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Behind the Mic: Don’t Ditch Your Website

In a world where bands are constantly spending hours updating their Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages, it may seem like having an official Web site is a thing of the past. In fact, a large percentage of bands these days have their bandname.com site re-direct to their MySpace.  While this will save you a bit of time and maintenance effort, having an official Web site can actually be better in the long run.

Though technologically hip, Facebook and Twitter are both extremely limited in terms of what bands can do with them. Facebook’s Pages for bands are uniform and do not allow for HTML customization. While this is good news for people sick of MySpace crashing their browser, music is not the focus here. Most bands’ Facebook pages have a separate tab for music, or they have a small music section on the bottom right corner of the page (of course, those with more web experience can make a flashy Facebook page for their band).

Eminem's website is simple, straight-forward and eye-catching.

Twitter is good for up-to-the-minute brief updates (140 characters at a time), posting links to other sites and speaking directly to fans, but you really can’t do much in terms of posting content.

And then there’s MySpace, which many consider to already be “dead.” Though the fans have certainly abandoned MySpace communication, it is still the go-to, one-stop-shop for promoters, booking agents and talent scouts. The problem with MySpace occurs when bands decide to fill their pages with videos, graphics, ads and banners that can make the entire viewing process slow and unenjoyable.

With an official Web site, the power is in your hands. With completely customizable HTML, you have total control over the branding and design of the site. You also have control over how long the site exists. Think about it: If you’re only on Twitter and Facebook and these sites shut down someday, your band will have zero web presence! Your Web site will also be an official place for fans to go to get all the information and content they need, from live videos to song lyrics to blog posts and chat forums.

OurStage artist Danielle Barbe's website, created on BandZoogle

From an internet marketing standpoint, it only makes sense to own yourbandname.com, as fans may assume you have the page and try to go there. You will also be the first result in search engines, instead of another band or a completely unrelated company.

Now, for those of you who think you’re not web-savvy enough to create a Web site from scratch, there are other options. One is using BandZoogle.com, which is basically a platform that helps you create the Web site. BandZoogle will help you create and customize pages, and all you’ll need to do is fill in the blanks.

You can have fun with your Web site by using it as a blog, a fan community page and a news site. Just make sure that it’s clean, easy to navigate and updated consistently!

Where the Wild Things Are

Buckeye Knoll

Leaving civilization behind and heading into the wild to get back to a simpler way of life can lead to one of several outcomes: You eat some sort of poisonous plant by accident and it’s game over, or you return to society an enlightened version of your former self. Buckeye Knoll is the happy outcome of songwriter Doug Streblow’s wilderness sabbatical. Taking a backpack, notebook and guitar into the California woods, Streblow emerged months later with songs that would seed his new project. There’s no doubt that Streblow is a pop-punk kid at heart. His strident, earnest vocals have emo written all over them. But for Buckeye Knoll, Streblow’s pop instinct is tempered with an appealing folksiness. “I Roll” has the singer trading verses with singer Emily Moldy, a harmonic call and response that gives way to a crashing chorus. If you’re looking for more evidence of Streblow’s pop pedigree, see “The Melody Scene,” a driving melee of grungy, chugging guitars, thrashing drums and the singer’s sinewy vocals tethering it all together. The woods can make you wiser, but they can also make you more feral. We’re digging the combination.

Day 2: Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Summit 2010

The second day of The Future of Music Coalition’s Policy Summit covered a ton of topics for musicians and music entrepreneurs alike. On paper, some of the sessions may have seemed unrelated, but it was great to see how it all wove together by the end.

Rocco Landesman, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a powerhouse Broadway producer—who pleased many in the art world when he took on the new role—gave a terrific keynote speech about the value of arts in both the cultural and economic communities.

