Social media groups, the good, bad and plain crazy

Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and is a major medium for how many of us communicate with each other.

I have been running the OUS FB group for 2 years now and it continues to be a fascinating experience. Fortunately I also have two excellent moderators to help with this and we are now well over 3000 members with 108 artists now with their own pages at www.originalukulelesongs.com. 

The OUS FB page was not my only experience of running such a group of course, and the behaviors of people online can be quite fascinating in all manner of ways. I also am a member of a few select FB groups which can allow connections to some really terrific folks

First, the good news

Lets start with some good news…

There is a certain joy to setting up and running a successful social media group and seeing it develop. On the OUS platform I have been amazed at the diversity and quality of what has been posted. We have a wide range of different artists from all over the globe with a common interest in creating original music. One of the reasons the group works so well is that it has very specific parameters for posting. this means there’s good focus with what appears online and its a very respectful supportive space for artists.

Running such a group can be a fair amount of work and of course I run the main site as well which requires some investment of time and money. Advances in technology mean that social media platforms like FB allow people to connect in ways that were never previously possible. Similarly with WordPress its very easy to create websites that look great and be updated easily. 

With the OUS platform, there’s no commercial benefit for me personally, I do it for the love of music. When people talk about it being “my group” I remind them that its “our group” and a collaborative project. Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and its a brilliant way to connect instantly with people all over the world with similar interests. Of course we are all individuals so there will be differences as well and its always worth remembering that. As an old Japanese proverb states “No one of us is smarter than ALL of us”

Ok, stop reading now if you only want good news…

The “bad news”

The bad news is that whenever you set up or often visit a forum, you will inevitably discover a wide range of differing views, which in itself is no bad thing. Inevitably you will get some people who want to shout loudest and insist that “they are right” and everyone else should agree with them. This insistence creates a tendency towards attention seeking and this can create all kinds of problems. I don’t doubt that the shouter feels that they have a valid view, but it would be IMO useful if they considered that its just one point of view among many. As well as individual shouters there are what I call “shouter followers” (usually 6 – 10) who then automatically “like” everything the shouter posts. Let me be clear, everyone is welcome to say what they think, but often this group activity is in my 100% biased view done without a great deal of real consideration and is often an emotional reaction. Often “shouter posts” get withdrawn quickly when the shouter themselves realizes that the emotionally fueled post is not the best communication and may in extreme cases result in some legal action if it falls into the defamation category.  

There have been lots of studies on people who have imagined superiority and in the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.

(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect)

Fortunately with OUS this doesn’t happen much as such folks are usually not creative types and seem to be more preoccupied with telling other folks “how they should behave” even though of course it’s not their group! 

Humor is always welcome and I’m perfectly serious about that

One of the challenges in running a FB group is that people will inevitably have different views and sometimes individuals can forget to be respectful of others. In extreme situations people can start to insist how others “should behave” failing to appreciate the value of discussion and debate. I have always found a good sense of humor is helpful in encouraging dynamic and interesting discussions.

A lack of humor is often a sign that somebody has a very polarized opinion. Its not that they are “right” or “wrong” rather that they have a very narrow perspective and “feel they are right” despite any evidence to the contrary! When we take ourselves too seriously people become very polarized and this creates unhelpful unproductive arguments where people are more concerned with “being right” than actual genuine discussion and debate.

The Plain Crazy

You really couldn’t make up some things that are posted online. Some individuals blast out the same post to countless groups with zero consideration. They usually never contribute to the group discussion. Other crazy examples are where people post content that has no connection to what the group is actually about. 

Some people spend literally hours and hours online living in “a virtual world” I have met others who insist that everybody is constantly talking about them on a daily basis! Unless you are the president of the USA in 2017, I suspect that’s a bit of a reach…

Think before you post

In running any site its smart  to be very mindful of the difference between “fair comment” and libel.

Sometimes posters can get really fired up and not appreciate what they are posting. If someone makes blanket defamatory statements this can cause all kinds of problems for the poster and potentially the owner of the FB group.  The law has changed in recent years and the penalties can be quite severe. Essentially “Think, BEFORE you post online” In my other life I took out a harassment order against one individual who posted defamatory comments online.

