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Needle in the Haystack: Chris Pureka

This week’s Needle in the Haystack artist tends to hang out in multiple Top 10 OurStage channels including folk, acoustic and solo performance. A lot of artists claim to be a breath of fresh air in the industry. Often times this isn’t true, but after hearing Chris Pureka, there’s a good chance you’ll be saying the same thing. “For a woman who frequently performs solo and whose compositions are more quiet than clanging, Chris Pureka is making a lot of noise.” -Billboard Magazine

Chris has a very distinct voice and overall sound that her growing fan base knows and loves. Although frequently discussing her heartbreak in her lyrics, you’re left wanting to hear more, clinging to her every word. Chris tours internationally and has been reviewed by multiple major publications including Billboard and The New York Times. Her music tends to break new boundaries, and her quirky recording techniques often help her create never before heard sounds.

Take a listen to Chris’ free download, “Wrecking Ball”, below. Let us know what you think, and if you like what you hear. Stay tuned for much more on Pureka throughout the week.

Tune Up: Acoustic Pickups

There are few things more annoying than dealing with complicated mic placements and configurations during acoustic shows and performances. Acoustic guitars, banjo’s, violins, upright basses: they all have a common problem with live performance. It’s tough to mic them or amplify their sound through the PA. The solution to this problem is purchasing a pickup to install on your instrument. Fishman® specializes specifically in the pickup/transducer market.

As a company, Fishman® makes a large number of pick up systems and instrument preamps. For this post, we’ll focus on the benefits of their products for use with acoustic guitars and upright basses.

Acoustic Guitars

For acoustic guitars, it’s common to all but require a guitar with acoustic/electric capabilities. In fact, there are many guitars that advertise the type of pickup system in their guitars (which is, appropriately enough, often Fishman®). There are essentially two types of pickups you can purchase. The first is a standard type where there is a small bar inserted under the bridge of the guitar. While this can be bought separately, it is typically the style that comes in acoustic/electric guitars when purchased at stores. The other style is much easier to install after the fact. It is often referred to as a “Magnetic Soundhole Pickup”. This one tends to have a bit more of a “room sound” rather than the dry, twangy sound associated with under-bridge pickup models.

Upright Bass

Next to a piano or a harp, an upright bass is one of the toughest instruments to effectively mic. Therefore, it’s really quite important to have a pickup installed. In fact, they actually sound pretty realistic compared to what a double bass sounds like up close. As with the acoustic pickups, there are two key styles. Both styles are fastened or worked into the bridge of the bass in some way. Perhaps the most common is a Full Circle pickup. This will be placed at the bottom of one side of the bridge, encased in an adjuster wheel (which ordinarily aren’t pickups but rather adjust the height of the bridge). These have a decidedly full sound with some great, realistic punch and a full arco tone. The other standard type that Fishman® sells is the BP-100. This is a little easier to install quickly (as it is jut clamped to the bridge with clips). These have a nice high-end, but sometimes feed back. It can be a little tricky to keep these attached and sounding clean, but they don’t require you to remove the bridge and screw anything on, and are therefore easier to install.

All of these pickups connect via ¼ inch cable and Fishman® has engineered them with acoustic instruments in mind. There are many styles within a lot of price points. They offer models for guitars, basses and a slew of other orchestra/acoustic instruments. So we urge you to check out their whole collection.

Soul Searching: Orlando Dixon

As a classically trained vocalist, and self-taught pianist, Orlando Dixon brings flair and style to the stage. He works hard to mirror the greats such as Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke and John Lennon. But his own style comes out strong as he begins to establish himself in the industry.  Dixon is currently promoting his Mixtape series In My Element—an original collection of music.

After winning the grand prize of Disc Makers’ Design Studio Cover Search Contest, he went on to become a finalist in VH1’s Songwriting Contest. In addition to these notable accomplishments, Dixon has shared the stage with renowned artists such as Lalah Hathaway, Paula Cole and Philip Bailey of Earth Wind and Fire.

