Archive for the ‘Music Biz’ Category

Up Close with Larry & His Flask

Monday, 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.”


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

Tuesday, 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.

Wedding Music at Sunriver Oregon

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Professional Wedding Photography by Kimberly Kay Photography:

Along with cellist Amy Mitchell, I have a wedding band that plays at ceremonies and receptions throughout Oregon. We’re called The Ashlings, which means “dream” in Irish, and we play all the classical favorites like Pachelbel’s Canon and Faure’s Pavane, as well as really cool versions of Aeroplane Over the Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel), Just Like Heaven (The Cure), and Wonderwall (Oasis), to name a few.

Last week we played at Sunriver Resort in the Great Room. Amy is also in a wedding string quartet and has played this room many times and kept telling me how magical it is in the winter time. It’s decorated with white lights and candles, and white flower peddles and there is huge wood fire burning at the center of the room.

Professional wedding photography by Kimberly Kay Photography:

The bride Sarah, requested Pachelbel’s at the processional and then Ave Maria during the vows and candle lighting. While it was somewhat of a challenge for me to learn Ave on the guitar with short notice, Amy has played it a hundred times and pulled it off beautifully on her electric cello. For days, this epic song has been stuck in my head and it fit in perfectly at that moment of the ceremony. We ended the night with the theme song from Masterpiece Theatre, which is actually an oft requested recessional piece.

The photographer that evening was Kimberly Kay Photography  and you can see some examples of her work throughout this article and more photos of the wedding of Sarah & Alex at the Great Hall in Sunriver OR on her blog.


Making a Music Video with Tim Cash

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

This video was shot on the Deschutes River at Dillon Falls in Bend, Oregon in December of 2011.

Laurel Brauns “Kaleidoscope Eyes” Music Video from FAR from EARTH Films on Vimeo.

As a child of the 80s, I’ve always wanted to make a music video. Of course my vision then was of big metallic hair, cheesy effects, and lots of hopping around throwing my leg in the air as a dance move.

How ever many years later, my dream came true, but its my 30-something self’s version of the dream where I am playing guitar and singing by my favorite river. The whitewater and mist erupting behind me is the most exciting action, and the only thing that might be considered an “effect” is the videographers skillful use of a 18 ft. Kessler Crane that he lugged through the woods for a ½ mile.

Oregon Filmaker Tim Cash has been specializing in creating music videos for close to a decade, and along the way he has produced works of art for many local Central Oregon musicians, exponentially increasing our professionalism overnight. The videos he made for Erin Cole-Baker and Leif James are some of my favorite.

So here is our little masterpiece. I think it is really different than anything else Tim has done, and I am so truly appreciative of his ability to create something that I feel is so authentic to me. To put things another way, this guy can basically do anything. He has the skill and most of the equipment to do what all the big budget guys are doing out there, but instead of adding all that stuff in, I feel the strength of this particular work is in the subtraction and simplicity. I think it takes a real sensitivity to an artist’s vision to help them find their own authenticity, and to be humble enough to do something understated. So thank you Tim for all of that, and for all of you musicians out there, if you are looking to make a music video, check out all of his other project on his website, and get in touch!

And if you’d like to see a little behind the scenes, check out Tim’s explanation of the Crane that he and his assistant Robert Slaney carried through the woods.


Oregon Filmmaker: Kessler Crane from Oregon Filmmaker on Vimeo.

Bingo and Bourbon Night at The Woods in Portland, OR – A guide and review

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

(A winter in Portland: This is the first of a series of articles and musings about being back in the city after many years living in the mountains. Right now, I feel kind of like a hick, but hopefully writing about all these little adventures and experiences will at least be funny, and will be good motivation to keep getting out there to try new things.)

If you’ve been wanting to check out Bingo Night at The Woods for a while, here’s a quick reference to get you started:

It starts at 8:30 p.m. and you should get there early if you want a seat, because the room is packed as a rule. If you don’t care about claiming a nook however, you can show up whenever you want. Michael Young (of Brother’s Young… one of my favorite PDX projects) usually works the door and will give you a playing card for whatever game they are on.

