Back to the Grind

Back to the Grind

I’ve been feeling inspired lately to play again. After a long hiatus of not hearing any music in my head, I finally feel motivated enough to finally get my shit together and finish up some songs that have been laying around for a while. My wife and I are expecting our second baby in September, so I’m determined to get some new and old stuff finished up before I have a whole lot less time and energy to be loud.

Most of the stuff is basic straight forward heavy rock. Those who know me will know my influences so you can probably guess where it’s going. For anyone else, stay tuned. Much heavyness is in your future.

I am also going to make a concerted effort to blog more about music. It’s something that used to be a defining part of my life and somehow I lost that and need to get back to it. Identity crises over…

Gear

As far as gear, i’ve been using Propellerhead Reason since it first came out. It’s fast, stable and easy on the processor load. I used to run Cubase for audio but now that you can record tracks right into Reason, I pretty much have an inexpensive, all in one solution.

It is really crucial that music software be simple, fast and sounds good. I find it amazing that, with all the tech advancements we have made of the last 10 years, this continues to be an issue. I would trade in piles of features, bells and whistles just so that I can fire it up and in a few seconds lay down an idea. I waste so much time configuring, updating, driver crashes and wrestling with compatibility that I could almost say that 70% of my ideas go to waste because of software issues. Maybe it’s because I am a UX guy, so it’s a soft spot for me, but seriously, it continues to be a major roadblock to creativity.

Technology is a failure when I want to throw my laptop out the window and go back to my Tascam 4 track cassette recorder. There is grace in simplicity.

Right now I am running Reason 6.5 and it continues to be really solid. I haven’t upgraded to version 7 yet because there is nothing in it I absolutely “need” to have and since it now has double the RAM requirements, i’ll hold off for the moment.

I am using POD Farm to record guitar since that is the only guitar support Reason has at the moment. I also use Guitar Rig 5 from Native Instruments for practicing because it sounds really warm and natural. They really got the cabinet modeling right in Guitar Rig 5. I just dial up a factory preset and pretty much never have to mess with anything because it sounds amazing right out of the box.

Guitars

As far as guitars, i’m still using my trusty Les Paul Goldtop that was made on my birthday. It has a thick 50’s neck, which makes it hard for doing any fast upper neck work, but it has god-like tone. As a result, i’m considering picking up a cheap shredder guitar, but I don’t know what yet. Also my brother-in-law let me borrow his little Fender Mustang practice amp and that thing totally rocks! Very versatile and sounds great for a little 20w solid state box.

Regarding strings, I am bummed that they don’t sell DR strings here in Germany, at least not that I have found. They’re my fav. For now i’m using D’Addario 10’s which are ok. They feel more stiff to me than DR’s though.

That’s it for now. Enough talking. Just do…
Stay tuned, rock soldiers.

Cakeboy at the Blue Cafe Long Beach CA 1997

Cakeboy at the Blue Cafe Long Beach CA 1997

My good buddy, Bob Schallau, dug up this video of us playing with one of my old bands, Cakeboy, doing a show at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach, CA in 1997. Look at these youngsters!

Vocals & Rhythm Guitar: Kristoff Ball
Lead Guitar: Sean Earley (moi)
Bass: Bob Schallau (Writer for Rock.About.com)
Drums: Sully O’Sullivan
MC: Ras-1 (Long Beach Dub Allstars, Long Beach Shortbus)

Playing for Cakeboy had a fringe benefit of free haircuts because Kristoff is a kick ass hair stylist who now owns the Kristoff Ball Salon in Beverly Hills.

The band was a side project for me after I moved to Long Beach. At the time I was playing with John Oszajca & working on a demo deal for Paradigm Records. John’s girlfriend at the time was a bartender and so the stipulation to get me to move to from Seattle to LBC was that I never had to pay for drinks.

Admittedly, as a result, my Long Beach days are all a drunken blur, so my memories come in small, strange, whiskey & tequila filled bursts. (My liver hurts just thinking about it)

A year long hallucination of good and bad times that will never be forgotten.

