Article on Flyte Camp

by on April 11th, 2013


New Album from Anna Fritz of the Portland Cello Project

by on January 4th, 2013

Anna Fritz CD Release Show – Thursday, January 17 – The Secret Society

Portland, OR – Long-time core member of the Portland Cello Project, Anna Fritz, will be releasing her new solo album “The Gospel of Tree Bark,” on Thursday January 17 at 8 p.m. at The Secret Society in Portland. Closing out the evening will be the sing-a-long carnival antics of The Saloon Ensemble.

Fritz wrote most of her new album, “The Gospel of Tree Bark,” in a little cabin in Southern Oregon, nestled within the coastal mountain range of Coos County. Two small creeks ran through the camp, and it was the first time in years that Fritz felt like she was in a place that was truly quiet, with only the sounds of the water, birds and wind to lull her to sleep.

“I had a strong connection with a place that felt sacred; the land all around me was an inspiration, and central to the creative process,” Fritz explained.

And so emerged one of the primary themes of her album: exploring the natural world as a place of comfort and spirituality, longing for this connection within an urban landscape. The video for the title track, produced and filmed by David Waingarten, depicts her waking in the morning in the city to find a string that she follows deep into the woods, where she is free to be her most natural self, finding music in everything around her. The video is a stunning work of art in itself, and helped Fritz to raise over $15,000 through Kickstarter to fund the recording of the record.

Her voice on “Tree Bark” hints at the vulnerable tremolo of Mira, with a contrasting soaring soprano like Sinead O’Connor’s. Musically, cello takes center stage. Fritz has been a core member of the Portland Cello Project since its inception, which has given her a sense of “freedom through limitation.” While most singer/songwriterly records are fleshed out by a rainbow of tonal palettes, “Tree Bark” is arranged for cello trios and quartets. The result is a style that blends Fritz’s orchestral sensibilities, with songs born from the folk rock tradition, layered with tasteful drums and percussion by Ji Tanzer. Jason Wells (March Fourth Marching Band, Trashcan Joe) recorded and produced the album, and his expertise and affection for Fritz’s music resulted in a record with equal parts professional polish and earthy luster.

Fritz’s first solo effort, “Wake,” released in 2005, was a much more overtly political album, oftentimes bordering on angry. Since then, Fritz has grown up a lot, both as a musician and as a person. On “Tree Bark,” anger, frustration and alienation are sublimated into songs that are experimental and playful, sweet and sad. One of the most poignant moments on the album is during Fritz’s rewrite of “The Water is Wide,” where she sings of the struggles of a transsexual lover, a boy trapped in the body of a girl. As the French Horn soars over the background, each verse unfolds the struggle: “And so began my true love’s journey to claim his body for his own, to find a way to bend and shape it, to find a way to call it home.” The familiar chorus takes this story—starring an otherwise invisible member of our society—and makes his story universal, inviting the listener to remember that hard times can be overcome with the help of another.

Other musicians featured on the album include David Waingarten (electric guitar), Alison Ippolito on piano, Samantha Kushnick on cello, and Leander Star on French horn. Album art by Aremy Stewart features a woman smiling peacefully, laying on the ground, her body blending into the earth and roots of a tree. The artwork, just like the chorus of the title track, ties the spiritual and natural themes of the album together. On the chorus of “Gospel,” Fritz sings, “Life is a prayer in the gospel of tree bark. There’s a voice that whispers in the branches at night. It says life has gone on and will go on forever and you’re just a droplet, a small beam of light.”

For more information about Anna Fritz and “The Gospel of Tree Bark,” visit

Suttle Lake Wedding Music – Sisters Oregon

by on August 11th, 2012

Suttle Lake has to be one of the most beautiful resorts in Oregon, and a spectacular place to get married. Perched on the east end of the lake, views of the Cascades open to the southwest. A large lawn provides the perfect setting to march down the aisle, and the catering is provided by Suttle Lake’s own award-winning chef Michael Valoppi.

My wedding duo “The Ashlings” played there this August for the wedding of Megan Labhart and Peter Deam who were in Oregon from Florida having a destination wedding. I can’t say enough about how beautiful the grounds were that day, but I’m sure these photos speak for themselves.

