Winter Is Rough For Musicians

Well, it’s never a surprise — January comes and with it: nothing. You wanted to be a musician, you live for the glory days of Spring and Summer when the gigs come hard and fast. When it’s warm and the days are long and you can stay out til three in the morning in your fashionable gig-clothes.

Hell, even Autumn is alright. Ordinary people come down off their summer high and settle back in to heavy-work. And you, you’re the musician! You’ve got the gigs that make the weekend worth working for! Besides, there’s Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, the Holidays and (right up to the cusp) New Year’s Eve.

But after the debaucherous night of the 31st, you wake up in a new year and it’s January and the gigs are slim. Practically non-existent. Maybe there’s that weird 50th birthday party gig you’re playing at someone’s house in the suburbs… and MLK Day gives us a three-day weekend where folks are keen to get out of the house and remember what living is.

Mostly, though, you’re going to be confronted with a lot of empty days and low-attendance nights. And, possibly worst of all, this is when you really have time to sit-down and ask yourself: just what the hell am I doing with my life?

Winter is rough for musicians. If you don’t know an eccentric billionaire who wants to fly you to Nice to live in their spare mansion and write songs about their best-friend’s yacht, you’re going to be spending a good, fat chunk of quality time at home. No gigs, no crowds, no commutes, no schlepping.

So what’s a plucky musicker to do with all the down time?

The first concern tends to be monetary. In my younger days, I would burn through what little bread I had stockpiled in the rush to take part in the Holidays (presents, Holiday blockbusters, and a, perhaps, over-zealous consumption of dark rum and egg-nog), to keep up with all the Holiday hangs (“let’s get dinner!” “let’s do brunch!” “let’s go to the fanciest coffee shop we know and drink espresso-drink after espresso drink and talk about Jeff Buckley for six hours!”), and all the Holiday drinking (see: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day). So when January rolled around all I’d have in my pocket was whatever I made NYE and some crumpled fives and singles from a pick-up cocktail party somewhere in the whole mess. They were hard winters, those first few New York Januaries. Lots of microwaved Thai Kitchens and 99-cent Arizona Ice Tea.

These days I have a little more forethought. While I’m not living high-on-the-horse come the Jan-Feb drought, I tend to be a little more aware of what’s coming.

Still, it doesn’t do to simply penny-pinch your way through the cold season. You are a musician, after all. You didn’t get into this racket for the money — man, I hope you didn’t get into this for the money. That’s a whole ‘nother article there. No, you got into this racket because you’re an artist and you dig what you do and you know the world needs it and you don’t care if you have to suffer some slings and arrows to do it. That said: it’s only money.

One of my recent traditions is to spend January first mostly by myself. I queue up some of the movies I invariably missed while I was cavorting like a heathen in Summer, I dust off my raggediest sweatpants, and I order-in. Not just a meal. No. A full on FEAST. It is the new year, after all. One should celebrate such things. If there’s going to be a lot of solitary down time, get used to having fun with it.

The second major concern? Gigs. If you’re a working musician then your philosophy is probably something very much like: I gig, therefore I am. January puts a real dent in one’s being what with the paucity of gigs to convince oneself of one’s existence. It just, basically, sucks. If you do have some gigs — its fairly damned difficult to get civilians out to them. You may be in a rather successful musical outfit that can usually pack a room and you play a show in January: its you, the bartender, the bouncer, and a stray dog. Not great for the self-esteem or collective momentum.

So I say, why worry about it then? You can’t fight Mother Nature. Don’t expect a horde of people at your January 5th CD Release show. But you can roll with the punches.

Forget about your regular band. If people won’t come out to see the band that rocked their worlds last summer — put together a musical project you’ve always wanted to do but knew had no practical staying power. That Tom Waits / Michael Jackson mash-up idea? January might the time to trot that out. The war-songs you’ve been writing for rapper, classical soprano, and bassoon? Chances are that will bring more people out than some rock covers. Three tubas, flute, acoustic guitar, squeezed pig, the narrations of your quasi-sane downstairs neighbor about his time with the Canadian Mounted Police (that’s possibly a thing), and dueling tenor guitars? I would come see that. I might still be in sweatpants, but I’d be right up by the stage.

