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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Personal thoughts on Spotify, etc.

A few days ago, cellist and Twitter superstar Zoe Keating spoke out against Spotify. She has some good points. I do think that Spotify should pay equally to each record label and/or artist. But who's fault is it that they don't? The record labels have always flipped out over subscription services. They've systematically killed every one in the past: Rhapsody, Napster, Zune, etc. I'm sure Spotify didn't deliberately draw up different contracts with labels because they felt like it. The labels demanded it, and labels are still far bigger and more powerful than a young company that has yet to actually turn a profit (though it's on the brink), even if the industry is burning to the ground.

Spotify has the potential to save the ailing music industry. People stop pirating when they use it. Perhaps some artists are railing against Spotify because the music industry is (was) a vampiric business model that has demanded blood from artists for decades, and it doesn't deserve to survive. Eh. No, most artists have misdirected their rage at Spotify because they don't feel they're being paid enough yet. Railing against Spotify, however, isn't going to help us. Telling people to stop using Spotify in 2011 is like telling consumers to stop collecting mp3s in 1999. We have to find a way to work within the new system. (Which! I would like to say I predicted years ago, and I wish I had blogged about it then because I would be hailed as a prophetess! Or something. Never mind, being a prophet-with-a-blog probably pays about as much as being a fledgling composer.)

One advantage of the Spotify model is fairness - a different kind of fairness to the one discussed by Zoe Keating. This is old hat, but I'm going to say it anyway. Once upon a time, we bought a CD without knowing whether or not it was worth listening to, played it once, and if it was terrible, we were stuck with a useless object that took up a little over a quarter of an inch in our CD racks. I still have CD's kicking around that I know I will never play again; I can't sell them, and I can't bring myself to throw them away, because I paid $10+ each for them. My mp3 collection is the same way, though at least it takes up less space and doesn't smell like my basement. In the subscription system, the artists that I love and play over and over and over again can potentially get more money than the artists I play once. Good god, if the music industry had been savvy enough to implement some kind of music subscription service in 1999, Trent Reznor, Robert Smith and Kraftwerk could probably buy themselves a new yacht and call it Melissa.

But, of course, the recording industry hasn't been savvy. Everyone saw this coming but them - even I, a tiny little cog that isn't even properly connected to the machine. If they had bothered to think about the future rather than masturbating over the piles of cash they were raking in, they might have invested that money in development, launched a subscription service similar to Spotify shortly after the mp3 was invented, and maintained their own value in consumer culture. Instead, they fought tooth and nail against digital distribution, wasted money on DRM, and tried as hard as they could to turn people away from digital media altogether. Analogy: the tide is slowly coming in. You live close to the water's edge. Do you (a) dig a canal that directs the water around your home and perhaps find a way to make the ocean work for you, or (b) stand on the beach with a bucket, pumping your fists and yelling, "Go away!"?

Alternatively, they were the moronic and shortsighted grasshopper in the fable by Aesop, and now they want us to feel sorry for them. I find record labels only slightly less stupid than book publishers who are now teetering on the brink of failure (HOW CAN YOU BE THAT DUMB. The internet began as a TEXT-BASED MEDIUM. Delivery of electronic text files has been available since the beginning. Why did you not think about creating subscription services for books earlier? You sat watching the cracks in the music and film industries grow, and you did nothing. Nothing. And now you're crying over Google Books, and hoping that charging fifteen fucking dollars for an e-book will save the market for physical books? Burn, baby, burn.)

If the industry had thought about this earlier, Spotify or something like it would be ubiquitous today, and the revenue raised from advertising (for the company) and streaming (for the artists/labels) would sustain the industry and hopefully artists. Now we are stuck with a service in its embryonic stages and millions of people with vast mp3 collections that they probably got for free. Perhaps Spotify will grow into something that can support artists. Apparently it's already starting to do that in Sweden, where the service first began and has existed for much longer (translated article). But I have no pity for you, music industry. I have pity for the artists who will suffer in the meantime because of your shortsightedness and incompetence.

