Musical plans for 2022

2019 – 2021 was spent mostly recording new material and I now have 48 tracks “in the vault” across four very different musical projects. Some of these have already been released as singles under “Nick Cody and The Heartache” and the collaboration project with Towse. I’m really pleased with all this material and 2022 will see the release of two EPs to follow these singles.

In Aptil 2021 I also set up Green Eyed Records which is a music platform that encourages “collaboration through creativity” among artists. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the best way forward for artists wanting to reach a wider audience. Of course this is a personal view, but I am astonished that many artists don’t see the value in this and continue to lament their lack of creative and financial fortunes while spectacularly avoiding all manner of really excellent opportunities. The GER FB platform is growing at an extraordinary rate with 12,056 post engagements in the last 7 days alone!

The return of Music for The Head and Heart live showcases

2022 will see the return of the Music for the Head and Heart live showcases, starting in Oct 7th. These were suspended due to covid 19, after we hosted two excellent evenings with a number of really excellent musicians. From 2022, the events will be substantially bigger in terms of higher profile main acts and audeince capacity which previously was capped at 80 due to venue size, but now will be 200 – 300. This means a great deal of extra organisation and planning and more information will be announced in Jan 2022.

Special thanks

Special thanks to all of those who have assisted in promoting my musical projects and platforms in 2021, including Jen Geering, Neil Atkinson, Frank Wilkes, Carl Rosamond, Nick Field, Andy Coote, Shelly Morgan, Mike Evans, Daz in the Hat, Agi, Rich Ferdi, Fergus Quill, Alex Eden, Sharon Cannings, Towse aka Grace Fellows, Sylvie Simmons, Jim Glennie and too many others to mention!

Misconceptions about creating a presence online

Lack of attention to detail and social media misconceptions

I was recently looking for an artist online I know as a possible act for a future live music showcase. In doing a Google search her main site was offline as well as her SoundCloud account! This is of course not unusual and I can only imagine how many opportunities are missed by such a lack of attention to detail. Another misconception is to only use social media as a platform for online communication and not have a central website which you then have control over. Its not just artists that miss “the elusive obvious” of course.

Earlier this year I had an extensive conversation with a music promotor who also did “mentoring” for artists. I offered to pay for her time and booked two hours with a series of questions I had in mind. It was an enjoyable conversation but when I looked at her main site for her company, over 40% of the links for artists simply didn’t work, not the best advert for somebody working as a promotor. I come from a business background and have been teaching communication skills to business and groups across USA, UK, Asia and Europe for the last two decades. I’m amazed that in “the music business” many artists and promoters make a lot of basic mistakes. Yes, we are all learning, but these are basic errors that will directly limit the ability to communicate to a wider audience and/or artists.

Both artists and the public often don’t appreciate that with platforms like Facebook, the “customers” are those who pay for advertising, the rest of us are users of the service. Being on Facebook and complaining how the platform doesn’t meet your personal needs is a bit rich considering that its a free service for users. The benefits of this and other social media platforms is that they can potentially drive traffic to your main site (which of course you can frame in whatever way you want), rather than become subject to the latest algorithm from big tech. Some artists adopt the “I’m not commercial” stance, but then literally endlessly plead to a small fanbase to underwrite and support their creative plans. Nothing wrong with that, but this can be a pretty myopic way of working,

The Green Eyed Records platform and social media

In April this year I set up Green Eyed Records platform to promote discussion and debate. The central idea is “creativity through collaboration” and I talked about this at length with Sylvie Simmons here. As well as running the main site, a small team of us have being exploring using various social media platforms to reach a wider audience and generate more interest for the platform. I’ve been massively surprised by some of the findings. Having never been a fan of graphics with quotes and artist one liners, I have to admit that some of these can generate an extraordinary amount of interest. One of these posts created 6.6k likes, 497 comments and 1.5k shares. This added a huge number of followers and likes for the page, far beyond my wildest expectations.

