CEV Blog


Michael Foster, editor

February 26, 2017

Welcome back to CEV here in 2017. CEV was offline for a bit but there is another reason that the site looks a little more dated than it should and that is because I found out that the latest version of the site, the only copy of the later version, was on a hard drive that died a month or so ago. I did eventually find an older copy of the site tucked away on another hard drive but not the most recent version. So please bear with me as I work to update the site and bring it back to a useful level. I did take the opportunity to create a new logo for the site. It was a sunrise picture that I had taken over a lake near where I live and I really thought it would make a great background for a new logo for the site. You'll have to let me know what you think of it as we move forward with CEV Music here in 2017. My love affair with women in music has not abated during the time off these past few months and as I have been catching up on the releases that came out while I was away I am finding that the flow of great women singers/songwriters and musicians has not slowed down a bit. Some favorite performers are still out there releasing spectacular music while the up and comers are working their way up the ranks to get their music some wider exposure to the fans who will love them once they have heard them. In many ways that is what motivates me to keep working on CEV. It is a struggle for singers/songwriters to make sure that the spotlight shines on the music that they have worked so hard to create that I felt like CEV should be there to help shine that light and perhaps give some artists a better shot at making others aware of their music. Just wanted to touch base with those who are finding their way back here to CEV and letting you know that updating of pages is in process and then after that new material will begin to be added again.

August 16, 2014

Cutting Edge Voices has been away for a bit. It has still been online but it has been shall we say neglected for a few months now. Seems like life beyond the net is always to blame for these absences but the move to PA is completed and I am settled in for the most part. Moving is such a disruption to the routine of life and regaining a sense of equilibrium does take some time but eventually you reach a point where things feel normal enough that you can dive back into whatever it was that you were working on before everything became different. I have reached that point now but it will take a while to regain the readers that CEV once had before everything was put on hold.  

I have started a fan page for CEV and I have given CEV a Twitter account so that there are multiple ways of sharing the information that I run across as I work on the website. If you did not know already Cutting Edge Voices has been online since September of 2005 covering women in music through interviews, music reviews and through the posting of news items and links from all over the web. I am happy that CEV has been of some use helping to publicize the women artists in the indie community over the last 9 years but I would like to see CEV be renewed here in 2014 with a new sense of purpose in shining the spotlight on those deserving female artists who don't always get the press that they deserve in the mainstream music press.  

The only way that vision is going to become a reality is for those of you out there who are involved with the music industry and specifically those who would like to see female performers given more of the share of the publicity that is due them to get involved with CEV as sources of information or as contributors to CEV itself. The sharing of information is the key to getting the word out and at times that is an overwhelming task for just a single person to take care of and even hope to find all the relevant press releases or new album releases that should receive some notice on Cutting Edge Voices. I have seen a few of these websites falter over the last few years and they may not be completely gone but they have a very diminished use right now in terms of being a force for women in music.

I don't want Cutting Edge Voices to be just another also ran but would like it to be successful in its efforts to share the great female created music that seems to be coming out with more frequency than ever before. If you are reading this and you would like to help in some capacity please contact me and discuss how you'd like to be involved with CEV. If you are a writer or journalist that would like to write about women in music and you would like to have it on the CEV platform that would be a great match. If you have press releases that concern female artist's tours or upcoming new releases or new singles that are available then please drop them into a message and send them my way.  Like the Cutting Edge Voices fan page on Facebook, follow CEV on Twitter or simply stop by the website to see what is new on the site but it would be appreciated if you could find a way to share this with your friends who are also interested in helping women in music gain as much recognition as possible.  

Social media and websites offers some of the most efficient ways to reach fans and those buyers who might be interested in purchasing music by female artists and it is up to us to make sure that this information finds its way out to where it needs to be. Take some time right now to like the Facebook page to keep up with what is happening with women in music in one convenient place. If you would like to be involved in a more personal manner I would love to hear what you have to say. If you are an artist with a new release let me know about it and I will add it to the new release list. If you are a fan and know about a new release that I haven't put on the site let me know about it. I would challenge you to be involved personally in helping women in music to succeed in reaching their dreams of making a living from the music that they love to write and perform. Don't just be a consumer of social media but instead dive in and help make the dreams of an artist come true simply by being involved in some way in helping them receive the recognition that they deserve.

Be exceptional. Get involved. Help make dreams come true.

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April 27, 2013

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending a concert given by Mary Fahl who was formerly the powerful lead vocalist of the band October Project who released two major label albums one in 1993 called October Project and one in 1995 called Falling Farther In before disbanding in 1996 after their contract with Epic Records expired. When my wife and I first came to Bucks County Pennsylvania back in 1996 there were two bands that we were introduced to that have held a special place in our hearts ever since and they were Dead Can Dance and October Project.

It was ironic in a way because as my wife and I were at the beginning of our journey together these bands had both released their last official albums before they were to disband and go their separate ways. My wife and I have just completed moving back to Bucks County Pennsylvania so it was a wonderful welcome home for us to be able to hear several of the October Project songs that had touched our hearts all those years ago performed live by Mary Fahl whose voice had originally brought them to life.

When we left Bucks County 12 years ago and moved to Ohio we had thought of the New Hope Winery as a great place to pick up a bottle of wine but had never attended a musical event at their 6123 Lower York Rd. location before last night. The setting for the show was an intimate one with none of the tables for the venue positioned all that far from the stage. I was seated to the left of the stage near the sound board and had an unobstructed view of Mary as she took the stage armed only with her guitar and her marvelous voice.

Oftentimes in concerts spectators make allowances for vocal performances done live because most of us realize it is very difficult for an artist to duplicate what they had previously done in the studio and bring that same quality to life on stage. I would have to say that Mary is one of the rare exceptions to this rule because her performance last night brought her music to life right there on stage in front of me with almost nothing lost to the fact that it was done live. Mary’s choice of material for last night’s concert pulled from a variety of sources including October Project songs, selections from her upcoming new release called Love and Gravity due out in August of 2013, a song from the soundtrack Gods & Generals, a classical piece, one song from her ambitious reinterpretation of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and another soundtrack song from The Guys. All in all the music she chose for her show at the New Hope Winery spotlighted not only her songwriting abilities but also allowed her voice to dominate the room.

Mary punctuated her show with stories about the creation of some of the songs which gave the audience a greater insight into the backstory of how some of the compositions came to be and what significance they had for Mary herself. No matter how else you described the evening it would all come down to Mary’s voice in the end. The music was poignant and touching but her voice projected those emotions to the audience which allowed us to enter in to the song at a deeper level than just hearing it on our stereo systems sitting at home.

It was a wonderful night out at the New Hope Winery listening to Mary Fahl weave a tapestry of images through her voice into a wonderful portrait of an artist who clearly has not lost any of her edge over the years. Mary’s performance shows that she cares deeply about her music and how it is presented to those who choose to see her live. The songs she sings are not your average pop songs but music that demands focused attention from the listener and as a reward for this deeper listening you are guaranteed an emotional journey that ranges from joyous to loving to contemplative. In closing this review the song that really touched my wife and I was a song that she wrote for her husband Rich (met Rich at the show last night and I can see how the two of them complement each other) which will be on her upcoming album called Gravity (Move Mountains, Turn Rivers Around) and it speaks of an enduring love that people find once they give up their romantic preconceptions of love and embrace a love that stands up to the reality of life as it really is and not as we want it to be. If you have a chance to get out and catch Mary Fahl live in your area I would suggest that you do so as you will be rewarded with an emotional journey and a voice that will leave you in awe of how she manages to hit those notes live. My wife and I feel like we have been welcomed back to Bucks County in a very special way by Mary’s concert last night and for that we say thank you.

October 21, 2011

Relentless soul 

Veteran singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick records a new album and stays true to herself 

By Kate Hinojosa
Published on 10/20/2011

With 10 full-length albums under her name including a live record, 70 People at 7000 Feet, which was recorded here in Flagstaff back in 2003, indie-folk singer-songwriter, Melissa Ferrick is back and with a new album, Still Right Here, that expresses growth, honesty and beautiful melodies. 

I hope my songwriting has become stronger, says Ferrick. Certainly on this record in particular, I spent a great deal of time working on the melodies, which is something I believe I have, in the past, struggled with. For the rest of the article click here.

October 20, 2011

I'm going to start using this column to highlight new releases and songs that are coming my way or that I hear about through e-mails, tweets and just surfing the web. So much new music presents itself these days that it is difficult to keep up with all of it but I hate to miss some great music that deserves to be spotlighted on CEV just because I didn't hear it right away. I will post videos, links to artists, links to songs and other links to pages with more information about a particular album release or song. These may not always be brand new releases because I may not hear about the music until long after the release date. I hope that my readers will help me as well by dropping me an e-mail when they run across music that is worthy of being showcased on CEV. You can reach me at editor at cuttingedgevoices dot com. Send me a link to the music on the web or just let me know the artist's name and I'll go check on their music. I hope this new format will allow me to get more information to the readers of CEV that will be useful in helping them find and enjoy new music and new artists that they may have been unaware of before. When all is said and done it's all about the music.

Just received an e-mail this morning from Abi Hoffman letting me know about her new song called Stronger. Of course the fact that she is 13 is amazing to me. Her voice is spot on and the music very professionally done. Sounds like a young Belinda Carlisle circa the Go Go's back in the 80's. The subject...bullying. No problem recommending this song to the readers of CEV and I figure Abi will not be a stranger to the music scene in the next few years. Take a listen below.

by Abi Ann.


It must be teen week here at CEV because I was also listening to another up and coming vocalist by the name of Diamante the other day who is just a couple years older than Abi Hoffman at 15. I am starting to feel like a real slacker when it comes to what I did when I was 13 which was go to school and sleep late during the summer. Judging from the ages of Diamante and Abi and what they have accomplished so far I should have been planning my career by that point. :) Anyway here is Diamante's song called Impossible and again her voice seems very mature and her delivery quite professional considering her age. Take a listen and keep track of her because you'll want to listen again once she moves towards an EP or an album.

October 11, 2011

Time to Go?

It has been awhile since we spoke but with the change in the weather and more happening indoors than out I figured it was time to find my keyboard again and start typing some of my thoughts about what's been going on in music as of late. All the hype about Spotify has faded for me and I am back to listening to a lot of my music on the service that I have been paying for the last few years which is Rhapsody. With very few exceptions I can find almost all of the music that I want to listen to on their service with some of the smaller labels or the self-released material being the only ones that are missing in action.

It has been a mixed bag so far with the new releases that I have been taking in. I listened to Bjork's new release Biophilia and for the most part was not all that thrilled except for the song called Crystalline. I listened to the new Tori Amos album called Night of Hunters and felt the same way with only a couple of songs standing out from a rather slow and less than upbeat kind of project. I did find more to like about Rachael Yamagata's new album called Chesapeake that came out today 10/11/2011. The album is not all gems but there are more songs that I like than not so if that sounds like a recommendation then you are reading that right. Check it out. I ran across a link in my Twitter feed for a song from the upcoming Kate Bush release in November and I'm not sure if I'm happy about that or not.  

I have been a Kate Bush fan for a few decades now but I have to tell you that I'm not sure what to think about this latest turn in her career. Aerial was an OK album for me with much of the 2-disc album echoing the Kate that I had been listening to for many years prior to this. She was different but I was assuming that since there were 12 years between The Red Shoes and Aerial that there were bound to be some changes in her voice, her writing style and just changes in her life that would change the way her art would present itself. I listened to Wild Man which is the first song to show up from her upcoming album called 50 Words for Snow which is due out Thanksgiving week next month and I found myself thinking that maybe she should have stopped at Aerial. I know, harsh words from someone who has all the music that she has put out over the years.  

This piece is not about Kate Bush though but it was a good release to illustrate the point. I have found more music that I want to listen to these days among the latest young performers who are releasing their first albums compared to artists that I have played for years prior to them. Some artists get better with age but I'm wondering if the opposite is true for others at a certain point in their career that maybe they should consider calling it a day. I have been a fan of some jazz musicians right up to the day they passed away and their music sounded just as good as it had when they were young. Vocalists are not always that lucky. Voices can change over the years and it may or may not be change for the better. Like pro athletes who have a limited time to perform at their peak I think the same can be said of musical artists as well.  

And yes I do realize that not all vocalists lose their abilities as they get older and so I know that this is not some kind of hard and fast rule. I just hear some of the artists that I have listened to for decades releasing new albums and it just feels like the magic is gone for me as a listener because they are no longer able to maintain the level of artistry that fans will always expect of their idols. I also know that when you have spent your life being a performer what else will you ever be? Just thinking out loud. I don't know how many of you out there reading this have ever had similar feelings about artists you have listened to in the past. Maybe it is a combination of age on my part and length of career on the artist's part. Maybe it will be an issue when Lady Gaga is 67 years old and still releasing music. Since I doubt I'll be around for that event I'll leave it to you to decide when the time comes. Laters.

