Almost Famous

The Avenues to Success

The Live Scene

We’re just a couple of kids chasing after childhood fantasies. Music is in our blood, it flows through our lives and connects us as humans. When we go to shows we are able to truly experience the human condition in the purest way possible. Music holds us together, piece-by-piece, and is the ultimate form of a universal language. While there is multiple businesses within the music business, it all comes together in the live scene. The live scene separates artist from performer, music from experience. It’s where the recording artist must break their studio boundaries and jump into the lives of their fans. It’s where a thousand people in the front know every lyric to a song and from those lyrics create their own interpretation and dance. It’s where the world stops for music and encores exist to prolong the experience. While the music business goes through a drastic form of transition, the live scene actually improves. Fan and artist relationships slowly go beyond simply a ‘listen and respond’ experience, but a ‘listen and pursue’ journey. The more personal the artist becomes, the more super fans are created. Technology is enabling fans to interact instantaneously, instead of waiting until they return home. Mobile phones are moving into the forefront of artistic expression and the business that establishes its outreach. There exists literally thousands of mobile phone applications and web based services which make this interaction possible. The classic components of the music business are simplified by entrepreneurial spirits determined to cater to the independent and indie artist. While the majors are still a sought after destination to ultimate artistic success, the fan base created from these services is crucial to any kind of clout during a recording negotiation. The next phase is narrowing these services down to a trusted source and connecting with the appropriate team to make your music move. An artist with an already existent and thriving hunger to put in the necessary time and effort to create an army of super fans will naturally attract those who feel the same. The artist’s team will have naturally transitioned from super fans to super fans dedicated to the dreams and aspirations of the artist creatively and otherwise.

The search begins. Embrace the live scene.

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April 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Emily King: The Voice


It’s very rare I discover an artist I feel truly captures her audience using her own, genuine material. Emily King signed with J. Records and released a studio album in 2007. I can reasonably assume King parted ways with J. Records due to creative differences and perhaps felt some constraints on her versatile abilities. By no means is East Side Story a poor album, it just feels produced and heavily directed by everyone but King. Listening to King’s current singles such as “Radio” or “Georgia” gives me a heartfelt experience her album lacked. In general, King’s vocals are by no means huge, but more importantly they are captivating, soulful, and humble. Recently I saw her perform in the more intimate room at Rockwood Music Hall. The dimly lit room was packed to the door and I couldn’t help but overhear the hype found in every conversation. Many of them brought their friends out because they were familiar with King and wanted to share their experience, mouthing the words to the three singles available to stream on her website. Hopefully we can expect an album soon. Until then, get hip to Emily King.

January 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Preface. Book II.

Change. Probably a word most of us are very uncomfortable with, including myself. We tend to gravitate around things which seem most familiar, safe, and involves no to low risk. We wake up everyday and find minor annoyances within our lives and especially with the things we are most passionate about. It is through these annoyances dreams develop into reality. It is within these annoyances we are able to transcend adulthood and revert back to childhood. When faced with a dream, you must be patient, stubborn and absolutely unrealistic. You must make moves when the rest of the world is sleeping and rest knowing you are already one step ahead of the rest of the world. This is where I stand. This is what eats away at my mind throughout the day, but I still keep it locked inside, until now. In a few weeks I will be making a huge move to New York City. I promised myself I would return and I have kept that promise among much opposition. This is beyond a new chapter in my life; it is really an entirely new book. Better yet, it is a very open book. From this point on, each of you reading this will see a timeline of my journey throughout closing this Ohio chapter, and opening up a new series in New York City. I will not take this for granted and I know I will come out of it victorious. To be honest, I can’t put into words or really explain to you right now where I will end up, all I know is it will be for the betterment of music. I’m chasing not just one dream, but a field of opportunities centered on the arts.

