September 2, 2013

The Vessel experience

We've had such a great response and lots of support for the Vessel EP Friday Drive so far. It's been an eye-opening educational experience for me, helping the band get the EP on so many platforms and in front of as many people as we've done in seven weeks. That totally digital experience is now starkly contrasted by the decision to make 50 hand-numbered CDs in cardboard sleeves. A very analogue task - real scissors rather than cropping tools, glue instead of hyperlinks.
I've managed to get the Friday Drive EP on the following platforms:

Bandcamp975 plays
Google Play
Under the Radar396

The full EP was downloaded 45 times from Bandcamp and of those 45 people, 10 of them paid for the EP even though it was a free download (thank you to those who did - you rock!), and the average payment was $17.60. So we're not rich ... but we did manage to get Vessel songs played over 1,500+ times - which we're pretty happy about. In the process we also collected 50 email addresses from the Bandcamp site. The EP was free but it required an email address - this is essential if you're a band trying to cultivate a fanbase. I'm surprised at how many bands on Bandcamp provide free downloads without getting email addresses. Email is still the most direct form of online communication we have; a digital marketer once told me, "email is the currency of the internet." (And we have expenses to cover.)

Getting the EP onto iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play is a different process than the self-subscribed platforms. To get your stuff on these platforms you need the services of a broker service. I chose to use DRM, part of, because they're from New Zealand, and they were recommended to me by Chris Caddick, former CEO of EMI NZ and now on the board of Recorded Music NZ,  who I'd struck up a conversation with at Rakino's one night as we were both buying vinyl as part of a TradeMe pick-up. I started up a conversation with DRM via email and that was a nice thing - personal email contact is not a high point of the many of the online services available to musicians or their helpers, (I did talk to someone at Grooveshark who were quite helpful, as were APRA and PPNZ in New Zealand).

My current problem with the streaming services is how to get the band bio/descriptions on the site. It seems as if an EP (6 songs) is submitted as a "single" and I guess there's some policy that band descriptions don't appear for singles. In fact the Vessel link actually points to another artist called Vessel! Not ideal :-( The granular level of detail is fairly out of your control on these platforms and it can be difficult for artists or promoters to affect change. Given that small bands are unlikely to make much from the per stream return on these sites, being able to point listeners to at least a single external web site would be nice.

We've had some great help over the past few weeks after sending out our press release and picture (by Brenna Gotje). We had a review in local online arts and culture magazine and we also had a playlisting and an interview on UK online mag Music Gets Me By by Eva Jostakova a blogger and writer for Mudkiss Fanzine in the UK. We had an interview on Waiheke Radio, and most importantly we had friends and family on social media sharing, commenting, and Liking our posts. There's still tons to do on the Vessel, but we've proven to be a pretty good crew and we just pull together well at the times when we need it. That helps heaps when this isn't anyones full-time job, and we're still learning a lot along the way and there's lots of work we could be doing I'm sure. It's fun though and I'm getting too far into the feeling to say nah, that's not for me. I'm thinking about the next release for Last Libretto and the future for Vessel and other bands. I'm trying ... 'cause I love local music.

For more info on this project, see:
Check out Vessel at
And Bede Taylor at

July 15, 2013

Vessel - Friday Drive EP

There's been so much great music lately that I'm considering changing this blog from blues to a more general themed music blog. As earlier I'd promoted the fact that I'd started a label I thought I'd better promote the second release on Last Libretto, the Vessel EP "Friday Drive". Also, the guy on the right up there used to do a blues show on Waiheke Radio with me so I had to give him a shout, but it's also quickly become a favourite listen of mine.

Vessel are definitely boarding New Zealand’s historic rock flotilla with this debut digital release “Friday Drive”. The EP extends on their well received demo and really sees the band improving on their formula of lengthier guitar and bass driven original rock grooves. My two favourite tracks are the title track Friday Drive, which is a “song of two halves” - an introductory fable of automotive escapism, followed by the sonic painting of an angst ridden drive across Auckland’s volcanic plateaus. I'm also very partial to June Marine - a warning against underestimating the ferocity of women sports players (I've embedded it below.)

