I’m going to share something that motivates me to do what I want with my music.

In the grand scheme of things…hell, in the MINOR scheme of things, get this….



While this seems disheartening (and if you actually want to make money doing this find another genre to try and “make it” and see how much harder THAT is) it’s actually 100% liberating. Sure sure, even people who say “I don’t give a fuck” actually kinda-sorta-a-lil-bit actually DO care, otherwise they wouldn’t even put out music. Yes, this applies to me. I care a LOT about what people think of my music despite the “oh look at me I’m so gosh darned punk rawk” bullshit I constantly spew. Of course I care. Don’t be a moron.

The difference is that I don’t try and let that dictate what I DO with my music.

Notice I say “try”. While some artists pretend that they’re in some little glowing bubble of creativity and every note and decision comes from their Eternal Artistic Soul….well that’s total bullshit. I’m not necessarily talking Censorship with a capitol “C”, I’m talking simple human insecurity creeping in subconsciously and saying “okay, this will NOT go over well much as I dig it. This alternative will work a bit better.”

It affects some people a little and others a lot, and the longer you do it the more confident you are with your instincts. If you’ve ever been around enough creative people you’ll realize you’re dealing with quite possibly the most fucked up, insecure, low-self-esteem-havin’ bunch of freaks on earth. It’ll seriously make you long to chill out with some fucking accountants for a while at times. But it’s the nature of the beast. As Insecure Artists we generally feel like we have Something Worth Saying and would love the world to fellate our creativity and give us rainbows of accolades. After all, it’s scary as hell to put yourself out there and try and push past Simply What’s Expected Of You as a person and do something that is IN YOUR MIND an extraordinary feat and feel like it’s appreciated appropriately (which it rarely is– creative people are totally egotistical like that.)

If you’ve never tried it, just do this: Simply find a poem you like and go to an open mic. Not even a poem YOU WROTE, necessarily. Just a poem that you feel sincerely speaks to YOU. Announce that it means a lot to you and just READ IT to people with as much feeling as you can.

Easy to say. Easy to contemplate. Not so easy to do for a majority of people.

Now try and write your own and do it. Even harder.

Hell, just think about how tense you got doing a fucking BOOK REPORT in gradeschool. I’m a freakish extrovert and I still recall the dread.

So back to the point: Nobody cares about your music.

I hate to break it to anyone (including myself, because I’m as wacked out and delusional as any artist), but the recording industry will most likely NOT be knocking on your door anytime soon to see if you’ll sign a 10 CD deal and tour with Depeche Mode and Jesus Christ’s awesome new electro project. In fact the chances of you even getting accidentally mentioned in Rolling Stone or Spin is about the same as me winning the lottery in a state I didn’t even buy a lottery ticket in.

Yeah, you’re fucked. And, better yet, not at all.

I look at someone like Katy Perry, who I think is about as low as they go in terms of fleeting pop status, and go “WHY THE FUCK IS THIS IDIOT POPULAR?!?!” Then I think about how this woman is just a “lucky” victim of the industry. She’s ferreted around by the label non-stop doing press, photo shoots, and letting dozens of people craft her image. She probably barely sleeps, can never just gorge on pizza without fear of some paparazzi filming her being a quarter pound heavier, and is constantly criticized by a million pricks like me daily.

And all she probably thinks about is “How long before nobody cares about me anymore and I’m dropped for the next perky-titted idiot?”

She has no control. I haven’t checked but I doubt she even writes her own songs, so she’s at the mercy of what she’s given and what the label feels like PAYING for her music.

See, as artists we don’t have the problem of shelf life or thinking this is a “career”. The only expiration dates that most of us have are when either the band breaks up or we just don’t feel like doing this anymore. Since a good portion of us can and do put out CDs in small runs or, even better, digitally, we aren’t beholden to massive labels desperate to make their massive investments back on someone who they’ve invested THOUSANDS of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on.

So we’re not going anywhere, literally and figuratively. And that’s a great thing. Use that. Push yourselves harder. Fuck playing it safe.

Or, more specifically: DO WHAT YOU WANT.

Why? If for no other reason because YOU CAN.

And that, my friends, is true creative freedom. Nobody gives a shit, so you don’t have to either.

I love this world.


Labels: Oui ou Non?

Being on a label means many things: Most of all it’s a status symbol, a badge saying “someone believes in my music enough to pay their own money to put it out.” It’s an ego thing as well; a validation. And I’d be a massive hypocrite if it wasn’t fun to say “Oh, my label’s putting out my new CD in March” to zillions of people.

But, really, do you need a label, and what do you get out of it?

Labels in this genre (and I’ll assume most genres where you’re selling less than a few thousand CDs) can be a massive benefit if you as an artist know what you’re getting from them and they deliver. Let’s start with what you most likely won’t be getting, just to get it out of the way:

-Any advances for production costs, new gear, etc

-Tour support of any sort, meaning the label will chip in anything short of maybe donating a bunch of CDs so you can hopefully sell them for gas money. This includes t-shirts and other stuff.

-More than a couple album deal.

-Much in terms of a promotional budget (and note this is different than promotional SUPPORT).

-A huge, Depeche Mode 50/50 split royalty rate.

But let’s look at the positives of what you DO get:

-The status of “being signed”, which should NOT necessarily be taken lightly.

-Someone paying for the production of your CD and getting it online to major digital distros and, if they are even still around, into indie stores willing to stock the CD.

-Promotional support in terms of getting review copies out, release parties, listservs, online pimping, and possible handbills and helping get your music in the hands of bands that may want you to tour with them.

-A family of hopefully like-minded artists to work and cross-promote with under a single banner.

Due to diminishing returns in CD sales and the rise of digital albums as a more prominent means of getting music in fan’s ears, a lot of labels have either shut their doors completely or gone digital like my current label Crunch Pod. While this makes sense due to many factors, one being the still heavy cost of CD production (see my mildly aged yet still mostly relevant rant from years ago on the costs that go into putting out CDs–, it also begs the question “Why the hell do I need a label when I can pay for all my shit myself and just chuck it up on itunes through Tunecore?”

Well, in essence, you don’t…IF you’re willing to put in an ass-ton of work to get the word out on it.

See, just because you have a bandcamp site and are on amazon, itunes, emusic, etc, doesn’t mean anyone will give a shit. Why? EVERYTHING is on there, so you’re not even a needle in a haystack– you’re the hay. And while some bands get hooked onto by the masses and every door seemingly opens for them and the world just loves ’em to death, that’s few and far between.

So if you want to take the DIY route, be prepared to get your hands dirty, be ready to call in favor after favor if you can and whore so relentlessly you’ll feel like you’ve sucked the equivalent of a Vegas plumber’s convention of lonely cock.

Know what though? Welcome to DIY. Nobody owes you anything, and if your music isn’t ready or what people want to hear they’ll just bounce to the next band they can listen to for free and judge harshly or just press “don’t like” on whatever streaming site they’re pumping through their shitty, low-quality earbuds at work. Tenacity is the key to success, and anyone saying anything different isn’t selling for shit.

The benefits of DIY are pretty awesome if it works (and the IF is a big one) — you can potentially cover costs faster as you get to keep all the money, you get bragging rights that you rule and have a fanbase big enough to support your art, and like people bragging that they’re signed, you can say “oh, I don’t NEED a label to kick ass.”

*raises hand*

The thing is, while I know I don’t necessarily “need” a label, I wouldn’t be able to self-release without conceding a massive amount of humble gratitude towards Crunch Pod for helping me GAIN that following to begin with. Without Crunch Pod I wouldn’t have had many, many opportunities AND I know I would have lost a LOT of money in production costs at first, as even to gain my meager but luckily devoted fanbase I would have pissed through a ton of cash putting out CDs and pimping them solo.

It’s not to say I didn’t put in countless hours on my own, but I would be a fool to pretend to have done it all myself.

So am I saying go get signed and then do it yourself? No. I’m saying Know What You Want and Can/Want To Do. If you hate promoting yourself and just wanna be all about the music you should either try and get signed or be satisfied knowing people will hopefully stumble upon your Soundcloud page and enjoy your tunes. I’d recommend NOT investing in getting CDs made if you aren’t willing to shill like a motherfucker to sell them. Personally I’m pretty good at it, but I can’t pretend it always feels good and doesn’t feel like a massive chore at times, especially when I don’t get some good skinner box positive reinforcement. Honestly a lot of the time I just feel like I’m dragging along until another Paypal sale pops up in my inbox and the little voice in my head says “Only 99 more sales until I can be sure my wife doesn’t yell at me for losing more money on Caustic!”

***BIG NOTE before I go further on my rant here– know that I’m speaking GENERALLY of a MASSIVE amount of problems people have with labels– for the most part this isn’t my experience at all with my CURRENT label, luckily.***

Be prepared for the worst if you do DIY, but be prepared for the worst if you’re signed to a label. Be prepared for potential total lack of communication with whoever’s running the label, never seeing royalties or even sales statements, finding out you can’t even buy your OWN cds for a reasonable wholesale price from the label, or realizing that even though the label promised IN WRITING that they’d do X, Y, and Z they never even got to Q and now you’re screwed (and sueing them won’t help because they’re already working 3 jobs to keep the label afloat at all). Be prepared to have that label hold a contract over your head and cripple you creatively because they won’t release your CD until it meets with their approval, or they won’t release you from it because you didn’t read the fine print well enough to know you got locked in like a slave.

Get set to STILL do the lion’s share of the work even though you’re getting a small royalty rate (and before you whine realize it’s STILL probably bigger than someone like Madonna gets on a Big Label), do a massive amount of networking to find gigs and opening spots, begging to get on Some Important Compilation, and possibly, after you’re “established”, being essentially forgotten because the New Hot Thing just got signed to your label and they figure you can chug away on the last album’s momentum.

So what am I saying? Go with someone you feel you can trust, and don’t be afraid to leave. Don’t sign a ten (or even two CD with a two CD option) album deal because you aren’t necessarily getting “security”– you might be getting “stuck in a shitty contract” if that label can’t make even a good faith effort on what they’re promising.

Get it in writing if you’re wary. Personally, I’m not signed to shit with Crunch Pod, and it’s worked out just fine, but I’m more of the “Touch & Go” label mindset (they’re a Chicago-based label– look ’em up) in terms of contracts, but I DID have one with my first label Statik Sky. Ben’s always been up-front and honorable with me on every front and I’ve done my best to help the label and team by crosspromoting, doing remixes, and soforth. We’re also a small label and a family in many regards, so that’s a great thing.

And yes, I consider Crunch Pod out of the norm in the stories I’ve heard and/or experienced from knowing of a lot of other labels. Not ALL, mind you, but there’s a lot that have risen and gone down or are still around…

The main point here is no matter what you’re going to need to put in a lot of work. One major reason I’ve stuck by Crunch Pod (other than the relationships) is that CP does a lot of the shit work I simply hate doing. I did it all solo on the last CD I self-released to show it COULD be done, but I still lost plenty of sleep while promoting it and especially packaging 100+ preorders. I could have spent that time working on new tracks or spending time staring into the sun to see how long it would take to completely blind myself, but if nothing else doing all that work made me appreciate Crunch Pod all the more.

Just do what’s best for your art and what you want to get out of it. Don’t do what’s best for your ego, much as it’s easy to sometimes confuse the two. For some people just throwing a few tracks up on bandcamp is enough. Some people want total world domination, and others are in between. Whatever you do though, don’t let the bullshit burn you out or make you stop feeling passionate for what you’re creating. I guarantee you it’s not worth it at all if that happens.

<3, Matt

Quit Bitching. Make Music.

Quit bitching. Make music.

Quit worrying about perfect production, that new softsynth or vintage whatever-the-fuck-you-saw-for-way-too-much-money-on-ebay, your fucking hair extensions, those new vinyl pants and those 16 hole $300 New Rock boots. Stop whining about how X-band shouldn’t have gotten that opening spot and that person kisses ass and name drops and sucks that band’s cock for an off mention in some douchey blog. Stop caring about what every other artist does and worry about your fucking backyard and how good it’ll look if you log out of some dickwaving forum and actually lay down some honest, real IDEAS for a change.

Quit saying “if only I could get X-budget so X-person would mix my shit” and find someone as hungry as you to give it a shot for a lot less money, and if not accept that you’ve just decided to bet against the music business’ current model and will get screwed financially. Educate yourself on the ways to do it cheaper, and better, and know where to spend your money so you’ll actually get more bang for your hard-earned buck.

Stop scheming to go viral or to get that massive club hit if Ronan Harris would just answer your Facebook message and touch the tip of his dick to your track to make it sound like EBM gold. Forget about your place in the pecking order and simply work to put out the best, most sincere, ORIGINAL music YOU can make. Worry about being fearless and confronting every weird notion that would actually make your music INTERESTING and forcing it out of you like you’re a virgin giving birth to triplets conjoined at the hip.

Put in the time, put in the work, put in the effort, and leave your ego at the door if the rest of the world doesn’t drop to their knees and sing your praises. Fail better. Work harder. Earn your supper. You don’t decide that the world accepts you and what you do, and when it comes down to it if the world doesn’t it really doesn’t matter if you’ve created something you’re happy with. And if you’re NOT happy with it work HARDER, and stop with the emo gothy pity party bullshit and grow a pair, sunshine. Get some calluses, wo/man up, and join the fuckin’ feeding frenzy. It ain’t easy but it’s still the way it is, so suck it up, drink a Red Bull, and wear a helmet.

