Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

31
Dec
16

MY Top 10 Albums Of 2016

soundwave-mad_2Picking your “Top 10” albums, based on any criteria, is hard. Not because there was so much great music released this year but because “Top” often depends on time, place, emotion and circumstance. An album that got me through a particularly tough June might not illicit the same response in November. Add to that the fact that I run a record label, and listing your own stuff in a “top 10” is immediately dismissed as self-indulgent pandering, and it’s a real challenge. But, hey. Fuck it. It’s my list. Maybe you need to get your own penis showing game.

So, dear friend, if you’ll indulge me, I have decided to select my magical unicorn list of 10 albums based on two simple criteria: Five albums I’m glad we released in 2016 … and five albums I wish we’d released.

Five I’m glad we released:

  1. jimsJust Punk Enough by The Damnit Jims – Man, I love this record. It’s honest and funny and has all the elements that make a great punk album. It’s serious when it wants to be but makes fun of itself as often as possible. To dismiss the album as anything but awesome means you simply aren’t in on the joke … and that sucks for you because it’s damn funny. Oh, and the Jims probably don’t care. When you add in the fact that the guys who made this record are really likable fellas and lifelong friends with a ton of talent you get the perfect storm of skate punk goodness.
  • Favorite tracks: “1%”, “C.U.N.T.”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. the-quitters-no-big-dealNo Big Deal by The Quitters – I’ve told my story about the now fabled Quitters a million times. One of the first bands I ever saw in Las Vegas, an inspiration for starting the label in the first place, and one of the few bands not only still standing after all these years but still making amazing music. I’ve known these boys a long time and to have this recorded timeline of their progress is like getting a lesson in how good bands become great. Give “No Big Deal” and “Contributing To Erosion” a back to back listen. It’s liberating.
  • Favorite tracks: “Paper Street”, “Gulf Coast Beach Party”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. gashersIn Trust We Bleed by The Gashers – The Gashers were the second band we ever signed and their debut, “Law Is Not Order” set the tone for the label in those precious early days. They are also our first band to release a true sophomore album … (c’mon Dirty Panties … I’m not getting any younger.) This wasn’t just a band making a record … it was the heart and soul of the beloved Peccadilloes trying to get out of the shadow of their former band and do something new. Be something … else. Well, what “Law Is Not Order” promised, “In Trust We Bleed” truly delivers. The Gashers feel more comfortable in their new skin with this record. The songwriting is solid and polished. The chops are honed and evolved. You can still hear their influences loud and clear – which is a hallmark of good punk anyway – but the Peccadilloes are firmly in the rearview mirror. This is a real punk album by real punks.
  • Favorite tracks: “Utopian Misery”, “Bender”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. punksexy.jpgPunkSexy: A Las Vegas Punk Rock Tribute To Prince – Wow. What to say about this. If you know me then you know how deeply I am influenced by Prince. I added and removed this from my list about 50 times before deciding to include it. Just like I removed “Blackstar” by Bowie and “You Want It Darker” by Leonard Cohen from the list below. In the case of those albums – which I love and do count among the year’s best – it just didn’t seem right to light another candle in the proverbial park that obscures the message. Is it great because it’s great or because they died? Is “Dirty Work” a “great Stones album if they would’ve died a week after its release? The gray area of bandwagon grief makes it hard to say. But this. Ah, this. I love this record and I refuse to let the untimely death of its inspiration cloud what it was meant to be about in the first place. This is a celebration of genius as interpreted uncut and unfiltered by people I respect and care about. The bands did an amazing job, and I think, in the end, came out of the experience understanding, if not appreciating, why Prince is so important to music and so important to me. So, if you didn’t like this album. That’s cool. I didn’t make it for you. I made it for me and in the end I guess I made it for Prince too.
  • Favorite tracks: “Sister” by The Negative Nancys, “Purple Rain” by Mercy Music
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. nnSorry, Not Sorry by The Negative Nancys – Say what you want about Kate Outenreath but she’s as tenacious as she is prolific … and no one … I mean NO ONE, puts themselves more into their music than she does. She was great in the Seriouslys and she’s even better here. Add the personalities and talents of Kelley, Eva and Penelope to the mix and you get my pick for my favorite album that we released this year. It’s fun. It’s gritty. It has attitude. I listen to this record a lot and every single time I hear some new nuance. Some new accent. It’s albums like this one that remind me why we put out albums in the first place.
  • Favorite tracks: “Headsick”, “So What”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE

 

Five Albums I WISH I’d released:

  1. raynerIn Circles by Rayner – So much passion and power in this record – and it all boils down to just plain good songwriting. With hooks, riffs and sheer reckless energy, Rayner capture moments in song better than any Polaroid picture ever could. They take you back to that particular summer when your biggest worry was getting a fake ID … or to that long car ride to nowhere just for the hell of it. If I have any complaint about this album it’s simply that it makes me feel old, which, I suppose I am, but damn them for making me want to be young again.
  • Favorite tracks: “I Owe Me”, “Stairset”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. fredward.jpgYou’re Only Here Because You Have To Be by Fredward – The first time I heard this album it reminded me of the first time I heard Mercy Music’s epic “When I Die I’m Taking You With Me” … not just because they are stylistically similar (which they certainly are … sorry fellas if you’re sick of hearing that) but because there is so much angst and pain here that it makes you feel bad about whatever experiences led to these songs … and secretly glad they did … because the music is so fucking powerful. Where the lines blur is that with Mercy Music you see longing, regret and grief through the eyes of a man alone in a room that he doesn’t wish to leave. With Fredward it’s all of them, angry and hostile, in a room they desperately want to get out of. Again, great song writing and solid musical performances (the drumming is spectacular) make this absolutely shine. Listen to this – front to back – with headphones on if you dare and make sure you’re using the safety scissors to cut out pics for your weird, stalker, wall collage.
  • Favorite tracks: “Right Fix”, “We’ve Been Sick”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. ouroOuroboros by Ray LaMontagne – This one is simple. I really like Pink Floyd and this is quite frankly the best Pink Floyd album since Wish You Were Here. I didn’t know jack about Ray LaMontagne prior to this – except that annoying “Trouble … trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble …” song – but I went to see him live and he played Ouroboros in its entirety. I went home and bought the record … listened again … and I really dig it. It’s spooky, atmospheric and deeply dark. Sometimes music paints you a picture. This once dumps paint on you and lets you figure it out from there. If I still got high this album would never leave my turntable.
  • Favorite tracks: It’s all one big crazy track.
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. rcGive It Back To You by The Record Company – I love new music, even when it’s old. The Record Company are a straight up, barefoot, dirty truck windows blues band. It’s all slide guitars and harmonicas and sadness. Girls leave. Crops die. Creeks dry up. In the end, if you have your guitar everything just might turn out alright. Nice to see new bands still turning out albums like this. If the Record Company makes just one kid listen to and possibly learn to love John Lee Hooker … then it’s all good. I listen to this album when I’m sad … because I’ve never been this sad.
  • Favorite tracks: “Rita Mae Young”, “Turn Me Loose”
  • Don’t take my word for it: CLICK HERE
  1. hqdefaultHardwired… to Self-Destruct by Metallica – Just kidding. This album sucks.

 

 

29
Aug
16

10 Things I learned From Watching the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards

vma2First, let me say to the scores of people posting “music is dead” sentiments because of the VMAs let me reassure you that music – specifically rock music – is just fine. Sure, it has its issues. But there have always been issues. Our beloved genre – barely 75 years old – has survived disco, EDM, whatever the weird banjo/coveralls/washboard thing is … and come out the other side just as loud and just as poignant as ever.

Yes, shady labels, soul crushing revenue sharing plans, rampant pirating and genital warts are all still issues but the VMAs are not the barometer. In fact, rock fans, the VMAs aren’t for you and haven’t been since the Nirvana era. This poorly produced, badly directed award show is a 3 hour clothing commercial designed to sell downloads of throwaway songs that you won’t remember in a year, much less in 10. It’s a vehicle for the same five or so stars to sit in the same room and test the boundaries of their passive/aggressive relationships with one another. It doesn’t create art, or even shape it, rather it celebrates the allmighty consumer “now” and panders to a demographic still too naïve to let their choices develop into actual taste.

Need proof? Look at where the real money is: tours. The top grossing tours so far in 2016 are Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay and The Rolling Stones. Love or hate the music they are still live bands, playing live shows and outselling everyone else where it matters: on the road.

With that said, I do watch the VMAs – as well as the Grammys and Billboard Music Awards. Why? Well, I’ve chosen to make music my business and to truly know your business you have to see it from 30,000 feet. That includes watching the good, bad and the awful.

With that said, and in no particular order, here are 10 things I learned while watching the 2016 VMAs:

