Collaborations with 13 musicians on current 25 tracks

My producer and I spent 2 hours yesterday on creating a spread sheet to track progress of the work on 25 different songs currently in play in addition to 19 songs that have already been mixed. We currently have 13 different musicians involved in this work which will result in three very different sounding albums. This project requires a great deal of organisation and coordination as there are many moving parts. We are delighted to have a number of great vocalists and musicians involved in creating some really unique material. Some songs are going to appear in very different styles. “All is fine, until the world goes pop” has already been recorded and mastered in three very different styles.

Radio Plays

During covid 19 I see little point in releasing entire albums, but we will put out a few tracks for radio play and on my sites. Special thanks to Andy Coote at Source FM for the latest in a series of radio plays here

The recording process

All work starts in my home studio in the UK. Unusually for me, I’m doing everything on electric guitar with my Henriksen amps, Motown Acme DI box, Zen Drive 2 and other pedals, with all vocals through the superb Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic. All tracks are recorded via a UAD Arrow into the Reaper DAW. Its a very stripped down setup that works brilliantly. Once I have worked up basic ideas, they can go out to other musicians and producers working with the material. Its a fascinating process to bring together so much excellent talent and I’m grateful to all those who are involved.

Release dates and video

Full albums are planned for mid 2021, depending on the covid 19 situation. In the meantime Nick Bloomfield is doing a great job creating video for existing and future releases.

Working on 40 tracks across 2 projects

I’m currently working on 40 tracks across two very different projects. There are 2 totally different arrangements of songs written since covid lockdown, so they can legitimately be classed as totally different in all respects.

One of these projects is under a total different identity and a brand new genre of music for me with a world class producer. The second one is either solo or with my usual band with a whole bunch of amazing guests, many of whom I will be recording with for the very first time. Unusually the remixes appear first and the original tracks will come later. I can get some parts done remotely, but covid 19 has slowed down what I can do with the band. This means I’m working solo mostly on vocals and guitar parts and creating core ingredients for what follows. This stripped down way of working has been surprisingly productive and I am super pleased with the results to date

Its a massive amount of work and I am grateful to all those who have been involved to date. The ones with timings have already been recorded and the remixes have already had numerous radio plays

Here is the list of all the tracks to date

  1. All is fine till the world goes pop 4.19
  2. Gather round 6.57
  3. Nothing here sounds good 3.21
  4. All Kinds of Crazy 5.24
  5. Your chosen one is coming 4.12
  6. Please take this time 4.24
  7. 321 Lockdown 3.41
  8. Hold that thought 3.30
  9. Sticks and stones 3.40
  10. The world is burning 3.39
  11. That gals as cool as fuck 3.25
  12. All about her lies 3.29
  13. Maybe 5.04
  14. Come on down 3.51
  15. Let it flow 5.17
  16. Bring this strength 5.56
  17. Wait until the pain is gone
  18. Slow time (Find what you love and let it kill you)
  19. You gotta move real slow
  20. What you gonna do?
ella playfors

Facebook’s new terms for music and common myths about FB

Since covid 19 and the absence of being able to play live gigs, many musicians have understandably moved to using social media as a way to communicate their music. Aside from many of the technical challenges, its useful to not FaceBook’s terms relating to music which are as follows

Music Guidelines
These supplemental terms apply if you post or share any videos or other content containing music on any Facebook Products.You are responsible for the content you post

People use our Products to share content with their family and friends. Keep in mind you remain solely responsible for the content that you post, including any music that features in that content. Nothing in these terms constitutes any authorization by us with respect to any use of music on any of our Products.

Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.You may not use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience We want you to be able to enjoy videos posted by family and friends. However, if you use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience for yourself or for others, your videos will be blocked and your page, profile or group may be deleted. This includes Live.Unauthorized content may be removed

If you post content that contains music owned by someone else, your content may be blocked, or may be reviewed by the applicable rights owner and removed if your use of that music is not properly authorized.You may not be able to post or access videos containing music in every country of the world

We want you to be able to share videos with your family and friends wherever they are, but any music in your video, if it is allowed at all, may not be available in all countries of the world.