What I’m saying is: attendance is tough in January for what little gigs you might be able to secure. Why not do your French-language Mariah Carey tribute then? The worst thing that can happen is the stray dog digs it and you get a nice bootleg recording of something that is, inarguably, sui generis.

(Yes. sui generis. I said it.)

And finally, no matter what you do, you’re going to have some downtimes. If you live where its gets cold — its gonna get cold. Some nights, its really just too cold. But wherever you are, you’ve probably got your axe. And you’ve got hours upon hours of unstructured time. We always talk about shedding — but how much time can you really spend practicing when you’ve got gigs on gigs and rehearsals on rehearsals, and sessions, and charts to write, and you have to find your tuxedo pants (again)? Now you’ve got a sweet handful of un-busy days — why not get back in the shed?

I like to think I’m like Rocky in the montage scene. I’m running behind a bicycle (or was he pulling the bike?), I’m grimacingly walloping a speed bag, I’m punching meat in a freezer. Whatever. I’m getting strong now.

Of course, I’m probably playing octatonic scales or trying to get through a Charlie Parker transcription. Or trying play that one Debussey song that everyone knows but I’ve never learned and I’m a piano player and it’s embarrassing and once I know it I will probably play every time I sit at a piano.

Point is, I’m getting fit.

In a couple of months, the weather’s gonna turn. And folks will come out of hiding and start asking you, “hey, when is (insert band name here) playing again?!” And this cold, cold winter will be but a distant memory. But, if you’re plucky, you can make something out of this enforced hiatus. You can turn the drought into your 40 days in the desert. And come back from it uttering all kinds of dopeness. And telling people how great Ant Man was if you didn’t have to pay theater price. You’ll be better at your craft. You’ll be ready for the year.

And, when some drunk couple asks you to play Claire De Lune in a bar in East Podunk some night. You’ll just smile to yourself, nod to the band, and say, “let me see if remember how that goes…”

Are You Really Listening To Your Music?

Adam D. – September 1, 2015

We’ve all seen it. Might it have been a friend or a stranger, we’ve all seen someone playing music on their phone and holding it up to their ear like a 21st-century boombox, jamming out. But they probably didn’t realize that they weren’t hearing the whole song — only a tinny buzz coming from the microscopic internal speakers of their device.

What’s more likely is that you’ve seen someone using Apple’s EarPods. With 135.5 million iPhones sold in the first six months of 2015 alone, these little white earbuds could possibly be the most used audio accessory out there (TechCrunch). Though they’re great and have been endlessly improved, these pesky headphones still have tendencies to break, slip out, get uncomfortable, or leak music into the airspace of innocent bystanders.

The premium headphone market, on the other hand, has boomed in recent years with stylish entrants like Beats by Dre which sell with matching premium prices. But there are still tons of quality options available for those who wish not to break the bank.

Music listening is at an all time high. Most U.S. residents listen to roughly four hours and five minutes of audio each day (SPIN.com). You owe it to yourself to improve the comfort and quality of your mobile music listening experience! Check out some recommendations below.

Bose SoundTrue In-Ear Headphones ($89.95)

A solid upgrade for the casual music listener, these in-ear headphones feature comfortable rubber earpieces with a flange that help hold them in place. In addition to Bose’s signature sound and design, they come with a carrying case and are sold in three classic colors.

Sennheiser HD 219s On-Ear Headset ($64.95)

These on-ear headphones offer high quality at an entry-level price. With an in-line remote control with volume control and a built in microphone, they’ll keep you connected and in control — in addition to sounding great.

ATH-M40x Professional Monitor Headphones ($99.95)

Audio-Technica offers this critically acclaimed pair of studio headphones for a very affordable price. These full-sized, over the ear headphones come with a hard shell case, a detachable cable and are collapsible for easy storage.

