Friday, June 29, 2012

11 Months, 3000 pictures and a lot of coffee...

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder happens to have a an amazing sense of choreography and an eye behind the lens. In the words of Jon Stewart this is your moment of Zen.

"Started out as just a collection of snaps as I stripped down an engine bought off ebay. (To replace my old engine, which had suffered catastrophic failure). The snaps were so that I remembered how everything went, so I could put it back together again.

Then I realised it'd be quite cool to make it an animation. found some suitable music, rekindled my ancient knowledge of Premiere, storyboarded it, shot it as I worked on the engine (my poor DSLR got covered in engine oil), this was the result.

The music is "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" from Edvard Griegs "Peer Gynt Suite"
I own a suitable license for this piece of music, supplied by Chris Worth Productions."

Rusty Knuckles Custom Tool Bags and Belt Loops

For the last few months we have been schooling ourselves in leather work to crank out a plethora of new items for us and the bands. Needless to say we are damn proud of the new products coming out and getting a massive response. We will be debuting these products next weekend at Heavy Rebel Weekender. This fall stay tuned for another huge part of the leather goods to be arriving with a variety of saddle bags, belts, wallets and more band items focused on leather and metal etaching.

In the coming weeks we will be posting up videos of us creating these new items and also going into specifics about the types of leather being used. We are stoked to be able to offer cool items up for sale and to be able to back it up saying its all created in house by yours truly.

Rusty Knuckles 12 ga. Belt Loops in Black and Chestnut Brown
Rusty Knuckles new leather products in Black and Chestnut Brown
Chestnut Brown leather tool bag from Rusty Knuckles
Belt Loops and Keychains from Rusty Knuckles
Belt Loops and Keychains from Rusty Knuckles
Our new tool bags offered in Black and Chestnut Brown
Our new tool bags in Black vegetable tanned shoulder leather

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Fellow Biker Needs Our Help...

A Fellow Biker Needs Your Help, not just any biker, but one with a great attitude, amazing personality and some incredible skills behind the camera lens. We are talking on Debbie Fitch and the great work she has produced as an independent photographer.

Debbie was recently involved in a high speed wreck on the highways around Baltimore and her bike and camera were destroyed in the process. Not only is she glued to a hospital bed at University of Maryland Medical Center, but she is also out of work for at least three to five months. Being an independent photographer, there is no work to fall back on for support.

I ask all you brethren of the road and those in a healthy state, please contribute a few bucks to help a good cause. Lowside Magazine is offering up tshirts for sale in support for $20 with all the money going to Debbie or you can also contribute directly to the cause on the link below. It doesn't matter what you give or even if you leave a name, just pay it forward.

Debbie Fitch needs our help
Speed Debbie Fitch's road to recovery with a donation to help with medical bills

Check out more of Debbie's great photography work

Some buddies of ours from Philadelphia on the Gypsy Run in the North East - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Clint from the Flat Tires - - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Sexy lady and a bike, what else ya need? - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Dave from Philly - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Early 50's Chevy Truck - © Debbie Fitch Photography
The one and only Jesse James doing what he does best - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Tim from Lowside Magazine at high speed - © Debbie Fitch Photography
Sexy boots and a shovelhead equals good times - © Debbie Fitch Photography

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rusty Knuckles And ESPN Officially Team Up

Couldn't be more proud to be able to get the bands we work with music into videos produced by ESPN. Check out this clip of Bucky Lasek talking on the XGames and skating. Background music is by the party crew from Rhode Island in She Rides.

"Bucky Lasek is a skateboarder first and foremost! While cars and racing also have been in his blood for years, it's no surprise that Lasek will be the first skateboarder to compete in RallyCross in the 2012 X Games in Los Angeles. Bucky will get his chance to race alongside Ken Block, Dave Mirra, Travis Pastrana and the rest of the field to prove that skaters can do nearly anything. got a chance to sit down with Bucky and pick his brain about skating, rally car racing and the X Games -- enjoy."

The music of She Rides is now featured on with interview of Skate Pro Bucky Lasek

Emily White, David Lowery And The Future Of Music Consumption, From

If you are a music fan and have ever burned music on tape, cd or given a usb drive of songs to a friend, really think on this discussion. Its not out to brand the casual listener that gives away music as a criminal, but more or less to think on where the true value resides.

Does a band deserve to be heard and paid just because they are making music? Hell no, there is too much generic crap proliferating the airways and facebook accounts far and wide already. Does it mean you have to do everything that much better and write original music to be heard by the masses? Hell yes, ya do. Once you have original music is the world going to be at your beck at call? Nope, not just yet. Now you have to prove your worth and build your fan base as those are the good folks that want to keep your art form alive and well. Sam Phillips said it best in Walk The Line, when he asked Johnny Cash to play the one song that would sum him up his life, if he was laying in a ditch about to die.

Take notice on why you are hearing so much about acts such as Skrillex, David Guetta and DeadMau5 in national press. It is not that their music is better than other genres, but give credit, where credit is due. Electronic dance music figured this shit out years ago, its all about the vibe and getting fans in the door, not about album sales. While rock n' roll, hip hop and country genres fight over ownership, originality and who should be paid, fans of dance music are filling stadiums to hear the music and the acts are commanding upwards of a million bucks a show. In many ways this is due to electronic music's world wide acceptance of file sharing and the ability to quickly grow a fan base over the internet through remixes, mashups and giving away music for free.

