Pennies From Heaven?

Johnny Bravo aka Greg Brady, did it for “the chicks”. Donna Summer “worked hard for the money”. The Rolling Stones did it because it was “only rock and roll”, but they liked it. Every musician or singer has their own reason to get into the music business. Some like to do it on the weekend, while they slave away in a cubicle the rest of the week. They are known as the ‘true’ weekend warriors. Others have no choice, they have to perform. It’s born and bred into them. Like an itch needs to be scratched, they need to make music for a living. However, what if the ‘curse’ of the internet is that, yes, it can make you a star, even a sensation, but it doesn’t pay enough for your talent to prosper? Without some type of swift, sweeping reform that benefits the artist more, the internet may very well be the thing that takes more than it gives back.

 

Back when the Delta blues first began to be recorded, every single black artist was ripped off. Many were taken several times, having to pay studio costs that were padded, all the while being paid a ‘royalty rate’ of 1/9th of a cent per record sold. That’s correct, you had to sell 9 records to make one lousy penny. Many artists were forced to add an additional name as co-writer of the song, and that person was paid at a better rate than 1/9th of a cent royalty. In short, they were severely ripped off and this made for a lot of skeptics. It didn’t help that when rock and roll first came to town, the same thing happened again. Give up your music and your talent for very little in exchange, while the record label owner cleans up. Led Zeppelin may be thought of as one of the greatest bands of all time, but they have been sued repeatedly by the likes of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. Why? Because the band helped themselves to some lyrics that they didn’t write, and then failed to inform the original composer that they were using them. It’s called ‘plagiarism’ and it cost Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and countless other groups plenty to learn a lesson.

Little Richard wrote early rock and roll classics and got very little airplay. However, Elvis Presley and Pat Boone had a lot of success with Little Richard covers. There’s the original composer, driving around in a broken down car from gig to gig, playing to small audiences, trying to eek out a living night to night, while Presley and Boone drove brand new Cadillac’s to their sold out shows. One would think that we have moved on from those days, that music, somehow came into its own ‘fairness doctrine’. Wake up or keep dreaming, it’s your choice as an artist.

 

Meet Pandora. Pandora is an online free or pay-for-music site that allows you to set up your own ‘radio station’ of sorts. Honestly, that really translates to setting up your playlist, which is cool if you want your friends to see and share what you listen to. The problem with Pandora is this; they simply do not want to pay a decent royalty rate to the artists that appear on their site. Take David Lowery who, in the mid 80’s fronted an indie giant band called “Camper Van Beethoven”. They had enough success recording and touring to lead a comfortable life. Lowery then went on to start another band, “Cracker”. That band went on to score a few ‘alternative hits’ including “Eye of Fatima” and “Euro-Trash Girl”, and one Top 40 charting song called “Low”. Sirius XM satellite radio gave the song about 180 plays, giving the musician $182.00, or roughly $1.00 per play. That’s a pretty healthy royalty. After giving “Low” some terrestrial radio spins, 19,000 plays netted Lowery $1,400.00, a substantially lesser amount, but not bad for a quarter year off of one song. Just over 1 million plays on the Pandora should have been a pretty good payday for Mr. David Lowery. It was time for the site to pay up. Are you as shocked as him to know that the band’s largest amount of plays ever netted him $16.89? How is that possible? Because the internet is still currently ‘No man’s Land’, when it comes to the good guys and the bad guys.

Singer, songwriter Lou Reed has a number of songs available for play on Pandora, most notably “Walk on the Wild Side”, a staple anywhere that it is listed for play. Lou Reed recently received his first royalty check from Pandora. It was for $2.60. Should this be considered a payment or an insult? Reed said that he made more money at age 14, playing guitar in a dive bar.

Speaking at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Reed had this to say,

“I understand young people were brought up on downloading and Steve Jobs tried to make it into some kind of business which benefits Apple, but you get about a sixteenth of a penny.  So, the musician doesn’t get paid anything. Now, making a record is kind of a promotional thing.”

