Mailbag

Subject: Re: Hate U Back

Amen brother! Love everything you had to say.my family voted for Trump and it baffles my mind as to why. It actually just makes me feel very sad. I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t want to bring children into this world. I really hope that he is elected out of office sooner than later and we can attempt to love one another. I live in California in the capital and I sometimes wish to move to a small town where I can focus on the Earth instead of all the fast paced rude mean spirited people around me.

Anywhoot, on a happier note, can’t wait to listen to both songs.

Thanks! Have a wonderful day and thanks for having the guts to speak your mind. ❤

Peace and love,

Martina Turgeon

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Subject: Re: Dear Boomers: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

I remember when you first got on Spotify you were linked to his. I am under 35 and (kinda) know who Steppenwolf is. I didn’t know that was his name until then though. I hope they fix this for you though. I’ve been listening to “Hate U Back” a bunch since you put it up. I stand by what I said in my initial listening that it may be my favorite song you’ve done. I’m currently playing that playlist. Hope all is well!

Mackenzie Murray

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Subject: Re: My Tombstone Trip

John,

As a historian I’m overjoyed to hear that you were not the least bit interested in the history of Tombstone when you arrived and were completely converted when you left. That sounds like an amazing experience and I enjoyed following along on Facebook. I have a deep respect for your parents marital longevity and their dream of a family compound. Please pass my congratulations to them for what it’s worth.

Regards

Chris Ragen

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Subject: Re: My Tombstone Trip

Isn’t it funny how you think something is going to be boring,  but when you actually see it for yourself or go there yourself. It amazing. I bet it was pretty quite then the city noise. I love the silence. To step back and enjoy the beauty of mother earth. To see the stars at night without all the city lights. I always enjoyed visiting my grandma’s ranch. To top it off going nuts because I have no signal on my phone! I’m glad to hear you had a good time. It’s always nice to get away for awhile and to be with family. Now back to the hustle of city life. Take care and always enjoy reading from you. Keep it up🤘

Anita Gray

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Subject: Re: A Gun is a Guarantee

Perfection.  I’m anti-firearms (well, except bbs), but I tend to stay off the soapbox about it.  In reality, the criminals – or anyone, really, if they hit up a gun show, or know someone – will still get their hands on them.  But this guy, with a fairly recent record of VIOLENT instability, was somehow able to pass the checks and buy it at a store.  Someone said that the Air Force failed to log him into their database accordingly, but I don’t know the source of that statement.  But FER FUCK’S SAKE – just how batshit does one need to be at this point, to keep them from legally acquiring firearms???  I feel like a goddamn criminal on the rare occasion I have to purchase a product with actual pseudoephedrine at this point.  A high school, movie theater, A FUCKING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, and now a church, and this is only a small representation.  We are a seriously fucked up society when it comes to guns, and a gun in the home is by no means a “guarantee.”  Jim Jeffries, a crass comedian of all people, has put it plainly and simply.  Check him out sometime, just for that bit.  Common sense in this country is far from common, it seems, and it makes me sad.

Heather Sheive

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Subject: Re: A Gun is a Guarantee

Good article/essay! Can’t argue with that.

Jim Wood

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Subject: Re: Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Good afternoon ,
Just wanted to let you know that i enjoyed this “blog” , if that is what people still call them. Hope all is well, good to read that you are always pushing forward. I wish you all the best,  always.
Until next time
Jay Neely

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Subject: Re: Don’t Mess With My Routine—What’s Yours?

..sounds like a good routine.. wish mine was as organized and personally fulfilling.. i’m a 9 to 6.. five days a week.. couple hobbies.. minimal socializing.. personal maintenance, kind of guy.. i enjoy the updates.. thanks.. good to hear what’s happening..

Darwin Morris

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Subject: Re: I’m Breaking Up with You

Omg! Hahaha you had me going! I was about to say “wow I could just copy and paste and send to my ex!” 😂

Sonia Reyes

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Subject: Re: Thank you/Happy new year

John,

Thank you for the email. I’ve been working/traveling a lot in these past few months, and now that I’ve got a minute to actually reply to an email of yours, it feels good to be kept in the loop about your future plans.

