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500 days of Song of the Day

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Today I celebrate 500 days of song of the day. And well I guess that’s quite something. As a lovely friend proclaimed last night – that’s almost a million. And well I guess it is, almost.

So I have been racking my brain about what on earth I should do to celebrate this momentous occasion. And well I just thought I’d tell you the story.

I was always a music fanatic. When I moved to Geneva from South Africa, to start working in Finance, I was beyond excited to finally have concerts within my geographical reach.

I’ll never forget how after just two weeks of my arrival I nearly hyperventilated when I heard that The National (whose new album I am listening to while I write this) were playing just 45 minutes away.

I got my hands on the new arrivals email list compromising of easily 200 people and wrote an ecstatic message asking who would come with me to the concert. Not a single reply. Not one. In fact when I mentioned indie music people either didn’t know what it was or thought I meant Indian music. This scenario repeated itself more than once.

Out of pure desperation I decided to do something about it. I learnt from my past failed attempts of inspiring fellow friends by smothering them with 3 tons of must listen to music. Instead I started emailing new selected friends a song a day – the basics of indie music I use to say– every morning. Half for the love of spreading music, half to get a concert companion.

Those few email subscribers became ten, that became 40 that became +100. Song of the Day started becoming the reason I could get through my day at work. I started a music collaboration project. I turned the mailing list into a blog. As the view ship grew and we started throwing our own indie music parties. This went on for over two years.

And then I quit my job. I moved countries, changed industries. I started this new blog to tell the story. And now I am in London working in the music industry. And I look back and think – wow. It started with a song a day and stupid amount of passion. And the wonderful people who put up with it and supported me.

And so this is every song (or nearly – some are not Spotify friendly) that I have ever given out. All Song of the days ever.
A music road map to making my dreams come true.

If you have a passion, work at it every day and maybe one day you’ll have the privilege in loving what you do.

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Festival Review: The Great Escape // Brighton, England // 16 May 2013 // Day 1: Wolf Alice, Childhood, Everything Everything, How To Dress Well, Blue Hawaii, On an On

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I am just back from a magical 3 days in Brighton, having attended The Great Escape. My legs are sore, my body tired but my face is smiling and so are my ears. The Great Escape, often referred to England’s SXSW, is not only three days of exposing +300 of the best new up-and-coming artists from Europe but also a coinciding 3 day of music industry convention. It’s hard work to wake up for 10h30 start of non-stop keynote speakers, panels, interviews, networking and hot industry launches all ending at 5pm and then off to the gigs you go – dozens of options scattered over more than 30 venues around Brighton (thank goodness Brighton is rather small).

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It’s very different to any other festival I have ever been to, as it’s more about exposing the bands than it is about putting on a show – 30 minutes – high pressure – tight changing times – no encore. But it’s a wonderful atmosphere and everyone attending is fully into the music. And the talent is very very high although still young and fresh. There are however three big headline shows at The Dome: BASTILLE, BILLY BRAGG and EVERYTHING EVERYTHING.

The convention is a once off opportunity to hear key players in the music industry talk about where the music industry is going, have interesting panel discussions, give tips on how to break a new band and analyse the future of music. There are also plenty of chances to network and everyone’s barriers seem to be down and people are open and available to everyone they meet.

If you are working or wanting to work in the music industry this is an absolute must event and worth every penny and then some more you put in it.

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A lot happened in 3 days so I’ll try give you some highlights and break it up into three posts so its digestible.

Convention was beautifully opened my Chris Cooke, Editor of CMU (highly recommended free daily read) who is also in charge of all convention, with the ten big stories that have happened over the last year (Streaming services, digital, crowd sourcing, first year of ‘growth’ to name a few). Each day at a focus on one topic and today was about Data and Discovery. It was amazing to see how many tech platforms (Songdrop, Last.FM, Shazam, This Is My Jam, Pledge Music, Music Glue) offer in depth information about fans and listeners and all types of cool info. I also liked that all the music techies weren’t too deep in the data obsession, and all advised that the worst thing to do is to get addicted to data watching with no action behind it.