Closing a book in your life and ultimately being satisfied with the results is difficult because you know the book you are about to close is the foundation of yourself. It would be impossible to name off every person who has ever influenced me, but you know who you are or will know who you are because in every thing I do, you will be a part of it in some way. In the entire 22 years of my life, I have seen so much, learned so much, and changed so much. It’s amazing to realize how the people in your life fit into the puzzle of the future. They help foster your dream without you even realizing it. I am blessed to live without blindness to see that. This is why I enjoy writing, I take in everything. I sit in a coffee shop right now, trying not to be creepy, but looking at every person wondering where their feet have been. I could be sitting among undiscovered talent. I could be sitting among unfinished dreams. I start this journey young because I refuse to doubt myself. I refuse to have fear, opposition, or regrets. This is me and you will know me.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | New York City | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Roots Present: The Jam

I just couldn’t wait to post these up… stay-tuned for the experience!

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Music Journalist in NYC Vol. 1

Through the trenches of disappointment, I once again begin my quest to break into music journalism. Whether I’m spending time in venues absorbing new music or riding the G train in Brooklyn trying to find the spark that ignited legends like Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G, I surround myself with musical bliss every opportunity I can. Ever since I arrived in New York City almost 4 months ago, I’ve jumped into a mix of aspiring artists, producers, writers, executives, and music enthusiasts. As a music journalist, I want to place myself in a position where I can familiarize myself with every aspect of the music industry. Through acting on these intense aspirations, I discovered several opportunities through New York University to expand my knowledge and begin to network. After subscribing myself to the NYU’s Music Business Graduate Student list serve, I found myself attending a networking social at Fat Cat Jazz Club. Beforehand I ordered simple, professional-looking business cards displaying my e-mail, phone number, and blog address.

It was refreshing to finally surround myself with the inspirational dreams of others my age who also wish to be a part of the music industry. After talking to several of the aspiring artists, producers, and managers, I felt a strong connection with their ambitions and dreams. Many of us felt we are the future of music and to be a part of that vision is an indescribable feeling. Yet, even as a semi-experienced journalist, I still find it very difficult to network and contribute to that vision. As a result, I ordered a few beers to calm my nerves before I began to make my way around the bar and introduce myself.

After spending time with a handful of managers, artists, and producers and handing out business cards, I established several ground rules for my future networking experiences. At this point when you are networking the first impression is very important. Possessing a fearless, confident swagger is vital and perfecting your “pitch” in what area of the music business you want to pursue should be your intro. Eye contact, body posture, and even voice infliction are all factors in an effective business relationship. I found the biggest struggle was keeping their focus and attention and I immediately recalled advice that was given to me by a recruitment specialist through my fraternity, “people love to talk about themselves.” This is particularly useful in discovering what makes people “tick” and how you can compliment their talents with your own talents. After making several connections and collecting a stack of business cards a sense of accomplishment was resurrected. A vast city full of opportunities awaits me and I’m only scratching the turntables.

Real talk.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ryan Leslie, S.O.B’s

R. Les, LloydAfter following Ryan Leslie on Twitter for weeks, I finally heard word of an upcoming show at S.O.B’s on Varick and E. Houston Street. With only four tickets left at the S.O.B box office, I purchased two; later discovering not only Thursday’s show was sold-out, but Wednesday’s as well. Ryan Leslie, who binds himself to his fans, after hearing the news of the outstanding ticket sales, pledged to put his entire heart into each show, promising surprise guests and a string quartet. It is not often in the music industry I see an obvious passion for performing and satisfying a reasonable ticket price of $20, so ‘excited’ certainly doesn’t capture my emotions a few days before the show.

I choose to follow Ryan’s day-to-day updates on Twitter and pay extra-attention to his every move because he possesses a passion for music I also share and I feel many artists emerging in the mainstream simply lack. I arrive to the surprisingly short line at S.O.B’s about 7 30, an hour and a half before Ryan is set to perform. S.O.B’s is a dimly lit venue with a fairly small stage and two bars, the main one towards the back and a smaller one off to the side. The dining area is full of linen tablecloths and roped off entries filled with an audience who probably is clueless to what exactly the “Ryan Leslie Experience” could entail. My friend and I make our way amongst the standing-room crowd, swaying to the old school R&B blaring through the speakers behind us. The media is already gathered at the front of the stage, testing their exposures against an empty, dimly-lit stage awaiting Ryan Leslie’s arrival. Much of the crowd is already severally intoxicated, raising their drinks to the sky with their eyes closed singing along and snapping to the DJ’s rhythms.

