Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: music

Ben Gibbard on Writing Lyrics

“Events in my personal life might lead to assumptions that some pronouns refer to certain people, but 99 times out of 100, they’re dead wrong,” Gibbard said at the time. “When a songwriter uses the first person, the immediate assumption is that the lyric is telling a personal story, but it’s storytelling. I don’t try to be overly confessional in my work. We live in a world of oversharing, and writing a song is different from writing a tweet.”

iPad2 GarageBand Test

Now if only I had the time to play this through my actual guitar instead of tapping on the iPad…

[wpaudio url=”http://mattbinkowski.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/My-Song-2.mp3″ text=”Test Song” dl=”0″]

Movie Review: Anvil: The Story of Anvil

AnvilThose who know me know that I grew up on 80’s metal. Mostly because that’s how I learned how to play the guitar…and partially because it was the coolest thing going (sorry, INXS / Depeche Mode / Whatever Other Pouty Band You Can Name Next). I thought I had heard of every 80’s metal band, but I had not heard of Anvil. Now that I’ve watched Anvil: The Story of Anvil, I understand why.

Anvil, founded in Canada in 1973 by Steve (Lips) Kudlow and Robb Reiner (no, not that* Rob Reiner), shot to fame in 1982 with their first, and most influential metal record, Metal On Metal. Cited by Metallica, Megadeth, Guns ‘n Roses and many other 80’s era metal gods as one of the original groups to forge the “Heavy Metal” template, Anvil rapidly faded into obscurity, thanks to the now-typical laundry list of music industry landmines: shitty management, horrid tour booking and awful follow-up record production. Take those three ingredients and repeat them for the next 20 years and you have Anvil.

The story doesn’t dwell on their fireball start in the industry but quickly humanizes every member by documenting their present-day worlds. Unfortunately for them, they are unable to make ends meet purely by their music, and we’re taken along for an intimate, sobering and sometimes lighthearted tour of their shitty jobs and broken dreams. Miraculously, the core of the band (Kudlow and Reiner) remained best friends and refused to stop rocking.

Luckily, after a terrible European “tour” that was booked by a rabid, incoherent female Czech fan, inspiration strikes Kudlow on the lips. He decides to send a demo CD of their latest tunes to the original producer of Metal On Metal. To their surprise, the producer gives it a go (with the appropriate amount of funding from the band, of course) and pulls the band together to complete their 13th studio record, aptly titled “This Is Thirteen.”

Anvil then tries to go the old-school route by sending out CDs to record labels for distribution deals. It takes a few rejections before they turn to the power of the Internet and social media to get the word out. Luckily things take off and they triumphantly return to Tokyo, Japan to play a festival, and they kill. And that, my friends, is just the beginning of Anvil’s new lease on life.

With a strangely compelling and charismatic band and blindly supportive yet weary and sympathetic family members, it’s hard to imagine how Director Sacha Gervasi couldn’t make you hope for Anvil to pull it out of the fire. With great editing, great pacing, and just enough drama without seeming like it’s from a reality tv show, it’s no wonder this film won so many awards.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil, is one hell of a story. Forget that it deals with an 80’s metal band. Or they’re from Canada (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;-)). Any sympathetic human being would find this film to be moving, uplifting and inspiring. Said person might even venture to iTunes and buy their music after hearing their latest stuff. Go see it and turn it up!

Final verdict: 4 out of 5 beers. I dare to say this is the all-around best rock music film ever made. Better than It Might Get Loud, better than Spinal Tap, and better than the U2: Rattle & Hum. I would have given it 5 out of 5 if it had an amazing live guitar solo moment, but it didn’t.

Sharing an iTunes Library Between Users the Easy Way

For a while now, I’ve been trying to share my iTunes library with the other 2 user accounts on our home computer. Apple has a suggestion of placing the Library that has the music in it into a shared location on your computer but there’s an easier way that’s much more reliable.

All you have to do is log into the account that has all the music, turn on “Share my library on my local network” in the master iTunes account (iTunes > Preferences > Sharing), switch to the other user account that wants to listen to the music and open iTunes. The shared library will be in the source column and you can play whatever you want.

Remote.app Hints

This is a helpful hint if you’re running 10.4.11 like I am and would like to try the new iPhone app called Remote.

Step 1: update iTunes to 7.7.

Step 2: Go to your System Preference > Sharing and make sure Remote Apple Events is checked in the Services tab. Also check iTunes Music Sharing on the Firewall tab too just for good measure. You can leave the firewall itself off.

