Acknowledging Friends and Their Support

It seems appropriate that my first post of the new year is in reference to something I started doing before the new year began. Beginning in the last couple days of December 2016, I started to think about what type of “resolution” I wanted to make.

Now I’m not much for resolutions because I think they imply a sort of dedication that “times out” after a certain amount of time. We all make them, and we all break (a lot of) them.

But I went through all the usual ones: to write more, to exercise more and eat healthier, to try to be more positive about things in life, etc. All of these are good things to do, but it occurred to me that they all are somewhat connected by the same thread: they all are mostly in reference to myself.

And thus, I began to think about two things:

  1. How I wanted to make a “resolution” that didn’t really feel like a typical New Year’s resolution
  2. I wanted to start doing something where I wasn’t the end subject

I subsequently started sending messages. A lot of messages.

Emails, Facebook messages, Twitter DM’s, and texts to people, thanking them for what I get out of my relationships. Not the networking connections or the business opportunities (there is a different time for that type of thanks), but simply the support that comes from friends and allies. Some out there may have already received one of these messages, and others are on the way.

It’s important to me to continue to do this indefinitely. Many times friends are taken for granted, even by the most thoughtful people in the most unintentional ways. It is a necessary effort to continue to acknowledge those relationships and the people who put in time and hard work to make them possible.

Messages of acknowledgment and thanks should not be a networking strategy or a marketing ploy. They may have business benefits, but that should not be the goal.

In the coming year, I will endeavor to make acknowledgment of the positive relationships in my life (professional and personal) of paramount importance.

Life is relationships.

How to Write Like an Editor

How thinking like an editor can bullet-proof your writing.

Originally published on my Medium on December 2, 2016.

1-Kgjc4NQCIGF_UzuxC5y19Q.gif

I come from a family of writers. My parents are both attorneys, and I spent my formative years in school learning how to write bullet-proof essays. It wasn’t until long after college, though, that I really began to see writing in more lights than simply as “a writer.” In fact, it was only recently that I’ve been able to think and write like an editor.

If you look around the blogosphere, and on Medium in particular, you see a lot of the same stuff. Not the same topics per se, but the same issues with the writing. A lot of it’s choppy, half-baked, passionate but not convincing, and many times riddled with grammatical mistakes. A lot of this can be avoided though.

A lot of time people see writing as a number of things — none of them good. They see it as tedious, superfluous, nonchalant, boring, or easy.

Writing is not easy, and writing on a higher level than “just writing” is a skill which takes constant practice and dedication. But for time-sake, here’s a crash-course to make your writing tighter, stronger, and all around better.

(Note: This won’t cover non-writing aesthetic choices, like pictures, gifs, videos, etc. This is focused solely on the art of writing and editing.)

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Grammar
  2. Spelling
  3. Tenses
  4. Formatting
  5. Thesis
  6. Argument
  7. Length
  8. Style

1-HuftSD-ACZWieNRzKR5dEA.gif

Grammar

Let’s get this one out of the way early. Poor spelling and grammar will kill any piece you write. Every time. Without fail. Don’t think you’re fooling anyone — we can all tell when you’re too lazy to proofread your article for mistakes. Learn to love multiple drafts.

So Rule #1 in writing like an editor: edit your damn article.

Caveat: I’ll cover this more in Style, but keep in mind that sometimes the most readable pieces aren’t necessarily the ones that follow 100% of grammar rules. This took me a long time to learn and become comfortable with. Be at ease using contractions, beginning sentences with “and” and but,” and using slang terms like “gonna,” “bullshit,” and “fuck.” This gives your writing personality and makes it much less stilted. Just remember not to go overboard with things. If it doesn’t serve your argument, don’t fuck around with it.

Rule #1: Edit your damn article.

Spelling

We live in the era of spell-check. There’s literally no reason for spelling mistakes. If you don’t care enough to use spell-check, I don’t care enough to read it, end of story.

Tenses

This usually falls under grammar, but it’s important to break it out here. A lot of people seem to have problems with tensing, even some of the smartest, most insightful writers I enjoy reading (including hyper-successful founders, investors, marketers, etc.). It’s something people stumble over when it doesn’t make sense, and a lot of times it’s hard to pinpoint.

The best advice for keeping proper tensing is to read the wonky sentence out loud and see if it flows. If you’re having trouble with it, your readers will too. It should flow easily off the tongue, and if not, reexamine your tenses.

Formatting

Like grammar and tenses, formatting is one of those things you’ll need to take a step back on and read through an editor’s eyes. It’s one of the most tedious parts of editing, but one of the things that sets good pieces apart from complete crap.

Look and Feel: First, does it look good? If it’s blocky and hard to read, chances are people will never read it (unless you’re maybe already famous). Break things up — the “new paragraph” is your friend.

Italics, bold, and underline are essential to making something interesting to the eye, but don’t overdo it. Too much bold and you’re shouting at me; too many italics and you’re making me read a French pastry recipe.

ALL CAPS: Like bold, all caps is akin to yelling at me. Try to stay away from this. However, if you’re going to yell at me, make it count. Do it only if you really need to.

1-W2yScwD9KSLbRmEMWI_BRg.jpeg

Bullet-points: Learn to love bullet-points, but don’t go overboard. Unless it’s an article that’s meant to be mostly in list-form, don’t overdo it. Not everything has to be bulleted — I’m reading your article, not your grocery list.