  1. MTV thinks that the talent pool is so thin these days that Rhianna has to perform 4 times. We got four medleys throughout the show – lip synched, whether your “Umbrella” loving heart wants to believe it or not – and each one seemed more and more like a car commercial and a perfume commercial had drunken sex at Michael Bay’s house. No one else could be bothered to perform? Say, someone with a guitar or a piano? Was everyone stuck in traffic with Drake? Pretty sad when your silly little show is too low brow even for Adele.
  1. P-Diddy, or Puff Daddy, or Puffdidiliumptious, or whatever we are supposed to call him these days can’t read from a teleprompter. It was hard to watch as Diddy fumbled over his admittedly poorly written lines. Maybe the words written for him were so banal that his brain tried to fight back and head them off at the pass. He did manage to get out a surprisingly mumble free plug for his upcoming “20 years of the same ol’ shit” tour but as for introducing the actual award? Not sure if he was dumbfounded at having to present a hip hop award to Drake or had simply taken the saltine challenge before walking on stage. Keep in mind that, being a rap superstar, he TALKS for a living.
  1. Speaking of Hip Hop … it’s fucked. Drake wins best hip hop for “Hotline Bling?” Where the VMAs are not a barometer for rock music they most certainly are for R&B and Hip Hop and wow, it ain’t looking good.  “Hotline Bling” is hip hop in the same way that fishsticks are fish. To make it worse, a few minutes later Future came out and apparently rapped the alphabet during “Commas” … a song so inane that Chuck D is probably planning a folk album to disassociate himself from the genre he helped create.
  1. Lip synching is now perfectly fine … if you can dance in a group. There was a time when artistic merit was based on your ability to back up your recordings with your live show. This was before technology made it easy to cheat, but even after that, people were keeping a watchful eye to see if you did – or didn’t – actually perform. The buying public ran Ashlee Simpson out of town on a rail for her slip up on SNL and drove the guy from Milli Vanilli to suicide for his charade. But somewhere along the lines faking your live performance went from deplorable to skeptical to “that’s just the way it is.” I attended the Billboard Music Awards this year and didn’t see a single note come from the mouths of one performer. At the VMAs last night it was rampant. Britney is the Queen of lip-synch, and is even lauded for how good she is at it. Hell, even Ariana Grande stopped singing mid line to put a coat on last night like it was no big thing. Note to the consumer; they will continue to give you what you allow them to give you. Demand better.
  1. Poor Britney had to follow Beyonce. Now, I’m not saying that Beyonce’s 15 minute bus-crashing-into-a-plane performance was great. It wasn’t. Musically it had the substance of a pop tart. Sure, the producers threw everything they could at the viewer so that you would know that something “BIG” was happening over top of what is arguably the most pedestrian pop music ever created. It was lights and bombs and firetrucks and a million dancers waving flags to celebrate what, at it’s core, was equivalent to the opening of a cereal box. Still, Britney, who meant this performance to be her big “comeback” to the VMAs, phoned in a predictable and passable few minutes that amounted to absolutely nothing. Couple that with having to follow the “Beyonce vs. Godzilla 3D Spectacular on Ice” and the results were akin to a puppet show following a Pink Floyd concert.
  1. Alicia Keyes is batshit crazy. Wow. With her scant 45 second appearance Alicia Keys managed to work in a Martin Luther King reference on her way to reciting a nightmarish Dr. Seuss poem before sliding into an off-key acapella sea shanty about peace, justice and something she read in Women’s Day. This is the same woman that, in 2001, took an already great song, Prince’s “How Come You U Don’t Call Me Anymore” and turned it on its ear with a stunning rendition. Very telling that the darling of the moment, Rhianna, gets to perform four times last night while a genuine talent like Alicia Keys is relegated to one minute of insane rambling that sounded like Snapple caps read by an escaped mental patient.
  1. Speaking of Prince … Really, MTV? Not a montage, tribute, picture or even a slight nod to one of the artists responsible for your very existence? Not looking for a crappy b-lister tribute segment (that’s been done) but at least put a purple light bulb in a desk lamp for the man. Prince is indelibly tied to the “MTV Era” alongside Michael Jackson and Madonna and you can’t spare him a second of acknowledgement? Bad enough that he never won the Vanguard award (Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake have one) but you snub him entirely at your “legit” music awards show? You don’t deserve him … or David Bowie for that matter.
  1. Enough with Kanye already. We had our washed up star lunatic rant segment with Ms. Keys earlier in the night. Why then must we hand a microphone to this ass clown so he can grace us with poignant nuggets of wisdom like: “This is fame, yo.” And “Came over in the same boat now we are in the same bed.” And “21 People killed in Chicago.” And “I talk to older rich people.” All in one single run on sentence. Kayne, a talentless hack to begin with, has turned into Damon Wayans’ In Living Color character, Anton Jackson. At one point he actually said: “We are the influence and the thought leaders.” And to prove that statement he premiered his “art” a brand new video for “Fade” that was basically Cats meets Flashdance meets Farmersonly.com. Literally a workout shower porn cat girl surrounded by sheep video where he grunts the same line over tired samples. At best it was the work of a dyslexic first year film student. I suppose I should feel a little bit bad for him. After all, Bruce Jenner is his mother in law.
  2.  Rhianna wins the Vanguard award? The Video Vanguard Award, also known as the Lifetime Achievement Award, is supposedly given to musicians who have made a profound effect on the MTV culture, honoring an artist’s body of work. So, at 28, with your entire career taking place during the “No Videos on MTV” era you are worthy of a LIFETIME achievement award? In the years when MTV actually mattered they had winners like David Bowie, The Beatles, David Byrne, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2. But Rhianna? Really? I suppose next year, if Nicki Minaj is pregnant, they’ll give it to her unborn baby.
  1. MTV is a music video channel that doesn’t play music videos having a music video awards show. It struck me about halfway through the show last night that none of this makes any sense. MTV is no more responsible for the shaping of public taste in music these days than CNN, yet they trot this spectacle out each year and it’s hyped like the Academy Awards. This is akin to Home Depot Hosting a “Best Chefs” Award Show because a guy bought a gas stove from them once.