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The day ended with Everything Everything interviewed by Xfm’s John Kennedy. The interview started slow but as the band relaxed and the questions got more real we witnessed a very down to earth band. Joking about excitement over buying a new couch from Ikea and using a new vacuum cleaner to jokes about the worst band names they had ever been in and how Alex was only accepted in the band after he put up with Johanthan’s spontaneous toilet paper rolls attacks. They also explained their music: how they wanted to be a band that could like both Radiohead and Destiny’s Child. Jonathan Higgs, the singer of the band, discussed his need to create complex song construction and very rapid and detailed lyrics (which he impressively sings mostly in falsetto – let’s see how long his vocal chords last). He talks about the need to get all those words out and that he normally finds these lyrics while being surrounded by nature back home in a tiny village of Gisland. And that was a nice light way to end the convention for the day.

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Then to the gigs, first catch of the day: Wolf Alice at Coalition who I featured early this week.  The acoustics were so bad on the first song I nearly walked out, but thank goodness that I stayed – because the songs to come blew me away. The boys love to rock it out while Ellie Roswell looks both strangely innocent and dangerous at the same time, but definitely starving. She has a piercing voice and knows how to use the beauty of light and shade.

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Then I stuck around for Childhood, and I am sorry to say I wasn’t really impressed. There is a lot of hype about them being THE new indie rock band to rule England, and they did land the supporting act for the Palma Violets (who are also being hyped up to do the same). And to be fair – the sound it’s all there. Everything I would normally need to like a band. But something special is missing and a band that fails to make me move is a band that fails full stop. The lead singer even has an afro, but that could not make up for the fact that they are missing some magic. So I’m sorry to say I walked out of this one but feel free to give it a good listen yourself.

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Then off I went to see Everything Everything, which was a strange atmosphere really. Don’t get me wrong Jonathan has a voice of an angel and deserve that ridiculously over used cliché and the boys are good. But I guess I’m getting more and more jaded by pop music as I entrench myself in the indieness and I saw the gaps and simplicity of the music – which can be a good thing but this time I’m not sure I liked it all that much. Funny thing is I did enjoy it, but I’m just not sure if I really appreciated it.

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Then I ran to see How To Dress Well, in some hidden venue which was very difficult to find which I then had to queue outside of all of which lead to me in bad mood. I managed to catch just the last song but what an experience that was. Tom Krell explained how this song was about his brother, and that he had once been told off by a fan who said that he couldn’t sing such bad things. He proclaimed he didn’t care and he knew lots of people could relate. And so he stepped away from the mike, asks us not to film it as he hasn’t had enough time  to warm up his voice, and silent hits. He starts to sing acapella right from the heart, and everyone is hit, frozen, we can’t move but stare at him. His voice fills with pain and his eyes are closed with what must be flash backs. And he sings I dream of killing him so we can be friends and people start to get teary eye. The song is called Blue and said to be on a soon to be third album. There is a bad video here from another time he did it so you can get an idea of the amazingness we all experienced.

Then Blue Hawaii comes on – a girl/guy duo from Quebec. It’s made up of Raphaelle Standell-Preston who blows you away with her vocals while Alex “Agor” Cowan plays with all his knobs, bits and buttons to create accompaniment as they loop and loop again. Once the sound erupts you understand why the name is the right pick, it’s warm and happy like Hawaii but blue for all the electronic mechanics in it. Very enjoyable find.

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Then the last run of the day – back to Coalition by the beach – to see On an On. And what a finish. This three piece band is Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci and Ryne Estwing, who had been performing together for the last few years with the indie group Scattered Trees and sometime last year decided to break away and do their own thing and bring us this beautiful electric dream pop. And thank goodness for this. I can’t find much about them right now as their site is down. But I love them. I bought their LP Give In and I am playing it now on repeat.

And that is day 1 done.

My Way In: I have a band

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Continuing on from the previous My Way In posts:

The 31st of October was my last day at work. What a day. So I organized a week-long trip to London mid-November to go test out the waters and figure out the best way to break into the music industry. Luckily since I had publicized my plan, several lovely friends helped me out and put me in contact with people to speak to in London.

The conversation with these music contacts all went a little along the lines of: Do you realize

– That this is an incredibly tough industry – yes
– Artist management is possibly the hardest job in the industry to get – great
– It is going to take you 3-6 months to get an internship/job – yes
– They will not pay you – fantastic
– Finally when you get a proper job they will pay you close to nothing – pasta all the way
– You will work crazy hours – sleep when you dead

Are you sure you are up for this? hell yes!
Ok then you need to:

– Sign up to the following newsletters – done already
– Read the following books – ticked
– Order the following directory – being shipped to me as we speak
(all info on recommended material for the music industry is in this post)

Oh ok you are actually serious about this? Yes.
And then you win the trust. And people really start to help you because they realize you are not another flaky person who wants to work in the industry but has no idea what they are getting into. Their advice was: 1. move to London as fast as you can so you can be on the ground to network 2. Find a band to manage.

