Lana Del Rey

Maybe it’s because I wish I had lived through the 60s and 70s, and that’s part of the vibe she seems to be going for. Maybe it’s because I often like to like what everyone else doesn’t. Maybe it’s because I actually like her recorded music.

Either way, much has been made about Lana Del Rey of late. Every possible critic seems to be coming out of the woodwork to belittle her seemingly concocted image, fake lips and lack of stage presence. I’m not saying her Saturday Night Live performance in January 2012 was any good at all. It wasn’t.

Like her or not, she is doing something right, because she has plenty of us talking. As Steve Jones points out in his new book, Brand Like A Rock Star, the only time you need to worry is when no one cares. And the latest alleged news is that Lana cancelled her upcoming tour because of how bad SNL went. Either way, she’s making news and has us talking.

Remember, “good” or even enjoyable music is extremely subjective. Lana Del Rey is not The Eagles or Adele or The Black Keys, but she has her place.

I will continue to listen to Born To Die. I don’t really care if I’m supposed to or not.

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Unmet Expectations

I was just watching “Metal Evolution” on VH1 Classic. The “Grunge” episode. There were musicians ripping on seemingly grunge-influenced bands like Candlebox, Creed, etc. Whatever. My point is not to defend a particular band or era of music – that is all extremely subjective. What I do want to address is how angry people can become when their careers don’t quite turn out like they had envisioned. Be very careful to not get caught up in their negative energy. It is not good or helpful, and only makes people more cynical and asshole-ish.

Look, I fully understand there are myriad reasons to hate the realities and confines of the music industry on the whole. That is why I’m about to finish a book called, The Music Industry Doesn’t Have To Kill You. But, we all must try and get beyond crushed dreams and the shrapnel of dubious lies, and live life to the fullest.

Things rarely work out as we hoped, expected or built up in our minds – just like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. We often build things up in our minds to a point where if they don’t work out, we have absolutely no idea how to respond, other than ripping on everyone else that did make it.

Taylor Swift is one of the most talented and engaging entertainers, ever. One cannot deny the incredible “thing” she has going. She is spectacular. But I consistently hear people taking jabs at her. Why? Jealousy. Plain and simple. Taylor Swift has blown up to utterly-gargantuan proportions, and she continues to make the right moves. But I still hear that she isn’t a good singer, her songwriting is shallow, etc. Have you heard Bob Dylan “sing”?

If Taylor Swift called to hire you right now, you would gladly accept. Trust me, I saw the magic during her last tour.

Stop being negative.

It is one thing to not be a fan of something. It is another to simply try and tear it down because it’s not you.

I don’t like the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots, but I cannot deny the stellar legacy of both teams and their consistent competitive play.

Accept the fact that very, very, very few musicians will ever be rich and famous. If this is your dream, please check yourself. Don’t give up, but do your best to not unintentionally tear everyone around you down because it didn’t quite pan out like you hoped.

 

 

It’s Not Worth It

I have stood at the precipice of divorce, and later in life, entered its lonely confines. I do not like that, but I am thankful for the perspectives they brought me.

As I write this, there are two little boys asleep in their bedrooms about fifteen feet away from me. We share last names. They hang on my every action – the older one usually imitating my words and movements. There is not a single thing I would not do for either of them, but more than anything else, I cannot imagine walking away from them. The thought of purposefully leaving confused little eyes crushes my heart. Not to live motivated by fear, but consequences are good to keep in mind.

The entertainment industry can be a dark and dangerous place, and I am not referring to physical safety. The limitless temptations are baffling. Are they present everywhere else? Probably. But there is something altogether different about an industry built around mostly attractive people performing for people that idolize them. Add in long days, weeks and months on the road, in the office, or out at shows, and the issues are amplified.

I am not above any of the topics of which I write, and this is not a holier than thou discourse. Where do you think a lot of this motivation comes from? I simply want to call it what it is. When is the last time you saw an affair go well? When have you heard someone on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time in the office? When is the last time you talked with a child that enjoyed living amidst a broken mommy and daddy relationship? Rarely do temporary pleasures turn in to permanent joy.