The key phrase here for many is

Use of music for commercial or non-personal purposes in particular is prohibited unless you have obtained appropriate licenses.

FB Customers v FB users

Many musicians fail to appreciate that “FB customers” are thos who pay for adverts and FB is of course a substantial public limited corporation with its own business plan in play. Many of us are “users” and there are conditions set out by FB as to how we use their business model. I’m always amused when artists insist “FB should do X and Y” as FB is not a charitable resource for musicians, its a business and much as I would love for them to be the former role, its not going to happen anytime soon.

This is one of the many reasons why I always advise artists to create their own web presence that they control rather than rely on 3rd party businesses and often placing “their egg in one basket”

I’m astonished that many artists don’t pay attention to this aspect of marketing and fail to appreciate that social media and platforms like Spotify are all businesses whose primary function is to maximise profits. I’d love this to be not the case, but that’s plain wishful thinking…

The surreal life during covid 19

This has been a very surreal five months, during covid 19. Like all musicians I had to cancel all live gigs for myself and for music events I host with Music for The Head and Heart. With the lockdown, the whole world was suddently on pause and we have and continue to be in uncharted territory. I’ve driven 45 miles in 5 months, so am totally doing my bit for the carbon footprint as I also cancelled 8 overseas trips for my non musical work.

Music creation and recording

To my great surprise this has been an amazing period for writing and recording new material. Just as lockdown appeared I grabbed a number of new items for my home studio that have been used to great effect. I’ve already blogged on the Acme DI and the Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic and I’ve also been using Fulltone trem units and my Henriksen Buds for recording via the excellent UAD Arrow unit. I’m actually working on two totally different music projects at the same time with two different producers.

For the first time everything is on electric guitar, which is a first. Usually I’ll put down some sketch ideas, then work them up into a demo before starting to adlib and figure lyrics. I’ve been using my weekly meetings with Agi to do live takes of vocal tracks and I now have 14 tracks mixed and “in the vault” for one of the albums, and there will be very different versions of these tracks for a second album.

Gathering like musical minds

One of the few benefits of covid 19 is that there are many artists sitting at home neding work. I suspect that live work won’t appear until 2022 and in the meantime streaming will only increase, but that’s a very different experience. Social media has been great for locating session musicians to add to a core group that are generally my ‘go too folks” for any projects. I’m lucky to be working with two brilliant producers who have never been so busy. Its clear to me that that the role of any producer is essential in creating the very best music. Often music may be mixed but not actually mastered

Tracks “in the vault”

These tracks are already mixed and in the vault, with four more tracks in the pipeline

All is fine till the world goes pop 4.19
Gather round 6.57
Nothing here sounds good 3.21
All Kinds of Crazy 5.24
Your chosen one is coming 4.12
Please take this time 4.24
321 Lockdown 3.41
Hold that thought 3.30
Sticks and stones 3.40
The world is burning 3.39
That gals as cool as fuck 3.25
All about her lies 3.29
Maybe 5.04
Come on down 3.51

Special thanks to everyone who has helped with creating these tracks to date

How much enthusiasm do you have for music streaming and video online?

With the absence of live events globally, understandably many artists are instead running online events. The medium is of course totally different. Instead of a 3D live experience, you have a 2D experience with all the technological changes that are commonplace with attempting such activity. Even major artists are discovering the limitations of technology. Even my favorite live artist Nick Cave had issues with the live streaming of his recent solo event “The Idiot’s Prayer” and it seems that the technology is not really stable enough universally for such events.

Concentration time and cost for watching online?

Personally I’m not a fan of anything online on a PC that is longer than an hour. The experience is fundamentally different to a live event. Yes. there’s no driving, parking and issues with people talking during gigs (a pet hate) but the atmosphere is not the same. Also the sheer volume of material online means that I feel bombarded by the amount of choice. I find myself passing on opportunities to watch artists I would normally jump at.

