Sunday, November 4, 2018

Setting the Record Straight - Each Scott Cooley Album Contains the Best Available Songs at the Time of Release

Back when I used to stretch the truth to impress people more than I do now, in conversation and even in my blog and web site, I would make it seem like I saved my best songs I'd written for submitting to artists to record.  I try not to do that so much anymore, if at all I guess.  With few exceptions I pretend to not remember, for the most part I try to be honest in my life now - with a take-me-as-I-come, warts-and-all approach to most people.

The truth is, I record and release my best, and always have.  Although I have submitted songs to artists before (which they never recorded), and they were usually among my best, I've released my own versions of them on my albums.  If I'm being honest, I have to admit there's no pending possibility that the world will soon hear the better songs I've written as recorded by their favorite artists on the radio, and there never has been.

As a matter of fact and to set the record straight, I release anything closely resembling a song on my official album releases.  Yes, it's true I've weeded out some of the worst, and yes, it's true I've written way more songs than I've actually released, but if they were even half-way decent and somewhat complete, I've recorded and released them.  Every two years, you get the top 13 I had available.

As I've alluded to in past blog posts or in person to a few people I know, I have my own weeding out process to arrive at which songs make the cut on my albums.  Many remain on the cutting room floor still, but what I release are the best I could do at the time, so as disappointing as it may sound, in a way, each record is like a mini greatest hits of the two years leading up to its release.

Since I'm not a great singer or instrumentalist or live performer, my thing has always been that I'm first and foremost a songwriter above all else.  It's truthfully the one aspect of music that I'm most proud of:  the fact that I've written a bunch of songs that can actually pass as sounding like real songs.  Particularly when that's your deal, you tend to make that a part of your identity in your own mind.  It is indeed a big part of who I am.

I'm many things - a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a neighbor, etc.  Among the first things I'd add to that are that I'm a skier, and also that I'm a songwriter.  It's a hobby I've had since I was about 20 years old.  People tend to like the things they're pretty good at, and there's not much on that list for me, but one of them is songwriting.

Granted, being "good" at songwriting is my opinion, and one that is shared by some but not all who've heard my music.  The number of people who have actually listened to my music is relatively small, and of those who have, there are some who do not find it to be their particular cup of tea.  I am a realist who takes into consideration that judgment of creative works in general is a matter of personal opinion and taste.

We have all heard songs written by professional songwriters and recorded by popular recording artists that a vast majority of people in the world think are good, yet we disagree.  Some people don't think Smells Like Teen Spirit or Like A Rolling Stone are good songs.  Some people don't think Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis or Graceland by Paul Simon are good albums.  Same goes for singers, bands, and songwriters.  For example, there are people out there in the world who don't think Aretha Franklin or Elvis were good singers.  There are people who think the Beatles and Led Zeppelin were not good bands.  There are people who think Bob Dylan or Smokey Robinson are not good songwriters.  It happens.

So, I thought if I pretended that the songs I write, record and release were not my best, and that secretly, I'd saved the best for ones I'd submit to mainstream major label recording artists to record, that people would think I was better than there was evidence for.  Possibly I did this out of insecurity or as a preemptive strike to soften the blow of them not liking my songs that I did make available for people to hear.

I'm not one of those people who have obvious successes in areas of my life such as an impressive career or fancy material things.  Maybe when one doesn't have those kinds of things, they tend to make themselves out to be something they're not to make up for it somehow.  Present yourself as a starving artist creative type who is probably on the verge of finally having their unconventional path pay off, after which people would be impressed that you followed your passion for so long.  Guilty.

My dream is to have list as its primary content artists a who have recorded my songs.  The list would be enough:  Famous Artist Name, Name of Scott Cooley-penned Song, etc.  I would maybe then eventually release a couple of albums called Cooley Sings His Own Songs, parts I and II, or something like that.  Maybe throw a couple pictures on there of me accepting songwriting Grammy awards and hanging out with those famous singers and bands.  That would be about all I'd need on my website if my dreams came true.  The life of Scott Cooley, Professional Songwriter, would then consist of collecting royalty checks, recording newer, better songs in a kick-ass home studio with expensive equipment.  No day job as a technical writer anymore.  That's the dream.

Instead, my website is all about me pretending to be an actual recording artist, which I'm not really.  Yes, I've sold some albums and individual songs I've written and recorded myself performing, because anyone can do that nowadays.  It's a site that is a mess, made by a guy who doesn't really know anything about making websites, and it's full of me making myself out to be something better than what I really am.  This is my perhaps sad but true reality - one of a million guys who figured out how to write and record some songs in his house, make them available for sale in online music stores, and put up a website that probably claims he's better than he really is.

