TBT / First Show Ever

TBT / First Show Ever

By the time I was in tenth grade I was a full-blown Hip-Hop head.

Later I would fall fully into Seattle’s Hip-Hop scene, but it all started with the likes of Outkast, Cypress Hill and Nas. I can remember the moment I was told Cypress Hill was uncool and what I listened to next. I remember the first Method Man verse and where I was when I heard my first Too Short song (third grade at my friend Aaron’s house, pillaging his older brother’s CD collection).

Regardless of genre, for me, live is the best way to experience a favorite song, album or artist. I’m 31 now and I’d guess that out of all of the live shows I’ve been to, the vast majority have been Hip-Hop shows. My love for live shows started at the Paramount with my first ever live show. I was probably 9 or 10 and the one, the only, Weird Al Yankovic came to town.

At the time, pretty much the only thing I listened to was Weird Al and Michael Jackson (the latter I discovered only because of the former’s affinity for spoofing his work). I’m not sure if my parents would’ve taken me to an MJ concert if I’d asked, but I only had eyes for Weird Al. That wasn’t just a show, it was my first show. It was a big deal. In my young, confused mind, it was the biggest entertainment event of, well, ever.

I went to the show with my father and my buddy Mitch. I imagine my father lost a few rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors with the other parental units but Mitch and I didn’t care. All we cared about is whether Al would open with Just Eat It or Like a Surgeon. I remember being briefly in awe of the Paramount and quickly switching focus to bothering my father about when Al would grace the stage.

Eventually the great one came out, performed his greatest hits, changed costumes between 50 and 75 times, and left again – presumably back to his place just to the right of God up in heaven. (Imagine my disappointment years later when I saw Nas live and he had exactly zero costume switch ups).

I don’t believe that my love of live shows was solidified at the Weird Al show, but the seeds were certainly sown there. No matter your opinion of Al’s craft, he can entertain the pants off of a crowd. I remember very little, but the passion, wardrobe changes and energy Al brought to the performance stayed with me forever.

What was the first show you ever attended? Let us know in the comments!

Welcome Home, KEXP

Welcome Home, KEXP

There was a time, not that long ago, when I thought KEXP’s new home was a frivolous idea. Writing that sentence is pretty much blasphemy in this town, I know.

Not that long ago, my thinking was that KEXP’s home on Dexter wasn’t good enough, but a state-of-the-art facility costing at least $15 million (!) was a swing way too far the other way.

The issue is not that I don’t like KEXP or support it. It has it’s flaws (we all do) but there is nothing else like it in this world. The role is does and can have in music and the future of music is beyond tremendous. I do support KEXP. I love it. KEXP is the reason I got into local Hip-Hop (Street Sounds, specifically).

At the same time, musicians are struggling to sell records and get people out to shows. Those same supporters should help chip in $15 million so KEXP can have a fancy-ass new home? What about the artists?

My reasoning was damn simple: Do you guys need all that square footage, a shower room, a sleeping room and all the other bells and whistles? All this shit is great for those mid to big name touring acts that already have your favor, but how will all of this shine and perks and spending help local other up and coming bands? Will you guys remember the community when you’re sitting in your shiny new palace?

But that was then. Recently, I’ve changed my opinion.

Last week when the KEXP family marched to the new facility I realized that they are the community. KEXP has gotten big and elements of it are suffering from the size and prestige, but these people are as much a part of this city’s musical community as anyone else. And they flippin’ love KEXP. They are falling out of their chairs they are so excited for the new home. They can barely speak they’re so excited.

And it’s not just that, it’s also this: For all of it’s other worts, no one else is doing anything close to what KEXP does for emergent artists. They care. They want musicians to succeed. The support and love they’re poured into local, regional, national and global music communities cannot be questioned. KEXP gives a damn about music, and know they have the home to match their heart and vision.

KEXP’s role in music goes beyond entertainment. It even goes beyond art. To me, the most important thing they stand for is community and Seattle’s is better off now that they have a physical space worthy of their ambition.

So, here’s to KEXP, music, art, community and all of the people who have helped create this beautiful anomaly and keep it running. I love that my son will know KEXP not as a radio station but as a crusader for art, music and community.