Apple’s original agreement with The Beatles, when they licensed the brand name Apple, was that it was for computer use only and not for any music devices, period. That worked well….not. Of course, the irony is that you can now download The Beatles on iTunes from Apple.

Pandora has been lobbying and lobbying hard in Washington, D.C.

That has been widely criticized by David Lowery.
“Soon, you will be hearing from Pandora how they need Congress to change the way royalties are calculated so that they can pay much less to songwriters and performers,” said Lowery, “Why doesn’t Pandora get off the couch and get an actual business model instead of asking for a handout from Congress and artists?”

So what was Pandora’s response? It bought a small South Dakota radio station in an attempt to lower the rates that it pays for streaming music online. BMI has filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to allow the performing rights organization to negotiate ‘market driven’ rates rather than have Pandora pay the current statutory radio rates.

Perhaps some lawsuits filed will force change and a better, more across-the –board rate. Until that time, keep plugging along with your projects and keep making great music. We really need it and you.

 

How Important Is My CD Art-Work?

It took you the best part of the last year, or longer, to write the songs for your debut release on CD. You painstakingly poured your heart and soul into it. Long nights and early mornings, whenever possible, you wrote and dreamed the dream. Next, came the rehearsals. You yourself or you and your band had it down pat and were ready to go. You booked your studio time and had a successful run at it, laying down the exact sound and vibe that you were looking for all along.

Now, what about the cover of the CD? What about the art- work on the disc label and for the tray card on the back of the packaging? All of this should be almost, that’s almost as important as the music.

 
We have all seen some disastrous cover art. Even the greats get a little sloppy sometimes. Bob Dylan’s “Planet Waves” release is a prime example, and there are plenty of online sites to showcase and mock the terrible. Trust me when I say that you don’t want your releases showing up on those pages.  You’re new to the business, so you are far from jaded enough to think that black and white sketches are the way to go. You want an image that reflects not only the music being released but the singer or group behind it all.

 There is nothing wrong with a picture of you or your band for the cover. Just make sure that it’s a great shot. You can always find some inspiration in your own music and make art to match it. Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction likes to create three dimensional art in his home and then shoot the art for the cover of the release. On more than one occasion, he has had to light his creation on fire to get the effect that he was looking for. Talk about your one take shots!
Sometimes, simple is the way to go, other times over the top works best. It all comes down to your art and your sound. Just as you worked hard to pick the right name for your band and when you found it, you knew it was right, your art will happen for you as well. Use patience and discretion.
Custom drawn art by an artist friend is always a good idea, provided that the artist can give you what you need. The hand drawn art work for The Beatles ‘Revolver’ album was done by Fab Four close friend Klaus Voorman, who sometimes played bass with them early on.

You may have an artist create a logo for your band. Did you know that The Rolling Stones based their famous tongue logo on the Hindu Goddess Sayabayu? It was designed by artist John Pasche, and has since been voted the ‘greatest band logo of all time’.

 

Look around and you will find all the right elements for the perfect package to present to your audience. Listen to your heart, not your head and be willing to take a chance on some things. You may be very glad that you did.

How Does Social Media Help Your Band?

We have entered a new period in communications and it is unlike any other before it. We have come a long way since the days of smoke signals. Behold, the age of instant communication. Actually, instant communication has been around a very long time. The teletype was the first form of instant communication, provided that there was someone else to receive the message sent. That person had to be able to write in Morse code and de-cypher it at the same time. Not certain that your iPhone can do that! Speaking of the telephone, it was the next instant communicator and still remains one today, but what a noticeable difference. Instead of calling just one person at a time, you can now conference call or send a text out to a pre-determined group of friends, family and fans. That brings us to the computer and the internet.

The internet is going to be one of your band’s best friends. Cyperspace is filled with websites that are designed specifically for you to 1). Get your music out there and 2). Get your fan base organized and keep them informed. Only a few short years ago, myspace.com was the only way to reach out by posting a few songs and telling where you and your band would be playing next. Now, there are more sites to post on than you can name. Chances are, you have already visited one today. We all know that Facebook is a great site to get your name or your band’s name out there. Every singer or band should have one, but posting music on it is tough and not many choose to go that route.