I’m planning on taking the same course as you in the coming year: I’ve taken enough time away from Music, and it’s made me stir crazy. I’m going to knuckle down, write, and start putting out my own music. I’ve sat in the background long enough; it’s time to take the spotlight, I think.

I’ll keep in touch with you, and send you song demos if you’re curious as to what I’m doing. I say this because I value your opinion as much, if not more, than you value mine. You’ve been at this way longer than I have, and you have a good ear.

Thank you again for the email. Look forward to seeing you soon, and I hope the new year brings you success.

Best wishes,
Brett Caton

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Subject: Re: Thank you/Happy new year

Hey John, the holidays were great except for getting sick. Hope they were good to you and yours. I’m excited for the year to come, learning new music and hopefully get better at recording it. I’m also looking forward to seeing you play some music live. Take care

Jeff Walker

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Subject: Re: Thank you/Happy new year

Hey John!

So sorry for the late reply. Our holidays were great, but I’m glad it’s over with! It’s kicked my ass with all this hustle and bustle that I’m just now getting a weekend for some ME time! Hope you all had a great one too. 🙂

Sounds like you and the band are going well and I’m looking forward to see what you all have in store. I’ve also gone ahead and signed up with your Patreon. Definitely, let us know what your tour plans are if you get a chance to head this way and we’ll get you set up somewhere.

Thanks for the well wishes for Chris’s new band too. He’s been a nervous wreck from not playing in almost 10 years, but he’s been great and is excited. I’ll be on the lookout for some new music from you guys and any other news.

Wishing you well and hope you reach your 2018 goals! Talk to you again soon,

Lucy Eckels McCord

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Subject: Re: Welcome/Thank you

Hey John,

Thanks! I’ve had the privilege of knowing Steve for decades. The way he explains how you guys are working on this project with quarterly meetings and such, it gives a perception of professionalism beyond almost every band I have met. You have plans and goals, not just dreams. That is wise!

I can go on and on with the platitudes, but the real world beckons…

I hope the best for you all! I look forward to the future of the real John Kay!

Jason Cloutier

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Subject: Re: Say Goodbye to Rock and Roll

Check out Harry Styles new solo album.  There’s some surprisingly good rock tunes on it.  Who knew the kid from One Direction may bring rock back to the millennial gen?

Lori Hildebrandt

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Subject: High and Alone Feedback

LOVE IT! It gave me November Rain vibes. My fiancée said he could see some of our friends at the comic shop listening to it, so I think I’ll play it for them and see what they think, too – hopefully get some interest generated.

Unrelated, I sent you a text last week but don’t know if you ever received it; if you didn’t, basically it was just me saying that Aaron and I would like to offer you all our home to sleep in when you all come to Huntington. I can cook for everyone. We have a nice hot shower, a couch, loveseat, and Queen air mattress that’s as tall as a bed. Saves you all money and gives you all some good home cookin’ out on the road. Understandable if you all have other plans.

Hope you all are keeping warm out there!

Brittany Feury

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

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A Kick in the Ass

A Kick in the Ass

Question…

Do you ever have to arrive an hour early at your place of work to clean up and rearrange your workspace because the person who worked the shift before you not only didn’t leave it the way they found it, but made and left a mess as well??

The band has been having problems at our rehearsal spot.

Don’t get me wrong, these are first-world problems, things that in the grand scheme of life are simply a small blip on the radar screen. But they are getting in the way of our ability to rehearse an actual, public-ready performance, and it’s frustrating.

Normally, we would just roll up our sleeves and take care of these things ourselves.

However, we are sharing the spot with three other bands, all of whom keep equipment, merch, and god-knows-what other miscellaneous items stored there. One of our core values is respect, and because there’s a disorganized hodgepodge of gear, we don’t want to throw out or misplace anything that’s not ours.

The thing is, we don’t just get together every week and “jam”; we have very structured rehearsals which are set up to maximize our time together, maintain our energy levels, and result in measurable growth, week to week. After nine months of learning, honing, and rehearsing the current songs in our set, we are finally ready to begin dress rehearsals.