I remember glancing at my phone several times, watching 8 00 turn into 8 15, and 8 15 turn into 8 30. About 8 30 the opening band sneaks on stage and my friend and I move our way to the front of the intoxicated mess, my camera securely propped against my side. After hearing my friend’s ranting of, “You’re the press, why don’t you have a press pass? I wanna meet Ryan Leslie!, Go get a press pass!,” I grab myself a spot next to an undercover policeman, who was pushing his hammered girlfriend away from him and pawning her off to my friend, who was also intoxicated. “Yeah, I had to drag him here!,” his girlfriend screams at me as I wonder if I really have to put up with this for the entire show. “No, no, no, I like Ryan Leslie,” the policeman reassures me. The opening act was a getting a fairly severe, negative reaction from the crowd. Part of it was probably the anticipation of Ryan’s debut on stage, perhaps they too were stalking the man on Twitter for weeks, digesting unbelievable promises for tonight’s show. The most recent update I received at that point was Usher apparently made an appearance at Wednesday night’s show, so a visit from Kanye or Jay-Z wouldn’t be a shocker.

S.O.B’s began to fill extremely quickly, signifying the show was truly sold-out. An extremely high percentage of the crowd was female, probably in their late teens or early twenties, but I was going to sing with them anyway, all that Twittering better amount to something. I secured my spot pretty well by letting the two extremely drunk girls gravitate around me and scare-off anyone attempting to move closer. As the opening band quietly walked-off stage to the sound of a few faint claps, the highly-anticipated crowd lined-up at their nearest bar to replace their empty drinks. Of course, as the clock hit 9, Ryan Leslie was nowhere to be found; only the latest club bangers filled the air.

Ryan’s band began to file their way on stage about 15 minutes after 9, two saxophones, one trumpet, a drummer, and two guitarists, but I expected this was just the beginning. An electronic keyboard was set-up at the front of the stage, probably reserved for the mad scientist Ryan Leslie to make his YouTube videos come alive. Then, like the calm before the storm, Free, former host of BET’s 106 and Park, appeared on stage hyping the crowd as if Tupac was returning from his grave. The respect Free gave Ryan Leslie was unbelievable, especially considering Ryan’s still limited exposure across New York. It was refreshing to finally hear the mainstream give Ryan the respect he deserves, hopefully signifying a new era of talent. As Free walked off stage, the first few piano strokes to “Gibberish” played, one of the more mellow tracks on Ryan’s new debut album. The crowd erupted and began to snap their fingers, some of them already mouthing the words to the ironically word-less song. Ryan Leslie’s bodyguards cleared a path for him through the crowd and the musical genius himself appeared on stage and the crowd went absolutely wild, immediately recognizing he was in fact going to open with “Gibberish.” “I’d like to welcome you, to the Ryan Leslie experience,” he said, “I wrote this,” referring to “Gibberish,” “because sometimes, you just don’t know what to say.”

Ryan was ecstatic to be on stage in front of his fans, with some of them following him for years. By the end of “Gibberish” Ryan’s face was already beginning to perspire as he grinned upon hundreds of screaming fans. He continued with the energetic “Quicksand,” jumping around stage pointing at different instruments as if he was passing on some of his energy to them. Throughout the entire show Ryan was well-connected to his band and his environment, particularly in awe at the front row of star-struck, energetic females. At one point during his next song, “You’re Fly,” he took a young woman’s hand and proclaimed his catchy-hook, “Baby you’re fly, baby you’re fly, I love the way you walk and the look in your eye…” I found myself, although thrown in a pit of dancing, screaming females, singing along, and needless to say I was never ashamed.

