• Guest Blog: James Rotondi, “How To Write A Song A Week”

    Written by August 12th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    rotos magicactrickedwards4
    James Rotondi is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and writer currently based in New York City. His career includes stints with Air, Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle and Trilon. His current project is his own Roto’s Magic Act, a neo-classic rock act. This is the first installment of his four-part series called “How To Write A Song A Week.” 

    Part One: Fear Takes A Holiday

    The answer to the open question, “How to Write A Song A Week,” is fairly simple: you sit your ass down and write one song every week.

    Ah, but there’s the thing—how do you get yourself to sit down and write that song, what with all the myriad things you have to do, like making money and cleaning the kitchen floor? And just as crucially, why even try to force yourself to write? After all, great songs come as terrific flashes of inspiration from the creative thundercloud, right? Surely, one can’t simply decide to sit down and write a great song. . .

    No, you cannot decide to sit down and write a great song. But you can decide to sit down and write a song, any song, no matter how goofy, transparent, cliché-ridden, or half-assed it may be, and regardless of what that less-than-perfect song will say about you as a human being when you’re done with it. (But Mom said I was “special”!) Of course, you do need some motivation to willingly push yourself into this wobbly, woozy territory of the “okay songwriter,” and there is only one sure-fire force that is guaranteed to make you do it.


    That, at least, is it how it worked for me, when I was invited to join an already-in-progress songwriting club, led by Austin, TX singer-songwriter Bob Schneider, and featuring a few dozen hard-working, career songwriters, including Casey McPherson, Ari Hest, Jason Mraz, Andrea Perry, and many others. The set-up was simple, quite similar to what the great Pat Pattinson has suggested in his essential book Write Better Lyrics [Writer’s Digest Books]. Every member of the group has to hand in a finished song every Friday by midnight, using a new weekly phrase (typically suggested by Bob) somewhere in the lyrics; the songs could be simple acoustic guitar and vocal takes done into a hand-held recorder, even an iPhone, or fully fleshed-out tracks produced in a platform like Pro Tools or Logic, or a band performance, but they absolutely needed to be submitted to the entire group by that midnight deadline, or—and here’s where the fear came in—you were unceremoniously dumped out of the group. (A first infraction might be overlooked, but even then, you didn’t want to push your luck.)

    It would be a bit like finally getting to sit with the cool kids in eighth grade, only to be informed that since you failed to wear the right jeans last Friday, you were suddenly being shunned, left to languish at the nerdy table for eternity. (Yes, I know most of us songwriters ARE nerds, but you get the point…) The fear of getting in only to be cast out was a surprisingly strong motivator, as was the challenge of it, and the realization that one had a strong mandate to raise one’s game as a songwriter, while being inspired by the work of peers who made you feel both chastened and excited to be one among many. And while commentary and criticism were not necessarily encouraged, it invariably felt good to get some appropbation for your work, and to share your enthusiasm for the work of your fellow writers. Many were the weekends I sat utterly gobsmacked by the brillliance of a Clint Wells, Bruce Hughes, Laura Warshauer, Matthew Patrick Davis, or, perhaps especially, Bob Schneider himself.

    Indeed, the combination of accountability, friendly competition and inspiration, and being part of a whirlwind of creative energy meant that after a few years in the club, I had close to 150 new songs. Sure, some of them were more ditties than songs, some more developed or produced than others, and some more in keeping with a given project or another, but, like exercising any muscle, the experience had made me “songwriting fit,” with the added benefit of creating a stockpile of material that I could put to work toward my next album, Into the Unknown. Which is exactly what I did; indeed, every single song on Into the Unknown, began life in the song club—sometimes called the “song machine”—and was then further refined, edited and augmented as I approached rehearsing and tracking. The 14 songs I settled on were simply what I felt were the strongest ones, and the most cohesive ones thematically and stylistically, that I’d written. It was hard not to remember two old music-biz saws; the one about Lennon & McCartney writing dozens and dozens of tunes before thinking any were good enough to record; and the old adage from recording studio culture that there are always enough good players, and rarely enough good songs.