“Don’t Give Up On Us” is one of our favorite Orlando Dixon Tracks. It’s super catchy and fun to listen to. We posted the track below to stream so that you can tell us what you think! After listening to that, check out his cover of Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without You”.

Marketplace News: New England Artists – Help Us Test Our New Gig Finder Feature!

After a lot of hard work from the OurStage team, the site is currently in the process of beta testing some new features for the Marketplace tool suite! One of these features is the Gig Finder tool.

Some of you may remember that there was a similar tool available in the old version of Marketplace that launched  in 2008. The idea is still the same—help emerging artists connect with talent buyers who are offering live performance opportunities—but we’ve made some improvements to make the tool easier to use for both talent buyers and artists. For example:

  • Gigs tailored to your talents – In the Gig Finder tool, you will only see gigs that apply to the genre of music you play. This will save you time by not having to sort through opportunities that you aren’t interested in and will help prevent artists from accidentally applying to gigs if they do not meet the venue’s genre requirements. If you can see it and you’re available, you should apply!

Easily find the right gigs for you!

  • Easy to read gig dashboard – The “My Gigs” tab will display all of the gigs you have  submitted your EPK for. These gigs are divided in to three sections: “Applied” (You have submitted your EPK), “Pending” (You have been sent a booking offer for a gig but have not yet accepted or declined) and “Booked” (You have accepted a booking offer for a gig).

Now, we need New England artists to help us test out this feature! We have several Boston-area venues testing Gig Finder by posting real performance opportunities and they are looking for YOU to submit your EPK! Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign in to your OurStage.com account.
  2. Fill out your EPK until it is at least 75% complete (You will not be able to submit to gigs on OurStage otherwise).
  3. Click on “Marketplace” in the navigation bar at the top of the page and select “Gig Finder” from the dropdown menu.
  4. Click on the “Browse Gigs” tab to see which Gig Finder opportunities are right for you and submit your EPK!

Let us know what you think of Gig Finder! Send us an email at Marketplace@ourstage.com!

New Music Biz 101: MySpace Revamp

MySpace has always been a huge player in the new music biz as a consistent and easy way for people to engage music. When you search for a band, maybe one that you’ve recently heard about, typing in the band name into Google frequently brings you their MySpace page. Conveniently, you’re able to quickly stream the band’s music and get a quick sense of their brand image. MySpace, as many of you know, has encountered some serious competition with upcoming social networks and is rumored to be losing a ton of money every quarter. Despite these losses, they remain a discovery platform for musicians, and it seems as though musicians continue to cling to the site.

MySpace recently rolled out a new, and much needed, user interface redesign. So much has changed that it would be difficult to go over every aspect of the redesign in a single post. In general, the look and feel of the site is simplified and more visually friendly than before. Everything has been revamped. From the home page to the individual profiles, MySpace looks drastically different. It’s not just a visual change however. MySpace shifted their focus from a social network to a “Social Entertainment Destination”. They have even changed their demographic to exclusively focus on 13 to 35 year olds. The overall goal is to become “the leading entertainment destination that is socially powered by the passions of fans and curators.” We’ve included a video that will give you a sense of the changes made. MySpace created this video when they launched the revamp.
What do you think of the changes? How has it been working for you as an artist? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: Cameron Rafati

It’s been a great week with Needle in the Haystack artist Cameron Rafati! Cameron was generous enough to allow us to give away the free download “xOx” from his new album! It’s definitely a great track to have on your holiday play list! Hope you had time to check out the interview on MTVmusic.com. If not, no worries you can link to it here. We also conducted a phone interview with Cameron the other day that we’ve put together in a video below. Check it out and let us know what you think of this well respected OurStage artist!

