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Poptarts: Danielle Barbe

Lately, rock and pop go hand in hand. Listeners seem to crave music with both driving intensity and a hook. Luckily, Danielle Barbe is a textbook example of how pop music can be supported by arrangements that satisfy an audience with heavier tastes. With a sound that  lies somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Ashlee Simpson, Barbe released her self-titled album back in March. The track “Ghost Town” opens with a complex guitar bed complete with U2-esque reverb and delay. The verse builds with sustained melodies and palm-muted guitars until finally arriving at the chorus. I will be surprised if you aren’t humming that chorus at least once later today.
It’s no shock to learn that Luke Ebbin (Bon Jovie, Plain White T’s, All American Rejects) produced this latest release, or that her songs have caught the ears of music supervisors. Over at CBS, they featured “Ghost Town” on an episode of Ghost Whisperer (you can catch a webisode featuring her song here). And, they even asked her to perform for the the cast and crew of Ghost Whisperer at their 100th episode celebration in Hollywood this past March. Her licensing accomplishments don’t stop there. If you’re flying Delta this summer, listen for “Ghost Town” there too. You might be lucky enough to be on one of the 45,000 flights where they’re featuring the song.
Barbe is no slouch on the live circuit either. She has shared the stage with major acts such as The Cult, Tantric and Rusted Root. She’s also performed at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW. She’s keeping the rock/pop relationship alive by performing with newly reformed rock act Fuel on their tour this summer. Check out her profile for details soon.

New Music Biz 101: Digital Distribution

Shifts in the music industry have leveled the playing field for independent artists in many ways. One such way is musical distribution. Because we live in a digital age, distribution is taking place in high volumes online. There are a numerous solutions to distributing your music digitally, and we’re going to give an overview of a few of these options.

Tunecore

This company is a massive aggregator of distribution platforms. The idea is that they are a one-stop shop for getting your music on iTunes, Amazon MP3, emusic, etc. Their Web site is easy to maneuver and understand. In addition, their pricing is reasonable considering the number of platforms you’re able to get your music on. At $9.99 per single, and $47.99 per album, it’s a no brainer for a new release.

SoundCloud

If you’ve ever wanted to find an easy way to get your music around the web quickly and easily, SoundCloud is your solution. This platform allows you to promptly send and receive music tracks which is great for collaborating on different mixes or mastered versions of your work with your band mates. Additionally, the company offers “artsy widgets” that look good on most Web sites. The service starts off free at the base level and ramps up to different price points as you add in additional functionality and trackability.

Fair Share Music

Fair Share Music is a very cool idea for any artist trying to make a difference in the world. The platform is designed around donating a share of the tracks sold on the Web site to a charity of the buyers choice (within their database). Although still in beta, the website offers over 8.5 million tracks to download. They donate 50% of their profits to the selected charity!

With all these cool ways to distribute your music for cheap, there’s no reason not to share your music with the world! As always we’d love to hear about your methods of digital distribution.

Folkin’ Around: Q&A With Matthew Perryman Jones

We’ve brought you a lot of album reviews, OurStage artist features and playlists here on the Folkin’ Around series. If you recall our feature on Pocket Satellite, you may remember that the use of harmonies is a common and current folk practice. We showed you Matthew Perryman Jones’ and Katie Herzig’s performance of “Where the Road Meets the Sun” as an example of girl-boy harmonies (P.S., have you caught Katie Herzig with OurStage artist Andrew Belle in the new video for “Static Waves”?).  Well, we’ve now reached the end of our road here on Folkin’ Around and we’ve decided to bring you a Q&A with Matthew Perryman Jones himself.

Jones is an accomplished singer/songwriter from Nashville, TN, and he has the track record to support that resume. He’s been featured on countless TV shows and has toured the globe. Check out what he had to say about songwriting, television licensing and his current projects.

OS: Your style seems to combine folk songwriting with electric arrangements. At what point in the writing process do these extra layers come in, and do you work with producers to achieve them?

