Friends of RocketHub - “The Page 4 Music Podcast”

Page 4 Music publishes album reviews; recordings of live shows; and conversations about new and interesting ways to go about the business of music. Founded by RocketHubber Anthony Cekay and indie-artist advocate Leighanne Saltsman, our goal is to shed some light on how their podcast endeavor is helping musicians. This has been an exciting week for Anthony and Page 4, with an NPR article, and a recent interview with the buzz-worthy Little Embers, who are emerging in the NYC music scene as a tour-de-force. We caught up with Anthony to get the scoop on his latest endeavor with Page 4 Music. What was the inspiration behind your music podcast? In college a friend and I ran a website called On Page4Hoop we wrote at length about NBA basketball. We found some success with site but ultimately tabled it when we both moved on to grad school. Since then I had wanted to return to the world of digital media in some capacity.  I met Page4Music’s co-founder Leighanne Saltsman and we bonded quickly over discussions on the music industry. We would go for drinks and bring a friend who was involved in the industry in some capacity. Then Leighanne and I would interview the friend about what they did. At this point it was all social — I had questions about how to streamline the process of booking my jazz group; she had questions about how to better streamline artist management.   After several of these, what you could call “professional development” sessions I suggested we get a recorder and turn them into a podcast. From there we put out a few phone calls, booked some guests and built a website. That’s how came into being, but the real inspiration behind it is that at our core, everyone involved in the podcast is a music lover. The biggest thing that drives me is that through the podcast I am able to expose people to new artists, new music and new ways of making it all happen.  The team is important when you’re starting a new endeavor. Why is this show so important to you and Leighanne? The site is a resource as much for musicians — take the podcast with Eugene Carr, the Founder/CEO of Patron Technology wherein we discuss ways to improve your digital communications — as it is for enthusiasts who just want to learn about new music. On our Weekly Review podcast Scott Palmer (a long-time music lover, but not a trained musician) and I discuss that we think people will enjoy. It can be something that everyone has access to like Kanye West’s new album, but it can also be something more obscure.  For example, we just posted an interview with RocketHub’s own Little Embers. In addition to being one of the original crowdfunders, Little Embers is a group to whom our listeners outside New York City might not otherwise have access.  Because we’re living in a time where most people experience new music through either Clear Channel-type radio or as some form of product placement (in a commercial or on a TV show) there is a clear need for increased access to independently produced music. Page4Music provides that outlet for people, be they musicians, administrators, presenters, financiers or enthusiasts. They can come to our site to hear new music.  Little Embers is one of my fave current NYC artists. Great to hear them on your show. How is your podcast doing overall  thus far?  I’m very happy with how things are going. Our audience-base is expanding each week and I believe the music and interviews are extremely compelling. Starting this month we are launching some additional podcasts.  Our whole lineup is as follows:  On Mondays and Tuesdays we’ll have our traditional interview-based podcasts. Tune in Wednesdays for Live Music Wednesdays wherein we showcase a live performance. Thursdays is the aforementioned Weekly Review.  On Fridays we’ll have a podcast near and dear to me, a saxophone podcast! Growing up I had questions about saxophones — what to practice, where to get reeds, which mouthpiece was best — so though this series I aim to give young saxophonists some guidance on all of that and give them a chance to meet some of the luminaries of the saxophone world. We also have a similar program for arts administrators. Our Page4Mentorship program pairs an up-and-coming administrator with a series of experts in the field. You can listen to their conversations once a month in podcast form. Our first Page4Mentee is Jessica Sibelman, the founder of the New York Chamber Virtuosi.  Tell me about the challenges about running the podcast? Aside from scheduling, rescheduling, editing, and scouting guests, the biggest challenge is to tell an overarching story. I hope that our listeners will be with us for years to come and I don’t want to continually retread the same few topics with different people. We all know the music industry has changed, the trick is staying up-to-date enough to know how it will continue to change and in what direction people should look in the future.  Any advice for “on the fence” podcasters looking to start their own shows? Go out and buy a Zoom a portable recorder. I recommend the H4N with built-in high-quality mics and XLR inputs. You can do everything you need with that and Garage Band.  Podcasting is a lot of work and incredibly rewarding. That said, if you don’t have a burning desire to post regularly scheduled content and build a listener base, you might be better guest-spotting on an already existing one… like Page4Music!  Thanks for the insights Anthony. We will be keeping an eye on Page 4 Music as you continue to fight the good fight! -Brian  

