Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy



Monday, May 15, 2017

Working Very Hard: The Pitfalls of Shortcuts

Working Very Hard (Zen parable)

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.”

The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”

The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”


For many, the lesson to be learned from this story is obvious. But to those who may not quite see it, let’s unpack it a bit.  The teacher informed the student that if he did what he was supposed to do, which was to follow and absorb his teachings to the fullest extent, or in a modern educational context, master his curriculum, “Ten years” would be how long it would take the student to move through his program, receiving his metaphorical degree in this martial system, along with accompanying skill sets. However, the student did not have the patience to devote this amount of time to learning the system, so he began to inquire about shortcuts, which the teacher explained would end up taking him twice as long.

This story really struck a chord with me, because while I was a student at Berklee, back in the eighties, I encountered many students such as the one in this story. I knew many who spent more time trying to figure out how to keep from practicing than it would have taken them to practice the material at hand.

I once had a roommate named Mark who was impressed with how fast I grew in one semester, so I explained to him that I accomplished this by practicing vocabulary building. I would take one lick or ii-V pattern and practice that one idea through all 12 keys for an entire week until I had thoroughly absorbed it.  Then, after I felt like I really had full command of it, I would practice playing it on different tunes. Once I felt comfortable with this, I would start the process over the next week with a different pattern.

After hearing my story, he became inspired to do the same thing. However, my process sounded too slow for him, so he decided to speed up things up a bit,  and work on two to three pages of licks at a time. He was also playing catch up because now that he was competing with me, he felt like he was behind. At one point, his obsession with speeding up the process became almost comical. He would sometimes show up at jam sessions with his folder of ii-V patterns and would read them as a part of his improvisation. I wish I was joking!

Long story short: He did not improve. He did not “catch up” with me. He eventually dropped out and stopped playing music altogether.

But Mark’s story is a similar one. I’ve seen it in musicians on a macro-level from trying to rush their careers, to micro-levels in rushing the learning process of material they are trying to absorb. And it always ends up with them having to go back to the drawing board to start over again. I call it the groundhogs day effect. Where every day is like starting from scratch.

The lesson of the “Working Very Hard” parable is one that most of us struggle with over a lifetime. There’s really only one remedy: Enjoy the process. Focus on the here and now, not the end result. Approach it as though there is no end, only the journey. And you’ll be amazed at how fast you get there.

Lesson Learned:

There are no short cuts when comes to learning how to play. Be patient with the learning process. Develop a passion for the process, not the result.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chasing Two Rabbits: A Story of Commitment


Chasing two rabbits: (Zen parable)

A martial arts student approached his teacher with a question. “I’d like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to learning from you, I’d like to study with another teacher in order to learn another style. What do you think of this idea?”
“The hunter who chases two rabbits,” answered the master, “catches neither one.”
Now, to truly understand this story, you have to first imagine what chasing two rabbits would actually entail. For starters, you would have to be in two places at once—unless, of course, the rabbits were tied to each other. So to even attempt to do this, you have to first run right, and then left; north, then south; east, then west. Never able to commit to any action fully—not exactly what one would call productive efforts.
It is for this reason I have always been a proponent of narrowing one's artistic focus to a single area. Like the martial arts student chasing the two rabbits, efforts in multiple directions seemed to negate each other. In economics, they call this opportunity costs—which is the value of what must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. In this case, the opportunity cost of trying to catch two rabbits is catching zero rabbits.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of multi-tasking. Most can’t even walk down the street without talking on the phone or texting. Not only do we not smell the roses, we don’t even know that they exist.
As artists, we must eventually let the second rabbit of life go, and make an unwavering commitment to the one rabbit at hand—our work. It’s not easy. It goes against the grain of societal norm. But it’s only once we make the real commitment to our art, to our vision, to our music, that we find it’s depth, its real beauty, the pearl at the center of its oyster. And with hard work and dedication, we can also pave the way for others to see it, too.

 Lesson Learned


If you have something you’re passionate about, stick to it.  Jumping around from one thing to the next only slows down your growth.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Twitter Strategy



We all know Twitter as the social media platform through which we can communicate with our followers using 140 characters are less--devising what is affectionately known as a tweet. 

I'm not what one would call a habitual tweeter, but when I do compose one, I am amazed at how I never run out of ideas. In fact, you rarely hear of anyone getting tweeter's block--especially Donald Trump.

Twitter is a classic example of how limitations free you up creatively. And I've found it to be creatively liberating for these two reasons: 

(1) Due to being limited to 140 characters, there is no room to get so emotionally invested in what we're creating; 

(2) We don't see our tweets as something that would hurt us if they don't resonate with our followers. You always get another chance.

If we get few likes or if no one retweets what we write, we can just simply compose another one. No big deal. And we can tweet once per day, or 10 times per day. No one is going to yell at you.

When we perform live or release CD recordings, we can experience the same freedom felt when tweeting. The key is not putting so much emphasis on their importance. If one gig doesn't go well, book another one. Or better yet, organize a jam session at your home. Having your peers hear you sound good during a private session can lead to just as many opportunities as playing at a sold out New York City jazz club--maybe even more. Many of the folks at the jazz club won't be musicians looking to hire other musicians. 

And we all know how easy it is to make recordings nowadays. If you release something that does not yield positive feedback and you want another chance, but are low on funds, release a digital download-only recording. Record it on your phone, get it mastered, and put together some low budget artwork. You could release one per month if you wanted. It's just a matter of getting past the old paradigm where major labels had the monopoly. 

Nowadays, the monopoly belongs to the person with the most compelling ideas. 

And let me be clear: I'm not advocating quantity over quality. I'm only stressing that we try to create as many opportunities as possible. I've never met anyone who was penalized for trying too hard. 

There is no shortage of opportunities; they only exist when we refused to recognize them. And they may not always be the ideal performance and recording situations, but they all serve a similar purpose: to help us become better communicators. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Four Ways to Prepare the Saxophone

Before the release of my new CD, I wrote a post about the four ways I prepared the soprano on the recording. At the time, I didn't have the sound files available, so now,  I'm re-submitting a revised version of that post with sound files so that you can get a better idea of what these prepared concepts sound like, as well as how they can be used in musical context.

I know that typically preparing a musical instrument is associated with the piano, but this concept can also be applied to the soprano. 

First, here's my working definition of prepared soprano, one that provided much of the inspiration behind the creation of these pieces: 
"The process through which alterations are made to the soprano that distorts how air enters the instrument, how it exists, and by attaching external vibrating sources to the soprano that are set in motion by the movement or sound of the instrument."

Now, below are four methods of prepared soprano that I have employed on this recording.

Prepared Soprano #1 (Scotch tape): Here, the sound was altered by me placing Scotch tape over the neck opening and then puncturing small holes in it so that air can pass through when you blow through the mouthpiece. Due to the air obstructions, instead of producing a steady stream of air, random bursts of air traveled through the instrument, creating a jagged column of air that allowed me to present a fresher perspective to familiar ideas. 




Prepared Soprano # 2 (aluminum foil): Here, I prepared the soprano by placing aluminum foil at the end of the bell. And by blowing through the instrument, most effectively in the lower register, I was able to create rattling-effects that sound similar to a trumpet Harmon mute. On this track,  there are three sopranos heard prepared with aluminum foil.




Prepared Soprano #3 (reed straw): Here, I made a reed out of a plastic straw by cutting the corners into a triangular shape which allowed me to create a double reed like vibrating mechanism. I then blew through this reed in place of my regular mouthpiece. In doing so, I was able to create a sound comparable to double-reed folk instruments, such as the shehnai and the Chinese musette. Here, there are three sopranos heard using the reed straw. 




Prepared Soprano #4 (sax with a dangling sound source): Here, I hung a dangling sound source (typically a set of chimes) from the neck strap holder and I responded musically to the random melodic and rhythmic occurrences set in motion by the movement of the soprano.




I realize this is not for everyone--not that anything should be. But the point here to open ourselves up to non-linear approaches to sound production. Much of my creative endeavors are governed by the notion that if you want to arrive at conventional outcomes, the process through which you create must also be unconventional.

I'll be holding some workshops over the summer discussing some of these ideas and approaches, so please stay tuned!



Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Creative Box Principle: The Possibilities within Restraint

The Creative Box Principle is the belief that thinking inside the box spawns more creative ideas than thinking outside of one. The idea is that having limitations, or a very measured parameter through which to create,  prevents us from arriving at typical outcomes. This goes against the grain of what we are commonly taught. Most believe that freedom and inhibition are the active agents generating creative fluidity. In many cases, this is not true.

Whenever I ask students, or even professionals for that matter, who typically plays more traditional forms of jazz, to all of the sudden to start playing free, their improvisation usually becomes more restrictive, not free flowing. I’ve heard many give up mid-solo, exclaiming that they don’t know what to play. The endless possibilities become too much to negotiate. They would feel much freer being directed in which time signature to play in, which chords to play on, and which form to follow. And think about the writers who sit down to write that 300-page New York Times best-seller only to end up with writer's block. However, I’ve never heard anyone getting writer's block from composing a tweet. In fact, only having 140 characters to work with, many find that they now have too many ideas. And this goes back to my theory that people think more creatively and divergently when forced to create inside of a box.

It has been said that what made many of Miles Davis's groups unique and original sounding, wasn’t so much what they played, but what they didn’t play. And this is the best-kept secret among most great artists. Their originality and seemingly endless flow of new and under-explored emerge from limitations, not freedom. Take the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollack. Many see him as the embodiment of unrestraint. Not true. Pollack’s work is filled with restraint. He restrained himself from using conventional shapes and colors. He restrained himself from applying paint to the canvas using conventional methods. And typically restrained he from painting onto a canvas sitting upright onto an easel.

Now you can begin to see my point of how creating within a box forces us to be even more creative.

Me making the conscious decision to only play the soprano saxophone is another prime example. For me, much of the tenor and alto saxophone vocabulary I had acquired did not translate over smoothly to the soprano. Consequently, I had to go deeper into the sonic sphere at hand. Because of my lower range limitations, I was forced to extend my upper range. Because of the few number of soprano players in jazz at the time, I was forced to seek out improvisatory styles in non-jazz genres, played on instruments with a similar timbre likeness. I could list numerous examples, and they all would prove my point that I was not thinking outside of the box, but inside of one. My box was to play the soprano exclusively. 

I spoke earlier of players who have trouble playing free music because they are unable to negotiate the innumerable possibilities. My advice to them is usually to apply the creative box principle.  And stress that they should not see free playing as a sea of endless possibilities, but a small lagoon from which they can negotiate a limited set of ideas effortlessly. One might even call it the Twitter method. Limiting themselves to the metaphorical 140 characters would often leave their creative appetites hungry for more. Many of the greatest free players had this. Dewey Redman, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, and Albert Ayler,  all improvised in the free context with great clarity. It was pretty apparent that they were not creating in the metaphorical vastness of the sea. Their solos are often melodic, musical, and easy to follow—beautiful lagoons if you will.

I will continue to write about this because it's an interesting perspective that I feel warrants much deeper exploration. But in closing, I'd like to stress that when applying the creative box principle as a means to unconventional outcomes, you have to remember to be patient. It sort of like when you walk into a dark room, you have to give your senses a chance to adapt to the lack thereof.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

10 Rules for Success as an Artist

The following is a list of guiding principles that have kept me continually inspired, and have given me the courage and tenacity to stay focused over the years. And for the record, I hardly consider myself a success. I and my work will always be a work in progress--this is the path I have chosen. Now all of these rules are not for everybody, but I'm sure there's a little something in here for everyone. 

1. Learn to see yourself as a business of which you are the CEO.
When we see ourselves as part of a business, instead of as a business, we spend all of our time competing as metaphorical employees, rather than claiming our own artistic turf as CEOs. Originality is the surest way to hover above our competitors. 

2. Do one thing uniquely well.
In order to stand out from the crowd, your artistic vision should be narrowly focused. Being jacks-of-all-trades certainly increases our work opportunities, but these are not the kinds of opportunities that lead to us becoming stand alone entities.

3. Aim for an artistic monopoly.
We have our whole lives to branch out. The first thing we should focus on is establishing ourselves as experts in a particular area, and then branch out. Whatever we do, we have to first own it, and then build on that foundation. Take Google and Amazon for example.

4. Have a plan, but be willing to revise it.
Planning and being creative are not linear processes. You have to start with a plan, but realize that it’s just the first draft. Like any book, it will never be great without serious editing and revise. And even then, it's hit or miss.

5. We must be narcissistic, yet humble.
Narcissism gives us the courage and confidence to go against the grain of popular opinions. Humility enables us to hear the opinions that really matter.

6. Embrace failure.
Failure is absolutely necessary for growth. A willingness to fail keeps us adventurous and unafraid to try new things. Many failures are just unexpected outcomes. Sometimes the unexpected is even better than the expected.

7. Be selfish as an artist, and altruistic with what you create.
As artists, we must be selfish. Otherwise, we spend all of our efforts trying to satisfy others, rather than pursuing that which is inspiring us. Then of course, once we bring that which is inspiring us to fruition, then my advice is to give, give, give; and share, share, share.

8. Believe that anything is possible, but then know your limitations.
As artists, we cannot be afraid to dream. The world needs to be our canvass. However, knowing our limitations keeps us from pursuing paths that will yield few positive outcomes.

9. Be willing to lose those who are close to you.
Not everyone in our inner circle is going to follow us. When we are pursuing change and people who are close to us are not, we might have to leave them behind. And in some instances, they eventually come around.

10. Treat your art and career like a flower: plant the seeds in healthy soil, nurture them over time, and wait patiently for them to bloom.
Anything of substance, especially the new and underexplored, is going to take time. So as long as your vision is unwavering, and your foundation is solid, all you have to do is to keep watering it, and watch it grow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Frida Khalo Effect: Redefining the Artistic Selfie

The Frida Khalo Effect is a term I‘ve coined that speaks to creative works in which the subject appears in numerous representations. Examples of this can be seen in movies, paintings, cartoons, and music. The Mexican-born surrealist painter Frida Khalo personified this to the most extreme degree. It's not uncommon for Khalo to appear in one of her paintings in numerous representations. She is the sole subject--the protagonist, the antagonist, and all the players in between. Self-exploitation is her brand. Mind you, much of her fascination with this idea results from her having had to spend time in isolation, first from having contracted polio as a child and then having to be bedridden, months at a time due to back and hip injuries that resulted when a wooden bus that she was riding in was hit by a train--injuries that plagued her most of her life. As Khalo put it, she painted what was around her, and mostly what she saw was herself.

On my new recording, I've also experimented with this idea of self-exploitation, the aural selfie, if you will, through the use of over-dubbing. On Sopranoville, the soprano appears in a wide range of configurations from duos to quindectets, as well as textures: flutter tonguing, squawks, multi-phonics, Doppler Effects, you name it.

In the world of painting, self-portraits are considered one of the most difficult to paint. Similarly, in jazz, solo recordings are the most difficult--particularly for wind players. And this is how I've used the work of Frida Khalo as a source of inspiration. She not only created self-portraits, she redefined the idea by creating portraits with multiple selves. And my approach to Sopranoville was similar in that I not only took on the challenge but I also heavily explored the idea of multiple selves, along with redefining the roles of those multiple selves.

I'm a huge fan of taking that which is a novelty and making it into an art form. Jackson Pollack did something similarly with his drip style. He was not the first experiment with these alternative methods of applying paint to canvasses, but he was the first to go as deeply into it as he did.

The uniqueness of the music sample I'm using is three-fold: One, its "Giant Steps" stripped of its rhythmic framework. So the rhythm that you hear is the natural rhythm that is heard when all of the notes of the melody are played in succession with no rhythmic specificity. Two, this piece features the interplay between three sopranos, thus creating what I call the Frida Khalo Effect. Third, the soprano sound is being filtered through an acoustic sound altering phenomenon known as sympathetic resonance, which explains the lush reverb heard.

It's not apparent to everyone that this is "Giant Steps," but it is.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the track and feel free to listen to the entire CD if you get a chance. There are a lot of interesting things going on.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Are Publicists Really Necessary?

The following piece is from a chapter in my book Life Lessons from the Horn: Essays on Jazz, Originality and Being a Working Musician. This is my take on publicists. Let me know what you think. And get the book if you have a chance.  

Producing my own recordings -- evidently like 90 per cent of other jazz musicians releasing recordings these days -- I think a lot about publicists. Are they really necessary in a day and age when it's so easy to connect with people from disparate parts of the world, virtually or literally for free? Not to judge harshly, but I see them as the last remnants of the system as it was when record companies were gatekeepers, deciding whose music gets released and who doesn’t. Publicists acted as their foot soldiers, working tirelessly to promote the musicians record companies deemed worthy of their backing. For a fee, mind you.

Today, when many musicians self-release their music, we hire publicists in hopes of gaining more presence for our recordings in the ever-more-competitive yet release-flush market. It's great to live in a time when anybody with musical ideas and access to recording equipment can put out a CD. It's also terrible that these days anybody with musical ideas and access to recording equipment can put out a CD.

Independent publicists are not inexpensive. They may charge from $1,500 to $3,000 per month, which an artist pays hoping one of the three major U.S. jazz publications, the New York Times and/or Wall Street Journal, someone reporting for the innumerable smaller publications, one of an army of bloggers or maybe even someone at NPR will review their recording.

To indulge in a little truth-telling: A rave review won’t pack a club or pay the bills.
However, reviews do play an important role in (1) helping to spread the word about our music to wider audiences, and (2) helping to serve as a means through music is held to certain standards, differentiating the good from the bad. Jazz reviews serve as the antidote to the commonly held idea of musical relativism that asserts that all music is the same, that it is no good and bad. And, essentially, that the colors black and white do not exist -- only the color gray. Jazz criticism does provide important platforms by which truly exceptional work can receive special accolades, gaining well-deserved attention. And this is a good thing. The positive effect makes us all try harder.

I predict that print publications will eventually fade, along with the industry paradigm they once supported (and which supported them). They probably won’t disappear altogether, but rather they will lose some of their relevance. Internet blogs can be a lot more interesting to read because they’re free to be interesting. Writers tend to be more concerned with expressing their true opinions about something or someone, instead of adhering to the aesthetics of an editor or publisher who’s worried about alienating advertisers. Blogs are not financially motivated, they’re free and operate under the age old adage that art and commerce don’t mix. The writing on blogs may be unpolished and unedited, but the ideas are often strong, compelling and original -- which is hard to say what’s in the print magazines, sadly.

Back to publicists: I understand the attraction of getting someone else to do your dirty work. We're musicians. We don't want to spend hours every day emailing journalists, magazine editors and radio stations with news about our new releases. We could be working on new music for our next releases. I'm sure we'd all rather spend our time in our practice rooms than at the post office or on our computers.

But one could argue that the existence of publicists keeps the level of the music low. Here me out: Basically we hire publicists because we want them to help us create a buzz about our recording. But the catch is: Sometimes the music is not buzz-worthy. This is harsh but true. Some music is very middle-of-the-road and doesn't deserve a $3,000 to $5,000 publicity campaign. Of course, no publicist is going to tell you that.

My point is that if we didn’t think there were a chance publicists could somehow pull off a miracle and have everybody raving about our music, who knows? We might not even bother recording it at all. We might wait until we've created something that is of more musical and cultural relevance.

Yes, that’s a tough one. That call's on us. We’d all like to think that everything we put out has musical and cultural relevance. I guess on a basic level we do assume that. From the mere fact that we’re participating in the music scene, we are, we believe, affecting it.

But what often happens is that we make a recording, then hire a publicist to promote it to the jazz media, then wait to see who takes the bait. Instead, we might first find an audience, then create a CD for that audience -- which would totally change the game.

That would put us in the driver’s seat, fostering community and allowing us to think about the longevity of what we’re doing, rather than trying win critical acclaim in the lottery of jazz reviews.  We might better become the shapers of our own future.

I once told a fellow musician about a project I was working on, and he said that there are probably 10 people in the world interested in the kind of music of was speaking of.  But I did not see that as a negative, because it’s that very type of person, on the fringes, who is actually looking for something different. If you’re offering something that speaks to them, they will most likely listen. Moreover, if those 10 people are enthusiastic enough about your music, they’ll tell their friends, and they’ll tell their friends, and that modest number of 10   multiplies into several hundred. And you didn’t spend a dime: no ad was bought, your friends were not spammed, your fans helped you spread your music.

I’ve noticed that publicists spend a lot of time going after what I call the Kind of Blue audience. These are diehard jazz fans and industry people who love the classics. They are only interested in new music if it sounds in some way like the classic records we have plenty of. We fail to realize that this audience already has a full collection. If they never hear a new CD for the rest of their lives, they’ll probably live just fine. It seems self-defeating to make chasing this crowd the focus of a publicity campaign, with the financing coming out of our own pockets.

Let's face it: Some CDs are best left as musical business cards, simply letting people know who we are and what we do. I can be totally content with that. Every recording doesn’t have to make a big splash. That sort of thinking is carried over from a time when record companies tried to break a new artist by outspending other companies promoting their flavors of the month. Imagine a visual artist holding a showing at a gallery every time he or she completed a new piece.

Publicists exploit our somewhat naive desire to want to build a career from one or two recordings. I don’t want to demonize them, I know they’re just offering a service, and if the artist has his or her act together, having a publicist can be beneficial for all parties involved. It can be a great partnership. But that’s often not the case if we just hand over our product to them, without any direction or purpose other than "get me some publicity."
I feel that musicians have come a long ways since the days of putting their demo tapes into the hands of a&r (artist and repertoire) executives, hoping they would listen to it and deem him or her worthy of being contracted. In hindsight, it’s pretty humorous that we gave these people so much power. However, we never really gave them that power, they just happened to be arbitrators of circumstance.

Marketing guru Seth Godin often talks about creating music that’s remarkable. Not remarkable as being extremely good, but remarkable as in being worth making a remark about. To do so takes imagination, patience, and most of all courage. You have to be willing to go out on the limb and fall on your face. Or as Wayne Shorter says, “Go down with the ship.”

My own experience with a publicist produced great results. The money it cost was well spent. I'm not convinced that was because my publicist ran a great publicity campaign. What happened with my CDs, I speculating, is that they went into the mail along with several others that week the publicists were hired to promote, and when someone took the bait, then I won. If not . . . oh well, maybe next time. In many cases, I did win, and I received a lot of positive press. You never know how journalists and editors are going to respond to our music. Our worst fear may be that our CD ends up in the hands of someone who finds the same faults with our music that we do. We’ve all been there -- praying that no one hears how we fluffed the eighth note at the end of the 13th bar of the third chorus of the sax solo.

Many musicians have argued that the amount of money they make from CD sales does not justify the price of a publicist. On the surface, that seems a logical claim. If you spend $3,000 on a publicist and sell only 20 CDs on CD Baby and Amazon for $15.99, what’s the point? I empathize with those who take this position, but it is shortsighted.

Let’s look at what a publicist’s job could be. A good publicity campaign should be in conjunction with a record-release tour, so as you travel from city to city, state to state, country to country, the publicist could work to plug your record in everywhere you’re playing, trying to get you radio spots, television appearances and features in local publications by any means at their disposal. Unfortunately, the industry has changed. There aren’t enough clubs and concerts to support the extensive tours that used to be viable with support funds from record labels.  

This used to be the recording artist paradigm:
1.     Labels would sign artists
2.     Artists would record and release a CD
3.    Labels would work with managers in overseeing the artist’s career
4.     Managers would work with booking agents
5.     Booking agents would work with music presenters to get the artist gigs, and with labels to get tour support to supplement the income from the tour
6.     Publicists would work with various media people wherever you played, which helped get people to your gigs and perhaps to the record store to buy your record.

In our current business model, only numbers two and six are still in widespread practice. Yet the publicist’s price remains the same (and now musicians, not record companies, pay it). This is why see ever more musicians ask “Is a publicist worth it?”  If you only look at publicist’s services = CDs sold, the answer will be a definite “no.”

However, if you look at it as publicist’s services = more awareness of you and for your music, then the answer is yes. Without the other components of the recording artist paradigm, you can’t have the same expectations of results from the publicist’s work. Now, exposure is the only thing that they can really offer you, and CD sales are but a small part of that of that exposure. You see financial rewards in a more indirect way.

A rave review in the New York Times might make more musicians aware of what you do, and they might be more inclined to hire you for their own gigs. By you working with a wider range of musicians, you’re also being exposed to more presenters and bookers, and by getting exposed to more presenters and bookers, you can get more work for your band. By working more with your band, more people will hear and learn about your music, consequently buying more of your recordings. So hiring a publicist can pay off financially, but indirectly.

Even viewing things from this perspective, it’s hard to say definitively that a publicist is worth their price.  Maybe only time will tell. I imagine people, myself included, won't abandon the idea of hiring a publicist to promote their new releases anytime soon. But I do know this: If publicists have only cookie-cutter approaches, like the much used  “let me put it in the mail and see what happens” strategy, they will find themselves on the sidelines along with a&r reps and many record producers watching an industry move on without them. Just as musicians and artists have had to change how we go about things, so do they.


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