Landesman’s talk was followed by a closer look at the spread of broadband to rural communities, housing for artists and opportunities for musicians to perform overseas as part of cultural programs organized by the US Department of State. The session featured presentations from Jonathan Adelstein (Administrator, Rural Utility Service, US Department of Agriculture), Maura Pally (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges, US Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs) and Ron Sims (Deputy Secretary, US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and a subsequent conversation with attendees at the summit. The session helped explain why the current administration’s support of broadband expansion into rural areas matters to musicians (more online reach, more potential fans), cultural exchange programs (reaching new audiences while traveling the world and representing the US as peaceful musical representatives) and affordable housing (recognizing that not all musicians or artists can afford fair market prices—even if neighborhoods often like to tout their artistic population). The session helped connect the dots about why we, as citizens, need to be support public servants and representatives who understand the value of the arts in our greater culture. Subsequent conversation featured some fascinating stories (that would make any musician jealous) from Amy Blackman, the manager of Ozomatli, about the joys and challenges of their trips overseas to Asia and Africa.

The FMC is all about creating a “middle class of musicians” that is more sustainable. In continuing the thread of “musicians running themselves as a small business,” sessions covered subjects like managing and understanding all the data available now for anyone who has a web site or manages their presence on third party sites. This particular panel included Danah Boyd, the Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research; Eric Garland, Founder/CEO at BigChampagne Media Measurement (a new media and data measurement site) and musicians Erin McKeown and Tim Quirk.

In “Who’s Your Ticket Master Now? The Magical Mashup Between Live Music and Social Networks,” attendees learned how quickly Ticket Master—and its service fees—is being out-maneuvered by web ticket start-ups like Ticketweb, Ticketfly and Tickets.com. There was also talk of an interesting idea from Australia called Posse, where musicians and venues can utilize fans to help sell tickets and receive a commission. The session included Ian Hogarth, co-founder and CEO of Songkick, a free service where you can track bands who are coming to your town. One of the most interesting comments came from Donna Westmoreland, the COO of Washington, DC’s 9:30 club about how many of their concerts are selling out simply by being announced to their email subscribers, reducing their need for additional advertising or marketing.

The latter part of the day included two interviews and conversations. First was Kara Swisher of All Things Digital speaking with Tim Westergren, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of  Pandora about his company’s strategy and where people will likely be using the service in the near future—from desktops to laptops, iPhones and Android, to iPad and tablets to cars and seemingly everywhere in between. Westergren laid out the company’s plans more as an advertiser-funded model than any other source, and acknowledged that the platform’s success.  According to a third-party study, the site simply helps sell more recorded music—43% of users bought more music after they used Pandora while only 1% bought less music, which is a great stat for those who assume online music is cannibalizing other music revenue sources.

The second conversation was a great reality check amid all of this digital change. Greg Kot, music critic at The Chicago Tribune and co-host of Sound Opinions interviewed T. Bone Burnett, the musician, composer and producer who has worked with Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Sam Phillips, John Mellencamp and many more. Burnett, as a consummate audio producer, is weary about how online delivery of music has greatly degraded the quality and experience of the music we consume and provided a great reminder that the most important thing in being a musician is to make great music‚ to aim there first and let the marketing be secondary as you make great art. You can read more about the interview from Kot’s page in The Chicago Tribune.

Learn more about the Future of Music Coalition’s 2010 Policy Summit speakers. Find more links and follow us live at The Future of Music Coalition’s Summit 2010. Search the hashtag #fmc10 to read up on this and more.

GuacaMusic: Pop en Español

Is it Pop en español or Pop Latino?

You can call it whatever you want, but the fact is Latin pop will always be a crowd-pleaser.  Even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish or haven’t been to any Latin American country, you have probably danced to the beat of major artistas del pop such as Shakira, Ricky Martin or Enrique Iglesias.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these artists and I know the lyrics to most of their songs. In fact, they make my commute worth the while (there is nothing better than singing Waka Waka on the highway). But, I also think that listening to the next pop stars on OurStage is even more enjoyable.

One of my favorite pop artists on OurStage is Jessi Leon, a young singer songwriter who was born in New York City and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Jessi describes herself as a “typical byproduct of a bicultural and bilingual generation.” Her first album Mudanza (which means move) was released in Argentina at the end of 2009, and contains eleven songs in Spanish and one in English.