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  • March 8, 2011

RocketHub Teams Up with Our Revolution Road Trip

Our Revolution believes that “social good is happening all around us. Creative and underground economies are finding new ways of viable sustainability.” The RocketHub team wholeheartedly agrees! So a natural alliance was born. We’re proud to be partnered with Our Revolution as they embark on their Roadtrip: “Sparked by the need to share the social good that is occurring in the world, Our Revolution Road trip will connect these sustainable models and the innovators who are creating them in totally new and wildly playful ways. Our trip is designed to change the world — and will be curated by a team of award-winning creatives and entrepreneurs with more than a decade’s experience making breakthrough social, independent and grassroot change.” RocketHub will provide crowdfunding support and mentoring to all the Creatives that Our Revolution encounters. We got the chance to talk to Topher Ziobro of Our Revolution about the trip and about his personal journey: Tell us a little about your backstory and what you’ve been up to in the New York startup/social entrepreneurship scene? Honestly? I came to New York City with no clue what to do but wanted to test myself against and learn from the city. As an artist, I was lucky to have had the chance to work with The New York Academy of Art and charity: water where social media channels and finding new platforms was the best way to connect with really interesting audiences with smaller budgets. Through helping to organize the Arts,  Culture, and Technology Meetup group and numerous brunches and karaoke  sessions I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with people who  inspire and challenge me to do more, hence jumping at the chance to  partner on Our Revolution. What is Our Revolution Road Trip? Our Revolution Road Trip is the start of a journey to find artists, musicians, nonprofits, and startups around the country to share a conversation with, highlight the projects they’re working on, and help bring them support. We’ve found that these innovative creatives are  doing amazing things, but aren’t always connected to what’s happening in their community or with other creative groups in different cities. Our goal is in talking with these great people to help invest them in  their own cities and bridge the distance between them and other creative groups around the country and the world. 3 weeks, 22 cities, and 7 adventurers telling the stories of those we meet with blogs, podcasts, photographs, and video. How can someone get involved? Reach out to us. Take a moment to look at the schedule of our trip on the website ( and let us know if you’re in one of the cities and would like to meet up, know of someone/a group we should contact, or just want to share in the trip. The best way to contact us is through the site, via twitter: my partner Ja-Nae can be found at @thesunqueen, you can contact me @imtopher, and the hashtag is #ourrev, or find us on facebook, YouTube, or flickr. The team embarked on their amazing travels this past Saturday, March 5th. To learn more and get involved, click here. We’re proud to work together. -Vlad  