Sites like Ampslam.com and ReverbNation are geared more towards the musician. Free to sign up and maintain, these are the very staples of today’s current scene. iLike.com, MP3.com and garageband.com all offer a free avenue for you to keep your fans current and indulge them with your music. Even myspace.com got deeper into the mix by offering myspacemusic.com. All of these sites are successful because they work! Posting and interacting with your audience are the essentials for getting people to your show this weekend. Uh-oh! Last minute change on the schedule and you are going on 2nd instead of 4th? A simple message on Twitter, a group email or a quick posting on your Facebook page, insures that your audience gets the new set time and won’t miss all of your hard work.

Interacting with your audience is a great idea, and they are right at your fingertips. Not sure which image to use for your CD cover? Why not run a few on your page and have your fans vote for the one that they like best. The same idea works for trying to pick a single or determining which t-shirt design to go with. Talk to them and they will talk back.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to post your work, even if it is in a raw demo form or just acoustic. Labels peruse these sites on a daily basis and you never know who may hear what you are doing, and like it. It also gives the fan/listener a chance to access the music. This will help build a fan base for you.  It may cause them to think, “I wonder what this song would sound like live?” Viola! Guess who is at your next gig? None other than that new fan of yours, and they brought friends along. This is how it happens. This is how it begins. So don’t shy away from social media, embrace it. It beats doing your set via teletype, one click at a time. It also beats having to do your set by smoke signals…and you know that the Fire Marshall hates that!

The Difference Between A Rock Star And A Pop Star.

Rock vs. Pop. It’s been going on since DJ Alan Freed originally coined the phrase ‘Rock and Roll’. So what’s the big deal? Would you call Taylor Swift a rock star? No. Would you call Alice Cooper a pop star? No. Two distinctively different camps, yet the lines seem to be blurred in some cases.
Let’s start with The Beatles. When they first hit the scene in the very early 60’s, there was no such thing as a rock star. Artists like Perry Como, Paul Anka and Liberace were popular performers and chart toppers, but far from rockers. One could argue that since the term ‘pop’ is short for ‘popular’, they actually were pop stars, but you would be splitting hairs. Early on, The Beatles made ‘pop’ records and were by today’s standards, a pop band. That all changed with the first hit of LSD taken by the Fab Four, instantly transforming them into a serious rock band that has taught generations ‘the code’ ever since.
Very few artists besides The Beatles have ever made the switch. Elvis was huge in his prime and still is an iconic figure long past his death, but do people ever refer to him as a ‘rock star’? No, he is simply ‘The King’. Michael Jackson is ‘The King of Pop’, not a rock star. However, take an artist like Prince, who can unleash a fury of rock and roll inside of a pop song. He made the transition when “Purple Rain” was released and an audience got to see for the first time what the purple one could do to a guitar and the sounds that he could make with it.
The way that you write your music has a lot to do with the difference between the two worlds. Compare Willow Smith’s “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth” to Bob Dylan’s classic tale of the boxer Ruben Carter, known as “Hurricane”. One tells a story and the other relies on repetitive beats to get its point across, ad nauseum. Take the time to do a little personal story telling, just don’t tell it through an autotune. Timeless classics tend to spare us the autotune feature.
When it comes to your persona as an artist, make certain that you and your manager are on the same page. In the 1970’s, singer/actor Leif Garrett had it all, fame, girls and a boat load of cash to help him live the California lifestyle. His manager was very happy and very rich, thanks to his client. However, the client was not happy. Garrett wanted to be taken seriously as a rock star, not a pop star. He envisioned himself as a one man Led Zeppelin, complete with the long, flowing lion mane of hair, just like lead singer Robert Plant. It was not to be. Due to contractual obligations, Leif Garrett was forced to release the unforgettably forgettable “I Was Made for Dancin’ (All Night Long)”. It was kind of hard to recover from that and be taken seriously as a rock and roll star.
Today, in this DIY world of entertainment, youtube.com is one of the hot spots for discovering new talent. From Carly Rae Jepsen to Justin Beiber, today’s newest and biggest pop talents are just a click away from stardom. Youtube.com has also been the main factor in finding replacement singers for long established bands like Journey and Styx. The source of these replacements ? Tribute bands that get posted and then viewed by the actual original band. Literally, plucked from obscurity.
Pop music and rock music, there is plenty of both to go around. Be true to your heart, you already know who you are, so the rest will come naturally.
No matter which camp you wind up in, do it to the best of your ability and your audience will find you.

