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Beware of the coin men! 

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I’ve been reading about Blockchain lately… You’ve probably heard of it, at least you must have heard of Bitcoin, and have heard the latest crypto babble that the media enjoys so much. After all a good jargon is the wet dream of every journalist.

Now this technology is supposed to be the remedy to everything… Yes! Even the music industry! And well, if it can cure that, surely it will cure cancer!

Enter Musicoin and co

In the unsigned world, I see some people rave about Musicoin for example, and how this wonderful platform is going to pay out more than any streaming platform and materialize money out of thin air, without any ads, while still being totally free for listeners. That’s pure magic or I don’t know what!

Turns out that Musicoin is only one of the many new platforms with more white paper than sense, apparently. (Boy! Do they love their white papers! They are all chock full of technical jargon that is mostly included to confuse you even more than you were). Digging a bit, without too much effort, I then found out about other platforms like ArtbyteSoundchain, Emanate, eMusic, Bittunes, Voise, ChoonUjo (this one is funny, with Imogen Heap herself having released her “Tiny Human” song which sales amounted to a grand total of $133.20!) plus all these exotic new “currencies” dedicated to music like Musicoin but also Audiocoin, Songcoin, Metal Music Coin, Muse, Beatcoin… looks like they invent a new coin every day. Check out this website which references 1916 of these entries (as of today anyway!) Actually there is even a platform that allows anyone to create their own! Time for a BeardCoin?

My first contact with Musicoin was from links that some indie enthusiasts were sharing. Being curious I tried to listen, but the player would never want to play, so I went to the website and it looked rather messy to me. Not a really good impression overall. But OK. That’s another beta platform, right? <insert big sigh here>

Since their claim to being able to pay a decent amount per play was pretty extra-ordinary, I decided I would dig further… But I’m going to tell you straight up: I didn’t like what I found. At all.

Monkey money, monkey business

First, the value of Musicoin is in fact so fluctuant that what you read on their platform about the supposed earnings of the artists is never even close to reality. You see, first you have to exchange $MUSIC currency into another more accepted crypto currency (Like Bitcoin or Ethereum), using a convoluted process involving trading on a coin market or another (there are only a couple that can do this at the moment). The process is so ridiculously complex, involving installing a wallet application on your PC, opening an account on a couple trading sites, juggling with obscure hashes and calculating decimals, and gauging whether the time is right to “sell” your precious coins, that only seriously chronic nerds are going to want to go near it. I’m not joking, see this tutorial.

The real cost of Blockchain

The recommended process to ultimately withdraw your few Musicoin earnings is to trade them first against Bitcoin. Of course you will have to pay big fees to do so because the computing of your transaction involves a lot of computers in a pool, and it gets increasingly more complex as days go by, involving increasingly more processing power, and ultimately, increasingly more electricity. Fact is, Bitcoin today is already using 0.5% of the world’s electricity and by late next year, will be consuming more electricity than can be produced by the entire world solar panels. Let this all sink in for a moment. 

And then of course, once you get your Bitcoins fractions, you will have to trade them again on another coin market into some real money, which means a lot more transaction fees (up to 50% from what I’ve seen) and a lot more electricity consumption…

Techno magic

Reading further on the Blockchain craziness, it turns out there is a lot of approximation and misinformation around (but of course there is, it’s a big buzzword in the press, and most journalists have no clue about the underlying technological issues, which are apparently numerous). I also found some articles that took to debunk all this hype, for example this one about eMusic (a Musicoin competitor). Let’s just say that I don’t have all the background that this guy has, but I have the general feeling again (thanks Mom, wherever you are!) that when something looks too good to be true, it generally is! Anyway, the guy wrote a book about the Blockchain scam.