This is difficult stuff. Let’s be very honest. In one way or another, each of us are tempted towards flashing screens that seem to light the way, but are nothing but the opposite of where we should be going. I have lived up-close with those that have taken the bait, and they will be the first to tell you it did not satisfy. All hell usually breaks loose. It may appear ok on the surface, but I have had enough conversations with those on the backend to be fully convinced that it rarely is.

Consider what this means for you. It is different for all of us. Whatever you may be silently leaning towards, it is not worth it.

The following lyrics, from one of my favorite artists, Andrew Osenga, have pierced my heart many times. The song is called “The Man of the House.”

You should have seen how I first saw her

Should have seen the way we danced

The bar became a ballroom

The haze became a trance

She kissed me like a serpent

And squeezed ’til my heart broke open wide

She told me that she loved me

Guess that’s when she crawled inside

The Story of Anvil

I knew I needed to watch Anvil! The Story of Anvil after the first review I read. Then I had multiple friends tell me I needed to watch it. For whatever reason, I finally got around to it last night, thanks to Netflix on my Roku.

Watch this documentary. Please. As soon as you can.

If you have stumbled your way to this site, I am assuming you have some interest in the music industry, or how people act in the music industry, or what to expect from it. Anvil! The Story of Anvil sums it up perfectly.

It is not a pretty place. Via the story of Anvil, you quickly see just how gruesome it can be. Not every story is Anvil’s, but let’s face it, most are.

The following quote is from Anvil drummer Robb Reiner. Keep in mind this guy has been in the same band since the early 1980s.

I hate the f*cking industry. You know? It will never change. It’ll never get better. They’re all f*cking bottom-feeder pieces of sh*t that run the thing. Organized criminals. You know? Drug f*cking runners. That’s what the business is about, right? I hate it, man.

Why a book?

As I’m nearing completion of my first book, I’m starting to be asked, why this book? Why this topic? Why am I so passionate about an idea such as the music industry doesn’t have to kill you?

There are many reasons, but as I consider these questions more, I’m realizing it’s mostly because I know what it feels like to be an underdog, and I know what it feels like to be treated like I’m not good enough.

The decision to actually write a book came about after months of realizing how much I loved writing, researching, and interviewing people via my music blog, Clore Chronicles. One day I was listening to C.C. Chapman talk about goals and accountability and just going for it, and one of the specific things he mentioned was writing a book. I thought, “Why the heck not? I am going to do that. I have passionate beliefs and ideas. Let’s do this.” That was in May 2010. I didn’t quite reach my initial publish goal of June 1, 2011, but I’m really close. And in this case, I view the follow-through as more important than my self-imposed deadline.

I also was getting really tired of constantly working to push out more information, via my blog, in an information-saturated world. You could say I retreated for a bit to put all of my efforts towards one huge goal: creating a book.

When I first started, I thought I could just pull together some of my better, already written essays, and have enough for a book. Nope. Not even close. By the way, there have been many highs and lows and near give-up moments in this process. I have often thought myself a complete idiot for making it known that I was going to write a book. What in the world was I thinking? I will say though, making it known has often been my motivation to keep going – I knew I would not be able to move forward after having shouted such an empty promise from the mountaintop.

As for my personal experiences which turned into motivation to create a book titled The Music Industry Doesn’t Have To Kill You, I have experienced some things in my life that have helped me identify, and pursue, what really matters. I have worked with artists that no one cares about, artists that don’t get your phone calls answered. I have seen firsthand what happens to personal relationships when the glitz and glam becomes more important than treating people with respect and dignity. I have worked with artists that “used to be” really popular and wanted, but now are struggling to find their identity and are adjusting to being treated like they don’t matter. I experienced a marriage that did not work out. That last one was huge. I went from working on the “Country music” side of Nashville to the “Christian music” side, and received some pretty hurtful comments and questions in the process.

I can’t tell you how many people around this fickle town have treated me like I’m not good enough, for multiple reasons. AND, far more important than that, I can’t tell you how many people around this town I’ve seen treated like a nobody. It is sickening.

There is nothing else I want to spend my life doing other than working in and around the music industry, but I am not going to lose my soul in the process, or treat people like they don’t count, or leave my precious child sitting and waiting for me in his playroom.