July 11, 2011

Amy Grant's Music 34 Years Later

I was listening to a song by CCM/secular songstress Amy Grant tonight called Better Than a Hallelujah and it occurred to me that I have been listening to Amy Grant ever since she put out her first album which was released back in 1977 up to her current album Somewhere Down the Road released in 2010. Amy is just a little younger than me but I view her as a contemporary of my generation and so there is an affinity with the music that I have listened to for close to 34 years on and off again. I have listened to Amy's music mature over the years and have felt a kinship with someone who was able to take the ups and downs that life threw at her and to creatively channel them into her music. I think that when Simple Things came out it was in my CD player for a very long period and just played over and over again.

I am not what you would consider a native of the digital age having come up through vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes and CD's but I have embraced the new world of music, the internet and digital music files with open arms. And yet I see an artist like Amy Grant who was essentially in the same boat as me musically with her career going through that same digital revolution and she doesn't miss a beat. She took quite the beating during the middle phase of her career when the church turned on her for being too worldly or sexy in her music videos and again when she divorced and remarried. She stuck to her plans and continued to follow the path that was right for her and after all these years I think that we know who was right in regards to her music and how it should be presented. She was.

I take the time to write about Amy because she is what many of the women artists of today would like their careers to be in 34 years. Amy is moderately famous but not to the degree of Lady Gaga or Madonna and I'm sure that pleases her to no end. She has a loyal fan base within the church and those listeners like me who have just enjoyed her songwriting and music over the years. She makes a living off of her music and tours on a regular basis to present her music live to her fans around the country. I'm sure by this point she can pick and choose where and when she wants to perform and that allows her much freedom in making a living from her music.

She is able to write songs that mean something to her and she has fans that will appreciate her for that and not for some artificial yardstick for what contemporary female artists need to be to draw an audience and make a living from their music. Isn't that the freedom that many female artists and musicians really want when they set out on this career path? To be artistically true to themselves as far as the music they write and to have fans that appreciate them for that honesty and integrity. Amy Grant should be an inspiration to all those women artists out there who want some kind of reassurance of what is possible with hard work and perseverance to a dream. Amy never traded her values to achieve a wider success in the music business beyond her niche market of CCM and even when she was doing duets with Peter Cetera or Kenny Loggins she never chose to go over the top with presenting herself as something she wasn't just to procure a larger fan base. She may have been accused of doing just that by the more conservative elements of the church but let me assure you that Amy Grant never crossed any of those lines in her videos which by today's standards are very tame.

The pressure to conform to a set of stereotypes for women in music has never been greater than it is today. It is almost like an unwritten rule that states you will not be noticed if you are not willing to take on the image that is expected of women in music today. The rule says if you are ever to reach the heights in your career you will need to follow the path blazed by the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna or Christina Aguilera. Erotic, sensual, shocking and outrageous. None of that explains the success that Amy Grant and the artists who like her are dedicated to their craft and not to being something they are not. Perhaps your success may not be as stratospheric as the Lady Gagas of the world but that never seemed to bother Amy's fans and I still count myself among them even after 34 years of listening to her music. And isn't that what most women artists would like to have said about their music 30 years from now? See ya next time.

July 8, 2011

A New Point of View

I think I have finally figured out why I like to listen to female singer/songwriters so much over the years. The biggest reason is that women offer a different viewpoint in their lyrics and music than what has been dished up for years and years through the major labels. Ok so that wasn't a huge revelation but in some ways it is. The Internet and the shifting away towards indie labels and acts has brought with it a flood of female singer/songwriters that can now put their music out without the benefit of a major label. This has allowed the listening population to choose to listen to music that was not put through the marketing machine of the music industry that makes everything seem to sound the same. It is not so much that I am turning against the male singer/songwriters who are out there now but rather I'm finally starting to hear from the other half of the population of the United States and the world in general.  

Most of those who did succeed in the male dominated music industry had little to say to me through their lyrics that I had not heard before or were so sexualized for shock value that I had little interest in listening to them seriously. It was always refreshing to hear those like Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Stevie Nicks or Sarah McLachlan step up and give us great music and to pair that music with insightful lyrics as well. Obviously there were many other women who wrote and sang songs that offered up thoughts and ideas that went against the tide of the mass consumed pop ditties that are always pushing to get into our conscious minds through commercials, top 40 radio and a thousand and one Internet streaming sites but the ones I mention above just happened to come to mind.  

The reason that I enjoy the songs written by women so much is that they start to shed light on what the women are thinking about the world around us, current events (remember the Dixie Chicks woes? ) relationships, love and social issues. What makes all of these songs different than what has gone before is that they reflect a woman's point of view. This is refreshing for men such as myself because instead of hearing the same male point of view that has spewed out of my speakers for decades I now hear a definite feminine take on the world. I'll have to make an assumption here that women feel the same way in that they now can hear songs that corroborate their own ideas and feelings when it comes to seeing the world around them. If that assumption is wrong please drop me an e-mail and let me know or leave a comment on the blog.  

It is as if I have been hearing half the conversation all these years and now I am finally privy to the other half of what is being said and it is enlightening because much of it is not what I would have expected to hear. The decision to start a website like Cutting Edge Voices was motivated because I wanted to help bring that balance back to the ongoing dialogue that we all share through the lyrics that we absorb on a day to day basis. Many of the artists are indie artists and without the mega bucks of the major labels they need help to get "noticed" in the marketplace these days. Sort of a double edged sort really. The Internet has given each artist a global marketplace for their music but the market is now flooded with countless new artists looking to do the same thing. Word of mouth and fan bases are essential for an artist to make enough money off their music to call it a career. Websites such as CEV offer the artists another tool to get noticed by their potential audience.  

 At the end of the day it all comes down to what you like and how far you will search to find something that will offer you new points of view and expand your world view. Many are comfortable in their own little worlds listening only to music that confirms their viewpoint of the world and will never venture beyond the safety those walls offer. I feel sorry for them but it is a free country and they have every right to restrict their experiences to a small sliver of what exists if they were to open up to new ideas and new music. For myself I learned long ago that I would never be satisfied with just listening to the status quo and have been on a journey ever since to learn about the true nature of the world around me through words, through art and through music. If you haven't already started on a similar journey of your own...why not? Simply make a decision to explore music and not to be restricted by any kind of preconceptions or boundaries when it comes to what you decide to listen to. When it is all said and done you can look back over a life of musical exploration that took you to some strange new countries and allowed you to explore cultures very different from your own. See ya next time.  

July 2, 2011

Teaching Major Labels New Tricks... maybe

I’ve been thinking about a way for the major labels to save tons of money on each new release they put out and how they might repair some of the damage done to their reputations over the last decade or so. Of course it would mean a fundamental shift in how they approach the music business but it might just save them in the long run. The nice thing about my idea is that they don’t even need to do any intense scouting for new talent and much of what I am suggesting has to do with established artists who already have a fan base and could easily be upsized to a much larger audience with just a little marketing.

My idea for the major labels is that they start looking for their next releases among established indie artists who need just a little push to create a national buzz about their music and to increase their sales. Yes I know, the idea of a major label handling the career of an indie artist is a scary one. The trick is that the major label needs to change their ideas about how the whole arrangement works. Right now they sign a very few artists and pour tons of money into recording, marketing, and touring expenses for each artist that they decide to bring on board. At that point each of these artists becomes a major investment and has to “earn its keep” to justify all the money that has been invested into their project. There is lots of pressure to perform so that can start to show the label that they were justified in putting all that money into your career.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t try to create their high powered artists that earn them millions of dollars but I am suggesting that they also start supporting the indie artists which are an enormous pool of talented performers who are largely unknown except for their fan base. Perhaps every year the labels could take a fraction of the money that they pour into one major act and instead use it as seed money to take an indie artist and push them out into the spotlight of a national audience. The trick here is that the major labels have to be cognizant of the fact that you can’t treat indie artists the same way you treat top 40 artists because if they started to mold and shape them into a top 40 artist then they would lose the indie appeal that made them unique to start with. Not to mention the fact that the indie artists would rebel if they were treated that way because they have no desire to become the next Lady Gaga or Britney Spears. They simply want to make their art, make a decent living off of it and be able to do it over and over again during their lifetimes so that it becomes a self-sustaining cycle.

The major labels don’t have a history of a hands off approach to working with new artists but the model for this new relationship would have to change. They would need to take a cooperative approach to each new album and the artist’s wishes would have to come first. They might even need to appoint someone to a position within the label who is sensitive to working with indie artists to act as the liaison between the artist and the label so that the needs of both are addressed. Budgets for these indie projects would be small so that more quality releases could be issued each year. For most indie artists even a small budget would be more than they have now so that would immediately take the pressure off the artist to raise the money to record and release their albums and allow them to focus on the artistic aspects of the project.

The labels would need to get a return on investment for each of these projects that they release but not on the scale that they need to recoup costs when they release a new Madonna album. This is a business and money does need to be made so that the next artist will benefit from also having a budget available to them. The contracts could be for single album releases and if both sides are agreeable then a second and a third is feasible as long as both artist and label see the benefits of continuing the relationship. The label might even consider an indie imprint that they would release this material on so that it stands out from their major releases and identifies it to the public as something different than the ordinary fare they offer.

The internet has made it possible for the indie artist to put their music out there and to sell it directly to fans. This is something that wasn’t possible only a few years ago so and it has opened up a whole new world for the artists who no longer need a major label contract to put out their albums. The major labels are still trying to deal with today’s digital music world with yesterday’s rules. They need to embrace what has happened both to the music formats and the rise of the indie artist and show the music buying public that they are still concerned with the art of music and not just about cranking out the next Madonna or Lady Gaga. They might actually be able to repair some of the damage done to their reputations if they were to show us that they are still open to change. Something to think about. See ya next time.

July 1, 2011

And the Beat Goes On...

Sorry for the delay in posting this. Got knocked offline for a day because the county mowing crew accidentally cut my phone line out by the road in front of my house. Now where were we? I remember…

The other variable that I think about sometimes is the actual listener of all of this music. The consumer if you will. There has been a fundamental shift in more than just how record labels market the music but also in what listeners have grown to expect from their music or more precisely what they don’t expect anymore. I have grown through quite a few cycles in the music industry starting with LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s and now digital music files. I had always expected my music to be as pristine and perfect as each medium would allow. CD’s seemed to be the pinnacle of this cycle, not taking into account virgin vinyl pressings of LP’s put out by Mobile Fidelity during their heyday and the like, and you could finally hear just about everything that was recorded in the studio by the artist right in your living room on your own stereo system.

For the most part unless we are buying FLAC files or some other lossless format for our digital music player we have traded down for the digital age. We have gone portable with our music and expensive home stereo systems have given way to iPods, internet streams and portable MP3 players that play files that are compressed to make them portable but not to make the high quality renditions of the music we used to buy on CD’s. Those of you who are like me and started as audiophiles probably feel guilty like I do when I spend my time listening to my music through the computer. Small speakers and compressed files. But if you think about it there is a whole generation out there who grew up listening to MP3s and who have little conception of what being an audiophile is all about unless of course they think it is some deviant behavior that they need to avoid.

Music was art to many of us and the way we treated it was respectful of that art as we bought adequate sound systems to reproduce the music as closely as possible to what the artist intended when they recorded it. Fast forward to now and take a look at how that same music is now treated. It has been reduced to a product that needs to be marketed just like any other product. It is not considered a piece of art anymore. No one looks at the Billboard Top 100 and sees art anymore. They see bullets, they see sales stats, they see competition and they see lots of money if an album charts high enough. So what happened to the art?

I am not naive about how the music business works and it is not lost on me that the word business immediately follows the word music in this sentence. The music industry has always been about making money from the art. It used to be that the consumer kept them in line by demanding that artists be allowed to express themselves or they wouldn’t buy the finished product. Art talks BS walks. The world has changed. Now it is the music industry against everyone. They create artists, albums, hype and then market them in such a way that everyone just has to have one. Not because it is a great album featuring great vocals and fantastic lyrics but because the pressure of advertising and constant repetition create the need in our minds. Top that off with the fact that we don’t resist anymore because as the Borg might say, “Resistance is futile”, when faced with slick videos that tease and tantalize us all with graphic images. We capitulate and download all the latest “hits” and become good obedient consumers.

I’m not saying that there is no art in the top 100 or 200 but they are the exceptions now and not the rule. And lest you think that I have it out just for the major record labels let me set that misconception straight right now. What started this chain of discussion is simply that some prominent female artists are selling their music through their sexuality and the record industry in general uses sexuality in marketing the music they put out. Both are exploiting those images and pushing the boundaries of good taste so that they can be noticed again. So that sales will go through the roof for this latest release. Record labels don’t force women to do that. They have the same choice that indie artists have when it comes to promoting their music. The music/lyrics can speak for themselves or they can dazzle their audiences with flashy stage shows, skimpy costumes and dance interpretations that make it difficult to take the artist seriously when it comes to their music.

