Sunday, April 14, 2013

Deke Donovan is no longer able to continue his series of reviews that had appeared on this blog, so since I was helpful in typing the reviews for him, adding line art and so forth, and arranging the posts, I plan to pick up with this project in the near future as "Power Performers of Music" as there are so many talented Independent songwriters, singers and musicians out there, here and abroad, who should be in the spotlight. 

I will make an announcement via Facebook and Twitter when the new blog is completed, including spotlights of all who were showcased in the version by the former music writer for L.A. Sports & Entertainment magazine.

Charles Ecker

Saturday, April 21, 2012


A colleague of mine has been in a pretty grueling artist's competition and while the final results won't be covered here, a comment made about fan support is extremely interesting.

He talked about the frustrations of mobilizing support from those thought to be closest to his band -- friends and family. Rather, a phrase came out that I found very informational and compelling.

He referred to a phrase that came to him in the middle of one sleepness night -- the "currency of kind words" -- and how networking within several musicians' groups proved to be extremely helpful, and gratifying, as his band worked its way up the mountain in what was a multi-genre competion where his kind of music only represented one-third of the ten entrants.

Also conveyed was the feeling of having a "grateful heart," because he was living his dream, sharing it with his peers, and receiving positive response in return from other performers and the media.

Lesson learned -- get to know other musicians at local showcases and on the Interet too. Listen to what others are creating and, if you think it is deserved, give them a "thumbs up" or better yet a thoughtful and positive comment to convey that you really listened to their music and appreciated it.

But do not give people false hopes, either. If a song presented to you is a clunker, pass it by if you can, or if pressed, convey constructive comment in a nice way.

I will give you a good example. There is an Internet song "call-up" service that takes songs through "MusicSubmit" at the start. Depending on the judgement of the webmaster, your song(s) may start at the bottom, or if he thinks the music has promise, may put you in the middle.

With me so far?

This opens it up for artists to add more songs, and more songs. One I find amusing now has over 30 and I am still waiting for one good one.

I am getting sidetracked here.

So, whatever the number, it is up to other musicians "on the charts" to rate songs, up, down or not, with an option to connect with the artist on-line and convey your thoughts.

So I am a listener with "reviewer rights" and have heard some acts that would go to the top tomorrow if I had $500,000 each available to front them. (Working on that.) Others are somewhat good but probably just happy to be there. Some got on with songs that create sound, and that's about it.

For some of these, I just gave up trying to rate them up even a little bit. And nobody else did either. So they sit at the bottom, unrated.

I think those artists will catch on that maybe they should pull those songs, get co-writers, new producers then try again on that site and elsewhere.

But then there are groups so good that some of them sit on this blog as featured acts!

Indie artists can only have a real chance to be successful if they are really good. Some major label performers may have made it with a heavy dose of luck, but not likely for Indies. I know I can't name any.

Often, family and friends take it for granted you have "already made it." So you have to work harder, it seems, to get them to buy your music, or simply give you a contest vote and pass the word on to their friends. Sad but true.

Does not mean they don't like your music, but perhaps they do not appreciate the hard work and talent that you have expended to craft a song.

And while music may be your whole world -- your way of achieving personal and professional success -- there are way too many out there in your circle of friends and family who are, in the words of a song, "Bushwacked, Bewildered, Beat-up Bad and Broke." So they are just trying to keep on keeping on.

Most of your music peers, however, will support you as you support them. Maye they are pouring all their money into their production or touring, and can't spare a dime to buy one of your songs. Musicians without much money certainly understand this.

So I am talking more about supportive behavior - the currency of kind words. After all, you are all in the "studio of life" together and (should) understand you cannot make it on your own.

Final word. Those who think they can make it on their own, don't...

Deke Donovan
April 21, 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012


First off, congratulations to Bon Iver for being the first Indie to bust through the barriers faced by Independent artists earning the Grammy for "Best New Artist" of 2011. Kind of a quiet guy it seems but his music stirs the soul.

And I got a kick out of many of the major label artists saying on TV during the awards how -- it's the music, it's the music, it's the music.

Yes of course "it's the music", but many Indie performers don't have the luxury to bring in "specialists" picked by their "handlers" to write compelling songs as I venture many known artists do who eventually get to a point when they can basically write whatever they feel like writing because their fans have "bought into" their "branding."

But Indies, for the most part, must compose their own music deep into the shadows of the hype, as well as handle a hundred and one other details ranging from copyright administration to promotions.

I heard a TV hostess say on a show about music just last week how an artist in the independent world should just focus on one thing and do it well. That works when you have "people" I suppose. Can't say I've met any Indie who has them.

When all is said and done, the "song's the thing" at the top of the list of "to do's" I suppose. Otherwise, why would you bother to begin what is sure to be a long journey to become a successful recording artist/performer?