Childhood friends Ben Blackman (bass) and Ben Martens (Guitars & vox) formed Vessel in 2010, quickly graduating from blues-rock covers to performing extended original sets with influences from the likes of The Kings of Leon, and local New Zealand rockers The Datsuns. A successful run at Battle of the Bands at the legendary Kings Arms saw them make the finals and they've been quickly developing a reputation for solid and spirited performances at a variety of venues around town.

You can download the full Vessel EP "Friday Drive" for free at:

For more information contact:
lastlibretto [at] gmail [dot] com

Last Libretto Music

July 2, 2013

Bede Taylor on The Audience

The Audience is a relatively new New Zealand website funded by NZ on Air to help spread New Zealand music. I'm quite a fan of the site; I like the design, and I like the opportunity it gives unsigned bands to reach wider audiences. The site is also built around this 'chart' like mechanism that rewards social interaction (voting and plays) with placement on the chart. The Wildcard chart even awards the monthly #1 spot with the chance to receive funding from NZ on Air for the production of a song and video. My label Last Libretto is currently promoting independent Waiheke Island artist Bede Taylor and we're using the site to promote a track of his, 'Sunlight'.

If you like the track you can login to The Audience via Facebook or Twitter and vote for it here:

June 27, 2013

Mind De-Coder launches it's own blog

Mind De-Coder is a long time weekly radio show on Waiheke Radio, a community radio station based on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Described by presenter El, as "a lysergically charged kaleidoscopic mix of psychedelia, acid folk, krautrock, hauntology, the occassional mash-up, mind-bending cosmic wig-outs and music that's fallen between the cracks" the show now has it's own detailed blog at The blog gives extensive notes on all the tracks being played, and the podcast (which can be downloaded via a link that goes to the Waiheke Radio site) is a continuous mix usually coming in at just under two hours. I'm a big fan as El manages to mine the depths of the above mentioned genres, exposing listeners to an expansive array of music without getting in the way with announcements and track listings, etc. Great stuff to put on and get some work done on the computer I always think.

Mind De-Coder, tripped out music for the discerning head!

June 6, 2013

Independent Waiheke Island artist Bede Taylor releases 3rd solo album

Waiheke Island musician Bede Taylor has released his fourth album skinriddletestament on CD and digital download via Bandcamp -

Taylor was the founding member and primary songwriter for Three Legged Horse, an alt-country three piece from Waiheke Island that included local musicians Aaron Carpenter (MoJo Risers) and singer Gina Higham. Taylor previously fronted rock band Clench, as well as forming the large rock ensemble Tank & Pump. Recently, he has performed with a guitar band BunnyJak with Frankie Fatal (Fatal Jellyspace, Anti-X Factor) and Kevin Glamuzina (Tank & Pump) before going solo to write and record three albums, all available via Bandcamp.

skinriddletestament is Taylor’s fourth record and third as a solo artist. Taylor describes the songs on this album as “background noise infected, lyrically driven stories unhindered by the pursuit of perfectionist production values or the banality of seeking perfect pitch.” Taylor’s three solo releases delve deeply into the nature of our beliefs and the origins of emotion, and his sensitive lyrical compositions and sparse musical treatments surround the everyday in a form that invites closer attention.

Bede Taylor currently lives on Waiheke Island, New Zealand with his partner and five cats.

June 4, 2013

Last Libretto Music

I've wanted to start a record label for a long time. So I did. Certain things have coalesced around me to make this possible: good working relationships with musicians, the maturation of digital platforms, my own technical and digital marketing skills, my knowledge of the music industry particularly in the digital era; and so it seemed like an obvious next step up from what I was already doing for a few friends.

My label is called Last Libretto. It's a nod to the band my father was in as a young New Zealander, The Librettos (my son actually came up with the label name). I'm starting out by helping Auckland artists with digital releases via Bandcamp or Soundcloud; I create press releases and contact bloggers, I get the ISRC codes (International Standard Recording Code), and I help with the promotion and digital marketing, as well as the distribution to streaming services. I've found that while bands can do a lot of this themselves these days, it can be a lot of work, and there's a lot of specialist skills involved that I've acquired over the years but that many haven't got the time, or inclination to develop themselves. 