The music industry is not going to kill me. It is not going to rob my life of the people and experiences that will matter once every last light has dimmed, and the crowd has all gone home.

I am here to tell you that this is a dark, fickle and unforgiving industry. Artists will come, and artists will go, but don’t ever forget that each and every single one of them is a human being, with thoughts, feelings and emotions. Do your best not to toss them to the side when they’re not on your precious little chart any longer.

The music industry does not have to kill you, but settle in, it’s going to be a fight.

You probably aren’t that cool

I live and work around relatively cool people, but I am often amazed at just how “awesome” some people think they are, certainly including myself sometimes. When you are, or work around those that are remotely “famous,” it is really easy to start thinking you really have it going on. People come to you for free tickets, free drinks, party invites, job hook-ups, whatever, and you really start to think you wield some pretty rockin’ power.

And maybe you really are that cool. But I doubt it. And, when you start to “know” that you are cool, that’s probably when it’s going to quickly go off the rails, and people will begin to despise you and your arrogant attitude.

There are plenty of people I feel this way about, not only in Nashville, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, but many other locations.

I am including myself in this. I have spent plenty of time as the underdog, and have had just enough time as a “go to guy” to feel what both ends of the spectrum are like. They are very different. I hope you are able to have enough of a balance of the two to know what they both feel like. And do not forget what it felt like on the other side. It is important to know how to approach those with some power, and it is important to know what it is like to have absolutely no access. One minute you may have access, but do not forget, it could be gone the next.

Who you are associated with plays in to this, big time. Put thought in to who you closely associate yourself with. We often group reputations together. Make certain you are positioning yourself in a manner consistent with who you are. Of course there are people we would like to associate ourselves with, but simply do not have access to. Continually ask yourself if that person or company or group of people are worth the effort and potential compromises you would have to make to achieve access.

Treat people well. My goodness, I have seen some real jerks in my time, and for no good reason whatsoever. Stop and consider how you are treating people, how you’re sharing your opinion and whether or not you helped make their day better. Do you really like when people treat you like crap?

Be consistent. You want people to know what to expect when they call on you for any reason whatsoever. Don’t be a different person when you’re out late at night as opposed to who you are at home or in the office. I will never understand people that one day are super nice and bubbly, but the next seem to not even know me.

Do not meet someone two, three, four or five times. Remember them after the first time. I am not saying you are necessarily going to remember their name and every talking point about them, but for the love of God, pay enough attention that next time around you aren’t “meeting them for the first time.” I can think of multiple people I have met on numerous occasions because the first, second or third times, I was not in a position of power, or did not have access to the right artist(s). When they finally do allow space for me in their brain, I often harbor resentment towards them for being such an ass. Do your best to not treat people this way.

You may know a lot, but that does not mean you have to be a jerk about it. Sometimes it is for the betterment of all if you just keep your mouth shut. You may know this and that and whatever, but don’t be the guy that’s always spouting off and annoying the bejesus out of everyone. Over time, people do not like that person, regardless of knowledge.

Look, you are cool in some way. We all have something special we bring to this mess. Just be self-aware. In an industry and lifestyle where every single person is seemingly clawing for their own version of fame, know that your words and actions are still important, no matter the setting or context.

People are watching – don’t be an idiot.

An Anti-Piracy Rant

The more time goes by, the more frustrated I get on the piracy issue. I have tried again and again to “be cool” about it and tell myself that it will be okay, it’s just part of the “new school” way of doing things and it will all work out.

But it’s not. Not even close.

I am all about sharing my stuff and passing my interests off on others, but it never crosses my mind to copy all of my crap and let them have it, music or otherwise. And they should not feel entitled to it.

Piracy is nothing new, let’s be honest about that. Not even in the music industry. But its deep, deep impact is now being felt in a way it never has. Ten years into the digital age, I see evidence all of the time that the industry I love is drastically changing. I realize many apart from the industry love that. They are “sticking it to the man” and “getting what is owed them after buying all of those terrible songs packaged with the one good one.” Trust me, I get that sentiment. But goodness gracious, at what cost?

It baffles me that people thieve music (and other digital data) at far too many corners and carry on with life thinking it will all keep coming like it always has.