Sisters Wedding Music - The Ashlings

A wedding duo from Central Oregon featuring guitar, vocals and cello

The couple had us learn “Marry Me” by Train, and I think we pulled off a rather touching version of the song with female vocals, guitar and cello. They also requested, “Amazing Grace” and the upbeat instrumental “Toss the Feathers” by the Corrs. Their family seemed to have strong Irish heritage.

If you are considering a destination wedding in Oregon, Suttle Lake has all the magic of a turn of the century lodge, but with all the modern amenities. Some of your guests might have to stay off grounds though as accommodation space is a little limited.

Our music duo, The Ashlings, will compliment your ceremony perfectly. We’ll learn your special songs that will help make your day unique, and play an upbeat set for the ceremony. Check out our Central Oregon Wedding Music website and hit us up here: or 541.604.0246.

Pronghorn Wedding Music – Bend Oregon

by on July 29th, 2012

The Ashlings played the wedding of Annie LaFranchi on July 28, 2012, at Pronghorn… and what an absolutely epic location to get married. It was just nominated as one of the best new locations in Oregon by Oregon Bride Magazine. Annie is a sophisticated woman from a well-established Oregon family with hotel properties here in Bend and a winery out on the coast. She is also young and hip with a pulse on great music, music that would add a youthful spin to an extremely classy affair.

She requested the Ashlings learn “Little White Church” by Little Big Town and “Beloved” by Ben Harper, both upbeat and heartfelt requests, respectively. Learning “Beloved” came off without at hitch, as it is a folksy ballad where I consider Harper at his best. “Little White Church” is more of a country pop song, and I was worried at first, but managed to channel the blaze sassiness of the lead singer, and with only a cello to back me, it came off as rockin’ without the abrasiveness of the original. I highly recommend this number as a recessional to all the brides out there with spunk and class.

Although Pronghorn has the reputation as a “Members Only” atmosphere, they book weddings for non-members, have ample lodging, and the food is as good as it gets in Central Oregon, or anywhere in Oregon for that matter. This is the perfect venue for those seeking a destination wedding with impeccable grounds and views, great golf opportunities, and all the recreational amenities of Bend just a short drive down the road.

And while you are putting everything together, consider The Ashlings to create a magical musical backdrop for your special day. We are a great ceremony and reception music for Pronghorn weddings. We love learning individual songs, and because we can play both the ceremony and the reception (before the DJ of course!), it takes the hassle out of music planning.

Airstream Business/Living Partnership Opportunity

by on July 19th, 2012

Hey folks,

I’m planning to buy this Airstream this year, move it to a permanent location in Portland, and rent it out as a vacation rental in the summer months. If you know someone in NE PDX with a big backyard who might already be renting rooms on the side, please forward along. $200 reward to anyone who finds me the winning situation!

















Airstream Business/Living Partnership Opportunity

You: Own your own home in NE Portland in walking distance to Alberta or Mississippi.

Looking to make $200 extra a month in the winter and $400+ extra a month in the summer to accommodate a 32 ft. Airstream in your backyard that would plug into the grid.

Me: Looking for a homeowner interested in a creating a living/business partnership that would accommodate the Airstream.

In the summer months, I live in Bend, and would like to rent it out in Portland on Air B & B for $100/night for $500 week. In the winter, I would live there most of the time and might rent it here and there if I’m away.

The Airstream is 32-foot custom redesign. See photos here: Originating from the 1960s, it has been fully gutted and in place of old carpets and outdated fixtures, teak floors have been added, along with solar panels, a fully functioning marine bathroom (with shower), electric stove, full fridge, comfortable double bed, huge wrap around dining area and whatever other amenities we could imagine: a record player with a collection of local Portland bands for example, or an iPod dock, etc.

The ideal partner would be someone who already has a room or two on Air B & B who is used to the concept of hosting guests and would be able maintain the Airstream as a dream destination for those looking for accommodation in NE Portland.

Backyard space needs to be big enough for the 32 x 20 footprint of the Airstream with the awning pulled out. Ideally there would be plenty more space in the backyard for garden/firepit etc. There will be some creative engineering logistics involved in getting the Airstream plugged into the grid, but I plan on hiring outside help for this stuff.