So, if you love music — and want it to sound as great as possible — treat yourself to some new hardware and show yourself what your favorite music should really sound like.

Why I Won’t Work For Free (And Won’t Ask Anyone Else To Either)

Sam King, Photo Credit Davide Luciano
Sam King, Photo by Davide Luciano

This is a reblog from Fieldhouse artist, Sam King. To learn more about Sam, check out his artist profile here.

Source content published on March 1, 2015 on samkingtv.com

It’s nothing new. Freelancers, artists, musicians, creative people in general, more often than not, undervalue their work. A lot of times we say we’re just more interested in creating history with it than monetizing it. The trouble with that is if we don’t value our own work why should anyone else? And if no one values it, then you can never make a living off of it.

Now I’m not even talking about the enormous levels of success most people think of when they think of their favorite musicians. I’m talking about making a living in terms that any responsible person might. We all need to eat. We all need a place to live. And we all have a desire to take care of those closest to us. To me, success in my job is happiness with what I’m doing and being able to provide for myself and my family.

So when you look at it that way, being a successful musician might not be so far off after all. It doesn’t have to be this barely achievable, 1 in a million dream that so many people make it out to be.  But just because I can define my personal level of success in smaller terms than that of the huge stars, doesn’t mean that I value my work any less.

I’ve heard a lot of people compare the work a musician does to that of other special trades like being a plumber, electrician, or lawyer. The common argument is that you’d never ask anyone in those trades to work for free, so why should you ask a musician to do it? We’ve all put in the hours and investment into our unique approach to our craft and thus it should be valued. I don’t disagree, but I do think there’s another way to look at it. Let’s be honest, if your toilet isn’t working, and you can’t fix it, you need a plumber. And he probably won’t show up for free. But if you don’t like the music you’re listening to, you can just change the station. Music is a product, not a utility. It is precious, but we can look at the value of a musician’s work differently than that of another tradesman.

In terms of ability to sell product, of course famous artists can sell more tickets, or merchandise, or just about anything than I can.  But put in terms of big business/small business, the value of their product doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the value of mine. Take any chain store and compare it to your local, independently owned equivalent. Sure, the big guys have a much wider reach and they dominate the majority of the market, but that doesn’t mean your local shop can’t still be successful. Moreover it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pay less for the offerings at the local spot. In fact, more often than not, I pay more for a hand crafted product at a local shop than I would for something mass produced. And I’m happy to. I understand that the small shop probably can’t get the same kinds of bulk prices the big store can because they aren’t moving the same numbers, and I appreciate that they are likely putting in so much more effort resulting in a more personal and meaningful experience for me. So when it comes down to it, I’m probably paying only a small percentage more for something much more emotionally valuable to me in the end. And I know that that small bit extra I pay will equal a much more powerful contribution to an independent business than it would to a huge corporation.

So back to music. If you’re looking at digital music sales, which you might consider the most common product a musician sells, I can’t argue with my ability to sell my music for the same $0.99 as the big guys. The power of digital platforms like iTunes and Spotify isn’t much different for me than it is for them. But the product a musician provides is more than just recordings. Live performance is a huge part of a musician’s product. It’s not just an advertisement for their latest record. It’s a unique experience. Just like going into that local shop and interacting with people who care about what they’re selling. The experience is the reason a consumer will stick with a business long term. And that experience is valuable; it is worth paying for.

Every musician I know has been approached at one point or another and asked to play for free. Maybe they’re offered the opportunity to play for new potential fans, or the chance to sell some copies of their latest record, or promised of the importance of whoever might be in the audience. Honestly, I’m not so much bothered by being asked. What I’m bothered by is the presumptuous attitude that whatever non-monetary compensation I’m being offered is more valuable than actual financial compensation for the work.

