Saturday, September 20, 2014

Apple and U2 - "Songs of Innocence" not so Innocent!

So it seems about a week ago, Apple and U2 decided to band together and release their new album "Songs of Innocence" to the masses. Far from being a traditional release, they instead decided to "give" the album away to the 500 million or so ITunes subscribers on the planet. Seems like a great promotional idea doesn't it? Well maybe 5 years ago it might have been, but now it just seems like a last ditch effort for a once iconic band to stay relevant, AND what has now become a complete PR disaster.

I was a huge U2 back in the day, when the band and their music stood for something a lot more important than making money. Songs like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "Pride (in the name of Love)" and "New Years Day" were all about our human struggle and crying out for a better world. But with U2 and the marketing company pocketing a reported $ 100 Million dollars to "give" their music away, it seems the Bono, The Edge and the boys have really lost their way. If U2 really wanted to actually GIVE their music away as a true gift, they wouldn't have felt the need to concoct such an enormous payday for themselves in the process.

I also wonder if Apple would have stooped so low if Steve Jobs were still with us. The other side of this is Apple should have known better than to force free music downloads on the world, at a time when people just don't want downloads anymore. Whether we like it or want it or not, we are in a music streaming world now - the masses have spoken, so now we music creators need to adapt to this new paradigm. Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, and surely would have seen that the U2 download push promotion was a bad idea, and crafted a more creative way to get the buzz Apple was seeking.

Here are just two of my favorite U2 songs from back in the day. First there is "Pride (In the name of Love)":

And then there's "New Years Day":

There was also "With or Without You" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" from the Joshua Tree album in 1987 and "Beautiful Day" from 1993 and "Desire" from 1997. These were all great songs, but I'm having trouble latching onto something that stands out in the last 10-15 years. Instead of a crazy publicity stunt to try and stay relevant, what U2 needs is to go back to their musical roots. Try writing about what really matters in the world, and then deliver that message with the same passion they started out with. I realize that for many artists this is an extremely difficult, if not impossible task. Because of their success, their lives and fortunes have changed so much and its hard to remember what it was really like in the beginning. All we can do is hope Bono and the boys find their way after this incident and manage to come back with a song that really inspires us once again.

NOTE: I tried to find the new U2 album "Songs of Innocence" in my ITunes player and it seems to be hidden very well (or maybe I just need to update to a newer ITunes :)) . Oh well, I'll just head online to stream a few songs and hope that maybe there's still a nugget of greatness among the new U2 tunes.

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"KEEP MUSIC ALIVE" mission launches on Facebook today!!!

Today we've launched our "Keep Music Alive" mission on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission, and we are soooo excited.

As you may already know, we are on a MISSION to promote how valuable and important music is in all of our lives: Academically, Therapeutically or just overall making us a happier society. As part of this mission, our new book “88 Ways Music Can Change Your Life” will feature original quotes, anecdotes and stories relating how music has affected the lives of people all over the world. We are currently searching for inspirational stories, anecdotes & quotes for possible inclusion in the book.

In addition to inspirational stories, “88 Ways” will also feature some of the more recent research supporting the importance of music, plus practical suggestions and examples of what schools & communities can do to help bring music back despite the recent arts & music budget cuts.

Our life experiences make us who we are today. Many of us credit music as playing a vital role in who we have become and where we are in our lives.

  • Did music help get you through a difficult time in your life?
  • Was there a particular song, or artist, that strongly resonated with you?
  • Was a there a person in your life who influenced you with their music?
  • Was there a family member or friend who played an instrument, or sang, and made you more aware of the musical world around you?
  • Did you learn to play an instrument or take part in your school’s band or chorus?
  • Was music used to help you during a type of therapy, either to motivate you or to “just get you through it”?

When you look back now, how do you think your life is different, or has changed, because of Music?

If you have a story you’d like to share with the world, we would LOVE to hear it. No story is insignificant because your story comes from your life, which is special and unique. Please email your original stories, quotes or anecdotes about “how music changed your life” to: MusicStories@LoveSongs.com. You will hear back from us within 72 hours confirming we have received your submission. Also, please let us know how you would like your name to appear with your story (full name, first name, etc) and tell us your city/state and/or country where you reside.

