Rehearsal Recordings posted

I have some rehearsal recordings posted - I'm letting some of my mailing list subscribers hear them because more ears are always better! If you're interested in hearing them and sharing what you think, come on over and join the mailing list. Here are some former rehearsal recordings that I've worked up and deemed good enough to release publicly:

She Believes Video

A few weeks ago I bought a flip mino hd. I like it a lot, the battery holds its charge well, it's easy to record with it, and the video quality looks fine enough to my eyes. Then I stumbled across some attachments that let you connect cameras to mic stands - and I have a huge mic stand that I use to record overhead drum mics.

So I started playing around with camera angles. I recorded a bit of footage of me paying passages of She Believes from the side. And then I set the camera up above me so it caught the entire keyboard range of She Believes, from bottom note (low C#) to high note (a pretty high C#). I also set up the laptop to record my face from the left side (or is it the right?), and I set up the mics to get a good audio recording to record into Logic. Then I pressed record on all three - the mino, iMovie, and Logic.

So there I am with three contraptions all recording at the same time, and it seems like I always make at least one clunker of a mistake when I practice this song - plus, I didn't relish restarting by pressing stop and rewind or whatever on all of these things. So in my mind I had one take before I gave up on the whole silly idea.

The take turned out pretty good! I pre-mixed it and sent it off to Josh over at Session One Audio, who's been helping out with the recent Acoustic Conversations episodes. Then I took the mix and sent it off to Mikel Wisler at Runaway Pen Productions. We lined up the camera angles and picked what went where.

Overall a simple low budget project but a lot of fun. Here's the result:

The America Song

I'm still working on the title so for now I'll just call it "The America Song". That's not intended to me arrogant, by the way, it just means it relative to all my other songs. Not relative to all songs in existence. There are a ton of America songs out there.

And... that's part of the problem. This song is the first song I've written that came from a dream, so I had to write it. But, two songs I'm apt to discount from the outset are patriotic songs, and protest songs. I just generally find them so thoughtless. This song... is a little bit of both, and I definitely put thought into it, so maybe that moderates things. But I'm still mulling it. I have a good rough of it but it needs a couple more doses of marinade before I upload it.

Exclusive - I Don't Mind

About six months ago I wrote a song called "I Don't Mind", and I just made it available as an exclusive for my mailing list subscribers. This one's actually a love song, and I'm a bit embarrassed about that since love songs are schmaltzy, and goodness knows we just can't have schmaltz in music. I tried my best to write this one schmaltz-free, though.

The recording is from shortly after I wrote it, and it has a couple of audio artifacts in it, but it's the first time I made it successfully through the song from beginning to end and I like the performance, so I'm a bit sentimental about it. It's technically a pre-love song.

To give it a listen, come on over and join the mailing list.

Another One Down

Finished another song earlier today, Sunday afternoon the 12th.

Man, this one was rough. I had the idea for this song probably almost a year ago. This was a very slow songwriting process, I've had the musical material for a long time, two ideas for the form of it for a couple of months, and the rough lyrical concept with two or three phrases ever since I thought of it. And I just couldn't get over the hump. I set some ridiculously high standards for myself on this one and I'm not sure it's a good idea to continue doing that - does it lead to better music, or just a more labored vibe to the music? I don't know.

So this one had more free-writing than any other song I've done so far, maybe three layers of free-writing. Where I'd free-write, and then boil it down into a shorter page of concepts, then free-writing more on that, and then boiling it down again... overthinking, zooming out, overthinking, zooming out... it's great to have this one written and I think I will like it a lot, but this time it's a slightly different feeling - not so much the rush of having created something, more like the relief of having a monkey off my back.

Notation Plugin

I found this plugin at Noteflight today and am as pleased as punch. I might find myself using it quite a bit on this site.

Here's a favorite chord of mine that seems to sneak into a lot of my music. One good example: Before A Kiss.

(Note, if my music is playing in the background, hit pause in the player in my right sidebar. :) )

Random News

Jango sent me a missive today, asking me to take a surveymonkey survey and asking for any other feedback. In this case I liked the opportunity to share my thoughts - I've skipped a lot of surveys in the past but Jango is a pretty fascinating service and when a site is new, it kind of invites thoughts and advice of how they could do things differently. They even gave me a free 500 plays out of the deal. I like how engaged Jango appears to be.

In other news, I'm enjoying doing the Acoustic Conversations podcast. We have a variety of musicians on the show, all at different points in their career. A couple that are actively hawking their cds, rehearsing regularly, and gigging out whenever they can. A couple of others that have it as their livelihood and have toured nationally and internationally. A couple that have done all that and are now relaxing more at home with their large repertoires and familyish local fan base. And some others that are just starting to take it more seriously, gigging at the open mic nights and doing shared bills with other musicians as they try and get recording projects together. That's about where I'm at, and it's good to be in touch with them as we can discuss putting together some shared bills. If you haven't yet, head on over to Acoustic Conversations and check out some of the episodes. There's some good stuff over there, some of which might be sharing a stage with me in the future.

