Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group has been guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry eBook, Musicians’ Desk Reference. Click here for his previous blog entries.
Enough with the chitchat — let’s get down to business.For those of you that have been reading/following/listening/talking about Musicians’ Desk Reference over the past several months, you might still have questions, and that is OK. At times throughout this process I have even found myself taking a step back to consider what exactly I am doing.
In reality, that is what this entire project is about — questioning. Specifically, it's about the questions artists inevitably are faced with in the music industry. You should question it all, everything, all the time. That where this idea came from and, frankly, how I live my life. And I would say it is working out pretty well.
But the time for questions is over — so let’s see some answers.
What is Musicians’ Desk Reference? It’s a music industry progression eBook. What does that mean? It is an online platform (website) that helps artists work through common scenarios in the music industry, such as starting out, recording, promoting, touring and building a team. It is a time management system that conforms to your schedule and your level of interest. There is even a tool that builds documentation for you, in addition to the packaging, including several useful items, such as paper stock and labels for at-home printing.
This platform is designed for everyone — from beginners to professionals, and all those in between. You don’t like reading? That’s fine; you can adjust it to recall very minimal information. You like reading thousands of lines worth of information? Well, friend, you’re in luck. Click away on our lists and just let us know you’re okay a few months after filling your head with useful and practical information. If you are a musician that is interested in furthering your career to any degree — from a local to a national level — this eBook is for you.
Where did this come from? Me, actually. I am a musician and have been for half my life. I have spent years in vans, trailers, buses, airplanes, trains and even on boats playing original music all over the world. I have always been fascinated with the music industry and how it works, always wondering why things happened the way that they do.
This fascination led me start The Counter Rhythm Group, an artist development/marketing/event promotion company — built by artists, for artists — offering assistance groups that are younger and newer than ones traditionally serviced. TCRG has worked to develop a range of artists, from those that are still just starting out to some that you can hear on commercial radio stations, all over the course of almost three years. When the requests outnumbered the amount of work we could handle, I decided to build a public platform based on our actual working models. Fast-forward to the present day and you have Musicians’ Desk Reference.
We have worked tirelessly for months (beyond the almost two years of development) building a robust product that is jam-packed with information for the user and I can honestly say that we are still impressed, even after staring at it for hours on end. We’ve even been testing the specifics on a young Cincinnati-based band called PUBLIC, and we are proud to say that things are going very well.
The best part is that the wait is almost over. I am very excited to announce that Musicians’ Desk Reference will be available exclusively to the Cincinnati market at CityBeat’s Midpoint Music Festival, three weeks ahead of the national launch in New York City at the CMJ Music Marathon.
Hear that, Cincinnati? We love you so much that we are giving you the opportunity to have this in your hands well before anyone else does.
What’s that? You want more? All right!
We are also partnering with the fine folks at Midpoint Music Festival as a sponsor, offering a complimentary full version of the eBook to all showcasing artists. That’s right, you play and it’s yours! But what if you did not get selected to the festival but still want a copy? We will be on-hand all three days at our sponsorship tent— located at the MidPoint Midway Stage at Twelfth and Vine streets (right next to the MPMF box office) — selling the eBook for 25% off its regular retail price. We will also be presenting live demos of the site with the development team available for questions.
I could not be more proud of the work that has gone into
this project and I am forever in debt to the dedicated folks that have
been behind me from the start (including CityBeat music guy Mike
Breen — someone please give that man a gift basket full of money for all
he does for the Cincinnati music scene). (Editor's note #2: Large, unmarked bills only, please.)
We really hope to level the playing field in the music industry with Musicians’ Desk Reference, educating artists and helping them to build a strong foundation to work from. We all have a similar goal for success in mind, however we define it, and I want this project to give every individual that chance.
As artists, let’s take pride in our actions and help our peers. Let’s step away from the competitive mentality and work together instead of against each other. Let’s form a music community and celebrate the opportunities that are available to us. This is our industry and this is our time. Musicians’ Desk Reference: Empowering Artists to Progress Through the Modern Music Industry.
Here is an introductory video for MDR's release:
The MidPoint Music Festival countdown is down to just 3 days, kicking off this Thursday. Here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
Freelance Whales (Queens, NY)
Baroque Indie Electro Pop
Frontman Judah Dadone founded Freelance Whales in 2008 and recorded much of the band's lauded, self-released debut album from late 2009, Weathervanes (reissued by Frenchkiss and Mom + Pop in 2010). The band not only scored a lot of fans based on the album, but also a ton of licensing (for a variety of films and TV shows). The band's consistent international touring, external exposure and word-of-mouth PR has built anticipation for its new album, Diluvia, to a fever pitch. The LP is set for an Oct. 9 release (MPMF serves as the opening date on the band's tour behind the record). Freelance Whales' mix of electronic sounds and Chamber Folk ideals has led them to be compared to everyone from The Postal Service to Sufjan Stevens.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Sufjan Stevens making a Postal Service album; Postal Service making a Sufjan album. (Mike Breen)
Freelance Whales (their name, if you're wondering, was inspired by the huge amount of "freelancers" working in NYC) performs Saturday in Washington Park at 7 p.m. (taking the slot vacated by Sleigh Bells). Here's a new track from Diluvia, "Spitting Image."