So, to sum up and set the record straight, my records contain the absolute best songs I could come up with.  There are approximately 100 of them on 8 album releases for you to discover.  Despite all of this (and maybe because of all this too), I love doing it and will continue!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Why Wouldn't You Want To Buy The Next Scott Cooley Album?

I'll answer it for you.  Maybe the "wouldn't" should've been italicized in that title, as if you'd be hard pressed to come up with a legit reason, but preemptive lists are easily brainstormed, so here you go:

• You have no idea who Scott Cooley is
• You didn't even know Scott Cooley made albums in the first place
• You don't buy "albums"
• You haven't bought music since the early 90s
• You've never bought an album by an artist that isn't on the radio
• You've never bought an album by an artist who doesn't have videos on TV
• You don't buy music that isn't already popular and mainstream
• You've never heard of Scott Cooley
• You don't buy albums of music by some guy you know somehow
• You don't believe Scott Cooley really has music for sale
• You'd be secretly scared/embarrassed to have friends discover you own it
• You only like the early Scott Cooley albums
• You have no idea what an album is other than a collection of digital photos
• You thought it was a vinyl record and were disappointed it's only available as a CD
• You only rock out to cassette tapes
• You know it'll never top his live apres-ski gigs at the Sundance Saloon in Vail
• His style of music is just not your cup of tea
• You don't even try music by an artist whose music you haven't heard before yet
• You can't afford it
• You don't have a payment card and only pay in cash
• You don't have anything to listen to it on
• You're in a good mood and don't want to ruin it
• You don't want to be cheered up
• You only like live music
• You don't care for Scott Cooley as a person
• You've heard his music before and think it sucks
• Despite not hearing any of it yet, you just have a feeling it won't be any good
• You never buy music online
• You don't believe in buying anything online
• You have too much music already
• You never like DIY indie stuff
• You don't like anything that is "acoustic"
• You don't like listening to music
• You don't like the album cover artwork
• You don't like the name Scott Cooley
• You've heard it is the devil's music and you don't want to burn in hell
• You tried Scott Cooley music once, and it led to harder stuff
• Any money you have left you're planning to blow at the casino
• Your tux didn't come back from the cleaners
• Your dog ate your homework
• You heard your mom calling you
• You are a player hater from way back
• You ran out of gas and got a flat tire
• An old friend came in from out of town
• You didn't have change for cab fare
• Someone stole your car
• There was an earthquake, a terrible flood
• Locusts!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What They Don't Tell You: Music Publishing IS Spreadsheets

Not that you care, but it's not about sheet music so much anymore, nor is it about advances on future royalty income.  It's not even that much about finding commercial placements in movies or recording artists for the songwriter's works.  Licensing and royalty collection are administrative tasks artists can do themselves, or they can hire agencies to do it on their behalf so they can avoid the annoyance and focus on writing & recording. 

What these people need more than anything else to do this grunt work for you and take their cut is data and metadata, and the way you provide it is spreadsheets.  There are so many different types of rights and royalties out there to be had, there are specialists and no one-stop-shop for all of your song and music publishing needs.  So, whether you attempt DIY publishing or agree to give a cut to someone else to do it for you, they're going to need you to get the data to them, and like it or not, there's only one good way to do so.

Just as Soylent Green IS people, what "the expert advice-givers" never tell you about music publishing is that it is nothing but spreadsheets and copy/pasting.  Get used to your keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+P to paste) because they're going to come in handy if you have your own music publishing company. 

In this day and age anyway, that's pretty much all music publishing amounts to - in order to have a chance to get any royalty money at all from songs you've written, you submit spreadsheets to organizations who find you that money, most of whom take a cut first, then they give you the rest.  They can't do any of it for you, nor can you do any of it for yourself for that matter, if you don't first have a bunch of data in spreadsheets.

In the digital era, although vinyl records are experiencing a temporary resurgence in popularity, brick and mortar record stores are not.  When you write your own songs, record your own versions of your own songs, and sell those recordings online, you have certain licensing rights.  So, with that in mind, perhaps it shouldn't be too shocking that digital metadata about your songs and recordings needs to be uploaded to databases, and one known, somewhat easy way to do that is via spreadsheets.  Yes, it's true, spreadsheets are therefore the basis of making sure you get paid for all the various licensing rights you have.   

These organizations and agencies who collect your various royalties for you each need slightly different data, so they each have their own spreadsheets, their own templates, their own formatting, their own requirements for submission, etc.  So, get ready to copy certain things like your song titles from one into another.  Some care about ISRC #s, some care about ISWC #s, some care about UPC #s, etc., and some care about the same ones as each other too, but no two ever care about the same exact numbers as each other.
It's a royal pain when you have a 100+ song catalog like me.  Ultimately, these collectors take a cut to do the  even more painful tasks of bugging the online music retail stores, download stores, streaming services, etc. to check their records for your songs and get them to pay fairly.  Unless you have tons of free time and you are a lawyer in addition to being a songwriter/recording artist/publisher, you're generally glad to give them their fee upon collection.