Please drop me a line if you are interested, and perhaps we could meet next time I am in Portland. Thanks!










Up Close with Larry & His Flask

by on June 4th, 2012

-Published in Central Oregon Magazine in Spring of 2012 by Laurel Brauns

It might come as a surprise that the nationally famous, Warped-touring band of acoustic punk rockers from Redmond, Larry & His Flask, used to have a hard time getting a gig in Bend. They were too loud, too crazy or just too electric for this laid-back, bluegrass-loving mountain town.

Shunned by most major venues in Central Oregon, they took to the streets—literally—and set up impromptu stages on street corners, often drawing droves of patrons out on the sidewalk in front of the very venues that wouldn’t give them the time of day. Sometimes they’d even march through pubs and bars, play on table tops for a song or two, and rally on to the next place to stir up the crowd.

There was just one problem: they were a punk band, and this whole busking thing required acoustic instruments and someone that could sing loud… real loud.

“We couldn’t plug in, so if we needed volume, we’d just double up the instruments. At one time we had four guitars and twelve people that would play with us on a given night,” said drummer Jamin Marshall, who along with his brother Jesse, founded the band eight years ago.

Jamin had always been the lead singer, and his gritty vocals complimented the band’s beer-before-breakfast sound. But guitarist Ian Cook had the ability to really project over the crowds that would often gather to witness the Flask’s sidewalk mayhem, and with that in mind, he was newly elected lead vocalist.

Cook’s voice and musical inclinations tended towards more of a country/Americana sound, and as he performed the songs that had been in the band’s punk repertoire for years, they were transformed into something altogether entirely. Excited by this new direction, and dedicated to making it work, the boys holed up in a closed-for-the-season lakeside resort in British Columbia for the winter, which was owned by a family member, and woodshedded their new songs and sound.

Enter Dallin Bulkey (guitars), Kirk Skatvold (mandolin) and Andrew Carew (banjo), the diaspora of the then defunct Central Oregon band Zombie Co-Pilot, former Flask touring mates. Equipped with a keen knowledge of crafting three part harmonies, and an empathy for the punk rock scene and sound, the new members hopped in the back of a yellow short bus for a three-and-half-month tour around the U.S. and Canada… and never looked back.

The result was a marriage of bluegrass/Celtic/country instrumentation with the raucous energy of the Flask’s punk-as-hell live shows. One must see it to believe it, but start by imagining a bunch of bearded guys in suits, throwing their fros around to drunken sailor songs and running circles around each other with mandolin, banjo and guitar solos. If it gets too hot, Jamin flings off his shirt. If it’s a particularly fast song, Jesse leaps back and forth across the entire length of the stage like Peter Pan, miraculously taking his upright bass with him, and never missing a note.

Gigs eventually got booked in Central Oregon, and word around town spread that the Flask’s shows were not to be missed. And then the magic finally happened: long-time advocate and promoter Bret Grier of Random Presents got the boys a slot opening for Dropkick Murphy’s, a internationally touring Celtic punk band from Boston. The Dropkick’s merchandise manager was blown away by the sheer energy the Flask brought with them on stage, and got them on a national tour with the Boston powerhouse. This led to many music industry connections, and eventually a spot on the main stage on the Warped Tour this past summer.

In the middle of their crazy touring schedule, the band also managed to release a full-length record in 2011, which made a number of top ten lists both regionally and nationally. “All That We Know” gleams with studio polish and combines Mumford & Sons –esque vocals with explosive drums and banjo riffs. Americana gems like “Slow it Down” place them on par with the Avett Brothers, and has the potential to bring their high-desert thrashgrass to a whole new audience.

With months of touring ahead of them, right now the band is happy to be back in Central Oregon, the place they proudly call home.

“We’re country boys,” Jamin said. “Jesse and I were actually born in Baker City, and I think most of the band just feels more comfortable here.”

“Being on tour so much has also made me really appreciate this place,” he added. “Most of America is badlands and plains, dirt and nothingness. Here, there are mountains all around us… Smith Rock. Sometimes when I’m out in the middle of Kansas or something… I just want to see a tree, or a rock or a stream.”


