ongaku burogu

burogu logo BLACK

ONGAKU BUROGU

音楽ブログ

January 2017

GOBAN

BUDGET FOR RECORDING AN ALBUM Part 2

All right, here is ….finally…. part 2 of my blog on the costs of recording an album…

I apologize for the delay between these blogs. My life has been amazingly busy due to demands of my “day job” and well… producing my upcoming album !

Last time, I went over the different stages of recording an album. This time, I will plug in some numbers to these aspects of recording. When I do, these figures will be in Canadian dollars because that is where I work.

I will be referring to my own experiences and I may throw in some examples of how things used to cost and how things are now. Now, you may argue that some of my prices are too low, too high, or just plain insane. Keep in mind that just like anything else in this crazy music business : the only rule that holds is that there are NO RULES !!! What is my reality may not be yours. As I explained in the previous blog, if you are an artist with a computer with access to free beats, sounds, a synth or a sampler and will put out your finished product on the internet somewhere and your momma pays your electric bill, your total budget may be close to zilch providing that is the route you have chosen. At the other extreme, if you decide that your magnum opus needs a symphony orchestra and the use of the most expensive studios in the land, well…. my recipe may not work for you.

My albums consist of recordings around 60 to 75 minutes of music (the exception being my fourth album which was only 40 minutes long ). My songs are performed using vocals, leads and backs, acoustic and electric guitars, bass ( and Chapman stick ), keyboards, synth, the occasional sound fx and sample and drums and percussions. I have had the odd invited guest with a violin, or a harmonica, but I will leave that out for our little exercise.

I will not add the costs of computers, instruments, recording software and such in my budget. I assume you already have those. I will also assume that you have at least some notion on how to use the software, equipment and instruments to produce an album. There are too many variations in the costs of instruments. Like I mentioned previously, the arrival of recording software, the internet and tech has slashed production costs tenfold and more.  What was the price of a house is now less than the price of a car.  …..And don’t forget what I told you : the more acoustic instruments you want to record, the more expensive your recording becomes.

So you are the executive producer, well, here are some numbers for your budget taken from my previous album (and the one I am working on now ).

PRE-PRODUCTION :

If you want to save money, put a lot of work on your pre-production. The cost of renting time in a recording studio, while a lot less than in the past, is still an important part of your budget.  I will give you numbers on studio costs below. A good demo will help the musicians flesh out a song before going in the studio and thus spending less time.  Being prepared will help you spend less time in the studio and save you money.  I like to make demos that clearly defines the structure of the song. Even if you are not sure of the final arrangements, a demo of a song with its structure laid out, the tempo and beat, and the feel of the tune, will make it clear to your collaborators what you want.

Once you give the demo to your musicians, give them a version with all instruments and a version with their instrument muted ( the track with drums muted to your drummer, the track with the bass muted to your bassist and so on ). Give them time to practice and come up with parts. Give them some ideas of what you want but don’t give them too many details. Give them enough liberty that they come up with some suggestions and let their talent shine through in the songs. When they have figured out their parts, have a couple of practice sessions, and then get in the studio to start production.

PRODUCTION :

If you are well equipped enough to record the band in your basement, good for you. However, even if you are able to pull that off, you may still want to record your bedtracks ( drums and bass usually ) in a good room or a good studio. The sound of drums and percussions can make or break an album. I would say that drums alone are 60% of your sound. Do not cut corners on that department.

One of your options is to rent equipment and record in your room. You may want to rent a soundboard, microphones and equipment if you decide to use some room that you feel has an awesome sound. Research rental costs with your local music stores and rental places. You will want to rent such equipment on a weekly or a monthly basis to maximize your value. Assuming you are using your own computer with recording software with recording audio cards, you will need a good mixing board, pre-amps, monitors, the appropriate mics, cables, stands and a miscellaneous equipment. Renting these would cost you at least 300-400$ per day assuming you are using pro-level but not top-of-the-line equipment. For a week, you may be able to get away with a price tag of 2000 $ assuming you may already have some of these in your possession.

You may prefer renting a studio that already has all that equipment ( and more options ) at your command. The rental would include the sound tech/ sound engineer to help you work the studio. A pro studio with a top sound board ( like a Neve or an SSL ) with iso booths,  rooms, a choice of various mics, and an arsenal of pre amps, compressors and fx units and all sorts of perks to make you comfortable while recording would be in the range of 500-600 $ per day. There are smaller studios with less equipment that will charge less. That may be all you need.  You should research studios to find the one that fits your project. Ask local musicians about their experiences and their recommendations.

Personally, I like to use a top studio to record the drums and bass. If I have 12 songs, I would reserve 3 or 4 days in the studio.  I think that if your band is prepared, you can track drums and bass for about 4 songs per day assuming you spend the entire day ( at least 10 hours ) in the studio. I would record as many takes of a song as I can and when the time in studio is done, I take all the recorded takes and edit it at home where the meter isn’t running.

Once I edited all the percussions and bass, I record the other instruments. Electric instruments such as electric guitars, keyboards and such can be directly recorded in your audio card of your computer. No need for an expensive studio unless you feel you need to record a guitar amp with a mic and capture the sound of the amp and room.

You may want to go back to a pro studio for vocals or acoustic guitars. I sometimes do that. You can record your vocals in your basement or even in a broom closet providing you can insulate your room from outside noise. You will save more money that way.

POST PRODUCTION

For the mixing part, you can do that in your own room and you can take all the time in the world to edit your tunes. You can go back in the studio for that part as well but it will cost.

If you are comfortable with doing your own mix, great. However, you may want another set of ears to help with the mixing. Personally, I do a pre-mix at home and then, I rely on my co-producer, Bill Szawlowski and his years of mixing experience to help me sound great. I would advise most of you to follow that route to make your songs sound as great as they could be. Of course, these people charge by the hour and the rate depends mostly on their reputation. Some will do the work for under 50 $ an hour but that would mean that they are beginners or intermediates. To get the top dogs, expect top pay 70 $ an hour and more …. and more.

Once the mixing is done, the next step will be mastering. Unless you know what you are doing and equipped with great ears and great monitors in a good room, find someone else. Again, mastering engineers will charge according to their rep. Expect 2 sessions of  8-hour days worth to master a full album of 60-70 minutes at the cost of 500$ per day for a top mastering engineer. You may have offers from individuals charging 300 $ for a mastering job on the internet, but, you would be choosing that route at your own risk.

PACKAGING

Finally, your master is done.

What happens next is up to you. You may want to shop that master to a record label and let them do the final step of making it available for the masses digitally and physically.

If you will sell your masterpiece in digital form only, you will need a site that will help you. CD Baby, Bandzoogle, Bandcamp and others will be able to do that and will open the doors to make it available on iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere. There is a price for that road… but that will be another blog.

If you decide to release it physically like a CD or on vinyl, you will need to research a company that will print copies along with the packaging and graphics. Last time I did that in 2014, it cost me 1200 $ to print a thousand copies. More about that in my next blog.

I am aware some of you may find some of my info lacking in some details but there are so many variables when recording music that it is impossible to make a budget that would take into account every variable.

Stay tuned for part 3 where I will give you a complete breakdown of the cost of one of my albums.

Thanks and talk soon.


October 2016

YONBAN

BUDGET FOR RECORDING AN ALBUM Part 1

 Hi there…

Have you ever wondered how much money it takes to record an album ?

Answer : a lot of money ( but not as much as it used to )

I can tell you all about it because I have produced 5 albums and about to work on number 6 !!

In 2016, we are lucky to have technology to slash the price of music production. Before the arrival of recording software, the internet and all that tech, the price of recording the average album of a dozen tunes or so was …..the price of a house. Nowadays, it’s less than the price of a car. It may be as low as a few hundred dollars if your genre is all electronic.

So let’s say you decide to record an album ( it doesn’t have to be an album especially nowadays with albums not selling, but chances are you will want to record more than one song )…. how much will it cost you?

The person who pays the expenses for an album is called the Executive Producer. I have been the Executive Producer for all five of my albums. If you are not the Executive Producer, you may be asked to submit a budget for your recording project. So, Mister Executive Producer, listen to this :

In my opinion, there are four aspects that will dictate how expensive your album will be : how much you ( and your band mates ) can do yourself without having to hire someone else, the nature of your music (acoustic instruments vs. electronic instruments ), recording vocals AND the support /media your music will be available on.

  1. THE D.I.Y. FACTOR ( DO IT YOURSELF )

Ever since punk bands came on the scene in the seventies, musicians have taken more and more control of their destinies by taking command of their own recordings. If you have the capabilities to handle some of the many jobs necessary to produce an album, you will be able to save yourself a ton of money.

I had taken sound recording courses, worked in a couple of studios, done some editing with software like Protools and Cubase even before I worked on my first album. Many musicians have learned to use software and you should learn them yourself. Having them at your command may save you to book a studio altogether.

  1. ACOUSTIC VS. ELECTRONIC INSTRUMENTS

The axiom is simple : the more acoustic instruments you want to record, the more expensive your recording becomes. EDM, techno, house and anything electronic in nature is relatively cheap to record. Sounds, samples, a keyboard plugged into your DAW ( your recording software ) is all you need. Assuming you already own the material necessary, you could theoretically record as much as you want as long as you pay your hydro bill ( that’s electric bill for you folks not living in La Belle Province ).

As soon as you add instruments, your costs will go up especially acoustic instruments. Electric guitars, bass and keyboards are easy. A good instrument, a good pre-amp, good amplifiers, good cables and you are set. You plug in direct and you play.

Acoustic guitars are more tricky. Microphones become important as well as their placement. A good room becomes important. You may decide that your basement is not good enough and you may need to find a studio. This applies to other acoustic instruments from violins, pianos, brass instruments and basically all instruments that you can’t plug.

Finally, there is the granddaddy of all instruments : the drum kit. A drum kit is an acoustic instrument. A good drum recording may require several mics, a very good room with good acoustics. Drums are such an essential part of a recording that you should not cut corners and you will have to open up your wallet if you do not have the physical space to capture the full spectrum of the sound of a drum kit.

  1. RECORDING VOCALS

As soon as you record the human voice, your recording costs will increase. It’s not just the recording part that gets trickier with vocals, it’s also a lot more work at the mixing stage. More mixing will mean more time in the studio and thus, a bigger budget.

  1. THE SUPPORT

When I say support, I am not talking about your fan club. I am talking about the media on which your music is supported on. There are 2 types of support : digital and physical.

If your music will be only available in digital form, you will save the money from having to print CDs, vinyl and other physical copy which will cost you. You will still need to master your music ( more on that later ) but you will save money by not going physical.

If your music is coming out on a physical object : CD, vinyl, tape, 8 track ( anyone old enough to remember those ? ) or whatever form, you will have to add the costs of making copies. Making CD copies is not all that expensive and often it will be the packaging ( the cover of the album ) which will beef up the costs. Printing 1000 copies of the cover, tray card and graphics will cost half of the total costs of printing the CDs itself.

The recording process can be divided in 5 steps : 1. Pre-production, 2. Recording, 3. Mixing and Post-production, 4. Mastering and 5. Making copies of the recording.

Pre-production consists of writing, figuring out arrangements, making demo versions to learn the songs, making artistic decisions and hiring the people and studios necessary. Recording is the actual recording of the sounds. Mixing and post-production is the work to make the recordings sound good and involves practical and artistic decisions. It includes mixing the volumes, eqs of the various instruments, adding effects and many other embellishments. Mastering is the step to fix the final mix to a data storage device (the master) that will be used to make copies of the recording. Finally, the step of making copies involves not only making the copies but also the album cover, artwork and anything related to the packaging of the support.

Notice that I will not talk about the cost of promotion. That will be another subject for another time.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part 2 where I will break down the recording costs with actual numbers and figures.


July / August 2016

SANBAN

ME… STAGE FRIGHT ?? WAAAAH !!

You always remember your first time.

For me, it was at “Station 10”, a bar on Ste Catherine Street in downtown Montreal.  I was 20 and attending Concordia University. I guess 20 is kind of late for your first time but maybe that made it even more memorable.

Here I was. I remember how hot it was. I was sweating like a hog in a steam bath. My legs were shaking. They seemed like they had a life of their own. I was very nervous and felt like I was plugged directly into a Hydro dam. I wasn’t all that confident since I was so inexperienced. I knew I had to rely on my fingers to do the work. There were several other people involved in my first time too…

When it was finally my turn, I walked on the stage with my Telecaster and sat on the bar stool because my legs would just walk away from me if I didn’t sit down. And I played my first song on stage… it was “Mediterranean Sundance”, an Al Di Meola piece I learned from my-then guitar teacher and friend, Stéfane Pelletier. Now, you may think that such a song is a bit much to tackle when it’s your first time on stage but when you are inexperienced, you don’t really know any better.

I did a great job. I got a fair share of applause and even if I didn’t win ( the bar had organized this event as an open mic /talent contest ), I got my first taste of being on stage performing music. …. And it went well. Needless to say, I was hooked and that was that.

The energy was still in me well after I was done. The exhilaration would stay forever. I thought that stage fright would be a problem but after that show, I don’t think it was much of an issue for me from that point on.

That is not the case for everybody. Even some popular artists have had serious bouts against stage fright. Rod Stewart was known to sing behind the stage in the early parts of his career. Eddie Van Halen had to get drunk to go on stage. Adele has admitted she vomits before nearly ever concert due to stage fright. It even affects pro athletes as well. Hall of fame hockey goalie from the Chicago Blackhawks, Glenn Hall, used to vomit before each game.

I will admit to one thing. Going onstage is one of the weirdest feelings one can have.

On the day of a show, I feel a weird mixture of impatience and giddiness. In a way, I can’t wait to get on stage and at the same time, I can’t wait to get it over with. Once it’s done, however, I never want it to end.

I wear many hats. Not only am I the artist, I am also the booker, promoter, producer, social media guy and roadie. In fact, I have so many things to do in the days before the show and on the day itself that I don’t have time to think about the show. This has its good side and its bad side. For the good part, being busy prevents me from thinking too much and worrying about the gig. On the negative side, having so many things to do prevent me from concentrating on the songs I have to play and undermines my preparation.  I have a friend that usually takes care of some things like working the door at the venue but I just wish I had more help in the organizing of a gig so I can concentrate on my show.

My musicians and I usually have little time for rehearsals. My regular musicians are mercenaries that are very busy with other gigs. We usually never have more than two practices. I do worry about the little amount of preparation and that is my main source of preoccupation. Fortunately, these guys are real pros and my confidence in them is confirmed every time.

It is ok to be nervous. Being on the edge is part of a performance. Do not deny yourself that. It is part of the experience. The important part is not to let that nervousness become all out stage fright.

According to www.grammy.com ‘s website, “stage fright is a phobia that produces a symphony of coordinated biological reactions. Muscles contract, priming the body with bursts of energy. Blood vessels in the extremities constrict, resulting in tingling and numbness and an increase in heart rate that produces sweat. Stage fright is the body’s natural alarm response to emergency situations.”

Here are some tips for you to prevent stage fright. Most of them are common sense and obvious but sometimes a reminder to observe good habits is needed.

  1. Be positive. Think positive. Tell yourself that everything will be all right. A good frame of mind will help you succeed.
  2. Remember that your audience is your friend and if people come out to see and listen to you, it’s because they want to see you succeed. Your fans are your friends. They even pay to listen to you play your music. It’s all good. Make connections and visual contact with your audience.
  3. Take the focus off yourself. If you are with a band, use the fact that there are others on stage to distribute the attention around.
  4. Don’t sweat about making a mistake. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be perfect. If you do make one, just continue, smile and play. Very few people will even spot the mistake.
  5. Use visualization before the show. Picture in your mind how an ideal show will play out.
  6. You can focus on calming thoughts and pleasant things when alone before a show. You can even talk to yourself to relax yourself.
  7. I am not into yoga but if you do practice yoga, meditation, deep breathing or such activities, use it.
  8. Eat lightly, avoid heavy foods before a show. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Personally, I don’t like to eat before a show. It makes me feel sluggish. At most, I will have just a small bite and drink water. I prefer to eat and drink after the show.
  9. Good preparation and rehearsals can only boost your confidence.
  10. Accept your fears and nervousness and don’t fight it. The fear will pass.

A couple of aspects I have noticed over the years are that it is easier to perform in front of a big audience rather than a small one. I find that the larger the crowd, the more anonymous I become despite being under the spotlight. A small crowd makes me feel like I am under the microscope. Also, playing in a big spotlight blinds me and I can even forget that there is an audience. Sometimes, I get so caught up in the performance that it’s as if I was in my basement and I am playing there by myself. When I play in a café or a living room, I find it less comfortable because I see the entire room and it’s easier to get distracted. I find that a spotlight reduces my field of vision to the point where I do not see the rest of the room and I find that this actually helps me.

Another pattern I have noticed is that I find it more difficult to play for family and close friends because I tend to overplay. They know you and they know the material and tend to know when you fuck up. When I am on the road doing a gig in Regina or Calgary where I do not know anyone, I am fearless.

I also tend to overplay in front of fellow musicians. I guess it’s normal to want to impress your peers and God knows how judgmental musicians are towards each other. I find that brings a bit more pressure.

Sometimes I get so much into a song that I lose my concentration and make a mistake but the golden rule is to not stop, continue playing and 99 times out of 100, people don’t realize it.

Playing often is often the solution to nervousness and stage fright. Knowing your songs so well that you are confident to play them under any situation will help you. It’s not just booking and performing shows either. I play my songs every day if I can. In the summer or whenever the weather permits it, I take my acoustic guitar and sit on a park bench and play. I like to imagine that I am performing a set and play a dozen or so songs in the greenery of a park. I try to do that every day in the warmer seasons even playing late at night if I didn’t have time during the day. I find that my playing is always optimal at the end of summer after practicing in parks all season long.

Experience is the best way to get used to performing in public. Eventually, everybody gets heckled, everybody faces strange situations and like everything in life, you live and learn. So don’t worry about that. Do it for yourself and if you find yourself in front of an unappreciative crowd, don’t fret. You will find people who will enjoy what you do.

Preparation and experience is the way to control stage fright.

Now, get on that stage …. and break a leg !!

 

Sources :

https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/treatment/conquering-stage-fright

https://www.performanceanxiety.com

http://www.grammy.com/

http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/10/overcome-stage-fright-speaking-in-public.html

 


ONGAKU BUROGU

音楽ブログ

June 2016

NIBAN

THE ROAD TO CREATIVITY or CREATIVITY IS LIKE FISHING

Hi there.

Life is wonderful. Life is great. Being a human being has its perks.

One of them is creativity.

It is one of the things that define us ….and yet, if there is any human activity that is hard to explain, it’s how to be creative. I mean, how do you get ideas ? How do you come up with stuff ? How does that mushy amalgam of tissue and electricity that is inside your head manage that ? And if you do have good ideas, that’s all well and good, but how do you get those ideas out of your head ? When you are born, you do not come with a manual with FAQs and badly translated instructions. How does it all happen ?

Actually, it seems you don’t even have to figure out how to be creative. It just happens as you grow and learn. When you have reached a certain age, you are sent to a prison-like place called a school for a good 15-20 years and somehow become a constructive member of society with the ability to survive, think …. and create. The funny thing is that no one really tells you how to be creative. At best, you may get some insightful strategies but you are basically on your own… All that people can teach you are tools to retrieve these ideas.

And that’s pretty much all I can offer you : insights on how to be creative.

I am not going to explain how your brain functions. I can only explain my perspective on the subject through my experiences as an artist and song writer. Maybe then, you may be able to apply it to your own situation… or not…. So first, let me give you a bit of a story on how I came up to be a creative song writer.

I remember when I was just a kid, I was making up tunes in my head and humming stuff. How or why did I start ? I don’t know. I always enjoyed listening to music. When I was 6 or 7, one of my first musical loves was a record of French sea shanties called “Chansons de Marins” my folks had in their album collection. I used to love one in particular that where some burly sea captain voice sang, “Pique la baleine, pique la baleine” ….

At that age, I could not play any instruments.  As soon as I would come up with a tune in my head, I would pretty much forget it and this little game of making up little tunes was a constant re-invention every time.  I remember summer vacation at the beach in Long Island and coming up with a melody that I actually did remember and even gave it “Again and Again” as a title. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time and I was into “cooler” music than sea shanties.

Then, I finally got my first guitar for Christmas at 15. It was a red sunburst Univox Gimme electric ( a Gibson Les Paul look-alike ). I was horrible. I was coming up with stuff that had no substance or form and I was dreadful.  Fortunately, there are ( almost ) no record of those dark days so you can forget about blackmailing me. It took me a good three years ( and several guitar teachers ) before I got the hang of playing a couple of chords in a row that made some sense.

In the meantime, I started to write poems and song lyrics. At the time, I had more experience with writing down words than strumming the guitar so I sort of became vocalist and lyricist by default. Mostly because nobody else that I jammed with really knew how to sing or write. The stuff I wrote back then was second rate Jim Morrison-ish teenage angst drivel but it did get me some basic writing experience.

I must say that it was my friend, Stéfane Pelletier, who really unlocked the cage of unmusicality I was imprisoned in.  He was the one who showed me there were patterns in writing songs that other musicians used and showed me that certain types of chords went well with certain chords and not others. Finally, I was able to get these ideas that were swimming in my head into the open world. That was one of the most pivotal moments of my life and I never looked back. Since those days, I have been writing songs ever since.

So now that I gave you a little background on my songwriting history, how do I actually come up with the stuff ??

The fact is that I don’t know…

The way I see it, my mind is like a lake …. or an ocean where plenty of fishes live… When I come up with a song, it’s like I am taking a fishing rod and plunge it in the water and see what bites. Every once in awhile, I land a fish, reel him in and there is a song…

The guitar is my personal fishing rod. I start to improvise stuff, play some chords, a melody line until I hear something I like. Then, I use the patterns that I learned and flesh out a song out of that.  All my songs are fishes in the water. Sometimes, I play and there is a bite right away. Sometimes, I noodle around for a while and nothing happens. It’s just like fishing…

Ok, I know that sounds silly but it isn’t all that far fetched. In my ocean, there are big fishes, little fishes, beautiful fishes, ugly ones, carnivorous ones and vegan ones and even some marine mammals as well.

I think everyone has fishes in their ocean. I can’t place fishes in your head. No one can. That’s something your brain produces. After all, mine were in my head all along but as you found out in my little synopsis of my emergence as a song writer, these fishes that were in my head only came out once I had a fishing rod to get them out : the ability to play and the ability to write them down.

So, you have ideas. Even if you think you are not a creative person, you do have ideas, you just need to get them out. How to do that ? Here are some clues…

  1. Do as I did. Find the right person to show you how to master your craft. My friend, Stéfane was the one who helped me. Take the time to find the right person to help you. They don’t have to be the best in the world, just try to find someone that can give you good advice and just soak it in and apply what you learn. If you are a guitarist, seek out others in your vicinity who has some experience as a guitarist. If you are a drummer, find a person with some drumming experience.
  2. Get in the habit of cultivating your craft. Do it as often as you want. It shouldn’t be a chore. If it becomes one, you may want to rethink what you are doing in life.
  3. Also ( and this one is important ) get into the habit of writing down your ideas in a language that you understand. Write it on your ipad, phone or an old fashioned paper and pencil… but do it. Write the bad ideas as well as the good ones. Sometimes bad ideas can bring out better ones. At the very least, it will help you in determining what is a bad idea and redirect you in a better direction. Like I said, there are beautiful salmons, little minnows and ugly carps. They all swim in your ocean and is part of the ecosystem in your head.
  4. Do what it takes to put yourself in a creative environment. If it involves listening to something that moves you, listen to it. If it means taking a walk, take a walk. If it involves the consumption of certain substances, well, that is up to you. Keep in mind that certain “habits” may turn out to be detrimental to your creativity not to mention your health.
  5. Be ready for an idea to pop up anytime. You may be riding a bus, doing business in the washroom ( it does happen ! ), daydreaming in class, making out, whatever… be ready to jot that idea down. Those ideas are fleeting and those fishes very slippery !

Those five points are a start to ignite your creativity. Like I said, I can’t put fishes in your ocean but I can give you tips on how to put your boat out to sea and drop the line in your ocean of creativity. I hope to be able to guide you more precisely with my future blogs so keep reading.

….And keep on fishin’.


ONGAKU BUROGU

音楽ブログ

May 2016

ICHIBAN

ARE YOU AN ARTIST ?

Welcome to my first ever blog where I will hope to entertain you all with some of my views and experiences on being an artist and I hope this will prove to be helpful to aspiring musicians out there. At the very least, it will give you an insight on my psyche and give you a few chuckles. So even if you are not a musician, I hope you will be entertained as well…

What’s up with the title of my blog, you ask ? Well, “Ongaku Borogu” pretty much means “Music blog” in Japanese. …and “ichiban” means “number one” also in the language of land of the rising sun… Why in Japanese ?  I tried to find a cool name for my blog that worked well in English and in French … but I couldn’t find anything I was happy with so….. it’s in Japanese ! Those who know me know that I actually lived there a loooong time ago ( plus it’s a throwback to my first album, “The English House” where I used a Japanese design for the look of the album ).

After that little intro, here is the blog :

I will start by asking you to ask yourself a question. A question that I have actually NEVER asked myself :

Am I an artist ?

I never asked myself that question because I never felt the need to ask it. For some reason, I have always known that I was an artist. It seems many people do not have that assurance. Many friends and people I have encountered have questioned their calling in life time and time again. I never have.

I always knew what I was doing ( well, at least, in a general way ). Apparently, when I was barely a few months old, I was already into music and drawing. I remember being the tender age of four and jumping on a table with a crayon in my hand and singing in the crayon pretending it was a microphone. I guess I was lucky.

So … are you an artist too ?

You would think the answer to such a question would be easy and yet, once you think about it, you find that this relatively simple query is not as straight forward as you would think. Why ? Because you would first have to define what art is. And right there, you have a problem.

Art is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings” It also defines art as “works created by artists : paintings, sculptures, etc., that are created to be beautiful or to express important ideas or feelings” and it adds “the methods and skills used for painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.”

The key word here is “something” . That “something” could really be anything : a stick figure made of popsicles glued by a 5 year old, a goal by Lionel Messi  or my aunt’s chicken soup. Nowhere does it say that art HAS to be a painting, a drawing, a dance, a song, a sculpture or any other classic form of art. Art could be and mean anything created with imagination and skill…

So who makes something ? The answer is someone.  Anyone.

It could be me, it could be you, the cute girl across the room, your accountant, your slow witted cousin, the local mechanic, P.K. Subban, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, the Nobel winner for Chemistry, a homeless person on Waikiki Beach and yes, even Donald Trump ! As long as you belong to the Homo Sapiens genus, you are an artist. It’s something humans do, it seems.

Now that we have established our parameters, all you need to know is find out if you are human. I’ll leave that one up to you.

So, my fellow human, you ARE an artist. Congratulations.

Because we live in this thing called a society, people have this weird notion that we need to define concepts like art more clearly, A common definition for an artist is someone who does art for a living. The problem here is that making art for a living is difficult. It is so difficult that even one as skilled as Vincent Van Gogh would not be considered an artist if you used the “someone who does art for a living” definition as a yardstick. Van Gogh sold a grand total of one painting in his lifetime. He could never support himself from his work as an artist. Was Van Gogh an artist? Was his paintings just a hobby ? Did he declare himself as self-employed when filing his income tax return ? Was he part of the local artist union? Does that membership make you an artist ?

Why am I asking you all these questions ? If you would like to achieve some amount of success as an artist whether it be artistic or financial or otherwise, you have to know who you are. Why do you make art ? For the money ? Fame ? Meet people ? These reasons may not be entirely wrong but the answer is no. You are an artist because that is what you are. Now asking yourself that question can be a good artistic subject, and once in awhile, it is always good to challenge your identity but an artistic language that is your own, a clear vision of what you are,  what you do, where you want to go and how you would like to do it is paramount if you want to make a name for yourself as an artist. This vision is what makes you an artist, not your bank account.

However, such a focus is not so easy to maintain and before you set out into the real world, this sense of identity will be important because you will be challenged by all sorts of people and situations that will test your resolve. You will need it in time of success and in times of failures.

At the end of the day, we are all artists, some more than others. It’s like cooking. We all can cook or heat up our supper but there are only a few among us that turn out to be chefs.

And there you go…

For my future music blogs, I hope to bring to you all not just artistic and philosophical insights but also, I hope, practical and useful information for you aspiring artists. At the end of the day, you are who you are.

Talk to you next soon on blog number two where I will talk about my views regarding creativity.

Cheers.