Leogun (London, UK)
Rock & Roll
With “big breaks” today mostly coming in the form of internet exposure, London trio Leogun’s big-time entry into the music biz was decidedly old-fashioned. Singer/guitarist Tommy Smith snuck into an Eagles of Heavy Metal show in London and met an industry heavyweight who introduced him to Elton John’s Rocket Music Management. From there, the band became the first band signed to instrument-maker Yamaha’s new record label. Leogun went to Nashville to lay down some of their timeless, passionate Rock & Roll, the first results of which are set for an EP due Oct. 16 (a full-length is planned for 2013). Leogun’s transcendent take on vintage Blues-inspired Rock & Roll is strong enough to earn them one the “bands most likely to return soon for an arena show” awards from this year’s MPMF.
Dig: Wolfmother, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age. (MB)
Leogun performs at The Drinkery Saturday at 12:30 a.m. Here's the band's new single and video, "Let's Be Friends," which just premiered on MTV.com.
Not cool, MPMF thieves. A pair of guitars were stolen from Nashville's Turbo Fruits last night before the band closed out the festival's first night at The Drinkery in Over-the-Rhine. Here's the skinny:
"Both of Kingsley's guitars went missing from the 2nd level green room at The Drinkery (1150 Main St) in Cincinatti last night before our MPMF show. These guitars have a lot of sentimental value and we're looking for any leads or suggestions for pawn shops, etc. where we might track them down. One is a 1994 american fender stratocaster 40th anniversary model. The other is a 70's aria les Paul with original bigsby and an original 70's Gibson case. Its Tobacco burst with old locking tuning keys with the screw to the locking tuner key on the high e missing. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of the Strat above.
MPMF news and musings: Kick-ass longtime MPMF sponsor Dewey's Pizza is giving away a trio of special "Next Level Experience" passes for you and two of your closest friends (or, I suppose, you could give them to people you hate, though that would just be kinda weird).
If you win, you'll receive a three-day wristband and one night at the Dewey's Pizza/Grammer's stage in the best seat in the house (which appears to be a couch positioned very close to the stage). For more on Dewey's Next Level Experience contest, click here.
And now, with the countdown down to just 13 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks, today featuring all Ohio artists …
Cloud Nothings (Cleveland, OH)
From his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi created and released several acclaimed lo-fi recordings as Cloud Nothings before his 2009 EP, Turning On, pinged the critics’ radar and scored positive reviews on all the right blogs. Almost immediately, Baldi had to assemble a band to play the gigs that were offered to him, resulting in lots of touring and his slightly shinier 2011 self-titled full-length. This year has seen the release of the even more expansive Attack on Memory and a string of upcoming opening dates for Silversun Pickups. Not a bad three years for a Hardcore obsessed kid from Cleveland.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The idea of Tommy Keene and Kevin Seconds stirring up some Pop and some Punk for a Husker Du tribute. (Brian Baker)
Cloud Nothings perform at Midnight on Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club. Here's the official music video for Cloud Nothings' "No Future/No Past."
Great news, y’all! I made it through another MidPoint without getting raped or mugged. (Getting mugged might not be so bad, though. “No, officer, it was definitely not me who bought Duck Dynasty underwear at Walmart.”) I know you were concerned for my safety.
I did MPMF quite a bit differently than I have in years past and I have to say, I think it contributed to it being the best one yet for me.
First, I forwent going with friends. I like my friends in small doses and on a couch talking about TV and girlfriends/boyfriends. Trying to coordinate concert plans with them, though, has always been an ordeal. Some of us are more hipster than others. Going it alone sometimes feels slightly sketchy, but mostly I think it helped my experience. I wasn’t forced to stand in any hot, cram packed rooms to see bands I was less-than-thrilled to see.
Second, I decided to spend my entire Saturday night in just one venue. I did this for a few reasons: 1) Everyone I wanted to see was in that venue; 2) Cheap parking close-by. Therefore, I spent my Saturday night either pacing around outside the Taft Theatre or swaying back and forth inside the Taft’s Ballroom.
And, ya know what? I had a damn good time.