Advertising is a big part of business. There’s no denying that exposing your product to more people is necessary to increase your sales and growth. But as a musician being asked to work for free, I have to gauge whether the opportunity for advertising that I’m being offered is actually as valuable as the service I’m providing for whoever is asking. Are they making money off of my time and effort? Am I actually helping my business grow, or am I just boosting their credibility by increasing the perceived value of their product through my performance? The difference is important. If I’m there as an advertisement for my own product, it makes sense that I consider it time well invested. But if I’m actually just there to help someone else sell something, then essentially, I’m just endorsing their product and should be compensated for it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to donating time for a charity I support or to someone I want to do a favor for. There are times where I will work for the chance to advertise to a new audience, and I love playing music for the fun of it. In those instances I get something in return whether it is personal satisfaction or potential sales down the road. But most of the times I’m asked to work for free, it’s less for my own benefit and much more for that of the person asking. To save them the money. To make their event more interesting for the people attending. Or even to help them make more money by drawing a bigger crowd for their product.

So at risk of sounding like I’m ranting, I’ll finish up with this. I am a small business. If I work for free, I go out of business. If you want to support artists, if you truly believe in their work, it takes more than promises of exposure or opportunity. Pay them for their time. Buy a download. Pay entry at a show. We can’t pay our bills with promises.

To wrap up on a lighter note, I’m the type of artist who always gives back to people who support me. It means so much to me, so I’m happy to do what I can. Recently a fan came to a show, brought a friend, paid for entry, and bought my new record. She also gave me a big bar of chocolate because it was a few days after my birthday. I was so happy about the genuine support and kind gift, I decided to return the favor with some music. I Skyped her and her friend and sang them a brand new, unreleased tune. Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy it.

See you next time!

s

Comments on this blog are moderated by Fieldhouse Music.

How Spotify Started Paying My Rent

“How Spotify Started Paying My Rent”

(This is a guest BLOG from our good friend John Schmitt)

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2010, I met a girl, fell in love, and became completely enamored by her. Then, I had gotten in over my head and (not surprisingly now) she broke it off with me. At the time, I was devastated. I wept and lay in bed for days; I even called out sick to my day job for two days straight.

Over the course of the next 2-3 months I started to put pen to paper and write out what happened. A stream of consciousness happened, and from it I was able to write 4 new songs. One of them ended up being called “Ophelia.” It was difficult to perform because it was so incredibly personal. But I carried on performing it live, and eventually entered it into a songwriting contest… and won.

I’m not the best writer, best singer, nor best guitar player, but I get by on what feels right and honest. “Ophelia” always feels right, and honest, and most people tend to agree. I decided to make a record of the songs I wrote from the time, and I would call the entire album “Ophelia.” It would be the culmination of my painful transition into adulthood – where the stakes were higher and the feelings wider than I could have imagined before.

I made the record largely on my own dime and with the help of some incredibly generous friends and family who donated to making my vision come true. In total it cost me about $14,000. I distributed it on iTunes and all the other relevant sites, including Spotify, and I went about my daily life.

As commercial successes go, “Ophelia” was not distinguished whatsoever from any other local NYC releases, and in many ways it lacked the “sheen” (that’s my word) you might expect on a true pro release. That’s no one’s fault but my own of course, but I didn’t really know how to make a record. It was, however, the best record I could make at the time given my budget and, most importantly, my songwriting ability. As time passed once I released the album, it is not surprising that I was not looking to album sales of “Ophelia” to completely change my life, or anything close.

I made 1,000 physical copies of the album, and sold them for $10 a piece at live shows. I sold approximately 500 in the first year as I played shows, but then I started to give them away. It was more important for me to have people listen than to try and beg for their money. Once I ran out of CDs, I didn’t make new ones. I haven’t since.

I wrote off the record as a positive experience, where I lost a bit of money that was ultimately an investment in my future as a person and an artist. I think many artists reframe success in this way quite often.

I haven’t made a record since then, and started a new band in the time since “Ophelia” was released in 2011. Records don’t “tank” at my level, they just kind of sit there, like a snow globe that has settled. Mine has sat untouched for over 2 years.

