Retail Therapy

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine September 2020

We’ve all had to do what we had to do during COVID-19.  Some of us have taken this time to reflect and really focus on what’s important.  Some of us explored new creative outlets and found out there’s more to us than we thought.  Some of us focused on family.  And some of us just went nuts on Amazon.  Like buying nutty ridiculous things such as two kinds of wire whisks in different colors, new dust pans and tons of forks and knives.  (Guilty!)  But on the plus side, all that kind of balanced out.  Here’s a list of things I DID NOT buy over my summer pandemic vacation:

  • Guitar strings, guitar pics, 9-volt batteries, those little dime-sized batteries for Snark tuners, new guitars, amps, speakers, instrument and speaker cables or mixing boards
  • Oodles of snack for band practice
  • Pints of Blackberry Brandy to hide in my purse for getting through shows
  • Gas for the gig van, oil changes for the gig van
  • Shiny rock star outfits for gigs, a nice salon haircut and color
  • Lunches and dinners trying to track down booking agents, drinks and appetizers consumed while enjoying other musicians’ shows, drinks for long lost buddies who showed up to my shows, late night breakfasts
  • Concert tickets, new music

When you do the math, which I’m hesitant to do, was I better off?  I really do like my new Amazon king-size sheets.  On reflection though, I think I’ve had enough of Amazon.  As my favorite season approaches, and uncertainty still looms, I’m thinking about my own apple trees…  Oh wait, I forgot about L.L. Bean!



Bad Rep

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine August 2019

When Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” came on the radio the other day, I pondered things. Not only is it a kick-a** song, but the message is clear: She don’t care one iota about her bad reputation.

But in the music business, if people start talking about you in “bad” ways, it’s very easy to get a Bad Reputation, and it’s next to impossible to recover from all the talk.

It’s one thing to have musical skills but I would argue that it is just as important to have people skills: the ability to get along with others, and to not be a jerk. It’s so easy in the music business to be a jerk because you think you’re “all that” because the Universe gave you some talent. Nobody likes jerks, and nobody wants to play with jerks. Other musicians just don’t wan to be around you, no matter how good you are. You’re toxic. You’re poison. You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good.

These people drift from band to band, never learning their lesson on the importance of people skills. They may not even be able to get solo gigs. Venue owners can sense your jerkiness, and they don’t want nothin’ to do with you either. I feel sorry for these people because if they kind of sense that their reputation is bad, they still don’t get it. They still don’t change. They make excuses: “Oh, we didn’t get along,” or “We didn’t mesh,” or “We had creative differences.” Creative differences my a**. They’re jerks. They’re on pathways to disaster, drifting in a world they don’t understand, unable to grasp what they did wrong. A good musician can not only play their parts, they also give room, believe in less is more, they hang back, give someone else the spotlight, they chip in, that sort of thing. They rehearse on their own. They’re good people as well.

Some sure-fire ways to get a bad rep:

If you don’t show up for a gig and don’t tell the venue owner you can’t make it – Bad Rep

If you never help loading in and loading out due to your so-called back problems – Bad Rep

If you constantly show up late to gigs – Bad Rep

If you act like a diva – Bad Rep

If you overplay and step on other musicians – Bad Rep

If you solo through eight of the chord progressions and everybody already agreed it would be once through – Bad Rep

If you’re a jerk – Bad Rep

And so it goes. I do like that Joan Jett song though.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine June 2019

I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately, and like others before me, I have realized that most things in life can be compared to baseball.  Baseball is Life, as it were.  But to narrow it down, I offer you some truisms (Sue-Isms?) about baseball and music.

1.  Once obsessed with baseball (music) you are obsessed until you die.

2.  If your bullpen (backing musicians) can’t perform well, just make the most out of your starting pitchers (front person/lead singer.)

3.  If you never make it in the big leagues (get a record deal) just coach, mentor and play for fun (be a music teacher, get in a cover band.)

4.  Playing on a baseball team (playing in a band) is a joyous but oftentimes agonizing curse that perpetually frustrates the soul while simultaneously freeing the soul.

5.  Baseball managers (band leaders) must make the tough choices while not pissing anybody off.

6.  Baseball fields (music venues) forever behold a magnetic magic and everybody cries when they’re torn down.

7.  Baseball owners (club owners) act like they own the team (the club) for fun, but they’re actually only in it for the money.

8.  Sports agents (booking agents) are never like Jerry Maguire.

9.  Baseball fans (music fans) can be infuriating and demanding, yet the utmost devoted, even when you can’t find the pocket.