Its early days for GER, but its become clear that with social media there’s a tipping point that is needed to generate interest and that means an investment of time and money on an ongoing basis. This also means paying attention on a daily basis to how many people are engaging online and what generates attention. I am working with a few artists who value the “creativity through collaboration” ethos and sharing everything I am finding useful in reaching a larger audience. In 2022 GER will also start assisting selective artists with promotional music campaigns to help them develop greater audience reach. We will also start running some live showcases in conjunction with the Music for The Head and Heart platform on a substantially bigger scale than in days gone by!

Maintaining focus and productive messaging online

Another common mistake in developing a good presence online is to lose focus in maintaining a consistent message. Sometimes artists veer off into making all manner of posts that in my view really don’t help promote their image in a positive manner. Two examples of this are Eric Clapton and Van Morrison with their anti vax proclamations. I have no issue with whatever they want to believe in putting their own opinions about health specialists, but having once greatly admired this artists I now think of them as total dicks. Its a real shame as both in days gone by have produced some exceptional music.

Of course there is no right or wrong way to creative a presence online and people can have radically different ideas about this. One thing is certain in recent times which is that more and more people are looking for music via the internet and that social media is increasingly a major factor in reaching a wider audience.

Back in the studio with Fergus Quill

During covid 19, I’ve spent a lot of time upgrading the studio, so its now exactly as I want it. I have a lot of gear and many items that are just brilliant for recording. Today Fergus Quill dropped by to lay down bass for five different tracks which are in various stages of production. Fergus is an exceptional musician and has been central to both “The Caravan of Dreams” and “The Heartache” Not only is he technically a brilliant musician, but he also have a great feel for what works musically. We used the Acme DI for all the bass lines and the results were terrific. Fergus first told me about this unit, so I hunted one down and the Acme certainly didn’t disappoint.

We always record alternate takes of each track so we have options when mixing. Its fascinating to see such an artist at work where he can play a variety of different styles which gives us a huge range of choices. I’m super pleased with the results and these tracks will appear in 2022 and 2023.

The rise of the angry emoji nut jobs…

In recent times I’ve semi jokingly posted that “I swear people are getting crazier” and one sign of this is the increasing emergence of the angry emoji nit jobs on social media platforms. These are almost always guys who have FB and other pages with very few friends who don’t seem to understand the social media medium and how it works. For the purpose of this blog I’ll refer to the angry emoji nut jobs as the “AENJs”

The “elusive obvious”, the nut jobs don’t get…

Many of the AENJs don’t get that if a person sponsors a post on a social media platform, then the platform decides where it appears, NOT the person paying for the advert. Of course many people don’t appreciate than many using platforms like FB are “users” as opposed to “customers” The social media platforms, like any business are there to make money and are not a free charitable concern for the wider public. Despite this simple fact many users on these platforms endlessly moan about the very platform they are using for free!

At Green Eyed Records FB platform we regularly run sponsored ads to bring the FB page and the main site to a wider public. Of course we can denote to a degree where adverts appear according to the audience we can to reach. As with any advert some with enjoy it, some will be indifferent and some with not like it. Recently we ran a promotion for a great article from a world renowned music journalist Sylvie Simmons on the whole GER philosophy. Over 100 people “liked” the post, but I noticed a few angry emojis appear, which to me seemed a bit odd. Even stranger was one character complaining that we were spamming his FB page.

I politely pointed out that FB decides where adverts appear and not ourselves. FB also gives any platform user the option not to see any specific advert if for some reason they don’t like it. Its a simple two second click of a button and the ad disappears from the user’s FB page. It takes far longer to work up a graphic and write up a long post complaining about the very platform that they are using for free! What seems odd to me is that the ad was to a great article, there was no sales pitch for any product or service or attempt for data capture. Perhaps unusually GER exists simply to help artists to reach a wider audience and there’s no charge for this help. One of the AENJs describes himself as “Professor at Department of Conspiracy”, make of that what you will! Another is a massive fan of Joan of Arc…

A closer look into this AENJ behaviour reveals that all these characters are from a certain part of the USA, nearly all guys, and in every case they have a very small number of “friends” on their pages. I’m a fan of discussion and debate as that’s how we all learn and of course if anyone actually points out a few simple truths about social media mediums and how they work, there’s never any interest or ability to engage in any discussion. Fortunately these characters are a tiny minority in the scheme of things and I’m really pleased at the positive response to GER showing the latest stats on engagement –

