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Seth’s Top Picks of 2013

January 3, 2014

It’s time. Most every year, I don my faux ‘music critic’-hat and offer my snooty, elitist opinions on what I thought were the top records I heard in the preceding annum.

This year I posted it over on my education blog, which has become my main outlet since I took a step back from performing and recording.  Have at, and enjoy!

Click here for Seth’s Top Picks of 2013

 

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You Wanna Be Starting Something.

May 23, 2013

Ransom Update 4
(forgive the subject line — I’ve been rediscovering “Thriller”. Quincy Jones is a genius.)

So the word is out.  We’ve started a “THING”.

…and proven that it’s a SERIOUS thing – that it CAN work… as long as the fans care.

I’ve received a lot of messages since “Animal Mouth” came out last week.  So many kind and thoughtful words, and so many listeners rising to the challenge of taking in a new song and starting a dialogue about it.  I half-jokingly closed a recent blog by saying I was making “esoteric pop music for classy people”, but that’s really what this is, and there are even more classy people listening than I originally thought. Thank you for the feedback.

Most common question: 

“When will the next song come out?” 

This sort of gives it away that the person asking never found out what this whole “Hostage Situation” project is about… but I know not everyone reads my posts on my schedule.  Essentially the answer is, “The next song will come out once enough donations have been received as to meet the ransom.”

If you understand all that already, feel free to move on.  But if you’re not clear on what’s happening; if you don’t know what I mean by “Hostage Situation”, or “ransom”, or you’re not sure what the “donation” thing is about, here’s the link to the project’s main page – check it out.

The first “hostage” is free by the grace of 128 individuals who raised all the money up to May 14th.  Obviously, many of them spent far more than what it would have cost them to purchase a “normal” $9.99 download from iTunes.  They were the early adopters; the hardcore fans; my “Horanimals”, who believe in me and trusted that this could work. I certainly don’t expect anything more from them, and you shouldn’t either.  Now it’s your turn.

There are still over THREE THOUSAND of you out there.  You’re my fans; you enjoy my songs, you like my lyrics or my bass playing, you tell your friends to listen to me, you write very nice emails telling me you can’t wait for me to come back to your town and perform — I tried to weed out a bunch of email addresses that I thought were no good, and I got over two hundred messages from people saying “Don’t delete me! I wish I could hear you perform again…”  So there are a lot of you just waiting for a chance to show your support.

THIS IS THAT CHANCE. The future of the music I make and of the concerts I perform all depends on your support for this project.  If it doesn’t work out, I’ll back out of the whole “artist” thing and just focus on teaching.

So download the song from the Bandcamp page, and please donate when you do it; maybe a dollar for “Animal Mouth”, and maybe a few dollars for however many more songs you’d like to see this project produce.  If you do, and a thousand others of similar minds do it as well, everybody wins.

Also: only one person wrote to say this, but I thought it needed mentioning:

“I think this is a great idea, and I want to help, but I’m a student and I can *really* only give like five dollars.  Please don’t be offended.  I think you’re awesome.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks: This person thought that they needed to apologize for “only” donating five dollars.

When I get that email from Paypal that says “You have received a payment from So-and-So”, the first thing I think isn’t “ooh! How much?”   The first thing I think is, “This person is a super hero.”

So it occurred to me that people might feel awkward knowing that I can see their name right next to however much they donate to the project.  As odd as it seems, I suppose it’s possible that people don’t want to “look cheap”.

Let’s put that to rest right now.  On iTunes and many other music download sites, the going rate for music is about a dollar-per-song.  Donating five dollars is the same as telling me you believe in me enough that you want to pre-pay for the next five songs I release.

That is *not* “cheap”. That is the action of a fan I am grateful to have. Without fans like that, I’m not a professional artist.  Without fans like that, I’m not a touring artist.  Without fans like that, I’m not anything worth mentioning.

If you’re a fan like that, I’m thankful for you, and I hope you continue to be as idealistic and ethical as you are.

Thank you, everyone, for reading this.  I hope to release another song for you soon!

be well…

-Seth

Release the Hostages
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Ransom Update #3 – Sweet release

May 15, 2013

Image

Look at THAT.  

I mean, LOOK at that.

I am so excited, so motivated, so thankful.  You know who you are, and to all of you who made this happen: THANK YOU.

The first song from the “Hostage Situation” project has been released:

Feel free to listen, to download, to share — I already got paid for releasing it. That’s the point of this whole thing.

That having been said — if you haven’t yet contributed to the project, anything you choose to pay for this track will count towards the ransom for the NEXT one.

If you have been remiss to pay anything until this point because there was no immediate exchange, I understand.  But now, there IS — so you could, for instance, choose to pay $2 for this download, and call it a dollar for this song and a dollar for the next one.  Now imagine if you and a THOUSAND other people did that.  There would be another song released right away.  And you’d barely miss the two bucks. Perspective.