If you are on the receiving end its wise to take screenshots. You can also back up your entire FB page quite easily which can be a useful exercise. Most groups that have niche interests will attract enthusiasts and sometimes theses will form groups and attempt to direct everything that happens on the group. This is why its smart to have moderators and set out the basic guidelines for posting on the page.

Voltaire and Napoleon’s had something to say

Voltaire was quoted as saying

“I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It”

I think discussion and debate are how we all learn and FB along with other social media platforms offer a terrific opportunity for this. Of course the downsize as already mentioned is that people can start shouting about how in their view everyone else “should behave”

Napoleon said

“Imagination rules the world”

“Imagination can be a brilliant creative tool, BUT the downside is that sometimes because somebody imagines something, they believe it to be 100% factually true.

 

I have lost count of the numbers of examples for this and usually when imagination is in full flow, the person makes massive generalizations and exaggerations.

Here are some examples of exchanges from 2017

Person A 

“A lot of people are very unhappy about what you posted on your social media page”

Myself

“Wow, that’s interesting, who exactly is concerned? When you say “a lot” do you mean like 50 or more?”

Person A

“No not that many?”

Myself

“Ok, so 10 or more?”

Person A

“No, not that many”

Myself

“Ok, so less that ten, possibly way less than 10. Who exactly is unhappy? They are welcome to contact me directly with any concerns and I’m happy to discuss as in my view discussion is useful”

Person A

“They don’t want to discuss, I just thought “you should know”

Myself

“Thanks for the feedback”

My point is that online and especially on FB, people often post in haste and can be prone to massive exaggeration. Of course speaking without thinking and exaggeration have not come into being with the advent of social media, these traits have always existed. When one person insists how EVERYONE else SHOULD BE, then we are in my 100% subjective biased opinion on a slippery slope and in what I term “the plain crazy” category. Others may disagree and if so once again I am happy to side with Voltaire in your perfect right to do so! 

Lets end on some more good news

Lets end on a positive. FB groups can be fascinating places to connect up to people you would never otherwise meet in daily life. When I was in an Austin guitar store a guy shouted out “Hey Nick Cody, I know you from FB!”

My band’s first overseas festival invite came from being spotted on social media and I’m playing in NYC in 2018 again from an invite on social media. I have also made some great friends who I now meet up with in real life. Despite some of the tantrum outbursts online, overall running a FB group is a rewarding experience and offers terrific opportunities to discuss and debate, which of course is how we all learn, isn’t it?

 

What’s the best ukulele?

Almost on a daily basis I see the question “What’s the best ukulele?” posted on social media and especially on many ukulele based FB groups.

I appreciate the enthusiasm for wanting information and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the question of course, BUT of course without any qualifying information its a bit like asking

“What’s the best meal?”

Everyone will have an opinion according to THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE and that experience will vary massively from one person to another.

When this question appears usually  hordes of people start offering well intentioned opinions from their own experience. The threads go on and on…

 Again, nothing wrong with the sentiment, BUT every enthusiastic response can only be subjective and although well intentioned, ultimately may not actually be of any practical use for the person asking the question.

Musical instruments of course come in all shapes and sizes and the ukulele is no exception. There’s a massive range of options in how a ukulele plays and sounds. If we expand the question to

“What in your opinion is the best ukulele for playing jazz style music?”, the question becomes more focused and easier to usefully answer. You will note I added “in your opinion” as its useful yo remember these are ALL OPINIONS, something that can be forgotten. 

A Few considerations worth pondering before buying

The size of the ukulele makes a big difference to the feel and the sound. A soprano uke is very different to a tenor or baritone. Secondly the construction of the instrument will make all the difference to the sound. Different woods respond differently. There are no “best woods” just different sounding woods. Thirdly the string choice matched to the wood choice makes a big difference. I have done a lot of experimentation with different strings and just as pickups on electric guitars and amp combinations create all manner of sonic possibilities, string and wood choices do the same. 