So, to sum up: you get your tunes on a platform that’s pretty buggy (it’s beta), people are going to listen to them for free, you get paid virtual coins that you need to exchange against other virtual coins using a complex process, opening many accounts on various platforms, leaving more of your private information everywhere, trade on a virtual market that is bound to spiral down when all is said and done (remember the internet bubble burst? I do) and is consuming electricity at an exponential rate, which will ultimately eat all our planet resources… what’s wrong with this picture?

The worst of it

All of this and I still have another issue with this whole thing. And it’s another big one: turns out that this whole mess is again making everyone believe that it’s perfectly normal to listen to music for free, that no one needs to pay for it. Aren’t we all tired of this refrain?

If the fact that it’s all based on more hype and technological magic than reality, the fact that it’s unsustainable long term, the fact that it’s endangering our planet resources, if all of that wasn’t bad enough they are also basically saying that music is not worth paying for. 

Finally, the terms of use pertaining to license grants on most of these new platforms were alarmingly similar to the ones I advised everyone to stay away from

In conclusion, you know what? I wish you all good luck with this, but you can count me out. I mean until they come out with something really significant of course, like a BeardCoin for example, at which point I might trade my Monopoly money for it.

Streamyopia 

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I confess that I’m affected by a rare new disease, and I’m afraid it’s incurable. It started developing when I realized how much streaming platforms were the true enemy of indie music and artists.

I tried to get away from it, as I wrote in a previous blog where I said I was opting out and told my reasons for it. But it looks like it was not enough.

BTW, I’m talking about Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer, Pandora, you know, these platforms who strive by screwing artists from their royalties, right? Surely, you’ve heard of them?

For those of you who don’t know yet, they are the ones who would make you believe that the pipes are more important than the water you use, the cables more important than the electricity, the plate more important than the food, the server, software and network more important than the content. Because from what they are paying the content owners, it sure is what they mean.

Now it got to a point where the more I receive these kinds of links, - be it in DM from bands I just followed, or in my stream, or anywhere really -, the less I see them… I think I am at the last stage of streamyopia! Meaning I’m afraid I will no longer be able to repost/share any of these links anymore, sorry! I might still love the bands/artists who are pushing them, but I cannot help my blindness, so I call it a change of perspective instead.

Actually the only links I see are to bands’ websites, or radios and shows and blogs and supporters of indie music, these look crystal clear to me, so I will keep posting them and sharing them and pushing them as much as I can.

Who knows? We’re still in the early discoveries of this affection but it might be contagious! Now wouldn’t it be something?

The Beards Corner 

As MusicTalks.xyz is launching today its new music page "The Beards Corner" https://www.musictalks.xyz/music-reviews where I will be reviewing music every two weeks (hopefully!), I thought it would be good to talk about my motivations for embarking in this risky endeavor…

Tracey Arbon, who is the amazing brain behind Music Talks, asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested and at first, I said that I didn’t think it was such a good idea… I mean I’ve seen bad reviews (I’ve had one myself, ah!) and I know that they can be upsetting, depending on how much of a thick skin you have, especially when they are coming from someone you know nothing about. Plus, music is an art form that is hugely subjective after all, so what would qualify me to voice my opinion on my peers?

I took the time to think about it though, and it seemed like it could be a cool way to shout out to great bands and artists and give them thumbs up (and beards!) and have their music exposed to anyone who’d like to discover something different… I started to see this as another occasion to share the love of indie music.

What’s for sure is that I have no intention to be the judge and jury of any artists around, or to pose as an arbiter of taste. 

I have my own tastes and distastes of course, like anyone else, but my intention is to say what I love about the songs that I came to listen to and appreciate. My angle will probably be more on the music and production side of the tracks I review, simply because I’m passionate about music and production; and they will be biased this way, as I’m usually less focused on lyrics for example; but in any case, I intend to focus on the positive always, so you will most likely never read a bad review from me, my condition was that I would not review something if I don’t like it, and Tracey understood that and gracefully accepted.

All I hope is that it will help good artists get a little bit of extra exposure in the music world. Wish me luck!

