Frank Gutch Jr: I Have Seen a Future and It Is Alcoholic (and Incredibly Positive), A Right Turn For CDBaby, and It’s About Music (the Past and Present)….

Alcoholic Faith Mission.  I put the name first because I want you to remember it, not to be cute with words.  They have renewed my faith in music and, by default, the music business.  I know.  It’s a shade of its former self.  I hear it and read it all the time.  Statistics here, comments there.  It is dying.  It is dead.  The only thing that matters anymore is format.  Kids don’t hear it.  Bieber, Perry, Jack White, Richard Waters, Springsteen, Minaj, LMFAO.  This is cool, that’s not.

What I don’t hear, really, is talk about the music.  Not as much.  Not as often.  Conversations about music are more the human’s way of sniffing butts than they are about music.  Conversation as foreplay.  Who are you and why should I like you in Billboard Chart-speak.  It is mainly negative and seldom about music or sharing.

When I was in the record business, every large gathering sponsored by major labels was a pissing contest, on the whole.  Who do you work for and ain’t this swell and where’s the beer?   I stopped going to record company parties the night I heard four guys who worked at different record stores talk in labels and numbers.  Swear to God, it was a half hour of “Columbia 35665.”  Laughter.  “Yeah, man.  Dog & Butterfly.  Killer album.  Capitol 4778.”  More laughter.  “Louvin BrothersHymns.  Warner Brothers 4117…” and the conversation went on ad infinitum, it seemed (and don’t send notes saying the numbers are wrong— I know they are).  Add to that the fake handshakes and the kisses and hugs these gatherings produced , some from people who did not like each other all that much, and I was on the brink.  You might say, yeah, but at least they were talking music.  No, they weren’t.  They were talking labels and numbers and most of the times these guys talked about music, it was more to show other people how much they knew than to spread the good word or to learn anything.

I need to have my batteries charged on a regular basis.  I need some sort of confirmation that music and its attendant business is viable, that it is worth more than what most people seem to think it is these days.  I need to see music working on people, making them happy or sad, meaning something to them.  Like it used to.  And here’s where Alcoholic Faith Mission comes in—- like it still does.  I went to see them last Friday night.  When I got home, maybe about 2:30 or so, I sat down to write about the show.  I tossed out three starts because they were so exuberant I thought no one would believe them.  I waited two days and started again and here’s what I came up with:

“I’m exhausted.  I need three naps.  At one time.  I drove 60+ miles Friday night to see Alcoholic Faith Mission on a recommendation by Cam Carpenter (his column runs every Thursday here at DBAWIS— you should check him out if you haven’t) and I am not used to stepping out at night, but that isn’t why I’m exhausted.  I’m exhausted because I cannot stop reliving what to me was one of the best and most intense shows I have ever seen.  There were no big film backdrops, no pyrotechnics, no loud explosions.  In fact, there were no gimmicks at all.   There was only a band— six working parts of a music machine— “

And that was as far as I got.  I would have tossed that but if I had I don’t I would gotten anything written and I know how important this column is to my loyal fans (again, thanks, Uncle Ernie and Aunt Flo).

Trying to write about these guys is like pulling my own teeth.  Painful.  Not because they weren’t good.  They were fantastic.  But because no matter what I say, you can’t hear what I heard.  And it isn’t often that I can hear a band for the first time and not only get them but recognize the songs right off when I hear them again.  I am diving through their older albums and am shocked at how much I remember.  One time, live, and I can almost sing along.  That, my friends, is how much of an impression they made.