Attention Authors! A Digital Call to Arms

Attention Authors! A Digital Call to Arms

Writers, authors and publishers have been influencing technology and culture since the written word was invented. I am constantly reminded of this every day on my commute to work, when my train crosses over the river and passes thought Mainz Germany, which is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the father of the movable type printing press.

This invention was one of the key catalysts for starting the Renaissance and the scientific revolution. It’s creation occurred over 500 years ago, and yet I am shocked and amazed when I think of all of the revolutionary events that have occurred because of it, just in the span of my lifetime.

In the past few years we have experienced a new renaissance of sorts, in the growth of ebooks, ebook sales, ereader devices and the self publishing industry.

It is now possible for an author to write, self publish and sell their own books online, literally from a mobile device and are able to make a decent living from it. Some are making millions from it.

The Good News

The good news is, that no longer are we restricted to having to rely entirely on a publishing company as a gatekeeper to successfully promote and sell our books.

We have reached a point where the same promotional, printing, sales and distribution capabilities, once only available to major publishing companies are becoming available to everyone. These tools are free and easily accessible online, which is also, I might add, where the readers are browsing and doing a majority of their shopping.

The Bad News

The bad news is just that. The old ways of browsing for new books in the book stores are rapidly disappearing as major brick and mortar stores are losing out to digital and going out of business. Ebooks are now outselling print books (according to Amazon) and as a result, the majority of the promotional focus is now done online.

The new prime time is no longer sitting around the TV at night with the family or reading the newspaper. It is now online, on the mobile devices, on your Facebook wall, in the blogs and in the apps. If you want to market a product successfully, these new mediums are where you now have to target.

To add to this growing pressure to adapt to all of these changes, consider this:

According to a recent article on Smashing Magazine:

“…if you recorded all human communication from the dawn of time to 2003, it’d take up about 5 billion gigabytes of storage space. Now we’re creating that much data every two days.”

What this means is we are in the middle of an exponential growth curve of garbage content production. People are writing and publishing in droves and without publishers and editors to filter it, “most” of it is pretty bad. Without the help of contextual platforms such as Google, Apple’s Siri, Facebook, and other upcoming services that help to push you relevant information based on your interests, it will soon become impossible to separate the cream from the crap.

As a result, people will continue to rely on these filters to insure that they are receiving relevant content and the ability of authors and writers to stay on the good side of these filters, will require considerable focus on tech and networking.

Welcome To The World of The New Digital Author

Because of all of these changes and challenges, authors are now facing the paradox of both the incredible freedom to control their financial destinies, but also the pressure to adapt, learn and add a whole new mandatory layer of tech, marketing and promotional skills to their toolbox.

It is no longer just a matter of being a good writer these days. In order to stay competitive and earn a decent living as a writer, artist, musician, or any other type of creative profession for that matter, you have to start thinking strategically and you have to think digitally.

Unless you polish your online marketing skills and learn how to compete strategically by making your quality writing, books and products stand out from the masses and index in these new contextual search engines, you will be buried.

Selling digital content is a whole new ballgame. (Just ask the musicians and porn producers!) It requires a digital marketing strategy, an author platform, a mechanism for traffic, discovery, research, lead capture, sales, communication and networking and as a result, an overarching understanding of all the complexities involved. Now, more so than ever, because of the highly competitive ebook prices, it also requires a major focus on the backend strategy and the upsell.

The reality is, if you want to make a living as a writer, you now need a hybrid of BOTH mad writing skills AND ninja digital marketing skills. It is not just a luxury anymore. It is a necessity.

Start Now!

Should you be blogging, using social media, building a platform, and digitizing your work? The answer is YES to all of it. It has been for some time now. It is a moot point.

Sure this is a lot to learn, and I definitely suggest moderation, but just get started. Learn something. Take action and do it NOW!