That’s the stuff that goes back to when I was younger—REM, the old-school U2. So I’ve always lived that, and I really wanted to make some records that incorporated more of an environment for the song; I wanted to create with different instruments. I did a record in 2000 which is definitely more of a folk-based thing. But during the last couple of records, I’ve been working with a producer that I really like—how he arranges the songs and the sounds he’s been able to get. I just didn’t want to be the “guy with the guitar.” I was personally getting tired of that—I spent most of the nineties just me and my guitar. So I really wanted to explore creating a musical environment for the song. It’s funny because the next record I do is probably going to be more stripped down. You kind of tend to swing one way or the other, because you get tired of one thing and you’ve got to just go to the next thing. So the next record might be completely different than the last two.

OS: Some of your most striking accomplishments are effective song placements (probably Grey’s Anatomy is the most notable). Do these placements change your outlook on the songs?

MPJ: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know if I’ve really thought about that too much. Every time it’s been really cool—I don’t see every one that airs. I’ve noticed on most of them, they’ve been really cool. I felt they were really appropriate; they want to hear a certain kind of emotion. Even thematically, the song may be a different thing, but there’s an emotion that they’re going for. The folks that work in film and TV that are placing the songs are really tasteful. So it doesn’t really change my outlook on the song.

There was a song called “Swallow the Sea” off my last record that was on Royal Pains. They played it during a time where there was this guy who was a drug addict and he was going through withdrawal. That was one where I was like “Man, they really got the feeling of the song.” It’s a song about futility, and it was kind of like the culmination of this guy’s story, coming up to his withdrawal. The film/TV thing that’s going on today, what I really appreciate is that the people really do listen to the music. They’re not looking for a hook or how short the song is. They’re like “what does this song mean and what does it feel like?” They’re putting it up against real life drama, so they want it to be real. Which is the refreshing part about it. They want something that’s human, that’s real, that’s emotive. It’s really what music should be.

OS: ”Where the Road Meets the Sun” is a very interesting collaboration with Katie Herzig. How did you two work together as far as writing this song?

MPJ: There’s actually a pretty cool story to this song. We write together quite a bit. It was probably about two or three years ago; we just got together and wrote the song in my kitchen. We came up with it and really liked it. It was originally about a scene in Central Park. “Angel wings spread over water, one wishes.” It’s that famous fountain in Central Park that everyone goes to with the angels over it. It’s just a story about two people. So we wrote it, and it just kind of sat around. We put the lyrics and GarageBand recordings on both of our computers. And it happened that both of our computers at different times had crashed and we lost all of it.

We were actually asked to have a song in a movie that I think was called Dear John. They had asked us to write a song together for the movie. I was like, “What was that song we wrote a while ago . . . ?” Katie was like, “Well, I lost it when my computer crashed.” We thought it would be awesome if we could remember but we were really having trouble. Then I got a text from Katie at like 2 in the morning saying that she remembered it. She apparently was just going to sleep and the song just came to her. So she got up, went to her computer and recorded everything she could remember. So we got together and finished the song. And that’s how it came about. The Dear John people decided it just didn’t fit for the scene. We had recorded it and everything, and like two weeks later it ended up going onto the season finale of Grey’s. I’m glad we rediscovered it, because I really like it.

OS: You’ve got a show coming up with Herzig. When was the last time you played with her?

MPJ: I’ve done some shows and she’ll come up and sing with me. If she’s around, we’ll try and do that song together. We’ve done a couple tours together, but that’s been a few years. There was this one time where she was playing in Atlanta and I was at home in Nashville, and people were requesting “Where the Road Meets the Sun.” So she called me on the phone and I basically sang the song on speakerphone into the microphone live in Atlanta. I don’t think it really turned out that well, but it was probably pretty entertaining for the people there.

OS: It’s been a while since you’ve done an official release. When can we expect a new one?

Currently, I’m actually working on a new full-length. I’m just in the thick of writing for it. The goal is to maybe have it out by the first of the year, but I’m not sure if that will happen. I have a lot of stuff that’s different, so I’m trying to take the time to make something special.

Stay tuned for Jones’ new album and, if you missed him with Herzig, stay tuned for more fall dates. Here are a couple already announced:

9/15 Vienna, VA — Jammin’ Java

9/30 Birmingham, AL — Samford Univeristy


Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Darrelle London

To close this week’s Needle in the Haystack, we’ve created a short video featuring Darrelle London! Earlier in the week she was featured on MTVMusic.com, and offered OurStage a free track download.