10.  When the score is tied at the bottom of the ninth (playing your last song of your last set) you’re super tired but know you need to bring it home big.

11.   First inning pitches (first couple of songs in the set) can be a little rough around the edges and not particularly worth watching.

12.  When the starting pitcher gets to the bottom of the fifth inning with over 100 pitches in (end of the third set with one more set to go), you just want the bullpen (another band or the jukebox) to finish up the night (because you’re super tired) without wrecking your record.

13.  When your favorite team (favorite band) is in a slump, you want to switch and start listening to another band, but you can’t, because you just want them to come back out with some more good stuff.

14.  When the pitcher (the lead singer) and the batter (person in the front row) are having a staring contest, the lead singer usually wins.

15.  When a team manager (lead songwriter) loses favor with the press, careers can end.  Until everybody forgets about it five years later, then it starts right back up again.

16. The seventh inning stretch is like when the audience has to go home to relieve the babysitter.

17. Clearing the benches (bands fighting on stage) will always be super entertaining.

18. The umpire (the drummer) can and should have complete control over the ego and drawn out batting stance routines of batters (guitar players and their solos).

19.  If you are drafted into the minor leagues (appear on the Indie charts) it’s still a pretty good thing.

20.  Rookies (first-time open-mic performers) should be given respect and the benefit of the doubt.  You never know what great things could be on the horizon and who is secretly a Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams or Bruce.

21.  Nothing compares to hitting a Grand Slam (getting a standing ovation at the end of the night.)

22. And lastly, ya gotta know how to play the game.

What’s in a Name

originally published in Sound Waves Magazine February 2019

Every morning when I wake up, before clapping my hands together and jumping out, I lay in bed and think about things…things I have to do that day, things I don’t want to do that day, things I’m dreading that day, and maybe a thing or two I’m looking forward to that day.  Or sometimes I have a melody in my head and I play with lyrics, think about verses and choruses and possible bridges, all of course to prolong the actual act of clapping my hands together and jumping out.

Or I lay there thinking about why I just had a dream about a coyote at my window who’s got a face like one of those monkeys from the Wizard of Oz and he’s just looking at me, daring me to get up and go outside, when I realize that the reason I woke up in the first place was because I heard a pack of coyotes howling in the distance.

And sometimes I lay there thinking I better hurry up and get up before everybody else so I can have some peace and get things done.  Not like that time my daughter was four or five and she got up early and I was kind of upset about it.  Out of the mouths of babes, she cried, “Mommy… you’re acting like you don’t want me to be awake!”  Ugh! Horrible Mothering 101 right there.

Anyways, on this particular morning, as I lay here, I am thinking about the actual act of laying here and pondering what on earth could have ever possessed a band to name themselves the worst band name that ever was and ever shall be.  Picking a name for your band, though hard work and an agonizing back and forth on the prospects of marketability, name recognition, logo building, memorability and so forth, I think any of us could have done better naming their band than the one I’m going to tell you about.

I understand teenage angst, anger at the atrocities of the world and the unique opportunity musicians have to make political and socially conscious points.  But my god, some band names really do have to go.

The band name I speak of is the catchy, depressing, unforgettable I suppose:  “AS I LAY DYING.”  Yes, the heavy metal band named themselves after the 1930 novel by William Faulkner of the same name.  Though a critically acclaimed book and the dude eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the band itself has a Grammy nomination under their belt, this band name has always particularly bothered me.  I mean, to each his own and whatnot, but please, why so depressing?  Music is life.  Music is joy.  Come on man!  In my humble opinion, some of the best band names out there are clever, have special meaning to the band members, or refer to an abstract concept the band members believe in, or give homage to a special location in their lives, or is an artful combination of their own names, and so on.  But please, I know the heavy metal genre is all about kicking butt and such, and this band’s name has obviously worked out for them, but really, I just don’t like it!

Every morning we have a choice I guess – lay there thinking about good things and actually getting up, or lay there dying, or lay there thinking about band names so you can write a column for a music magazine.  Or lay there thinking about coyotes with monkey faces.  The choice is ours.  Now, time to clap my hands.


blah blah blah

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine January 2018

Music died the day dawned on the digital age, people say. Nobody buys music anymore, as we all know. There are so many ingenious ways of stealing newly created music I could write a book about it (hmmm….) But when we musicians actually do make new music for people, we sort of want people to buy it so we can recoup the cost of making it, even though we know in our hearts of hearts, that we’re living in a pipedream. We try to make it as cheaply as possible, in our basements and such, and put it out into the universe on an air of hope that it will “click” with millions of people. We dream that one day we can move out of the basement and record on a ranch or something or at Abbey Road. We want better gear. Some of us even want the big stage that comes with chart-topping hits. Or a golden trophy.