Punctuation: Vary your punctuation (more on this in Style). Learn the difference between a hyphen (-) and a dash ( — ), and when to use them to break up your text.

Rule: Hyphens are for combining words (like punk-rock) while dashes are used to break sentences (see 3rd paragraph of introduction).

Quotes: Ok, say it with me now: Double quotes (“ ”) are for the beginning/end of any quotation, while single quotes (‘ ’) are for a quotation within a quotation. That means if you’re quoting an article in which the article is quoting something or someone else, you need both. Also learn when to use block-quoting as opposed to singular, smaller quotes (Medium has thankfully made this much easier for people to understand and use).

Colons and Semi-colons: For fuck-sake, do not use colons or semi-colons if you’re not 100% clear on how to do it. Your writing won’t suffer much — if at all — if you leave them out. It will suffer A LOT if you put them in and don’t know how to use them. Stick to what you know and don’t try to over-impress your reader.

For the record though: Colons usually break a sentence right before you list something, or move to a clause or phrase which is meant to clarify the previous clause or phrase.

Semi-colons break a sentence and separate two independent clauses which tackle the same thought.

[Brackets]: Last thing, but very important. Brackets are used to tell your reader that you’re changing something from the original quote, but more for formatting, aesthetic, or clarification reasons. For example, if you’re simply changing the tenses of a word from singular to multiple, just put the “s” in brackets so I know you’re making a minor edit.

Like this: “Kurt Cobain drew influence[s] from his favorite album[s] when writing the follow-up to Nirvana’s second album.”

Remember: [Brackets] are not the same as (parentheses)!!

Thesis

This is the “idea” we all learned about in 3rd grade that “goes at the end of your first paragraph.” Except that’s bullshit, and much too simple.

Your thesis is your main concept, but isn’t necessarily your “argument” (see next point) and doesn’t necessarily need to come at the end of your first paragraph. It goes wherever it fits best, though this is usually towards the top of your article.

The thing to remember about your thesis is that it’s your broad topical concept, which means it’s flexible. Flexibility is good. Don’t feel shackled to a boring, hyper-specific point. If broad works better for the sake of your piece, then go broad, and get more specific in your argument.

This is how you write like an editor: accept that flexibility is a good thing, and that there is no 1, 2, 3-step process for plugging in pieces to make a good essay. Experiment, beginning with your thesis.

Argument

I see this a lot as an editor. People confuse their thesis with their argument. They are not the same thing. Your thesis is the concept or topic you’re going to tackle; you’re argument is how you hammer your points home.

Do not, for the love of God, use the 5-paragraph essay format unless it fits your topic and article. This is meant to be a learning tool, not something you do when you actually start writing complex pieces. It’s too constraining, and makes people put in (or leave out) points depending on how many spots they have left between their intro and conclusion. Again, writing is about flexibility, not rigidity.

Here’s the big secret: make your argument fucking bullet-proof. Take a side, and pound your theory home. You don’t need to be a jerk about it, but hedging your bets and sitting on the fence is a very tough thing to do right, and takes a ton of practice. And even then, it’s really only good in certain situations.

If I can drive a truck through holes in your argument, reexamine it. Leave some flexibility for yourself so you don’t back yourself into a corner, but make your argument solid. (Hint: this is where you use all those wonderful quotes, links, and examples we’re all so fond of).

Length

This is something that’s become somewhat taboo in our bite-sized, bloggish culture. The concept of writing anything long is considered “old” and “ramble-y.” Posts that appear “too long” are labeled “tl;dr” and relegated to the bottom of the pile.

But the reality is that some pieces should be longer. Or not. It all depends on the article and what you’re writing about.

If you’re just giving me a list of things (ideas, tips, etc.), then let me know at the beginning that it’s a listicle. If it’s just a fleeting thought to consider, don’t gear me up at the beginning for a long thought-piece, otherwise when you end abruptly, it feels like the bottom has just dropped out.

But if it’s a topic and argument that demands a long-form length, then be damn sure you give the piece what it requires. Trying to squeeze too much into a bite-sized article is a sure-fire way to tell your readers you have no idea how to articulate what you want to say. There’s a reason that publications like The New Yorker specialize in long-form content: they know how to flesh out an argument, and how to do it well.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Be willing to cut. Sometimes less is more. Be honest with yourself: if those extra two paragraphs don’t serve your argument or style, kick ’em to the curb. Learn to love deleting extra junk. There’s nothing as paralyzing as “blank-page” syndrome, but there’s nothing more unsightly than flabby content that serves no purpose. If you write 3 pages and delete everything except for the 1 paragraph that’s exceptional, it’s a good day.

Understanding length and how to use it to your advantage is equally as important as understanding how to format to your advantage.

Style

Now we’ve finally come to the most important thing no one tells you about and everyone forgets about: your style is everything. It took working as an editor for me to understand that everyone has a unique style, and that’s what makes someone’s writing compelling — or boring.

Writing like an editor means understanding what style works for you, and really flexing your creative muscles with it. It means exploring the types of slang that make your writing your own, what types of structure you totally own, and what topics are in your wheelhouse. If you’re an expert in something, write like you are. If you know you’re not, then proceed more gingerly and don’t try to pretend you’re something that you’re not.