Most of Jessi’s lyrics portray a sense of mudanza, and invite listeners to be accomplices in her life, to “move” with her from one place to another.  Her songs are a compilation of her life experiences, bilingual upbringing and the typical issues faced by someone her age. I especially like her song Ya No Te Quiero. It’s catchy, exciting and talks abut the ending of a relationship and the challenges of both remembering and letting go.

Listen to any of Jessi’s songs on OurStage  and you will see why this hot Latin artist is rapidly rising to the top. She’s already been in the Top Ten Charts in March and April of this year. Along with is playing in several venues in Florida, and has been a guest in a few radio and TV shows in Miami. She also recently performed in Telemundo‘s League Against Cancer Telethon.

Jessi wanted to be an artist since she was little, and started singing and dancing lessons at the age of 7. We are glad she did. She is definitely on her way towards enormous success.

Does it matter if it’s Latin Pop or Pop in Spanish? Not whith a voice like this.

¡Provecho!

Winner Announced For Ernie Ball In September!

September is over which means another OurStage artist has been selected by the folks at Ernie Ball to be the recipient of a year supply of free strings. Meet The Meadows, a Los Angeles-based songwriting duo whose sound, according to Rolling Stone, is “steeped in the acoustic soul of Big Star and sprinkled with the arena-rock dust of Coldplay.” The pair were introduced by “future ex-girlfriends” a few years back and have been making music ever since. Their music has garnered acclaim from music giants such as the aforementioned Rolling Stone, Allmusic.com and Playback. The guys now join the ranks of past Ernie Ball winners Amy Kuney, Andrew Varner, The Black Rabbits and The Worsties, and are walking away with a years supply of free strings. To learn more about The Meadows, head to their OurStage profile. To check out some tracks, take a listen to the playlist below.

Sister Act – Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer to Tour Side-by-Side

Psstt—want to watch something absolutely heartwarming?

Take a peek at the video below showing Shelby Lynne sitting on a sectional sofa playing guitar and singing the Everly Brothers’ tune “Walk Right Back,” accompanied by her sister Allison Moorer who is seated just opposite. It’s much more than just a cover by two critically acclaimed singers who happen to be siblings joining together in song—it’s a glimpse into the close bond the two share as they sing, strum and giggle conspiratorially at the end.

Set in the living room of a family home in Woodstock, New York, the setting sure feels comfortable even to viewers. There’s an obvious kinship between the sisters highlighted by casual family sounds—such as the gurgles of John Henry Earle, the young son of Moorer and husband Steve Earle—occasionally wafting into the recording. But there’s more to absorb from this video than a cozy family scene. Even in this short clip it’s obvious that the sisters’ voices—even in such a casual setting—meld almost perfectly.

By Angela Kohler

“I can’t wait for the tour,” said Moorer who joined Lynne on a conference call to talk about their upcoming “Side by Side Tour.”  The thing that fascinates me about the video is that if I hadn’t known who was singing each part, I couldn’t tell.”

The public melding of the two voices of these country greats is something the sisters have wanted to happen for years. After all, the two started singing when they were just toddlers and began fine tuning the sound when they would join their mother for three-part harmonies as she drove them to school.

“It’s going to be so cool to do that in front of people,” said Moorer remembering the song “Side By Side,” written in 1927 by Gus Kahn and Harry M. Woods and recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Brenda Lee. “Shelby and I have seriously, literally been singing together all our lives.”

Yet the public demands of their careers kept the two from professionally collaborating in any extended way. Lynne recorded her first album at age 19, going on to win major popular and critical acclaim including a GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist.

Soon Moorer found her music taking off, and had single after single chart, which kept her on the road and in the studio.

Although the two collaborated occasionally, there was no time for extensive work together. Until now.

The sisters each released albums this year. Although Moorer’s Crows and Lynne’s Tears, Lies & Alibis have kept the two on tour, they’ve each reached a point where they can work together.