Bottom line? The VMAs signify nothing and represent no one of consequence. Just listen to what you like, support the artists you like, and buy an album now and again. Rock n roll is going to be just fine. At the end of the day, when someone grabs your iPod and hits shuffle, you’re the one who has to explain that Menudo tune. Don’t sweat it though. We all have something on there that we’re not proud of. – Allan Carter

17
Dec
14

10 Things That Didn’t Suck In 2014 (in no particular order)

drbb2The Vegas Punk Scene
Those who bitch about “the scene … maaaaan” always did and probably always will, but the state of the scene is pretty damn good if you’re really being honest with yourself. There are more good bands than ever and more decent venues than ever. We have a few promoters who actually give a damn about bands and putting on quality shows (you know who you are and we thank you) and that’s a few more than most places. There is something cool to do almost every single night that doesn’t involve Elvis or a blue man … all you need to do is pay attention and then get off your ass and go. The “good old days” are now – and always have been. Respect the past but don’t deny that the future is pretty bright too.

Jason Bracelin & The LV Review Journal
Yes, they did a feature on the label and we are eternally grateful. But that’s not the point. With print publications dropping like flies and most mainstream pubs abandoning local music in favor of DJs and the absurdly over hyped “nightlife community” the LVRJ, and Jason Bracelin in particular, continue to write about, support and feature local artists. Hell, Sounds of Threat – an honest to goodness, noisey punk band – were featured in the actual newspaper! That’s as cool as it gets. If you see Jason out in the world – thank him. You’ll miss him when he’s gone on to bigger and better.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/

Pirate’s Press
If you’d have told me three years ago that SquidHat would eventually be putting out vinyl (and some of you did) I’d have said (and did say) “You’re nuts. It’s too expensive. It’s hard to do. It’s scaaaaary.” Well, here we are three years and six vinyl releases later and Pirate’s Press was a big part of it. They made it easy. They made it look good. They didn’t gouge us or try to rip us off. They assigned us an actual person (love ya Carl) who works with us on every project and every step of the way. And the product is absolutely first rate. These are honest people doing great work for all the right reasons. Check them out.

http://piratespress.com/cms/

DoubleDown3-950x633The Double Down Saloon
The Double Down celebrated its 22nd anniversary this year and, if you are a part of the Vegas scene, chances are it has played some impactful role in your life. You might’ve seen your favorite band there, played there, done something horrid in the bathroom there, whatever … everyone has a Double Down story. For me it’s seeing Peccadilloes for the first time in 2005 and falling in love with Las Vegas for the right reasons. No Double Down – no SquidHat. You can decide for yourself if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. In Baltimore, where I grew up in the 80s, we had Hammerjacks. It was a legendary, 7 day a week rock club that got all the cool bands. You always had a place to go that got what you were about and would have LIVE music that you cared about. We were sure it would last forever. It didn’t. In fact, it is now under a parking lot of Raven’s Stadium. Things were never the same for Baltimore music after that and I assure you that if something were to lead to the demise of the Double Down our scene wouldn’t be the same either. Don’t just enjoy it … appreciate it.

http://www.doubledownsaloon.com/

Postmates
Running a small business means a lot of time chained to a computer in the spare room that you lovingly you’re your “office.” Postmates is an app that allows me to experience the things I love about living here even when I can’t physically leave the house. They will quite literally pick up anything from anywhere and bring it to you within an hour. The app lets you track the car from pick up to delivery and the drivers are cool. They even get to know you by name. Seriously folks: life changing. Want to have brunch from Bouchon in your PJs while watching Saturday morning cartoons? Done. Want to eat bacon wrapped shrimp from El Dorado Cantina in your undies without the fear of arrest? Done. Think Uber, but for food. Something that actually makes a smart phone smart.

