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Winnipeg Garage Band Becomes Next Overnight Sensation

Subtitle: If I were born just a few years later…

When I was young, I always thought I was born a little too late. Why? I loved 50’s music. The harmonies. The guitars. The beat. I could go on… I thought of how great my parents had it with the music of their day versus the mediocre songs I was hearing. Oh sure there were a few songs that I liked. Yet overall, the early 60’s seemed to be missing the brilliance I attributed to the music of the previous generation.

Come back to present day and I often hear my kids saying the same thing. They love the album rock of the 70’s and 80’s. Classic Rock is one of their favorite genres. Only recently, with the re-emergence of “true artists” (singer/songwriters) have they found some solace in today’s music. Favorites like Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Maroon 5, and Jack Johnson are regularly played when we hit the road. My son thinks the best way to get ready for a soccer game is to play Alan Parsons’ Sirius up loud before he runs out on the field to warm up.

I love music. All kinds of music. I look at the influences on my musical taste and have to admit my Dad and Mom had as much to do with my approach to music as my network of friends. Dad and Mom listened to everything. They’d go from playing Henry Mancini to Charlie Pride to Nancy Sinatra to Alice Cooper. Really – I still remember the look on my Dad’s face when he opened Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” album to find the LP wrapped with paper underwear versus the traditional paper sleeve.  They listened to Jazz, Pop, Rock, Country … this exposure led me to an appreciation for many styles of music.

This wide exposure also influenced my guitar playing. I wasn’t satisfied learning the top 40 hits. I wanted to learn blues and jazz riffs. I wanted to understand Latin and classical guitar styles, scales, and chord progressions. This led to a deeper relationship with the music I heard. I took this relationship to the garage with my friends.

Once upon a garage band in Winnipeg, Canada. With a little bit of heat (a garage in Winnipeg is as cold as an ice floe in winter) or permission from Dad and Mom to play in the basement of the house, my friends and I experimented. We had visions of following other Manitoba legends like Burton Cummings (The Guess Who) and Randy Bachman (The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive) and Neil Young to the top. Hours sped by like seconds when we were jamming and rehearsing. To make a long story short, we fell well short of stardom. In fact, we barely made it out of the city limits. (More on that in future musings.)

Today’s garage bands have new opportunities and tools to help garner success, tools that dwarf what I was able to afford and access in our garage. Here are the seven things I would do if I was in a garage band today:

1.      Listen to a broad variety of music. Some of the greatest new sounds are coming from blends of styles and influences. Today’s music sites let you sample a global catalog of music. Millions of tracks are at your fingertips. You have more access to music than any previous generation on the planet.

2.      Record. Write. Often. Don’t just listen to the great songs you like – study them. What do you like about them? Why do they reach you? What elements of your own recordings truly express you, and which are simply “filler?” Get rid of the filler. Record. Write. Often.

3.      Collaborate. Swap ideas and jam. Write and play with others. Today’s recording software is affordable and accessible. Your computer is your home studio console. Use it to create and to share.

4.      Build your audience. Start by sharing with friends. Play live as often as possible. Collect names and email addresses. Communicate with your audience about your next gig, the new songs you are writing, and more. You’d be amazed at how quickly you can build a following and jump to the head of the pack on this item alone.  

5.      Promote. Or find someone who loves to promote and wants to work with you. Discover the places your fans hang out (online and in person) and put your music there. Sites like MySpace offer the ability to promote your music to a broad network of friends and potential new fans from your physical and digital worlds.

6.      Sell your music. Start now. Seriously. It’s one thing to give away your music. It is another to build a supportive fan base that can finance you to the next level. You’ll learn valuable lessons in the process.

7.      Set written goals. Share them with others only if you must. Look for people you know or you know of who can help you. Go to them, and make use of the advice you receive.

My passion today is building out the platforms to enable many of the items on the above list.  These technologies can empower today’s garage bands to make their best music, and reach their broadest audience.  I wish they’d been available to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets. My technical education led me to Microsoft Canada and eventually to Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and to PassAlong Networks today. It has put me in a position to serve and help musicians of today…to help the next “garage band” break out. If you’re in this band, know them or live next to them, have them contact me. I’m ready to help.

I still love music, and still experiment and continue to write songs.  I own seven guitars and play as often as possible. You can’t stop the music within you.


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