Still writing, slowly but surely. I have a firm lineup of songs for the next album, definitely writing “inside of the box” with a “strategy” and a “game plan” this time, just struggling with finishing this specific batch of songs to the best of my limited ability. I even have a working title, but I’m sure you’d prefer fewer promises (and perhaps even some surprises) this time.
It’s tonally and rhythmically all over the map, but there’s kind of an overall theme (I would say “concept” but look how well that did for PP) tying it all together. Best songs I’ve ever written blah blah blah. You’ll like the song titles at the very least: my favourite so far is “Nestle Waters of America” which is sort of “People Get Ready” crossed with “Sail Away” crossed with this.
Hang in there, cause if I ever do get this album finished it will make the flowers bloom, the heavens part, and (most importantly) make Pop Psych sound like the ridiculous pity party it is.
I’m playing “An Evening of Song” at Kenny’s Castaways on Nov 12th, with George Usher (an NYC legend with a long history including Beat Rodeo and “Little Apocalypse”-era Schramms) and Kevin Montgomery, who has assigned himself the herculean task of playing 50 shows in 50 states… in 50 days. I’m on last at 10pm so get there early: details
Work progresses slowly on a new mini-album, sort of a companion record to PP. It will feature a couple of my best unreleased songs, and my intention is to have it out in 2009. If that means Dec. 31st, so be it, I’m putting my foot down on this one. I’ve also been setting up an as-yet-unnamed new analog/digital recording studio out in NJ, which will be a really cool place to get some of my own work done too. The owner is a serious synth dude and has a real treasure trove of classics including a gorgeous-sounding ARP Solina that I hope will make an appearance on the new record.
I’m not usually into licensing my songs for advertising, but I made an exception for Flip and Tumble. Their reusable shopping bags are not only cool-looking, but they fold down so well they really are easy to keep in a jacket pocket when you’re heading to the, um, discount store…
Pop Psychology got a very nice review from Pitchfork yesterday, theoretically the biggest media “break” this record might receive.
I know I’m probably breaking some sort of taboo by writing this, but 24 hours later… here’s the math:
• 1,734 web page loads from bryk.com
• 4954 song plays on my Reverbnation widgets (including the main player on the splash page of my site)
• 5 Reverbnation Site Visits, no added fans
• 6 Tweets linking to the review (not including my own)
• 1 Email from a high school friend I haven’t heard from in 20 years.
(I have no idea what’s going on with Myspace, as of this morning it says my “profile is undergoing routine maintenance” as is my ability to log in. They apologize for the inconvenience, which is kind of annoying considering the timing, but not a huge issue as they don’t really provide much in the way of stats.)
• I’ve had 346 streaming player/store visits
• I’ve had 101 track “plays”
• I’ve given away 22 free downloads: 15 Pop Psychology, 1 Lovers Leap, 1 Discount Store and 5 miscellaneous track downloads
• I’ve sold exactly 4 PP downloads (plus a Lovers Leap download)
1. Pitchfork drove a fair bit of Traffic to my site(s).
2. Could my music really be that unappealing to all those readers and listeners?
Mississauga Rattler by Dan Bryk, released 01 January 2003 1. Coralie 2. Love Song 3. She Just Wants To Get High 4. Love So Wrong 5. Here Comes Love (feat. Lenni Jabour) 6. Now I’m Gone 7. Misery Loves Company 8. If I Wasn’t The Only One 9. Nothing Much 10.
a.k.a the demos that got me dropped from Scratchie.
“The worst recordings of the some of the best songs I ever wrote. Yours for just 7 bucks.”
After a few mild complaints from buyers, I’ve become dissatisfied with CaféPress who have supplied the Dan Bryk t-shirts and other merch to date. I honestly haven’t kept up with the progress in the on-demand merch world, but after a fair bit of research and due diligence, I’m going to close the (annoying multiple) merch stores I have with CaféPress and adopt two more streamlined options: Spreadshirt and Zazzle.
First up is Spreadshirt, whose origins are European but have now opened up a plant in Pittsburgh to serve the US.
The main advantage they have over their competitors seems to be the “flex print” technique they use for printing. The results are less like CP’s digital printing, and more like traditional screen printing. The printing is sharper and more colour-fast and durable than direct-to-print. I’ve set up a few variations of a Pop Psychology t-shirt and ordered one, and I’m really impressed so far.