I rarely go looking for music to listen to on the top 100 anymore. I don’t listen to the radio so that I can hear the same songs that everyone else is playing. And I certainly don’t have a lot of respect for female performers that “push the envelope” when it comes to what they will do in an effort to promote their music. More accurately I think that we are still waiting to see if there is something that they won’t do to promote their music. Where are their limits? Performers have always been flamboyant but in the 21st century we are moving beyond everything that has gone before into murky waters that leaves us all kind of uneasy as we dive deeper into the abyss. And lucky us we have 24 hour coverage of everything these artists do and say through the auspices of CNN and hundreds of other news outlets who can’t wait to print the latest thing coming out of the mouth of some of these mega stars.

For myself I will stick to listening to the likes of Happy Rhodes, Kate Bush, Imogen Heap, Tori Amos, Coby Grant, Sarah Fimm, Natalie Walker, Gemma Hayes, Shannon Hurley, Lex Land, Allie Moss, Dar Williams, Vienna Teng and hundreds of other female artists who may not be in the stratosphere with their music sales but they are staying true to who they are and making music that is both honest and heartfelt. They don’t use sex to sell their music and they will pay a price for being willing to place their art ahead of their marketing campaign. The price will be that they will struggle to make a living from their music and each album will be difficult to bring to market but when it gets there they can be proud of what they created. I have no problem with the mega women stars making it big and using their sexuality to push themselves into everyone’s consciousness but what price will they eventually pay for selling themselves this way? Time will tell. See ya next time.

June 29, 2011

The Times They Are a Changin'

The theme that I was looking at yesterday is one that bears a lot closer look than just a passing glance one day in a blog. I think that the music industry, at least the one that is falling into ruin in the digital age, has always marketed music not as an art form but as a “widget” like beer, hamburgers, cars or sodas which allows them to think of marketing not in terms of connecting with art connoisseurs but consumers who want a particular product. If manufacturer A has a huge success with a new product then manufacturer B needs a product that will do the same job as the other company has. So they find a way to copy the design and before you know it they have knocked off the original product with something very similar of their own. That seems to be the way of business in regards to just about anything you can think of. Originality is no longer something to be sought out because in that direction there is no certainty of huge returns on investment. Conformity and guaranteed sales is what businesses are looking for including the record labels who were used to doing it just that way for decades.

It used to be said that any publicity was good publicity and I think that the media conglomerates and marketing companies still believe it. We have seen lately that this thinking has its limits. Look at Charlie Sheen. Was all the publicity good for him personally and or good for his career? How about Lindsay Lohan? Is her life better off for all the attention she has brought on herself? The world has become connected to a degree like never before in history and information spreads with the swiftness of high speed broadband connections. Some publicity is best left alone because it can do as much damage as it can sell widgets.

The problem is that the music industry and some of the artists still believe in the old models of marketing music to the buying public. Rebellious behavior, going against social norms, fashions that are not only striking but at times bizarre, lyrics that push the boundaries of good taste and stage shows that border on burlesque at one end and going all the way to soft core pornography on the other end. Audiences have gotten jaded just like everyone else in the world who are constantly being bombarded with more explicit images and music so each time the artist releases a new album they have to ratchet up their performance to the next notch to keep everyone interested and to maintain their hold on the top chart position.

A vicious cycle to be sure. Major record labels love to market controversial artists because it is easier to differentiate them from the competition. Artists have a preconceived image of how a major performer is supposed to act and many are more than willing to fall into the rut of sensationalism and raunchiness in order to promote themselves to their fans and to stand above the crowded field of new musicians that are just waiting to take their place on the food chain. And as we have seen by some of the mega stars of today this approach to marketing themselves does work. At least it works for some but all eyes are focused on what works for some and it is taken as gospel for aspiring artists showing them how to succeed so the next generation of performers is being primed with this image in mind of what sells records and puts you on top in the music industry. The cycle continues.

The problem is that the digital reality of music and the internet has changed much of what has gone before. The playing field has become more level (not completely level but a clever person can gain quite a bit of leverage without a label these days) which has allowed thousands of hopeful artists to take to the internet on their own websites, Facebook pages and Myspace pages to bring their music to the whole world. For the most part these artists are marketing their “music” and their talents and not their sexuality to sell the songs that they have written.

Cutting Edge Voices was created not to cater to the publicity crazed artists whose over the top antics have nothing to do with making good music but rather CEV focuses on artists who create great music but don’t have the platforms that a major label would offer them as part of their contract. CEV is for the artists who don’t believe it is necessary to stoop to the lowest common denominator in order to have a successful musical career. Does this knock them out of the game? No. It just means that they will have to try harder to gain the attention of the mainstream media and their music will have to be top notch. Well produced, well presented and filled with good songs. Since you are not distracting everyone with your sexuality your music will have to speak for itself. Sometimes record labels get it right but for the most part they are looking for ways to keep the money flowing in so too many investments in “art for art’s sake” is going to bankrupt them. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a look at the other side of this coin which is the consumer. See ya next time.

June 28, 2011

Selling Music With Sex... Why?

I posted a tweet of a news article a couple of days ago about how the music industry markets female acts and it got me thinking about how this type of marketing leaves the indie artists out in the cold because most of them don’t really want to resort to the raunchy marketing gimmicks that many mega female artists tend to use. Most indie artists still live under the assumption that their music should speak for itself without the need to supplement it with videos or gimmicks that lean heavily on exploiting the artist’s sexuality instead of their skill as a musician or a vocalist. Or even as a superb songwriter. All the things that I am looking for when I pop in a new album to listen to. I don’t care what controversy surrounds the latest hits, I don’t need to know the details of the artist’s sex life or their orientation, and I certainly don’t need graphic visual interpretations of the songs that I listen to to be able to enjoy and appreciate the music the artist writes. In fact the controversial aspects of the music tend to detract from my enjoyment more than it adds to it. None of the raunchy aspects of what the artist does or how they portray themselves will make a bad song sound good or a good song sound better.

What this does do is to skew everyone’s perceptions of what it means to be a female artist in the music business trying to make a living with their songs. It creates the expectation that all female artists need this kind of exposure to effectively market their music and I’m hear to tell you that this is just not the case. There are many talented female performers out there who are not getting the recognition that they deserve while the media tends to flock to cover those artists who are as outrageous as possible in the promotion of their music through their actions or through videos or stage performances that push the boundaries of good taste every time that they step in front of an audience.

One of my favorite performers is Happy Rhodes. Happy who? And oftentimes that is exactly the reaction that you will get when you mention this artist’s name. She doesn’t put out raunchy videos. She doesn’t do stage shows that are rated R. She doesn’t dress provocatively trying to sell her music through her appearance. She isn’t constantly in the media’s eye through controversial statements that she makes. Happy Rhodes is like so many other indie artists who depend on their musicianship, their songwriting abilities and their singing voices to get the message across that they deserve to be heard and appreciated. So does mainstream media beat down a path to Happy Rhodes’ door to help the world discover what a great talent she is? That would be be a very large NO.

Intelligence and talent are not high on the list of what sells music these days. Sad but true. Happy Rhodes has a 4-octave voice that still astounds me when she shifts gears from the high end to hit notes at the low end. When I first heard her music I could have sworn that there were two people singing because of the range of sound coming out of my speakers. But it was all just Happy’s remarkable vocal range at work. Happy has put out 11 full length albums and I’m sure that except for her hardcore fans many music aficionados would not be able to name even one of them. The albums are filled with wonderful music, intelligent lyrics and a voice that just won’t quit. It’s a pity that others won’t know about her music because Happy’s songs are well worth discovering. The music industry has really gotten things backwards as of late. Maybe for much longer than just lately. The flash is what the industry goes after to market while leaving the musical substance sitting on the bench depending on their talents to get them a shot at the starting position. Unfortunately most never leave the bench.

So just remember that Happy Rhodes and hundreds of artists just like her are out there trying to get noticed and let their music reach listeners who will surely enjoy what they hear. The trick is getting the media to notice them without the antics that seem to be the only way that mainstream media’s attention can be snared. Why not make it a point to go out and find these “undiscovered” talented gems and tweet, blog and post them all over the Internet until they “make it”. Sort of like Kickstarter but done simply with word seeds and links dropped everywhere you go. Hey you’re out there anyway so why not make a difference in the lives of these artists by singing their praises wherever you go. Think about it. See ya next time.

Visit Happy Rhodes’ website
Read an interview with Happy Rhodes on Cutting Edge Voices
Check out some of Happy’s videos on YouTube

June 27, 2011

Where Have All the Writers Gone?

Is it my imagination or are there very few blogs about women in music? As I was setting up this blog I wanted to offer some links to other fine blogs that cover women in music so that they get exposure as I get exposure and the ultimate winners are all the female artists who get some face time on the web. The more I looked the more I realized that there just weren’t that many out there. It might just be that I haven’t looked hard enough and that I will eventually run across them but at first search I’m not getting all that many blogs to list. Another trend that I was finding was that many of the blogs had recently or in the near past shut down and quit publishing. Oftentimes it was because the authors had other priorities in their lives that needed more attention so something had to go in their daily lives. Usually that turned out to be the blogs or the websites.

I had always thought that there were plenty of websites out there who covered the music scene for women but that isn’t as true as I thought it was. Maybe it’s just the general misconception that is created when you see artists like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna, Tori Amos or Sarah Mclachlan all over the Internet, radio, TV and podcasts that you sort of assume that everyone is getting that kind of exposure and that women are finally coming into their own in the music business. The trouble with that assumption is that there are only a handful of artists that are getting that kind of attention from the media while the rest of the indie artists are languishing in relative obscurity trying to get noticed so that they can make some sort of living doing what they love to do.

Many of the blogs and mailing lists that I try to read don’t have to do with the Madonnas or the Lady Gagas of the world but rather the indie artist who is out there trying to scrape together enough money do be able to release an album of their music. Hats off to sites like Kickstarter who genuinely meet a real need for the indie artists who would otherwise never have enough money to be able to get their music out into the marketplace. So where are all the blogs, websites and resources to help female artists to get noticed and shove their music out of the shadows into the light of the media? Cutting Edge Voices has been around for a few years now and I would like to push it into a more active role in this whole process but I might need your help to do that. If you know of an ongoing blog about women in music, a website about women and music that I don’t already have listed or even some podcasts or Internet radio shows that support women in music then I would like to hear about them.

If you think what I want to do is a good thing then friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, read the CEV blog and comment on the entries and offer up artists, links and resources that I can share with my readers on the website. Social media and websites are powerful tools but they still need others to get them moving in the right direction. The word community gets used quite a bit these days but I just like to think of it as like minded individuals who are moving in the same direction. We may not see everything eye to eye but we are willing to cooperate with one another to benefit reaching the greater goal of gaining more recognition for women in music.

Let me expand slightly on the phrase “women in music”. I think that Cutting Edge Voices is not only a platform for women in front of the mic but those behind the boards, those in marketing music, those who run their own labels, those who are promoters and those who work in some capacity in the music industry in general. Just because we think that everyone is all “enlightened” in the 21st century about the role women play in creating and marketing music I would have to say that I don’t always think that is the case. If I can help through CEV then I certainly want to do that. If I can cooperate with other sites so that our voices are more powerful as a chorus instead of a solo then I want to do that too. Let me know what you think and if you have some ideas you’d like to share then by all means share them in comments on this blog or drop me an e-mail and we can discuss it. If you are a blogger without a home or a writer who just wants to help then I would certainly want to talk to you about writing for Cutting Edge Voices. So what are you waiting for, let’s talk. See ya next time.

November 2, 2010

Argggghhhhh it's election time again.

Well I hope that everyone got out and did their civic duty today and cast a vote for whatever candidate struck your fancy and represented the views that you wished communicated in Washington. To be very honest with you I voted on the way home from work tonight but my heart was really not in it. Politics has become so very tainted in my eyes that it is difficult to feel any enthusiasm for either side in an election anymore. I find myself longing for an alternative party who actually listens to the voters and then goes to Washington to make a difference for those people who elected them to office to serve their needs. If I hear one more interview where one side attacks the other and neither side addresses how their policies will make our lives better or solve the problems facing homeowners about to lose their homes to banks that the taxpayer bailed out of financial ruin I'll just scream.  

Sometimes as I watch and read the headlines each day I feel like I am watching a bunch of kids on the playground calling each other names and pointing their fingers at one another trying to make sure that the blame doesn't end up falling on them for the mess that this country is in. The media outlets fire the flames of this negative campaigning by reporting on the name calling instead of doing some critical stories that calls both sides on the carpet for their shortcomings and how they have failed the average voter in this country. I wonder how many of them can sleep at night knowing that they are collecting a salary footed by the taxpayer and have so little progress to show before they go heading back home during elections to make sure that the voters extend their stay in Washington by voting for them.  

Hence my unenthusiastic mood this election night. I see such divisive politics being played by the left and the right that if that attitude makes it to Washington after the election then we can expect another 2 years of no progress and another election in 2012 where each side blames the other and the real losers are the American people who get only hollow words from their representatives to help them survive another year and hold on to their jobs or their homes as they face record unemployment and foreclosures. Like I said I don't know how they can sleep knowing what their inaction and childish behavior costs this country each and every day that consensus is not reached and legislation is not passed to help those in need.  

