Sunday, November 29, 2009

Couple a' links is having a Cyber Monday sale on musical instruments

End the need for benefit concerts.

Ben Bresky interviews Chaim Dovid.

Finally, Chanukah is coming soon.... get ready for "Nanach Dreidel!"

Thursday, November 26, 2009

From the mailbag...

Anon writes:
I just had a rather scary conversation with one of the younger band organizers in the Jewish club date biz. I was called about a possible Chassidic wedding gig, and was asked how much extra I would want to play the mitzvah tantz at the end. I asked if I would be playing it by myself. Told that I would be, I simply read to him the sublead overtime charges on my union card.

"Really? It's so much?" he asked me.

I told him that I wasn't charging any more than the minimum amount I should be getting. It seems that the fellow was in competition for the booking, and was trying to slash prices in any way he could. "Can't you do any better than that?" he asked.

No, I said. I really couldn't.

"And what if the mitzvah tantz goes longer than expected? I'll have to charge them so much more?"

That's right, I said. They call it a mitzvah tantz; I call it overtime. And overtime is overtime. Meter's running, clock's ticking, business is business.

The guy gave me a hold for the date, but I got the distinct impression that he thought I was being greedy. For charging scale. And that if he could find someone who would charge less (I believe the technical term is a "scab"), he would hire him in a heartbeat.

Truth is, I still might get the gig. And maybe enough of the older musicians in the biz will set this guy straight. He's not a bad guy. What frightens me is the mindset - that the scale card doesn't really matter any more. And the possibility that some musicians, faced with an empty schedule book, might buy into it.

Look, this year has been a disaster. For me and every other musician I know. I just want to implore my fellow club daters: No matter how bleak things look - no matter how many open dates are sitting in your schedule book - don't ever, ever, EVER do a gig at under scale. Because if that starts happening, we're back to the Stone Ages. We might as well all sell our equipment and start collecting unemployment.

I really hope this isn't the start of a trend. Because that would truly be the end.
I've been meaning to write a series of posts about the recession and musicians/live music. I hope to post on the matter soon. in the meantime, this is as good a starting point as any for a discussion on the topic. Comments are welcome. Anyone want to write a guest post on a releated topic?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

11/19/09 Link Dump

Robert Zimmerman is feeling freilach because Christmas is coming. posts a Sermon In A Song featuring Journeys.

Metal Jew posts about the release of a Chanukah-themed metal album in "Hanukah Gone Metal."

Here's a website that compiles many music videos done in tribute to the Chabad shluchim, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holzberg HY"D, who were murdered in the terror attacks in Mumbai last year.

Gruntig posts a video clip, "The Rock Band Family" that gives a glimpse into the messianic insanity that had emerged in Crown Heights by the early '90's.

The professor is in: "Weird Al explains AutoTune."

Finally, here's what just might be the world's worst Nirvana cover.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the mailbag...

E. emails a link to A Jewish Star - Singing Competition.

Wolf Krakowski emails a link to Vilna: A Yiddish song, sung by Fraidy Katz, which he directed.

A reader is looking for a violin teacher in Brooklyn who teaches youngsters. Any suggestions for him?

Zvi writes:
I noticed you wrote a few articles about your woes of the Jewish Advertising world.
I'm wondering if you've had any positive experiences of specific media and can make suggestions.
Specifically, I'm curious if you've tried smaller publications, such as shul or school newsletters?

Also, have you considered the advantage of Branding a product/band, through continued advertising, as opposed to a specific ad->sale result? When you said, "if people were looking for them specifically, they might find their phone number in one of these papers", I suspect that is the result of long-term and effective branding. It is possible that by seeing that ad many times, and associating it with the positive experience of reading that paper, the person has grown familiar and trusting to that band.

Interested in hearing your experience and feedback.
My response:

I have had positive results on the local level with targeted small advertising campaigns. However, they have to be distinctive, meaning not just running a business card sized (or smaller) ad exactly where all of my competitors are advertising. The ubiquitous small ads typical of the Jewish band listings in the Jewish Press, for example, do not achieve this, IMO. I prefer to find advertising opportunities where my competitors aren’t, rather than where they are.

As far as long term effective branding... When you write: “When you said, "if people were looking for them specifically, they might find their phone number in one of these papers, I suspect that is the result of long-term and effective branding”, the successful branding has been achieved by the paper running the ads for their entertainment section itself, not by the ads themselves for the bands. In other words, based on my experience as well as extensive conversations with some formerly regular advertisers, when they are looking for a specific phone number (and even that is less common in recent years, given the ubiquity of the internet), people might know to turn to that section because they know there are ads there. However, the ads themselves are generally not productive.