1,114 people like this page 1,234 people follow this page

Creativity through collaboration

The central philosophy of Green Eyed Records is “creativity through collaboration. This is of course explained in the Simmons article here for all those interested in such matters. In my non musical life I teach about human behaviour and problem solving. When I first started out in music I was mystified as to how any artist could could earn a living from music, when there were so many potential hurdles to any form of success. I’m lucky to know a number of artists personally at local level all the way to those playing international stadiums headlining major festivals. I’m convinced that with the reduction of live opportunities due to covid 19 and streaming services which have killed past earnings potential from product sales, a new way of thinking and a new model is greatly needed. We lean and evolve through discussion and debate. We can agree to disagree on matters, but simply posting an angry emoji is IMO pure lazy behaviour that seems to me to be not the best use of time and energy, but each to their own and such actions do make for great stories about human behaviour!

84 songs and counting

Here is a list of all the songs I have recorded to date across all my ensembles

  1. Adam blames Eve
  2. Aim High
  3. Airport Codeine blues
  4. All About Her Lies
  5. All is Fine Until the World Goes Pop
  6. All Kinds of Crazy
  7. All that loving
  8. Amish frame of mind
  9. Big Tony
  10. Birdman
  11. Bring This Strength
  12. Can’t Stop
  13. Come On Down
  14. Commons Sense
  15. Crack On
  16. Draw you out
  17. Dunning Kruger blues
  18. Five String man
  19. Gather Round
  20. Go Now
  21. Grey skies
  22. Hang On
  23. Hold on
  24. Here in the silence
  25. He’s shooting blanks
  26. Hey Rona
  27. Hey Yes
  28. Hey You (w/t Jazz)
  29. Hold on
  30. Hold That Thought
  31. Huggie crying thing
  32. I Don’t Know if it’s the Time
  33. I Know it’s Time
  34. I know what you’re saying
  35. I’m driven here to comment
  36. I’m leaving this show
  37. Keep Lifting
  38. Kicking down doors
  39. Lullaby
  40. Luxembourg
  41. Let It Flow (w/t Old Times)
  42. Living in Haste
  43. Maybe
  44. Miles Ahead
  45. Move Real Slow
  46. Next Up
  47. No more street parties
  48. Nothing Sounds Good
  49. Not one of us
  50. One day I’ll disappear
  51. Open up
  52. Perfect Place
  53. Please Take This Time
  54. Rise Up
  55. Say what you’re thinking
  56. She’s Tough Enough
  57. Slow news day
  58. Slow time
  59. Sticks & Stones
  60. Take Heart
  61. Tales of dark and light
  62. The other me
  63. The pink moon
  64. There’s no trees
  65. There’s only one of you
  66. They Don’t Mind
  67. Thinking In Circles
  68. This Aint No Dream
  69. This Gal’s As Cool As Fuck
  70. This heart wants what this heart wants
  71. This Way
  72. This World is Burning
  73. Times Gone
  74. Voodoo doll
  75. Wait Until The Pain Has Gone
  76. We’ll draw you out
  77. We Made It
  78. What You Gonna Do
  79. When the pain begins
  80. Wild Hair & Cocaine Eyes
  81. With one finger
  82. You can drop by anytime
  83. You Don’t Know
  84. Your Chosen One

Only half of these have been released so far and there are releases planned throughout 2022 and 2023

The Heartache live

After two years of not playing any live gigs I finally got to play live with the Heartache all electric ensemble. This was a challenge for a variety of reasons including minimal practice time. Fortunately we managed to play a great concise set and Karen Turner took some great photos of the night.

Multiple music projects for 2022

If 2020 and 2021 was the period for writing and recording music, 2022 is going to be a bumper year for music releases. I’ll be working across four main projects, which are the duet material with Towse, the resurrections of The Small Change Diaries acoustic ensemble, the Code E1 remix electronic work and the all electric Nick Cody and the Heartache band.