Music is about the soul. Seek out the music you personally enjoy. Live and breathe it and when you want to take personal stock in seeing it last, contribute and support the artists that make it happen. Life is too short to be bothered with the mundane or those that want to be naysayers and constantly complain. As an artist make great music, build the vibe and fans will find you. There is no magic elixir except hard work and dedication to your craft.

English: of and Cracker at the 2011 Pop Confer...
David Lowery of Cracker at the 2011 Pop Conference at UCLA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"The ongoing discussion about the music industry’s struggle to survive in the digital realm is marked with periods of intense debate. The latest exchange started almost one week ago with a post on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” blog titled ”I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With.” Emily White—a 20-year-old NPR intern who also serves as the general manager for American University’s student-run radio station, WVAU—wrote the piece, in which she described how she’s bought just 15 CDs in her lifetime while acquiring a digital music library of more than 11,000 songs. David Lowery—who co-founded alternative rock acts Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker and is a lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business—responded with a “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered,” a lengthy, detailed overview of the nosedive the music industry has taken due in part to the disruptive innovation fueled by the new technology economy, a point-by-point breakdown of what he considers to be the fallacies of the free culture movement, and the financial toll that musicians have suffered in the days since Napster introduced most of the world to file sharing.

Lowery’s piece sparked an even bigger discussion, with plenty of new think-pieces re-treading old dialogue. Of the many third-wave response articles, Huffington Post director of commercial production and Dismemberment Plan frontman Travis Morrison managed to pinpoint a vital change in the conversation with a post titled “Hey Dude From Cracker, I’m Sorry, I Stole Music Like These Damned Kids When I Was A Kid.” Morrison noticed that when Lowery’s article began to go viral the conversation began to focus on a generational divide, which implied that the younger generation of music listeners are morally bankrupt for accumulating great volumes of music without paying for it and that young people acquiring music without paying for it is a new phenomenon that started at file sharing. Setting out to prove that the new is old, Morrison listed the various ways he copped new tunes as a kid without paying for it.

“Copped” is more or less an accurate way to describe the way Morrison went about getting new music. He was, and still is, driven by obsession, and Morrison even described the way he dubbed music from his college radio station onto cassettes in terms of addiction: “I was like a crackhead—if they sold crack at CVS, and it was free.” Unlike so many pieces focused on the ethics of illegal downloading and the moral ambiguity of the free music culture, which tend to focus on the broad economic affect, Morrison eloquently explains his reason for obtaining music through unsavory means:
"Music is so important to people. It is majorly important to young people. And to me? Literally somewhere below water and air but above food. And I just went for it. I bought a lot of music; I got a lot of free music from whatever sources were at hand; I just had to have it by any means necessary."
That personal explanation is no doubt something many music fans share—a love of music that’s so strong the desire to hear more tunes can displace a basic life necessity. It’s a level of passion that led Morrison to snap up albums through legal and illegal channels, it’s most likely the same fervor that fueled Emily White to rip the CDs at WVAU onto her laptop, and it’s an attitude that strongly that resonates strongly with me. (I also rank music higher than food, and have made my fair share of unhealthy decisions based upon that ranking system: I once spent less than $10 on groceries in a three-week period so I could spend what little money I had on some concert tickets, but that’s a story for another time.) Though some could view this philosophy as the very thing that’s led to the unravelling of the music industry and the nonchalant attitude some people have towards illegal downloading, it could very well be the key to helping musicians survive and thrive.

There are a couple important terms pivotal to the recent chain of comments on Emily White’s initial “All Songs Considered” post: “fan” and “the man.” The word “fan” has been used pretty loosely to describe anyone who listens to music, but Morrison’s illustration of his experience as a music obsessive harkens back to the original phrase that begat the nomenclature “fan,” and one that hardly describes a large portion of the listening public—fanatic. The element of fanaticism is why White (among countless others) is experiencing a moral dilemma when it comes to the subject of file-sharing an a growing interest in supporting the musicians she loves. There’s a good chance that not everyone who listens to music is experiencing the same ethical quandary as White, a fickle demographic of mostly casual listeners who bought a few records every year in brighter times but ranked music on the low end of their priority list. Music may be important to many people who bought Michael Jackson’s Thriller or AC/DC’s Back in Black, two of the highest-selling pop albums of all time, yet among those who purchased those albums some may only have a passing interest in music and others may have only purchased a few albums in their lifetime prior to the advent of file-sharing.

These casual consumers may have been an important demographic before Kazaa and LimeWire became household names, but these days that’s not quite the case. For those who might have dropped $20 on an LP or CD every so often in the past it just might feel like a better decision to grab one or two songs from iTunes, or even snag it for free from a file-sharing site. Though it’s still important for record companies and musicians to try and reach these listeners, the focus needs to shift more towards the fanatics—those who see music as a vital necessity in life to the point where they may get it through illegal means but who are still interested in supporting musicians even if their actions appear to negate that notion. The leading method of gaining support from the fanatics these days is through engagement. The very act of reaching out and involving fans is not only important in gaining financial support but also in combating negative characteristics associated with the music industry hierarchy, in particular the concept of “the man” holding all the purse strings.

As Lowery wrote, his students justify illegally downloading music in two ways, the first of which is by saying:
"It’s OK not to pay for music because record companies rip off artists and do not pay artists anything."
There are countless anecdotes of labels ripping off artists dating back to the days when the blues became the “electric blues,” each one feeding into this concept of “the man” that’s appropriate to rage against when something goes awry. Lowery details the ways in which labels (and, by proxy, the executives) invest in musicians, even without the guarantee that there will be a return on said investment, but when it comes to obtaining music the cultural climate is still stacked against labels—even if it means, as Lowery says, it’s the middle-class “weirdo freak musicians” who end up getting hurt.