By submitting your original quote, anecdote and story, you are granting permission for them to be shared:

  • in the book,
  • at conferences & discussion groups,
  • Radio, TV, print and internet interviews, blog posts & articles

All entries submitted will be considered for inclusion in our book “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life” which will be published in March 2015. Each person whose quote, anecdote or story is included in the book, will receive a complimentary copy, once it is published. No other compensation will be offered.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to help keep music alive with funds going to a variety of music charities that bring music instruments and instruction into schools.

For more information about our mission, please visit: LoveSongs.com and click on “Keep Music Alive”. And please don't forget to LIKE the Facebook page for www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

p.s. The deadline for story submissions is December 1st, 2014. Please share this message with musicians and others you believe may have a story to share.

That's all for today folks, we'll be back tomorrow with another post - yay we did 3 days in a rowwwww!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Beatles come to Pittsburgh - 50 Years ago this week (1964)

I had the very good fortune this summer to meet the man who was largely responsible for bringing the Beatles to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during their first US tour. This would end up being the Beatles one and only appearance in the "steel city", and was near the beginning of Pat DiCesare's legendary career in the concert business.

Pat DiCesare started out as a songwriter and Doo Wop performer in the 1950s and later moved on to booking shows and concerts. In time, he and his partner Rich Engler became the single most powerful force in the Pittsburgh area concert business. It wasn't long before DiCesare-Engler Productions became one of the top grossing concert companies in the entire US. Their dominance in that industry would continue for over 3 decades. During that time, Pat and Rich would go on to produce and promote concerts by legendary artists including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and many, many more.

My wife and I both were fortunate to meet Pat this past August during a Quantum Leap conference (nope, its not about the very cool TV show, but instead it's an incredible training and mentoring program). It turns out Pat took his lifetime of experiences and stories and turned them into an amazing book "Hard Days, Hard Nights" and was there like us learning how to promote his book. This amazing book of musical journeys tells many of Pat's own personal stories of working with and promoting many of the legendary artists we all grew up with.

To honor Pat and his incredible career, the governor of Pennsylvania just announced that the week of Sept 14th was The Beatles week to honor the Fab Four visit to our state 50 years ago on their inaugural US tour. In addition, the governor named the day of the Beatles concert, Sept 14th, as Pat DiCesare Day in Pennsylvania. I can't believe I met someone who has a day named after them how cool is that! In talking with Pat, both in person and on the phone, you can tell he's just about the nicest and most genuine person you will ever meet, especially in this crazy music business. If you are a music fan like me, I highly recommend you head over to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy of "Hard Days, Hard Nights". You will absolutely enjoy the experience!

That's all for today kiddies. I will be back tomorrow with another post, but that topic will be a mystery until I put my writing hat on tomorrow :) Have another great nite and we'll see you soon!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Monday, September 15, 2014

AMAZING - 41% Increase in Music Education in the UK over the last 15 years, BUT...

I was astounded to read that over the last 15 years, there has been a 41 percent increase in the number of kids in the UK that know how to play an instrument. WOW, that's just amazing! A study by ABRSM, the exam board of the Royal School of Music, also found that the piano, recorder and classical guitar were the favorites with drums, electric guitar and bass guitar not far behind. Now, I'm thinking if they did this in the 60's, guitar, bass and drums would have been tops thanks to the Beatles and the entire British music invasion.

But, back to the topic: In an article I just read, the Royal School of Music study credits this positive musical trend on recent government initiatives, particularly in England. The piece doesn't specifically mention what those initiatives are, but perhaps we need to dig a little deeper. Some of these ideas could possibly be implemented in the US and other countries.

One interesting thing about the article: It mentions that the children from well-off families have a much higher chance of playing an instrument, which itself is not surprising. But I also found it very odd that the title of the article mentions that fact, but not the dramatic increase in the number and percentage of kids playing an instrument. I know as musicians, and for me especially, as part of our "Keep Music Alive" mission, we want to shout out from the mountain tops "WE NEED MORE MUSIC!". But we also need to trumpet out the good news stories where more music is being played. This provides a fairer and more balanced (and ultimately more believable) argument, and also provides us with positive examples that others can learn from.