Cutting Edge Voices doesn't take a political stand in all of this but it does stand firmly against any politician who isn't doing the job that they were sent to Washington to do. I would love for them to face the productivity reviews that have become common in the workplace to measure how well employees are doing their jobs and see if they still had their jobs when the results were fully tabulated. With the big corporations sending jobs to cheaper labor markets and most of the employees of this country facing a constant threat of downsizing or layoffs it would be nice to see the politicians face the same consequences that we face on a daily basis. Your office didn't meet its quarterly results so we are going to have to downsize you and eliminate your position. Good luck on the unemployment line and I hope you find another job. Oh by the way unemployment benefits may not be around all that long since politicians don't see that as an essential thing to pass.  

Now that I've got that out of my system I hope that this time the politicians will do their jobs and help the people of this country in any way they possibly can by cooperating with one another to get essential bills passed in a timely manner. For God's sake stop acting like children and do the job you were paid to do when the voters sent you to Washington. Some day there will be other political parties and if you haven't improved your performance by then I won't be sorry to see both Democrats and the GOP go down the tube as an independent party does what you could not or would not do.  

I hope that you gentle reader are enjoying some of the music that CEV brings to light through this website and I hope that you will write and let me know what you might like to see on the site in the future. Until next time. Hasta la vista, baby.  

September 11, 2010

Facebook and the new world order

Being a geeky kind of guy I am always keeping track of what is happening in the world of the Internet and computer technology. On occasion I watch an online program called TWIT which is an acronym for The Week in Technology hosted by someone that I've watched for many years Leo Laporte. Down to earth kind of guy but very knowledgeable about trends in software, technology and of course the online world that has formed in recent years with all the social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Leo had some fears as to where the Internet was headed under the rule of Facebook and so it was no surprise when on one of his shows he deleted his Facebook account. His concerns were over privacy as Facebook collected more and more information about all of us as users and how unsecure all of that information was due to the privacy policies that Facebook had in place.  

He was also concerned that Mark Zuckerburg was trying to become the hub of much of the Internet's traffic and with over 500 million users he has quite the hold on a large chunk of the people who live and work online. I am starting to share some of those same worries as I watch Facebook become more powerful and as the marketing information that he collects via Facebook is used to target ads to each and every user on his network making him a very wealthy man in the process. Whatever Facebook started out as it is mutating and is becoming just as "corporate" as any of the other larger corporations that they compete with.  

What got me started thinking about this was the creation of my Cutting Edge Voices Facebook page and sending out friend requests to those who I would like to network with in regards to women in music and the music industry in general. I don't know about you but some of my friends on Facebook I know personally and I have corresponded with. Some I want to know because they are artists that may eventually end up getting featured on CEV or interviewed further down the road. Some are those that I would like to know more about because they are members of the industry that I am trying to work in. Most of the time this last group are those that I don't know personally but would like to trade "business cards" with in an attempt to make some contacts with those who hold some power in the music industry whether that is old power having to do with the way the music industry used to work before the digital age or new power of those who are helping to define where the industry is headed in the future.  

Facebook's promise to its users is that they are a social network and that it would be easier to network with those that you don't always get to meet face to face leveling the playing field a little if you don't live in LA or New York but still want to at least keep up with those in music business circles in far flung places. As I was trying to build my "friends" list I started to get an error message from Facebook on more and more of my attempts to add friends to my list. And just for the record this error message didn't always pop up with just those that I didn't personally know but with those that I have talked to via e-mail as well. Perhaps you have seen this message before but here is what it gives me, "This Request Can't Be Sent. Do you know this user personally? To prevent misuse of Facebook, this request can't be sent. To learn more, please visit the Help Center." I have received this same message when sending friend requests to people I do know as well so it isn't just my attempts to hand out my business card so to speak.

Having worked with music for quite a number of years I do know a lot of people. By the same token I was hoping to use Facebook to expand that group of friends/contacts to include some that I don't know now but might be good to know as my website grows and expands. The message above does not say that this user has chosen not to receive any requests but simply says that it can't be sent. If the request not to receive friend invites originates with the user then I have no problem with that but I'm not sure it does. If the message originates with Facebook and it is there software that is determining whether my invite is spam or not then I do have a problem with that. Suddenly the usefulness of their network is decreased because now you can't be sure to network with certain people because the software that analyses your requests is actually in control.  

MySpace is clunky and not as smooth as Facebook but at least it doesn't take my requests and simply refuse to send them along. The ultimate decision about whether you want to network with someone on MySpace lies with the person who receives the request as it should be. I don't accept all requests that I get on Facebook or MySpace but at least I have the choice to look at them and then decide. Facebook has taken that choice away in some instances and makes the decision without sending the request along. Not cool. I'm an adult and can look at most requests and see if the requestor is just spamming me or if there is a connection with that person that I want to explore. Other than the blatant spams that fly around any network I want to see all those requests that are not pure spam. I'll make my own decision as to whether the request has some merit thank you very much.  

What I do on the web is music and for the most part I still spend a lot of time over on Myspace listening to artists songs and making industry contacts through there. With the dominance of Facebook I fear that our choice of social networks may be monopolized because no one out there is offering competition to their service. Now that is a bad thing. One company controlling how half a billion people can or can't interact with one another and no other choices for customers is a bad thing. The music business like any other business is a lot about making contacts and socializing. If Facebook starts to restrict who you can socialize with and who you can't then it is time to take a look at the core values of that network and see what it is that they stand for. Leo Laporte took a stand about how Facebook was treating their users and perhaps one day I will have to do the same. I'm just saying. See ya next time.

August 29, 2010

Music and Politics

I posted a couple of thoughts on Facebook about the nature of Politics and Music in regards to what they promote and how they communicate and I thought I would share that with my readers as well since everyone is so inundated with this talk every day that we turn on the news or read the news online.  

Music and politics deal with emotions but it is how they go about accessing and bringing those emotions to the surface that really differentiates them from one another. We are all familiar with the scenes of politicians delivering their emotionally charged campaign speeches that settles on a hot button issue of contention between the candidates and then proceeds to drive their point home using the most polarized and exaggerated language they can use to make sure that when listeners walk away from the speech they really think that the other candidate is out to destroy their way of life. That is the lifeblood of how politicians access your emotions and then uses them to further their own political agenda. Music and politics do share the common thread of taking complex multifaceted emotionally charged issues and reducing them to their simplest forms so that points can be made in a rather short period of time, a 3-5 minute song or a sound bite that will end up on the evening news.  

That is the where the similarity ends for me because while music seeks to find as much common ground as possible between all its listeners so that we can all share a group connection with the feelings that the songwriter is trying to get across to their audience politicians take those same emotions and play upon them so that they can sway you to their political viewpoint in an effort to procure your vote in the coming election. And just because an election is over don't think that the campaign talk ends because the modern politician is always looking towards the next election and rarely says anything that might alienate their "base" or endanger their chances of being reelected.  

Sometimes when I listen to music I think to myself that the same things keep getting said over and over again in love songs and songs about relationships but when it comes right down to it that is what life is all about. Songwriters are simply writing about what takes up so much of our waking hours and that is relating to others on a personal level or on a work level or society in general. Song writers offer up their own personal viewpoints in the lyrics of their songs and some are brutally honest in these words and allow the rest of us to see what another human being really has on their minds. This honesty is what binds us together and why music is so much more successful than politics at creating a shared experience through the music and lyrics that we can identify with.  

The music and lyrics that we listen to on a daily basis pulls us together as we see ourselves in the words and we can sympathize with what the song writer has gone through in putting those lyrics into a song. For a few moments as we listen to the song we feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves and we recognize that we are not the only ones to feel these emotions and that there are others out there who are like us. Isn't that the true beauty of most of the arts? For brief moments in our lives we all can look at the same piece of art or listen to the same composition and feel that connection to the rest of the world regardless of where that art or music was created. We don't question the artist about whether we believe the exact same things rather we look at the creation and allow ourselves to appreciate the beauty of it without ever wondering if our beliefs exactly match those of the artist.  

So there you have it. Music for the most part tends to have a unifying effect on those who listen to it whether that is in a live setting, on the Internet or on the radio. It shows that there are others out there who have shared our pain, our joy, our love and our convictions. The song writer does not want our vote or for us to support a particular point of view but to simply say with them that I've been there and I've done that. Of course the song writer wants you to help them continue to share their ideas by buying their music but many of them would continue to write songs regardless of whether or not they ever sold a single copy because it is a part of who they are and how can you deny yourself when it comes to something like that?  

Sometimes politicians can live up to the higher goals of doing the right thing and considering the country as whole when they cast their votes for legislation but lately as I watch and read the news I find that this ideal is rarely if ever the motivating force behind politicians. It is not so much about partisanship but rather none of them seem to ultimately care about the people that they represent or helping those who can not help themselves. Getting reelected is a primary goal and keeping the lobbyists happy is another major objective while doing the right thing or helping those who are in the most dire straits comes in last place. Is it any wonder that voter turn out is so low most of the times. When we feel that all of our representation regardless of party affiliation has little desire to help us is it any wonder that we are apathetic to the political process?  

Music is something that can uplift me, it can make me feel sad as I enter into the emotions of the song writer, it can make me feel energized as I head out into the world for the day. The world these days is a hard place to live in. If you read the news at all you will find yourself being buried alive in the tragedy that screams at us from the headlines. Personally I would much rather wake up, put some of my favorite music on and read a book. Music is important to all of us and a lot of us practice it every day as we load up our MP3 players and head out into the world with our own soundtrack playing in our ears. Sure beats reading about the latest venom that pours out of most politicians mouths each day. Have a great Sunday and listen to some great music of your choice today. Later.  

Thanks to Alex Cosper for starting this conversation.

August 25, 2010

Are you a Musical Explorer?

There have always been those hearty souls who wander away from their homelands in search of strange and interesting shores. It was they who explored the world and pushed America westward as we moved away from the east coast in search of open spaces. The world seems smaller these days with very little left to explore but I think that simply depends on your point of view.  

While geographically the world has been explored, mapped and googlelized there are still artistic realms all around us just waiting to be explored. Not all exploring means uprooting yourself and heading off to Borneo or the Australian outback. Sometimes it simply means opening your mind to new ideas, new experiences and new approaches to life. The problem is that many people don't have the explorer mentality and resist heading off into the unknown and walking where the paths are not as clearly laid out for the adventurous traveler. Unfortunately the fact that the journey we are talking about does not even require the traveler to leave the comfort of their own home still does not persuade some to venture beyond where the signposts end and uncharted territory begins.  

Obviously since CEV is a music e-zine my analogy above refers to exploring uncharted musical territories and to quote another favorite television series "bolding going where no one has gone before." CEV acts as a guide of sorts putting up some homemade signposts on the roads that have no indicators of where a person is headed and affords the reader a chance to seek out new musical frontiers and to enjoy themselves along the way. But there is a catch. A person can be shown the way and given a map and everything they need to make a successful journey but they have to actually take the steps that will lead them to this "unexplored country." 

A person has to be willing to leave the old, familiar music behind for a time and to force themselves to open up to new forms of musical expression. This doesn't mean abandoning your favorite music acquired over years of listening. Rather it is deliberately adding to those favorites new songs that you will love that you didn't know you loved...yet. If you walked into a new geographic culture you would undoubtedly spend much time trying to acclimate yourself to new customs and new ways of doing things and musical exploration is no different. You can't go into it thinking that if you don't like this new music after a few minutes of listening that it wasn't worth the effort in the first place because you might just as well go back to your comfort music and stay there because you'll need more of an explorer attitude than that to make any kind of headway.  

I grew up with The Beatles, The Stones, Steppenwolf and a wide assortment of 60's rock groups but I didn't stop there. Many  listeners find an era where they feel comfortable and that is where they set up camp never to leave again. I could have stayed in the 60's and had warm fuzzy feelings about my music while ignoring the world around me but the explorer within is too strong. I now find myself in 2010 and the spirit of exploration is still alive and well. Don't get me wrong I now have favorite songs that span over 40 years worth of listening and I consider myself lucky to have had such a wealth of music to choose from while others were still stuck somewhere along the way refusing to see the brilliance of creativity that lies within each generation of music composers.  

As long as you keep our explorer's mindset firmly in place this is an exciting process and has moments of AHA! , where it suddenly becomes apparent that you like what you are hearing. Once you have a few of these aha moments you will not look at the music you choose to listen to in quite the same way. Suddenly music that you had turned your nose up at in the past will become intriguing drawing you to it like a moth to the flame. Once you reach that point the musical world that surrounds you will beckon from movie soundtracks, songs you hear on TV shows, various Myspace music pages, samples scattered all over the internet on artist's home pages and on and on. Music becomes like breathing at that point and you just notice it wherever you go or whatever you are doing.  

I started this blog with a question, are you a musical explorer? The life of a musical explorer is not for everyone because some will never move beyond their comfort zone and that is ok. Not everyone is meant to walk off into the musical jungle in search of something they have never heard before. Their lives will be the poorer for not experiencing the energy of the creativity that flows throughout our lives but it is their choice. As for me I have my machete in hand and I'm ready to plunge head first into the jungles that are all around me in search of the next AHA musical moment and a new favorite song. Ask yourself if you are a musical explorer at heart and if so don't wait. Carve out your own trail starting today and amaze yourself with the music you will find out there. After 40 years of listening I'm still amazed and I expect that to continue until I am no more. Forward.

