Category Archives: Pick Guards – Music Analysis

DIY, By Choice or Consequence? – Part 2 of 2

Welcome to part 2 of DIY: By Choice or Consequence.  What are the limits of DIY? What are the downsides? Below are some things to consider. Read Part 1 here.

I think artists that are uninhibited create the best art. These inhibitions include physical limitations, but mental ones as well.  And realizing that you don’t need that $500 microphone to sing is a big step. Work with what you got. Don’t be afraid to try something you haven’t done before. Therefore, it becomes more than just doing it yourself, but a complete philosophy on how you approach what you create.

Now, DIY does have some drawbacks. The most obvious is that for some, DIY has never been a choice. Some artists have to do it themselves because they do not have the funds to do it any other way. Some DIY because no one else will help them to do it. Joan Jett had to start her own record label to get signed. All-female bands in the 90s had to create their own scene when they were excluded from the burgeoning hardcore and indie ones. And at times, DIY can be overwhelming because there is so much work to do as an artist. Writing, recording, producing, mastering, promoting, touring, social networking, press interviews, photo shoots, practicing, distributing your material, staying informed of the latest music news…let’s just say that it can be too much for the solo artist, let alone a band to handle themselves. That is why many artists hope to get on a big label because so much of this work can be delegated out. Does that mean every band on a big label is just a puppet? No.  Does that mean every DIYer is awesome? No. It just means that there is a lot of work to do, and finding a way to make it work for the music is key without sacrificing art or paying the rent.

That is why I say we can strike a happy medium. We can make DIY a positive choice, a valuable and actual option, while making it a positive consequence of our increasingly interconnected culture.  You can retain your DIY ethic without selling out. You are your own expert.  It’s not a last resort due to financial constraints. You can have autonomy over your art, but still look for help from others around you, either friends, other artists, professionals, or those in the industry who share the same ethic. While for some DIY is a trend, the hipster thing to do for those with too many options, privileges, and time, I think we can safely keep DIY as a useful item in our  artistic toolbox without loosing sight of the goal—to create really good music.

Photos via crownjewel82, wadem, and sourdiesel. This post was originally titled “DIY: Back To Basics” written for and published on Crowdbands.

DIY, By Choice or Consequence? – Part 1 of 2

DIY…to do it yourself. It is a phrase that resonates with many musicians and artists alike. It has power, it has potential, and it can be overwhelming.

But what does it mean to DIY? What is a DIY ethic? How can you as a band or artist make the best of it without burning yourself out? And what can DIY mean for the future of music? All of these thoughts are considered below.

To “Do It Yourself,” as a band or artist, means that you take control over much of the production, distribution, and creation of the music. This can be anything from choosing your own material, recording and mixing the tracks, designing your album art, burning CDs, doing your own PR, to distributing your albums out of the back of your beat-up Volvo. Many bands and artists do this now, including myself. Other things that you can DIY include: screen printing your own t-shirts, hand numbering cassettes, hosting your own basement shows, viral fund-raising, making fan-zines, and lo-fi music videos. DIY has a deep history in the punk and indie music movements, which tended to move away from mass produced and conglomerate control of music to centralizing it in the hands of you and me. Back to basics.

Riot grrrls, street punks, and intellectual indies all could appreciate the uniqueness of becoming closer to your craft, and engaging your audiences in a real way. For example, many fan zines promoted DIY by just getting people to speak their thoughts and to become active in their musical communities.   Artists would invite fans on stage to sing with them, help create their merchandise and spread the word.

Another way to do this was by starting their own bands and record labels. It didn’t matter if you had never played an instrument before, or didn’t have years of professional training, it was about the process. It was about letting go of your  inhibitions and just doing. The result wasn’t necessarily the most glamorous, but getting yourself out of the box was. You don’t need to be an expert to do a, b, or c. You don’t need a multi-million dollar record deal to make music, tour, or gain a fan base.  The old avenues do not necessarily guarantee success, and artists are now looking around for new ways of doing thing in the digital age.  The internet has aided in this tremendously with social media tools and networking websites to help artists that may never have had a shot at a big record deal get exposure. DIY is a tool to break the mold.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Photos via crownjewel82, wadem, and sourdiesel. This post was originally titled “DIY: Back To Basics” written for and published on Crowdbands.

Of Breasts and Guitars

This isn’t about what you think it is…

Ok, it is, but not exactly. I am sure you are aware of the grossly sexed-up instrument ads that feature buxom bikini blonds selling you the latest guitar, amp, or pedal FX. Like this ad for example. ‘Cause you know, nothing says this thing is awesome than double DDs in your face. Much like car ads with waify models spread upon them, or beer ads that proclaim you will get laid by this hot babe if you down this particular ale, advertising relies heavily on sexualized and objectified (heterosexual) feminine bodies to persuade you to buy their product. See Gender Ads for a complete work on the subject.

However, this post isn’t exactly about that. It’s about breasts, yes, but about those players who actually have them and play the instrument, not merely are advertising tools.

Anyways, so what do I mean? Well, as a guitar player, who is quite endowed on the top half, just simply playing your guitar can be uncomfortable and require some adjustments. Unless you can literally play your guitar so low that it hits your knees, you probably need to wear your guitar somewhere around your hips to waist. If you have double DDs for example, the guitar strap either has to squeeze right in between your breasts, or over one of them, causing a bit of a squish, if you will. Your breasts then are either extremely obvious with the guitar strap nestled in between them as you play, or, your breast hurts because it is being suffocated as you belt out how much you love rock and roll. It’s tough being a girl, and all we wanna do is have fun. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)

Ok, you say. So, why don’t you just play sitting down then? Great question! Similar problem. Consider acoustic guitars for example. You know the classic  dreadnought shape, and most are quite sizable.  They usually have to be to get rich tone. Sit down with one as a large-breasted woman, and again, adjustments are needed. You can either hold the guitar in front of you, covering your top, but yet again, squishing as you lean over to play, or as I have done before, try to fandangle one breast to sit in the curve of the guitar and the other behind it. Ok, it’s not the most rockstar pose. Frankly it’s weird, annoying, and again, makes playing your instrument while having to worry about how you appear painfully obvious.

It’s bad enough that women as performers have to be constantly aware of their appearance, both sexually and physically, without then having to worry if they can play their instrument without more googley-eyed stares. Looks come before talent in much of our culture, and female artists have to balance between their own personal desires when it comes to their appearance, and what everyone else expects of them to look like. Add on to that, playing your instrument in a somewhat comfortable manner.

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Female Musicians and News (Un)Coverage

So when do female artists get news coverage?

That is a question I have been pondering over the past month. I use a news feed reader to syndicate various current  music magazines and websites such a Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, Exclaim, NPR Music, BBC Music, Blender, Vibe, Venus, as well as, a few smaller ones, and a local Seattle, WA source or two (75 total feeds, 37 different sources.) I then filter out the women in music news for Jukebox Heroines. But, as I have noticed when I scan the headlines, female artists seem to get press for things that have nothing to do with their musicianship. Shocker! Wanting to actually see how poorly music outlets cover female musicians, I decided to do an informal survey.

So, from December 1, 2010 (midnight) to January 7, 2011 (midnight), I cataloged the women in music headlines from my feed reader. “Women in music” articles where articles that mentioned a female artist, an all-female band, musical group with at least one female member, or something specific relating to women in music, such as gender imbalances, women on the top charts, ect, in the article headline. But what I wanted more specifically to find out is when they are covered, are they talked about as musicians in terms of their musicianship, or other things not related to their profession?

Musicianship here will be defined as: Information about touring, music creation, chart success, new music/albums,  music videos, concert footage, personal interviews, collaborations, and/or events. These are the things you expect to read about a musician in a music magazine.

I noted how many article headlines mentioned female artists or bands. Once I had this data, I looked for patterns in news coverage. The patterns fellow into the following categories:

Musicianship, Appearance/Sexuality, Babies!, Relationships, Emotions, and Miscellaneous Non-Music Related Activities

Here are the numbers:

  • Total news feeds – 75 (37 different sources)
  • Total music articles in my feed – 5,318
  • Total “women in music” articles –358
  • Total articles on musicianship –224
  • Total articles not on musicianship –134
  • Total days of the study – 38
  • Average “women in music” news article per day – 9.4
  • Average “women in music” article relating to musicianship – 5.9
  • Average “women in music” article per source per day – .25
  • Average musicianship article per source per day – .16

News about female artists accounted for 6.7% of all music articles in the feeds. News that was actually about female artists’ musicianship was 4.2%.

I then broke down the articles that did not have to do with musicianship into the following categories. The number of articles per category are listed below.

  • Appearance/Sexuality – 19
  • Babies! – 6*
  • Relationships – 28
  • Emotions – 5
  • Health/Death – 21**
  • Misc. Non-Music Related Activities – 55

So, to sum. Women were 6.7% of all total music articles from Dec. 1-Jan.7. and 4.2% of all articles actually about their musicianship.

Out of those articles that mentioned women, 62.6% actually discussed news that was about the artist as a musician and not other endeavors personal or professional. The other 37.4% did not mention the artists’ musicianship.

Female artists who were not covered as artists were talked about in relation to their relationship/marital status 20.9% of the time, pregnancy/children 4.5%, their looks 14.2%, their feelings/emotional outbursts 3.7%, Health or Death 15.7%, and general non-music related activities such as social or political actions, legal issues, finances, gossip  41.0% of the time.

* Six articles in this category were about Mariah Carey’s twins.
** Two news topics (Aretha Franklin’s cancer and the death of Teena Marie) accounted for all of the Health category.

Music sources reported on women in music an average of less than 1 article per day over research period.

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