“The music business currently seems to be in a fluid state, constantly trying to adapt to evolving technology. Album sales have taken a back seat to streaming media, and artists’ rights are more difficult to police through the Internet.” – Don Shiner @Pullstringproph
Listen to the Interview
Episode #330 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax : http://www.blogtalkradio.com/avaliveradio/2016/06/08/episode-330-ava-live-radio-behind-the-music-with-jacqueline-jax
GETTING TO KNOW PULL STRING PROPHET
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
Interviewing: Don Shiner
To me, the music business currently seems to be in a fluid state, constantly trying to adapt to evolving technology. Album sales have taken a back seat to streaming media, and artists’ rights are more difficult to police through the Internet.
The biggest con to me is the slow demise of the album…
A majority of listeners are only interested in singles, rather than the record as a whole. I really believe that the audience misses out on the full experience of the art when it’s not taken as a whole. On the upside of this, I would venture to guess that artists are selling more singles to fans who otherwise would not purchase a full album and instead wait to hear them on the radio. As with everything there is both good and bad.
Even with its problems, the Internet is also a huge pro…
It’s far easier now for artists to connect with music industry personnel and gain opportunities that weren’t there in the past. If you can create a great indie recording, even in your own home, you have the ability to get it in front of the right people in an instant.
It took some time to adjust to how fans engage in music now. It had been roughly 7 years since a band I was in last released an album, and the proportion of streaming to purchasing came as a bit of a surprise to me. I still believe that songs should be released as a unit (an album or EP), but I have scaled back on the number of physical copies purchased in a manufacturing run. CDs are still a great marketing tool, but the overwhelming majority seems to prefer downloading and streaming.
has become a great platform for artists to use in reaching new audiences. I can now meet new fans across the globe from home, I don’t need to pack up and go on the road for months.
I think people are less engaged through social media. Many people are quick to accept a friend request, but often the interaction ends there. It takes vigilance to keep an audience entertained enough to check in regularly and see what you have been up to.
Singles vs an album…
I am a firm believer in the album concept. To me it seems both more economical and artistic. Financially, it is more efficient to register a copyright for an entire album of songs, distribute an entire album, and manufacture hard copies of an entire album than to pay for each single one-by-one. I also believe that albums create a cohesive statement that is lost when you only experience part of the whole.
For instance, 3 tracks from “The Company We Keep” are instrumental tracks, which I intended to be listened to as additions to their preceding tracks. If the preceding tracks had been released as singles, those instrumentals probably would not have seen the light of day, and they have all gotten a great response from listeners.
To argue the opposite point, creating an entire album for release does result in a longer time between releases. This ties in with the social media issue where constant presence is usually necessary to keep fans engaged. Talk about the differences in your marketing strategy to support your preference.
I quickly became aware of the ‘album versus single’ issue after the release of “The Company We Keep,” and I am lucky to have found myself in a good place to move forward. Having initially released an album with 14 tracks, I had the option to promote songs slowly as singles that were already complete. Wanting to stay in the forefront of people’s minds, I released a cover single of U2’s “Until the End of the World” eight months after my debut album was released. I am currently writing the follow up record, and have used time in between creative time to record acoustic versions of the songs from “The Company We Keep,” allowing me to post ‘new’ material on a more regular basis.
My plan for the second record and beyond is to release EPs…
which seem to be the best of both worlds to me. I can release 5 to 8 new songs, with a faster turn-around time than writing another 14 tracks. I intend to use the remaining time left on a CD to add bonus tracks – alternate versions, remixes, acoustic versions – that require less work and time than writing and recording an entire new song. This allows more material to be released at a lower price more quickly. Time will tell if this strategy will pay off, and, if not, I’ll rethink my plan and continue on.
I think to a degree people in the industry tend to stay focused on artists who fit in with the current trends. It’s necessary to stay at the cutting edge, but I still believe that a good song is a good song. I think it’s a disservice to the art to try to make a song trendy at the sacrifice of the whole, but with creativity it can still be done effectively. Music has changed so drastically over the last century, and even the bands avoiding the mainstream can’t help but let some of it shape their sound.
I am most afraid of…
Writers block. There’s always a small fear that the last thing I wrote that I really enjoyed will in fact be the last thing. Creating new music is something I enjoy, and if I was unable to do that to an acceptable degree, I’m not sure how I would fill that void.
My personal definition of success is..
Creating something new in its entirety. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, and regardless of what happens from there, it can’t be taken away. I would compare it to a college career – when a student graduates, it’s a big achievement. Hopefully the student will find a job in their field of study, but even if they don’t, it doesn’t take away from their accomplishment. In my case, even if my music is only heard on a very small scale, it doesn’t take away the satisfaction of what I’ve done.
My success story is completing and releasing “The Company We Keep.” Close friends would tell you that it had been a long project I worked on while playing guitar in numerous other bands. It almost became that thing someone says they’re secretly working on but you never see the end result, and question if they were ever serious about it. Thankfully, that wasn’t how the story ended for me, and I feel like I’ve done something to make a mark.
My over all goal for my life & career is…
Keep creating music I enjoy without compromising for the sake of recognition. With that, the bigger goal is to keep a balance between personal life, a career, and music aspirations.
3 Ways that I challenge myself…
1) I am always trying to improve my musicianship on all fronts, instruments and vocals, allowing me to add something new with every song I write. I also continue working on production skills and listening. Creating in a home studio and doing all the work myself does have some drawbacks – my albums will never sound like they were recorded at Abbey Road – but hopefully there is noticed improvement with each release.