I began to regularly use Spotify about 1.5 years ago, and downloaded the platform on my PC. I know my music was on the service, but I never really cared to check it out because “Spotify rapes artists,” so I was told. I was much more excited about having been accepted to Pandora, which I thought would open my music up to the entire world, and I wouldn’t have to do anything! Spotify paid portions of pennies on the dollar for providing users with unlimited access to your content, after all. Plus folks would have to know to look for my music on Spotify if they wanted to listen. I didn’t really care about the payment stuff, I just believed that I would be perceived as legit for having my music available on all these mediums that are so widely used.

So I went about my life being a working musician, and occasionally I would see money from CD Baby, my digital music distributor, but it was always because of iTunes sales – usually $30 a month that I used to buy new guitar strings.

I also started to use Spotify more, making my own playlists, saving music on my phone, finding rare live versions of music, comedians’ albums, etc. And last November, I noticed that you could see on Spotify how many plays a song has accrued over time on the desktop platform. So I started looking up my friends, two specifically. Both of them I would unequivocally describe as more successful than me in every way possible. They had about 3-4000 streams for each of their songs, more for the popular ones, and this all seemed in order for me. I considered that very good too, and knew there was a pittance in royalties for 3-4000 streams.

I decided to look up “Ophelia” next. It was hard to find at first, as I’m not a “verified artist” on Spotify (I don’t care enough about it to get the silly blue “checkmark”) and there is also a successful instrumental pianist named John Schmidt. So I searched “john schmitt ophelia” and found it.

I went to my artist page and saw the top 5 streaming songs, with the corresponding numbers of streams. They were in ascending order:

SONG TITLE:      # of PLAYS:

5. So We Sing                >1000
4. The Stone                  >1000
3. Ave Regina                  1,694
2. Two Souls                    2,891
1. Ophelia                     762,310

WHAT?? That didn’t seem right. Why did “Ophelia” have 263 times more streams than everything else? When did that occur? And, what was, if any, the financial implications of this?

I took a screencap of the number, and immediately shared it on my Facebook artist page. I was convinced this was a direct result of my best friend’s recent meteoric rise in Holland. He had tweeted on my behalf to his followers saying how much he loved my music, and I chalked this all up to that.

So I wrote:

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 2.33.22 PM

You can see I have 76 likes, and only 3 comments. Most of the likes were American – and people that I know personally. Was I blowing up in Europe because of my friend? Hardly. After a few weeks, I let it go, yet “Ophelia” kept streaming, the numbers going ever higher.

In February, I cracked a million. I remembered checking my phone each day to see how I was getting closer and closer. I still had no clue how or why it was happening.

So what the hell was going on? “Ophelia” was dead in the water as an album for about 3 years at that point, and now I was averaging about 400,000 streams every month. And, more importantly, where the hell is the measly pittance I was supposed to be paid from Spotify? No money had come in from them.

I went back to the Spotify desktop platform and search my name again. I scroll down and I see at the bottom “Playlist: Appears on… YOUR FAVORITE COFFEEHOUSE.” Huh?

So I click…

…And it takes me to this playlist created by the username: Spotify. And I see it has 250,000+ subscribers. A quick scroll down and there, lo and behold, is my 3 year old song, sitting alongside Joshua Radin acoustic versions, Ray LaMontagne, and so on. My little song! There were also some local NYC artists on there, who had once been a part of the songwriting contest I took part in, and it became apparent to me what had happened. Upon distributing “Ophelia” online, someone from the NYC Spotify offices must have enjoyed my song from that songwriting contest from 5 years ago. They must have been tasked by the company to make a list of relaxing acoustic songs, and decided to include mine and other contest favorites.

So that was it! There was no European buzz, just folks trusting the platform maker and using this pre-made playlist in their local businesses or offices, and I certainly took no offense to it.

But what about the money?! I called my distributor, CD Baby, to inquire. I was told there was a 3-4 month delay from when streams happen to when you are paid out. I would expect money from November in February or March. It was February then, and I grew impatient as the weeks went by. But how much is a million Spotify streams?