Many online events are free or pay as you feel, so it seems to me that artists are still adjusting to this new medium. A friend commented yesterday that she was surprised that an artist was charging 20 pounds for an online event and commented “I love her music, but I’m not paying that!” Personally I can’t get enthusiastic about many online viewings and that maybe the volume of material out there or the lack of differentiation.

Songs of Hope and the future of live events

A few of us at Music for the Head and Heart even before covid 19 decided to release video showcasing artists from around the globe. The idea is always to keep shows concise and episode 5 that launches monday is under 20 minutes. I have a suspicion that this is around the best length to keep an audience engaged.

Time will tell what happens to live events, but when longstanding shows like “Phantom of the Opera” close, then that’s a real indication of changing times. Big festivals and tours require planning and I suspect things are still too uncretain even for planning in 2021. Yes, there is talk of socially distanced outside events, but I’m not sure of the demand for such scenarios. Hopefully something great will emerge from this shake up, time will tell

Slow Time with the Supa Trem

I’ve recently rediscovered the superb Fulltone Supa trem. I’ve always like the analogue sound of the original unit and now I am using the mark 2 stereo version in recording. This allows for the guitar sound to really fill out and to my ears allows the guitar to be more like a piano. In recent weeks I’ve written four different tracks using this sound, all of which are way slower that I would normally opt for.

This makes for a very different vocal dynamic as there is literally nowhere to hide! At this rate I may end up with a whole new album of this really laid back more reflective series of songs that are the polar opposite of another sister project I am working on. Maybe its being in lockdown, but this is certainly a really creative curve ball that is quite unexpected but so far has been quite fascinating.

Home studio regime

One of the smartest things I did pre covid lockdown was to review my home studio setup. I’ve blogged previously about using the Arrow UAD, and Acme Motown DI which have become my core tools.

The benefit of having a home studio that it is there 24/7, so I can drop in at anytime to put down sketch ideas or add to existing ideas. This has proved to be a brilliant way to make best use of time and to work in a really spontaneous manner. Many of the new tracks were recorded really quickly and as one of the producers I am working with keeps saying “don’t overthink it”

I’m a big fan of working in this way and its certainly working in terms of producing a really great set of new material that is different to anything I have created to date. I’ve always felt that songs appear in all kinds of unexpected ways and one of the keys to get the best results is to capture them as soon as the idea first appears

What next for artists & music venues?

Today sees the welcome funding for the arts finally from the government, but covid 19 has created a major problem for both theatres and music venues. I’m hearing that one of the key issues is that most venues need 80% capacity to maintain predictable viable income, but with even a reduce 1m social distancing rule, that will be more than halved.

Mark Davyd of the music venue trust commented

“When we eventually emerge from lockdown, Grassroots Music Venues, the absolute bedrock, the foundations, the cornerstone on which our world beating £5.2 billion per year industry has been built, are going to be essential to live music bouncing back. It is therefore economically short sighted and frankly ridiculous to put a £5 billion a year industry at long term risk for lack of a short term £50 million investment.

The generosity shown towards our #saveourvenues campaign since we launched it in April has been staggering. The £2m we have raised to date has saved literally hundreds of venues in the short term, but the situation is still dire and relying on donations simply isn’t sustainable as we move into a recovery phase. With that in mind let’s act now and protect what we have, because what we have is incredible and it is ridiculous to put ourselves in the position where we might permanently lose it for less than 1% of the income it generates for us every single year. £50 million in financial support and a temporary tax cut, that’s all we are asking.

Who loses if this doesn’t happen? Not just the venues, not just the artists, not just the audiences, not just our communities. The government is the biggest loser of all here; billions of pounds of future tax revenues is on the line. Every other serious cultural country in the world is acting to protect its future talent pipeline…. and they don’t even have the incredible talent and the vibrant pipeline we have in the UK. We need our government to step up we need them to do it now.