Use punctuation that you’re a master at; there’s no “learning on the job” when it comes to punctuation. Poorly chosen punctuation can absolutely kill a piece with potential.

The reader can always tell.

The irony is, the more you write about something, the more you know about it, and the more you begin to develop original thoughts on it.

Your voice is your own, and is the one thing you have complete control over. Understand that voices change and evolve over time — your early writing will look a lot different from your more mature pieces. This is a good thing. Learn to isolate what makes your writing voice special without getting bogged down in the past. Once you have it, run with it.

And that’s about it, for the moment.

And that’s about it, for the moment. I could tackle tons of other topics like introductions, conclusions, transitions, titles, citations, or writing a series of pieces, but I think I’ll save those for another day. The important thing to remember is that writing is a process. One and done isn’t how to play the game.

If you’re going to write something, get in the trenches and get dirty. Don’t make me read some half-hearted piece of crap if you don’t have anything real to say. The hard part is knowing what’s real enough to write about, so I’ll leave that up to you.

Find me on Twitter and let’s talk tech, writing, and music!

What Artists Can Learn from Startups

First Thoughts

Lately, as I’ve been changing parts of my pitch to artists, I’ve been referencing things I never thought would be applicable in such a way. Whereas it’s common to reference other music services and discuss how things can be done differently—what voids still have yet to be filled—it’s less common to discuss companies with seemingly no great musical focus.

Recently though, I’ve referenced names like Mattermark, Harry Stebbings’ The Twenty Minute VC podcast, Eric Willis’ StartupTV snapchat channel,Startup Study Group, and others because these types of things can help artists begin to think about themselves as something more than just creative minds. They can—and need—to start thinking of themselves as business people too. As startup founders of sorts.

I spoke with an artist just yesterday and referenced Product Hunt within the context of building a community. Everyone in music talks about fanbases, but the discussion usually centers around collecting people who are likely to enjoy your music. I use PH as an example in pitches because it provides a good litmus test for how a collective—be it a startup company or band—can capture me as a loyal user and evangelist despite the fact that I was never much of a tech person before.

Imagine my surprise when this artist—whom I’ve known for years and has never been heavily into tech—said that he was familiar with PH because he loves to listen to Tim Ferriss and finds a lot of his material in the podcast section. Here is exactly the approachable quality about the aforementioned entities that artists need to start employing.

Music needs to be expansive in its thought and practice. Hyper-curation is great for a lot of things, but in music, it can sometimes become a drag on potential growth. Hyper-locality is great when you want to see bars and shops near you, but not when you want to break out of the ecosystem in which you already exist. The music-streaming wars may already be drawing to a close, but the music-community wars are just gearing up.

It’s going to be an interesting next few years.

More to come on this soon.

Why the Open DMCA Letter to Congress Is About Ten Years Too Late

484816692.0

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for TAS

Four Letters, One Problem

Recode published an article this morning detailing the (mainstream) music industry’s elevated fight against the video service YouTube. Their focus? Four letters: DMCA, the 1998 law that set forth the expectations and guidelines for music business in the new millennium.

Of course it’s no secret that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is woefully obsolete and insufficient; that’s a discussion topic that has been floating around the music universe since about 2005. It was a good holdover between the end of the ‘90s and the beginning of the 2000’s, but it’s basically become the butt of every music business joke since then.

Today, though, the major label music industry is targeting it, and YouTube, as perpetrators in the perceived ongoing crime of “we’re not being paid enough for our music.” And they’ve signed up a bunch of new big guns to do the shooting.

To be clear, this is going on in the mainstream, major label music industry, not the independent universe. Though many independents similarly sneer at the inadequate abilities of the DMCA, their approach is much less writing letters of complaint and much more exploring new avenues and opportunities. The major label music universe, though, is not so adept at change. The mainstream music industry is also somewhat tone-deaf in these scenarios, as exemplified by one of their new “big guns.”

A Tone-Deaf Gladiator

The addition of popstar Taylor Swift to the “big guns” category on the fighting roster poses more issues than it solves. I’ve written numerous times how Swift’s actions over the last couple years have been not only self-serving, but outright predatory in nature. Inasmuch as legendary Eagles/Journey manager Irving Azoff needs all the help he can get in fighting YouTube—arguably an easy target rather than the sole perpetrator—he would do well to remember the flurry of shitstorms Swift has herself caused over the last couple of years.

From her mishandling of Swiftgate with Spotify to suing her own fans with no legal basis, Swift has certainly flexed her muscles before. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg, lest we forget about her hypocritical saga with Apple last year, which received all of the attention when it was resolved, but none of the attention when it came out she was exactly the kind of hypocrite she was supposed to be protesting.

In many ways, the addition of Swift to the ranks of mainstream artists “fighting against” YouTube is poetic but predictable. The real fight isn’t against YouTube, but against the obsolete major label paradigm as a whole. Indeed, YouTube itself appears to see not the changing dynamics, as exemplified by its somewhat botched release of YouTube Key last year. The fact that Swift now has an additional target for her “righteous fury” is great for journalists, but ultimately pointless in the end. If it wasn’t YouTube it would be someone else.

