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Camp Bisco 10 Recap; Tobacco, Neon Indian, Ratatat

Just last night, I returned home from an epic weekend of awesome music, camping, and great people in Mariaville, NY at the tenth Camp Bisco.  Buoyed by the world-class lineup, the festival sold out for the first time in its history, reportedly packing in more than 30,000 people.

I could go into a long recap of my entire exhausting weekend, but the purpose of this article is to highlight a few of my favorite shows.

TOBACCO

To put it simply, Tobacco was unreal. While most of the festival attendees were getting Shpongled on the Main Stage, Pittsburgh-based Tobacco was laying down his ridiculous in-your-face fucked-up hip-hop-meets-rikers-island beats at an intimate set in the Dance Tent.

This set was a perfect juxtaposition to the Black Moth Super Rainbow set that Tobacco and his crew participated in earlier in the day.  Black Moth played outside during the daytime in the light; Tobacco played in a dark tent during the rain.  Black Moth’s music was played on-point to their recorded material; Tobacco brought his beats to you in real time and messed with them like you’ve never heard before.  Black Moth’s music soothed you like a lullaby sang by your mother; Tobacco’s music hit you in the face like a two-thousand pound boulder and left you bleeding.

The live drums, played by Iffernaut of Black Moth, completed the show.  She laid down a groove so hard and steady that I was afraid her snare hits were going to puncture the tent.  When I previously saw Tobacco play, she wasn’t there to play, but it made all the difference.  The live drum sound added such a rich, creative dimension to the music and allowed the vocoder and synths to shine.  A highlight for me was “Dirt (ft. Aesop Rock)” partly because I could see and hear Iffernaut’s intensity on the drums and also because of Tobacco’s ridiculous warping of Aesop Rock’s vocals.

Tobacco came out hyper-focused to this show and nailed it.  He seems to have moved away from the showmanship that permeated his other shows, such as wearing his signature basketball head mask.  This lack of distractions left him to focus only on the music and it was reflected by the quality of his set.

Tobacco has stated on his website that this was his last show in the Maniac Meat chapter of his music life. No one is sure what is in store for Tobacco or Black Moth, but here’s hoping that after leaving on such a high note, there is much, much more to come in the future.

Neon Indian

 Neon Indian, a chillwave band based out of Danton, Texas, far exceeded my expectations on Saturday.  Playing on the main stage, in the middle of the day, in front of a sunburned and partied-out crowd, they brought an energy to their set that brought everyone out of their lethargic state.

Lead singer and songwriter, Alan Palomo, was a force to reckoned with on stage (not to mention their super cute synth player Leanne Macomber).  Hair bouncing, he was like an ADHD child, running back and forth from one side of the stage, to sing with the drummer, to the other side of the stage.  Seeing him perform gave me a brand new take on their music.  From the recorded material, I could not picture the band having that kind of an energetic frontman. They performed most of their songs off of their debut album Psychic Chasms as well as a few new ones.

Using heavily echoed vocals and Korg synth lead melodies over distorted drums and heavy bass, Neon Indian really knew how to perform.  They have a new album coming out in September so be sure to check that out.

Ratatat

The coolest visuals I saw all weekend definitely belonged to Ratatat. The Brooklyn electronic duo played to a massive crowd on the main stage on Friday night and they delivered with their style of wailing distorted guitar and bass over electronic drum beats.

They played a lot of their biggest songs from their previous four discs, highlighting the show with Seventeen Years” from their debut album.  Having never seen Ratatat live before, it was awesome to see that their live show is way more exciting than their recorded material.  Too many bands (especially duos or solo acts) simply press play and treat their live show almost as a DJ set. Not Ratatat. You could see their talents on their guitars, jumping around and rocking out in almost heavy metal fashion.

Their visual reel was what I took away most from this set. It consisted of things that made me laugh, scared me, or just left me in wonderment.  During one of their songs, they had a loop of normal looking people’s faces showing different emotions.  There would be a business-looking guy in a suit nearly crying, a depressed black middle-aged woman, then two old people kissing and being happy together.  The reel was genius, highlighting the emotional impact of their instrumental tracks.

These three acts were merely the greatest of the great in a highlight filled weekend. Leave me some comments if you feel that I missed something or you disagree. Thanks for reading.

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Posted by on July 11, 2011 in Event Review

 

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MSTRKRFT Disappoints at Pittsburgh Electronic Music Festival

MSTRKRFT, a electro-house duo coming out of Ontario, has been a force on the electronic dance scene since 2006 when they released The Looks.  I have seen MSTRKRFT twice before, first at Ultra Music Festival and then at Lollapalooza, so I have seen what they are capable of.  These guys are experts at throwing a dance party.  Unfortunately for everyone in attendance on Sunday, MSTRKRFT did not bring their “A” game.  Matter of fact, they didn’t even bring their “B” or “C” game.

mstrkrft

When I first heard that an electronic music festival was coming to our small and under-appreciated town of Pittsburgh, I rejoiced.  But I was also a little skeptical.  Can Pittsburgh bring out crowds to support major acts like this? Can Pittsburgh, as a city, provide a venue that will accept, if not support, the dance music scene and its pill-popping fans instead of laying down rule after rule upon its festival-goers? These questions were answered on Sunday night at Stage AE during Pittsburgh Electronic Music Festival.

