Recording Artist Advocate: What did you just plug in to?

Playing a different club or event every night you will plug your cord into a lot of strange outlets. Don't trust that they are safe.

I got a call to bring PA out for a private party almost an hour from home. I got there early and the homeowner was switching out a plug where an RV had been parked. They had built a stage and gone to Home Depot for a plug that turned that large outlet into 3 regular plugs.

When I plugged the power distribution in, it sounded like a welder, and smoke billowed out of the rack. I traced the line back and saw it was a double breaker; 220, or is it called 230 now? 

I turned off the breaker and taped over the receptacle to keep the band from plugging in there. We ran extension cords to the house and were able to do the show without a hitch. Fortunately the distro took the hit and protected the gear.

Lesson learned. Now I bring a tester - 2 actually. One tells you if the power 110, 220, or even higher. The second one looks like a plug with no cord to let you know if the outlet is wired correctly as far as plus, minus, and ground. I replaced the varistors in the power distributor and it works perfectly.

Be careful where you plug in your cord. Get a tester. Your gear is too valuable to damage.

Oh, and yes - I get that "where you plug your cord" sounds like something else. Be careful about that too.  

Recording Artist Advocate: You'll miss them when they are gone

We have a great music store here in Weatherford. Craig's music has been around since 1978 and may be the biggest independent music store in Texas. They are bigger than most Guitar Center locations. More than their size, it's the history and knowledge they bring. And that I've gotten to them over all these years.  

So not long ago I had an amp fall over and break off some knobs - just sheared em' right off. So after the session I opened up the amp and de-soldered the pots. Got online and found the part numbers from Fender. 

Now this is where I could have just ordered them and fixed it when the parts arrived, but I went to Craig's instead. They had the original factory parts and even offered an improvement - a better volume pot that comes on more gradually. Definitely better for an amp used in a recording environment. 

The final ticket wasn't much, but I would have gladly paid more for the convenience and expertise. 

If you are lucky enough to have a great little music store in your town, do all you can to support them. You would miss them more than you think.       

 

Recording Artist Advocate: When is it Art?

You can take a picture. You can write a song. You can do almost anything well, and it isn't automatically Art.

Different people have their own opinions. To me, something rises to the level of "Art" when two people experience it and take away something unique. That is, their experiences are different.

It's good to talk about your songs. How you were feeling - what led to the song - but don't give too much away. You could write a great song that people love, but too much detail funnels everyones experience in the same direction. You could miss out on interpretations that raise your well crafted song - into Art.

Kids watching Star Trek saw Captain Kirk and Spock as best friends. There were people who saw it much differently. Funny as that sounds; that makes it art. Anything that reaches so deeply into your audience, that different people experience it - unique to their own experience, is truly Art!

I read conflicting explanations about what the movie "Get Out" meant and realized they had created a work of art. To some it was a cool horror movie. To others it was social commentary. But depending on their beliefs, it was saying completely different things! That's Art!

I heard an artist reveal a very specific detail about one of his more popular songs. The audience experienced it in a new way, and that was art too. I saw men wipe away tears just because there was a new context to a story they thought they already knew.

It's another reason to use subtlety and imagery, allegory and all the rest. When many people take away a different meaning to your song, they'll talk about it, argue about it, and remember it.

Keep it up and you'll have a place in their hearts.  

  

Recording Artist Advocate My driving buddy...

People choose their cars to convey who they are just like they choose their music. A muscle car says something completely different than a station wagon. But, don't judge a book by… you know the rest.

I'm driving a Dodge Challenger with the biggest and fastest engine available when it was built. It was an actual "barn car" in that it spent its first few years in a barn with a car cover on it. When we got it after several years, it still had less than five thousand miles. The owners new oilfield job didn't come with a company car - um, truck. So the Challenger had to go.  Lucky us! 

I can't say how fast we've driven it, but you pass 120 without noticing. It's like a NASCAR with all the creature comforts.   

So, I'm driving through the mid cities just trying to move through the traffic when I notice a grey Honda hatchback expertly changing lanes and taking advantage of every opportunity to advance through what was a moving roadblock. The most impressive thing was that he didn't come off as an aggressive driver. He seemed to always pick the right lane and jump in the one that moved the fastest. It took a lot of work to catch up to him. 

He decided I needed some driving instruction, I guess.

His car was stock as far as I could hear and see, but he knew how to make the most of it. Still, he never ran up on anyone or cut anyone off. When I would get stuck behind cars, he would wait for me. It was fun watching as he would perfectly time the flow of traffic. The openings he would take advantage of would just as quickly close behind him leaving me to find a different way. I can't say I was as expert or skillful. But I did keep up mostly. Traffic was awful. 

Finally, he had to take an exit so he slowed down to wave and smile and I did the same.

What did I learn from him? That it's not the car, it's the driver. Just like it's not the instrument - it's the player. Also, you will get shown up by the person you least expect. And that's OK.

Learn something from every experience and be humble enough to smile and wave at the person who teaches you that lesson. You will be better for it and someday you can teach someone else. 

 

 

 

 

 

Recording Artist Advocate: Do you need a PA or a van?

When you first start playing out you will likely need some kind of PA. The places musicians play when starting out don't usually have PA. Fortunately those are very small places with minimal requirements. Besides, when it's just you, a little system is enough. I know successful artists who still do some acoustic shows and just bring a few powered speakers on stands. 

When you get a band you'll likely be playing better shows and you'll have to invest in a PA appropriate to those venues. It turns out that a bunch of places expect the bands to bring their own sound. Or they have a system thats so trashed you can't really used it - and sound good. 

So bring your own sound if you want to be presented professionally.

When I first thought about building my recording studio I got some great advice: Build just what you need. Isolated floors and bunker-like walls are great if your in the middle of a noisy city, but out here in the country none of that was necessary. RoughWood Studio was profitable faster because I didn't have to spend so much. 

Take the same approach with your PA. Something as simple as stands to get the speakers you already have allows you to do more with less, and use your system longer - till you need a bigger one. 

A very wealthy friend once told me never buy the cheapest, and never buy the most expensive. Buy the one just under the most expensive. It's usually the same as the top one anyway, but without some cosmetic feature you don't need. 

Also think about weight and space in your van or trailer. You'll be hauling those boxes around. Setting up and tearing down. Even working as a team, you don't want to wear out your guys. 

One final thought. If you don't have the money right now, don't buy on credit unless it's 0% interest and you are gigging enough to pay it off well before it comes due. One day over and the interest is just too much. That's how they get you.  

So buy just what you really need - not the fanciest - and use 0% interest to your advantage. 

It's how much of your hard earned money that you get to actually keep that matters.