The Echo Chamber

Who is That Artist Behind That Mask?

By: Scott E. Parker

When it comes to my musical journey, I don’t often compare myself to the likes of David Bowie or Lady Gaga. And while I suspect that a few amongst the readers of this article will think that this month’s topic does not apply to them, I suspect more than a few will. It is something of a phenomenon that I have tried to wrap my head around, and although prevalent for years amongst other professions, it now seems to be a significant phenomenon amongst the unsigned independent artists amongst us. Especially with the emerging abilities of home musicians and technologies that can get pro sounding audio results from your closet.

And yea, I know you are saying “how ‘bout you get back to that comparison to Gaga and Bowie thing, Skip.” Well, it isn’t the music, I can say that. No, the comparison that I am referring to is a little thing that has been termed “Imposter Syndrome.” For the record and as a disclaimer, anyone who knows me realizes quickly that if you are relying on me for medical or healthcare advice, you are in worse shape than you might think. And I am NOT going to go all psycho analytical here and make you want to watch reruns of “The Curse of Oak Island” instead of reading this. But there is an interesting element to this that I am going to go into briefly, and then brazenly and totally make up correlations as a (hopefully) interesting and thought-provoking conversation piece. WebMd (oh, heck yes, I am going there) states “If you tend to doubt your own skills and accomplishments, despite what others think, you may have Imposter Syndrome.” Various articles state this is not an actual mental health condition, and that it goes by other terms such as “imposter phenomenon,” “fraud syndrome”, or “imposter experience”. The last of which could be the subject matter of an entire album for me. But I digress. These various terms all describe “someone who feels they aren't as capable as others, and they think and fear they’ll be exposed as a fraud.” Imposter Syndrome affects many individuals across many lines of work. And it has been rife amongst the entertainment industry for years. In addition to Gaga, Bowie, and MidLyfe’s Crisis, the likes of James Morrison, Bela Hadid, Albert Einstein, Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Natalie Portman, and yes, Tom ‘friggin’ Hanks have all experienced it. One study that I saw (I do put a little work into these) had an incredibly interesting stat that found that about 70% of ALL people have felt like an imposter at some point. And, Imposter Syndrome seems to have more severe effects on those who are highly capable perfectionists. Luckily THAT, is not one of my problems, so I got that going for me. Although Mrs. Crisis did laugh so hard she fell and hit her head when she read that.

Some talented musical friends of mine (who I will shamelessly promote here) have a new music podcast called Sound Discussion, in which this topic was covered specifically as it relates to music and home musicians. And it proved to be an interesting listen that I recommend, because I do realize that early on in my writing and recording journey that yup, that was me. I even used phrases like “I really suck at this, I am a fraud, nobody wants to listen to songs about kitchens or family trips” before I even knew what this imposter “thing” was. Or that it was a syndrome. And it took me forever to release anything. And I personally don’t have it in any other aspect of my life.  So where I take a step to the side and start my theory of making it up is the correlation to home recording and getting your music out there. Imposter Syndrome makes it really easy to never get anything into the world. Cyrus Gray has made the cornerstone of the HUGS platform the concept of SSP
(Shameless Self Promotion for you noobs out there). There is no doubt that you have to get the word out there if you want to be heard. At any level. And there is no doubt that if you have Imposter
Syndrome with your music creation, it would correlate to the promotion. “Why bother? I stink. Others are so much better.” I know. Mind. Blown.

But think about it. Home recording technology, while giving us the ability to create and distribute music easier than ever, has probably caused a huge leap in feelings of Imposter Syndrome. In my case, when my drums sounded like tin cans on garbage day, or I didn’t have the ability to make my voice sound like something that was actually alive and not in pain, it was easy to just tinker and say, “it doesn’t matter anyway. Nobody will hear this except maybe my mother-in-law.” But we can make some pretty good sounding stuff now. And there are a lot of people making awesome music outside of the formal recording studio. Stuff that will stand up to anybody. So if you are not on the road with Jelly Roll or packing the Sphere in Vegas, Imposter Syndrome and its feelings of inadequacy and that you are not good enough can rear its ugly head fast, and you are back to “why bother?” Especially in the world of comparison and judgement we find ourselves in.