The Life and Trying Times of Kanye West

There’s famous, there’s infamous and there’s Kanye West. The hip hop star embodies both while somehow transcending them, too. What other rapper in the history of the world can claim to have brought about the worst moment of a US President’s term as, according to George W. Bush, West did when he accused him of not caring about black people following the national government’s delayed response after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

Like Eminem and Jay-Z, West is a rap rarity, successfully negotiating the tightrope that connects commercial and critical success with street cred. Pop Star Kanye has sold millions of albums and in seven years, made a dozen trips to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, produced music for Brandy and Mariah Carey, and collaborated with Madonna and Maroon 5′s Adam Levine. Meanwhile, Critical Darling Kanye has won fourteen GRAMMYs and seen three of his first four albums nominated for Album of the Year. His fifth effort, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released on November 22, has received unanimous praise, and Rolling Stone gave it a rare five-star review. And Street Kanye, as producer and/or performer, gets to keep company with the likes of Lil Wayne, Eminem and Jay-Z—with whom he’ll release Watch the Throne in 2011—on record.

Then there’s a fourth side to West, the one that too often overshadows all the others: Troublemaker Kanye. He’s the poor sport who doesn’t know how to lose gracefully, or silently, and stormed the stage at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards when Justice and Simian’s “We Are Your Friends” won Best Video over his “Touch the Sky.” The conspiracy theorist who screamed racism and threatened to never again attend the MTV Video Music Awards in 2007 when Britney Spears was chosen to open the show over him and he lost in all five categories for which he was nominated.

He’s the controversy-baiting narcissist who posed as Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone in January of 2006 (complete with a crown of thorns) and whose latest album cover features an animated nude West being straddled by a winged female, also naked. The outspoken challenger of authority who slammed President Bush on national television during the live broadcast of the Concert for Hurricane Relief benefit for victims of Katrina. The reportedly drunken fool who most famously (and infamously) interrupted Taylor Swift’s Best Female Video acceptance speech (for “You Belong With Me”) at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to anoint competitor Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” clip “one of the best videos of all time.”

West wouldn’t be arguably the most complicated guy in hip hop if he could take it and dish it out in equal measures. He took his lumps after the 2009 VMAs when he was criticized by the likes of Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Katy Perry and called an “asshole” off the record by President Barack Obama. And even as the three singles released prior to Fantasy failed to make much of a chart impact, he kept his cool.

But on November 12, West finally lost it. The man who raised his blood pressure past boiling point?: Today show host Matt Lauer, who, during a sit down with West, dared to show clips of the Taylor Swift incident and the interview in which Bush declared being called a racist by West to be the “all-time low” point of his presidency. Complaining (via Twitter, of course) about the “very brutal” interview during which he admonished Lauer for running the clips, West pulled out of a Today performance scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving and tweeted, “I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused.”

It’s hard to pinpoint the source of West’s misconduct. Perhaps he’s one of those temperamental talents, capricious and unpredictable, a volcano always on the verge of erupting. Or maybe he’s just a bully with extremely thin skin, who screams and runs for cover when the tables are turned against him. There have been rumors of a drinking problem (which some say led to his antics at last year’s VMAs). He’s had to cope with the sudden death of his mother, Donda, in 2007 due to complications following cosmetic surgery. And after the Today show blow-up, he found himself without an official mouthpiece when his publicist resigned after just three days on the job.

Of course, there’s a new record to promote, so the Kanye West Show must go on, temper tantrums, contradictory behavior, brilliant music and all. “I don’t hate Matt Lauer. We don’t promote hate. That’s the whole point!!! I promote love and truth! … All positive energy … all smiles. Much love to Matt and the whole Today Show,” he tweeted after his showdown with Lauer. He might never practice what he preaches or do unto others as he would have them do unto him, but then if he did, his beautiful dark twisted fantasy wouldn’t be so compelling.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is in stores now.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Punk on the Rocks: Is Epitaph Records The New Black?

If you’ve been keeping up with the punk news cycle this year, you may have noticed an interesting trend. While it’s not unusual  to see major label acts switch to indie labels in these times of industry turmoil, it is unusual to see multiple bands leaving their labels and congregating on one roster. The biggest trend in punk music this year? Leaving your label for Epitaph Records.