Let me be clear: music will continue to be written and recorded no matter how much the music industry of the past 40 years continues to devolve. I am not naive enough to think the mass of society cares about said devolvement, but in more ways than most want to acknowledge, it will affect what music they ever become aware of.

I have plenty of issues with the whole of the music industry of which I currently make my living. It is not perfect. Not even close. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I am one of those who really and truly loves music so deeply that I am not in Nashville to strive for filthy riches. There is truly no other industry that remotely interests me. For a while I thought I would try and work for an MLB team someday, but I realized I don’t love that industry enough to simultaneously work in it, deal with the problems, politics and injustices, and remain a true fan. I am not here to work for free, but I assure you my passion for music will sustain many a lack of ideal salary.

The Internet is the new radio. The thing is, it is far more powerful and with many more tools. Either way, it is a tremendous marketing vehicle where we learn about all sorts of new things, including music. As I write this, I am listening to a free download sampler from SPIN Magazine. Hopefully there will be a song or two that will really grab my attention, then I will very likely engage and transact with that act on some level (buying a CD, t-shirt, concert ticket, telling my friends, etc.), but for the rest that do not grab my attention, at least I was exposed to them.

Yes, one must get a product out into the marketplace through sampling, etc., but at some point free has to run out. You may get a free sample at Costco, but if you want to take more home, you have to give them your money.

Just because a transfer of (any) information can take place on the Internet, that does not mean it should be free. What is the deal with people thinking Internet actually equals free? Few things bewilder me more. I am not saying every single product in all of creation should cost something, but the bulk of products and services are not free.

I realize music needs to get better in a lot of ways, but there are plenty of absolutely amazing songs and artists coming out every year. (Have you heard The National, MGMT, The Band Perry, Kopecky Family Band, The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Fitz & The Tantrums, Mumford & Sons, Foxy Shazam, Marc Scibilia, etc., etc., etc.?)

If you’re getting off on sending a statement to the “evil music industry,” fine. If you don’t even realize that stealing music is wrong, get a freaking clue. Either way, keep in mind that the very artists that provide the soundtrack to your life are, and will continue to be, impacted if you never send any of your money their way.

Please consider not being paid for your work. Trust me, it sucks.

If I Don’t Stay on the Charts

Billy Joel did a killer job of summing up the life of a (professional) musician in the song, “The Entertainer,” from his 1974 album, Streetlife Serenade.

The song provides lots to think about for those who are, or are considering, pursuing the music business. It’s not “death and destruction,” but juxtaposes the lure of the industry, with the truths that are just around the corner. For example,

I am the entertainer, And I know just where I stand

Another serenader, Another long-haired band

Today I am your champion, I may have won your heart

But I know the game, You will forget my name

I won’t be here in another year, If I don’t stay on the charts

Ahh, it all looks so good when you see the flavor of the month being treated like royalty. But, when your “success” starts to diminish, you better have a good back-up plan in place. All of those that “loved you” will be gone.

My Dolph Ramseur Interview (The Avett Brothers’ Manager)

I am a big fan of The Avett Brothers, but there’s this amazing behind-their-scenes dude that deserves significant attention. His name is Dolph Ramseur and he manages The Avett Brothers. I assure you you would want Dolph on your team if you could have him.

Dolph manages five artists, including The Avett Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops and the everybodyfields. He is the founder of Ramseur Records.

Recently I had the privilege of catching up with one of the nicest, and most effective, guys in the music industry.

——————————–

Clore: Your genuine, honest and true love and passion for music is evident in all you do. How do you maintain that spirit when you’re actually part of the music industry?

Ramseur: First and foremost I am just a fan of music. My love of music is always the first thing I take into consideration. So if you love something you try to take care of it and treat it with respect. I try and always treat music like a lady. I also don’t even think I am in the music industry. I just represent music that I have a passion for, but at Ramseur Records, we do things totally different than the norm.

Clore: Can you give us a brief history and overview of your company, Ramseur Records?

Ramseur: I started Ramseur Records in the year 2000. I started helping English singer-songwriter Martin Stephenson. He was my guide. I learned from him what to do and what not to do. From that relationship I discovered that I could start a label and management company.

