The CD is dead

 

I am an independent artist. Technically. I make music. While, I have no dreams to make a living making music, I do have a desire for the music that I make to be heard. And as a result of that desire, I try hard to keep my fingers on the pulse of the music industry in regards to how people consume music. For years I have watched the digital medium become more and more prevalent. And for those same years, I, like so many of my fellow independent artists, have been in denial about the compact disc. I have burned CD's, passed out CD's and sold CD's. I have even had a successful Kickstarter campaign to print up 1000 CD's. So, it's with a heavy heart that I have finally faced the cold hard fact: The CD is dead.

 

It became crystal clear to me just last week. I was talking to someone about my last project and she seems genuinely interested in the music. I happened to have a CD on me and when I handed it to her, she responded, "Oh, man. I wanted to hear it now." Then she waved her phone.

 

It hit me like rock. She listens to music on her phone. Like I do. Like everyone on my morning commute does. On occasion, I see an iPod or random mp3 player. But I never see a portable CD player. In fact, the last time I saw a man with a portable CD player, he also had on mismatched shoes and was talking to his sandwich.

 

I became aware of what is required to listen to music on a CD. A car with CD player? A CD player at home? An old computer with a CD drive? Maybe, if the person has an old computer, they will rip the CD to said computer, then upload the ripped tracks to iTunes or whatever music manager is connected to their phone. Seems like a lot to me. In fact it is which is why I have over twenty unused CD's in the bottom drawer of my buffet.

 

We live in a "right now with the least amount of steps" era and compact discs don't provide the type of instant gratification people want. It is so much easier to just Google the person, find them online and listen. Now. And that ease is the death blow to the compact disc.

 

Don't just take my word for it. The 2014 Mid-Year Soundscan Report by Ed Christman published on Billboard.com opened with the following:

 

"While digital streaming revenue growth continues to offset the decline in digital album and track sales, the music industry still has the same problem it has wrestled with for over a decade: physical music's decline is outpacing digital growth."

 

The IFPI 2014 report states that physical music accounts for 51.4 per cent of industry revenue. The report attributes this number to gifting, box sets and the increase in vinyl (up 32 percent in the US in 2013). If the number 51.4 percent sounds high, consider this: Spiller's Records, the world's oldest record store, opened in 1894. The internet's first music store, Ritmoteca.com, opened in 1998. For 104 years, music revenue was a 100 percent physical. And it only took 16 years to cut that number in half. Moreover, all this data is industry data. So, the way I see it is if the Beyoncé’s, Lorde's and Lady Antebellum's of the world are experiencing a decline in physical music sales, I don't stand a chance.

 

The CD is dead. It is clear to me that investing in CD's is as archaic as writing checks and using pay phones.

 

The best way to a person's ears now is their phone. If I want people to hear my music, I have to utilize the avenues that get my jams on to phones in the least amount of steps. That way the next time someone says they want to listen to my music now, they can actually listen to it. Now.

 

Some people just want to fight

I have come to believe that people want war. People want something to fight for because people want to fight.

The idea for example that the similarities between monotheistic religions out weight the differences should invoke peace. Yet, it provokes war. Because both side has people who want to fight and the differences provide a reason.

The same holds true for race relations. Law enforcement relations. Every group has fighters looking for a reason to fight.

It would be nice if we were all lovers. All looking for any excuse to be peaceful.

I sold a few articles to the RedEye Chicago

For a hot minute, I was selling articles to the RedEye Chicago. The editor was a great guy and though 80% of what I pitched was rejected, a few got thru the crack and made it online. Here are the links







My Two Cents on VH-1's Sorority Sisters

This post is about the show Sorority Sisters on VH-1. 

If you don't know about the show you can learn about it here. And for back story on the backlash you can go here and here and here.



Here are my two cents as an Alpha Phi Alpha man that loves his sorority sisters, especially those made at Clark Atlanta University, and as a man that loves ratchet television.

I watched enough of Sorority Sisters to know that I don't like the show. And what I don't like is that the women of the show are presented to the viewers as members of Black Greek Lettered organizations but there is no service.

That's my beef. The absence of service.

I have absolutely no problem with the behavior of the women on the show. It is a formula for good reality television and it sells ad time which is the goal for every television show.

I know a gang of ratchet AKA's; Delta's; Zeta's; and Rho's. And I know that everybody mad about this show does too.

Furthermore, not one woman on the show was half as extra as some of the "sorority sisters" I love and adore and would give my life for.

But even those ratchet sorority sisters that I love and adore are almost always knee deep in service.
The letters not only mean a commitment to each other as sisters but a commitment to the community at large to serve it and it's people. That commitment to service is what separates members of Greek lettered organizations from non-members. Not the letters, not the colors, not the stepping nor the calls and hand signs. The commitment to service.

And that's what the show lacks.

