Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My top 100 albums of the decade

The following are my top 100 albums of 2000-2009. The albums are not ranked as a whole (I just wasn't up to that task with a list this long); rather, the list is alphabetized by artist. However, for cases in which an artist has multiple albums listed, I've ranked that artist's releases in descending order (with my favorite first).

I've included genre information with each listing for anyone who's not familiar with these artists or records and might want to check them out. Also, most of them link to pages where you can listen to clips from the albums. There are only three compilations on the list, and I've counted EPs as albums for the purpose of this list because there were some exceptionally good EPs this decade.

I haven't yet gotten to listen to all the music from the '00s that I'd like to, but from what I have heard, these are my favorites. One more disclaimer: The list doesn't take into account many of the great individual songs from the decade aren't on my favorite albums. (That includes, for example, almost all the hip-hop I listened to during the past 10 years.)

This is a big list, and I recognize that most people won't take the time to sift through it all and check out the music they haven't heard. (And, if I haven't made it obvious, the main point of the list is, in fact, to encourage people to explore these albums.) So if you're interested in checking out some music but would prefer a smaller list with more specific recommendations, I encourage you to get in touch with me and tell me the kinds of music you're into/looking for. I'll be more than happy to customize a list for you.

My top single of the decade that's not on any of the above albums is "Nobody Knows" by Simon Le Bon and Nick Wood.

And, finally, here are some of my own personal awards:

Band of the decade: Radiohead
Solo artist of the decade: Imogen Heap
Unsigned* band/artist of the decade: East Hundred

Meaning a band or artist who's never been signed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My top 10 books of the decade

My top 10 books of 2000-2009:

1. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
3. The Constant Gardener by John le Carré
4. Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
5. Reunion by Alan Lightman
6. The Good Life by Jay McInerney
7. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
8. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
9. Diary by Chuck Palahniuk
10. My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How to win listeners and influence eardrums?

I've been thinking a lot lately about music publicity and promotion. I make music first and foremost for myself, to satisfy the intangible desire to create something. But like 99 percent of the world's musicians, I want my music to be heard – and the more people who hear it, the better. It would also be nice to make back at least some of the money I put into making music.

I read all the time about how in the age of the Internet and digital music there are so many more opportunities for unsigned bands and artists to get their music heard, make their mark, build a following, etc., etc. Phrases like "you can do it all without a record label" proliferate music-related sites and blogs.

I'll be the first to say that, yes, the Internet and other technology make so many things possible for musicians that weren't a decade ago. I will quickly follow that, though, with a series of emphatic "buts" (not to be confused with emphatic butts, which always have had and still have the power to garner their owners plenty of attention):

  • But the Internet is so saturated with bands and artists, all competing for listeners' ever-shortening attention spans, that it's just as rare for an unsigned artist to gain a substantial following on their own as it is for them to get signed to a label.
  • But it doesn't much matter that my music is available through iTunes, Amazon, et al because very few people feel compelled to pay for music anymore, and the music people are inclined to buy is mostly by bands/artists who are on labels.
  • But it means absolutely nothing that I have more than 4,000 friends on the MySpace profile for my music because, in most cases, you're added to someone's friends list and immediately forgotten. Plus so many of those "friends" are other musicians who obviously only sent me friend requests to build up their own numbers without ever listening to a note of my music.
  • But the Internet doesn't tend to improve people's tastes or make them more open-minded about different styles of music.
  • But it still feels like any hard work put toward promoting my music is all for naught. I'm active on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and ... nothin'.

I'm feeling cynical right now, and sometimes the idea of giving up on making music (or at least bothering to share it with the public) has its appeals. But something keeps me going; there is a deep-seated need to create and to share what I've created, to not be completely passive and aimless.

If I'm to carry on with it, though, I need to feel like things are moving forward, like I'm reaching at least a few more people. Stagnancy is not an option – which brings me back to publicity and promotion.

In addition to the caveats listed above, one of the tribulations of the unsigned artist is figuring out how to promote music to potential new listeners without being overly intrusive or off-putting.

Sending messages to random people online saying "Check out my music" is boring, impersonal and absolutely ineffective – I know because I've received countless such messages on MySpace over the years.

It would be awesome if I could end this essay with a proven solution for this quandary, but if I had one I wouldn't have written this in the first place.

So I'm turning to you – "you" being anyone who's reading this; if you've gotten this far into the essay, I'm assuming you have at least some interest in this topic – for answers.

If you're a musician and you've found any particular methods of online promotion to be successful, I'm all ears. Also, have you found any ways to get fans involved in helping you with promotion? That's of particular interest to me, as right now I am my own street team.

If you're a listener (not necessarily of my music), have you ever received any kind of online communication from a band or artist you hadn't heard of that prompted you to check out their music? Lay it on me. Give me all the details, including whether it led you to become a genuine fan and/or buy the artist's music.

Leave me some comments, y'all.