August 15, 2010

Support Your Favorite Artist

You know the whole thing seems simple enough when it comes right down to it. It's the way things have been done for a very long time. You get up. You go to work. And at the end of the week you get a paycheck that you get to spend on silly things like food, gas for the car and making sure that you have a roof over your head. I'm sure that most of you would agree that if it wasn't for the money that you were making at your job you certainly wouldn't go in every day and put up with the BS that most jobs put you through each day. I can see the heads nodding with agreement right now but I'm here to tell you that there has been an upset to the status quo and some workers are not being paid for what they produce and that we enjoy so much. Who might I be talking about? I think that you know the answer to that one.  

The CD was what many of us in the music industry had been waiting for as a perfect vehicle for buying the music that we loved so much. This is not the place for a discussion of vinyl vs. CD so I am not going to touch on the fact that a lot of purists have never really given up vinyl and certainly don't think that the CD is a perfect format for carrying the sound that they love. Digitizing sound also opened the door to another boon for making our music as portable as it was ever going to get and that is where I am heading with this blog. The creation of MP3's allowed for an explosion of music that was available at the click of a mouse to the consumer and that is where we get to those poor workers not being paid for the material that they so diligently put out in the marketplace. The musicians who go to work, spend hours writing new songs, spend more hours recording those songs at their expense, advertise those songs all in the hopes that you will buy those songs and help them do those mundane things like pay their rent or put food on their tables.  

This is the dark side of the MP3 explosion. It is the side where we as consumers reap the ultimate benefit by having practically every song we ever wanted to listen to on our computers but never having to spend a dime to obtain them. It seems like a simple enough formula. Artist produces music. Artist makes music available to the public. Public enjoys the music so they buy copies of the music from the artist or is legal representative. Artist makes more music and the cycle continues until the public no longer wants the music. At that point an artist either reinvents themselves and creates new music or they decide to sell insurance for a living. With MP3's the cycle appears to be broken and the artist has been cut out of the loop every time their music is ripped and uploaded to the Internet without payment coming back to them.  

So the ultimate consequence of cutting the artist out of this cycle of payment for their music is that at some point in time with no monies coming in for reinvestment in new software, instruments, studio time and those eternally pesky things of a place to live and food on the table there is a real danger of seeing some artists forced to leave music because it is no longer monetarily feasible for them to continue to make the music that they love to do. What if this happens to an artist that you really enjoy listening to? I'm talking primarily about small to mid range artists because they are the most vulnerable to piracy cutting into the money that they need to live on. I think that the large or superstar acts can always go out on tour and still make enough money to live comfortably and keep going.  

Not so with the smaller musical acts. You can think of them as the working class artists if you will. You will probably never hear about U2 or Metallica asking their fans to help them finance their next album but this is a new way that smaller acts have come up with to help them raise the up front money required to get a new album produced. The point is that if you like an artist's music you should buy a legal copy or download the MP3's from a source that will return a fair share back to the artist. Better yet go straight to the artist's website if they have a webstore for their music and get your copy straight from them and cut out the middle man which would give the artist the maximum amount of the profit from your purchase.  If you are tech savvy at all you will know exactly how to go out and get a copy of your favorite artist's music for free on the Internet but for every person that does that and doesn't also buy a legal copy the artist is out one more sale for their music. You have to ask yourself is that how you want to thank the artist whose music you really love? I hope not or there won't be a lot of good music left in a decade or so except what is backed by what's left of the record industry and for the most part most of us don't really want that.

I think word of mouth and samples are always a great way to sell your music but if the "samples" are always taken but nothing is ever purchased legally multiplied by thousands of others who take the "samples" as well you start to see the problem the smaller artists face in their efforts to make a living with their music. Another harsh truth of this scenario is that not all artists deserve to survive. In the modern music industry technology has made it possible for many artists to put their music out on the web when their singing or playing should have stayed confined to the shower. Samples of these artists are a good thing as it keeps you from spending money on music that wouldn't have been there at all if there were record label staff to filter it or A&R people to evaluate it. And yet does the reverse hold true for good artists? If you get some free "samples" of a great new artist do you go out and buy the album you thought was great? Why not? Are you taking your responsibility as a fan and patron of an artist seriously?

No matter how you may feel about the "record industry" or the "major labels" that think that the solution to all their problems lies in suing the pants off some kids in the heartland for downloading illegal copies of their music off the Internet in the end it does come down to you the fan. If you enjoy an artist's work and you want to see it continue then you should make every effort to make sure that you support that artist every chance you get. Dislike the record labels all you want because they probably deserve what they get but try to separate your feelings for them from your responsibility to help your favorite artists survive. You can support them by buying legally or you can download freely from somewhere on the Internet until the artist throws in the towel and quits making music because they don't have the money to continue. Your choice.

May 28, 2010

I had always thought that the access that musicians had to make their music available on the Internet and having direct contact with their fans would be a great boon to them because it would mean that they had a world wide market for their CDs. The Internet would also make a great marketing tool where they could instantly let everyone know about their latest releases through Facebook and MySpace pages and make the music available right there on their website for fans to purchase instantly.  

After some discussions I've had with an artist that I met through Cutting Edge Voices I've come to realize that the consumer is the real winner with a virtually unlimited choice in music to listen to each and every day while the artists have to struggle simply to be noticed out here on the cyber frontier. Jennifer Greer is a singer/songwriter based out of MA who released a new CD back in February of 2010 called Fistful of Stars and she is the artist that I had the discussion with about getting people to take notice of your music. Let me qualify this first with the statement that Jennifer's music is good. Actually it is of a very high quality for an indie artist and she has crafted an excellent release both in a lyrical sense and in the actual performance and recording of this CD as well. After a few listens through the CD I could here some similarities to Tori Amos in her vocal stylings and her wonderful piano playing.

And yet with this great release going for her Jennifer Greer has barely made a dent in getting her music out there for others to listen to, to review, to buy or just to get some feedback from those who have heard the whole thing. And why is that do you suppose? The Internet has been a great thing for those of us who love to listen to music and want to have almost any song we can imagine at our fingertips to pull up and listen to at will. But with all this music out there another problem has arisen for those who create and compose all these wonderful songs. Talented people have appeared from every corner of the globe and everyone has set up shop out on the Internet and begun to sell their music in direct competition with one another.  

I have heard it said before that with a market this big everyone can have a slice of the pie because the pie is so large. Millions upon millions of people out there every day just looking for music to buy. For a moment lets just imagine that you are in a stadium and you are surrounded by thousands of people who are looking for music like yours and you are standing on the field with a few other artists doing the same thing. In the early days of the Internet this might have been the scenario and the few artists with you on the field would also be easy to spot because there weren't that many of you. Now a new scenario for 2010 might be this same field and the millions of buyers up in the bleachers looking at you but there is a difference because now you are packed shoulder to shoulder with other artists who are doing the same thing as you and every space of the playing field is taken with artists eagerly working at getting noticed by the fans who will appreciate their music.  

If an artist is with a major label then usually the label will spend the money to promote that artist and get them an audience for their music. For the indie artist this task of getting noticed falls squarely on their shoulders which means that they not only have to be very creative when it comes to their musical side, they also have to be good at the business side as well or regardless of how great the music sounds it will never be heard except by a few fans and some friends and family of course.

So now you see the problem. Before the Internet we were all pretty much spoon fed our music by what the major labels wanted us to hear. Now we can choose what we listen to but how do all the talented artists all across the country and around the world get your attention? Good question.  

For artists like Jennifer Greer who pour their hearts and souls into their music and put it out there for the world to see and then no one notices it can be a very trying and sad time. As they finish the CD with the highest of hopes it must be very difficult to realize that talent and quality don't always guarantee that their music will rise to the top of the heap like a beacon shining so brightly that everyone can't help but notice it. But don't despair because word of mouth is a funny thing sometimes and it only takes a few people telling everyone they know about what a great artist they have found to start the snowball rolling down a very large hill. That is where the fans of this music can give back to the artists they follow and whose music inspires them. When you find an indie artist that you enjoy don't keep it a secret. Tell everyone you know and post your feelings in every forum that you belong to that it is appropriate to share musical artists in. Do your part to make sure that your favorite artists get noticed so that they can continue to be your favorite artists in the years to come. Is that too much to ask? I think not.   

April 30, 2010

Well I just read something this morning in the news that just proves to me again that the big corporations really have no desire to promote music but are simply interested in making sure that their bottom lines are safe and that their investors always get their dividends. I'm talking about the article that announced that Apple after having purchased Lala is now shutting it down as of May 31, 2010. They won't be accepting any new members now so if you are not already a member you are now out of luck and after May 31 it won't matter if you are a member or not. It also means that the only source of legal full album demos is going away.  

I guess I should have realized that something as good as Lala wouldn't last because it allowed people to discover new music before buying it, it was convenient and the pricing of the MP3's or the web tunes actually made sense. So in a way it was probably inevitable that once Apple bought it Lala's life expectancy was very limited. We can't have too many competitors out there for iTunes now can we? And to think that I had even considered buying an iPad at some point in the future which would have been my first Apple purchase ever and that includes iTunes. Now I think that I will keep my money and invest it in some other worthy music oriented companies who are not corporate giants bent on shaping the music landscape in their own image.  

I enjoyed being able to go up to Lala on Tuesdays and see what new releases had come out and then listen to them to see if they were worth promoting on my websites. Or if they were really good then I would buy a copy of the whole album for web listening. Either way it was music that I wouldn't have know about otherwise and once Lala is gone it will be much harder to find these gems than ever. There are very few services that I thought enough of to integrate them into my websites but Lala's imbed album feature was something that I thought was perfect for smaller websites like mine and I had noticed that even the bigger sites like Billboard had integrated the full album previews into their content as well.  

The only hope for all of this is if when Apple launches iTunes.com as a cloud based streaming service is that they offer full albums for listening prior to purchase. I doubt that they will outside of charging a monthly fee for the service but if they do then I can forgive the shutting down of Lala. If they don't then I will be looking for any alternative except iTunes. Spotify is rumored to be coming to the states later this year and that might be an alternative listening tool as well. I enjoy the radio services that have sprung up all over the Internet but again these are programmed for you and don't allow you to listen to the tracks you want or the artists you want. You are pretty much tied down to the tastes of those who program the stations. If I want to buy MP3s from now on I'll certainly go to Amazon before setting foot on the iTunes website and if there is no free version forthcoming to replace what they have taken away in Lala I'll probably head back to Rhapsody and subscribe there until Apple buys that and shuts it down as well.  

An important lesson to learn in all of this is that big business is looking out for big business and no one else. Corporations have demonstrated during this recession, which by the way was caused by big business seeking "creative" ways to make money off of consumers, that the consumer is not their prime concern. Look at how credit card companies who brought on their own troubles by handing out cards like candy to everyone starting slapping high interest rates onto even their best customers when push came to shove. It took government regulation to get them to treat the consumer fairly. Apple is a corporation. Consumers are only as useful to them as a source of income. Beyond that we are really not that important. As some people commented on the article that I read this morning on Tech Crunch about Apple shutting down Lala....f..k you Apple and f..k you Steve Jobs. Not the most elegant way of putting it but it certainly captured the emotion of what they've done.  http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/29/apple-to-shut-down-lala-on-may-31/  

As a consequence of this please look for certain features of CEV to start disappearing. The featured Lala release will no longer be available. The Lala page will disappear and any links back to their page will be taken down as they won't be functional after May 31, 2010.  R.I.P Lala.com

July 28, 2009

The one constant throughout my life has been my love of listening to music. My tastes have changed over the years but from the time I got my first little record player to the iPod that travels with me in my shirt pocket most days music has always been a part of who I am. From the early songs of the Beatles all the way to Tori Amos my sonic journey has been an enjoyable one.  I think that one of the best jobs I ever had were the years that I spent managing a record department within a unique store here in Ohio that believed in allowing each record department manager to choose music for their department that was selling in their area rather than just making us take what a branch manager decided that we needed. It was this hands on approach to selling music that appealed to the area that I served that made the job such a learning experience. Of course the pay was rather pitiful but it fed my musical needs so the trade off was acceptable back then.  

Working in the record department solidified my love of music and allowed me to explore more than most other fans in those pre Internet days the incredible variety of music that was available. My day was spent listening to music as it played in the department and learning to appreciate that what I had grown up listening to was only a small part of the musical universe that surrounded me. I learned about the wonderful world of jazz, the alternative bands of the 80’s and of course I survived disco as well. Although I think that disco laid the foundation for what later became house music, techno and trance/dance music that has become a very popular genre for the DJ’s who play music in the clubs worldwide and something that I myself load onto my iPod on occasion as a pick me up.  