Bring cash. Although the playing cards at the door are only a buck each, they will not take a credit/debit card for them, and will not give you cash at the bar. (What the hell.) Somehow I ended up buying a little ink stamper (pre-game jitters, obviously), but you can just poke the numbers on the card to mark it.

Bingo Night Host Brian Perez - pretty entertaining.

Most people there appeared to be in groups, but the few people that were flying solo didn’t seem awkward, and I witnessed a few folks introducing themselves, outside especially. I went there alone and met some very friendly people sitting outside the other bar as I was leaving.

Bingo Night definitely is one. The guys in suits and girls in pre-Depression era fashions were just one element of the theatrics of the evening. The music was an upbeat mix of vintage tunes from the 20s – 50s, which complimented the house party/old funeral home atmosphere perfectly. Brian Perez, the host for the evening, chose Bingo balls from an old school spinning cage and gave away a strange assortment of prizes ranging from faux-antique to kitsch. So the “scene” is not for everyone, but perfect for those enjoy a fanciful element of stagecraft for their night out on the town.

The Woods is a renovated funeral home - look at the deer!

How To Play Bingo:
Well, it is not that hard but requires somewhat of an attention span. Brian will announce the winning pattern (a cross, a four square in the right-hand corner etc.) and might even post a visual reference above the stage. There are a lot of really long breaks every couple of games to get drinks, grab a smoke; meet your neighbor, etc. So the game itself is, like… not serious.

Parting Thoughts:
I’m psyched to see a unique night like this (and an equally interesting venue) build so much momentum. It probably speaks to people’s desire to have something fun to do that is still a connection to a large group and event, but is more playful and interactive than watching music.

But speaking of music, this place is an amazing place for it! I’ll be playing my CD Release Party here November 30, 2011 with Anna Fritz (of the Portland Cello Project) and Sam Cooper (of Horse Feathers.) Hope you can make it!

Support My Own Two Hands – the Annual Fundraiser for the Americana Project in Sisters, OR

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

John on the mic at his venue in Sisters. One of his favorite bands, Weinland from Portland was playing that night and he knows a few songs by heart.

There is something special about kids that are born and raised in Sisters, Oregon. I’ve experienced this first hand many times. The most recent occasion was while I was playing a gig at one of my favorite venues of all time, The Barn off Three Creeks Road in Sisters and was first approached by eighteen-year-old John, one of the owners of the venue. He was warm, hospitable, confident and totally present. He is a fellow singer/songwriter and a senior at Sisters High School – an almost alumni of the Americana Project, the educational arm of the Sisters Folk Fest. The Project was was established to foster a passion for the arts among the youth of Central Oregon. As a student in the program, John learned everything from how to play the guitar, to songwriting skills, to how to appreciate music of all genres. Many other students of the Project were there in the audience that night, and it lives down in my memory as one of the best shows I ever played, specifically because of how attentive and appreciative these high school kids were during the performance. They hung on to every word, and surrounded me after the show, offering accolades and sharing stories from their own songwriting process.

Brad Tisdel on the mic with the students of the American Project.

This weekend in Sisters, ww all have a chance to support the wonderful work of the Americana Project. There are performances, a community art stroll, a parade, and the finale fundraiser at the Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks. Read on for more info about this awesome event:

The 2011 My Own Two Hands Celebration is an annual fundraiser for the Americana Project, the educational outreach of the Sisters Folk Festival. The event encompasses a full-weekend of activities on April 15th and 16th including a  Community Parade, the Community Art Stroll and Performing Arts Evening , and the Art Auction and Party.

My Own Two Hands celebrates how one individual can change their community for the better using their skills in a positive way. It also helps to support the mission statement of the Sisters Folk Festival to expand community involvement in the arts.

Brad Tisdel is the executive director of the SSF and the Americana Project. He is also an amazing singer songwriter and is looking all kinds of blissed out in this shot.

“It is amazing to see so many people from different parts of the community come together in support of music and visual arts through the Americana Project,” said Brad Tisdel, executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival. “It is a testament to the meaningful impact that music, the arts and community create in people’s lives.”