But we can’t do that when the bands with whom we share the rehearsal spot leave the place a mess with cables strewn about, empty beer bottles or cans all over, and gear left out instead of being stored away neatly or taken home. There’s no room to move!

I know, I’m a pussy, and “That’s rock and roll, man. If you can’t deal with it, maybe you’re in the wrong business. Stop taking music so seriously.” I’ve heard it all before.

That’s amateur talk.

We are professionals; we always leave the room as if we were never in it, and we’re tired of cleaning up after other people.

So we set up a meeting with the owner of the room.

I had never met the owner beyond a brief handshake and nice-to-meet-you; our bassist handles the arrangements with rent and scheduling and whatnot, which means I can be uninvolved (it’s wonderful).

So I had no idea what to expect when we sat down with the owner to discuss the problems we were having.

He was thrilled that we asked him to meet!

He said it was the “kick in the ass” he needed, and that he has been meaning to tie up a bunch of loose ends with the place.

First off, there’s a Google calendar each band should be using to schedule their time(s) at the spot, and it isn’t being utilized correctly. We are addressing that immediately.

Second, within the next two weeks the owner is going to get in there and remove anything and everything which either he owns, or which he knows to whom it belongs, to create more room.

Third, it turns out the band that uses the room the night before us is not only six months behind on paying rent, but uses the space more to get drunk and jam than to actually conduct a professional rehearsal. So, we agreed with the owner to talk with the other two bands about paying a little more money each month to offset the loss of kicking out these deadbeats. (This shouldn’t be a problem, since the difference is negligible when spread across three groups.)

Finally, we and the two other bands will carve out a half day to clean and reorganize the space once the deadbeats are gone, and agree to maintain it thereafter.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say!

We’re still riding the positive vibes from our quarterly meeting last Saturday, getting after the things that need to be taken care of, and the rehearsal spot was a big issue on our list. It feels good to know we’ll be crossing it off soon.

Now…who’s next for a kick in the ass??

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

The Right Stuff: First Who, Then What

The Right Stuff: First Who, Then What

I’m very excited and I want to share it with everyone! 🙂

This past Saturday was our band’s fourth quarterly meeting, and we all agree it was the best one we’ve had yet.

Every 90 days, the band meets for a full day to make sure we’re all still on the same page in regard to our vision, review the progress we made (or didn’t make) toward our goals in the previous quarter, discuss and solve our key issues, decide and assign what needs to be done in the upcoming quarter to move us closer to reaching our goals, and reward and recognize each other for adhering to our core values as a group.

When we conclude, everyone rates the meeting on a scale from 1-10. The goal is to have every meeting be a “level 10” meeting, and no meeting below an 8 (Saturday’s average was a 9).

Prior to the meeting, we had a short rehearsal to run through our entire set of songs. We’ve been working hard on the tunes, getting them dialed in, everyone practicing on their own time, rehearsing and honing for almost a year now, and Saturday we had our first guest attendee, one of the Bullfighters.

After we finished the last song, I asked him, “So, if we did what we just did in front of a room full of strangers who paid money to experience it, do you believe they would feel that they got their money’s worth?”

“And more. Definitely.” He continued, “I’m kind of blown away right now, actually. I didn’t know what to expect, and you guys really have something. There’s a magic. It’s obvious you’ve got the right people on board.”

The right people!

Our guitarist, Brandon, echoed that sentiment in our meeting when we went around the room asking each person what they believe is working in the band: “I think our relationship as a band and with each other is obviously working.”

Until this group, in every band I’ve been in or a part of, the members were chosen based on talent, proximity, and availability (and not always in that order).

This time around, I looked at myself first, examining my own strengths and weaknesses, paring them down to the seven core values I hold as a human being which subconsciously—now, consciously—guide my decision-making and performance in all areas of my life.

Experience has taught me the hard way that no matter how talented someone may be, how close they live to where we rehearse, or how open their schedule is…if they don’t share my band’s core values, they can’t be in my band, and I shouldn’t join theirs. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Understand: first who, then what—I originally read this principle in Good to Great by Jim Collins, and it is echoed in Traction by Gino Wickman.