Can't do it without populating and submitting those spreadsheets though, which I suppose you could pay someone to do for you, but this is the part that you must get right from the get-go, so it's better to trust yourself, particularly if you're like me and represent yourself alone.  Some have a web user interface with fields to populate, some even taking advantage of auto-complete, so that helps.  Even so, when you upload one at a time in that manner, they often then allow you to download what you entered as - you guessed it - a spreadsheet.

Who are these organizations who need the spreadsheets, you might be wondering?  All of them, basically.  Even those whom you'd expect would have awesome software to handle this kind of stuff, like Google and their YouTube Content ID RightsFlow Partner program, still have a bunch of dreaded spreadsheet templates!  Other "tracking companies" for lack of a better thing to call them might include some names like Harry Fox, SESAC, Kobalt, AdRev, Re:Sound, SongTrust, Songfile, TuneCore, TuneSat, Rumblefish, etc.  Quite often music-related companies that provide other music-related services such as distribution or cover song clearance also offer publishing administration services like the ones I'm referring to here.

Whether they call it import/export/ingest or some other term, it's all about unique identifiers and codes.  People have to act as liaisons to the number-crunching machines, and one of them in the process is you doing your copy/pasting and attaching those .xls or .csv files to an email.  Other people then have some grunt work ahead of them - which may be as easy as connecting to YouTube's database, performing searches, finding matches, comparing ID#s, doing some accounting, etc. - in other words, all digital computer-based work;  whereas it may be as hard as making actual phone calls to real people, sending emails, or even getting lawyers involved.  Machine automation and artificial intelligence can't read your mind for much of it yet, so human beings are still required.  Now you know what most probably don't about music publishing - in a nutshell, it is mostly spreadsheets.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Practice Doesn't Always Make Perfect

Sometimes a less-than-perfect sound is more appealing when it's fresh.  Over-trying can wreck the excitement for the artist, which can in turn wreck the listening experience for the music fan.  You can hear the excitement in recordings that were made when the song just came together in the artist's mind. 

Particularly with solo songwriting efforts, the point at which you finally realize how the completed song should sound, but not too far beyond that point, is the sweet spot.  For me, that's when there's this fresh "je-ne-sais-quoi"  still in the air, and I like to hear it.  Yes, listening back to some of my completed, released recordings makes me hear a few minor things here and there I wish I'd done a bit differently, but for the most part, I don't mind them too much. 

When I get ready to play any of them live long after the record came out, I'll perhaps fix a couple of phrasing issues, or even slightly rewrite a couple words, but the bottom line is they were close enough to the overall vision at the time to be deemed release-worthy according to my admittedly low standards at the time.  Further, I hereby argue that "almost complete" state can be a better listen, because you hear the potential a future, more professional recording could have, and that's exciting.  Indeed, many a fan who have reviewed my music tell me things along those lines - that they can envision how the song would sound on a famous artist's album done in a pro studio, etc.  I take those as nothing but compliments.

Practice doesn't make perfect for me, with either the songwriting or recording part.  Performing the song all the way through once live with a guitar and vocal is usually necessary to envision how the final recording should sound, but that's all.  The less I rehearse, the more organic it is, and the less likely I am to get bored, which can curb the passion.  I want people to hear the passion, the excitement of the song being newly written and me enjoying playing it for one of the first times all the way through and being psyched that it works and sounds like a keeper song to me.  Even in a multi-track recording environment, I like to limit each track to only 2 takes, maybe 3 for the lead vocal. 

That said, very often I get a kick out of "nailing it" on the first take, whichever instrument or vocal it is, which to me just means no majorly noticeable mistakes.  The vocal should convey the emotion of the singer liking the song and you should be able to hear the satisfaction with the fresh creation coming together into a final arrangement in a style that the singer/songwriter "imagined" or heard in his head.  Same with the instrumental tracks - as long as there are no glaring errors, its always better to not keep doing take after take, or heaven forbid do the splicing or comping techniques to get it all perfect.

If I took advantage of all that modern music equipment and studio technology has to offer, I'd feel like I was cheating too much.  There's something about somewhat handicapping myself and intentionally not having the best tools that keeps things challenging and satisfying for me.  I'm doing it the hard way, yes, and no, I don't want it to sound too good.  That says something about me, and my music, and you might not get it, and you might not like it, and that's okay.  It's not for everyone.

Books and documentaries about famous artists like Dylan or bands like the Beatles will often convey something along the lines of the fact that the early takes in the recording studio are often the ones that make it onto the albums, despite many more being recorded afterward.  So, there is proof I'm not alone with my preference. 