As it stands, the fact that Adrene, April, Cat, Joy, Lydia, MeToya, Priyanka, Shanna and Veronica are members of sororities is a useless one. The producers could substitute "sorority sister" for "Facebook friend" and nothing would change. The cast's behavior occurs while pursuing personal interests. It's just "Chicks in Atlanta"

Now, take the exact same cast, same behaviors, same attitudes and drop them in a soup kitchen;a senior citizen home; an orphanage; a habitat for humanity; a can drive; a car wash; 5k run for something that needs to be prevented; a bake sale; a Gala for a charity; a something of the sort and maybe Sorority Sisters will be more about sisters in sororities rather than just a bunch of women being catty.

That's what I think.

What do you think about the show?

I miss doing comedy

I am really starting to miss doing stand-up comedy. It is something that I do wish I could do more.

I would imagine I would have to start from scratch again and hit the open mic circuit. I could do that during the week. Pick a day the wife works late and go and tell some jokes.

That what I need though. Jokes. There is no point in going at it if there are no jokes.

So maybe I need to write jokes.

When you pray on Facebook the reward is the likes

It seems like every day someone posts, as their Facebook status, a prayer to God and whenever I see such a status I feel sad. For them.

I think to myself, "man, it's a shame that you just bartered a conversation with God for Facebook likes."

Cause that's what happens when one prays on Facebook. The reward is not an answer from God. The reward is the number of likes one gets.

The New Testament Matthew 5-7 tells of the lessons Jesus taught upon the mountain and verse 6:5 is very clear about prayer.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Believers in Jesus are taught by Jesus that praying that the reward for public prayer is the being seen. Period. One does not receive the reward from God but rather from the people for whom they are praying in the first place.

Matthew 6:6 Jesus continues by giving with instructions on prayer.

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The implication here is that proper prayer in done in private and in secret. And when prayer is done in private and in secret, God gives the reward.

So, public prayer gets reward from men. Private prayer gets reward from God.

And this is why when I see public prayer on Facebook, I feel bad for the author. They could have gone in their room and offered the same prayer to their Father in private and received a reward from the Father.

Instead, they chose to do it in public and instead of getting a reward from the Father, they got likes from Facebook friends.

I just hope that the intention behind these Facebook prayers is the reception of Facebook likes because then they actually got what they wanted.

Looking forward to the college playoffs

I am looking forward to the college playoffs. I think the winner should be a team that wins multiple teams. It's going to be great to watch.

I don't have a dog in the fight. I am not a fan of any of the teams in the running but I love the competition.

I do think the BCS should be used to determine the seedlings. But that's just me thinking a committee made up of humans can't completely detach from how they feel about teams, games, coaches, etc.

But whatever. The playoffs are gonna be great.

The Great Trombone Rule or how I snuck into the band in college

The Great Trombone rule got me into college.

About two weeks before school was scheduled to start I received two letters in the mail from Clark Atlanta University.

The first letter was from the band director inviting me to audition for the CAU Marching Panther band. While the idea of a "full or partial scholarship" was alluring, the idea of marching in a band again was not. I had not marched in a band since my departure from Buddhism like six years prior and I had no plans of returning.

Besides, my financial aid was fine. I tossed the letter to the side and moved on to the second letter.

The second letter was from the financial aid office. This letter was sent to me to inform me that based upon my grandmother's income (I was twenty-two when I arrived at CAU. Thought I had been on my own for like five years at the time, I could not apply for financial aid as an independent. I was not twenty-four, I was not in the military and I was not a ward of the state. I was my Grandmother's baby trying to go to college so Grandmother claimed me on her taxes so I could use her info for financial aid.), I did not qualify for one of the grants for which I applied and as a result I was twelve hundred dollars short for the year.

I returned to the band letter.

The letter gave a basic overview of the program, a contact number, audition dates and the date of the first day of band camp. I guess the proper thing to have done was call the number, set up an audition, audition and, if selected, show up on the first day of band camp. A date provided in the letter.

I was not auditioning. I didn't own a trombone. I had not touched a trombone in over six years. I haven't even looked at one. While I could still read music and I was halfway familiar with the slide positions, there was absolutely no way I was going to survive an audition for a college band. I didn't have the chops.

What I did have was band experience.

Mother was a Buddhist and an active member of an organization which I think is called SGI-USA now but was NSA back then. The organization had programs for the youth members and as I was raised as a youth member, I was a part of one of those programs. The Brass Band.

I joined The Brass Band when I was four and spent the first six years of my membership carrying stuff. I never performed. I never marched. I just watched.

When I was ten, I decided that I wanted to be in the drum section and I told the band director. He laughed and sent me over to a group of other teens and preteens that play drums and trumpet that also wanted to be in the band. I spent two years in this group.
My faith in my ability as a drummer was created by my being in the school band. I was a drummer and I was advancing every year, seat wise, and I imagined this was the natural order of all bands including The Brass Band.