There’s a certain degree of mystery to the concept of “the man,” a cultural figure that exists in the shadows. Engaging with fans helps combat that notion through a greater sense of transparency. Crowd-source funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo give musicians (as well as other artists) the opportunity to pitch various projects and show potential donors how the money they hope to raise will be used, and artists are encouraged to offer rewards—such as digital or physical copies of an album, t-shirts, concert tickets—for different levels donations. It’s an idea that brings audiences into the creation process in ways that establish strong connections between listeners and musicians, and Kickstarter in particular has become an important tool for many independent and established musicians. Boston singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer recently made headlines when a Kickstarter campaign she put together to help mix, manufacture, and distribute her forthcoming solo album received more than a million dollars in donations.

Amanda Palmer is a bit of an outlier, but her example shows that musicians can find some level of success through engaging the very fans who want to do nothing more than support artists. There are any number of cost-effective ways of doing so—be it promoting one’s work through social media, or streaming and selling albums on BandCamp, or writing and recording songs for fans. As much as technology has made it easier for people to steal art—music, film, photography—it also provides an opportunity to explore new methods of economic sustainability for the arts, giving creators the chance to find the model (or models) that fit best, or develop an entirely brand new model. The current financial outlook may seem grim, it doesn’t have to be that way."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fuel Tank Annual 1 DVD Now On Sale

Fuel Tank Annual 1 - Get your dvd copy

Order your copy of Fuel Tank Annual 1

"The results of our collaboration with Bandit Films have now culminated in the release of The Fuel Tank Annual Volume 1.

Over 2 1/2 hours of footage from the last 18 months have been re-mastered and collated on to a DVD.

You may have seen our films such as Rancho Deluxe, Factory 6, The Squire, Welcome to Murray Country, Much Much Go and The Modern Motor Cycle Company take shape over the last year or so. Those films have been re-edited, improved, and now sit on the disc alongside new films such as Chopped Rod & Custom, Camperdown Cruise and Martin Croston.

It's been an intense and mind blowing experience putting our first DVD together, and we apologise to those supportive folks who invested in us to pre-order the film some time ago. There have been many twists and turns on the road that made this happen, including plenty of unforseen hiccups and trip wires that got us along the way.

Your support means a lot, and we hope that you enjoy the results of the extra hours in the editing room.

All the pre-orders have now gone out, and if it hasn't arrived yet, it will be along shortly.
Below is a short trailer showing what the film is all about. If you'd like to make an order, click here to go through to the online shop, or call us on 0404918948 to make an order over the phone.

This is just the start of many exciting things to come out of the FTTV studio, so stay tuned to the Fuel Tank TV channel for updates via the website and Facebook page."

Working A Tough Job Site, Need Some Firepower

Imagine this, you are working a job site and there is some asshole that is part of a crew that is stealing tools during work and doing potentially more damaging things after work. No one will do anything as it slows job progress and the company is more interested in getting the job done. If it were John Wayne's write up, maybe it could be called the Dewalt Peacemaker, but needless to say, this here piece of work is fully functional and should be kept on hand and fully charged.

Dewalt cordless drill or a Glock .45 in construction site camo

"This is a Glock .45 pistol modded to look like a DeWalt cordless drill. It's just a gun though, the drill doesn't actually work. Although I suppose you could use it as a little bayonet in a fight.
"Here is a really neat project put together by one of our trainers, Mark Bilicki, working with local gunsmith James Oberkirsch. It is a fully functioning Glock Model 21 .45. No, the drill doesn't work, but if you point where you want a hole, it can make it happen!"
LOL @ "No ,the drill doesn't work, but if you point it where you want a hole, it can make it happen!" Oh man, that's great. Drills are obsolete anyways. *BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG* Haha -- take that you f***ing 2 x 4's! *roof collapses*

Thanks to bb, who agrees disguising guns as power tools is a great way to accidentally shoot a friend during craft time. *sobbing* We were just building birdhouses!"

The Horse Smokeout 2012

Another Smokeout has come to pass and more good times and memories were made. One aspect of the show that we always enjoy the most is running into a plethora of friends from around the country. The show is always full of amazing bike builds and the party goes on for multiple days.

We have a few gripes though and they are easy fixes. With the amount of money and mass of folks that show up, why can they not get better bands as they have in the past. The last few years have been a joke for music. Why have an AC/DC cover band on a Saturday night, when they could easily afford many other bands playing original music that would go over huge and actually pull more folks in for the event. If they want to grow the event, they need to really think over what bands they are hiring for the main stage.

Another issue that didn't sit too well with us is if you see someone shooting photos of a bike that has setup a shot, don't try to side bust the photo and claim that since you work for a magazine that you can just get by with it. Be cool and ask the individual who owns the bike, if you can get some shots as well. Have some damn manners and artistic integrity with your work, will take ya much further for the long haul.

Flounder's Honda 750 Chopper
America As Fuck sticker on a Panhead
Eric and Randy's swingarm Shovelheads
Rob and Wes loungin' at the Justified Defiance booth
Killer FXR that was way too trick to capture in just one photo

Aaron Rogers, Billy Don Burns and Waylon Jennings Are All Linked...