With the digital music revolution being described as something resembling the "wild, wild west" to "audio anarchy," let's just say I have heard some really good Indie songs these days, and some that, well, are not really good Indie songs these days.

So for those who are to be successful, don't look to set songwriting speed records on your guitar or Avid Key Studio right out of the gate. Take a deep breath and think.

Think about how you are going to stir someone with memorable words and music matched seemlessly, sung with the proper prosody, and as important as anything, conveying meaning, particularly if the song is a serious one, or providing pleasing entertainment to give us a reason to dance and smile during these lingering difficult times.

Anyone can write A song. Only a few can write THE song!

Deke Donovan
March 3, 2012

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


There is a revolution going on not only in the American music business, but the global world of song as well.

Not so long ago, an aspiring Top 40 talent prospect had to ply cassettes around town to grab the ear of a persnickety publisher who was manning the front gate to Starville, U.S.A.  Then if the publisher had the energy and connections, the song went to a manager, or at the worst, a lawyer, to be screened.

Then the song might go to the artist.  And the town I am talking about is more Nashville than L.A., because here, well, rock bands and rapper/hip-hop groups for years and years have written their own songs, or had friends and family members help.  Money was money so keeping it all in the finally has been a top priority.

There is no special route to stardom. Hey, it took The Beatles almost three years to make it to the "show."  It took over fifteen years for the Mel Tillis song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" to become a mega-hit performed by Kenny Rogers.  People thought the song was about a solider returning from that 'crazy Asian War' who was talking about Vietnam.  It was written during the Korean War!

On this site, we show examples of a performer with guitar in tow playing in the deep, dirty noisy caverns of the New York subway system, another climbing fast in national competitions under the glare of a frenzied media,  most plying the Internet to get songs heard at least once an hour, somewhere around the world, as they build up Internet Radio exposure and fans.

So, with the rapid challenges in digital technology, any talented, smart, and determined, singer/songwriter, or one or the other, can produce a song, maybe even in a home studio, download tunes through what's called digital downloaders and wait for the money to roll in.  (Long pause here to simulate waiting before we go to the next paragraph....)

There are many challenges to face, such as getting "traditional" radio airplay, again and again and again. And the vast majority of the artists you hear on AM/FM channels are still backed by what's left of the major label industry, all three of them.  (If you are still listening to radio as we have known it, does it seem you are hearing the same artists, over and over again?  I will interject that you are!)

But the World Wide Web has opened the barriers to artists who want to be heard. For computer literate music lovers, you have a few thousand Internet Radio stations and blog sites around the world and all of those listed in our spotlights are probably on some of them. Those of you with PC comprehension will be able to find performers, and if you like them, will download what songs you want to keep through the services that do this on the Internet.  And if all goes well for the artists, you will pay for these nuggets, save for free samples offered by the performers.

I am not an expert on all this mp3 vs. WAV file, USB connection stuff, so I will defer to two books on the subject which are a must for "Indies" who are new to the musical fame game.  Same for those who want to jump into the pool but don't want to hit their heads in the shallow end.

The first is called "The Indie Band Survival Guide" by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feeman.  Good reading for those who want to get right to the point on how to make it in the studio, get heard, get sold and get the show on the road. Good starter guide.

It also contains an interesting section on music aggregators.  Those are the companies that list song files into a compilation, with a cover, include all the appropriate publishing and copyright information, then get the information onto their sales pages, and send along coded files to other partners to sell product too.  They recommend one in particular, cdBaby, and I have found many satisfied Indies who have used this service as the founder of the company was the one who invented the process of digital music downloading.

The second book goes far beyond the first and covers just about every change in the overall music business in the last 15 years so while it looks forward, it's got plenty of historical perspective comparing the decline of major labels and publishers, and the rise in popularity of independent singers and songwriters who while finding "freedom of expression" in abundance also discover that getting heard, then getting product sold, can be oh so daunting.  The book I am referring to is "The Future of the Music Business" by Steve Gordon. Volume 3 is out and the author includes a weblink to use so readers can update anything and everything he is tracking as change seems to be happening by the minute.

My best advice to Indies and to others who are just interested in what the music industry offers to artists and audiophiles alike is to purchase both books. Well worth the money spent to save wasted money and time by singers/songwriters hunting and pecking their way to stardom!

Getting back to those artists who appear on this blog, I hope "Power Peformers of Music" will let you learn more about at least some of  the thousands upon thousands of talented men and women who are slowly and carefully walking the yellow brick road to Oz, trying to duck those snearing flying monkeys. After all is said and done, they deserve recognition.  They are just that good, I proclaim!

All you need to do is click on the artist's picture and a website link will appear.  Then their music can be a far greater testimonial than anything I could write.

Deke Donovan
December 8, 2011