Living In Las Vegas
If you live in Las Vegas and hate it, wow, I am sorry. I fucking love it. I’ve met more cool people, made more friends and met the love of my life here in a mere three short, sweet years. I get to do what I want, around my schedule, and I’m not even in the top 100 weirdest or most interesting people in my circle of friends. Every day is as exciting or as boring as I want it to be – but by choice – not circumstance. I get to watch bands, smoke, drink and eat sushi at 4am if I want to … and NONE of it involves the strip. New York is fine … but shit still closes there. Here you are limited only by your lack of imagination. Yes, it is hot, it’s the desert. Atlantis is wet, because it’s underwater. No one lied about that in the brochure. Everyone says “You’ll hate it if you stay 10 years.” Well, I hope I get a chance to find out.

Vegas Bands On Tour
Touring is still a bitch but lots of local bands did it this year and not only survived but made new fans in the process. From the Gashers to the Quitters hitting the road for two week stretches to the 45 day run that Mercy Music did … to the ridiculous, Santa-like “visit every house in America” schedule that Bobby Meader put together – hitting the road is still the best way to be heard, get better at what you do, and make a living playing music. The van is mightier than the cable modem – if you’re serious about what you do.

tpwaaThe Artistic Armory
The Artistic Armory isn’t just cool … it’s necessary. The thankless and difficult task of running an all-ages venue that actually takes care of artists and gives a whole new generation a chance to see the future of music in a safe and social environment makes Dustin a Nobel Prize candidate in my book. A scene starts with its all-ages crowds and thrives because of it. The Armory is leading the way and becoming the stuff of legend in the process.

http://theartisticarmory.com/

The Return Of Vinyl
I love the fact that vinyl is back, and not just because we release our bands on vinyl but because this renewed interest in the medium has allowed us the opportunity to do so. Listening to vinyl makes music the focus. You have to want it. There is nothing quite as cool as kicking back and really listening to a record. Plus, the medium allows the artist to tell a story in two sides rather than just trying to write that “hit single”. Long live the vinyl LP. I hope we get another 65 years out of it.

YOU
If you’re reading this then I’m grateful for you and you didn’t suck at all in 2014. Even if you hate SquidHat or me personally you’ve still taken an interest in something that I am very passionate about and that makes it all worth it. If you came to a show, bought a CD/LP/download, made a flier, hung a flier, wrote an article (good or bad), cursed our name, put up or even covered up our sticker in a bar … whatever … then you are what makes “this thing” great because you are why we do it. AND, if you are one of the amazing artists that made awesome music for us to release I can’t thank you enough. We are creating our grandchildren’s “classic rock” and I, for one, am damn proud of it. – Allan Carter

28
Jul
14

What We Expect From Our Artists

We don’t want to get all Tony Robbins on you but there are a few things that need to be said. The primary goal of SquidHat Records is to market and promote the music and artists that we believe in. We want all of our artists to be successful and we will do everything we can to facilitate that success, but we can’t do it alone. This is, after all, a partnership, and there are certain things we expect from you.

NO ONE SHOULD CARE MORE ABOUT YOUR MUSIC THAN YOU

It’s really that simple. Not us. Not your friends. Not your mom and dad. At the end of the day the art belongs to you and, ultimately, your success will depend on the passion and commitment that you put into making and marketing yourself. Yes, we are your label, and we love what you do. But, if we end up caring more about your future than you do then neither of us will have much success.

Make Amazing & ORIGINAL Music

Continually write and record new songs. Get better. Nod to your influences but don’t become them. The world doesn’t need another Bad Religion … it has one. We can help with songwriting, production and a lot of other things but ultimately THE GREAT SONG comes from you.

Promote Your Music At Every Turn

As an artist, you are always “working.” Every person you meet every place you go and every cup of coffee you buy is an opportunity. You’ve created something amazing that you think the world needs to hear, so make sure that they get the chance. Use social media, email lists, flyers, open mics, smoke signals, word-of-mouth, gig-sharing and other outlets to get your band in front of new people. Yes, we will be doing many of these things as well, but better to have more than less promotion. Talk up your website and promote your shows. Your enthusiasm will get them interested … hopefully interested enough to want to learn more … then your music will get them hooked.

Radio Sells Downloads – Touring Sells Albums

Writing, recording and releasing an album is not enough. Yes, the internet gives us a great advantage but it is also very, very crowded. Artist development is dead. Every person with an iPad and a $30 guitar can release a song or video and it just puts more and more static between the consumer and you. Internet radio and all the social media hype in the world will only get you so far. It’s getting out there, booking shows, playing live, connecting with your fans and making new ones that will make the difference between who succeeds and who ends up in a dive bar saying “I used to be in a band.”

Play out. Play out again. Then, play out again. Then play twice in one day, just to do it. Get out of town. Go on a mini-tour. Go on a maxi-tour. Get in front of new fans. Yes, we will be helping out by working to create live show/tour opportunities, but the more the merrier. If you book it, we can help promote it through radio, social media and PR. Play live as often and as far reaching as you can. And make yourself available after your shows. Bands at a merch table will sell a lot more stuff than your friend who comes out to stand behind the table for you. Remember why you’re there; to make a living playing music.