Thank you KEXP and here’s to a magnificent 2016 and beyond [clinking beer mugs emoji].

The Scariest Trend in Music

The Scariest Trend in Music

The scariest trend in music is also the most exciting trend in music: it’s the ease of music creation, promotion, and distribution by artists.

Over the last 20 years it has become increasingly easy to create mid to good quality recorded music. Now it’s easier than ever before to record and share decent sounding music, and next year it’ll be easier still. Depending on your perspective, this is either an incredible opportunity or horrifying threat to all you know.

This is a fantastic development for artists and fans, but a terrifying one for the music industry’s old guard.

Contrary to what most insiders and experts might project, the most disruptive trend in music isn’t that more people are giving it away for free or that fans don’t appear to want to pay for it. (Fans do want to pay for it and bands most certainly don’t want to give it all away for free.)

The pre-Napster music industry was built, like most hulking industries, over time to capitalize on constant and predictable factors. One of those was scarcity of quality recordings and limited access to the promotion/distribution pipeline.

The ‘Problem’

Not long ago it was prohibitively expensive and difficult to record, release, promote, and distribute your own music. Artists relied on major labels to help them record their music and share it with prospective fans.

Today, enterprising and determined artists can record, promote, and distribute their music themselves. If an artist puts in a lot of blood and sweat, they can grow their following from dozens to hundreds to thousands all on their own.

The most important ingredient here is probably the low-cost of recording your own music. The other stuff is a little more complicated if you’re not a born marketer. But for artists – people born to create – recording your sounds is remarkably cheap and easy, historically speaking.

And if you’re super dedicated, you can even book your own tours – completing the circle and making the function of major label’s operating outdated business models largely irrelevant. Mac Miller and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are two of dozens of examples that come to mind. And for every Macklemore, there are probably ten or twenty artists that find a more modest, but still sustainable, level of success.

Of course, not every artist is a natural marketer. Nor is every artist committed enough to put in the equivalent of startup hours to launch their band up beyond the local hero level. There is plenty of room for innovation in the in-between area and it has largely been filled by industry outsiders and startups like Indie On The Move, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud.

The Monster and the Elephant

Instead of adapting to the needs and desires of both fans and bands, the two biggest revenue-booting innovations by music industry’s titans are investing in Spotify and introducing all access VIP passes to touring arena acts while hiking prices to those shows. Pretty pathetic.

On the other hand, independent musicians are gobbling up market share when lumped together as one entity, dominating the minds and hearts of fans, as well as blog-space. Hungry young artists that understand technology and have no ties to the old methods of the music industry can thrive in the industry’s new frontier.

The difference between fads and trends are pretty clear. Yet the music industry largely treats changes within it as fads, routinely ignoring signs of disruption and opting to maintain the status quo rather than embracing inevitable change brought on by technology.

The monster under the bed is also the elephant in the room. Music’s largest companies and biggest stakeholders simultaneously ignore and fear the hoards of insightful, talented, genius artists producing worthy art at an unprecedented rate.

Content is King.
…Or is it?

The phrase “content is king” is super popular and fun to say. But what does it mean?

Most of the time the people saying it don’t fully understand the expression. It used to mean that owning all the masters you could would give your label more power (and more earnings). Now it means that there are more quality options for customers who now have direct access. The challenge for content creators and owners, then, isn’t stockpiling content, but determining the best way to get that specific content seen, heard, and shared. And the tools are there, so I don’t want to hear about a lack of options for reaching fans.

Embracing this flood of music could result in a resurgence for the industry and might include industry-sponsored collectives or a farm system designed like the one that helps young stars prepare for the rigors of Major League Baseball. For now, sadly, fear and stubbornness keep a trend that could save the music industry in a box labeled “Do not open.”

My advice to music’s controllers is simple: Don’t fear the tsunami of music on the horizon. Embrace it.

Embrace the technology that makes it possible. Turn the thing that haunts you at night into the most effective tool in your belt. And do it soon, because these kids aren’t going to wait for you to change your mind. They’re coming for you, and they’re coming now.