Jeff Magnum Portland Oregon, Crystal Ballroom, April 19, 2012

by on April 25th, 2012

While the smoky tenors of Vedder and Cobain might represent the 90s for the mainstream, for those who had their ears close to short span college airwaves, Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1997 release, Aeroplane Over the Sea is often declared one of the best albums of the decade.

I hold it as one of my favorite of all time.

Portland was blessed to have two Jeff Magnum appearances last week at the Crystal Ballroom, two of only a smattering of national dates, including two weekend shows at Coachella in California.

Until this year, NMH’s lead singer, Jeff Magnum, has largely led a Salinger-esque life-style, with few public appearances. His quick rise to fame—and subsequent disappearance—has cast an almost mythical deification around the songwriter and his work, which, it can be argued, is well founded.

On Aeroplane, Magnum weaves otherworldly imagery, arising from dreams about Anne Frank, into lovingly crafted and loosely connected songs (chapters, poems?) touching on themes from fairy-tales, the bible, hushed family dysfunction, and surrealistic eroticism. Couple this literate scope with Magnum’s pitch perfect, reverberate tenor—and a cadre of back-up musicians with counter-point instrumental solos that would make memorable songs in themselves—and you have a record that still holds mystery, thousands of listens later.

On to the show…

I had only moderate expectations upon arriving at the Crystal Ballroom last Thursday, but returned home unable to sleep for several hours, energized and trying to replay the night over in my head. It was an orchestrated, but humble affair, with Magnum mostly solo on stage, and a collection of acoustics at his arms length, accented with his signature mix of light distortion.

Magnum’s voice hits your soul like a campfire: melting you from the front, and keeping you alive with cold gusts and shivers in the back. Hearing it live was absolutely better than the recording, another thing I wasn’t necessarily expecting.

And as most concertgoers can attest, a live performance can be exponentially heightened or ruined by the crowd, and in this case, the audience was almost universally rabid, attentive and jovial. It basically felt like 1,000s of people who had been cooped up in their cars and tiny rooms, singing NMH songs to themselves for years, until one day they were finally re-united with their tribe, and were exuberant to finally encounter the object of their obsession.

The audience became bombastic during the classics, and sang (yelled) along to every word, sometimes even swinging their arms in the air.

Magnum played nearly every song from Areoplane, along with a few from Avery Island and… a Daniel Johnston cover of True Love Will Find You in the End. He was joined on stage by the openers Andrew, Scott and Laura (fellow members of Elephant 6 Collective bands Elf Power and The Gerbils) with French horn, mellophone, clarinet, cello, accordion and even midi electronic saxophone!

I’ve attached some of the songs below. The photo above was taken by someone I randomly met there who was daring enough to get that close to the stage. I know there was no flash, so hopefully this is somewhat forgivable.

The night ended with my favorite song Aeroplane Over the Sea. I cover this song a lot, and play it as an instrumental at weddings. Even brides, who’ve never heard it before, often go for it, which says a lot about its melodic integrity.

It was an ecstatic ending: The Crystal Ballroom’s strange carnival-noir murals set the perfect backdrop for this song’s lyrics, really all of his lyrics.

It’s a near impossible feat for an artist that is so well loved, and with an audience to rabid, to play the anti-rockstar. But the whole thing felt pure, uncorrupted, cathartic.

Famous last words:

“When we meet on a cloud, I’ll be laughing out loud. I’ll be laughing with everyone I see; how strange it is to be anything at all.”

Some songs:











Casey Neill and KMRIA play St. Pats 2012 in Portland and beyond…

by on March 11th, 2012

Casey Neill has the kind of voice that makes you stop what you are doing. It’s timeless, like something that might drift out of a jukebox in a roadside tavern somewhere in Middle America. But there are other qualities there that make it truly unmistakable: hints of Michael Stipe’s vibrato tenor, some alt. country inflections of Jay Farrar and the occasional whiskey-soaked growl of Shane McGowan.