Oh, and I have pity for all all the artists you have ripped off over the years. Pass the marshmallows.

*sigh* This was a really impulsive blog entry, and I'll probably get flamed, but I'm just going to hit PUBLISH POST because I need to run to Sam Ash. Up Your Cherry is playing tomorrow night and I need a power supply.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Did you miss Tesla's Pigeon at the VOTG concert?

If you weren't able to attend the Voice of this Generation concerts the other weekend ... I'm very sorry. Because they were awesome.

But you don't have to spend all day every day crying about it any more, because the recording with Jessica Lennick and Tim Ribchester from just a few weeks earlier is now for sale!

You can buy it electronically (in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire) for $7 from Bandcamp.

Or you can pick up one of the gorgeous digipak CD's at the Tesla's Pigeon minisite.

AND AND AND I still have a few of those handmade silkscreen prints left, so you should definitely consider picking up one of those. They're even better in person than they are in the photographs below -- a lot of people fell in love with them at the concert merch table and couldn't leave without one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fringe binge - documentary evidence of success

Another year of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival is over. Thank god. I mean, I love doing Fringe things, but HOLY CRAP do I have a lot of catching up to do in every other aspect of my life.

With that in mind, I must keep this short. First: eternal gratitude once again to Kendall Whitehouse (Can you give eternal gratitude twice? Isn't that like adding infinity to infinity?) for coming to the Voice of this Generation concert this Sunday and taking these marvelous pictures.

He also made it to our tech rehearsal Saturday morning with camera in tow. Rad.

Matt uploaded some grainy video of Up Your Cherry at The Undead to YouTube.

Speaking of, Up Your Cherry got a nice mention in City Paper! Our first press!

Also, the Philly Weekly blog Make Major Moves interviewed me over the phone, in the course of which call I managed to talk about Voice of this Generation and Up Your Cherry, and then spiral into one of my usual caffeine-fueled rants about new music:
I think that’s very reflective, because when I do go see orchestra concerts, and no disrespect to old people, it's just a sea of white and grey heads. It's a very conservative audience and performance style that hasn't changed in 100 or so years, and when even the smallest change happens, there's an uproar. There are all these people who've been around it for so long and they don’t want it to change, and they’re the ones with money, so the orchestra wants to cater to their demands. Sure enough, there’s stagnation. And this is one of the causes of the symptoms of the Philly Orchestra filing for bankruptcy, and a problem with other orchestras around the country... [More]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Up Your Cherry looks like (updated) and Borribles

In my last blog post, I threw together some pictures showing you the kinds of things that Matt and I are doing in Up Your Cherry. But now, thanks to the marvelous Kendall Whitehouse, we have proper photographic evidence from our show on Saturday at The Undead.

I am particularly cracked up by the one where I look like a Borrible. Ever since I read the Borribles books as a kid, and re-read them a couple of years ago, I've wanted to set all the Borrible song lyrics to noisy music.
Drink it and sink it and clink it again,
Swill it and kill it and fill it again,
Booze it and lose it and choose it again.
The world is a bad house,
A prison a madhouse,
To hell with all sober respectable men.

Here we go beer we go blear we go down,
Wine we go fine we go blind we go down,
Flesh we go meths we go death we go down.
This life is a face
Of the gods and the arse
Of the universe wearing the face of a clown.

Steal the stuff feel the stuff deal the stuff more,
Quaff the stuff laugh the stuff splash the stuff more,
Curse the stuff worse the stuff nurse the stuff more.
There's no good in thinking,
Oblivion's in drinking,
So pickle your brains till you drop to the floor.
If you don't know the Borribles, you should pick up the trilogy. Deliciously subversive, anti-authoritarian, dark (the deepest, blackest shade of dark) "children's" literature. They kill Wombles. Larrabeiti doesn't name them as Wombles, but it's hilariously obvious. I really love those books. I guess I'd have to look into all kinds of rights issues if I wanted to set the songs though. BORING.