Although Imposter Syndrome is not new to the entertainment industry, I submit it is new to talk about in the context of a home recording musician. We all know that there are a million reasons to not get it out there. How many times have you heard your tune played on HUGs or other places and comment every… single… time… about the master not being loud enough or that drum fill was missed, or I am not worthy of the talent around me. (That’s not just me, right? Right??) So those buddies of mine who have the podcast did delve into this topic. They submit, and I agree, that
to have some measure of Imposter Syndrome may actually be GOOD. Because if you have it and to a certain degree, accept and manage it, at least you are creating and getting your stuff out there. Another interesting facet of Imposter Syndrome is that one of the ways experts talk about coping with it is to be within a group of like-minded people and talking through it. A support network if you will. One that discusses why you feel this way and why. In our case, no matter how many times people say your music is pretty good, you will always, if left alone, find something that is wrong with it (or you), and think that it is only a matter of time before you are found out as the fraud you think you are. 

So is the HUGs platform (and to a lesser degree the less personal sites), a potential treatment for Unsigned Artist Imposter Syndrome (USAIS)? I submit that the nature of the “unified group” that Cyrus speaks about is definitely one way to help overcome “IS”. However you socialize musically, talk to other musicians. Collaborate. Share ideas and thoughts about what you are thinking about music. Get that SSP going. You will find out pretty quickly that you do not suck nearly as bad as I do… wait… did I miss the point of this whole thing? Until next time music lovers! Get it out there!
“Sound Discussion” is available wherever you get your podcast. 

Scott Parker is a multi-instrumentalist, Song Writer, Producer and Mix Engineer who writes and records under the name MidLyfe’s Crisis from his home studio in Frederick, Maryland. He writes
articles related to music infrequently from his studio as well. And he is part of the HUGs Galaxy of Stars…

Brother Can You Spare a Guitar Solo?

By: Scott E. Parker

Collaboration. Relationships. Pretty big five and four syllable words right there. Words that are heard a lot. From government initiatives, to corporate boardrooms, musical projects ranging from albums to film scores, down to the interaction of a few people in a group. Without going all big-word Webster’s (out of respect for bass players in the audience), “collaboration” basically means the “action of working with someone to produce or create something.” And collaboration, particularly in music, is preceded and reliant upon relationships. According to Webster's, “relationship” means… never mind, no more definitions, we got that one. 

In the corporate and government world, collaboration sometimes (a lot) is a relationship that in some measure is forced upon people who really don’t want to rely on others. Shocker, but its true. I have myself experienced the dread of that first meeting. Forced by management that expects you to work with a group of different disciplines to achieve a common goal for a particular objective. But as sure as meetings lead to more meetings, you see the one guy in the office, that ONE GUY that will shirk, make excuses, talk too much, say nothing, rely on others, contribute nothing, and then take the credit. And success working in this environment is mandatory to have it reflect positively on your evaluation. Ick! Enough of the corporate talk. Now back to the music…

Relationships in music, which in turn can lead to much needed collaborative efforts for an artistic or musical goal, are a different animal entirely. We as artists want those relationships. We NEED those relationships. For a variety of reasons. Because needy musicians, right? But, I digress. In this modern age, as I have written about previously, things are different. With the indie artist platform provided by HUGs being an integral part of this particular aspect of modern music creation.

Back in the old days (here he goes again, kids), collaboration and relationships were your band, man. Now I know some folks will say, “what about the lone singer songwriter with the goal of just being solo, man?” Okay. I get it. But, I submit this still applies, so stick with the story… If you grew up together like the members of the Beatles, Rush, etc., you started working and knowing each other at a very young age. You grew, became brothers and /or sisters, maybe grew apart (maybe not), maybe went your separate ways. But how many of us musicians here have tried to put a band together from scratch back then?  Can anyone say “auditions?” Does this story sound familiar to you?

Your bass player keeps missing rehearsal. (NOTE: the instrument for this analogy has been changed to protect the innocent. I was the bass player). You have gigs coming up, but this friggin guy calls while you are all tuning up, and the drummer is pounding his snare and the vocalist is doing their vocal warm up gymnastics, to say he forgot a dinner date with his wife. Again. And divorce is pending. So you have had enough. You fire the guy. A couple of weeks go by, and you have four folks lined up from calling the number you could rip off the bottom of your “Bass Player Wanted for High Energy Band” flyer on the bulletin board at your local music store. 

Audition time. First one shows up, and magic! Wait… no… more times than not, you know by the time they are tuning (or not) their guitar (I mean bass) that this is gong to be two hours of your life you will never get back. “Did you rehearse the tunes?” To which the reply is “Yea, sort of, but I had three shifts at the quarry and Mr. Slate wouldn’t let me go, so I didn’t get a chance… but hey! You guys know any Lynyrd Skynyrd?” You try to be polite, jam on three chords for an hour, then move on. And bonus points to whoever gets the quarry and Mr. Slate reference. Leave a comment on the home page with that one…

In this scenario above, if you were a bass player and back up vocalist, and you wanted to write, record and collaborate or new tuneage, you were relegated to your local music scene and the players therein. Unless you had the galvoons to pack up your car and drive cross country to LA, which for the vast majority of us wasn’t happening. 

Not anymore. For my particular story, I had all these songs in my heart and learned to play guitar so I could record and produce my own stuff in this brave new world. I was committed to NOT collaborating. No more excuses, forgotten dentist appointments or drama from band members sleeping with each other. I joined Home Studio Corner (HSC) and learned recording and mixing. And I practiced. A lot. Through various blogs and yes, some sites that were considerate enough to play my tuneage, I started to development some relationships. Relationships that led to my first collaboration. (NOTE: I have a policy not to use this forum as self-promotion, so I will change the names of my stuff that is referenced) which was the guitar solo in Bin the Ditchin. That collaboration brought a new perspective and dynamic. A way forward that I didn’t see, with ideas that were new and different from mine. And dude was in Sweden. How cool. Files zipping around the world.

But wait! There’s more. Then came HUGS. I remember submitting Bin the Ditchin to HUGS like so many other platforms. After I did, I started tuning in regularly. True story. The first time I played HUGs in the carafter submitting my tunes, I was sitting in the parking lot of a brick store in my home town (outside fire pit project, if you are curious) and I heard “Strange Fascination” by Alex Blum and the Roadside Quartet, which I believe was Number 1 at the time. I heard Jessi Jordan, Justin Hinson, Ronald Reed Jackson, the Henrys, YiggaDigga and a bunch more. All genres. All cool. I thought to myself, “there ain’t no way you are even getting played, let alone competing with this talent.”

But something that was curious to me happened. Something a little bit different than submitting your songs to other sites and stations. Which all have their place and are cool in this new “musicverse” that is indie music today. (That phrase is now mine, btw…lol). The relationships with the HUGs artists started to build. Fast. Because it was encouraged as a cornerstone of the platform. Let’s all be honest. The goal of our music is to get some earballs on it. ANY earballs. My HSC mentor says all the time... “get it out there. No one is going to hear it unless it leaves your hard drive.” And while this is not an article about SSP per say, that effort does pay off. And if we are truly honest, the indie music community in general is a HUGE audience for all of us. Touring, live performances, videos, merch, etc. are still a big part for up-and-coming artists; it has to be since that’s where the money is for a living in this whack-job business, as well as fan base.  All as we try to get exposure. 

But the indie artist community is a collective group that shares the same goals and has an appreciation for the effort and the talent that goes into a production. More so than the casual listener. I made reference in a previous article about casual music listeners, especially older ones, that stopped listening to new music when Journey released “Escape.” Including your polite relatives that “don’t get it.” Indie artists are (almost always) polite and helpful, and I have found myself paying it forward now with new artists. I have also found that the support of other artists actually has lead me to become MORE popular OUTSIDE the sphere of other indie artists within the listening public than I thought possible. 

As “Bin the Ditchin” and the follow up, “This Mime We’re Walking” started to rise on the charts and get played, this particular format allowed for a lot of musical relationships to really start taking off. Just by reaching out and being cool. Yada, yada, yada, next thing I know I am having dinner and talking regularly with Bryan Toll from the Henrys (finding that he lives an hour from me), and Ronald Reed Jackson and I are bantering about “hunting wabbits” as we both make a play for Number 1. (Which we both did, and we were genuinely happy for each other). Having Brandon Hixson, Craig Mechum and Lyn Sey genuinely appreciating your music (and vice versa) means a lot. What can you say about the support of Max and all of his great music from the US to Brazil? I found that Mark Lambert lives near me, and I went to the Maryland Studio Band rehearsal space. And I bought a PRS (expensive day!) Heck, I even got to sit in on a show with Cyrus and get a peek behind the (old) curtain for a small insight into how the sausage is made. As an aside, the station used to be an hour from me, and I do hope that experience was not what made Cyrus decide we were too close, and that he needed to move four hours away now. Just saying… I did find it interesting, however, just  how many people were actually closer to me geographically than I realized, and that we were brought together by the HUGS platform. Irony much? 