What I failed to realize then was that my steady progress in the school band had less to do with my talent and more to do with school band members graduating from high school. Brass band members don't graduate from Buddhism. This was their way of life. They would be in the band forever.
When I was twelve, I approached the band director again about marching.

"I have enough drummers," said my band director. "too many drums over power the band. I have enough drums, enough trumpets and more than enough saxophones."

Then he said the words that would change my life forever.

"It's too bad you don't play trombone. You can never have enough trombones."

The Great Trombone rule. You can never have enough trombones.

The next semester in school, I quit the drums and took the beginner's low brass class. Next semester I was in the school band as a trombone player and that summer I was marching in The Brass Band.
I marched with The Brass Band until I left home. When I left Mother, I left her Buddhism and it's band with her.

I was done with the trombone. I never even considered playing it again until I got the letter from the financial aid office. But now it was clear that my ability to play trombone was my way into college. I devised a plan. I was going to show up on the first day of band camp and get in the band on the hopes that the CAU Marching Band director was also a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

The next day, after hours of random calls, I found a pawn shop with a "dried up horn" for "cheap". I took a hundred bucks from my rent money and bought the dried up horn, slide grease, slide oil and trombone Christmas carol sheet music.

I remembered "whole step, whole step, half, whole step, whole step, whole step, half" so I was able to practice my major scales. My road back to the band was a regiment of major scales and Christmas songs. I practiced every day until the first day of band camp.

I arrived at the grassy area next to CAU's gym with no idea where to go or what to do. A random flute player guided me towards a trailer where another band member was checking in new and returning members. When I entered the trailer, I was greeted by a girl sitting at a table with a list of names.

"Name."

"Yusef."

She checks the list. "You are not on the list, Yusef."

"I know."

"Maybe they forgot to add you name. When did you audition?"

"I didn't."

"I don't understand, Yusef."

"Listen," I said, "I didn't audition because if I had auditioned I wouldn't get into the band and I really need to be in the band. So, can you just do me a huge favor and go tell the band director there's a guy trying to get into the band. Just tell him I need to talk to him. Please."

The girl looked at me for a minute and then smiled. I know now that the smile was because she knew how verbally abusive the band director was and she was already reveling in the tongue lashing I was about to receive.

She got up, disappeared into an office then returned with a tall, older man who looked bothered. I caught my self chanting a Buddhist phrase of prayer under my breath.

"May I help you, young man," barked the Band Director. The girl was standing behind him smiling.

"I'm here to join the band."

"You're not already in the band?"

"No, sir."

"So, you auditioned and we did not accept you?"

"No, sir. I never auditioned."

At this point, the girl laughed out loud. The Band Director spun around, shot the girl a look (she got quiet) then spun back to me.

"Young man, this is a university and this is a university band. The majority of the bad members are music majors and minors who take playing music seriously. They take band seriously. I take band seriously. And I...what make you think you can skip my auditions and just walk up and join my band?"

"I play trombone. Sir."

The Band Director closed his eyes and shook his head and I knew he was a believer in The Great Trombone rule.

"I only need six hundred dollars a semester."

"That's it?" he asked.

"That's it," I said. "Oh, and a trombone. Mine is a piece of crap."

"Don't make me regret this."

"I won't."

He smiled then he turned to the girl and told her to sign me up.

And that's how The Great Trombone rule got me into college.

I love my new Quran

The new Quran translation by Tarif Khalidi is amazing. Almost all the Arabic culture that could be removed is removed and what it left is a text that speaks to everyone the way the text was designed to be.
I do believe that the Quran is part three to the holy trilogy of revelation. Torah, New Testament, The Quran. There is none like them.
I have always believed the presence of Arabic culture in the Qur'an was what made the text so hard to be received by those for whom it is designed.
There is nothing wrong with Arabic culture however no culture should be interwoven with revelation for it skews the message.
There is a difference between keeping one's head covered and keeping one's head covered with a particular garment from a region in Saudi Arabia.
This new text is free of all that.
I love that I still get excited about books.

IT

I've sat for hours with dictionary in hand
Searching for a word to reveal in depth
Feelings that I do not fully understand
Yet dwell inside of myself

Love is way too much
And at this time premature
Like is not quite enough
Plus it doesn't sound as sure

Adore, cherish, dote and revere
Come close but do not quite fit
So since a word is not clear
I'll simply call it IT

IT is why I think so strong
Of you all day and all night
IT is why when things are all wrong
I try to make things all right

IT is why I stay on the phone
When neither you nor I speak
IT is why I feel so alone
When you leave for only one week

IT is everything I say
And everything I feel
IT is everything that I display
And all of IT is real

There is no concise way to  convey
The true meaning of IT to you
But every day I hope and pray
That you feel IT too