Blog Archives

Jim Washburn, Dick Boak, and The Martin Archives

The Martin Archives, Jim Washburn with Dick Boak, is a unique inside look into C.F. Martin & Co.’s reign as America’s oldest and most revered guitarmaker – viewed through a selection of images, correspondence, documents, and reproduced artifacts chosen from some 700,000 items the company has amassed over nearly two centuries. The excerpt below takes a look further at the book and its compilation with Noisey.com.


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Forty years into his career at America’s oldest guitar company, the luthier and polymath talks about C.F. Martin & Co’s history and impact on popular culture.

The music industry’s most influential players are often its least visible: the record executives we never see, the lawyers whose names we don’t know, the recording engineers whose names we’ve heard but who we wouldn’t recognize on the street. These are the people that see how music is made and know how the artists act offstage. We may not know their names, but they are the industry’s gatekeepers, its preservationists and visionaries.

Take Dick Boak, director of the museum and archives at C.F. Martin and Company who entered the business 40 years ago while dumpster diving. During the counterculture movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, Boak was a poet, artist, and woodworker who specialized in building instruments. When he requested permission to pick through the guitar factory’s leftover wood scraps while traveling through Nazareth, Pennsylvania in 1976, he was impressed by their selection. “I hit the jackpot with rosewood and mahogany and ebony and spruce: woods I had never seen before, let alone at the dimensions and sizes I needed to experiment with guitar making,” Boak recalls. After he sorted through the piles, Boak was asked for samples of his work and shortly thereafter was offered a job. In the decades since, Boak has built hundreds of specialized guitars and helped develop Martin’s artist relations and archive departments, becoming the company’s in-house expert. “I’m a little overly close to Martin,” Boak says now. “I would’ve done the job for free.”

In his early years at Martin, Boak introduced the idea of signature guitars to the company. In 1994, the company produced their first, the Gene Autry model and, since then, the specialized, artist-driven guitar has become an industry staple.. These days, Boak busies himself with cultivating Martin’s historical documents, a task most recently documented by The Martin Archives, a book co-authored by Boak and Jim Washburn that was released this month by Hal Leonard. “It’s Dick’s life’s work, in a way,” Washburn says of the book. “He has a huge appreciation for what the company was and has the vision to project that into the future.”

Though it took Washburn less than two years to write The Martin Archives’ content, Boak’s work on the project began in the early 2000s when he, Washburn and author Richard Johnston collaborated on an earlier project documenting Martin’s history titled Martin Guitars: An Illustrated Celebration of America’s Premiere Guitarmaker. When they stumbled upon dozens of boxes of company documents in an old factory attic, Boak became determined to preserve the materials and search for others that might exist around the country. He collaborated with museums, music historians, libraries, and eBay traders to track down old photos, newspaper clippings, sales receipts and flyers. When he approached Washburn about The Martin Archives, he handed over a hard drive containing about 4,000 documents.

In the following months, Washburn sifted through the documents Boak provided and research of his own to define the book’s narrative. What they discovered was not only proof of a company’s success but of a country’s march through time. Simple things like factory blueprints and the introduction of paperclips and carbon paper to the company’s filing system told a different side of Martin’s story. “We saw all these inventions come along. Martin moved with the times to take advantage of those things,” Washburn says. “[The book] marks American history as it changed, as seen through the eyes of this one company.”

 


Read the full interview here.

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#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent Harmony Central Review

#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, interweaves a wild and entertaining adventure with his off-color social commentary on a dying industry in a rapidly changing world – a world in which the Internet fails to stave the economic divide, independent musicians have no shot at a living wage, all because Big Tech controls the commerce of music at all levels. Below is an excerpt of a review posted by Harmony Central.


00147344A decade ago, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman, a collected publication of message board posts from anonymous user “Mixerman,” skewered the music industry from behind the mixing console. Arrogant, questionably talented musicians, meddling and insane producers, and the moneymen of artist marketing populated Mixerman’s “identities changed to protect the guilty” true story about the sausage factory that churned out radio-ready “product” in the early-00s. It was instant hit in engineering and musician circles, and truly a product of its time, with big label hubris blinding the industry to the fact that they were already, much like Wile E. Coyote, treading air ten feet beyond the edge of the cliff, waiting for self-awareness to initiate the inevitable plunge into the canyon (cue slide whistle). Funny, ironic, and incredibly insightful, The Daily Adventures of Mixerman combined industry and engineering information in an easy-to-digest format for casual readers through a an involving story and solid narrative beats. Long-since outed as producer/engineer Eric Sarafin, Mixerman began publishing chapter-length blog posts on his site in 2015 that are now collected in the 304 page hardcover novel #Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent, published by Hal Leonard.

#Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent stars the same narrator/author as TDAoMM, but this time fully embraces fiction to tell the very real story of where music production was at in the year 2015. The story can be summarized as such: Mixerman agrees to mentor the son of an Indian billionaire in exchange for a fat paycheck and gets involved in a financially risky race to create a 5 million dollar hit… shenanigans ensue. The narrative and pace are solid and engaging, and like TDAoMM, the characters have voices and personalities that are quirky yet grounded in reality, but the narrator’s journey is really just (satisfying) trappings for a bigger story; the state of the music industry, technology, and even Western Culture.


To read the full review, click here.

Deke Sharon at the Drama Book Shop

World-renowned arranger, producer, and author Deke Sharon recently visited the Drama Book Shop in New York City for a book signing of The Heart of Vocal Harmony: Emotional Expressing in Group Singing and a discussion. The discussion, led by Steven McCasland, covered his beginnings in a cappella, the broadway play In TransitHeart of Vocal Harmony, plus more. Take a look at the video below.



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The Heart of Vocal Harmony focuses on the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. This book is like no other a cappella book that has been released. Most of the other a cappella books have been about teaching people how to sing technically well. The goal with this book was to inspire groups to take that extra step with their vocals. It goes beyond being a great singer and sounding ‘pretty.’ What emotions an you exude to your audience? What can you do to make a difference in their lives?

It’s about taking this music….and bringing it to you and infusing it with your own meaning, your own personality, your own character.

What sets The Heart of Vocal Harmony apart is its focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.

Don’t just pick a piece of music because you like it. Don’t just pick a piece of music because you’re like, “Well, it’s popular right now.” Pick of piece of music because you think there’s something you can bring to it to that will make it at least as good, if not better.

The Heart of Vocal Harmony is not just for a cappella groups – it is also for vocal harmony groups, ensembles, and choirs atall levels, with or without instruments. In addition to the process, the book features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups – including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more.

Since I find myself talking and working with these groups on the same fundamental things over and over again, I should write some piece down so that people can start to think about music from this perspective because it’s really the place that it should come from and it’s the thing that draws us all to music as listeners.

 

 

Deke Sharon, New York Times Feature

Deke Sharon, author of The Heart of Vocal Harmony, was recently featured in the New York Times. His latest venture? A Broadway play, In Transit.  In addition the “guru of a capella” shared stories of his evolving career and his lifelong mission.


00156135World-renowned arranger and producer Deke Sharon, whose credits include television’s The Sing Off and Pitch Slapped, the movies Perfect Pitch and Perfect Pitch 2, and, this fall, Broadway’s first a cappella musical, In Transit, puts emotion where it belongs – front and center – in The Heart of Vocal Harmony.

Where did a career like Deke’s begin? Back in the early 90s, he was the co-founder of House of Jacks with singers he met not he college circuit. A few years later he enrolled in Tufts University just so he could join their a cappella group, Beezlebubs. In the midst of all this Kurk Richard Toohey Jr. became Deke Sharon.

It wasn’t meant to be a stage name. Everybody called me Deke, and my mom had remarried, so I had all these different names in my childhood. I just wanted an identity of my own.

That newly found identity poured through Deke’s work for years to come. With a book such as The Heart of Vocal Harmony he is fulfilling his lifelong mission of creating harmony with harmony. A capella has surely evolved since Deke began his career back in the 90s.  In addition to In Transit, he’s traveling to workshops, camps, master classes, concerts, recurring studios, and overseeing the touring group Vocalosity.

In his book, The Heart of Vocal Harmony there’s focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.

He truly believes that groups of people singing together creates goodness int he world. And at this moment in time, we really need that kind of harmony.

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The Heart of Vocal Harmony features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups, including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more. It is a unique and invaluable tool for helping singers connect with the song and deliver powerful and emotional performances each and every time.


Check out the full feature here.

Deke Sharon Introduces The Heart of Vocal Harmony

Deke Sharon, author of The Heart of Vocal Harmony, shares his insight on a cappella and how groups need to feel instead of constantly focusing on the technicality of it all. He is a world-renowned arranger and producer with television credit’s Pitch Slapped and The Sing Off in addition to movie credits for Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2.


 

00156135Deke Sharon has been heralded “The Father of Contemporary A Capella” and he is passionate about music. The goal with tis latest book is to inspire groups to take that extra step with their vocals. It goes beyond being a great singer and sounding ‘pretty.’ What emotions an you exude to your audience? What can you do to make a difference in their lives?

He has said that the difference between a rehearsal sounding great on one day and then horrible on the next has to do with emotion. Most rehearsals spend time focusing on notes, rhythms, and precision. There is too much focus on the musical and vocal techniques and not enough on the emotional technique.

This book is like no other a cappella book that has been released. Most of the other a cappella books have been about teaching people how to sing technically well. The Heart of Vocal Harmony focuses on the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. His previous book A Cappella Arranging was instructive, providing insight on how to create the music, this book  turns those notes into passion.

The Heart of Vocal Harmony is not just for a cappella groups –
it is also for vocal harmony groups, ensembles, and choirs atall levels, with or without instruments. In addition to the process, the book features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups – including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more!

Figure out how can we consistently create music on stage that inspires and transforms an audience.

Deke Sharon


Dave will be the vocal orchestrator for the first ever a cappella Broadway musical, In Transit,  debuting this November.

Bobby Borg looks inside his new book, Business Basics for Musicians

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics for Musicians, sat down to talk with independent artist, Lisa Ciaccio to talk about the art of getting things done and other key points from in his book. Check it out!

00139915There has never been a greater need for musicians to understand the music business than now, when emerging technologies make it possible for artists to act as their own record labels, and new contracts are structured to grab the biggest slice of an artist’s revenue pie. But in a digital age overflowing with confusing and ever-changing information, musicians need trusted business advice from a veteran artist who can break down the basics in a language they understand.

Business Basics for Musicians is the layperson’s guide to the music industry, written by a professional musician for other musicians. The book not only covers legal aspects such as copyright and record contracts, it also shows to how to deal with the people involved along the way: band members, managers, attorneys, talent agents, and producers. Business Basics for Musicians will help musicians to faster navigate to success.

With interviews, anecdotes, and review quizzes, this guide will help artists master business essentials quickly so they can get back to doing what they love best – creating music.

Listen: Entertainment Drive Thru with Bobby Borg

Entertainment Drive Thru hosts Dan and Anna Zerin chat with Bobby Borg about his new book, Music Marketing for the DIY Musician.

 >>Listen Here<<

00124611Written by a professional musician for other musicians, Music Marketing for the DIY Musician is a proactive, practical, step-by-step guide to producing a fully integrated, customized, low-budget plan of attack for artists marketing their own music. In a conversational tone, it reveals a systematic business approach employing the same tools and techniques used by innovative top companies, while always encouraging musicians to stay true to their artistic integrity. It’s the perfect blend of left-brain and right-brain marketing.

This book is the culmination of the author’s 25 years in the trenches as a musician and entrepreneur, and over a decade in academic and practical research involving thousands of independent artists and marketing experts from around the world. The goal is to help musical artists take control of their own destiny, save money and time, and eventually draw the full attention of top music industry professionals. It’s ultimately about making music that matters – and music that gets heard!

4 Steps To Improve your chances for a successful music career

Bobby Borg, author of Music Marketing for the DIY Musician, whips up some more wisdom in this article from Echoes!

 

In my 15 years of teaching and consulting, I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a young musician say, “I just do what I do, and if anyone likes it, they’ll buy it.

“My reply? Congratulations, you’re a true artist.”

But as you get a little older and your responsibilities increase with a mortgage, spouse, and kids, this attitude is dangerous unless you have another source of income or you’re just a hobbyist. Make no mistake, music is an art, but having a successful music career and making money at it is a serious business.

What follows are a few tips that might help improve your chances for having a successful music career without compromising your integrity.

Have a clear vision

Success starts with a vision – and a vision statement. A vision statement is a declaration of where you’d like your career to be in seven to ten years down the road. With this defined and in place, it’s far easier to map out the directions for how you’re going to get to your desired destination.

A vision statement summarizes what you are truly passionate about, and includes everything from the type of music you’d like to create, the products you might release, and the overall brand image you might like to impart on your intended audience.

Long before Marilyn Manson hit the scene, he envisioned himself as being a “pop star who would shock the world.” He kept drawings of costumes and stage set designs along with other business and creative details in a personal notebook. This was Manson’s “North Star” – his guiding light. Several platinum albums later, he truly succeeded at bringing his vision to fruition.

As the saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you can surely fall for anything.” So what’s guiding your music career? If you haven’t thought about it before, now is a good time.

Identify opportunities or needs

While keeping your vision at heart, it’s time to examine what’s going on in the world around to ensure that your vision actually fills a need and represents a true opportunity – from a creative and marketing standpoint. As previously stated, Marilyn Manson had a clear vision of being a pop star who would shock the world. But he also identified and filled a specific void in the marketplace – and perhaps even a specific societal need – for an entertaining and horrifically dramatic “new” stage personality, similar to what a now aging Alice Cooper had done decades earlier. In other words, the commercial marketplace was ripe for an artist like Marilyn Manson, and he capitalized on the opportunity unlike any other artist.

A valuable tool to help you examine the external (and internal) environments of the marketplace is called a “SWOT analysis.” SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The idea is to identify external needs and opportunities that match your internal strengths while also considering your internal weaknesses and the external risks (e.g. competition) that could impede your ability to succeed. While all this might sound like business school jargon, the most successful companies, both big and small, use the SWOT model. And with a little training, so can you!

Don’t worry whether Lil Dr. Dre, or anyone else, knew this stuff

Make no mistake – successful people in all fields apply marketing and business principles to get their desired results, whether they know it or not. From jazz guitarist Pat Metheny who advanced traditional jazz music into the future with the use of synthesizers and robotics, to Nirvana who stamped out cookie-cutter hair metal and created a whole new genre of music called grunge, new trails were forged that filled a very specific market need. The advantage of being consciously aware of certain marketing principles up front is that you don’t have to find your path by chance. Rather, you can use these helpful tools at your own discretion to help you achieve your vision.

Be an innovator

Be clear that the marketing approach that I am discussing here is not asking you to compromise your artistic integrity and to “sell out,” but rather to adjust with the world around you, be more unique and innovative, and to “buy in.” Let’s face it, creating art is a beautiful thing, but creating a sound and style that is new and fresh, having it enjoyed by a large audience, and receiving compensation so that you can quite your day job is simply awesome! Remember, creating music in a vacuum and simply hoping it is successful can be a risky proposition if you intend to be more than a hobbyist.

In closing…

Always stay true your vision, but be willing to adjust that vision to fill a specific need or void in the marketplace that matches your strengths. If you can fill that need first and do it better than anyone else, the rest just might be your amazing history.

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WATCH: 108 Rock Star Guitars Promo

Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail, and a truly groundbreaking vision, Lisa Johnson’s guitar art is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock-and-roll ride. Check out this awesome video promo for 108 Rock Star Guitars!

Book Giveaways

Hal Leonard and Backbeat books have 3 exciting book giveaways! Enter to win copies of 108 Rock Star Guitars, Brian May’s Red Special, and Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock. Hurry before the contests close!

>>CLICK TO WIN!<<
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