We arrived in the parking lot before the concert began, and already there were throngs of people tailgating, dancing, and having a good time.  The z-lounge brought out turntables and their own DJs were spinning house music.  People were in a frenzy and the atmosphere was electric.

We entered the festival midway through Mux Mool’s set.  The best word to use to describe the scene would be “awkward.” The sun was blaring down on the crowd, the dance floor was barely alive and there were security guards staring at everyone sitting in the grass.  Designer Drugs came on afterwards and did an admirable job of bringing people to the dance floor with their set.  Although their transitions were sometimes sloppy, they seemed to be having fun onstage and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

The 5 o’clock start time seemed like a bad idea on such a hot day. Dance music, in its essence, is for the night.  As dubstep-demon Excision came on around 8 o’clock, the sun was starting to fade, the stage lights became more vivid, and the crowd started to grow.  Excision livened the crowd and gave me hope about Pittsburgh and electronic music.  Everyone was loving it and the stage seemed primed for the headliner, MSTRKRFT, to completely bring down the house with their electro madness.

To put it simply, MSTRKRFT did not care about their set last night.  It was apparent from the first track that they were packing it in and just getting through.  Some of the songs they played were not even full songs, just unfinished ideas that they seemed to be using as filler to kill time.   Other than one chorus of Heartbreaker with John Legend, they played no tracks with vocals.  They played none of their popular songs and no songs off of their two full length albums.  At one point during the set, Jesse of MSTRKRFT, seemingly to show his displeasure, raised his arm to check his watch to see how much time was left.   At the end of their set, they just let their music run on a loop and left the stage.  A roadie from the festival had to come onstage and turn it off for them.

This diva-like act by MSTRKRFT was completely unfair to the people who paid money to see them and Pittsburgh in general.  There may not have been a Bonnarroo-sized crowd in attendance, but to at show no respect to their fans is an abhorrent and selfish act.

This is my opinion, but I suspect that there was an issue with money.  The organizers of the festival may not have broken even and may not have been able to pay MSTRKRFT their full due.  Regardless, if money is the only reason that MSTRKRFT is making music then they do not deserve to be booked at other festivals and shows.

For Pittsburgh, there remains to be seen if it can support a major electronic music festival.  Perhaps the organizers of this event were unrealistic in booking an act this big and expecting to break even.  Many festivals follow the model of gaining momentum and capital on a yearly basis before signing major acts such as MSTRKRFT. Perhaps if they started smaller with less expensive acts and a more underground venue it could be a success.

If you were there and have anything to say about this event, leave me a comment. Thanks for reading.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Event Review

 

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Where Can You Sell Your Music Online?

So you have just finished your latest EP. Your fans are calling for your music and you’re ready to put it up online. But where? You don’t want to put it on myspace. You don’t want to just put it on iTunes because you want your own store and online profile, but you don’t have $2,000 to spend on building your own website.  What do you do?

I have recently started an internship with Music Works NYC, a recording studio in the Upper West Side. My first task is to help the owner start a World Music record label called Descendant Music, so I have been researching different methods for selling the music online, through both physical distribution (CDs) and digital downloads.

The best method of distribution depends, of course, on your individual needs. Different platforms have different features. Some take a cut (usually 15-30 %) of all sales while some sites have one upfront or a monthly subscription fee.  Some take care of the physical CD sales and shipping while others are only digital.

Below is a list of a few possible methods and their advantages and disadvantages.

reverbnationlogo

1. ReverbNation

Reverbnation is the go-to spot for many indie bands to release their music. There are also pages for labels, managers, and venues.  There are many benefits for a band or label with a small budget:

  • Free to join.
  • Very simple setup.  For someone who isn’t tech-saavy, this is a great perk since you follow an easy process to help you set up your front page.
  • Detailed statistics tracking. The statistics page will tell you who your fans are, which songs are the most popular, and where your traffic is coming from, among many other interesting things.
  • Physical unit and digital download sales.  There is no initial cost but they take a pretty high cut off of each sale: $.30 from each individual song download, $3.00 from each album download, and for CD’s, a steep $5.49 per disc.
  • Facebook integration.  Through the app called “Store,” reverbnation can help you set up your facebook page to sell your merchandise. It is a free app but takes around a 30% cut for each sale.