The defining moment of this story comes in the form of that very same talented musician I heard on the radio that day at the brick store in Frederick, MD, who now plays a prominent role on my latest release. “Mixteen Flours” features Pat Storedahl (from ABRQ) on lead guitar, pedal steel and banjo. A buddy of mine from HSC who lives in Cleveland plays the fiddle. The biggest collaborative effort to date from me and my “I will do it all myself” mentality of the past. I have met and spoken with many artists on the platform, and I certainly did not mean to leave anyone out. I did tell Steve from the Forge Hounds that one day I am showing up to one of their gigs in Ireland unannounced, and watching the expression on his face. He has promised to help me secure lodging in a castle for a night. More digression…

Tying this up and landing this plane, all venues and outlets giving airplay for your tunes is cool. There is a place for everyone.  However, the relationship and thus collaborative aspect of HUGS, within and through the musicians that are on this platform is a secret sauce to me, and what sets it apart. In a world where 45 billion artists release music everyday into the void, this secret sauce may well be a big part of the light forward in this new wilderness. It certainly can’t hurt! 

Scott Parker is a Multi-instrumentalist, Song Writer, Producer and Mix Engineer who writes and records under the name MidLyfe’s Crisis from his home studio in Frederick, Maryland. He writes articles related to music infrequently from his studio as well. Lol…

Do You Hear What I Hear?

By: Scott E. Parker

So, it’s a week before Halloween. Or maybe Labor Day. Who knows. You are shopping in a Home Depot (or other familiar retail store), thinking about the right size nails for that project you have been threatening to do, or what tune to release to the Shockwave for the Top 200 chart on HUGS, when an all too familiar tune pierces the layer of Muzak that typically blesses retail offerings. Then you take notice that you are listening to the haunting strains of “Sleigh Bells Ring… Are You Listening?”

Whatever you feel about holiday music and all its forms, there is no denying that the first visceral reaction you probably have is to mutter “…earlier and earlier every year!” Which is actually a real phenomenon now aptly named “Christmas Creep.” True story. Last year I was in one of those said home improvement stores over the holidays, standing next to an older couple. The man said “you know, there are a lot more deaths this time of year for seniors.” I started to think about loneliness, the stress of the season, etc., when he firmly states with conviction “it’s because they want to die instead of having to listen to ‘Winter Wonderland’ one more effing time in their life!” After my requisite chuckle I began to seriously think about that statement. And I admit. It struck a note (see what I did there?). While not as old as this gentleman, I began to think about the reaction I have listening to Yoko Ono squeal “Merry, Merry, Christmas.” While not as dramatic a feeling as my retail shopping friend, the phrases “make it stop” and “why” both come to mind. Every. Single. Time.

The current “era” of Christmas music, if you want to call it an “era,” can arguably be traced to the depression before World War II. Most Christmas songs before the 20th Century were of a traditional religious nature. In the 16th century, various Christmas carols emerged that are still sung to this day, including "The 12 Days of Christmas”"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and "O Christmas Tree”. It was at this time the word “carol” came to mean a song in which a religious topic is treated in a way that is familiar or festive, and it was passed from Italy to France, Germany and later England. Christmas carols in England first appeared in about 1456. That is where the term “wassailers” is first seen, referring to house to house singing. (And as an aside, you ever had “wassail”? Mixed feelings on that, too. Cloves in oranges. Floating in a suspicious warm brown liquid. Okay…)

After a number of notable years where carols were banned by Puritans, the Victorian age saw a massive return to the carol, producing works such as “Silent Night”“O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “O Holy Night.” (Which happen to be some of this author’s favorite holiday compositions). A lot of people attribute Santa Claus and current Christmas giving traditions to the 21st Century, but the first references to St. Nicholas and other gift bringing figures appeared in the 19th century with songs such as “Up on the Housetop” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”.