So I laugh – find a band to manage? How exactly do you do that? But I promise to try when I move to London.

And back to Geneva I go, thinking about planning my move. Three days later a friend invites me to go watch his band in concert. I have other plans but my lovely friend Eva agrees to go with me after our dinner. So off we go. They play and we have a good time – and we are about to leave when another band gets on stage. They play one song – and my mouth drops. They are brilliant.

I turn to Eva and say – I should ask them if they have a manager. We both laugh. They continue to play and at the last song I have tears in my eyes. So after the concert I go speak to the singer. I tell him I am looking for a band to manage and to move to London. He is interested. Turns out this hugely talented band made up of four, 20 something, wonderful guys – don’t have a label or a manager. And they are in the mist of recording an album. I arrange to meet them 3 days later at a bar.

We chat.
We drink beer.
One week back from London and I have a band.
I am a band manager.
They are called Cotton Mount.
(more about them in the next post but for now I ask for a simple like on FB pretty please)
They rock.

And so does the fact that you prepare yourself for this tough journey when you follow your heart. You are scared like crazy to jump.  But then you do, and you wait for the hard fall. But actually you find yourself flying. And people will positively surprise you with just how much support and cheering they will do for you. And you realize that all those lame clichés about chasing your passion are true: fortune really favours the brave.

My Way In: Knowledge is Power

So in the last few posts of My Way In we have discussed searching for your passion if you are not satisfied in your job. I recommended picking up a good habit of investing into something you enjoy and immersing yourself in the details. The beauty really is in the details – that is when you will find your dream will turn into concrete realities and you will find out jobs you never even heard of.

Apologies for the long post but this is a just a depository of all the knowledge I gained about the music industry and it is broken into three sections: Music Inspiration from websites/blogs; Music Industry News from Daily Mailing Lists and more in-depth Musical Industry Structure and Jobs coming from books.

Music Inspiration. To get inspired I would recommend getting into the details of the pure CONTENT of your passion. So in my case – get to really know the music. Training and developing your ear is just as true as for your taste buds – developing an acquired taste. Nothing can replace several hours of listening a day. For music inspiration I normally go to these websites regularly:

Pitchfork
Stereogum
HypeMachine
CLASH
GorillavsBear
NME
Record of the Day

Music Industry News. If your love for music isn’t so one-dimensional – i.e. you love music but you wouldn’t want to be an artist – I would start looking more into the industry.  I would recommend reading one of these three daily subscription mails (or all of them but they do get quite repetitive and it does take a lot of time on a daily routine):

Complete Music Update (CMU) –free and the most thorough daily feeds
Music Week – About  £150 subscription per year – although daily updates with some articles available freely. The biggest benefit to signing up to Music Week is their directory – the biggest music yellow pages you could ever dream of with EVERYONE’s numbers and emails. Priceless.
Music Ally – for all your tech inclined readers – this is really a great and well written update. You need to pay but there is about 3 months of free trial so you can start with that and see if you feel it is worth the money

Musical Industry Structure and Jobs. I would also recommend reading books to really solidify your knowledge of the jobs out there and the industry structure.For anyone who is trying to find out about the different TYPES of jobs and roles that are out there in the music industry, I highly recommend:

Working in the Music Industry by Anna Britten

This book is really great it is what gave me the aha moment when I got to the last chapter and read the artist management job description and ticket every box. What I like in this book is that it is very honest and practical. It describes all the positive and negatives of each job, what talents and personality types are suited, practical tips on how to get a job and how to work towards getting hired and some first-hand case studies from people working in the industry. It’s an absolutely essential first read if you want to find out about possibilities in the industry

I then read:

All You Need to Know about the Music business (7th Edition) by Donald S. Passman

This much less inspiring but essential book is really a bible when it comes to the technicalities of the music industry. It is written from the angle of teaching an artist but can be used for everyone.  It covers the roles and responsibilities of the different people in the artist’s ‘team’ (lawyer, manager, agents) and what to look for; a very detailed description on record deals ; a very detailed description on publishing deals and then smaller sections on Group Issues, Touring, Merchandising, Classical Music and Movies