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  • March 7, 2011

Crowdfunding from Down-Under with Singer-Songwriter Jefrey Siler

Jefrey Siler lives in Australia and makes music (and very funny videos). We encourage you to check out his latest RocketHub campaign video to see what we mean.  Here is our “deep-dive” interview where we got his take on the songwriting craft and his crowdfunding campaign. What was the inspiration behind your music project you are currently running on RocketHub? While I was born and raised in the US, I’ve been living in Sydney, Australia for the past 8 years. In early 2008 I went in to record 12 tunes in Athens, GA while I was back visiting family. Shortly after returning home to Australia I “embarked” on a solo tour of “down unda” with a buddy of mine Dave Bazan (of Pedro the Lion). Along with learning to listen to my wife’s keen ear, this tour was a real turning point and catalyst in how I’d soon begin to write songs. I’d really noticed how much care Dave put into each song and also how his shows felt like real “communication.” I wasn’t getting that from my own set and we talked about that at length. Once I wrapped my head around being more myself it really unlocked something in my creativity which was as surprising as it was freeing. To give an example-  I started including little asides or silly details that made me laugh but that formerly I would’ve snubbed thinking “that’s not what serious musicians do.” Suddenly making music just felt like being myself and putting it to music which DUH! that’s what it should be! It took time to get comfortable being myself but once I gave into being  myself the songs I was writing weren’t as lopsided in representing only one facet of my personality. Essentially I was “finding my voice.” THIS IS WHY THIS PROJECT IS SO DEAR TO MY HEART! Why is is important to you to make this project happen? Because now I feel like I’m communicating in my own way and once you feel you’ve tapped into it, you really share it with everyone from old school friends to the girl who works at the Chemist (or “Pharmacy” as they say down here in Aussie land!) across the road. But around the time the the penny dropped I was excited as I was broke cuz I’d blown what money I had recording those older songs that now didn’t feel as “true” to my lil; mini-revelation. So after considering the options I put up my only electric guitar, and ‘78 Gretch, for sale on eBay. When it sold (I promised I wouldn’t cry, forgive me..ahahah) I had the money to do two things: a)     Buy a decent microphone and b)    Get one day in a proper studio to record the drums. The mic was easy enough to find on craigslist. The latter wasn’t as easy. I found the studio that was the right fit but the price to record for a day was outta my reach. Now at the time I was working for Gutterboy, my buddy’s roof cleaning company, and little did I know but this would soon come in handy. After hearing the day rate I apologized and said I didn’t wanna waste his time and then, just as I was about to hang up he says “Hold on, did you say you clean gutters?” I was as giddy as Gilligan! Thanks to his kindness he let accepted what money I had and let the cleaning cover  rest! From there I took the record home, borrowed a friends Universal preamp and got down to business recording before work, after work, and on weekends, and any free moment to refine this or that moment in a song. It was very intimidating but as the same time the most rewarding creative project I’ve ever done. Without exaggerating it it took me three years! At this point I really need to thank my wife, who showed an inordinate amount of patience through this extended period. Now I was really looking forward to getting it out but literally as soon as the record was done I got mono (or ‘glandular fever’ as they say here) and it knocked me out, cold. I couldn’t play an instrument, could type, could write. My wrist’s were well on their way to carpal tunnel-ville. To be honest it was really scary. I got really depressed. But since I had so much time on my hands I decided to read about how to promote a record. In hindsight it was probably one of the better things I could’ve have done because like many bands/songwriters I focused on the art, but left the promotion to others. It’s around this time I started to catch wind of the crowd/fan funding idea. I was real apprehensive about putting myself out there but then looking at how far I’d come (and also at my bank balance) I knew this was the right next move for me. I researched the different companies and their services and felt Rockethub was the right one for me. Even before I opened my campaign Brian (Meece, co founder) has always been really helpful and quick about getting back to me. You can’t underestimate how important having someone to confide in will be when your 20 days into your project and only 9% funded! Thanks for the good words! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in Australia? I have to admit I’ve found it very challenging. I don’t personally know anybody down here who’s done one so when I’ve reached out to people it’s really involved explaining  the concept. I have to remember that while the crowd funding concept is familiar to me, it’s not to friends etc of varying backgrounds/ages who would probably want to help but could perhaps be thrown off by being confusion as exactly how to help. For instance I was at a party last weekend and had quite a few friends who commented how they liked the video but hadn’t understood that the whole campaign thing was essentially about pre-ordering the album to help me afford the expenses. That taught me that while things are sometimes clear to me, if I’m trying to reach out to as many people as possible, I might need to refine it even more. How are your fans and community responding? I’ve found that people respond to the effort you put in. For instance I could have let the past weekend just got by, feeling bummed about it not just magically getting momentum. Instead I thought I’m gonna see if I put an incentive out there where I’ll visit a local Handicap Children’s School and play some children’s tunes on ukulele if we can reach the 25% point by the end of the month. It was just what it needed and in the course of the weekend we jumped 10%! Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Try your best to make it fun for people. I spent many days working on a video that I thought would hopefully win folks over seeing how much work I’d put into this project alone. but when I showed it to a coupla friends I could sense just how loooonnngg the video felt from their point of view. I needed something with zip! (to quote my mom) so I made the video you now see on the site. It’s fun. I’m in no position to give advice, but one thing I’ve learned is try and see the project from the point of view of someone else. For instance what would you like to get as a reward from a band you love? Also I’ve heard some people watch the video on their iphone and miss out on having the Rockethub “Fuel” button to the right cuz it’s too small on a phone. So I like to send my email/facebook updates during working hours so that I can hopefully catch people in front of their full screens at work. Also whether you update your fans via email  or blog, include them in the process and let them know what you’re doing to help reach your goal. It’s important that they see how much work you’re putting into this because that can move people to want to help. I try and make my video’s funny and concise, but it takes A LONG TIME to make a 1-2 minute video “great.” And since it’s over quickly, people might just forward it and forget about it. Just a few sentences in your updates not only give them the “behind the curtain” insight, but also show how dedicated and hard you’re willing to work to reach your goal. It’s normal to get discouraged,  sometimes it just takes time- but effort trumps just being “patience.” If your not getting  funding  at the rate you’d hoped, don’t just mope like I have at times! Ask yourself WHY? Ask close friends WHY? What you learn from a project like this will serve you well down the line, trust me. It’s a fast tracked education in promotion which, like it or not, is part and parcel of being a musician, at least a successful one. And this is growing even more important as label’s budget’s tighten and/or musician’s self-release their albums. Appreciate every single contribution, let them know you appreciate them, after all, these are people who not only believe in the importance of art, but believe in acting on their belief by helping support the art be made. When you create art that effects people, you’re making a difference.  Thanks so much for taking an interest in me and my project, hopefully this helps! Keep up the good work and thanks for these insights. Your effort shows and we are proud to have you as a part of our Creative Community. -Brian