Put On An Amazing Live Show

This includes rehearsing enough that you are tight and consistent in your performances, and putting all your energy into every show. If it’s 4 people or 4,000 you will still make your fans one at a time. AND, they will not understand that you had “an off night.” They will just think you always sound that way. Make sure that your live product … that’s YOU … is polished to perfection and consistently amazing every single time. You are asking people to spend money on your dream. Deliver the goods.

Be Prepared

Opportunities are going to come up, sometimes out of nowhere, and with little notice. The more opportunities you are ready to take advantage of, the more successful you will be. Be well rehearsed, have your gear in top condition, and stay healthy. Also, be prepared to make hard decisions about how you spend your time. You may not be able to go on vacation (or may have to change some plans) in order to take advantage of the right opportunity for your band. That’s not to say you have to cancel everything else in your life that isn’t band related, but acknowledge and prepare for the fact that your success will require sacrifice.

We Can’t Make You Famous

Only you and the discerning tastes of a million strangers can determine that. What we can do is make sure that they hear about you, see your picture, find you online and ultimately have the chance to purchase your products. You are your first and hopefully biggest fan. Start there and help it grow.

Live It Every Day

Let us reiterate: No one can, will, or should care more about your music than you. Not even us. We love your band, which is why we are talking to you, and we want to help you realize your dream. BUT, it’s YOUR dream, and the person with the most control over whether or not it happens is YOU.

15
Jan
14

Please Tell Me Again How “Punk” You Are

pastaOr better yet, tell me, or someone else, how “not punk” we are.

I’m sure you are very “hardcore” and “hate the man” and all that other stuff you think your heroes were talking about in their music. Wow, you’re making a real difference in the world, right?

Listen to yourself. You have become the very thing you think you hate. You turned yourself into a second rate, carbon copy version of a faded ideal that hasn’t had a decent soundtrack for almost thirty years.

This isn’t about me trying to define “punk”.

Google it.

It’s about letting the pretentious, self-appointed “real punks” know that they are full of shit.

Your revolution was created in a factory, packaged by the media and dictated to you under the false pretense of rebellion. You are not expressing yourself. You are expressing a marketing concept that has been Xerox copied so many times that the words are illegible and the meaning, if it ever had one, is lost.

You don’t stand for change, or revolution, or anarchy. Anarchists are born of oppression and circumstance and are the real deal. Real anarchists, I’m talking about people who lead movements, risk their lives and die in rebellion, don’t have time to be “punk.” Ironically, if you subscribe to the core concept of “punk” then they define it in spite of themselves.

Dominic Mallary, of the Boston band Last Lights, said: “Hardcore without punk isn’t music, it’s a genre of porn. And punk isn’t a genre of music, it’s a thought process.”

He is already more “punk” than you just for having said that. Add in the fact that he died – from injuries sustained during a live show (dude strangled himself with his mic cable) – and he transcends your “cred” one hundred fold … by accident.

Want another awesome quote?

“Fashion is never wrong.” ― Malcolm McLaren

Yep! That idea that you love so much and that belief system that makes you so special and feeds the “rebel” attitude that you base your snap judgements on was popularized by a guy who owned a clothing store.

Slow down purists, I didn’t say he invented it … but he did as much to popularize it as anyone. And why? To overthrow the English crown? Um, nope …he did it to make money. Oh, and he created a subculture in the process and convinced a lot of people they were world changing non-comformists because they all dressed alike.

In a recent article on Cracked.com about the “more punk than you” ethos, they stated:

“While there were a handful of Punk bands that attempted to affect social change through music and lifestyle choices, regional punk scenes quickly became a competition over who could spend more time and money letting the world know they didn’t care what anyone thought.”

Sound familiar? Be honest.

Sorry to burst your bubble but your precious “punk” is a product. It’s a faux revolution with its own haircut and a uniform you can buy. Worse than that, “punk” has been about elitism for the past 30 years and is as hypocritical and condescending as any Wall Street hedge fund manager ever was.

If you have ever condemned anyone for not being “as punk as you” then you are a lie. Some of the most “punk” people I know would punch you in the face simply for using the word as a noun. And I promise you that the most “punk” person on this planet, by its very cultural definition, has probably never uttered the word.

Make music, make art, make your own clothes … whatever. But define yourself by your actions and not with a word that you adopted under false pretense and didn’t even help create.

Real punks don’t waste their time “hating” things. They change things. – Allan Carter

16
Dec
13

Actually, You Don’t Deserve A Break Today

mcmusic

It should come as a surprise to no one that the number one selling food in America is McDonalds. They rake in $32.4 billion a year … an estimated $2.4 million per store. Is it because it’s good?

No.