This means a lot of rehearsal time and a great deal of time working with a creative team for music, video production as well as social media. All music will be distributed through Green Eyed Records and we’ll be looking at digital and physical products.

The importance of a great creative team, plus time and money

Running one band is time consuming, but working with two ensembles as well as other projects requires a great deal of organisation and planning. The heart of all these projects is having an excellent producer and sound engineer, Carl Rosamond. This was never more evident than soundchecking the Heartache under very tight time constraints at a recent live performance. The whole sound check with five members took just 15 minutes and many people commented on how great the sound was. I’ve used Carl for all music releases to date and he remains an essential ingredient to all four projects. Similarly Karen Turner has been the photographer for all ensembles to date and has captured many great photos including those from overseas festivals.

I’d love to think that great music alone would be enough to reach a wider audience, but that’s simply not true. Any music distribution and promotion requires time and money. The recent downtime with Facebook and Instagram highlights the importance of having your own web presence online and not relying on third party social media platforms. I recently decided to use Kycker for all music distribution as the company is far more user friendly and personable that those I have used before. I’ve also started to hire external radio promoters and digital media specialists to increase audience reach and this is working really well. One of the keys to success is to only work with professionals and skilled individuals. Its also crucial to work with people with good communication skills as recording and promoting music requires a lot of coordination. I’m lucky to have a longstanding core team that get the job done and are a pleasure to work with,

Towse

The Small Change Diaries reunited

While working on material for “The Heartache” I listened back to some of the earlier recordings with my very first band “The Small Change Diaries” and thought “It might be fun to reunite the band” After making a few calls, Jessica Bowie, Dave Bowie Jnr and Rich Ferdi will all be joining me this Friday to do our first new rehearsal.

As well as looking at many of the classic SCD tracks from 2015 – 2018, we will also explore some of The Caravan of Dreams material. After all, both Dave and Rich played on nearly all the Caravan album tracks! In the last 18 months I have written and recorded an additional 47 tracks and we’ll also be exploring adding some of these into a new set.

New instrumentation

In the original band I played mostly ukuleles with Jessica Bowie. In SCD Mark 2, I am keen to add more instruments and more sonic variation. In the last three years I’ve had plenty of opportunity to refine my guitar playing skills as well as learning mandolin and mandola. I’m also interested in introducing my Collings tenor sounds terrific. Jessica also plays flute and of course is a superb vocalist.

Other music projects

As well as reuniting “The Small Change Diaries” I’ll continue to run a number of other music projects including “Nick Cody & The Heartache” and a duet project that see’s a new single release before the end of the year. In 2022 there will also be a series of releases from Code E1 which is very different to anything I’ve done before. I’ve also amassed a lot of great musical instruments from across the globe and during covid have had the time to really develop my playing. Three years of weekly singing tuition is also proving to be a game changer!

Conclusion

I’ve always had a love for the first band and it will be fun to return to the earlier material. Of course now I’m far more experienced in terms of playing, recording and music promotion, so its essentially a whole new adventure. Below is one of the highlights of playing with The Small Change Diaries in Lagoa. At that point I’d only every played four live gigs in total before playing a major guitar festival overseas.

Debut live outing for Nick Cody & The Heartache

We just completed a short 30 min support slot in Leeds to try out some of the new Heartache material for the first time. Below is the first outing for “That gal’s as cool as fuck”

This was the first time I have played electric guitar live as opposed to playing acoustic instruments. The Supro comet did not disappoint and I used two hardtail Stratocasters with graphite necks that sounded terrific. Its also the first time I’ve ever played with a second electric guitarist, although with the above track I stick to simply doing vocals. This was a “toe in the water, 30 minute support slot” and we deliberately chose 6 varied songs to test out the new material. A live setting is always the best way to measure how well material translates with a live audience and I was pleased with the results.

In 2022 subject to covid, we’ll be looking at more live options for Nick Cody and The Heartache and working up a much longer set, especially as we have a lot of potential material to showcase! Thanks to everyone who came to the show and who has shared our posts on social media, we appreciate it

Sylvie Simmons interview, Green Eyed Records and musical explorations

In recent years, I’ve been thinking a lot about music distribution and music deals. I’ve always been a massive music lover and set up Music for The Head and Heart and now Green Eyed Records as platforms to support musicians and help promote great music. With Music for the Head and Heart I approached the great rock journalist Sylvie Simmons to perform one of her songs. I’ve followed her writing for literally decades and now find she is a great performer and lover of ukuleles.