In a matter of weeks, Billy Don Burns new studio album will be hitting the shelves and playlists world wide. There is also a key ingredient to this album, who has been an unsung hero and worked with Billy Don on the album over quite a period of time and who is also appearing on the upcoming posthumous Waylon Jennings album. Folks, if ya haven't heard the name of Aaron Rodgers, well remember it now.

Aaron is a guitar pickin' and slingin' magician along with one hell of a producer and engineer in the studio. Oh yeah, he is a stand up individual more importantly. Don't let us try to convince ya though, even Billy Don wrote a song about him that will be on the album.

Along with Billy Don's album he also was played guitar on the new Waylon Jennings record that was recorded right before he passed on, with greats such as Reggie Young, Richie Albright and Tony Joe White. With his body of work and reputation growing like gang busters, Aaron Rodgers will surely become a beacon of light in Real Country Music. A few major new projects are in the works with Aaron and we will keep ya posted on whats being cooked up.

Aaron  Rodgers plays guitar on the new Waylon Jennings album due out in September

"A new album from outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings will be released this September, filled with recordings the icon made during the last few years before his death in 2002. Jennings spent hours in a recording studio with his longtime accompanist, Robby Turner and together they laid down twelve tracks using just Waylon’s guitar and vocals and Turner’s bass.  All songs were personally selected by the country star, ones that resonated in a deeply personal way and reflected his state of mind, his passions, and important statements he wanted to make about his life.  The duo planned out the future instrumentation that would be added to the tracks, but Jennings was never able to complete them.

10 years after his passing, Turner returned to the recordings, finishing each song to honor Waylon’s vision of what would turn out to be his very last album.  Bringing in musicians who had long worked with Waylon, such as Reggie Young, Richie Albright and tour mate Tony Joe White, Turner painstakingly created the album that Waylon set out to make.  "Waylon knows he's surrounded by friends and all that hear this will feel as if they know Waylon in all his authenticity," explains his widow, country singer Jessi Colter.  With his family’s blessing,Goin’ Down Rockin’: The Last Recordings of Waylon Jennings will be available on September 11 (Saguaro Road Records).  No one has ever heard these performances before; they are Waylon’s last gift to his fans.

Jennings wrote 11 of the 12 songs that appear on the new album, a testament to the personal nature of the recordings, and they reveal an artist in the midst of a final creative peak.  In addition to his own songs, the album includes Tony Joe White’s “Goin’ Down Rockin’” (on which White himself is a guest). In all, the album will feature eleven songs that have never been released before."

Goin' Down Rockin' - The Last Recordings of Waylon Jennings Tracklist:

1. Goin' Down Rockin (Featuring Tony Joe White)
2. Belle Of The Ball
3. If My Harley Was Runnin'
4. I Do Believe
5. Friends In California
6. The Ways of the World
7. Shakin' The Blues
8. Never Say Die
9. Wasting Time
10. Sad Songs & Waltzes
11. She Was No Good For Me
12. Wrong Road To Nashville

Produced by Waylon Jennings and Robby Turner, and to be relased through Saguaro Road Records.

Friday, June 22, 2012

ANTiSEEN Founders Hold Steady On A Path Of Punk Rock Chaos

For any fan of Antiseen, you know that keeping up with them and their releases is just like watching a great wrestling match. There are fast flying moves and shifts of weight and always looking for that perfect 1, 2, 3 count to pin you to the mat with their lethal dose of Destructo Punk. Below is a great interview with Antiseen so read on and check our store for some of the great releases that we have done with the Boys From Brutalsville

ANTiSEEN founders hold steady on a path of punk rock chaos

By Steve Wildsmith (

"You know Jeff Clayton has been in the trenches a long time when fans keep better track of his band’s releases than he can.

It’s not surprising, given the output of material by ANTiSEEN since the gutter-punk outfit’s debut in 1983. The group’s do-it-yourself ethos has long meant that when Clayton and his bandmates — primarily guitarist Joe Young, with whom he founded — want to put out something, whether it’s a split EP with another band or a single, they do so.

Antiseen - Falls Count Anywhere, A collection of wrestling songs - get your copy now
“I have a hard time keeping track of it myself, because it seems like something’s coming out every two minutes or getting held up every five,” Clayton told The Daily Times this week. “We just put out a new album, ‘New Blood,’ on Switchlight Records, a label out of Sweden; it’s a compilation of all the singles we’ve done over the past three years, a few tracks which are available only on the LP. We’ve got a new release out called ‘Blood of Freaks,’ which is all of our singles compiled from 1989 to 1991 on one 12-inch. And we’ve also got a compilation of all of our wrestling songs coming out on one CD called ‘Falls Count Anywhere.’ And I don’t know how many split singles there are, but they’ll all be on sale in Knoxville.”

ANTiSEEN returns to the Longbranch Saloon on Friday night, the last place the band played when it rolled through East Tennessee six years ago, Clayton said. It was a rough show, from what he remembers — but then, ANTiSEEN shows are notoriously physical, both on the part of the musicians and the fans in the audience.

Clayton and Young started the group in North Carolina, channeling the simplicity of dirty Ramones power chords with the on-stage ferocity of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. From the outset, the band prided itself on being apart from — hence the name, deliberate in distancing the group from any particular sub-genre of rock — and the members threw themselves into creating the most brutal punk experience imaginable.

“In the beginning, we never thought we’d last a year, but about 15 years into it, I said, ‘OK, we’re probably in this for the long haul,’” Clayton said. “I never really looked at it as we might be one of the casualties. I always kind of knew we’d be there when the smoke cleared, because we didn’t get wrapped up in a lot of crap those guys did, the hard drugs and all that mess. We pretty much just stayed with the way ANTiSEEN does it.”

