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Tag: Irish music

Is ‘the album’ dead?

As a musician I have read with interest over the last couple of years about the demise of any music artists’ ‘bread & butter’…. THE ALBUM.

Is it dying and what changes can artists make, if any, when releasing music to their fans?

The concept of ‘an album’ gives bands, solo artists and indeed fans the chance to enjoy a body of work detailing the current mind set of the songwriters. As an artist it gives a focus… “I’m working on the album”, for the PR people it gives them a philosophy to promote and for the record companies it gives them a saleable ‘product’.

But over the last decade album sales have fallen through the floor and the very existence of the format is under serious debate. Last week in the US, album sales fell to an all-time low and this despite much hyped releases from Katy Perry & Miley Cyrus on the chart. Now you may argue that the cause of the collapse is summed up in my last sentence – “releases from Katy Perry & Miley Cyrus on the chart” – but that would be somewhat cruel and lacking in objectivity. I may be inclined to agree that Record Labels have hardly done themselves any favours in the artists they have chosen to ‘sign’ over the last decade and signing for short term gain does in the long term tend to backfire – but the poor sales of last week included critically acclaimed artists such as Pearl Jam and traditional big hitter Elton John. What is more confusing is that these artists are getting huge amounts of media coverage and work off massive promotional budgets…. and I mean massive –the type of money that in the past virtually guaranteed sales, even if the product was somewhat lack lustre.

So what’s gone wrong?

Obviously one of the key factors is the new digital world in which we live; one which allows people to stream music direct to their laptop. It’s immediate and instant. It doesn’t require you to purchase an album and it usually means people listen to ‘the single’ and move on to the next track in the Q – there is no commitment to a lovingly crafted collection of songs, the musical piece – no desire in a hectic, butterfly schedule to take the time to indulge and submerge oneself in a whole album. We live in a quick hit, easy gratification society and there is no time for slow cars, in depth art or long playing albums. Most people struggle to find time to buy ingredients to cook proper meals – in fact most people don’t even know how to cook a proper meal – some would argue people no longer appreciate what proper music is – preferring instead to be told by some Saturday night TV panel judge what it sounds like…. this absolves them of a responsibility in the same way fast food, and microwave dinners free us from the need to lovingly cook a decent meal.

Downloads are down 4% on I-Tunes – the first fall in a decade and supermarkets are simply stocking a small selection of discounted artists …. in the UK Supermarkets you’d be forgiven for thinking that only Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams and One Direction actually made albums to sell…. Oh and of course Michael Buble’s Christmas Album – you know, the one he sold last year and the year before.

So what’s the answer?

Well, maybe  artists need to connect with their audience in a personalized way – special offers and bespoke marketing. And in turn the audience will need to show the artists they enjoy a degree of loyalty and support by actually buying music rather than streaming it, by going to gigs rather than by watching YouTube clips and by spreading the word about their favourite bands and artists on social media… sharing the content and growing the artist’s fan base. For me this will not only benefit the artist but also the audience, because if we as music fans are not careful the music business will become just one huge mediocre TV talent show devoid of creativity and originality.

Finally I think artists may have to go back to the old 60s model of releasing music more frequently in the same way The Beatles often released two albums a year. Joe Bonnamassa has made this business model work in recent years and in this way the artist can feed modern society’s need for ‘more’. Nowadays a band puts out an album and the public moves on in a matter of weeks, wanting something new. Some buy it, others catch it online and the thirst is quenched. If we are lucky the public like it and are quickly shouting “More!!’ So maybe the way forward is to release ‘little & often’. Maybe a four track EP two or three times a year rather than a 12 track album every two or three years…. It’s a concept I’m certainly going to consider for the future.

Maybe ‘the album’ is dying as a vehicle for mass market corporations but I do hope it lives on and I’m sure it will survive if only in the world of true music lovers and collectors on CD and vinyl.

Obviously in the meantime buy my album  🙂

The Last Box of Bullets…..

When I started playing in bands many moons ago there was one thing that motivated me above anything else and it was the craft of ‘song writing’. I was fascinated by the art and in love with the fabulous songs of the 1960s, 70s & 80s. I was driven by a desire to understand how to craft something beautiful enough to capture attention, strong enough to stand the test of time and intelligent enough to show a depth and an understanding of the human condition.

I have written dark, thoughtful albums such as “The Thief Who Stole The Truth”, I have written albums for my own amusement, I have written on piano and on guitar, I have written about birth & death and I have had songs played on the TV and the radio – but I guess over the years what I have actually learnt is how to write the songs I like to write. They may be no better than anyone who today sits down to write their first song and indeed this is a business where you can strike gold on your first dig – but I do feel more comfortable now I am familiar with the fault lines in the land and the seam in which I mine for my ideas – effectively, with time behind me as a writer. I think the greatest thing you can bring to any art form is ‘the truth’ and I now know that experience gives you the tools to search for meaning in things.  I try to write songs with emotion and honesty that tell stories from my life and hopefully that means yours too.