I can imagine the same principle being applied to live performance of music as well.  When a band is learning a new song, and the arrangement is decided on, and the finished product begins to reveal itself, there is magic in the air.  Everyone has just learned their parts, and they're getting "tighter" as they rehearse it, and this is both exciting for the band and the listener.  When a band is at the end of a long tour that used a setlist with many of the same songs every night, you might be able to pick up on their boredom or lack of passion as compared with the first few times they played it in front of an audience.  That said, a band like the Grateful Dead may have been an exception.

So even though trying out songs in front of an audience to get their reaction and feedback before recording in the studio is never a bad idea, if you don't do anything about that feedback, pure repetition alone won't make it any better.  You've got to take into consideration the insanity definition of trying the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result.  Another factor to apply is that it is important to trust your fans. 

If you trust yourself and are true to yourself with the music you choose to record & release, you know your own quality standards are there, and thus, you know your fan base will appreciate it.  Take the guesswork out and trust your gut, which is the same as trusting your fans' good judgment.  If you're an artist like me, you don't want your music to ever sound too perfect anyway, and neither do your fans.

There is a growing spark and a spirit that builds momentum and reaches a creative peak as seeds of songs germinate into complete flowers, but the trick is to capture them near those moments "before the bloom is off the rose."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Soundtrack Blues: Careful about quality translates to "excellent musicianship," "high production values"

Ever listened to the actual songs that are used in movies or tv shows?  I'm not talking about the background music necessarily, and definitely not the instrumental-only stuff or sound effects that fill out the soundtrack.  I mean full 4 minute songs, or parts of them anyway.  Like the Scorcese movies that always have a memorably-placed Stones song during a scene with no dialog, or the two songs that play at the end of the movie when you look to see the actors names and wonder if there will be bloopers or not.

A lot of states, like Michigan, offer discounts or subsidized costs to people who make movies, for example, in order to get them to shoot their movies here.  Instead of incentives to hire Michigan people though, they usually bring their own crews from California according to things I've read.  It would be awesome if the Michigan Film Office would offer credits for them using original songs from Michigan-based songwriters, recorded by Michigan-based recording artists like me.  I'm both. 

So the reason they'd pick me over Jack White would be that my self-penned and self-recorded songs would theoretically have a much more modest cost associated with them.  Movies made in Michigan don't even bother to get famous Michiganders like Jack though, let alone non-famous amateurs like me.  A big difference is my overall sound quality, or lack thereof.  Even if I got submitted to the supervisor/decision makers for movie music, I'm guessing they wouldn't want the amateurish sound along with the unknown artist factor in their movie they're taking a big risk with.

The common thing you may not have noticed with those songs is they are always either ultra-popular songs you'v e heard before, or new songs by ultra-popular artists, or if neither of those, they are very professional sounding and perfectly recorded with outstanding sound quality.  Whether the song itself is any good or not does not seem to matter, nor does having the "living room jam" feel and the realness of acoustic instruments played by amateurs.  To me, that's a cool vibe that is missing from most films or tv shows.  If I were a director, I'd seriously consider recordings like mine, because it would be refreshingly different than what seems to be normal.

If your movie is about a chef you can check databases for songs about food so it will fit. You can hire services that offer such databases of songs.  Such services reach out to songwriters to stock those databases.  The one thing they all want above all else, however, is that polished perfection of delivery - including the instrumental and vocal tracks.  Gotta be slick and as commercial as possible. 

Have you heard much amateurish acoustic music in the background or as credits roll when you watch movies and shows? What about imperfect garage rock played on acoustic instruments?  How about tunes by non-famous, non-performing artists?  How about bedroom-recorded DIY indie songs by songwriters who have no business singing or even playing instruments for that matter? 

There are these companies out there like Audiosocket or TAXI who say they have connections in the film and television industries, presumably in California, to connect songwriter's demos of new songs to music supervisors willing to pay for reasonably priced music to be used in the background of movies and shows.  The only "catch" is my style of recorded music would never have a chance, so knowing this I don't waste my time on their "feedback" from the "pros" on their staff.  I already know what they'd say:  "Thanks for the money to join, but your recordings are not professional enough for us to submit to our contacts.  Pay for real studio time, pro vocalists and musicians, and try harder!"

These services also say things along the lines of "We have to be consistently professional, so even if your songs have great originality, they must be as perfect-sounding as possible."  So, the translation here is:  "you need to go out and shell out a ton of money on real studio time, get real musicians, or better yet, fake programmed music, and American Idol finalist-quality singers for your songs, then when you're done, submit what you've got and oh yeah, the songs must sound like the mainstream major label pop of current radio play."