The only drawback that I can see to so much music being available at the click of a mouse is that at times I become a little desensitized to new releases because there is so much new music to choose from on any given day. On Tuesdays there are hundreds of new titles tossed into the mix on services like Rhapsody, Napster or Lala so the choices are increasing to the point that finding the right song for the right mood and keeping up with what is new tends to be a bit overwhelming. I will grant you that many of these releases are remasterings of old titles or minor releases by a wide variety of artists who range in musical skill levels from seasoned vet to rank amateur. Everyone will have their own ideas of what they like and I am no exception so I am of the mind that just because an album was created doesn’t necessarily mean that it should have been released or that it deserves a glowing review simply because of the efforts of the artist to get it out there. The reality of putting your music out there is that there are some or in some cases many people who will not agree with the assessment of the artist’s musical abilities that led to the release of an album but that is a topic for another blog.  

Music is the soundtrack of my life and will continue to be so until the day I die and I’ll probably have a great bunch of songs to play at my funeral. Cutting Edge Voices was my way of trying to bring back the feeling that I got in the record store every time I pointed someone in the direction of music that they were looking for and then seeing their reaction as they find the exact piece of music they are looking for. Those who live and breathe music like to share what they find with others because music for many is a group experience in which the pleasure increases when we see others having a similar reaction to a song that is being played. So when you stop by CEV be sure to strike up a conversation with the “owner” (that would be me editor@cuttingedgevoices.com) about any music that you have found that really just immediately moved you to purchase it or a song that stays on your iPod playing constantly. Those are the kinds of tunes that I want to know about and if they hit me the same way then I will make sure that one way or another my readers know about them too.

July 22, 2009

The one thing that I do miss about how the music industry has shaken out in the last decade is that the excitement that used to surround new releases doesn’t seem near as big as it used to be back in the day. Of course promotional budgets are dropping as fast as CD sales so it is no wonder but I remember those days when a major new release was almost like a holiday. Folks would line up outside of record stores at midnight so that they would be the first to own a copy of their favorite singer/band’s latest CD. I remember working at the record store when new titles were being brought in from the warehouse on the day that they were available for sale and spending the rest of the day pointing out where the record was to customer’s and ringing up sales for it at the register.

Don’t get me wrong I love the availability of tunes that digital music allows and I get to hear music that I would never have heard back in those days when I used to work in the record store but the excitement of a new release doesn’t seem to translate into the new digital medium as well as it used to when there was a physical product involved. I’m sure there are exceptions and that there are artists that the labels will still invest heavily in promotions to make sure that they get a return on all of their expenses of just getting the CD ready to release but I’m sure that with the economy such as it is and with declining CD sales that only a few stratospheric artists still get the star promotional treatment at the labels. 

And with the closure of some of the biggest record stores and chains across the country I doubt that we will ever see those kinds of spectacles again but it is something that I used to enjoy. Sort of like the weekend premier of a new movie that compelled me to go see it at the theatre instead of waiting for the DVD. I would like to see some of the excitement that I used to feel about the physical CD translated somehow into the digital online world of downloads. Perhaps a bonus track free for the first 100 downloads after midnight on the day of the release of the new album. Perhaps a giveaway of some other trinket associated with the artist for those who chose to legally download the album instead of hitting up the peer to peer groups for a free copy. It just seems that bringing back the excitement and anticipation associated with a new release would be some value added appeal to the generation that is growing up without ever having experienced these “events” of new releases. 

The past shouldn’t be completely shoved aside for the digital age because there were some good ideas as to how to market the music. I guess the problem is that they need to be adapted to a digital world that is rapidly forgetting everything about how the music industry used to work in favor of remembering them for suing their customers or their potential customers. The industry has a very poor public image at this point and those very people they have been suing all these years are who they need to bring themselves back from the brink. I’ve read a couple of stories in the news lately that things may have finally reached a bottom for the music business so they need to tread very carefully if they are to mend the broken relationships that they have with the music buyers and get them to spend like they once did on music, digital downloads or CD’s. 

And even though in the past this excitement was created by the labels and their marketing department are the artists taking up the responsibility of making their releases as exciting as possible on a limited budget at their indie labels or if they are releasing their music themselves by using whatever means at their disposal to let folks know that their latest release is available and ready to be purchased? I know it is a tough job but it is a job that the artist took on when they set out on the path to make a career out of the music that they create and play. Some are lucky enough to have a label that does it all for them but the really independent ones have to change hats as the need arises. 

July 19, 2009

I'm curious as to what effect the streaming of music has had on increasing fan awareness of new releases and how that has translated into more digital sales or CD sales as fans became aware of new music. Having tried Rhapsody and being a current subscriber of Napster's streaming service I always wonder about whether or not these services ever translate into sales for the artists whose music is available for streaming on these services. Having grown up in the era of the "album" concept I tend to look at the whole package when a new release comes out. I may still end up only really listening to a few songs repeatedly but my mindset has always been that an artist releases a new album once every year or so and those songs form a cohesive package.  

Jump ahead into the digital age and we have gone back to the day when 45's used to be available for 99 cents and consumers could buy one song at a time off of hit albums. For many the trip up to the iTunes store or the artist's website to purchase music is usually not to buy the whole album but the few songs that they like enough to actually own. Or the worst case scenario is that fans don't buy anything but instead listen to the music on the subscription services or some other online service such as Lala or Pandora. Suddenly the "whole package" concept doesn't seem as important as it used to be. And yet there is something to be said for buying the "whole package" when an artist releases an album that carries a theme throughout all the songs on the album. Then if you cherry pick the few songs you like you might be missing something important that the artist was trying to communicate through all of the songs as a collective.  

I hadn't noticed it as much prior to my frequenting Lala or Rhapsody but artists or labels still issue singles in advance of the full album. It seems that once the single had gone through the 45 and the cassingle (cassette single) and even through the CD single they sort of disappeared from my consciousness for awhile until these streaming services reminded me that they still exist in a different format. But are they that important as a precursor the full album and do they still build a buzz among fans about the upcoming release? In some ways it depends on how long it has been since an artist released their last full album not counting live or greatest hits sets. I know that when Kate Bush was getting ready to release her last CD Aerial it had been 12 years since her last release and devoted fans were very excited when they released King of the Mountain because it gave fans their first glimpse of what Kate had been up to during the 12 years since her last release. In her case fans were craving anything from Kate but I'm not so sure that the same fervor will be felt by fans of artists who release on a regular basis.  

I have found myself listening to a few of these singles on Lala as they come up on new release Tuesdays but felt like something was missing. I have such the mindset of the whole package that listening to singles just makes me wish that I had the whole album to listen to instead of just this "sample". I felt the same thing recently when I was listening to Imogen Heap's 1st single First Train Home from her forthcoming album called Ellipse. It has been several years since her last release and it was almost comforting to hear a finished song again. She also had a new song on the soundtrack to the TV show Heroes not so long ago called Not Now but Soon which again made me wish I had a whole new album from her to listen to. Maybe it is simply because my mindset is still shifting from the days when the whole package was the thing to the digital age where the song is the thing and the whole package is sort of secondary. I'm sure that I will come around to accepting the song as the primary focus of the digital age but I will miss the concept of the "album" if it eventually fades away. 

Comments on these blogs are welcome so please feel free to give me your opinion on the streaming services and whether they are benefiting artists in general or if they are just benefiting listeners without having much effect on raising awareness of the artist's music in the mind of the listener. And let me know if you have a "single" philosophy and/or your opinions on how effective a single is in the digital age as a way to build a buzz about an upcoming full album release. It might also be nice to hear as to how you feel about the "whole package" concept of releasing your music and if it will survive very long into the digital age. Monologues are funny when done by Leno or Carson but in blogs I would rather hear from my readers so that it gives me an idea as to how they feel about the topics that I am writing about. Write me at editor at cuttingedgevoices dot com.

July 17, 2009

The music business has been facing wave after wave of technological changes over the last couple of decades and I doubt that it will ever stop. The business model that was has been swept away as music has been freed from the shiny little discs that used to be the way that most of us bought and listened to our music. For better or worse there is no putting that genie back in the bottle and going back to a time when the major labels were in control of just where their music would go.

I can see the dilemma that faces those still stuck in the old mindset as they desperately try to cling to what was so that they don’t have to deal with what is other than to offer up lawsuits and threats from ISP’s to take away your internet service if you are caught trading pirated MP3’s on the web. The problem is that the major labels need to concede this battle and move on to rebuilding new business models that take into account MP3’s and the digital revolution so that the artist receives a fair share of the money made from their creative abilities and the label makes a fair profit for their efforts to record, promote and break artists to a national audience. 

Of course many artists have already moved on and are taking over many of the functions of labels themselves and marketing their music directly to fans on their social networking sites and from iTunes. The truth is that the labels have always only benefited a precious few talented singers/songwriters while the rest have always had to depend on themselves to record, promote and make money from their music. Frankly what labels bring to the table is money. Money to hire great producers, money to rent the best studios, money to hire the best players and money to market your music to the world. But they get paid very well for all of this effort so I don’t feel very sorry for them as they struggle against a rising tide of change. Everyone has to struggle with change each and every day so my message to the labels is “Welcome to my world, now deal with it.”

The expression from Star Trek seems to be most appropriate, “Resistance if futile.” Just as it was near impossible to stop the Borg from assimilating entire planets so it is with the technological changes that have swept through music via MP3’s and the internet. At this point it would be best for the major labels to turn their large corporate ships around and let the current begin to carry them instead of trying to head upstream against incredibly strong currents of change. I have been reading a book called Appetite for Self Destruction and it chronicles the music industry’s trials as the digital age dawned on them. The one thing that I have concluded from what I have read so far is that industry as a whole resisted change at ever step of the way seeking to fight it rather than find a way to understand it and use it to their advantage.

Over the years I have invested in my favorite music over and over again as it shifted formats. The line from Men in Black comes to mind when Tommy Lee Jones is holding the small tiny disc in his hand while he is giving Will Smith the tour of MIB headquarters when he says, “I guess I’ll have to buy the White album again.” (referring to the Beatles album of the same name) Over the years I have bought the music over and over again in many different formats LP, 8-track, Cassette, CD, SACD, DVD Audio, and I’m sure that at some point we might see some sort of high definition music released on Blu Ray. The point is that the labels have moved through lots of change prior to the digital revolution so they simply need to adapt one more time. The consumer has been asked to move through technological changes over the years and at times has had to endure format wars when the large companies couldn’t decide on a single format to release to the public. Blue Ray vs. HD was only the latest format war in a long line of formats battling against each other for our dollars.

I think that the artists themselves have long ago seen the writing on the wall and moved on to embracing the power of the internet and the ability to move music around the world via iTunes and through selling directly on their own websites. The labels need to learn a similar lesson. Music will always be a part of our culture and out society but the way we get our music has been irrevocably changed and the sooner that fact is grasped the better off the labels will be. It could be that the labels themselves are obsolete but I won’t go that far since the story hasn’t been completely written yet and if the industry changes the ending of the story still might be different. And if they refuse to change I guess you can liken it to quicksand and the harder you struggle the quicker you sink and if that is the case then evolution will have spoken and I will bid a fond farewell to the past.

On the other hand licensing seems to be the way of the future for streaming music on the pay sites such as Rhapsody or Napster or free sites such as Lala. Or for movies or soundtracks or TV shows. I’m sure that if the music industry wants to survive it will find a way. Meanwhile it seems that more of the music that I listen to isn’t on any of the major labels at all anymore but rather little homegrown labels scattered all over the country ( or around the world) and accessible through the web. The listener has more of a choice than ever before but we need to make sure that the artist still makes enough money to live on otherwise the music will dry up and believe me the world would be a less enjoyable place to live in. Think about it and remember to support your favorite singer/songwriter.

May 14, 2009

I thought I would spend this time around writing about something that is becoming more apparent to me all the time...and that is that CEV would probably be a better website with more points of view being written in the form of articles and reviews from a more diverse group of writers besides just me. Granted it would be a lot easier for me to find writers if I could offer them a nice per word check for all the thoughts that they send in to me to publish but since Cutting Edge Voices really doesn't generate any revenue at this point that would be difficult to do. For me running the website has always been simply an extension of my love of the music and my desire to see those who create that music succeed so they can continue to make the great music that I am accustomed to listening to. Very selfish on my part but you've got to give to get some times.

Of course that means that I have to find and hook up with those writers out there who have this same love for the music that I do and almost as importantly that they are willing to donate their words to the good cause of making sure that those who wish to create great music have a forum to help promote their music to as wide an audience as possible. Now you are starting to see my dilemma. Don't get me wrong I very much enjoy what I do with CEV but I would like to become more of an effective tool to help the women indie singer/songwriters to find the audiences that they need to make a living at what they do. To do that I want to bring in some new writers with different perspectives and with different tastes in music than I have and have them write articles and reviews for the website.

So let me be as blatant as possible here in this blog. If you are a music writer and have a love of female oriented music whether that be in the form of singer/songwriters, female singer fronting an all male band or women who play a mean jazz saxaphone then please contact drop me an e-mail and let me know you are out there and if you would be interested in contributing articles or reviews to CEV. Times are tough and especially so for those who seek to make a living off of their music.