Demo-tivation 

I often see (or rather hear!) bands and artists releasing demo tapes and unfinished songs on SoundCloud or ReverNation or Bandcamp or any of these free sites where people upload music, and it always makes me wonder…

It can be a pre-pre-version of a song (which finished version will more often than not never see the light of day), a sing-along recording done with an iPhone in a bathroom (for the acoustics, right?), an acoustic guitar strumming + vocal jam thing with barely recognizable vocals, a recording done on a laptop in a hotel room while the room service is ringing at the door, a booze induced racket with your pals at the pub… or anything in between.

Fact is, guys, I hate to tell you, but no one really wants to hear that! 

I mean you can record anything you want and maybe a couple of your die hard fans will drink it like honey milk, but quite frankly they will be alone. There is so much good music around, of great sound quality, done with taste and with hours and hours of careful thinking and good recording, that your last recording at the park with a ukulele when dogs were barking in the background and complete with birds accompaniment is not going to cut it.

What you need to realize is that putting too much of your scrapes out there is not helping you. It just feels unprofessional and people will get bored easily if you’re releasing half-assed ideas and bad recordings.

If you want feedback on your demos, send it to other artists for useful feedback, don’t send it to your family or close friends for honest feedback, they will likely praise it (whether they’ve listened to it or not). For honest feedback, ask your peers, or find forums where people exchange about music, there are a few around… 

I’ve been on one of them for years and have learned a lot from it… it’s been discontinued now but most of the people from there are now on another platform called Indie Recording Depot - worth checking out if you want to achieve better recordings.

Do yourself a favor and delete these demos from the face of the internet. High quality music is what you want to be known for! #JustSaying

The "genre" question 

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You get that question every time you put your music online, whatever the platform, whatever the site, the submission form…

What genre does your music fit in? What sub-genre?

Quite honestly, as an artist, I resent that question. I spent my life listening to all sorts of music, from all sorts of “genres”. And I like listening to one thing and then to something totally different next. That’s what life is all about, that’s what music is all about, isn’t it?

And, as an artist, I claim the right to play any kind of music I want. That’s also why I like being an independent artist. I can play a rock tune one day, a jazz one the next, a folk one to follow. No one is going to tell me that I should restrict myself to re-do the same kind of tune that I just did… That would be so boring. And that is probably what is boring in the commercial music of today.

I can imagine that fans could have a hard time with that although in the long run, they might get used to it and appreciate the variety… As for me, I value eclecticism in music. And I resent being put in any kind of genre box.
Unless there was a “good music” genre? Then I’d try to fill that box.

I remember a time when there was no limit to what bands would put on an album. There could be a rocking tune followed by an acoustic ballad, followed by some crazy psychedelia. And fans at the time were digging it, they were following the artist’s journey through sound and broadening their taste at the same time. It was always a discovery… you never knew what you would hear next.

This is why I have so much troubles answering the “genre” question. What kind of music do I do exactly? I have been doing progressive rock, jazz fusion, jazz ballads, soul, pop, blues, classic rock, all sorts of things. What box should I tick???

My next album that will be released soon, is going to reflect that. It’s much more jazz oriented than the previous EP, but you will find lots of influences from many different places as well. And I hope listeners will come along with me on that journey. I really do.

Are you listening? 

I’ve spent quite a lot of time lately connecting with people in the indie music world. Yes, it’s a world! And it’s actually pretty amazing how much great people are in it!

One thing that really warmed my old beard was to see how much passionate people there were still. Which is really reassuring because sometimes things look pretty dire, when you realize how music has became such a disposable thing nowadays in the eyes (the ears, really) of the general public.
It’s the thing most download for no money, most share without thoughts, most hear without listening.

But there are people who do care. And people who do listen.

Radio hosts sharing their passion for good music on the air, sparing no expense of their time to discover new music and playing it online, preparing programs where they showcase artists, doing interviews, chatting with everyone, sharing the love. 