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  • March 4, 2011

RocketHub Artist Joshua Reuben Lewis Performs At Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre In NYC

It’s that time of the month - we’ve partnered with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in March, to showcase successful RocketHub artist, Joshua Reuben Lewis and his band NONVIOLENCE, in the upcoming show Underground Americana. Josh joins a growing list of RocketHub artists that have been featured at the UCB Theatre. The March edition of the variety show Underground Americana – hosted by Andy Rocco, will be held at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York on Saturday, March 5th at 12 Midnight. Congruent with the UCB’s mission of “big names for small change,” tickets are only $5.  The lineup includes Andrea Rosen from the HBO TV show Flight of the Concords, Dan St.Germain from CollegeHumor/VH1, Sara Schaefer from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and musical artist Joshua Reuben Lewis with NONVIOLENCE who ran a successful crowdfunding campaign with RocketHub and who recently returned from a three-month long film shoot in Asia. Underground Americana celebrates the seedy and urbane life in America. Host Andy Rocco likes to say “Think of us as The Prairie Home Companion, just a little more f**ked up.” Also on the bill will be Rob Cantrell of High Times and Last Comic Standing, Anthony Atamanuik of NBC’s hit show 30 Rock, and Luke Younger featured at Caroline’s. To reserve tickets fot the show: Our own, Brian Meece is a fan of UCB and has performed at Underground Americana as a musical guest. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC is just brimming with funny talent. Brian says “It was awesome to play music for Andy and hang out with notables in the NYC comedy scene.” Other RocketHub artists such as Aram Bajakian, Little Embers, and Alfonso Velez have also been featured at Underground Americana. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre was named “Hot Farm Team” by Rolling Stone magazine and “Best Comedy Club” by AOL, The UCB Theatre is widely recognized as home to today’s funniest actors and writers. Among our esteemed alumni include several performers and writers for Saturday Night Live, The Office, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 30 Rock, Best Week Ever, Old School, Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro and countless other films, commercials and television shows. Performers who have gained success continue to lend their talents to the theatre and training center. Andy Rocco began taking classes at UCB in 1999 and has been featured in numerous TV commercials. He now hosts Underground Americana – a variety comedy show that features top talent in NYC. This show makes our “RocketHub Recommendations” list as one to watch for March. -Vlad

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  • March 3, 2011

Crowdfunding a Canadian Documentary - “Rise of The Salmon People”

Jeremy Williams hails from Powell River, Canada and has produced over fifty documentaries on environmental, cultural, and political issues. His work has been broadcast on CNN, CBC, APTN, Vision TV, and Free Speech TV, as well as screened in film festivals in Canada and the USA. Currently Jeremy is working on a project in Cuba, but caught up with him and film teammate Kelli Gallagher - via the magic of the internet, to discuss the nuts and bolts behind their current RocketHub documentary project called Rise of The Salmon People. Tell us a little bit about why you are making this film about Wild Salmon - you call them a “keystone species” - can you elaborate? Wild Salmon are not only mysterious beings, they are also vital to the eco-system and the beings dependent upon them for their sustenance and survival. Wild Salmon are a keystone species for so very many reasons, and it is their duty and right of passage to spawn in estuaries, swim down rivers, live their lives out in the oceans, and return back to their beginnings in a full circle of life. What are some of the intricacies involved with their life cycle? The Salmon are not isolated in their cycle. They nourish rivers, trees, forests, bears, eagles, whales, human beings, and so much more.   Not only do they nourish, but they unify, they beautify,  and they exemplify symbiosis. These Wild Salmon are also one of the last remaining threads that bring communities together with each run, in pot latches and gatherings of celebration. Ever so humble, and ever so vulnerable, these amazing creatures are one of the most at risk species in BC. Fish farms leach out sea lice, pharmaceuticals meant to destroy those sea lice create a toxic aquaculture, ocean sediment dead zones. Furthermore, they are massively unsustainable whereas it takes 2 ½ lbs of smaller fish to produce 1 lb of farmed salmon. But still all very profitable to the foreign corporations who operate these fish farms here.  Tell us about the “Salmon People” and your documentary film project covering their culture- Communities both coastal and inland are uniting to protect their sacred salmon! This is the story of the Salmon and, the Salmon people and their quest to save the wild salmon; which is also their sustenance, and often their livelihood.   The salmon returned at a record low in 2009, and a record high in 2010. The reason for this is still an unknown, but Salmon People are working hard to make sure that we know what the future holds… that it holds rivers full of Wild Salmon time and time again. In fall 2010 as the salmon returned, The Salmon People paddled in solidarity, taking their canoes and their love for Wild Salmon down the Fraser River from Hell to Hope, and from Hope to the Pacific Ocean.  Why is this film so important to make? The uprising and unification of Wild Salmon People in BC, coastal and inland, native and non-native, is a sign of the times. People coming together to make the necessary changes to protect wild salmon and prevent an ecological disaster of tragic and immeasurable proportions. The film will inspire with beauty and passion as well as tell the story of the communities in BC that are rising up, uniting and defending their lives, their salmon! It is our hope to tell this story in film by this spring when the juvenile salmon begin their journey to the ocean.  Thanks for sharing these insight and best of luck on this project. We are happy to have you and Kelli in RocketHub’s creative community. -Brian