The Taft is my favorite venue in town. Whether it’s in the seated portion or down in the basement, it just has an amazing vibe. I love those bright white bulb-lights out front around the marquee. It makes the whole place sparkle. It just looks like you could pick it up and sit it in the middle of Gatsby’s New York City. Downtown Cincy has plenty of art deco touches that I dearly love. However, nothing makes me feel more fancy and more ready for a special night than standing outside the Taft. In addition, the basement Ballroom, where all three of Saturday’s bands performed, has this comfortable, almost sexy darkness to it. You could get into a little bit of trouble in some of those shadowed corners. I wouldn’t judge you if you have. I might be disappointed you never invited me, though.
Bear’s Den opened the night and, since I’d seen them recently, I didn’t feel too bad when I spent the better part of their set outside on the phone. It gave me the chance to people watch, which is always a ton of fun at MidPoint. MPMF pulls in a jumbled assortment of people to tramp around downtown with their wristbands. I saw people my parents’ age, dressed rather fancifully, chat with security and then slip down into the basement. I also saw an insane amount of frat guys, plus one very drunk Reds fan and his seriously concerned girlfriend. (I still don’t know why she unleashed her concern to me. But I really hope she finds a new date for next year. Like, maybe someone who won’t put her life in danger?) Oh! And I saw one seriously fabulous drag queen. (I appreciate your use of neon, girlfriend.)
Despite missing London’s Bear’s Den, I know they rocked. Not just because I’ve seen them and I love them, but because they still had a line of fans waiting to meet them when the final act went on at midnight. I think Cincinnati fell in love on Saturday. I’m giddy for Bear’s Den and for Cincinnati. Good choice, my friends.
I caught Cincinnati’s Bad Veins, though. Of course, I’ve seen them before, but I never mind the chance to see them again. Those two boys can make a ton of noise. Even with a few sound/mixing issues, they still managed to keep the room enthralled. That may have had something to do with Ben Davis’ bellowing into the microphone or climbing to the top of the monitors. I have no musical talent whatsoever and my balance is minimal at best, but I was envious as he stood towering above me with his hands on the ceiling and an entire room of people staring up at him in awe. The Veins are a genuinely good band. Not “good for a local band,” but good enough to root for them to keep gaining fans across the country.
Later, I watched Davis stand in the back of the room talking to a couple people for a surprisingly long time. They seemed to devour everything he said. He has dangerous levels of charisma. It was fun to watch.
As much as I love Bad Veins and Bear’s Den, I’d spent all weekend eagerly awaiting Daughter’s performance. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect many people to show. I guess because I remember when “Daughter” was just Elena Tonra. I slinked my way pretty close to the stage and gaped at Tonra as she charmed the pants off everyone in the room. When it got stuffy a few songs in, I turned around and was speechless by the sheer amount of people that had suddenly come in behind me.
It makes sense, though. Jesus. Her voice is beautiful. If you were anywhere else in the city on Saturday night, you messed up. She sent heads to the shoulders of girlfriends and, shockingly enough, most cell phones managed to stay in purses and pockets. It’s not that she wasn’t worth capturing. It’s that she was too captivating for anyone to have any other thoughts other than keeping their eyes glued to her face and their ears filled with her voice. Oh. The bow across the electric guitar was a great (albeit not very new) approach, too. It added a nice eerie feel to Tonra’s already haunting voice.
As I left, I had big plans to reflect on the concerts and do a little pre-writing for this review while walking to my car. One of my favorite former co-workers waylaid me, though. So much for avoiding my friends. Cincinnati is too small for that. I didn’t mind too much; I got all the dirt on who had left and who (sadly) was still around.
Eventually, I said goodbye to my ex co-worker, wandered away from Taft Theatre’s bright lights and into the ever darkening street. As I meandered, it occurred to me just how much of a feat MPMF is for us. Cincinnati may be a city, but we’re not a very big one. How do we manage to talk so many stellar bands into visiting us every year? How is it possible we have something as beautiful as the Taft? How do we produce such a bounty of awesome local bands?
My best friend likes to joke that Ohio has bred more astronauts than any other state. He says it’s because Ohio is awful and space was as far away as they could get. However, I think we’ve bred so many astronauts for the same reason we’ve spawned bands like Walk the Moon and Bad Veins and all of the other great acts playing MPMF and for the same reason we put on such an great festival. We’re small but mighty. We put our hearts into the things and the people we love. Even if they don’t deserve it. (I’m lookin’ at you, Bengals.)
MPMF news and musings: ArtWorks/Springboard Cincinnati is once again handling one of the cooler aspects of the "MidPoint Midway" (the fairgrounds-like area connecting Main to Vine streets, with food vendors, a music stage, poster expo and lots more). Last year's MidPoint Music Festival saw the introduction of the "Box Truck Carnival," where numerous local artists and organizations turned nondescript moving trucks into their own little worlds (last year, there was a theater, a skate park and a Putt Putt course).