Bloggers with a gift for words, crafting cool reviews of their favorite releases, most of the time outside of their day job, trying to get readers interested and to make them care like they do.

People online exchanging links and tweets and videos and music, people trying to find new ways to feature good artists and their work.

I can’t put a list of all of them here. But they will recognize themselves if they read this.
All unsung heroes in a world of apathy and indifference. And they even support my music, what can I say if not thanks?

Me? I do my own music, but I also stand in the camp of the listeners. I spend a lot of time listening to other artists as well, and I’ve discovered a lot of true gems by doing so, and I treasure them, and I try to buy their music when my no budget allows. And I’ve also decided to showcase them on a new page on my website simply called “friends”. Because that’s what they are, really: fellow artists friends who deserve your time and your ears…

So, are you listening?

Millions of followers: A blessing or a curse? 

I just came upon a tweet from one of the guys at “Indie Music Bus”, a great team of people dedicated to help indie music with various promotions on their sites, couple with radio airplay, press and social media promotion, check them out here: https://indiemusicbus.com/ - or follow them on Twitter @indiemusicbus​

The tweet was “ One of the telltale signs when an act is breaking into the big-time. Social media behavior changes quickly.

And of course, it got me thinking (because I actually like to do that!)…

TBH I’m fairly new to Twitter, Facebook and all the social media circus, but from what I’ve been made to believe, you cannot escape it if you want to be heard one way or another. I wasn’t too sure about it at first but then I decided to embrace it. At least I’m having fun on Twitter and it can’t hurt, right?

Influencing the influencers?

The problem starts with the perception of many medias, radios and press and basically any influencer in the “music industry” who are now expecting artists to have thousands or even millions of followers before being deemed worth of their attention. Even regular people will tend to look at your followers numbers, or followers/following “ratio” in PR parlance to see if you are to be trusted, or even considered…

So you start thinking along the same line as well… After all, life is too short to waste it with something that no one cares about, right? There’s so much music around that you have to find a way to cut through all the clutter and get to the really good stuff, right? (Note that I’m speaking about music because that’s what I do and care about most, but it’s true of any art and artists). The problem with it is that once again the principle at work with big network is at play here: you get to like a song because everyone listens to it, because it’s been pushed by people with enough PR muscles to push it into the ears of millions of people. Push any song (with a minimal amount of melody and vocal) millions of times and people will end up liking it on a grand scale… (I’m not going to cite any popular songs, I don’t care much about that, and BTW I have nothing against the artists behind them, I’m pretty happy that anyone has success in this life).

Thousands, millions, what’s next?

So you start to think that the strength is in the number of followers, plays in Spotify, etc. And you are solicited by many shameless scam companies promising you millions of followers/plays… fake of course, but isn’t it impressive? Isn’t it going to impress the influencers of this world? Will they finally give you a chance?

Nah, I doubt that very much. And so should you, if you care about what you do.
The thing is that if you’re doing it for the sake of it and you are passionate about it, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have… It will not count in the end. You could have millions of fake followers/plays, but no real human who cares, what’s the point?

Isn’t the ultimate goal of music/any art to connect with people? To tell your story to people who are eager to listen to it? And hear about them, and share your stories.

So, let’s say you truly get to thousands/hundreds of thousands of ‘real’ followers? And this is where this tweet above made me think…

My journey into the twitterverse

A few weeks ago, I had about 20 followers, I didn’t even tweet TBH.
As of today I have almost 600, and I try to follow them all. So the other day, I tried to tell them all why I was following them and appreciating them. It took me 2 solid hours to go through about 250 accounts… And I had fun lately trying to connect to people, finding a way to shine a light on them as much as I wanted them to pay attention to what I do (it really goes both way, see?). 
But 2 hours for about 250 accounts? What am I going to do next? How can I stay connected to so many people? I mean, I know that a good 50% are following me because 1/ I follow them or 2/ they want to sell me something, but still…

It means that I still have about 300 or more people that I’d like to keep in touch with… what happens if I get thousands of real people? There’s the challenge… How do I manage to still be available to them, see what they post, react to that? And yet I have a full time job, and a daughter who also need my time, and music to write/record/produce/mix/etc… how am I to fit all that in?

