Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I've Moved!

Thank you for following my blog here at Between The Music. Ever since starting this blog, I started thinking about incorporating it into my website, and I've finally taken that step. The writing that I have been doing here will now take place directly at the new and improved:

If you'd like to continue following my posts, you may update your RSS feed or subscribe by email with these links:

Thanks again for your continuous support and comments thus far. See you at the new website!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seth Godin - Eternal September

I don't normally repost other people's blogs in their entirety, but I like this recent Seth Godin post too much to not share it:

Eternal September

Our story so far...

Back in the 1960s, TV shows took great pains to catch you up on what had happened so far. Batman spent a minute or so recapping last week's story. So did The Fugitive. The thought was that while most people had seen the show just seven days ago, what about the people who missed it?

Fifteen years ago, someone coined the term, Eternal September. Because each September sees an entire crop of freshman showing up at college, you need to assume that you have to start teaching protocols all over again. Once a year, it's a whole new audience, and they need to learn the ropes.

The Internet has been stuck in September ever since. Every day, new people show up at your blog, on Facebook, everywhere. Every day it's a whole new crop that need to figure out what RSS is and how to subscribe. Every day there are people who spam their address book because it feels like a fine thing to do, then learn their lesson and never do it again. There are new people who need to learn the proper etiquette for interacting on your site. Can you imagine if the real world worked this way? If people walking into your store had never been to a store before? If drivers on the highway had never driven on a highway before?

It's going to be a long time before the medium stabilizes enough for the newbies to catch up, so the only alternative is to accept that it's always September.

Last week I listened to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass for the first time. I've been exploring more of the individual Beatles' solo albums recently, along with a couple friends that I work with about once a week. It just goes to show that, even for the Beatles, there are people out there that will hear your music for the first time more than 30 years after you made it. There's an endless supply of fans out there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Over the past year, I've been working with more people on different projects. In all cases, there is no boss. No deadlines other than what we set for ourselves. No standards other than what everyone involved agrees is best. Nothing is done until everyone says it's done.

Writing music is generally a very private activity. The ideas that form in your head usually marinate in there for a while, and you play with different possibilities each time you pick up your instrument or whenever you find yourself alone to think. By the time anyone else hears your new tune, you've probably spent 100+ hours on it. At least, that's how it usually works with me.

When collaborating, new ideas are immediately judged by whoever you're working with. You have to trust those people enough to be seen artistically naked. Either somebody likes your idea and starts to work with it, or your idea simply gets ignored. There's little room for ego, and a lot of room to take risks. The worst that can happen is your craziest idea just gets ignored.

Everyone I've worked with has a different style. Some people are meticulous with every note--it might work, but is it the best choice? Others work from their gut--if it feels right, it's right (and if it needs to change later, that's OK). Others come to the table knowing what they want and it's my job to first give them that, then start throwing curve balls until they realize what they really want is something else. Each approach is excellent as long as it's not closed off to new ideas.

I've learned a lot while collaborating with my friends. My ear has gotten better (ideas are usually spoken on the instrument, not by yelling out a chord). I've gotten a glimpse of how everyone else writes, and it helps get me out of jams while writing alone.

If you need to expand your creative palette, work with a friend.

Friday, April 24, 2009


This past week I've been practicing at least twice as much as my usual average. This is for a number of reasons: 1) I'm trying to learn more music. 2) Recordings of a couple recent gigs really kicked my butt. 3) And I'm just trying to force a dedicated practice schedule into my routine.

The last few days I've been working on some new concepts. Ideas that keep popping in my head while performing, but I'm never able to execute them (see #2 above). The first three days of working on these concepts was like pulling teeth. My own teeth. The patterns were somewhat awkward to play on guitar, there are countless variations that confuse my brain and my fingers, and it has to be played really fast to sound right. It's just supposed to be a flurry of notes--something I hardly do when I improvise but want to have in my bag for the right moments. I stopped and asked myself everyday, "Is this worth it? Will it even sound good?"

This morning it all just clicked, at least after priming the pump a little. I could throw it into the right spots during a solo and it sounds great, exactly how I've been hearing it in my head.

The lesson here is an old one. Don't give up. I talked about it with my buddy Dave today, and he described practicing music as a set of stairs, not a ramp. It's a series of walls and plateaus. You bang your head against a wall for a while and then one morning, if you've stuck to it long enough, you'll get up to the next plateau.

If you're a beginner, you face the same obstacles as somebody that's played for 20 years. We're just in different places along an endless staircase. Whether your victory is finally getting that bar chord to sound right or you've finally mastered your melodic minor modes, we can all relate to each other. Keep putting in the hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Head Down, Plowing Through

I've started another recording project, this time with vocalist Erika Lloyd, who fronts an indie rock band called Little Grey Girlfriend. We're doing a set of cover songs. While we haven't scheduled a formal release date, I think we're on pace to finish recording by the end of May, so it may be available by early July.