Stifling to creativity or not, I wouldn't want to even try for that type of thing, even if I had the budget!  Why?  I write for me.  Not for other artists, not in the style of other artists, not to fit a movie or tv show, not to sound all expensively perfect from the best software and microphones money can buy.  I write to please myself.  As stated previously in past posts in this blog, I have my own weeding out process, and when songs I write fire on more cylinders than others, check more of my own boxes of what I like than others, that's when I record them.  And when I record them, I do my best with what I've got and that has to be good enough.

If you've read this blog or elsewhere in the website, you know I'm no stranger to self-deprecation.  You've read the preemptive disclaimers:  no natural talent, no formal training whatsoever, amateurish sound quality, amateur playing.  Terrible singing voice; bad guitar player, weak at all other instruments played as well:  drums, percussion, bass, marimba, harmonica, piano, etc.; poor usage of effects like reverb, bad mixing, bad mastering, etc., ...the list goes on and on.  A total amateur who has no business in the music business, yet he keeps on with the fake it 'till you make it thing anyway, ad infinitum!

It's not what we're looking for at this time means it's not electronic, ultra-slick, professionally produced, manufactured with perfect drum loops and virtual instruments, auto-tuned vocals, and fitting in with the polished pop mainstream of the day like Ed Sheeran or whomever that equivalent flavor-of-the-moment person is by the time you're reading this post, and we don't care if there's a good melody or lyrics if it's delivered in the typical all-acoustic Scott Cooley rough home demo style.  No master use or synchronization license for you.  Sorry, good luck, etc.

So, I hear what they're not saying.  I can read between the lines, just as they can't see the forest for the trees.  I'm cool with that.  I'll do me, they'll do them, and our paths won't ever cross, since my style of mistake-laden unplugged garage rock with bad vocals is in no danger of becoming en vogue anytime soon.  Like it or not, warts and all, I'll keeping doing my thing.  "An acquired taste few have discovered" is how my music has always been, its current state, its foreseeable destiny, and I have no allusions of grandeur beyond that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Album Track Sequencing Like Baseball Batting Order

Well, here it is mid-May and we're well past spring training and into the second full month of the 6-month regular season.  On June 21st of this year, after the draft but before the all star game in July, you can expect another full-length album of new music from me, I'm proud to announce once again (for the 8th time).  Baseball doesn't have coaches, they have managers.  It's maybe the equivalent of being a producer of a record.  When you're not a major leaguer (or major labeler) like me, you produce your own.

In the great American sport of baseball, one of the most important things the manager does is choose the lineup.  Also called the batting order, there are some important positions with interesting informal names like leadoff, contact, three hole, cleanup, heart, bottom and last. 

According to the great American movie High Fidelity, the subtle art of making a great compilation tape is a delicate thing:  You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention, then you've got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you've got to cool it off a notch.

So, when you think of the purpose of those batting order roles and those mixtape rules as they might apply to the order in which songs appear on an album, some interesting notes may form, such as:

1.     Leadoff:  get on base, get off to a good start, grab the fans attention, a killer, 4th best?
2.     Contact:  keep momentum, take it up a notch (faster, louder), hold attention, 3rd best?
3.     Three Hole:  the most commercial appeal, yet cool it off a notch, #1 best overall
4.     Cleanup:  power, solidify success, a power ballad, 2nd best
5.     Heart:  driving others home, mid-to-up-tempo, five should actually be the 5th best
6.     Heart:  driving others home
7.     Bottom:  slower, less pressure
8.     Bottom:  slower, less pressure, shorter than #7 to hold attention
9.     Last:  similar to leadoff, resume speed, should be 6th best

Most albums have more than 9 songs, but you get the idea.

Other factors may include alternating tempo, key, length & style to hold listener attention:

·       Length:  You never want two really long songs back-to-back.
·       Tempo:  You never want two really slow songs back-to-back, unless the second one is much shorter (see #8 above).
·       Tempo+Length:  You generally want to insert shorter, faster songs right after slower, longer ones.
·       Key:  You never want two or more songs in a row that are in the same key, if possible to avoid.
·       Genre:  You never want to put stylistically similar songs together in the rotation, if you can help it.
·       Instrumentation:  When you only have two songs featuring an atypical instrument, separate those as well.

This is not to say that you can't know the rules, intentionally break them, and still be successful.  I've heard it said that fans of the band AC/DC enjoyed the fact that their songs reflected a signature sound, and that their albums delivered that consistently.  In other words, they liked the fact that the songs all kind of sounded the same.  That said, they added a little variety here and there, for example, by unexpectedly adding bagpipes to their otherwise heavy metal sound.