“First who, then what” is about getting the right people on the bus based on shared values, and put in the right seats based on their unique abilities—the ideal is to have 100% of people who want to get on the bus say “I don’t know where this bus is going, but I trust the driver and the other people on this bus enough to get on and help get us where we all want to go, together.”

But you’ve gotta have the right stuff to get on the bus.

The people with the right stuff share our band’s core values. They fit and thrive in our band’s culture. They are people we enjoy being around and who make our band a better one to be in.

And each of our members is operating within his or her area of greatest skill and passion inside our band, and the roles and responsibilities expected of each team member fit with his or her unique ability. (Everyone has a unique ability. The trick is to discover yours.)

Because we all share values and operate within our strengths, we experience never-ending improvement, feel energized rather than drained, and, most of all, we have a passion for what we’re doing that presses us to go further than others would in our areas.

Our job is to hire, fire, review, reward, and recognize all of our people around core values and unique abilities. That’s the way to build a band with all of the right people in the right seats.

By creating an awareness of our core values through our quarterly state-of-the-band meetings, performance reviews, and a three-strike rule, the people that don’t fit won’t last until the third strike. Some don’t even last until the first. Instead, they leave on their own, because they know they don’t fit. What this process does is smoke them out—there is simply no place for them to hide (in fact, we’ve already had a few casualties).

No matter what line of work we’re in, life is much easier for everyone when we have people around us who genuinely get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it.

I can’t wait for everyone to experience the incredible results that come from harnessing all of our band’s combined talents.

Shows will be announced soon.

The best is yet to come in 2018! 😀

P.S. Our band is looking to expand within the next 90 days! We are currently seeking two female members to perform backup vocals along with some simple percussion; tambourine, shaker, bells, etc. If you live in the southeast Michigan area (or know someone who does), have a quality voice, and share our seven core values—sacrifice, measurable growth, accountability, reputation for excellence, time, energy, and respect—please feel free to reach out to me at bgvox [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com to schedule an interview.

P.P.S. If you’re putting a band together—or any business, for that matter—keep two important points in mind (from Traction):

  1. Be careful what you wish for, because you’ll get it. If you want to grow, you have to understand that not everyone is going to be able to keep up and remain in the same seat forever.
  2. Keeping people around just because you like them is destructive. You do a disservice to your organization, to everyone in it, and to the person. People must add value. This may sound cold, but to the degree people are in the right seats, everyone is happier, especially them.

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Feedback

Feedback

Two years ago today, I woke up sick as a dog to an email from someone with whom I had shared my unmastered-at-the-time album for feedback…

“I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t like your solo material and I believe it has nothing to do with me being narrow-minded…what I hear is a professionally recorded and produced material without soul. please don’t get me wrong…but I got the impression that you wanted to please everyone…the sound is right, the words are right, but the magic is just not happening…one expression comes to my mind: comfort zone

“hope you don’t get this wrong! (and who am I to judge anyway?) talk later, take care…”

Did I think they were wrong? Absolutely not. I tell people all the time, “Music is like wine—if you like it, it’s good.” Some people don’t prefer my variety of wine, and that’s cool.

I thanked that person for their constructive feedback, and my gratefulness was genuine—at that point, they were literally the only person who had told me that they didn’t like any of the songs on my album out of the nearly 300 people with whom I had been corresponding over the previous two months.

It was refreshing to get a negative response!

My debut solo album was a (selfish, I suppose) focused attempt to display a sense of my range; I have many different musical influences, and I don’t like to confine myself to any one style or genre.

Since releasing that album—recorded in late 2012 and early 2013—I have delved into different writing and recording and mixing and production approaches, and have “found” my voice, especially in the last nine months rehearsing with the new band.

Do I want to please everyone?? YES! But that’s idealistic, unrealistic. I accept that my work isn’t going to resonate with everyone, and I’m not afraid to take chances.

The simple truth about my music is…whatever it is to you, it is to YOU. Music is a deeply emotional art, and the listener-song connection is special (or not).

My music to me is personal expression, first and foremost. It’s the way I say the tough things that I believe need to be said, whether to or for myself and others. It’s also how I challenge myself—I’ve written many songs throughout my lifetime, and I never want to repeat an idea (unless it’s intentional).