There is a PDF with artwork and lyrics available directly from the Bandcamp page for the song (just click on the text in the player rather than hitting the play button and it should take you there). Have at.  

And to the 116 of you who contributed so far: This is more than “cool”. This is making a big statement about art, value, and exchange, and I’m excited to see how far we can take it. Thank you!

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Everything you need to know about holding songs for ransom

May 9, 2013

This is yet another section from the page on my website describing “The Hostage Situation” project.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, the over-simplified version is this: I’m releasing my new songs one-at-a-time, but not until a fundraising goal has been met for each song.  Then, once the goal is met, no individual will have to pay to download that song ever again.

The webpage is long and detailed and has intimidated many, who have asked for shorter, more bite-sized pieces of information more suited to the modern attention span.  I am happy to oblige, and so here are the newly updated answers to the Many Inevitable Questions that my supporters have had and will have about this groundbreaking/asinine (depending on who you ask) idea.

Enjoy!

So you’re asking us to donate our money… but there’s a chance we won’t get any music back in return?

Funny — that’s actually the inverse of the risk a musician takes — we release our music, though there’s an ever-increasing chance we won’t get any MONEY back in return.  Think of this as standing in my shoes, if it helps.
 
Really though, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you stop worrying about “what everyone else will do” and simply donate a few bucks… and I mean, if ALL of you do that… then it’s a non-issue.  There are enough of you out there that there would be 8 songs released in no time at all. Heck… if everyone donated the equivalent of just one US Dollar, there’d be one song released and another on the verge.  So this is very, very doable.
 
It’s when you start trying to outsmart the system that it ends up biting you in the ass.  “Oh, I’ll wait and see…” is the phrase that kills things like this.  If everyone waits to see what everyone else does, nobody does anything.
 
So what we’re looking for here are forward-thinkers; risk-takes; pioneers…  and above all, FANS.
 

How many songs will you release this way?

I have six songs ready to mix right now (which would require a total ransom of $12,000), and I have enough songs in the demo stage to ensure that the collection could ultimately contain as many as a dozen songs or more.
 
So YES: if you crazy kids somehow raise twenty grand, I will deliver a 10-song collection.
 

Wait… you really expect over 3000 of us to give you seven dollars each?

I don’t “expect” anything.  But yes; I’m asking, and hoping, that you do something along those lines.
 
Maybe a thousand of you donate one dollar and then some wealthy philanthropist picks up the rest of the tab; I won’t get involved in that. Feel free to come together as a community of like-minded fans and coordinate however you want to, but don’t try to negotiate with the bad guy — I mean, I’m holding HOSTAGES, remember?
 

What if I just wait for others to pay the ransom and download it for free anyway?

You could well do that.  But consider that a lot of other people might be thinking the same thing.  And so maybe the ransom doesn’t get paid.  And the lot of you would wait, smug and righteous, and…  without any of my new music.  Boy, would you be proving your point then.  Or you could just pay the same amount of money you spend at Starbucks for a couple of lousy lattes, encourage others to do the same, and watch how fast the music comes into your life.
 

What if you get $1,900 and then the money stops flowing in?  How long would you wait before just releasing a song anyway?

Think of this as a way for you as a fan base to let me know you still think I’m valid.  If I can’t make my living off of my work, I shouldn’t consider myself a professional artist, and I should just retire from it and teach full time.  If you want me to do that, then allowing this scenario to happen would be just the thing I need to re-evaluate my life – you could really stick it to my sense of self-worth if you want to.
 

How will we know when we free a hostage?

I’ll post updates on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, and if we get a particularly exciting boost all at once, I’ll definitely send out an email announcement.  This whole thing could take awhile to get rolling… or the goal could be reached in 24 hours.  It’s entirely up to you.
 

I don’t have a Paypal account.  How can I contribute?

There are a number of ways to contribute without using Paypal. I can take cash, checks, and credit/debit cards.  If you’d rather do it that way, you should SEND ME AN EMAIL and we’ll sort you out.
 

Will you ever press a CD version of this album?

This has crossed my mind, but it allows people to give “conditional support” (i.e. “I’ll only donate if you make a CD”) and that is not the point of this.
 
So what I’ll do is this: as they are released, all the songs will be added to the same download page (on Bandcamp, most likely) – and the liner notes & lyrics for each song will be included as downloadable PDFs. Once we have released four (4) songs, I’ll update that to become an album booklet, complete with artwork, which I’ll keep updating as more songs are released.
 
Anyone can burn a CD, and anyone can print a PDF file, so it’s no longer a question of whether I will create a physical version of the album… the question is, will YOU?
 

How do we know we’ll even like your new songs?

That’s a fair point.  Whoever demanded a ransom without allowing the hostage a few seconds on the phone to let the world know they were okay?
 