Before we release new music, we beg bloggers and media people to review our stuff to up the chances of people clicking or buying when we do release it. We try to create a buzz. We wish we could afford fancy PR people who do this kind of thing for a living, but most of us can’t. So we do what we can.

So with a recent album release, we did everything we were supposed to. We got lots of nice words from some really nice people exalting our musical art, gathered up our mailing lists and social media accounts, and let the thing fly.

I hit send on an email blast advertising our new album, chock full of text from wonderful and insightful reviews of the album, announcing our joyful glee of finally releasing something, and held my breath.

Some people responded – “Yay! Finally!” Or, “Congratulations!” that sort of thing. But my favorite response was from an email subscriber who simply wrote, “blah blah blah.”

That’s it. blah blah blah. Not even in CAPS.


Not one to be intimated by derogatory email list subscribers, I quickly replied, “I know, right!”

He responded that he was glad I had a sense of humor (duh!) and proceeded to ask me where he could go to listen to our stuff for free so he could decide for himself how awesome we were. He said he doesn’t give his credit card number out to anyone even if you’re Van Halen or Toto. He also chastised me for self-promoting, blowing our own horn, that sort of thing. By the time he was done with me, geez, I didn’t want the damn album either!

He proceeded to tell me that he was a musician himself with a record label and that he knew a thing or two. So I, the awesome investigative journalist that I am, looked him up. Upon review, yes he had put some music out. He didn’t have any trophies or hits though. His music was artistic and fine. blah blah blah. I showed him how to listen to one of our tracks for free, because I’m a sucker.

What to do? Accept the inevitable is what to do. NOBODY BUYS MUSIC ANYMORE.

So we, the peddlers of melody and lyric and dreams, must decide: Keep writing, recording and releasing music for the love of it with absolutely no hope for financial return, or, die the slow burning death of giving up on a dream? Keep going about my errands with loads of free burned CDs in my purse to be doled out to passersby as I see fit? Hope beyond hope to be included on some famous person’s Spotify playlist so that each stream nets us $.000001 cents?

We in this millennium kind of get a kick out of getting stuff for free because we’re in the 99 percent. I get that. Gimme gimme gimme, that sort of thing. But we still hope that if we get millions of clicks, we could get into the one percent, and make even more awesome music, and live happily ever after.

But I shan’t forget – to the four people who have purchased the album – WE LOVE YOU!

That guy from the email? Haven’t heard back.


Album Listening Party

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine November 2017

Before the invention of the .MP3, those handy little files that allow people to listen to music on their computers, sitting around and listening to music with your friends used to be an activity, like riding bikes or playing dodgeball.  You would gather around a record player, carefully pull out a big black vinyl disc from its artfully designed packaging, place it onto the device, and lower a needle down.  Magically, the music would start.  Dissecting every note, harmony, guitar solo, vocal line and lyric was actually a thing.

Not so much no more.


Listening to music is more of a personal headphone-laden thing now as you can walk about your daily life and listen to anything you want.  Whenever you want.  Wherever you want.

But if you’re in a band that writes and records original music, sitting around and listening to music is more like a necessity.  When you go into the studio and lay some tracks down, you’ll get a CD burned of the day’s work and then everybody in the band sits down and listens, dissects, makes suggestions for improvement, etc.  When you go back into the studio to add some more tracks, the process is repeated.  This could go on for days, weeks, months or even years.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, with the leaves falling literally onto our faces by the fire pit, it was time for an honest to goodness sure-fire old-fashioned “Album Listening Party.”   Our album was actually finished.  There was no going back. This particular album had been years in the making.  Not because we picked it apart and agonized over every note, but life got in the way as it is want to do.  There were some health issues, somebody quit and came back, that sort of thing.  With the moment upon us, for a few short minutes we basked in the glory of an enormous sense of accomplishment until we inevitably had to ask the million dollar questions:  “Will anybody listen to it?  Will anybody buy it?  How the heck are we going to duplicate these songs live?”