The first release for Last Libretto will be skinriddletestament in a few days time by Waiheke artist Bede Taylor, with hopefully more to come soon after that. Check out the page I've made for the label - and get in touch if you're interested in what we're doing.  

April 30, 2013

Happy 80th Willie Nelson!!

Well after all the obituaries we've had around here of late it's great to be able to celebrate a good ol' birthday. Happy birthday to Willie Nelson who turned 80 years old today. Here's a fairly new one by Willie ... a new gospel song as he says, called "Roll me up and smoke me when I die" which is also the name of his new autobiography, memoirs, musings.

April 27, 2013

RIP George Jones

"The Possum" has died. From gritty Texas honky tonks to the glitzy country of Nashville George Jones had the golden voice that most could only envy. During his fiery marriage to Tammy Wynette in the 1970's the couple became "Mr. and Mrs. Country Music" and toured extensively, but their tempestuous relationship was marked by alcohol abuse and even gunplay, and ended after six years mostly due to Jones' alcoholism.

Throughout his long career, Jones made headlines often as much for tales of his extreme drinking, stormy relationships with women, and violent rages as much as for his prolific career of making records and touring and this wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones."

As Waylon Jennings once said though, "If we could all sing like we wanted to, we'd all sing like George Jones."

April 23, 2013

RIP Ritchie Havens

Ritchie Havens, who famously opened the '69 Woodstock Festival with a 3 hour long set, has died of a heart attack in New Jersey. He was 72.

April 22, 2013

Scrapper Blackwell

Francis Hillman "Scrapper" Blackwell was an exceptional guitar player who's single-note picking style anticipated the electric blues of the '40s and '50s. He was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of cigar boxes, wood and wire. Known for being withdrawn and hard to work with, Blackwell established a rapport with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920s, creating a productive working relationship. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was "How Long, How Long Blues", the biggest blues hit of that year.

Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including "Kokomo Blues" which was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as "Sweet Home Chicago" one of Robert Johnson's most famous recordings.

Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in 1935  but the recording session ended badly with both musicians leaving the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Carr died due to heavy drinking. Blackwell recorded a tribute to Carr ("My Old Pal Blues") before retiring from the music industry. He returned to the music industry in 1958 and was ready to resume his blues career when he was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley. He was 59 years old. Although the crime remains unsolved, police arrested his neighbour at the time for the murder. Blackwell is buried in New Crown Cemetery, Indianapolis.

April 17, 2013

Jack White's Voice-o-Graph debuts on Record Store Day

On Saturday, April 20th (Record Store Day), Jack White and Third Man Records are unveiling their Third Man Recording Booth, a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to 2 minutes of audio and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6" phonograph disc to the user. The Voice-o-Graph machine was an arcade staple through the middle of the 20th century but fell out of vogue in the 1960s and 70s. Like the records of old, users of the Third Man Recording Booth are encouraged to mail their recording to a loved one.

The Third Man Recording Booth is apparently the only machine of its kind in the world that is both operational and open to the public.

Read more at the Third Man Records site.

April 15, 2013

Dan Auerbach produces Bombino's "Nomad" album

Tuareg guitarist and singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar has recorded an album with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, called "Nomad" on Nonesuch Records. Bombino and his band traveled to Nashville to record in Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound in Nashville.

Moctar was born and raised in Niger and is a member of the Tuareg Ifoghas tribe, a nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa; for centuries they have fought against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.

This is African blues with a Nashville touch.

April 12, 2013

Watermelon Slim to play at The Riverhead Boathouse

Watermelon Slim is playing Blues in the Boathouse at the The Riverhead Landing on Sunday April 28th.  Slim is an interesting guy; his first recording project was Merry Airbrakes, an album recorded and released on a small label in 1973 after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam. He became involved with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and recorded the album of songs with lyrics reflecting drug use, spiritual exploration, and involvement with the emotional cost of fighting "enemies." He has been performing since the 1970s and has been linked to several notable blues musicians, including John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray, Champion Jack Dupree, Bonnie Raitt, "Country" Joe McDonald, and Henry Vestine of Canned Heat. Will be great to see him in New Zealand.

