It’s a creeping, haunting yomp over some brilliantly bleak, industrial clangy instrumentation. Perhaps, like a gothic take on John Cooper Clarke with some pretty obvious touchpoints of Nick Cave and Tom Waits.
It’s from a 2002 album called ‘King Kong Serende’ and a bit of digging into Allen Shadow (see his blog here) suggests he’s a bit of a renaissance man. His Twitter bio states: “Novelist Allen Shadow (aka Allen Kovler) is also a music artist, poet, journalist & PR pro (APR) who blogs on writing, music and politics.” Which is what we like here on the Excavation Tapes.
If this project is all about unearthing really interesting and brilliant material lost in the banal mainstream crossfire, then we’ve got ourselves a gem here.
(see “Time to pitch” post from today for background)
Rocker Releases Song to Rally Nation
On the heels of President Barack Obama’s recent warning of “more pain” ahead, rocker Allen Shadow has released the single “We’re America” to help buoy the nation’s spirit during the economic recovery.
“As the president recently reminded us, the challenges ahead are still great,” said Shadow. “Now, more than ever, we need to keep our heads and our spirits up.”
The indie artist’s song was originally inspired by Obama’s speech to Congress in late February. In his address, the president reminded the nation of its long history of innovation and accomplishment, promising the country would “emerge stronger than before.”
In fact, Shadow echoes the presidential pledge in the song’s chorus: “We’re America home of the brave/And we’ll be back again stronger than today.”
“I also channeled Woody Guthrie,” said Shadow. “He helped us remember the best of our land during the hard times of the Great Depression.
While “We’re America” is uplifting, it also bares teeth. The tune claims “the banks are bandits now” and chronicles the irony of congressmen who cried fowl yet gave away trillions with little oversight.
A video of “We’re America” is a slice of Americana itself, peppered with images of vintage cars and classic movies. The video can be seen on Shadow’s YouTube channel: allenville33.
“I think the American people understand what we’re facing and how long things are likely to take,” said Shadow. “Nevertheless, the road ahead could test our resolve as there will likely be further pressures on us as well as continued knocks from other nations.”
Shadow, whose indie debut CD “King Kong Serenade” (Blue City Records) drew critical acclaim in the early 2000s, is offering downloads of the new single free of charge. The artist’s raw, literate style is often compared to early Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits.
“We’re America” will be included on Shadow’s forthcoming album, “American Alleys,” a street-savvy take on cities from coast to coast, due this winter from Blue City Records.
With the “We’re America” song video breaching 2,000 views now on YouTube and various social media play in progress, the next phase of my release strategy is the issuance of a press release. I’m using two services to distribute the release: Beat Wire and PRWeb.
Beatwire is a musician-centric service that distributes multimedia releases to some 10,000 music journalists and reviewers, including both mainstream press and the blogosphere. PRWeb, which is owned by PR-industry leader Vocus, also distributes a multimedia release to the main news desks of mainstream press and social media sites. PRWeb gets thumbs up from the likes of PR guru Annie Jennings, among others.
Both these services are reasonably priced, with advanced packages in the three- to four-hundred dollar range. PR Newswire is another good mainstream media service, but their packages start at $680.
In both cases, the release includes an embedded video and an audio stream of the song as well as artist photos and album cover. I’ve used both services before and had fair to good results.
In addition, I will personally send pitches of the story to key journalists, including newspaper, TV and the blogosphere. You can’t depend solely on press-release services. Pitching journalists is an art in itself, but I’ll go into that another time.
I get the Susan Boyle thing. It is, after all, a great story: never-been-kissed spinster from working-class Scottish town — from another era really — turns the tables of fortune on its ass before millions on British — now YouTube — TV. I mean, even Disney couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s Cinderella on steroids. It’s Pygmalion on pills. And the media barons have their content fix for the week.
But, despite it’s heartwarming feature – and the woman really appears to be the salt of the earth – the whole win-a-career-in-the-music-biz-overnight deal is quite irksome – annoying, actually– to music-industry veterans.
It comes down to callused hands. What do I mean? Well, in the heartland there’s a swift and certain vetting of suspected interlopers: “show us your hands, son.” Real farmers and ranchers bear the branding of their trade. “American Idol”s don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. “Idol” has actually uncovered some legit talent. Carrie Underwood, for example, is one of the best singers of her generation and is one of my faves.
Yet season after season, it’s irksome to the true laborers in the union of the real American performing artist to see folks believe that merely dreaming about stardom in their bedrooms is what forming a music career is all about, when union members are out there season after season pounding the pavement, the record label corridors, the club stages and the social media byways. The latter is called dues, man. And that’s the way the real music biz works.
I’ve released the video for my song “We’re America.” As posted earlier here, I’ll be making a case study of the song’s release.
About the song: There’s nothing so powerful as self-fulfilling prophesy, and, if we can defer excessive hand-wringing and rally behind the President, we just may pull out of this economic nosedive. That’s the spirit behind “We’re America.”
On the music biz side of this project, the strategy for getting the song out there begins with a pre-release via such social media sites as youtube and myspace as well as blogging.