This year, Springboard is profiling the trucks on its website leading up to the big event next week. So far, they've introduced the Art for All People truck, "Art and Music Box," where you'll be able to add your own creative paint job, and the truck by OTRimprov, which will feature improv games and "on-the-spot workshops" for aspiring UCB comedians (or just the curious). Click here to check out these and other "fun in a box" experiments.
• The other big news of the day is that one of the bigger headlining acts, Sleigh Bells, has been forced to cancel its appearance at Washington Park during the festival. The band was slated to headline the park stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29. The full lineup for Saturday is up in the air, but will be retooled with additional acts. Expect an announcement soon.
If Sleigh Bells was the only act you wanted to see at the festival and you'd like a refund, here's the official details: "Customers who have purchased the Washington Park Saturday Ticket may choose to either keep their tickets, or may receive a refund by contacting email@example.com by the end of the day Sept. 21st. If you elect the refund, only the cost of the ticket is refunded, not the shipping or service fees. No refunds will be issued for All Music Access Passes."
Sleigh Bells guitarist Derek Edward Miller tweeted that he fractured his arm while skateboarding in Florida recently, causing the cancellation of MPMF and a few other dates.
And now, with the countdown down to just 9 days (single digits!), here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
The Walkmen (New York, NY)
A dozen years since members of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys coalsced into the formidable Walkmen? It hardly seems possible. But then, neither does the band's almost supernatural string of confusingly brilliant albums, all crafted by the same line-up that began at the dawn of the new millennium; the sparse, atmospheric jangle of Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, the intense and visceral Bows + Arrows (featuring their signature "The Rat"), the quiet beauty of A Hundred Miles Off, their weirdly wonderful cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats, the powerful You & Me, the fabulous Lisbon, and their latest, Heaven, widely acknowledged as their best album to date, a phenomenal accomplishment for a band in their 13th year. Long may they walk.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: The Strokes if they'd been guided by Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan if he'd been backed by The Strokes. (Brian Baker)
The Walkmen perform Saturday, Sept. 29, on the Grammer's/Dewey's Pizza Stage at 9:15 p.m. Here is the band's music video for "The Love You Love."
Holy Ghost Tent Revival (Greensboro, NC)
When a band lists the Rolling Stones and Glenn Miller as primary influences, there’s a good chance their musical pegs don’t fit the standard genre holes. So it is with Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a North Carolina sextet that redefines eclectic, veering from Ragtime and Hot Jazz to an electric brand of Swing and the kind of funky, rootsy Country Rock that would have made Levon Helm grin and stomp. You don’t often see the Charleston breaking out in the middle of the mosh pit, but anything is possible at a Holy Ghost Tent Revival gig. Be prepared.
Dig: Squirrel Nut Zippers explore their secret love of the Band, Blood Sweat & Tears and Burt Bacharach. (BB)
Holy Ghost Tent Revival performs Saturday, Sept. 29, at Japp's at 11:30 p.m. Here's a preview of the band's just-released album Sweat Like the Old Days.
LOCAL LOCK PICK
You, You're Awesome (Cincinnati, OH)
The duo You, You’re Awesome has been the Cincinnati Indie music scene’s go-to Dance music favorites for the past few years, blending live drums with quirky, playful soundscapes that call back to earlier electronic music pioneers. As EDM and other forms of Electronica have grown in popularity, a lot of artists seem to have a hard time figuring out how to distinguish themselves. But You, You’re Awesome doesn’t have that problem, emerging with a versatile sound that isn’t based on any one trend. The group released several EPs before last year’s debut full-length, but YYA is most fun to experience in a live setting. You can dance if you want to — everyone else will be.
Dig: Daft Punk reborn as Saturday morning cartoon characters. (Mike Breen)
You, You're Awesome are slated to play at 5 p.m. on the Washington Park stage on Friday, Sept. 28.
Here's the track and visuals for YYA's "Yippee Ki Yay Mister Falcon." Click below for a playlist featuring numerous YYA clips.
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks.
And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …
F.Stokes (New York City, NY)
With a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style.
You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen)
F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple."
Ami Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)
Classically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.
Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)
Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant."
LOCAL LOCK PICK
Culture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)
Known for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe.
Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)
Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned).
Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
If you’re headed out to the Lindner Family Tennis Center near Kings Island in Mason for the big Western & Southern Financial Group Masters men’s semifinals Saturday evening and you are a fan/supporter of local music, be sure to arrive early and stay late. The tournament has teamed with the MidPoint Music Festival to bring in two top-notch local bands — the Folk/Pop duo Ellery and Blues rockers The Jon Justice Band — to entertain the masses.