You know how you know you’re hearing something special?  You laugh.  Well, I do, and I was doing quite a bit of it.  Everything they did not only made sense but made perfect sense.  Like when they would come to a chorus and three or four of them would tip back their heads and, one to two feet away from the mic, scream “hey” or sing in harmonic march cadence, the sound crucial to the mix.  It happened a few times and I laughed every time.  Like when Sune Solund, the bass player, stepped back to the drums and matched the drummer, Morton Hyldahl, note for beat on time changes.  Like when Kristine Permild swayed and danced and marched gnome-like around the stage, switching microphones at will and sharing a two or three step dance with Thorben Jensen, the lead guitarist, or Solund, depending upon who was closest.  Like how keyboard/accordion player Anders Hjort provided depth and constancy at moments which would have been chaotic without him.  Like how fill-in Magnus Bak (regular horn man Gustav Rasmussen stayed in Denmark to help care for his newborn daughter) switched from his Rickenbacker six-string to what he called a March Baritone (it looks like a super-sized flugelhorn with a super-wide bell) for an orchestral bridge here and there which bordered on jazz but fit so well.  Like how Jensen conducted the band like an orchestra with waves of his guitar and nods of his head, calling the shots but allowing band members all the room they needed to make it work.

And I sigh.  It is too late for me to have much of an impact on this tour.  Had I known (meaning if I had paid attention to Cam earlier), I would have blanketed Facebook and the Net with everything AFM, but how do you know something until you experience it?  Next time around, I will be pulling out all the stops.  If the Doug Fir Lounge holds five hundred, four hundred-fifty people missed possibly the show of the year.  But it doesn’t matter because

Alcoholic Faith Mission left their mark…..

I met three people that night I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  Those three people are into music and God knows I don’t get to talk with many who are except on the Net, so it was great to see that the music world is not yet dead.  It is, in fact, very much alive, I’m finding.  One of those people works at a PBS station in Seattle and mentioned that she is trying to put together a proposal to record local and regional music for airplay.  I told her I would give her a list of music contacts.  I’m hoping something comes of it.  There is lots of outstanding music around Seattle and the musicians creating it deserve more exposure.  TV.  That would be very cool.

Another was from Illinois and walked away knowing what he had seen.  I gave him my contact info and hope he will use it.  The other was from Kentucky and upon finding out that I was a writer, asked the right questions and made the right comments and has since checked out not only AFM, but Research Turtles.  Plus he has promised to keep me apprised of local and regional Kentucky bands, which can only come to good.  There is outstanding music everywhere, Kentucky included.

Steve Turnidge, who has mastered recordings by some of my favorite artists, including Laurie Biagini, Thomas Hunter and Sage Run (if you have been reading this column you should know the names), went to the Seattle show Saturday night.  Steve is an odd duck in that he lives by this theory of one thing leading to another.  He thinks that we live in the present and that the past is mostly irrelevant and the future depends upon any action in the present— each action, actually.  Whatever we do now leads to what we do later.  Our every decisions, one at a time, leads us into our future.  I am a positive thinker, myself.  I think that if we think positive, we avoid a lot of the negative.  Steve’s and my philosophies overlap.  I like Steve’s work (in fact, we made contact because of his work) and I like the way he thinks.  The fact that he decided to catch the show upon my recommendation means a lot to me.  I am only hoping that he got as positive a feeling about AFM out of the Seattle show as I did Portland’s.

I could draw one of those cause and effect maps about AFM.  The lines would go from them to myself to a handful of people and from there, who knows?  I would hope, as good as this band is, that the lines would grow exponentially.  That Steve had friends who find AFM.  That the girl at Seattle’s PBS station would spread the word and maybe even take heart about the local music scene and make it work.  That her friend upon returning to Illinois would spread the word.  That that Kentuckian would do the same and maybe send me tips for music in his location on a fairly regular basis.

That’s the way music used to work sometimes.  These days, without the impact of radio (but with the added impact of the Net), it still can.  Try it.  Check out AFM by clicking on their name at the top of this column.  If you like what you hear and see, tell your friends.  Next time they come through your town, go see them.  You won’t lose, I promise.  Positive begets positive.  I know.  I saw one of the best shows I’ve ever seen last Friday.  I only wish you could have been there.

Cam Carpenter, I owe you.  Big time.

Is CDBaby’s decision to stock stores a step toward a downhill slide?