Depression era songs in the 20th Century began to stray from religious themes and started to introduce secular western themes and customs. A lot of songs at the time centered on songs for children, such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Other songs such as “Winter Wonderland” were penned during this time. Then came the crooners and the precursors of current pop. In 1941, with America finally entrenched in the unknown of World War II, Irving Berlin (Ironically a Jewish immigrant born Israel Beilin) penned the seminal holiday song “White Christmas” which was sung by Bing Crosby, who was one of the biggest star of the time. The song struck a chord with Americans during this time of war, and has become the best-selling single in history, having sales of over 50 million, and charting on Billboard every year from 1942 to 1962, as well as being recorded by countless artists. Which means people hear it. A lot. Even to this day. This was followed by the Judy Garland hit “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in 1944, and the race for gold was on.

Without going down the rabbit hole of a history lesson of Santa Claus, it was around this depression era time frame that the depiction of Santa Claus appeared in advertisements for the Coca Cola company. The images from this time spurred urban legends that Santa Claus was created by Coca Cola and that the red and white he wears is a reference to Coke. But in actuality, Coca Cola was not the first beverage company to utilize the image. However, Santa became firmly entrenched in the commercialism of post war America, and his image took off with references in popular music, as well.

Beginning in the 1950s, producers began to further realize the sales and commercial potential of Christmas tunes. And given the history of repeated covers of Christmas songs dating back to, well, the middle-ages, it was believed that Christmas songs in the common popular culture vernacular would have a long shelf life for an artist, such as the lofty heights attained by “White Christmas.”  Therefore, it is about this time where we begin to see Christmas themed tunes from popular artists of the time such as “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, and “Run, Run, Rudolph” (as well as too many to name). In 1957 Elvis Presley released his third album, “Elvis’ Christmas Album.” Filled with a mix of traditional and newly penned pop songs, this album has become the best-selling Christmas album of all time. (Fun fact. Irving Berlin though Elvis’ version of “White Christmas” was “sac-religious and inappropriate,” as well as a scourge, and demanded it be banned. It was legally recorded and most stations ignored Berlin, although some did refuse to play it.)

From here, it sems as if every artist, with some notable exceptions (Led Zeppelin, Who or Black Sabbath anyone?) has released some sort of Christmas song. And they get repeated. A lot. Every. Single. Year. Repetition and the signaling of the Christmas commercial season has become the beckoning call of what has become known as “Holiday Music.” We now see entire streams on stations and television, as well as Sirius XM of non-stop holiday tunes. Various versions of familiar and new songs, different styles, tempos, interpretations. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” to “Father Christmas” by the Kinks, to Joan Jett’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Heck, I have done a cover of Elvis’ “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” and it is my most streamed tune. (Shameless plug alert).

Every generation of our “modern era” of Christmas seems to have their popular “face” of Christmas music. Bing Crosby. Judy Garland. Elvis. Perry Como. And today… Mariah Carey? I don’t want to know how that happened or why, but it’s a thing. I guess. So how do you feel about Christmas music? Here is the controversy part. I saved it for the end in case some people did not make it this far. 

I am personally torn. As I mentioned previously, some of the traditional Victorian carols are some of my favorites, in various forms and re-imagining. I also like Celtic and non-traditional seasonal music. However, most of the popular music Christmas songs of the last few decades, to me anyway, are irritating. I love the Beatles. I HATE John Lennon’s Christmas tune (see aforementioned Yoko Ono). I dislike Paul McCartney’s Christmas tune. I dislike “Father Christmas” but love the Kinks, and Joan’s “Little Drummer Boy” makes me hit the dial. Sorry Joan, love ya but dang… And don’t even get me started on Madonna’s version of Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”. Gack! I also feel as if I will ultimately commiserate on the same level as my retail shopping friend if I hear Springsteen do “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” for another 20 years.

What do you think? Comforting link to the past and holiday traditions? Or annoying shlock to be left in the tool aisle, while pitying the poor workers listening to the Muzak loop for three months? Leave your thoughts on the comments of the home page at HUGs. And check out some new Christmas tunes by Indie artists found on HUGs. You never know. Do you hear what I hear… in about 20 years or so?

