Sunday, August 1, 2010

now is the time when we dance

The economic landscape of the musical industry has changed vastly over the last decade. For many aspiring singer/songwriters the idea of getting signed to a major label is no longer “the dream”. The internet and it’s many new connection sites have allowed musical artists to attract attention and income with some do it yourself practices. There are even websites available with the specific intent of helping musicians raise money for a recording project through pledges of financial support from their fans.

photo from Clem Snide's Facebook page
More creative musicians are even developing their own ways of raising money for projects. Going in a totally self reliant direction, one such example is Eef Barzelay and his band Clem Snide. This band enjoyed some respectable commercial success a few years ago and they ended up suffering with their label through the downward spiral of the music industry. They reemerged recently and have struggled a bit to find their economic footing in a very uncertain market.

After their last album was released Barzelay seemed to realize the potential support already existing in his fan base. Seeking to tap into that resource, a new offering was made on the band’s website. For the price you’d expect to pay for a tour shirt Barzelay decided to offer to make fans a personalized 3 song EP album. Fans simply request their 3 favorite songs by the band and Barzelay sings and plays those songs acoustically on a one of a kind recording. Fans get an impromptu mini concert on their iPods and the band gets funding for the next album.
Sure, the band gets money for their effort, but that’s not the noteworthy aspect of this deal. What Mr. Barzelay has done here is stumble into one of the more attractive and important facets of fine art: the ability to make personal connections.

Think about the music you enjoy or maybe the books you’d list among your all time favorites. We all must realize that there are very real and specific reasons why we like things. When you think about those favorites, chances are you like some of them because you feel you can relate to the story or the song or the author in some way. You’ve been in a situation just like the one described in that song. You’ve felt just like the writer did when he wrote that chapter. These are personal connections.

photo from Clem Snide's Facebook page

Barzelay takes the idea of a personal connection one step further with the personalized 3 song EP. The recordings are rather raw. You can hear the tape start and stop before and after songs. You can hear him tuning his guitar. And just when you get the feeling that you’re sharing some small interior space with the artist, he calls you by name and makes some one-sided small talk.

I ordered one of these EPs mostly for the opportunity to contribute to the next album financially. I chose my 3 favorite Clem Snide/Barzelay songs and asked for one to be dedicated to my kids. I didn’t know if he’d actually do it but this song in particular has made a personal connection with me regarding the huge shift that the birth of a child can cause. Just like you, I felt like I knew exactly what the writer was saying in that song.

Violet, Blue, & G dancing (photo by me - not dancing)
After a few weeks an email showed up from Mr. Barzelay with the EP attached. I turned up the volume and watched the kids shimmy and sway to the music. Then my son heard his name spoken on the recording by the guy who was singing and he froze in his tracks. First his name, then his sister’s name, and then a short little chat about what the song meant to him when he wrote it. Now, of course, Blue requests this record every time we get in the car. Personal connection made.

Great art has the ability to tap into that shared area of consciousness. There are feelings, thoughts, desires that translate over state lines, cultural biases and religious beliefs and when an artist gets lucky enough to make those connections with other human beings - that is truly the measure of success.
*Get your own personal connection to a great singer/songwriter here:

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