Here's a link to the article - take a read and post your comments and let me know your thoughts on the topic: Music education still a preserve of the rich, UK study shows

On Deck: Pat DiCesare and "Hard Days, Hard Nights"

We're back on the blog kick folks and we're gonna try to do at least one short blog post EVERY day. Tomorrow we'll be talking about my new music friend Pat DiCesare who is a legend in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania concert world. Pat was instrumental in bringing The Beatles to their one and only appearance in Pittsburgh back in 1964. He also went on to produce hundreds of concerts over 40 plus years, hosting acts like Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and many, many more. So look for the new post on Pat and his new book Hard Days, Hard Nights tomorrow. Till then have a grrrreat nite all!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let Your Kids Study Music - says Forbes!

The folks who write for and read Forbes Magazine generally know a thing or two about succeeding in our highly competitive world, and a recent Forbes article trumpets the cause of allowing, wait, encouraging kids to study music. We're not talking just having kids play music while they are growing up, but encouraging them to study music in college say instead of generally more preferred careers like engineering, computer science, math and other STEM subjects.

The article talks about how we really need to let our kids follow their own path and if that path happens to be music then absolutely encourage them. A little known fact is that many kids that go to school for music eventually end up in other highly successful careers like lawyers, doctors, scientists and more. It's very interesting, because most of us myself included always thought that going to school for music meant a lifetime of either teaching music or trying to scratch out a living as a touring musician living forever on the road. It turns out that many of these kids going to college for music are also some of the smartest and motivated kids there. After their well-rounded 4 years of liberal arts education, many go on to advanced degrees or sometimes end up in highly sought after positions in business and banking. This realization definitely aligns with what I have always said. It doesn't matter where you go to school or often even what you go to school for. It's what you know, what you're willing to learn and your ability to network and strive to be better that will be the ultimately be the deciding factor in your success.

I have to say this article caught my attention because it brought me back a few decades to when I was deciding where I wanted to go to college and for what major. I had my heart and mind set on going to West Chester University to study music, however the folks at home gently swayed me toward what they thought was a more practical course: engineering. At this point I would never go back and change the path I took, simply because it gave me the interactions and ultimately the beautiful family that I have today (although incidentally I met my beautiful wife through music many years after college). I do however occasionally ponder for just a moment what my life would have been like if I had gone to college for music instead of engineering. We'll never know, but what I do know is that for my children I will absolutely encourage them to follow their dream path whatever it may be. Follow your passion with all of your heart, might and soul and see where it leads.

Here's a link to this very interesting and informative article by writer Liz Ryan for Forbes Magazine:

Let the Kid Study Music, Already! Forbes Magazine

I'll leave you with this picture of an incredible piano & violin shaped building in China - apparently you enter the main piano shaped building via an elevator in the violin. Boy would I love to visit this place :)

Have a great day everyone and stop back tomorrow for another post - yep I'm gonna try and go for two in a row!!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

p.s. LoveSongs.com is looking for YOUR Music Story - "How Has Music Changed YOUR Life??" - For more information please visit www.LoveSongs.com/keepmusicalive

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Playing Music Will Make You Smarter - Yes its True!

It's been said by many that kids who play music will do better in school. A recent two year study accompanied with several years of observation by Los Angeles based non-profit The Harmony Project has demonstrated just how much music can make a difference. Before beginning the study, they began to notice that kids they were teaching music to were graduating high school at higher rates with many heading off to big universities like UCLA and Tulane. This was despite the fact that this same kids came from disadvantaged areas with the odds stacked against them. The Harmony Project began to study a test group of current students more closely over a two year period including measuring brain activity at various times during the study. To date the testing has shown that while one year of musical training doesn't appear to make much different, a marked improvement was definitely evident after two years. One remarkable statistic from the study showed that 90 percent of the students participating graduated from high school while only 50 percent of their same neighborhood peers did the same.