Antiseen and Flat Tires split 7" vinyl record - Get Your Copy Now
In the early days, the band’s masochistic bent — Clayton was one of the pioneers of self-mutilation as both a demonstration of brutality and for the shock factor, cutting his face and/or arms with broken glass or pounding himself in the face with a microphone – earned the respect of noted musician and performance artist G.G. Allin.

ANTiSEEN toured with Allin in support of the latter’s infamous “Murder Junkies” record, further cementing the band’s status in the “scum-punk” community — a collection of nihilists drawn to the chaos, rage and physical confrontation of an ANTiSEEN show as both art and release. Allin’s death in 1993, a year after ANTiSEEN embarked on its first world tour, gave the band Allin’s figurative scepter as the figureheads of that scene.

(Speaking of, Clayton earned a reputation over the years of brandishing and using on himself a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire; the instrument is included in a new “Throbblehead” bobble-style figurine of him by the company Aggronautix.)

Over the years, the ANTiSEEN formula has been relatively simple: Tour, record, release an album, repeat. Sure, some of the mayhem Clayton instigated and endured in his early years has been retired, but that’s out of necessity, he said.

“We don’t do some of the big wrestling-type moves anymore, like me getting up on a ladder and falling through a table covered in lightbulbs or thumbtacks,” he said. “I can’t do that anymore. Other than that, we just play a Ramones-type rock ‘n’ roll show: bam-bam-bam-bam, take a break, bam-bam-bam-bam. We might do a lot of ridiculous antics, but we make the show coast along on the music.

Antiseen, Sweet Blood Call, 7" vinyl record with special guest, Joe Buck Yourself - Get Yours Now
“As a person, I tolerate more things these days, but I find my patience is thinner, too. I tend to blow up and snap a lot quicker. As far as the performance goes, I feel like I’ve kept it on an even keel. Me and Joe, we’re not as explosive as we once were, and we won’t fly off the handle at the drop of a hat like we once would, but I think we’re better performers.”

Certainly they’re considered legends among the circle of fans that continue to flock to ANTiSEEN shows, both for the music and the punishment. Many young fans are so enthusiastic they remember details about the band’s early releases — specific album covers, for example — that Clayton can’t recall. It makes him chuckle, and every now and then, he’s even surprised by the admiration some fans show — like one in Germany, who had Clayton’s image tattooed across his entire back.

That sort of fan idolization might be the fuel that keeps other bands going, but for ANTiSEEN, the motivation comes from something else, according to Clayton.

“You might think this sounds like a gimmick, but it’s the truth: It’s stubbornness,” he said. “We’re not getting rich off of it; we never have, and we kind of knew we never would. But for us to call it a day, we know some people would get a certain sense of satisfaction out of that, and that sort of keeps us going.

“That, and because we love it. Not to brag too much on ourselves, but I haven’t seen anyone else come along who does it better.”

See Yall At The Smokeout...

It's late June and if you are in the south east that can mean just about only one thing, yep its time to get on down to the Smokeout. The Horse Back Street Chopper continues to be a great read and the event is always one of those destinations in which we leave our calendar wide open for. Damn stoked to see the rest of the fellas from all over the state and more hombre's from Ohio to Bama and beyond. First rounds on us!

The Horse Smokeout Rally #13 in Rockingham, NC

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Billy Don Burns Knocks Johnny Cash Out Of No. 1

July 10th is going to be a great day as we are releasing one hell of a great album by the one and only Billy Don Burns. Since first meeting up with him earlier this year, hearing the stories directly from Billy Don about true to life characters and events straight out of a Louis L'Amour novel never fail to inspire.

Here is another gem of a story written up by Jon Grimson over on Grimson Video's site, reflecting on when he was helping to market an album with Billy Don and Hank Cochran. Truth is stranger than fiction and for a while now, we have singing the praises, but here is more proof in the pudding.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the music of Billy Don Burns. Not only is he one of the greatest song writers pounding the pavement in country music today but he also lives the stories he sings about. 

Buy the album now, shipping July 10th

"When I was working Hank and Billy Don Burns, “Desperate Men” album to the Americana chart it came time to make the push for #1. Hank took great interest in the strategy of radio promotion and had all kinds of “creative” ideas on what to do about it. He had no problem calling radio stations to talk and do phoners at my suggestion, but he also thought the old days of payola, etc. were still fair play. I tried to explain the integrity of the Americana format, chart and stations and had finally convinced them that the best music won, and the cream would rise to the top. So Hank and Billy let me do my work and lo and behold “Desperate Men” achieved the #2 position and came up right behind Johnny Cash.

Hank Cochran and Billy Don Burns - Desperate Men
At some point in the process I told the guys that I also was working Johnny’s album. Hank and Billy were getting frustrated that Johnny was staying at #1 for weeks. This friendly competition goes on each week, to this day on Music Row as writers, artists, and publishers at the top of the charts are neck and neck. Somebody is always at #1 and somebody is always at #2 ready to get there. Many times everybody knows each other and the rivalry is good natured. That was how I remember it being with Hank and Billy at the time and Hank and Johnny were certainly close friends of many, many years.

Billy Don Burns promo picture
But Hank had a brilliant idea! “I’ll just call Johnny and tell him to get out of our way!” Sounds simple enough. Of course, I thought this would never work and dreaded the whole thing but Hank was friends with Johnny and there was no stopping him.

A few days later, sure enough, Johnny finally dropped out and “Desperate Men” hit #1 at the Americana chart. Huge excitement at Desperate Men HQ that night as the three of us celebrated! Of course, this all happened as it should, Johnny had been up there a long time and the airplay reflected that. It was going to happen no matter what. Shortly after getting the big news, the fax kicked in. Hank pulls it out and hands it to Billy.
Faxed letter to Billy Don Burns from Johnny Cash
It says:
To: Billy Don Burns
From: John Cash
Congratulations! you deserve it. I’ll be happy to move out of #1 spot and let you have it. I been there. Done that. John Cash"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered... From The Trichordist

How many of yall really think that downloading music for free is the way to go? There are many different ways to look at this conundrum of an issue and opinions are like assholes, we all have them. But I ask you to do this if you area  true music fan. Dig into this issue a bit more with the article below and really think on the trickle down effect of the Free Culture generation and how it has changed the music industry

Nothing in life is free and if its actually worth something, there is always a price. For all the bands and music you enjoy, get out to a live show and help to support them in the best way possible, fan appreciation.

Link to original article on The Trichordist

Recently Emily White, an intern at NPR All Songs Considered and GM of what appears to be her college radio station, wrote a post on the NPR blog in which she acknowledged that while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life. Our intention is not to embarrass or shame her. We believe young people like Emily White who are fully engaged in the music scene are the artist’s biggest allies. We also believe–for reasons we’ll get into–that she has been been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement. We only ask the opportunity to present a countervailing viewpoint.

My intention here is not to shame you or embarrass you. I believe you are already on the side of musicians and artists and you are just grappling with how to do the right thing. I applaud your courage in admitting you do not pay for music, and that you do not want to but you are grappling with the moral implications. I just think that you have been presented with some false choices by what sounds a lot like what we hear from the “Free Culture” adherents.

I must disagree with the underlying premise of what you have written. Fairly compensating musicians is not a problem that is up to governments and large corporations to solve. It is not up to them to make it “convenient” so you don’t behave unethically. (Besides–is it really that inconvenient to download a song from iTunes into your iPhone? Is it that hard to type in your password? I think millions would disagree.)

Rather, fairness for musicians is a problem that requires each of us to individually look at our own actions, values and choices and try to anticipate the consequences of our choices. I would suggest to you that, like so many other policies in our society, it is up to us individually to put pressure on our governments and private corporations to act ethically and fairly when it comes to artists rights. Not the other way around. We cannot wait for these entities to act in the myriad little transactions that make up an ethical life. I’d suggest to you that, as a 21-year old adult who wants to work in the music business, it is especially important for you to come to grips with these very personal ethical issues.
I’ve been teaching college students about the economics of the music business at the University of Georgia for the last two years. Unfortunately for artists, most of them share your attitude about purchasing music. There is a disconnect between their personal behavior and a greater social injustice that is occurring. You seem to have internalized that ripping 11,000 tracks in your iPod compared to your purchase of 15 CDs in your lifetime feels pretty disproportionate. You also seem to recognize that you are not just ripping off the record labels but you are directly ripping off the artist and songwriters whose music you “don’t buy”. It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t take these tracks from a file-sharing site. That may seem like a neat dodge, but I’d suggest to you that from the artist’s point of view, it’s kind of irrelevant.

Now, my students typically justify their own disproportionate choices in one of two ways. I’m not trying to set up a “strawman”, but I do have a lot of  anecdotal experience with this.

“It’s OK not to pay for music because record companies rip off artists and do not pay artists anything.” In the vast majority of cases, this is not true. There have been some highly publicized abuses by record labels. But most record contracts specify royalties and advances to artists. Advances are important to understand–a prepayment of unearned royalties. Not a debt, more like a bet. The artist only has to “repay” (or “recoup”) the advance from record sales. If there are no or insufficient record sales, the advance is written off by the record company. So it’s false to say that record companies don’t pay artists. Most of the time they not only pay artists, but they make bets on artists. And it should go without saying that the bets will get smaller and fewer the more un-recouped advances are paid by labels.

Secondly, by law the record label must pay songwriters (who may also be artists) something called a “mechanical royalty” for sales of CDs or downloads of the song. This is paid regardless of whether a record is recouped or not. The rate is predetermined, and the license is compulsory. Meaning that the file sharing sites could get the same license if they wanted to, at least for the songs. They don’t. They don’t wanna pay artists.

Also, you must consider the fact that the vast majority of artists are releasing albums independently and there is not a “real” record company. Usually just an imprint owned by the artist. In the vast majority of cases you are taking money directly from the artist. How does one know which labels are artist owned? It’s not always clear. But even in the case of corporate record labels, shouldn’t they be rewarded for the bets they make that provides you with recordings you enjoy? It’s not like the money goes into a giant bonfire in the middle of the woods while satanic priests conduct black masses and animal sacrifices. Usually some of that money flows back to artists, engineers and people like you who graduate from college and get jobs in the industry. And record labels also give your college radio stations all those CDs you play.

Artists can make money on the road (or its variant “Artists are rich”). The average income of a musician that files taxes is something like 35k a year w/o benefits. The vast majority of artists do not make significant money on the road. Until recently, most touring activity was a money losing operation. The idea was the artists would make up the loss through recorded music sales. This has been reversed by the financial logic of file-sharing and streaming. You now tour to support making albums if you are very, very lucky. Otherwise, you pay for making albums out of your own pocket. Only the very top tier of musicians make ANY money on the road. And only the 1% of the 1% makes significant money on the road. (For now.)