    The other little joy that emerged was that other songwriters in the group invariably released their song-club songs, too, sometimes with the exact same titles, as happened with me and the delightful Andrea Perry using the phrase “Happier Than Ever.” Hers appears on her recent album, Four. Give a listen to both our eventual album versions for a look into how two songwriters, members of a kind of creative crucible together, can find both commonality and individual character out of similar raw materials. Next time we’ll go deeper into setting yourself up to capture that great song idea when inspiration strikes. Actually, screw that—let’s just make sure we’re set up to record and capture a totally mediocre song when it’s 11:59 PM and you’re haven’t done a damn thing yet, and you’re about to be hideously embarrassed in front of a large group of fellow writers. Feeling motivated yet? Thought so. . .


  • striving and surviving in los angeles

    striving and surviving in los angeles


    peace my people. i remember last time we spoke i was in a hotel....living. lol. shouts 2 the shelter hotel in los angeles. stop by and check them out if you ever need a few days. very cool,clean and friendly..... Im happy to write you and confirm im living in an apartment now. OFFICIALLY RECEIVING MAIL IN LOS ANGELES. Things are moving along just fine.  Its a slow process.  Sometimes its so quick its a blur.  Regardless its a blessing.  I have been working with a marketing and distribution company called INDIE POWER.  They have a great track record in many genre's and providing services to indie/major artist campaigns.  I was happy to work here because not only do i love music but i love doing something i love.   Its been a great experience so far and there really are no ceilings to what i can create.  Perception is key to everyday.  its not about the car you drive. Its about the way you move the vehicle.  Everything is hustle and i see life as a surfer's dream.  An ocean full of waves and if you ride one,keep surfing to the next one.  You may wipe out but damnit get back up and surf a bigger wave!! so i just wanted to say THANKS TO EVERYBODY 4 THE LOVE AND GOOD VIBES back to you and yours.



    Live from L.A.

    Have u ever searched for an apartment when your brand new in a city on another side of the country?  Well i may have realized i could suck at something in life...and yes this may be one of them lol.  Nah its all good.  The process has been crazy,displeasing and sometimes hilarious but its all life.  I am thankful to be getting thru challenges and processes that life sends my way.  Damn Tho! I could also use an approval.  I share this post though because i dont only share the positive results in my life.  I love to share the times that just dont work out too because its not about the time working out.  Its about YOU working out.  I know i can do it.  I was born and we were born to strive and achieve our goals.  So as i step back on out there to hit the pavement.  My mind is in a divine state.  Im smiling and greeting the natives as we cross paths.  Im taking in the scenes and the finely inhaled freedom fumes.  Im here baby!
    Not sure where i'll be writing you from next but its always from the heart.  Keep Driving your dreams and pushing your passions.  PEACE!

  • #IREAD--Amanda Palmer: If You’re Asking ‘What’s In It for Me?’ Then You’re In the Wrong Business

    by Paul Resnikoff


    The following guest post comes from Amanda Palmer.  It’s also the foreword to the 4th Edition of the The Future of the Music Business by music industry attorney Steve Gordon (check out the book at futureofthemusicbusiness.com).

    When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

    Mr. Rogers

    If you’re reading this, you’re already not normal– normal people generally don’t want to legitimately “work” in the music business. If you’re reading this, you’re either an artist, in which case you’ve taken a decidedly difficult path in life (why not go into insurance sales?), or you’re somehow affiliated with the giant variety of jobs that are supposed to help the connection between the artist and the rest of the world: a club booker, a music lawyer, a producer, a sync agent.

    I say “supposed to help” because this basic truth can get lost when people head into the noisy, confusing marketplace of sharing, selling and commodifying music–especially as things are changing at the speed of the internet.

    The music business I experienced as a kid was the golden cage/age of the 1980s and 90s, in which the goal was to get signed, and in which the middlemen (the managers, agents, promoters and mainstream media) provided the conduit from the artist to the wide world. The artist’s job was to make music and tour, and it was music business’s job to carry the heavy load of records out the door, make people listen, make people come, make people care.