We have more Undead shows through Saturday, and one show at Plays and Players on Wednesday - see our shows page for a complete list. Video evidence is being planned. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Introducing Up Your Cherry at The Undead and Girl on Gurl

As of two days ago, Matt and I have been married for eight years. [Want a trip down memory lane? Here's our wedding mini-site from 2003 and photos from our fifth anniversary vow renewal. Don't know what we're doing for our tenth yet!]

We've come through all kinds of weird crap, and done a bunch of growing together, and at the risk of sounding like I'm gloating and/or boasting, I can happily report that the state of the union is even better than when we started. Ridiculously good. We're pretty freaking lucky people. If you'd asked me 15 years ago whether I'd ever get this lucky in love, I would have cast a rolled teenage eye at my parents and said, "Are you fucking kidding?" And yet, here I am, madly in love with my husband. It's like we won a lottery and somehow avoided ending up miserable, drug addicted and broke because of it.

For most of our marriage, we haven't played music together, which seems very weird because we were both in actively performing bands when we met. It wasn't a conscious effort of avoidance; for my part, I think I was just scared at some level. Performing music has always scared me. I'm never nervous as an actor, but my stage fright as a musician is sometimes debilitating to the point of requiring medication (metoprolol has saved me many times).

Sometime last year, the two of us started bitching excessively about the current state of popular music, and suddenly we realized the only thing to do was to make our own. Composer/pianist Danny Lawson unwittingly came up with our band name when he misheard me saying "a piacere" in a Tesla's Pigeon rehearsal in November. It took a few months, but this summer we decided it had to happen.

When my friend, director/playwright Wally Zialcita, approached me and asked me if I would be interested in provided some pop music for his Fringe show The Undead, I saw my chance. Aaaactually, Wally: Matt and I are in a band now. We will be glad to play your music LIVE. You can't say no! And he didn't.

GIGS! We had gigs before we even had songs. Awesome.

What does this band look like? It looks like this:

Plus this:

And this:

And this:

Last night we had our First! Ever! Gig! as the house band for The Undead. Great success! We're playing a lot of undead-related covers as well as a couple of originals. We've also become the house band for one night of another Fringe show, Girl on Gurl.

If you want to see our shows (YOU DO), there is a complete list of dates and venues on our website (which is kind of a placeholder as of 7PM 9/9/11, so excuse design/functionality). Yeah, that is a crazy schedule for a brand new band. Trial by fire! And we're starting to line up more shows past the Fringe Festival.

You could also go to the relevant pages on the Philly Fringe website:

Zacherle Presents...

The Undead

Rep Theatre Presents...

Girl on Gurl

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I did something dumb and involved myself in four Fringe shows. Four.

This has led to me being so busy that I have had scant time to actually promote said productions. In fact, one is already open and is only running a couple more days. You should see it. I provided the original music and sound design for:

InVersion Theatre Presents...
A play by Amiri Baraka

Directed by William Steinberger

Performing in the Parish Room of First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
Five Performances Only!

Performance Schedule:

Fri, 9/2 at 8 pm
Sat, 9/3 at 8 pm
Sun, 9/4 at 2 pm
Fri, 9/9 at 8 pm
Sun, 9/11 at 4 pm
(Please note that there is no Saturday, 9/10 performance.)

InVersion Theatre presents Dutchman, Amiri Baraka's (née LeRoi Jones) Obie-winning 1960s portrait of a brutal interaction between a young Black man and a mysterious White woman on a New York City subway car. Directed by William Steinberger, the production stars Richard Bradford and Caroline Crocker. For more information, visit Inversion Theater on Facebook.

Trailer from Ben Grinberg on Vimeo. (Note: this music is not mine! You'll have to see the show if you want to hear my score.)


What's the music like? I started with an unsettling bed of train percussion and beats, but you really want to pay the admission fee to hear the melody played on my mandocaster -- run through a Boss OC-3 so it sounds like a bass.

I freaking love my mandocaster. More about that very soon.