Acoustic Conversations - Dustin Pattison

We have a new Acoustic Conversations Podcast episode up... time our guest is Dustin Pattison . Check it out.

Damn My Eyes Award

Looks like Damn My Eyes is Track Of The Day today in Alterative Pop, over at Check it out. and Jango Promotions

I recently signed up for "pay-to-play" promotions for and Jango. and Jango are both systems that will recommend your music to others based off of similar tastes. Users of the sites listen to music through their online players, and they get a mix of artists that are their favorites, and new artists the system believes they will like based off of analyses of "similar artists".

The question for independent artists is how to break into that and get your music recommended to new ears. On the one hand, the whole point is for listeners to find new artists - that's you! On the other hand, the system needs to know about you, which requires many listens from many people. It's a catch-22.

So the way around that is to buy plays from these services. There are of course a variety of opinions on whether a good artist should even need to do this, but listeners need to hear about music somehow.

I decided to test against Jango. I used two of my songs, She Believes and Damn My Eyes, and I picked the smallest play package for each. Here are the results:

  • First, I signed my copy of Damn My Eyes up for a promotion of 100 plays for $20. I chose similar artists of Ben Folds, Jamie Cullum, Harry Connick, Jr., Randy Newman, and Marc Cohn.
    • Full Listens: 71
    • Skips: 27
    • Loves: 3
    • Bans: 1

    In addition, another user recommended it to a friend of theirs.

  • Then, I signed my copy of She Believes up for the same promotion - 100 plays for $20. I chose similar artists of Billy Joel, Ben Folds, Jamie Cullum, and Harry Connick, Jr.
    • Full Listens: 75
    • Skips: 23
    • Loves: 0
    • Bans: 0

    In addition, two people outside of the campaign "loved" the track during this time.

  • Then, I signed myself up for Jango - on my artist page you can see the rough results. I ran two separate promotions. The first one was for Damn My Eyes. The minimum was $30 for 1000 plays. You need 50 "likes" for a song to get into general rotation. After 1000 plays, I had somewhere around 200 likes, and 10-12 fans.
  • After that, I signed up again for She Believes, for another 1000 plays. I got another 150 likes and another 6-8 fans I believe. It's hard to tell which stats are for which songs because their stats page doesn't list a complete history, but that seems to be the rough breakdown.

To judge these results you can go listen to my songs to get a relative sense compared to other music you like. But when judged against each other, my rough conclusions are that Damn My Eyes is slightly more likeable (in a broad sense) than She Believes - however I find that She Believes tends to make a stronger impression on the people that like it.

But regarding the services themselves, while it was fun getting the extra listens, I'm still not sure of the benefit of either of these services, for a variety of reasons.

  1. does not give you a sense of where that critical mass point is. How many listens does it take for them to start recommending you after a paid promotion? After the conclusion of my promotion, I haven't noticed any additional plays of my tunes through Having no sense of how many listens it takes, I don't find it worth the money to pay for additional promotions.
  2. It's too early to tell with Jango since my promotion just ended, but I think I am getting at least a couple of plays a day out of Jango now, after the conclusion of the promotions. That's not a lot. I'll report back here if that jumps up at all.
  3. Response rate sucks. I tried writing my listeners to say thank you, and I got some new "friends" out of it, but out of more than 100 messages that I sent, only two wrote back, and I only got one new signup to my mailing list. I am sure this is because many of the plays had to have been to passive listeners.
  4. It's the same with Jango. I've tried writing all of my 18 fans independently and I got one signup - a guy that joined my facebook group. This is better than, but Jango is still confusing here - I can see on my page who has "liked" me and who has signed up as a "fan". In terms of functionality, there is absolutely no difference. I can't write all my fans at once.

My whole strategy at this phase of my career is to build my mailing list and write songs. I don't yet have a cd or a product to sell, so I use my music to build my mailing list so I have as many likely buyers as possible when I eventually do have something to sell. So from my perspective anyway - and factor in your own opinions of my music quality - it doesn't look like these services are worth the results. I basically paid $50 per lead. (Update: Jango response rate is getting better - their listeners might be more active.)

Now, there are several things that could moderate these conclusions:

  1. Continued future plays could yield more mailing list signups, which could make the services feel "worth it". I'm noticing Jango plays, but not plays.
  2. Since my two tracks are well-mixed but one-off rehearsal takes, better produced studio versions of the same songs might yield better results
  3. Flat-out better music might yield better results, but that would always be true even if you're Mozart.
  4. I'm sure I could design a website that would better designed for increasing mailing list signups.

But overall I think it's important to note that both of these services appear geared to the listeners, not the musicians. It does a good job of introducing new music to listeners, but neither do anything towards encouraging the listeners to become active supporters of the musicians behind the music. There is a lot of music out there, and you're really just sort of being anonymously presented to people. This creates a low likelihood of building an actual relationship.

Update: I'm informed that Jango is only a few weeks old. My impressions of Jango overall are positive, and it's clear they're actively working on functionality. After getting another 3-4 mailing list signups I'm more optimistic that Jango's promotions might be worth it.

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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