, however, creating new logistical difficulties. "I'm way behind on my [MySpace] friend requests," he says, "I have, like, 2.000 to go through right now." There are also political pressures. Last Monday, Spin magazine called, requesting placement as Pants' No. 1 MySpace friend. Pants declined. His Top 8 is increasingly filled with industry types and other people. Giving Spin the top spot would have left no room for Pants' wife, Kat.
Pants begins his tour with Jamie Lidell in Vancouver on Sunday, cutting a swath down the West Coast and into the Rockies, before hitting the Great Lakes region (Chicago and Toronto) before returning home in mid-June. Another trip to Europe in July is half-booked.
Pants (whose given name is James Singleton) made our Buzzworthy list last year as well. At that time, he was considered a groundbreaking DJ and beat scientist, interested in deconstructing the ways and reasons asses get shaken in clubs and certainly not above throwing a wrench in the works to see how people would react. ("I learned you should never segue from medieval music to Color Me Badd," he once told us.)
Since then, he shot straight from local phenomenon to international name -- completely skipping the county, state, regional and national levels. We've never had a back-to-back Buzzworthy winner. No artist had ever come close to deserving that honor. Not, that is, until Mr. Pants went stratospheric.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="#pg30" & Recording tech is getting smaller and better. & lt;/a &
It's becoming portable. We no longer have to go to the studio. Studios come to us.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & art Budwig first learned recording a few years back so he could lay down tracks of his own music. Then musician friends started asking for help. Then more people came calling. Then, in 2006, he decided to get serious and went to the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona to study up. "Now I don't actually have time to record myself because I'm so busy recording for other people," he says. "I haven't advertised at all. People just tell other people."
Budwig, 23, is a full-service operation, based in Moscow, Idaho. He can pack up his gear and come to you (he's done some home recordings in Spokane, for example), or you can go to his house and play (as a group from Los Angeles is doing in June). "It's nice to be open to do either. I can do whatever they want," he says.
The biggest upside of working with someone like Budwig is cost. His baseline price is about $20 an hour -- and that allows musicians more time to tinker and get it just right. "There's a lot of advantages in my opinion, but the big thing is a relaxed environment. You're not as stressed out because it's generally less expensive. The idea is that you're going to be more creative and you can work more one-on-one."
Adam David, who lives in Spokane, echoes the same sentiment. "I've been to a lot of professional studios and it's sort of intimidating," he says.
The technology has been improving constantly, but it's not exactly cheap, Budwig says. You can get a beginner's system for about $1,000, though he figures he's spent closer to $20,000. "I've been pretty fascinated with all the technology and how it's progressing through the years," says David, 24, who made his first recordings as a junior in high school.
As opposed to making music in a major studio, what are the disadvantages? It depends. If the acoustics in your house suck, then you've got a problem. But otherwise, say Budwig and David, you basically can do what the big guys do. "The best recordings I've heard out of [Spokane] have been out of people's homes," David says.
And as more people get into it, local musicians are going to have more home recording specialists to choose from. "It's getting sort of competitive, but there are so many musicians in Spokane and so many different cliques and so many different styles that, if I wanted to, I could record full time," David says.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's one thing to have a degree of local fame -- to be loved within your clique or at your school or wherever you perform. It's quite another to be the kind of artist who unites tribes. The weird thing about buzz is that it's often as much about timing as talent. Dane Ueland, possessing a ton of talent, stumbled into the scene at exactly the right time.
As of the end of last year, Spokane was home to two relatively separate songwriter scenes. The more developed downtown scene had the artists, fans and venues Spokanites have seen grow up in the last few years. Eight miles north, though, in the conifers and subdivisions of Spokane County, Whitworth University had its own cloister of burgeoning talent, toiling away mostly on campus. The kids from the core would make the occasional coffeehouse trek north and the Whitworth singers would occasionally support in-town talent, but it wasn't until an early winter evening at Empyrean that the two came crashing together
It isn't quite correct to say Ueland caused it single-handedly. The crowd he brought to Empyrean, though, in December -- 40 or so young, hip faces, largely unseen around the core -- created a two-way scramble: artists downtown redoubling their efforts to get shows at Whitworth, and clubs downtown looking to book artists from Whitworth hoping to lure their attendant throngs.
It was a big enough, weird enough, moment in the life of Spokane's singer-songwriter scene that the Inlander wrote an article chronicling the night. It was one of three stories featuring Ueland in short order -- an artist profile and two stories about other things where he just popped up, too important to ignore. Such was his ubiquity. One month later, in January, Ueland landed the best new artist award at Spokane 7's Sommie Awards.