I’m not sure how much, if any of the government package will reach grassroots venues, but my own observations are that many were already struggling pre covid 19. I’m fairly sure that the big venues will survive, but my concern is for all those 100 – 250 capacity venues which IMO offer the best environment for seeing artists.

My heart goes out to all those artists who reply upon such venues in maintaining an income as its a hammer blow to maintaining any kind of regular income. I also feel sorry for all those music students graduating from university, who suddenly discover that the world will be very different from now on.

Streaming options?

Some venues like The Vanguard in NYC have moved to streaming concerts and this maintains an audience connection. It is of course a very different experience, but one that we may have to accept as a substitute for attending live events. The irony is that for years I have lamented the apathy of people attending live events and the classic Joni Mitchell line comes to mind

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”

The challenge with streaming as I have previously blogged is to maintain good quality sound. For this reason when we run the Music for the Head and Heart shows with artists from all around the globe, we pre record the material. Social media is currently flooded with online performances and I’m not convinced that there is an audience for this volume of material. The danger is that people literally start to switch off from watching and listening.

Promoting new music?

I know of a number of artists who planned to release music in 2020 and who now are having to rethink how to promote their music. Traditional PR companies are IMO similarly stumped as the whole world has changed. One PR company’s strategy was to only focus on promoting artists via Spotify and personally I am unsure that such a narrow approach is commercially viable.

Live music has traditionally been a key ingredient in music promotion and of course this is how artists develop musically. I was reflecting on all the gigs I did with The Caravan of Dreams and treasure those moments and who knows when such opportunities will return? Last year I was lucky enough to see the last Martin Simpson gig of 2019 at Firth Hall in Sheffield that was one of those magical evenings of entertainment, which is never the same when watched on video.

Conclusion

Even if a vaccine appears in the near future (the best guess is around 12 months) I suspect the world of entertainment has fundamentally changed. Major concerts like Glastonbury have indicated that they will not be viable if they cancel in 2021.

Personally I’d like to see a return to smaller venues where people come to watch and listen to artists, but who knows when that may be possible? One thing is for sure, I massively value all those great gigs I have both attended and played at in days gone by.

Into the electric zone

After many years of playing mostly acoustic music I now find myself immersed in writing a whole bunch of material on electric guitar. I have amassed a great collection over the years so there’s a lot of choice but I’m defaulting to my Warmoth hardtail strat and Ransom telecaster both equipped with terrific Tom Holmes paf pickups.

An even greater surprise to me is that I am recording totally by DI instead of by miking up amps. I’m using the excellent Acme Motown DI unit and a Zen Drive 2 pedal into the Arrow UAD interface. I’m using a Tom Holmes bridge pickup on all tracks and these of course sound great. I’m also exclusively using the Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic for all vocals.

After recording three albums of acoustic instruments, its a real surprise to be in a new sonic territory of overdriven guitar sounds. The Zen Drive 2 has been a game changer and I am about to receive a rare Black Magic Zen Drive unit, so I have a back up. The combination of the Zen Drive and the Acme is extraordinary and wonderfully simple to use.

Keeping in simple

There’s a good reason why many classic pop and rock songs are written to a formula, verse, chorus. middle eight. I’m rediscovering the joys of working simply with strong melody lines and sharp lyrics. Of course I’ve always been a fan of these two ingredients but usually I have a full band of up to another five members to work with. Now I’m doing everything myself so I’m working faster in my home studio and during the covid 19 lockdown I have more time than usual.

Many of the new songs start with a riff and develop from there. I learned some great songwriting tips from my good friend Tim Booth from James and am putting his advice to good use. This approach is certainly working and I already have a bunch of new material in the vault.

Working on 2 simultaneous projects

I’m working on two simultaneous projects during the lockdown. One of the projects is not directly linked to “Nick Cody” and is totally different to anything else I have done before. The second project is working with stripped back electric tracks with additional input from some of my trusted musical colleagues who always deliver in spades.

Conclusion

The covid pandamic has sparked a great deal of creativity and everything is geared around electric guitar. Last night I played a uke live on zoom for the first time and it was strange after three solid months of distorted electric guitar. I of course love both styles of instrument, but I am having a blast with this electric work.