Over the last 12 years I’ve watched revenue flowing to artists collapse.
Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999.
Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!
The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000.
Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies.
Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies.
Without going into details, 10,000 albums is about the point where independent artists begin to go into the black on professional album production, marketing and promotion.
On a personal level, I have witnessed the impoverishment of many critically acclaimed but marginally commercial artists. In particular, two dear friends: Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) and Vic Chestnutt. Both of these artists, despite growing global popularity, saw their incomes collapse in the last decade. There is no other explanation except for the fact that “fans” made the unethical choice to take their music without compensating these artists.

Shortly before Christmas 2009, Vic took his life. He was my neighbor, and I was there as they put him in the ambulance. On March 6th, 2010, Mark Linkous shot himself in the heart. Anybody who knew either of these musicians will tell you that the pair suffered from addiction and depression. They will also tell you their situation was worsened by their financial situation. Vic was deeply in debt to hospitals and, at the time, was publicly complaining about losing his home. Mark was living in abject squalor in his remote studio in the Smokey Mountains without adequate access to the mental health care he so desperately needed.

I present these two stories to you not because I’m pointing fingers or want to shame you. I just want to illustrate that “small” personal decisions have very real consequences, particularly when millions of people make the decision not to compensate artists they supposedly “love”. And it is up to us individually to examine the consequences of our actions. It is not up to governments or corporations to make us choose to behave ethically. We have to do that ourselves.


Now, having said all that, I also deeply empathize with your generation. You have grown up in a time when technological and commercial interests are attempting to change our principles and morality. Rather than using our morality and principles to guide us through technological change, there are those asking us to change our morality and principles to fit the technological change–if a machine can do something, it ought to be done. Although it is the premise of every “machines gone wild” story since Jules Verne or Fritz Lang, this is exactly backwards. Sadly, I see the effects of this thinking with many of my students.

These technological and commercial interests have largely exerted this pressure through the Free Culture movement, which is funded by a handful of large tech corporations and their foundations in the US, Canada, Europe and other countries.* Your letter clearly shows that you sense that something is deeply wrong, but you don’t put your finger on it. I want to commend you for doing this. I also want to enlist you in the fight to correct this outrage. Let me try to to show you exactly what is wrong. What it is you can’t put your finger on.

The fundamental shift in principals and morality is about who gets to control and exploit the work of an artist. The accepted norm for hundreds of years of western civilization is the artist exclusively has the right to exploit and control his/her work for a period of time. (Since the works that are are almost invariably the subject of these discussions are popular culture of one type or another, the duration of the copyright term is pretty much irrelevant for an ethical discussion.) By allowing the artist to treat his/her work as actual property, the artist can decide how to monetize his or her work. This system has worked very well for fans and artists. Now we are being asked to undo this not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists work without their permission on a massive scale and globally. We are being asked to continue to let these companies violate the law without being punished or prosecuted. We are being asked to change our morality and principals to match what I think are immoral and unethical business models.

Who are these companies? They are sites like The Pirate Bay, or Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. They are “legitimate” companies like Google that serve ads to these sites through AdChoices and Doubleclick. They are companies like Grooveshark that operate streaming sites without permission from artists and over the objections of the artist, much less payment of royalties lawfully set by the artist. They are the venture capitalists that raise money for these sites. They are the hardware makers that sell racks of servers to these companies. And so on and  so on.

What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting. Say there is a neighborhood in your local big city. Let’s call it The ‘Net. In this neighborhood there are record stores. Because of some antiquated laws, The ‘Net was never assigned a police force. So in this neighborhood people simply loot all the products from the shelves of the record store. People know it’s wrong, but they do it because they know they will rarely be punished for doing so. What the commercial Free Culture movement (see the “hybrid economy”) is saying is that instead of putting a police force in this neighborhood we should simply change our values and morality to accept this behavior. We should change our morality and ethics to accept looting because it is simply possible to get away with it.  And nothing says freedom like getting away with it, right?

But it’s worse than that. It turns out that Verizon, AT&T, Charter etc etc are charging a toll to get into this neighborhood to get the free stuff. Further, companies like Google are selling maps (search results) that tell you where the stuff is that you want to loot. Companies like Megavideo are charging for a high speed looting service (premium accounts for faster downloads). Google is also selling ads in this neighborhood and sharing the revenue with everyone except the people who make the stuff being looted. Further, in order to loot you need to have a $1,000 dollar laptop, a $500 dollar iPhone or $400 Samsumg tablet. It turns out the supposedly “free” stuff really isn’t free. In fact it’s an expensive way to get “free” music. (Like most claimed “disruptive innovations”it turns out expensive subsidies exist elsewhere.) Companies are actually making money from this looting activity. These companies only make money if you change your principles and morality! And none of that money goes to the artists!

And believe it or not this is where the problem with Spotify starts. The internet is full of stories from artists detailing just how little they receive from Spotify. I shan’t repeat them here. They are epic. Spotify does not exist in a vacuum. The reason they can get away with paying so little to artists is because the alternative is The ‘Net where people have already purchased all the gear they need to loot those songs for free. Now while something like Spotify may be a solution for how to compensate artists fairly in the future, it is not a fair system now. As long as the consumer makes the unethical choice to support the looters, Spotify will not have to compensate artists fairly. There is simply no market pressure. Yet Spotify’s CEO is the 10th richest man in the UK music industry ahead of all but one artist on his service.