The hard part, they said, is to sort through each of their extensive catalogs and old family favorites to develop the show. Concert goers during the holiday season will also likely hear the two sing some classic holiday songs from Lynne’s upcoming holiday album.

“We are so lucky and we are really looking forward to this,” said Lynne. “It’s so great for us to get together and do music and now to be able to tour together, it’s kind of a dream that this is happening.”

The “Side by Side Tour” with Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne kicks off October 3rd in San Francisco.

10/3

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco, CA

(Speedway Meadows Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival)

11/27

The Tarrytown Music Hall

Tarrytown, NY

11/29

The Birchmere

Alexandria, VA

11/30

The Birchmere

Alexandria, VA

12/4

Saenger Theatre

Mobile, AL

Watch the Side By Side Tour rehearsal: August 26th, 2010.

Check the sisters’ Facebook fan page for additional updates and news.

By Nancy Dunham

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

Q&A With Tonic

The past few years have witnessed a resurgence of bands who defined their sound in the ’90s alt/pop rock aesthetic. Bands like Third Eye Blind and The Gin Blossoms, for instance, are still playing today and gaining new fans. Tonic, one of the quintessential 90s pop/rock bands is experiencing their own reemergence of sorts. This year’s release of their self-titled album marks the band’s first full-length in almost 8 years. However, it seems as if the band never stopped working. The record oozes with radio-friendly melodies, impeccable drama and colorful riffsall aspects that Tonic fans have come to love. Emerson Hart took us through the anatomy of a Tonic song as well as their reasoning for getting back into the swing of playing as a band.

OS: Being such catchy songs, how does Tonic go about arranging some of the heavier, distorted riffs?

EH: It really depends. I’ll write a song and sometimes it will contain a riff and sometimes it won’t. Usually the general melody structure and the intention is there. What I want to say and how I want to say it. I’ll play it for the band and we’ll all sit down and decide it could be tighter is some places or better in others. In some cases, like in the case of “You Wanted More” off the second record, Dan brought me the riff. I thought it was awesome and inspiring, so I wrote an entire song around that riff.There’re no real ingredients to baking that cake, but it usually starts with melody  for me—what I want to say. Then it goes from there.

OS: The band has always had a strong licensing presence (film in particular). Why do you think your songs fit so well in these settings?

EH: I don’t know. If I knew that exactly, I’d probably be making 3 times the amount of money in film licensing than I do. I think it’s because it’s melodic and there’s some drama involved with the music. It’s not just a catchy melody. There’s something else underneath it. I think a lot of directors and music supervisors are attracted to that.

OS: A platinum album, several charting singles and even two GRAMMY nominations. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

EH: The thing that I’m most proud of is being a father to my two-year-old daughter. In terms of my career, second to that, would probably be our GRAMMY nominations. I’m pretty proud of that. We’ve worked very hard to always create and put good music out there.

OS: Having been on “hiatus,” do you guys think of your reunion as a “comeback” or do you feel as if you never stopped?

EH: I didn’t have anything to say within the band anymore. I wasn’t speaking that “band” language. I didn’t want to creatively try to force something for money. That’s a bunch of shit. I think everybody gets hurt when you make moves like that. It feels forced, and bands know it. Most of all, I would know it.

We had been on the road for nearly 10 years and everybody was really tired. As an artist, I had nothing else to say in the band. It was just going to hurt everybody. I think it worked out great. We needed that break, for the band’s wellbeing. We’ve moved past it now. We’re trying to keep as much honest songwriting rock and roll out there as possible in the world of Ke$ha and all that crap.We don’t really treat it like a comeback.

OS: What was the fan reception like on your recent tour?

EH: It’s really been fantastic. It’s been interesting because a lot of our fans are parents now. They have children and they bring their kids to shows. It’s a walk down memory lane, being able to spend time with people. Even though in the grand scheme of things it’s only been like 10 years, there’s some of that that happens. I really get off on talking to people about their perspective on what happened in their lives, or what was going on when they listened to this song or that song.I can’t thank them enough that we’re still able to do this, and people still care about it.