It’s cheap. It’s easy to get. It’s well funded. It’s marketed to the point of saturation. I bet you can sing a few lines from a McDonalds jingle easier than recalling the chorus of your favorite song. Probably easier than figuring out what your favorite song is.

The McDonalds Corporation says that the reason they are successful is consistency. McDonald’s sells more than 75 hamburgers … at roughly .99 cents … every second. The same burger … made the same way. In fact, there is no place in the lower 48 states that is more than 100 miles from a McDonald’s.

Why doesn’t McDonalds make a better hamburger? Because they don’t have to. 75 people every second will settle for the convenience, the price, the message and the consistent experience.

Frighteningly enough, the music industry has adopted the McDonalds business model and we, as consumers, are going along for the ride. Imagine if our bands sold downloads at the same rate that McDonalds sells hamburgers? We’d make $6,415,200 today. $44 million by the end of the week and in 12 months we would be a bigger economy than Ecuador.

But they won’t. And the reason is because consumers have to be engaged. They have to be active and to search them out. They have to bother. Labels like ours don’t have the staffing, budget or influence to physically put them within 100 miles of every person in the country. We can’t afford to place their songs in your face during episodes of CSI: Miami or make them pop up at the beginning of an angry cat video on YouTube. Our bands have to tour, beg for airplay, post on Facebook and hope like hell that you like them enough to buy the music and better still, tell someone else about it.

According to Apple, the most-downloaded iTunes song of all time is “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. The current #1 song in the country as I write this is “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. My personal thoughts on these songs are irrelevant. But, do you see a trend? Both of these songs are, at best, as carefully constructed and as fulfilling as a McDonalds hamburger. And, like said burger, easy to get, cheap to buy and you are constantly being reminded that you can have it. Hell, that it’s all that you can have.

According to Billboard the number one selling “indie” album right now is “Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades Of Influences” by Garth Brooks; arguably the McDonalds of country music. It’s “indie” because he released it himself. It’s #1 because it’s exclusive at Walmart; arguably the McDonalds of retail. Incidentally, Walmart CENSORS the music it sells and BANS certain CDs. So not only are they the only place to get a lot of it … they get to tell you what you can and can’t have and they are influencing the way artists create. Read that last sentence back to yourself. It borders on apocalyptic and, if you love art or music at all, you should be terrified.

Chances are very, very good that every song you hear today via mainstream media was written by one of 4 people. Lukasz Gottwald (Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Daughtry, P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Ke$ha), Hilary Lindsay (Carrie Underwood,  Faith Hill, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Martina McBride, Sara Evans and Miley Cyrus), Gregg Wattenberg (Train, Daughtry, and Goo Goo Dolls)  or Christopher Stewart (Rihanna, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, and Katy Perry.)

Not faulting them at all. They found a way to make a living by writing songs and, in the process, shaped modern popular music; not by evolving it, but by determining the path of least resistance and creating songs that will sell based on marketing trends and research. It’s the modern musical equivalent of Andy Warhol tricking the world into thinking that a painting of a Campbell’s Soup can was art. It happens because we allow it. We encourage it. We are too lazy to stop it.

Song mills are the norm. They are the new “Artist development.” What? Katy needs a hit that will appeal to a specific demographic? We have people for that. Huh? Kei$ha needs a song about leg warmers to tie into her clothing line available only from Target? Here … call these guys. $10 million dollars and a media assault (that rivals storming the beaches at Normandy) later and you’re humming “I threw up in the closet, and I don’t care.” while wearing very trashy, poorly made leg warmers.

Now, almost every person reading this will say the same thing. “I don’t listen to Kei$ha, I don’t eat at McDonalds, and I don’t shop at Walmart.” You are a liar. You do. You will. Your kids will. Denial just makes it worse. Menudo sold 40 million records worldwide yet no one owns a copy. Right. Your One Direction t-shirt betrays you.

Can it be fixed?

Nope.

Ramblings like this tend to end with some preachy “change the World” message where you are supposed to drop everything, make an informed decision and support something you’re not innately comfortable with. I won’t ask you to do that. You wouldn’t anyway.

If you are over 30, your favorite band would not thrive in today’s market and you’re favorite album would likely not exist. If you’re under 25, best of luck. We are creating the musical world we think you want, based on your buying habits, and you will have to live with it. A Xerox copy of a Xeorx copy until all definition is gone but it still vaguely resembles something that used to be great.

When you’re music becomes “classic rock” and then, inevitably, “oldies” will it endure? Will we look upon Justin Timberlake the way we look upon Elvis? Will One Direction be your Beatles? Probably not. You will remember a handful of great meals in your life but you will not remember the first time you ate at McDonalds.

Too late? Perhaps it is. But, nothing will change, nor should it, as long as “You’re lovin’ it!”