Keep your eyes on London as her career takes off!

Punk On The Rocks: Punk On The Road

Whether the month of August is traditionally rain-soaked or dry as a desert in your hometown, it was most likely a drought month in terms of big name tours. For punk rockers who are thirsty for live music, fear not: The beginning of September marks the start of the fall touring season deluge. This week, Punk on the Rocks has the scoop on the fall tours you can’t miss.
Veteran punks Social Distortion have a string of US dates lined up with Lucero and English folk-punker Frank Turner. The tour starts October 14th in Utah and ends November 23rd in Arizona. Click here for dates.

The Street Dogs : Photo by Brian Sheffield

Boston’s Street Dogs will be hitting the road starting September 7th in support of their self-titled sixth full length (out September 3rd on Hellcat Records). The band will be covering most of the continental US and bringing Devil’s Brigade, Flatfoot 56 and Continental along with them. Click here for dates. If you haven’t seen the Street Dogs live, check out the review of last year’s “Wreck The Halls” show to find out what you’ve been missing.

Street Dogs won’t be the only Boston band on the road—Currently on tour in Europe, Big D & The Kids Table will be returning to the US starting September 24th for a brief tour of the northeast US, culminating in the band’s annual Halloween show at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club. Click here for dates.

The Gaslight Anthem : Photo by Ashley Maile

New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem have got a massive touring schedule lined up for the fall. After playing the Reading and Leeds Festival in the UK, the band will wind through the US and Canada starting September 1st. They will return to Europe in late October, where they will remain until late November. The Reading and Leeds Festival appearance will be followed up with stops at Austin City Limits and The Great Allentown Fair, where the band will be opening for Weezer. Click here for dates.

The Swingin’ Utters have expanded their current US tour to include several September dates with The Copyrights and Have Nots and a three-night Texas run with Krum Bums in October. The band will spend November criss-crossing Europe. Click here for dates.

The Misfits (or what’s left of them) will be going in the opposite direction, starting their European tour in September and returning to the States in mid-October for a US tour that is scheduled to last until early December. For those of you hoping to catch the Misfits on Halloween, the closest you’re going to get is their October 30th show in Toledo, OH. While no one is going to begrudge the band some down time,  it’s a mystery as to why they would take off the one day a year that most cries out for a Misfits show. Oh well, maybe next year. Click here for dates.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this fall? Let us know in the comments!

Discourse & Dischord


The Good

College Humor is afraid

Eminem isn’t afraid anymore. But unfortunately, his impersonator in CollegeHumor’s parody of “Not Afraid” is. Aliens, clowns, land sharks, ghost snakes—everything gives this guy the willies. Check out the super scary video below.

Kanye will release a song a week until Christmas

You heard it right. First up is “Power,” which you can download here. Merry Christmas!

The Bad

Songwriter George David Weiss dies

George David Weiss

George David Weiss, a songwriter best known for penning classics such as “What a Wonderful World” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” passed away on Monday. Weiss’ songs were recorded by artists ranging from Elvis to Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. Weiss was 89-years-old.

The Ugly

Jay-Z woulda robbed Chris Martin’s ass back in the day

Jay-Z

Jay-Z and Chris Martin are good buds now, but if the Coldplay frontman had wandered into the Marcy projects back in the day, dude would have gotten jacked. As Jay-Z told Q Magazine, “I was a different person then—I wasn’t open to the world and different cultures. I would have been, ‘Yo! Who are you? Give me your money.’” Not sure what Jigga would have done with 20 quid in the ghetto, but anywho …

Miscellany

Soul Searching: Britten

There are some artists out there that you listen to and think to yourself, “Why isn’t this person a household name?” This week’s featured musician is one of such artist who goes by the name of Britten. Britten is a musical force not to be reckoned with—mixing the uplifting and feel good nature of pop with the vocal skills and styles of R&B. It seems as though most musicians are generally inspired at a young age by legendary artists, and Britten is no exception. His influences derive from huge names like Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Prince and Michael Jackson. The appeal of these influential artists is clearly heard in Britten’s music.