OS: Moving on to the new self-titled release, how do you feel the new album relates to other releases?

EH: Records are always recordings in time for us. For me, as a writer, it’s definitely a reflection of where I was when I wrote the record. It was hard for me, because I didn’t want to overdo the record. I think you can get caught up if you aren’t careful in being like “this is what it should sound like.” You overshoot the honesty of what you should be writing about. Some of the songs touch on all of the records in a way. There are little bits and pieces. That helped us kind of make an eclectic record. The next one will probably feel more in the direction we’re moving. But this was kind of has one foot in the path and one foot in the future.

OS: “I Want It To Be” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. What was the inspiration for this song, and can we expect it to be the second single off the new album?

EH: Yes, it will be the next single. A lot of times I write songs, it can be about many different things within the song. Initially it was talking about what music is me. I want it to always be something that’s bigger than me. Looking at it from a songwriting perspective—“If I told you all my secrets, if I was that honest, would you teach me how to not burn them down and not destroy them?” A lot of people will immediately assume it’s relationships, but a lot of it was just about the process of a songwriter and getting older. If you’re bigger than your songs then you are no longer doing a service to your fans or anybody who listens to music. It’s about people so it should belong to people.

OS: What does the band have in store moving into 2011?

EH: To make another record. I haven’t decided yet whether it will be an Emerson Hart record or another Tonic record. It’ll most likely be another Tonic record. Because we’ve been having success, I think we’ve been reminded that it’s important that we do our job the best we possibly can. We’ll probably finish out touring Australia in the wintertime and maybe do a full winter tour in the US. Then we’ll start recording the record. We are in full swing, no doubt about it, whether people like it or not.

Listen to the new release yourself and see what Tonic’s reunion is really all about. Stay tuned for their Australian tour this winter.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Paper or Plastic

As their name suggests, Paper or Plastic are all about recycling. Their newest album Don’t Be Like That shows how this Portland, Oregon group can take the best aspects of old school rock, jazz and soul and transplant them into today’s pop atmosphere.

Crafting sunny pop tunes with saxophone solos and bouncy piano chords, Don’t Be Like That is a quirky and endearing album. Vocalist David Pollock’s soulful croon and honest lyrics add the icing on the cake, perfectly complimenting the instrumentation of each song. Paper or Plastic may cite Elvis Costello and Frank Sinatra as influences, but this indie rock record gracefully places the band among acts like Hanson, Jack’s Mannequin and The Cab.

Paper or Plastic saw success from the get-go, opening for The Tubes and Bowling for Soup while they were still teenagers. They’ve also been rated one of the “Top 10 Up-and-Coming Bands” in the Northwest and were twice named finalists in the International Songwriting Competition.

Check out some new and old tunes below and pick up Don’t Be Like That for free on Paper or Plastic’s Bandcamp page!

Next Big Nashville 2010: That’s a Wrap!

Next Big Nashville began with a whimper. Five years later it’s exploded into a full-blown rebel yell.

Gone are the days when a few honky tonks served as an excuse for local musicians to do sound check and dust off their amps. This year, over forty percent of the 150+ bands that performed at some 15 venues between September 29th-October 2nd were from outside of Nashville, double from last year.

By Steve Cross. Courtesy of Next Big Nashville

And forget about calling this a country event—Jack White all but abolished Nashville’s reputation as strictly a place for hick hooks and chords when he moved to town. Rockers, rappers, punks and alts were all right at home here in Music City.

Spotlight seekers came in hopes of ripping a page from say, the Jamey Johnson or Cage the Elephant success stories—good examples of the fest’s ability to get unsigned artists record deals and national attention.

Not that national attention was lacking. Headline acts such as Yeasayer and Washed Out, regulars on the tour circuit, were on the scene. ASCAP and BMI both held big bashes. Even local yokel Vince Gill popped up.