And because my music is so personal, and I want it to resonate with as many people as possible, I have a tendency to overanalyze and second-guess myself.

But 2018 is to be a year of action.

I’ve realized that I spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas and writing new songs, entering the beginning stages of production, and yet fail to bring them to completion because I’m trying to make them as close to perfect as possible before I share them with the Bullfighters for their feedback—I’m embarrassed of the apparent (to me or others) flaws in my work; the raw, unfinished sound of a song in progress. The emotional impact simply isn’t there in a demo, that’s why it’s a demo.

I know first impressions count for a lot, but my desire for near-perfection has become counter-productive.

To break this habit, I am banishing my fear of pushing my creative babies out of the nest before they’re fully ready to fly, delivering demos to Bullfighters earlier than usual. In demos, you hear more dry recordings instead of polished productions, perhaps some off-key singing here and there, lyrics or parts which may not end up making the final cut, etc.—bottom line: they’re not ready. (This is way more nerve-wracking for me than when I was concerned with releasing my unmastered album back in 2015, at least those songs were completely recorded and mixed.)

I have also defined separate processes which focus on delivering new songs, blogs, and podcasts on a regular basis—time will be set aside each week to write/record/mix songs, write and publish new blogs, and record and release new podcast episodes.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sending the Bullfighters demos of new songs for their personal feedback, which is important to me in helping decide which tunes to fully produce and rehearse and perform live. More blogs and podcast episodes will be coming soon, too (including a new weekly installment of mini episodes, about which I’m excited).

So, long story short…expect more from me than before, and if you dig what you’re hearing and reading, feel free to let me know.

If you don’t dig what I’m doing, feel free to let me know that, too. I can handle the truth.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Shared experiences; they are what life is really about.

I spent the past weekend with two of my band members performing house shows in Portland, Maine; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of our short tour was to test the waters and see if this whole house show thing is something that people would enjoy, to find out whether performing a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music would resonate the way my full productions do. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

But it was also to get back to a grassroots way of meeting people, making new friends, and connecting one-on-one with individuals.

The response was more than we could have asked for.

We learned quite a lot on our trip, and one of the things we learned is that people are yearning for a personal connection with their favorite artists.

In a time when the internet affords artists the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the fans of their work, we normally only hear from our favorite artists when they have something they want us to buy. And even then, that’s usually every two or three years when their new album comes out.

Albums. That’s another thing…

The album format has been exploded.

I recorded a podcast while in Portland at Gateway Mastering Studios with renowned mastering engineer Adam Ayan (Shakira, Luis Fonsi, Carrie Underwood, Queen, et al.), and he told me that he is mastering more singles and EPs than ever before, with albums sprinkled in here and there.

So, if you’re making an album, and you’re not being forced to do so because you’re signed to a record label, why are you doing it??

Unless you’re making an album of metal music—which studies show have the hands-down most loyal fanbase, a fanbase which still buys CDs and generally avoids streaming, clinging to the past—you’re swimming against the tide.

But I digress. Back to the matter at hand: connection.

In Portland, two of our Bullfighters (fan club members) are people who travel all over the country to see their favorite artists. They’ve been to countless shows and seen some of the most talented musicians perform in large and small venues. They told us they’d never experienced such an up-close-and-personal performance before, and they loved it.

The sentiment was shared by our new Portland friends, who took us out to dinner before the show. They enjoy treating bands (and their entire crew) to meals when they come through Portland, because they understand the struggle and the sacrifices being made to travel and get after a career in music. They, too, were blown away by the intimacy of the show, and said they had never been a part of something like that.

In Scranton, we visited with my good friend Phil, who is the program director at Alt 92.1 FM. He showed us around the station—which includes a 200-capacity theater with a 1932 Steinway grand piano. He said he is going to begin spinning my music on the radio, and will work with us to help put together an event when we return to the Scranton area.

And in Pittsburgh, as I was walking the streets, talking with locals and handing out flyers before our performance, I received many compliments and kudos on our “guerrilla marketing,” and that “your passion looks good on you; never stop doing what you’re doing.”