There's more interest in Whitworth now than ever. Other songwriters and a few indie rock bands have emerged and been documented. No one has yet eclipsed Ueland, though, with his weird, gorgeous atheistic exploration of spirituality set to guitar and mandolin.
As buzzed-about as he is now (enough to beat out 62 other bands and artists receiving votes), Ueland has cooled down in recent months, dropped off the radar a bit, in an effort to prepare for the long haul.
He's making a record, and that takes a ton of time. His songwriting is an intense, laborious process. He has all these ideas bumping around in his head, but he hasn't found a way to force lyric and melodic inspiration. It either comes or it doesn't. Lately it's been coming. "I have 10 songs I'm proud of," he says, moody deliberations on those things that earned him his strange kind of world-uniting fame. "Yeah, songs dealing with spirituality, dealing with God, dealing with my desire for revenge on certain women."
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;a name="pg33" & Adrian McKinnon applied DIY principles to a major label contract & lt;/a &
He thinks it's going to pay off big. Gaming the game.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & n the world of R & amp;B and hip-hop, protest songs against major record labels are common. Consider Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest's "Rule Number 4080": "Record company people are shady."
Local R & amp;B singer-songwriter-producer Adrian McKinnon knows why such songs exist -- a mix of actual shadiness and delusional artists -- but he decided to flip the script and make the system work for him. To be sure, McKinnon is not your average artist and he did not sign your average contract.
"Being an actual singer-songwriter-producer?" he rhetorically asks on the phone. "I don't know if there's anyone in the industry that does all three." Because he's more like three artists than one, McKinnon's advance -- the money new artists get up front -- was different. The bottomline: He skipped the fabled "million dollar advance" for something smaller, while at the same time securing a lion's share of future sales.
"[Asylum] set me up to get me what I needed hardware-wise to make what it was I needed to make," he says, adding, "in-house." He took that last part literally, using the money to build a studio in his basement. "If it's all in-house, it's a whole different story. And the turnaround, the turnaround profit is a whole different story, too."
McKinnon's abilities, coupled with his relatively low advance, put the ball in his court when it was time to fly to New York and become part of Asylum Records.
He got a good lawyer -- "The guy is no joke: he'll work at a funeral," McKinnon laughs -- who, along with mentor/manager Jamel Johnson, leveraged McKinnon's multi-talents to negotiate what looks like an independent label contract: 100 percent creative freedom, an option to back out at any time and good money.
"I got a pretty high percentage" of album sales, he says, estimating his deal to be in the top third in terms of percentage. What if he wasn't a writer and producer? What if he, like most "urban" artists, was strictly a vocal talent and easy on the eyes? "I'd be making 20 to 30 thousand dollars a year. I'd be making nothing. Not that that's nothing. It's just not the Bentleys and stuff that you see, you know? ... Those artists make money from their shows. They gotta go on, like, 2,000-city tours to make that kind of money." Many of them don't make money at all.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & cKinnon's insight into how labels work comes from Johnson, whom he met at a performance in Spokane. "He's the one who said, 'Listen. It's not cotton candy like you think it is.' It's helpful to have a manager who understands the business and speaks the language, because it's a totally different language."
Johnson also taught him "the label's job is to get something on the radio," he says. "They're not necessarily gonna have the exact same interests that I have. There's certain things I have to fight for." This cast the label people as soldiers, not masterminds, who put up roadblocks as a matter of business. "That doesn't make them evil, it's just that their job is their job."
McKinnon knows Asylum, being an urban label, targets urban radio stations. That's fine and good, but with major label promotional power, he thinks he can also make an impact on easy listening and adult contemporary formats.
"If you have an understanding of what you can do and what other people do ... you can put yourself in whatever position you want."
That might be overstating it, but McKinnon says the reason to sign with a major isn't because you'll automatically get rich; it's to actively use the available resources. Like networking opportunities.
Using his manager and label, he's able to submit songs for possible sale to big-time artists like Nelly and Ciara. Citing a relationship with Def Jam producer Felli Fell (McKinnon wrote string parts for him), he says Asylum helps him make "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" connections.
Given its place in the Warner Brothers' stable of record labels, Asylum also grants McKinnon easier access to its artists. That means when it comes time to put some featured talent on a song, he might get famous rappers like Lupe Fiasco or Scarface, or go outside the urban box for "a John Mayer or a James Blunt." The same goes for touring partners. These potential collaborations are ways to integrate his music with a wider audience.
