Years ago one of my sons was given "A Tale of Two Cities" as a reading assignment in school. I still have to laugh when I remember the evening he opened the book to the first page and began to read.
"This guy Dickens is full of shit." he said, closing the book in disgust. I looked up from my crossword puzzle and asked him what he meant. "The guy can't make up his mind. 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...' I mean, make up your mind, what frigging time was it?!"
That bit of wisdom from the mouth of a teenager sums up the current state of affairs in the pop music industry rather succinctly. Music technology is at an all-time high, while music education is at an all-time low. Quality and talent have in large part given way to fame and controversy. Artists who haven't recorded new material in years are making more money on the concert stage than artists with new "hit" records. What was once known as "Pop, Rock and Soul" has been sub-divided into genre too numerous to remember. The proliferation of self-produced music has democratized the market in a very exciting way but has also lowered the bar of what was once acceptable broadcast standards.
New web sites seem to appear daily on which aspiring artists can market products that would once have been considered "demo quality" at best. That's not to say that the music doesn't have merit. But let's face it, ear buds, mp3s and liver-pulverizing car systems don't require the same level of production values that made recordings sound like a million dollars on anything from a home hi-fi to the family station wagon radio.
One web-based organization that is attempting to bring the promise of high quality recording values to aspiring artists is Sellaband. Sellaband does not market previously recorded material, but rather gives artists an opportunity to promote musical potential in hopes of making a professional quality recording. Of Sellabands many attributes, the most intriguing is the potential for international exposure. I say "potential" because, although there are now 5000 artists from every corner of the world on Sellaband, the majority of funding is currently being provided by investors from Europe and the UK. When the crowd-funding concept catches on in the American and Asian markets the full potential of Sellaband may be realized.
Another aspect of Sellaband that I find attractive is the internet-driven ability of artists from smaller, regional markets to reach an ever growing international audience. But again, international support for these artists will depend upon Sellaband's ability to market their crowd-funding concept to an ever-widening international crowd...with funds.
I joined Sellaband in June and the first day my profile was up, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message from a band from my home country of Austria, inviting me to their profile page for a listen to their music. Looking through the artist roster, I found that there were three(now four) Austrian bands on the site. The four bands cover a wide variety of styles and range in age from the just out of school Rooga to the mature rock,statesmen Confused5. In between there are Kontrust, just a ripping, rapping rock band, and Solidtube, a country flavored bluesy band more reminiscent of the late 60s bay area than Vienna. Ah, the internet is a great development. Here I am, a career musician in LA who still thinks of Austria as home...hooking up with four bands from the 'hood for the very first time.
All four of these bands have recently posted new material on their Sellaband profile pages. Rooga, the young aggressive funk/rock band from Vienna have posted "Me", a powerfully progressive song recorded at Vienna's Fast Forward Studios. The song is rhythmically ambitious but never loses the groove. The vocals and melodic lines are executed with patience and maturity beyond their years. Rooga are sophisticated musicians and play with all the fire of an early No Doubt.
Kontrust, another Viennese group offers their new song "Si Je" which was also recorded at Fast Forward Studio and mastered at Gold Chamber. I've written a full review of Kontrust in the past and this new song only reinforces what I've already said...I don't understand how this band has escaped the attention of major labels. Absolutely original and one of the best bands on the Sellaband artist roster. Lead singer Agata is a star. Period. And the band absolutely rises to her level. I don't go out much, but this is an act I would pay to see. Great writing, great playing, great look, unlimited potential.
And then there is Solidtube. Until recently Solidtube was a trio consisting of very capable guitar, blues harmonica and one of the most sincere and honest voices I've heard in a long time. Mandana sounds as if she grew up playing the San Francisco bay area circuit rather than the Viennese coffee houses and restaurants that the band call home. Their new song, "Perfect", is really indicative of what they do best, write good songs and perform them with heart. Solidtube's recordings are done on consumer equipment, but the message is abundantly clear. When the right producer gets this trio into the studio along with their new rhythm section they will make an album worth listening to.
Markus from ConFused5 was the first musician to post a comment on my Sellaband profile and he is really responsible for causing me to look further into the fine european artists I've grown to admire on the Sellaband site. And this band has a great story. Markus and two of the current band members played as a band over twenty years ago. They put their tight jeans and hairdryers in the closet and went about the business of being responsible adults when along came Sellaband to fan the dormant flames of their rocking youth. Their brand of music centers around the big, overdriven guitars of the late seventies but their latest song is a catchy, minor blues laced with the distinct flavor of New Orleans. Their recordings were done at
Sonic Flow Studio of Salzburg. This is another band that does great live shows and has a loyal local following.
And speaking of a local following, ConFused5 and Solidtube, joined by Swiss artist LorraineJones will be rocking the Rock House in Salzburg in a joint effort to bring attention to their Sellaband quest on November 9th. It's a long way from LA but this is just a train ride away for many of my European readers and I hope you can join the party.
And so, this being the best of times and the worst of times, I take heart in knowing that there is something new on the horizon. Sellaband can be a lot of things to a lot of people. For me it has been a place to meet musicians from a home I left long ago. For those musicians, it represents an opportunity to realize the dream of making the quality recordings that their fans deserve. And to tell you the truth, I don't know if my son ever finished his book. Knowing him, he probably bought the Cliff notes, took the test and forgot all about it.