    That era is over.

    We now live in a world where artists, if they want to, can skip most of the old-school steps and make their own material (recorded on the relative cheap), release it (uploaded to the net at no cost to the artist), promote their own music and book their own tours (via web tools and email lists); and if their music is any good, they can make a living wage. If they have a strong work ethic and good enough material, and a few thousand fans, they can earn enough to survive without ever being “successful” in the eyes of the mainstream media. You’ll never hear about these people. They are out there, working, and they probably have a small handful of people helping them.

    A lot of the jobs that used to be only executed by a manager, agent or producer-engineer are now doable by the small-to-mid-level artist, or the artist’s girlfriend or boyfriend (if the artist’s girlfriend or boyfriend knows basic garage band and/or facebook techniques). Google and email have unlocked of lot of the doors to which only the experts in the music business once had the keys.

    It used to be that if you needed to rent gear, only the local promoters knew how to come to your aid. Now, you can google, make a cell phone call from the back of the van (or if you’re well-loved, twitter to fans to please loan you an bass amp…because yours got blown out last night in Chicago).

    It used to be that if you had a handful of fans in St. Louis, you used to have to rely on the middlemen to get the word out to those people if you were going to return to town . You needed radio. You needed a label with a street team. Now you can post a PDF to your website and email it to your fans in St Louis, asking them to please hit the coffee shops and college bulletin boards on your behalf.

    This may all seem to spell the beginning of a giant DIY culture–and in a way, it does–but in a way, it’s the opposite: no artist can do absolutely everything himself.

    Here’s the thing everyone has to bear in mind as we transition from a stiff hierarchy in music to more of a level playing field, with room for a bigger middle class:

    Working artists still need HELP.

    Someone has to design that PDF. Someone has to make sure it gets to the fans. Someone has to organize and maintain the email list once the artist gets too big to keep track of everything.

    People are constantly wondering what’s going to “become” of the labels of yore. They’ve already collapsed. The old majors are shadows of themselves, or they’ve merged into super-structures.

    The ones that are succeeding, and the ones that will survive, have to somehow manage, in the thick of things, to find a way to do one, fundamental thing, to fulfill a need that will never vanish. The artists need help.

    The companies and individuals who are evolving in the new landscape are able to see that fundamental truth as a ground zero and work upwards from there.

    Whether an artist is trying to make a living via Bandcamp and Kickstarter or signing their entire future and firstborn child to Giant-Major-Label-Promoter-Conglomerate (and both of these things are totally legitimate, depending on the artist), they are still the same: they are working artists.

    If they’re going to actually work on art: 

    They need help getting from place to place.

    They need help answering calls.

    They need help getting the word out.

    They need help collecting their paychecks.

    They need help sending and delivering goods and services to their fans.

    The women and men I know working on the support side of the new-model music industry who are blazing new trails (and blowing by all the people who are bemoaning the past and clinging to the old rules) all have this one thing in common: they want to help. (or, to be honest, they’re really good at faking it–whatever, it works most of the time.)

    Those winning in the music business today adopt an attitude of service. They look at the world and locate who wants the music. They assess the crazed artists who want to make a go of it, and they don’t ask:

    What’s in it for me?

    They ask:

    How can I help?

    And they project this attitude towards those they court and work with.

    In 2010, I broke very loudly and openly from my label, Roadrunner Records. I decided not to sign with another label, and instead, I worked with a small team and we sold things directly to my fans. We used Kickstarter. We used twitter. We blogged and emailed up a storm. We went direct, we mailed records to tens of thousands of homes. It was a shit-ton of work. I needed a lot of help. I was on tour. From the ground control of Amanda-central, people had to man the phones, filter the help lines, provide customer service, and arrange ALL sorts of inexplicable things. By the time my Kickstarter was over, at least a couple hundred of my fans were on a friendly first-name basis with eric@amandapalmer.net, the guy on my team who helped everyone, tirelessly, with their nitty-gritty order questions.