Obsolete Business Models and the Emperor’s Clothes

In many ways, this is the real issue plaguing people like Azoff. They don’t see how the industry is changing and thus provide a vehicle for artists to broaden their reach without seeing any benefits themselves. Royalties are the Emperor’s Clothes, and things will never be as they were. Azoff and other established veterans would do better to look for alternative revenue streams and business models rather than trying to fit an outdated model into a new paradigm.

The argument that this is simply just a public licensing-negotiations tool seems like a good one to me. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of strong-arming (Sony in particular loves this tactic, as evidenced by their dances with Spotify and SoundCloud), and it likely won’t be the last.

In many ways I feel bad for Azoff. I think he genuinely is trying to change how the business works for the better with the tools available to him. But from where he sits, I think he is unable to see how his efforts benefit others’ agendas, and do not (will not) achieve the ends he desires. I think his concept of music structure and power may be obsolete, while he leads the charge on an argument now that should have been pursued back in 2005.

His apocalyptic prediction that artists will take their music off YouTube if the service doesn’t bend is both false and irrelevant; most artists won’t because it’s simply a good avenue for them, and it’s irrelevant because the avenue of artist-to-fan is no longer linear. There are now multiple avenues, services, and tools available for this precise dynamic, and the boycotting of one is more or less detrimental only to the artist long-term, not the service. Artists know this, which is why even after all her fits, Swift relented when Apple caved and gave her exactly what she wanted; it’s a strong-arm tactic, nothing more.      

The music industry is changing; in fact it now encompasses two separate industries and universes. Continuing to treat it as one whole paradigm is a grave mistake. Music veterans as well as startups would do well to remember that and plan accordingly.


If you enjoyed this piece, ping me on Twitter and let’s talk music and tech.

The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — January 4, 2016

A new year, and a whole lot of new amazing talent! I wanted to start the year off right, and to do that, I felt that 2016 should be the focus of the first few lists. As such, just to prove how much amazing music slides right below the radar, all of the releases on the Hit List this week came out on or after January 1, 2016. That means that every single one of these dropped in just the last few days 😉 If that doesn’t paint a picture of how massive the independent music universe is, then I don’t know what will. Today I’m digging on everything from alternative-rock and metal to jazz and electronic, so check these people out! As always, albums are in no particular order, so let’s start 2016 off right. ;D

1. Metadonna – Metadonna – 2016

a0150878033_16

2. Volume 1Lilli & Chris – 2016

a1415919854_16

3. Marked Women EPPetty Morals – 2016

a1546111817_16

4. Air Me OutFather Figure – 2016

a0010696438_16

5. Malibu ClassicMalibu Classic – 2016

a0398602620_16

6. Refuse to Shine – SingleMr.Mountain – 2016

a1375774276_16

7. I WantThe Buns – 2016

a2430408994_16

8. Jessie Lee & The AlchemistsJessie Lee & The Alchemists – 2016

a0827556677_16

9. Dirty LyxxDirty Lyxx – 2016

a2040502891_16

10. Rained Out EPAugust on Sunday – 2016

a1178943367_16

11. Sons of Stave (EP)North Hill – 2016

a0561041837_16

12. Double A-SideThe Mis-Made – 2016

a0839401698_16

13. Metro Verlaine EPMetro Verlaine – 2016

a2779071732_16

14. Nervous HabitsPalisades – 2016

a4054902809_16

15. Drop ItStuck in a Loop – 2016

a2175332249_16

16. Fly CasualClosed Circuit – 2016

a1903244361_16

17. XOXOCold Hearts Club – 2016

a0691092862_16

18. Urban SkiesDaniel Wellens – 2016

a0542342217_16

19. Afterglow EPSunset 23 – 2016

a2033666623_16

20. The Next ChapterEric Grover – 2016

a1094860456_16

100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed in 2015

With all the “Best of…” lists coming out now, I figured it would be a good time to shine a spotlight on just a bit of the amazing independent music that most likely slipped right by you this year. These artists are from all over the world—the U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K., France, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Ukraine, Brazil, South Africa, China, Israel—and simply don’t live in the mainstream universe. They live right below the surface, and are proving exactly why the independent universe is the place to be for real “new music.”

Here are just 100 of the albums and EP’s that you probably missed in 2015. All were released during the 2015 calendar year, so this gives you an idea of just how small a window into the music world the mainstream actually cuts. As always, albums are in no particular order. Do yourself a favor and go listen to them. Right now.