Do I Still Need A Press Kit In The Digital Age?

This can be a confusing time for a band or musician. Everyone is saying ‘go green’ and ‘be as efficient as possible’. With all of the digital technology now available at our fingertips (literally), should you still go the traditional route and compile and send out press kits to potential labels, managers, radio and other media outlets? The answer is a resounding YES!

Trust me when I say that it is hard enough to get someone’s attention and even more difficult to hold it for more than 30 seconds. It’s kind of like you with the television remote. You don’t like this show? Move on to the next one. Radio programmers are bombarded with new product on a daily basis. It’s comprised of local, national and international fare. Where do they listen to most of those releases? They tend to listen in their cars, on the way to and from work. You need a physical disc of music to supply to them. No one wants you to walk into a meeting with an interested party and say something like “Hey, bring up my ReverbNation page”!  You’ll be back on the bus in seconds flat. So how do you get your material noticed? You can achieve this by taking all of the right steps to success, and follow the three easy ones below.

First, remember, peoples time is limited and so is their shelf space. Yes, you are trying to get a record deal, but don’t send out a full CD of music. Pick your best three or four songs and provide those in demo form on a disc. Do not over think it, do not overdo it. If you have been doing some shows around town and have seen familiar faces at your gigs, talk to them. Ask them what songs they like and why. Any idea how many great songs that you know and love have almost been left off the album until someone spoke up? Ask the artist Gotye. He just won a Grammy for Song of the Year with a song that almost did not make the cut! Use the tools that you have around you. Fans know you better than you may think. Don’t worry about some fancy insert or sleeve just yet. A well-marked, plain disc in a plain, white sleeve will do the trick. Make certain to list the track names and composers and time length. Add the studio and engineer if applicable.

Second, get a couple of professional pictures of you that really reflect who and what you or your band actually are. Oh, you have a cousin that once did some dark room work back in college and he’ll do the pictures for you because he owes you beer money? No. Run. Figure out how many beer can deposits it will take to get a professional to do the pictures and start cashing them in. If it is a solo shot, don’t wear something that is distracting (like your own band t-shirt….tacky). Try not to pose, but don’t look uninterested either. Work with the photographer to find that happy medium so you look good and intelligent and most of all, viable.  Be sure to include at least one ‘live shot’ from a show, if possible.

Last, but not least, is the biography that you must assemble. It does not have to be your life story.  A couple of well thought out paragraphs will do. Talk about your influences and where you see yourself on the musical tree (what ‘branch’ are you? Blues, rock, pop, electronica?). Mention all of the band member’s names, what they do in the band and make certain that everything is spelled correctly. Mention if you have played any really big shows, events or festivals. Have you appeared on any television shows, local or not? Have you done any videos? If you have opened for anyone of notoriety, talk about it, but keep it short and sweet.  Remember, you are trying to connect with people, not lull them to sleep.

If you follow these three steps, you will get a foot in the door. Be serious and you will be taken seriously. Maybe next time you will be famous enough to forego the paper route and you can send your new EPK (Electronic Press Kit) out with your major label debut. Here’s hoping. Until then, keep practicing.

 

Grammy Awards for CD\Works’ clients and associates

Congratulations to CD\Works’ clients and associates on winning 2013 Grammy Awards.