And next up is Zazzle, who use a similar technology to Cafépress for multi-coloured print jobs, but at least don’t charge CP’s monthly or annual fees for the privilege of multiple style items in one shop, or widgety flash panels like this:
But the best part of Zazzle is where you can pick “models” to indicate how the artwork fits the cut of the shirt, and how the shirt might fit different people, which resulted in this bit of digital magic…
…which then reminded me of that Karen Finley song “Tales of Taboo” and its’ immortal lyric: “She’s a real nice granny/and I never touch her snatch/’cause she’s my granny!”
But I wasn’t sure I remembered the exact lyrics to that (and my “The Truth is Hard To Swallow” vinyl is sitting in my parents basement back in Mississauga) so I fired up google with the search phrase karen finley “she’s my granny” lyrics. And this is what I came across:
WTF? I know she’s just a piece of random collateral in their campaign to sell Scions, but this is some of the text of the MOG-ged up track:
She dreams. She dreams of strangling baby birds. Bluebird, wrens and robins. And with her thumbs she pushes back on their small feathered necks, pushes back against their beaks till they snap like breaking twigs.
She dreams. She dreams of being locked in a cage and singing loudly and off-key with her loved ones standing behind her, whispering very loudly, “She has an ugly voice, doesn’t she? She has an ugly voice.” Oh, leave it to the loved ones always to interfere with our dreams.
Like when my father finally told me he loved me after forty years, then went into the bathroom, locked the door, put up pictures of children from the Sears catalogue, arranged mirrors, black stockings and garters to look at as he masturbated, as he hanged himself from the shower stall. It’s that ultimate erection. It’s that ultimate orgasm. Whatever turns you on, girl. Whatever, whatever turns you on.
I love this monologue, but it really doesn’t strike me as an ideal or even compatible marketing message to sell Scions with. (Erin used to joke that I should offer Fingers to the Toronto Conservatory of Music for an ad campaign.) I can’t help but wonder what Ms. Finley would think about this juxtaposition.
The new corporate-sponsored music model once again makes for strange bedfellows.
In the interests of cutting out middlemen and bringing it all back home, the entire Dan Bryk catalogue is now available directly from my Bandcamp mini-site downloads.bryk.com (everything, that is, but the still-eponymous Dan Bryk, Asshole, which is now embarrassing enough that I am considering deleting it once and for all, and I am even considering releasing “Mississauga Rattler”, otherwise known as “the demos that got me dropped from Scratchie.”)
The part of all this that remains unbelievable for me is that I am receiving about 95% of the proceeds of the sales after PayPal takes its’ micropayments ounce of flesh. That is a pretty major game-changer for me, and was the primary reason I decided to sell Pop Psychology directly, give away the 128k version, and allow everyone to listen to it in full.
I think it’s pretty remarkable that a platform like Bandcamp can exist fully-functionally on the back of venture capital. I’m sure I’m not the only indie musician waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of BC instituting monthly fees or taking a percentage off each download, but in the meantime they have shown a considerable amount of goodwill hosting, streaming and delivering a LOT of music bandwidth — for free. And their FAQ is fucking hilarious, as if they hired Chuck Klosterman as ghostwriter. So if there’s anything of mine you’ve ever wanted to check out, these might be the salad days of maximizing the financial reward from my work.
In other, not-as-fun news, IODA (who distributes/consolidates downloads to iTunes Music Store, Amazon MP3, eMusic, etc. for many indie labels small and large) recently raised their cheque-issuing threshold to $250 “to bring them in line with industry standards” (what industry? what standards?) which means that little labels like Urban Myth that used to have to sell 10 albums before getting paid now have to sell about 50 albums of music before they see a penny. I guess I was under the impression that the whole technological long tail thing had some potential to let little indies establish themselves with a track download here, a track download there. I guess I was wrong, and it’s new technology, same old music biz rules.
So here’s an uplifting footnote: my bull city friends over at Reverbnation have hooked up with Microsoft for “Sponsored Songs” — 1000 Reverbnation artists who now have an exclusive track available for free download, with Microsoft paying the artist 50¢ per download. You can argue that this is yet another shot across Apple’s bow in the culture wars — with indie artists as the collateral — but in the end anything that gets the artists paid is alright with me. Admittedly my records have been pretty much made on Macs, but it’s frustrating to maintain a relationship with such an opaque lover.
Naturally, I was whimsical and/or ungrateful enough to pick perhaps the least appropriate song possible for such a corporate mash-up. I’m apparently up to $39.50 of downloads in less than a week, so please, download and tell your friends.
So I started making calls to a few labels and publicists this week, wanting to get feedback on the new record.
I guess I’m beginning to realize that after all this time I may have lost the ability to externalize the constant rejection that comes with selling one’s own wares in (what’s left of) the music industry. I used to be able to shut out all the NOs while fixating on the handful of YESes. Now it just seems as everyone’s telling me what I already suspected was the case: we’re barely keeping our heads above water… kid, you’re on your own.