I caught a show by Casey and his band, The Norway Rats, at the Laurelthirst Public House one Wednesday as part of his month-long happy hour residency at Portland’s favorite Americana pub. I’ve been listening to him since college, and have come to expect a mellow, easy-on-the-ears folk/country sound (with an occasional rocker thrown in); essentially a predictable mix best characterized by his 2007 album, Brooklyn Bridge. The 2007 album was recorded mostly in New York City, and documents his stint in Brooklyn, while also placing his songwriting and vocals at center stage.

As I should have expected, a lot has changed for Casey since those days in New York. His live show at the Laurelthirst was anything but mellow. Since coming back to Portland and re-establishing his roots a few years ago, Casey put together a super-group of the city’s finest folk/Americana musicians—including Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, and Scott McCaughey of Minus 5. While not all the household names where there last Wednesday night, the band played a rousing set of rockers balanced by a few old favorites (see “Riffraff”) and some folksy solos.

Neill embraced the talents of some of these same stellar musicians on his 2010 release “Goodbye to the Rank and File” with a nice blend of Celtic punk, rockabilly and folk. Neill’s literate sensibilities ground each song in memorable images and turns of phrase. It’s a nostalgic homage to a country life that may have never been, and puts you inside the cool silver waters of the quarry with a young lover on a hot summer night.

Look for his newest record “All You Pretty Vandals” to be released this year, produced by Chris Funk of the Decemberists.

Neill says of the new record, “We stayed away from any roots tropes this time—no train beats, no twang, no Irish bits, very little acoustic guitar … It’s very much a high-energy band record with a big anthemetic sound. It feels edgy and urgent. There’s some horns and strings, some guest vocalists. We had a lot of fun making it.”

In the meantime, catch one of his upcoming shows in March featuring his Pogues tribute band K.M.R.I.A. (And what does that stand for, you say? Kiss My Royal Irish A**, a phrase used in James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and in the Pogues’ song “Transmetropolitan”).

Thurs. March 15: K.M.R.I.A. – CENTRALIA, WA @ The Olympic Club 7pm $15

Fri. March 16: K.M.R.I.A. – SEATTLE, WA @ The High Dive 9:30pm 513 N 36th St.

Sat. March 17: The Norway Rats – PORTLAND, OR @ McMenamins Kennedy School Gym. 4 p.m. Free.

Sat. March 17: K.M.R.I.A. – PORTLAND, OR @ The Wonder Ballroom (Always sells out), 128 NE Russell St $13, Presented by Monqui with special guest SASSPARILLA

Fri. March 30: The Norway Rats – PORTLAND, OR @ The Aladdin Theater

Upcycling… getting crafty in Central Oregon

by on March 5th, 2012

The floors and couches of Sheri McGovern’s apartment are covered in a rainbow of sweaters: sweaters made of cotton stripes, purple cashmere, and argyle wool are piled in suitcases throughout the room. Instead of a bowl of fruit, her kitchen table is layered with a cutting mat, and a tower of multi-colored threads sit a few feet away from McGovern’s most valuable tool, a four-string serger.

Using these tools, McGovern transforms used sweaters into A-line skirts, complete with matching leg warmers and headbands. Along with dozens of other hobbyists and entrepreneurs, she is part of a growing trend in Central Oregon called upcycling: the art of taking something old and transforming it into something new.

“I went to fashion design school, so I love fashion and really wanted some new clothes but couldn’t afford them,” McGovern said. “I found a sweater in the closet I was never going to wear again and the idea was born for a sweater/skirt. Now I sell dozens of them a month.”

While McGovern had years of professional training, she believes that learning to upcycle clothing is open to everyone with the desire and patience to learn how to sew and some simple training in pattern making.

Allison Murphy of Utilitu Sew in downtown Bend suggests taking a beginning sewing class or two before diving in and investing in your own machine. Her sewing shop and classroom, which she opened up this fall on Hill Street, features four top-of-the-line Bernina sewing machines for students to hone their skills. When first learning to sew, students may experience a number of technical difficulties as they wade through the process. Working with an instructor on a high-quality machine will reduce frustration and lower the learning curve.

“We live in a time where it is so easy to get things instantly; to just go to the store and pick something up,” said Murphy. “People are not used to taking the time to do something, but sewing takes a lot of will power and determination.”