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  • March 2, 2011

Turbo Tuesday with “InterviewFest” - An Online Publication That Celebrates Creative People

Crowdfunding is an empowering endeavor. RocketHub is a community, a platform, and a revolution empowering your crowdfunding adventure. There are many other valuable tools available to Creatives that will empower for little cost. Because of this, we have launched a regular column: Turbo Tuesdays. The goal is to highlight other organizations that share our empowerment ethos. If you or your company would like to be highlighted - please shoot us an email. —- Jennie Ko and Sabrina Huff just launched a website and we think it’s pretty cool - and we’re not just being biased since they featured RocketHub’s Brian Meece in this recent Catapult Edition. The site is called InterviewFest, and we caught up with Jennie and Sabrina to get the scoop on their latest endeavor.  What was the inspiration behind your start-up InterviewFest?  We’re mainly an online publication moreso than a start up. With that said, we’ve all worked on related sites and activities separately.  Jennie has been the uniting force – checking in with everyone and putting out the initial idea for Interviewfest – a weekend online publication that celebrates awesome people working in our areas of interest – art, film, tech, and start-up.   We know and have admired many of these players from afar and wanted the opportunity to highlight some of the ones who’ve captured our attention. There’s so many wonderful people being a catalyst for positive growth and change.   We want to celebrate their endeavors and to explore a side of their undertakings that’s not captured in trade journals or other publications.  Tell me about yourselves, the team behind the site. We have overlapping backgrounds in film, the arts and multi media. So it was natural extension for us to work together since we’re also friends.  In 2004, while we were both in New York, we started a film critique community where we would watch films and review them afterwards. Our passions are very similar where we actively take interest in people doing interesting things in the world. Interviewfest is that celebration of people who we are fortunate to interact with and share their insights and experiences.  Why is this endeavor so important to you and the other folks involved with it? High quality exposure is one of the main things that launches new businesses and artistic projects (aside from funding).  We want to be able to create a visually inspiring and discursive platform for people pursuing their ventures and dreams.  How is InterviewFest doing thus far?  What success and fun surprises have you had? Tell me about the challenges? We’ve had a somewhat overwhelming response from entrepreneurs who would like to be featured on the site.  That’s a good thing because that gives us a lot of content to work with. We’re always interested to meet more people, and  connect them to a wider audience. However, we also realize this is the most challenging aspect to most online efforts, and so, we try to gain honest feedback on every edition.  Any advice for “on the fence” entrepreneurs looking to start their own company or website? The main thing is to try.  Don’t get too attached to outcomes and be flexible to the idea of evolving your work and  goals.  Thanks for these valuable insights. We look forward to working together further, and best of luck with InterviewFest. -Vlad  

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  • March 1, 2011

Crowdfunding a Musical Theater Project - A Story About a Dark History…

Parade is the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man in the South who was wrongly accused and lynched for the murder of 14 year old Mary Phagan. To this day, he is the only Jewish man who has ever been lynched on American soil. The musical version of this show was written by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry - and Taryn Turney is spearheading a team of passionate Creatives putting this show together at The Secret Theatre in LIC. We caught up with Taryn to get the scoop on her project and crowdfunding campaign, currently underway: Why is it important for this team to make PARADE happen? The story is so important for people to see and hear. The true events that happen in this musical became a huge part of our history, though I have never heard any of it from a history book. We can bring back these people’s stories and use them in a meaningful way, and even if one person walks away changed, we’ve done our job. There is a cast of 19 people and a crew of about 10, all volunteering their time and talents for this project. We hope, with Rockethub’s help, to provide both them and our audiences with something truly spectacular and worthy of what they have given to us.  How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in theater? How are your fans and community responding? So far, it has been slower-going, but we are seeing support. I do believe that we will reach our goal and that we will be able to put on a show that we are proud of in every aspect. As of this interview we are close to 50% of the way there. It is tougher than it looks, but we are very optimistic. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Patience, commitment and follow-up. Know that it’s not going to happen right away, no matter how much you and your project have to offer. You have to be willing to go out there and do some marketing— get your page out there, both to people that you know and to people that you don’t know. Use Facebook and Twitter, but remember that a personal touch is most important. Thanks for the insights, Taryn - and best of luck as you ramp up your crowdfunding efforts and publicity! You are off to a great start and have a powerful story to showcase. -Brian