Right now, McKinnon's putting finishing touches on his debut album. He's good at what he does. He sings like middle-period Michael Jackson and does whatever Pharrel does to synth arrangements to make them sound futuristic and retro at the same time. He knows that alone, though, isn't enough to ensure success. So he's taking time, learning the game, making his moves in advance, hoping he won't end up another broke, resentful urban artist.
-- ANDREW MATSON
& lt;a name="joel" & JOEL SMITH & lt;/a &
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & oel Smith believes in the power of language. On his (admittedly old) album, River Roads, he details the intricacies of the Mississippi, filling the songs with concrete details about geographical locations. The record was part of his senior thesis at the Johnston Center at the University of Redlands in California, after spending a summer in Memphis. He graduated with a degree in "travel writing in narrative and song," an absurdly specific focus to which he has continued to apply himself -- with an array of instruments at his disposal, from guitar to banjo to mandolin (and a bit of ukulele in his latest recording endeavors), and a high school obsession with Paul Simon that perhaps inspired him to musicianship.
Moving to town nearly three years ago to take a job at The Inlander,* Smith didn't begin playing out in earnest until a year later. Since then, he's proven himself and become one of the most talked-about artists in Spokane.
Smith's musical sensibilities are grounded in folk and Americana with the sprinkling of banjo. Dispel any drowsy Deliverance flashbacks from your mind tout de suite, though. Smith plays at a frenetic pace that lends his songs a vibrant, poppy air. With a clear, expressive voice and a host of friends to provide support, Smith's recorded work is an oeuvre replete with joyous sounds and linguistic glee.
Smith brings a cozy sense of wordplay to his music that few artists match. Among that upper echelon are a couple of Smith's heroes, Josh Ritter and Andrew Bird, company Smith would be happy to keep, and he's certainly deserving of. But the company he keeps in Spokane suits him just fine. Smith is firmly entrenched in Empyrean society, playing often with Karli Fairbanks and formerly of the North Country. Sometimes he plays with a group (his ideal backing band would be "a drummer who knows his place, a bassist who can stay in rhythm with the drummer, a hot female vocalist who can shred on the guitar, and a clone of me to handle the rest of the instruments"), and sometimes it's just him, his array of axes, and recently, a loop pedal for extra layering. His first album in five years is due this summer.
Smith was named Spokane 7's "Best Local Artist," which attests to the work he has put in since college honing his instrumental chops. He's a born songwriter who has worked and plucked and scraped himself into a musical craftsman.
-- JEFF ECHERT
& lt;a name="pg35" & There will never be another record industry & lt;/a &
Get that out of your head right now. It's gone and it ain't coming back. Whatever comes next will be different. Thankfully.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & his is not the opinion of Creative Commons advocates or socialist music critics or hippies or basement-tape-making pop utopianists. Even the establishment has come around to the idea that their industry isn't working. They're scrambling to right an already sunk ship.
In an interview with New York Times Magazine last September, legendary producer and iconoclast Rick Rubin (mastermind behind the Beastie Boys' first chart assault and innovator of the three-minute rap song) said, "Until very recently, there were a handful of channels in the music business that the gatekeepers controlled ... There was a time when if you had something that wasn't so good, through muscle and lack of other choices, you could push that not-very-good product through those channels."
Three years ago that kind of talk was still heresy. Now Rubin is spouting it from his place as head of Columbia Records, a subdivision of giant Sony BMG and one of the most famous labels in the world.
Rubin's plan is to bring Columbia back to the music. It's a great plan. The perfect plan in some ways, insofar as it takes cues from small, niche-y, artist-and-genre-focused independent labels. The hitch, one that even the guruistic Rubin doesn't yet see, is that Columbia wants to act small and niche-y, but doesn't actually want to be small and niche-y. It will probably outlast many of its competitors, but Columbia will die, too, crushed by its girth in an atmosphere that no longer can support such monstrosities.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & L & lt;/span & abels got huge for a reason. They needed to be. Recording costs were astronomical. Production and distribution costs were, too. To make such costs profitable, it required huge economies of scale -- a lot of artists selling a lot of records each throughout long, multi-album contracts. Labels came to house not just recording, production and distribution endeavors, but also became career counselors, PR people, marketers, career groomers and accountants. They even became banks, lending to artists money (called advances) that the labels took out of album profits.
The giant labels are dying for two reasons: Recording, production and distribution costs are approaching zero, and supply is now infinitely greater than demand. It no longer requires a vertically integrated monolith like Warner Brothers Records to put out a good-sounding record. As we've shown, you can do it with a microphone, a MacBook and a room with decent acoustics. It's easier to take those recordings and get them on store shelves. By the '90s, smaller, nimbler independent record labels were stealing CD store shelf space from the big boys, a trend of annoying little nips that would continue for a decade, eventually coming to feel like death by a thousand cuts.