What are the future earnings options for musicians?

I am fortunate to know many excellent professional musicians from around the world and all of them have been by Covid 19. This is requiring a massive rethink and live appearances have all been wiped out. Its an extraordinary situation and it is not going to change anytime soon

Local musicians affected

Many local musicians were already struggling pre pandemic and I recall one niche musician saying he was struggling to make ends meet and wondered if he could MOT his car.

With the advent of covid 19 he is one of the many that may have to rethink whether its viable to continue to reply on music as a predictable source of income. I’ve long thought that many artists live literally from one gig to another and of course there is nothing new in that, but covid 19 creates all manner of additional problems

People and venue challenges

There is a current argument raging about the acceptable distance people for people to socially distance during covid 19. At 2 metres most indoor venues are not viable. Theatres generally need 80% capacity to be viable and the 2 metre rule means they can only accommodate 20%, which is not economically viable. Regardless of whether this changes, many smaller clubs and venues will close. As one producer said

“Many artists are gonna have to drop a division when playing live”

The second issue is whether people will even return to attending live events in the same numbers. Most people are creatures of habit and a three month total change of habits is going to have a lasting effect. My guess is that it will be a long time before audiences return to live events in the same numbers.

The Online solution?

As soon as the world went into lockdown many artists immediately and understandably shifted to running online events. There are many challenges with these format including the technical challenges in maintaining good sound and visuals.

My own experience is that the quality is massively variable. Some online efforts have been like watching a car crash, while others have been really excellent.

Jack and the Vox from USA have been putting out pairs of songs on a daily basis and have been terrific entertainment. What both these examples have in common is the attention to detail and really superb performances. They remind me of Daryl’s House, always engaging and unpredictable.

Martin Simpson‘s first live show was exceptional, really terrific sound, a great set and of course a superb performance. Martin is shooting a lot of video from home and as always he is truly engaging and fascinating to watch

The online medium is a different environment, like a TV show but without the high production values. This is totally different to a live experience. I’m personally not a fan of calling pre recorded material “festivals” or “mini festivals” as they are nothing like a festival experience.

Captain of the Lost Waves has done a series of terrific shows that have delighted his growing fanbase as well as connecting to a new audeince

All these artists have a strong work ethic and crucially smart strategic thinking.

The difference that makes the difference

Many people I know feel that social media is swamped by online events and many unfortunately are not that great. I suspect the ones that are more creative and themed will survive whereas the others will disappear.

Artists with strong fan bases will in my opinion do well and as always artists will need to find new ways to capture public attention. This is perhaps not a bad thing as it means there will be more focus on quality as audiences will have less spending power. Smart artists are always moving forward and exploring how to connect to new audeinces. This means focussing on differentiation and avoiding just doing exactly the same thing as everyone else.

Snatching failure from the jaws of success?

Unfortunately having great talent is not in itself enough to generate predictable income for artists, you have to also have some business skills. I’ve known some very good musicians who spectacularly “snatch failure from the jaws of success”

Usually they are too polarised in their ways of thinking and can’t seperate social and business interactions. I set up Music for the Head and Heart and Songs of Hope as a free resource for artists to connect to new audiences. This is one of many initiatives that I fund personally to help musicians.

Smart musicians appreciate that in order to earn a good living rather than just scraping by, you need to embrace a wider audience and that means building new connections all the time. I learned from my non musical persona teaching business skills, that often you have to expand thinking and work with a wide range of people rather than a narrow niche of people who agree 100% with everything you already think!

Conclusion

I predict new and more innovative ways of connecting with audiences will emerge. Many artists that were just scraping by will I suspect disappear if they don’t adapt to the new dynamic. I can’t imagine a world without great music and hopefully the “new normal” will result in some real great new entertainment. Of course its 100% up to the artists what they want to do and whether that want an audience of thousands, millions or just themselves, BUT for most people time needs to be funded in some way and these thoughts are on strategies that help make that happen.