Anyone who went through the record industry’s decades-long implosion should have misgivings or at least mixed feelings toward the decision by CDBaby to partner with Alliance Entertainment in an attempt to widen sales.  In the initial announcement (read it here) they pump up the positive, claiming that soon all CDBaby-distributed artists will reap benefits of “(soon being) available for purchase at all online and brick & mortar retail outlets affiliated with Alliance— including independent retailers, big box retailers, dot-com sites, and vendor managed accounts in the US.”  Those who have little inside knowledge of the “old” music business paradigm might think it a good thing, but there are questions to be answered.

Like, what does this mean for the vast majority of CDBaby-distributed artists?  When the company started, it was a way to get music from the musician (and there were only a few involved at the beginning) to the consumer.  After an initial fee for setting up the product page, money changed hands only when product sold.  They might take five copies of a CD, or ten, and then they would wait.  It was pretty much up to the musician (or the musician’s ‘people’) to promote the item outside the dominion of CDBaby and they did it mainly through his or her or their own websites.  CDBaby’s cut was small, especially when compared to the huge chunk the major labels claim.  Say, the item sells for fifteen dollars, CDBaby takes four, I believe.  Close enough for our purposes here.  I wonder if that will change.  Another hand in the pie means less for someone, right?  And I think I know who that someone will be, whether it happens right off or not.

The biggest problem I see for musicians right now is what I call fighting through the white noise syndrome.  In other words, how to separate their music from the mountain of product onto which their album will be thrown.  It sounds good when someone tells you that now you will be available to hundreds of thousands of potential new customers.  It doesn’t sound so good when you realize that they, meaning CDBaby and Alliance, are throwing albums against a wall to see which ones stick.  That’s what the major labels did for decades.  Look where it got them.

Will Alliance want to place physical product in, say, a Target or a Costco?  While they haven’t yet said so, that has to be the assumption judging by the wording of the announcement.  Whose product and, being’s how the product is basically consignment, what risks are the artists running?  I handled consignments at Peaches Records at one time, just before the chain went into bankruptcy.  Technically, all consigned product was owned by the chain as soon as bankruptcy was declared, regardless of payment.  Any artist who had dropped off twenty-five singles or ten albums lost not only the product but the recompense for that product.  Sure, there were forms you could fill out if you wanted to wait for the lawyers to take their cut, but it was a waste of time.  The lawyers pretty much took everything.  Will CDBaby/Alliance protect artists in those instances?  Will they know each state’s bankruptcy or consignment laws and regulations to make sure the product is not lost?

And what will they do if they decide that stocking a big box retailer with product is the way to go?  Handing Target or Costco boxes of product is fine, but that product is crucial to the lesser financed artists.  Will they leave them out of the mix?  That goes against the grain of CDBaby’s original intent, which was helping the artist.  If you start qualifying emphasis based upon the amount of product an artist contributes, that original intent changes.

I don’t know what exactly will happen.  But I do know that CDBaby was founded on solid ethics and while founder Derek Sivers has cashed in, the company until now has held to those ethics.  I prefer to think that they still want to.  But in my experience, when money becomes the big issue, and it seems to be becoming that, here, ethics change.  I hope that they look closely at the costs of what they are attempting to do, both financially and ethically, and monitor their progress.  Doing good things for the right reason is why I have been one of CDBaby’s biggest supporters.  If they change too much and use business as an excuse, I will have to rethink that support.

They haven’t really done anything yet.  The first stages are being implemented as I type.  Let us call this a preemptive strike (and we know how the last one turned out).

What do you mean, it’s out of print?