Scott Parker is a Multi-instrumentalist, Song Writer, Producer and Mix Engineer who writes and records under the name MidLyfe’s Crisis from his home studio in Frederick, Maryland. He writes articles related to music infrequently from his studio as well. Lol…

By Scott Parker

In Part 1 of the Echo Chamber, we went through some of the changes related to the music business and the way that the physical media of music ownership and delivery has changed. I got some cool feedback on how musicians and various music lovers related to the changes I referenced. But, through all the media, medium, and music delivery changes I talked about in the last article, which includes the beginnings of streaming services in the 2000s, the business model for an artist to actually get their music to the ears of listeners changed very little over these various periods. Which is this month’s subject of Part 2… 

You got a band. Practiced till your mother took valium. You toured. Or gigged. Anywhere and everywhere. Including places that did not have floors or even doors (or was that just me?). Maybe yougot a manager. Maybe a promoter. You tried and slaved to get that record deal. Warner. Epic. Arista.  Capitol. Columbia. A&M. The holy grail(s)! If you were lucky, you were forwarded money (that you blew and then owed back), you made a record, went on a “proper” tour as an “opening act,” and then… then you became employees at the mercy of the decisions and distribution of the corporate music titans. Which typically had totally different goals in mind than a band had for their art. You hoped, prayed,partied, and worked hard to be a Jukebox Hero (look that one up kids). Until it blew your band, and maybe you, apart. Yea man! The good ole days! I still smell that van… 

Current modern streaming models, and to a lesser degree satellite radio, has turned that entire model on its head (except maybe the band blow apart thing). Again, seemingly overnight when compared to the changeover time frames of the various physical music media I referenced. Artist fortunes were not made on record sales “back in the day,” and musicians you talk to currently are not getting rich from streaming revenues. They are actually making less, if that is possible, primarily making money from gigs and merch and possibly licensing. The once highly corrupt, yet highly predictable model of getting your music “out there” has indeed changed dramatically. But changed to what, exactly? Good question. In a lot of different ways, we are at a crossroad. A wonderful, yet terrifying crossroad (AI anybody?). People now (including myself) can make really good sounding recordings outside of the old Sound City or any other big-name studios and “get it out there.” I submit that although still rife with the same old music business problems, as well as a host of new ones, this new world has actually led to the rise of the independent artist being heard. 

I have read that over the last few years, most notably during the pandemic, more music has been “released” per year than ever. This is not driven by your big-name labels and their major releases, although that still happens of course. No, this trend of late has been driven by the small, independent artist, having the ability to release their music on all the various platforms and media types once reserved for the “industry” titans. And it defies genre. (The debate about the “organic nature” of music is a topic for another day). And yes, in true music business fashion, some things do not change, and controversy and problems invariably follow. This point being illustrated by the ongoing debate/reality of the distribution platforms for the independent artist (DistroKid, CD Baby, Tunecore, etc) and their agreements about the distribution/ownership of an artist’s music, and the amount of money artists are paid for streams. It is no secret that one billion streams on Spotify and Apple may make you enough money for a box of ring dings and a slurpee.  And then there are the “promoters” and “bots,” as well as the beautiful followers you get on your platforms. I was heartbroken when I found out that the gorgeous Tatiana that was interested in my music and following me was not real, nor were the legions of her gorgeous giggly friends. Heartbroken I say…and, quite honestly, it is another insulting slap in the face (in 2023!) to the female artists of the world that have fought so hard to be taken seriously. Come on, Tatiana! 