One of the core elements of the My Own Two Hands fundraiser is the Common Canvas Project. Every year a different theme is chosen, and visual artists from the community and beyond are invited to create pieces, which will be featured in the community art stroll and auctioned off as part of the final fundraising event on Saturday night.

This year’s theme is “In the Current.”

“We like to keep the theme open-ended,” said Katy Yoder, development director of the Sisters Folk Festival. “It can mean whatever the artists want it to mean. So far this year we’ve had donations ranging from water themes, to air currents, to an actual current, as in the berry.”

Common Canvas is not just for professional artists, however. On the Community Art Day (March 12th this year) members of the community were invited to Sisters Middle School to create art around the theme to be worn or displayed during the community parade, which will take place this year on April 15 from 4 – 4:30 p.m. and run down Hood Street. The Sisters Chamber of Commerce is still accepting applications for the parade.

One interpretation of the theme. Fish!

Shortly after the parade, the Community Art Stroll begins, where over 40 Sisters businesses keep their doors open late, displaying all the donated works from artists, the Common Canvas pieces, and featuring performances by over 20 local musicians. The festivities then move Bronco Billy’s for the Performing Arts Evening, featuring performances by students of the Americana Project as well as the SHS jazz band and choir.

“The Performing Arts night is a real showcase of how the kids in this community have gotten better and better over the ten years of the Americana Project,” Tisdel said. “Younger kids are inspired which gives them goals and creates opportunities for youth mentoring.”

The finale of the weekend’s activities is the Art Auction on Saturday, April 16th at the Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks from 6 – 9 p.m. This event features both a live and silent auction and there are limited tickets available. If you would like to buy tickets, please call the Sisters Folk Festival office at 541.549.4979. Those who cannot make the event are welcome to donate to the American Project on the Sisters Folk Festival website or by calling the office.

“There is an amazing multi-generational aspect to these events,” said Tisdel. “Everyone from elementary school kids marching in the parade, to wise and talented artists donating pieces for the auction; it is really unique in that the community support extends far beyond people with kids in school.”

All monies collected at the auction support the Americana Project. Although the Americana Project is best known for its innovative songwriting and folk music history classes in Sisters High School, its reach goes far beyond these classes and supports many different aspects of music and art curriculum in the Sisters School District. The program awards scholarships for students in the visual and performing arts, provides national, regional and local guest arts and mentors in the classroom, gives an annual gift to the Sisters High School art, choir and music departments and supports both the Sisters Middle and Elementary School music and arts programming.

“I like to think of the Americana Project as more of a movement than a program,” Tisdel said. “It’s a central point in the development of young people in this community, and there is a certain magic in seeing so much community support for a cause that is all about creativity and self-expression.”

Loch Lomond, boy next door

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Loch Lomond

Nearly every morning, at eight a.m. on the dot, the songs of Loch Lomond drift through my window here on Ithaca Ave. in Bend, Oregon from the speakers of Jerry Young’s white Jeep. Loch Lomond’s lead singer, Ritchie Young grew up next door, his parents still live here, and his father is an obsessive fan. When he’s not blasting Ritchie’s latest, I’ll hear Brothers Young for a while, the musical project of his other three sons.

I’ve been long over due to write about Ritchie. I’ve loved his music for nearly a decade now when I first heard him play in Portland while I was going to college there. He writes beautifully dynamic chamber-folk, fleshed out with the baroque flourishes of his five band mates. They most recently played in Bend for the PDXchange Program, opening for Viva Voce at the Tower Theatre, and it was quite possibly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Brothers Young

After the show, I hopped over the garden to Ritchie’s house, and got to rap with the band for a bit about how things have been going. They did admit that they had been rehersing A LOT lately, due to a new infusion of energy that was partially inspired but some recent successes. One, they had the song “Wax and Wire” picked up by Red Bull in the UK to be the sound track to BMX rider Danny MacAskill’s newest video. Last time I checked, it had 8 million views, and Ritchie told me they’ve sold close to 50,000 iTunes downloads of that track as a result. Cha-ching!

Check out some wonderful pictures of Loch Lomond in Bend, Oregon, taken by Photographer Byron Roe, and see the Danny MacAskill video below. The band also just released a new album in February on Tender Loving Empire called Little Me Will Start a Storm. Nice one neighby!