The only people who should be disappointed are those who whored and pandered and put out their equivalent of a sonic sex tape and even then STILL nobody wanted to jerk off to it. Let them deal with their fractured, sold out egos and deflated souls while those of us who push and force our damaged, imperfect hellspawn out of our infected holes know that We Did The Best We Could with pride.

And fuck ’em if they don’t like it. And fuck ’em if they aren’t impressed. And fuck ’em if they don’t get it, or think it’s shit, because 99% of them don’t have half the sac to even open their mouth to do a duet at a karaoke bar without pissing themselves, and the other 1% hates you because they’ve already failed and the only way they can look themselves in the mirror is by shitting on someone else’s birthday cake.

You’ve got one life. Live it right. And quit bitching.

A Great Blog and a Great Interview

Eric Oehler is quickly becoming a Fairly Big Thang with his mastering. This is a great read on why you should always give the person mastering your CD the best possible version of your music, as they may be able to fix small errors, but at a price.

And here’s a great interview with my pal and sometime collaborator Dan Clark from ReGen Magazine. Lots of great advice in here, too.

DIY Do or Die part seven: The Experiment

So this is it– I decided to make an affordable CD on my own terms and meet the consumers, best as I could, literally half-way.  No sneakiness.  No reverse psychology.  No bitterness or anger at people downloading it illegally.

If it works, even just on the digital dl front, and if it sells well at $5-6 (depending on the website– I kept it as low as I could and hope that they all keep it at that price point– if they don’t look elsewhere, okay?  Fuck ’em if they don’t listen:)) I’ll keep doing it, but if it doesn’t and it sells a similar amount to what I normally do (or less) then I’ll just start selling each CD at $2000 because hell, why not?

Again, no bitterness, but I’m giving my fans and the consumers a chance to show that if an artist is willing to sacrifice profit (which I’m all too willing to do.  Seriously, who gives a fuck in the end?) to help them feel more comfortable spending the money on my art then I’m all for it.  It’s not really some ultimatum and if it doesn’t work I really won’t be all that disappointed, because really then the consumers will lose out because I won’t do it again and they’ll either have to spend more to get it (and who wants to do that when there’s pizza to order and the new deluxe edition of Sherlock Holmes to buy?) or just download it illegally, which, despite people’s willingness to do it, I don’t really think they always WANT to if there’s a legal means to get it for a more reasonable price.

You see, in the past when I’ve been broke I too have downloaded music illegally (and I don’t say that with pride– It Just Is), but when I see a CD I want on when they do their “100 mp3 albums for $5 each” thing I ALWAYS take a chance and buy it, even if I’ve just HEARD the CD was good.  No guilt in blowing a measly $5 in my mind, y’know?   I’ve blown that on a magazine I wanted to try out or just lent it to a friend without thinking.  So that’s the concept here.  Real simple.  Real straightforward.  No gimmicks, no strings, and no commitments outside of just spending a couple bucks and, hopefully, enjoying what you hear and telling a few pals.

I just want  my new music out and affordable to as many people that want it legally.  I know it’ll get illegally downloaded to death too, and that’s fine because honestly there’s nothing I can do about it if people want to take it.  If an artist offered to PAY fans a dollar to download it off their site some dipshit would STILL want to get it off some torrent site just because…I have no idea.

I’m not Radiohead and I’m not Nine Inch Nails.  I don’t sell out stadiums and I’m not trying to beat the Big Corporate System, because I’m not a part of it.  I’m just trying to figure out a model that works for fans, consumers, or hopefully fans-to-be for my music.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

I’m already extremely fortunate in that I have modest production needs and have been blessed with a core fanbase that helps me by buying the limited editions and allowing me to recoup most of my initial investment quickly.  I truly appreciate that, more than you know.  I see dozens of artists whose talents I’m dwarfed by struggle to even come CLOSE to breaking even, but through however I do it I’ve got a much better situation and I in no way take that for granted.  If nothing else that core fanbase allows me to even ATTEMPT ideas like this, so I raise a glass of soda water to you all, my friends.  Thanks.

And to new friends and fans willing to take a chance on the new Caustic CD, I thank you too.  Let’s hope the experiment works.

You can already get the new CD in mp3 form at Caustic on FiXt
(Exclusively until April 13th, when it’ll be up everywhere)

You can preorder a physical copy on Crunch Pod Distro

This one’s up to everyone, so if you like what you read and want to support it I appreciate it.  And tell some pals.  Like I said: I think it’s a good deal.


Matt, aka Caustic