1. Staring at the SunCherry White – London, England, UK

a2983462415_10

2. The DemosIt’s Butter – Los Angeles, California, USA

a2167932004_16

3. Bareknuckle LoveFreya Wilcox & The Howl – Brooklyn, New York, USA

Bareknuckle Love

4. RelentlessThe Nixon Rodeo – Spokane, Washington, USA

a0308159446_16

5. OmensThe Furies – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

a2017829147_16

6. Welcome to the Whist Coast (EP)Whist – Lyon, France

a0509869914_16

7. MillipedesThe Head – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

12122893_10153794581513060_6732222226407156144_n

8. Free Recovery EPFree Recovery – Guilford, England, UK

a0165140886_16

9. Save Me EPForever Still – Copenhagen, Denmark

Save Me EP

10. Vacant YouthThe Path Less Traveled – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

a0529999891_16

11. Sleeping/Dreaming EPThe Abstract – Akron, Ohio, USA

a0898810485_16

12. Where Has the Music Gone?General Tso’s Fury – Jacksonville, Florida, USA

a1360907827_16

13. For Machines EPLimb to Limb – London, England, UK

For Machines EP

14. StasisLucid Fly – Los Angeles, California, USA

a3519835405_16

15. Ginger and the SnapsGinger and the Snaps – New York, New York, USA

a0319413220_16

16. MirrorsA Light Divided – Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

A-Light-Divided-Mirrors-cover

17. Electric SymphonyAdam Singer – San Francisco, California, USA

a0702772482_16

18. The Fair-Weather FriendSaint Savage – Etna, New Hampshire, USA

a3652799582_16

19. Centaurus EPCentaurus – New York, New York, USA

a2082840488_16

20. Do You Feel Electric? EPMiss – London, England, UK

a1797370056_16

21. Fever PitchFever Pitch – Zaporizihia, Ukraine

a0562567147_16

22. The Steppin StonesThe Steppin Stones – Charleston, South Carolina, USA

4pan1t-1

23. Paint the SkyTigerface – Phoenix, Arizona, USA

CD100_out

24. EgressorThe Body Politic – Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

Egressor

25. The Lost [EP]The Beautiful Monument – Melbourne, Australia

The Lost [EP]

26. The Black Swan TheoryImber – Stockholm, Sweden

gallery_15153_2_6320

27. Turkana BoyThousand Days – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Turkana-Boy-Artwort

28. Own Your OceanDirect Divide – Monterey, California, USA

a2401838072_16

29. InsideEvenstate – Amsterdam, Netherlands

a2344956967_16

30. Bottoms Up (EP)Old Pints – Køge, Denmark

a3880151648_16

31. March in the Dark: Chapter TwoAnyone’s Guess – Orlando, Florida, USA

mitd2

32. Skies CollideSkies Collide – Brisbane, Australia

a0061180544_16

33. Freakout Hell BusBumpin Uglies – Annapolis, Maryland, USA

a2646468136_16

34. Darkstone Crows EPDarkstone Crows – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

a1963360165_16

35. Let’s Get DangerousBackyard Superheroes – New Jersey, USA

a3962207905_16

36. EgoblasterEgoblaster – Rouen, France

a1380455034_16

37. BootleggerBlack Ally – Leeds, England, UK

a3744298955_16

38. DestinationNovembervägen – Stockholm, Sweden

a3846982979_16

39. Sick Like ThisBeth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters – Cardiff, Wales, UK

11917476_535100406644539_4398596804082674013_n

40. DepthsFogscape – Greenland (Denmark)

a2753970763_16

41. Runaways EPPermission to Panic – Brooklyn, New York, USA

a0758910981_16

42. Get FreeThe Freemen – Canberra, Australia

a2329734563_16

43. BurstVenus In Aries – New York, New York, USA

a2736878877_16

44. VagabondA Reluctant Arrow – Oxford, England, UK

a0320959472_16

45. Burning Down EPNo Damn Good – Cascais, Portugal

a0975807062_16

46. FacesSydney Eloise & The Palms – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

a3598021894_16

47. West EPThe Red Harbour – California, USA

a2526882469_16

48. It’s Alright to See BlackI Shot Samo – Montreal, Quebec, Canada

a2012342064_16

49. Death of a CynicOnly Forever – Johannesburg, South Africa

a1212522748_16

50. Medicine EPLucille’s Voodoo – Graz, Austria

a4075106810_16

51. Out of OrderThe Pastures – Newcastle upon Tyne, England UK

a3785036874_16

52. Paintbox FiresPaintbox Fires – Manchester, England, UK

art,22,16,91,41834240

53. Passengers EPThe Fallen Prodigy – New York, New York, USA

Passengers - EP

54. Dais EPDais – Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Dais EP

55. DemoThird Season – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Demo

56. Fourstory EPA Black Eye Affair – Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

Fourstory EP

57. Come On Come OutThe Shooks – Lyon, France

a1032905445_16

58. AnchorsThe Wonderlife – Palo Alto, California, USA

1610946_839959682746495_636616954775477412_n

59. Rise to Fall EPAltermind – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

a0383206681_10

60. In My HeadHillary Hand – Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

In My Head

61. Take Control EPFree Sergio – Israel

Take Control EP

62. Last Known SurroundingsCarousel Scene – Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

a2699313187_16

63. Jellyfish EPBlaine the Mono – Orlando, Florida, USA

Template 505 CD 6 Panel 1 Disc Digipak SR

64. Francis Duffy & The Kingpins EPFrancis Duffy & The Kingpins – Dundee,
Scotland, UK

a2701147442_16

65. Dead Echo ParanoiaElectric Deathbeat – Finland

a0710251219_16

66. Nuclear Minds EPNuclear Minds – Gandía, Spain

a3384252813_16

67. Gloomy TunesWeakend Friends – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

a2015698151_16

68. Bring the A GameBeneath the Reef – Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK

a0653114420_16

69. Half BlueHalf Blue – Wroclaw, Poland

a4155327433_16

70. Tottie & the WanderersTottie & the Wanderers – Melbourne, Australia

a3685555222_16

71. The Black Album (EP)AggronympH – Yichang, China

a3728914741_16

72. PerceptionsAll Comes Down – Rotterdam, Netherlands

a3858047541_16

73. In Bloomyougetthewordswrong – Moscow, Russia

a0291471440_16

74. Demo EPThe Last Exposure – Sydney, Australia

a2699891154_16

75. Bring The LightElie & the Engine – Gothenburg, Sweden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

76. Blood LinesThese Little Kings – Glasgow, Scotland, UK

a2128259191_16

77. Bury Me At SeaThe Shillelaghs – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

a2189499144_16

78. Red CallingRed Calling – Tampa, Florida, USA

front coverfinal2

79. Art Capital – Art Capital – Angra do Heroísmo, Azores (Portugal)

a1525106086_16

80. Sleepless NightsNever Count Me Out – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

a2196885737_16

81. BattledWest Winds – Tucson, Arizona, USA

a3012582454_16

82. Where It EndsThe Joy Arson – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

a2089242618_16

83. StarcoastStarcoast – Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

a1460182528_16

84. AugmentNoveaux – Sydney, Australia

a0542469014_16

85. DollminationThe Inferno Doll – Santiago, Chile

a0188293633_16

86. Dreadful WorldDust Idols – Madrid, Spain

a2047697350_16

87. Revery EPRevery – Johannesburg, South Africa

a2524143683_16

88. Stories EPin Codes – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

a3559394995_16

89. Blur of Our SoulsHeavy Gloom – Moscow, Russia

cover

90. DetoursDamn Mondays – Berchtesgaden, Germany

Detours

91. Do It YourselfCount Me Out – Cardiff, Wales, UK

Do It Yourself

92. Generation DreamsTeenage Buzz – Salvador, Brazil

a3917634894_16

93. Tide of MindTide of Mind – Lørenskog, Norway

a0383453962_16

94. My Cruel Goro EPMy Cruel Goro – Italy

a1952038820_16

95. Small Town Ghost StoriesTake Me Alive – Atlanta, Georgia, USA

a1527922540_16

96. Summer Fits EPSummer Fits – Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

a4144802688_16

97. Progress of EliminationThe Infinity Process – Toledo, Ohio, USA

a2480276524_16

98. RTP EPReady The Prince – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

a3955381249_16

99. Up Not DownThe Bright Black – Manchester, England, UK

a0888809433_16

100. Will We Never Learn?The Pisdicables – London, England, UK

a1987721158_16

An Open Letter to TV Show Producers

Dear TV show networks and producers (particularly CBS, NBC, and ABC),

Enough of the cop and medical shows already. Enough.

As much as I love my Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS episodes, they get methodical after a while and I need something new. Show me that you can do more than another TV show that has some cop who needs to overcome family politics or a poor childhood or something. Show me a little imagination.

A TV show like Grimm, with a cop who must contend with being a storybook reality? Yes I’ll take that, it’s quite clever. A show like Forever, which isn’t really a cop show but a conceptualization of life and mortality? Yes, that’s something I want (and ABC, you all are foolish for axing this too soon). But unless I see a show that spins the cop-drama in a new and clever way, please skip it and give me something else. And no, a single-mother trying to make it in the FBI isn’t enough of a departure to really matter.

This mean that unless you’ve really found a way to reinvent being a police officer, I don’t want to see anything with:

  • the FBI
  • the CIA
  • the NSA
  • the ATF
  • the Navy (we have 3 NCIS series, that’s enough)
  • special police forces
  • spinoffs (if it says NCIS, CSI or Law and Order in the title, please no)
  • remakes and copouts (we have a remake of Hawaii Five-0, we’re good)
  • any police department (no more Blue Bloods clones, I beg you)
  • spies (unless it’s Burn Notice-quality, your spy show will probably suck)
  • perceptive detectives (your Monk, Psych and Elementary-clones aren’t fooling anyone)
  • cops and spies
  • cops and doctors
  • cops and lawyers
  • crime scene science (no more CSI-clones, please)
  • autopsy science (we already have Bones, we don’t need another)

If one of these sorts of pilots comes across your desk, please think very carefully about whether you’re green-lighting something interesting with a new twist, or if you’re simply recycling ideas because you’re burnt out and scared. Be a little bit more imaginative with your programming. Because I guarantee that your audiences know when you’re playing it safe (like now).

To get the creative juices flowing, here’s a list of shows that were cancelled way before their times. Yes, many of these have a police element, but they spin it so uniquely that it doesn’t feel like a run-of-the-mill cop show. It feels like something new and exciting. Chances are, you probably screwed up by canceling one of these shows:

  • NUMB3RS — (a show that’s less about the cops and more about the math)
  • Lie to Me — (a show about micro-expressions with misanthropy)
  • Forever — (a show about the concepts of time, death and mortality)
  • Awake — (a show about dual lives and the notion of living)
  • The Glades — (yes, a cop show, but with a misanthropic and comedic detective)
  • Leverage — (a badass show about funny thieves and clever con-artists)
  • Unforgettable — (admittedly a Monk and Psych knockoff)
  • Necessary Roughness — (an entertaining show about a shrink)
  • The Dead Zone — (the psychic detective deal, but way before Medium)
  • White Collar — (more slick con-artists, but with great banter and characters)
  • King & Maxwell — (the cop thing, but with interesting subplots)
  • Journeyman — (about a man who time-travels to solve mysteries in his own life)
  • The Finder — (Bones-spinoff that was actually unique from its parent show)
  • Common Law — (another cop show, but with enough witty banter to make it funny)

Thank you for your time. I suggest you think long and hard about your programming for the next year. We’ll be watching (or not).