It seems reasonable that you’d want to know what I’ll be setting free into the world, so here’s a sneak peek at rough mixes of a few tracks.  
 
 
(Muso fans have asked, and so it bears clarification: these are *rough* mixes, and sound quite muddy and squashed compared to the way they’ve evolved since I threw this together. The point isn’t to wow you with the sound quality – it’s to give you a taste of the SONGS.)
 
Once we build a little momentum, perhaps I’ll cobble together another preview of some other songs, but this is the last you’ll hear of these particular tunes until the ransom is met.
 
So that’s the situation.
 
You know what to do.

Release the Hostages

(or EMAIL SETH DIRECTLY to pay by check, credit, or debit card)

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Ransom Update #2 – You’re gonna like this.

May 6, 2013

Big development this week!  First I’ll give you the update, then I’ll explain…

As I post this the morning of Monday, May 6th, the ransom money you’ve raised so far has hit $1,466.

This week’s funds were raised by only 32 PEOPLE. That, plus our 39 supporters from last week, means that 71 of you are now giving me the vote of confidence to get this thing done.  Thank you to everyone who has gotten involved!!

So here’s the development:

I based the original ‘ransom demand’ on the size of my mailing list, which I completely overhauled and rebuilt so that I could have an accurate idea of who’s out there and paying attention.

Over the past week, I’ve been testing how reliable that list is.  I did a “list cleaning” to weed out old and abandoned addresses, and sent out a “Should I delete you?”-message to people who hadn’t been active for awhile.

The result: my list is down from just over 4,000 people to just over 3,200. That’s about 20% less than I based the original ransom demand on.

So I’m lowering the ransom by 20% as well.  It’s only fair.  From here on out, the ransom for each song is only $2,000.  (Who says you can’t negotiate with the bad guy?)

Seventy-one supporters is only 2% of the newly trimmed fan base, but now that the ransom has been renegotiated, their efforts have pushed us over 73% of the first goal.

I’ll say that again for the people who like to scan quickly and read the big words:

WE’RE NOW ABOUT 3/4 OF THE WAY TO THE FIRST SONG BEING RELEASED!

Now — don’t get any ideas about the ransom for each song decreasing again. I’m pretty sure most of the professional grown-ups reading this bring home at least two grand a month, which is about the amount of time and energy it takes to write, produce, record, mix, and release a professional-quality track (not to mention, there are costs related to all that).  And don’t forget — once each song is out there at the mercy of the file-sharing community, I’m not going to fight it — it’ll be a free download from that point forward.   So I need your support NOW; pre-release.

**IF THIS IS THE FIRST YOU’VE HEARD OF THIS**
…then you can read about this whole project (and listen to a sampler of some of the new songs) by visiting: http://bit.ly/Y0Ff7e

AND IF YOU’RE READY TO HELP RELEASE THE HOSTAGES WITH A DONATION, click this large, blue, candy-like button – please and thank you! :)

Release the Hostages

It’s an exciting time to be making esoteric pop music for classy people.  Onward!

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Why I didn’t use Kickstarter

May 3, 2013

People are busy, and don’t always have time to read big webpages. My webpage describing “The Hostage Situation” is a pretty big webpage, with a lot of information on it.

So, by popular demand, I’ll be breaking down the whole thing in Q&A form — more easily digestible snippets that you can take in as you please.

Our first, most popular question by far is:

WHY DIDN’T I USE KICKSTARTER (or any other crowdfunding site) FOR THIS PROJECT?

 
The current trend is to “crowd fund”; in every creative field, there’s kickstarting, indie-gogo-ing, pledge-ing, rocket-hubbing, and probably more platforms I’m not aware of.  Everybody’s doing it.  It’s gone from being novel to being normal.
 
I considered starting one of these fund-raising campaigns myself, but I decided against it for two big reasons:  
1)  The “all or nothing”-model: on many of these sites, if an artist doesn’t raise enough money to hit their intended goal within a certain time frame, the whole thing is called off, and no money gets collected, so after all the effort and hope the artist puts in to rallying fans and getting people excited, it can be for naught.  
2)  When an artist creates one of these things, they are required to offer all kinds of different “prize” levels based on however much somebody donates.  This isn’t optional; it’s required to make the whole campaign happen.
 
The “all or nothing” thing bugs me because I have a lot of experience with what it takes to get and keep the attention of a few thousand people… and it’s HARD.  No matter how hard you try, it’s still really tough to get people’s attention on YOUR schedule.  Even if you do, the idea that you could manage to get enough people to read your message, click your link, AND agree to donate money to your cause, all on the first try…  that’s a lofty goal, and I know a few artists who have had their hearts broken when realizing this as they watch their fund raising campaigns slowly failing.  
 