Immediately I noticed Ryan’s versatile between his vocals, rhymes, and instrumentation. By only his third song Ryan had to wipe his face off with a towel because he was perspiring all over the stage and looked to be completely out-of-breath, only quickly to run right into “Diamond Girl,” his arguably biggest hit right now and gets enough radio-play to get most of the crowd putting their hands in the air. As Ryan began to slow down with “Valentine,” the electronic keyboard on-stage reflected the same feeling Ryan tries to emulate in this YouTube videos. Ryan at one point completely stopped singing and most of the front row was able to finish most of the song, probably as a newer and hard-working artist an unforgettable experience. As promised, the string quartet filed in onto the stage and played with Ryan until the end of “Addiction,” where another surprise jumped on stage, Lloyd. Lloyd transitioned into his verse from “Girls Around the World” and after giving Ryan his respects, ventured back into V.I.P along with Fonzworth Bentley and Tyson Beckford. At this point, Ryan looked completely drained from sliding from microphone to keyboard and keyboard to doing 360 degree spins on stage. The energy level on stage completely matched that of the crowds, so much in fact I don’t think they knew what to do with it.

After the lights completely dimmed, Ryan looked up at the ceiling, probably reminiscing on an extremely successful show, and transitioned into his final song, “How it Was Supposed to Be” with electric guitars screaming the introduction while Ryan positioned his arms across the stage. His enthusiasm continued with a passionate keyboard solo and a fist across his chest, just breathing in the last of the crowd’s energy for the night. He exited with every person rushing to the coat check humming “How it was Supposed to Be” and a satisfaction of knowing maybe Ryan just resurrected a passion in music that sometimes needs to reach surface.

Real talk.

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March 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube’s Undiscovered Gems

lwamShe sits impatiently, staring at her computer screen, looking at the latest comments on her YouTube.com page. Her fan base develops not through record sales and concert attendance, but through fans listening to her on her MySpace.com music page and watching her oftentimes comical yet always entertaining videos on YouTube.

She wakes up early, goes to one of her part-time jobs and spends the rest of the day at the studio with her producer, creating another crowd-pleasing track that will stir the internet audience, once again prompting viewers to respond with a flood of positive comments.

These positive comments are attributed not only to an angelic voice, but the rising skills of an amateur producer. He bears the title “amateur” because his equipment consists of a MacBook Pro and music editing software called “Garage Band.”

Struggling to keep up with the ever-demanding music industry, he spends hours at a time producing mind-blowing tracks and posting them on MySpace and YouTube.

Who are these people being fueled by their passion for music? Their names are Lwam Tecle, 20, and Ryan Tedder, 19, both from Cleveland and part of the music industry’s new era of young, technologically advanced talent.

Before Tecle and Tedder made the decision to become artists, the duo lived normal, post-high school teenage lives. Tedder grew up in Pittsburgh, learning to play piano at age eight and owning his first drum set at the tender age of three.

“It only lasted a week before I busted the heads, [my parents] put me in drum lessons when I was four years old,” he said.

His musical gift was most evident in his ability to listen to a song and play it back instantly. During his senior year of high school, Tedder was accepted into the Berkley College of Music but due to financial issues, decided to attend Tri-C, a local community college in Cleveland where he studied jazz.

Lwam Tecle became intrigued with music not by recognizing her own talent, but by humbly appreciating music in its purest art form.

“… I became obsessed with singing. It was like my own lil’ secret,” she said. “I was always nervous performing – I guess I am still learning how to do that.”

In order for Tecle to conquer her fear of the stage, she decided to bring her talent to the masses through the power of the Internet. Specifically through the popular social network MySpace and the video-sharing Web site YouTube.

“YouTube is so unbelievably powerful. The fact that you can get to know someone through a video is almost unreal,” Tecle said.

The dynamic partnership between Tecle and Tedder formed as if fate sustained the bond. While checking out some videos on YouTube of upcoming R&B singer and producer Ryan Leslie, Tedder said he was immediately intrigued by a response left by an attractive young female, Lwam Tecle.

“She impressed me … I decided to reach out to her and network. I didn’t think anything of it,” Tedder said.