The people we connected with on this tour are incredibly supportive of our journey, and were kind enough to treat us to meals and allow us to stay the night in their homes.

We must have made a good impression, because they can’t wait for us to return so they can bring their family and friends and share the experience.

Which brings me to this article on the generosity of fans of music, and art in general:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170803091933.htm

That’s right, folks. Art is going to save us!

But it’s not going to come from Taylor Swift, or Drake, or Bieber, or Luke Bryan, or Future, or Adele, or Max Martin, or Migos, or Shellback, or Dr. Luke, or Mark Ronson, or any of the other major players in today’s music game.

No, it’s going to come from THE PEOPLE, those fans of talented artists and the work they produce!

Need proof? Here it is, straight from Spotify…

John Stein, an editor focused on indie, alternative, and electronic music for some of Spotify’s biggest mood playlists explained to The Verge that there’s a difference between a live hit and a Spotify hit.

From The Verge article: “[Stein] likes to find out what songs people are singing along to in the real world. ‘That’s something we don’t see in the data,’ he says. ‘They’re not always the catchy ones. They’re surprises. And over time, people come back to those more.’ He says he likes music that has substance, which you ‘can’t fake,’ not just perfectly crafted pop songs with the chorus at the front. ‘You can’t build real fans by following such a formula in that way.’”

Amen.

Follow me on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Lx9QDuqrvKCyr1jr1Q324

There is no art in a factory; not even in an art factory. — Eric “Mixerman” Sarafin

P.S. The researchers concluded that one implication of their findings for policy-makers is the potential for “substantial social and economic gains” from investing in the arts. They argue that these may be achieved “effectively by policies or investments that make the arts more widely available and ensure that access is not restricted only to the wealthy.” … Arts Council England’s Director of Communication and Public Policy, Mags Patten, said: “This paper makes a significant contribution to growing evidence of a causal link between taking part in the arts, individual wellbeing, and the strength of communities. This valuable piece of research will be important reading for those already studying in this vital area, and it should encourage new studies of the social impact of the arts.”

P.P.S. Become a Bullfighter today, and my band and I will perform in your area within a calendar year of your enrollment, guaranteed, or your money back. 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

I have a love/hate relationship with country music…

On the day I was born, my father was hired to work as a DJ at WWWW 106.7 FM in downtown Detroit.

He missed Howard Stern by a week, after Stern left when the station switched formats to country.

“W4 Country,” as the station was known, kept a roof over my family’s heads and put food on our plates for 14 years.

Willie Nelson held me in his arms as a toddler. In fact, so did the members of Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys, along with Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit, Roger Miller, George Strait, and countless other country stars of the early-to-mid-1980s and prior.

Accompanying my dad to all of the big gigs he’d work for the station, getting to meet so many amazing musicians and watching them perform night after night, seeing the audience’s reaction to the music and the production, and feeling the energy and the love in the arena…

These are the things that made me want to become a musician. And country music winds its way into many of my songs to this day.

Today’s country music just isn’t the same.

I can’t say that it’s bad, because music is like wine — if you like it, it’s good; and a lot of people like mainstream country music.

But I hate it.

Because mainstream country music, and Nashville itself, has been co-opted by Big Music and the pop machine. Hell, even Willie stopped recording in Nashville. He’s been making his more recent stuff down in Austin, Texas.

Many of today’s most popular country songs are being manufactured in “hit factories” in the same fashion as pop songs are, trying to make earworms.

But Chris Stapleton is the one winning the awards, by being authentic and doing things his way. (He took home this year’s CMAs for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.)

And then you’ve got Sturgill Simpson, whose busking outside the CMAs prompted me to write this missive.

My future brother-in-law tried to turn me on to Simpson two years ago. It didn’t take. To be honest, most of the time, when people suggest music to me, I am reluctant to listen or check it out.

It’s not because I’m not interested, it’s because I don’t have time!

Between work and family, I don’t have any time alone to sit by myself and soak in new music, the way I did when I was still in school. If and when I discover new music, it’s because I intentionally make time to listen to Spotify in the studio as I write or do something else.

That’s another thing! Music has become background noise, instead of the medium which drives the culture and informs the public consciousness.