The idea is to cultivate excitement; to build the energy it takes to support a project.  If you give people a deadline, yes; that will motivate some people to action quicker than usual, but it also forces a sense of urgency that can come across as disingenuous.  Many are turned off by this; they simply murmur “whatever”, and click “delete”.  If they had been given time to take in the project, to realize that the end result is something that’s good for THEM, and to see the buzz building around it, the natural desire to be part of a success story would kick in, and be better for everyone in the long run.
 
(There’s also the trend of people attempting to “pay with likes”, as if that somehow counts.  Checking out a slew of musician’s Kickstarter pages; successful or not, it doesn’t seem to matter — I’ve noticed the number of people who have pledged to support the endeavor, and then the number of Facebook “likes” the campaign has received.  Over and over again, there are five to ten times as many “likes” as people who’ve actually decided to dig in and support the project.  That means for every person who donated to the cause, there were at least five who thought that clicking a button to “show they were there” was somehow enough.  This is not an idea I want to give credence to.)
 
The second issue is the “prize” incentive.  I have no problem with this in theory — in fact, I offered a similar exchange a few years ago when I made *Clang & Chime*.  But there was really only one “prize”; the opportunity to help produce the record as I made it, and it wasn’t a thing I had to make happen in addition to the process of creating music — it was a PART of that process.
 
These Kickstarter-style “incentives” have begun to look very similar. In ascending order, you usually see a thank you note, a download, a cd, a t-shirt, a combo pack of all of the above, some kind of Skype greeting or chat or outgoing voicemail message personalized by the artist, a hand-written note or lyric sheet, a ‘song written just for you’, a request for a cover song on YouTube, a house concert, a signed instrument or article of clothing, ostensibly belonging to or having great sentimental value to the artist…   any of this sound familiar? 
 
It’s become boilerplate, and (I think) a bit contrived.  And it forces the artist to spend their money, time, and energy becoming an order-fulfillment center instead of making the art they were trying to get the money for in the first place.  (Can we record this song now?  No… I have to personalize twenty lyric sheets and write a hundred postcards so that people will feel they got their fifteen dollars’ worth…)
 
That energy is supposed to be going towards making a piece of art, and instead it gets misdirected and dispersed and ultimately… wasted.
 
I want more honesty.  
In keeping with that, let’s acknowledge a truth: 
 
The reason crowd-funding became popular in the first place is because it has become the only way an artist can get PAID for the work…  by getting the money up front. 
Again – people are generally weak in the ethics department when they think nobody’s looking, and if you let them choose between paying and not paying, they will, more times than not, NOT pay.
 
Of course, if you just say “pay”, a few will still do it.
But a few of those who do will upload the tracks so that anyone else can download them for free.
And then suddenly, everyone has the choice again.  And we’ve already covered what happens there.
 

–> READ MORE ABOUT HOW I’M DISTRIBUTING MY NEW MUSIC — THE WHOLE PROJECT DESCRIPTION (AND SNIPPETS OF THE NEW SONGS)<–

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The Ransom Update

April 29, 2013

Ransom Update 1I’m so happy, proud, and thankful.   This past weekend has been awesome to behold, and it has reiterated what I already knew: you guys are awesome.

As I post this, just before 10:30 AM, Monday, April 29th, I am thrilled to report that the ransom you’ve raised so far has hit $895.

That’s over 35% of the first ransom goal… in ONLY THREE DAYS.

But it gets better.

This amount was raised by only 39 PEOPLE.

That’s incredible, if you think about it. That means that 39 of you gave an average of about $23 each (though some gave much less and a select few gave much more).

So even though this song collection probably won’t be a dozen songs (feel free to prove me wrong on that), so far the average donation is about DOUBLE what you’d normally pay for a 12-song album.

I was thinking that logically, each person could throw in a few bucks and that “strength in numbers” would get quite a few songs released… and I thought it would take a few months. But this is already beyond what I hoped for at this point, and I am grateful!

I might even go so far as to feel cautiously optimistic. I mean, There are just over 4,000 of you on the email list, and we’re already over a third of the way to releasing Song #1 with LESS THAN ONE PERCENT OF YOU getting involved.

So here it is: if you read about this and have been on the fence about whether or not it’s something you want to “risk” contributing to, the votes are coming in (in dollar form), and it’s official: there is less risk than expected.

Remember, I’m not looking for ten or twenty wealthy people to foot the bill.

I’m looking for a couple thousand of you to chip in a few bucks each to get this music released.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT…
…then I’m pretty sure there’s an email in your inbox (or… le sigh… your spam folder) that you missed last Friday! If you can’t find it, you can read about this whole project  by visiting this page

Here are a few samples of some rough mixes of my ‘hostages’.  Rest assured they’ll be cleaned up, fed and watered, and in one piece when they’re released…

Heard enough?

Here’s how you can help release them.

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