Your iPhone should show up in the left column in iTunes under “Devices”. It will automatically ask you for the 4 digit passcode as shown on your iPhone. Fill that in and you’re done.

They Will All Come Back

So Universal Music has decided to ditch iTunes so they can distribute their DRM free MP3s elsewhere. This has everything to do with price jumps because Apple really set the tone for music pricing. What Universal doesn’t understand is the consumer’s hatred for price gouging. At least that’s what consumers will perceive it as since the same artist’s new music will, I believe, be markedly more expensive when compared to their older work on iTunes.

Universal will also totally underestimate the rapid growth of file sharing for this new DRM free music as a protest to their pricing tactics.

My guess is that the other labels will not immediately follow suit because actual sales of the new music will be low and P2P trading will be HIGH.

Oh if there was only a way to buy stock in The Pirate Bay or mininova.

Music Notes

I just read an interesting recap of Prince’s career on the New York Times and it got me thinking about some musicians that have come into my view lately: Prince, Billy Corgan, and Buckethead.

They each have their own way of promoting their music in the digital age where everything can be copied and redistributed in a heartbeat.

Prince is by far, the most progressive digital marketer in the music industry. Forget about Steve Jobs. He created the idea of getting music to the masses via the internet without regard for piracy. In fact, he probably encouraged it because at the end of the day, his name was bigger and he was in demand.

Billy Corgan, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. He did have an interesting blog for a while but stopped updating it. It’s too bad because I found his writing to be quite interesting. It mostly recanted old Smashing Pumpkins stories and how they made it big, which is always cool to read since for me, SP just appeared out of nowhere with Gish on MTV.

Recently I blogged about the news that SP was reforming and releasing new musicin a way that flies in the face of Prince’s concepts. He created a distribution deal that was split between four major music retailers. Each retailer would only be able to sell 1 version of the new record. The difference being that each CD had 1 song that was different from the other 3 versions. Talk about bleeding your fans dry.

Then there’s Buckethead. Say what you want about the guy’s name and persona but you can’t argue with his talent and ability to get the word out. Here is a lone guitarist who usually records on independent labels yet has come up with some really interesting ways to promote himself and his music. The most recent example of his ingenuity is his simultaneous release of 13 CDs. (I have heard them, so I’m speaking from experience here.) Buckethead knows that aside from his unparalleled musical ability, his mysterious persona is a major draw. Keeping his mysterious persona in mind, the 13 CD set sounds more like you are getting access to multiple private recording sessions where he plays everything and anything just for you. There is no distracting audience noise or cheering, no overproduced tracks with 5 other musicians (can you say the new GnR?). You can easily picture just him sitting in a studio, pressing the record button, and wailing for hours, hence the CD set title “In Search Of The”. There truly are some really incredible bits in there. He’s not trying to create 3 minute hooky songs for radio. He’s letting you into the studio and hearing bits and pieces of future songs while he’s working on them.

Anyway, the truly unique aspect of this CD set is that he is personally autographing and drawing little things on each and every CD. The response to this idea has been so huge that they’re on backorder and it’s tough for he and Travis Dickerson to get them burned and out the door.

Back to the point of this post. What differs Buckethead from Prince and Billy Corgan is his use of the internet. His website is quite crude, which is odd considering that he’s been an underground music star for about 10 years now. What is most interesting about the site is the total lack of an online store. You cannot purchase music on the site, period. He only links out a handful of sites where you can get his musictypically the recording studio where he recorded the album.

What Buckethead does do is use the power of social media like YouTube. Ok, it can be debated that he “uses it” or doesn’t have time to shut people down, but either way, the popular video site is the perfect showcase for his work. Fans from all over the world post not only videos of him playing live but also their feeble attempts to recreate his musical magic on the guitar. For a musician whose “act” relies on a visual image, online video is the best thing to happen to his career. Regardless of his official stance on the site, when an artist has a bootlegged video of one song that has over 700k views, a guitar lesson with over 588k views, and another with over 442k views, he MUST be happy with those numbers. And those are just the top 3 videos. There are many more with 200k views per video.

Finally, another huge win for Buckethead was his inclusion on the super popular game Guitar Hero 2. His incredible playing and persona was the perfect fit for the game and I’m sure has introduced him and his music to millions of music lovers around the world. My guess is that the next tour he puts on will be sold out in every single venue across the U.S.

So, in the age where it seems the mainstream media proclaims that the music industry is imploding, iTunes is killing P2P sharing, individual artists are taking quite different roads to marketing themselves and sell their music.