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  • February 28, 2011

Interview with E.W. Harris - Record Producer, Singer-Songwriter, and Zombie Robot Builder

If you’ve heard the recent records by RocketHubbers Niall Connolly, Casey Black, or Don Paris Schlotman, you’ve heard the handywork of E.W. Harris as the engineer and producer nailing the sound. So with a plethora of RocketHub albums under his belt- and more to come, it only made sense for us to sit down with E.W. chat about his musical undertakings- Tell us a little about your backstory growing up in a musical family and your gravitation toward the studio production world. Music has just been something I’ve always done. Some of my earliest memories involve learning “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” My mother and father are both musicians (mom a singer, dad a guitar player), and I always had instruments, mics, and various musical bric-a-brac laying around. My uncle Robert too is a fantastically talented multi-instrumentalist. He’s one of these guys that seems to be able to play anything he touches, and I idolized him growing up. Finding various instruments, flutes, banjo’s, violins, steel drums and whatnot that he’d stored throughout my grandma’s house kind of gave me an experimental bent on music. I spent hours tooling around on one or more instruments, coming up with parts for each, and wishing I could play them all at once. Recording I guess was a way eventually to do that. When I found out what my dad and his buddy Ted were doing with the reel to reel machine in the basement I was already half way down the rabbit hole. Music actually was a back seat concern in those days, I was obsessed with recording everything. I recorded myself reading books, recorded cars and trains, I even have stacks of audio tapes of the Cosby show that I recorded from the TV. I don’t think I really started dealing with music until I got a knockoff walkman in the late 80’s. I didn’t have a CD player so I spent hours eq balancing my LP records, or wiring up ad hoc adapters to plug in a cd player to my tape deck so I could bootleg Smashing Pumpkins records. Long story short, I’ve always been really interested in technical things, and grew up in an environment supersaturated with music. As they say, one thing kind of leads to another.  You’ve had your hand is some lovely indie albums in New York over the past year - including your work with Niall Connolly, Casey Black, Don Paris Schlotman, and your own new album - what’s you’re style, how do you help musical artists? It’s pretty simple, I just try to preserve the essence of the song. The tricky part is doing so within the budget and time parameters involved. I usually start by doing a lot of listening, since we monopolize the production, all the way through mastering, I ask the artist to give me a pretty extensive listening list. This includes things they like and really connect with, I also do the same thing for myself, basing mine on elements I think would complement the overall work. Pre-production, though necessary, makes for pretty boring listening, so I take that time for study. The next stage is to really make a point of talking to the artist to find out those things he/she perceives are musical/artistic strengths. I then weigh that against the impression that I have of the music, and we try and come to a balance between those things. So far this has been very useful in creating a relaxed and collaborative working environment. I’ve worked on a lot of records over the years, aside from the ones I’ve produced, and one thing that has always irritated me was people obsession with sonic “standards.” In the words of Duke Ellington, if it sounds good, it is good, and I really hold that as a central artistic principle. Songs are kind of alive in a way, and develop the way they do based on myriad factors, and recordings are kind of like nature photographs. Based upon the artist and your own ear, you just try to set up an environment in which you can catch the cheetah running, or the heron about to take flight. Recordings and photographs can be amazing, but as anyone who visits the Grand Canyon tells you, they are just not the same. I see the producers role as the person whose job it is to try to recreate the feeling of the real thing by any means necessary. That being said, subtraction is often just as effective as addition. If the song doesn’t call for a lap steel, even if it is a country ballad, cut it. At the end of the day, the song will go on existing without me, and since a great recording is really just an instance, I try to help artists by attempting to capture and highlight a great moment in the life of a song. Since you stem from Athens, Georgia and have worked in many different parts of the country, particularly the South - how do you bring those influences to your music and your mixing here in New York? Its actually pretty funny how that works out. I really shy away from the sounds that are associated with my places of origin. Music for many of us exists (at least in part) in the realm of fantasy. I didn’t grow up dreaming about living in a small town out in the boondocks, where I knew everyone and life was simple. I always wanted to be sophisticated, and I spent a lot of time thinking about space colonies, mega-cities, and ancient civilizations. They do say however, that you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. I think this influences the way I do things in the sense that I try to be hyper attentive to the “realness” of a song or a mix, or recording. Whether its an account of a soldier, a very personal reflection on ones own choices and environment, or a ballad of a space colonist at the end of time, I try shoot for a sonic cohesion that makes it seem real to the listener. In