Saturday, December 10, 2011

Simply the Coolest Use of Tuning Pegs ... Ever

Trevor Gordon Hall performing his original composition, Outside the Lines.  Don't know what else to say about this video except, "wow!"


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In-Ear Monitor Repair on the Cheap

I am the king of wearing out all kinds of cables: microphone, instrument, power, headphone, network, USB, firewire - you name it. I can't count the number of cables I've destroyed over the years just by using them until they fall apart. I now make most of my cables from scratch, buying cable and connectors in bulk and soldering/crimping them together myself.

Unfortunately some cables are particularly difficult to replace - like the cables for in-ear monitors. I have three sets of Shure monitors of various vintages, and over the years I've had to send them in for repair at least 6 times - every time because the cables went bad. Now this isn't an inditement of Shure quality, as every other brand would likely fare the same given how much I use them, but it's a real pain that I have to send these things in for warranty repair every six months.

Enter Sugru, a moldable soft silicon that cures at room temperature. Here's an article about how someone used it to repair his Shure E4C earphones after running into cable issues, and another article on using Sugru for creating custom ear molds.

When I find cool things like this I immediately start to think, "What else can I use this for?" Things like:
  • Stress relief ends for cables
  • Custom molded bumpers for my guitar tuner
  • Color-coded caps for the knobs on my mixing board
  • Adding grippy-bits to guitar picks
  • Repairing the bridge on my glasses for that extra-nerdy look
  • Fashioning removable Elvis-like sideburns
  • Making snot-balls to gross out my kids

The possibilities are endless. Check out Sugru's site. They have a growing list of user-contributed uses for the product.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Promotion via Infographics

This morning during my usual coffee and feedreader ritual, I stumbled across this infographic and thought, "This is great stuff for my blog.  I must post!"  After a few minutes of digging (have I mentioned how Cheezburger sucks at attribution?) I found both the original source and an ingenious idea.

The guys who put this together run a DYI band promotion site - a decent resource in itself and worthy of mention here.  The thing that REALLY caught my attention was how they used the infographic to draw people to their site.  It's a beautiful piece of work and they're explicitly giving it away for free in exchange for linkbacks.  Genius!

So how can indie musicians do something similar?  It is in our nature to promote our music by extolling its virtues.  "Look at me!  I'm entertaining, talented and generally a good person so support me and buy my crap!"  Um - yeah - that never works, does it now?

The lesson here is that the indirect route may provide better results.  I would have never visited if it weren't for their infographic, even though it doesn't directly relate to the subject of their site.  Even before the Internet this type of indirect promotion worked.  Remember how much attention Kim Mitchell's music got when MADD adopted his song Go For Soda as part of their rallying cry?

(infographic and links below the fold)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stolen Content as a Business Model

For years much ado has been made by the likes of the RIAA and MPAA about stolen content via P2P fileharing.  The majority of this sharing has been done by random individuals with no profit motive, but what if someone figured out how to make good money on this stuff?

No, I'm not talking about Kazaa, Napster or any of the similar services that have used nefarious means to bank cash in the past (and some in the present) while standing behind the, "it's the users that are doing it" defense.  I'm talking about, who I refuse to link to 'cause I don't want to give them any search engine link juice.

I became aware of the situation earlier this week via a blog post by Matt Inman on his stupidly funny site, The Oatmeal.  It seems that Funnyjunk has copied his entire website and are using the content to make money on their own site by wrapping it in advertising.  Now that, in concept, is only mildly objectionable and can be mitigated by appropriate use attribution and link backs, but the shlong twinks at Funnyjunk went a many of steps farther to turn this into an outrageous violation of Internet ethics by doing the following:

  • Not a single bit of attribution to Matt.
  • No link backs to The Oatmeal.
  • Explicit editing of the content to remove any reference to Matt or The Oatmeal by either cropping or blotting sections of the images.
  • Defacing the content with multiple ads on site that's ugly as sin.  That's particularly insulting to Matt 'cause he's a killer-good web designer.
  • Stamping everything with their own copyright notice.

As Matt describes in his post, the buttmunches at Funnyjunk seem to make a habit of this practice, stealing content from places like The Far Side, XKCD, Dilbert and many others.

Since this was originally posted, the fecal fetishists at Funnyjunk have taken down a lot of the content at issue but certainly not all of it.  I'm still seeing a steady stream of content from the various Cheezburger Network sites, all with the same problems as before.  On the other hand, Cheezburger seems to have many of the same issues as, but that's another story.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jonathan Coulton on Success Without a Label

Yet another podcast for y'all.

NPR's Planet Money did a segment with Jonathan Coulton on how he managed to succeed without a record label by leveraging the modern wonder that is the Internet. If you're not familiar with Jonathan, he made a big splash among the Slashdot crowd with his song, "Code Monkey."

My apologies for the ugly, oversized embedded player - NPR doesn't seem to have anything more compact. Scroll to the bottom of the post if you want an MP3 version of the podcast.


Fugazi and Sloan on Abundance and Scarcity

CBC Spark did an excellent segment on scarcity and abundance in the digital age of music including interviews with Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Jay Ferguson of Sloan.

Lots of web and mp3 links below.  Even more on the episode web page.

Listen here:

  • CBC Spark Episode 149 - May 22 & 25, 2011 - web, mp3
  • Just the segment, "From Rare to Everywhere (and back again!)" - mp3
  • Extended interview with Ian MacKaye of Fugazi - web, mp3
  • Extended interview with Jay Ferguson of Sloan - web, mp3

Saturday, April 16, 2011

CMS 2010: Newworldson

The closing act at the conference was Newworldson, an eclectic soul band based in southern Ontario. Considering how they took the house by storm last year, giving the band the headline spot was more than appropriate.