Here at CD\Works, we do all kinds of jobs for all kinds of clients including, naturally, many in the music industry.  Our success depends on their success, and we are especially thrilled when their talents are recognized by their peers.  So we are very happy to be associated with not one, not two, not three, but four Grammys awarded last night.

The San Francisco Symphony took the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance for Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine  Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony).  Super Audio CD (SACD) Click for more details.

Congratulations to our friends at Soundmirror for adding to their outstanding list of winners and nominations.

Blanton Alspaugh was selected as Producer of the Year, Classical.  (For Chamber Symphonies (SACD) (Gregory Wolynec & Gateway Chamber Orchestra) and several other works during the year)

Life & Breath – Choral Works By René Clausen won honors for both Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical. (Tom Caulfield & John Newton, engineers; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer)

Also nominated, but not receiving the ultimate prize, were

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Profanes Et Sacrées Super Audio CD (SACD)

Best Classical Vocal Solo: Joyce DiDonato, Homecoming – The Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato

 

Congratulations to each one.  May their trophies shine for a very long time.

 

 

Why You Need Merchandise At Your Shows

Got your equipment? Check. Instruments? Check. Set list ready to go? Check. Merchandise? Whaaaa?

Merchandise is almost as critical for getting your artist or band name out there to the public, as your music is. It can help to propel you to the next level. You can write great songs and the crowd goes crazy when you perform them, but what about when you are not on stage? How do you keep your name fresh to the music lovers that give you support and help your fan base to keep growing? Chances are the answer is in your home, maybe even on your chest. It’s the power of advertising. It worked for Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Chevrolet and it can work for you as well.

Most likely, you have t-shirts or possibly a hat that carries a brand name/band name of some type. You bought that because it appealed to you on several levels. You like the band/product so much that you want others to know about it. You also think that the band/product is cool. Therefore, being seen in the shirt or hat solidifies your coolness to the crowd around you. Just as Michael Jordan sold millions of dollars in revenue for Nike, your personalized shirts, hats, caps and other promotional items will help to generate a second level of income for your band. You may not have MJ’s proven track record off the court, but you have to start somewhere. You think it’s uber-cool for you yourself to wear your band’s name on a t-shirt, imagine what the thrill would be like to see someone else, not associated with you, wearing one. A real fan of yours. Just by fluke, you pass them on the street. A magic moment if ever there was one.

There are many, many promotional items to invest in these days. Hats and shirts are the main stay, but key chains, buttons, coffee mugs, travel mugs, scarves and even jackets all have great popularity as well. Some of the smaller priced items can be given away as promotional fodder at your gigs, in-store appearances and release parties. Try ‘packaging’ some items together to give the fan a better incentive to wear your logo or name. Let’s say you sell your CD for $12.00 each and the T-shirts for $10.00 ea. and $2.00 for a button. Sold separately, the total is $24.00. Can I get an Amen and a $20.00 package price? Amen. Look at that, you sold them all!

Another idea that helps to move your merchandise is specialty issues. Say that you are playing an outdoor local festival. Let’s call this one, “The Doo-Dah Fest”. Print up some special t-shirts that say “I saw (insert band name here) at Doo-Dah Fest 7/4/13” Now, these become synonymous with the event itself and help you to stand out a little more than the remaining line up. Because it’s a special show and a special shirt, you can ask $12.00 for that one….and get it. Hats are no longer just the one dimensional trucker cap. Beanies, pull overs and visor sales pull in a large share of the market. All can be customized to work to your advantage.

Of course, you are welcome to run with the idea and make promotional items that reflect your band’s culture and heritage. Shot glasses, sun glasses and wristbands also show great promise as items that help to get your name out there to the public. You may not be able to afford a Super Bowl commercial just yet, but that does not mean that you can’t reach your audience.

Check our website, www.cdworks.com for promotional items that really work and can help take you and your band to the next level. The right items can connect with your fan base.  We currently offer more items than what is on the website, plus we’ll be adding new things over the next few months, so contact us for more information on available items. Then, be sure to place your order early enough so that you have everything ready for your next gig!