Burning from the other end, CD-Rs allowed people to make cheap copies of existing CDs. More destructive: Napster allowed people to share them. The problem labels have with file sharing isn't theft per se, it's market saturation. Jackson Pollock's enduring fame and legacy make him a prestigious painter to own, but it isn't fame that made his No. 5 sell for $140 million in 2006. It's the fact that there's only one of them in the world. Principles of supply and demand operate independent of perceived artistic talent or hipness. They operate solely on the concept of scarcity. The rarer something is with respect to its demand, the more it's worth. Likewise, to consumers, if something is abundant, it's worth less. Digital media is probably the most abundant thing that's ever existed on earth. Infinitely copyable. If Pollock had made one million identical No. 5s, they'd be selling for $14, not $140 million. If you could download No. 5 from a Website somewhere, print it out perfectly and hang it on your wall, would you pay anything at all?
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & echnology ensures that, barring worldwide nuclear holocaust, information scarcity will never again be a problem. Which means the label paradigm is forever insolvent. It's far too big a beast for its environment.
There's still considerable marketing power, however, in a name like Columbia or Warner Brothers or Sub Pop. There are still the media connections and the brand awareness factor. For that reason certain labels will persist, but only if they can evolve to live in the new environment. There's room in the world for small, nimble record labels to act as the handshake men between artists and fans. Those will survive a long time -- maybe forever -- but the industry is dead. Long live the artist.
All the best hip-hop in Seattle happens here, but the indie rock is high-profile too. Chop Suey is small and, more to the point, centered on music. Tough to play your first (or 10th) time out.
Booking: Pete Greenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org
922 E. Pike St. * (206) 322-9272
A workingman's Pabst hole in a hip location. Allows dogs, spit on floor, etc. Great place for a band that likes to play drunk. Rated Top 10 by Maxim for best American Dive Bars.
Conor Byrne's Pub Variety
5140 Ballard Ave. * (206) 784-3640
Booking: Alana at email@example.com
Crocodile Caf & eacute;
2200 Second Ave. * (206) 448-2114
Premier live music venue, rich with history, it's a Seattle staple and damn proud of it. Nirvana used to play here. Colin Meloy sold his merch here after shows. Like, in person.
Booking: information on demo acceptance at the Website
601 First Ave. * (206) 682-3705
Booking: (206) 682-3705
3517 Fremont Ave. N * (206) 548-1508
Bring some friends if you want a crowd on a weekday. Solo acoustic sets happen in front of a fireplace a la James Taylor but drunk.
Booking: Matt Kramer (206) 548-1508
El Coraz & oacute;n
109 Eastlake Ave. E * (206) 262-0482
Booking: check Website
Side note: There are El Corazon concerts every night, so bring your friends to the show and pack the place to get booked again.
The Fenix bands that tour a lot
1700 First Ave. S * (206) 382-7877
This place is really big -- Cessna airplane-hangar big -- with a beefy sound system. Lots of space to fill. The Fenix books cover bands and bands like Warrant. Play here if your game is tight like your pants.
Booking: (206) 382-7877
206 Fifth Ave. N * (206) 374-8400
Across from Seattle Center, the whole area wishes it would go away, but it never will. Professionalism optional if you want to get beat up, but showing up on time and presenting a schedule will make you some friends.
Booking: Brian Foss, firstname.lastname@example.org
257 100th Ave. NE, Bellevue * (425) 452-6118
An all-ages teen center unlike any that exist in normal cities. The sound equipment is pretty good, and the environment attracts the same bands that play Seattle clubs.
1414 Alaskan Way * (206) 382-2171
Booking: Steve Sarkowski, Eric Maloney * (206) 382-2171
Whatever's cool, hip, happening
513 N. 36th St. * (206) 632-0212
This place is small and can either be the pinnacle of hipness or the nadir of fratness. KEXP broadcasts live from here sometimes.
Kirkland Teen Center
348 Kirkland Ave., Kirkland * (425) 822 3088
A much nicer stage and audio situation than most teen centers. Mainly teen bands, but the Divorce plays here from time to time.
Booking: (425) 822 3088 or email@example.com
Last Supper Club
124 S. Washington St. * (206) 748-9975
People come here, buy expensive drinks, and hook up with each other. Book yourself for a hip-hop slot here only if you can hang on the international circuit.
Booking: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com