So my idea is that really, I’m not sure I would ever want millions of followers, because as much as it would flatter my ego, I’m not sure what it would do to my soul. I fear that I would lose any kind of human connection with any of them, and I’m really not sure I want that.

Ideally, I think a few thousands would be more than enough, if they are real people and if we share a common love for good music and care for similar things…
So, yeah, I'm just looking for human beings... Are you in or are you out?

The greatest? 

I’m often puzzled by discussions about the “greatest” band of all time, or the “best” guitarist/drummer/bassist/etc., or the “top ten” albums, and in general with the obsession with ranking everything.

When it comes to music, I have my preferences like everyone of course, but I often have troubles defining what I love “best” or what I find to be the “greatest”. I’ve found that for me, it varies greatly with time and mood.

I have spent most of my life listening to all sorts of music in various phases, and if I’ve started by listening classical music, then rock, then hard rock, then punk, then blues, then pop, then folk, then progressive rock, then jazz-rock fusion, then jazz, then classic rock, then ambient, then… I have a hard time listing them all and in a specific order - let alone ranking these genres.

It might come from the fact that I had most of my musical awakening in the seventies, where eclectism was the norm, and also the fact that I wanted to be a session musician and wanted to be able to play in any style, so I studied them all and I tried to absorb as much as I could from any style: I was a musical glutton, and it helped me shape my own music I believe.

Today it would seem like everyone is obsessed with ranking, and I wonder: does music really needs to be a competition?

“THE FACE” 

Every guitar player knows it: As soon as you pick up the instrument for a solo in front of a live audience, you have to make “THE FACE”… at least if you want to be considered a real guitar hero!

This is especially true if the guitar is electric, but even classical or folk players with an acoustic instrument are not entirely exempt. A simple Google search for “guitar face” will show you all sorts of vivid examples in all genres.

It’s pretty hard to pinpoint exactly where and when the fashion started, historians will probably debate this one for many years to come. I suppose it all came, like most of popular music, from the blues. And it makes sense that the suffering of the slaves in the cotton fields somehow translated to the players singing their harrowing plea.

How it came to be adopted by guitar players in particular, and in the rock scene especially, is left open to controversy. I will not adventure a theory myself.

I just know that for the many many years that I studied guitar, I have missed one essential part of my training by not doing it in front of a mirror. I would have perfected my stance and yes, probably made it big!

Boobs and cats 

I gave up to the pressure of the internet: this photo is for you all!

As I was editing a video yesterday for my song “Frozen in Time” (which BTW, you can see on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqOxzrB1YYA), I was looking for evocative public domain clips that would fit the music, and I remembered reading marketing advice somewhere that to really attract an audience nowadays on the internet, particularly on social media, your images and videos should really contain one of the 2 major content elements that drive the internet nowadays: boobs or cats.

Not that I’m not into that, actually I find them both pretty attractive (for different reasons), but I wonder how a juicy pair would fit the intro lyrics of “Floating, weightless… looks like there’s no end to…”, or how much misinterpreted would be the phrase “I can let it go now”?

As to cats, they are cute and all, but do they really belong in a spacey dreamy song which in essence evokes death, cryogeny and a final voyage? “I wonder…” is one of the lyrics.
Yeah, I do wonder!

Does it matter so much that people are “liking” and “following” and “RT-ing” anything you do if it’s not something you’re particularly proud of anyway? And even if I had boobs (I don’t, remember I have a beard!), would I really want to share them to the world? Should I make an alternate version of this video that would appeal to the masses or should I just continue doing my thing, in all its invisible glory? I leave you to ponder with me. :D