Another consideration is how the instrument is constructed, There are some very respectable production line ukulele models, BUT there can be a big variation in quality. Even a model that is in theory identical, can often be quite different. I have been in stores with an extensive range of ukuleles and tried many exact same models to discover big variations. There’s nothing wrong with general advice, but any person can only really say what they personally like and LIKES WILL BE DIFFERENT FOR EACH PERSON.

Another element  is how the instrument is set up. Some ukuleles straight out of a factory can have all manner of issues including fret buzz through low action or unhelpfully high action that makes the instrument hard to play

As I have already suggested another factor to think about  is

“What kind of sound do you want to create?” 

People can have very different preferences and playing solo can be different to playing in a band. The price is usually another factor in any selection process. I know people online who insist that anything over X price is unacceptable and a waste of money. Of course any response  is often based on limited awareness of what’s actually available in the marketplace.

Price does not always signify (to my ears and fingers) a great sounding and playing ukulele. I have seen some videos of ukuleles for thousands of pounds with terrific inlay work, but don’t sound anything special to my ears. Similarly I have come across some really excellent instruments that to my ears and fingers are really superb. I’m fortunate to be able to travel a great deal and know that many great ukuleles never reach UK stores. Similarly there are some great UK custom build ukes that are very affordable that are not known in Asia and the USA.

As the happy owner of 24 ukuleles, I can vouch for the fact that they all play and sound different. When I am playing live or recording in the studio, I’ll pick the instrument according to the sound I want. This is all before we get to discussing the options of amplification and whether to go down the pickup route or using a microphone, where again there are lots of possibilities. The term “best ukulele” becomes confused with favorite uke…

One of the great joys of exploring the ukulele is to find out what suits your fingers and your ears.

The Fun is often in the exploration so you find what you love

This means TRYING OUT INSTRUMENTS. Yes, it really is that simple and of course the sound you hear as the player will be different to that when someone plays your potential purchase as you are hearing it from a different physical location. I always make a point of finding a store where I can hear the instruments in the same physical space as this will affect what you hear when comparing instruments. Of course if the sound and play ability are not important to you then there are countless uke shaped objects that are easy to purchase online.

I appreciate that not everyone can have access to a great store, so in my view second best option can be to look at video of instruments being played. My personal totally biased advice is to focus as much as possible on play ability and sound, although I appreciate some people love the quirky designs that make ukes look like classic guitars and of course manufacturers realize that many people see the gimmick appeal of the uke and market accordingly. Also be mindful that some online may be endorsers for certain brands so are not exactly neutral in their recommended suggestions…

Conclusion

So, “What’s the best ukulele for you?”

The stark truth is ultimately (drum roll!)

“I have no idea. Go find out for yourself and really enjoy this process of exploration” 

I can offer only general advise from my own experience, but your tastes in terms of what your ears and fingers tell you may be totally different! Personal tastes also inevitably change over time of course so THERE IS NO BEST UKE

That said, here are some of my ukulele family and you can see and hear how different they sound. I love them all for very different reasons.

 

Back in the studio working on “Tales of Dark & Light”

I now have 4 fully mastered and mixed tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light” and I’m really happy with the recordings to date.

The tracks are

  1. Dunning Kruger Blues
  2. Here in the silence
  3. No more street parties
  4. He’s shooting blanks

I’ll be back in the studio mid January to record a fifth track “When the pain begins”

This is a very different project to the Small Change Diaries material, although Adrian Knowles and Rich Ferdi feature on some tracks. The extraordinary Laurent Zeller plays on the above tracks, but the final track is only going to be piano and vocal. 

The material is a lot darker than SCD material, and although I use the ukulele as a writing tool, the ukulele doesn’t really feature in the final recordings. The sound is much more piano, double bass and violin based. Carl Rosamond is once again the producer. I’m working with a number of other new musicians for the first time and each one adds a different dynamic to the material. 

The opening track “Dunning Kruger Blues” was written after some exchanges on social media and reminds me greatly of Becker/Fagen Steely Dan material

 

Dunning Kruger Blues (Nick Cody)

King of the tiny island, no bigger than a hill,
Centre of attention, is how he gets his thrills
Two fake Rolex, one on each arm
Listened to Elvis, but never got the charm

David and Justin got a Nobel prize,
Some understood, others rolled their eyes,
A New pecking order is now coming through
Bet your wondering if this songs ‘bout you….

Chorus
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues,
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news….
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

Bridge

Waspie women and the yummy mums,
Got the king’s number, done the sums,
But nothings really adding up so far,
He’s convinced he’s some kind of star…

Teenage kids just as bad,
All the smiling, covers up the true sad,
This dam of tears is about to break,
A parental vice, she just can’t shake

Chorus
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues,
Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

Ladies, gentlemen, it’s not the best news,
Welcome to the Dunning Kruger blues…

 

I’ll be playing some of this material live in the USA and the UK, before releasing the EP as a physical product as well as in digital format

tales of dark and light

Effective artist promotions in the music industry?

I’m currently engaged in doing a lot of research about effective artist promotions and this is resulting in some really interesting feedback. I’m lucky to have access to a number of professional artists who I can talk to about this as well as having the means to gather really good information on how the market is changing.

Its clear to me that with musicians, the actual music itself is only one of many ingredients needed to generate any kind of useful profile. I have seen and heard some fantastic artists who have only ever reached a very small audience. It may be that this is 100% their choice of course. In this fast changing world its important to have a multi layered delivery system to connect with a wider audience. These are my personal opinions and of course everyone will have their own views about what works for them!

Focus on quality and detail – sound and vision

When my band “The Small Change Diaries” were due to record our first album, a now departed member from the first lineup suggested we get a bunch of microphones and do all the recording and mastering ourselves! My background in successfully creating spoken word and ambient music from 2000 – 2006 told me that this was at best optimistic and to be frank, totally delusional. Yes, we might record some tracks, BUT the art of “music production” is about capturing the best sound and then ensuring that the mastering and mixing is to the highest standards. Working with a producer with decades of experience ensures that there is a good chance for this happening.

Of course this route means an investment of time and money, but that’s always going to be needed at some level if you want to produce something of a very high standard. When promoting your music its always a good idea to have the best possible representation of your sound. This  means paying proper attention to the recording process. Fortunately there are all manner of inexpensive options alongside getting an actual producer. Programs like Reaper will do everything you could possibly want in terms of recording.

Just as the sound needs to be of a high quality, the visual element needs also to be really good. I’m amazed at how many artists pay almost no attention to this and forget the old saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” Good professional make all the difference, especially when used online. I’m amazed at how poor some photos are on artist websites. With my own band we have always made a point of using great photos and this has really helped promote the band to a wider audience.

Video is also a great example of a medium to connect to a wider audience, BUT my advice is again to ensure its of the best possible quality. In the era of the mobile phone often audience members can enthusiastically film artists. The problem can be that this usually looks and sounds terrible and not create the best impression. One launch party in particular showed a huge venue with a very small group of people. Nothing wrong with that of course, it looked like a fun event, BUT I suspect the promoters would have preferred not to have this aspect highlighted on social media. 

Sony MV1 units or similar units are highly recommended and in my view its better to have a less video of a higher quality rather than a mass of poorly recorded material posted online. The challenge with video recordings is to get both great sound and vision . This is why the MV1’s are so excellent. They do just one job brilliantly. At the time of writing I hear Sony have stopped making these, but Zoom have similar options worth looking at.  

Online presence – social media and web presence

Every festival application for artists I have seen asks for the band’s social media and website details. In my view if you have a few hundred likes on FB, the chances are you are not going to get the same attention as if you have ten times this amount. Whether we like it or not, social media and online presence is crucial for artist promotion. This means a lot of work behind the scenes and keeping everything current.  Often “band news” on sites is out of date and again attention to detail is everything. I blogged in the past about one artist who had an entire page almost begging for financial contributions to “help her art” This again does not send out a very good professional message to the wider world. The internet has been a game changer for musicians, BUT it can result in over saturation if you are not careful and the habit of enthusiastically taking live poor quality video with mobile phones does little to present a great image.

In terms of web presence I highly recommend Steve Krug’s book “Don’t make me think” Its a goldmine of useful information. With my own band we have been invited to a number of overseas opportunities to play, mostly based on our web presence and social media presence. A longtime USA music producer paid us this compliment on seeing our site “You look very established and like you have been around for a very long time. 

Balancing time and money

There’s a saying in show business – “It takes ten years to become an overnight success” This means playing the long game when it comes to promotions. The challenge for most artists is to balance time and money.  Artist promotion requires time and money in order to be effective, Its also essential to know what to do with your time and money. You can have all the time and money in the world and never achieve anything. Good information is invaluable. 60 second music marketing is another invaluable resource for artists.

Take a look at https://www.facebook.com/60secondmusicmarketing for some really invaluable concise practical advice.  Many musicians can be great creatively but lack essential basic business skills. This can result in all kinds of problems including a real downturn in reasonably paid work. The professional musicians I know work really hard to earn a living from their craft. 

Getting played on the radio

BBC Introducing is a great platform for independent artists. When they played over 50% of our first SCD album I fully expected a big jump in public attention. Guess what? It made no difference whatsoever in terms of sales, web traffic and live requests. Similarly I have seen other artists get similar exposure and this factor alone not make a significant difference. My point is that radio play is simply one of many ingredients in effective artist promotion, BUT no single ingredient alone will make the difference. My own experience is that its best to have a coordinated approach across many platforms. This takes time and patience and in this X Factor era where instant fame is the new mantra, many artists don’t have the stamina for this.  

Festival Opportunities? 

The term “festival” describes a multitude of experiences that are so varied that its almost impossible to define the term these days. Most artists I speak to lament the lack of playing opportunities at such events and experiences can vary massively. There are of course many excellent established festivals that have great reputations. There are also many events described as “festivals” that are not such great opportunities for effective artist promotions. The festival application process can at times be quite bewildering and some artists seem desperate to have any playing opportunity even if its for a few minutes and they pay to be there. In short it can be a great deal of work for little gain, so its really work doing your research ahead of time.

My own experience is that “appreciative audiences” vary massively and a lot of the festival organisation can be at times chaotic which is one of the reasons why many events fail to succeed. Niche music festivals may attract a few hundred customers at best and in recent times there is a noticeable downward trend in numbers attending such events. Some of the communication from festival promoters to the wider world of artists may also be well intentioned but in my view often not well thought through. One of many examples of this is the message below 

 

Working with like minds

The “music business” is like any other business and a great deal of success depends on connecting with the right people. When I was in Nashville this year I spent an afternoon with Van Fletcher who is Jake Shimabukuro’s manager. My friend asked him about the relevance of record companies in this day and age and he pointed out that such companies can be invaluable in generating audience reach. Ditto Music is a good resource for getting global digital distribution which is essential for “reach” to a wider audience.

One of my golden rules these days is to work with like minds and people who have shared values. This includes promoters, musicians and create teams. The best relationships are where both parties benefit. Those who know me appreciate that I will happily give my time and energy to help others who do the same. I like straight talking folks who have a point of view, even if its different to my own.

My advice is stay away from people who can’t separate social interactions and business transactions.  I had a conversation recently with a very established artist about this exact same subject and his advice mirrored totally my own thoughts. I am hugely grateful for all those people who had engaged in conversations around this subject. There’s no substitute for personal experience and its clear to me that the music market is changing at some rate. This means paying careful attention to how as an artist you connect to the wider world. 

Final Thoughts

Effective artist promotion requires a great deal of dedication and investments in time and money. In my other life I set up and ran two major business concerns and have realized that the principles in making any project successful are very similar. As artists we are all in a process of learning and of course if you want to get audience attention you need to spot and seize opportunities. In recent times its clear to me that niche musical genres can be a lot of fun, but there is a massive limitation on audience reach and often these musical trends will ebb and flow. Similarly its smart to think about international artist reach and that requires some strategic thinking. 

The UK in particular is in my view going to see some very tough times as the public increasingly have less disposable income. That factor alone will affect artist promotion as well as the whole Brexit situation and how this affects subsequent European artist opportunities. In 2018/2019 I’ll be unveiling a new musical initiative and continue to work with some really great folks who give me hope that its still possible to get great music to a wider public. The OUS platform has done well to date in the first two years. The next project is much more ambitious and more expansive…

2017 Looking back at some great times!

 

This year has been a fascinating year full of many terrific memories. I have been overseas on nine separate occasions and had the opportunity to play music in the USA and Japan as well as the UK. In Jan 2017 I had a terrific week in New York meeting up with old friends. I also bought an amazing 1920s Martin soprano ukulele from Zeke who was working at Matt Umanov Guitars. This is a truly wonderful instrument and the first Martin I have bought.

I was back in New York in March and caught some amazing shows by Bill Frissell at The Vanguard. Bill is a constant inspiration and quite brilliant player. 

In April I was in the studio with the band finalizing tracks for our second album “Lullabies for Cynics” I was delighted to have some really brilliant musicians guest on this release including Laurent Zeller, Phill Doleman and Kev Bishop. 

Alan and Terri Thornton came to stay for a week and we talked a great deal about the OUS platform. I also ran an open house for all OUS artists and had the brilliant Victoria Vox and Jack Maher play in my kitchen. They are a shining example of how to really deliver a performance and did a brilliant job. I named them OUS artists of the year.

I also had the chance to see the wonderful Percy Copley in action and we co wrote this track

I continue to meet up with Martin Simpson for 1 – 1 tuition and he has become a big influence on my own work. 

In early June I traveled to Vienna and met up with Gregor Nowak and fell in love with one of his instruments that is featured on my forthcoming 2018 EP. Gregor is a superb builder and I’ll be sure to check in with him when I am back in Austria.

 

In July I headed once again to Japan and met up with my good friend an brilliant builder Shimo. Unsurprisingly I bought another one of his instruments a concert pineapple ukulele, that is quite wonderful.

I also had the chance to visit The Ohana uke store and pick up a wonderful soprano 

On the same trip I played a duo set in Nagoya with my good friend Brian Cullen. This was my first opportunity to play in Japan and I loved it. We played some of the SCD material and some old classics

 

In September I traveled to Austin, Nashville and back to NYC. This was a terrific trip and I ended up buying a great Waterloo acoustic from Hill Country Guitars.

Nashville was fantastic and myself, my wife and my good friends Michael and Liz Ross spent a mindblowing afternoon with Van Fketcher, Jake Shimabokuro’s manager.  We heard some unreleased material and let me just say “World watch out, you’ve hear

In October I played my first solo gig at the “We will Overcome” day at The Grove in Leeds. This was the first time I played material from my forthcoming solo project and it was a great evening.

The rest of October was spent preparing for the album launch in November. We decided to make this a “pay as you feel event” so it was affordable for everyone. This was a terrific evening with over 200 tickets grabbed a few weeks before the actual event and more walk ins on the day.

Terrific support from Sleepy Kev, Phil Doleman, Laurent Zeller and Astraluna. 

During this week I spent two more days in the studio working on solo material and with Adrian Knowles being unwell, Dave Bowie from UOGB stood in and did a brilliant job. Laurent Zeller continues to maze me with his playing, just extraordinary. His work on my solo project alongside Rich Ferdi and Dave is amazing.

During 2017 the OUS platform grew to over 3000 members on FB and 100+ artists with their own pages on the main site. Despite this I have come to realise that the uke world is far too niche to attract a wider audience and interest in the UK has peaked. After some somewhat bizarre exchanges on social media earlier in the year I decided it was time to focus on a more diverse and expanded project which will be unveiled in 2018.  

Plans are already in place for some really exciting events in 2018 and the focus will be on quality of music and great entertainment. I am lucky to have a number of like minds who will be central to this project. Most of December will be working on this as I hibernate for a while with a wonderful new log burning stove at my Leeds home with Bill the cat and my wife.

 

As well as working to keep Bill in the life he is used to, I also continue to feed what seems like the entire bird population of the UK and those “peckers” get through 20k of sunflower seeds each month

I feel blessed to know so many great folks and to be able to travel around the world sharing a love of music and meeting so many amazing folks.

 

Studio update on Tales of Dark and Light EP

We have been very busy in the studio recording tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light”, a solo project that I have been working on for some time as a side project to The Small Change Diaries.

At the time of writing we have now completed all four tracks for “Tales of Dark and Light”

These are

  1. Dunning Kruger Blues
  2. He’s shooting blanks
  3. No more street parties
  4. Hear in the silence

The musicians on this project are Adrian Knowles/Dave Bowie Double bass, Laurent Zeller violin, Rich Ferdi percussion, Alice Higgins, Paul Conway piano, myself on vocals and stringed instruments. Carl Rosamond is producing the material.

The music is different to what I have recorded with The Small Change Diaries and as suggested in the title some of the lyrics are pretty dark. This is proving to be a fascinating project and an opportunity to stretch out sonically into some very different territory.

On “He’s shooting blanks” I don’t play any instruments, rather focusing on singing. This is a true murder ballad and one of my favorite tracks to date.  “Dunning Kruger Blues” reminds me of Steely Dan, which “Hear in the silence” has a  more Indian feel with some extraordinary playing from Laurent Zeller who is key to the main sound on this project. “No more street parties” is possibly the saddest song ever written, a commentary on Brexit.

“No more street parties on this little rock,

Pack away the bunting, brace for the shock”

 Many songs were written on the ukulele, but the final recordings to date contain very little uke, rather focusing on other instruments.

I am grateful to have the support of so many superb musicians and remain fascinated by the whole creative process. This material has “more bite” than what I have written and recorded to date and I plan to play this new material live in the UK and USA in 2018. I am also looking at a second EP for the back end of 2018 with different musicians and a different feel to this EP

Nick Cody 

Music for the Head and Heart

Friday Nov 3rd was the launch party for Lullabies for Cynics from The Small Change Diaries. This was also a beta tester for a bigger future platform which will be revealed in 2018. This is a platform for MUSIC of the best possible kind and nit limited to any niche style or instrument! I’m a great believer in smart music and live entertainment and this was a great group effort in every way where artists supported each other. Special thanks to the Trouble at Mill Team who organised the logistics for this evening

There was no “star of the night” the event and the collective experience for the audience was the purpose of the evening, in short

“Music for the Head & Heart” 

Here are some of the photos

New thinking for music promotion?

Throughout 2017 I have been looking at music promotion models and figuring out the best way forward in a changing market. This means talking to a lot of seasoned performers as well as some established promoters and people in the music business. What is increasingly clear is that its definitely a time for new thinking in these tougher economic times. People are increasingly looking for a more complete experience, and hosts and promoters should avoid dismissing this at their peril.  I ran a series of polls to ask people what they looked for when choosing to see a live performance (excluding A list artists) and it produced some very interesting feedback.

The Small Change Diaries launch party was a beta tester for a bigger project. We focused on ensuring that all attendees received excellent value and added value to make it a really memorable evening. We were also keen to reach a wide section of the public and not any niche music enthusiasts. The uke community like to play, but don’t always make for the best appreciative music audiences. With this in mind the evening had a range of seasoned performers who provided a wide range of music. There were deliberately no strum alongs etc so popular with some audiences. This evening was only about creative musical entertainment of the best possible kind with an emphasis on mostly original music.

We released over 200 tickets to the event and had a full house on the night with some additional last-minute attendees. The physical space was a terrific mill and great attention was paid to giving all attendees seated accommodation, inexpensive food for all tastes and a full bar as well as free parking. Everyone received the new “Lullabies for Cynics” CD as well as the original SCD CD on arrival. In short this was a no risk event for the public and the onus was on the artists to provide a great night out. Music started at 8pm and ran until 11.15pm. We ran this as a “pay as you feel” event to ensure it was affordable for all. If an event is 20 – 30 pounds, this makes it a very expensive evening for a family and worse still there’s no food options provided. 

The feedback on the vent was excellent and highlights for me were hearing Phil Doleman and Laurent Zeller playing together for the first time and Jessica Bowie and Astraluna doing harmonies on “Not one of us” which was one of the encores. In 2018 I’ll be looking at a new platform that will showcase events in UK and USA with an emphasis on offering the best possible music from some really excellent artists.

Organizing a launch party – creating a complete experience

We started working on the Small Change Diaries launch party a few months ago and we are now in the final stages.

“Music for The Head and Heart” is promoted in partnership with the excellent Trouble at Mill organisation, who really know how to create a great customer experience.

We had a number of key considerations to address for this night, to make this a complete experience for those attending. This inevitably means a lot more work and a lot of attention to details. I’d looked at some events described as “launch parties” and often folks in my view really missed a few tricks, which made the event “ok” but probably not that memorable. You can usually when this happens by the lack of activity online pre and post event. We don’t claim to have everything nailed, but its all about the details.

These key details include

  • A great space large enough for 250 attendees with some real style
  • The best support acts we could find providing a diverse range of music 
  • Great affordable hot food for all tastes including vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and other tastes
  • Free parking
  • Full bar for the evening
  • The best front of house sound guy as well as a lighting assistan
  • Proving a great dressed stage for artists
  • Proper remuneration for all musicians for performances 
  • Working on a “pay as you feel” model so its affordable for EVERYBODY who attendes
  • Attracting a diverse audience, not just hardcore uke enthusiasts
  • Friendly support team so everybody experiences a great evening

As well as meeting all these considerations we decided to give ALL attendees not only the brand new album, but also the first Adam Blames Eve album, so a 20 pound gift for everybody who attends on the night.

All these details mean that those attending the launch have a complete experience. I have been running polls in recent months and one key factor people love is a proper healthy great food option, an affordable bar as well as comfortable seating.  

We quickly hit the initial 200 ticket allocation and were able to get special dispensation to offer some additional tickets which are now almost all taken. Its going to be a terrific night and a beta tester for a much bigger project in 2018. Special thanks to everyone who has supported this including Jessica Bowie, Jen Birch aka Astraluna, Phil Doleman, Sleepy Kev Bishop, Laurent Zeller who is flying in from France. 

I’m blown away by the enthusiasm for this launch and we have Karen Turner on had to take photos of the evening as well as our band produced Carl Rosamond to run front of house. The band are keen to bring our music to as wide an audience as possible that includes uke enthusiasts BUT crucially attracts an appreciative listening audience that have a genuine love of great music.

Tales of Dark and Light by Nick Cody

The Small Change Diaries 2nd album “Lullabies for Cynics” is due for release in 2 week’s time. I’m also working on a solo album “Tales of Dark and Light” This project was initially intended as an EP, but I already have nine potential tracks and one “He’s shooting blanks” already mixed and mastered.  Tales of Dark and Light will have some familiar Small Change Diaries musicians, as well as some new folks.

“He’s shooting blanks” has Adrian Knowles on Double bass, Alice Higgins on piano, Laurent Zeller on violin and myself on vocals. Yes you read that correctly, unusually I don’t play any instruments on this track. This may change with additional material, but it certainly won’t be just ukuleles. At present there’s also a possibility of including mandolin and Gregor Novak’s wonderful guitarelle. 

I already have a gig scheduled in New York in 2018 and will be exploring other live opportunities. At a recent solo gig at “The Grove Inn” in Leeds I played “Here in the silence” which was well received. The graphics for this project are by Japanese illustrator Junko Hosomo who drew a sketch of me during a solo gig in Nagoya earlier this year which is just fantastic. I’ll be recording more tracks with SCD producer Carl Rosamond in the next few weeks and Laurent Zeller will be playing on the new material. This is an exciting new initiative and in many ways different to the Small Change Diaries material. The track “He’d shooting blanks” is probably the darkest set of lyrics I have penned to date and probably not for the fainthearted. 

The release date for this will be the back end of 2018 if all goes to plan.