Never before has access to ears been so easy though. And as sure as sunshine and rain, new issues arise and competition for a listen to all of this new music is fierce and somewhat annoying at times. But small artists are getting an audience. The parallel rise of social media is a huge catalyst, obviously. The mystique of placing your music on various platforms is diminishing. The new model of music streaming is evolving. The evolution being evidenced by HUGS radio and, to a lesser degree, perhaps, other streaming internet platforms that feature independent artists as their centerpiece, not an afterthought relegated to the 3:00 am slot on your local FM station. These new outlets may have reaches that can be smaller (although in some cases larger) than traditional media, but the impact for the accessibility of the independent artist is now greater. Especially if you engage in constant self-promotion to let people know where to find your music, which is an absolute must. I again reference the crickets after my first release. Your music does not get to ears by osmosis. How many of us have lamented that not even your relatives can give you five stinking minutes to listen to your art in this fast paced, short attention span theater world in which we live. But at some point, if you keep pushing, people that have flown past your Facebook post over and over again and say “dang it! I am going to listen to his…look! A squirrel!” and then forget, WILL listen eventually. I always mention to Mrs. Crisis (the brains behind my marketing operation. Without her, my poodle and Mother-in-law would probably be my only listeners) that I am afraid I am burning people up and turning people off. She says shut up and let her do it, and it truly amazes me how many people will look at a post that is three weeks old and say “dang! Killer tune, dude!” Obviously, we could go on forever and talk about Instagram, Tik Tok, You Tube videos, etc. But it is all the same modern-day equivalent of the old Jukebox Heroes putting band flyers on the windshields of cars at the local club or movie theatre. Only to pick most of them up off the ground and start over. But those 10 people for the next gig… gold. 

In conclusion, while we may be at the vanguard of a new, tech driven “best of times/worst of times” scenario in music, I submit that this latest sea change in the “ears on the art” has led to the rise of the voice of the independent artist, and it will only get louder. At some point, the “titans” will have to listen. And yes, they will probably adapt and find another new and unique way to screw it up. People, no music lovers, seem to genuinely yearn for new and different music and sounds. Regardless of whether you can hold it, drop a needle on it, or stream it. Which will still always have its place, in my opinion. I don’t know about some of you, but I can’t listen to FM 70s and 80s rock music and the same songs over and over and over any more. I want something new and fresh. I think that guy that only listens to Journey’s Escape might even agree at some point. Although I do miss that feeling I had when I bought my first album with my own money (Steve Miller Band’s Book of Dreams), and didn’t even hear side two before I left it on a window sill and melted it into a hopelessly warped, unplayable vinyl ash tray. That is five dollars I would never get back. 

Good times, people. Good times indeed…


Rise of the Independent Artist?
By Scott Parker 

Serious music lovers and musicians have a very special connection to music. It goes beyond “normal” people to whom music is the casual background track to their daily lives in the form of radio in the car, commercials,Netflix dramas, and being on hold with customer service. To the hard-core music lover however, music is the soundtrack of their lives and what helps give their lives meaning. I know I certainly fall into this category. I have been a musician since I was 13 years old when my parents bought me a Fender Mustang bass at Fredicktowne Music in the mall (wish I still had that bass). Fast forward many years, and the wonder of technology has allowed me to be fortunate enough to record my own songs in the confines of my pretty cool home studio (I release music under the name of MidLyfe’s Crisis). Like a lot of musicians, the whole goal was to get on Apple and Spotify! Only THEN will I think that I have arrived… and so I did. And then… crickets. What a wilderness! How do you get ears on your passion project? What now? 

Websites. Upload sites. Charts. Promoters. Social media hellscape. Yikes! Frustration and apathy set in. A friend of mine said that I should try HUGs and I asked “why?”But I sent my tune in and did not think much of it. When I sent in my first release In the Kitchen, I did not even think they would play it. But more fast forwarding, and in November of 2022, I had the Number 1 song for two weeks in a row on their unique Top 200 Unsigned Artist Chart (through the power of SSP), and I have had more ears on my music than I ever thought possible. My next song made the Top 20, and my third Slow Going for Lupe has so far peaked at Number 6, and I have built relationships with fans, neighbors, and artists from around the world that I never saw coming. Why the HUGs model and how did THIS happen?  Seems like a long way from putting flyers on car windshields to advertise gigs at the local dive bar and giving away cassettes. Let’s take a little deeper dive, shall we? 

My wife calls me a “musical schizophrenic” and she is right. When we are in the car, my playlist or SXM settings will run the gambit from 1940s big band, 1950’s doo wop and rock and roll, to Enya (love her) and new age “spa”, back to Led Zeppelin and Patsy Cline, finished off with Nirvana, and maybe some Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons. And yes, that national treasure, Taylor Swift. You get the picture. She has more than once said “can we just pick a station or an album and go with it, please?” The term “genre whiplash” is a real thing for me, as well as a lot of musicians and music lovers I know. But admittedly, that does not mean much to certain casual listeners of music whose last exposure to a current release may have been when Journey released Escapein 1981. 