-Me (and a lot of other people)

I Miss the Amorphous Power of Poetry

I haven’t written poetry in months. Probably somewhere near half a year at this point. For me that’s like an eternity.

Poetry used to be one of my most expressive forms of communication. I used to write so much that it became necessary to start dividing the pieces into separate collections. As of yet, most of those collections haven’t been finished to the point which I would like.

Yet what I miss most isn’t writing a poem per se, but what writing a poem allowed me to do. It allowed me to write something that could be left set in stone. It did not need to be researched, backed up, sourced, or set up as the solution to or for an argument. A poem could exist in and of itself; its value existed simply because it did.

In many ways writing poetry is easier because it allows me to just write, and look for patterns and meaning in what I write after I write it. I don’t need to start with a central thought and build out an argument around it. In many ways, it’s the same dynamic as I enjoy with blogging.

Poetry is so powerful precisely because of its ambiguous nature. The amorphous power that resides in a poem, terse or epic, is innate to its nature as a piece of writing that is purposely enigmatic. Every syllable could mean something—or it might not. Regardless of what your high school English teacher might have forced on your thought process, poetry isn’t about finding the “right meaning” that’s hidden between the words. It’s about finding the right meaning for you, something which could be very different from the meaning for the person sitting next to you.

This is what I miss most about writing poetry. Its sprightly chirping of words that could mean something, or nothing—words that could have been carefully chosen, or words that were just thrown onto a page and never wiped off. In the end, it’s irrelevant. Poetry is about the search, not the find; that’s why it intrigues me so much. I will have to write more in the coming months.

Fred Wilson Believes in Things That Everyone Else Thinks Are Wrong (But Are Actually Right)

A couple of weeks ago I attended the LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco, where I saw a number of amazing speakers over a three-day period. Needless to say the cross-country trip from Atlanta was worth it. However, despite the fact that there were numerous speakers whose points have stuck in my head since then (particular favorites of mine were Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), Chris Sacca (VC) and Tony Hawk (yes I’m a huge fan of skating and the Brown Brigade)), the speaker whose comments were most easily accessible to me was Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures).

Since the wrap-up of the festival, Jason Calacanis has published a couple of posts and tweets noting the fact that his fireside chat with Wilson was one of the most popular interviews of the whole event. This I readily believe, as I sat with rapt attention as Wilson discussed a number of topics. Actually, Wilson made so many good points during his chat that I need to dissect it through a number of posts rather than in just one.

Of particular interest to me though was one thing that Wilson said. It clearly demonstrated to me his line of thinking when it came to identifying new companies that he liked to become (or was likely to become) involved in: “Believe in something that everyone thinks is wrong (but actually turns out to be right).”

That terse statement, which Wilson actually attributes as something Bill Gurley once wrote, underscored his thinking when it comes to herd-mentality and how he identifies opportunities. While I’m sure there are certainly other factors at play, the qualifier word “wrong” is an interesting choice for his (Gurley’s) adage; it implies quite clearly that he identifies opportunities not only in areas or with companies that might be viewed as rare or unconventional, but ones which may be entirely against the grain of “logical” thinking at the time. This by extension highlights the fact that one can expect Wilson’s current and future investments to be in areas or companies wherein others might not dare even entertain the notion of involvement. He benefits from the fear factor that clears the road in front of him to make it an open highway while others see the words “do not enter.” [1]

Though I’ve followed Wilson’s blog for some time now, since LAUNCH I’ve been reading his posts with this new thought in mind. With each new post I read, there’s now that nagging question in the back of my mind: “what’s the thing in this post that Wilson has identified that others think is flat-out wrong (but is actually right)?” There isn’t always a phrase with a blinking sign screaming “it’s me!” but the point remains that with each subsequent post comes a learning opportunity to go back and reexamine a possibility that I might have dismissed earlier as a “do not enter” sign.

I’m interested to see Wilson’s posts over the next month or so. I’m curious to see what piques his interest enough to blog about it that others may have already dismissed or avoided. I suspect that Wilson’s thought process might very well be as alternative as his Egon Schiele-esque Twitter profile pic (by the way Fred, kudos on that; art-history nerds like me rejoice in the fact that so many within the tech industry use so much modern art imagery). I believe that’s precisely how he’s able to identify opportunities that others miss, or dismiss altogether.

 

Thanks to Dad for reading drafts of this.

 

Notes


[1] Wilson also stated that he had been on the board of a non-profit called DonorsChoose for a few years, which, as he put it, “does exactly, exactly what Kickstarter does” for teachers and public schools. As a result of his involvement with this previous venture, which was raising between $30-40M at the time, Wilson notes that he had a bit of an inside look at the very sort of mechanism upon which Kickstarter was building.

Why Music Journalism Bias Works

A Shopworn Adage

When I began music blogging, one of the first things I heard repeated over and over was the phrase, “you need to be unbiased in your journalism.” I heard it even more when I shifted my focus from writing about artists that everyone already knew about to ones that people should know about. As I retuned my radar (under the moniker Underground Takeover) to scan for artists that were up and coming, I noticed that the skepticism became more palpable; it seemed that writing a post slamming a new artists—being “unbiased”—was somehow a badge of honor that marked one as “a real journalist.” Yet something didn’t fit.