Although Britten has the vocals down pat, he really shines as a musician through his song writing. His songs are catchy and well though out. He uses creative harmonies to get his lyrics presented in a fun and exciting way. According to his OurStage profile, “’Not So Ordinary’ was the first song I seriously wrote. I didn’t know much, but I knew I was tired of hearing people say the same ole’ stuff in the same ole’ way.” His music is comfortable to listen to, but most certainly unique.

Check out the streamable tracks below and let us know what you think! If there are any R&B artists that you think have serious soul, let us know!

Tune Up: DMB Americana/Stellar Drive Pedal Reviews

I know guitar players out there who own pedal boards that are worth more than their guitars or amps. Many players are constantly trolling through music stores looking for that next great used pedal, sometimes spending hundreds of dollars a pop. For this week’s tech article, I’m going to pick one of the many stomp box brands out there and review a couple of their products. While there are many pedal providers (some big, some small), I went with DMB Pedals this week for one simple reason: I’ve used their pedals and trust their construction.

While I myself am not an electric guitar player (I play bass in rock settings and acoustic guitar in singer/songwriter settings), I respect every bit of what DMB has done. This year they have revamped some of my favorite DMB pedals and have even come out with a couple brand new models. They’ve released The Bumble, Foxy Pirate, Lexi and Americana. Here, I’ll talk about the newly revamped Americana pedal as well as DMB’s staple, Stellar Drive.

Americana:

Lately, I’ve really been into the country/folk rock sound. There’s nothing more satisfying than a simple song with “open-chord” accompaniment. In today’s music industry, it’s important to have an American sound. For that, we have the aptly-named Americana pedal from DMB. They’ve had this pedal before but just recently released a four-knob version. The difference between the two versions is that the 4-knob contains a “clean” control in addition to the “drive,” “level” and “tone” controls. I personally find this fourth knob really handy because it allows you to have a great “Americana” juxtaposition between a dirty, heavily-driven sound and a clean, folk-like sound.

In general, this pedal has seemed a bit more raw than a standard overdrive pedal. Where it shines, though, is in the open chords (hence why I use it for more folk-rock songs). It seems to give me some more upper frequencies as well. While it may lack a little in fullness, it makes up for it in true “American” grit/flavor. Additionally, as mentioned above, you can add a touch of “clean” to your sound by using that fourth knob. Overall, it’s a great unit.

Stellar Drive:

This pedal seems to be, for lack of a better term, a more “traditional” overdrive pedal. Right off the bat, it is clearly a fuller option. The mids and lows come through extremely well. What I find most impressive about this though, though, is its versatility. With this unit, you can also get a fourth “clean” knob to add a bit of a third dimension to your sound (as noted by a DMB reviewer). The sound is somewhere between alt rock and blues rock, with solid overdrive grit for lead guitar riffs and full inner frequencies for rhythm guitar enforcement. In general I find this pedal effective, although at times it seems a little difficult to break up the sound beyond recognition. I sometimes like my overdrive pedals to have enough drive headroom to give me a “fuzz-like” sound; this pedal keeps the guitar’s tone fully intact all the way through. It’s a only minor setback though, and Stellar Drive will guarantee a full, reliable tone for any rock/funk guitarist.

Overall, DMB is a very solid manufacturer. There is often a waitlist for their products so I recommend heading to their website and ordering a product as soon as they announce it, before demand becomes too great. DMB do make and guarantee each one of their pedals. And while you sometimes have to wait for the product’s completion, the quality is worth it. These pedals are unique, versatile and rugged: a great addition to anyone’s board.

What’s Brewing In Country: Band To Fan Loyalty

Picture the beer taps at your favorite pub for a moment and think about how you always tell the barkeep you want the brew from a particular one.
Now picture the beer taps sans logos but with faces of major country music stars (seriously, stay with us here) – Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Alison Krauss, Taylor Swift, and the Court Yard Hounds for starters. The suds and the stars may have more in common than you think.