    We didn’t know what kind of help he was going to have to provide for me until the crises happened, but when help was necessary, he helped.

    I’ve been through a mill of managers, assistants, agents and publicists. Some of them wanted to make money more than they wanted to help. Some of the members of my extended team have been with me for twelve years, and some have only lasted six weeks.

    What’s the general pattern? The ones who wanted to help more than they wanted to make money have stayed with me.

    My booking agents used to just call up halls and book gigs for me. Things were simple. Then Twitter and Facebook came along and made flash gigs possible. (I call them “ninja gigs,” and I recommend them to any artist with an acoustic instrument).

    After endless phone calls, explanations and arguments, some my agents began to understand that my desire to show up and play a twittered flash-event in a public park on the day before a gig in Detroit is a feature, not a bug. People would come to the free gigs, connect, and then I’d take polls at the ticketed, money-making show the next night. A lot of people came because they were turned onto the information, one way or another, through the existence of the free flash gig the day before. Promoters used to call my agents, screaming that I was sucking away ticket sales. But the numbers would eventually speak for themselves. Now they listen. They even help.

    The agents who didn’t listen to me, who didn’t try to help, who fought me… they didn’t last.

    Managers used to roll their eyes when I asked them to please, please, please read my blog comments and my twitter feed, so they could understand the day-to-day vibe of the community, so they could listen, and therefore, know how to help me and the fans to connect in the best ways possible.

    The ones who never understood this didn’t last.

    Publicists used to agonize, telling me to please shut up and lay low whenever I traipsed into a controversial situation. I ignored them, kept talking, arguing and engaging people, and all of that work eventually landed me a TED talk that’s been viewed almost ten million times, my own book deal, and a gig writing this introduction. You can’t force people to want to help you, but you can walk away and gravitate towards those who really do want to help.

    And how do you help someone with a big mouth? How do you help an artist who barely wants to talk?

    It’s HARD to help an artist. This will also never change.

    Artists are inherently weird. Music is intangible. Music isn’t concrete, even though it can sometimes seem to be. You’re dealing in the business of feelings, and a strange kind of exchange that extends far beyond the eye-for-an-eye exchange of most businesses. The grey area between help and coercion is wide, and many artists don’t even know what kind of help they need. Worse, many artists have an allergy to certain varieties of help. Letting the artist take the lead is essential if you’re going to be seriously helpful. You can’t assume that all artists want the same things. Ask first, then attack.

    To put it crassly, but it’s a fine analogy: you can’t insist that someone have an orgasm by simply pounding away at them. Asking how they need it may be hard, or awkward, but it’s essential if you’re going to be a good lover.

    All of the tools that Steve is laying out and explaining in the pages to come are for your arsenal of tools, artist and helper alike. Keep everything handy, and know that using the right tool in the right moment is what makes you truly helpful (and if you’re an artist: able to help yourself and those around you who need a lift up).

    The roles that exist in “music business land” (manager, publicist, lawyer, promoter, etc.) originally developed to serve the artist and the audience. To act as a bridge. A connector. A helper. Through the years, that concept has been obscured in a jangle of label expense accounts, self-aggrandizing gate-keepers and gold chains.

    So as the whole system goes up in beautiful new flames, ask yourself: where are you?

    In the burning building?

    Or are you looking for a way to act as a bridge, somewhere on the long, craggy trek a soulful song takes from a Finnish musician’s heart to the heart of a 16-year-old kid in rural Wisconsin, who’s listening with headphones in a crowded cafeteria or standing in the back of a shitty local bar, having snuck in with her fake ID, crying her eyes out?

    Can you imagine yourself thinking – assessing what you’re doing with your time, your energy, your talents, your life – not about your own success, but something even more divine:

    I helped make that moment happen.

    And if you can’t imagine that moment being the most satisfying moment of your life, more satisfying than making all the money, more satisfying than climbing up the corporate ladder, you probably shouldn’t go into the music business.

    Choose something more concrete.

    Go into insurance sales.

    - Amanda Palmer

    Image by Amanda Hatfield, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

  • So i moved across the country......it aint far away.



    peace yall

    been away for a while.  i was caught up in the 9-5, tryna survive life and kinda fell back from bloggin.  during the time i was still living in nj and working a few jobs.  i had a smokeshop job on the weekends which was priceless. love chillin out smokeshop.scotch plains nj.  then i had the 9-5 corporate life job.  Both had their perks and etc but appreciate all the gems i gained along the way no matter what.  FAST FORWARD JULY 2014--- in mid july i quit all my jobs, connected w fam and studio sessions for last time for a while. lit up and lift off on the plane. 


    its been a good vibe. diggin a lot of the scenes and connecting with people. lotta phoneys as well as lotta homies so its always trust your gut and show love.  i can say tho i been learning my way around and just trying to get a move on out here.  Theres lots of challenges and lows just as well as there are highs.  The mentality is truly the most important thing you have to approach each moment.  Gotta have faith.  I gotta say i got a lot of no's from places i tried to either get employed or gain residency into but I smile thru it all.  I was born to strive and never worry about whats outside of my control.  Theres too much more i can focus on. Theres too much more im aware that im blessed to have.  Im finding my forward though and look forward to keeping yall posted on lifes crazy yet blissful adventure that im on.  Stay inspired! 1LOVE!




    The year is moving already. Can't even believe it's already May. Last month I got the chance to spend a week in California. It was a really good and moving experience. I attended the ASCAP expo in Hollywood . I also got a chance to stop by and guest appear on a radio show called Road to Hollywood. Getting a chance to see some familiar faces and meet new ones is always Good. I love going to these conferences, checking out these new areas and just networking with people.  I got a chance to chill in a few clubs and just enjoy a bit of the Los Angeles n  northern Hollywood nightlife.  I also got a moment(s)to enjoy some of the fine coastal cannabis.....and I agree....it's superb. I believe they have a great way of keeping order and regulation amongst the people and local laws of the cities . I like the direction they have chosen to approach medical marijuana and hope the country continues going forward with this........Back to the music though. I had the honor of eating breakfast with one of the great members of Pink Floyd- Mr Scott Page . It was an honor to sit with him and speak on the times of music when he was coming up as well as its evolving times now .  great conversation and many gems learned and shared. Shouts to HOME on Hillhurst ave. Great lil outdoor spot to eat breakfast at. Overall this trip was very enlightening in surely  inspiring.  I look forward to seeing you in many people again California, got some work to do in the meantime though. Time to take it up another notch. Driving dreams


    1 uuup world! happy 2 be here! on tuesday nite i attended an open mic at Dolce Lounge(elizabeth,nj).  My friend D Prados
    hosts the event(INDUSTRY NETWORKING MIXER) and told me about the open mic opportunity.  I accepted the offer and headed
    out.  The event went real well though.  DJ Nacio was on the turntables. I havent seen him in a while.  We both toured for a
    few summers back when i was doin the car show circuits.  He's always been a dope dj so when i knew he was holding down the
    sets,i knew...he was holding down the sets lol. Like old times but with new flava...we rocked out.  It was great to share
    that music with the people.  It was even greater to know it was well received and we connected. Im thankful for this gift
    to make music of my heart and put it in your soul.  Its def a love thing.  As a few more business cards n mutual words of
    encouragement were exchanged..the nite wound down and it was time 2 head home.  As i sat lit a celebratory yogastick
    (doobie)...i reflected on things i could have done better and as well things i should be proud of.  Not sure what lies
    ahead...but only way to see it is if i strive ahead.  So i thank everyone for supporting in the different ways that they
    do.  I am going to keep updating and bringing the best of me that i can bring.  I only wish you all to do the same and
    bring the world the best of you each time.....i can only imagine the greatness we can reach....well time to slowly turn

    imagination into reality.  stay gifted. stay lifted. see u soon! DreamDriving

  • Nowadaze

    April will be amazing...gotta stay driven to create the vision tho.