This is a great deal for small budget music entities. A major downside is that you are basically branded by Reverbnation which is the same site that many of your competitor bands are on. So you are not able to differentiate yourself from other bands.

Nimbitlogo

2. Nimbit Music

Nimbit is another free option for starting bands.  They allow you to create your own virtual store on nimbitmusic.com complete with concert tickets and digital downloads, but the best part about Nimbit is that they give you a store to place on your own band website (provided you have a domain).  Artists like Robert Plant and Rusted Root are currently loyal Nimbit users.  For a cheap $12.95 a month, Nimbit will distribute your CD’s as well as get your music on iTunes and Amazon.com. Nimbit is a perfect distribution method for bands that already have a website and are looking to add a store function.

More benefits of Nimbit:

  • Will sell your CDs and merchandise for a modest 19% cut.
  • The store function is very easy to implement on your own website and can be up and running within 15 minutes.
  • Allows you to maintain your own brand, with a very small “powered by nimbit” stamp at the bottom of store page.
  • Tracks sales activity and gives you statistics in realtime.

A few downsides to Nimbit include only being able to host .mp3 format, double the price for managing multiple artists ($12.95 to $24.95) and does not allow for much customization of the store.

bandcamplogo
3. Bandcamp

Bandcamp is a very customizable and affordable method for bands and labels releasing their music independently.  An interesting thing about bandcamp is that albums outsell individual tracks by a 5:1 margin.  This says something about the customer base: they are here to buy albums and support the artists, not just because they heard a hot track on 99 Jamz.

Some great features of bandcamp:

  • Free to join and no setup costs. They take 15% of sales.
  • Name your minimum price for album sales: Anywhere from $8 or up.
  • Sell your digital albums in any number of file formats.
  • You can sell CD’s through bandcamp, but you must do your own shipping.

A few disadvantages to bandcamp is that you can’t sell merchandise and it does not link seamlessly to your pre-existing band website or facebook page.

Take a look at an example bandcamp page right here: Michael Garfield Bandcamp

moontoast

4. Moontoast Impulse

Impulse is an application built by Moontoast that seamlessly integrates with your facebook page to sell digital downloads. It is a very thorough app that combines the social benefits of facebook with a simple e-commerce interface.  This is a facebook-only distribution method so you may want to combine Impulse with another online store platform.

Benefits of Moontoast:

  • Very easy setup – 15 minutes or less
  • Sell physical CDs, merchandise and digital downloads.
  • No setup fee and only 15% cut off sales.
  • Conducive to sharing and social interaction on Facebook.

Of course this is not an all inclusive list; there are many more platforms to release your music on.  You could go a typical route of releasing on iTunes and Amazon, or go the independent route and build your own website with a designer such as DreamCo Design or Ten Minute Media.  You can DIY and collect money through paypal so you won’t have to give a cut to anyone. It all depends on what your needs are and what your budget is. If you have questions about anything or would like advice on which platform to use, leave me a comment or send me a message!

Thanks for reading.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Music Business

 

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listening to music through your own lens

Music has been a constant in my life. From listening to crappy 80’s music with my mom when I was five, to renting Sgt. Pepper from my high school library in 9th grade, to bumping Dr. Dre and Snoop while riding around in my VW Jetta. It has always been there. It wasn’t until college, however, that I realized that music can be “cool”.

I grew up under the guise that, hey, we are all people and we have different tastes. I may not like what you like, but I can respect it. Music, to me, is a tool to help enhance your mood, deal with feelings, or make sense of the world.  I’ve always gone by the view that my tastes are not better than yours; they are just different. He likes rap, she likes folk, I like Limp Bizkit. Its all good, mon! But this happy-go-lucky view was turned upside down by what is known as “music snobs,” or as I like to refer to them: “Kornmans.”

I've spotted a Kornman!

You’ve seen the type: the skinny-jeans-having, hipster-glasses-wearing, too-cool-for-school, judging-your-every-move type. They are probably right behind you as you read this blog, looking down their snot-filled nose at you. I can’t stand conversing to a music snob about music, and I’m a person who loves to converse about music.  This is the type that will beat your ear all day about the latest cool bands to hit the blog charts, but when you want to tell them about your amazing experience at the Coldplay show last night, they will turn away and mutter something like “ugh…so mainstream.” Well you know what, Coldplay is a DAMN GOOD BAND!!!

Viva La Coldplay!

The unfortunate thing about my foray into the music business is that I’ve noticed music snobs are everywhere. I feel like to get ahead, people think that they must be as snobby as possible.  There has to be people out there who are into music as much as me but do not have to impress others with your Pitchfork-reciting abilities.

This is partly why I started this blog: to bring together like-minded people who want to make it in the music business without having to put up with all the snobs and their bullshit. If you’re one of these people let me know. We can do a track together!  If you want it to sound like Justin Bieber’s new album, then who cares! He must have some talent……at least a little bit…..

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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