This book is VERY dense. I will not lie that at times it feels like you need a cup of coffee per page when you get lost in the technical rules of royalties on discounted CD sold in foreign territory at a lower rate with a distributor and then how that applies to a premium. However the book does give a guide on how to skip over the more intensely technical areas. Apart from parts of it being tough to get through over all the book is really well written in the sense that he explains all concepts like he would to a 5 year old child – so if you can stay awake you should all be able to understand. And overall I really enjoyed understanding the ins and outs of all the contracts and the complexity of each deals. It’s really a big wakeup call on just how hard it is to be recouped or make money in general. It is definitely a tough but essential read.

Next up a more focused book:

The Music Management Bible edited and compiled by Nicola Riches but written by several members of the MMF

This was a great book to read for me as it focused more on the specific issues I was interested in and yet still recapped and summarized some important issues of the Passman book. Although technical I found this book really interesting and clear. It was really well written and to the point and included and explained several parts of the managers contract you would need to sign with your artist. This is the recommended basic contract by the Music Managers Forum (MMF).

How Music Works by John Powel

This was more out of personal curiosity than for my job. I wanted to find out what made music so special and why it moves so many people (including myself of course). I have mixed feelings about this book. My biggest disappointment is that I didn’t feel like it really cracked music’s magic – although maybe because you’re not supposed to. Also as I played piano for 10 years I was a bit bored with some sections, as it is written for people with zero musical knowledge and explained chords and notes and instruments. However I did enjoy several sections: what is music vs. noise, what is perfect pitch, how we came to our scales, why the same note on different instruments sound different, what is a harmony, rhythm etc. The only problem about this book is the author continuous attempt to be funny but failing terribly. I landed up cringing every few pages.

Lastly a not music related but definitely inspirational is the book I am in the middle of:

The 4 Hour work week by Timothy Ferriss

For anyone who is either going through a career change or is thinking of it and thinks really out the box and is willing to invest into a seriously different way of approaching work to enjoy your life NOW and not when you retire – I can only but recommend this book. It is very radical and it does aim to shock and although I do not agree with all parts of the book – overall this book has been so incredibly mind-blowing and inspirational I cannot help but recommend to every like-minded person I meet. An absolute must read to your crazy thinkers who want to shoot for the stars and not settle for the ordinary.

Well that should keep you busy for now. If you have some books or websites you’d like to recommend please do so. It be great to have some recommendations.

My Way In: Finding My Way

Hello MasMusic readers,

So as I promised, I would not only be sharing musical recommendation and content but I would also tell you my journey of chasing my dream. So I created this new section MY WAY IN to tell my journey of making it (or not) into the music industry. I’ll do my best to break it down in small digestible part – but I’m really a rambler at heart. I hope you enjoy my story.

I was born in France to a French father and an Italian mother. I lived all around France until the age of 9 at which point I moved to South Africa. After 10 years of schooling in Johannesburg, I moved to Cape Town for University. At the end of my studies I took a 6 months break, living in Rome, and then moved to Geneva to start working. And that’s the short version. So let’s say I have a bit of nationality identity crisis.

Growing up I had many interests (understanding people, learning to play the piano, violin, dancing, singing, acting and directing theatre, events organizing, teaching) most of which I did for several years as hobbies, on and off, but not one that felt like my calling. So I never really focused or developed any of them. Mathematics also came very naturally to me, and since this is a more respected and nurtured talent in the society of today, I did what most lost students do: I studied business (finance and economics). That seemed rational, that seemed prestigious and it seemed safe.

Before I finished studying I was lucky enough to be recruited by a big FMCG company that offered to send me to Geneva at the end of my studies. And again that sounded rational, prestigious and even exciting, so I accepted. But quickly after I started working I started feeling unsatisfied. I was not buying the whole Big Corporate Myth (something I’ll elaborate on in another post). I knew that I wasn’t being true to myself, working in this company.

So to stay happy, and most importantly to feel like I was actually doing/achieving something, I started a side project. When you work you simply don’t have time for multiple hobbies so it forced me to focus on one: and that became music. First I started doing Song of the Day and then joining with other forces it became Indie Nation. The importance of the routine of starting each day with music I’ll also elaborate in another post.