Me with Those Mockingbirds at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA, 3/9/14

Me with Those Mockingbirds at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA, 3/9/14

The shopworn adage that music journalists should be and need to be unbiased when reviewing music doesn’t work in practice simply because it’s based upon a flawed premise. Non-bias works well in coverage of politics and economics—however, it does not work well within the realm of music and art. Music is an individualized, subjective response to the world or to life by each respective artist. It is a contradiction in terms to try to judge that individualized, subjective response by an impersonal, objective standard, even assuming that we could agree on what that standard is. In addition to that internal contradiction, the fact is that so-called “objective” music journalism is unenjoyable to read either by the music fan or by the artist. Indeed, I didn’t—and still don’t—like writing negative music journalism. Concluding that a work of music is either “great” or “terrible,” or somewhere in between, fails to provide the reader with an understanding of the artist’s intent, or worldview, or what the artist was seeking to express by his or her creation.

Music At Its Core

At its very core, music is simply another form of art; an expression by one or more creative minds of how they see and interact with the world. As with all forms of art, you either like something or you don’t. You may like it somewhat, or it may grow on you after a period of time. All of these possibilities have nothing to do with how “good” or “bad” something is. Within the context of art, concepts of “good” and “bad” don’t exist. How can they? I’m not much of a Rolling Stones fan, but there are a ton of people who are. I’d prefer to listen to a Wipers album (if you know who the Wipers are, then I’m impressed), but my preference doesn’t make me right or wrong.

What I learned from my days in music journalism is that, regardless of what one might glean from watching Almost Famous or reading Rolling Stone, today’s world with the internet and plethora of music blogs and journalists has brought about the democratization of music journalism. This has created a new view of music journalists within the music community, both by artists and by journalists as well. This new perspective is that if you write negative pieces, you’re just some fool with a laptop and internet connection; but if you write positive pieces, then you become a credible news source. And amazingly, this new understanding of music journalism is held as much by music fans as by the artists themselves. After all, when someone attacks an artist I love as “derivative” and “overdriven,” then that journalist attacks me by extension, an action which does not engender a positive feeling in me for the writer.

Me with Sunshine & Bullets at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA, 7/5/14

Me with Sunshine & Bullets at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA, 7/5/14

I expect that the established music journalism world will say that without articles ripping new album releases, music fans will be unable to know what’s “good” and what’s not. But as demonstrated already, that line of thinking is flawed in itself since the notions of “good” and “bad” don’t exist within the confines of art at all. You either like something or you don’t—”good” or “bad” simply don’t enter into the equation. (Outside the scope of music journalism, interestingly enough, Marc Andreessen makes a similar point about journalism in general in the new age here, when he spoke last year at Stanford).

I do not advocate for writing positive pieces about music one doesn’t like. If you don’t like a piece of music, it’s impossible to fake a positive review written well enough to fool a reader. Thus it becomes clear that one should write about the music that really resonates with one’s personal tastes. Don’t write rap music journalism if you’re a punk fan. But the flip side is also true: when you’re writing about something you absolutely love and can barely contain yourself long enough to lay the words down on paper because you’re dying to get back to that song again—well your audience can also tell that, and from my experience, that’s when you have them hooked.

Don’t Be “The Enemy”

The added benefit to writing positive pieces about music you like is that you very quickly begin to develop relationships with those very artists. You will no longer be held at arm’s length—as “the enemy” portrayed in Almost Famous. Instead, as you become as much of a fan as those who attend the artists’ shows, you will benefit from reciprocal artist loyalty in most cases that becomes indispensable to you as a writer. I could never have imagined how much reputation is tied to what and how you write until I started getting emails from friends of friends of artists I’d reviewed, asking me to review or interview bands they knew, or their own bands. This opened me up to opportunities I’d never even considered but retrospectively was so lucky to be able to be exposed to (something that Steven Sinofsky talked about here, when he spoke at UC Berkley last year).

Me with June Divided at Warped Tour Atlanta, 2012

Me with June Divided at Warped Tour Atlanta, 2012

Within my own universe I began to do things I’d never thought of. Writing music articles turned into artists seeking me out to do interviews (and making themselves readily available to do so), artists sharing demo mixes with me weeks or even months before final products were released, and artists asking for my opinion, initially just as a fan and eventually as a friend. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your name in the liner notes of an album by an artist you so doggedly support.

Through all of these experiences, I became privy to things that I never could have, had I been shut out as the “enemy journalist.” Having a reputation as an “album killer” may be good for climbing the corporate ladder at an established music magazine, but it’s counterproductive in the real world of music. If you want to sit behind a desk all day and write reviews that will garner views because of how ruthless they are, by all means do that. But if you got into music journalism to talk to artists (which I do daily), to go to shows and (very possibly) get waved past security backstage (which I have been often), to get press access to festivals like Warped Tour (draw your own conclusions here), and grow a reputation as someone to be in contact with within your industry (draw your own conclusions here too), then I highly suggest reaching out with a positive keyboard to this industry.

 

Thanks to Dad, Charles Jo, Scott Menor, and Terrence Yang for reading drafts of this.