I was delighted when she agreed to interview me for Green Eyed Records on the concept of this platform. The central concept is “creativity through collaboration” and I talked about this in the Sylvie interview

What’s the idea for Green Eyed Records?

The idea for Green Eyed Records was a little bit influenced by Robert Fripp’s original idea in ’92 when he talked about is to reduce the distance between the people who are creating the music and the people who are consuming it. That was already starting to happen with things like Patreon and Kickstarter. Fripp wonderfully described it as “a model of ethical business in an industry founded on exploitation, oiled by deceit, riven with theft and fuelled by greed.” Don’t hold back, Fripp, just say what you mean!

So my thinking is: In the old days one of the main limitations on things was the ability to get to the wider public. The internet helps with that – YouTube and Social Media – so there are mechanisms to get to more people. The last information I had is that every day 60,000 tracks are uploaded to Spotify and the renumeration for that per play is absolutely miniscule, which is great for the tech companies and other people, but not for the people actually creating the product. It has to be funded in some way. And the only way I can think of this actually working is if people work together in some collaborative way so that we can, remove as many of the intermediary people as possible between the audience and the providers of the entertainment. That throws up a whole bunch of challenges of course, but I don’t see another way of doing it. Because unless you’re extremely established and you’ve been around for a very long time and you’re riding the momentum of what you’ve done before, the current model’s not going to work.

“Creativity through Collaboration” is Green Eyed Records’ motto. It’s a great line, but what came to my cynical British mind was, is this some kind of hippie dream? Like those kibbutzes in the 60s where you’ve got a guy who knows how to saw the wood and a girl who knows how to make curtains, and when evening falls they all sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya. Is this what you have in mind?

Hopefully there’ll be no Kumbaya singing! But herein lies the challenge.”

Herding musical cats?

Since 2014, in heading different acoustic and electric ensembles, I’ve realised the importance of being organized and working with like minds. I’m lucky to have a brilliant producer in Carl Rosamond and he’s been invaluable in creating over 70 tracks to date including 45 during this covid era. I’ve also been amazed at the amount of time it spends to organize events , band rehearsals and live gigs. One of the earliest examples of the need for organization was when the first band “The Small Change Diaries” in playing at the Lagoa Guitar Festival. I’d only played a few gigs before this outing, and this was a true baptism of fire. I was also lucky enough to meet my great friend Laurent Zeller, who has played on subsequent tracks with both “The Small Change Diaries” and “The Caravan of Dreams.”

“The music business” is like any other business!

I’m currently working on a number of very different musical projects, including “Nick Cody & The Heartache” which is an all electric roots outfit, Code – E1 which is all electronic music, a pop album and an album of duets. I’ll also be looking at GER and Music for The Head and Heart in 2022. One of the keys to success is to find like minds. I’m forever told about how things “can’t work” while I demonstrate the exact opposite. I have also realised that “the music business” is like any other business, its a series of trades and the question is for all those involved “Is it a good trade?”

Some artists can have superb creative skills, but can be quite delusional when it comes to marketing an basic business. I’ve thrown out great no strings attached financial opportunities to some people and some just don’t understand basic business strategy. Its not about “working for the man” or other such daft statements, but rather thinking about the steps best needed to reach your chosen audience. I’m reassured that there are some great resources online that echo my exact thoughts and highly recommend Rick Beato and Glenn Fricker both very outspoken but in my view very smart. Crucially they have the experience to offer useful advice and this confirms that “the music business is like any other business”

Of course there’s no right or wrong, just different ways of working. One thing is certain, music remains central to my life and I have had a blast meeting so many fantastic people, including Sylvie Simmons, Martin Simpson, Jon Gomm, and too many others to mention from all over the globe. I recently spent the weekend with a friend who has sold over 25 million albums and once again we agreed that “The music business is like any other business”