Kickstarter, fund your next album, fund my next album

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Kickstarter is just one of many of the new sites popping up that support “crowd funding,” the idea that you can finance your next artistic endevor with the help of others, especially if your project is so cool that it catches and spreads to many people who will become new fans by becoming a part of what you are doing.

Kickstarter is unique in that is has an all-or-nothing funding method: the project must reach its full funding goal before anyone is charged for their pledges. It also encourages project creators to offer unique and increasingly valueable products or experiences in exchange as their pledge increases. For example, one of my favorite indie-Americana band’s ever, Weinland, out of Portland, Oregon, is offering their touring van “The Weinlander” a 1974 Ford Econoline that has been in the lead singer’s family since 1975! All that van for a pledge of $1,974.

I can’t get their video to embed, but check it out here.

You get the idea that more fun and whimsical or experiential you make the pledge rewards the better.

The more people make donations, the higher your profile becomes on Kickstarter, potentially exposing you to many more people who are browsing Kickstarter looking for a project to support. The video on Weinland’s page explains this concept and is an excellent example of how to build excitement and credibility.

Now if you prefer to run a more traditional crowd-funding campaign and don’t want to run the risk of loosing all the donations if you don’t reach your goal, you can use your paypal account’s donate button and make an extra page on your website that explains your campaign. My friend Shireen Amini’s Blue Genie project shows how it’s done.

Facebook Ads: Grow Your Fanbase

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Hopefully by this time you’ve grasped the concept of setting up a fan/business page for your band and asking your friends to join. There is only so much harassing and marketing that we can stand to dish out to our buddies and if you are serious about getting your music out there to a larger community, advertising can be used as a really effective tool to grow your fan base.

Start of using Facebook ads as an inexpensive experiment so you can get the hang of how it works. In many ways it is a marketer’s dream as you can target to specific regions, tastes, ages etc. By limiting the people who view the ad to just your town and fans of folk music, you keep your ad costs way low and run a good chance of popping up on the sidebar of someone who has heard of you or or recognizes you.

Anyone can become good at making ads by treating your campaign as a game and coming back every few days to change up the elements. There is the photo, the headline (link) and the copy. Play around and switch out these elements with others and see how that effects your traffic. The more clicks you receive, the more your ad will be displayed, AND the cheaper it will be… which is cool element to FB advertising that rewards those who are bringing something perceived as valuable to the community. (Or just making compelling ads.)

Other tips:

Name drop – Who do you sound like? Ask a question like, “Do you like Kate Wolfe?”

Covers and connections – Did a famous artist play on your album? Have you recorded a cover of someone that everyone knows about?

Landing page – Make it engaging. Get people to click “like” or sign up for your newsletter in exchange for a free download and then give them links to your website.

Target one element at a time – If you are comparing yourself to another artist, make different ads for each artist.

Read more about using Facebook Ads to increase your fanbase here.

Bandcamp: will give iTunes a run for their money

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I was doing a bunch of research yesterday in preperation for the release of House of Snow, my new album that should be coming out sometime this summer. First on my list of things to do was come up with a list of blogs that might be interested in writing about this new project. I found that many blog editors kept referencing a site called “Bandcamp” when giving instructions about how to submit music.

While many of you out there might be rolling your eyes saying, “Not another music community I have to join!” this site is different. The premise is that musicians and labels can sell digital downloads on their own terms and the company only keeps 5 – 10% of revenues. You can also have your customers set the price they want to pay. From experience this always works out better for the artists as people who are buying music are doing so specifically because they want to support you.

The site is also a great tool to spread the word to the blogging community as bloggers (or anyone) can embed your tracks directly into their site for people to stream or download for free if you set it that way.

One of my favorite things about this site is that is has the potential to seriously cut down out on the amount of waste produced in the music industry. For those who are reviewing albums, this site takes them directly to the album (like iTunes) and allows them to stream the whole thing (like MySpace) but there is no ads, no clutter, no corporations (yet?)… and no stacks of unopened cds waiting to get tossed into the landfill.

If you’d like to learn more about it, check out the video here: