Unpopular Music Biz Truth – Cliques vs Community

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.Unpopular Opinion

Yesterdays unpopular music biz truth was about community. More needs to be said on that. Are you a member of the larger music community, or are you spending your time and energy in a clique? Communities are diverse, inclusive, vibrant, and open. Cliques have limited diversity, they are exclusive, often boring, and closed.

So much of what has been discussed during these unpopular music biz truths series of posts has to do with artists breaking outside of their comfort zones. You need a lot of confidence to do that. If you gravitate to a clique instead of a community you aren’t really challenging yourself and you are probably not surrounding yourself with the most talented high achieving musicians and producers locally available. Big mistake!

When I think clique. I think high school. I think immature. I think self-consciousness. I think followers. When I think community I think “the real world.” I think mature. While people within a community may still struggle with self-consciousness, there is way more support and opportunity to deal with that and ultimately get the confidence that is so necessary for music industry success. Community is also about leaders. Not just followers.

A community doesn’t have one leader, like the clique, it has many. The best communities are populated with members who are great at leading and following and they switch between those roles with great fluidity as the needs arise.

A community is truly a place to develop as a person and an artist. Its an incubator! A clique is a place to hide. A clique is stagnant.

Here are some great Toronto music community leaders. Follow these cats and study what they do:

Tony Rabalao, Illvibe Soti HeavyAux, Brownman Ali, Dustin Wareham, Craig Doyle Henry, Gary Kendall, Daniel Fübb, Richard Underhill, David Blackmore,

There are so many more I could list, but I’m out of time. Gotta get to the studio. If you all don’t mind tag in the comments section some Toronto music people who you feel make great contributions to our local music community.

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Unpopular Music Biz Truth – Artists vs. Musicians

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.Unpopular Opinion

They are not always the same thing. They can be, they often are, but there is a nuance to how people in the industry differentiate them.

I see an artist as a person who writes and performs their own material and is working to gain momentum and exposure around their artist brand. Sometimes this person is also a great musician, other times they can barely play an instrument.

The musician does not necessarily have their own artist brand or artist aspirations. Some great musicians I know are “jobbing” musicians. They are accomplished on their instrument(s), they most often read music and can speak in musical terms with musical directors and producers.

An artist’s ability, or inability, to play an instrument has little impact on how the artist is perceived. Many great songs have extremely simple chord progressions, melodies and arrangements. Lets face it the general population is not that musically sophisticated so its not surprising that they gravitate to artists who write and perform simple accessible material.

Where people get it wrong is when they call an artist, like the one described in the previous paragraph, a great musician. Correction…at best they are a great artist. There is a difference.

A great musician is a very specific thing. There are no great musicians who are limited through skill sets that only allow three chord folk tunes or simple progression found in most popular hip hop beats. Don’t get me wrong a great musician can kill that stuff, and that type of material is way better off with the input and involvement of a great musician. What I’m saying is that within the realm of musical possibilities the great musician is equipped to search and explore some insanely complicated territory. They go places where artists with limited musical literacy don’t even know exist.

This post is not meant to polarize musicians and artists. It is meant to point out that, although they are often the same, many times musicians an artists are vastly different creatures.

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Unpopular Music Biz Truth – Community

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.Unpopular Opinion

Yesterday I met with one of my favorite young bass players in the city, Alex St. Kitts (the future). In my view Alex is a great example of a young musician to compare and hold others up to. Alex is serious about life. He graduated from the Humber Music Program. His playing is out of this world (I’ve been following his progress closely for a couple years now). I met with him to talk about him. But I was surprised when he was more interested in talking about other musicians in the city that he loves and supports.

Alex is the kind of musician that regular attends shows in the city. He will leave the stage after his gig and immediately head out to another club to check another band. More musicians don’t do that, than musicians who do do that. If you are one of those musicians who doesn’t support the community, than you need to read my Unpopular Music Biz truth about Narcissism (A few posts back).

Every great professional musician I know (who isn’t cynical and washed up) supports their local music community. It doesn’t mean you have to support every hack with a guitar and bad vocal technique. It means seek out and support the artists that resonate with you. The ones you truly admire. I for one do not support mediocrity. I think its great when people come together for a musical purpose to jam or perform, but I’m not interested in attending or supporting unless the music, arrangements and performances make my head explode. There is a ton of music in the city of Toronto that has this effect on me. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had to take my head in to the shop for repairs? I have one of those membership cards and I’m up for a free repair next time a Toronto musician explodes my head!

There is no lack of head exploding talent in this city, but sadly there is a lack of support. Double sadly, a lot of the lack of support comes from within the music community (a point Alex made yesterday. I agreed).

If there is one thing musicians and artists need its help from others. This business is extraordinarily difficult. Most people who try fail. How can you expect to get the help you need (trust me you need mountains of help) if you don’t help or support others. In a post Napster music business Community is King. If you don’t embrace that and step up your support you will fail.

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Unpopular Music Biz Truth – Narcissism

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Unpopular Opinion

Its not the lack of talent that holds independent artists back. Yes there is a lack of talent. But mainstream pop music is simple and doesn’t require a high degree of talent to pull off. Sure its better if there is talent behind it, its just that its not that necessary. What truly holds people back is narcissism.

I’ve spent a life time building a team of critically acclaimed award winning musicians with production chops that are out of this world. But a large percentage of the acts coming through Euphonic Sound don’t care about what my team has to say. This is so because some people are so narcissistic that they can’t compute something that disagrees with their image of themselves. Sad but true.

A musical narcissist can’t fathom the possibility that some musicians are able to hear things that they can’t. I have a few ways of demonstrating to people the limitations of their ears. One method being an ear training application called Auralia.

True story. I once sat Brownman Ali in front of Auralia and set it to the most advanced level. The dude got everything right on his first attempts. He killed it. Brownman has super powers. His ears are gigantic. Brownman is willing to come to the studio and listen to anyone’s work in progress and give feedback. Guess how many people people take us up on that offer?

I want to use my team. Brown is just one person on it. The team goes deep. I have vocal specialists, percussion specialists, string/horn specialists, keyboard specialists, post production specialists. Its insane, I have one of the best, under utilized, production teams in the city.

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Open Letter To Music Journalists

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Music journalists should really give credit to the musicians they write about.

In this weeks Now Magazine there is a review of Shad’s recent Toronto show where the writer talks about a “DJ” and “bass player” who back up Shad. He also mentions how a “live saxophonist appeared, outshining Shad’s own far out electric guitar playing…” But he never mentioned the names of the DJ, Bass Player or Saxophonist. Is that just lazy journalism? Or is this part of some cultural attitude that views musicians like second class citizens?

All I’m saying is if the saxophonist was so amazing, in the writers own words the crowd went “ape shit”, then why not tell us who he was. Its hard being a musician in Canada, not making enough income is one problem, but not even getting credit for the effort is not acceptable in my opinion.

Its not just Now Magazine writers either. I’ve seen this type of thing in many reputable publications. It’s a shame when a music journalist (who is supposed to understand the plight of the musician) acts like everyone else who doesn’t get it.

Please music journalists take the time to find out who all the musicians on the stage are. If one or two (or all of them) are kicking the audiences ass, then big them up!!!

Thank you for your co-operation on this music journalists.

James Pew
Music Producer
Euphonic Sound
Toronto, ON

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