Clore: How did you originally connect with The Avett Brothers, and what were some early stages of determining you would work together? What did you see in The Avetts that drew you to them?

Ramseur: My mother told me about them first. She read an article in the local paper. The Brothers and I are from the same town. I contacted the guys and they invited me out to a show. Since we are from the same town, we connected on lots of levels. We both came from blue collar families, so hard work was just something that came naturally to us. It was expected, not something we strived for. I saw in the Brothers a lot of talent as artists, performers and songwriters. From day one I thought they were one of the best bands in the world.

Clore: It has taken years of work, furniture moving jobs and countless miles on the road to get to where you all are now. What has kept you going through it all?

Ramseur: Just believing in the artists I work for is a big inspiration. Wanting to share them with the rest of the world – my love for their music. Kind of the philosophy of them being a mix tape I am making for the rest of the world.

Clore: It is nearly impossible to put The Avetts in a single, musical category (a good thing). How have you dealt with this in your years of introducing the band to everyone you meet?

Ramseur: This has been a tough thing. I am at the point where I just call them Rock-n-Roll. We have had folk rock, rock, grass in every possible way (punkgrass, grungegrass, etc….). The guys can take music so many places.

Clore: How important are core fans to The Avetts? How do you all interact with, and reward, them?

Ramseur: Very important. Besides the songs and the performances the fans have helped make the band what they are today. We try and give them the old Nascar approach. When I was a kid, Richard Petty would sign autographs until nobody wanted one. So we went with that kind of approach. We try out best to treat the fans with the respect they deserve.

Clore: What is your favorite moment/highlight during your years with The Avett Brothers, and/or your career in general?

Ramseur: With The Avett Brothers, seeing the joy they bring to the fans. I have had so many great moments like that it would be hard to single one out. With my career in general…seeing how much my kids have been exposed to music and the arts. They are only 7 and 10, but are way beyond their years with music and art knowledge. That is something you cannot put a price tag on.

For further reading on Dolph, read Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen’s industry profile of the man.

*Originally published on July 28, 2010

Merle Haggard

Johnny Cash once told me, ‘Hag, you’re the guy people think I am.’

From Merle Haggard’s Rolling Stone interview, by Jason Fine, in the October 1, 2009 edition.

Pop Culture has made the last 5-10 years pretty easy to view Johnny Cash as an original outlaw, one of the original “bad” dudes. And he is. But how about one such as Merle Haggard, who Cash told, “you’re the guy people think I am”?

Oh, and when Johnny Cash was doing one of his famous live prison albums (San Quentin; 1958), Haggard was an actual inmate at the prison, and was in the crowd.

Merle Haggard has 40 #1 hit songs, is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was pardoned by Ronald Reagan (CA governor at the time) for his criminal past. Together with Buck Owens, he helped found the Bakersfield Sound. And according to the aforementioned Rolling Stone article, “The Grateful Dead named their 1970 album Workingman’s Dead in tribute to Haggard, and the Rolling Stones were influenced by Haggard, most directly on 1968’s Beggars Banquet.”

As I read through this Rolling Stone article yesterday, one common theme kept coming to mind: Merle really doesn’t care what most people think. Maybe he’s not made the most marketable decisions at times, but his integrity can not be questioned.

Haggard is a legend, and I’m convinced that the following sentiment is a big part of why. From the Rolling Stone article.

‘I’ve shot myself in the foot plenty,’ Haggard acknowledges. ‘I don’t even have to look back at my career to see that – I can look down at my foot. But I’m just not one to give a lot of thought to the brilliant ways to make money. I guess you’d call me a lazy thinker in that particular area, but I think more about good songs and catching a big bass than I do about how to make money. I can sit down and spend two, three weeks and make enough money for you and me both for our entire lifetimes. I’m not stupid. But I just don’t find all that much satisfaction with what the money might bring. I’d just rather do what I want to do.’

Haggard sees his maverick approach as a form of self-preservation. ‘If you compare my life to some other people who were ready to do anything they were asked to do, look where they are now,’ he says. ‘You take people who did anything to get on the Grand Ole Opry. They thought the Grand Ole Opry was the pinnacle of their life. Well, it was.’

*Originally published November 9, 2009

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