I invite EVERYONE to check out the new site that John Paget and I have created:
You can find all sorts of fun stuff there, including our new webseries covering the Buffalo food scene!
I invite EVERYONE to check out the new site that John Paget and I have created:
You can find all sorts of fun stuff there, including our new webseries covering the Buffalo food scene!
Today this article appeared on http://www.buffalorising.com/
Nelson Starr Premiers Local Food Show
Elena Cala Buscarino
January 6, 2009
Local musician Nelson Starr made a video plea to the host of the Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations” show last March, doing his best to tempt Bourdain here with Buffalo-centric food: Ted’s Hot Dogs, Anchor Bar Wings and Beef on Weck at Ulrich’s Tavern. Recently, on his own blog, Bourdain said that “some wintry day'” he may make a stop here in Buffalo.
Starr can’t say much beyond that the stop will be “soon,” completing a triad of events with Starr’s stamp on them. Starting this Friday, Starr’s own Buffalo-centric food show entitled, All Access Pass with Nelson Starr will be available online, and on Sunday, Starr will make a special musical appearance at 7 PM at Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen Street. There’s no telling who Starr’s special guest(s) might be that day.
Though some balked about Starr’s choice of food in the video, thinking he pandered to the lowest common denominator, Starr says, “It’s the stuff Buffalo has that others don’t. Everyone has pet things, but we had to make the video in 3 minutes or under, and it made sense.”
Although music is Starr’s life and livelihood–he has a studio, has written compositions for television, co-wrote and published a music book about playing bass and has been inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame–food plays large in his life too.
“I am a passionate foodie kind of guy,” Starr says. “It started about 10 to 15 years ago. I cook, but not professionally. I cook for my family every night, explore it–but not too seriously.” The inspiration is everywhere for Starr–“We have all of these great restaurants, and then there are these shows, like Iron Chef. I can learn from them, and my cooking has benefited.”
Aside from that, Starr has experience with film, and he decided to do All Access Pass in order to incorporate his talents with his favorite subject (next to music). Enter John Paget, an export from Washington State and award-winning filmmaker. Paget’s previous films include Almost Elvis and Alcatraz Reunion, for which Starr composed the original score.
“So we’re not these green guys who don’t know anything about holding up a camera. John’s a guy who has done great things in the indie film world. Films come highly respected in that community,” Starr said, “and I’ve been to a lot of film fests. All I can say is that his stuff is really competitive, and I believe in him as an artist. I’m proud and glad to be associated in collaboration with John.”
For Starr’s debut show, he explored two local favorites: Bistro Europa and Oliver’s. “I’m a fan of food shows, into food, and I have a fair amount of respect for peasant food, as Mike from Bistro Europa calls it. I like comfort food and regional cuisine. It has an element of expertise to it, and its reputation is humble, but it’s exquisite for what it is.”
Starr says he’s drawn to “Places doing something singular–things done with an extra bit of uncommon love. I like to see what they have to say to public. We’ll also do features on markets and stores. And we plan to focus on cool things. The show will be fun and not just thrown together in a dry, documentary style. It’s more modern like No Reservations. Compared to the original tapes for the travel channel, and the footage of the old pink, the new stuff will be longer, more expensive, and done at a much higher level of production.”
A large part of the production work went into the animated opening sequence of premier episode.
Only 10 minutes in its entirety, “It’s packed with good stuff,” Starr says.
Tony’s Blog where he explicitly states he’ll be doing something with Buffalo and me on No Reservations:
By Tony on July 21, 2008 11:06 AM
By Anthony Bourdain
It sounded like a truly terrible idea from the get-go — Solicit video submissions from absolute strangers, pick one of them, and then put myself into said stranger’s hands for a week, someplace I’ve never been. I hadn’t been paying attention when the network suggested it, and I looked at the prospect as a far away, slow moving train that would hopefully never arrive and figured that in any case, it could be finessed. If I actually had to go somewhere with a fan, I’d pick someplace close and easy.
But the train was here, now. A decision had to be made. And Buffalo was looking like a mighty strong contender. Out of thousands of often terrifying submissions, dark figures muttering at the camera from blood-freckled cellar rumpus rooms, there were actually a few really good ones. Nelson Starr’s admirably deranged ode to Buffalo was a snowy masterpiece — if limited in its culinary offerings. It had the advantage of being close. And that it kind of “rawked”.
Augusto Elefanio’s enthusiastic plea to take him along to the Philippines, so that he could reconnect with his roots, was also excellent and heartfelt and might get the masses of Filipinos who’ve been (understandably) hectoring me (“Why haven’t you been to my country yet?”) finally, off my back.
Eric Rivera suggested Thailand — from a kick-boxer’s perspective, in an articulate, compassionate video presenting a place that was already familiar to me and well known for its outrageously varied and delicious cuisine.
And then there was Danya Alhamrani’s earnest, professional looking tape urging me to join her in Saudi Arabia — just about the last place I would ever have considered going.Unfortunately, for my plans to basically rig this whole, shameful project, to pick some marginally comprehensible, and relatively unthreatening fan and spend a few days shooting footage of me comically avoiding the contest winner — in like, Bermuda, or Montauk, Danya’s video was just so damn good. And Saudi Arabia seemed like such a difficult, even foolish option.
I mean, let’s face it, how much fun could it be? Most of the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. They’re mostly pretty fundamentalist Muslims! Women cover themselves head-to-toe in black. The men wear head dress and white floor length, skirty things! It’s hot –really hot. There’s NO BEER!! If any destination was predestined to suck, this was it.
But Danya Alhamrani is an extraordinary woman. And the fact that during finalist interviews, she pretty much challenged me to visit her country and still think ill of it, was well, pretty persuasive. She touched that obstinate streak of contrariness in me that little voice that’s always telling me that if I’m sure of a thing — and everybody agrees with me — then I’m probably wrong.
And it’s nice being wrong. One of the delights of travel is finding, again and again that all your preconceptions, all the conventional wisdom, everything you thought for sure was right — is, in fact – wrong — or at least, far from a complete picture. Saudi Arabia, it turned out, was fun. Really!
I urge you to take a look at producer Amy Teuteberg’s excellent and provocative crew blog. There’s not much I can add to that (and what you see in the show) — except to lavish even more praise on the remarkable Danya, her friends and family. It’s only right, I think, that a tough, independent Western woman’s perspective should be most useful and relevant when talking about what the experience was like. It is women, after all, who are denied the right to drive, who must cover themselves in public. So, wheel over to the Crew Blog as soon as you can.
I can only tell you that standard male dress in the Kingdom, the “thobe”, felt surprisingly … liberating. Walking through my hotel lobby, there was a strange relief, a comfort in looking exactly like everybody else. And superb testicular ventilation.
And if there was one really big surprise, it’s that so many Saudis we met had a sense of humor. This is not what you’d expect after watching “60 Minutes” or “Dateline” or various hard news descriptions of life in the Kingdom. Fact is we met a lot of funny, good natured, very, very generous people over there. They actually had the capacity to laugh at themselves. They were all too aware of how they look to outsiders. They watch “Friends” and “Oprah” and “American Idol”.
Many, many of them were educated abroad. They were scrupulously devout in their faith without being humorless. It was a flawlessly organized and executed shoot — thanks to newcomer producer Amy, the magnificent Danya, and Dania and many friends — and in fact, a rollicking good — if alcohol free — time. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by the show.
As a final note, we will, on some snowy winter day, shoot at least part of a show in Buffalo. And Nelson Starr shall surely be our guide. Bangkok is on the horizon for the coming season. And we would be remiss if we did not have Eric Rivera, with his unique perspective and unusual access along for the ride. Plus, my wife wants to take a week or two in mui tai camp there. And just as the Phillipines are long overdue for a show, Augusto Elefanio deserves to have his dreams come true.
So with luck, everybody, as they say, is a winner.
June 30, 2008 10:19 am
— KENMORE — Rock music once had a business model based on movies and sitcoms from the 1950s, one that involved neighborhood kids in a basement, constant practice leading to a gig in a bingo hall or at a school dance, and the requisite lucky break that got the band recording deals and radio airplay.
A look at Nelson Starr’s career suggests that the old paradigm for success went out with the Studebaker.
Better still, look at Starr himself, a Kenmore product who has the respect of his peers in the industry, a steady stream of appointments and no lack of ideas. At age 40, he looks like the rock and roll version of 30. A consummate musician, he has co-authored a book on electric bass technique, toured the world as a session and concert performer, scored films and television programs, taught music instruction, and has played in nearly every venue and recording studio in Western New York.
He nearly got Anthony Bourdain, the globe-trotting chef of The Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” television program, to come and sample Buffalo’s cuisine. And that’s in the past two years.
Starr was also a 2006 inductee in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, an honor typically awarded for lifetime achievement. He’s become a master at keeping the pot boiling, at not merely hatching ideas but developing the necessary follow-through. A little advice from this one-man conglomerate could go a long way, in anyone’s career.
He claims it’s a business necessity — “I wish I had the luxury of focusing on the tastier bits of my career, but there’s not much you can turn down as long as you can do it, and it pays well,” he says — but clearly, but not every local musician does things his way.
“It’s why I keep branching out, getting more work, and that leverages into more work. It doesn’t matter where you live, except for making personal connections, but I can get to New York and Toronto and those places. The cost of living here is so much more reasonable, and I have the luxury of the opportunity to invest in my own keys to success.”
So much for the necessity of moving to Los Angeles to succeed in the music business.
What some might identify as a scattershot method — try a variety of projects and see which are hits, which are misses — Starr sees as “”a comprehensive fabric of my career.”
“The reason is organic,” he says. “Everything is an outgrowth of my career. Each part tends to reinforce the other. One informs the other. I end up with a greater skill set than if I’d specialized.”
After a few minutes of this, one wonders if he’s seated at lunch with an expert musician, a motivational speaker or an MBA graduate.
Actually, he is self-taught and self-empowering. He’s also Nelson Starr IV and part of a family of musicians who trace their lineage to a great-great-grandfather who was among Father Baker’s orphans. Granddad was a professional trumpeter. Starr’s father played in Tommy Dorsey’s band. On his mother’s side, he mentions a grandfather who was an interior designer for the Birge Company of wall coverings, and for Buffalo China.
The famous Nelson Starr — expert in piano, guitar, bass and voice — is a product of Kenmore’s school system, and rattles off the list. “Roosevelt Elementary, Brighton, Washington, then Kenmore Junior and Kenmore West High School, Class of 1985, where I was involved in musicals, whether on stage, in the chorus or in the pit with the orchestra.” There followed degrees in political science and philosophy at SUNY Fredonia in 1989.
Then came the formation of The Tails, a seminal local rock band of the ‘90s, which opened the door to studio work as a producer and musician, collaborations with jazz and rock artists (including his brother Eric, based in New York), tours, jazz concerts at Lincoln Center, awards and friendships.
Whenever a musician is working on a project, Starr is working on six. One suspects the telephone is always ringing at his house.
The Starr method seems to be non-stop pursuit of opportunity. “It’s the only way I know how to be,” he says. “Become the best musician that you can be. Play convincingly in multiple genres. Know your stuff about music, theoretically and as it’s performed at a high level. After saying all that, everyone has to follow his own path, but the music business doesn’t offer single-strand approaches for success anymore. That whole old career path, that space is dwindling.”
Single-strand approaches. That’s how they talk in business school.
“You have to have a certain business savvy. I’ve had agents in the past. They were never able to devote time and energy to the process. Self-management is my default position and it’s proven the most advantageous.”
It helps that he has an in with his brother and the Eric Starr Group, and that another brother, Jeffrey, is a television and film producer (“they’ve been a great resource to me. Some of the connections they’ve built have been instrumental”), but it does not explain the sheer volume of work that comes his way. Musicians are not taught the success secrets of, say, salesmen — keep plugging, keep thinking, keep looking for opportunities — but Starr seems to have them ingrained. Plenty of players would like to write a book on technique, but Starr actually did it (“Bass Guitar, from Lines and Licks to Chords and Charts” published earlier this year by Adams Media). He auditioned (twice, in Toronto and in New York) for the television reality show “Rockstars,” wherein singers from around the world sought to join an established supergroup. Never mind that he didn’t make the cut; he gave it a try, and presumably returned to Kenmore with a pocketful of fresh business cards. And that led to Anthony Bourdain.
Of the “No Reservations” television program, in which the wisecracking star visits Peru or Malaysia or Slovakia with an interest in local cooking and culture, Starr says “that show is so well-written and so deep. There’s a sensibility that makes connections to literature and pop culture, and it’s framed within the margins of the region’s own standards.” When Bourdain sent out a call for suggestions of places to visit, Starr the videographer sent him a short tour of Buffalo’s most distinctive restaurants, with a heavy emphasis on the excellence of our indigenous cuisine and the joys of living here. While his entry finished behind that of a restaurant critic from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Starr got to meet Bourdain and plot “a segment or an episode highlighting the contest and its participants”. Starr, and Buffalo, will appear on the program this summer.
That experience kick-started the next project, a television program about Western New York cooking. Starr and his colleagues are developing it.
“We’ll shop it first to The Travel Channel, then to Bourdain’s production company. We’ll work our way down to public access,” he laughs.
Perfect your craft. Work, often. Get connected. Chase opportunities. Bootstrap all your successes. This is the sort of career advice graduates typically don’t get at the commencement ceremonies, but probably should. Nelson Starr most likely could do it, and regard it as just another opportunity.
Ed Adamczyk is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.
After a lot of complaints that we left out the “Old Pink” We made a second Travel Channel video.
Fellow Travelers and Food Fanatics,
Here is the video I wrote, hosted and did the music for – along with John Paget who shot, edited and co-directed – for the show “No Reservations”, hosted by Anthony Bourdain. The “pitch” here is to be Tony’s sidekick for an episode. Instead of traveling though, I urged Anthony to come to Buffalo where I’d show him around!
It’s been selected for the top 20 …out of over 300 submissions!!! See for yourself:
Please comment and rate the video clip (you’ll have to create a user account to rate).
I hope you enjoy!!
Thanks for your support!! …Buffalo thanks you!
To make it as a musician in this town, you have to diversify your portfolio
By Jeff Miers NEWS POP MUSIC CRITIC
Updated: 05/27/07 10:04 AM
The path to becoming a professional musician used to go like this: A young person with a dream nurtures his instrumental skill over long hours of practice that turn into months and then years. The talented dreamer meets others with the same dream, forms allegiances, swears blood brothers or sisters until the end, and a band is born.
First, these young talents learn the songs of their heroes. Over time, they grow to believe they have something unique to offer audiences. Happy-ending versions of this story find the dreamers quitting their day jobs and suddenly they’re in an office with a guy with a cigar hanging from his mouth, signing on the bottom line. Those days are long gone.
MUSICIAN NELSON STARR: “I need to … be fluent and competitive in every avenue of musical endeavor — from jazz to hip hop, from music education to music production.”
Even the most talented and prolific local musicians know the facts: In all but the rarest of exceptions, if you plan on making your living as a musician in this area, it’s likely that you will have to play in many different bands, in many different venues, offering many different types of music, at all hours and days of the week.
For musicians in Buffalo and many cities like it, refusing to give up on your musical dreams means making yourself over as a “talent for hire,” and several local musicians have done just that. (For more in individual musicians see following story, “The Genius Department.”)
One reason for this, said Nelson Starr, an independent musician working in Buffalo, is that many area clubs play prerecorded music, and that’s diminishing in the demand for live music. “The decreased size of that niche has made success more elusive for anyone but the established or, oppositely, flavor-of-the-month cover bands,” he said.
Instead, today’s independent musician needs more of a skill-set than ever before. This means being well-versed; being able to make musical contributions to a wide variety of situations at a moment’s notice, without the benefit of abundant rehearsal; and learning at least the basics of recording studio production and engineering.
Another reason, musicians agree, is the ever-changing technology. Uploading, file sharing, putting music out there for free — it’s all part of the new game, and it can be a tall order for a kid who simply wanted to learn to play guitar and write some decent songs. But it’s a choice many local musicians are making.
“I need to do everything I can to attempt to successfully fulfill any musical need that comes along in the marketplace,” says Starr. “That does mean making every effort to become fluent and competitive in every avenue of musical endeavor — from jazz to hip hop, from music education to music production.”
Geno McManus could be the poster boy for the whole “diversifying the musical portfolio” ethic. The guitarist and singer frequently tours Japan, where he has established a name for himself as a solo act over the past several years. He’s also involved in several bands, pursues a solo career and works in studio engineering and production. He sees the definition of “independent musician” changing rapidly.
“To be an indie in the past was kind of a rebellious thing to be,” said McManus. “Maybe you were once signed to a label and then decided to ease your way into being more independent on the business end to put out music that you might not be able to release through a label, or had an interest in producing new artists. At least you had some time for the kind of development that being on a label could provide. Now, everyone is essentially an indie, and you most certainly do have to diversify the portfolio in order to survive.”
Multi-instrumentalist Joe Rozler routinely performs locally, playing everything from pop to jazz to avantgarde piano music to heavy metal.
“It’s great that some cats will play blues one night and sambas the next, and people who are up for that challenge will gravitate to it naturally,” he says. “But I’m really glad that there are other creative souls who simply do the one thing that is true to them, their native voice. If everyone aimed for diversifying, there´d be less honest art.”
Joelle Labert, singer with Buffalo’s Flatbed, said she thinks local music fans’ tastes are “becoming more eclectic.”
“People are becoming more open to appreciating all kinds of music,” she said. “So whether a musician plays one style of music or several, there’s likely going to be someone to listen. And there is more crossover in music nowadays, whether among genres or within a single musician.”
“One of my favorite artists, Patty Griffin, for example, changes styles from song to song. She can be folk, country, gospel, blues, you name it, sometimes even within the same track. I enjoy singing many different types of music (folk, Americana/country, bluegrass, blues, jazz) and am willing to try more, given the opportunity,” Lambert continues.
“It’s all about connecting to the song and giving it its own voice. Singing more than one style has certainly allowed me to play with many different talented musicians here in town.”
Producing a career
A musician today also needs to be at least a passable engineer and producer, and often, a promoter and marketer.
There are precedents for handling record production among music’s best, including the Beatles, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. These artists were driven by their own visions of what was possible in the recording studio, and most of them had the money to do so at will. The modern independent musician has no such choice.
“Let’s face it, musicians have never had much extra money available for producing recordings or demos,” says Starr. “In the past, you had to outsource this to recording studios — and that was extremely expensive. Now, because digital audio and computing is so advanced, to the point that it’s well beyond the million dollar studios of the past, you can exploit unlimited recording possibilities right at home. This has changed the entire landscape of the industry and a musician’s role in it.”
The technology is capable of being the independent musician´s best friend or worst enemy. Economic reality dictates that, as distasteful as this may be to musicians who have spent years, even decades working diligently at simply being musicians, it seems to be an undeniable reality.
“For me, this is a double-edged sword,” says McManus. “I learned my engineering skills because I always had that curiosity, after learning how much Jimmy Page, (ELO’s) Jeff Lynne, and the Beatles had done on their own in the studio.
“However it seems that now, because the technology is so cheap, and the money — and maybe the patience — more often than not isn’t there to go into a proper studio, I think that one possibly feels forced into this field. Some people have the ability to do it on their own, but a lot do not.”
So you´ve gotta spend the money, or do it yourself. And if you do it yourself, you´ve gotta do it well, if you want to compete.
Meanwhile, the music consumer also has a technological edge. After all, who buys a cow if they´ve grown up getting their milk for free?
Why should a generation of downloaders wait for a full album, sanctioned by an artist, to be released? Why should their music be “officially sanctioned,” in the first place? After all, it’s only a mouse-click away.
“It has both helped and hurt independent musicians,” McManus says of digital downloading. “I read a quote by [alt/country star] Ryan Adams, and he said that a record release should be like Christmas Day — you have no idea what will be under the tree until you open it. So in this way, it has kind of hurt the musician, because the music is immediate — the minute it is released it is downloaded.
“But if you are unknown artist, then you can upload your songs anywhere too, and that is most definitely a good thing.”
Reaching an audience
Rob Lynch, a local drummer, guitarist and singer-songwriter, is a veteran of several Buffalo bands and currently plays with nearly a dozen ensembles engaging in a variety of idioms. He views the digital age as “an exciting time to be a musician and a listener.”
“I believe it has helped, in that it opened up the playing field for quality artists to be heard and develop a following, even if it’s a few fans at a time,” Lynch says. “The options now for hearing new, interesting music are pretty limitless.”
Clearly, the need to diversify can be viewed through different lenses. For Lynch, it translates into an exciting musical environment that speaks to his needs as a serious musician.
“I like to make music, so why not keep things interesting?” he asks. “It´s natural for me to explore different musical situations, because [doing so] reflects my musical interests.”
For local musician Rodney Appleby, many of the problems faced by local independent musicians are of their own making.
“Not much has really changed,” he says. “Some musicians are still working for the same money as 50 years ago. Musicians have always been their own worst enemies. Business just isn´t their strong point. Most musicians treat it more like a hobby than a profession. Playing for free, for exposure, undercutting each other, spending large sums of money on gear that will never produce any revenue.. venue.”
McManus suggests that, as much as things have changed in the music industry — and there can be no doubt that they have — the song remains the same.
“It is in some ways the same as it has always been. It’s just that now, there are more uncharted options to learn. The bottom line is still the same, though. You have to do whatever you can to reach people, and turn them on to your music. What’s different is that now, it´s mostly up to the musician to be in control of what they do.”
Here is the extended interview I had with Buffalo News Music Critic Jeff Miers. This was the basis for his article and profile about me.
1) Do you think that the lot of the independent musician has changed considerably in the past, say, 10 years? Is it the case that, where once you could be in one band and concentrate on that, you now need to diversify the portfolio, and involve yourself in several different situations simultaneously?
NS: Yes, I think that, due to the decreased demand for real honest-o-goodness LIVE music, “bands” cannot get the work that they once might have. Most bars/clubs play pre-recorded music – be it a DJ or digital radio, etc. So, there is a real diminishment in the demand for live music. And even there, it’s generally the same cover bands that fill what niche is left. The “cover” part is nothing new or bad but the decreased size of the market niche has made success more elusive for anyone but the established or, oppositely, flavor of the month cover bands. This has also squeezed out anything more left of center, idiosyncratic, or specialized. Again, this is not a value judgment, this is just the reality of the situation. The good news is that some venues, like Stillwater, are realizing the value of live music. The Party Squad, in our capacity there, is helping to revive the notion that live music really is best and that cover bands are as respectable as is the quality of their music. If it’s good, it IS good! On the other hand, yes, I have to continually engage with and cultivate as much musical work as I can in many different avenues and genres.
2) If this is the case, has it put additional demands on your musicianship? If you need to be able to contribute something to a specific musical situation at a moment’s notice, does that mean that you need to be reasonably well-versed in a broad base of musical styles?
NS: Yes, seeing that this is the case – and that I NEED to survive these rough waters – I need to do EVERYTHING I can to attempt to successfully fulfill any musical need that comes along in the marketplace. That does mean making every effort to become fluent and competitive in every avenue of musical endeavor – from jazz to hip hop, from music education to music production.
3) Is it also necessary for the modern independent musician to be acquainted with at least the basics of engineering and production?
NS: It sure helps! Let’s face it, musicians have never had much extra money available for producing recordings or demos. In the past, you had to outsource this to recording studios – and that was extremely expensive and somewhat unreliable. Now, because digital audio and computing is so advanced – well beyond the million dollar analog studios of the past – you can exploit unlimited recording possibilities right at home. This has changed the entire landscape of the industry and a musician’s role in it (it’s obviously devastated the traditional studio business). This has not only opened up opportunities for artists to producer their own recordings at home but also opened up market space for a home studio engineer like me to work with and produce artists who, as of yet, don’t have the studio equipment, software, skill set, etc., to do recording on their own. Personally, this has allowed me to get in on the action as far as producing, arranging, programming, mastering – you name it – within this emerging home studio niche.
4) Is it possible to make a living as a musician in Buffalo? Do you think it’s tougher here than in other cities of comparable size?
NS: I don’t know if places of comparable size are better or worse. I suspect that certain areas – Austin, Las Vegas, Tampa, and many others may have particular market needs, musical cultures, and unique demographics that add energy to their live music scenes. However, comparing Buffalo to large cities like New York, LA, and Chicago, it can actually be easier to get paid a fair wage as a rock or jazz musician, say, and to cut out an identity – become a big fish – in these very mid-sized ponds.
5) What projects are you currently involved in?
NS: I’m currently freelancing with a variety of projects. I play in the “house band” collective, Party Squad, at the restaurant, Stillwater, Thursday through Saturday. I am finishing up an EP for the band Floozie (see: http://www.floozieband.com/). I released a single that has become a favorite sports anthem for Sabres fans called “Game Time” (with the duo, Perpendicular – see: www.myspace.com/perpmusic). I will have a progressive hard rock album released under the moniker, Invisigoth (ProgRock Records – see: www.progrockrecords.com) in late May. I am just beginning to score a documentary on Alcatraz by filmmaker John Paget. As well, I just wrapped up authorship of a book for Adams Media (see: http://www.adamsmedia.com/), co-written with my brother, Eric.
6) Do you believe it’s still a reasonable hope for an independent artist to “make it” the old fashioned way – by working hard to hone their craft, making as professional quality recordings as they possibly can, and hoping for the attention of major labels?
NS: I think anything is possible! However, I’d have to say that the old model is quickly evaporating – and, with it, those opportunities. The keys to success are the same though. You have to offer a musical brand that the public wants, is hungry for, and makes them feel that they are finding/exploring their identity through their association with. As much as musicians hate this, music and its affiliates (fashion, image, politics, to name a few) is a product – unless you are making it for just your own enjoyment. If you seek to make a career out of it, you had better offer something that is the best and most attractive example in whatever genre you are working in. The one great thing about today’s music business model is that particular niche genres can, more easily than ever before, find and connect with their particular audience. So, in this sense, we have a superlative business environment for artistic expression – due to the ability, through the digital interface, to home in on your exact target audience and market – and a real possibility to make a living through that. …and do this while circumventing the dying music label structure – that tends to siphon off, through accounting malfeasances, the profits your music is actually generating.
7) Has the age of digital transfer of music helped or hurt the independent musician?
NS: If I had to come down on one side of it, I’d have to say it’ll hurt it and actually does threaten the whole notion of intellectual property. In some cases, there have been benefits – in the sense that it has allowed music to proliferate in the free market of ideas. But, by that exact same token, one’s music becomes, for all intents and purposes, public domain. It can’t be controlled as property and thus bought and sold. The whole enterprise of making a fair profit from selling your hard work as creative artifact, albeit digital, is obliterated. This can really have the effect of wiping out the whole “new economy” which is all digital property rights based. So, in the short term, yes, perhaps, file sharing and the like is good for emerging artists and art forms but, in the long run, it may spell doom for property rights as a whole – and that would be a very bad thing for all musicians and for everyone.
My induction into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame has left me speechless!! I’ll be posting my thoughts about the event soon – and some video. In the meantime here is a picture of me with Big Nel, my dad.