Weezer started the trend late last year with their departure from DGC/Interscope.  The band had been recording for DGC/ Interscope and their parent company Geffen Records for sixteen years. In August 2010, Weezer announced that their next album Hurley would be released on Epitaph. They were followed by Pennywise, who returned to Epitaph in 2010 after a one record deal with MySpace Records for their 2007 release Free to the People, and post-hardcore outfit Alesana, who left indie Fearless Records for Epitaph in November of this year.

Hurley, Weezer's first Epitaph album.

So what’s the big deal with Epitaph? Why are artists flocking there? There is certainly the cool factor of getting to work with Bad Religion guitarist Brad Gurewitz, who owns the label. There’s also good faith involved in signing Epitaph. You don’t get to be one of the most respected indie labels of all time by mistreating your artists. It’s possible that these artists thought they would get more creative control and collaboration by being on Epitaph. It seems that that’s the reason Weezer decided to go indie. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo stated “…We’ve had a really good creative collaboration with Brett Gurewitz and the other people at the label, and I’m looking forward to collaboration with other like-minded alternative music fans at the label.”

Of course, not everyone is on the Epitaph love train. Post-hardcore band Escape The Fate recently released their third album, the self-titled Escape The Fate, on major label DGC/Interscope Records, the very same label that Weezer joined Epitaph to break free from. Escape The Fate seems to be enjoying the switch from indie to major, selling 18,500 copies of their new album in it’s first week, but one can’t help but wonder if they’ll be rejoining the indie label ranks in the future.

What do you think has made Epitaph records so popular recently? Let us know in the comments!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Thom Yorke building massive human statue to fight climate change

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is looking to recruit 2,000 volunteers to build a massive human statue to fight climate change this weekend. The statue will fight climate change by punching the clouds with its 4,000 fists. OK, not really. It’s more of a symbolic fight. Yorke’s human statue is one of 16 planned around the world to be photographed by a satellite from space. The event will raise awareness around the United Nations’ meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss an international climate treaty.

Arcade Fire and Spike Jonze unite for “The Suburbs” video

Arcade Fire has released their video for “The Suburbs,” and it’s not a cheery tale of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Applebee’s. The video is directed by Spike Jonze, and, much like his work in Where The Wild Things Are, combines youth, nostalgia, and unexpected violence. Watch it below.

The Bad

Quincy Jones gives Kanye West the big diss

Don’t tell Quincy Jones that he has anything in common with Kanye West. Them’s fighting words. In an interview with Us Magazine, Jones responded to the observation that he and West are both hugely successful producers with total disdain. “No way. Did he write for a symphony orchestra? Does he write for a jazz orchestra? Come on man, he’s just a rapper.” West has yet to respond to this ego bruise publicly, but if Twitter suddenly explodes, you’ll know why.

The Ugly

Kings of Leon looking for ugly people

Calling all pockmarked, scarred and sundry busted people! Kings of Leon are looking for individuals with physical deformities for their next video shoot. Has anyone ever made a joke about your face breaking their camera? Do horses whinny when you pass by? Capitalize on your plainness—the band is paying $300 a day. Uh … are they sure this isn’t the video for “Use Somebody”?


Judges Needed For MTV’s Score SKINS Music Project

Song placement in TV shows has long been a great way to expose up-and-coming artists to new audiences and, in some cases, propel these artists into superstar status. Take for instance shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, and One Tree Hill, all of which boosted the careers of artists like Bon Iver, Snow Patrol and Ray LaMontagne to name a few. Now, MTV is bringing England’s hit teen drama SKINS to the eyes and ears of US audiences, and is looking for undiscovered musical talent to include on the show. The MTV “Score SKINS Music Project” aims to give OurStage artists the chance to have their music featured when the show airs in 2011. Artists started submitting their material in the beginning of November with the hope that their song will make it to the airwaves. The competition is CLOSED to submissions and is entering the final stages of judging. Artists need YOUR votes now more than ever to make it to the ears of the music supervisors at MTV. By judging in the MTV “Score SKINS Music Project” you can be part of the process that helps break an artist to thousands of new listeners. You just might discover some great new music along the way. Click HERE to begin judging in the MTV “Score SKINS Music Project” today.


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