More info on the Riverhead Landing page.

How blind was Blind Lemon Jefferson?

Entertaining article on The Delta Blues site about How Blind was Blind Lemon Jefferson?

Turns out he might not have been totally blind. I mean why would a blind man wear spectacles?

April 10, 2013

Ron Franklin

I love it when online travels uncover some lone guy with a Fender strat who's been listening to Buddy Holly or Dylan and he's got the blues in his fingers and a mess of songs swimmin' around his head. Gotta thank the internet for that; in years gone by you would have had to have been in the right crossroad town at the right time. And how's this for a "how I got  turned on to music story" ...Ron Franklin told music journalist Denise Sullivan that he was introduced to Memphis music when Mississippi Hill Country artists Jessie Mae Hemphill and fife man Othar Turner made an appearance on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood! Can that be for real??? Was Mr. Rogers ever that cool? More research in order. Anyways, give this guy a listen. He also plays in a band called Gasoline Silver which I'll be exploring next.

April 9, 2013

Blues & Roots - free sampler from Alligator Records.

One of the preeminent (and still extant) blues labels, Alligator Records is releasing in collaboration with NPR and public radio stations a downloadable 17-song sampler to help bring attention to Public Radio Music Month. Alligator Records Presents Blues & Roots is set to feature songs selected from the label's 42-year history. The sampler was curated by Alligator president and founder Bruce Iglauer, and will be available on April 11 at the Alligator Records Facebook page. A pretty impressive collection is being promised as well, with artists such as Marcia Ball, James Cotton, JJ Grey & Mofro, Curtis Salgado, Janiva Magness, Joe Louis Walker, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Koko Taylor, Roomful Of Blues, Saffire--The Uppity Blues Women, Jesse Dee, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Anders Osborne, The Holmes Brothers, Charlie Musselwhite, and Albert Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Copeland.

Update: The sampler is now available here.

April 7, 2013

Rick Holmstrom & Mavis Staples, Auckland Town Hall

Of all the guitars on serious display at the final Auckland performance of Wilco's tour of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, for me it came down to Rick Holstrom of the Rick Holmstrom Band. Holstrom's spacious and groovy country blues licks drew Mavis Staples back into the days of performing on stage with Pop Staples - and then she just let rip on representing Chicago, Selma to Montgomery, marching, occupying, and an hour long certainty in the righteousness of man and song! With a playlist that spanned over 60 years and Holstroms earthy telecaster phrasings the Staples and Holstrom combo was organic, simple and seriously soulful ... and Wilco were good too (don't get me wrong), but I've seen them perform with far fewer guitar changes (every single song and sometimes during songs!!! really?) and be better.  If you get the chance .. go see Mavis.

Here's Mavis and Holstrom in the NPR studios in Los Angeles.

And a Tweedy and Staples composition,  "Wrote a Song for Everyone".

April 5, 2013

Moonshine and Mojo Hands

Looking forward to this web series by the makers of the award-winning documentaries M For Mississippi and We Juke Up in Here. Moonshine & Mojo Hands, will be a weekly series "dedicated to the rude, rowdy – and often ridiculous – world of Mississippi blues." The makers are running a Kickstarter campaign to get things going, so if you're a fan of the blues and particularly the Mississippi type then think about making an investment.  

March 20, 2013

Jason Molina

Sad to hear of the untimely passing of Jason Molina. Jason was an excellent songwriter and the force behind a band that I listened to a lot a few years back Magnolia Electric Co. His wavering voice perfectly embodied the uncertainties that crowded his lyrics. Since canceling tours in 2009 Jason had been in and out of rehab facilities and hospitals in England, Chicago, Indianapolis, and New Orleans but seems as if he finally succumbed to the disease as so far the only reported cause of death has been organ failure.

One of my favourites by Magnolia Electric Co., this time done solo by Molina.

Down Under Delta Blues Channel

The B-Squared Breakdown