I sincerely thought I would see about $100 at best, and so I didn’t really look very hard. After all, “Spotify rapes artists.” But after a quick Google search, I saw corroborated information that said you receive about $0.006 a stream, but this is a very, very broad generalization, and can vary tremendously. So a quick math equation:

(1,000,000 stream) x ($0.006 per stream) = $6000.00

SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!? That’s completely insane! This dollar figure only made my persistence with CD Baby more intense. I even started to get snarky and say “I am an artist with over a million streams, yet you have paid me nothing! What are we going to do about this?!” I was being an asshole, but I had never been able to be so brazenly confident about my music career. They wrote me back and said to be patient, and I would see all payments for the quarter in the next two weeks. The first payment came in, for about $1300. I was expecting $6000! This no doubt made me happy to get such a nice check for doing literally nothing, but where was the rest of the money?

Looking at the numbers, the payment was for November and December, when I was only up to about 500,000 streams, and so the money, following Spotify’s $0.006 formula, would total about $3000. Yet I got roughly half that. Where is the other half?

A call to CD Baby and I’m told that they collect only the publisher’s share of the royalties, and any writer’s share is sent to my performance rights organization – in my case, ASCAP.

So I “filed an inquiry” with ASCAP, and they have been largely unresponsive in locating the money that belongs to me. That’s a problem for another article, but it is enormously frustrating, and jumping ship to another organization would be too cumbersome at this point. If you have any help you could provide me with someone at ASCAP, it would be a great help! Email me at johnschmittmusic@gmail.com.

Back to Spotify though. Today, my song has 4,200,000 plays, and has remained consistent in terms of streams per month. I have been paid over $11,000 from CD baby, processed like clockwork each month. It comes out to about $1300-1400 a month. And guess what? My rent is $1300 a month. So, you guessed it. Spotify pays my rent, every single month, so long as “Ophelia” sits on that playlist. And the price paid per stream holds up, too, if you do the math (within a few hundred dollars). They didn’t hide anything from me.

My point is, I got lucky. And because of the way the service is set up, I am now able to make about half a month’s worth of work for doing nothing. All because I fell in love 5 years ago, and writing about how bad it made me feel to have it end. I attend grad school now, play half as often as I used to, because I know my rent is going to be paid each month by Spotify royalties. So, I think we have to be careful to assign blame to organizations like Spotify. We should hold our performance rights organizations accountable, and my fight with ASCAP continues.

Another unforeseen byproduct of my success on their platform is this:

Good evening, Mr. John.

My name is Donjet. I listen to music everyday, and the other day while browsing music on the music application Spotify I came across a playlist featuring one of your songs. Immediately I fell in love with it (It was “Ophelia”).

I became more interested in your music, and decided to listen to some of your other songs. Ophelia was your most popular song, but I was surprised to see how big of a gap there was between between your most popular song, and your second most popular. Ophelia is up on 2,3 million hits, whereas number two, Two Souls is on 8000 listenings. I’ll include an image of your most popular songs.

This just shows how sad it is that the song, Ophelia, is popular because it was featured in a popular playlist. If only people would give your music a chance for the tune and the lyric, and not for where it’s featured, things would’ve been so much better.

Nonetheless, you do have at least one fan in Sweden who enjoys listening to you daily for how they make me feel when I listen to them, and not because they’re featured somewhere. Listening to Ave Regina (which is now my favourite song of yours) I could immediately feel that the lyrics were powerful, so I decided to look them up. I stumbled across your very own blog where you told the reader about this song and your inspiration. I was blown away by your thoughts where you write about where you try to avoid talking about death, but still you did in your song. It’s very brave of you to talk about it, and people like myself appreciates things like this. It gives us a better chance to truly image your songs while listening to them.

I know the album is from 2010, and I don’t even know if you’re still active, but if you are, are there any more albums in the making?

Mr. John, I want to thank you for making not just great and addictive music, but for also giving us the chance to live your songs by sharing your stories and putting them in your songs.

