My blog is now at the front page of my website:
Please change your links, etc. Very sorry for the inconvienience, and this will be the only time this happens!
See you over there…
As I mentioned in my previous post, the new andrewoliver.net is very nearly done. I expect to roll it out later this week, which will be a relief to me!!
Meanwhile, the Andrew Oliver Kora Band’s newest studio adventures are up for listening and downloading at the sounds page of our site. These tracks are the first studio recordings we have made since Chad joined the band, and we’re really happy with the way they turned out! They represent some of our newer tunes, including a Gambian tune with some great vocals by Kane, who in addition to being the fantastic kora player that he is, also speaks and sings in Gambian Mandinka! I hope you enjoy the tracks and thanks for listening.
Regular blogging will resume at the new site next week. Stay tuned!
…as Johnny Vidacovich would say.
I’m finishing up re-doing my main site at andrewoliver.net (thank you, WordPress!) and will be relocating this blog over there very soon. There is no way to have a redirect page from a free wordpress blog, I’ve discovered, so you will have to just update your links. I promise this is the only time I will ever do this!! It should be finished within a week. I will post again at that point, at which time I can finally move forward with my forthcoming series of posts on early jazz and more thoughts on other aspects of modern-day web promotion. Thanks for your patience, and I will leave you with this live performance of Dan Duval’s “Public and Republic” by my sextet at last week’s awesome PDX Pop Now! Festival, which we were fortunately selected to appear at this year. Featuring, as always, Mary-Sue Tobin on clarinet, Willie Matheis on tenor, Dan Duval on guitar, Eric Gruber on bass, and Kevin Van Geem on drums along with myself:
Enjoy, and look out for a version of this song on our next album, which we’ll be recording Aug. 15-16.
I’ve been recently jumping on board the ever-expanding and accelerating bandwagon of Web 2.0 in general and of people writing on its effects on the music industry in particular (watch for significant updates at http://www.andrewoliver.net soon). Much of the online literature is on the subject of giving away vs. selling your music, which I will address in a later post, but today I’d like to share a few thoughts on musicians’ websites:
Your website is not an electronic pamphlet about your business. It’s not promotion for your business. It’s not a way of generating business. Your website IS your business.
This is not really news, especially for the music industry side of things, but from the musician’s perspective, particularly in the jazz world, I am constantly surprised by the many great musicians whose web presence is difficult to navigate, not user-friendly, and unattractive. Unfortunately the default easy-to-make site for any musician is a MySpace, the functionality and aesthetics of which are so abysmal that it’s amazing people still use them. Still, the ease of setting up a WordPress page (or using any other blogging software for that matter) has gotten to a point that it’s hard to have an excuse, unless you’re so famous that you don’t need to promote yourself online (try finding Mark Turner’s website, for example, though I still wonder why such musicians, who clearly have the means, haven’t had someone set up a site for them, at least to have access to their fans who want to spend money on them!!)
The “standard” musician’s website seems to fall somewhere in the aesthetically pleasing but generally content-weak “pamphlet” type of site, well-articulated in this post at the always-thought-provoking Music Think Tank:
You have to think about what is going to draw someone to your website and why they are going to stay interested in going back to visit again and again. Unfortunately, way too many artists have very sharp websites that are only updated with gigs or with updates that are quick, pointless blurbs that are not all newsworthy.
On the other end of the spectrum are an ever increasing number of jazz musicians who have taken this to heart and jumped 100% onto the bandwagon, notably Darcy James Argue, whose Secret Society page/blog/free audio archive (see #2) has been very successful in accessing a wide audience for his music. Here in Portland, Andrew Durkin has mentioned to me how his online presence has enhanced his visibility in the music world. From an independent jazz label perspective, Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf Music is a great example as well, with the blog on the front page and constantly changing content. These sites, I feel, all have content which is updated regularly, is diverse in media and scope, and certainly holds my attention as a regular visitor, as well as having the requisite aesthetic qualities that prevent me from closing the window as soon as I visit the site (which is, unfortunately common it seems…) These are musicians who have definitely done their homework and are using the new-found power of the web to full advantage to get their music to as wide an audience as possible.
However, there is an issue nagging at the back of my head during all of this talk. We all know that in pop music, the actual talent of the artist is often not the determining factor in their success, or lack thereof. Instead, careful production and marketing strategies can turn any schmuck into a pop star. Are we doing the same thing in the jazz world through the internet?
On one hand, I am confident that great musicianship will always be recognized by those who know what they are hearing, and many of those who don’t as well. In that sense, the Mark Turner (or whoever)-esque lack of concern for having a website is irrelevant, as their extremely high level of musicianship will not only make up for it, but also guarantee that they will have a sustainable career with increasing fans, etc. And, of course, the musicians such as Dave Douglas who are on a similarly high level can obviously distinguish themselves from the throng musically without their web presence, but choose to utilize it to their advantage as well.
On the other hand, what about mediocre musicians who gather a substantial fan base online and therefore have some degree of success, but are somewhat lacking in musicality? Is that a problem? I am inclined to believe that the mediocre but well-intentioned musician who has success due to his/her web presence is just as deserving as anyone else who establishes themselves online, a task which takes a substantial amount of time and effort (to a scale I am only beginning to realize!)
I suppose the real question here is whether or not the ability to market yourself online will lead to an average decrease in the quality of improvised music. I’d like to think that this will not be the case, and discussions of the “long tail” (selling less of more – i.e. the increasing availability of niche products in the online marketplace) seem to indicate that the much broader variety of music which can be exposed to audiences now (compared with, say, 25 years ago) indicates a probable increase in the average quality of music, certainly in the sense of more creative and unique options.
Anyone with thoughts is welcome and encouraged to weigh in. In the next couple of weeks I hope to address a few other issues of this nature, particularly the musically dark side of the the “creative and unique options” I just referred to, as well some totally unrelated thoughts on some early jazz musicians, another strong interest of mine.
Well it seems that the PJCE is taking up a lot of space on here recently, although I have some other posts in the works (as well as lots of projects, the list of which was rather frighteningly long when I read it out loud to someone!)
But, for now, a wrapup of last Friday’s PJCE concert. We really had the best turnout and response thus far, which was gratifying – sans any decent press writeups or radio appearences, I feared for the worst but was pleasently surprised.
As always with a group this large (14), this many new compositions (9), and limited rehearsal time, there were some imperfections, and the Old Church’s acoustics were not helpful in that regard (as you will hear). However, despite all of that, there were some great moments which I’d like to share with everyone.
1. Finished Products – as promised, a follow up on my previous post about my new mini-tunes. They were really quite successful and basically accomplished my goals of writing pieces that would be playable with only one rehearsal but were still intriguing, were self-contained, dealt with one basic musical theme each, and would sound good in the Old Church. This was a good move for me as a composer, as I tend to follow the youthful stereotype of trying to fit everything possible into each composition, and I was finally able to get outside of that significantly here. Have a listen, each movement is about 2 minutes long:
I (Bass Solo: Bill Athens)
III (Trumpet Solo: Tree Palmedo, Soprano Solo: Mary Sue Tobin)
2. Fearless Frogs – There were some other highlights as well, co-director Gus Slayton write a rockin’ tune based on his recent camping experiences, “Fearless Frogs.” I am always impressed with Gus’s fine big-band voicings and his willingness to write in whatever style he damn well pleases, eschewing whatever big band conventions are left in this day and age. Part of why I love the PJCE as a project is this attitude of both experimentation and a lack of pretension, which I think most of the musicians and composers have picked up as we’ve moved along. Here’s Gus’s tune:
(Alto Solo: Mary Sue Tobin, Keyboard Solo: Andrew Oliver)
3. Cave Dweller – And, along the same lines, Galen Clark wrote a funky number “Cave Dweller” a year or so ago that he re-arranged for us. It will be featured on his band Trio Subtonic‘s upcoming CD, which, if you happen to be in Portland, will be celebrated with what will surely be a great show at Jimmy Mak’s on Aug. 7:
(Trumpet Solo: Levis Dragulin, Tenor Solo: Gus Slayon, Drum Solo: Kevin Van Geem)
4. Grabby McGee – At the risk of this becoming rather lengthy, I will leave you with two more tunes to enjoy. One of the PJCE’s newest friends and collaborators Andrew Durkin (of the Industrial Jazz Group) wrote a fine piece for us entitled “Grabby McGee,” which although in a post about the concert on the IJG blog he claims “stuck out like a sore thumb” was, in my opinion and in that of the audience as well, one of the highlights. Andrew also exemplifies the nonconformist attitude I was talking about a few paragraphs ago, which I greatly appreciate. And, his piece was the only one which featured people yelling “Cha-cha-cha”, which is not to be underrated!
(Bari Solo: Lee Elderton)
5. Caribbean Project – And finally, our friend Chance Hayden was in attendance and took a video of trumpeter Levis Dragulin’s tune “Caribbean Project”. Levis is a great trumpeter but spends lots of time on cruise ships in exotic locations, so we were lucky to have him in town for this concert:
(Trumpet Solo: Levis Dragulin, Guitar Solo: Kyle Williams, Drum Solo: Kevin Van Geem)
All in all, a great evening. I didn’t quite get to everything in the concert on this post but I want to keep it a manageable length, I will probably put some others up eventually. Meanwhile, enjoy the music and any thoughts or, better yet, compositions for our forthcoming shows are always appreciated!