13
Mar
13

In Defense of the Indie Label

ImageThere has been a lot of talk lately about the “death of the record label”. When we started SquidHat Records in early 2012 all we heard was criticism. “A little late to the party, aren’t you?” or “What is this, the early 90’s?” even “Why would a band even need you?”

Yeah, we get it. To the outside world we are a bunch of nostalgic idealists looking to squeeze the last bit of life out of an antiquated system so that we can play “record executive” in our early forties and maybe, just maybe get a free beer .

Here, inside of the modest SquidHat empire (a spare room in my very small house), our managers and artists see a very different side of things. We’re a family of people united by a common love; great music. Whether it’s making it, recording it, promoting or selling it, the unifying bond stands. We believe in what we do and want to help each other realize our goals.

Yes, I understand the opposing argument. New software and technology make recording a breeze. The internet has made the world smaller, millions of people accessible and extended the reach of anyone willing to upload a song to the masses. There’s crowd funding, Facebook, Reverb Nation, Internet Radio and a host of other DIY solutions aimed at (and profiting from) bands and musicians. It would seem that anyone with the time, motivation and a few good songs could realize their dream of stardom with a MacBook and a good supply of Red Bull. So, with precious few exceptions, why isn’t it happening?

The answer is simple; bands need now what they have always needed, and that is people – not actually in the band – who believe in them enough to invest time and energy into what they do. That is where the Indie label is not only valuable, but alive and well.

But you have to have your heart in the right place. No one starts an Indie Label to get rich. I came from the fabulously bloated dot.com software world of the early nineties and I can tell you that the way to get rich is to tell a bunch of wealthy old guys that you can turn a dollar into two dollars. Back then they’d heap cash on you if you had a half-baked idea and a business plan scratched onto a cocktail napkin. Pets.com anyone? No, you start a label because you love music and want to share that love with as many people as you can. It really is that simple.

Now, I could write an eBook on this subject because I believe so passionately in what we do but I’ll boil it down to a few reasons why I think that an Indie Label is still the best way for bands and artists to advance their careers.

First, no software will ever replace a good set of ears.

From great producers helping a band find “their sound” to tireless, talented mastering engineers who understand how to make your recording sound good on everything from a pair of CAT MBX speakers to that 2nd gen iPod that you may or may not have spilled grape soda on. Good Indie labels help connect these professionals to great musicians and then make them accessible with financial support. As we expand and grow we develop a larger and more valuable network of like-minded people who can help us help you.

Secondly, the internet is crowded.

You can write “The Greatest Song In The World” (or just a tribute), upload it to a number of online music sites and then sit back and wait for the cash and accolades to start rolling in. Now, take that idea, put it into 4 billion heads and you get a gigantic maelstrom of “greatest songs” that meld together into a cacophony so loud and so massive that no one will dare try to sort it out. Turn away for one second and BAM! It shits out an auto-tuned, over-produced turd into the zeitgeist. Put another way, you might really like turtles, but if I take one of every species of animal on this planet and heap them in a pile at your feet your chances of finding the turtle are slim.

A good indie label can help carve a path, even a small, deliberate one, through some of that chaos by advertising, making great contacts with like-minded labels and professionals, marketing, promoting, forging distribution deals and essentially doing all the non-musical stuff that would keep you from actually making music. Yes, you can do these things yourself, and should, but having a team of people dedicated to just that? Priceless.

Thirdly, credibility still opens doors.

A good label, run by good people who do what they say they are going to do, pay their invoices and seem way too happy to talk about their bands 24/7 will inevitably develop a good reputation. This reputation translates to credibility, and, if you are sticking to your core ideals, people will start to trust you and actually want to hear about your new project. If I’m in a band and I tell you that my band is great, well, yeah. What am I going to say? Ah! But if I am a guy who seems reasonably intelligent and well-adjusted and I tell you about a band I love that I am not in and that my cousin is not in, well maybe, just maybe there’s something to it. That’s a simplification of what a label does but you get the point. If I, a sane third party, am putting my time, effort and cash into something then perhaps it’s at least worth a listen.

In closing, yes labels do get some of your money but, I will tell you this, reputable, artist-friendly labels earn it and they sure as hell don’t make money until you do. The old rule still stands; if someone “believes” in your music but needs some “money up front” run away. They are the lie that gives us all a bad reputation. Someone who truly believes will put up or shut up and then work their asses off to get you and themselves into the black. They have to in order to keep doing what they love.

So I stand by my and all good Indie Labels as the last real connection between true music and true music fans. Maybe the naysayers will never understand why we do what we do, and maybe they don’t have to. I just know that when I was doing my thing and trying to make it as a musician I wish I would have had someone like us to listen, support and simply give a damn about my music.

Oh, and I am still waiting on that free beer. – Allan Carter