There are herds of us old fossils running around right now looking for that old album or group which meant so much to us in our youth.  We can find the Led Zeppelins and the Moody Blues easily enough, but what happens when we’re looking for, say, Andy Pratt or The Buckinghams or It’s a Beautiful Day?  I suppose you could take a chance on Amazon.  That Bezos clown finally convinced idiots out there that buying from a central point in the universe was a good thing (that earthquake-like sound you heard was a few thousand mom and pop retail stores biting the dust) and he’s pocketing the profits.  At the same time, the way they have the site set up for music, you never really know what you’re really getting until it shows (no matter what the page says, those clowns at Amazon know only artist and title and have no idea what a “Redbook” release is, nor a 5.1).   It is a mystery me why someone would buy something sight unseen anyway (unless it was a delivery pizza), but hundreds of thousands and probably millions don’t seem to care anymore.  Just be aware that if you buy CDs or DVDs from Amazon, unless all you care about is artist and/or title, you’re taking a chance.

But I digress.  My point here is that there is a distributor out there which covers many of the bases us dinosaurs want covered.   They have It’s a Beautiful Day and not just the “White Bird” album.  They’ve got them all.  Fort Worth’s Space Opera?  Three albums— the original Epic album, the 2000 self-released album and the released-after-all-those-years Exit 4 album, titled Safe At Home.  Hell, I’ll bet most Space Opera fans didn’t even realize that they were available!  Well, there you go.  They are so deep in catalog for other artists (Iain Matthews, The Buckinghams, Michael Stanley  with band and without) that it’s like looking at an old Schwann catalog from the 70s or 80s.  You remember my column on the rare tapes I found in my drawers (and, no, not those drawers)?  Well, they have two Sand albums right there, ready to come to your house.  Old and young should be checking this site out.  Old to find the old music they can’t find elsewhere— the young to discover many of the hits and failures ignored by the major labels of today.  Artists and titles are arranged by period and genre.  You’re going to dig this.  Here is the link.

Oh, and the next time someone tells you something is out of print, don’t panic.  It only means that it isn’t readily available or that they can’t order it through their channels.  Everything is out there somewhere.  You just have to search.

Notes…..    Breaking news!  Tim Vesely is a musical genius.  I know that’s not news to Canucks who spent a handful of years digging Vesely’s old band Rheostatics, but I’m talking about the afterlife — The Violet Archers.  I have been neck deep in their album The End of Part One since I find out about it a few months ago.  It is terrific!  Cool thing is, there is another album out there, Sunshine at Night, and if I ever get tired or worn down by The End of Part One (hasn’t happened yet), I have more to hear.  If you’re curious, follow these links to two of the outstanding tracks from the album that won’t let go—  All the Good and Path of Least Resistance…..  Another free download alert!  This one BBC-related and courtesy of Deborah Millstein who seems to have her fingers in as much indie music as she can handle.   It is Rash Records – Home Volume Three and is wrapped around some very impressive UK indies.  You can download it here (and I recommend you listen, regardless)…..  Just found out that favorite Sydney Wayser will be touring with Blitzen Trapper soon.  Keep your eyes open and go see them, if they are near.  (Check out her tour dates here)  Her new album is very impressive, indeed…..  Whoops.  Yet another free download, this one brought to my attention by good buddy Steve Wilson down in L.A.  ATO Records has their Spring Sampler up for download at this address.  This one should appeal to a large audience, having tracks by favorites Dawes, Alabama Shakes and Umphrey’s McGee, among others…..  Devon Sproule will be doing a Canadian tour next month.  If you don’t know her music, I suggest you get familiar with it.  She’s something else.  Here are the tour dates:

6/11 Halifax, NS – Carleton
6/13 Ottawa, ON – Raw Sugar
6/14 Montreal, QC – O Patro Vys
6/15 Toronto, ON – Tranzac
6/17 Winnipeg, MB – Aqua Books
6/18 Yorkton, SK – 5th Ave. Cup & Saucer
6/20 Saskatoon, SK – Vangelis
6/21 Calgary, AB – The Distillery (Sled Island Festival)
6/22 Calgary, AB – Local 510 (Sled Island Festival)
6/23 Calgary, AB – The Legion (Sled Island Festival)
6/24 Edmonton, AB – Wunderbar

In the studio, if not now, soon:

Jill Stevenson who has a string of excellent EPs and albums available.  I heartily recommend The Jill Stevenson Band and, with Adam Widoff, Where We’re Not.  Both albums are stellar.  Chances are, the new one will be also.