Which is why Sturgill Simpson busking outside the CMAs resonated with me…

Much like Chris Stapleton, Simpson doesn’t really fit with the country mainstream, and the CMAs are all about the mainstream, which is why Simpson was on the outside looking in.

But that’s not an issue for him.

He won this year’s Grammy for Best Country Album, and his Grammy was sitting in his guitar case as he performed on the sidewalk, answering questions as they came in from fans on Facebook Live, and any donations he received went to the ACLU; that’s the American Civil Liberties Union, for those who don’t know.

And after playing songs and waxing on his appreciation of Kanye West and bluegrass music, he was asked to give a would-be speech if he won a CMA.

Here’s what he said…

“Nobody needs a machine gun, coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. And hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Thank you very much.”

Artists are supposed to speak truth to power, and that’s what Sturgill Simpson did, albeit outside the CMAs.

Before they became personal brands with fragrance and cosmetics deals, or their own clothing line, artists used their work to awaken consciousness in others, helping to shape and inform public opinion in a positive direction. Hip-hop has been doing this for decades.

And hip-hop dominates today, but the most popular song on the most popular streaming service (Spotify) is Post Malone’s “rockstar” which begins with the line “I’ve been fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies” and continues with “fuckin’ with me, call up on a Uzi” — it has almost 2 million daily plays in the U.S. and over 5.3 million daily plays worldwide.

Do you sometimes wonder why we have a nationwide opioid epidemic and a rampant gun problem?? Yes, Big Pharma and the NRA are the major drivers, but when the most popular music in the United States (and the world) is glorifying getting high on pills and shooting up rivals, it doesn’t help.

At any rate, my point is this…

Instead of taking the easy route and using the formula that mainstream artists use, and/or pandering to the lowest common denominator, artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton create music that speaks to our better nature as humans.

And when they sing their songs, one can hear in their voices the pain, the heartache, the courage, the hope, the love about which they sing, because it comes from deep within themselves, from their experiences in life.

My music comes from that same place: of me and by me.

And I can’t wait to perform it for you. 🙂

11/16 Portland, ME — 8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport 04046
11/17 Scranton, PA — currently finalizing booking
11/18 Pittsburgh, PA — 1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh 15212

Tickets for these intimate, stories-behind-the-songs house shows are only $10 and will be available at the door.

Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out. Once again, only 30 tickets will be available for each performance, so plan to arrive early!

P.S. Every Bullfighter — fan club member — gets two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 😀

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

I’m a Believer

I’m a Believer

“I think that the thing that major labels have always done that is important in the business is provide highly sophisticated, robust, well-developed processes for artists to reach their highest potential,” VP of New Digital Business at Universal Music Group, Tuhin Roy said.

“At the end of the day, that’s why artists come to us, because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.”

One more time…

‘…because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.’

BELIEF.

It’s what drives all working artists, the belief that someday, somehow, their dreams will come true, their creations will break into the mainstream consciousness, and their years and years of hard work and commitment will pay off in the end.

And the major record labels have preyed on that precious belief and exploited it to the benefit of their own bank accounts for decades.

Major labels know that artists are willing to do almost anything to reach their goals and live out their dreams, and so they are able to tilt contracts heavily in favor of the label, the artist becoming a sort of indentured servant.

Since many artists are desperate and/or uninformed, they willingly sign a lopsided contract, hoping that their success will solve everything in the end.

The chances of that are next to nil.

And once the contract is signed, the artist is legally obligated to produce music at the label’s discretion, for the duration of the contract. The artist must now make music of the label, by the label, and for the label.

In fact, artists on major record labels today tend to not write their own music. They have their songs crafted at writers’ camps, which author John Seabrook says in his book The Song Machine are “like a pop-up hit factory.”

Record labels and big-time artists put these camps together, and they can last up to two weeks, but usually less than a week. A few dozen beat- and track-makers and melody-makers (“topliners”) get mixed and matched in every way possible until all combinations have been exhausted.

And if the artist happens to be present, they are floating from combo to combo, checking out what each team has going on, working on ideas here and there, keeping and discarding what they like or don’t like. This is how the artist gets credit if and when the song is released — “change a word, get a third” is a well-known phrase in the business.