So let’s go back and look at what it would have cost you to ethically and legally support the artists.
And I’m gonna give you a break. I’m not gonna even factor in the record company share. Let’s just pretend for your sake the record company isn't simply the artists imprint and  all record labels are evil and don’t deserve any money. Let’s just make the calculation based on exactly what the artist should make. First, the mechanical royalty to the songwriters. This is generally the artist. The royalty that is supposed to be paid by law is 9.1 cents a song for every download or copy. So that is $1,001 for all 11,000 of your songs. Now let’s suppose the artist has an average 15% royalty rate. This is calculated at wholesale value. Trust me, but this comes to 10.35 cents a song or $1,138.50. So to ethically and morally “get right” with the artists you would need to pay $2,139.50.

As a college student I’m sure this seems like a staggering sum of money. And in a way, it is. At least until you consider that you probably accumulated all these songs over a period of 10 years (5th grade). Sot that’s $17.82 dollars a month. Considering you are in your prime music buying years, you admit your life is “music centric” and you are a DJ, that $18 dollars a month sounds like a bargain. Certainly much much less than what I spent each month on music  during the 4 years I was a college radio DJ.

Let’s look at other things you (or your parents) might pay for each month and compare.
Smart phone with data plan: $40-100 a month.

High speed internet access: $30-60 dollars a month. Wait, but you use the university network? Well, buried in your student fees or tuition you are being charged a fee on the upper end of that scale. Tuition at American University, Washington DC (excluding fees, room and board and books): $2,086 a month.

Car insurance or Metro card?  $100 a month?

Or simply look at the  value of the web appliances you use to enjoy music:
$2,139.50 = 1 smart phone + 1 full size ipod + 1 macbook.
Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?


The existential questions that your generation gets to answer are these:

Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:
Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!
Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!
Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

You are doing it wrong.


Emily, I know you are not exactly saying what I’ve illustrated above. You’ve unfortunately stumbled into the middle of a giant philosophical fight between artists and powerful commercial interests. To your benefit, it is clear you are trying to answer those existential questions posed to your generation. And in your heart, you grasp the contradiction. But I have to take issue with the following statement:
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize the gravity of what file-sharing means to the musicians I love. I can’t support them with concert tickets and t-shirts alone. But I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.

I’m sorry, but what is inconvenient about iTunes and, say, iTunes match (that let’s you stream all your music to all your devices) aside from having to pay? Same with Pandora premium, MOG and a host of other legitimate services. I can’t imagine that any other legal music service that is gonna be simpler than these to use. Isn’t convenience already here!

Ultimately there are three “inconvenient” things that MUST happen for any legal service:
1.create an account and provide a payment method (once)
2.enter your password.
3. Pay for music.

So what you are really saying is that you won’t do these three things. This is too inconvenient.  And I would guess that the most inconvenient part is….step 3.

That’s fine. But then you must live with the moral and ethical choice that you are making to not pay artists. And artists won’t be paid. And it won’t be the fault of some far away evil corporation. You “and your peers” ultimately bear this responsibility.

You may also find that this ultimately hinders your hopes of finding a job in the music industry.  Unless you’re planning on working for free.  Or unless you think Google is in the music industry–which it is not.

I also find this all this sort of sad. Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy “fair trade” coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that  certify they don’t use  sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples.  On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation.   

Except for one thing. Artist rights.


At the start of this I did say that I hoped to convert you to actively helping musicians and artists. That ultimately someone like you, someone so passionately involved in music is the best ally that musicians could have. Let me humbly suggest a few things:

First, you could legally buy music from artists. The best way to insure the money goes to artists? Buy it directly from their website or at their live shows. But if you can’t do that, there is a wide range of services and sites that will allow you to do this conveniently. Encourage your “peers” to also do this.

Second, actively “call out” those that profit by exploiting artists without compensation. File sharing sites are supported by corporate web advertising. Call corporations out by giving specific examples. For instance, say your favorite artist is Yo La Tengo. If you search at Google “free mp3 download Yo La Tengo” you will come up with various sites that offer illegal downloads of Yo La Tengo songs. I clicked on a link to the site where I found You La Tengo’s entire masterpiece album I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. 

I also found an ad for Geico Insurance which appeared to have been serviced to the site by “Ads by Google”. You won’t get any response by writing a file sharing site. They already know what they are doing is wrong. However Geico might be interested in this. And technically, Google’s policy is to not support piracy sites, however it seems to be rarely enforced. The best way to write any large corporation is to search for the “investor’s relations” page. For some reason there is always a human being on the other end of that contact form. You could also write your Congressman and Senator and suggest they come up with some way to divert the flow of advertising money back to the artists.

And on that matter of the $2,139.50 you owe to artists? Why not donate something to a charity that helps artists. Consider this your penance. In fact I’ll make a deal with you. For every dollar you personally donate I’ll match it up to the $500. Here are some suggestions.

Sweet Relief. This organization helps musicians with medical costs. Vic Chestnutt, who I mentioned earlier, was helped by this organization. I contributed a track to the Album Sweet Relief II:Gravity of the situation.

Music Cares. You can also donate to this charity run by the NARAS (the Grammys).

American Heart Association Memorial Donation. Or since you loved Big Star and Alex Chilton, why not make a donation to The American Heart Association in Alex Chilton’s name? (Alex died of a heart attack)

I’m open to suggestions on this.

I sincerely wish you luck in your career in the music business and hope this has been enlightening in some small way.

David Lowery

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Need even more ammo about why you should help to support the bands you really dig, dive into this infographic...

Money, Music and Piracy - The Music Industry Infographic
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