After learning Tecle lived only 15 minutes away from Tedder’s home, the two agreed to meet up. The chemistry, evident by Tecle and Tedder’s videos on YouTube, was an instant hit. Tecle’s YouTube channel, “LTMUSICTV,” has almost 2,000 subscribers and almost 22,000 views and Tedder’s channel, “RyanTedder412,” has almost 4,000 subscribers and over 50,000 views.

“Word of mouth is the most convincing way to sell yourself,” Tecle said.

To date, Tecle and Tedder’s buzz has extended well beyond the regions of the Midwest. The two were recently featured on B94, a popular radio station in Pittsburgh, Pa. Their buzz is also sparking the interest of several major industry producers. Tecle requested their names not to mentioned.

Based on the incredible fan base they already have developed, the talented duo know fame is evident. Their determination is clear through their goals and ever-improving sound as collaborating artists.

Tecle relies on the producing techniques of Tedder, but with her goal to be “well-rounded as an artist,” Tecle plans on trying her hand on producing as well.

“I really want to get into producing so I can have a hand on the technical part of my projects,” she said.

Along with sharing their music with the world, both Tecle and Tedder have a desire to give back and help others.

“I am motivated by the idea of helping others with funds made doing something I love to do,” Tecle said.

Giving back, in Tedder’s definition, is creating a new music scene.

“After I land a few major placements, I plan to launch my own label, ‘Upscale Music Group,'” he said. “It is going to be a label run by myself and others who share my vision as producers, songwriters and artists who work collectively to create great music – people who share the same goal and creative minds to put out real music again.”

Producing, marketing, promoting, writing their own music and possessing the ultimate goal of helping others achieve their dreams, Tecle and Tedder represent the ultimate success story.

“What I will say is that I am not foolish for believing in something,” Tecle said. “It’s not like I forced a passion in my heart, it was naturally just there. I know what I want, and I know I have to work hard for it.”

Although the road to stardom is never an easy one, Lwam Tecle and Ryan Tedder welcome the bumps and detours along the way.

“That’s the beauty of the long road to getting into the industry; when you get to the end of it, it’s going to be well worth it, and you will appreciate it so much more,” Tecle said. “If I fail at this, I want to crash and burn, because if it doesn’t hurt falling, that means that I wasn’t trying as hard as I thought I was. We only have one life; don’t limit yourself to anything.”

Courtesy of The Independent Collegian (http://independentcollegian.com/2.10032/1.1322412-1.1322412)

Real talk.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Ryan Leslie

ryan-leslie“They try to put me in a box, it’s impossible!” Ryan Leslie says in the beginning of “Diamond Girl” off of his much anticipated, self-titled, debut album. The question still remains, “who is Ryan Leslie?” for much of the crowd, but during the midnight release of his debut album on February 10th Leslie sold out the Times Square Virgin Super Store and during the 1st week was over 190% in projected album sales. Leslie’s album also topped out on iTunes top 10 albums just during the first day. So who is Ryan Leslie? A producer, song writer, singer, entrepreneur, performer, YouTube blogger, and a Harvard graduate at 19 years old with a degree in government and economics. RyanLeslieTV, his official YouTube channel, boasts over 50,000 subscribers and centralizes Leslie’s talent and passion in the studio which probably contributed to his first week’s outrageous album sales. While must underground artists look at YouTube as a median to distribute and showcase themselves, Leslie, on a mainstream level used it as distribution as well, but more importantly documented his entire life in and out of the studio to relate to his fans on a more personal basis. From creating a new hit track for his 2006 project Bad Boy-signed Cassie to catching lunch in Harlem, Ryan Leslie puts a camera on his star-studded lifestyle. Leslie even updates his facebook and twitter statues to where exactly he will be and fans have reported actually seeing and meeting up with him at those places. Studio sessions for Leslie are truly where his debut album shines, too bad they don’t come included on the album as extra content.