Homage to Boston Music Venues

It’s no secret that the landscape of Boston night life has forever changed. Just like all parts of life, things go away and never come back. We have memories instead, and those past memories are what propel us towards new ones. So let’s take a moment and think about what we once had as a local music community. The first two old school venues that come to mind are the Boston Tea Party on Lansdowne Street and the original Boston Garden.

Are you old enough to remember this fact? The Boston Tea Party was originally located on 53 Berkeley Street (later they moved to 15 Lansdowne Street in the former building once occupied by their only competition, The Ark.) Opening just after New Year’s 1967, for the next three years, the Tea Party was the place to see a show in the Hub. Not only American acts, but English groups as well. What was the average ticket price to see an act like The Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin? $3.00 to $3.50. When The Who toured with the ‘Tommy’ release and booked a date at the Tea Party, jaws dropped at the thought of paying $4.50. Those greedy Brits! Today, you can’t even get a Coke for $4.50 at most large venues! Hendrix, Cream, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and The Velvet Underground all played at the club. However, it was not all about the big acts. Smaller acts also had success at the Tea Party. The Chambers Brothers, Canned Heat, Richie Havens, The MC5 and even the Sun Ra Arkestra all played to amazed crowds, while setting the pace for decades to come and securing Boston’s rock and roll infamy. Here is a link to the roster of bands and the dates played at the Boston Tea Party.

http://www.theamericanrevolution.fm/boston-tea-party-schedule-1967—1970.html

The Tea Party closed its doors just after Christmas 1970. The final act to grace the stage? Sha Na Na. The doo-wop group did several days in a row. While, the previous month, little known Elton John got only one show. Meanwhile, while everyone was ‘digging the show’, someone else with very deep pockets decided that selling 800 tickets per show was OK, but filling something the size of, oh say the Boston Garden with 10,000 seats, would be even more profitable to all involved. And so began Boston’s love affair with the giant concert. Many of the same acts like the Dead and The Who and even little known Elton John all translated well to the change of locations and have thrilled sold out audiences at the Boston Garden. It is actually amazing to think how an act like U2 could start out at the very small Paradise rock club in Boston in 1980 and then become the toast of the town on many a St. Patrick’s day show at the Garden throughout the 90’s, until the original parquet floor was no more. You can take our building, but you can’t take our dignity or memories. When the ‘new’ Garden was finished, one of the first shows booked was the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” tour. It also marked the first time in any city that the face price for a ticket exceeded $100.00.

Gone are many of the clubs on Lansdowne Street. ‘Axis’, formerly known as ‘Spit’, where Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins and even Nine Inch Nails once played, closed its doors after Kenmore Square was neutered. Next door was the larger ‘Citi/Metro’ club where acts like Sinead O’Connor, Pixies, Soundgarden and Sonic Youth entertained their fans throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s. Even Aerosmith’s Mama Kin club could only last a few years before it fell a victim to the “Lansdowne Triangle” and was lost forever. That very same neutering of Kenmore Square also cost us the quintessential punk club called ‘The Rath Skeller’ aka ‘The Rat’. There never was a greater rock and roll institution in Boston. It was on par with the world famous ‘CBGB’s’ out of the Bowery in New York.

The one club that people seem to miss the most in Boston, was down on Necco Street, sitting right next to a channel of water, hence the name, ‘The Channel’. What set it apart from all of the other clubs? The huge, free parking lot didn’t hurt. The fact that it ran the gamut of club goers from frat boys to leather clad rockers to the average office person who just was coming to see their favorite singer or band.  It all worked together. Acts that played ‘The Channel’ ranged from the Misfits to Iggy Pop to Alice in Chains. Sadly, it was the very last place that iconic singer Roy Orbison ever played. He performed a Saturday night show and died just two days later. A legendary singer and a legendary club, both gone too soon.

