again I've taken myself out for an afternoon of songwriter conviviality-
-a gathering of folks who all have one thing in common: They all
have a CD of their own music that they are trying to sell. And one
of the places they are promoting themselves is on a website called
Amazon or other online music stores, the message from the founder/owner
of CD Baby
is one of community. Independent music-makers should bond together
and form a strong community to help each other and nurture each
other's projects, or at least share ideas about how to market and
promote one's music. Whether you're a folk singer, a jazz fusionist,
or a cowpunk-metal band, marketing the music is the one thing you
all have in common. And even though you may not care much for each
others' music, what you do have in common is the necessity to cut
through the static and be heard. Sometimes what one person did,
even though they specialize in yodeling-sea-shanties, might be workable
for your polka-disco combo in terms of getting the music to its
that end, on a recent Sunday afternoon, I found myself at "The Knitting
Factory" on Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood listening
to a pep talk from the CD Baby himself, Derek Sivers, and meeting
and chatting with umpteen dozen songwriters from the Southern California
area all with one thing on their minds: "Me, Me- -My CD!!"
Knitting Factory is a very "New York" kind of club. In fact, of
course, there is one in Manhattan. I guess what I mean is that it
has the exposed-brick-wall-and-hanging-plant-kind-of-look, with
all the air ducts and track lighting exposed along the ceiling as
well. Rather different than a lot of other Hollywood haunts, many
of which have a much more "divey" look, as they are mainly made
over (or just run down) from their nightclub heydays in the forties
and fifties, like The Mocambo and The Trocadero (see I Love Lucy
for Ricky Ricardo's itinerary) and are now known as The Coconut
Teaser or whatever. Also many of L A's music venues are sit-down
restaurants with music as an afterthought. But the room and the
mood were right to bring together a "close-knit" (oh! I get it!)
group of aspiring writers and performers.
of the afternoon was given over to shameless self-promotion, as
each took turns at the mic being passed around to introduce themselves
and say a little something about their music. The idea was, as Sivers
pointed out, "to let the jazzers find each other , and the folkies"
and whatever, so they could network and get together with their
own special interest groups. They were also supposed to hold their
intros to twenty seconds. Yeah, right. Many wanted to tell complete
life stories, or describe their music in such original terms that
it was hard to decide at times if these people were songwriters
or wannabe standup comics. "My name is Blah-Blah-Blah and I'm a
singer and I write my own songs- -kind of a cross between Bjork,
David Lee Roth, John Coltrane, and The Clancy Brothers with Tommy
Makem." I guess the common thread was that they all used a bass
player. Who knows?
songwriters are really good at promoting themselves and their music.
Others are quite shy and prefer that the music speak for them. What
this gathering showed was that many writers who are also performers
will elbow their way to the front in a room like this.
as a writer, you cannot be intimidated by these people. Some of
the best writers cannot perform their own material. I was about
to give you a list, but I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.
Oh, so what. Songwriter Jack Tempchin plays every Monday in a club
in L A. It's very entertaining because Jack is such a likeable guy
and because he has such an incredible repertoire. However, several
of his songs were cut by the Eagles, and I'm sure Jack would have
no problem in acknowledging that the Glenn Frey or Don Henley vocal
performances surpass his own. J J Cale has said he has always been
pleased when Eric Clapton cuts one of his tunes (there's another
one on the new Reptile CD). JJ has a unique vocal style,
but EC sells CDs. In other words, if you're a writer, WRITE!!
Baby is one of the more unusual sites to feature new music.
They put up clips of a few of your songs, they send out supportive
emails to help you focus on selling yourself and your CD, and they
have a vibrant spirit and I would say a good attitude. And again,
like the Just Plain
Folks organization, or this
very site and its wonderful proprietress, CD Baby is driven
by the personality, energy and vision of a REAL LIVE HUMAN. I like
that about web-based enterprises. Not some faceless corporate entity-
-but the sweat and passion of someone who believes full throttle
in what they're about and the potential for good work, and the knowledge
that they can get it done. It's as if they were on a mission.
They want you to come with them.
say check 'em
out. Go ahead. I'll wait. I'll be over at the bar bonding
with my new knit-picker friends. "Hey!! Check out MY CD!!"