Best regards from your fan in Sweden,
Donjet

I receive emails like this, or Facebook messages on my artist page, about once every other week. Spotify has opened my music to people all over the world, and only after a few years of true apathy on my part. It has been inspiring for me to get back to work, to say the least.

Thank you for reading. I wanted to share my story, as it paints a different view of Spotify than Taylor Swift. I also truly believe she took her music off the service to force people to purchase the album on iTunes, where her immediate profit margins were higher. She had a hot product, and therefore did not want to reduce its cost just to remain on a platform. I have no doubt that once album sales start to come down, she will put her music back on the service, to capitalize at the albeit lower pay rate on Spotify compared to iTunes. Watch over the next few months and see if I’m right.

As for me – I’m going to make a new record. I owe it to folks like Donjet from Sweden. I owe it to my new life and new experiences. I owe it to everyone who stumbled across my songs because somebody at Spotify decided to legitimately change my life.

John Schmitt
http://www.johnschmittmusic.com
johnschmittmusic@gmail.com

John Schmitt is a full time freelance singer/songwriter in the New York, NY area. 

FOLLOW John Schmitt at:
TWITTER: @JohnSchmitt
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Schmitt-Music

In Case You Missed It: Fieldhouse’s CMJ Artist Showcase at Rockwood Music Hall

It was a wonderful week in NYC for this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, even if the weather was a bit gloomy. Alongside all the fantastic panels and other performances, Fieldhouse showed off some of their very own talented artists in a showcase at Rockwood Music Hall. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of the epic show:

Olivia Millerschin started things with a sweet and spicy set, full of witty banter and her angelic voice betraying some feisty lyrics.

Mieka Pauley rocked our socks off (and our red boots too, if we had ones to match Mieka’s) with an intense, soulful set; remind us to never get on her bad side!

Chris Ayer capped off the singer-songwriter section with his clever songwriting and crooning voice.

The Bandoleros were a rollicking good time, with Southwestern-tinged rock that had us craving margaritas. Needless to say, we can’t wait for them to officially release their material.

Caleb Hawley, a last minute addition, really amped things up with his groovy, retro sound. The highlight was difficult to choose: the multiple keytar solos or Caleb’s infectious dance moves? Either way, it was blast.

And last, but certainly not least, Chris Cubeta & The Liars Club turned the lights down low and left us wanting some more.


Many thanks to CMJ, Rockwood Music Hall and of course our incredible artists. Can’t wait for next year!

Airwaves: Rockin out in Reykjavik

(This is a guest from our good friend @PeteOlshansky)

It’s officially Autumn and for me that means gearing up for Iceland Airwaves music festival in Reykjavik. Held from November 5 – 9, music will essentially take over downtown Reykjavik for the week and there’s no escaping the tunes. If you’re music obsessed like I am, Airwaves is basically an early Christmas. If you aren’t aware, a quick Google image search will show you how beautiful Iceland is. Add a week of music and possibility of seeing the northern lights, and it’s no wonder this festival grows bigger every year. Beauty aside though, it’s the festival spirit that really sets Airwaves apart from the rest. There’s a feeling that anything can happen at Airwaves, and it just might. One minute you’re watching Sinéad O’Connor perform in a church and the next you’re at the American ambassador’s house eating rotten shark while someone plays Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the piano. Yes, that really did happen one year.  But it’s Airwaves; of course it happened!

Icelandic Airwaves concert-goers enjoying a set in hot springs

The Flaming Lips are the big headliner this year, and Sweden’s The Knife have announced that their appearance will be their last ever as a band.  Son Lux will undoubtedly bring the house down during his set, and Mercury Prize nominee East India Youth is set to make an appearance on Saturday night.  I’m excited to finally see Perfect Pussy and I’ve been told not to miss Australia’s psychedelic group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  With a name like that, you kind of have to check them out, right?