Let’s turn the clock forward to today and the new album “The Last Box of Bullets”. In some ways it was intended to be just that…. the last….. but only the last of its kind. It’s a collection of accessible songs – radio friendly but hopefully with something to say too. It includes the singles “The First Time Again”, Just One Day and Suddenly I Can’t Find You and it also includes my obligatory ‘green’ song in “All of the World”, while “When Red Blood Flows” is borne out of too much 24 Hour News and too many years watching politicians/people/corporations lying to us all….for the record I no longer watch 24 Hour News or read newspapers –it seems to me that  it’s all largely a fiction designed to distract you from what’s really going on anyway.  On the whole it’s an album you can stick on the car stereo, something you can enjoy with a glass of wine, something to blast out on a relaxing Sunday morning in the sunshine.  It is in some ways the fruits of my years as a writer – it’s everything I have learnt about writing an accessible album and lyrically too, it’s full of the poems I use to express how I feel about the world and our relationships.

I’d love for you to BUY a copy either as a download (I-Tunes) or even better the CD version with its beautiful artwork and 8-page lyric booklet – CDs from ROJOR.COM have free postage.

In the end I guess the whole point to writing songs is to share them with others. Hopefully you see buying a copy is an investment in the value of music and it’s the support of people like you who actually buy CDs etc that keeps the independent songwriter alive in the face of corporate greed and TV reality music shows with their huge marketing budgets – it’s as important for you as for the musicians/writers. BUY CD

Track listing

  1. Vagabond Hearts
  2. Just One Day
  3. When Red Blood Flows
  4. Run To The End of the World
  5. The First Time Again
  6. Raindrops & Teardrops
  7. Suddenly I Can’t Find You
  8. The Last Box of Bullets
  9. Soaked To The Skin
  10. All of the World
  11. Satellite

If you want to find out more, join the mailing list and check out the live shows – please visit the official website.

DOWNLOAD “The Last Box of Bullets”

CD Cover

Sailing Ships & Dancing Horses

On Monday 12 November 2012 I re-released “Sail Away with Me” having re-mastered the original and updated the artwork by using one of my own original oil paintings.

The release is not part of some grand plan it was simply born out of a desire to share the song once more with you having heard the re-mastered version as part of a ‘Best of….’ project – which may or may not see the light of day in the future.

In 2005 & 2006 I had been completely absorbed in researching my family history – collecting old photographs from family members, speaking to elderly relatives and looking up records on the internet. I hadn’t intended for the journey to inspire a musical venture but ghosts have a way of drifting into view. In the middle of all this my Father died suddenly on a beautiful spring day, driving his beloved MG motorcar and with his love by his side. The car he was driving quietly wandered to the side of the road on a country lane and stopped without a bump or scratch…. and in that moment he was gone.

Later that summer I released an album “Faint Signal”, which brought forth two radio singles – “In the Shoes of the Fisherman” and “Sail Away with Me”; the second of which hit No.2 in the UK Sounds download chart. I hope this BLOG will act as a doorway into, what will always be a very special album to me with all its Celtic leanings and echoes of the past with its sounds of Northern England, the Borders of Scotland and the Irish Sea.

Essentially, I had uncovered the fact that my ancestors on one side of the family were fisherman with their wives and children, making a living from the seas around Holy Island in Northumberland, England at a time before factory ships and over-fishing. They battled the elements and risked all to feed their families in wooden ships with white sails on icy seas in banks of fog.

I was drawn to the symbolism and imagery of the sea and as is my way – the romanticism. The ocean and the wild carefree abandon. Perhaps the main example of this approach is in the track “In the Shoes of the Fisherman”, where love across ‘the oceans of time’ is celebrated with an acoustic guitar.  The VIDEO was shot between rising tides on the Causeway at Holy Island and it has a bleak beauty, which marries perfectly with the song.

“Sail Away with Me”, like many of the songs on the album, has a seafaring theme, the idea of escape and embarking on a journey – telling the story of a troubled soul adrift on life’s stormy seas but kept afloat by love.

“Dancing Horses” is another ode to the sea ….. “Sailors dive beneath the waves and dolphins dance on whaler’s graves”,  and again in “Spittal Song”  the narrative tells the tale of a sea voyage as a symbol for life’s journey where all our experiences only lead us to this one moment in time and this space where everything collides in the ‘now’.

Northumbrian Pipes, fiddles and mandolin work with the acoustic guitars and pianos to evoke the ghosts of the past, which at the same moment is the here and now. I hope you’re getting a flavour of the album.

I won’t embellish much more but I will mention my favourite song from the album – “Hollow” …. it’s a broken obsession, a shipwrecked heart, a pirate waiting to kidnap your heart – a fragile soul.

I hope you’re intrigued to find out more.

You can check out the full track listing and all the lyrics for “FAINT SIGNAL” via the DISCOGRAPHY page at ROJOR.COM – well worth a read if you have a few minutes.

You can BUY the CD album from ROJOR.COM, which includes some great photographs of the Holy Island causeway…. or if you prefer you can download the songs from I-Tunes.

As a taster download “Sail Away with Me” (re-mastered) from I-Tunes.