Today, Boston still thrives musically, but most of the venues are not clubs. Sure, some still exist from ‘The Paradise Rock Club’ to “Great Scott’, but the numbers are down and getting lower all the time. It’s a big money game these days. Now, you go to see your favorite acts at the Wang Center, Agganis Arena or the new Boston Garden. The prices are higher, as is your blood pressure from the maddening crowd. The ‘search wand’ passed over your body is great at detecting your car keys, lighter and change. Be sure to enjoy your $12.00 beer, your $30 t-shirt and of course, if you can afford it, your upgrade to ‘premium seating’. Suddenly, $4.50 for a night out sounds mighty good! I really need to buckle down in 2013 and finish that time machine.

 

 

Christmas Music: Bah Humbug!

I genuinely love music.  Ever since I was a small child growing up on Elvis, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and Duane Eddy, I have been hooked. The melodies, the meaningful lyrics and the emotions expressed have me wrapped around their finger. However, that being said, I have my limits and it’s that time of year that reminds me of such. Ho Ho Hold on!

There are some truly great Christmas songs from ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ to ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’. Who isn’t warmed by Burl Ives as a bowler hat and plaid vest wearing snowman? When he sings ‘Silver and Gold’, I am the one melting like a snowman. There are classic carols from centuries ago that still warm our holiday hearts. Those are the ones that make your holidays that much more enjoyable. But, there are also the unholy…the unspeakable evil…the ones that they call “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” and ‘Jingle Bells’ performed by barking dogs, oinking pigs or any other animal that is not normally melodic in nature.

Picture yourself minutes before the store closes on Christmas Eve. You are racing up and down the aisles trying to find that @%#*!! toy that all the kids just happen to have to have this year. You know, the one that they did not even know about until the commercial played or the kid saw the news report of how many shoppers have been killed just trying to acquire said toy. You are exhausted from all the Mall-ing that you have endured to make someone else’s Christmas the perfect one this year. Then, as you push the already overloaded cart through the somewhat empty aisles it happens again. Shhhhh….listen… up overhead.  No, not up on the rooftop, my friend. It’s not Santa delivering that very toy to your arms, but rather the store loud speakers blasting the umpteenth playing of the tragic tale of the little old lady who got run down by those SOB’ing Reindeer. It’s not even a happy song! Oh sure, they sing it all cutesy like, but that’s only to mask the murderous mayhem at the hands, or rather hooves of some very bad animals. Also, where was Santa when his sleigh careened out of control? Has anyone checked his blood alcohol level? This is what happens when he visit’s Japan (Sake), followed by Germany (Beer) and then lands in Tennessee (Whiskey) before he makes his way up the East Coast! Text book case of Hit and Run, that’s what we have here. No one dares ask Santa anything, I mean come on! The guy has a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice. Maybe Grandma had it coming after all.

My next question to you is, who let the dogs out? Satan, that’s who. Dog barking is suddenly an acceptable music form? Great to know, since there is quite a quartet practicing hard in my neighborhood around 3 a.m. I know, musicians keep odd and very late hours, now I get it. Woof! A while ago, a friend of mine tried to play an entire CD of cats ‘meowing’ through a number of Christmas favorites. It’s the same hush-hush deal as the dogs and I am about to expose this like FOX-TV loves to expose magicians secrets. They are not all herded into a studio, it’s synthesized and each bark or meow is programmed electronically and played by key on a keyboard. Oh…you already knew that? Self high-five.

You may be wondering why I am singling out the domesticated animals? After all, Christmas has been overrun with singing chipmunks for decades. Tell me that you don’t lip-synch “Me? I want a Hula-Hoop” every time that you hear it played. David Seville did all of the voices of the Alvin, Simon and Theodore. In other words, no real animals were used. Just some sped up tapes with a pitch control feature.  Can’t say the same for the domestic dogs and cats can we? Why not make it interesting and have pythons hiss their way through ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ or jungle crazed warthogs squealing their way through ‘Let It Snow’. Ferrets, Weasels and Ground Hogs can now finally form that rockin’ trio and give us their rendition of ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’.

Next year, instead of going to The Wang Center for ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ or your local church for your celebration…let’s just all meet at the zoo for a cacophony of all our Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza musical needs. Peace on Earth, y’all.