And as further incentive just remember how selfish all of this is. If you help support your artist by letting others know about their music then it is only a matter of time until that next release comes out or til they end up in your town playing a concert in a small cozy venue. Either way you win because you get more of the great music that you love. C'mon be just a little selfish and become part of Cutting Edge Voices by writing for it.

And by the way you artists out there who might be reading this let us not forget that if you can write you can create material from that unique perspective of having lived through it. Think about it. I'll be waiting near my computer for those replies. Thanks and check back again for the next installment of As CEV Turns. See ya.

May 3, 2009 

As you may have noticed I have become quite the fan of the music service  known as Lala.com. For those who may not be familiar with the service it is quite invaluable for discovering new music and being able to listen to music from established artists all from your favorite browser. Oh yes and did I mention that this is all free? Well it is and that is what makes the service even more of a value. The only thing you have to do to register is fill out a form that is pretty typical of registering at most sites and that includes an e-mail address, a password and your name. With over 6 million songs online for streaming I'm sure it will keep you busy for a long time whether you are searching for the latest releases or if you want to catch up on all your favorite artists of years past. The only catch to all of this is that you can only listen to a song once and after that you have to actually buy it to be able to listen to it again. A bonus that Lala gives you for signing up is that you have 50 credits to your account. You can use these credits to be able to listen to 50 songs as much as you want. You have a tab on your main page after you sign in called My Collection and any song that you decide to add with these 50 free credits will be found under this tab. The other great thing about Lala is that you can access it from any computer and play your music anywhere you happen to be.  

If you want to find out who has new music out you will want to stop by on new music Tuesdays  and check out the new releases that are available on Lala on that day. Hold your cursor above the Browse Music tab on your Lala home page and you will get a choice of items including a link for new releases. Click on that and take a listen to all the new music that is out on Tuesdays. With anywhere from 700 to a 1000 new releases every Tuesday you will begin to see why even though you can only listen to each song once it is more than enough to keep you busy many a day just keeping up with all of the new music that is released into the market every week, month and year. Not everything will be to your liking and I would be surprised if it was but percentage wise I find tons of music to listen to and buy all the time on Lala.  

The other thing is that you won't find everything on Lala. Not all artists have licensed their music to be streamed on Lala so when you search for those artists who have yet to sign a deal with Lala you will reach a page that has the question Where is the music? and you will know that you need to continue searching for someone else to listen to. All in all though I rarely reach that page and most of my searches return results that help me get a feel for an artist and their music. The smaller the artist and the label that the record for the higher the probability that they won't have put their music onto Lala for streaming. That is not a hard and fast rule but it seems to be true when I go looking for music by a variety of female performers that end up being featured on CEV.  

For me as the editor of Cutting Edge Voices one of the great features of the site is the ability to embed the music into my own site so my readers don't even have to go anywhere to enjoy the music that I have found. All that is required is for you to have an account with Lala and you will be able to stream the music in the little boxes on CEV without any kind of problems. This is a great way to expose the readers of CEV to music because instead of having to rely on 30 second samples from Amazon or some other site you can hear the entire album simply by clicking the individual songs or by clicking the play entire CD in the Lala boxes you will find scattered around CEV. I am so taken with this concept that I have even included a new page on CEV call the Music of Lala and on this page are some of the new releases for female artists that come out each week that might be of interest to my readers. Be sure to check it out and see what has recently been released.  

The music world is changing but it is not all doom and gloom as the major labels would have you believe. It certainly might spell doom for the old ways of doing things and the structures that most of the major labels have lived by for years but that is what evolution is all about. Things are never static and change is inevitable and those who don't adapt or find some way to change along with the evolutionary curve are usually left behind and allowed to die a natural death. Meanwhile those who figure out where things are going and how to integrate these changes into their business plans will be the ones that become stronger and not only will they survive but they will prosper even as the major labels are decaying into dust. The music world has shifted into the hands of the artist and the consumer and away from major labels. Lala is just another way that we can choose to explore this new landscape and listen to great new music without ever relying on the major labels marketing machine. Enjoy!  

January 16, 2009

I was always a huge fan of just about any music that you can think of with some exceptions and the thing that I love about all the music that is available to stream on the net is the ability to drill down into a genre and hear music that would have been impossible to find a few years back. From samples to the full tracks on the artist's websites and MySpace pages it has become almost intoxicating for those of us who are always looking for the next great sound. The other side of the coin of course is that when you get too deep into a genre you also start running across the questionable releases that perhaps should have stayed unreleased. Almost all the genres I listen to do have a point at which even a dedicated follower of music will turn back and seek the safety of higher ground and more talented artists.

I realize that what I just said might sound a little harsh but not everyone who has a MySpace page or who has released a CD should necessarily have done so. Of course this is all just my opinion but I have developed a broad taste in music over the years and that taste has also become more discriminating in regards to poor production standards, bad musicianship or a general lack of talent on the artist's part. There are many ways to put out music these days and sometimes the very ease of recording a track and then uploading it to a MySpace page has made it possible for those who should think twice about putting themselves out there to go ahead and jump into the deep end of the pool.

I truly enjoy following the many links that I run across and finding new music that may not be a new release but since I've never heard it before it's new to me. That has been my experience for many years now. When I find a compilation CD that I like I tend to use it as template for finding new music until I have explored the full releases of each artist represented on the disc. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Not everything will be to my liking as I search the releases of these artists but if I only find a couple of CD's that I really enjoy then it will have been worth the effort. The end of any given year is also a great time to discover new artists that you may or may not have known about. If you are a member of even a few music lists dedicated to the music you enjoy you will see Best of lists being posted to the lists around this time of year.

Take the time to really look at these Best of lists and see if you recognize all of the artists that appear there. If you haven't heard the song or the artist before you then have an opportunity to discover new music. Using a service like lala.com or rhapsody.com you can wander through their catalog of releases and get a good feel for whether you might like this artist beyond the one song you may have heard. If you don't want to use either of these services (lala is free for the first listen of any given song or full CD) you can always type in the artist name and the word MySpace into Google and that will bring back their MySpace page as a result. Simply drop by and see what full songs or samples that they have up there and check it out. If you like the artist you will have something further to check into and if you don't then you can move on to someone else that you will like more. There are millions of tracks out there on the Internet and that is more than enough to keep even a dedicated fan of music busy for a long time.

The actual music charts put out by Billboard might yield some interesting leads in the search for great new music but I don't think you will find as much by looking over those lists as you might think. Most of the music that finds its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 or the top CD chart is usually well known to just about everyone because it is based on sales and the thing about finding new music is that you most likely need to go looking beyond what the masses are buying and what the major record labels are pushing. That is not to say that what the masses are buying is not good but for many on the Internet these days we are looking for music that is good and yet relatively unknown. I know what Madonna sounds like and I have heard enough Tori Amos to know what I like and what I don't like about her music. The whole idea about having such a broad selection of music to choose from is to find music that stretches our tastes to include an ever expanding menu of performers.

So the next time you are tempted to pull out your familiar CD's for the thousandth time and pop it into your CD player why not pull up a web browser instead and go looking for something that you haven't heard yet. Not only will this give you new choices to listen to as you consider what to load onto your iPod for the day but it might also help an artist who wants the chance to wow you with their music but up till this point you had never run across their music. I'm thinking that it is a win/win situation and everyone gets something that they want.  See you next time.

January 5, 2009

Welcome to 2009 and a brand new year for finding and listening to great new music that I expect will find its way into my inbox or crop up in my searches for the latest releases. Having worked in the music industry back in the day I used to love to get my weekly copy of Billboard magazine to find out what was coming my way and to find out where the industry was going as a whole. The Internet had not yet been born so most of the information I obtained was via the trade journals or the popular music magazines of the time such as Rolling Stone or Spin. A method of information gathering that doesn't get mentioned near as much these days because of the digital environment is a trip to your local record store to visually see what new releases have made it to the shelves and to check out the catalog of older releases that were in the bins as well. By the way whatever happened to the big Phonolog book of ultimate wisdom about music releases that used to sit on the record store counter or the Schwann's books that served as a reference for most of the classical releases you might have been looking for?  Inquiring minds want to know. (p.s. I do know what happened to them but I wanted to see if anyone else even remembered them)

I came up through the music business at a time of incredible change that has not slowed even to this day. I started working at the retail level when LP's were still the mainstay and the mobile form of entertainment was the 8 track tape. That was quickly supplanted by the cassette tape and eventually I saw the rise of the CD and how it quickly became the dominant form of music purchases. The LP though still revered by some who think that vinyl will always be superior to the cold digital sampling of the CD quickly faded from the music scene along with the cassette tape and we were ushered into the digital age of music.

Perhaps it was being involved with music during all of these major shifts in formats that has given me an appreciation for the fact that the industry will always be changing and that the record companies to a point have always managed to keep up with that change. At least until recently that is. With the rise of broadband connections and of programs that could rip music from digital CD's into MP3 files the whole playing field shifted and to this point the major record labels have yet to regain their balance. While they have shifted over to selling MP3's on the Internet through various channels they are still looking for ways to protect their music even after it has been purchased by individual consumers. This approach led to some disastrous PR problems when the DRM software embedded in the CD was loaded onto legitimate users' computers and was viewed as a virus by some anti virus software programs and actually damaged some customer's computers. Not to mention the fact that it was loaded without the users' permission.

The record industry in a desperate attempt to slow down this blatant trading of the music it put out started suing those people who were offering music on the P2P networks. Just recently even this attempt to stem the tide of music on the Internet came to an end when the RIAA said that it would no longer bring any new lawsuits against music traders on the net. The next chapter is still being written as the record companies have moved on to a new strategy and have enlisted the aid of ISP's to monitor and restrict trading of copyrighted material across their networks but it is anybody's guess as to whether this will work or not.

I think that the major labels have a lot to learn from the new digital business model that has slowly been gaining strength against the traditional method of distributing music to the ultimate consumer. The new digital business model is one that finds the artist much closer to the ultimate fan/consumer that actually makes the purchases of the music that they like. Instead of being insulated within a large record company and having the label create websites for the artist and sell their music to the consumer many artists are now putting out their own music, setting up their social networking pages, offering full tracks to listen to as samples of their work on these sites and actually talking directly to those who love their music and even fulfilling the orders that are placed for their CD's. Quite a change from the days when an artist would sign with a major label and everything would be taken care of for them by PR folks from the label.

This of course presents most artists with the chore of becoming their own PR person, their own advertising person, their own booking agent etc. etc. For those artists who prefer to not get too heavily involved with the business end of the music industry and who enjoy just doing the creative stuff the new business model may seem just a tad overwhelming. I do believe that since most of the artists who actually get to the point of releasing a CD have the drive and ambition to take on these additional tasks because it will mean the difference between succeeding and going home disappointed about their ambitions to become a self supporting performer. I'm sure that some artists would not turn down a major record label contract if it was offered to them and they would be more than happy to sit back and let the label staff plan out their entire career but those days are fading quickly in the rear view mirror of where we are heading in terms of the music industry and it is probably best if a lot of the indie artists embraced the new philosophy of getting their music out to the fans. If they are "discovered" they can still jump on the label bandwagon and if not they will at least be well on their way to creating a sustainable career for themselves by taking charge of all aspects of their music.

Having lived through many of the changes that have rocked this industry from the 60's on I must admit that I really enjoy where music is at right now. I don't know if the major labels will survive or not or what form that survival will take but I think that music of all sorts is alive and well on the Internet. Perhaps the music is not being put out by major labels with millions of dollars of advertising behind it but new music is being created every day and with a little effort anyone can find enough new titles on the Internet to always have something new to listen to everyday if they so desire.

The only question mark I have for all of this is how well is this new model working out for the indie artists themselves? Are they making enough on each release to make it worth their while to release more new music in the years to come? Are artists still making enough from playing at local venues to make it something that they will continue to do in the future or will that fade away as well? It has been said that by eliminating all the cuts taken from the artist by the label so they can recoup the millions spent on advertising and studio time leaves more money from each CD sale that will go directly to the artist instead of to the label's corporate accounts. Ultimately it comes down to whether the artist is able to make a living doing what they love to do. If not then we are in danger of cutting off or cutting down our supply of great new music because the artist can no longer afford to continue to record music. They have to eat and pay their rent the same as the rest of us and if that isn't happening what incentives are there for the artist to continue to plow money into a hobby that doesn't earn them enough to live on. Some food for thought. See you next time.

December 31, 2008

We are standing on the brink of 2009 and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to those who have been regular readers of CEV Music and to encourage you to let me know if there are features you like about the site or features that you might want to see modified in some fashion. I would also welcome comments on new features that might make CEV an even better place to visit in the future.

2008 was a year that won't soon be forgotten because of all that has happened around the world and especially in this country since things fell apart after the bottom fell out of the stock market late in the 3rd quarter. Music has continued to shift to the digital frontier and of course CD sales have slid yet again for most of the major labels. If you have been following the news links on the front page of CEV you will have already seen where the RIAA has decided a new direction is needed in its war on those who rip and share music with others over the Internet. They are going to try and enlist the aid of ISP's to become the new watchdogs of what is being transferred and by whom. A letter of warning will be sent, the abuser will possibly have their speed reduced next and finally if I understand it right they might face disconnection of their Internet service by the ISP. I'm sure we will be hearing more about this in the coming year and it will be interesting to see if this form of copyright enforcement is going to work any better than the lawsuits against those who shared music with friends on the Internet.