So, when you've got an album's worth of new material recorded and available for release, you're about to play ball.  Before you can, however, you get to put on the manager's cap and think of who you want where in the order to give your team its best chance to score and win the game.  Just like the all-American pastime, the record business is about the same thing:  getting hits.  It's fun because you get to be creative with it, figure out how to strategically keep the listener from hitting the fast forward or skip to next track button. 

The order is always important, despite what recording artists may say to the contrary, and always carefully chosen.  My records are no different.  13 new songs in the best order I could muster up.  Probably too much thought goes into it, but thanks to the power of electronic word processing documents and tools, the cutting/pasting and rearranging is quick and fairly painless.  This next one is no different.  Hope you enjoy the songs, and the track sequence!!!  As a reminder, my "opening day" is June 21st. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is being "verified" for improved notability a bad thing?

I've been verified again.  I'm increasingly verifiable.  I'll explain what that means, and why it might be a stepping stone to increased notability by some measures.  Then, finally, I'll explore the bigger deeper question of whether that's something to be desired in the first place or not!

It's a weird age we live in when a guy like me who likes to make up songs can inexpensively record himself and then sell those recordings online to people who buy music all over the world.  Just because you can do it doesn't mean people are going to buy it (or like it, or even find out it exists in the first place for that matter)!  Supposedly, there are "apps" to help with that now.

This app called Shazam sent me an email I first thought was spam but then realized could be legitimate.  Before I continue much, I'll admit I have no idea what this Shazam app does or is good for, except that I know my friends who have iPhones use it for something music-related.  That really all I know still, even though they've now made me a "verified" artist.  What that means is they put a check mark next to my profile picture on their website.  Somehow they have a picture of me and pictures of my album covers and my music is apparently on there too.  I've got no idea how it got there.  The only other thing I learned about Shazam is when I clicked a few things they prompted me to click on to become verified, I noticed that I had already been Shazamed by people 57 times, mostly for my song American Dream.

A confused kid gets clarification on a few things related to the word
I think when I was a kid I remember this word because it was the name of a super hero on a tv show by the same name played by the guy who was later the 6-million dollar man if I'm not mistaken, and it might've been based on a comic book, and was also somehow associated with a companion or sister show called Almighty Isis that I always confused with the Wonder Woman show starring Linda Carter.  Back then you either asked friends or adults about these things and they either knew the truth, didn't know, or lied, but you that's all you had to go on unless you wanted to try a library, which was a dewey hassle.

Nowadays, however, we've got the almighty and always-reliable internet, so here, let me google that for myself to get clarification I've wanted for so long....back in a second here....OK, apparently, Shazam was the name of the show, but Captain Marvel was the superhero's name, and it wasn't played by any well-known actors, however, both Danny Bonaduce and Jackie Earle Haley were in that show - didn't remember that, but those guys have always been cool.  Further, what I thought was called Almighty Isis was really called The Secrets of ISIS, and she was a goddess who fought evil with powers she summoned by chanting "OH, mighty Isis" not all.  This one had no well-known people in it at all, and neither had Lee Majors or Linda Carter in it.  Now I know, whew, thanks internet, I can rest easy now.

That's literally all I know, except, oh yeah almost forgot, the fact that when I was a kid there was a tv show with a character named Gomer Pyle who had a distictive southern accent I used to be able to imitate and one of his catch phrases was "shazam."  Interestingly enough, Jim Nabors who played that character just happened to be a great singer and recording artist himself, sounding nothing like the voice he used for the character.  Even though I repeated it in that voice along with the drawn-out "golly" and got a few laughs, I didn't know what it meant except I figured it was a synonym for declaring "ureka" or something like that.  Here, I'll look it up real quick...ok, I'm back now and the incredibly annoying and lame user interface of the free Merriam-Webster dictionary site tells me it means "used to indicate an instantaneous transformation or appearance."  Well, I was a little off there, but yeah, that reminds me it's a phrase I've heard magicians use in place of "abracadabra" or "presto" or something similar.

While I'm blogging about it, let's learn what it does, shall we?
Back to the app again, I bothered to scour the interwebs again to learn more.  Apparently, if you're listening to music already on a device like an iPhone through headphones or a speaker that also has a microphone (this is where older tech-unsavvy folks will surely begin to glaze over if not long before now) the microphone will listen to the song being played and then send you the name of the song, the artist name, the name of the album it's on and other stuff.

Scenario:  So, presumably through your Apple Music streaming subscription (that never pays Scott a dime), you hear a Scott Cooley song playing randomly you didn't pay for (why would you?), then you fire up this app to tell you what iTunes should already be displaying for you anyway-that it's Mackinac Island from the Lakeside Landing album or American Dream from the Used To Be Good Looking Album or Coney from the Rest Assured album, etc..So that's all I can gather for now, and thus still don't get why you'd get any use out of it, but now when it tells you Scott Cooley song-related info, it's on a "verified" profile where I can supposedly have some minor amount of control to make sure you get the correct info that is already there somehow anyway (that I never get even a fraction of a cent for anyway).