It’s a good bet you are loyal to your beer of choice and not just because of taste. Grassroots marketing likely made it a staple with your family and friends who introduced you to it as if it was another friend. That’s the same reason many fans pledge allegiance to certain country musicians.
Unlike musicians in rock, pop, hip hop and other formats, it’s fairly unusual for country musicians to appear on YouTube or MySpace one day and on major heavy rotation lists the next. A lot has changed since the Grand Ol’ Opry was appointment radio, but one thing has remained true – country fans put enormous stock into country musicians that honor the community.

To determine which of the up-and-coming country performers of today — Lissie, Sons of Sylvia, Truth & Salvage Co. to name a few – will be tomorrow’s amphitheatre stars, consider their commitment to their fans.
Let’s face it – Taylor Swift didn’t have a 15-hour meet and greet at this summer’s CMA Music Fest in Nashville because she found herself with downtime – she did it because country royalty is made and broken by fan interaction.

Photo Credit: www.jeffography.com

Doubt that? Consider the Zac Brown Band. Less than 10 years ago, Zac Brown was just another guy in Georgia with a small family business – Zac’s Place, a restaurant he owned and managed with his dad — and a dream. On weekends he’d grill up food, invite the members of the Zac Brown Band over to play, and create his own mini festival right outside the restaurant. Weekdays the band spent on the road playing concerts and hosting eat-and-greets to build the fan base.

Although Zac’s now flying high with awards, sold-out shows and critical acclaim, he frets about not having enough face time with his fans. That’s one reason the group bought a new culinary trailer, so they can feed more fans when the band tours behind its September 21 album release – aptly named — “You Get What You Give.”
You don’t need to ask if Bomshel, Gary Nichols or Megan Mullins will be tomorrow’s mega country star. Watch how loyal they are to fans and vice versa. Then you’ll know.

Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham writes about music for Country Weekly, AOL Music’s site The Boot, The Washington Post, Relix and others.

Behind the Mic: Beyond Basic Band Merch

No matter whose merch table you visit, chances are you will find t-shirts and CDs on display. They are both great promotional items and relatively inexpensive to mass produce. But music is a business, after all, and at the end of the day, your band is your brand. And, like a brand name, your band should do everything possible to stand out from the crowd. This means coming up with some slick designs and merch ideas. Here are some beyond-basic products that fans are lining up to grab.

Lady Gaga's iPhone skin from DingLife.com.

Show some skin. Many people spend all day on their laptop. They use their iPod when they leave the house and spend a lot of time texting and making phone calls. How great would it be if your band could be promoted every time someone uses these three devices? Artists such as Fall Out Boy, Lady Gaga and No Doubt use Web sites like DingLife.com to sell band-customized “skins”- protective vinyl stickers that cover the entire back of a device. Your band can sell through these sites too, so design an awesome skin and start sticking!

Nevershoutnever gets crafty with their merch plans.

Toys, toys, toys: Toys are not just for kids. In fact, they are making a huge comeback in beyond-basic band merch. From U2‘s Lego set to Cinematic Sunrise‘s coloring book lyric booklet, toys are both fan must-haves and cool collector items. Arts and crafts merch is becoming popular too, thanks to performers like OurStage artist NeverShoutNever, who sells a make-your-own-bracelet kit, and Kanye West, who had paper dolls of his album logo. Some more great ideas include Frisbees, coloring books and stuffed animals (wearing your band’s t-shirt, of course).

VersaEmerge's limited edition laminate.

Badge of honor: The laminated tour pass is a triple threat. These limited-edition badges make fans feel as though they’re VIPs at your show. They also make great souvenirs that trump any collection of crumpled up concert tickets. The greatest part of the tour pass though, is that it can act as a real pass for fans, like a pass for an exclusive performance or a discount card for any purchase. VersaEmerge used this idea as a pre-order option for their latest album, Fixed at Zero. Fans could purchase the laminate, which had a download code on the back, and also use it to cut the line at the band’s merch table and signings at Bamboozle and Warped Tour. The possibilities for the tour pass are endless, so get creative with the design and make sure your fans feel like stars, too.

Merch is all about making your fans feel like they’re part of a community. The more creative and limited your merch is, the hotter an item it will be. Let us know what great ideas you come up with!

 


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