Here's an introductory video about the Harmony Project - Based on what I'm learning so far I would love to see a Harmony Project in every city in America. We'll have to do some searching to see what exists already and see how we can do our part to help expand this.

Like most studies about music and education, this was a rather small sampling of 44 students and many more studies like this need to be done all over the country and in different socio-economic areas. I am thinking however that when they do the results they find may very well indeed be similar and support what we have been saying: Music and arts training needs to be included in education if we really want our children to have the best chance at succeeding. I talk to countless folks who went to school in the 1950s-1960s and they tell me music instruction of some sort was actually a requirement for many. Compare this to today where its pretty much never a requirement and often not even an option.

Stay tuned as we continue to research more studies and learn as much as we can about all angles of how music and education are tied together. For now, here's the link to an ABC News story about the study, its a very worthwhile read: ABC News: Playing Music Helps Sharpen Kids Brains

RIP to Jimi Jamison

The music world was sad to learn of the sudden passing of one of rock's best known voices from the 1980s, Jimi Jamison from Survivor. Jimi sang on many of their trademark hits including "The Search is Over", "High On You", "I Can't Hold Back" and more. He took over the lead singing duties after Survivor made a name for themselves with "Eye of the Tiger" from the Rocky franchise. The lead singer at that time Dave Bickler had left the band for medical reasons and since then Dave and Jimi had both performed with Survivor at various times over the last 20 years.

I'll leave you with my favorite Survivor song with Jimi Jamison which is "The Search Is Over". Jimi: You and your voice will be missed!

I was living for a dream, Loving for a moment
Taking on the world, That was just my style
Now I look into your eyes, I can see forever
The search is over, You were with me all the while

I hope everyone's week is goin' great - I'm having a blast learning more about music, education and musical education altogether :) Have a great night and I'll be back tomorrow with another post!

Music, Love & Laughter

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Taylor Swift says "Shake it Off" but I just can't do it!

If you haven't noticed already, Taylor Swift's new song "Shake It Off" has been inescapable - Every where I turn the song is being played again and again. I first heard it when my daughter was listening to it, and I was like "is that Taylor Swift's new song? Don't tell me you actually LIKE that song!" I asked her. Now before all you Taylor Swift fans get up and protest, I have been a big Taylor Swift supporter for years, simply for the fact she has come out with a multitude of really great pop tunes. There was "Teardrops on my Guitar", "Our Song", "Should've Said No", "Love Story", "You Belong With Me", "I Knew You Were Trouble" and I probably missed a few. Whether or not she wrote or co-wrote all of these songs I don't know, but I do know that she has remained a star all these years because she consistently released quality songs (if your a pop song fan you can't deny this!).

When I first heard "Shake it Off", it immediately struck me as the type of song that a new artist would NEVER get radio to play let alone put it in rotation. It's a great idea for a song, but the melodies are just second rate at best. Does anybody remember what a "B" side is? That's the flip side to the "A" side on an old 45 vinyl single and its the "A" side that's the hit. I'm afraid to say that "Shake it Off" in my opinion is definitely a "B" side. Tonight I forced myself to listen again, just trying to be as objective as I could and the result was the same. Good beat, great lyrical concept, but melodies, melodies melodies need some work. Oh well I tried :) If you haven't heard this yet (probably not possible :)) please take a listen yourself here and let me know your thoughts:

I also came across a good article explaining why "Shake it Off" is such a big hit (and just how big a hit it is already after less than two weeks). I can't argue with the logic they present: "Shake if Off" is a huge hit simply because Taylor Swift is probably the biggest pop star on the planet right now. I can only hope that she has more pop gems in her pocket to share with us, because this phenomena won't last forever unless she can bring some of that magic back. Here's a link to the article Slate Magazine - How "Shake it Off" became a HUGE hit!

Before I go today I'll leave you with one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs called "You Belong with Me" - no doubt about it its just a great song and deserved every bit of the attention it got!

Today is new Blog Day #2 - Stop back tomorrow when we try to make it Blog Day #3 - Getting back up on the horse and riding again is funnn!

Music, Love & Happiness,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com