Leslie’s polished tracks on his debut are hardly the thin air they were created from. Walking into a studio with Ryan Leslie through the eyes of YouTube is like a fantasy of hundreds of different instruments coming together in perfect chemistry and Leslie is the mad scientist. At one point on his YouTube adventures Leslie rush orders a “pocket trumpet” from the internet and has it rush delivered to his door that same day just to sample a few notes from it. His adoration on YouTube creates an additional fan base that admires his pure music creation, not really his affiliation with any other artists or his probably unknown producing he did for artists such as Britney Spears, New Edition, or JoJo. The long overdue self-titled album, some fans who’ve waited years for, will be very much a repeat for many avid fans. A good portion of the tracks are the studio creations he documented on YouTube months before, but Leslie throws in some re-worked versions of old favorites and a good handful of newer tracks. With the exception of “Addiction” featuring Cassie and Fabulous, Leslie rides solo. The five-piece studio orchestra is found throughout the album which sets Ryan Leslie apart from the rest of the producing legends because the only thing he’s sampling is himself and so far the only thing he’s producing is the definition of passion.

Real talk.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Arlene’s Grocery

More music from the big apple.  Interestingly enough, most of these bands attracted a large crowd for a Tuesday night.  The set included The Populists, Lizzy Grant, Band of Theives, Clinton Curtis, and Manhattan’s infamous cover band, Just the Tip.

Lizzy Grant

Lizzy Grant

Band of Theives

Band of Thieves

Clinton Curtis

Band of Thieves

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chuck ‘D’

ChuckEnter the 1960s and breathe in a world of revolution and restoration. The music, the experimental drugs, and more importantly, the culture, were a unified fist fighting for peace. Although some of the means were wrong, the purpose was there, and it is this unification that all of us secretly long for in our broken, weary hearts in today’s age. Enter the 1960s and also enter the birthplace of Carlton Douglas Ridenhour in Roosevelt, New York or as the world now recognizes him as, “Chuck D.” For the much younger crowd, Chuck D was the man behind the socially conscience rap group called ‘Public Enemy,” which may be remembered for the outrageous antics by Flava Flav, but should be dissected for its lyrics and depth of honesty and boldness. Today, Chuck D is now recognized as a legend, and rightfully so, but a legend in a music industry is he no longer performing in. Although Public Enemy may have faded in the distance, it seems we need them now more than ever. Chuck D may not be throwing a fist in the air on stage and educating his audience about worthy causes in a lyrical composition, but he is still just as appealing and influential. He has been called a humanitarian and a role model, but more importantly, he is able to step outside the media box and steer the future in the right direction. New York University students filed in the Skirball Performing Center as they normally do expecting to sit only several feet in front of a celebrity. A celebrity they would take hundreds of pictures of without a giving a second thought about the magnitude of his influence. The Catherine B. Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship at NYU opens the eyes and ears to real, effective social change.Chuck D’s approach was from the perspective of the media and shutting out their ideas and creating our own. Particularly in the African American community, Chuck heavily focused on the media’s way of defining African American culture, “We do shit, somebody else defines us,” he said. Networks like MTV, BET, and radio stations like Hot 97’ here in NYC, according to Chuck, are poor depictions of reality and to base our musical tastes and definitions of genres on them is just another way media defines our world.

Chuck reminded the students at NYU to be who you are and be proud of what you represent where many artists are falling short. Think of the artists on the radio we look up to, who are they really under all of the stardom? Dissecting the world through the microscope of Chuck D was refreshing because it was from a perspective that hardly exits in popular culture. Chuck on stage was more than an artist, writer, or speaker; he was a symbol for social change and not in the musical sense, which may have been overlooked by some. Artists like Public Enemy probably would not get radio play on today’s media sector because it seems the media has already defined what music is and we obey and listen to that claim. While NYU students will not all enter the music industry and have the know-how to be social entrepreneurs, Chuck reminds us to simply stay in school. This NYU community can stand against this “radio radiation movie nation,” as Chuck put it, and rise against backwards thinking. The transformation of celebrity to social activist occurred on that stage and that is what perhaps gave the audience the sense of being dumbfounded and star struck. It was in this refreshing view of celebrity status the audience could throw-up a fist and shout, “fight the power!”

Real talk.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment