unclench, it's wednesday

more of my work, the discourse™️ on sxsw, and 100 gecs

Make sure to read all the way till the end for some updates on how the newsletter will run! It’s important so make sure you do :) I have a few updates about my writing as well, and some select shows. For now, enjoy this tweet:

upcoming shows  🎟️

You can find out what shows are happening this week in here!

3/4 | Bipolar (EP Release) w/ Nick Cage, Flasyd, Retail @ Trans-Pecos ~ all ages

3/7 | Ryan Laetari EP Release w/ Arverne, Di Ivories, and Whirly Bird @ Unit J ~ 21+

3/8 | The Mystery Lights w/ The Ar-Kaics @ Baby’s All Right ~ 21+

3/9 | The Mystery Lights w/ The Ar-Kaics @ Baby’s All Right ~ 21+

3/15 | The Ophelias, Lina Tullgren, Hypoluxo, Bluish @ Trans-Pecos ~ all ages

3/16 | The Trash Bags, Nyssa, Hennessey @ The Broadway ~ 21+

3/28 | Native Sun, Honduras, Smock @ The Broadway ~ 21+

4/18 | Mutual Benefit, Winnebago Vacation, Boosegumps, Clara Joy @ Kirby’s Castle 

in my queue 🎶

Absolutely in love with how sugary this opening is. Face Down in Meta was a pleasant discovery, as I’ve been trying to expand my musical palette outside of traditional guitar bands. It’s kind of winding lo-fi indie at times, I find it very relaxing to listen to this. Another keeper off the album is “Feels Hz”.

You know why I like writing this newsletter? I can write about music in a totally unaccountable way, and I get to say things like “This new Post Animal song sort of sounds like The Weeknd?”. Which I mean in a totally positive, and interested way. Listen to Forward Motion Godyssey, and for more specific reccs try out “In a Paradise” and “Schedule”.

what i’ve written📝

So I have two new articles to spotlight today! The first one was an interview I did with the new project by the duo behind Jack and Eliza called Purr. They’re about to release their debut album (which is very good) and I got to speak with them about it! There was one image that recurred throughout their lyrics: that of the night sky. Something about that imagery really arrested me, and I think it’s because I recently finished BoJack Horseman (spoilers ahead) and the way it ends is with Diane and Bojack staring up into the sky, hopeful and hesitant of the future. All there’s left to do is move forward, which can be scary because change isn’t something you really have a choice about. So you could either be excited or scared about the future.

Image result for bojack horseman ending

I like that. Just the image of that sky, which can feel a bit overwhelming in its vastness and yet still holds all that possibility. Those are the feelings I got listening to Like New by Purr, and I’d highly recommend you give it a listen to (and read my article below).

I also got the chance to interview Dry Cleaning ahead of their NYC debut! What a great conversation with the left-field, and very fun, band. I was really excited to speak with them about their lyricism, which is novel (for me) because it can feel like a bunch of disparate phrases slung together — but really can be quite connected. I think I like it because it reminded me of the song “She Looks Like Fun” by Arctic Monkeys (let me explain). In a Pitchfork article, Alex Turner broke down the song and said:

This track seems to take place in the realm of social media, and the random words in the chorus—“Good morning/Cheeseburger/Snowboarding”—are akin to scrolling through Instagram.

It’s about the characters that people create in that virtual world. As far as the “cheeseburger” line, I was actually watching an episode of the show “High Maintenance,” and there’s a part where the person’s taking their picture with a cheeseburger and posting it and all this. That part in the song also reminds me of when you’re reading a book and trying to get into it, but you can’t stop from looking at your phone. I might have been doing a bit of that when I was writing the song.

I like the idea of stream of consciousness meets the digital age, and I especially like how Dry Cleaning’s songs sound like what would happen if I tried to write a song using only the words I found around me. Sometimes when I passively scroll through social media I wonder what my brain is actually retaining; likewise, we all constantly receive input from the world around us, not just our phones.

I think about that saying about how the people you see in your dreams are all people you’ve seen before, even if you don’t realize it — I think it’s cool to think about how the passive information you receive manifests itself in different ways in your life. Like playing Madlibs with the modern world. Anyways, that’s just where my brain went but I really recommend that you give the article a read below, and go stream Boundary Road Snack and Drinks and Sweet Princess now.

what i’ve read 📖

'The New Normal': Why Indie Artists Are Releasing Music at a Much Faster Rate in 2020 ~ by Eli Enis

  • Loved reading this piece because it tied together all the different ways that streaming is affecting artists — from touring longer to putting out music all the time. I also liked reading it because it deals with a big question for me: what is the utility of a traditional album in the streaming era? Enis interviewed a lot of industry insiders and artists for this piece — since Billboard is a trade publication — so you’ll get a wide understanding of the industry response to streaming.

  • “Since streaming gives people so much sheer access to music, and the nature of social media constantly bombards people with new music content (articles, listener recommendations, posts from bands themselves), simply keeping an artist’s name in people’s minds can be incredibly difficult. For a fledgling indie artist who’s just beginning their career, putting out a single shortly after a debut album is a way to maintain a presence in the conversation.”

  • keywords: two-year album cycle, playlist culture, streaming, treating music as a marketing tool, touring

The Spotify Effect ~ by April Glaser and Will Oremus

  • I read the article above and immediately wanted to put it in conversation with this one, where David Turner (who runs the amazing newsletter Penny Fractions) speaks with Slate’s tech podcast If Then. I pulled a quote from the transcript below that I think highlights why Enis’ article is so important — indie rock was one of the last hold-outs for this kind of constant output, and we’re starting to see this change. I highly recommend reading the entire conversation, it’s worth your while.

  • “I think you made a very good point, which is that as technology changes music also always changes alongside it. Which I think is something that sometimes gets lost when talking about the sort of impact of streaming on music right now, which is, as you said earlier, that singles in the ’50s and ’60s were actually around this sort of incredibly short two-and-a half-minute, three-minute length and then as albums came up, which was not because artists … I mean certain artists want to make longer albums and make more thoughtful albums, but for a lot of them it’s just sort of an economic reason that labels made more money when they sold albums rather than when they sold singles. And that is also why during that time period they also tried to reduce the number of singles that were being produced so you could have more albums being sold.

    So what’s happening in today’s marketplace, one of the things you see are longer albums. You see shorter songs, but I also think it depends on genre. A genre that I follow a lot is indie rock. Indie rock is one of the ones that has not done as well in the streaming era, but still produces solid 10-, 12-song albums because their audience actually still wants to buy vinyl and buy CDs and even buy MP3s on sites like Bandcamp. So streaming is affecting different artists in different ways.”

  • keywords: streaming era, albums vs singles, touring, songwriting

the discourse™️

I wanted to talk about SXSW this week! There are lots of great reasons to boycott SXSW (not just the fact that Amazon funds a lot of those shows) but also because they don’t pay well! In fact, if you wanted to know how artists are compensated all you need to do is look at their FAQ:

If selected to perform, will my act receive any compensation from SXSW?
If selected, each performing member of the act will receive a SXSW Artist Wristband as a benefit for performing. Learn more about Artist Wristbands here.

Domestic, U.S. acts can choose to receive monetary compensation in lieu of Artist Wristbands. Payment is a one-time direct deposit per act, not per member. Non-U.S. acts selected to showcase cannot be compensated monetarily, and will each receive an Artist Wristband.

Each act will be compensated for one showcase, regardless of how many showcases they perform.

Each act has the option to purchase up to two discounted SXSW Music Festival Wristbands for non-performing crew members.

So what does this mean? For international acts, whose entrance into the mainstream means they sorta have to break into the American market, they don’t get paid to play a SXSW showcase — they do, however, can get paid to play sponsored showcases. Instead, they get a wristband for access to all the activities that SXSW puts on and a whole lot of stipulations in their contracts.

In 2017, SXSW faced backlash for the inclusion of a clause wherein international acts were threatened with deportation if they played unofficial showcases. You can read more about the organizing that happened in response to this in an article I previously highlighted by Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, and you can read a quick primer on the issue by the Future of Music Coalition. That clause is no longer in SXSW contracts (Fader 2018).

Like other festivals, SXSW has an exclusion clause as well. This makes it incredibly hard for international artists to justify fronting travel expenses (especially if they are unsigned) just for the exposure of playing at SXSW. Some try to tour around SXSW dates, but even then it’s hard to make ends meet.

Even domestic artists get the short end of the stick, as only “20% take the cash option. Of those that do, bands are paid $250, while solo acts and duos are paid $100” (Forbes 2013). With such paltry compensation for playing often more than one showcase, with the reality that daytime and unofficial showcases may not pay either, bands incur high expenses. Just read about how the costs break down for an unsigned-at-the-time domestic group, The Prettiots, below:

“Weaving down from New York to Austin, Tex., in a minivan will cost the Prettiots about $1,000 in gas, plus $3,000 to rent the van with insurance. Hiring someone to manage the tour will be $1,500. Cheap hotels along the way: $500. And once the band members arrive at the music marathon on Tuesday, they will stay at an Airbnb accommodation, which will run them another $2,500 for four nights — the going rate, as the city is overrun by thousands of visitors.

All told, with incidentals and a $15 per diem for the musicians, the trip will cost the unsigned group nearly $10,000, said Asif Ahmed, the Prettiots’ manager, who is fronting some of the cost himself. “When you’re a band this young, it’s a necessary evil — spending money to eventually make it,” he said.” - Joe Coscarelli, Paying a Price to Play at South by Southwest

This brings into question who can afford to play these festivals, and how the financial costs limit who gets access. While this is definitely a topic that I’ll be reading more of (send any recommendations) what is clear to me is that this format benefits big acts the most, and exploits small unsigned acts (especially international performers).

In other SXSW related news, No Music for ICE — a coalition of artists using their sway to protest ICE and tech companies that support ICE — announced that they would be boycotting Amazon-sponsored events at SXSW.

But it’s not all negative. I wanted to highlight here some artists who are fundraising to play at SXSW. See below for bands to help support, and if you know of any others please send them to me for inclusion in the next newsletter. Stay tuned for more info on this.


Okay, so starting with the next newsletter I am going to opening a thread where you (my subscribers) can comment your answers to the question I write in this section. It’ll be clearer next week, but I’ll link to the thread in this section to make it easy. Feel free to comment or read other comments, but I’m hoping this opens up a bigger conversation that we can all be a part of. I’ll also comment there my response from now on!

If you’ve read this far, I have a quick question for you: would any of you, who have attended a show that I’ve listed, be interested in writing about it briefly for this newsletter? It would be a very casual sort of thing, and you can write it any way you want (a series of bullet points, some stream of consciousness notes, or the way you’d describe it to a friend). You would be credited for your work, and I think it’d be a great way to keep the focus on the live experience for this newsletter.

If this is something you’d be interested in, let me know by replying to this email!

field report🚏

Another audio exercise! This time we had to record 90 seconds of us just talking (with no other people). I decided to work off the premise that Spotify listeners are just as likely to skip a song as they are to keep listening after the first 10 seconds — meaning after 10 seconds, they know whether they like it or not! So, if I can find out all I need to know after the first 10 seconds of a song, how would I rate it based on that, and how would I rate the album overall?

With that in mind, I ‘reviewed’ (such a loose way to use the term) 1000 gecs by 100 gecs because I’d never heard it but was sure it would be fun. Again, this is a very casual speaking exercise so try not to take my opinions too seriously — it is both off-the-cuff and ridiculous:

concluding remarks

I feel that it’s important to note that the company I intern at, AdHoc, does host a SXSW showcase. My views here are my own and do not reflect AdHoc’s views in any way.

Anyways, I now have a public Instagram you can follow for updates about this newsletter, my work, and maybe some funny music-related tweets I happen to find. Follow it if you’d like, I’m @shortattheshow on Instagram. Till next time!