Murphy supplies students with full sewing kits, items that they can eventually acquire themselves at her shop or other sewing stores in town such as Morrow’s Sewing & Vacuum Center. These include tools like dress making shears, seam rippers and flexible measuring tape. And while buying the right equipment will help beginners be more successful, Murphy insists that sewers should not become overwhelmed by all of this at first

“You don’t need a machine with a million stitch options to make a cool dress,” Murphy said.

Once your basic tools and basic skills are acquired, the creativity begins. There are plenty of places to find clothes that are begging to be transformed into something more contemporary. While thrift stores and the Goodwill are a great first stop, also consider things like clothing swaps, your mother’s or grandmother’s closet, and yard sales.

Upcycling doesn’t stop at remaking clothing. Consider checking out antique stores, places like Pak It Liquidators in Bend, or even the dump for ideas on remaking furniture and other household items.

And sometimes inspiration might literally be in the trash. Tracy Curtis of Ballokai is the mother of the 20-year-old Sister’s singer/songwriter Laura Curtis. One afternoon, she spied her daughter’s used guitar strings in the garbage, plunked them out, and made them into earrings.

“I volunteer with the Sisters Folk Festival and get a lot of old strings from them,” Curtis said. “I just love that someone has played music with them, and now they have a new life.”

Curtis has also used her creative vision to remake burlap coffee bags into stylish totes that she sells online, in local boutiques and in the Pearl District in Portland. She gets the majority of her bags from the Sisters Coffee Company and because plantations are constantly changing their graphics and styles, no two totes are ever the same.

“I think the upcycling trend is a result of people acknowledging that the planet is not in good shape and we need to do something about it,” Curtis said. “It is about asking our selves how many different ways can we use the stuff that we just waste?”

Sara Wiener of Sara Bella Upcycled uses plastic bags, food wrappers and banners to create tote bags, dresses and hats. To date she has saved 35,800 bags from going in the landfill, and the tag line on her website is “Making beautiful products out of garbage!” Using only an iron and a sewing machine, she fuses together plastic bags and creates practical things her customers can use for years to come. It took her five years to perfect her process, but instead of patenting it, Wiener teaches the process to others through workshops at Central Oregon Community College and Bend Parks and Recreation District.

“My philosophy is, the more plastic bags I can use, and teach others to use, the less will end up in the landfill and our waterways, killing fish and birds,” Wiener said.

Whether you are just getting started upcycling your own creations, or are ready to start peddling your wears on, Murphy recommends taking the extra time to craft something well-made that may be loved for years to come.

“Upcycling isn’t just remaking clothing—it embraces rethinking all things that have been used to death in their current form, just begging to be reincarnated into something useful, witty and resourceful,” she said.

The Tools

While there are scores of high-end instruments that will eventually make your sewing life easier, here is a list of must-haves for beginners:

Scissors, a separate pair for cutting paper and fabric

Pins and weights for cutting patterns (weights can be as simple as a soup can)

Tape measure and a clear plastic ruler

Marking tools like a pencil, chalk and water soluble markers

Seam ripper

Hand sewing needles and machine needles

All-purpose polyester thread


Easy to use sewing machine

A simple pattern

Getting Ideas

There are scores of books on upcycling techniques in bookstores, the library or online. A quick Google search for upcycling ideas reveals a long list of blogs and project ideas ranging from making a wallet out of bike inner tube to turning jeans into tote bags.

Finding Materials

Goodwill, Restore, Pak It Liquidators, thrift stores, antique shops, relative’s closets, the garbage, the dump

Inspiration and Finding Your Style

It is important that you are making things that you are going to love and want to wear or have in your home. When considering what kind of clothes to upcycle, Murphy recommends being both confident and honest with yourself. Try new things, but think about what styles look best on you. Sheri McGovern, who crafts sweater/skirts is a great example. She is also affectionately known around Bend as “dancing lady” because whenever there is live music, she is always upfront, dancing to the music. The skirts she makes skirts compliment her free spirit, high-fashion sophistication, and slender figure, all at the same time.