Not your cup of tea?
Like it or not, people like me release music they make in their homes on computers.  They're going to keep doing it.  It's something you have to get used to - like when people lock their cars now, they beep, parking lots full of beeps that never used to be there...or people's cell phones ringing and people talking on the phone while you are trying to enjoy a quiet meal in a restaurant, or a million other scenarios for that matter.  These things are societal changes that took some getting used to and they're here to stay.  Same for DIY bedroom songwriter/musicians who can't sing or play very well but release music anyway.  There are a lot of us out there, trying not to be discovered like hopeful musicians of the past, but rather to just be "discoverable."

Be careful what you wish for 
In a past post, (From Nobility To Notability), I wrote about what sites like Wikipedia think qualifies you to be "notable" enough to have a page.  It's a catch-22 of sorts, being a songwriter/recording artist, because you want an audience, you want other people to hear your music, with the hope that they'll like it and even buy it.  It would be nice to make some money for the art you make - the songs you write and record - something you love to do for fun anyway.  However, you're old enough and wise enough to know that you would hate the "being famous" part, so at the same time you want popularity, you know it would kind of suck to actually be a celebrity and all the hassles that apparently go along with that.  I don't know about that.

If you're like me and a lot of other people in the world, you hate hearing famous people complain about being famous.  They asked for it, you think to yourselves, and they seem to have amazing lifestyles, and it's really hard to feel sorry for them when they whine about not knowing what they were getting themselves into, am I right?  So, although a part of being an independent musician involves the necessary evils of the seeking of publicity and self-promotion and DIY marketing, it's a part older, wiser creative artists typically dread.

Notta Madonna WannaBe
Not everyone wants to "rule the world" as a young artist like material girl Madonna once told Dick Clark.  She was seemingly unabashedly out for the money and fame more than other aspects of it, and she was no doubt a master marketer.  I've heard of people authoring/submitting their own draft of their own wikipedia page and submitting all these supporting articles and links to demonstrate their notability.

I suppose I could do the same, but then I might think, oh no, I'm hereby losing a big part of my anonymity and although I'd be doing it to have my music reach a larger audience, a part of me would feel unworthy, embarrassed, and uncomfortable about it all.  Putting your music out into the world for judgement is difficult enough.  So, becoming verified as an artist is another such step, small as it may seem, and I'm finding should be approached with caution.

Other verifications 
That said, I was slightly annoyed that Twitter wouldn't verify me as the official Scott Cooley musical artist and put that "coveted check mark" by my name because I wasn't able to provide enough "notability" evidence to meet their criteria I guess.

So far, I'm now "verified" already in these other online places:

Moving forward slowly and unsurely...
As they become available (only for free of course), I'll continue the "vanity" of clicking a few things to say yeah, that's me, I'm that guy.  Some, like Soundcloud, only give you the check (they use a star actually) unless you actually pay them and have a paid account.  I'll never do that!  What a waste.

I like slow, steady organic growth in people finding out about my music, thank you.  I'll never buy likes, follows, shares, friends, etc. either, even though I know that's possible and effective - appearance of popularity is proven to breed actual popularity.

On my social media profiles, you'll see I always follow way more people than the number who follow me.  I've heard it said it should always be the opposite for a true artist, but they can think what they want.  I'm sure if you've got major label backing, they set aside money to make sure you appear as popular as possible!

Proceeding with caution, yet if free opportunities to improve my notability status continue to present themselves, I'll probably continue to go for it, since the end goal is to have my music reach a larger audience.

It's a bit egotistical and vain and thus uncomfortable but I have to remind myself it's for a good cause - me being able to actually make a couple bucks by selling music once in a while.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ramping up to release time, kind of a big deal

Someone accused me of resembling fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy played by Will Ferrell recently when they saw my 70's style haircut parted on the side and wearing a jacket and tie in a photograph - an unusual look for me, but a bit of a stretch comparison-wise since I wasn't even sporting a moustache .  In that movie, among many memorable lines by the lead character, he said something like "I'm kind of a big deal," which was certainly memorable for me because it was funny.  Although I don't have the same ego, I do need to toot my own horn from time to time, particularly when I want my music to reach a larger audience.  You have to tell the world something is available for sale in the first place if you're going to have any chance of making a sale.  The ego I do have makes me selfishly want to sell my creative musical works, rather than just being satisfied with creating art for art's sake, without anyone needing to know it exists.

For the songwriter/recording artist who doesn't play concerts or shows, the event of most importance to both the artist and their fans alike is the almighty new album release.  I'm Scott Cooley, and although I'm not a big deal (yet!), releasing an album is kind of a big deal to me.  When you don't perform live much let alone book regular gigs or tour, your life as a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist revolves around one major thing only:  Releasing albums of new songs you wrote and recorded.  It makes me both excited and anxious, so much so that I worry I'll die before I get a chance to get the music out there.  That's when you know you care about it a lot.  When the songs are written and recorded already, and the cover art is ready to go, it's a matter of waiting until that date, which like Tom Petty said, is the hardest part.  Don't get the wrong idea - I don't mean to hint that I might die at all.  Despite not being in the best of health, if you hear of my demise, you can be sure it was unintentional!

Everyone likes to hear that a musician they like has new material available, and they need some type of information to let them know what it's like - how it's different from their past records, a description that summarizes what it's all about, and maybe a sample or teaser video to further wet the appetite.  Maybe a trusted review found online will help sway you to want to buy/download/stream or whatever.  Let's face it though - nowadays when your favorite artist comes out with something new, you get a notification from a subscription service, and that same service that resulted from you previously buying or following that artist will also allow you to stream the new songs from the cloud on your home assistant speaker, mobile phone, or computer.  Yes, it's in the low-quality MP3 format, and yes, the streaming from the cloud to your device further degrades the sound quality, and yes, the speaker(s) and/or headphones you're listening on are substandard. 

For this experience, you pay roughly a hundred and twenty bucks a year, or $9.99/month.  Gone are the "audiophile" days of the giant home stereo systems with vinyl record players, an array of surround sound speakers, AM/FM receiver, CD player, etc.  In the modern digital era in which brick & mortar record stores cease to exist, we sacrifice sound quality for the lack of clutter, the portability and convenience of our streaming subscription, phone and earbuds or smart speaker.  You've even recently embraced the whole bluetooth thing, despite its frustrations.  Sadly, the typical Scott Cooley fans are probably Generation X'ers who have finally made this transition.  So, discovery starts with a little information in your feed, and the internet then offers convenient way to get more, and your service allows you to start consuming quickly.  This is likely your reality, even though you may still have that milk crate of albums in the basement and rotate a few CDs in and out of the mix on your car stereo.

I imagine when most artists do anything creative like recording an album of new music, they are proud to share it, and the do-it-all-yourself songwriter / performer / home recording hobbyist who self-produces and self-releases independently like myself is arguably even more so.  This is because everything you hear on the upcoming album, like many of my albums, was made by me.  So, it's my creative vision alone, which is something I would imagine a painter would experience, since you don't often hear of collaborative paintings.  Well-received or otherwise, you're ready for the credit/blame.

The Flint, Michigan area has plenty of rappers and punk rockers, but it's downright rare to find a solo artist who specializes in Acoustic Garage Rock with both Americana and Caribbean flavors.  How often do you hear of someone saying they blend the sound of the Violent Femmes with Jimmy Buffett?  The Police unplugged jamming with James Taylor?  Bob Seger sitting in with Gordon Lightfoot at a Margaritaville Cafe?  Jack Johnson collaborating with Jack White?

It's always hard to describe your music, and likewise, it's always hard to know whether it's any good or not.  A side of me thinks this is my best-ever album.  I know that right when I write a new song, I'm excited about it because it is so fresh, and I have a tendency to overestimate how good it is.  Only after a long cooling-off period of time has passed do I find that I can revisit a song and assess whether I still feel the same way about it.  When I take a break from listening to it and even sort of pretend I don't remember it, I can go back and listen to it again and make a more honest judgment about how it compares to others in the batch of new songs that are candidates to make it onto the released album.

That same "distancing before judging" thing also applies to the entire album as it compares with your other albums you've released.  Your catalog may have some standouts, but the latest, newest one is always the one you're focused on when you've just completed it, and because of that, you have a tendency to maybe think it's better than you will think it is six months later.  It's just the way it goes, for me anyway.  This next new album, however, that I'm planning to release in a couple months, really does feel like it is a strong collection of songs.  A part of the reason may be that is more of a concept album, and has some common threads running through each of the 13 songs.

Describing your sound is always a challenge for any recording artist, but it's easier if the album groups together similar types of song styles.  Therefore, my next album, Missing The Boat, is one that combines various tropical flavors with acoustic rock with a heavy dose of escapism - including that which involves boating.  It's very simple stuff, fairly low art, in the grand scheme of things.  The lyrics aren't going to pass for poetry like Bob Dylan's, and the music isn't going to be respected by classical composers, and if you like ultra-serious folk music it won't be for you, nor will you like it if you're a fan of loud, distorted electric guitar-based music.  'Nuff said for now.  Now you have pretty good idea of what to expect and when.  Stay tuned in to this blog for subsequent posts leading up to the actual album release that will reveal even more!