Charlottesville’s Wrinkle Neck Mules have scheduled some time.  They have three shitkickin’ albums of what I call mountain rock.  Southern-influenced rock with a moonshine twist.  You will be hearing a lot more about these guys.  Stay tuned.

Eric Corne.  I’ve told you about him before.  He is the man behind the all-star conglomeration album Kid Dynamite & The Common Man.  I keep asking and he keeps telling, but I think it’s a work in progress as was Kid Dynamite.  If Corne sold stock, I’d buy some, he’s that good.

Tom Mank has been chipping away at tracks which again utilize the always exceptional cello work of wife Sera Smolen and vocal talents of Kirsti Gholson (whose Little Green Blackbird album The Summer I Stopped Whining is a stunner) and Julie Last, voice and sound engineering guru.  These people are always welcome on my turntable, in any combination.

Chicago’s Jennifer Hall, who I found through the whisperings of Margaux Sky.  There is something very intriguing about her songwriting— intriguing enough that I am circling her music on a fairly constant basis the past couple of weeks.  Review soon.  Then, hopefully, new music.  You can hear her on her bandcamp site, here.

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

5 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: I Have Seen a Future and It Is Alcoholic (and Incredibly Positive), A Right Turn For CDBaby, and It’s About Music (the Past and Present)….”

  1. Steve Turnidge is a great mastering guy. He’s also a dedicated science geek. But his most brilliant proclamation of all was his solution for the major labels to combat illegal downloading. He suggested offering a commission to those who bought MP3s legally. In his system, a consumer would buy an MP3 legally. He would then act as an agent for the label. Each time he re-sold his MP3 file to someone the money would go back to the label and the first purchaser would get a cut of the sale. And the 2nd person would get a cut from the file THEY sold….etc. Over a very short period of time the label would have sold MP3 that otherwise would have been illegally downloaded AND each consumer ends up making his original purchase price back if he hustles the sale of his copy of the MP3. It would have been a game changer….and every label balked at him deciding, instead, to sue illegal downloaders.

  2. i’m so sad i missed AFM now. i’ll be sure to catch the next one, which hopefully won’t be too far down the road.

  3. Hey Frank, thanks for covering CD Baby’s new partnership with Alliance. Just wanted to mention a few things to hopefully put your mind at ease; first, we’re continuing all of our original services right along with this Alliance deal– which simply gives artists more channels through which to sell their CDs to customers that couldn’t effectively be reached before. People who want to sell physical product JUST on cdbaby.com can continue to do so; the physical distribution option is… well, optional. It will be similar to our deal with Super D (a one-stop distributor) which allows brick-and-mortar retailers to stock CD Baby titles (if they so choose), or to special-order a CD or vinyl record for one of their customers. The pricing still works the same. We take our standard $4 cut, you keep the rest. However, if the artist wants to make their album more attractive to retailers, they have the option of setting a wholesale discount in their account. (10%, 20%, etc.) Returns ARE allowed, since CD Baby’s policy has always allowed customer returns– but it’s a very small percentage of sales. Items returned in new condition will be returned to active inventory and debited from the artist’s sales.

    I hope that answers some of your questions. If you have any other concerns, please feel free to call or email us any time. cdbaby@cdbaby.com or 1-800-BUY-MY-CD

    best,

    Chris R. at CD Baby

  4. http://www.openbusiness.cc/2007/06/11/weedshare-rip/ is a pretty accurate description of Weedshare, and its demise. We miss it still.

    …Steve>>>

  5. click here…

    […]Frank Gutch Jr: I Have Seen a Future and It Is Alcoholic (and Incredibly Positive), A Right Turn For CDBaby, and It’s About Music (the Past and Present)…. « Segarini: Don't Believe a Word I Say[…]…

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