Erika and I met in Bloomington, Indiana. We were in the same music theory class at IU. She also lived down the street from me, just off campus. We got to be pretty good friends, and then she moved to NYC shortly and me. Her boyfriend also happens to be Brad Whiteley, who plays in my trio and appears on a couple of my albums. It sometimes makes me feel old to think about having "couple friends," but Brad and Erika are definitely one of Jill and my best couple friends. It's nice to have such talented friends, and even nicer to be able to work with them.

So far we've tracked for six songs:

"Creep" by Radiohead
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie
"Hey" by The Pixies
"Nobody Home" by Pink Floyd
"One Caress" by Depeche Mode
"The Fool On The Hill" by The Beatles

On deck we have:

"Everything Means Nothing To Me" by Elliot Smith
"Faith" by George Michael
"Soul Love" by David Bowie
"Alabama Song" by The Doors
"Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder
"All I Want" by Joni Mitchell
"Cherry Coloured Funk" by Cocteau Twins

Once we get into the mixing phase I'll start posting the works in progress for preview. But so far things are sounding pretty good and we're having a great time in the process.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Twitter CD Giveaway, Spring Cleaning

The other day I woke up and looked at my cat sitting on top of a stack of six unopened boxes of CDs. She climbs up there first by hopping on a bench, then stepping on a stack of four unopened boxes of CDs before reaching the summit. These boxes have been sitting there for nearly two years, long enough to blend into the background and become cat furniture. There's almost 1,000 CDs in those boxes.

The nice thing is I actually got rid of just as many. I ordered 2,000 digipaks of Life Is Loud back in 2007 with the thought that a few hundred could go to press, radio, booking, and any other promotional purpose a good looking, physical package might give you an edge. I mailed a ton of freebies, and sold hundreds of others.

Initially, I wanted to sell these myself--taking orders through PayPal or accepting checks by mail. I made many trips to the post office, and in Brooklyn that gets old really quick. I started sending traffic to my album's page on CD Baby, but believe it or not, I've only sold a measly 46 through them. That's not their fault though, it's simply a matter of less demand for CDs by the time I started sending traffic that direction.

Nearly two years after it's release, Life Is Loud sells about 7 albums a week, mostly digital downloads. That's not a lot, but if you look at the facts, it's still pretty damn good. I'm not really doing much to directly promote that album. I play mostly new music at gigs, which are less frequent because I'm getting ready to record a new album. Most of my efforts online are simply to raise awareness of me, Cameron Mizell, the guitarist. The musician. And oh yeah, and I have some albums over here you might be interested in checking out.

So how can I get rid of a few CDs and get people to notice me? I have a bunch of people following me on Twitter, I wonder how many of them would like one?

I've been using Twitter since last summer. I don't use it to promote or sell anything. Actually, that's a lie. If you know me--if you've been reading this blog or my articles at or even following me on Twitter--you know I can't help but try to use the internet to bring people to my music. But it's really a form of pre-selling. I might get into that another time, but not now.

The point is, I've got a fairly sizeable group of people that I interact with on Twitter. I like them, and they put up with me pretty well. The next step was to engage them in a way that would:

1) Teach me something about them.
2) Help them learn something about me.
3) Get rid of some of those CDs.

My solution? Trivia!

Every day at noon I ask a question about anything I find interesting. The first person to answer correctly gets a free CD. So far one question was about Bootsy and Catfish Collins, another about Take Five being the first jazz single to be a million seller. Finding out who knows the answer helps me learn a little more about them. And the point is never to stump everyone, rather to just get them to play the game. While the first correct answer is technically the winner, if somebody answers correctly every day but never gets their answer in first, I'll probably send them a CD just for playing.

After asking some general questions that tell me about you (mostly, are you interested in the same things as me?), I can ask questions that tell you about me. Since any of these questions can be answered by doing an internet search, why not create questions that will ultimately drive people to my website looking for the answers?

This will only work if people care to play. If you use Twitter to constantly bombard people with information about what you do professionally or try to push your product on them, everything you say is just noise.

Chris Brogan recently wrote an article that you might have already read: Promoting Without Being That Guy. His article gave me the final nudge I needed to actually try this trivia promotion. I had been afraid that it would come off too pushy, or as a blatant marketing scheme. But in his article, Brogan lists '10 Ways to Build Relationships Before You Ask for Anything' and I realized I'd been building these relationships for many months.

Lucky for me, it's worked so far this week. I've had some fun coming up with questions and conversing with the people that come up with the answers. I've even had some nice notes from people that aren't playing but are definitely noticing, and they love the idea. I only planned on doing it through Friday, but I may bring it back in a couple weeks. Maybe somebody else will pick up the idea and give me a chance to help them clean out their apartment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Article @

I'm writing a series of articles on the self-released album over at Today we posted an article titled The Self-Released Album 101: The Basics. If you're planning to release your first album yourself, I recommend reading this. I'm trying to dump everything I know from my own experiences releasing about 200 albums, from my own self-released titles to large budget albums for the Verve Music Group.