a sense I try to make every song as concrete and grounded (from a sonic perspective) as a Robert Johnson or Carter Family recording. This is a consistent theme in southern music (at least until the pop country days) and one that is really carried on in Athens. Bands like Neutral Milk Hotel for example, have recordings that are constantly teetering on the brink of disaster and it is awesome because it seems so vulnerable, and by extension so real. In these days of huge sample rates, easy digital editing, and the iPod (a virtual Virgin Megastore in your pocket) the relative fidelity of a mix really makes a difference to an audience. For me tape hiss, bad microphone response, even tuning in some cases are effects like reverb. I think the greatest influence my time in the south had on me was it gives my mixes a very eclectic sound that I hope manages to be both old and new, familiar and interesting, folksy and modern. The keytar is just a folk instrument of the future.   A lot of your artists have had success paying for recording costs through crowdfunding success on RocketHub. What do you think it is about crowdfunding that makes it a viable and sustainable path for supporting artists? First let me say that crowdfunding, in my opinion, is the best thing to happen to musicians since recording. The primary reason for this is that it establishes a tangible relationship between the artist and the listeners. They are in a very practical way, a part of how albums are made, how tours are executed, how ideas are brought to light. In part because of this, musicians at any level of commercial success can appeal to their audience to take artistic risks they might not otherwise try. We are not all the Beatles, and many of us missed the chance (or the desire) to become wildly successful teen heartthrobs before venturing into new musical territory. Crowdfunding is also, from financial perspective, the most painless way to get start up capital for what is ostensibly an artist’s own boutique business. Do some people just use the money, then go back to living off their significant other/parents/friends/government, of course they do, but they’d do that anyway. Rockethub and (less importantly) other crowdfunding platforms, provide a chance for artists to utilize their fan base, and by extension their own hard promotional work, to establish themselves as viable businesspeople as well as creatives. Crowdfunding is accessible, which I support; egalitarian, which I like; and truly interactive, which I love.  With the music business changing so rapidly, where do you see things heading over the next few years? That’s a tough question. Unfortunately for the superstar wannabees, I suspect the industry will reduce itself to a handful of mega-rich icons (if any at all). The record industry behemoth is eating itself alive and may or may not disappear all together. The vacuum is already being filled by not just independent music businesspeople, but by the artists themselves. Ever since recording became inseparably joined with music as a business this ebb and flow has existed. The difference in the upcoming years is that the average listener is ultra savvy by any previous standards. Its not just performances, jukeboxes, and the radio, there are hundreds of new music websites, forums, live play lists and internet radio outlets. Even aside from this, music retailers are in a unique position right now. They can now carry inventory with little to no risk. An MP3 copy of my record, or Don’s, Niall’s, or Casey’s take up no shelf space and negligible hard drive space. Retailers can sell things because they want to, and if they sell 1000 times as many copies of “Abbey Road” as they do “It Shapes me as it Goes” its all the same to them. The great news here is that I see a definite decline in the vice grip the record industry has on the music business, and on musicians. To me this provides far more musicians the chance to really be able to make a living doing this. What this will yield I can’t really say, I hope it will usher in a golden age of music as an art form, then again I’m not betting on it. At the very least, though my chance of ever having a kidney shaped pool with a waterfall diminishes by the day, I expect there to be a dizzying amount of opportunities in a business that has been really locked down as long as I’ve been alive. You’ve had a lot of success helping shape awesome music. What’s next for you? What current or upcoming projects excite you? Thank you for that. I’m pretty booked up for the near future with releasing albums and touring. So far I’ve toured with everyone I’ve made an album with. This next one with Don is a southeast tour, much like the I went on with Casey. Its a good way to follow up the record with an immediate tour. It kind of burns the album idea into your brain, and its super fresh and exciting. On the near horizon I am doing a record with Ryan Morgan, a new transplant to the scene from Denver, and possibly one with a songwriter named Jo Kroger. Both of these are really exciting. I try to work with songwriters and performers that I can stand listening to for the thousands of times I will have to hear their stuff. For my own projects I am extremely excited about the band Don, myself, and some robots have formed called “The Sky Captains of Industry” we are working on the debut album “Rocket City” a future-past post apocalyptic concept record, with accompanying graphic novel. Just think of Zombie Robot Elvis, and you will get a feel for the sheer force of awesome we are trying to achieve. Will they succeed? Only time will tell. Great insights E.W! This was a very insightful interview indeed. Mahalo for being part of RocketHub. We are looking forward more cool projects from you in the future, zombie robots included. -Brian