So after I started knowing music content well, I started researching types of jobs in the industry. Working in the Music Industry by Anna Britten was really a great help.  Before reading this I had pictured myself as talent scout (A&R). But then as I read the last chapter of the book, something very special happened. I read a description of a job that was perfect for me. Absolutely perfect. From start to finish. Artist management. Why hadn’t I thought about it before? Maybe it is because it seemed too good of a job to be accessible to me. But no, it turned out there were even artist management small private companies that you could join as an assistant. This discovery ticked the big three things I really wanted:

  1. Work as closely as possible to the music (you don’t get closer unless you are the artist)
  2. Be on the side of the artist (as a talent scout you try make artist sign contracts in the best interest of the label not the artist) and be in the position to nurture music I believed in
  3. Work for a medium to small company (I have had it with big companies – at least for now)

And that was it. I realized how often at University I had wished and hoped to know what I wanted to become. How I had said to myself, if only I knew what I wanted to do – I would do it. And there it was; I had joined this privilege small group of people who did know.

So I had no choice left but to chase it with all my energy…

MasMusic is back

So it’s been a month but I’m back! And boy do I have things to share with you.

The first good news is do not fear, as promised I will be starting up Song of the Day again. So for all of those of you who felt daily music deprivization (yes that’s now officially a word) – your easy fix is back on the roll. Just sign up to the blog by email and I’ll be back in your inbox.

Secondly the great news as I now have my very own site. I will use this site to continue what I have been doing for the past two years as well as share with you my journey of cracking into the music industry. You can read more about what the blog aims to do here.

On a side note, can we talk about the effort of setting up a blog. I am now officially colour blind from going through every single WordPress theme, colour, background combination. So please just love it and accept it. Firstly because I can no longer differentiate brown from blue and secondly because 36.7 times is about the maximum you can ask a patient freelancer in Pakistan to change a logo.

Thirdly, I have loads to share with you from my month of madness. Who ever thought being unemployed was a holiday is not a hyper bunny like me. Things have not stopped since I quit and I have loads of exciting news (including a great trip to London and a possible new band! to tell you all about).

But one thing at time. Let me start with your tune which I have been dying to give out since I got my ear on it. And which included last weekend in my DJ set and will most probably play again next Thursday at this event (which I have a feeling will be our best event to date so don’t miss it).

And I’ll spill the rest of the news slowly.

So without further ado, here is Ra Ra Riot‘s new single Beta Love

Oh just get up on your desk, dance around and try reach that high note (which obviously is not humanly possible!).
Come on you know you want to.

Hope to see you all at the XX concert in Lausanne tonight.

MasMusic
Living the dream

Song of the day: Follow your ears

Dear song of the dayers,

It’s funny how sometimes nothing happens for what seems ages, and then all of a sudden everything happens at once. Today I celebrate 400 days of song of the day (wow). Song of the day also developed in Indie Nation, and today is the blogs 200 post. Today is also the day that I leave my Finance job at a big company to follow my ears and pursue a job in the INDIE music industry in London. I didn’t event cheat the numbers.
So let’s say it’s a pretty big day.

As silly as it may sound, song of the day changed my life. The daily habit of investing 10mins every day into music, that naturally grew to 30 minutes and sometimes an hour made a colossal difference over two years. Not only does it feel great to start your day with something you love, but it also lets you explore it truly, develop it, give you the knowledge and one day the guts to jump. And if you don’t believe me, there other people who say the same.

So where to from now?
I will take about a month’s break, to go on holiday, to go to London start searching my way and to think on how I want to continue blogging how/when/what/where.

What about the music?
In one way or another I will continue to bring you Song of the Day, it’s too much a part of me to give up. So don’t stress.
Just sign up to this blog via email and you will get a notification when I am back to bring exciting new news (end Nov/early Dec).
In the meanwhile it’s not like you are musicless.
You have the song of the day playlists: 1. MasMusic’s Song of the Day  and 2. MasMusic’s Song of the Day  to catch up on all the songs you missed.

So go ahead and get listening.

I leave you with a song and a band that I am completely in obsessed with at the moment: Labyrinth ear.
Yes I know I already gave two of their songs recently, but all they have is two short EPs and all I can do is listen to the on repeat.
And at the moment this song.

So here it is Humble Bones

And remember wear sunscreen

Over and up.

MasMusic
I wish I could make a soundtrack to my life and breathe in the notes every day