To add to all this, there’s the off venue program, who’s lineup hasn’t even been announced yet.  For those not lucky enough to get a festival wristband, the off venue program offers a chance to see music for free all over town. Anywhere you can fit a guitar, there will be a band.  The jewelry shop, the grocery store, the bus station – they’ve all have acted as a venue for folks who just wanted to play.  Bedroom Community, an Icelandic label who’s roster boasts an eclectic mix of groundbreaking artists, hosts my favorite off venue program at Kaffibarinn, a favorite local pub.  “Bedroom Community and Friends” as it’s been billed, have featured a variety of really special shows over years. Owen Pallett, Mariam the Believer, and Damien Rice have all played, as well as the label’s own stellar acts and surprise collaborations.  No doubt, this year will be equally as special.

With any music festival, who you plan to see is often not who you end up seeing.  You get distracted. You meet people. You might have a few too many beers. But there’s always a select few shows that you make a point to be in attendance for.  At Airwaves, there is obviously an emphasis on Icelandic music as it makes up more than half of the lineup.  If you find yourself at this year’s festival, it’s well worth making sure you see some of the locals. Here are 5 lesser known Icelandic acts that have made my do-not-miss list this year.

For A Minor Reflection 
When Sigur Ros needed another touring member, they called in Kjartan from For A Minor Reflection, if that says anything about how good these guys are.  Truthfully, it wouldn’t feel right to come to Airwaves and not watch them play.  From tiny bars to big concert halls, every show I’ve seen them do feels intimate, personal, and full of surprises. Their particular brand of post-rock is as dynamic as it is melodic. It can be aggressive and at times very gentle.  But what they do best , is express joy.  There are rumors of a new record in the works so here’s hoping we get a preview.
Here’s a video of them playing in the lobby of a hostel for KEXP webcast during Airwaves ’11.
Kiasmos
Kiasmos is made up of one half Ólafur Arnalds and one half Janus Rasmussen. Arnalds is best known for his classical compositions and recently won a BAFTA award for his contributions to the hit English television program “Broadchurch.” Rasmussen is the mastermind behind Faroese pop veterans Bloodgroup. While the two have sporadically dropped a song over the years, 2014 saw the release of their debut full length album. Together, the two have made a techno record that’s equally as perfect for your headphones as it is the dance floor. I’m looking forward to finally seeing it live.
Here’s the video to their track “Thrown”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQvGlXl95n4
Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Miners’ Hymns
in 2011, Fat Cat records released composer Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s score to the Bill Morrison film The Miners’ Hymns. The film uses hundred year old archival footage to document the Northeast of England’s coal mining history.   Jóhannsson‘s accompanying brass heavy score is utterly devestating and affecting. This year at Airwaves, Guðni Franzson will conduct the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in a brand new orchestration of the piece at Harpa’s Eldberg concert hall.  I was fortunate enough to see it performed once in New York City a few years ago and it has never left my mind.  This will be a real treat to see again.
“The Cause of Labour is the Hope of the World”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Rfkhg7s_M
Óbó
Ólafur Björn Ólafsson (aka Óbó) has yet to release his debut album, but his impressive musical resume boasts work with the likes of Sigur Rós, Jónsi, Emiliana Torrini, Stórsveit Nix Noltes, Slowblow, Benni Hemm Hemm, Múm, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Valgeir Sigurðsson to name but a few.  There’s a buzz about his upcoming record, and one song is available to hear on his label’s Soundcloud page.  He plays my favorite venue, Frikirkjan, on Saturday night.  My interests are definitely piqued to see what he comes up with.
 
Low Roar 
 
Recently out on tour with Iceland’s latest musical success story Ásgeir Trausti, Low Roar released their second album in 2014.  Titled simply “0”, the record is a gorgeous piece of work from front to back.  I hesitate to describe it because a lot of what makes it so good is the space they leave inside the music.  They are the perfect example of that band you want to get really famous, yet the selfish side of you wants to keep them for yourself.
Here’s the video for “Breathe In”:

Tickets to Iceland Airwaves officially sold out last week.  You can see the entire lineup at http://www.icelandairwaves.is