The band also taught a class in the last session titled, "Fitting the Pieces Together: How We Write & Arrange Songs as a Band."  I'm sooooo kicking myself for missing it. I thought it would be a moderated discussion where the band would be asked the usual, "What's it like to work together?" type questions (yawn). Instead, they went through a process of writing and arranging a brand new song from scratch right there in front of the audience.

You heard right - a brand new song written in public in less than an hour. Wow!

Did I mention, "Wow!"?  This is the finished product as performed later that evening:

Newworldson - Selah

I also had a chance to chat with some of the band members backstage after the performance.  I'll talk about that and post some of the photos I took another time.

Here's a few other songs from the evening:

Newworldson - Commander

Newworldson - Do You Believe in Love

Newworldson - In Your Arms

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

CMS 2010: Gungor

The first act on Saturday night was Gungor.  Watch the videos, say no more.

Gungor - God is Not a White Man

Gungor - Heaven

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CMS 2010: Afternoon Worship with Jonathan Lee

In an effort to FINALLY finish up my CMS 2010 coverage I'll post the remainder of my videos in rapid-fire manner.  They've been up on YouTube for a while and it's about time I posted them here.

The song below is Beautiful King by Jonathan Lee.  We recently started doing the song in our church and it's working out pretty great.

One of the more interesting things about the music is how he promoted it at the conference.  After playing his set, anyone at the conference could walk out to the lobby and pick up a CD called, "The Worship Kit," for free.  On the CD you'd find this song along with 3 others: As White as the SnowPouring It out for You and When the Stars Burn Down.  The cool part is that the CD also included teaching videos, tabs, staff notation and files for PowerPoint, MediaShout and Pro Presenter.  If that's not a great way to promote yourself, I don't know what is.

On the other hand, Jonathan's online promotion skills aren't nearly as formidable.  I was hoping to include links here for more of his stuff but I find couldn't find any links that I felt comfortable posting.  His website is flash heavy and unlinkable, it's not clear whether the YouTube page I found is actually him or just a fan, and the preview clips on iTunes and Amazon are badly cut.  Quite unfortunate.

Nonetheless, his music is great.  Take a listen:

Note that I'm trying a new embedding method for my YouTube videos, so if you're having any problems viewing stuff, let me know in the comments and I'll correct it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CMS 2010: Workshop 4, Interview with Keith Mohr

I made reference before CMS started to this workshop when I commented on the title, "How to Get Rich and Famous in Christian Music," wondering - nay, hoping - that the title was tongue-in-cheek. Well, I am happy to report that is was.

The conference program has no description for this workshop and I wasn't at all sure what to expect. I went in prepared to turn the tables on the mammon worshipping collection agencies and preach the gospel of Creative Commons to the masses, but no such thing ended up happening. Instead, Keith Mohr disarmed me by focusing the talk on how musicians are absolutely terrible at promoting themselves to which I say a hardy, "Amen!"

It's a truism that most musicians tend to have less than refined social skills. After all, if they if they had good social skills their youth would have been spent having fun with their friends rather than whiling away endless hours locked up in their bedroom trying to figure out the exact fingering for that riff in Stairway to Heaven. Additionally they tend to believe that people will be so impressed by their musical chops that adoring fans will naturally flock to them inevitably leading to the big cha-ching $$$!

Now we all know you're more likely to win the big lottery than to have such a providential event happen, but musicians all to often hold onto that sliver of hope rather than put the work into learning how to package and promote themselves in a manner that will increase their chance of their success. This blog is a wonderful example of how I tend to do that myself - a fact I'm constantly reminded of each time I look at Google Analytics.

Keith Mohr runs the site which is specifically designed to help out musicians by making it easier by providing a portal were fans can better discover their music and learn about upcoming events. Keith also mentors many of his clients to help them refine their image and create a consistency of feel that fans are expecting.

In the workshop, Keith talked about how the industry has changed. It used to be that the brick and mortar record industry would take on all the heavy lifting of promotion and management for young and unknown bands but with the advent of the Internet, all that has changed. It has lowered barriers of entry and artists are now expected to lift themselves up by the bootstraps. The industry tends to only look at those who have already managed to attain certain heights of acclaim before even considering signing them. This ensures a more stable source of revenues for the labels but can be self defeating for the artist. Why would you hand control of your work over to a third party when you have already managed to go most of the way on your own? The value proposition is thin at best.

Keith was kind enough to grant an interview where he talks about these things. You can listen inline below or download the interview in MP3 format.

Interview with Keith Mohr of

Be sure to listen to the end of the interview where Keith was kind enough to clear rights to include a clip from the smooth jazz guitarist, Drew Davidsen. There's also a few amusing outtakes at the end including one where I totally mispronounce the name of his site.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year from Commons Musician

Happy new year to all my loyal readers. This post marks the one year anniversary of this blog and although the posts have been somewhat bit erratic, I expect this blog to continue on for years to come.

I must apologize for the big gap between posts as of late. Life has thrown a few curve balls and I had to focus my attention on matters other than this blog. I finally have time in the few days to write a few posts and complete our CMS 2010 coverage.

In the mean time articles are still being pushed quite regularly in our, "In the News" feed (subscribe if you haven't already) including a rather interesting post by Nina Paley. You can read the full post on Techdirt, but here's the summary:

In 2009, Oren Lavie shared his stop-motion animated video for his song Her Morning Elegance on YouTube. Instead of pleading with his fans to buy his music, Oren decided instead to sell original frames from the video. It's a great example of selling scarce goods rather in a world where media is no longer scarce.