I’ll cover youtube today, since that’s my primary focus. Why? Because in recent times that may be the primary breeding ground for the social media virus coveted by indie and major label artists alike. Today, “We’re America” breached the 1,000-view mark after a week’s time. Promotion so far has included: 1) very limited notice to my personal network of friends and fans, perhaps a dozen (by design); 2) limited promotion via Google’s AdWords; and 3) posts and direct messaging on related youtube channels.
A brief note here on Google AdWords. I’ve used AdWords for more than six years to: 1) promote my artist Web site and 2) promote a college Web site (another hat I wear — PR director), with decent results for both. Google recently sent me a complimentary apron and other goodies, an honor, I suppose, as a longtime user. That said, I’d rate my level of expertise at intermediate. AdWords is a complex Darwinian system that engenders a love-hate relationship. I’ll say more about its workings another time.
In future posts, I’ll cover more details on strategy and tactics and cite other articles on the indie artist and the viral campaign, including some success stories. All these posts will be listed under my “indie music workshop” category.
I’ll try to keep the reportage concise and relevant. And, of course, I invite readers to join the conversation with useful comments.
Is Twitter useful for musicians? Since I added Twitter to my music artist strategy, with my release of “We’re America” and beyond, I decided to post a roundup of opinions on the subject.
Musician Steve Lawson, for one, gives tweeting a thumbs up, claiming successes in an interview on Andrew Dubber’s vimeo.com, saying that musicians must immerse themselves in Twitter. He does a good job of explaining the contextual nature of the technology. If a musician creates a story about his process of making music – the songwriting, recording, performing – he says, users will find him interesting. “Make it part of a narrative,” he says. In a post on his own blog, Lawson debunks misconceptions, saying Twitter has “substantially improved (his) life over the last year.”
A Bob Brown post on networkworld supports Lawson’s philosophy. Brown lists artists of all stripes who tweet, saying the majors tend to do a poor job, while indies who are more serious are also more interesting. Also check out Brown’s list of productive tools for twitterers.
The New York Times tech writer David Pogue covers the waterfront on the subject. His posts cover everything from photo criticism to tips for beginners.
If there is a bellwether on Twitter as a proven tool, it’s Ragan.com. Over the past year, hardly a day goes by without a headline on the topic. Ragan writer and social media guru Shel Holtz says the brevity issue is “a load of crap.” Rightfully, he explains:
Yes, the messages are short. But many tweets are just part of some greater content. Tweets direct you to blog posts, breaking news, videos, photos, just about anything you can find on the Net.
I, for one, am ready to discover the greater good of Twitter for the indie artist and will report further on the subject.
On Billboard.biz, Glenn Peoples covers Google’s recent music play in China. Believe it or not, the Big G is actually second in China to Baidu, which controls 62 percent of the search engine market. Google’s search service is free for labels, but here’s the kicker: Chinese fans won’t pay for downloads. The model works well enough there, since labels pull in funds from Internet-site ads.
Reasonable sounding model that doesn’t translate in the states, however. Glenn cites a Forbes.com story that claims a good reasons it won’t work in the U.S.: fans’ willingness to pay for downloads.
Besides, labels still bear the scars from the original Napster wars and are about as open to free downloads stateside as kids are to broccoli.
I’ll say more about the indie artist and Google’s search-engine ad program in future posts.
There’s a cornucopia of food for thought in John Mellencamp’s article “On My Mind: the State of the Music Business.” There’s much truth in this overview of the music business the past generation or two. It’s also rambling and contradictory, but, at best, is good grounds for discussion among music artists and industry people. I’ll be listening for feedback from his article and posting further comments along the way. BTW, for the record (no pun intended), I happen to love Mellencamp.
The big show closed yesterday. Here are some more sites and blogs with good coverage. Spike.com had a big staff on the ground. Check them out for many live performaces and band interviews, including Waaves, VietNam, and The Black Lips.
Meanwhile, My Old Kentucky Home blog is stocked with photos and commentary. See stereogum.com for good coverage of Kanye West leading the G.O.O.D. Music showcase. And watch for coming coverage from coolfer.com. Glenn Peoples was on site, but “laptop-less.” Look forward to his take(s).
Noticed featured clips on YouTube over the weekend were ruled by SXWS performances. Nice play.
It’s SWSW time, and if you want to keep up with the action, there’s excellent coverage from some leading music journalists. New York Times writers Jon Pareles, Ben Sisario and David Carr report through the weekend from Austin in the Time’s Topics page devoted to the festival. Pareles, who is the Gray Lady’s chief pop critic, is a veteran whose coverage goes back to the glory days of Rolling Stone. He has a keen, well-rounded ear. In his coverage today, Pareles also adds a keen observation on the state of today’s music artist:
…musicians draw their audiences from people who chase down music in the news media, in blogs and on noncommercial radio stations — or maybe from a friend’s recommendation or a giveaway on a music downloading site.
Yes, the biz has been leveled via the Internet. That, of course, is the good news for the music artist. The bad, or at least difficult, news lies in making money. I’ll cite a few cases, both good and bad, in future posts that exemplify the money issue.
Back to SXSW coverage, try WIRE’s Underwire blog, with jottings from Eliot Van Buskirk and others. Today, he discusses band Choo Choo’s take on Twitter as a tool to connect with fans.
For an authentic view from the ground, try popwreckoning’s blog. Their writers will transport you, with reviews, band details and photos.