In my opinion, given the nature of live music, it is much more effective to direct advertising dollars elsewhere.

Some quick examples:
For the price of a typical ad buy, the band could pay a small group of musicians to perform live at a public charity event.
For the same price, the band could give away hundreds of demo CD’s (assuming they’ve already recorded the material.)

Either of these is much more likely to bring in work, compared to an ad. Plus, you don’t have the negatives of those ads which I’d mentioned in my posts on the subject.

11/17/09 Link Dump

The Jewish Music Report posts "Ethnomusicology – the Americanization of Niggunim," the notes for a lecture given to an ethnomusicology by the Chabad shaliach at the University of Washington. Natch, it reflects a Chabad-centric view of the subject

Over at Vos Iz Neias: "Satmar to Open Subsidized Wedding Hall." Complete wedding package including music, entertainment [fake] flowers. and photographers for less than $10,000. I think they should offer a Vegas-style option too. It'd save even more $$$.

Failed Messiah posts a video report on Menachem Philip's chazara b'she'ala, "Haredi Music Star Leaves Orthodoxy."

The Volokh Conspiracy takes on the typical "yeshivishe lomdus" approach to copyright law in "Yeah, That’s A Good One." I have no reason to think is owned by chareidim, but their logic sounds an awful lot like that of the typical Vos Iz Neias/Yeshiva World/Matzav commentor.

Speaking of... Matzav assures us that contrary to what you might think, all is hunky-dory in Shwekey land. They know because the brother who is allowed to use his last name on his CD's says so. Great investigative reporting!

Frum Satire posts a rap video. Nothing like sampling an old Jewish boys choir record to make your beatz!

The Forward posts "A Concerto for Ancient Hebrew Ram’s Horn."I've heard Avitsur play. He has a wonderfully rich and warm sound.

Jewish Guitar Chords has added a random song generator. Why decide what to play, when this page will do that for you?

Over at Circus Tent, !זינג, וועלוול זינג

The story behind Guitar Center. Behind The Music (That Sucks)!

Finally, the ultimate explanation of Progressive Rock!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Keep On Shlocking!

Lenny Solomon writes:
Innovations continue to come from Shlock Rock.

Lenny Solomon and Shlock Rock have released their first Music Video from their new album No Limits. Lenny plans on releasing one video a month until March.

This first music video is called Leah's Song And I Will Pray

You can also hear Lenny talk about the new album, Jewish Music, Songwriting and the Pay What You Want Campaign on this interview on Arutz 7 at this link:

To Pay What You Want and Download go to

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Rocking Wedding Band

Check this out. The NY Times profiles a local wedding band in "Say ‘I Do’ to Rock."

And More Peeps...

"The Hallway Smoker"

This friend of the family must have a smoke during/right after the chupa. Naturally, the best place to do so is in the hallway right outside the chupa room. You know. The one that everybody has to pass through to get to the ballroom. The one that the chosson and kallah pass through on the way to the yichud room. The one that does not have any ventilation. Yeah, that one.

"Mr. Why Did You Set Up Here?"

This peep will walk by the band countless times as they're setting up the PA and all of their gear in the same spot they always do when playing this venue. Biding his time, he waits until absolutely everything has been set up before asking "why did you set up here?" Um, because that's where the band always set up. "Well, today we need you to set up on the exact opposite side of the dance floor!" OK, don't you think you might have said something a little sooner?

"Rabbi I'm Not Going To Speak About..."
This peep always starts off by saying he won't speak long. It is then followed, natch, by a long speech, in which he lists many things he won't/can't talk about adequately, talking about each immediately after he's disclaimed his ability to do so.

"You Played My Brothers Wedding"
Um, no. We didn't. We know, because we know who did. It wasn't us.

The "Need Any Help Guy"
This peep's offer of help would feel more sincere if he hadn't just shoved his way past us while we were navigating a cart full of gear through a tight turn off a ramp onto the sidewalk. For some reason, after this peep literally shoves past us in a manner that might have knocked the cart over onto us, his offer of "need any help", made without breaking stride while walking away rings hollow. Thanks for nothing.

"Did You See The Flowers You Bought The Kallah?"
Finally, this peep takes his title from the question his mother asks him after his engagement party. It is followed up by an instruction to make sure the kallah sees them. Because nothing says "I love you" more than the flowers your mom bought and signed your name to.