The Worsties Live at The Rutledge. By Brad Butcher. Courtesy of Next Big Nashville

“The parties this year were the best I’ve seen yet,” recalled Jesse Worstell, lead guitarist of OurStage’s own  The Worsties. “They provided a great opportunity for Nashville artists to mix it up with industry folk from around the globe.” The Worsties, a ska/punk Nashville-based band, were part of the Music City Unsigned showcase at one of NBN’s key venues, The Rutledge.

Jack White’s Third Man Records, 12th & Porter and The Basement were several other key venues this year for showcase events. One band that played The Basement, Madi Diaz, a folk pop duo, emerged with some strong street buzz.

“We had a great show this year,” recalled lead singer Madi Diaz. “We loved getting to see our out-of-town friends without having to go…well, out of town. Bring ‘em all to Nashville!’

Madi Diaz live at The Basement Nashville. By Steve Cross. Courtesy Next Big Nashville

After this year, that may no longer be a problem, now that the NBN Leadership, Music Digital Media Summit, is part of NBN. This was the first year the two events were held concurrent.

A-list speakers were not in short supply. Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, drew a crowd. Yet, the most tweeted about event seemed to be the Q&A with Kings of Leon band member Caleb Followill.

NBN co-founder Jason Moon Wilkins said he’s already looking at ways to expand on the education aspect next year. It’s just one more way to make NBN a must for the brightest minds and most exciting acts out there.

By Neal Webster Turnage

Neal Webster Turnage is a Los Angeles writer whose work appears frequently in many national and international consumer magazines.

Hip Hop Habit: Mac Dividinz

OurStage Hip Hop HabitIf the speed of sound were translated into beats per minute, what would happen? Would there be a sonic boom like when fighter jets start climbing mach levels? Is there a flash of light and an explosion like when a gun is fired? If anyone is qualified to answer that question, it’s road-running rapper Mac Dividinz.

Lightning-paced rhyming is by no means foreign to hip hop, but it is rare. For some reason, the fastest rappers (like Tone Deff and Tech N9ne) remain out of the public eye for most of their careers, and even if they do end up achieving mainstream success, the palpable electricity associated with robotic rate never really catches on en mass (i.e. Twista). Not to say that Mac Dividinz will be the one to change that, but he’s got the goods, most notable in the aptly titled track “Hypersonic Flow.” Mac wastes little time showing off his nitro capabilities, exploding off the block with rhymes four times as fast as the already up-tempo instrumentals. Every element that must fall into place for a breakneck song to succeed does such, Mac Dividinz from the airtight beat built on crisp percussion pushing the track forward without losing its breaks to the emcee slowing things down between head-spinning verses to let listeners re-orient themselves before attention deficit sets in. The content is nothing special, and is thus overshadowed by Mac’s acrobatic tongue twisting, but any chest-thumping bark is bound to be more intimidating if spoken at a baffling velocity, especially in lines like “killin’ my adversaries off and I don’t cuss/ getting’ froze in the dome like a coke rush/ spread fast like a heat rash/ and the beat fast you’ll be thinkin’ that your head’s gonna blow up.”

Dividinz brushes the brakes in “I Got This,” a slightly slower jam promoting the same stimulating drugs: “spittin’ lyrical cocaine/ insane cocaine in the brain/ releasing the deadliest strain of pain through my wordplay.” He may not cuss, but this Midwestern maven is no Will Smith. Coated with autotune, Mac once more constructs a verbal firestorm hot enough to melt anything in his path, though this time the grinding industrial beat is gentrified with tinkering piano that accelerates accordingly with Mac’s sizzling speech.

This Omaha, Nebraska native (no, that’s not a typo) has been producing for quite some time now, and finally got his chance to step in front of the boards after being signed to Sunset Urban Records earlier this year. His debut LP is being released tentatively on December 15th. Keep up with him until then (if you can) and you’re bound to be rewarded with a complete album studded with more of the same technically virtuosic recordings. As always, leave your thoughts on Dividinz’ versatility in the comments below. Oh, and if you think you know how to convert miles per hour into beats per minute, we’d love to hear that too.

 


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