How to get a song on Grey’s Anatomy: An interview with Jon Leahy of Aperture Music

by on February 14th, 2012

Jon Leahy is the Music Supervisor at Aperture Music, a company that works with independent artists to license their music for use in film, television and commercials. We grew up in the same hometown in New Hampshire, and Jon has helped me to get one of my songs on a Fox TV show. I wanted to interview him to shed some light on how the licensing process works and how artists can get their music in the hands of music supervisors.

Everyone wants to get a song on Grey’s Anatomy or some other hit show. Where would you begin to market yourself for an opportunity like this?

Most TV shows these days have a dedicated music supervisor, in the case of Grey’s Anatomy it’s Alex Patsavas. She and her awesome team at the Chop Shop find music in myriad ways, but the most reliable way to ensure that they listen to your music (aside from having a hit on the radio) is to get your album delivered to them by someone they trust. Finding a professional film & TV representative to work on your behalf is a really important step for anyone who’s interested in licensing their music. Aside from being good at their job and having the respect and trust of their peers in the business, it’s also equally important that they be genuinely enthusiastic about your music.

You recently got one of my songs on to the show “Traffic Light” and I thought the process of that might shed some light on how things work in the licensing world. You said the producer was looking for a female acoustic singer songwriter for a scene where the characters are at an outdoor market. There are 1,000s of musicians that fit that description, but I popped into your head, and the producer liked the song. To me, this seems to indicate that you really need someone on the inside advocating for you. Does this mean you should try to get in as many licensing catalogues as possible, or is there an expectation that you should be loyal to one company and just try to stay top of mind with them? 

You bring up a really good point– for most background music cues, there are thousands of songs that could work equally well. Once you’re willing to accept that despite the uniqueness of your art, for the purposes of licensing it is more or less interchangeable with thousands of other songs, you start to see how important it is to have a good film and TV rep. The reason your song was used instead of another female vocal folk song is because the music supervisor came directly to me when she was looking for music. We have a great working relationship and she trusts my ears, it’s as simple as that. To be perfectly honest with you, your song was probably one of ten included in my pitch to the supervisor. She most likely pulled two or three of her favorites and passed those along to the music editor who actually married the music to picture, and then the decision was made final at the mix. Regarding licensing catalogs, there are a ton of them out there and they all have their pros and cons. Exclusive catalogs tend to be more selective about what artists they rep, they’re more boutique in nature and give everyone more personalized service. They also tend to command higher fees for their artists. Non-exclusive libraries tend to just dredge as much music as possible, regardless of quality. And when it’s quantity over quality you may find that personal attention to your particular release just isn’t happening.

I recently read that a publishing company here in Portland, Oregon, Rumblefish, agreed to take on the entire catalogue of artists on to represent for publishing. While I think this is great news because it signifies a leveling of the playing field, how can musicians begin to stand out in that flooded landscape?

I love CDbaby and have a lot of respect for what they’ve done with the company, but it’s important to note that CDbaby is a “long-tail” business model, meaning their margins lie in sheer quantity. Considering this, it was only a matter of time before they started offering a publishing option. I’m pretty confident that the guys at Rumblefish will do just fine with this model, but for 99.9% of their artists I don’t see it affecting their bottom line significantly. The service that we provide (and this goes for labels and publishers as well) is to serve as a filter, a level of quality control. Since music supervisors don’t have the time to listen to every artist on CDbaby, they need someone to get them to the good stuff– which is precisely what we do. If you remove that filter and just publish the entire CDbaby catalog, then what service are you providing? We’re way past the era of old-men-in-suits acting as gatekeepers– anyone can make a fantastic sounding record on any budget, and thanks to Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc. everyone can share it with the world. And if cute kittens have taught us anything, it’s the fact that if something is great then everyone on the planet will be sharing it with each other in the next 48 hours. The flip side of losing those gatekeepers? Now we’re all flooded with terrible music. With this in mind, getting back to your original question, I think Rumblefish will be a useful tool for music supervisors only if they put their ears to work and pinpoint the best music their catalog has to offer. You mention a level playing field… well the playing field is already level and has been for a while, it’s just that some artists are stronger than others. If you want to stand out, make a great record. It’s the answer to just about every question I get from aspiring artists. It may sound trite but it’s the truth.