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  • February 24, 2011

Madera Vox Goes To Arizona

Madera Vox is not like anything we’ve heard before - and that’s awesome! This group of oboe, bassoon, piano, percussion and voice is an unusual configuration. But they make innovative music that crosses many genres and makes you feel good. The group has been invited to perform at the International Double Reed Society convention in Tempe, Arizona. But they need your support to get there. So Madera Vox has embarked on a brave crowdfunding campaign to get to Arizona. I spoke with Kelly Ellenwood, of Madera Vox, about their journey. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Madera Vox (wood + voice) has been playing together for just over three years, and like any new business, getting the word out about what we are creating hasn’t been easy. Because of our status as a “classical cross-over” ensemble, it’s also difficult to get the message of the music across. Being invited to play at a high profile musical conference like the International Double Reed Society’s is a really big step toward establishing our credentials in the classical world. We performed last year at Chamber Music America’s conference, which was also a big deal for us, and yielded great results for our group, in the form of bookings and recognition. Each of these steps is another step closer to establishing our ensemble as the “real deal.” Also, it is possible that we may not have the luxury of time to perform at another IDRS conference - 2011 may be our year. I love the hybrid sound of your music. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music - how are your fans responding? After 8 days we reached 13% of our goal, which is great because I am sensing that it is only now just starting to pick up steam.  We did a fairly “soft” launch of the project, and just now I’m seeing it being reposted in other people’s Face Book statuses.  And we’ve only just begun!  We are planning on doing a video series, and a lot more outreach to our fan base and beyond. Being that you’re ramping up your campaign, do you have any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? The one thing we realized right at the beginning is that a lot of people have difficulty at first with establishing an account. When you first reach out to your fan base, you might want to include a few words about what they are going to have to do - that way they don’t give up right away. And have really fun, personal rewards. Thank you Kelly and thank you Madera Vox. If you’re into good new music, check out Go West, Madera Vox! -Vlad

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  • February 21, 2011

Emerging Chicago Musical, Meet John Doe Crowdfunds A New Musician

Heidi Blickenstaff and James Moye in Meet John Doe (© T Charles Erickson) Meet John Doe is an innovative musical based on Frank Capra's Film. It is being produced by Porchlight Music Theatre in Chicago and is already cast and in rehearsals. Now all their team needs is the funds to hire an additional bass player. Led by Eddie Sugarman, the Meet John Doe team has launched a fun crowdfunding project in order to acquire the new musician. Our own Jed Cohen was in one of the early productions of Meet John Doe, so this project is near and dear to our hearts. We chatted with Eddie about the project and the production. What was the inspiration behind the theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub? Why is it important to you and to your whole team? Well, the show MEET JOHN DOE was conceived around 2001 when I couldn’t sleep and I saw the Capra film on cable at 3 in the morning. Andrew Gerle and I decided to adapt in into a stage musical and since then have had quite a journey with the project. Specifically, we are thrilled that Porchlight Music Theatre is producing MEET JOHN DOE’s Chicago premiere. One of the many opportunities this production gives us is the chance to create a new set of (smaller) orchestrations which we believe will make the property easier for more theatres to produce. Using RocketHub to fund an additional instrumentalist will allow us (and thousands of Chicago theatregoers!) to hear the score with a whole new flavor. That’s great - we’re big supporters of the Chicago theatre scene. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of theatre - how are your fans responding? It’s been terrific! We actually funded an early production of Meet John Doe around 2005, I think, with a “friends and family” letter with levels of benefit and incentive rewards and did very well. But it was a one-off; the social media/sharing aspect of RocketHub takes things to another level. For example, our RocketHub project got a very nice start with our “first funders” (funded about 45% of the goal in the first 4 or 5 days), but then our producer Porchlight Music Theatre promoted our RocketHub page on their weekly eblast and opened our funding up to their fans and we got a whole other stage of Fuel (now we’re at 73% of goal). This is very cool stuff. This is a great example of multiple networks making a project quickly fund. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Be specific. Be realistic. Be passionate. And thank people every time! Oh, and have fun with your rewards. We’re all artists, be creative! Awesome advice. Thank you to Eddie and his team for running your this cool so successfully on RocketHub. Click here to support this project and theatre in Chicago. -Vlad  

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  • February 18, 2011