2) I make an effort to think outside the box more often. I hear songs that are unlike anything else I have heard, and marvel at the chances taken. I consistently try to emulate that uniqueness in concept, to come up with something that is entirely fresh, without emulating another artist. So far, one of the toughest questions that always comes up is “who do you sound like?” I have a difficult time answering that, and I don’t look at my lack of an answer as a bad thing.
3) I challenge myself to be more outgoing in marketing myself. Since most of what I write is based on very personal experiences, and I tend to think of myself as a somewhat shy person, it can be daunting to put myself out there via the music I write. Lately, I have tried to jump in headfirst and chase the opportunities that I see. I hope this will result in more exposure, and in the end allow me to make enough money to continue doing what I love to do.
As a kid, my father had a guitar…
I don’t remember him playing much, but it was always around the house. I also remember reruns of The Monkees playing regularly on TV. The combination of seeing a band on television and having an instrument in the house sparked my interest in music. I was fortunate to have a lot of friends who were also interested in music, so we started trying to put bands together in junior high.
Who We Are…
The general theme of the song is about trying to create an outward image that does not reflect who someone truly is, for the sake of being accepted by a certain group of people. Thinking you can stand out as unique by mimicking the looks and actions of others. I have seen many times when a life event seemed to turn a person into someone completely different, whether it be going out to get a tattoo or piercing, a new haircut and wardrobe, a new habit, or even just trying something new, in an attempt to start fresh, for better or worse.
This is one of the older songs written for “The Company We Keep.” Because of this, the song went through several transformations before becoming the final version that appears on the album. In my opinion, it matured over time, while the core of the song and the lyrics stayed fairly untouched throughout. Early versions of the song had a more acoustic presence during the verses, and when the sound of “The Company We Keep” transformed to a more industrial-esque feel, I was able to use the first acoustic takes and cut them up into the beginning rhythm of the song.
Doing all the production for the album myself, this song let me experiment with some techniques that were new to me, adding more interesting parts to a song that was otherwise a straightforward rock song from start to finish.
One of my favorite parts of recording, and it holds true with “Who We Are,” is the addition of ‘extras’ to songs that help express more with the lyrics than the music may on its own. In “Who We Are,” I layered several synth parts in the song’s opening to create the sense of machinery in a mad-scientist’s laboratory – ready to create a new being from the fractured body that was.
An incident occurred after recording initial takes for about 6 songs for “The Company We Keep” where the computer I was using in my studio crashed. “Who We Are” was one of the songs lost when this happened. I scrambled to find a new computer on short notice, and fortunately I had the WAV files of individual tracks backed up on an external drive. I didn’t have to start completely from scratch, but it was a big set back in the timeline of the album. Lesson learned.
This album was…
a very personal experience for me. Literally no one else was involved with the writing, production, and artwork. While I did consider the opinions of close friends during the process, I created every part of the album from scratch. The songs were all based on personal experiences and feelings – not general ideas. Even though it details my life, I think the messages can apply to most people: bad relationships, loneliness, trouble with coworkers, wondering what life has to offer and what comes after it.
I know it seems like a lot of what I write focuses on negative things, but I once read an interview with Chris Cornell of Sound garden that put it into perspective for me. The overall point of his statement was that the music is not meant to be depressing; it’s meant to be comforting, knowing other people go through tough times too, maybe even some of the same things, it makes one’s own life easier to navigate.
I am currently marketing the album…
by word of mouth, radio – terrestrial and Internet, and through social media. Even though Pull String Prophet currently consists of only me, I am intending to put a live band together after the release of a follow-up album, which is in the works.
I currently live in central Pennsylvania…
in the Harrisburg area. The music scene here has turned into a largely cover scene. Most venues have converted to DJs and solely cover bands, in some instances even dictating the set lists the cover bands can play. I understand they are a business, and they’re following the money. Luckily, a few venues still remain that welcome original music, both underground and larger acts allowing for opening slots. Although the cover bands gain the most promotion, there are a lot of incredible original bands growing loyal fan bases through the opportunities available.
There are some great venues for music in the area. Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA welcomes original music, and is a venue capable of hosting national touring acts on a regular basis with a lot of opportunity for local bands as well. The Champ is an all-age venue just outside of Harrisburg where original underground bands thrive. Gullifty’s Underground is another Harrisburg area venue where both original and cover bands can be found. These are a few examples of great clubs still keeping the central PA music scene alive.
I love to travel…
I can think of very few things I enjoy more than experiencing new areas and new scenery. Travel not only provides a great getaway, but musically I find it very inspiring. Getting out of my regular surroundings puts a new perspective on life.
I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
Trent Reznor. Although our musical styles differ drastically, I have somewhat modeled Pull String Prophet along the lines of Nine Inch Nails. I have always liked the autonomous role he plays, and with Pull String Prophet I like that I have the freedom to go in any direction I choose without anyone else to answer to. He has let his music evolve through time to stay current, and each album is different, relevant, and cohesive.
Recently he has done a lot of work with soundtracks, film scores, and instrumentals – all things that interest me. I’d like to know how he comes up with such a unique sound, and learn from his production techniques. It would be amazing to discuss songwriting with someone who has accomplished so much, seemingly on his own terms.
My entire idea of music changed when I first heard Nine Inch Nails, and it was one step down the road that led to me finding what I would consider “my sound.”