From The Song Machine: “The peer pressure is such that virtually every session produces a song, which means twelve or more songs a day, or sixty a week, depending on the size of the camp.”

This is all to say that the major record labels wield a great deal of power over their artists, and often end up controlling their entire careers, to the point where an artist no longer produces their own work from a place of authenticity, but instead defers to data, polls, and metrics while choosing a potential earworm from a smorgasbord of songs whipped up in haste by committee.

But things are shifting in a new direction…

People used to complain about streaming services. Now, they appear to be saving the music industry…

Artists are foregoing record labels and securing their own publishing, licensing, and distribution…

And they are growing their fan bases organically, through grassroots campaigns and tours, and connecting via social media and email…

Today it costs virtually nothing to distribute music on the internet, worldwide, or to connect with fans directly…

So why would an artist need a label???

Answer: Relationships and capital.

That’s what the majors offer — they are people who know people who know people who know people, and all of these people have deep pockets, in a world where many artists can’t even afford to buy new pants.

But are those the relationships that artists truly need? Or should artists be more concerned about their relationship with the fans of their music??

And should artists be focused on money first? Always worrying about the bottom line? Or should the artist be serving the Muse, allowing the Muse to flow through them, transmuting its whispers into their art, critics be damned??

The internet has granted artists and fans the opportunity to take the power back from the suits, and show the world that great music matters more than “hits.”

And now Tuhin Roy is hoping to find the next big thing in music…before it’s too late…

From Mashable (10/17): “Universal…announced the launch of its accelerator network in an effort to encourage the emergence of music startups— with the goal of getting Universal in on the ground floor of the next big thing.

“The deal puts Universal at the earliest stage possible with entrepreneurs looking for help in trying something new. The label is working with accelerators at that application process, then lending expertise and mentorship to founders with music-focused startups.

“Justin Hendrix, executive director of NYC Media Lab, said that corporate partners are important for entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have those relationships.

“The goal is to encourage more entrepreneurs and accelerators to focus their energy on music, which can be a daunting and byzantine industry to deal with.

“Universal isn’t taking equity for its efforts, which is the usual deal between startups and acceleartors. Roy said the label sees value in hearing about new ideas from entrepreneurs and having the chance to work with startups from early days.

“‘There’s a reverse learning process for us. We actually learn as we engage in these startups how they view the business which is maybe a view for where things are heading,’ Roy said.”

The labels are starting to see the writing on the wall. They are learning that in order to reach their highest potential, artists don’t necessarily need a major record label anymore.

Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer on 11/03: “I have huge admiration for everything Spotify has done to build their business. We have a complicated relationship with it now because we have to make sure that we’re represented properly and they don’t bypass us. There’s a temptation there, if they’re valued at what they’re supposed to be valued at, they could become larger than all the labels put together. It is my job to maintain the balance. We don’t control distribution and we are therefore not as much in control of our destinies as we were during the boom of CDs, of the explosion of vinyl in the ‘60s.”

Thanks to the internet, artists just need to make great art and connect with the people who love it.

For me, those people are the Bullfighters. The Bullfighters are the members of my fan club, and my band and I only perform in areas within 50 miles of each Bullfighter.

Because the Bullfighters believe in me.

On that note…

I’m excited to announce I’m getting back on the road, and will begin performing my music next week!

Me and two of my band members are hitting the highway to perform a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music, and we can’t wait to connect with old friends and make new ones.

These will be intimate house shows, taking place in a spacious living room, on a backyard patio, or in a basement or garage; basically, somewhere that will comfortably accommodate 25-30 adults.

Tickets are only $10 and will be available exclusively at the door. There will only be 30 tickets available for each performance, so plan to arrive as early as possible! Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out.

  • 11/16: Portland, ME (8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, ME 04046)
  • 11/17: Scranton, PA (currently finalizing booking)
  • 11/18: Pittsburgh, PA (1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212)

I can’t wait to play my music for you, and connect with old and new friends. See you out there on the road! 😀

P.S. Every Bullfighter get two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 🙂

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.