I went to a Billboard/Adweek “Music and Advertising: Bands and Brands” conference last week, and I left more than a little dispirited, as if I’d finally been cornered by the fact that NO ONE seems to be making a living from selling sound recordings. Now the consensus was that music artists were going to have to latch ourselves onto brands to make an income from music. Seriously, if I heard “TV is the new radio” one more time, I was going to puke blood.
I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with syncing my music to advertising (I’ve written music for commercials and even sang a Labatt’s beer jingle), it’s just that it’s YET another small group of gatekeepers filtering out entire classes of music based on aesthetic choices that might have nothing to do with music itself. When I make a record, I’m making a record. I grew up listening to albums, and that’s how my mind works. Arts for art’s sake, money for god’s sake. Not all the music I make is meant to accompany a marketing message.
I guess I should also internally debate the whole “Should artists give away their music for free?” hand-wringing-devaluation-of-music argument here, but I’ll spare you the drama. I’m just kind of a funny mood today, I’m so tired of having to justify my place in this world of music, and I honestly just want to get this record OUT THERE for the hundred or so of you who still care.
Therefore, Pop Psychology is free for a limited time (payments also gladly accepted, thanks to Bandcamp)
I suspect if you’re already here, you just might find it to be my strongest attempt at making “pop” music, though lyrically it’s a little bitter in places.
It sounds even better up here on the West Side, amidst the clamor of construction, the whirr-click of Yellow Cab receipt printers, and the whizzing-by of bratty kids with iPod shuffles clipped to their scooters (hell, even Elliott barks at them, but he barks at little old ladies in wheelchairs too, and BOY is that awkward.)
Thanks for all your love and support. I’m here all year, tell your friends.
Still, it’s always special nice to be considered a vital part of a scene you’ve abandoned, and I wish I could be there to watch aformentioned rock machine Bull City play the Compulation CD release show tomorrow night at Local 506. BC’s James “Jim” Brantley plays smoking dual leads (panned stereo for extra width!) on my song. Which is called Hang Around and is two minutes and fifty-nine seconds of whatever it is that I do best. (In all honesty, it’s one part “Brand New Hairdo” and two parts “Love You More.”) In any case, you have my full permission to go and buy it and see what all the hot fuss is about down there in North Carolina!
Did I mention I moved to NYC? I have, and I even booked my first proper Living Room gig yesterday with my friends Noam Weinstein (who’s from Boston, although he lives here now) and Mike Evin (who’s from Montreal). The gig is on Friday August 21st from 8-9:45. Not sure who plays first, or who will have a band ready in time for the gig (cough!). Also, we need a catchy name for the show. Any ideas?
I was doing some personal research on St. Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish priest who was martyred by the nazis in Auschwitz. (I grew up attending a polish Catholic Church named after St. Kolbe.)
But somehow I ended up finding a self-described post-punk band from Virginia named Maximilian Colby.
I don’t know why but I brought this up talking in bed this morning. Was their band name a homage or simple irony? Clever portmanteau or non-sequitur? While a post-punk band of seminarians sounds kind of cool, there was no indication this was the case.
Familiar with my obsession with Fr. Kolbe’s incredible sacrifice, Erin sighed and suggested maybe they just like cheese. As anyone who suffers through another Sunday afternoon listen to How Splendid Was My Table knows, Cheeseophilia is running rampant amongst the foodies.
So we started reflexively freestyling “cheesy” indie rock band names. Please take one for your new band. They’re not even consistently all musical references, sorry.
While any list one makes up lying on your back on a hot sunday morning is (and should be) suspect, I could tell by Erin’s continual groans that some of these are pretty good. Or bad. You know.
• Monterey Jack Johnson (how apropos!)
• Cheddar Kelly (trademarked “cheese food product” version: CHEDD-R Kelly)
• Charlene Stilton
• Mozzarella Fitzgerald
• Semi-Soft Machine
• The Goats Milk (also works with the Mountain Goats Milk)
• Emmental Bachman
• Edam and the Ants (also Edam Yankees)
• Boba Feta
• Brie Sharp
• Bad Companeer
• Gang of Roquefourt
• Quicksilver Limburger Service
• Havarti Bunyan (also Havarti Garfunkel)
• Morgan Grünländer
• OK Asiago
• Blue Wensleydale Morningstar
• Fontina Turner (also Fontina Weymouth, Fontina Yothers, &c.)
• Alberto Y Los Trios Parmigianas
• The Romanos