Friday, December 20, 2019

The Song Society

It has been a long while since I have posted in our Cabaret Blog. All a matter of disposal time aside having something of worth to say. This end of year missive is sort of a convergence of discussions after our Holiday Soiree and then stumbling back onto a Jamie Cullum YouTube playlist that I have had marked for a long while.

In a nutshell, Katia raised questions about song choices, being authentic or apologizing for choices made. We have made an expectation of our cabaret work that our "art" needs to come from a place of personalization; whatever that means. Another aspect of that refers to being present in that particular moment. It is not the luxury of a studio musician who can continue take after take, or even a theater person who has that same luxury of 8 shows a week to hone a tune.

Enter Jamie Cullum, a Brit who is a huge presence in the Jazz genre. A true troubadour that is a cross between Billy Joel and ... But like our ilk, he is most in his element live and in the room. This brings me to an artist challenge that he started 4 years ago called the Song Society. There are 4 tenets.
1. Find a Song you Love or are Fascinated by
2. Learn and Record within the hour
3. No Previous Preparation allowed
4. Love and Live with the Mistakes

Over the 4 years he has amassed a collection of 18 songs thus far. Looking at the list, it seems a cousin to the work of Postmodern Jukebox that bends genres and styles. But on watching the performances, it is much different. They are not showstoppers, but intimate portraits that are each unique, but truly capture the essence of the artist. You will see pop hits from Arianna Grande & Ed Sheeran. Showtunes from Mary Poppins. Classics by greats like Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Ben Folds Five. Each song amazing in their frankness. And of course his talents. It also does not hurt that he is surrounded by a family of musicians that are very comfortable with this process. I am featuring just 2 here in this post. But find a quiet 30 minutes and sample the whole collection.

Take time to read the comments where he frequently chimes in. He encourages other singers to do the same and offer up their versions as well. Back to Katia's original questioning, there is something freeing about taking the risk, committing to a piece you  connect with, and living with the collaboration.

If you are looking for some direction and insight in the New Years, revel in his challenge.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Pay the Artist What They Are Worth

If you are a frequent reader of our cabaret Blog posts, you will recall some conversation back in September that dealt with the Music Modernization Act which had just been passed. If you missed it, in short, it legally went back to 1972 and awarded artists from that era guaranteed royalties & copyrights on their music which continues to play in every corner of our society. Success story.

Now bringing it into the future, the same arguments rear their angry head in a similar showdown for contemporary artists. This time the battle plays out between songwriters and the majority of the big-Tech digital streaming services. That would be Spotify, Amazon, Google and Pandora. It involves the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) which has determined a "cost of living" increase in payouts with regard to digital streaming and will roll out over a 5 year period. I have read several articles with MUCH finger pointing and differing dollar amounts.
Image result for spotifyBut what is certain, is that the above mentioned companies are appealing the CRB decision in support of something less compensating. Since the appeal is being challenged by the National Music Publishers Association  & Nashville Songwriters Association I have to assume that it is a legitimate blow to the creative artist. What it amounts to is basically $.0003 per stream vs the proposed .$0004. Regardless of the argument, these streaming companies continue to grow as subscriptions become the preferred way to listen to all music. So in actuality, the artists are profiting an even smaller piece of the pie.
Image result for apple music
Interestingly enough; Apple Music is the sole company that is not challenging the CRB ruling. So if I can speculate, I would guess that if this continues to play out, we shall see a large number of visible artists in all genres of music pulling their content and limiting playing usage to one or a few of the vendors. And would you blame them?

Remember when we would buy our LP or cassette at the local Musicland and play it on our own stereo with headphones? I'm guessing we never fathomed how different the art of music would be 40 years later.

If you are an avid reader, here are a few resource links.

Songwriters Respond to Tech Bullies
Apple vs Spotify
Streaming Services Appeal Copyright Ruling

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Awards Season for Cabaret

It has been a long while since a blog post for TCCAN. Not because there have not been interesting tidbits out there; I have a handful of drafts waiting to be expounded upon. But more a cross pollination of time crunch and mid-winter blahs.

But this one came to me as we are winding down the inevitable awards season that starts with the Golden Globes and continues through the onslaught of Super Bowl halftimes, Oscar red carpets and Grammys that leave us scratching our heads with performers we have never seen racking up trophies.

Related imageThis is to enlighten you all that our precious little world of cabaret is not immune to the glamour and back patting. I see the MAC Awards listed for Tuesday March 26th. Note here that while other prestigious ceremonies are ready-for-prime time, cabaret is relegated to a Tuesday evening in a recital hall. But no shame in that. What I marvel at is the lengthy list of nominees and categories! Not to belittle, but give them a look. We have Debut Artists, Vocalist, Major Artist, Celebrity, Drag Performer, Group, Recurring Series, Emcee, Piano Bar, Instrumentalist..... whoosh. This is only a fraction of the list. There must be over 150 names. I guess I had no clue that what we do was so monumental. I think it's more of an instance that everyone goes home a winner. Similar to the dance competitions I judge where they separate into divisions of 3 so each performer goes home with at least a 3rd place trophy.

Perhaps you were overlooked? There are also the Bistro Awards which seem similar to our former Ivey Awards here for theater. Rather than categories, they note outstanding offerings from the current year and are chosen by jury rather than votes. They have a great statement of " recognizing, encouraging, nurturing, and educating cabaret, jazz, and comedy artists for 34 years through our insightful reviews and our annual awards — the oldest award of its kind in the industry." And the names both current and past honorees are certainly impressive. Names like Cleo Laine, Kaye Ballard, Barbara Cook, Marilyn Maye, & Ben Vereen to name a few. This year Judy Collins receiving a Lifetime award. Their website is notable with some great cabaret resources that will get their own shout out in the near future.
Related image
But bottom line - maybe we need to expand our Cabaret Fest next year to include an awards gala!? A swanky event in a back room at a tasteful local venue where we can all go home a winner. Best Performance at BLB. Best Stephen Sondheim Interpretation. Best Cabaret Patter with Humor. Tasteful Wearing of a Black Dress. With our members approaching 40 we could break us down into a mere 10 categories and have a slate of maybe 4 in each so every TCCAN member gets at least a door prize and a swag bag of pens, post-it notes, a piece of digital music and maybe we can exchange personal CDs. All in jest, but it does note what a different world we live in here in MN vs the pomp and circumstance of New York style cabaret.. Ta Ta for now.

2019 Mac Nominees