2008 was the year that I finally got a broadband connection that was reliable and that didn't have a quota on how much data I could pull down from the Internet. My wife and I bought our house a few years back and neglected to find out whether there was some sort of connection to the Internet that I could live with. There wasn't. No DSL or cable to be had. Considering what I like to do with the Internet it has been a long road that tried our patience until we finally found a helpful phone company technician who checked into our situation and found that we actually could get 1.5 DSL. Not as fast as I would like but certainly a world of difference from dial up and much better than satellite broadband could ever hope to be.

Once I had broadband it opened up the world of listening to music via services such as lala.com and through rhapsody.com and all the other podcasts and streaming media outlets out there that you can pull up and listen to online. Music has been a part of my life in one form or another since I was old enough to have my first transistor radio and listened to the top 40 station out of Detroit CKLW all the way through current online technology that allows for such a broad spectrum of music to be accessed right from my home computer. Since discovering Rhapsody and Lala I have been able to listen to many of the CD's that have cropped up on the traditional end of the year best of 2008 music lists. This includes the indie lists as well as the mainstream lists that are published by the likes of Rolling Stone magazine. Some of the indie labels are too small to be featured on Rhapsody or Lala but for the most part I have been pleasantly surprised by the depth of music offered on these two services. And since MTV rarely plays music or music videos these days it is very simple to pull up YouTube and check out the latest videos from my favorite artists.

The major labels in the music industry don't appear to be doing all that well financially because they don't understand what consumers want musically these days and how to offer it to them. I don't know that this means that the indie labels aren't doing a decent business because they have been more adaptive to the digital environment and more responsive to their fans. If you have had a success story in 2008 that you would like to share with the readers of CEV please drop me an e-mail explaining your successes in your musical career or if you are an indie label you can share what has worked for you during 2008 in your area and with your artists. Sometimes we all get caught up in the bad news that surrounds us that we don't see the good news buried underneath. You can send your success stories to editor@cuttingedgevoices.com and I'll post them so that others can see that even during rough economic times there are those who are still reaching out towards their dreams and making them happen.

So my wish for 2009 is for all the artists who are out there pushing forward with their music is that they would find the success that they so richly deserve for sticking with their dreams and making them happen. For those who are thinking about jumping into the music business just remember that no time will ever seem quite like the right time and there will always be deterrents to reaching your goals but if you have the talent and dedication to your art then good things will come your way. For everyone else I hope that 2009 will see a turn around for our battered economy and that we will see our friends and neighbors beginning to get back to work once again. From CEV I wish you the happiest of New Years and I wish you more of the great music that we saw in 2008. Happy New Year!!!

July 27, 2008

I was thinking today that perhaps some of you might wonder why I cover artists like Alanis Morissette, Madonna, Aimee Mann or Cyndi Lauper on CEV when they obviously don't need the help of a site like mine to make a success of themselves. For one thing I enjoy some of the music that these artists make and I don't mind sharing that information with others who might want to know if the music that is being released is worth having in their collection. I might remind you that just because an artist has a record label behind them and thousands and thousands of dollars being poured into marketing their latest release it doesn't mean that release is worth having. But that isn't why I cover the major female artists who have "made it" in the music business.  

Times are a changing as the old Bob Dylan song says and that is more true now than ever for the music business and of course for the major labels who are going through a rather brutal lesson in what happens when you aren't in touch with where the industry is headed. More and more you hear about major artists who are forsaking the major labels to pursue an independent method of distributing their music. Look at Radiohead giving their CD In Rainbows away for whatever a person felt it was worth as a digital download. Eventually it was released as a CD and went on to critical success but the idea that any major artist would offer up the fruits of their labors for whatever fans were willing to pay was a bold step. But as the old music business model continues to deteriorate I'm sure it won't be the last time you will see these kinds of experiements to see what will work in this brave new world.  

Back to my point. I cover these "superstars" because they make good music on occasion and because they stand as a reminder of what is actually possible for your career with some lucky breaks, talent and hard work. I also think that in the coming months and years that these artists like Radiohead will begin to evaluate just how it is that they want to connect with their fans and how they want their music distributed. Up to this point in time it has always been the record companies that decided how music was distributed whether that was on LP's, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD's but now that isn't necessarily true anymore. Now an artist can conceivably record their music at home, burn copies on their computers and then sell them via the web from their websites or through websites like CD Baby.  

I think that as an artist you need to be watching the indie artists to see how your peers are handling their music and distribution but you also need to keep an eye on the major artists to see how they are handling the changes that are reshaping the landscape of how they are marketing their music.  Catching the wave of change while it is still small enough to hop on is easier than waiting for it to turn into a tidal wave and then trying to find space to squeeze onto it. In many ways major artists and indies alike will be learning at the same time how the digital world will change how it is that they make a living with their music while recognizing that the old rules simply do not apply to a world where folks can download your music at will off of the internet.  

So even though the major artists don't need my help I still like to listen to good music regardless of the source. Major, indie or completely unknown doesn't matter to me and if music is good I will find a way to get my hands on it and these days there are many ways to do that besides having to go to a record store and buying a physical copy. I don't think that the record labels have learned yet that suing the fans is not going to win you any popularity contests and it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the many legitimate fans out there who go out and faithfully buy the latest releases from their favorite artists. So in my mind we are all in the same boat in this new world and the sooner we all learn to row together the sooner that everyone can get a fair slice of the pie. I am hoping that in this new business model it will be easier for even an indie artist to make a success using the same methods that major artists use.

July 21, 2008

The good thing about this past weekend was that it started off better than last weekend which had my website host being down for several hours right off the bat so I'm already in a better mood. You might wonder why you don't see a lot of posts here during the week and that is because like many this website is a work of pleasure and I have a day job that takes care of my income. Most days I'll do a little tweaking during the week to the website but major changes and blog writing tends to wait until the weekend. Unfortunate but true.

As of late I have been following links on MySpace pages and writing down names from my listening on Pandora and the likes. I am amazed at the never ending trail of new names and talents that I find on these treasure hunts. Most of us have a good grasp of the bigger names that represent women in music on a national level but when it comes to just how many women out there that are making music independently and posting to sites like MySpace etc. I don't think that everyone quite has a grasp on that. At least not until you start sifting through the links that you run across on each artist's page and then following those with each page leading to other links and other artists. I think that CEV has a pretty good artist's links page but after what I have seen I think that I still have a lot to do to represent many of the women that I have seen out there on the web.

The problem that many independents have is that they are pretty much a local act. Maybe traveling around to nearby cities and states to do live shows to build up a name recognition but still local just the same. They leap on the web in hopes of sowing the seeds of recognition to a larger audience but the web is a big, big place and just putting up a website is no guarantee that anyone will ever find it. Some are web savvy enough to market themselves (search engine placement, key words, meta tags etc.) as much as they can and hope for the best. Others probably wonder why they are not being seen without a clue as to why people are not beating down the doors of their website.

I have no illusions from what I have seen that there are not super talented individuals out there that I have not run across yet simply because there are only so many hours in the day to wander around this huge thing we call the internet in search of women in music. What I am hoping to do with CEV is to continue to add listings to the artist's website links page and to start adding descriptions of the music so that readers of CEV will know what kind of music they are looking at when they see a link on that page. I have been adding links to the MySpace pages and will go even further time permitting but for now a main website, a MySpace and maybe even a CD Baby link is what I am going for.

I know that CEV is just another drop in the bucket in terms of the web as a whole but I think what makes one website succeed over another is the drive and determination to make the website a place that surfers would come to for a particular reason. To find new artists and new voices that you haven't heard before or to read interviews with many of the artists who create this music are just a couple of reasons that I am giving for surfers to find their way to CEV. If you'd like to help by contributing links of great women singers you have run across then I encourage you to send it along to me so that I can share it with the readers of CEV. I know that everyone is in competition of a sorts to gain that same recognition for their own career but I think that it would benefit everyone as a whole to bring more attention to the wide variety of great women singers, songwriters and musicians scattered across America and around the world.

If you are a writer and would like to share your experiences of becoming a singer, songwriter or musician and what it took in terms of dedication and talent to get to where you are then send that along as well with the understanding that it may well end up published on CEV if it would inspire others to push their own careers into high gear. I am always looking for article submissions and information about the music business in general and being a woman in that business in specific. I know this is a blatant appeal for material for CEV but again I see CEV as a gathering place for those who want to see this music thrive and to help all those performers out there who deserve to be heard gain a little platform for their music. That doesn't sound like such a bad reason to be making blatant appeals now does it? Anyway until next time drop me an e-mail through MySpace or simply by using
editor@cuttingedgevoices.com  Looking forward to talking to more of you as time goes on. Take care.

July 11, 2008

Communication is for everyone... 

Well we have made it through the first few days of this week after the nice 3 day weekend over July 4th and boy has it been a grind. I always look forward to coming home and spending some quality time with my websites and the friends that contact me via the website and now the MySpace page as well. 

I figured I'd explain how some of the CD's that get featured on CEV make it up there. Most of it is simply by my spending lots of time surfing MySpace pages and wandering around the net looking for sounds that appeal to me. Yep, I do have to like most of the music that I put up on the site. That is one of the perogatives of running the website is that it reflects my tastes in music that I have built up over the years that I have been listening to music and working in the music industry. 

I think that what makes this an acceptable standard is that I have very broad tastes in what I like so that I can listen to just about anything unless (and this is a big unless) I don't hear good production, musicianship or a good voice in the songs I am listening to. That tends to shut me down real quick when it comes to what I listen to. And that is even more so when the lead song on the CD doesn't grab me or shows poor production or talent. The way I understand it is that the first few songs on your CD are the most important when trying to get reviewers or perhaps those who play them on their radio shows to listen to the rest of the CD and even go on to play or review them. 

So other than that quick off button in my brain connected to what I mentioned above I am very tolerant of just about any kind of music. I'm not a big country fan so you won't be seeing a lot of country featured on CEV and even though I like classical music I don't necessarily want to run a website about it. Again it comes down to personal preference when it comes to what goes onto the site. Now what do I like. Depends on my mood but I like everything from October Project to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. From Stevie Nicks to Bonnie Tyler (remember her?) From Til Tuesday (Aimee Mann) to Siouxsie & the Banshees. So in a word I'm easy with the one exception mentioned above. 

Now some of the other music that gets featured is more from the marketing perspective of the music business. Artists make available to me their music listen to through .mp3's or I get the physical CD in the CEV mailbox so I actually get to sit and listen to the whole CD. There are the occasional record labels or promotional companies that send in the all male band or the solo male singer and right off the bat I know that the company has never set foot on CEV because if they did they wouldn't have wasted their money sending me something completely irrelevant. Don't get me wrong. I listen to lots of male singers and bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Police etc but that has nothing to do with CEV so many times the music ends up in the trash can. 

And some music gets featured on the site simply because I stumbled upon it via a press release or on Amazon.com when they their lists of what is coming up in the next few months in terms of releases. I don't always get to hear it but based on the reputation of the artist I feel sure that the music will be pretty good. So the idea that I want to emphasize here and that you will hear again in the future is the word "communication". We live in an age when our words can travel around the world in a matter of minutes if we send them out in such a way that everyone wants to read them. Life is busy there is no doubt about that but you the artist via your music and I  the writer via my website want to share things with others that we think they will find interesting. It is even more important for you as the artist because if you are lucky then you will be able to derive your income from something you love doing. Ahh the great American dream. To do work that you love to do. 

The key to making all of this work is communication between the artists and the fans, between the writer and his readers and between the artists and the writers who write about their music. Networking works if you put energy into it. Answer your e-mails, update your website, put things on your website that folks want to see and on and on. How I find music sometimes is that the artists talk to me, let me know what is going on and many times I do interviews with them so they can share their triumphs and their struggles up on CEV. Communication. Marketing is directed communication but still it is letting everyone know about what you are doing. 

We live in a society that everyone seems to want to share everything with everybody. Not always a good thing all the time but essential for those who want others to see or hear their ideas. CEV will prosper as the artists talk to me and I talk to the readers letting them know what I like and what they should explore if they get a chance. I look forward to creating a place here and on CEV that will allow a free flow of information both from myself and from the artists (keep me in the loop) about what they are doing, what is new, what is upcoming etc. 

The music that ends up on CEV is there because I know about it and because I feel like I can truthfully tell others that they will love it and that they should run out and buy (download) a copy right away. Use the e-mail address on the left to let me know what you think of my views or to offer your own in rebuttal or in agreement with what I have written. Be nice though. Constructive criticism is always called for and attacks will always be rude and most likely not responded to. I've been around long enough to know that I can't ever make everyone happy but differences of opinion can lead to some intersting discussions and discoveries. 

Let me know what you think. Communication is a two way street. Otherwise it is just a monologue and not a dialogue.