07/18/2012 09:12 PM
the power of music in young lives
This is a story about music. It is also a call to arms for anyone interested in recording. Forward it to anyone it might help.
A lot is said about DIY music, and plenty more about mainstream artists. But this is a story about the rung beneath all that; a rarely mentioned rite of passage for anyone who has performed a note of music in their life.
When I was 12, a youth club opened by our school. It had a music room where a member of staff showed me how to play a simple drum beat. I didn't 'get' music as a kid, but then they started playing along with the baseline to 'Smoke on the Water'.
Something clicked. It was a huge rush, and I feel it again as I write this.
A decade later I was taking a degree in music production. My classmates wanted to be songwriters or DJs, but my love for bands like At the Drive-In and Fugazi led me to a certain music culture based in Washington DC through the 1980s. There is plenty of literature describing DC's punk heritage (everyone from Beastie Boys to Moby were part of it), but it was essentially a community defining their own identity through DIY record labels and live shows.
Through an academic lens, I picked apart why this movement worked. It needed a town to call home, a live music venue to draw people together, a studio to document their efforts, and a bunch of people who are more interested in music than money. And then I remembered the now-defunct youth club I used to visit.
So a week before graduation, I put myself to work. I wrote a proposition on the Sunday (I find the funding, you provide the space, we create an environment where young people can use music to build their own community), drove across the country to my hometown on the Monday, changed into a suit in my car and walked into the council offices with a freshly-stapled business plan.
They said yes, but only if I can find the funding. Councils never say no to funding.
I could write a book on the next part, but you'll have to settle for a summary. In one month I raise £25,000. Twenty per cent becomes a part-time wage. I order £22,000 worth in equipment, but negotiate it down to less than £17,000. We install a very competent recording studio with a rehearsal space, and let these ingredients simmer to see what happens.
For many young people, it was transformative. I'm reading through the old case studies now, and I'm fondly reminded of calls from teachers seeing improvements in class, or the mother whose daughter just seemed happier at home. Words like 'confidence' and 'ability' keep appearing, and I'm struck again at the story of the boy with Aspergers who wouldn't sing until his third week. These examples only skim the surface, but it was significant for all of those involved.
Two years later, I left the studio in their capable hands. The teenagers it was built for had taken charge of their own ship, and I had achieved my life's first serious ambition. My next was to become a journalist.
I'm telling this story for a simple reason. I think it could be replicated in hundreds (maybe thousands) of towns around the world.
All that fundraising, studio engineering and management was hard work, but you're already connected to an internet which can guide you. Hell, I could recommend a tonne of books that would tell you everything you need to know. They worked for me.
Do you know someone with enough drive to make it happen too?
Is it you?
If so, send me an email. I still have all the business plans and equipment lists, and could throw in a bunch more tips to avoid certain pitfalls.
Maybe some of you will take it on, and maybe culture will be a little richer for it. Who knows.
As for me? I'm working from home and enjoying family life in the English countryside. I've learnt that you can do anything if you plan it right and work hard. You can talk and talk, but nothing happens until you get up and do it.
Tom tells me that he's had an "amazing response" to his message, and he liked my suggestion that coordinating this with a tool like kickstarter could make a lot of sense. I look forward to seeing what actions Tom's message spur.
I hope this concept spreads, because I'm a big believer of empowering kids to make music. To that end, I am also a big supporter of Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, a wonderful group that donates musical instruments to under-funded music programs. Check them out and consider including them in your charitable giving.
11/27/2011 04:03 PM
Meeting artists and buying cool stuff at Austin Comic Con
Had a good quick visit to Austin Comic Con earlier this month.
Over in Artists Alley, I met some great creators. Had fun talking to local artist Rob Osborne, who sold me some Zango comics and this Gonk poster I had been admiring at Austin Books:
|From Austin Comic Con 2011 Loot|
Also finally picked up Morning Glories TPB 1 and had it signed by the artist:
This book is phenomenal. Can't believe I'm just getting into it now. It feels like Lost meets The Prisoner, set in a sinister version of the X-Mansion.
I was SOOOOO excited to finally meet Jo Chen, who signed this Buffy/Fray poster for me:
|From Austin Comic Con 2011 Loot|
Ms. Chen was a real champ, signing away despite a pretty nasty cold. I think she's the best cover artist working in comics, so I was very excited to get her autograph.
More loot pictures here.
09/18/2011 10:02 PM
Jack's 2011 ACL Fest Roundup
It was a great ACL Fest this year.
The weather was as good as we could have hoped, given the brutally hot Austin summer we've been living through. It was hot, yes, but it could have been so much hotter. Every day had at least some cloud cover, and every day had some cooling rain. Saturday the drizzle settled in all afternoon -- enough to cool things down, but not enough to turn the park into a mudpit. It was actually 79 degrees at 10pm Saturday, and that is amazing given the last two months of 100+ days.
We enjoyed the yummy food this year, as usual, courtesy of the Austin Eats collective of restaurants. 6 meals over 3 days and all were good: Bess Bistro, Tim Love Burger, Aquarelle (twice), Olivia (Lucy's Fried Chicken), Torchy's, and Stubb's.
But to the most important topic, the music:
- Reptar: an Athens, Georgia based band with a fun mix of styles and creative instrumentation.
- Smith Westerns: from Chicago, an indie rock band with style and substance
- Bright Eyes: Conor Oberst's band continues to take folky indie rock in new directions. Really good stuff.
- Santigold: fun show -- great singing, great presence, fantastic dancers
- The Antlers: Brooklyn-based indie rock and dream pop purveyors. A good way to start the day.
- Phosphorescent: experimental, atmospheric, and just morose enough to make me smile
- Iron & Wine: Austin-based Sam Bean and his band sounded amazing -- what a great songwriter he is.
- My Morning Jacket: they rocked. Hard. It was great. Loved that they brought Preservation Hall Jazz Band on for the last couple of songs.
- Mariachi El Bronx: a punk band playing heart-felt mariachi music, they blew me away, especially Ray Suen's violin virtuosity.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: uplifting, fun, original, and incredibly talented, this Detroit trio had me smiling and dancing
- Elbow: a really tight rock band from Manchester; front-man Guy Garvey knows how to work a festival crowd
- Fleet Foxes: this Seattle-based indie folk band makes wonderful music -- intricate songs with amazing instrumentation and vocal harmony. Loved it.
- Randy Newman: The man is a genius, a national treasure, and a songwriting god. He was fantastic, despite the sound overlap challenges of performing on the Vista Equity stage.
- Arcade Fire: second time seeing them this year, they were maybe even better on the second go-round. Rockin way to end the fest!
10/14/2010 08:36 PM
humorous apology from Mint
Last night I got a flood of blank emails from the mint.com domain. I was a little puzzled and concerned, but decided not to worry about it. Tonight, I got this email from Mint and it made me laugh out loud. A sense of humor is always a nice touch in a "mea culpa"...
09/ 8/2010 08:35 AM
time traveler's wife timeline links
I updated my popular Time Traveler's Wife: Timelines post from 2006 to have links to view the PDFs online in Google Docs. Thanks, Google!