Before you get the answer to those questions though, there is lots of work to do, even after all the work you’ve done to get to this point.  For example, much ado is made about which song should be first on the album, which should go last, and where the title track goes.  Promo pictures of the band are meticulously inspected for the potential album cover, as well as pictures of just about anything representing the theme including drawings from scratch.  Somewhere amidst the discussions a list of potential music reviewers is added to a spreadsheet to track who the album will be sent out for review with notes on if and when they responded so you don’t keep bugging the same bloggers and writers.  A list of potential music licensers will also be added to the spreadsheet for potential use on TV shows or movies.  A list of radio stations and DJs is added for possible airplay.  More questions like “Do we even make hard copies or keep it all digital?  Do we press the songs onto CDs, vinyl, cassettes (making a comeback) or even 8-tracks (you never know?)  Do we make a video, which requires hiring actors, videographers, video designers and editors?”  It goes on and on after our little listening party.

But there’s even more to do.  The more work includes copywriting the songs with the site, assigning International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs) for each song, registering the songs with Sound Exchange and BMI/ASCAP/SESAC for royalty tracking, designing the album artwork, thinking up creative words to describe the music, obtaining UPC barcodes for tracking sales so your songs can get onto music charts, and uploading the songs to iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and other digital outlets so people can buy the things.  And none of this work is free.

In the coming weeks we’ll do all the stuff we’re supposed to do as we dream of #1 hits and huge royalty checks. When all is said and done, all we can really do is just put our stuff out there and see what happens.  Then we move on to the next batch of songs we’ll create in the basement and listen to multiple renditions of out by the fire pit and do it all over again.

The finished album is at its core something we created and nobody can take it away from us.  (Unless somebody sues us for copyright infringement or plagiarism or something.  There’s only so many ways to rearrange do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.)  It’s like when you get that high school diploma or college degree.  You worked for it, it’s yours.

So the next time your favorite local band posts a song for sale for 99 cents, do the world a favor and just buy it.  If bands like us stop creating music in the first place, “oldies” and “classic rock” radio stations and record store sections are all you’re gonna get.   Better yet, if a band invites you to their CD Release Party, for old times’ sake, just go.  They’re good clean fun!

Alternative Facts: Music Edition

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine February 2017

Here are a few fun alternative facts about the music industry for you:

The Grammy Awards celebrate the best in music and is not a politically-charged, campaign-style feverish quest for votes wherein the spoils of war go to those with the most influence and power.


There is no such thing as a big machine behind the music industry and anybody can make it to the top without a major record label, a manager, an agent, a public relations firm, a lawyer and about five hundred thousand dollars.

Licensing even ten seconds of one of your recorded songs for TV or film does not require membership somewhere inside the big machine.

Only really good music is played on mainstream radio.

Club owners only care about the quality of the music, not how many people you bring.

Booking agents only have your best interests at heart.

Horn players always show up two hours before the gig to help set up and carry all the big speakers to the car when the show is over.

Keyboard players never have an opinion on chord progressions and arrangements and don’t secretly want to be maestros.

Guitar players always end their solos after the agreed-upon measure allotment.

Bass players on point are not the most important element to a live show.

Lead singers are not narcissists.

Studio engineers would never dream of winning Producer of the Year.

CD and album sales are through the roof no matter who you are.

Obtaining a slot at music festivals is super easy.

If people accept your band’s Facebook Event invite that means you will see them at the show.

Anybody can write a memorable and listenable song.

If you can see it, you can be it.

Anybody can record a song and get airplay on Pandora in rotation next to Springsteen, Dylan and Raitt.

Standing in line for six hours to audition for The Voice is a really good use of your time because the producers of the show have not already sought out and privately auditioned every single singer who will appear on the show.

The sound system never dies right before the first four-count.

Dancing around and singing into a microphone at the same time is not really a workout and is not potentially deadly.

Getting bloggers and magazines to review your music is always free with no strings attached.

Bands get free drinks and food and always get paid what was agreed upon.

Local music circles and cliques do not exist.

Open Mic Nights are not killing the live music scene.

Karaoke Nights are not killing the live music scene.

Bands that pay to play are not killing the live music scene.

DUI laws are not killing the live music scene.

Home decor mounted big screen TVs and endless television series options are not killing the live music scene.

Digital downloads of music do not effect artist’s sales because no one ever shares their MP3s with all their friends instead of each person paying for the song.

Bars do not smell weird.

It’s perfectly acceptable to play a show in a bar with ten TVs going especially with one over your head.

Playing solo acoustic shows does not hurt your fingers and is not a lonely, dreadful thing at all.

Band members love each other and never fight.

Playing outdoor summer gigs does not cause hyperventilation, chest pains and shortness of breath.

The musicians who scream the loudest at the booking contacts do not get all the gigs.

Female pop stars never have to worry what they look like.

And lastly, regardless of it all, music will not free your soul.