To the passionate musician or music lover, from the 1940s to today, the goal has always seemed to be simply getting a few ears on the creation you are so passionate about and proud of. Yes, some have only wanted fame, fortune, money, cars and women or guys (not that there is anything wrong with ANY of that), but typically it hasbeen about the art and getting people to hear it. If even just once. I could not help but notice the other day, and maybe other music lovers have experienced this… I have always loved to have and hold and own my music. And with that feeling in mind, it dawned on me that there are very distinct period lines of the physical music medium I have. 

For me it starts with my grandmother’s music collection that I obtained from my mother. For all of you reading this that are younger than dirt, after Edison invented the phonograph, there were “16s and the 78s”, which were hard, thick and brittle shellac resingrooved recordings. Starting in the late 1940s, the thinner, more durable and less weighty vinyl recordings (made from poly-vinyl chloride, hence the name “vinyl”) we all knowand love became the standard in the 45 and 33 1/3 rpm standard. With this revolution,16s and 78s started to fade and make way for the new technology. As recording developed from mono to stereo, the cassette and the eight-track tape made their respective debutsin 1963 and 1965. This development was the “be all/end all” that allowed your music to go mobile. The attraction of the eight-track was that you didnot have to “flip” it over to side two. Butto this day, I can still hear the “click” of the program change in the middle of Won’t Get Fooled Again every time I listen to it. The cassette, introduced by Norelco at the Berlin Radio showin 1963 had a bonus feature attraction however, in that you could (gasp!) record on it yourself. Now you could record your vinyl on to a cassette and take it with you. Or buy one in the store. Your choice. Together the vinyl album and the companion cassette/eight track mediums became culturally iconic. Ever use the fold of the double album to catch the seeds? Ever use a pencil to get the cassette tape out of your player then wind it? I submit that perhaps you have not lived then. 

The standard for a good long while, my vinyl record and cassette collections (including my parent’s “mono” and “hi-fi” 1960s sounds) grew until around 1983, when I noticed a small new display area in a Peaches Record Store in Ft. Lauderdale.This small area had strange a new medium called the “Compact Disc” or CD (originally in larger wasteful packaging because the record companies were fearful of the loss of “cover art” attraction).I was intrigued. No grooves. Laser etched foil covered by plastic. No more pops and cracks. Pristine sound. That year I spent my tax refund on a new stereo system: A Fisher console with glass cabinet, replete with turntable (with a cool glass cover), a DOUBLE cassette deck and a one-disc CD player. All combined with 15-inch woofers, four-inch tweeters and two piezos each that we called “the neighbor hater”. One hundred watts of clean pristine sound. Almost overnight, no more albums in my collection. The last album I bought was 90125 by Yes in 1983. And shortly thereafter, I bought the CD. (Fun fact. The title 90125 was actually the Atco Records catalogue number for the recording…) 

So, from 1983 onward my CD collection grew at an amazing rate. I still have them stored lovingly just like my albums. But, in about 2001 the game radically changed again with the MP3 and the rise of the Apple iPod. An MP3 player that packed a whopping 1,000 songs and a 10-hour battery life into a 6.5-ounce package. How cool was that?MyCD collection abruptly stops in this time frame, while my “music library” on my computer and “device” grew even faster. Songs for .99 cents each. Whole albums. Cover art (although the first iPodwas black and white). I still owned the music. I still have it. But the MP3 also led to the “rise of the stream.” Almost overnight again it seemed because of Napster, and others, you were now starting to pay a subscription service (or not), and everything was at your fingertips, and on demand. In the late 2000s, streaming services overtook music stores as the main revenue stream for digital recordings. While very cool, we didnot own or hold the media anymore. Which I am, admittedly, getting used to. 

So, what is the point of this walk down memory lane? Well, it all leads to the current music business world we find ourselves in, with HUGs carving a niche to help forge a community of the unsigned, independent artist that makes pretty darn good music and needs to be heard. Next month in Part 2, I will go a little further into current music relationships and where we go from here…from the perspective of the quintessential “independent” artist. Stay tuned… 

Scott Parker is a multi-instrumentalist, Song Writer, Producer and Mix Engineer who writes and records under the name MidLyfe’s Crisis from his home studio in Frederick, Maryland. He writes articles related to music infrequently from his studio as well.And he is part of the HUGs Galaxy of Stars…