Summary

To summarize, there are a ton of new opportunities for authors for selling and promoting their work, however the down side is that people are jumping on the bandwagon in droves. If you want to stay competitive you need digital marketing skills and you need to start developing them now.

Let me say before I close that I can’t predict the future. In many ways I feel we are reaching a critical mass. I have fears for authors, both published and self published in regards to their means of rising above the noise and growing and maintaining a large enough fan base to be able to make a decent living selling their work.

On one hand, I am full of doom and gloom for the industry. On another hand, part of me is screaming RELAX! Just write good stuff and people will follow.

I think it is a little of both. We need to put continued focus on writing great stuff, however we also need to have the skills to stay in the game or else things will be getting very difficult for authors very quickly.

What are your thoughts on the future of publishing? Do you have a digital strategy? If so, I would love to hear about it.

Old Dreams, New Goals, A New Direction and a LOT to Explore

Old Dreams, New Goals, A New Direction and a LOT to Explore

When I was young, I can remember having some sort of dream or daydream about where I would be when I got older.

From what I can remember, the picture in my head is just a scene of myself with a beautiful woman I was married to. We were walking hand and hand down a tree lined country lane, somewhere in Europe. It was autumn and I could clearly see the particles blowing around in the light of the sun, as it streaked through the trees. A dog ran by us and up the driveway to a beautiful stone country house with a red door and large arched windows. There was a red Karmann Ghia in the driveway, which is weird because I hate red cars and I hate old VW’s even more.

I’m not sure if I actually made this up or maybe I just saw an ad in some 70’s magazine with the photo, but the image still sticks with me and is crystal clear. Somehow I remember thinking, that’s me and this is where i’ll end up. When I think about what I did for a living, my first thought was an author, or a professor or maybe a scientist?

I write a lot about making plans and setting goals. My blog, for example,  plays a large part in achieving my goals, but I’ll admit that unfortunately it has suffered from a lack in focus for a long time now. It’s hard when you have so many scattered interests as I do, but at some point you have to stop the analysis paralysis and just focus.

Time to set a goal or set a dream and take action towards it.

(more…)

How to Write a Book in 10 Minutes a Day with a Mobile Phone, while Standing on a Train.

How to Write a Book in 10 Minutes a Day with a Mobile Phone, while Standing on a Train.

I am officially an author. On July 17, 2012 I published my first book on Amazon Kindle. It took two years to write, and a majority of it was done using a mobile phone or an iPad, while standing on the train from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt Germany, during my long commutes to and from work.

Yes, two years is a long time to write a book, especially when edited down, was only about 120 pages. or so. The first year was kind of a wash because I just kept rewriting the first 2 pages over and over. It wasn’t until the following year where I actually took it seriously, created a solid outline (a plan) and dug in.

The goal of this book was not to write a bestseller or change the world. It’s certainly not a feel good, Oprah Club, curl up with a cup of tea, kind of book. (In fact it’s a little bit “shocking” but more on that later.)

It was simply to just write a book, finish it and publish it. It was purely an exercise in completion. In my post about creating a 20 year plan for myself, writing a book was one of my 2 year short term goals. Well… mission accomplished.

It almost didn’t happen though.. (more…)

On Thinking INSIDE The Box

On Thinking INSIDE The Box

Thought for the Day: While innovative thinking is a much discussed, rare, valuable and sought after skill these days, sometimes thinking INSIDE the box can be the hardest thing to do.

My advice would be that before you go spending valuable time, energy, money and resources dreaming up some BIG idea and glorifying the need for “new, creative, crazy and innovative” make sure you first have a solid grasp of the “old, tried and true, reliable and predictable.” Chances are you haven’t even scratched the suface of what is right in your very own backyard.

  • What underutilized or untapped resources do you have hiding in the closet or right under your nose?
  • Who do you already know that you can ask to help you?
  • What can you do to make what you already have, even better?

I’d be willing to bet that you have way more options than you think.

New isn’t necessarily better. Sometimes the best new ideas are the old ones that are just reanalyzed and better thought through.